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Linda Colley

1 November 1984
The Origins of Anglo-American Radicalism 
edited by Margaret Jacob and James Jacob.
Allen and Unwin, 333 pp., £18.50, February 1984, 0 04 909015 1
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Insurrection: The British Experience 1795-1803 
by Roger Wells.
Alan Sutton, 312 pp., £16, May 1983, 9780862990190
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Radicalism and Freethought in 19th-Century Britain 
by Joel Wiener.
Greenwood, 285 pp., $29.95, March 1983, 0 313 23532 5
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For King, Constitution and Country: The English Loyalists and the French Revolution 
by Robert Dozier.
Kentucky, 213 pp., £20.90, February 1984, 9780813114903
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... Just the place for a snark, the Bellman said. And with equal assurance, political activists from Tom Paine to Friedrich Engels and historians from Elie Halévy to Edward Thompson have hailed 18th and 19th-century Britain as just the place for a revolution. For superficially – though only superficially – the conditions seem to have been almost ideal. From the Glorious Revolution in 1688 to Waterloo ...

At the tent flap sin crouches

James​ Wood: The Fleshpots of Egypt

23 February 2006
The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary 
by Robert Alter.
Norton, 1064 pp., £34, November 2004, 0 393 01955 1
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... In the beginning was not the word, or the deed, but the face. ‘Darkness was upon the face of the deep,’ runs the King James Version in the second verse of the opening of Genesis. ‘And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.’ Two uses of ‘face’ in ...

A Smaller Island

Matthew Reynolds: David Mitchell

10 June 2010
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob​ de Zoet 
by David Mitchell.
Sceptre, 469 pp., £18.99, May 2010, 978 0 340 92156 2
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... a gated family compound; an English frigate, all stifling passageways and stinking underdecks; a sinister closed nunnery within a sinister closed shrine. Into this archipelago of confinement step Jacob de Zoet, a young clerk from the Netherlands who is hoping to earn his fortune; and Aibagawa Orito, a young midwife whose skill has earned her the privilege of studying under the island’s physician ...

Sheep into Goats

Gabriele Annan

24 January 1980
The British Aristocracy 
by Mark Bence-Jones and Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd.
Constable, 259 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 09 461780 5
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The Astors 
by Virginia Cowles.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 9780297776246
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Barclay Fox’s Journal 
edited by R.L. Brett.
Bell and Hyman, 426 pp., £8.95, July 1980, 0 7135 1865 0
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... Astor – was published in 1968; and perhaps Miss Cowles thinks the family history needs updating every ten years. Her book falls into three main periods, beginning with the German immigrant John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) who founded the family fortunes in the fur trade. Those engaged in it were prepared to suffer appalling physical hardship in the frozen North and to ruin the Indians and one another ...

I love her to bits

Deborah Friedell: ‘The Testaments’

7 November 2019
The Testaments 
by Margaret Atwood.
Chatto, 419 pp., £20, September 2019, 978 1 78474 232 4
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... In​ P.D. James’s strangest novel, The Children of Men (1992), humans stop being able to get pregnant, and no one can figure out why. Scientific research comes to nothing. Years pass without a newborn child. All ...
7 November 1991
... by the ideas of the poets and writers who attached themselves to him. Nevertheless, the nature of that influence is not always obvious and the biographer is always liable to exaggerate it. Max Jacob, Apollinaire, the Steins – such figures live in this biography not only as very strange, strong personalities but by virtue of their beliefs and talents which Richardson vividly summarises. Jacob ...

The Two Jacobs

James​ Meek: The Faragist Future

1 August 2019
... of the ideas propelling the Brexit cause into a ruling ethos for the nation. The new prime minister will live in a nice house in the middle of London, but it won’t be his house. Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Arron Banks bought it for him. They own 10 Downing Street, and they own him. Amid a cascade of extreme events and consequences, we all tend to lose focus – not just the humble citizen ...


Jacob​ Beaver: Harold Beaver

3 April 2003
... I can’t remember how we got talking, or who brought up the subject of hashish, but an hour later I was stoned out of my mind. Back in the room, my father was absorbed in an article about Henry James. I discovered that the shower emitted hot water. It felt like divine intervention. I’ve no idea how long I spent under the nozzle, transfixed by the warm rush. When I emerged, the room was four ...

Echoes from the Far Side

James​ Sheehan: The European Age

18 October 2017
The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 
by Richard J. Evans.
Penguin, 848 pp., £12.99, June 2017, 978 0 14 198114 7
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... in 1869) and Eurasia (the trans-Siberian was constructed between 1891 and 1904). Everywhere they were built, railways altered the way millions of men and women experienced time and space: the train, Jacob Burckhardt wrote in 1840, ‘glides in 33 or 35 minutes to … distant Potsdam … It really flies there like a bird.’ They also greatly enhanced the ability of governments to project power ...

Short Cuts

James​ Meek: Deepfakery

25 November 2019
... cumulative. The UK internet is awash with what you might call ‘plucky bulldog bites back’ videos, usually between five and 15 minutes long, featuring Faragist reliables like Nigel Farage himself, Jacob Rees-Mogg or Johnson. Each will be placed in a situation where they appear both to be endorsed by a highly respectable institution and surrounded by vicious enemies – Farage in the European ...
23 March 1995
Telling the Truth about History 
by Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob.
Norton, 322 pp., £19.95, August 1994, 0 393 03615 4
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... like their counterparts throughout the world, have often functioned as nation-builders, constructing an intellectually plausible lineage for the nation state. As Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob demonstrate, a particular version of history has played a major role in defining the American nation. What they call the ‘self-congratulatory national history’ of the 19th century helped to ...

A Life without a Jolt

Ferdinand Mount: M.R. James

26 January 2012
Collected Ghost Stories 
by M.R. James.
Oxford, 468 pp., £14.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 956884 0
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... tangling of the bedsheets. We know what we are in for, just as surely as we do when we open an Agatha Christie or an Elmore Leonard. The formula is simple, repeated with variations in most of M.R. James’s 33 ghost stories, and still guaranteed to give pleasure today just as it did to those fuddled dons and sleepy schoolboys who first heard James read them by the light of a single candle in the ...

The Other Thomas

Charles Nicholl

8 November 2012
... The tale of the apostle Thomas is a sea unspeakably vast.’ Thus the Syriac poet Jacob of Sarugh, who lived in upper Mesopotamia in the late fifth and early sixth centuries. The words are stirring but to our ears perhaps surprising, because in the West we think we know Thomas’s ...

Spinoza got it

Margaret Jacob: Radical Enlightenment

8 November 2012
A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy 
by Jonathan Israel.
Princeton, 276 pp., £13.95, September 2011, 978 0 691 15260 8
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... republican tendencies among the enlightened. According to this school, the intellectual movement had its origins in the 1680s, in the response to the invigorated absolutism of Louis XIV in France and James II in England. The French Protestants who fled persecution, and Locke, who hid in the Dutch republic from agents sent by James II to capture him, were credited with formulating new ideas about ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: King Charles the Martyr

21 February 2019
... On 23 January,​ Jacob Rees-Mogg reintroduced the country to the concept of prorogation – the suspension of Parliament by the monarch. Like Boris Johnson, Rees-Mogg is fond of bogus erudition – the Brexit white paper ...

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