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Counter-Factuals

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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... of French invasion and the near-certainty of French aid for dissidents and conspirators at home: Jacobites before 1745; Jacobins after 1789. In the hundred years after 1750, Britain’s social fabric was tried and tormented by the strains of unprecedented population growth and pioneering economic change. Add to this the ...

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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... 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 one verse, and a third implied face, surely: God’s ...

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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... 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, Dr Marinus, and thus of being, apart from the courtesans ...

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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... 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 as opportunity arose. The first John ...

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 the nurseries close, then all the schools. With no hope of posterity, landowners let their estates rot; scholars take up golf ...
7 November 1991
... 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 was Picasso’s first ...

The Two Jacobs

James Meek: The Faragist Future

1 August 2019
... 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 but those charged with steering us through. Early in the ...

Diary

Jacob Beaver: Harold Beaver

3 April 2003
... 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 inches deep in steaming water. The drain was blocked, but my ...

Short Cuts

James Meek: Deepfakery

25 November 2019
... 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 Parliament, Rees-Mogg on the BBC being asked a hostile question ...

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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... 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, allowing them to penetrate their territories and control their ...
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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... 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 recast the experience of a few million people on the fringe of ...

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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... 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 provost’s lodgings at ...

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 ‘tale’ and its significance pretty well ...

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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... 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 religious ...

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 was, he said, ‘the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Philip II at Le Goulet in 1200’ – and he must have enjoyed expressing his hope that it would ‘not be necessary for Her Majesty’s stay at Sandringham to be interrupted by her in person having to prorogue Parliament ...

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