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Best of All Worlds

James Oakes: Slavery and Class, 11 March 2010

Slavery in White and Black: Class and Race in the Southern Slaveholders’ New World Order 
by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese.
Cambridge, 314 pp., £14.99, December 2008, 978 0 521 72181 3
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... Or the Reverend William A. Smith, who defended slavery on ‘racial grounds’. Or the Reverend James Warley Miles, who also ‘preferred racial to class grounds’. In a chapter on the political economy of the Old South the authors note that everyone who discussed the issue conceded that slave labour was less efficient than free labour. But those same ...

Run to the hills

James Meek: Rainspotting, 22 May 2003

by Brian Cathcart.
Granta, 100 pp., £5.99, September 2002, 1 86207 534 4
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... rainfall across the country varied from year to year, because nobody was keeping count. George James Symons, one of those energetic Victorians who combined the erudition of a scholar with the organisational abilities of a manager and the enthusiasm of an amateur collector, realised what was needed and put it in place: a countrywide network of volunteer ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Van Dyck’s Portraits, 12 March 2009

... Gallery, painted around 1620 when he was just out of his teens, with the Metropolitan Museum’s James Stuart, Fourth Duke of Lennox, painted in 1633. The former is a small picture: you look at it close. Threads of white paint highlight the old man’s hair, beard, watering eye and damp lip. Paint and flesh exchange substance. The same is true of a picture ...

Around Here

Alice Spawls: Drifting into the picture, 4 February 2016

... of coin shops and Korean grocers, ice cream parlours, language schools and camera shops. James Smith and Sons’ Umbrellas is the only one people remember. The area has never become obsolete, or not quite – there are shifts with changing tastes – but it has remained undefined: a little shabby, a little trashy, bordered by the genteel to the north ...


James Lasdun: Salad Days, 9 February 2006

... The alternative career fantasies of writers would make an interesting study: James Joyce dreaming of becoming the agent for Irish tweeds in Trieste, Thomas Mann musing that he would have made a good banker, Samuel Beckett contemplating a career as a pilot. ‘I hope I am not too old to take it up seriously nor too stupid about machines to qualify as a commercial pilot,’ Beckett wrote to Thomas MacGreevy at the age of 29, having just published More Pricks than Kicks ...


James Meek: The Rise of the Private Army, 2 August 2007

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army 
by Jeremy Scahill.
Serpent’s Tail, 452 pp., £12.99, August 2007, 978 1 84668 630 6
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... In a James Bond film, viewer credulity gets its toughest workout with the hero’s tour of, and subsequent escape from, the villain’s lair. This power-crazed evil genius, this smug gentleman in a tightly tailored suit posing as a bold entrepreneur: how was he able to construct a paramilitary base over a dozen square miles in the middle of, say, the United States, without its raising an eyebrow among the local constabulary? How did he get the zeppelin hangar past the county planning board? Such vast amounts of concrete ...

A Foolish Christ

James McConica, 20 November 1980

Ecstasy and the Praise of Folly 
by M.A. Screech.
Duckworth, 267 pp., £24, June 1980, 0 7156 1044 9
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... verities of the prisca theologia, but the divine realities disclosed in Scripture to which the Risen Christ was the only guide. Neither does he yield to the temptation to spiritualise the body, nor to downgrade the importance of the created order. In this, as in all other critical points of doctrine, the Erasmus of this study is undeviatingly ...

Try It on the Natives

James C. Scott: Colonial Intelligence Agencies, 9 October 2008

Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914 
by Martin Thomas.
California, 428 pp., £29.95, October 2007, 978 0 520 25117 5
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... and refined in the colonies and on people whose rights and sufferings were not considered to have risen to the level of white ...

The Road from Brighton Pier

William Rodgers, 26 October 1989

Livingstone’s Labour: A Programme for the Nineties 
by Ken Livingstone.
Unwin Hyman, 310 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 04 440346 1
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... and General Workers Union; and Herbert Morrison, the shop assistant straight out of Mr Polly, had risen to influence through local government in London, including the leadership of the London County Council. The later decline in the authority of trade unionists in Parliament was to have serious consequences, but the virtual disappearance of senior figures in ...

Royal Panic Attack

Colin Kidd: James VI and I, 16 June 2011

King James VI and I and His English Parliaments 
by Conrad Russell, edited by Richard Cust and Andrew Thrush.
Oxford, 195 pp., £55, February 2011, 978 0 19 820506 7
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... Exclusion Crisis of 1679, the attempt to exclude Charles II’s Roman Catholic heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the throne. In the political dramas of the 1680s the Russell dynasty produced two of the iconic figures of English Whig mythology: the Whig martyr William, Lord Russell, and one of the Immortal Seven who in 1688 invited William of Orange ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inside Man’, ‘V for Vendetta’ , 11 May 2006

Inside Man 
directed by Spike Lee.
March 2006
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V for Vendetta 
directed by James McTeigue.
March 2006
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... be faithful to this double vision, and what they can do is quite a bit. The movie is directed by James McTeigue, who was assistant director on the Matrix films. Strange how the Nazis (in these movies and elsewhere) continue to be the readymade reference for evil, as if there were no other candidates, or we couldn’t get our heads round political and moral ...

Savage Rush

David Trotter: The Tube, 21 October 2010

Underground Writing: The London Tube from George Gissing to Virginia Woolf 
by David Welsh.
Liverpool, 306 pp., £70, May 2010, 978 1 84631 223 6
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... in a London gallery, there’s more to it than a shared interest in contemporary art, as Henry James explains with just a faint smack of the lips. ‘It wasn’t, in a word, simply that their eyes had met; other conscious organs, faculties, feelers had met as well, and when Kate afterwards imaged to herself the sharp deep fact she saw it, in the oddest ...

Why the richest woman in Britain changed her will 26 times

Mark Kishlansky: The Duchess of Marlborough, 14 November 2002

The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough 
by Ophelia Field.
Hodder, 575 pp., £20, June 2002, 9780340768075
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... the household of Mary of Modena, the 15-year-old second wife of the Duke of York (the future James II). She was later transferred to entertain his younger daughter, the emotionally, intellectually and physically challenged Princess Anne. This was hardly a plum position: Anne was third in line to the throne with the likelihood that ...

What is the rational response?

Malcolm Bull: Climate Change Ethics, 24 May 2012

A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change 
by Stephen Gardiner.
Oxford, 512 pp., £22.50, July 2011, 978 0 19 537944 0
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... climate change on this one are as follows. Is it getting warmer? Yes, surface temperatures have risen by 0.8°C from pre-industrial levels. Are humans causing it? Almost certainly. The gases produced by industrialisation and agriculture are known to have an insulating effect, and their concentration in the earth’s atmosphere has increased in line with ...

Azure Puddles

John Bayley, 21 May 1987

Compton Mackenzie: A Life 
by Andro Linklater.
Chatto, 384 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 7011 2583 7
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... in throughout Mackenzie’s writing career, many from unexpectedly distinguished sources. Henry James may well have been influenced by Mackenzie’s good looks. He had been so swept away by Rupert Brooke’s appearance that it had been quite a relief to be told he was not a very good poet. But about Mackenzie he was rhapsodic, considering him by far the ...

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