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A Useless Body

David Craig: The Highland Clearances

17 May 2017
Set Adrift upon the World: The Sutherland Clearances 
by James Hunter.
Birlinn, 572 pp., £14.99, September 2016, 978 1 78027 354 9
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... JamesHunter​ ’s work has analysed with utter thoroughness the culture of the Highlands and the diaspora that was forced on it. In his latest book, Set Adrift upon the World, he doesn’t try to describe, in ...
5 January 1989
The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, 1822 
by John Prebble.
Collins, 399 pp., £15, November 1988, 0 00 215404 8
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... author of Gloomy memories (1841); Alexander MacKenzie the journalist, whose Highland Clearances (1883) is still to be found in one of its many forms in thousands of crofters’ living-rooms; James Cameron the Kirkcaldy publisher, whose The Old and the New Highlands (1912) brought the terrible epic up to the time of the sporting estates, the Crofters’ War, and the Crofters’ Act of 1886; and ...

Why did we start farming?

Steven Mithen: Hunter-Gatherers Were Right

30 November 2017
Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States 
by James​ C. Scott.
Yale, 336 pp., £20, September 2017, 978 0 300 18291 0
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... fire made an indelible mark on the earth’s ecosystems, and marked the beginning of the Anthropocene – the epoch in which humans have had a significant impact on the planet. In Against the Grain James Scott describes these early stages as a ‘“thin” Anthropocene’, but ever since, the Anthropocene has been getting thicker. New layers of human impact were added by the adoption of farming ...
5 February 1981
Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life 
by Ian Hunter.
Collins, 270 pp., £6.95, November 1980, 0 00 216538 4
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... From one who makes so much noise about being hard to fool it is hard to take being fooled further. There he is waiting for you up the garden path, all set to lead you on instead of back. Ian Hunter, billed as Professor of Law at Western University in London, Canada, was born in 1945, which makes him about half the age of his hero. Blemishes can thus partly be put down to exuberance. Professor ...


Roger Hodge: The Comanches

15 December 2011
Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanche Tribe 
by S.C. Gwynne.
Constable, 483 pp., £9.99, July 2011, 978 1 84901 703 9
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... Elder Daniel Parker said, ‘because they are the natural enemies of the non-elect.’ When the Indians arrived, ten of the Parker men were working in the fields about a mile away. Six men, including James and Silas Parker, both Texas Rangers, were still at the fort, along with eight women and nine children. The armoured gate was open. The Comanches were apparently taking advantage of the disorder ...

Freak Anatomist

John Mullan: Hilary Mantel

1 October 1998
The Giant, O'Brien 
by Hilary Mantel.
Fourth Estate, 211 pp., £14.99, September 1998, 1 85702 884 8
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... In the Council Room of the Royal College of Surgeons hangs the portrait by Joshua Reynolds of the 18th-century surgeon and anatomist John Hunter. It has been much darkened by the bitumen content of Reynolds’s paint, and restoration work in the Fifties has not been able to prevent the fading into the surrounding gloom of many of its ...

Crops, Towns, Government

James​ C. Scott: Ancestor Worship

21 November 2013
The World until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? 
by Jared Diamond.
Penguin, 498 pp., £8.99, September 2013, 978 0 14 102448 6
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... which states have pushed them. They span the globe, but Diamond draws his principal examples from New Guinea and Australia, where his bird-watching interests lie, and from the findings of studies of hunter-gatherer societies (the Hadza and !Kung of Africa, the Piraha, Siriono and Yanomamo of Latin America) that fit best with his argument. What could these historical relics possibly teach the wired ...

God’s Own

Angus Calder

12 March 1992
Empire and English Character 
by Kathryn Tidrick.
Tauris, 338 pp., £24.95, August 1990, 1 85043 191 4
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Into Africa: The story of the East African Safari 
by Kenneth Cameron.
Constable, 229 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 0 09 469770 1
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Burton: Snow upon the Desert 
by Frank McLynn.
Murray, 428 pp., £19.95, September 1990, 0 7195 4818 7
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From the Sierras to the Pampas: Richard Burton’s Travels in the Americas, 1860-69 
by Frank McLynn.
Barrie and Jenkins, 258 pp., £16.99, July 1991, 0 7126 3789 3
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The Duke of Puddle Dock: Travels in the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles 
by Nigel Barley.
Viking, 276 pp., £16.99, March 1992, 0 670 83642 7
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... a great southern continent. In the Pacific, he travelled, or ‘voyaged’, over seas which Polynesian seafarers had mastered. The cult of the White Explorer overlaps with that of the White Hunter. Speke, to Burton’s disgust, never tired of slaughtering birds and animals. Baker was a daring, wealthy ‘sportsman’. Frederick Courtenay Selous, as DNB styles him (my hotel’s original ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Not by Henry James

23 September 2004
... cheek a little farther, waited, trembled, and then swelling as the bosom swells with sighs, ran down the maiden’s cheek, and fell upon the faded chintz. You guessed it. Who could it be but Henry James? There would be no shame in your not recognising this as James’s work, however: it has languished in peaceful obscurity for more than 140 years, only now to have its authorship revealed by Floyd ...
21 January 1988
Granville Sharp Pattison: Anatomist and Antagonist 1791-1851 
by F.L.M. Pattison.
Canongate, 284 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 86241 077 0
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Death, Dissection and the Destitute 
by Ruth Richardson.
Routledge, 426 pp., £19.95, January 1988, 0 7102 0919 3
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... but lest his opinions then be taken as mere psycho-philosophical balderdash, it should be said that views such as his have an eminent pedigree within the medical profession itself. The great William Hunter, doyen of the anatomy teachers of 18th-century London, delighted in offering his students a peculiarly chilling vision of the medic’s mentality. Surgeons, he told them, were eaten up with ...
18 February 1988
Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies and the Reagan Era 
by Alexander Cockburn.
Verso, 479 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 0 86091 176 4
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... McNeil-Lehrer Report (see in particular his devastating replication of that TV programme’s famous ‘balance’, with the ponderously sober ‘Robin’ McNeil, ‘Jim’ Lehrer and ‘Charlene’ Hunter-Gault studiously examining both sides of the slavery question, Hitler and the Crucifixion), of most academics and of all TV networks, of the rich and the famous, of the military, of Israel, of ...


Mary Hawthorne: Remembering Joseph Mitchell

1 August 1996
... hired by Harold Ross as a staff writer for the New Yorker, though his first contribution to the magazine had been published in 1933. He took up with writers like Philip Hamburger, S.J. Perelman and James Thurber, but his best friend at the magazine was A.J. Liebling, with whom he developed a relationship of affectionate rivalry. Liebling, who died in 1963, was an ebullient man, renowned among other ...

Just be yourself

David Hirson

23 July 1987
Swimming to Cambodia: The Collected Works of Spalding Gray 
by Spalding Gray.
Picador, 304 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 330 29947 6
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... by turning him into someone familiar. He is called, among other things, ‘A new wave Mark Twain’, ‘One of the most candid confessors since Frank Harris’ and ‘An unholy cross between James Joyce and Hunter S. Thompson’. These remarks tend to compound an already severe identity crisis. For almost a decade, Gray has been delivering monologues which chronicle his life from early ...
19 December 1991
Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream 
by Hunter​ S. Thompson.
Picador, 316 pp., £15.95, October 1991, 0 330 31994 9
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... Drug Enforcement Administration). The growing voices of America’s neo-conservative movement would later argue that their interpretation of the American Dream, long deferred because of people like Hunter S. Thompson and the satanic rhythms of rock’n’roll bands like Derek and the Dominos, began that night. The problem was that none of the guests who were downstairs enjoying the largesse of a ...

Enabler’s Revenge

David Runciman: John Edwards

25 March 2010
The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down 
by Andrew Young.
Thomas Dunne, 301 pp., $24.99, January 2010, 978 0 312 64065 1
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Race of a Lifetime: How Obama Won the White House 
by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.
Viking, 448 pp., £25, January 2010, 978 0 670 91802 7
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... the genre of enabler’s revenge to a whole new level. ‘Covering up’ doesn’t really do justice to Young’s role, which by the end included going on the run with Edwards’s mistress Rielle Hunter and their love-child (with Young’s own wife and three children in tow), having allowed Edwards to tell the press that he – Young – was the father of Hunter’s baby. How does anyone get into ...

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