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Kettle of Vultures

Jamie Martin: A History of Interest, 16 November 2023

The Price of Time: The Real Story of Interest 
by Edward Chancellor.
Penguin, 398 pp., £12.99, September, 978 1 80206 015 7
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... The earliest known​ interest-bearing debt is recorded on a 4500-year-old clay cone from southern Iraq. Its cuneiform inscription narrates a border dispute between two ancient Sumerian cities, Umma and Lagash, over control of a fertile plain and a debt in barley that the former owed to the latter. Unable to repay the debt, which had grown to astronomical proportions, Umma’s ruler attacked Lagash but was killed as he fled the scene of battle ...


Jamie Martin: Nudge Theory, 27 July 2017

The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed the World 
by Michael Lewis.
Allen Lane, 362 pp., £25, December 2016, 978 0 241 25473 8
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... In​ 1975, as Henry Kissinger was trying to negotiate a settlement to the Arab-Israeli War, he warned the Israeli government that a breakdown in the talks would bring catastrophe to the Middle East. The Israeli minister of foreign affairs, Yigan Allon, doubted this and convened a group of experts to investigate. It was led by Zvi Lanir, a political scientist and official at the Israeli foreign ministry, and Daniel Kahneman, who taught at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and had spent the war, along with his colleague Amos Tversky, in a unit of psychologists embedded with the IDF and tasked with studying troop morale in the Sinai ...

Just Be Grateful

Jamie Martin: Unequal Britain, 23 April 2015

Breadline Britain: The Rise of Mass Poverty 
by Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack.
Oneworld, 334 pp., £9.99, February 2015, 978 1 78074 544 2
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Inequality and the 1 Per Cent 
by Danny Dorling.
Verso, 234 pp., £12.99, September 2014, 978 1 78168 585 3
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... There are​ two standard views of the relationship between poverty and inequality. The first is that there isn’t one: how the poor fare has nothing to do with how much better off the rich are. What determines their well-being is growth, not distribution. If the pie is getting bigger, what matters isn’t the way it’s divided up, but that everyone will have more to eat ...

Better off in a Stocking

Jamie Martin: The Financial Crisis of 1914, 22 May 2014

Saving the City: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 
by Richard Roberts.
Oxford, 320 pp., £20, November 2013, 978 0 19 964654 8
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... Shortly after​ ten o’clock on the morning of Friday, 31 July 1914, less than an hour before trading was scheduled to begin, the London Stock Exchange closed its doors to business for the first time since its establishment in 1801. Crowds of brokers gathered in the narrow streets outside the building, many already wearing straw hats and holiday clothes instead of the traditional silk hat ...

Were we bullied?

Jamie Martin: Bretton Woods, 21 November 2013

The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White and the Making of a New World Order 
by Benn Steil.
Princeton, 449 pp., £19.95, February 2013, 978 0 691 14909 7
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... When an ailing John Maynard Keynes travelled to the American South in March 1946, he was delighted by what he found. The ‘balmy air and bright azalean colour’ of Savannah offered a welcome reprieve from the cold and damp of London, he wrote on arriving, and the children in the streets were livelier company than the ‘irritable’ and ‘exceedingly tired’ citizens of postwar Britain ...

A Company of Merchants

Jamie Martin: The Bank of England, 24 January 2019

Till Time’s Last Sand: A History of the Bank of England, 1694-2013 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 879 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 1 4088 6856 0
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... For the​ last thirty years or more, there has been wide agreement that politics and sound monetary policy are incompatible. If politicians control the money supply, the thinking goes, then every time an election comes around they will risk inflation by goosing the economy with easy money in order to buy support from the voters. Price stability requires long-term thinking; but the public wants instant gratification ...

Habits of Empire

David Priestland: Financial Imperialism, 27 July 2023

The Meddlers: Sovereignty, Empire, and the Birth of Global Economic Governance 
by Jamie Martin.
Harvard, 345 pp., £34.95, June 2022, 978 0 674 97654 2
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... and global capitalism and that multinationals and technocrats are the new face of exploitation. Jamie Martin’s impressive new book, The Meddlers, considers the League of Nations and other interwar precursors of ‘neutral’ institutions of doux commerce to show how closely the ‘birth of global economic governance’ was entangled with ...


Kathleen Jamie: Gannets, Whaups, Skuas, 7 August 2003

... and I was climbing over her side, clinging to what I’d learned to call the shrouds. We – Martin, Tim and I – hadn’t intended to come here. In truth, I’d never heard of the Monach Isles before, but I lowered myself down the red plastic ladder towards the inflatable. We’d hoped to reach St Kilda, but, as the skipper noted gruffly, nothing’s ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Blair on Blincoe?, 21 March 2002

... in an inspired piece of commissioning, they asked Christine Hamilton to review An Accidental MP, Martin Bell’s account of how he ended up wearing nothing but white suits. And now they’ve got Honor Fraser, a supermodel, to write about Nicholas Blincoe’s latest novel, White Mice (Sceptre, £10.99), because it’s set in the world of fashion. The thinking ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Literary Prizes, 10 May 2001

... chocolate), help may still be at hand in the form of literary prizes. The Booker, which despite Martin Amis’s best protests still considers itself ‘Britain’s most prestigious literary accolade’ (whatever that means), won’t be bestowed until 17 October, and the shortlist isn’t due till mid-September, but the hype began to trundle back in ...

Miracle on Fleet Street

Martin Hickman: Operation Elveden, 7 January 2016

... Harry in 2005 and 2006 for around £1000. The arrests of journalists began on 4 November 2011 with Jamie Pyatt, a prolific reporter for the Sun. On 28 January 2012, detectives arrested the Sun’s executive editor, Fergus Shanahan, its managing editor, Graham Dudman, and assistant editor Chris Pharo. A fortnight later, they arrested the deputy editor, deputy ...

At Kettle’s Yard

Eleanor Birne: The Reopening, 22 March 2018

... stayed on for a while as live-in curators. In 1970 a new modernist extension was added, by Leslie Martin and David Owers, to show off more of the work in a larger space with more generous sofas. The latest development – funded by £3.65 million from Arts Council England and £2.32 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund – has involved entirely remodelling ...

Rites of Passage

Anthony Quinn, 27 June 1991

The Elephant 
by Richard Rayner.
Cape, 276 pp., £13.99, May 1991, 0 224 03005 1
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The Misfortunes of Nigel 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Peter Owen, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1991, 0 7206 0830 9
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Famous for the creatures 
by Andrew Motion.
Viking, 248 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 0 670 82286 8
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Double Lives 
by Stephen Wall.
Bloomsbury, 154 pp., £13.99, June 1991, 0 7475 0910 7
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... hysteria, but can only manage a rather smutty slapstick. Detectable here is the influence of Martin Amis, whose gleeful nastiness in the bedroom has become quite a touchstone for many youngish male novelists. The book is elsewhere littered with sentences that are straight Amisian repro: ‘Then there was money: it seemed money had taken a look at ...

Worse than a Defeat

James Meek: Shamed in Afghanistan, 18 December 2014

The Good War: Why We Couldn’t Win the War or the Peace in Afghanistan 
by Jack Fairweather.
Cape, 488 pp., £20, December 2014, 978 0 224 09736 9
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Investment in Blood: The True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War 
by Frank Ledwidge.
Yale, 287 pp., £10.99, July 2014, 978 0 300 20526 8
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British Generals in Blair’s Wars 
edited by Jonathan Bailey, Richard Iron and Hew Strachan.
Ashgate, 404 pp., £19.95, August 2013, 978 1 4094 3736 9
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An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict 1978-2012 
by Mike Martin.
Hurst, 389 pp., £25, April 2014, 978 1 84904 336 6
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... had the situation under control. This was difficult, as emails sent from Sangin by the major, Jamie Loden, had already been leaked to Sky News and told a more anxious story: ‘We are lacking manpower. Desperately in need of more helicopters.’ The most clear-eyed and honest assessment of what was going on came from the NCOs, the corporals and ...


David Bromwich: Putin to the Rescue, 26 September 2013

... collapse of 2008, he answered a question about the CEOs Lloyd Blankfein (of Goldman Sachs) and Jamie Dimon (of J.P. Morgan Chase): ‘I know both those guys: they are very savvy businessmen.’ Obama was trying to prove himself a comfortable insider, close enough to Wall Street to impress the big movers but sufficiently detached to deserve the public ...

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