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Cromwell’s Coven

John Sutherland

4 June 1987
Witchcraft 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 390 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14823 9
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Without Falling 
by Leslie Dick.
Serpent’s Tail, 153 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 1 85242 005 7
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Outlaws 
by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 360 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 233 98110 1
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... a scene in the British Library (as it now is) which neatly defines what the great British institution stands for in the late 1980s: namely, the enemy, a redoubt for Thatcher’s bureaucrat henchmen. Jamie Matheson, youngish TV writer and socialist, husband of stouthearted feminist Meg, householder in Putney, father of little Gwendoline, Thomasina and Emma (who has the squits), has been commissioned to ...

Stage Emperor

James Davidson

28 April 1994
Reflections of Nero: Culture, History and Representation 
edited by Jás Elsner and Jamie Masters.
Duckworth, 239 pp., £35, January 1994, 0 7156 2479 2
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... When Vespasian had put an end at last to the eighteen months of confusion and war that followed the death of Nero, he immediately set about undoing the reign of his predecessor, in an effort to wipe out its traces. The Senate had already voted a damnatio memoriae, demanding the erasure of all mention of Nero’s name from inscriptions throughout the Empire. His few achievements and many projects, some ...

After the Referendum

LRB Contributors

8 October 2014
... trucked up from the south to make us see sense. They were chased through the streets by a guy in a rickshaw who was playing the Star Wars theme and hollering through a megaphone: ‘Welcome, imperial masters! Welcome to Scotland, imperial masters! People of Glasgow, here are your imperial masters!’ As one blogger said, that was surely the moment Labour in Scotland died. In my small town in Fife, where ...

All Those Arrows

Donald MacKenzie: A Major Cause of the Financial Crisis

25 June 2009
Fool’s Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe 
by Gillian Tett.
Little, Brown, 338 pp., £18.99, April 2009, 978 1 4087 0164 5
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... an exciting bank. It bore the name of America’s most celebrated financier, but it was ‘dull’: safe, boring, perhaps a little snobbish. (When its current chief executive, the now well-respected Jamie Dimon, joined the bank from Bank One, whose headquarters were in Chicago, Tett reports that one Morgan banker muttered: ‘Not another retail banker from Hicksville, USA!’) The core of Tett’s ...

Cosmic!

Tim Radford: Yuri and the Astronauts

5 March 1998
Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon 
by James Harford.
Wiley, 392 pp., £24.95, June 1997, 0 471 14853 9
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Countdown: A History of Space Flight 
by T.A. Heppenheimer.
Wiley, 398 pp., £24.95, June 1997, 0 471 14439 8
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Something New under the Sun: Satellites and the Beginning of the Space Age 
by Helen Gavaghan.
Copernicus, 300 pp., £15, December 1997, 0 387 94914 3
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Space and the American Imagination 
by Howard McCurdy.
Smithsonian, 294 pp., £19.95, November 1997, 1 56098 764 2
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... Huntsville, Alabama, just what they needed, and they put Explorer 1 aloft early in 1958. ‘Control of space means control of the world,’ Senator Lyndon Johnson warned that year: ‘from space, the masters of infinity would have the power to control the Earth’s weather, to cause drought and flood, to change the tides and raise the level of the sea, to divert the Gulf Stream and change temperate ...

Maybe he made it up

Terry Eagleton: Faking It

6 June 2002
The Forger’s Shadow: How Forgery Changed the Course of Literature 
by Nick Groom.
Picador, 351 pp., £20, April 2002, 9780330374323
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... throwing the passage of time into reverse, is an Oedipal attempt to turn one’s own belatedness into priority, thus refuting the charge that the Irish are a mere botched pastiche of their colonial masters. In stealing and defacing the work of others, you can cheekily expose their own usurpation. Nationalism reverts to the primordial origins of the nation, an origin it then endlessly repeats. Some of ...

About Myself

Liam McIlvanney: James Hogg

18 November 2004
The Electric Shepherd: A Likeness of James Hogg 
by Karl Miller.
Faber, 401 pp., £25, August 2003, 0 571 21816 4
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Altrive Tales 
by James Hogg, edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 293 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 7486 1893 7
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... come to hand. Beginning a letter to his brother, he finds he no longer knows how to shape some of the characters and has to cobble his missive together with an incomplete alphabet. When he finally masters his ABC, he turns out ballads and songs, becoming ‘Jamie the poeter’ to the local lasses, and giving his neighbours a good laugh when he compares himself to Burns. There is no pathos in any of ...

The Great Neurotic Art

Steven Shapin: Tucking into Atkins

5 August 2004
Dr Atkins’ New Diet Revolution: The No-Hunger, Luxurious Weight Loss Plan that Really Works! 
by Robert C. Atkins.
Vermilion, 542 pp., £7.99, January 2003, 0 09 188948 0
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Atkins for Life: The Next Level, Permanent Weight Loss and Good Health 
by Robert C. Atkins.
Pan, 456 pp., £7.99, December 2003, 0 330 41846 7
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The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss 
by Arthur Agatston.
Headline, 278 pp., £10.99, May 2003, 0 7553 1129 9
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... balanced to suit your individual complexion. Obsessive monitoring of aliment and its physiological and mental effects on one’s body isn’t a new, uniquely Californian thing. The early moderns were masters of the Great Neurotic Art. At the same time, it was widely, if not universally, acknowledged between traditional physicians and their patients that appetite was a pretty good guide to the ...

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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... overstate. It was doomed to fail before it began, and fail it did, at a terrible cost in lives and money. How bad was it? In a way it was worse than a defeat, because to be defeated, an army and its masters must understand the nature of the conflict they are fighting. Britain never did understand, and now we would rather not think about it. The troops are home from a campaign that lasted 13 years ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2005

5 January 2006
... sullen and no advertisement for the supposed cheerfulness of the butchering profession. Early so have a chance to look at the occasional paintings, including a couple of nice early 19th-century old masters (of the Butchers’ Company, that is), besides various ceremonial cleavers including the one used to cut up the first New Zealand lamb brought to England and served to Queen Victoria in 1880. Nicest ...

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