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A Niche for a Prophet

Eric Hobsbawm: The Jews of San Nicandro

3 February 2011
The Jews of San Nicandro 
by John Davis.
Yale, 238 pp., £20, November 2010, 978 0 300 11425 6
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... pretty much the same as it did in 1957, when I visited it, curious about the subject on which John Davis has now given us a first-rate, concise and attractively written book. San Nicandro has made only two entrances onto the historical stage. It was an early centre of Italian socialism and agrarian struggle in the grain-fields of northern ...

It should have ended with Verdi

John Davis: The Battle of Adwa

24 May 2012
The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire 
by Raymond Jonas.
Harvard, 413 pp., £22.95, November 2011, 978 0 674 05274 1
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... In March 1896, an Italian colonial army was defeated near the town of Adwa in northern Ethiopia. It was not the first reverse suffered by a European army in Africa, but it was the first decisive African victory. A decade later its earliest historian, Captain George Berkeley, wondered whether Adwa was ‘the first revolt of the Dark Continent against domineering Europe ...
14 September 1989
Conflict and Control: Law and Order in 19th-Century Italy 
by John Davis.
Macmillan, 308 pp., £8.95, July 1988, 0 333 28647 2
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Feuding, Conflict and Banditry in 19th-Century Corsica 
by Stephen Wilson.
Cambridge, 565 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 521 35033 6
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... a vendetta and his flight is both from the authorities and from those against whom he has struck. Davis would broadly agree. Dismissing Hobsbawm’s suggestions as historical romanticism, he sees the Italian bandit as existing ‘in that confused and contested no man’s land where local and royal justice met, and it was precisely here that the contours of ...

National Treasure

Christopher Hitchens

14 November 1996
Jacqueline Bouvier: An Intimate Memoir 
by John Davis.
Wiley, 256 pp., £14.99, October 1996, 0 471 12945 3
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... there that day, and was amazed to see hardened New Yorkers acting like the most abject stage-door Johnnies, and indeed Janes. The former First Lady sat in the main booth with her friends, looking serene and detached, while all sorts of people took their time collecting their hats or whatever, and rubbernecking shamelessly. What was this? It was more than fame ...

Diary

Katherine Rundell: Night Climbing

22 April 2015
... I discovered that All Souls has gargoyles with moss growing on their tongues. The former warden John Davis tells a story about the historian David Cox, who, as an undergraduate, climbed onto the Codrington Library and stole the weather vane from the Christopher Wren sundial. When he was elected a fellow, he climbed back up and replaced it. Nobody, as ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miles Ahead’

18 May 2016
Miles Ahead 
directed by Don Cheadle.
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... The places​ were Philadelphia and New York, the names were John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans and a few others, heirs to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, spoken of with awe in every version of the story. Something called West Coast jazz, thought by many to be an oxymoron, was making itself heard in the persons of Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Shelly Manne and Dave Brubeck ...

On the Rant

E.P. Thompson

9 July 1987
Fear, Myth and History: The Ranters and the Historians 
by J.C. Davis.
Cambridge, 208 pp., £22.50, September 1986, 0 521 26243 7
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... Professor J.C. Davis has written a book to show that the Ranters did not exist. There was no Ranter sect: no organisation: no acknowledged Ranter leadership. Those alleged to be leaders did not agree with each other on some points of doctrine; or they denied that they were Ranters; or they quickly recanted; or (like Laurence Clarkson, or Claxton, who acknowledged in his autobiographical The Lost Sheep Found that he had been known as the ‘Captain of the Rant’) might have been falsifying their own record for the sake of better setting off their new convictions (Clarkson had become a Muggletonian ...

Successive Applications of Sticking-Plaster

Andrew Saint: The urban history of Britain

1 November 2001
The Cambridge Urban History of Britain. Vol. III: 1840-1950 
edited by Martin Daunton.
Cambridge, 944 pp., £90, January 2001, 0 521 41707 4
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... National Insurance ‘virtually bypassed local government’ from its commencement in 1911, John Davis remarks in his chapter on central government and the towns. In this way, equity jilted devolution. Central expenditure on social services rose more than fourfold between 1918 and 1921 – a rise made possible by the ‘more buoyant central tax ...
16 July 1981
Utopia and the Ideal Society: A Study of English Utopian Writing, 1516-1700 
by J.C. Davis.
Cambridge, 427 pp., £25, March 1981, 0 521 23396 8
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Science and Society in Restoration England 
by Michael Hunter.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £18.50, March 1981, 0 521 22866 2
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... Dr Davis’s book is a long, careful and detailed study of utopian writing in England from Sir Thomas More to the end of the 17th century. He has interesting things to say about well-known figures like More, Bacon, Winstanley and Harrington, but I found his chapters on lesser writers even more instructive. Robert Burton and Samuel Gott are revealed as more significant ‘utopians’ than has been recognised ...
9 November 1989
Last Voyages. Cavendish, Hudson, Ralegh: The Original Narratives 
edited by Philip Edwards.
Oxford, 268 pp., £25, November 1988, 0 19 812894 0
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The Nagle Journal: A Diary for the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, from the Year 1775 to 1841 
edited by John Dann.
Weidenfeld, 402 pp., £18.95, March 1989, 1 55584 223 2
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Journal of a Voyage with Bering, 1741-1742 
by Georg Wilhelm Steller, edited by O.W. Frost, translated by Margritt Engel and O.W. Frost.
Stanford, 252 pp., $35, September 1988, 0 8047 1446 0
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... Cavendish himself and by four men who sailed with him, Antony Knivet, a young gentleman volunteer; John Davis, the great navigator; J. Jane, a friend of Davis’s; and Thomas Lodge the poet. Thomas Cavendish was a man of considerable estate but varying fortunes, and like many of his contemporaries he took to the sea to ...
22 January 1981
Ireland: Land of Troubles 
by Paul Johnson.
Eyre Methuen, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 413 47650 2
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Acts of Union 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 221 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 571 11648 5
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Neighbours 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Faber, 96 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 571 11645 0
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Ireland: A History 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £9.95, December 1980, 0 297 77855 2
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... addressing himself to Irish history and contemporary politics ought always to bear in mind John Stuart Mill’s provocative remark, that it was not Ireland but England that was the exception: ‘Ireland is in the mainstream of human existence and human feeling and experience; it is England that is one of the lateral channels.’ Of the authors under ...
5 March 2015
... delivered without notes. What made it appear a triumph was the speech given the next day by David Davis, Cameron’s main rival for the Tory Party leadership and the man long considered the favourite to succeed Michael Howard. Davis flopped. He spoke woodenly from behind a lectern without any of Cameron’s natural ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: David Davis v. Miss Great Britain

3 July 2008
... When David Davis, the shadow home secretary, announced his resignation as an MP on 12 June – in order to fight a by-election for his own seat on an issue about which he was in total agreement with his party’s line, on which in fact he was his party’s line – the media nearly choked with delight. The BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, called the resignation ‘without precedent’, and rubbed his hands at the thought of the Tory divisions that must surely lie beneath; only to be told by eager citizen bloggers that there were clear precedents – George Lansbury in 1912, Enoch Powell in 1958 – and that Davis was an incarnation of that forgotten thing: the politician with principles, a man standing up for his beliefs ...
4 June 1981
The Lyttelton – Hart-Davis Letters 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 185 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 7195 3770 3
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... those who appeared there from time to time with a guest evidently not his wife was Rupert Hart-Davis. He was unique among those couples, with their faintly clandestine air, in boldly underlining his presence within the pub by parking outside the entrance a publisher’s van on the side of which was inscribed in large letters: RUPERT HART-...
4 March 1982
Evelyn Waugh, Writer 
by Robert Murray Davis.
Pilgrim Books, 342 pp., $20.95, May 1981, 0 937664 00 6
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... English acquaintance have written brief, anecdotal accounts based on their memories of him – John St John’s To the War with Waugh has 56 pages, Frances Donaldson’s Portrait of a Country Neighbour 118, while those collected in Evelyn Waugh and his World are naturally shorter still. It is true that Alec Waugh ...

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