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Where are those crowns?

John Foot: The Debre Libanos Massacre, 21 April 2022

Holy War: The Untold Story of Catholic Italy’s Crusade against the Ethiopian Orthodox Church 
by Ian Campbell.
Hurst, 449 pp., £30, November 2021, 978 1 78738 477 4
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... In May​ 1937, troops under Italian command moved into the remote area around the monastery of Debre Libanos in Ethiopia. They had been sent there by Rodolfo Graziani, one of the commanders of the Italian invasion of the country in October 1935 and now the viceroy of Italian East Africa. In February 1937 he had survived an assassination attempt in Addis Ababa ...

On the Barone

John Foot, 4 March 2021

... students. The slot was three hours long. He talked for two hours 45 minutes, referring to me as ‘Foot’ as he occasionally turned or gestured towards me. I was expected to nod or smile knowingly. He finished by asking for questions or ‘contributions’, but time had run out. On another occasion I was invited to visit a university department. A series of ...

How should they remember it?

John Foot: War in the Alps, 9 April 2009

The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-19 
by Mark Thompson.
Faber, 455 pp., £9.99, April 2009, 978 0 571 22334 3
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... Pinzolo is a sleepy Alpine resort in northern Italy, about an hour’s drive from Trento. Today, it is a prosperous place, living off winter and summer tourism, but for most of the last century this was an area of extreme poverty, and many of those who lived in the valley were forced to emigrate. There is a statue of a knife-grinder in the town, a monument to the job most of these emigrants did, in places as far apart as Sarajevo, Jersey City and Plymouth ...

Moggiopoli

John Foot: The Great Italian Football Scandal, 6 July 2006

... Fixing a football match is a risky business. Players can be bribed, but things can go wrong when thousands of fans are watching. The alternative is to offer the referee a backhander. A German referee was recently jailed for rigging games in the second division of the Bundesliga for a Croatian betting syndicate. In Italy, there had traditionally been little need to resort to such methods: ever since football became a mass sport in the 1930s, referees have tended to favour the powerful clubs ...

The Rendition of Abu Omar

John Foot: The trial of the kidnappers, 2 August 2007

... into a white van and driven away at high speed. He was threatened, blindfolded, bound hand and foot, punched, forced onto the floor of the van, and taken to the US air base at Aviano near Brescia – about five hours’ drive away. The next day, he was put on a plane to Ramstein in Germany, where he boarded another plane, this time for Egypt. Journalists ...

Households of Patience

John Foot, 9 June 1994

Antonio Gramsci: Letters from Prison 
edited by Frank Rosengarten, translated by Raymond Rosenthal.
Columbia, 374 pp., £27.50, March 1994, 0 231 07558 8
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Antonio Gramsci: Pre-Prison Writings 
edited by Richard Bellamy, translated by Virginia Cox.
Cambridge, 350 pp., £40, January 1994, 0 521 41143 2
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... In 1927, Antonio Gramsci was in chains, about to begin a nightmarish 19-day journey from Sicily to Milan’s San Vittore prison, when he met two ‘common criminals’ in a Palermo waiting-room. One of them refused to accept that he was indeed Gramsci ‘because Antonio Gramsci must be a giant and not such a tiny man.’ Disappointed, the man, Gramsci reported, ‘said nothing more, withdrew to a corner, sat down on an unmentionable contraption and stayed there, like Marius on the ruins of Carthage, meditating on his lost illusions ...

No. 1 Scapegoat

John Foot: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, 7 February 2002

Senior Service 
by Carlo Feltrinelli, translated by Alastair McEwen.
Granta, 464 pp., £20, November 2001, 1 86207 456 9
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... A bearded man lies flat on his back, arms wide apart, in a field. He has one leg. Nearby, some wires hang from the base of an electricity pylon, to which a box seems to be attached. The man is Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, 46 years old, a political militant, publisher and millionaire. The photo was taken on 15 March 1972. For more than two years Feltrinelli had been on the run from the Italian authorities ...

‘I’m not signing’

Mike Jay: Franco Basaglia, 8 September 2016

The Man Who Closed the Asylums: Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health Care 
by John Foot.
Verso, 404 pp., £20, August 2015, 978 1 78168 926 4
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... the mad at Bicêtre asylum in 1793 (a much celebrated event that never actually took place), or John Conolly abolishing the use of restraints on his arrival at Hanwell asylum in London in 1839. As John Foot stresses throughout his exemplary account, myth and reality aren’t easily separated in Basaglia’s ...

Hand and Foot

John Kerrigan: Seamus Heaney, 27 May 1999

Opened Ground: Poems 1966-96 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 478 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 571 19492 3
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The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: A Critical Study 
by Neil Corcoran.
Faber, 276 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 571 17747 6
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Seamus Heaney 
by Helen Vendler.
HarperCollins, 188 pp., £15.99, November 1998, 0 00 255856 4
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... Out of that earth house I inherited A stack of singular, cold memory-weights To load me, hand and foot, in the scale of things. Where ‘Act of Union’ labours to deliver its sexual-political analogy, this douzain has a light abruptness. In ‘Squarings’ Heaney is happy to settle for approximations (‘maybe’, ‘dampish’) and gestural incompleteness ...

Shoy-Hoys

Paul Foot: The not-so-great Reform Act, 6 May 2004

Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act 
by Edward Pearce.
Cape, 343 pp., £20, November 2003, 0 224 06199 2
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... say about most of the Tories, too, notably the nauseating and utterly uncompromising reactionary John Croker, for whom the rotten boroughs were the essence of freedom and prosperity; Sir Robert Inglis, who proclaimed that ‘this House would not be bound by the cries of a majority of the people’, and Lord Lyndhurst, who is described by Pearce as a ...

Devil take the hindmost

John Sutherland, 14 December 1995

Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction and Prophecy 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Liverpool, 170 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 85323 439 6
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The History of Mr Wells 
by Michael Foot.
Doubleday, 318 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 385 40366 6
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A Modern Utopia 
by H.G. Wells, edited by Krishan Kumar.
Everyman, 271 pp., £5.99, November 1994, 0 460 87498 5
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... books has recently been called into question in a way which has largely confounded Michael Foot’s purpose in writing The History of Mr Wells. It is clear that Foot first conceived his biography as a celebration of Wells’s socialism – more particularly his ‘libertarian’ socialism, which ...

Bad John

Alan Bennett: John Osborne, 3 December 1981

A Better Class of Person 
by John Osborne.
Faber, 285 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 571 11785 6
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... One of John Osborne’s Thoughts for 1954: ‘The urge to please above all. I don’t have it and can’t achieve it. A small thing but more or less mine own.’ This book does please and has pleased. It is immensely enjoyable, is written with great gusto and Osborne has had better notices for it than for any of his plays since Inadmissible Evidence ...

Wilsonia

Paul Foot, 2 March 1989

The Wilson Plot: The Intelligence Services and the Discrediting of a Prime Minister 
by David Leigh.
Heinemann, 271 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 434 41340 2
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A Price too High 
by Peter Rawlinson.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 297 79431 0
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... able junior minister Niall Macdermot out of office. They even circulated the fantastic notion that John Stonehouse, whose long career in the Co-operative Movement was dedicated to witch-hunting Communists, was a Communist agent. These three stories are told in detail here for the first time. David Leigh asserts that they were part of a pattern of intelligence ...

Changing the law

Paul Foot, 26 July 1990

A Radical Lawyer in Victorian England: W.P. Roberts and the Struggle for Workers’ Rights 
by Raymond Challinor.
Tauris, 302 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 1 85043 150 7
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... the insidious ‘bond’ (a ‘contract’ in which the miners delivered themselves bound hand and foot to the owners). The victory made Roberts a hero in the miners’ communities. Even the magistrates were impressed: the arrival of the ‘miners’ attorney’ in his gig was enough to persuade one lot of magistrates to grant bail to imprisoned ...

Diary

Paul Foot: Awaiting the Truth about Hanratty, 11 December 1997

... Could he find any of these people, we asked? Yes, he would try. The following week Jo Mennel and John Morgan, the reporter, went back to interview the Rhyl witnesses on camera. Over a cup of tea in a café, Terry Evans gave them the disappointing news that he could not find the main man he was looking for, a newspaper-seller called Charlie Jones. As the ...

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