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An Endless Progression of Whirlwinds

Robert Irwin: Asian empire, 21 June 2001

Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Asia 
by Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac.
Little, Brown, 646 pp., £25, January 2001, 0 316 85589 8
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Tibet: The Great Game and Tsarist Russia 
by Tatiana Shaumian.
Oxford, 223 pp., £16, October 2000, 0 19 565056 5
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... and many others. Evidently, the book is loosely focused and some of the figures whose lives Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac chronicle were in no sense protagonists in the Great Game, but rather scholars, mystics and eccentrics who happened to have wandered around in the disputed regions. The book is also unbalanced by its excessive focus on ...

Homage to Marginality

Tony Tanner, 7 February 1980

Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives 
by Frederick Karl.
Faber, 1008 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 571 11386 9
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... Conrad’s Polish Background, edited and introduced by Zdzislaw Najder (to which I think Professor Karl is indebted for much of his Polish material); the minute and meticulous tracings of Conrad’s every movement by Norman Sherry, who not only told us when Conrad was in, say, Bangkok, but on which side of which streets he walked along; the more contentious ...

The Irresistible Illusion

Rory Stewart: Why Are We in Afghanistan?, 9 July 2009

... we had other more pressing priorities. Here, in a civil service minute of 1867 (I found this in Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac’s Tournament of Shadows), he imagines what would happen if the Russians tried to invade:In that case let them undergo the long and tiresome marches which lie between the Oxus and the Indus; let them wend their way through poor ...

Qui êtes-vous, Sir Moses?

C.R. Whittaker, 6 March 1986

Ancient History: Evidence and Models 
by M.I. Finley.
Chatto, 131 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 7011 3003 2
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... The Ancient Economy, first published in 1971, struck a chord. Constructed on models derived from Karl Polanyi and Max Weber, both of whom had exercised a strong influence on Finley in his early career, the book aimed to demonstrate that the economic behaviour of the ancient Greeks and Romans was determined not, as we instinctively assume, by concepts derived ...

Schools of History

Walter Laqueur, 26 September 1991

Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives 
by Alan Bullock.
HarperCollins, 1187 pp., £20, June 1991, 0 00 215494 3
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Stalin: Breaker of Nations 
by Robert Conquest.
Weidenfeld, 346 pp., £18.99, September 1991, 0 297 81194 0
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... About Hitler I can’t think of anything to say,’ thus Karl Kraus in a famous aside in 1935. But a great deal has been said about him ever since and no one has been better at saying it than Alan Bullock. His Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, published in 1952, is still the best biography, and one of the best books on the Nazi phenomenon in general ...

Lab Lib

M.F. Perutz, 19 April 1984

Rutherford: Simple Genius 
by David Wilson.
Hodder, 639 pp., £14.95, February 1984, 0 340 23805 4
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... working hypothesis of the atom before their totally unexpected result. I once held this up to Sir Karl Popper as an argument against the hypothetico-deductive method, which postulates that scientists advance by first formulating hypotheses and then designing experiments to test them, rather than by the inductive method which consists in deriving theories from ...

It takes a village

C.A. Bayly: Henry Maine, 14 July 2011

Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal Imperialism 
by Karuna Mantena.
Princeton, 269 pp., £27.95, March 2011, 978 0 691 12816 0
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... such as Fustel de Coulanges and Barthold Niebuhr. He even came to the notice of an irritated Karl Marx, who derided the ‘blockhead Maine’. By the 1880s, Marx had come to believe that the Russian village community, the mir, could provide the basic unit of a future egalitarian Communist society. He deplored Maine’s portrayal of such communities as a ...

Revolution strikes the eye

John Willett, 19 January 1989

Russian and Soviet Theatre: Tradition and the Avant-Garde 
by Constantin Rudnitsky, translated by Roxane Permar.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £40, April 1988, 0 500 01433 7
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The ‘Golden’ Twenties: Art and Literature in the Weimar Republic 
by Bärbel Schrader and Jürgen Schebera, translated by Katherine Vanovitch.
Yale, 271 pp., £25, April 1988, 0 300 04144 6
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... limitations – the omission of any reference to Tatlin’s stage designs, for instance, or to Meyer hold’s planned production of Olyesha’s The Conspiracy of Feelings – the overwhelming impression given is of a theatrical ferment such as no other country in our century can match. Gregor gave his verdict sixty years ago when he wrote that ‘theatre ...

Mary, Mary

Christopher Hitchens, 8 April 1993

Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover 
by Anthony Summers.
Gollancz, 576 pp., £18.99, March 1993, 0 575 04236 2
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... historian Albert Fried once phrased it, ‘intelligent gangsters from Al Capone to Moe Dalitz and Meyer Lansky have always been fierce, voluble defenders of the capitalist faith, and to that extent they were and are J. Edgar Hoover’s ideological kinsmen.’ Thus, though women couldn’t develop the moral fibre to be cops (couldn’t fire a gun, apart from ...

I am not a world improver

Christopher Turner: Building Seagram, 6 February 2014

Building Seagram 
by Phyllis Lambert.
Yale, 306 pp., £45, January 2013, 978 0 300 16767 2
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Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography 
by Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst.
Chicago, 493 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 226 15145 8
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... director of the Bauhaus, recommended by Gropius after the previous director, the communist Hannes Meyer, was fired under pressure from the conservative local government. Mies, who commuted from Berlin to Dessau, was not popular with the more radical students: they saw him as an architect associated with luxurious private houses (‘I am not a world ...

Cut, Kill, Dig, Drill

Jonathan Raban: Sarah Palin’s Cunning, 9 October 2008

... was militantly Christian, white, nativist, provincial, protectionist and anti-Washington. In 2000, Karl Rove cleverly enrolled this quasi-Poujadist faction in his grand alliance of libertarians, born-agains and corporate interests. It’s worth remembering that in 2004 every American city with a population of more than 500,000 voted for Kerry, and that the ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... common are gangsters. Gatsby’s fortune is secretly derived from his bootlegging partnership with Meyer Wolfsheim, a character based on the mobster Arnold Rothstein, who fixed the 1919 World Series. Trump’s business has been dependent almost from the start on real-life racketeers. There was Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime ...

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