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Plucking the Fruits of Knowledge

Linda Nochlin: The Surprising Boldness of Mary Cassatt, 15 April 1999

Mary Cassatt: Modern Woman 
edited by Judith Barter.
Abrams, 376 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 8109 4089 2
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Mary Cassatt: Painter of Modern Women 
by Griselda Pollock.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £7.95, September 1998, 0 500 20317 2
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... of 1878 shares a certain formal identity with Whistler’s all too famous Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother (1871) in terms of pose and colour, but Cassatt’s mother is shown not staring blankly into space, an object within a world of objects, but rather in solid three-quarter view, and reading with great concentration. What ...

Downward Mobility

Linda Colley, 4 May 1989

The Blackwell Dictionary of Historians 
edited by John Cannon, R.H.C. Davis, William Doyle and Jack Greene.
Blackwell, 480 pp., £39.95, September 1988, 9780631147084
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Edward Gibbon, Luminous Historian, 1772-1794 
by Patricia Craddock.
Johns Hopkins, 432 pp., £19, February 1989, 0 8018 3720 0
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Gibbon: Making History 
by Roy Porter.
Palgrave, 187 pp., £14.95, February 1989, 0 312 02728 1
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by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Trafalgar Square, 160 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 9780297794684
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by Hugh Tulloch.
Trafalgar Square, 144 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 297 79470 1
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... into ‘sticking eternal bits of paper into innumerable books, and putting larger papers into black boxes’. But he still wrote: over four hundred articles and eighty large-scale essays. Why did they write so much and write so well? All of these books strive, with varying degrees of success, to reconstruct the mind behind the words and the works, to ...

Big Daddy

Linda Nochlin, 30 October 1997

American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America 
by Robert Hughes.
Harvill, 635 pp., £35, October 1997, 9781860463723
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... the incision, the red wound and hand, so harsh and sudden against the swooning white thigh and the black coats.’ Composition, colour and pictorial focus converge effortlessly in this passage, which makes a single portion of the vast canvas come vividly alive. Sometimes, however, the surface is a little too smooth, the rhetoric too slick, the verbiage too ...


Linda Colley, 3 December 1992

The Volcano Lover: A Romance 
by Susan Sontag.
Cape, 419 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 224 02912 6
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... with intermittent malaria, plus the shock of unprecedented sexual bliss. Either way, the record is black. Nelson first helped the King and Queen of Naples to escape from local republicans. He then used the might of his fleet to blockade the short-lived Neapolitan Republic, and presided distantly but effectively over the show-trials and summary executions of ...

Powered by Fear

Linda Colley: Putting the navy in its place, 3 February 2005

The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain 1649-1815 
by N.A.M. Rodger.
Allen Lane, 907 pp., £30, September 2004, 0 7139 9411 8
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... tended to be more open and meritocratic than most European land-based organisations at this time. Black sailors were not immune from discrimination, but those who were freemen and even some who were slaves seem often to have enjoyed better prospects and treatment on board Royal Navy ships than blacks labouring on the land. Jews were disproportionately ...

One Big Murder Mystery

Adam Shatz: The Algerian army’s leading novelist, 7 October 2004

The Swallows of Kabul 
by Yasmina Khadra, translated by John Cullen.
Heinemann, 195 pp., £10.99, May 2004, 9780434011414
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Wolf Dreams 
by Yasmina Khadra, translated by Linda Black.
Toby, 272 pp., $19.95, May 2003, 1 902881 75 3
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by Yasmina Khadra, translated by David Herman.
Toby, 137 pp., £7.95, May 2004, 1 59264 035 4
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... It’s a good time to be a Muslim writing about ‘the trouble with Islam’, to borrow the title of a recent jeremiad by Irshad Manji, a Pakistani-Canadian lesbian feminist. Readers in the West, especially Americans, are eager to know ‘what went wrong with Islam’, as Bernard Lewis delicately puts it, particularly if it can be traced to cultural pathology and envy of ‘our freedom ...

The Clothed Life

Joanna Biggs: Linda Grant, 31 March 2011

We Had It So Good 
by Linda Grant.
Virago, 344 pp., £14.99, January 2011, 978 1 84408 637 5
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... Linda Grant’s new novel, We Had It So Good, begins in sunshine. There’s the epigraph: ‘He had like many another been born in full sunlight and lived to see night fall.’ (That’s from Waugh’s Men at Arms.) Then the first image: Stephen Newman in his shorts, aged nine, on the ‘most exciting day’ of his life – a day spent in the fur storage depot in which his father looks after Marilyn Monroe’s mink ...

Gosh, what am I like?

Rosemary Hill: The Revenge Memoir, 17 December 2020

Friends and Enemies: A Memoir 
by Barbara Amiel.
Constable, 592 pp., £25, October 2020, 978 1 4721 3421 9
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Diary of an MP’s Wife: Inside and Outside Power 
by Sasha Swire.
Little, Brown, 544 pp., £20, September 2020, 978 1 4087 1341 9
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... case this is anyhow not the intention. The hero is her husband, the former newspaper tycoon Conrad Black, once the owner of the Telegraph group, the Jerusalem Post and the Chicago Sun-Times. He was convicted of fraud in 2007 for siphoning off profits from his companies, although two of the three convictions were later quashed, and served more than three years ...

Not Like the Rest of Us

Linda Colley: The Clinton Succession, 16 August 2007

A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton 
by Carl Bernstein.
Hutchinson, 628 pp., £25, June 2007, 978 0 09 192078 4
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Hillary Clinton: Her Way: The Biography 
by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta.
Murray, 438 pp., £20, June 2007, 978 0 7195 6892 3
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... of race in America must be made right’, and from her student days she conscientiously sought out black friends, while also setting out to learn. One of her earliest mentors was Marian Wright Edelman, the first black woman to be admitted to the bar in Mississippi. Hillary has also repeatedly championed women’s rights in ...

What did they name the dog?

Wendy Doniger: Twins, 19 March 1998

Twins: Genes, Environment and the Mystery of Identity 
by Lawrence Wright.
Weidenfeld, 128 pp., £14.99, November 1997, 0 297 81976 3
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... separated) twins, James Lewis and James Springer, had each married and divorced women named Linda and remarried women named Betty, we would need some kind of random sample of all the other people born on the same day (for instance) who married women named Linda and Betty – a cumbersome, if not ...

Like Heaven

Lorna Scott Fox, 22 May 1997

by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated by Rose-Myriam Réjouis.
Granta, 401 pp., £15.99, March 1997, 1 86207 007 5
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School Days 
by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated by Linda Coverdale.
Nebraska, 156 pp., $13, March 1997, 0 8032 6376 7
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... and sinuous shapes and rules, the quartier of Texaco is the urban embodiment of black memory. That memory, dislocated and improvised, does not include Africa. The story begins with chaos in the belly of a slave ship, continues with the slave cabins scattered around the Grand-Case, the first incarnation of City – or l’En-ville – to ...

Stubble and Breath

Linda Colley: Mother Germaine, 15 July 1999

The Whole Woman 
by Germaine Greer.
Doubleday, 351 pp., £16.99, March 1999, 0 385 60015 1
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Germaine Greer: Untamed Shrew 
by Christine Wallace.
Cohen, 333 pp., £18.99, March 1999, 1 86066 120 3
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... honed in underground journalism. Even the arrangement of the text (choice quotations outlined in black breaking up pages at random) seemed novel. What made the book a bestseller, though, was the multi-facetedness of its author. Here was an evidently very clever female academic trained in the arts of rhetoric and polemic, with an armoury of literary and ...

Let them cut grass

Linda Colley, 16 December 1993

The Downing Street Years 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 914 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 00 255049 0
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... ladies. But their ranking in Thatcher’s Conservatism is best summed up in two of the book’s black and white photographs. At the top of a page we are shown Margaret, Denis and the Cabinet at the Carlton Club, celebrating her tenth anniversary as prime minister in 1989. She is the only woman present. And since the Carlton still does not allow women ...


Linda Colley: Global History, 26 September 2013

The French Revolution in Global Perspective 
edited by Suzanne Desan, Lynn Hunt and William Max Nelson.
Cornell, 240 pp., £16.50, April 2013, 978 0 8014 7868 0
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... in tandem. And while Palmer concentrated on white revolutionaries, in his 1938 classic, The Black Jacobins, C.L.R. James successfully revived interest in the slaves and free blacks active in Saint-Domingue’s revolution in 1791. Arguing that liberty, equality and fraternity meant even more to the enslaved in France’s richest Caribbean colony than to ...

Can history help?

Linda Colley: The Problem with Winning, 22 March 2018

... to work through. Consider the terrible outbreak of plague in the 14th century known as the Black Death. Europe suffered disproportionately, losing perhaps 50 per cent of its total population. One result of this, however, was that the living standards and wages of many of those who survived seem to have improved. This, it has been suggested, led in time ...

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