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Punk Counterpunk

Bee Wilson, 20 November 2014

Vivienne Westwood 
by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly.
Picador, 463 pp., £25, September 2014, 978 1 4472 5412 6
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... Some time​ in 1979, after the death of Sid Vicious and before the enthronement of Margaret Thatcher, Vivienne Westwood ‘lost interest’ in punk. She and her lover Malcolm McLaren had been at the heart of the British version: they had dreamed up much of the look, the attitude and the lyrics, though not the sound ...

Browning Versions

Barbara Everett, 4 August 1983

Robert Browning: A Life within Life 
by Donald Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 334 pp., £12.95, August 1982, 0 297 78092 1
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The Elusive Self in the Poetry of Robert Browning 
by Constance Hassett.
Ohio, 186 pp., £17, December 1982, 0 8214 0629 9
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning. Vol. V 
edited by Roma King.
Ohio, 395 pp., £29.75, July 1981, 9780821402207
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. I 
edited by Ian Jack and Margaret Smith.
Oxford, 543 pp., £45, April 1983, 0 19 811893 7
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Robert Browning: The Poems 
edited by John Pettigrew and Thomas Collins.
Yale/Penguin, 1191 pp., £26, January 1982, 0 300 02675 7
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Robert Browning: ‘The Ring and the Book’ 
edited by Richard Altick.
Yale/Penguin, 707 pp., £21, May 1981, 0 300 02677 3
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... his spouse to a dazed friend with ‘That’s My First Wife Up There, and This Is the Present Mrs Harris.’ The first Mrs Harris seems to be crouched on all fours on the top of a very high (glazed) bookcase, just behind the second Mrs Harris. This image has found an appreciative audience ...

Coalition Monsters

Colin Kidd, 6 March 2014

In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government 
by Matthew D’Ancona.
Penguin, 414 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 670 91993 2
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... that sits oddly with her later reputation, the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher, operated, like Wilson, on the sidelines of the Yes campaign. The result, in a notionally divided country, was a resounding 67 per cent majority in favour of continued EEC membership. Whitelaw confessed in his memoirs that he had rather enjoyed ...

No Bottle

Rose George: Water, 18 December 2014

Drinking Water: A History 
by James Salzman.
Overlook Duckworth, 320 pp., £9.99, October 2013, 978 0 7156 4528 4
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Parched City: A History of London’s Public and Private Drinking Water 
by Emma Jones.
Zero Books, 361 pp., £17.99, June 2013, 978 1 78099 158 0
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Water 4.0: The Past, Present and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource 
by David Sedlak.
Yale, 352 pp., £20, March 2014, 978 0 300 17649 0
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... riches, for the companies and shareholders who monopolise our water supply today. In England, Margaret Thatcher’s government abolished state-owned regional water authorities in 1989, and water was privatised. Eleven of England’s 18 water utilities are at least partly owned by foreign entities, including the giant conglomerate Macquarie (Thames ...

Free Schools

Dawn Foster, 6 May 2015

... Bousted said. ‘And money we don’t have, apparently. So it becomes a vanity project.’ The new Harris Westminster Sixth Form was criticised by Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, after it emerged that the free school, with a set-up budget of £45 million, or £90,000 per pupil, would be the most ...

Fear and Loathing in Limehouse

Richard Holme, 3 September 1987

Campaign! The Selling of the Prime Minister 
by Rodney Tyler.
Grafton, 251 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 246 13277 9
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Battle for Power 
by Des Wilson.
Sphere, 326 pp., £4.99, July 1987, 0 7221 9074 3
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David Owen: Personally Speaking 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 297 79206 7
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... the key decision in the Conservative camp, on which all their three great warlords agreed – Margaret Thatcher, Norman Tebbit and Lord Young – as did their retinues of ad-men and advisers, was to run a campaign fuelled by fear, a re-run of ‘Don’t let Labour ruin it.’ Fear was a tune which the Prime Minister had practised assiduously over the ...

‘Damn right,’ I said

Eliot Weinberger: Bush Meets Foucault, 6 January 2011

Decision Points 
by George W. Bush.
Virgin, 497 pp., £25, November 2010, 978 0 7535 3966 8
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... the soot like rivulets through a desert’ – but most of the prose sounds like this: I told Margaret and Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Bolten that I considered this a far-reaching decision. I laid out a process for making it. I would clarify my guiding principles, listen to experts on all sides of the debate, reach a tentative conclusion, and run it past ...

The Darth Vader Option

Colin Kidd: The Tories, 24 January 2013

The Conservatives since 1945: The Drivers of Party Change 
by Tim Bale.
Oxford, 372 pp., £55, September 2012, 978 0 19 923437 0
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The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 471 pp., £14.99, January 2011, 978 0 7456 4858 3
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Reconstructing Conservatism? The Conservative Party in Opposition, 1997-2010 
by Richard Hayton.
Manchester, 166 pp., £60, September 2012, 978 0 7190 8316 7
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... able to count on the loyalty of his most likely successor, Willie Whitelaw. While Whitelaw waited, Margaret Thatcher struck, and had built up considerable momentum by the time Whitelaw could bring himself to act. However, the successful assassin was herself to be toppled in the autumn of 1990 in a moment of group frenzy so bizarre that even Tory commentators ...

Operation Big Ear

Tam Dalyell, 3 May 1984

The Unsinkable Aircraft-Carrier: American Military Power in Britain 
by Duncan Campbell.
Joseph, 351 pp., £12.95, April 1984, 0 7181 2289 5
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... agreed to Chevaline without telling most of the Cabinet, let alone the Labour Party, and when Margaret Thatcher with the solitary aid of Cecil Parkinson conducted the major decisions of the Falklands War. It so happens that Arthur Tedder was a distant kinsman of my father, who married, after his first wife died, my father’s cousin, ‘Toppy’ Seton ...

Wedded to the Absolute

Ferdinand Mount: Enoch Powell, 26 September 2019

Enoch Powell: Politics and Ideas in Modern Britain 
by Paul Corthorn.
Oxford, 233 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 0 19 874714 7
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... his period in Northern Ireland (he remained the Ulster Unionist MP for South Down until 1987), Margaret Thatcher took care to stay on friendly terms with Powell, partly out of a certain sympathy with his views and partly because his support, even when it was tacit, could do her no harm, but she never made any move to tempt him back into the Tory fold, for ...

Gielgud’s Achievements

Alan Bennett, 20 December 1979

An Actor and his Time 
by John Gielgud.
Sidgwick, 253 pp., £8.95
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... designers were brought in to do the costumes. These were Elizabeth Montgomery and her two partners Margaret and Sophia Harris, the Motleys, who specialised in producing stunning effects with the cheapest materials. The OUDS Romeo and Juliet entranced all who saw it and was the trial run for the triumphant version Gielgud ...

Vengeful Susan

Linda Colley, 22 September 1994

Uncertain Unions: Marriage in England 1660-1753 
by Lawrence Stone.
Oxford, 295 pp., £16.95, September 1992, 0 19 820253 9
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Broken Lives: Separation and Divorce in England 1660-1857 
by Lawrence Stone.
Oxford, 373 pp., £16.95, June 1993, 0 19 820254 7
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... by the pathos and surprising detail of lives rarely chronicled elsewhere. There is poor René Harris, a Catholic organ-maker in Augustan London eager to improve himself. We learn that someone this marginal nonetheless wanted and was able to commission a portrait of his wife. But it was while he was away mending organs to pay for such status-objects that ...

It was sheer heaven

Bee Wilson: Just Being British, 9 May 2019

Exceeding My Brief: Memoirs of a Disobedient Civil Servant 
by Barbara Hosking.
Biteback, 384 pp., £9.99, March 2019, 978 1 78590 462 2
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... interesting people, despite being rather dull myself’. She was born, as Jean Campbell-Harris, in 1922 to aristocratic parents who sent her to a series of schools where she was ‘dreadfully homesick’ and ‘almost suicidally miserable’. But she insists that ‘it wasn’t my parents’ fault. They were born in the 19th century and brought up ...

Why Do the Tories Always Have the Luck?

Peter Clarke, 23 February 1995

Conservative Century: The Conservative Party since 1900 
edited by Anthony Seldon and Stuart Ball.
Oxford, 842 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 19 820238 5
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... take full advantage of the aces which it was dealt – most crucially, the Falklands card. Part of Margaret Thatcher’s luck in politics was the sort of luck which she made for herself, by snatching with both hands the opportunities which she was unexpectedly offered. At least in this respect, she proved herself a worthy heir to one of the finest traditions ...

Whose person is he?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: ‘Practising Stalinism’, 20 March 2014

Practising Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars and the Persistence of Tradition 
by J. Arch Getty.
Yale, 359 pp., £30, September 2013, 978 0 300 16929 4
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... to a lethal climax in the Great Purges of 1937-38 is told in two versions. One, proposed by James Harris some years ago in his book The Great Urals, focuses on central pressure on the regions to meet high production targets, leading the regions to take defensive action, enforcing a united front (which included the local police chief) under the regional first ...

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