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Tooth and Tail

Mark Urban, 7 September 1995

Brassey’s Defence Yearbook 1995 
edited by Lawrence Freedman and Michael Clarke.
Brassey, 396 pp., £35.95, April 1995, 1 85753 131 0
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Broken Lives: A Personal View of the Bosnian Conflict 
by Bob Stewart.
HarperCollins, 336 pp., £6.99, July 1994, 0 00 638268 1
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Looking for Trouble: An Autobiography 
by Peter de la Billière.
HarperCollins, 449 pp., £19.99, September 1994, 0 00 255245 0
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... Throughout the Cold War, the British Army poured most of its resources into training and equipping for ‘the big one’, the day the Red Juggernaut would come rumbling across Europe and bring with it the most destructive warfare imaginable. The fact that British soldiers were fighting and dying at various times in Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and the Falklands was an annoying detail to many senior officers and planners in Whitehall, a distraction from what defence was meant to be about ...

Maggie’s Hobby

Nicholas Hiley, 11 December 1997

New cloak, Old dagger: How Britain’s Spies Came in from the Cold 
by Michael Smith.
Gollancz, 338 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 575 06150 2
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Intelligence Power in Peace and War 
by Michael Herman.
Cambridge, 436 pp., £50, October 1996, 0 521 56231 7
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UK Eyes Alpha 
by Mark Urban.
Faber, 320 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 571 17689 5
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... Duff became head of MI5 in 1984 he was keen to reduce the importance of F Branch. As he told Mark Urban, he was supported by the majority of his staff ‘except for a handful of old sweats in middle management’. Duff seems to have been a new force within MI5: one intelligence officer told Urban admiringly that ...

Urban Humanist

Sydney Checkland, 15 September 1983

Exploring the Urban Past: Essays in Urban History by H.J. Dyos 
edited by David Cannadine and David Reeder.
Cambridge, 258 pp., £20, September 1982, 0 521 24624 5
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Themes in Urban History: Patricians, Power and Politics in 19th-Century Towns 
edited by David Cannadine.
Leicester University Press, 224 pp., £16.50, October 1982, 9780718511937
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... felt the magic of the city, but until recently there has been little real attempt to rationalise urban processes. There have been plenty of topographical, antiquarian and anecdotal accounts: the Victorians were profuse with their ‘Annals’, ‘Memorials’, ‘Reminiscences’, ‘Fragments’. But until different minds, like that of Patrick Geddes, had ...

Friendly Fire

Bernard Porter: Torching the White House, 21 February 2008

Fusiliers: Eight Years with the Redcoats in America 
by Mark Urban.
Faber, 384 pp., £20, September 2007, 978 0 571 22486 9
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1812: War with America 
by Jon Latimer.
Harvard, 637 pp., £22.95, October 2007, 978 0 674 02584 4
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... first occasion we know about: it was the war that secured the colonists’ independence (1775-83). Mark Urban’s book is about the experiences of one British regiment – the Royal Welch Fusiliers – in that campaign. (Most of them weren’t Welsh, incidentally.) The second war scarcely anyone in Britain has heard of, and even Americans seem to be hazy ...

Enter, Fleeing

Mark Ford, 19 November 2015

... Undo that step, or at the least tread softly, for a sleek and bushy-tailed urban fox is counting chick- chick-chick- chickens in his dreams; when he wakes he’ll yawn and prowl, while I’ll be staring, shamefaced, down the grainy, haunted vistas opened by insomnia. Sing, birds, I mean all ye bird-brained in every furrow that you hop in; warble tales of the species that will wade through estuaries, and stalk the plains, or tunnel beneath them, after mishap or meteor ...

Two Poems

Mark Ford, 10 June 2010

... full April moon Slides above barely visible clouds, and is greeted By a burst of hooting from an urban Tawny owl. On empty Brownfield sites they nest, and rear their young, and feed On vermin. Has Any Probing, saucer-eyed astronomer, even a modern Or French one, ever Grown genuinely accustomed ‘aux profondeurs du grand Vide céleste’? Someone halts, and ...

Two Poems

Mark Ford, 6 January 2000

... minaret and mosque, a droning police helicopter banks and circles, banks and circles: unnerved, an urban vixen pokes her elegant muzzle skywards, deliberates, then abandons her scavenging. Chapter and verse yield to the fierce will of commentators, who rebuke us all for invading the distance between soil and words, hunger and clouds. In revenge, the rudiments ...

Mysteries of the City

Mark Ford: Baudelaire and Modernity, 21 February 2013

Baudelaire: The Complete Verse 
edited and translated by Francis Scarfe.
Anvil, 470 pp., £10.95, January 2012, 978 0 85646 427 0
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Baudelaire: Paris Blues/Le Spleen de Paris 
edited and translated by Francis Scarfe.
Anvil, 332 pp., £10.95, January 2012, 978 0 85646 429 4
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Seeing Double: Baudelaire’s Modernity 
by Françoise Meltzer.
Chicago, 264 pp., £29, May 2011, 978 0 226 51988 3
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... poem’s London more generally. In a passage from the poem ‘Le Soleil’ that anticipates the urban poetics of another ardently Francophile American poet, Frank O’Hara, Baudelaire figures his traversing of the streets of Paris as an aleatory means of exploring simultaneously the city, the self, and the possibilities of poetry: Flairant dans tous les ...

Protest Problems

Jan-Werner Müller: Civil Repression, 8 February 2024

... success of a protest. Considering the period since the end of the Cold War, the social scientist Mark Beissinger noted that ‘urban revolutionary episodes that have engaged in rallies, protests or processions in public space have had a significantly higher rate of success than those which engage in other tactics but do ...

Pugin’s Law

Mark Swenarton, 4 December 1980

The Work of Sir Gilbert Scott 
by David Cole.
Architectural Press, 244 pp., £25, May 1980, 0 85139 723 9
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Lutyens Country Houses 
by Daniel O’Neill.
Lund Humphries, 167 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 85331 428 4
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A Revolution in London Housing: LCC Housing Architects and their Work 1893-1914 
by Susan Beattic.
GLC/Architectural Press, 127 pp., £6.95, July 1980, 0 85139 560 0
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... the social relationships (master to servant, husband to wife, family to outsiders) which, as Mark Girouard has shown, were crucial in determining the form of the country house are omitted altogether. Mr O’Neill is not interested in the life of the building after construction is completed, but only in its architectural conception and birth – a ...

Cramming for Success

James Wood: Hardy in London, 15 June 2017

Thomas Hardy: Half A Londoner 
by Mark Ford.
Harvard, 305 pp., £20, October 2016, 978 0 674 73789 1
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... Guys, Baudelaire leaves the salon and goes out into the street, away from art criticism to urban digression. He mentions Poe’s story, ‘The Man of the Crowd’, whose narrator, recovering from a recent illness, sits in a London café and watches the human traffic through the window. Artists are like convalescents, Baudelaire adds: nervously ...

It Migrates to Them

Jeremy Harding: The Coming Megaslums, 8 March 2007

Planet of Slums 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 228 pp., £15.99, March 2006, 1 84467 022 8
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Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 228 pp., £12.99, March 2007, 978 1 84467 132 8
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... from prosperous centres of medium or high population density. Prosperity in the newer, informal urban environment – in Caracas or Lagos, say – is reckoned by incomparably different standards. Davis, the urban historian who also excels at apocalyptic geography, sketches the various ways in which its inhabitants can ...

At the Nailya Alexander Gallery

August Kleinzahler: George Tice, 11 October 2018

... Stone Walls, Grey Skies: A Vision of Yorkshire, Fields of Peace: A Pennsylvania German Album, Urban Landscapes. In many of these land and sky take precedence over the built landscape of the photographs of Tice’s native New Jersey. A sense of quietude pervades the images. Although the Midwestern small-town photographs display many of the elements Tice is ...

Vehicles of Dissatisfaction

Jonathan Dollimore: Men and Motors, 24 July 2003

Autopia: Cars and Culture 
edited by Peter Wollen and Joe Kerr.
Reaktion, 400 pp., £25, November 2002, 1 86189 132 6
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... won’t release the driver’s name, fearing for his safety. We can’t speed up the flow of urban traffic – more roads produce more cars, and congestion soon becomes as bad as it was before. Ian Parker describes in Autopia how a signal engineer got vehicles flowing again at the Hanger Lane gyratory system in London by finding seven ‘spare’ seconds ...


Christopher Turner: Cities, 6 September 2001

Cities for a Small Country 
by Richard Rogers and Anne Power.
Faber, 310 pp., £14.99, November 2000, 0 571 20652 2
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Urban Futures 21: A Global Agenda for 21st-Century Cities 
by Peter Hall and Ulrich Pfeiffer.
Spon, 384 pp., £19.99, July 2000, 0 415 24075 1
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... A folk memory of industrial squalor and urban overcrowding persists in the minds of public and planners alike,’ Richard Rogers and Anne Power argue in Cities for a Small Country, ‘and fuels an almost obsessive desire for low-density, suburban homes.’ What happened, they ask, to ‘the English love of cities’? Should we blame the town planner Ebenezer Howard for the love affair with suburbia that replaced it? Howard imagined that the problem of London could be solved only by its extinction ...

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