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Diary

Mary Beard: Set in Tunisia, 14 December 2006

... have had a lurid hold on the popular imagination for at least two millennia. The idea that St Peter was crucified upside down was no sooner taken as a sign of his self-proclaimed unworthiness to share the fate of Jesus, than it was reinterpreted as a mark of his common sense. Even a poor fisherman knew that hanging head down brought the oblivion of ...

Jingoes

R.W. Johnson: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War, 6 May 2004

The Lion and the Springbok: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War 
by Ronald Hyam and Peter Henshaw.
Cambridge, 379 pp., £45, May 2003, 0 521 82453 2
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... This book begins with real passion as Ronald Hyam and Peter Henshaw lash into those historians who they believe have made unwarranted assumptions about the links between Britain and South Africa: to wit, that Britain fought the Boer War to get its hands on the gold and that economic considerations remained the motivating force in its difficult relationship with South Africa thereafter ...

Silks and Bright Scarlet

Christopher Kelly: Wealth and the Romans, 3 December 2015

Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD 
by Peter Brown.
Princeton, 759 pp., £16.95, March 2014, 978 0 691 16177 8
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The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity 
by Peter Brown.
Harvard, 262 pp., £18.95, April 2015, 978 0 674 96758 8
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... centuries. The working out of these various, often divergent points of view is the concern of Peter Brown’s Through the Eye of a Needle. One of the great strengths of this humane and thoughtful discussion is Brown’s refusal to rush to its conclusion: the nexus of wealth, charitable giving and salvation that marks a faultline between the ancient and ...

Time Lords

Anthony Grafton: In the Catacombs, 31 July 2014

Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs 
by Paul Koudounaris.
Thames and Hudson, 189 pp., £18.95, September 2013, 978 0 500 25195 9
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... eyes, smiling the cheerful smile of the dead, Munditia still greets visitors to the Church of St Peter in her glass case. Since the late 17th century she has served as the patroness and protector of single, unmarried women. Her feast day, traditionally celebrated with great ceremony, falls on 17 November. Koudounaris describes the miraculous cures that the ...

Subversions

R.W. Johnson, 4 June 1987

Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 346 pp., £13.95, May 1987, 0 283 99379 0
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The Secrets of the Service: British Intelligence and Communist Subversion 1939-51 
by Anthony Glees.
Cape, 447 pp., £18, May 1987, 0 224 02252 0
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Freedom of Information – Freedom of the Individual? 
by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee, edited by Julia Neuberger.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 333 44771 9
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... knowing even the most elementary facts about the intelligence services their taxes pay for. The Peter Wright trial in Australia has recently brought out the full absurdity of this, with Sir Robert Armstrong attempting at one point to suggest that the very existence of MI5 and MI6 (let alone the identity of their directors) was a secret which could neither ...

I told you so!

James Davidson: Oracles, 2 December 2004

The Road to Delphi: The Life and Afterlife of Oracles 
by Michael Wood.
Chatto, 271 pp., £17.99, January 2004, 0 7011 6546 4
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... to the apex of the huge new temple of Zeus at Olympia itself, the closest thing to a pagan St Peter’s: a gilded Victory stood on a shield, with an inscription, since rediscovered, commemorating the battle. The Athenians must have bristled at the fact that a monument of their military humiliation was on display for eternity in just about the most ...

The Castaway

Jeremy Harding: Algeria’s Camus, 4 December 2014

Algerian Chronicles 
by Albert Camus, edited by Alice Kaplan, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Harvard, 224 pp., £11.95, November 2014, 978 0 674 41675 8
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Camus brûlant 
by Benjamin Stora and Jean-Baptiste Péretié.
Stock, 109 pp., €12.50, September 2013, 978 2 234 07482 8
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Meursault, contre-enquête 
by Kamel Daoud.
Actes Sud, 155 pp., €19, May 2014, 978 2 330 03372 9
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... Algeria to Jewish parents – was not the man to weigh this fine distinction. ‘An Israelite from Constantine’, he was roundly loathed, as one eloquent local put it last year, by the ‘French Algerian community’ in Aix. After Stora left, his hapless successor resigned. A half-hearted, under-funded exhibition – a perfect expression of the national ...

The Force of the Anomaly

Perry Anderson: Carlo Ginzburg, 26 April 2012

Threads and Traces: True False Fictive 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Anne Tedeschi and John Tedeschi.
California, 328 pp., £20.95, January 2012, 978 0 520 25961 4
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... of Renaissance humanism, Lorenzo Valla’s demonstration that the so-called Donation of Constantine must have been a clerical forgery, was conceived by Valla as a rhetorical declamation. The example then stands as an emblem of the correct relationship between the two. Yet the case may tell us less than we might infer from Ginzburg’s use of it. In ...

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