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Great Kings, Strong Kings, Kings of the Four Quarters

Peter Green: The Achaemenids, 7 May 2015

Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BCE 
by Matt Waters.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £19.99, January 2014, 978 0 521 25369 7
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... Persia was the most powerful nation in Eurasia. Cyrus had been justified in calling himself ‘King of the World, Great King, Strong King, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, ...

The Case for Geoffrey Hill

Tom Paulin, 4 April 1985

Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work 
edited by Peter Robinson.
Open University, 259 pp., £18, March 1985, 0 335 10588 2
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... Geoffrey Hill’s second collection of poems, King Log, was published in 1968, that year of student radicalism and disappointment. Hill’s title is reactionary in its implications and derives from Aesop’s fable of the frogs who desired a king. In my edition of L’Estrange’s royalist version of Aesop the fable runs like this: The Frogs, living an easy, free life everywhere among the lakes and ponds, assembled together, one day, in a very tumultuous manner, and petitioned Jupiter to let them have a King ...

Medieval Dreams

Peter Burke, 4 June 1981

Time, Work and Culture in the Middle Ages 
by Jacques Le Goff, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Chicago, 384 pp., £13.50, January 1981, 0 226 47080 6
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... One night in 1130, King Henry I had a nightmare. He dreamed that he was being attacked, first by a crowd of peasants, then by a group of knights, and finally by a number of clerics. For many historians, this detail, recorded by the chronicler John of Worcester, would be no more than a fascinating piece of useless information ...

In Good Estate

Eamon Duffy, 2 January 1997

Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets: Kingship and the Representation of Power 1200-1400 
by Paul Binski.
Yale, 241 pp., £45, May 1995, 0 300 05980 9
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... and absorbing book. The origins of the Abbey – to be precise, the Collegiate Church of St Peter in Westminster – are shrouded in uncertainty. A Saxon foundation on Thorney Island, the one dry spot in the fenland that once stretched from Chelsea to Battersea, the Abbey formed the West minster to St Paul’s East minster. The settlement which, under ...

Superior Persons

E.S. Turner, 6 February 1986

Travels with a Superior Person 
by Lord Curzon, edited by Peter King.
Sidgwick, 191 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 283 99294 8
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The Ladies of Castlebrae 
by A. Whigham Price.
Alan Sutton, 242 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 86299 228 1
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Lizzie: A Victorian Lady’s Amazon Adventure 
by Tony Morrison, Anne Brown and Ann Rose.
BBC, 160 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 563 20424 9
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Miss Fane in India 
by [author], edited by John Pemble.
Alan Sutton, 246 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 86299 240 0
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Explorers Extraordinary 
by John Keay.
Murray/BBC Publications, 195 pp., £10.95, November 1985, 0 7195 4249 9
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A Visit to Germany, Italy and Malta 1840-41 
by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Grace Thornton.
Peter Owen, 182 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 7206 0636 5
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The Irish Sketch-Book 1842 
by William Makepeace Thackeray.
Blackstaff, 368 pp., £9.95, December 1985, 0 85640 340 7
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Mr Rowlandson’s England 
by Robert Southey, edited by John Steel.
Antique Collectors’ Club, 202 pp., £14.95, November 1985, 0 907462 77 4
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... We travellers are in very hard circumstances,’ said Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. ‘If we tell anything new we are laughed at as fabulous.’ This mistrust of the footloose is endorsed by the trenchant definition of ‘traveller’s tale’ in Chambers’ Dictionary: ‘an astounding lie about what one professes to have seen abroad’. To be sure, this batch of 19th-century travellers’ tales features some astounding liars, but there are also some reasonably honest witnesses ...

Things the King Liked to Hear

Blair Worden: Donne and Milton’s Prose, 19 June 2014

Sermons of John Donne Vol. III: Sermons Preached at the Court of Charles I 
edited by David Colclough.
Oxford, 521 pp., £125, November 2013, 978 0 19 956548 1
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Complete Works of John Milton Vol. VI: Vernacular Regicide and Republican Writings 
edited by N.H. Keeble and Nicholas McDowell.
Oxford, 811 pp., £125, December 2013, 978 0 19 921805 9
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... and who turned to the church only as the next best thing. It seems to have been at the behest of King James I, who valued the theological learning in which Donne was proficient, that he opted for ordination. Certainly the decision was in keeping with the spirit of a royal entourage where scholarly divinity mingled easily with worldly complaisance. He landed ...

Under the Soles of His Feet

Stephen Alford: Henry’s Wars, 4 April 2019

The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII 
by Steven Gunn.
Oxford, 297 pp., £35, January 2018, 978 0 19 880286 0
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... In the​ First Book of Kings (5:1-5) Hiram, King of Tyre, sends servants to Solomon, ‘for he had heard, that they had anointed him king in the room of his father,’ David: For Hiram was ever a lover of David. And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying: thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the Lord his God, for the wars which were about him on every side, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet ...

On Radio 4

Peter Campbell: ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’, 18 November 2010

... disrupt the essay-like architecture of the chapters. Not that I would have wanted to miss Mervyn King putting the frighteners on us when considering a medieval Chinese banknote. Oxus chariot model, c.500-300 BC The format of each chapter is the same. You are told what the object is, what it looks like, very often how it was found and then, more ...

At Condor Cycles

Peter Campbell: The Tour, 19 July 2001

... muscles sore after exercise. The Colombian rider Santiago Botero, who has worn the red polka-dot King of the Mountains jersey, had only done nine days of road-racing as an amateur when he was taken on as a professional by the Kelme team on the basis of a spectacular vo2 test. Body shape is important too. When Armstrong recovered from the testicular cancer ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Renaissance Drawings, 27 May 2010

... well-understood elements will be arranged. In Parri Spinelli’s drawing from the mid-1400s of St Peter holding a key, Peter’s cloak, like one of those skirts made of layers of handkerchiefs, hangs down in points. Delicate cross-hatched shadows and curling lines depict overlapping hems that outdo the vestments of even the ...

Sunflower

Peter Burke, 20 March 1986

Velazquez: Painter and Courtier 
by Jonathan Brown.
Yale, 322 pp., £35, March 1986, 0 300 03466 0
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El Greco and his Patrons: Three Major Projects 
by Richard Mann.
Cambridge, 164 pp., £35, February 1986, 0 521 30392 3
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... Jahrhundert (1888), an example which has rarely been followed. Brown’s next book, A Palace for a King (1980), written in collaboration with a ‘plain’ historian, John Elliott, studied the court of Philip IV and the building of the Palace of the Buen Retiro on the outskirts of Madrid. Behind the enterprise loomed the massive figure of Philip’s first ...

Past Its Peak

Robert Vitalis: The Oil Curse, 17 December 2009

Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil 
by Peter Maass.
Allen Lane, 276 pp., £20, October 2009, 978 1 84614 246 8
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... of the Russian Empire that had recently become the centre of the world oil industry. ‘If oil is king, Baku is its throne,’ he wrote in Baku: An Eventful History. But the Russian industry was even then beginning a precipitous decline following a series of crippling strikes in the oilfields led by a young Joseph Stalin, and rebellion was spreading across ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Spider-Man 3’, 24 May 2007

Spider-Man 3 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2007
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... idling. Like the new movie itself, we have our memories, and Tobey Maguire is still with us as Peter Parker, the goofiness wearing a little thin, but the earnestness holding up (in Spider-Man 2 the woman Peter loves appears in a Broadway production of The Importance of Being Earnest), and he does something very few ...

Diary

Peter Parsons: Rooting around Oxyrhyncus, 4 June 2015

... had allowed his mind a frivolous diversion on the way to the Heights. Homer of course was the king of the classics. ‘Homer is a god, not a man’: the schoolboy who copied this out knew his curriculum. Homer rules, and because his language had been archaic since the fifth century bc, he was served by a whole household of ...

Eye Contact

Peter Campbell: Anthony van Dyck, 16 September 1999

Anthony van Dyck 1599-1641 
by Christopher Brown and Hans Vlieghe.
Royal Academy, 360 pp., £22.50, May 1999, 9780847821969
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Anthony van Dyck: A Life, 1599-1641 
by Robin Blake.
Constable, 435 pp., £25, August 1999, 9780094797208
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... liberally, since his house was frequented by the highest nobility, following the lead of the King, who used to visit him and took pleasure in watching him paint and spending time with him. In magnificence he rivalled Parrhasius, keeping servants, carriages, horses, musicians, singers and clowns, who entertained all the dignitaries, knights and ladies who ...

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