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The Way of the Warrior

Tom Shippey: Vikings, 2 April 2014

Vikings: Life and Legend 
edited by Gareth Williams, Peter Pentz and Matthias Wernhoff.
British Museum, 288 pp., £25, February 2014, 978 0 7141 2337 0
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The Northmen’s Fury 
by Philip Parker.
Cape, 450 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 224 09080 3
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... Life and Legend (until 22 June). The problem for the exhibition’s organisers – and for Philip Parker, whose book The Northmen’s Fury seems designed to tie in with it – is that we know too much about Vikings already. We know what they looked like: big, hairy, threatening, wearing horned helmets as like as not. We know what they did: rape ...

Too Much for One Man

Thomas Penn: Kaiser Karl V, 23 January 2020

Emperor: A New Life of Charles V 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Yale, 760 pp., £25, May 2019, 978 0 300 19652 8
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... he was born: there, he began the long, slow process by which he abdicated in favour of his son Philip and brother Ferdinand. It was abundantly clear why such a transfer of power was necessary. It was a cold winter and Charles, white-haired, with shrunken gums exposing blackened teeth, his joints so crippled by gout that he was unable to sign documents with ...

Sad Century

David Parrott: The 17th-Century Crisis, 5 March 2015

Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the 17th Century 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Yale, 871 pp., £16.99, August 2014, 978 0 300 20863 4
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... flight of the young Louis XIV from Paris in the face of popular revolt, the trial of Charles I and Philip IV of Spain’s loss of Portugal and its empire: a flood of usurpations and revolutions, as he put it, ‘almost from one end of the world to the other’. Voltaire’s identification of the moment around 1650 as a high point of political unrest attracted ...

Don’t Sing the High C

Roger Parker: Unsung Operas, 13 December 2007

Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera 
by Philip Gossett.
Chicago, 675 pp., £22.50, September 2006, 0 226 30482 5
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... be. Even people who might know better get caught up in the game. Here, for example, is the way Philip Gossett begins his long, passionate and often fascinating book: Every summer Italians find themselves engaged in delicate negotiations on which the happiness of a family depends: should they spend their vacation at the seaside or in the mountains, mare o ...

Puffed up, Slapped down

Rosemary Hill: Charles and Camilla, 6 September 2017

Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life 
by Sally Bedell Smith.
Michael Joseph, 624 pp., £25, April 2017, 978 0 7181 8780 4
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The Duchess: The Untold Story 
by Penny Junor.
William Collins, 320 pp., £20, June 2017, 978 0 00 821100 4
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... that seafaring was yet another area in which he and his father had nothing in common. Prince Philip had a distinguished naval career. His son struggled with navigation, which he found confusing, and he didn’t much like the rough and tumble of life onboard ship. One exercise involved performing an ‘underwater escape from a submarine’: a not inapt ...

Crypto-Republican

Simon Adams: Was Mary Queen of Scots a Murderer?, 11 June 2009

Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by Stephen Alford.
Yale, 412 pp., £25, May 2008, 978 0 300 11896 4
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... Cecils’ used to destroy their enemies. The Ridolphi Plot was re-examined by Geoffrey Parker in a 2001 lecture on ‘The Place of Tudor England in the Messianic Vision of Philip II of Spain’. Parker could find no evidence that Ridolphi was an English agent, but Guy continued ...

Battle of Britain

Patrick O’Brian, 7 July 1988

The Spanish Armada 
by Colin Martin and Geoffrey Parker.
Hamish Hamilton, 296 pp., £15, April 1988, 0 241 12125 6
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Armada 1588-1988 
by M.J. Rodriguez-Salgado.
Penguin and the National Maritime Museum, 295 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 14 010301 5
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Armada: A Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the Defeat of the Spanish Armada 1588-1988 
by Peter Padfield.
Gollancz, 208 pp., £14.95, April 1988, 0 575 03729 6
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Froude’s ‘Spanish Story of the Armada’, and Other Essays 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Sutton, 262 pp., £5.95, May 1988, 0 86299 500 0
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Ireland’s Armada Legacy 
by Laurence Flanagan.
Sutton, 210 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 9780862994730
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The Armada in the Public Records 
by N.A.M. Rodger.
HMSO, 76 pp., £5.95, April 1988, 0 11 440215 9
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The Spanish Armada: The Experience of War in 1588 
by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto.
Oxford, 300 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 19 822926 7
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... and even in conclusion – Mia Rodrigues-Salgado, for example, feels that the enterprise increased Philip II’s reputation, particularly in the north – but they all of course agree in trying to place the disastrous voyage in its context. Yet it is exceedingly difficult to know just where the borders of the context lie, and indeed where any historical ...

Losers

Ross McKibbin, 23 October 1986

The Politics of the UCS Work-In: Class Alliances and the Right to Work 
by John Foster and Charles Woolfson.
Lawrence and Wishart, 446 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 85315 663 8
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A Lost Left: Three Studies in Socialism and Nationalism 
by David Howell.
Manchester, 351 pp., £29.95, July 1986, 0 7190 1959 1
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The Miners’ Strike 1984-5: Loss without Limit 
by Martin Adeney and John Lloyd.
Routledge, 319 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7102 0694 1
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Red Hill: A Mining Community 
by Tony Parker.
Heinemann, 196 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 434 57771 5
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Strike Free: New Industrial Relations in Britain 
by Philip Bassett.
Macmillan, 197 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 9780333418000
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... semi-depressed economy. If Scargill boxed himself in, so has the Prime Minister. Tony Parker’s Red Hill is an absorbing collective memoir of the miners’ strike. ‘Red Hill’ is a Durham mining village, whose mine has since closed, and Parker has brought together a representative array of reminiscences: of ...

Something Fishy

James Francken, 13 April 2000

When We Were Orphans 
by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Faber, 313 pp., £16.99, April 2000, 0 571 20384 1
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... of describing his hero’s investigations by ignoring them: the ‘Mannering case’, the ‘Roger Parker case’ and the ‘Trevor Richardson affair’ are all alluded to and then dropped. When a corpse finally turns up in the ‘Studley Grange business’, Banks soon dispels any feeling of menace: ‘It took no more than a few days to unravel the mystery of ...

Everybody wants a Rembrandt

Nicholas Penny, 17 March 1983

The Rare Art Traditions 
by Joseph Alsop.
Thames and Hudson, 691 pp., £30, November 1982, 0 500 23359 4
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... explained how ‘gloriously liberating’ he found the ‘scratch and sniff pictures’ of Philip Guston which ‘smelled of stale vodka and cigarettes, old spunk and dirty sheets’. Other artists were praised for shamelessly cocking their legs (De Chirico!) or for ‘drooling over fleshy naked women’ with a ‘quite shocking lack of ...

Diary

Eric Hobsbawm: My Days as a Jazz Critic, 27 May 2010

... trying to understand or at least come to terms with bebop (even the passionate jazz-conservative Philip Larkin eventually felt he had to make a gesture in this direction), but I don’t know how far I succeeded, except for an admiration for Thelonious Monk and an immediate passion for the supremely talented and intelligent Dizzy Gillespie, the most dazzling ...

Diary

Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman, 15 July 2015

... the Five Spot was to free jazz of the bop conventions it had settled into. Coleman loved Charlie Parker’s music – he wrote a tune called ‘Bird Food’3 and could mimic Parker brilliantly – but, as he put it in the liner notes to Change of the Century, he felt that ‘the idolisation of Bird … has finally come to ...

Keeping up with Jane Austen

Marilyn Butler, 6 May 1982

An Unsuitable Attachment 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £6.95, February 1982, 0 333 32654 7
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... to the rector of a fashionable Mayfair parish, blends the hypochondria of Sanditon’s Diana Parker with the injudicious high living of Dr Grant in Mansfield Park. ‘Bertha’s health,’ says her husband Randolph regretfully, ‘wouldn’t have stood any district but W1 or SW1. Anything near the Harrow Road, or the canal, or Kensal Green cemetery had ...

Homage to Braudel

Geoffrey Parker, 4 September 1980

Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe – XVIIIe siécle 
by Fernand Braudel.
Armand Colin, 544 pp.
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... of Braudel’s other book, the celebrated Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II.1 In both works, the chronological account of what happened is left until last, coming almost as an anti-climax after a prolonged analysis of the parameters, preconditions and pressures which (according to Braudel) determined that particular ...

Success

Marilyn Butler, 18 November 1982

The Trouble of an Index: Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. XII 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 166 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 7195 3885 8
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Lord Byron: Selected Letters and Journals 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 404 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 0 7195 3974 9
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Byron 
by Frederic Raphael.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 0 500 01278 4
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Byron’s Political and Cultural Influence in 19th-Century Europe: A Symposium 
edited by Paul Graham Trueblood.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £15, April 1981, 0 333 29389 4
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Byron and Joyce through Homer 
by Hermione de Almeida.
Macmillan, 233 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 333 30072 6
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Byron: A Poet Before His Public 
by Philip Martin.
Cambridge, 253 pp., £18.50, July 1982, 0 521 24186 3
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... of all Byron’s doxies’. He quotes Byron’s own reminiscence of his cousin, Margaret Parker, ‘one of the most beautiful of evanescent beings’, only to round off the paragraph by observing that Margaret Parker ‘took evanescence to the limit by dying’. Biographer and subject could hardly be closer in step ...

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