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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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... Vikings are here again, thanks to the British Museum’s Vikings: Life and Legend (until 22 June). The problem for the exhibition’s organisers – and for PhilipParker, 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 ...

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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... to the deposition of the Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim, the destabilising of the Holy Roman Emperor, the 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 ...

Too Much for One Man

Thomas Penn: Kaiser Karl V

13 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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... Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and head of the house of Habsburg, returned to the Low Countries, where 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 ...

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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... unstable, potent and alluring a mixture the words ‘Italian’, ‘opera’ and ‘singer’ can still 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 ...

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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... course had been reduced from the usual three months for him, but it was long enough for Charles to realise 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 ...

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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... first thought of the word, shortly after the event). They differ very much in approach, in emphasis, 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 ...

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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... Cecil’s tactics. All the subsequent Catholic ‘plots’, including the Gunpowder Plot, were the means ‘the 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 to maintain ...

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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... Ishighuro is not interested in the ins and outs of the detective’s job, and solves the problem 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 ...
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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... So remember the name, Schnabel, ‘the new Jackson Pollock’. Elsewhere in the same article Januszczak 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 ...

Diary

Eric Hobsbawm: My Days as a Jazz Critic

27 May 2010
... jazz before Miles Davis began to make his impact. Writing about jazz in the 1950s meant, basically, 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 ...
6 May 1982
An Unsuitable Attachment 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £6.95, February 1982, 0 333 32654 7
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... for 3s 9d, might be based on the entrepreneurial Lady Denham in Sanditon. Ianthe’s aunt, Bertha, married 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 ...

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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... And, though they note it, they do not emphasise enough how crucial to government policy is a slow-growing, 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 ...

Diary

Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman

15 July 2015
... jazz was more of a verb than an adjective. As the critic Howard Mandel observed, what Coleman did at 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 ...

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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... led eventually to the Industrial Revolution. The format will remind many readers of the structure 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 ...

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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... in my esteem age is not estimable.’ Raphael writes of ‘a smart touch of heterodoxy, the most consistent 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 ...

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