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Sir Norman Foster’s Favourite Building

Graham Coster, 11 March 1993

Wide Body: The Making of the 747 
by Clive Irving.
Hodder, 384 pp., £17.99, February 1993, 0 340 53487 7
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... political and cultural changes that individual designs have often in retrospect assumed a symbolic weight out of all proportion to then contemporary technological success. The Short Stirling, the first of the RAF’s World War Two heavy bombers, stands as an aerial metaphor of Britain’s half-cock response in the mid Thirties to the Nazi war threat. The Air ...

Unction and Slaughter

Simon Walker: Edward IV, 10 July 2003

Arthurian Myths and Alchemy: The Kingship of Edward IV 
by Jonathan Hughes.
Sutton, 354 pp., £30, October 2002, 0 7509 1994 9
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... When Richard, Duke of York, laid claim to the English throne in 1460, he presented himself as a physician, sent to heal the ills of the kingdom. In partnership with his apothecaries, the faithful Commons, he would probe ‘the root and bottom of this long-festered canker’ and separate ‘the clean and pure stuff from the old, corrupt and putrefied dregs ...

The Trouble with Trott

Gabriele Annan, 22 February 1990

A Good German: Adam von Trott zu Solz 
by Giles MacDonogh.
Quartet, 358 pp., £17.95, January 1990, 0 7043 2730 9
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... women who were to become, or beginning to be, what the Germans call prominente. Among them were Richard Crossman, A.L. Rowse, Maurice Bowra, Isaiah Berlin, David Astor and the journalist Shiela Grant Duff, who, in 1982, published a book about their relationship, and followed it up with a volume of their correspondence. At opposite ends of the political ...

Oops

Philip Nobel: What makes things break, 21 February 2013

To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure 
by Henry Petroski.
Harvard, 410 pp., £19.95, March 2012, 978 0 674 06584 0
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... Whenever you step on a bridge, every bit of your weight is being transferred – part to one shore, part to the other – down to the bedrock below. If the structure is to continue standing when it takes on a new load, every link in the system has to resist the burden, kilo for kilo. Your weight, technically a ‘live load’ (which is to say transient, as opposed to the resident ‘dead load’ of the structure itself), must be met by the strength designed into the bridge, whether it is a simple beam or arch, one of the myriad types of trusses, or a suspension bridge, either the traditional catenary or the more recent cable-stayed ...

Mad John

Gabriele Annan, 28 June 1990

McEnroe: Taming the Talent 
by Richard Evans.
Bloomsbury, 216 pp., £14.99, June 1990, 0 7475 0618 3
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... This is Richard Evans’s second book on McEnroe. The Struwwelpeter of tennis is now 31 and No 4 in the international ratings. The first book, McEnroe: A Rage for Perfection, came out eight years ago when McEnroe was 23 and rated No 1. The new book belongs to the genre of defensive biography. It is as though Oliver had written a life of Roland: the wise, steady friend standing up for the brilliant, wayward hero ...

At the Watts Gallery

Julian Bell: Richard Dadd , 29 July 2015

... What, for the subject, is it like to be still? As far as one can tell, the gentleman facing Richard Dadd in 1853 had nothing that he wished to project: his attire was dapper, his red locks kempt, but his eyes did no more than attend, uninflectedly staring back at those that analysed him. At the same time the painter, adjusting the tonal weights that ...

Good Things

Michael Hofmann, 20 April 1995

Heart’s Journey in Winter 
by James Buchan.
Harvill, 201 pp., £14.99, April 1995, 9780002730099
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... damp and dilapidated house in Italy with dodgy investments and asset sales, in Davy Chadwick; Richard Verey in Slide, after spells in the Foreign Service and on Wall Street, effectively on the run from himself, finally forced back to what he knows best of all after running out of world: ‘I might not be here, in this ridiculous landscape, hurrying down ...

Promises, Promises

David Carpenter: The Peasants’ Revolt, 1 June 2016

England, Arise: The People, the King and the Great Revolt of 1381 
by Juliet Barker.
Abacus, 506 pp., £10.99, September 2015, 978 0 349 12382 0
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... the city, they sacked John of Gaunt’s palace of the Savoy and forced the king, the 14-year-old Richard II, to meet them at Mile End. There, on 14 June, Richard made major concessions, the most important being the abolition of villeinage. While negotiations were going on at Mile End, another group of rebels dragged the ...

At the Royal Academy

Peter Campbell: Degas, 6 October 2011

... outlines, to an extreme position that is the essence of the dance step. Much of the catalogue by Richard Kendall (who also produced an excellent catalogue for the 1996 exhibition Degas: Beyond Impressionism) and Jill DeVonyar is about making images of things that happened too fast to be recorded by the most attentive eye or quickest hand. But the exhibition ...

Off-Screen Drama

Richard Mayne, 5 March 1981

European Elections and British Politics 
by David Butler.
Longman, 208 pp., £9.95, February 1981, 0 582 29528 9
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Political Change in Europe: The Left and the Future of the Atlantic Alliance 
edited by Douglas Eden.
Blackwell, 163 pp., £8.95, January 1981, 0 631 12525 6
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... to strengthen Western Europe and stabilise relations with the East – to give Europeans greater weight in world affairs – to curb the law of the jungle by persuading nation-states to merge their sovereignty under democratic institutions and just laws. Who could quarrel with such a noble enterprise? Nationalists of the far Right and Left: that’s ...

Hurrah for the Dredge

Richard Hamblyn: The ocean floor, 3 November 2005

Fathoming the Ocean: The Discovery and Exploration of the Deep Sea 
by Helen Rozwadowski.
Harvard, 276 pp., £16.95, April 2005, 0 674 01691 2
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... so difficult and dangerous is the steady increase in hydrostatic pressure caused by the weight of water above. By 1000 metres down, the outside pressure has risen to 100 times that at the surface. By 5000 metres (just over three miles) down, the pressure will have increased to 500 atmospheres – some 3.5 tons per square inch – inducing levels of ...

Check out the parking lot

Rebecca Solnit: Hell in LA, 8 July 2004

Dante's Inferno 
by Sandow Birk and Marcus Sanders.
Chronicle, 218 pp., £15.99, May 2004, 0 8118 4213 4
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... he fought to keep a railway line out of the Lake District – but I wonder if he ever felt the weight of the din of cities in pastoral places and calculated what their effect might be. Not that I’m against din or cities as such, but I do wonder about these leftover spaces. Someone remarked to me recently that the reason you lose your recent memory after ...

The Conspiracists

Richard J. Evans: The Reichstag Fire, 7 May 2014

Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation into the Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery 
by Benjamin Carter Hett.
Oxford, 413 pp., £18.09, February 2014, 978 0 19 932232 9
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... the tunnel to safety, leaving the hapless van der Lubbe to take the blame. The book put particular weight on a memorandum blaming the Nazis supposedly written by Ernst Oberfohren, the parliamentary leader of the Nationalist Party, allies of the Nazis. The Brown Book, backed up by a sensational mock trial in absentia of the supposed Nazi authors of the ...

The Demented Dalek

Richard J. Evans: Michael Gove, 12 September 2019

Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry 
by Owen Bennett.
Biteback, 422 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 1 78590 440 0
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... We’ve​ got form, Michael Gove and I. ‘Richard Evans may hold a professorship,’ he told the Daily Mail in 2014, after I had attacked him for claiming that Britain had fought the First World War for democracy, ‘but these arguments, like the interpretations of Oh! What a Lovely War! and Blackadder, are more reflective of the attitude of an undergraduate cynic playing to the gallery in a Cambridge Footlights revue rather than a sober academic contributing to a proper historical debate ...

Get the placentas

Gavin Francis: ‘The Life Project’, 1 June 2016

The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of Our Ordinary Lives 
by Helen Pearson.
Allen Lane, 399 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 1 84614 826 2
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... listed in Who’s Who, and that he managed to get money from the likes of Robert Maxwell, Cliff Richard and Twiggy. Since 1958 Butler had been the co-ordinator of a perennially impoverished study which began by examining the medical, social and economic circumstances of 17,000 babies born in the same week in March 1958, then over subsequent decades ...

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