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Here come the judges

Conor Gearty: The constitution, 4 June 1998

This Time: Our Constitutional Revolution 
by Anthony Barnett.
Vintage, 371 pp., £6.99, December 1997, 0 09 926858 2
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The Voice of the People: A Constitution for Tomorrow 
by Robert Alexander.
Weidenfeld, 214 pp., £17.99, September 1997, 0 297 84109 2
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The Making and Remaking of the British Constitution 
by Lord Nolan and Stephen Sedley.
Blackstone, 142 pp., £19.95, November 1997, 1 85431 704 0
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... Barnett was kicking Charter 88 into life in various basement flats and leftist magazine offices, Robert Alexander accepted ennoblement as a Tory peer in the House of Lords, though his elevation is not mentioned on the cover of The Voice of the People. He is a former leading QC; former chairman of the Bar; former chairman of the City Panel on Takeovers ...

The Dalswinton Enlightenment

Robert Crawford, 21 January 1988

... vessel, the world’s First steamship is swanning across Dalswinton Loch. A landscape painter, Alexander Naysmith Perches on deck beside his good friend, Robert Bums. It’s a calm, clear morning. The painter will later invent The compression rivet, and work out the axial arrangement Between propeller and engine. The ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford, 8 February 1996

The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... Here (in English translation) are the great Latinist George Buchanan and the Gaelic poet Alexander Mac-Donald. Duncan Ban MacIntyre’s expansive 18th-century Gaelic poem on deer (echoes of which can be heard in Crichton Smith and Les Murray) is juxtaposed with John Davidson’s ‘A Runnable Stag’. This should have been the book which set the ...

Standing at ease

Robert Taubman, 1 May 1980

Faces in My Time 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 230 pp., £8.50, March 1980, 0 434 59924 7
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... guarded a man betrays something by what he admires, and two examples stand out: one is his friend Alexander Dru, for the quality of his mind; the other, among the war leaders encountered, is Lord Portal – apparently for the mildness of his manner as Chairman of the Travellers’ Club General Committee. ‘Portal was indeed a leader for whom one guessed it ...

A Palm Tree, a Colour and a Mythical Bird

Robert L. Cioffi: Ideas of Phoenicia, 3 January 2019

In Search of the Phoenicians 
by Josephine Quinn.
Princeton, 360 pp., £27, December 2017, 978 0 691 17527 0
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... empire. By 332, the idea of Phoenicia in the east came to an end as these cities were conquered by Alexander. Carthage fell to Rome in 146, and was subsequently colonised by Rome’s first emperor, Augustus.The Greeks and Romans admired the fine craftsmanship and navigational abilities of the Phoenicians but also branded them as untrustworthy and alien. It’s ...

Only the Camels

Robert Irwin: Wilfred Thesiger, 6 April 2006

Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer 
by Alexander Maitland.
HarperCollins, 528 pp., £25, February 2006, 0 00 255608 1
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... a soldier and the British consul in Addis Ababa, was a powerful influence on her son’s life. Alexander Maitland introduces this biography with his meeting with Thesiger in Kathleen’s Chelsea flat in 1964: Cocooned in a woollen shawl and an old-fashioned lace-trimmed mob cap, she lay propped up on pillows, with writing paper and books spread out on the ...

Paris, 18 October

Alexander Zevin: The New ’68ers, 29 November 2007

... as it turns out, is illegal for public employees in New York State), the union leader, Robert Toussaint, was sent to jail and otherwise ‘progressive’ residents spat venom at their train conductors, platform sweepers and track-layers for daring to walk off the job. During the strike I stayed overnight at a friend’s house because commuting from ...

Angry ’Un

Terry Eagleton, 8 July 1993

The Hand of the Arch-Sinner: Two Angrian Chronicles of Branwell Brontë 
edited by Robert Collins.
Oxford, 300 pp., £30, April 1993, 0 19 812258 6
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... the more peaceable kingdom of Gondal in a separatist gesture. The hero of the Angrian myths is Alexander Percy, anarchist and aristocrat, a Branwell in everything but the dope, spinelessness and pen-pushing in a railway station. Like his creator, Percy is a dissolute, self-destructive figure given to grotesque fits of passion; unlike him he is ...


Robert Macfarlane: The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher, 4 April 2002

The Mulberry Empire 
by Philip Hensher.
Flamingo, 560 pp., £17.99, April 2002, 0 00 711226 2
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... be stymied. Planned by Lord Auckland, and facilitated by the spying of the handsome Great Gamer Alexander Burnes, the war was fabulously simple in conception. The British would assemble a vast expeditionary force, and march on Kabul. By the time it began its ponderous progress into Afghanistan, the ‘Army of the Indus’ comprised some 16,000 troops and ...

Lethal Specks

Hugh Pennington: Polonium, 14 December 2006

... radiation sources, are the only people to have been lethally irradiated in a non-medical setting. Alexander Litvinenko joins them. But his death from polonium-210 is unprecedented. This is the first time – to our knowledge – that someone has been deliberately killed by the administration of a radioactive substance. Marie and Pierre Curie discovered ...

Homage to Ezra Pound

C.K. Stead, 19 March 1981

The Poetic Achievement of Ezra Pound 
by Michael Alexander.
Faber, 247 pp., £7.95, April 1979, 0 571 10560 2
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Ezra Pound and the Pisan Cantos 
by Anthony Woodward.
Routledge, 128 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 0 7100 0372 2
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Ezra Pound and the Cantos: A Record of Struggle 
by Wendy Stallard Flory.
Yale, 321 pp., £12.60, July 1980, 0 300 02392 8
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Ezra Pound and His World 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Thames and Hudson, 127 pp., £5.95, February 1981, 0 500 13069 8
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End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound with Poems from Ezra Pound’s H.D. Book 
edited by Norman Holmes Pearson and Michael King.
Carcanet, 84 pp., £2.95, February 1980, 0 85635 318 3
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... In 1949 when a panel of his fellow poets (including T.S. Eliot, Robert Lowell, W.H. Auden and Allen Tate) awarded Ezra Pound the Bollingen Prize for The Pisan Cantos there was an immediate and angry public debate. The reaction is not surprising and might have been worse had the texts of Pound’s wartime broadcasts over Rome Radio been publicly available ...

An Endless Progression of Whirlwinds

Robert Irwin: Asian empire, 21 June 2001

Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Asia 
by Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac.
Little, Brown, 646 pp., £25, January 2001, 0 316 85589 8
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Tibet: The Great Game and Tsarist Russia 
by Tatiana Shaumian.
Oxford, 223 pp., £16, October 2000, 0 19 565056 5
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... of India seemed to come from France. In Egypt in 1798, Bonaparte studied the campaigns of Alexander the Great. He had corresponded with Tippoo Sahib, the Sultan of Mysore, and talked of leading the French expeditionary force on to conquer the British possessions in India. In 1800, the Russian Empire’s frontier was still a long way from that of ...

Waiting for Something Unexpected

Sophie Pinkham: Gaito Gazdanov, 6 March 2014

The Spectre of Alexander Wolf 
by Gaito Gazdanov, translated by Bryan Karetnyk.
Pushkin, 167 pp., £7.99, November 2013, 978 1 78227 072 0
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... drinks in Montparnasse, and settled on the rue de Vaugirard, or near the Orthodox Cathedral of St Alexander Nevsky, or in suburbs like Boulogne-Billancourt. The appeal was obvious: many educated Russians had learned French as children, and Russia had always admired French culture. The penniless émigrés were rarely able to practise their old professions, and ...

Smiles Better

Andrew O’Hagan: Glasgow v. Edinburgh, 23 May 2013

On Glasgow and Edinburgh 
by Robert Crawford.
Harvard, 345 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 0 674 04888 1
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... of a town? Can you dedicate a book to a dot – two dots – on the map? The poet and academic Robert Crawford has a soft spot for nice spots and he dedicated his 1990 collection, A Scottish Assembly, ‘to Scotland’. Some countries and some cities – like some people – openly insist on being loved, and some of them behave as underdogs, which only ...

Ecclefechan and the Stars

Robert Crawford, 21 January 1988

The Crisis of the Democratic Intellect 
by George Davie.
Polygon, 283 pp., £17.95, September 1986, 0 948275 18 9
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... detailed and sometimes not-so-detailed arguments have been sharply questioned by the historian Robert Anderson. Davie’s emphasis on the importance of Scottish philosophical writings (among which he includes MacDiarmid’s verse) is designed to be controversial. It should be set beside the recent work of ...

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