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Stormy Weather

E.S. Turner, 18 July 1996

Passchendaele: The Untold Story 
by Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson.
Yale, 237 pp., £19.95, May 1996, 0 300 06692 9
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... Four score years is a long time to wait for the so-called ‘untold story’ of Passchendaele. Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson are Australian historians who tell us, a little loftily, that ‘Great War studies have yet to escape their protracted adolescence.’ Their adult investigation is reminiscent of those relentless inquiries into scams carried out ...

Alexander the Greatest

Mary Renault, 4 June 1981

The Search for Alexander 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Allen Lane, 439 pp., £12.95, February 1981, 0 7139 1395 9
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Alexander the Great 
by N.G.L. Hammond.
Chatto, 358 pp., £14.95, April 1981, 0 7011 2565 9
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... biographies to appear in the same season, both by authors who have personally surveyed his route. Robin Lane Fox has covered the whole itinerary, in this surpassing the redoubtable Sir Aurel Stein, who had to wait till he was in his eighties for permission to enter Afghanistan, and, setting out undaunted, died amid the rigours of the promised land. Professor ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Melanie Phillips, 13 May 2010

... victimisation at the hands of almost everyone except the US neocons, another someone called Robin Shepherd, Nick Cohen and the Christian right; and the revived and almost universal hatred for the Jews. It’s not even her analysis of the Quran and the inevitable violence and hatred (again, lots of hatred) for the West that it fosters, or how she tries ...

Joint Enterprise

Francis FitzGibbon, 3 March 2016

... of Chan Wing-Siu came before the Privy Council in 1984. Here the law made its wrong turn. Sir Robin Cooke, a senior judge from New Zealand who was later given a peerage and sat as a judge in the House of Lords, laid down foresight of what the accomplice might intend to do as the test of criminal liability in joint enterprise cases: he did so because he ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Most Wanted Man’, 24 September 2014

A Most Wanted Man 
directed by Anton Corbijn.
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... Man. The city is Hamburg, tagged in a title card as the scene of Mohamed Atta’s activities prior to the events of September 2001, so symbolically a place where one might learn not to miss the kinds of clue one had missed before. If there were any clues. Hoffman is Günther Bachmann, the head of a German counterterrorism unit caught up in a power war ...

When We Were Nicer

Steven Mithen: History Seen as Neurochemistry, 24 January 2008

On Deep History and the Brain 
by Daniel Lord Smail.
California, 271 pp., £12.95, December 2007, 978 0 520 25289 9
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... challenged the veracity of Genesis. As such, history divorced itself from the study of the past prior to the first written documents, and led some to believe (apparently, some still do believe) that there was no prior history at all – nothing more than an unchanging prehistoric past. As an archaeologist, I was intrigued ...

Loose Woven

Peter Howarth: Edward Thomas’s contingencies, 4 August 2005

Collected Poems 
by Edward Thomas, edited by R. George Thomas.
Faber, 264 pp., £12.99, October 2004, 0 571 22260 9
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... on.’ Stiffly he plodded; At his heels the crisp leaves scurried fast, And the leaf-coloured robin watched. They passed, The robin till next day, the man for good, Together in the twilight of the wood. As Sacks emphasises, Thomas’s ‘effortless peripheral vision’ was always receptive to anyone on the margins of ...

Voices

Seamus Deane, 21 April 1983

The Pleasures of Gaelic Poetry 
edited by Sean Mac Reamoinn.
Allen Lane, 272 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 7139 1284 7
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... Ireland a national aspiration is that which, at all costs, must never be attained. Make that your prior determination and the aspiration can always be kept. Speak for it, work against it. In doing both, with complete conviction, a neurosis is revealed but a policy is retained. This schizoid attitude is not confined to government. It has penetrated into many ...

Diary

R.W. Johnson: Major Wins the Losership, 3 August 1995

... into our antique political culture than a party leadership contest. I remember talking with Robin Cook just as the Blair bandwagon began to assume unstoppable proportions. Cook had outfought and out-performed every other Labour contender by a mile; he was cleverer, more experienced, funnier. And yet what he was having to read in the press was an ...

Commotion in Moscow

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Paris Syndrome, 1 August 2019

To See Paris and Die: The Soviet Lives of Western Culture 
by Eleonory Gilburd.
Harvard, 458 pp., £28.95, January 2019, 978 0 674 98071 6
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... 1960s, heard the Soviet bard Iuly Kim singing Marshak’s version of A.A. Milne’s Christopher Robin poems, miraculously transformed – for me as well as the Moscow audience – into something unmistakably Russian. Marshak’s Christopher Robin, having lost his tweeness and gaining emotional depth, was better than ...

Eating or Being Eaten

Leofranc Holford-Strevens: Animal Grammar, 7 October 2015

The Origins of Grammar: Language in the Light of Evolution 
by James Hurford.
Oxford, 791 pp., £37, September 2011, 978 0 19 920787 9
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... This is not the only controversy in which he takes sides, for he treats one-word sentences as prior to those with subject and predicate, and maintains that the first human speakers progressed by putting atomised words together rather than breaking up words that in themselves expressed complex propositions. Finally, he surveys the development from ...

Blair Must Go

Peter Clarke: Why Tony Blair should go, 11 September 2003

... by a commitment that became increasingly messianic. From this point – not wholly without prior warning, but henceforth unmistakably – Blair’s rhetoric shifted gear, from conditional to imperative and from consequential to moral. In the process the issue changed. The problem was no longer to identify and find and contain the weapons of mass ...

Half-Wrecked

Mary Beard: What’s left of John Soane, 17 February 2000

John Soane: An Accidental Romantic 
by Gillian Darley.
Yale, 358 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 300 08165 0
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John Soane, Architect: Master of Space and Light 
by Margaret Richardson and Mary-Anne Stevens.
Royal Academy, 302 pp., £45, September 1999, 0 300 08195 2
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Sir John Soane and the Country Estate 
by Ptolemy Dean.
Ashgate, 204 pp., £37.50, October 1999, 1 84014 293 6
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... to name, with an influence extending far beyond the telephone kiosk. For some critics (such as Robin Middleton, in John Soane, Architect) Soane’s wholly unclassical handling of space makes his work the ultimate origin of architectural Modernism; others, stressing his playful pastiche of classical Order, see him instead as the fountainhead of ...

Aids and the Polio Vaccine

Edward Hooper: New evidence, 3 April 2003

... and Science, and both journals made a big splash of the findings in editorials and commentaries. Robin Weiss’s piece in Nature was headed ‘Polio vaccines exonerated’, as if the safety of all such vaccines were in question, and ended with the claim that ‘some beautiful facts have destroyed an ugly theory.’ Weiss wrongly stated that the samples had ...

Mule Races and Pillow Fights

Bernard Porter: Churchill’s Failings, 27 August 2009

Warlord: A Life of Churchill at War, 1874-1945 
by Carlo D’Este.
Allen Lane, 960 pp., £30, April 2009, 978 0 7139 9753 8
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... wrote to Asquith, ‘than sending our armies to chew barbed wire in Flanders?’ This is quoted in Robin Prior’s excellent Gallipoli: The End of the Myth, whose conclusion is that that whole enterprise was hopeless from the start; the ‘myth’ in the subtitle is the common illusion that if things had gone a little differently it might have ...

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