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But I wanted a crocodile

Thomas Meaney: Castro in Harlem, 4 February 2021

Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s 
by Simon Hall.
Faber, 276 pp., £17.99, September 2020, 978 0 571 35306 4
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... Korda snapped of the bereted Che Guevara at a memorial service for the victims is hard to avoid.Simon Hall’s Ten Days in Harlem is a lively account of Castro’s charm offensive in September 1960 when he visited New York again, this time to address the United Nations General Assembly. It was a sensitive moment for all concerned: Castro’s revolution ...

Lancastrian Spin

Simon Walker: Usurpation, 10 June 1999

England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399-1422 
by Paul Strohm.
Yale, 274 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 300 07544 8
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... of royal government. It only remained for Henry to advance towards the empty throne in Westminster Hall and claim it as his own. Richard’s empty throne stands at the heart of Paul Strohm’s fine study of the textual consequences of the Lancastrian usurpation. It is both a material presence, a space to be occupied and defended by the victorious Henry, and a ...

Persons outside the Law

Catherine Hall: The Atlantic Family, 19 July 2018

Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 
by Daniel Livesay.
North Carolina, 448 pp., £45, January 2018, 978 1 4696 3443 2
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... been encouraged to consider the opportunities there by his extremely wealthy and successful cousin Simon Taylor. Taylor, according to Lady Nugent, the governor’s wife, ‘had a numerous family, some almost on every one of his estates’. Tailyour began a relationship with an enslaved woman, Polly, born Mary Graham, who was described as ‘mulatto’ on the ...

The Leader’s Cheerleaders

Simon Jenkins: Party Funding in Britain, 20 September 2007

The Cost of Democracy: Party Funding in Modern British Politics 
by K.D. Ewing.
Hart, 279 pp., £30, March 2007, 978 1 84113 716 2
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... leadership were voted by blocs of union delegates seated, often rowdily, in various parts of the hall. This has been swept away. Parties are no longer national coalitions of economic or regional interests. They are the leadership’s praetorian guard and cheerleaders. The bulk of the finance that has poured into party bank balances over the years has come ...


Michael Dobson: The Russell-Cotes, 23 February 2012

... either. It had originally been the house of Sir Merton Russell-Cotes (1835-1921). East Cliff Hall, completed in 1901, was a peculiar but attractive compound of Scots baronial castle, Italian villa, French château and seaside folly, standing in a prime position looking over Bournemouth Bay. It doesn’t match its neighbour, the conventionally ...

Tatchell’s Testament

Anne Sofer, 22 December 1983

The Battle for Bermondsey 
by Peter Tatchell.
Heretic Books, 170 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 946097 11 9
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... as building houses, parks, swimming-baths and health centres, it flew the red flag over the Town Hall, refused to hold a civic reception for the Silver Jubilee, and, during the General Strike, barricaded Bermondsey off, creating a ‘no-go’ area for the Police and Army. ‘For nine days, the working class administered all of Bermondsey.’ It was under ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2009, 7 January 2010

... too, but the journey is redeemed when back at Oxenholme we drop down into Kendal and the Abbot Hall gallery, where there is a touring exhibition of Robert Bevan pictures. The shows at Abbot Hall are just the right size, and never more than three or four rooms. The Bevans are shown alongside other Camden Town ...
... past along with everything else. Geoffrey got a First, and a job as a sociologist at Camden Town Hall, and was presently in charge of a department, which he ran with enthusiasm and energy, cutting away – perhaps a little ruthlessly – the dead wood of old staff and old ideas. He was relentlessly young; he wore jeans to work before anyone else dared, and ...

Against Bare Bottoms

Simon Morrison: Prokofiev’s Diaries, 21 March 2013

Diaries 1924-33: Prodigal Son 
by Sergey Prokofiev, translated by Anthony Phillips.
Faber, 1125 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 571 23405 9
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... New York debut in 1918. Thanks to a loan from a benefactor, he arranged a recital in the Aeolian Hall on 20 November, to play a few études and his Second Piano Sonata. The stiff action of the piano bothered him and he became anxious; his hands took a wrong turn and landed in the wrong key. He recovered by rewriting a transition in his head and pounded on ...

With Great Stomack

Simon Schaffer: Christopher Wren, 21 February 2002

His Invention so Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren 
by Adrian Tinniswood.
Cape, 463 pp., £25, July 2001, 9780224042987
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... to depart from revered authorities. Under his hands plans for a church steeple or an academic hall would turn into a bold revision of Vitruvian schemes, the twitches of an anatomised dog into a startling challenge to Galenic orthodoxy, the motion of a planetary model into liberation from the ‘tyranny’ of ancient astronomy. The puzzle, now, is to ...

Clean Clothes

Rosalind Mitchison, 17 March 1988

Scottish Lifestyle 300 Years Ago 
by Helen Kelsall and Keith Kelsall.
John Donald, 224 pp., £10, September 1986, 0 85976 167 3
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Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850 
by Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall.
Hutchinson, 576 pp., £25, April 1987, 0 09 164700 2
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A Lasting Relationship: Parents and Children over Three Centuries 
by Linda Pollock.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 947795 25 1
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... The Kelsalls and Davidoff and Hall are worker pairs who have been looking into the family life of a restricted group over a halfcentury or so, using a wide range of the documentation generated by their subjects. Both groups studied were experiencing insecurity. The Scottish families were of landed class, made insecure by sudden changes in politics and in the control and policy of the Church; the English families a century later were of the emerging middle class, busy creating niches in the professions and in the world of manufacturing business ...

‘They got egg on their faces’

Leofranc Holford-Strevens: The Oxford English Dictionary, 20 November 2003

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary 
by Simon Winchester.
Oxford, 260 pp., £12.99, October 2003, 0 19 860702 4
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... of Parliament, I must declare an interest: I am employed by the publisher of both the OED and Simon Winchester’s account of its genesis. However, I have had no involvement with the latter, whose author’s qualities are well known to readers of his previous books, most relevantly The Surgeon of Crowthorne, and little with the former, which hardly needs ...

Swiping at Suburbs

Andrew Saint: The course of British urbanism, 31 March 2005

Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City 
by Tristram Hunt.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £25, June 2004, 0 297 60767 7
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... champions Britain’s old industrial cities is that he loves their buildings. Manchester Town Hall and its architect, Alfred Waterhouse, earn four pages in a thin allowance of illustrations. Ford Madox Brown’s wonderful cycle of history paintings there gives Hunt his jumping-off point for expounding Manchester’s sense of its own worth – just as the ...
The Dialectic of Change 
by Boris Kagarlitsky, translated by Rick Simon.
Verso, 393 pp., £29.95, January 1990, 0 86091 258 2
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... the Red Sixties’. At the close of the Seventies, there was a much-anticipated rally in Central Hall, Westminster, unironically billed as ‘The Debate of the Decade’, between Tony Benn and the leaders of the supposed British extra-parliamentary opposition. At this event, the motion for the debate was reform versus revolution. On the cusp of the Eighties ...

Sorcerer’s Apprentice

E.S. Turner, 19 December 1991

Alistair MacLean 
by Jack Webster.
Chapmans, 326 pp., £18, November 1991, 1 85592 519 2
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Alistair MacLean’s Time of the Assassins 
by Alastair MacNeill.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £14.99, December 1991, 0 00 223816 0
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... been turned into novels by John Denis; and a third screenplay is undergoing similar treatment by Simon Gandolfi. In this curious world there are occasional legal hiccups. One such, not so much a hiccup as a cardiac arrest, recently befell HarperCollins when they were prosecuted and heavily fined at the insistence of Warwickshire trading standards ...

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