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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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... Around​ 1800 WilliamMacpherson, the 16-year-old son and heir to the chief of Clan Macpherson, decided to try his hand at planting in the West Indies. The family had been Jacobites and urgently needed to repair their finances. His father, Allan, had failed to make a fortune in the East Indies ...

The smallest details speak the loudest

John Upton: The Stephen Lawrence inquiry

1 July 1999
The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 
by Sir William Macpherson.
Stationery Office, 335 pp., £26, February 1999, 0 10 142622 4
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The Case of Stephen Lawrence 
by Brian Cathcart.
Viking, 418 pp., £16.99, May 1999, 0 670 88604 1
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... Lawrence made it clear that she had a talent for the controversial soundbite and a willingness to use the language of racial struggle in order to be sure of the media’s attention. By the end of the Macpherson Inquiry it was sometimes difficult to know whether the most important issue was investigating an unsolved murder or placating the victim’s mother and her constituency. On 7 May, three of the ...

The Calvinist International

Colin Kidd: Hugh Trevor-Roper

22 May 2008
The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History 
by Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Yale, 267 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 0 300 13686 9
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Europe’s Physician: The Various Life of Sir​ Theodore de Mayerne 
by Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Yale, 438 pp., £25, October 2006, 0 300 11263 7
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... when correcting the historical errors of – variously but far from exhaustively – Arnold Toynbee, A.J.P. Taylor, Maurice Cowling, Lawrence Stone and the Cerberus of Scottish historiography, William Ferguson. But if the softer, gentler Trevor-Roper outlived many – though by no means all – of his foremost adversaries, their pupils and heirs had not forgotten the scars borne by the previous ...

The Magic Trousers

Matt Foot: Police Racism

7 February 2019
Behind the Blue Line: My Fight against Racism and Discrimination in the Police 
by Gurpal Virdi.
Biteback, 299 pp., £20, March 2018, 978 1 78590 321 2
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... detective sergeant, complained to his superiors at the Met that an arrest he had made, for a racist assault, hadn’t been treated as a hate crime. Soon afterwards he decided to make a submission to SirWilliamMacpherson’s inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It was this inquiry that led to the charge that there was ‘institutional racism’ in the Met. After Virdi’s reinstatement in ...

That Disturbing Devil

Ferdinand Mount: Land Ownership

7 May 2014
Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership 
by Andro Linklater.
Bloomsbury, 482 pp., £20, January 2014, 978 1 4088 1574 8
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... sets out to provide a historical framework for his argument. He begins with the rude irruption of European adventurers into the New World. In the royal charter that Queen Elizabeth conferred on Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583, she granted him full power over the soil of ‘those large and ample countreys [that] extended Northward from the cape of Florida … to dispose thereof, of every part ...

Burying Scott

Marilyn Butler

7 September 1995
The Life of Walter Scott: A Critical Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Blackwell, 386 pp., £19.99, January 1995, 1 55786 231 1
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... achieve money and power and character is at least 51 per cent image. In its worldly wisdom it resembles the first of its kind, John Gibson Lockhart’s pioneering five-volume Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott (1837-8), though the drift of the two Lives is in opposite directions. Sutherland has come to bury Scott, while Lockhart, the great man’s son-in-law, praises him in a public-relations ...

Blame Robert Maxwell

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: How Public Inquiries Go Wrong

17 March 2016
... public interest, from the Aberfan disaster to the death of David Kelly, Profumo to tabloid phone hacking. On 15 June 2009, Gordon Brown announced an inquiry into the Iraq war – to investigate, as Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry’s chairman, put it, ‘the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and ...

Feasting on Power

John Upton: David Blunkett’s Criminal Justice Bill

10 July 2003
... is the lamp that shows that freedom lives. Unfortunately for those who seek the endorsements of Runnymede, the jury Magna Carta referred to wasn’t anything like what we now understand by the term. William Holdsworth, in his History of English Law, commented: ‘A trial by a royal judge and a body of recognitors who found the facts was exactly what the barons did not want. What they did want was first ...

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