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Who was the enemy?

Bernard Porter: Gallipoli, 21 May 2015

by Alan Moorehead.
Aurum, 384 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 1 78131 406 7
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Gallipoli: A Soldier’s Story 
by Arthur Beecroft.
Robert Hale, 176 pp., £12.99, March 2015, 978 0 7198 1654 3
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Gallipoli 1915 
by Joseph Murray.
Silvertail, 210 pp., £12.99, April 2015, 978 1 909269 11 8
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Gallipoli: The Dardanelles Disaster in Soldiers’ Words and Photographs 
by Richard van Emden and Stephen Chambers.
Bloomsbury, 344 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 4088 5615 4
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... thanked me a thousand times’). Then there is the splendid book edited by Richard van Emden and Stephen Chambers, which consists mainly of soldiers’ and sailors’ letters and diaries, British, Anzac and Turkish – no French or Indian, apart from a couple of Indian officers in the British army – arranged chronologically, with an editorial ...

Jours de Fête

Mark Thornton Burnett, 9 January 1992

Shakespeare’s Festive World: Elizabethan Seasonal Entertainment and the Professional Stage 
by François Laroque, translated by Janet Lloyd.
Cambridge, 423 pp., £45, September 1991, 0 521 37549 5
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... in 1988, it was building upon approaches already established in the studies of C.L. Barber, E.K. Chambers and Enid Welsford which related Shakespeare’s plays to Elizabethan calendrical customs. What distinguished Laroque’s book, however, was the breadth of its documentation and discussion, which spanned the entire corpus of Shakespeare’s writings, and ...

Farewell Sovereignty

Stephen Sedley: The Case for the Regicides, 9 February 2006

The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold 
by Geoffrey Robertson.
Chatto, 429 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 7011 7602 4
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... unbroken series of portraits of law officers of the Crown on the walls of the attorney-general’s chambers in Buckingham Gate, and in the National Portrait Gallery, all that survives is a single, almost certainly posthumous, stage-villain caricature. Robertson fixes the evening in Gray’s Inn as the book’s moment of conception. I wonder if he also ...

Short Cuts

Stephen Sedley: Labour and Anti-Semitism, 10 May 2018

... which had first excused and then validated everything from the Nuremberg Laws to the gas chambers and might readily have made collaborators of families like Harvey’s if Hitler had crossed the Channel. But it didn’t feel like that either to him or to me. What it presented me with was my first existential dilemma. If I now told Harvey I was ...


Stephen Sedley: Judges’ Lodgings, 11 November 1999

... began to understand. Not long afterwards I looked through the manuscript memoirs of my old head of chambers, John Platts-Mills. John, now in his nineties and still occasionally practising, came to Balliol as a Rhodes Scholar from New Zealand in 1928. He boxed, rowed and through the Carlton Club became a protégé of Nancy Astor. Their friendship ...

Be careful what you wish for

Stephen Sedley: Human Rights Acts, 30 August 2018

The Conservative Human Rights Revolution: European Identity, Transnational Politics and the Origins of the European Convention 
by Marco Duranti.
Oxford, 502 pp., £59, February 2017, 978 0 19 981138 0
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... an individualistic and conservative project, devised outside the offices of governments and the chambers of parliaments and designed to stem the postwar tide of socialism and statism. Through it, he argues, ‘conservatives enshrined human rights as European values in the service of a nostalgic Christian vision of the European legal order, not a liberal ...

The Judges’ Verdicts

Stephen Sedley, 2 February 2017

... royal prerogative, that has shaped the British constitution.In 1636 a London trader called Richard Chambers sued the mayor for having wrongfully imprisoned him for refusing to pay ship money. His case was that the tax was itself unlawful, having been levied by the Crown without the authority of Parliament. The court refused to hear the argument. ‘There is a ...

Short Cuts

Stephen Sedley: The Supreme Court’s Judgment, 2 March 2017

... royal prerogative, that has shaped the British constitution.In 1636 a London trader called Richard Chambers sued the mayor for having wrongfully imprisoned him for refusing to pay ship money. His case was that the tax was itself unlawful, having been levied by the Crown without the authority of Parliament. The court refused to hear the argument. ‘There is a ...

Plimsoll’s Story

Stephen Sedley, 28 April 2011

The Oxford History of the Laws of England 1820-1914: Vol. XI, English Legal System; Vol. XII, Private Law; Vol. XIII, Fields of Development 
edited by William Cornish et al.
Oxford, 3571 pp., £495, February 2010, 978 0 19 925883 3
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... difficult, at least in the law, to bridge those last hundred-odd years. The senior clerk in the chambers where I was a pupil in the 1960s had started work towards 1890 as a boy in the Temple, where he had been trained to write copperplate with the steel-nibbed pen that he would still use to copy out pleadings and opinions for signature when the typist was ...

Who wouldn’t buy it?

Colin Burrow: Speculating about Shakespeare, 20 January 2005

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Cape, 430 pp., £20, October 2004, 9780224062763
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... As I was reading Stephen Greenblatt’s biography of Shakespeare on the train there was a woman sitting near me doing a deal on the phone. She was getting agitated. ‘But I have to transfer the money to Mr Shakespeare himself,’ she said. ‘No … Listen, I really need to speak to Mr Shakespeare. Can you put me through? Hello? … Hello?’ Then the line went dead ...

Mandela: Death of a Politician

Stephen W. Smith: Mandela, the Politician, 9 January 2014

... with an agonising jolt, like the victims of strappado, once a common practice in its torture chambers, where prisoners whose hands were pinioned behind their back were dropped at the end of a rope tied to their wrists? And what of the moral high ground on which Mandela and his vision of reconciliation are now enshrined? It’s right – and proper – to ...

On a par with Nixon

Stephen Alford: Bad Queen Bess?, 17 November 2016

Bad Queen Bess? Libels, Secret Histories, and the Politics of Publicity in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I 
by Peter Lake.
Oxford, 497 pp., £35, January 2016, 978 0 19 875399 5
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Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years 
by John Guy.
Viking, 494 pp., £25, May 2016, 978 0 670 92225 3
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... She detested getting older, and lashed out at the young and pretty gentlewomen of her private chambers. For the first time we have an accurate and critical account of the audiences between Elizabeth and the French ambassador de Maisse in 1597. Although once, through mistranslation and misinterpretation, Elizabeth at 64 appeared before de Maisse in a state ...

Catastrophic Playground

Stephen Kotkin: Chechnya, 18 October 2001

A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya 
by Anna Politkovskaya, translated by John Crowfoot.
Harvill, 336 pp., £12, June 2001, 1 86046 897 7
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Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus 
by Svante Cornell.
Curzon, 480 pp., £57.88, January 2001, 0 7007 1162 7
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... concentration camp’: ‘all they need now,’ she adds, ‘is to start designing gas chambers.’ Outrage provokes this kind of hyperbole: outrage at colleagues obsessed with finding new and dramatic angles on ‘the story’ but unwilling to help alleviate the suffering; at Western human rights agencies endlessly issuing reams of anti-Russian ...
Dust-bowl Migrants in the American Imagination 
by Charles Shindo.
Kansas, 252 pp., £22.50, January 1997, 0 7006 0810 9
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In the Country of Country 
by Nicholas Dawidoff.
Faber, 365 pp., £12.99, June 1997, 0 571 19174 6
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... It was indeed organised by an official from the Cannery and Agricultural Workers’ Union – Pat Chambers – but he listened carefully to the workers and planned the strike meticulously. The Grapes of Wrath is richer in detail, more humane, less philosophically arid and generally more interesting than its predecessor, not least because by then Steinbeck’s ...

I have no books to consult

Stephen Sedley: Lord Mansfield, 22 January 2015

Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason 
by Norman Poser.
McGill-Queen’s, 532 pp., £24.99, September 2013, 978 0 7735 4183 2
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... in Twickenham and Pope as often coming to Mansfield’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and his chambers at 5 King’s Bench Walk, where he coached Mansfield in oratory. Among other admiring verses, one of Pope’s Imitations of Horace described Mansfield, still at the bar, as ‘his Country’s pride’. For his part, Mansfield acted as counsel for ...

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