The Succession fans and trolls who revere Machiavellian shrewdness mistake his cynicism for insensitivity to the world, when in fact it reflected precisely the opposite. His cynicism developed from an...

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Noisomeness: Smells of Hell

Keith Thomas, 16 July 2020

The men and women of the Middle Ages may have had a greater aversion to unpleasant body odours than their descendants do now. If so, this was bad luck, for they were much more likely to encounter them...

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Up a grubby set of stairs, ShangriLa was believed to exist, a perfect afternoon of vodkas in a happy land above the banality of everyday custom and talk. The Colony Room, 41a Dean Street, was actually...

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Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones, 2 July 2020

Elaborate and secret bunkers tend to be linked in the popular imagination (and perhaps in reality too) with evil megalomaniacs: every other Bond villain is to be found lurking in an underground lair –...

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Anyone​ who doubts that Thebes is indeed a ‘forgotten city’ hasn’t spent much time in Greek souvenir shops. In a marketplace shaped by the interests of foreign tourists, there...

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Warrior Librarians: Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson, 2 July 2020

The Monuments Men were interested in stone, bronze and painted canvas; the Acquisition of Foreign Publications was hunting paper. Even so, the boundary between agencies, let alone between agencies and...

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Some streets in Charles Booth’s maps were black at one end and pink at the other; blue and pink – ‘poverty and comfort mixed’ – were fused to produce a purply brown; a blue...

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A Very Bad Man: Julius Caesar, Génocidaire

Michael Kulikowski, 18 June 2020

Consider​ the many things that would not exist without Caesar’s account of the Gallic Wars: Asterix and Obelix; The Wicker Man; Gauloises cigarettes; the little Airfix Romans and Britons...

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While Statues Sleep

Thomas Laqueur, 18 June 2020

It is a task of a different order to redeem a history with the dead. If we are to learn from the Germans and produce a better narrative for the United States, then we need to be clear about who constituted...

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Good to Think With

Helen Pfeifer, 4 June 2020

From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Europeans saw the Ottoman Empire not only as an opponent on the battlefield, but as an intellectual resource.

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On 7 June 1914 a personal ad appeared in the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger: ‘Single widow, 35, wishes to make the acquaintance of a respectable gentleman for the purpose of marriage.’ This wasn’t...

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As his country’s grand strategist, Mussolini’s incurable delusion was that a highly staged military parade, with the same tanks turning up again and again, was proof of actual military capabilities...

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A Great Wall to Batter Down

Adom Getachew, 21 May 2020

Priyamvada Gopal’s focus isn’t on the ways colonial subjects negotiated, resisted and reclaimed the empire, so much as on the ways in which imperial crisis awakened dissent at the metropolitan...

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You are a milksop

Ferdinand Mount, 7 May 2020

When the fighting was finally over, one cannot escape the conviction that it was primarily Cromwell’s angry will that carried on the civil unsettlement through the Commonwealth and into the Protectorate,...

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Making My Moan: Medieval Smut

Irina Dumitrescu, 7 May 2020

For much of the 20th century, academics argued that the concept of obscenity was born along with the printing press and state censorship of erotic material. One can understand where this idea came from:...

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You can’t prove I meant X

Clare Bucknell, 16 April 2020

When poets or printers weren’t clever enough with their ambiguities and disguises, the law moved in. Until the second quarter of the 19th century, those convicted of seditious libel – or obscene...

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The Yorkists are currently back in fashion, something that has much to do with the excavation of what are widely believed to be the skeletal remains of Richard III in a Leicester car park eight years ago....

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Short Cuts: ‘Parallel Lives’

Tom Crewe, 2 April 2020

Dickens offers a ‘fine example of how not to end a marriage’. The Carlyles made their marriage a ‘spectacle we in later days can witness, with resolutions and tensions we can participate...

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