Wittgenstein wasn’t particularly impress­ed by Bertrand Russell’s adoration. If his philosoph­ical capacities were as exceptional as Russell seemed to think, then this was a curious...

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Thriving on Chaos: After al-Baghdadi

Patrick Cockburn, 21 November 2019

For a brief, astonishing period, this reborn caliphate governed, in brutal but well-organised fashion, a population of ten million, claiming divine inspiration in its pursuit of true Islamic principles....

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In Court: The Prorogation Debacle

Stephen Sedley, 10 October 2019

For at least​ four centuries the courts have contested the claims of monarchs to untrammelled authority. ‘The king,’ Chief Justice Coke said in 1611, ‘hath no prerogative but...

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Justice eBay Style

Frederick Wilmot-Smith, 26 September 2019

The​ Shield of Achilles, as described in the Iliad, portrays two cities. One of them is at war, circled by ‘a divided army/gleaming in battle-gear’. In the other, there is a promise...

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Framing​ a constitution for a country undergoing political upheaval is a messy and dangerous business, and it is by no means guaranteed to succeed. We think of South Africa in the early 1990s...

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Enemies on All Sides: Masada

Josephine Quinn, 12 September 2019

Highway​ 90 follows the Great Rift Valley from Jerusalem down to Masada alongside what’s left of the Dead Sea, making it the lowest road on earth. On the right, sheer cliffs hide the...

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Jonathan Sumption throughout the Reith Lectures takes it as given that the UK is a parliamentary democracy. Nowhere does he speak of what the UK actually is, a constitutional monarchy. The irony is that...

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A Long Way from Galilee: Kierkegaard

Terry Eagleton, 1 August 2019

There are​ a number of modern thinkers who might be described as anti-philosophers. Anti-philosophers aren’t simply people who don’t reckon much to philosophy, but thinkers who are...

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Who kicked them out? St Patrick’s Purgatory

Diarmaid MacCulloch, 1 August 2019

What​ do we know about St Patrick? Most people could probably place him in Ireland, amid every short cut to Irishness – shamrocks, Guinness, lots of green things – while a little...

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Talismans were universal. Soldiers wore heart amulets, sprigs of heather, four-leafed clovers, rabbits’ feet, miniature horseshoes, pebbles with holes in them (traditionally a witch-repellent), as...

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How to Run a Caliphate

Tom Stevenson, 20 June 2019

The horrors of IS rule are well known: the killings of Shia; the choice offered to the Christians of Mosul (conversion, ruinous taxation or expulsion); the slaughter of polytheists; the revival of slavery;...

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Life as an anchoress began with a death. On entering their cell for the first time, the recludensus (novice recluse) would climb into a grave dug inside the cell.

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Short Cuts: Jury Duty

Deborah Friedell, 23 May 2019

For months​ after I was summoned to appear for jury duty in North London, I couldn’t stop asking people – in England, in America – if they’d ever been called up too. The...

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At the turn​ of the 20th century, Gaston Gallimard was one of many suave young men about Paris with exquisite taste in literature, music and art. Then he became friends not only with Proust,...

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The Palais de Justice​ in Brussels is a product of civic and architectural delirium, a Circumlocution Office looming over the historically working-class Marolles district like a sinister,...

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Short Cuts: The p-p-porn ban

Tom Crewe, 4 April 2019

Have​ you p-p-picked up a porn pass? In April the UK government plans to introduce – or at least plans to announce a definite date for the introduction of – the world’s first...

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Short Cuts: The Hitchens Principle

Daniel Soar, 21 March 2019

On Sunday​, 30 September 2007, in the late afternoon, four men met in an airy, book-lined apartment in Washington DC and had a two-hour discussion around a marble table. The subject, it

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He Couldn’t Stop Himself: Justinian’s Wars

Michael Kulikowski, 21 March 2019

Had​ you been a sixth-century Christian, living in lands that had been or still were part of the Roman Empire, you would probably have met a demon. Every tree, hill and stream, every hovel and...

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