In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry


Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.

It would, I think, be generally agreed that in this country the generation now in its eighties or above must have seen more change in industrial processes and consequently in lifestyles than any of its predecessors at similar ages. This diary records the casual observations of one individual concerning public reactions to some of these changes which have impressed me personally, particularly in their effect upon the unwritten codes which govern the things that may be said, the questions that may be asked, and the language which may be used in the ordinary social intercourse of ‘respectable’ people.

In this context, as might be expected, most controversy is aroused by attitudes and conventions relating to sex or money. For some years past Parliament has been busy paving and cheapening the road to divorce, with the result that it is no longer identified with the road to hell, or even to disgrace. Gone are the days when Princess Margaret was denied the right to marry the husband of her choice, merely because he was ‘a divorced man’, thanks to the breakdown of a previous marriage which had nothing to do with her. Today the Princess undertakes her share of royal functions with all her customary confidence and elegance, notwithstanding the fact that her subsequent marriage to someone other than her original choice itself ended in divorce. Inevitably, cheaper and easier divorce has been followed by a dramatic increase in the rate at which marriages in this country are dissolved. After a long slow rise spread over many years, the annual total of divorces granted in the United Kingdom rose in the 20 years 1961 to 1980 from 27,000 to 150,000; and, what is perhaps even more striking, in England and Wales the proportion of these divorces in which one or both partners had been previously divorced rose from 9.3 per cent to 17.1 per cent.

Marriage, in fact, has lost its claim to permanence. Nor is that the only catastrophe that has befallen this august institution. It has also lost its prestige, inasmuch as there are many who now openly regard it as an unnecessary restriction upon their freedom. Their preference is for informal sexual partnerships, sometimes maintained for long periods, sometimes subject to frequent changes of partner. Although in the nature of the case, the number of such unions cannot be precisely calculated, no one will probably question that this number is considerable, or that it has much increased in recent years, or that examples are distributed throughout the social hierarchy.

Recently I talked with an elderly widow, Conservative in politics and a pillar of the Church, loved and respected as virtually the uncrowned queen of the village in which she has lived most of her life. From her I learned that, while serving early tea to a temporary invasion of her home by children and grandchildren, she had been ‘somewhat surprised’ to find a man in her granddaughter’s bed. Is not that event identified as a sign of the times by two factors: that Grandma, not any of her older children, distributed the tea, and that her only reaction was mild surprise?

Certainly there are signs that we are at least beginning to adjust our vocabulary to this strange new world, not only in relation to such incidents, but also by upgrading particular words not previously admissible in ‘polite society’. The word ‘bloody’ has been the outstanding pioneer. Having extracted itself from its origin in a sacrilegious oath in the name of the Virgin Mary, it has become merely a reinforcement of whatever words it immediately precedes. Indeed it sometimes gets so firmly linked to particular nouns or phrases that they almost cease to appear, unless in its company. Thus a ‘nuisance’ becomes a ‘bloody nuisance’; and how many youngsters have not heard that they must ‘bloody well do what they are told’?

Well, some words get promoted: others (perhaps fortunately) don’t. But there is one word altogether missing, which the contemporary world badly needs – namely, a recognised and inoffensive term for the relationship to one another of the members of an extramarital union, equivalent to the word ‘spouse’ as applied to either partner in a married couple. In some quarters ‘live-in boyfriend’ is said to be a popular candidate to fill this vacancy. But surety we can do better than that! Ought not the English-Speaking Union or some other learned society to arrange a competition?

On the whole, the changes in matters small and great, attributable to the so-called permissive society, seem to have been well-received. Wretched marriages are ended without disgrace to anybody. Formal dinners give way to simple and often more enjoyable gatherings for food and entertainment, by which dinner-jackets and evening-dresses are now imprisoned in their wardrobes. And we have even learned to address one another by our Christian names within a few minutes of our first meeting. If you look for reactions hostile to this informality and disregard of old taboos, you will find them – in the Mary Whitehouse coterie, in sermons, in synods and in occasional public meetings, usually without much public presence. But why does this opposition to current trends appear to be devoid of any aggressive spirit? Why do its members not emulate the tactics of Labour leaders and trade unions in defence of their traditional rights and current demands? What sermon can match a programme of marches, Trafalgar Square speeches, vast newspaper advertisements and repeated TV appearances?

We all know that the Great British Public will not bestir itself in any cause by which it is not deeply moved. We also know that the public, either from ignorance or from dislike, has hitherto shown little concern about the far-reaching social changes of recent years. But nobody knows quite how or why these changes in our habitual attitudes, and in our unwritten codes and taboos, have come about. Shall we one day wake up to the significance of what is happening with cries of either ‘Stop’ or ‘Go’ – and, if so, which?

The invention of money, along with the invention of the wheel, must surely rank as one of the most significant steps on mankind’s long trek from a simple animal existence to the great variety of human culture patterns scattered across the world. The great merit of money is that it provides a common standard by which to evaluate anything from a horse to a wedding-dress, and so makes possible an exchange of practically everything for practically anything else without your having to find someone who can offer you what you want, and himself wants just what you would offer in exchange. The retiring professional motorcyclist, for example, can find plenty of young men eager to inherit his bike, but how many of them can produce a comfortable armchair instead?

The convenience of money is obvious. The immensely complex system by which money gets into circulation in this country is controlled by government in consultation with the banks: but there are still fierce controversies about how much money ought to be put into circulation and where it should go. One school holds that if there is plenty of money about, it will open up new jobs and so provide work for the unemployed. The rival school fears that lavish spending by the public would encourage anyone with goods to sell to raise his prices and so cause further inflation. All that can be said here is that the management of wheels is better understood than is the management of the monetary system. The course which a wheel will follow can generally be predicted by those who are familiar with the force which starts and maintains its movement, and are not unacquainted with the features of the terrain over which it must pass. But in the control of the monetary system there is no equivalent to the confidence with which anyone who gives his wheel a good push to the right anticipates that he has defeated the risk of its falling into a hole immediately in front of its starting-point. However, since any further developments in either the aims or the methods of monetary management necessarily involve healed controversy and complex technical argument, it would be unprofitable to pursue the subject further. Instead we should examine the more familiar problems and unwritten codes relating to money as received, spent or saved by you and me.

Here we do encounter one long-standing taboo which shows little sign of weakening. That is the assumption that everyone’s personal income is in principle a strictly private matter into which only the taxman may pry. Even this principle has, however, never been universally honoured, either at home or abroad. In Britain the salaries of civil servants and certain other public employees are regularly published in standard reference books, while research into company reports and sundry financial publications enables the press periodically to go to town with records of the income derived by such public figures as the directors of many public companies – for whose employees these findings must make interesting reading. Meanwhile the Swedes have adopted an ingenious pseudo-privacy system under which information supplied by a taxpayer to the taxman ranks as a secret document. Nevertheless, any citizen may ask his local tax office to get him a copy of the relevant section of the register on which this information is recorded. In Britain, where the privacy belt is holding well, I have heard it said that the present state of the contrast between our sexual revolution and the absence of any monetary equivalent might be reflected in a general consensus that it would be considered less offensive to ask someone with whom you were not on intimate terms whether he is involved in any sexual relationship, and, if so, with whom, than to put a direct question to him about the size of his income. That might conceivably be true now, though in practice even the first question would be dubious.

The foregoing is not, however, quite the whole story about attitudes to money. In one respect, namely attitudes to debt, the present century has seen a remarkable change. Although, since the first industrial revolution, business enterprises must have habitually been financed on borrowed money, it has never been respectable to run up personal debts. But today a bank overdraft rather than an account in credit seems to be the norm for middle-class people. I remember, when I was ten years old, the horrific impact upon my recently widowed mother when a friend suggested that if she was contemplating financial difficulties, her bank manager would doubtless oblige with an overdraft. Today not only have the bank balances of the respectable changed colour, but our pockets and handbags are also stuffed with credit cards. Moreover, the multiplication of mortgages resulting from the post-war growth of home ownership has greatly popularised a form of indebtedness which carries no stigma. Indeed so firmly have we accepted our self-image as a society of debtors that any increase in current interest rates is regularly greeted by the media as inherently deplorable, and one may look in vain for even a bare mention of the consequential increases payable to depositors in building societies or banks.

Finally, of all the changes in our attitudes to money, the most significant is the universal acceptance of the fact that a unit of money can no longer be expected to retain its value in terms of purchasing power. Thanks to continued inflation, respect for money cannot but be tarnished now that government actually presents its expenditure programmes under the two heads of ‘nominal’ and ‘real’ costs. Why not abolish the nominal and give the real the honour of a recognised title and status?

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.