Jonathan Sumption

A French illuminated manuscript shows supplies being loaded onto boats before departing for the Crusades

What it took to wage holy war, Medieval style

For most of history, religion and war have been the most powerful social instincts of mankind and its chief collective…

The good war?

Jonathan Sumption admires the sweep and bravura  of Max Hastings’s account without agreeing with every word


Nothing left to lose

Jonathan Sumption on the obduracy, distrust and inertia that characterised the end of the Third Reich

The problems of PR

Two centuries ago, Edmund Burke famously mocked the intellectuals of revolutionary France for trying to devise a perfectly rational constitution for their country.


Setting the world to rights

Jonathan Sumption finds that the philosophes of the French Enlightenment shared little with one another and even less with the revolutionaries who followed them

Design for living

The first thing to be said about this remarkable book is that it has nothing to do with animal rights.


On the silver trail

The Spanish empire was the first of Europe’s great overseas empires, and for many years the richest and most powerful.


Thynges very memorable

John Leland, who died in 1552, lived less than 50 years and was mad for the last five of them.


Mawkish charades

This book is an engaging rant against the folly, claptrap, self-indulgence and hypocrisy of mankind, written in the brisk and trenchant style which readers of the author’s Spectator articles will recognise.


All eyes and ears

Both of these books aim, in their different ways, to cater for Britain’s long-standing obsession with espionage and other forms of political and military intelligence.


Might and wrong

‘Was all this the realisation of our war aims?’, Malcolm Muggeridge asked as he surveyed the desolation of Berlin in May 1945.


Unholy warriors

Taming the Gods is an extended essay about the secular state, something which would until recently have been regarded as a non-issue by English-speaking readers.


Not as bad as the French

This is a long book, but its argument can be shortly stated.


Weighed in the balance

We sanctify some expressions, and in the process empty them of meaning.


Tensions in the European Union

The New Old World, by Perry Anderson

Poisonous relations

‘The Axis powers and France,’ declared Marshall Pétain and Hitler at Montoire in October 1940, ‘have a common interest in the defeat of England as soon as possible.’ Why this should have been so is one of the many interesting questions to which this book offers no satisfactory answer.

The peace to end all peace

The first world war was the last major conflict to be brought to an end in the traditional fashion, with a formal treaty of peace.

Concentrating on sideshows

It is becoming difficult to say anything new about Churchill as a war leader.

The human element

The Idea of Justice, by Amartya Sen

Pointless but necessary

The Resistance: The French Fight Against the Nazis, by Matthew Cobb

Doomed to despotism

Khomeini’s Ghost, by Con Coughlin
The Life and Death of the Shah, by Gholam Reza Afkhami

A slow decline

The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000, by Chris Wickham

New light on a dark age

Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom, by Tom Holland


The pragmatic approach

‘The Half’ is how actors refer to the half hour before their play begins, when they ready themselves, steady themselves, for their performance.

Dearly beloved Meg

Sir Thomas More was the most dedicated of Henry VIII’s Chancellors before becoming the most famous of his victims.