An alternative map of Britain: caves, canals, megaliths and ley lines

Picture the map of Britain. Its strangely cadaverous shape, blobs of population and routes between them seem as familiar as…

A member of the London Home Guard demonstrates the use of old wallpaper as camouflage (1942)

The real Dad’s Army was no joke

Dad’s Army, the sitcom to end all sitcoms, portrayed the Home Guard as often doddery veterans. In one episode, Private…

The People’s Songs, by Stuart Maconie - a review

For Stuart Maconie fans, this book might sound as if it’ll be his masterpiece. In his earlier memoirs and travelogues,…


Who are the losers now?

The second world war was the most destructive conflict in human history, but the victors have fared worse than the vanquished, says Paul Johnson


Gunboat diplomacy

Philip Mansel on the brief period in British history when Mare Nostrum became our sea


Mutiny, mayhem and murder

Before the establishment of penal settlements in Australia, British convicts were transported to brutal slave garrisons on the West African coast. Sam Leith describes this disastrous experiment

Heroic long-suffering

English patriotism was still a force in 1914.


The empire strikes back

Britain recovered from the humiliating loss of her American colonies surprisingly swiftly. But a harsh fate awaited many of her loyalist supporters, according to John Preston

Bruising times

In a market town in Kent at the time of Thatcher’s Britain, Charles Pemberton attends the town’s minor public school where his businessman father is a governor.


That turbulent decade

On 2 January, 1980, a new decade was ushered in with a strike by steelworkers.

Not good enough

Tony Blair gave his record in government ten out of ten, though an ungrateful electorate scored rather less well and his Cabinet colleagues performed even worse.


. . . and they did to us

The craters are all filled in, the ruins replaced, and the last memories retold only in the whispery voices of the old.

Hunting and working

Why are scholars so prone to melancholy? According to the expert, Robert Burton of Christ Church, it is because ‘they live a sedentary, solitary life...


Aces high

Seventy years after the RAF repelled the Luftwaffe, the Battle of Britain continues to have a powerful resonance.


Triumph of the will

Alistair Urquhart describes himself as ‘a lucky man as well as an angry man’.


Survival of the fittest

When I was at Eton, many years before David Cameron, much of the school was run by a self-elected society known as ‘Pop’.


In the shadow of Mau Mau

When the Kenyan human rights campaigner, Maina Kiai, recently addressed the House of Commons, his list of policy recommendations probably surprised many MPs.


Annals of war

‘I was not an enthusiast about getting US forces and going into Iraq,’ Dick Cheney said in 1997, looking back on the First Gulf War.


Not as bad as the French

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

Shady characters

A great deal of time in Neel Mukherjee’s A Life Apart and Max Schaefer’s Children of the Sun is spent in gents’ public toilets — cottaging being a key feature of both debuts — and yet such is the elegance and intelligence of their prose, the reader comes away feeling educated rather than soiled.


Fleeing fog and filth

In a sense, as this interest- ing collection of his writings makes clear, Rudyard Kip- ling was always abroad.


Spoilt for choice

It is more than ten years since Natasha Walter published The New Feminism, a can-do look at the ‘uniquely happy story’ of the women’s movement.

Always a murky business

Lance Price is better placed than most to write about ‘spin’ in politics, having worked as a BBC political reporter and as Alastair Campbell’s deputy in Downing Street.


Elder, but no better

William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham was hailed by Victorian schoolboys as the man who made England great.

The face of a muffin

What was it about post-war British cinema? Our films were lit up by a collection of wonderfully idiosyncratic performers.