Hurrah for Andrew Strauss

Andrew Strauss is a serious man and Driving Ambition (Hodder, £20, Spectator Bookshop, £18) is a serious book. It looks…

Muddling through

It so happened that in 1961 I was part of a little group — three of us — which welcomed…


Rotten, vicious times

A.N. Wilson recalls the worst decade of  recent history and the death throes of Old England


The bigger picture

Sam Leith has been enjoying two very different histories of England

England from above

A highbrow vision of our country


Nostalgie de la boue

In the late 1960s I grew up in the London borough of Greenwich, which in those days had a shabby, post-industrial edge.


Ride on in majesty

Governments in early modern England, having no standing army nor a civil service to speak of, required the consent of the governed.

Oh Brother, where art thou?

Benjamin Franklin had this ambition for his body: that after his death it should be reissued ‘in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the author’.


Capturing the last of England

The book is interesting because it has insights and novelty, not least in taking a period and a culture regarded by many as second best compared with what was happening elsewhere at the time, and shows it to have been enlightened, intelligent and full of beauty.


Identity politics

In the past half century, much ingenuity and humdrum effort has gone into redefining Australia as a nation.


Secrets and silences

Charlotte Moore’s family have lived at Hancox on the Sussex Weald for well over a century.


More than a painter of Queens

The last words of Hungarian-born portraitist Philip de László, spoken to his nurse, were apparently, ‘It is a pity, because there is so much still to do.’ As Duff Hart-Davis’s biography amply demonstrates, for de László, art — which he regarded as ‘work’ as much as an aesthetic vocation — was both the purpose and the substance of his life.


The pride of the Sackvilles

Knole is a country house the size of a small village in the Kent countryside.


Not our finest hour

Ever since Edward II’s deposition and grisly murder in the dungeons of Berkeley Castle in 1327, his reign has always been regarded as a particularly embarrassing interlude in English history.


Anything for a quiet life

Jim, Crace’s latest novel, All That Follows, marks a deliberate change from past form.


Strong family feelings

Mary Kenny’s survey of Ireland’s relations with the British monarchy is characteristically breezy, racy and insightful, with a salty strain of anecdote.


Continuity under threat

This handsome and encouraging book is perhaps unfortunate in its title.

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 actress and the orphan

Ask Alice, by D. J. Taylor


Order out of chaos

The English Civil Wars, 1640-1660, by Blair Worden