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.

The myth survived

You may find this book irritating. A complex exposition of 2,000 years of history, it is intended for the general reader, whoever he is (a general reader would surely not attempt it), so its source material is not identified but tidied away into long footnotes, presumably on the principle of pas devant la bonne.

Facetious or scandalous?

Very funny guy, John O’Farrell.

Beyond the call of duty

Men of War: Courage under Fire in the 19th-century Navy, by David Crane

Exit the hero

The Movement Reconsidered: Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and their Contemporaries, edited by Zachary Leader

Back to the future?

When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies, by Andy Beckett

One-man triumph

The Companion to British History (Third Edition), by Charles Arnold Baker

Chalk and cheese

The British in France: Visitors and Residents since the Revolution, by Peter Thorold