The delicious return of Gin Lane

In 1751, William Hogarth was asked to create two prints: one depicting the evils of gin, the other the virtues…

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, with his pet monkey, attributed to Jacob Huysmans

Thug, rapist, poetic visionary: the contradictory Earl of Rochester

Philip Hensher on the scandalous 17th-century courtier whose hellfire reputation has overshadowed his fine satirical poetry

The bits of Magna Carta that David Cameron won’t want taught in schools

The not-so-great charter David Cameron wants every child to be taught about Magna Carta. Some bits he might want to…

Granville Sharp

The starchy, conservative lawyer who freed every slave in England

Slavery was ended in England not through blood and glory, but by the common law

Shangri-La Hotel Opens In The Shard

Paul Johnson’s diary: Boris would make a great PM – but he must strike now

I feel an intense antipathy for Vladimir Putin. No one on the international scene has aroused in me such dislike…

Decisive moment: ‘Closing the Gates of Hougoumont’, by Robert Gibb     Photo: National Museums Scotland

Meeting George Osborne at Waterloo

The defence of Hougoumont is one of the great British feats of arms. If the farmhouse had fallen to Bonaparte’s…


Did most women want the vote?

The suffragettes’ opponents deserve to be remembered sympathetically

Churchill reading in his library at Chartwell

Churchill was as mad as a badger. We should all be thankful

The egotistical Churchill may have viewed the second world war as pure theatre, but that was exactly what was needed at the time, says Sam Leith

English explorers on expedition in the Sudan, 1860-63

Sudan was always an invented country. Maybe we should invent it again

Sudan — a country that ceased to exist in 2011 — is or was one of the last untouristed wildernesses…

Tony Benn Joins Remebrance Ceremony For 204 Dead Soldiers

We have to tell the truth about Tony Benn now. Who will hear it later?

I could start by remarking that we should not speak ill of the dead, quoting the pertinent Latin phrase: de…

Do wars always start in years ending ‘14’?

Years of war Imaginative souls have tried to compared the situation in Ukraine with that which preceded the first world…

Children At Auschwitz

When a survivor of Auschwitz asks for your story, what do you say?

What do you feel when a survivor of Auschwitz tells you their story?

Kim Philby at the press conference he called in 1955 to deny being the ‘Third Man’

Kim Philby got away with it because he was posh

Kim Philby’s treachery escaped detection for so long through the stupidity and snobbery of the old-boy network surrounding him, says Philip Hensher


Niall Ferguson’s diary: Brazil is overtaking us – but it no longer feels like that

 São Paolo It was back in 2001 that my good friend Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs coined the acronym ‘Bric’,…


A secret from my African childhood has become a deeper mystery

About 55 years ago, when I was about ten, my younger brother Roger and I discovered a slave pit in…

When Scotland goes, will England return?

Who, my husband asked, expects every man will do his duty? He was responding to the interesting and important question…


How the first world war inspired the EU

To understand the real meaning of the EU, you must grasp that it originated in the first world war, rather than the second

Spectator letters: Aid, Arabs and how to spot a gentleman

The battle over aid Sir: Why Nations Fail, the book rightly lauded in The Spectator (‘Why aid fails’, 25 January),…

Taken lying down: Thomas Edison demonstrates the cat-nap, Virginia, July 1921

America's war on sleep

The relentless rise of ‘you snooze, you lose’

O.Z. Whitehead, Dorris Bowdon, John Carradine and Henry Fonda in the 1940 film, The Grapes of Wrath

The two people who brought us The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck (1902–1968), an ardent propagandist for the exploited underdogs of the Great Depression, had barely enough money for subsistence…


The Spectator book review that brought down Macmillan's government

Did Macmillan stitch up his succession – or did Iain Macleod’s famous Spectator piece, 50 years old this week, stitch up Macmillan?


Harry Shearer on bringing out Richard Nixon’s feminine side

Simpsons star Harry Shearer on what it takes to play the president

Stephen Ward and friends, 1963. Christine Keeler is on the right

William Astor: My father, his swimming pool and the Profumo scandal

I was ten when the Profumo affair began at my home, Cliveden. Andrew Lloyd Webber has captured some of the story – but not all

Irwin Piper takes his sheep to slaughter

How we lost the seasons

... for tomorrow traditional seasonal rituals may just be ghostly memories of a vanished world, says Melanie McDonagh

Journey's End, 1939 Photo: Time & Life Pictures/Getty

To see how good Journey's End is, just look at who it's offended

‘You have no idea,’ wrote the publisher Ralph Hodder-Williams in 1929 to one of his authors, what terrible offence Journey’s…