Left to right: Eleanor Roosevelt, King George VI, Sara Roosevelt (the President’s mother), Queen Elizabeth and FDR at Hyde Park on Hudson

A book that's inspired by a movie (for a change)

Books become films every day of the week; more rarely does someone feel inspired to write a book after seeing…

Labour Beat

Profumo. Chatterley. The Beatles. 1963 was the year old England died

If you’re looking for the year when the old England died, this was it

JFK at work at his desk in the Oval Office

The wounded Kennedy – and the people who gave him strength

Ten years ago, a determined historian transformed our picture of John F. Kennedy. Robert Dallek had finally got his hands…

The London terminus of the North Western Railyway in the 1860s, showing a busy scene in front of the Euston Arch, which was demolished a century later

The men who demolished Victorian Britain

Anyone with a passing interest in old British buildings must get angry at the horrors inflicted on our town centres…

Top of the happiness scale: Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims (English School, 15th century)

Look! Shakespeare! Wow! George Eliot! Criminy! Jane Austen!

Among the precursors to this breezy little book are, in form, the likes of The Story of Art, Our Island…

The Menin Gate Memorial at 
Ypres lists 54,389 missing. 
Ware was determined that every individual casualty should be honoured

The Briton whose achievement equals that of the Pharaohs'

We constantly need to be reminded that the consequence of war is death. In the case of the first world…


Blonde, beautiful — and desperate to survive in Nazi France

Around 200 Englishwomen lived through the German Occupation of Paris. Nicholas Shakespeare’s aunt Priscilla was one. Men in the street…

Two girls

Why do the British love cryptic crosswords?

Everyone loves an anniversary and the crossword world — if there is such a thing — has been waiting a…

The Milad Tower in Tehran

A place of paranoia, secrecy, corruption, hypocrisy and guilt

‘Is he a good writer? Is he pro-regime?’ an Iranian journalist in London once asked me of Hooman Majd. Majd…

Portrait of Modest Musorgsky by Ilya Yefimovich Repin

Why do we pounce on Wagner's anti-Semitism, and ignore that of the Russian composers?

Philip Hensher on how an impassioned, chaotic group of amateur 19th-century composers created the first distinctively Russian music

A fearless horsewoman: Christabel Russell and her son Geoffrey  with the West Kent hounds at Otford 
for the Christmas meet, 1928

Can virgins have babies?

Mrs Christabel Russell, the heroine of Bevis Hillier’s sparkling book, was a very modern young woman. She had short blonde…

Joanne Spencer, who sold salad and rabbits from a basket in Portobello, c. 1904

Portobello's market mustn't be allowed to close

After reading Portobello Voices, I feel more strongly than ever that the unique Portobello market mustn’t be allowed to close.…

Greta Garbo (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Bill Bryson's 'long extraordinary' summer is too long

Hands up Spectator readers who can remember the American celebrities Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Al Capone, Jack Dempsey, Zane Grey,…

The Duke of Wellington 
at the Battle of Salamanca, 
22 July 1812

How we beat Napoleon

We are accustomed to the thrill and glamour of the grands tableaux, but a nuts-and-bolts study of Napoleonic warfare makes for equally gripping reading, says David Crane

Communal, comforting and calming: tobacco in a war zone has always been important, says Kate Adie

Why Jeremy Paxman's Great War deserves a place on your bookshelf

The Great War involved the civilian population like no previous conflict. ‘Men, women and children, factory, workshop and army —…

Underneath the arches: Cruikshank’s illustration of ‘one of those afflicting occurences in the life of London: 
TOM, JERRY and LOGIC are arrested in their progress home by the melancholy discovery of Corinthian KATE 
in the last stage of a Consumption, disease & inebriety’

Hogarth and the harlots of Covent Garden were many things, but they weren't 'bohemians'

It was Hazlitt who said of Hogarth that his pictures ‘breathe a certain close, greasy, tavern air’, and the same…

The ruins of Hamburg after Allied bombing,  July 1943

Hitler didn't start indiscriminate bombings — Churchill did 

‘I cannot describe to you what a curious note of brutality a bomb has,’ said one woman who lived through…

Prince Albert (Photo: John Jabez Edwin Mayall/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Clash of the titans

This is an odd book: interesting, informative, intelligent, but still decidedly odd. It is a history of the Victorian era…

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron a

Tristram Hunt's diary: Why has Gove allowed a school that makes women wear the hijab?

ONE OF THE MINOR sociological treats of being appointed shadow education secretary is a frontbench view of David Cameron’s crimson…

The Florentine banking aristocracy worship the Christ-child in Botticelli’s ‘Adoration of the Magi’. 
On either side the scene is stacked with Medici sons, grandsons and associates

How to avoid bankers in your nativity scene

With an eye to the blasphemy underlying some of the loveliest Renaissance painting, Honor Clerk will be choosing her Christmas cards more carefully this year

Cat fight: tension mounts between the Great Powers in 1905 as Edward VII, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the French foreign minister, Théophile Delcassé, squabble over Morocco

What caused the first world war?

In pre-1914 cosmopolitan society, everyone seemed to be related — ambassadors as well as monarchs. But increased militarisation was fast obliterating old family ties, says Jane Ridley 

Landseer’s portrait of Queen Victoria riding in Windsor Home Park four years after the death of Prince Albert

Queen Victoria, by Matthew Dennison - review

When Prince Albert died in 1861, aged 42, Queen Victoria, after briefly losing the use of her legs, ordered that…

A youthful portrait of the Dowager Empress

The Empress Dowager was a moderniser, not a minx. But does China care?

For susceptible Englishmen of a certain inclination — like Sir Edmund Backhouse or George Macdonald Fraser — the Empress Dowager…

Christmas Day truce of 1914

Meeting the Enemy, by Richard Van Emden; 1914, by Allan Mallinson - review

The Great War was an obscene and futile conflict laying waste a generation and toppling emperors. Yet here are two…

(Image: Getty)

Guido Fawkes to Damian McBride: Who's spinning now?

When Gordon Brown eventually became aware that his Downing Street was about to be engulfed in the Smeargate scandal, he…