Tag: history

Total 25 Posts

Stuff vs. Theory

In a rather acid moment, my publisher once said that all my books could secretly be titled Fun Stuff I Have Found Out. He did not mean it unkindly, or at least I tell myself he didn’t. And up to a point it’s a fair cop, guv. I came to… Read more

Duncan Wall: The Ordinary Acrobat

When John Major, who started his career in a bank, became British prime minister in 1990, newspaper articles recounted his father’s early days as a music-hall performer. Mr. Major, the wits quipped, was the only person who ever ran away from the circus to join a team of accountants. Duncan… Read more

Selfridges, history and TV: a rant

In 2008, I reviewed Lindy Woodhead's book, Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge. It was, by a long way, one of the worst books I had ever read: sloppy, repetitive, self-contradictory and filled with factual errors. It has, of course, now been made into a television 'period drama'. I reprint my… Read more

Lawrence Norfolk: John Saturnall’s Feast

What makes the great novels great? There are as many answers to that question as there are novels. If you narrow the question to “What makes a historical novel great?” the answer that rises to the top is, probably, sense of place. Historical novels create new worlds in our minds,… Read more

William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow

William Morris has been in and out of fashion so often that the sympathetic watcher can get whiplash following his reputation. Lauded by his contemporary, the great critic John Ruskin, by 1904 he was merely “a great man who somehow delighted in glaring wallpapers”. Yet Morris, the forerunner of the… Read more

Holyrood bed-trick?

The historian of design Mario Praz reports that, when Darnley was ill at Kirk o’ Field, Mary Stuart had her bed moved to Holyrood, saying she would sleep there: that night, the house blew up. The assumption is she liked the bed well enough that she didn’t want to lose… Read more
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