Book review – History

17th- and 18th-century buttons from John Taylor’s Birmingham workshop

In grandmother’s treasure-chest

13 February 2016 9:00 am

Juliet Nicolson examines women’s lives and changing fashions through a rich hoard of buttons for all occasions

A child freedom fighter in Budapest, 1956

1956: the year of living dangerously

13 February 2016 9:00 am

The book of the year has long been a favoured genre in popular history, and is a commonplace today. While…

Bad King John: more interested in hunting than good governance

The realm of England: from the Pennines to the Pyrenees

13 February 2016 9:00 am

Most people know more about the 12th century than they think they do. This is, as Richard Huscroft reminds us…

Humboldt talks to one of the indigenous people in Turbaco (today’s Columbia) en route to Bogotá.

Alexander Humboldt: a great explorer rediscovered

6 February 2016 9:00 am

The Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt was once the most famous man in Europe bar Napoleon. And if you judge…

Science was invented in 1572

16 January 2016 9:00 am

There was no science before 1572, the year that Tycho Brahe saw a new star in the night sky above…

Scents and sensibility

12 December 2015 9:00 am

Choosing to smell of something other than ourselves, and then perhaps in time coming to view that fragrance as ‘our’…

The Silver Ghost, illustrated by Stefan Marjoram

Brian Sewell votes the Silver Ghost the best car in the world

12 December 2015 9:00 am

One of the great joys of the late Brian Sewell’s style of writing was his almost child-like bluntness. He had…

A portrait by Edward Savage of the Washingtons at home, with two of Martha’s grandchildren, adopted by her after the death of their parents

George and Martha Washington were an odd first First Couple

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Frances Wilson on America’s likeable, if unlikely, first First Couple

Portrait of Richard III by an unknown artist

Richard III: a bad man — and even worse king

5 December 2015 9:00 am

When archaeologists unearthed the battered mortal remains of King Richard III beneath a council car park in Leicester in 2012,…

Guy Burgess

James Klugmann and Guy Burgess: the wasted lives of spies

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Geoff Andrews’s ‘Shadow Man’, James Klugmann, was the talent-spotter, recruiter and mentor of the Cambridge spy ring. From 1962, aged…

Portrait of the Duke of Buckingham by Peter Paul Rubens

Was King James I murdered or merely poisoned in error?

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Beware hedonists bearing white powder. This, in part, was the message pressed in a short book about the excesses of…

Ivor Novello as a ‘sympathetic Ripper’ in Hitchcock’s The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog

Jack the Ripper unmasked again

28 November 2015 9:00 am

The Whitechapel Fiend is a psychic conduit for the vilest aspects of Victorian sex and class, and a creature mainly…

Shock and awe in Coventry, 14 November 1940

21 November 2015 9:00 am

On 14 November 1940, at seven in the evening, the Luftwaffe began to bomb Coventry. The skyline turned red like…

Rab Butler after the defeat of the Conservatives in 1964. ‘His clothes were truly tragic,’ said Chips Channon

Rab Butler was too indecisive (and badly dressed) to be Prime Minister

21 November 2015 9:00 am

‘The best prime minister we never had’ is not an epithet exclusive to Rab Butler. Widely applied to the late…

Franz Marangolo’s advertisement , 1950 (From The Life Negroni)

A soothing Negroni for la dolce vita

14 November 2015 9:00 am

The first draft of the famous story was called ‘A Martini as Big as the Ritz’. That’s not true, but…

‘Nocturne in Grey and Gold’ by James McNeill Whistler, 1874

London fog: from the Big Smoke to the Big Choke

7 November 2015 9:00 am

‘A foggy day in London town,’ croons Fred Astaire in the 1937 musical comedy A Damsel in Distress, puffing nonchalantly…

Even the appearance of a lone wolf at Salem was enough to trigger accusations of witchcraft

Has Salem bewitched Stacy Schiff?

7 November 2015 9:00 am

There have been many books devoted to the terrible events that took place in the small rural community of Salem…

Spies in the spotlight

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Spying is a branch of philosophy, although you would never guess it from that expression on Daniel Craig’s face. Its…

Members of the Hitler Youth clear debris after an air raid on Berlin, August 1944

The swastika was always in plain sight

24 October 2015 9:00 am

Ordinary Germans under the Third Reich did have wills of their own, argues Dominic Green. Most actively embraced Nazi ideology, and were aware of the extermination of the Jews. As the war worsened for them, what did they think they were fighting for?

What does it really mean to have a tyrannical father?

24 October 2015 9:00 am

What was it like, asks Jay Nordlinger, to have Mao as your father, or Pol Pot, or Papa Doc? The…

Beatles mania! (Photo: Getty)

The best of British — from Agatha Christie to the YBAs

26 September 2015 8:00 am

Is it true that, having lost an empire, we reinvented ourselves as an island of entertainers? Do we channel the…

A soldiers best friend (Photo: Getty)

The beloved, mistreated and traumatised dogs of war

26 September 2015 8:00 am

If you love dogs and or live with one — I declare an interest on both counts — there is…

What drove Europe into two world wars?

19 September 2015 8:00 am

Sir Ian Kershaw won his knight’s spurs as a historian with his much acclaimed two-volume biography of Hitler, Hubris and…

The shape-shifting Fens, thought to be the landscape of Beowulf and the haunt of Grendel

Spirit of place: the landscape of myth and magic

19 September 2015 8:00 am

We live in disenchanted times. We barely do God, most of us don’t do magic and frenzied consumerism occupies our…

The history of modern Germany — within four walls

19 September 2015 8:00 am

This is a book about boundaries — and relationships. At its heart is the eponymous house by the lake, which…