Book review – History

Hans Asperger at the Children’s Clinic of the University of Vienna Hospital c.1940

Did Hans Asperger save children from the Nazis — or sell them out?

12 September 2015 9:00 am

Simon Baron-Cohen wonders whether the humane Hans Asperger may finally have betrayed the vulnerable children in his care in Nazi-occupied Vienna

How anarchy was responsible for Auschwitz

12 September 2015 9:00 am

In September 1939 Britain went to war against Germany, ostensibly in defence of Poland. One big secret that the British…

‘La Ghirlandata’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The dangerous red-headed league

29 August 2015 9:00 am

‘Gentlemen prefer blondes,’ Anita Loos pronounced, ‘but gentlemen marry brunettes.’ Quite what they do with redheads she never revealed (and…

For France, the murder of John the Fearless was ‘a tragedy on an epic scale’

The drama of St Crispian’s Day: Shakespeare got it right

29 August 2015 9:00 am

Charles VI of France died on 21 October 1422. He had been intermittently mad for most of his long reign,…

Chairman Mao: monster of misrule

22 August 2015 9:00 am

Mao Zedong, once the Helmsman, Great Teacher and Red Red Sun in Our Hearts, and still the Chairman, died in…

Rediscover the venerable father of English history

15 August 2015 9:00 am

It might seem to some a bold move to base a book on any kind of journey at all when…

The refrigerator takes centre stage at a 1920s luncheon party

Cooling is as important to civilisation as making fire — only much harder

1 August 2015 9:00 am

Modern civilisation depends on refrigeration — but we have been trying to manufacture cold for at least 4,000 years, says Michael Bywater

Rabdentse, near Pelling, the ruined former capital of Sikkim, with Mount Kanchenjunga in the distance

The story of Sikkim’s last king and queen reads like a fairy tale gone wrong

1 August 2015 9:00 am

Sikkim was a Himalayan kingdom a third of the size of Wales squeezed between China, India, Nepal and Bhutan. I…

Bletchley Park was decades ahead of Silicon Valley. So what happened?

25 July 2015 9:00 am

Gordon Corera, best known as the security correspondent for BBC News, somehow finds time to write authoritative, well-researched and readable…

Harriet Howard, Duchess of Sutherland, by William Corden the Younger, after Franz Xavier Winterhalter. ‘What a hold the place has on one,’ she observed of Cliveden

Love nest or den of iniquity? Cliveden has always been shrouded in mystery and scandal

18 July 2015 9:00 am

Well, you can’t say he wasn’t warned. Swimming pools, Nancy Astor told her son, Bill, were ‘disgustin’. I don’t trust…

Hirohito, MacArthur and other villains

4 July 2015 9:00 am

The history of ‘great events’, Voltaire wrote, is ‘hardly more than the history of crimes’. Physically, the war in Asia…

Portrait generally thought to be of Ghenghis Khan

Was Genghis Khan the cruellest man who ever lived?

27 June 2015 9:00 am

From the unpromising and desperately unforgiving background that forged his iron will and boundless ambition, Temujin (as Genghis Khan was…

Making do on frogs’ legs and 4,500 brace of grouse

27 June 2015 9:00 am

This big, bristling, deeply-furrowed book kicks off with a picture of the British countryside just before the second world war.…

The long shadow of genocide: Armenia’s vengeance years

27 June 2015 9:00 am

One morning in March 1921 a large man in an overcoat left his house in Charlottenburg, Berlin, to take a…

Flamboyant intellectuals: René Descartes (main picture) and Bernard-Henri Lévy (below), in 1978

Liberty, philosophy and 246 types of cheese

20 June 2015 9:00 am

The French have always favoured grand, elegant abstractions about the human condition, says Ruth Scurr. It’s part of their national identity

The new Imperial Royal Austrian Light Infantry c.1820

The honour of the Habsburgs was all that mattered to the imperial Austrian army

20 June 2015 9:00 am

John Keegan, perhaps the greatest British military historian of recent years, felt that the most important book (because of its…

Which comes first — the chicken or the pig?

13 June 2015 9:00 am

Here are two parallel books, both by Americans, both 260 pages (excluding indexes) long, both using ‘likely’ as an adverb.…

The forgotten army: abandoned by the British to the horrors of Partition

13 June 2015 9:00 am

It is often said that cricket was ‘a game invented by the English and played by Indians’, and every so…

The long shadow over China’s only children

13 June 2015 9:00 am

This book starts with a Chinese boy so privileged and pampered that, at 21, he can’t open his own suitcase,…

Tallulah Bankhead — at home in louche Maidenhead

Oscar Wilde, Christine Keeler, Ivor Novello and Isambard Kingdom Brunel make unexpected companions on the Great Western

6 June 2015 9:00 am

Readers who have put in some time on the railways may remember the neat, brush-painted graffiti that appeared in 1974…

San Domenico church, Palermo

Palermo: city of jasmine and dark secrets

6 June 2015 9:00 am

The Arabs invaded Sicily in the ninth century, leaving behind mosques and pink-domed cupolas. In the Sicilian capital of Palermo,…

Bond would be bored in today’s MI6, says Malcolm Rifkind

6 June 2015 9:00 am

Spying may be one of the two oldest professions, but unlike the other one it has changed quite a lot…

The battle of Lepanto, October 1571

From Barbary corsairs to people-traffickers: the violence of the Mediterranean

30 May 2015 9:00 am

The Mediterranean has always been central to European civilisation — and a source of drama and conflict, says Anthony Sattin

Colonel Blood: thief turned spy and Royal pensioner

23 May 2015 9:00 am

In the words of one of his contemporaries ‘a man of down look, lean-faced and full of pock holes’, the…

Out of the woods: American forces attack a German machine gun post, December 1944. The grim determination of the Allies, whose heroism kept the Germans at bay, helped pave the way for the final Russian advance on Berlin

Mud, blood and war crimes on both sides – the struggle for the Ardennes was one of the bitterest of the second world war

16 May 2015 9:00 am

Both German and Allied troops could be accused of war crimes in the struggle for the Ardennes. It’s a tragic and gruesome history, involving heavy casualties — but flashes of black humour make it bearable, says Clare Mulley