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Articles in history

Grosz Anatomy

October 1, 2014
Grosz Anatomy

In his latest collection of essays, Theater of Cruelty Ian Buruma launches a series of expert investigations into the springs of cruelty and the perils of victomhood.

Coalition of the Chilling

October 1, 2014
Coalition of the Chilling

A British historian’s richly-sourced accounting of Molotov-Ribbentrop offers fresh insights into this Nazi-Soviet pact of “non-aggression.”

The Lion’s Den

September 1, 2014
The Lion’s Den

We think of the Middle East as a place of hopeless deadlocks – but once upon a time, an Egyptian president, an Israeli prime minister, and a U.S. president worked for two weeks to hammer out a plan for peace. Lawrence Wright takes readers to Camp David at a turning point in history.

Words Plucked from Our Tongues

September 1, 2014
Words Plucked from Our Tongues

Can Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda heal Canada’s colonial relationship with its First Nations? Why should we expect literature to succeed where our leaders have failed?

The Done Thing

September 1, 2014
The Done Thing

England had been at war with France almost continuously since the Norman Conquest, but in the Hundred Years War, the conflict became especially heightened – and transformative. A new history tells the story as a rattling good yarn.

High and Outside

September 1, 2014
High and Outside

Uncertain Justice, by Lawrence Tribe and Joshua Matz, suggests that personality plays a greater role than ideology in today’s Supreme Court. David Culberg assesses the arguments.

From the Archives: The Battle for Justice in Palestine

September 1, 2014
Layout 1

A controversial author’s latest and most devastating indictment of Israel’s policies toward its Palestinian citizens and neighbors

The Grey Zone

August 1, 2014
The Grey Zone

Gertrude van Tijn helped more than 20,000 Jews escape occupied Holland. What does it mean that, in saving their lives, she had to collaborate with Nazis?

Socrates Offside

August 1, 2014
Socrates Offside

What place do deep questions about the meaning of life have in our technological age? Is philosophy more important than ever?

Twenty Feet Tall!

August 1, 2014
Twenty Feet Tall!

The third voume of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland trilogy is sure to fly off the shelves, but those flying copies will be light to the tune of a few needed footnotes, omissions our managing editor finds, to say the least, troubling.

It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

July 1, 2014
It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

The collectors of rare 78 rpm records are nearly as singular and remarkable as the vinyl they seek out. A new book travels to flea markets and music fairs to discover the secrets of these American obsessives.

Pashtunwali

July 1, 2014
Pashtunwali

Of all the borders in the world, the Durand line is perhaps the most dangerous. A new book seeks to explain the Taliban, who plague the peoples on both sides of it.

The Reign of Saturn

July 1, 2014
The Reign of Saturn

Babe Ruth, Mayor Walker, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Parker – New York City in the Jazz Age was a bristling landscape of giants, most of them from out of town. A vast and enthralling new history tells the stories of the people who made the Big Apple.

2nd Amendment Fundamentalists

July 1, 2014
2nd Amendment Fundamentalists

“You can throw out every damn other thing in the Constitution, as long as you don’t touch my guns,” one Southern U.S. Senator famously bellowed, perfectly typifying a certain psychosis. A new book picks fights on history of American gun law.

Dervishes and Gypsies

June 1, 2014
Dervishes and Gypsies

Legendary Indian author Saadat Hasan Manto’s choicest short stories – depicting a teeming Bombay that’s both long-vanished and eternal – receive an attractive new paperback edition from Vintage International

Words at the Grave

June 1, 2014
Words at the Grave

On Marx, the latest chip off the block of Alan Ryan’s 2-volume On Politics, focuses on the founder of Marxism – but Ryan’s a man in a hurry, and the devil is in the details.

Circumspice

May 1, 2014
Circumspice

Ronald Reagan single-handedly ended the Cold War at Reykjavik in 1985. And if you believe that, his loyal aid Ken Adelman has a book to sell you.

Skilled in the Ways of the Desert

May 1, 2014
Skilled in the Ways of the Desert

A fascinating new book tells the remarkable stories of five ‘improbable’ women who defied convention to explore the much mythologised landscape of the Middle East.

Ariel: Shelley in Italy

May 1, 2014
Ariel: Shelley in Italy

Like so many before him, the celebrated Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley had a tangled and complicated history with Italy, equal parts inspiration and frustration. Luciano Mangiafico tells the story

April 2014 Issue

April 1, 2014
April 2014 Issue

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Laylat-al-Qadr

April 1, 2014
Laylat-al-Qadr

A kaleidoscopic new book explores one of history’s sharpest paradoxes: the Age of Liberty was also the Age of Slavery

“There Is No Enjoyment in This Life”

April 1, 2014
“There Is No Enjoyment in This Life”

Iraqi lawyer and former exile Zaid al-Ali writes a bleak, sobering account of the state of his homeland in the post-“Mission Accomplished” era – but is there any reason for hope?

Doubleplusungood

April 1, 2014
Doubleplusungood

Putin’s Soviet predecessors were masters of doublespeak. As Ukraine suffers again, it’s clear that their descendents are now in charge.

The Danelaw

March 1, 2014
The Danelaw

In her brilliantly scathing new book, Elaine Scarry charges that US Presidents, in maintaining and augmenting an enormous nuclear arsenal, have broken the social contract and become monarchs in all but name.

War, in Panorama

February 1, 2014
War, in Panorama

How could they do it, those young men who, with every reason to live, walked deliberately into machine-gun fire? Joe Sacco gives us a panoramic view of the horror, the labor, and the losses of WWI.

February 2014 Issue

February 1, 2014
February 2014 Issue

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Dreaming Different Dreams: The Early Russian Dissenters

January 1, 2014
Dreaming Different Dreams: The Early Russian Dissenters

The Russian dissident writers are largely unknown in the West today, but their work was an inspiration at a time when their compatriots were forbidden to dream different dreams.

Strange Reckoning

January 1, 2014
Strange Reckoning

She was the daughter, the sister, and the wife of kings in one of England’s most turbulent periods, but Alison Weir’s new biography is the first to make us feel we really know Elizabeth of York.

A Palace and a Prison at Each Hand: Lord Byron in Italy (part 1 of 2)

January 1, 2014
A Palace and a Prison at Each Hand: Lord Byron in Italy (part 1 of 2)

Byron was mad, bad, and dangerous to know — and eventually his amorous, adventurous spirit led him to Italy.

Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn

December 1, 2013
Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn

Every correspondent in Moscow wanted to be the first to find Solzhenitsyn after he won the Nobel Prize in 1970. Michael Johson had that honor – but the great Russian writer wasn’t altogether pleased so see him.

Studio Matto e Disperatissimo: The Life and Writings of Giacomo Leopardi

December 1, 2013
Studio Matto e Disperatissimo: The Life and Writings of Giacomo Leopardi

He was the greatest Italian poet since Dante, but he was tormented by a strict upbringing, ruinous health, and moods of black pessmism. He was Giacomo Leopardi, and this is his story.

Second Glance: Kapuściński’s Africa

December 1, 2013
Second Glance: Kapuściński’s Africa

Ryszard Kapuściński has courted controversy for the poetic licenses in his groundbreaking works of history. But it’s those leaps of imagination and sympathy that make his 2001 book on Africa, The Shadow of the Sun, a lasting work of art.

It Was Fun, the Struggle

December 1, 2013
It Was Fun, the Struggle

The age of Roosevelt and Taft was also the age of Progressive reform – spearheaded by an amazing team of ‘muckraking’ writers the like of which the United States had never seen.

What Does an African Woman Want in America?

November 1, 2013
What Does an African Woman Want in America?

Chimananda Ngozi Adichie’s expansive novel Americanah centers on a Nigerian woman’s immigration to the United States and eventual return to Nigeria. Orem Ochiel explores what her story says about complex, often traumatic experience of being black and African in the West.

Feeding the Monster

November 1, 2013
Feeding the Monster

From the agora 2,400 years ago to the present day, the schools of Plato and Aristotle have been locked in combat; a new book sees the struggle in disarmingly simple terms.

JFK in the Senate

October 5, 2013
jfk in the senate

Before he became one of America’s most famous presidents, John Kennedy was a hot-shot senator and a photogenic winner of the Pulitzer Prize. But did the Senate years help to form the Oval Office years?

An Inglorious Life

October 1, 2013
An Inglorious Life

Elizabeth Gilbert’s ambitious new novel imagines the life of a 19th-century woman botanist, as insightful as Darwin but lost to history. It’s an interesting project, and a worthy one, but does the novel live up to its premise?

The Spirit of ’79

October 1, 2013
The Spirit of ’79

Two thousand years ago, a bustling seaside town on the Naples coast was engulfed in a sudden, unthinkable catastrophe: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii in hot ash and froze it in death for two millennia. Can any museum exhibit capture the irresistible fascination of such a stark human drama?

From the Archives: In the Pocket of Satan

October 1, 2013
Six Women of Salem

A girl, a widow, a matriarch, a mother, a businesswoman, and a minister’s slave: a new history traces the Salem Witch Trials through the lives of six women who paid dearly for their proximity to one of the most mysterious incidents in American history

Homo Sovieticus

September 1, 2013
Homo Sovieticus

The USSR’s Book of Tasty and Healthy Food created an impression of bounty and gourmet splendor; Anya von Bremzen’s memoir Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking reveals the Soviet kitchen’s homelier truths

The Empire Strikes Back

September 1, 2013
The Empire Strikes Back

King and Woolman’s new book Assassination of the Archduke, boasts new sources, very close to Franz Ferdinand and his wife — too close?

Behold the Man

August 1, 2013
Behold the Man

The meek and peaceful Jesus has become the standard Christian image of the Messiah. Religious scholar Reza Aslan’s controversial new book shatters that image and replaces it with something very different: a violent revolutionary who came not to bring peace but a sword.

In Prague on an Errand

August 1, 2013
In Prague on an Errand

In Caleb Crain’s debut novel, a young man puts his ordinary life on hold and goes to post-revolution Prague in search of all the usual things young people go searching for in Prague. But, as reviewer Yulia Greyman observes, “false selves are a part of love.”

Vegetable Wonder

August 1, 2013
Vegetable Wonder

It became entangled with the imperial hopes of a nation and inspired the design of one of the most significant buildings of the 19th century, the Crystal Palace: a new book explores the remarkable story of the Amazonian water lily.

Mé Féin

June 1, 2013
Mé Féin

Fintan O’Toole is an idealist about Irish republicanism and his books begin a desperately necessary conversation. It’s a bad sign, though, that he can’t quite get past the preliminaries.

Keeping Up With The Tudors: Peace, Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror

June 1, 2013
Keeping Up With The Tudors: Peace, Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror

A debut novel of alternate history spins out one of the most tantalizing hypotheticals of the past: what if Anne Boleyn had managed to give King Henry VIII a healthy male heir? Some of the answers – and some of the resulting mysteries – may surprise you.

American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Magic II.

June 1, 2013
American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Magic II.

Bohemian Back Bay was as key to Copley Square as aristocratic Back Bay and black artist models figured not only in Sargent’s work, but in Fred Holland Day’s too.

Approaching Auschwitz

April 1, 2013
A MAN LOOKS AT PHOTOGRAPHS OF HUNGARIAN JEWS HELD AT THE AUSCHWITZ CONCENTRATION CAMP AT THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM IN LONDON

An incurious and indifferent Jew journeys to Auschwitz to confront the kitsch and the manicured ruins, looking for a sense of connection – and finding it in the most unlikely places

American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Centerpiece 7

April 1, 2013
American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Centerpiece 7

“The Gods of Copley Square”s spirited multi-part examination of Boston’s Trinity Church (and its indomitable bishop-saint) comes to its conclusion right where it should: at the heart of worship

The Earl of Gallipoli

April 1, 2013
The Earl of Gallipoli

The typical image of Winston Churchill comes from the dark days of World War II: a fat, old, bald Prime Minister eloquently defying Hitler’s Germany. But before there was a monument there was a man, as an engaging new biography brings to light.

From the Archives: Embossed Coins

April 1, 2013
From the Archives: Embossed Coins

Elie Wiesel once claimed “a novel about Treblinka is either not a novel or not about Treblinka.” How does Steve Sem-Sandberg grapple with representing the unrepresentable in his sweeping chronicle of the Łódź ghetto, The Emperor of Lies? A review from our archives.

Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

March 1, 2013
Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

He may not have anything new to tell us today, but as Spencer Lenfield demonstrates, Gilbert Highet’s friendly, engaging pedagogy is still rare enough to keep him relevant.

“He Might As Well Have Called Me Nancy!” Mark Twain in Italy

March 1, 2013
“He Might As Well Have Called Me Nancy!” Mark Twain in Italy

After his first visit to Italy, Mark Twain pronounced her “one vast museum of magnificence and misery,” and yet he returned again and again. Luciano Magniafaco chronicles his journeys.

Judaize This

February 1, 2013
Judaize This

The belief that Jews are the enemy of civilization is one of the West’s most tenacious and systemic ideas. Professor David Nirenberg’s new history offers a vast, seemingly inexhaustible record of a very old, very useful hatred.

Epstein’s Kaleidoscope

February 1, 2013
Epstein’s Kaleidoscope

Joseph Epstein has a cult following as a sharp-tongued critic and essayist. His latest collection showcases his love of words and ideas as well as his caustic wit.

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 6

February 1, 2013
TrinityHarvardLibrary

Lost to history, here re-discovered, Trinity Chancel –“a daring enterprise in its day, as original an expression and as unique as was the genius of the American people.”

Entred in a Spacious Court

January 1, 2013
Entred in a Spacious Court

Ben Jonson said that the once wealthy and acclaimed Edmund Spenser died “for want of bread”; a new biography tries to disentangle myth from fact, and to make the case for the great poet’s relevance today

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 5

January 1, 2013
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 5

A rumor of Narnia at Trinity Church prompts two questions. Can a building have a spiritual life? Can a work of art not? Phillips Brooks and the idea of ecstasy

Sharing A Cab

December 1, 2012
Sharing A Cab

Give Anthony Burgess a check and he’d write anything, even a Time-Life picture book. Which doesn’t mean that his 1976 guide to New York is anything less than fascinating.

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 4

December 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square –  Centerpiece 4

“Truth is Catholic, but the search for it is Protestant,” quoth W.H. Auden, and this month Phillips Brooks is at Lourdes, of all places, his liking for which can only be explained by his experiences at Benares.

The Power Season

November 1, 2012
The Power Season

As Americans go to the polls this month to elect a president, some recent biographies examine the lives of five very different men who once held the office.

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 3

November 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square –  Centerpiece 3

“Perhaps a little drunk might answer” was Phillips Brooks’s idea of how to view Pre-Raphaelite art, several masterpieces of which he commissioned for Trinity Church. “Centerpiece” continues.

From The Archives: Raging Bull

November 1, 2012
From The Archives: Raging Bull

In this tensely-charged election year, all eyes fix on the blogosphere – of 1787. Jeffrey Eaton signs us in to Library of America’s 2-volume Debate on the Constitution and fills the comments field.

Nine Ways of Looking at D’Annunzio

October 1, 2012
Nine Ways of Looking at D’Annunzio

Madman, lothario, despot, drug fiend, friend and enemy of Mussolini – and immortal poet. Gabriele D’Annunzio was all of these things and many more in his whirlwind of a life.

American Aristocracy: Gods Of Copley Square – Centerpiece 2

October 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods Of Copley Square – Centerpiece 2

Henry Adams on the road to Chartres, Phillips Brooks on the Madonna of the prairie, and John La Farge on why he worried Trinity Church had “no heart” — The Gods of Copley Square continues

Books Before and After

September 1, 2012
6

It’s a bridge, a barrier, and a burden; it’s used in the bedroom, the kitchen, and the outhouse. Leah Price helps us think again about what we can, should, or want to do with that most fetishized of objects: the book.

‘Stop, traveler, and piss!’

September 1, 2012
Castlereagh_death-1

Lord Castlereagh lives in infamy as the target of the Romantic Poets’ most vicious insults, but a new biography tries to salvage his reputation. Was the statesman a scourge of liberalism or pragmatist of Enlightenment ideals?

Attainted: The Life and Afterlife of Ezra Pound in Italy

September 1, 2012
ep

Pound wrote The Pisan Cantos on toilet paper while prisoner in an open-air metal cage during WWII, and he spent many of the following years in mental hospitals. “I can get along with crazy people,” he quipped. “It’s only the fools I can’t stand.”

In Praise of the Practitioner

September 1, 2012
GZhukov

Was General Zhukov the greatest general to order mass executions of his own soldiers? Was he the single most decisive factor in beating Hitler? A new biography opens more questions than it answers.

Those Feet

August 1, 2012
CoF

This summer’s London Olympics take us back to 1981’s Chariots of Fire, the 1924 Olympics, and the poetry of William Blake. The connection? All remind us of the fragility of glory and our endless wish to make the past present.

We Could Have Beaten Kennedy…

August 1, 2012
LBJ-RFK-JFK

Lyndon Johnson rained destruction on Vietnam and championed civil rights, amassed a secret fortune and fought for the needy. His paradoxical life continues in the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s epic biography.

A Writ of Certiorari

August 1, 2012
37

A contentious Supreme Court in the headlines is hardly a new thing – nor is the Court being used for partisan politics and the brinksmanship of history, as Noah Feldman’s Scorpions makes clear

A Man Without Divisions

August 1, 2012
Prejudices

“He calls you a swine,” Walter Lippmann once wrote of H.L. Mencken, “and he increases your will to live.” A reissue of Mencken’s 1926 rabble-rouser Notes on Democracy shows the journalist at his insulting, rejuvenating best.

Keeping Up With the Windsors – The Invisible Woman

June 1, 2012
HMQEIIHC

She’s occupied the throne of Great Britain and the Commonwealth for 60 years, and in June Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. Three new biographies try to understand the woman wearing the crown.

From the Archives: Supping with Glaucus: A Tour of Roman Historical Fiction

June 1, 2012
barba_the_slaver

Steve Donoghue takes the emperor’s box to thumbs-up or thumbs-down an array of Roman historical novels, as “A Year with the Romans” continues.

From the Archives: Crowned and Anointed

June 1, 2012
bodice

Ian Manfred St. Cyr settles in with Maureen Waller’s Sovereign Ladies, a biography of “the six reigning queens of England” and suggests that the author’s headcount may be a little low.

Keeping Up With the Tudors: Lizard on a Rock

May 1, 2012
Henry-VII

He survived years of dangerous exile, won his crown on the battlefield, and founded one of the most famous dynasties in human history – and yet we still haven’t embraced Henry VII. A spirited new biography seeks to change that.

Monumental and Fragile

May 1, 2012
sikuquanshu

No form of literature seems as thoroughly doomed in the 21st century as the printed encyclopedia, but even dinosaurs can have rich and rewarding life-stories. Where did we go, before we all went to the Internet?

American Aristocracy – Civil War: Pride and Shame on the Via Sacra

May 1, 2012
WilliamJames

The clash between Brahmin liberalism and the legacy of slave-trading focuses on a monument to the men who redeemed a city and ransomed a nation. “American Aristocracy” continues.

Good Enough

April 1, 2012
Good Enough

A new book takes readers back to a time when, according to historian Ira Shapiro, politics could sometimes be noble and senators could sometimes be giants.

Odi et Amo

April 1, 2012
Catullus

The work of the Roman poet Catullus has always challenged the received idioms of poetry and society, and a daring new translation both underscores and undermines that iconoclastic Catullan stance.

American Aristocracy – Harvard Pulpit: Boston Brahmin Liberalism

April 1, 2012
MIT postcard

To the quintessential virtues the Puritans lent to a fledgling republic – globality, philantropy, and autonomy – the ‘speaking aristocracy’ of the Boston Brahmins added one more: the love of learning

When She Was Lost

April 1, 2012
bainbridge

One hundred years ago this month, the luxury liner Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, with the loss of over 1500 lives. The centenary has released a flood of books, including some gems not to be missed.

Cato of the Antipodes

March 1, 2012
1321632

Of his 60+ books, one in particular, The United States, is best representative of his work as a whole and, by readers, best loved. On the Collected Essays of Gore Vidal.

The Apparatchik

February 1, 2012
condoleezza-rice

For two terms, first as National Security Advisor and then as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was the most – often the only – likeable face of the George W. Bush administration. But does this quintessential team player break ranks in her new memoir?

‘I am Thy Man’

February 1, 2012
HundredYearsWar

He fought a world war with France, survived the Black Death, and gave England a real Parliament. Froissart and Chaucer loved him, Shakespeare (almost) wrote about him, and the Victorians disparaged him. He was Edward III, and he has a king-sized new biography from Yale University Press.

On Reading a Five-Volume Biography of Prince Albert

January 1, 2012
princealbertqueenvictoriawedding

Maligned as nothing but handsome breeding stock, this German import did more to redefine the role of the monarchy than any subsequent royal, consort or king.

American Aristocracy – Brahmin Dreams: In Search of the Capital of The World

January 1, 2012
fatkd

Boston without Brahmins, like Vienna without Jews, frames shifting capitoline visions, visions much more in the spirit than most realize of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., who actually wrote: ‘It dwarfs the mind to feed it on any localism.’

Generalissimo

January 1, 2012
madison

James Madison was more cautious and purposeful than the temperamental Hamilton or the effusive Jefferson. Indeed, to paraphrase Brookhiser, Hamilton was a rocket, Jefferson was a kite, Madison was a ballast.

Over Grinton Bridge: Riding into the Heart of Reformation

December 1, 2011
2

A rich, beautiful, but sadly neglected historical masterpiece: Hilda Prescott’s The Man on a Donkey is the War and Peace of the English Reformation

The Prince of Now and Then

December 1, 2011
william

He lost his famous mother when he was a boy, became a teen idol, had a storybook wedding, and he’s second in line to be King of England. The monarchy Prince William inherits will be like nothing his predecessors have experienced – if it exists at all. “A Year with the Windsors” concludes.

A Heartbeat Away

November 1, 2011
Dick Cheney

John Nance Garner famously referred to the vice presidency as being not worth a bucket of warm, er, spit – and yet, during the two terms of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney used that office to wield unprecedented power. The former vice president writes an unapologetic memoir.

American Aristocracy – Letter from Boston: Toward a New History

October 1, 2011
prendergast-west-church

Boston, so often reproved for living in its memories, may well be poised to lead the future, not in spite of its history but because of it.

Chairman of the Board

October 1, 2011
bpimlottthequeen

Lodestar or mirror? Passé or ne plus ultra? Elizabeth II has presided with consistency over an inconsistent age. And what have we learned of her?

Changeable Camelion

September 1, 2011
Painting Poet John Donne

Courtier and cleric, adventurer and ascetic, man of faith and man of the world — John Donne was many things in his life, and a sprawling new Companion does its best to assess them all.

A Very Ordinary Person

August 1, 2011
george vi at sandringham, 1949

When his brother the king abdicated, shy Prince Bertie suddenly became king – and he was just settling in when the World War II threw his kingdom into chaos. ‘A Year with the Windsors’ continues.

The Golden Touch

August 1, 2011
bankofnorthamericacurrency

A new biography explores the life of the erratic and headstrong ‘forgotten’ Founding Father who bankrolled a revolution and guided a new republic.

Folk and Fields Suffice

July 1, 2011
9780713990645

When the tottering Roman Empire abandoned its far-flung outpost of Britain, the natives were forced to fend for themselves. The results were one part “Lord of the Flies” and one part “Camelot.”

A Very Narrow Area

July 1, 2011
9780465013975

A pivotal part of the Second World War was fought not on land or sea but under the waves – and a new history attributes heroism to both sides.

A Brief for the Defense

June 1, 2011
A Brief for the Defense

If you’re hoping for a heartfelt mea culpa from an architect of two disastrous wars, this isn’t it. Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir is shallow at best, cynically self-serving at worst.

Prince Eddy and the Blackguards

April 1, 2011
prince eddy and princess may

When the heir presumptive, Prince Eddy, died suddenly, the nation and empire was convulsed with mourning – and a century of speculation began! Had the lost prince been a simpleton, a saint, a catamite – even Jack the Ripper?

Forever Nell

April 1, 2011
‘the duke of monmouth and my lady castlemaine’ by ernest shepard 1

She was an orange-seller, an actress, a whore, and the most popular of Charles II’s many mistresses: Nell Gwynn stars in two new novels.

Out of Sorts

March 1, 2011
metalmoveabletype

Books have been with us for thousands of years, and books about books for very nearly that long. The world of books teems with themes, and in the latest massive Oxford Companion, that world receives a bestiary with hopes of being definitive.

History Without the Moon

February 1, 2011
DiamonJubilee

Her reign was epic in length and social impact, but it very nearly didn’t happen at all. She ruled through two generations of her people, and she left the British monarchy very different from how she found it. She is Queen Victoria, and our Year with the Windsors starts as it must: with her.

There Can Only Be One

February 1, 2011
SixNationsveteransWar1812

The United States’ first Civil War, Alan Taylor claims, was fought in 1812. Ivan Lett assesses the revisionist argument.

Duel

January 1, 2011
Duel

Nixon’s crimes are known to us all. A new book reveals that his biggest tormentor in the media committed a few of them himself.

The Beginning of the End, the Battle at the End, and the End

January 1, 2011
9780312628192

In 1941 Hitler had everything: all of Europe had fallen to his stormtroopers, and he could dispose of lone, defiant England at his leisure. Then he made a Napoleonic gamble: he invaded his one-time ally, Russia. Three new books deal with the Napoleonic results of that gamble.

The Prodigal Brothers

December 1, 2010
gustavmahler

Ever since Cain and Abel, literature has reserved a prominent place for sterling heroes — and the flawed, grasping, and entirely more interesting brothers who live in their shadow.

Simple Man

December 1, 2010
Simple Man

No American president in a generation has so polarized the country as George W. Bush, and his new book will almost certainly polarize its readers. Is it defiant agitprop or heartfelt memoir?

W.

December 1, 2010
george-washington_4964

For two centuries, he’s been the founding myth of his nation: first in war, first in peace, Washington the paragon. Ron Chernow’s new biography does nothing to tarnish that image — but should it?

Misfiring the Canon

December 1, 2010
charleshill

Of the charismatic Yale lecturer one adoring student wrote, “Charles Hill is God,” and in his new book, Hill moves in mysterious ways. He claims that statecraft and the Western canon are inextricably linked — but there are doubters in the temple.

A Day Such as This

November 1, 2010
Battle-of-the-somme-2

The Battle of the Somme has become a watch-word for useless slaughter over worthless ground, but a new book contends that the Somme was actually a victory for the good guys–a ghastly, horrifying victory, but a victory just the same.

The Lion Saves His Pride

November 1, 2010
The Lion Saves His Pride

Winston Churchill has become such an icon of wartime tenacity that many people tend to forget he had a postwar political career. Barbara Leaming’s 2010 biography examines the last act of a famous man’s career.

Keeping Up with the Romans: The Phenomenon of Her

November 1, 2010
Alma-TademaAandCleopatra

She’s one of the most famous names in history, and the only figure in antiquity to rival Julius Caesar’s renown–but what do we really know about Cleopatra? Stacy Schiff’s new biography takes us behind the legend.

Second Glance: The Daringly Sensible Marjorie Hillis

October 1, 2010
Live alone cover

In books such as “Live Alone and Like It” Marjorie Hillis preached independence and practical style to “live-aloner” working women of the 1930s and beyond

The Curious Disposition

October 1, 2010
The-Merchant-of-Venice-thumb-560xauto-26123

Some of the greatest works of English literature grapple with the dark, knotted roots of anti-Semitism, and the audience is always complicit. A new book studies the tangle of art and atrocity in writers Chaucer to Marlowe to Shakespeare

No Heaven for Suckers

October 1, 2010
machiavelli

He has become synonymous with amoral, cold-hearted political machination, but there was more to Machiavelli than that. A new biography attempts to look at the whole man.

In Possession of the Place

October 1, 2010
sissinghurst

Adam Nicolson chronicles his work bringing Sissinghurst castle and its grounds up to date–the delusions of a “hippie-squire” or the worthy restoration of a storied estate?

Keeping Up with the Romans: The Senator Investigates

October 1, 2010
pompeii01

He toadied to a succession of emperors and trembled at the mere thought of being mugged — on the surface, it looks odd to cast Pliny the Younger as a detective. A new mystery novel takes that chance.

The Western Star

September 1, 2010
compromise1850

More than any other figure in American history (including his hated rival Andrew Jackson), Henry Clay towered over the political landscape in the decades before the Civil War; two new books look at his legacy.

Beyond the Pillars of Hercules

September 1, 2010
800px-Feuerbach_symposium

In addition to their gods and goddesses, the ancient Greeks worshiped youth and athletic prowess, and their foremost bard was Pindar.

Fetch My Embroidery!

September 1, 2010
Hepburn-TheLionInWinter-YouTubeImage

Was Eleanor of Aquitaine a power in medieval politics or a glittering figurehead? This wife of two kings and mother of four stars in a new novel by Alison Weir – but will the real Eleanor please stand up?

The Thin, Clear, Happy Call

August 1, 2010
edwardiansense

The sunlit aesthetics of the Edwardian era have been given a new look in this essay collection, and the consensus leans decidedly toward the darker meanings belying those lovely surfaces

An Anvil Unto Sorrow

August 1, 2010
Edward-and-Gaveston

What we know about Edward II came from the brilliant mind of Christopher Marlowe. A new biography seeks to separate the real man from the dramatist’s fertile imagination.

Midlife Magic

August 1, 2010
emmanuel_carrere

Emmanuel Carrere’s memoir is an uneasy blend of sexual fantasy and archival records, of a future with a beautiful young woman and a past haunted by a possible Nazi collaborator

The Ass Made Proud

August 1, 2010
TalentedMrRipleyF

As Mark Twain pointed out a century ago, there’s no evidence the man from Stratford ever read a book, much less owned one, and so the number of books alleging and ‘proving’ evidence of his grand fraud grows and grows …

Keeping Up With The Tudors: Bernard’s Theorem

July 1, 2010
jane-seymour

At her trial, Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery, witchcraft, and incest – charges long mocked by historians. But a new book asks: is it possible Anne was actually guilty?

American Golgotha

July 1, 2010
bostonmassacre

When colonial tensions were at a boiling point, the British garrisoned troops on Boston Common and put the city under military occupation – until a certain Massacre, that is.

Revolution in a Half Shell

July 1, 2010
turtlebig

During the American Revolution, colonists ran blockades, fought sea-battles and … sent in an attack-submarine? No, it’s not time travel – it’s the amazing story of the Turtle.

The Summer’s Rage of Fire

June 1, 2010
marne,1914

World War I is known for its inching attrition, but both sides tried their hand at massive, all-or-nothing ‘pushes’ – including two of the worst, the Marne and the Somme.

Write, Repeat Redux

June 1, 2010
h f a

In his new memoir, Christopher Hitchens regales his readers with one good story after another. But as John Rodwan shows, we’ve heard most of them before – lots of times.

General Winter Had Help

June 1, 2010
tsaralexander

We often let Napoleon’s failure to conquer Russia obscure the fact that Napoleon was then conquered by Russia. A new book restores the balance of power.

I Talk & Laugh & Listen

June 1, 2010
King_George_VI_and_Queen_Elizabeth

A minor daughter of Scottish nobility was raised to the royalty of England at the turn of the 20th century and lived until she was 102. Her official biography chronicles an age.

Raggedy-Ass Marines

June 1, 2010
uss-hornet-01

The Pacific Theater WWII battle against Japan – it will forever be ‘the other war’ – here takes center stage as the boredom and carnage are seen by five individual soldiers.

Foxhole Allies

June 1, 2010
emma goldman

The Anarchist movement in America was the first to embrace some form of gay rights, but it was more a marriage of convenience than love at first sight.

Smiling, and Back to Work

May 1, 2010
joseph_schumpeter

In 2007-2008, the world’s financial markets experienced ample “creative destruction.” Now in paperback is this rich (no pun intended) life of the man who coined the term.

The Nautilus

May 1, 2010
south side of st marks from the loggia of the ducal palace, john ruskin, 1850

When John Ruskin, the foremost architectural critic of the Victorian era, discovered Venice, he fell in love. An elaborate new work paints the picture in great detail.

Ragged Ishmael

May 1, 2010
growingupunderground

“Mad Bomber” Sam Melville protested the Vietnam War by blowing up buildings, and he died unrepentant in the Attica riots – but what, if anything, was his legacy?

A Fire Bell in the Night

April 1, 2010
plaza

President Polk isn’t exactly a household name, and a new book seeks to change that. Will the facilitator of genocide and the originator of civil war get a fair shake? Read on!

Pay Attention, Cynewulf

April 1, 2010
barbarian_inv.

The warrior tribes who chipped away at Rome’s Western empire were pretty rough on each other, too. A new book examines the fight for fledgling Europe.

Strategikon

April 1, 2010
justinian (1)

The glory that was Rome lived on – in a strange new form – for a thousand years in the East, despite being beset by enemies on all sides. A new study illuminates how they managed it.

The Man and the Monument

February 1, 2010
revolution

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 was peaceful, orderly, and above all sensible, or so says towering Victorian historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. Two new books look at the man and the Revolution he so indelibly described.

“Ranvaik Owns This Box”

January 1, 2010
viking warrior unwilling wife

Is it possible to defend a group of people who gleefully made rape and torture a part of their lives? Freydis Skaar reviews a new history of the Vikings and finds its author, Robert Ferguson, doing something very close to that.

Over the Old Elms

January 1, 2010
liu ta-wei 1977

It’s often forgotten, or ignored, that China has a four-thousand-year-old history as rich and varied as any Western civilization. Hugh Seames hopes that John Keay’s immense new book will change some misperceptions about the Middle Kingdom

Have You Seene Me?

December 1, 2009
newlit

As Laura Kolbe shows, A New Literary History of America throws every word of its own title into question—and that’s not the most exciting part of Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors’ immense anthology

The Better Part of Me

December 1, 2009
ovid1

When he was banished for life from Rome, Ovid was trying to alter his artistic forms with his Metamorphoses. Trace the transformations in Steve Donoghue’s final “Year with the Romans”

“… and is there nothing more you want?”

December 1, 2009
munich-1938

In 1938 Neville Chamberlain faced the ultimate ‘what if’ scenario, negotiating peace with Hitler; A.C. Childers weighs in on David Faber’s new account of the results.

Hurricanes, Murders, and Music

November 1, 2009
yearbeforetheflood

Ned Sublette pens a loving portrait of New Orleans before Katrina struck. Ingrid Norton reviews The Year Before the Flood.

Horace in the Afternoon

November 1, 2009
penguinodes

He was everybody’s friend, and his poetry breathes with life even today. He was Horace, and “A Year with the Romans” makes his acquaintance.

Tomb It May Concern

November 1, 2009
themurderofkingtut

In a new work of Egyptology, bestselling author James Patterson claims he’s cracked the oldest murder case this side of Cain and Abel, but is Ascanio Tedeschi convinced?

The Grace of Seduction

October 1, 2009
RecognizingPersius

Steve Donoghue’s “A Year with the Romans” continues with a look at the obscure Roman poet Persius – and the great new book about him.

Verissimus

September 1, 2009
marcus-aurelius-mclynn

Statesmen, philosophers, and serial killers turn to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, but what was the emperor himself like? Frank McLynn’s Marcus Aurelius tells, and in this month’s “A Year with the Romans,” Steve Donoghue assesses.

Alexander the Grating

August 1, 2009
alexander-darius-veronese

The only surviving full-length biography of Alexander the Great was written by a Roman. Steve Donoghue looks at Quintus Curtius Rufus as “A Year with the Romans” continues.

He Wanted to Go to Disneyland

August 1, 2009
k_blows_top

Sure, he banged his shoe on a podium, but there was more than that to the fun-loving, infuriating Khrushchev – lots more, as Kristen Borg finds out in Peter Carlson’s K Blows Top

‘To the Great Infamy of the King’s Highness’

August 1, 2009
durham

Church and State collided in Henry VIII’s England, and Durham Cathedral was caught in the middle. Steve Donoghue returns to his Tudor beat to review Geoffrey Moorhouse’s The Last Divine Office.

Glory at Half Price

July 1, 2009
satchel

Larry Tye has written a book about the greatest, longest baseball career to date; Brad Jones benches the Babe and tallies up Satchel.

Who the Hell is Lili St. Cyr?

July 1, 2009
stripping

Carl Van Doren called her “the princess who takes off her pants,” but who was Gypsy Rose Lee, really? Kindly let Michael Adams entertain you in looking at two recent biographies.

Bejabbers!

July 1, 2009
sutro-tunnel

That famous vein of gold (well, mostly silver) made American millionaires, awful tragedies, and Mark Twain. Eli Wanamaker’s literary quarry is Dennis Drabelle’s Mile-High Fever.

Miss Hamilton Disposes

July 1, 2009
Miss Hamilton Disposes

No one had ever written about love – in its infinite and profane variety – the way the Roman poet Catullus did; its explication by a scholarly schoolmistress might seem paradoxical – but Edith Hamilton knew something about love herself.

‘… to ourselves and our posterity …’

July 1, 2009
convention

Richard Beeman, in his Plain, Honest Men, reminds us that the Founding Fathers weren’t demigods. Thomas J. Daly measures their feet of clay.

Ten Questions for Sarah Ruden

May 1, 2009
sarahruden

Sarah Ruden, the latest and greatest translator of Vergil’s Aeneid, offers a funny and fascinating glimpse inside the classicist’s world in this Open Letters interview.

Uncle Livy

May 1, 2009
optiolo2lo

Steve Donoghue’s “Year with the Romans” turns its eye upon Titus Livius, who either wrote poetical history or historical poetry, depending on who you ask.

Second Glance: ‘Do Not, Future People, Bring Up a Child the Wrong Way’

May 1, 2009
kalevala

The Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, was compiled in the early 19th century from a much older oral tradition—can it possibly have anything to teach the modern reader? Sean Hughes has some surprising answers.

Before Nightfall

April 1, 2009
kerch-19421

Just as we approach the time when there will be no more living witnesses to the Second World War, Richard Evans concludes his monumental three-volume Nazi history with The Third Reich at War. Steve Donoghue makes record of the results.

Planned Rampage

April 1, 2009
eric-journal-main0008

Novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers have begun weaving the Columbine shootings into their fiction. Reviewing Dave Cullen’s Columbine, Brad Jones concentrates on the sad facts alone.

Con-Men

April 1, 2009
fakers

That persistent bugaboo of publishers (and recently, the reading public): writers passing off others’ work as their own. Paul Maliszewski’s Fakers looks at some notorious cases, and John G. Rodwan Jr. weighs in.

Guide

April 1, 2009
dido_and_aeneas

Virgil’s Aeneid has been attracting translators for centuries, and Sarah Ruden’s rendering is notable in more ways than one. (She calls him Vergil, for one thing, but that’s just the start.) Steve Donoghue regards her efforts in the latest “A Year with the Romans.”

Worth the Risk

March 1, 2009
Worth the Risk

Almost twenty-five years ago, thieves entered Boston’s venerable Gardner Museum by night and stole several priceless works of art; the crime remains unsolved, and the artwork has never re-surfaced. Theories, of course, abound.

Archimedes and the Plesiosaur

March 1, 2009
nocturneriverbattersea

Peter Ackroyd’s Thames: the Biography is a rambling, list-laden account of the much-storied river. Our London correspondent Bryn Haworth tests the waters.

More Harm Than Good

February 1, 2009
greatgamble

In 1979, the mighty Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan – and quickly got bogged down in a quagmire from which victory seemed impossible. In The Great Gamble, Gregory Feifer examines what happened; muscular Zac Marconi tries to tie it all together.

It’s All His Fault

February 1, 2009
hamiltoncurse

Thomas DiLorenzo, in Hamilton’s Curse, lays all the present-day woes of the United States at the feet of that most problematic of Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. Did Aaron Burr do us all a favor? Thomas Daly weighs the prosecution’s case.

“…and you have got some friends of the wrong sort dear boy…”

February 1, 2009
bright

And you thought text-messaging was bad! In the 1920s, the gin-soaked youth movement of the Bright Young People swept through London, making headlines and raising eyebrows. Honoria St. Cyr takes a whirl through D. J. Taylor’s book on the subject and asks: “WTF?”

Another World Than This

February 1, 2009
nicolson

They were wealthy, influential, and for two centuries in England they wielded power to rival the king’s … but who were the Earls of Pembroke (and their equally formidable wives)? In Quarrel with the King, Adam Nicolson takes us beyond the pomp, and here Steve Donoghue looks at the politics of family.

Potato Style

January 1, 2009
hopkinsbook

Would the inventor of “sprung rhythm” have lived a more carefree existence in a world that allowed him to live and love the way he wanted? What poetry would he write in such a world? Steve Donoghue takes a brisk dip into Paul Mariani’s Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life.

No Sign of Horror in the Heavens

December 1, 2008
forbidden

Mary Borden’s long-forgotten 1929 memoir of World War I, The Forbidden Zone, takes its readers into the harrowing world of a front-line trauma nurse. Joanna Scutts joins her in the trenches and assesses the damage.

Where Will the Devil Show the Most Malice

December 1, 2008
titubabryant

John Demos, author of The Unredeemed Captive, has produced The Enemy Within, a new comprehensive history of witch-hunting, a mania that has gripped mankind for centuries. From Salem to the McCarthy hearings and beyond, Rita Consalvos surveys this new survey.

Lucky Bastard

December 1, 2008
scipiobook

Everybody’s heard of Hannibal, who crossed the Alps and out-fought the Romans in battle after battle. Far fewer people have heard of Scipio, the young general who finally defeated him. And nobody’s heard of the hero Ascanio Tedeschi uncovers in his examination of two books on ancient Rome’s great and near-great.

“For I am a Brid of Paradise”

December 1, 2008
humphrey

The kings and counts of Tudor England wouldn’t have known the name of minor Cheshire landowner Humphrey Newton, but in reviewing Deborah Youngs’ book on the man, Steve Donoghue illustrates just how much Newton can teach us about the era. “A Year with the Tudors” concludes here.

Six Heads a Day

November 1, 2008
napegypt

Before the pestiferous little Corsican conquered Europe, he tried his hand at Egypt – Steve Donoghue exposes how the general disposes in his review of Paul Strathern’s Napoleon in Egypt.

Soft by Nature and Quick to Tears

November 1, 2008
medea

Euripides’ Medea has been explained, performed, and debated for the last 2000 years. Panagiotis Polichronakis looks at Robin Robertson’s new translation and ponders whether it’s fit for scholars, dramaturgs, or the all-elusive common reader.

The Lord Won’t Mind

October 1, 2008
map1862

Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson achieved immortal fame in his Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862. Peter Cozzens re-examines the man behind the legend, and Steve Donoghue adjudges the results.

Set in a Turquoise Sea

October 1, 2008
venice

“It assaults me, and I adore it!” exclaimed Isabella Stewart Gardner of the legendary city of Venice, and legions of visitors have felt likewise. Venetian writer Tiziano Scarpa writes a love-letter to his spellbinding native city. Professor Hugh Seames has the oar.

The Master Touch: One Encounter with Shakespeare’s Henry VIII

October 1, 2008
henryviii

William Shakespeare lived under the Tudors for most of his life, but he only wrote about them once, in his play The History of the Life of King Henry VIII – or did he? In our latest One Encounter, and also the new installment in his “Year with the Tudors,” Steve Donoghue takes a look at that play and the fractious theories attendant.

A Difficult Woman

September 1, 2008
maaryandphillipii

Mary Tudor’s fierce Catholic faith and merciless persecution of Protestants gave her the immortal nickname of “Bloody Mary.” In our ongoing feature A Year with the Tudors, Steve Donoghue reviews Linda Porter’s The First Queen of England: The Myth of “Bloody Mary.”

Q & A with Linda Porter

September 1, 2008
lindapicture

An in-depth addition to our Year with the Tudors: Open Letters chats with a writer equally hip-deep in the subject, Linda Porter, author of The First Queen of England: The Myth of “Bloody Mary.” Our first Q & A!

My Eyes Are Up Here, Milord

September 1, 2008
elizabethleicester

There’s something going on in the latest trend of Tudor book-covers, and we’re not sure what it is, although a pair (shall we say?) of aspects is quite obvious. What are these publishers thinking? Take a look for yourself! and a second look! and a third!

Dwyer’s Antichrist

September 1, 2008
dwyer

Even would-be world-beater Napoleon was never able to subjugate his critics. In reviewing Philip Dwyer’s new book Napoleon: The Path to Power, Thomas J. Daly finds at least one such critic still bashing away at the diminutive Corsican.

He Went Thataway

August 1, 2008
tropics-empire

Overlooked by many historians is the fact that Columbus didn’t just sail west to reach the East, he also sailed south, and he (and the rest of the world) had some specific ideas of what that meant. Bartolomeo Piccolomini shows how Nicolas Wey Gomez’s new book brings the full sphere of The Discoverer’s navigation to life, showing you a Columbus you never knew.

“That is Impossible,” He Told the Court

August 1, 2008
plot-pepys

At the peak of his career, Naval Secretary (and posthumously famous diarist) Samuel Pepys found himself out of a job, in jail, and facing execution for his alleged plot against the government. Father and son writing team of James and Ben Long take the reader through all the twists and turns of the case; father and son reviewers Thurlow and Zach Truman report back.

Absent Friends: The Harper in the Hall

July 1, 2008
brucecatton

Though the American Civil War produced more and better books and writers than any single event in our country’s history, Bruce Catton is the greatest of its 20th century tellers. In this regular feature, Steve Donoghue tours the breathtaking work of an unfairly set-aside annalist.

Book Review: The China Diary of George H.W. Bush

June 24, 2008
9780691130064

For a year in the mid 1970s George H.W. Bush was the head of the United States Liaison Office in China. Steve Donoghue laments the contrast they make with his incurious son.

Getting Off

June 1, 2008
leopoldloeb

Ninety years ago, the author of The Birds of Puerto Rico bludgeoned a small boy to death with the help of then-lover Richard Loeb. Steve Donoghue takes readers through Simon Baatz’s For the Thrill of It—in which Clarence Darrow fights the good fight for a couple of very, very bad boys.

Living Israel’s History

June 1, 2008
1948

Partisans on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have trouble reconciling the intricacy of events with their national mythology. Greg Waldmann explains how the Benny Morris of 1948 is both the exception and the rule.

Nunc Dimittis

June 1, 2008
counselor

Ted Sorensen was the most loyal of JFK’s retainers and the last to finally spill the beans about the Bay of Pigs, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Steve Donoghue walks us through the worthy—if somewhat hedging—memoir of an eloquent and haunted man.

The Dancing Congress

May 1, 2008
Metternich

Napoleon came home from Elba to find his wine barrels dry, his floors scuffed, and a host of minor nobodies redistricting his continent. This was the celebrated Congress of Vienna, and Thomas J. Daly takes us through the maneuvers of Vienna 1814 by David King.

Anything that Moves: The Tudors on Film

May 1, 2008
the-tudors-season-2-premiere

More than any other dynasty in history, the Tudors are ready for their close-up. In this installment of his “Year with the Tudors,” Steve Donoghue leads us on a royal progress through film archives to access the heart and stomach of these undying superstars.

One Encounter: George & Me

May 1, 2008
EricUs

What do you do when the courageous trailblazing author who formed your youth is accused of an unspeakable crime? John G. Rodwan, Jr. does what Orwell would have done, weighed the evidence and let the chips fall where they may.

The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE

April 6, 2008
p5u2k79bjwuw_t

The New Oxford World History:
The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE
Ian Tattersall
Oxford, 2008
Focusing on early humans to the exclusion of non-human biology or world geology, this lean book may have been more accurately titled …

Political Phoenix

April 1, 2008
john-quincy-adams-picture

At the age of 64, ex-President John Quincy Adams did an unprecedented thing: he became a congressman. Thomas J. Daly looks back on the autumn of this remarkable man’s life in a review of Joseph Wheelan’s Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade.

The Butler Did It

April 1, 2008
bloodcaesars

And the murderer of the great Roman General Germanicus was…. No, you’ll never guess. Ascanio Tedeschi shows how historian Stephen Dando-Collins exploits a scarcity of known facts to formulate the most ludicrous whodunit in recent memory.

The Least Glamorous Spy

March 1, 2008
matahari

Today the name Mata Hari evokes a villainess in a James Bond movie. Yet, as Joanna Scutts discovers, if you wipe away the makeup from the myth, you uncover a far sadder and more complex tale.

Proud Boy

March 1, 2008
esurrey

Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey: commander, courtier, poet. In this installment of his “Year with the Tudors,” Steve Donoghue tells the story of how such an extraordinary young man fell foul of Henry VIII.

A Kind of Glory

February 1, 2008
whgw

Daniel Walker Howe’s What Hath God Wrought turns on the 1828 presidential race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, a tawdry epic of mudslinging the likes of which would not be seen until our own era. Steve Donoghue revisits how it all, alas, began.

‘What Wickedness is Here, Hooper?’

February 1, 2008
eddie

Steve Donoghue continues his “Year with the Tudors” with this look at Chris Skidmore’s biography of Edward VI, the ill-starred son of Henry VIII who might have been the most formidable Tudor monarch of all.

Not Quite Détente

February 1, 2008
Not Quite Détente

Books lamenting our fractured political system are as commonplace these days as polling and pundits, but, as Greg Waldmann discovers, the historical rigor of Ronald Brownstein’s The Second Civil War helps elevate it above its pandering peers.

When You See Me, You Know Me

January 1, 2008
parr

As Steve Donoghue writes, the epitome of what a monarch can be was embodied in the massive form of Henry VIII, and not a year passes without another biographer struggling to tackle the man and his legacy. 2007 was no different….

Proper Red Stuff

December 1, 2007
ripperletter

There was no popular conception of the serial killer in Victorian England in 1888. Jack the Ripper was self-made man, and, as Steve Donoghue writes, no one knows who he was.

Whispers Through the Curtain

December 1, 2007
aidova

For fifteen years a British and a Soviet family built a friendship by slipping letters past KGB censors. Karen Vanuska celebrates From Newbury with Love, a collection of their rich correspondence.

Landfall at Last

December 1, 2007
herodotus

It was a long wait, but, as Panagiotis Polichronakis reports, The Landmark Herodotus is finally here in all its definitive glory.

Pehin Hanska ktepi

November 1, 2007
bighorn

George Custer knew damn well how many Indians he’d be fighting at Little Bighorn, but the myths of that battle have overcrowded the truth. To sort one from the other, Steve Donoghue charges into a shelf of Custerology.

Oh!

November 1, 2007
rooseveltsmile

A good man’s life is rare and pure enough to revisit for its own sake. Steve Donoghue looks back on why Theodore Roosevelt meant so much to so many, and how he earned his spot on that big rock.

Absent Friends: I Could Wake Up in Nirvana and Laugh

October 1, 2007
chapman

In this regular feature, Steve Donoghue celebrates the life and letters of John Jay Chapman, an eloquent American wit now forgotten, whose writings once provoked and delighted an enthusiastic public.

The Second End of the War

October 1, 2007
morris

The American Revolution’s neat conclusion at Yorktown is a familiar story from the history books. Thom Daly reads Perils of Peace as Thomas Fleming’s noble if flawed attempt to add more detail to our easy picture of events.

A Death in the Family

September 1, 2007
coz

Almost a century ago, the squabbles of one privileged family decimated all of Europe. Steve Donoghue investigates Catrine Clay’s impossibly comprehensive retelling in King, Kaiser, Tsar:

Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Defenses

August 1, 2007
fenimore

James Fenimore Cooper’s greatness as a novelist has been almost completely lost behind a single, hilarious skewering from Mark Twain. Steve Donoghue reviews a new biography that tries desperately to win back the poor man’s reputation.

No Mercy for Martin

August 1, 2007
piratequeen

Ah, that slave-trading John Hawkins, what a dreamy, dashing man! Steve Donoghue reviews Susan Ronald’s The Pirate Queen, an Elizabethan history a trifle more interested in romance than, um, what actually happened.

Ex Cathedra

July 1, 2007
Ex Cathedra

Ignazio de Vega conducts a careful exegesis of Pope Benedict XVI’s
Jesus of Nazareth and discovers in it a remarkable quality: a spirit
of reconciliation

Absent Friends: Himself

July 1, 2007
ocasey

The only trouble with Sean O’Casey’s brilliant plays is that they overshadow
his magnificent memoirs. In our monthly feature, Steve Donoghue
tries to even the scales.

Weems Redux

June 1, 2007
weems

Alan Axelrod’s Blooding at Great Meadows perpetuates a few too many myths about George Washington. Fortunately, we have Steve Donoghue to set the hagiographers straight.

He Died

June 1, 2007
He Died

Bulldog attorney Vincent Bugliosi investigated the JFK assassination and wrote the world’s longest book about it. We re-read it for the sad anniversary of that day in Dallas.