Every era imagines its own future. We always get it wrong, of course; often comically, sometimes tragically. The year 2001 was emblematic of ‘the future’ for decades, thanks to Stanley More
We are often told that baby boomers reshaped every stage of life they passed through. They are the most liberal-minded, creative, self-assured – and most of all, lucky – generation in history. Pop music, the sexual revolution, environmentalism, the internet – there is little, it seems, they have not been responsible for in the modern world. As they approach th ... More
Imagine a child falling ill. Her fever worsens. Becoming paralysed, she screams in pain. Rushed to hospital, she is separated from her family for months. She undergoes agonising treatments: strapped in splints, encased in plaster, weeping as her limbs are stretched on rack-like machines. She may be encased in an 'iron lung' to breathe, like a coffin with her head po ... More
Many public figures are fated to be remembered for a single incident rather than a lifetime's work (think of Gough Whitlam's ad-libbing outside Parliament house, or his nemesis's trousers, forever lost in Memphis). Often, almost perversely, it is one event that stays in the mind. For Keith Murdoch (1885–1952), that phenomenon was the so-called 'Gallipoli letter' o ... More
Who was Stephen Ward? And why does his fate matter today?
The Profumo affair, with its mixture of sex, politics, aristocracy, and espionage, has become the archetypal scandal. In 1962, Jack Profumo was British Secretary of State for War (ministerial titles were more frank in those days). He had a brief affair with a beautiful young woman, Christine Keeler, w ... More
The trial of Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton in 1870 might have been designed for the media to whip up public outrage in a familiar mix of moral disapproval and prurient detail. As Neil McKenna’s Fanny and Stella reveals, this was indeed the intention of the British government of the day.... More
The cover of Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire shows a vast and terrible conflagration. Flames reach high into the sky, devouring the air and seeming to set the wide river alight. In the distance, an eerily familiar pair of ghostly towers rises above the smoke. In the foreground, tiny human figures move around as a boat sets off towards the fire, perhaps in ... More
The business of growing up starts with distancing ourselves from our parents. It ends (as far as it ever ends) with drawing them close again. Rather than disappointing giants, we recognise them at last as fallible, unique human beings. We recognise them in ourselves, and so they become real to us.
The tumultuous early life of Raimond Gaita and his parents is ... More