There is something pleasurable about a good American history book. I recall reading David Hackett Fischer's Paul Revere's Ride (1994) on a train journey from Boston to Washington. I read it not because I was teaching about Paul Revere, but because it was a fine work, true to a tradition in which, as Fischer put it, books 'are a sequence of stories, with hig ... More
1606 was a rough year for England. In late 1605 the Gunpowder plotters nearly blew up the government; a Catholic rebellion in Warwickshire sharpened the country's fear. England's ports were closed and an army raised; bonfires lit the streets of London and guards manned the city gates. Later, the Tower drew its bridge and loaded cannons upon the (false) report of Kin ... More
How dissimilar two books on the same topic can be: one expansive and apparently unconstrained by word limits, the other constrained and economical; one following a simple chronological narrative, the other an admirable adaptation of literary techniques of multi-layered story telling. Both are political books, but the politics are as different as the personalities of ... More
April 2015 was the centenary of Gallipoli, an event deeply set in Australian history, but it was also the centenary of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of the then Ottoman Empire. Yet the latter event is mired in controversy, and closure has not yet occurred. It was the first genocide of the twentieth century, but not the last.
If you had asked anyone in the 1780s where in Europe a revolution was most likely to break out, the answer would probably have been Britain. Paris was too strictly policed to be a candidate, whereas London had recently been the scene of violent anti-Catholic riots. The British were an unruly people, as Jenny Uglow’s book on British life during the French revolutio ... More
As the author explains in his preface, Incognita had its genesis in events to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the voyages of Janszoon and Torres to the Cape York Peninsula in 1606, with the explorations of these Dutch mariners representing the first European sighting of Australia. This book has been several years in the making, and it offers an ... More
Just how different are the rich from everyone else? F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a 1926 short story that they are ‘soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations an ... More
In 1798, during the revolutionary wars on the European mainland, the Irish rebelled. Though they were supported militarily by the French Republic, it was the ideas heralded by the Revolution that gave real strength to their cause. A decade later, in Dublin, William Hallaran argued in hisAn Enquiry Into the Causes Producing the Extraordinary Addition to the Number ... More
On what terms should we interrogate the past? Ancient life can seem essentially unknowable, a place where everything is different, glimpsed only in the words of those who lived then and surviving traces of material culture.
The Cambridge classical scholar Sir Moses Finley argued for an interpretation of ancient life bounded by then current civic and religiou ... More
When St Paul’s burned down in 1561, no one was in any doubt that it was the work of God. The debate – and it was a furious one in the press of the time – concerned what this said about His views on the abolition of the mass. Contemporary press reports of the Battle of Lepanto, the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and the Spanish Armada show how reporting of ev ... More