Britain’s civilised tolerance of Second World War conscientious objectors should make us all proud

Early in the Second World War, pacifist Roy Ridgway was asked by a policeman what he would do if he were approached by a German parachutist. He replied: “I would offer him a cup of tea.” This was a magnificently... Read more

Trapped in Ukraine’s Soviet Disneyland: a ‘Remainer’ in separatist Donetsk speaks out

As a pro-Ukrainian in the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, journalist Stanislav Aseyev is not so much a rare beast as an endangered species. When separatist militias seized control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk and its surrounding territory in... Read more

Trapped in Ukraine’s Soviet Disneyland: a ‘Remainer’ in separatist Donetsk speaks out

As a pro-Ukrainian in the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, journalist Stanislav Aseyev is not so much a rare beast as an endangered species. When separatist militias seized control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk and its surrounding territory in... Read more

Can you be an artist’s muse without ruining your own career?

She also explains the struggles of being both a mother and an artist. She does not bother to point out the double standards when it comes to male versus female genius – nobody expected Freud to have compromised his art... Read more

‘It was only after my mother’s death that I discovered she was a Resistance hero’

By April 1943, Sabine was being warned that the boss in the office where she worked could betray her. On 28 April 1943, she saw a military car parked near the office. Two men, one Dutch, one German, took her... Read more

How the Dudleys played Tudor snakes and ladders – and lost spectacularly

A series of high offices followed in rapid succession: military commander of the Scottish borders, high admiral, governor of Boulogne, envoy to the King of France. More a man of action than a diplomat, he had inherited much of his... Read more

Is it time to forgive J Bruce Ismay, ‘the Coward of the Titanic’?

What would you have done? The ship is sinking. There’s a place in the last lifeboat, which has begun to be lowered. To remain on deck means certain death. Christ, had I been there, faced with the choice, without hesitation... Read more

The ‘Greatest Raid’? Operation Chariot was a cruel and stupid waste of life

Amphibious raiding absorbed a lot of the home-based war effort in the dog days of 1942. It was a peculiarly British practice. In all the time that they occupied the French coastline the Germans didn’t bother to mount a single... Read more

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler review: how to raise a president-killer

“Sic semper tyrannis!” John Wilkes Booth is said to have yelled when he shot Abraham Lincoln in 1865, proof if nothing else that while America’s spirit of murderous insurgency has barely diminished since the American Civil War, the literacy levels... Read more

A quarter of teenagers think Churchill was fictional: we need historians now more than ever

Not that he is ever dull when reaching into the more distant past. Few will forget his description of Edward Gibbon, with his big flapping cheeks, 4ft 8in body, bright ginger hair and – a detail I would have preferred... Read more

What Britain was really like without its royal family

To historians of a certain age, the years between the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 conjure up just one thing: a world turned upside down. Raised on a diet of Christopher... Read more

The Lion House review: this gripping history is Istanbul’s Wolf Hall

The year is 1522 and the court is in crisis. A young ruler wants to assert his authority over his land. A large empire led by a rival religious sect is a growing threat. A scheming, brilliantly intelligent courtier of... Read more

Was Pygmalion the first incel?

Even more tellingly, she is not given a name – that was one of the few details I took from other sources. She is only called the woman. She is meant to be a compliant object of desire and nothing... Read more

Cornwallis by Richard Middleton review: can the British general who lost America be rehabilitated?

In the midst of its global struggle with Napoleonic France, Britain lost three imperial heroes within months of one another. Nelson’s death at Trafalgar on October 21 1805 was followed in January 1806 by that of Prime Minster William Pitt... Read more

We all pulled together through Covid – why can’t we the rest of the time?

Speaking (via Zoom, of course) to Her Majesty the Queen at the height of the pandemic, Derek Grieve, a lynchpin of the Scottish vaccination programme, told the Monarch: “If I could bottle this community spirit and use it not just... Read more

Fugitives by Danny Orbach, review: the Nazis who became Cold War spies

There were two ways in which the Allies could make use of a senior Nazi in the years following the end of the Second World War. One was to string him up, pour encourager les autres; the other was to... Read more

Kate Clanchy: How my memoirs were sullied to suit Twitter’s woke agenda

Perhaps this is a reflection of the sensitivity read’s origins in children’s and young adult fiction. There are good reasons for regulating children’s reading: it is foundational and formational and may be enforced by school choice or being read aloud... Read more

My memoirs were sullied to suit Twitter’s woke agenda

Perhaps this is a reflection of the sensitivity read’s origins in children’s and young adult fiction. There are good reasons for regulating children’s reading: it is foundational and formational and may be enforced by school choice or being read aloud... Read more

Resistance by Halik Kochanski review: a superb, myth-busting study of Nazi-occupied Europe

Kochanski is excellent on the “painful visibility” of occupying forces, with German troops taking over not just public buildings, but private dwellings, too. A Czech wrote: “You are ordered about by notices in the street, new notices and new orders…... Read more

From Baghdad to Sandringham in one generation: the Sassoon guide to social climbing

Sir Victor Sassoon, the 3rd baronet and Shanghai real-estate magnate, was a man of wide interests. He was one of racing’s most successful owners, with four Derbies to his name, and famous for his magnificent collection of Chinese ivories and... Read more

Why sanctions and blockades can backfire catastrophically

The implications could be troubling, as Mulder shows. One idealistic young official of the League blithely wrote: “It is the starvation of the general population and in particular of the poorest people which is likely to cause such trouble in... Read more

How Stalin’s favourite pianist stood up to the Soviet Union

There was something about the horrors of ­living in Soviet Russia that nurtured a partic­ular kind of artistic genius, ardently spiritual, determined to rise above the moral compromises and endless struggles for existence that marked most people’s lives. Like many... Read more

The seeds of the Ukraine crisis: in the early 1990s, the direction of Europe hung in the balance

At the same time, a bitter policy battle was brewing in Washington over whether America’s interests were best served by pursuing close co-operation with Moscow, with economic assistance to rebuild Russia’s battered economy, or by reaping the rewards of America’s... Read more

Sonnet factories, puzzled censors and Stasi tears: East Germany’s bizarre effort to weaponise poetry

This was, in Becher’s mind, a reaction to Nazi philistinism. (Think of that line often misattributed to Goering: “Whenever I hear the word culture, I unlock the safety catch on my Browning.”) Becher believed poetry was “the very definition of... Read more

Stalin’s Library by Geoffrey Roberts review: an air-brushing of a book-loving monster

If most people were asked to name “a serious intellectual” of the 20th century who also “had a high degree of emotional intelligence”, it might be a while before they alighted on Joseph Stalin. This, though, is how he is... Read more