Reviews

The female Lawrence of Arabia, the woman who made Iraq, the uncrowned queen of the desert: there have been many attempts to encapsulate the complex essence of Gertrude Lowthian Bell since her death in 1926 in Baghdad. Born to a wealthy industrial...

Few leaders have published as much and eliminated more people than Enver Hoxha, Albania’s dictator from 1944 to 1985. Hoxha published on a Churchillian scale: 7,000 pages in 13 volumes of memoirs. Simultaneously, during his rule, of Albania’s...

Stephanie Barczewski ponders the paradox that, in history, it seems that the worse a failure is, the more the British like it.

Major-General Wolfe and Vice-Admiral Nelson died in victory and this was applauded, but it was sacrifice for no...

The catchy subtitle of Daisy Dunn’s biography of Catullus does not do justice to its scope. Catullus’ short life (84-54 BC) covers the period when Rome stood on the brink of a civil war that would result in the Republic being swept away to bring...

Richard Alston traces the transformation of the Roman state, from the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus in 133 BC to the accession of Tiberius in AD 14. The years in between witnessed the collapse of the old Republican political system, the...

Professor Khilnani is an academic historian, but this book is a more populist take on 2,500 years of India’s history. As a collection of miniature biographies, ranging from the Buddha in the fifth century BC to business tycoon Dhirubha Ambani in...

High in the Himalayas there is a parasitic fungus that grows out of the body of small caterpillars and is worth more than its weight in gold. Today, harvesting these mushrooms is bringing much needed cash into Nepal and is part of the country’s...

When Mao Zedong died, he was not buried, but displayed in a glass sarcophagus. Next, people across the country, from party leaders to villagers, ‘buried Maoism’. With this, Frank Dikötter ends the introduction and opens the third volume of his...

In his 2014 radio series, Germany: Memories of a Nation, Neil MacGregor used coinage to introduce his listeners to the complexity of the...

From the vantage point of today, the patronage of Alfonso X ‘El Sabio’ (‘the Learned’) of Castile (r. 1252-84) seems extraordinary for its time. Alfonso initiated what appears...

The movement and plight of people compelled to leave their own countries and to seek asylum overseas is ever present in our television broadcasts and newspaper headlines. Casualties of the wars and conflicts that beset our troubled world, refug-...

The forehead is the plainest part of the face. Compared with the eyes or the cheeks, there is little one can do to alter it, which is why, of all the fashion accessories of the ancient world, the diadem is most...

Do the dead matter? This is the central question in this meticulously researched, all-encompassing exploration of our mortal remains. At its heart is Diogenes’ suggestion that his body should be thrown to the beasts after his death. Since his...

Tim Blanning offers a telling comparison at the beginning of this magisterial and insightful new biography. In 16th-century Brandenburg, the Reformation brought a windfall of land to its ruler and, in contrast to England, the new landholding was...

It is one of the most startling pictures of the end of the Second World War, taken in May 1945, soon after Hitler’s death. Lee Miller, the American photojournalist, sits in the bathtub of Hitler’s apartment in Munich. His portrait stares at her...

Professor Samons is no stranger to what he (but not all of us) call the ‘age of Pericles’, having edited a Cambridge Companion to that supposed entity and devoted a careful monograph to the finances of ‘imperial’ Athens, through much of which...