Volume 61 Issue 11 November 2011

The academic training that historians undergo qualifies them to speak out on issues beyond their remit, argues Tim Stanley.

Joseph Chamberlain and his two sons, Austen and Neville, exercised political leadership in Britain across two generations in a way that was unique among non-aristocratic families in the 19th and 20th centuries. That they did so was largely due to the determination and ambition of Joseph Chamberlain, for neither of his sons was a natural politician in his mould. Austen lacked the drive and vision of his father, while Neville was a latecomer to parliamentary politics and never entirely at home with it. They both, however, attained higher public office than their father.
The First World War continues to be one of the most dynamic fields of study for historians of the 20th Century. In Britain we are not yet free from the cardboard cut-out ‘lions led by donkeys’ approach, but the two excellent books under review show how much more there is to the debate. The author of the first, Jeremy Black, is hugely prolific, with over 100 books to his credit. The Great War and the Making of the Modern World is typical of his work.
World history is both relevant and fashionable but is not easy to do well. There is a tendency to find the onset of globalisation in the period in question and to emphasise the importance of global interactions at the expense of different or contrary tendencies, such as regional interactions. Thus it is unclear why the period selected by Charles Parker is at least initially more significant than the impact of the creation of the Mongol world.
Do we really need another biography of a man who, despite the drama of his political career and the impact of his creative ideas and powerful personality, already has a number of excellent biographies devoted to him? From Garvin, via Marsh (even Judd) there are quite a few authoritative, well-researched and well-received lives of ‘Radical Joe’.
With the publication of P.C . Wren’s novel Beau Geste in 1924 the French Foreign Legion entered the imperial imagination within the English-speaking world. Set under a baking North African sun, his stories were a runaway success in Britain and the US. Readers loved this hard, male universe of desert forts, warring natives and frontier campaigns; one where foreigners could escape dubious pasts by immersing themselves in France’s imperial mission.
In the film Life of Brian , the Monty Python team expressed what was in 1979 the prevailing view of Roman imperialism, held by generations of ancient history students.
It’s all coming out now: the violence and atrocities that accompanied Britain’s decolonisation after the Second World War. Not everywhere, but in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and Aden in particular, which are the colonies (and one mandated territory) Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon has chosen to write about here.

The leading Victorian radical and Liberal politician John Bright was born on November 16th 1811.

Clovis I died in Paris on November 27th 511, aged 46.

The first performance of The Tempest on record was at court on All Hallows’ Day, on November 1st 1611.

The leading Victorian radical and Liberal politician John Bright was born on November 16th 1811.

Clovis I died in Paris on November 27th 511, aged 46.

The first performance of The Tempest on record was at court on All Hallows’ Day, on November 1st 1611.

To mark the 400th anniversary of his birth, UNESCO has declared Evliya Çelebi a ‘man of the year’. His Seyahatname, or Book of Travels, is one of the world’s great works of literature. Caroline Finkel celebrates a figure little known in the West.

Tim Grady on postwar Germany’s attempts to remember the contribution made by its Jewish combatants in the First World War.

Colin Jones and Emily Richardson reveal a little-known collection of obscene and irreverent 18th-century drawings targetting Madame de Pompadour, the favourite mistress of Louis XV of France.

Taylor Downing tells the story of the Central Interpretation Unit at Medmenham, Buckinghamshire, where the RAF’s aerial photo interpreters played a critical role in Britain’s wartime struggle.

A class confrontation at the Epsom Derby of 1920.

Anthony Fletcher pays tribute to the great historian of English protestantism, who ventured far and wide in the academic world.

Few figures in British political history have endured such lingering hostility as the statesman who did so much to forge Europe’s post-Napoleonic settlement, says John Bew.

Gated communities may be growing in number but they are nothing new, as Michael Nelson knows from personal experience.

Anne Sebba revisits Michael Bloch’s article, first published in History Today in 1979, on the historian Philip Guedalla’s enthusiastic but misguided support for his friend, Edward VIII.

A selection of readers' correspondence with the editor, Paul Lay.

At its height, the British Empire was the largest the world has ever known. Its history is central to Britain’s history, yet, as Zoë Laidlaw shows, this imperial past is not an easy narrative to construct.

Michael Bentley looks at the father of British historiography who was an eloquent and controversial opponent of teleology.

A political exile, Richard Wagner found safety in Zurich, where he also discovered the love and philosophy that inspired his greatest works, as Paul Doolan explains.

In recent years British models have reappeared on the catwalk wearing real fur, though it is unlikely to ever regain the mass appeal it once had. Carol Dyhouse looks back to a time when female glamour was defined by a mink coat.

Inspired by the discovery of the frozen bodies of three soldiers of the First World War, Peter Englund considers the ways we remember and write about a conflict of which there are now no survivors left.