Volume 64 Issue 9 September 2014

Archie Brown promises an argumentative book and he does not disappoint. The case he presents is clear: so-called ‘strong leaders’ generally prove ineffective. This is because ‘strong’ typically means an inability to accept collective decision-making. However, despite historical experience, a substantial body of contemporary opinion, including of serious political commentators, persists in equating ‘strong’ leadership with effective leadership.
In 1923 Richard Wagner’s son, Siegfried, appealed to Bayreuth Festival audiences to refrain from responding to Hans Sachs’ paean to ‘holy German art’ at the close of The Mastersingers of Nuremberg by singing the German national anthem. ‘Art is what matters here!’, he declared, lest increasingly boorish far-right political voices scare away Jewish patrons.
British publishers possess an infinite capacity for sponsoring big biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte, evidently assuming the existence of a ready market. Two more blockbusters have now appeared, together weighing in at over 1,300 pages. They are respectively the first and second instalments of two-volume works.
This is one of the better books on the end of the Cold War. Unlike many American accounts, it is not – at least until its very last paragraph – triumphalist in tone. Wilson recognises that Mikhail Gorbachev was by some distance the most important political actor in the dramatic sequence of events between 1985 and 1991. On the American side he rightly identifies Ronald Reagan, George Shultz and George H.W. Bush as the people who mattered most. He is particularly good at giving Secretary of State Shultz his due.
Hitler loved the movies. He watched a film every night after dinner with his entourage. Across the pond, Hollywood saw Germany as one of its biggest export markets. There was money to be made from distributing films there. These two facts are the starting point of Ben Urwand’s study of Hollywood’s relationship with Nazi Germany.
The closest we armchair travellers normally get to the olfactory sensation of walking through the globe’s most fragrant souks is opening the doors of our spice cupboards. The bottles may be sealed shut but the aroma of their contents —cardamom and cumin, cinnamon and saffron, turmeric and vanilla — wafts towards our nostrils and for a brief moment we are not in our kitchens but strolling through the spice markets of Arabia, Asia or Africa.

William Brooke Joyce took to the airwaves on September 14th, 1939.

Manhattan was taken on September 8th, 1664.

David Rundle looks at the current state of the humanities, asking whether we can recapture the confidence and broad cultural ambition of the Renaissance’s studia humanitatis, which sought to define what it is to be human.

David Gentilcore describes responses to a hideous epidemic that affected the rural poor of northern Italy, from the mid-18th century until the First World War, the cause of which is attributed to a diet dependent on maize.

In the early days of the First World War a plan was hatched in Berlin to spread revolt among the Muslim populations of the Entente empires. David Motadel looks at the reasons why it failed.

Glenda Sluga explains the influence of a remarkable group of women as Europe’s elite gathered in Vienna in 1814.

In recent years historians have shown a renewed interest in court history. Hardly surprising, says Philip Mansel, as courts play a central role in understanding the past and maintain a critical importance in contemporary politics.

Patricia Rothman celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of the brilliant James Joseph Sylvester, whose ambitions to be recognised as a professional mathematician were hindered by the religious restrictions of the age.

Roger Hudson on a photograph taken in the Krupp works, Essen in 1861, signalling the arrival of a new industrial force in Europe.

Historians gathered at Warwick this summer to celebrate the contribution of Christopher Andrew.

Unlike the British Empire, the vast realms of Philip II owed much to the Church.

The North African country is considering how best to serve its rich heritage.

Alexander Larman takes issue with some of the assertions made in John Redwood’s otherwise incisive 1974 article on the Earl of Rochester, the fast-living rake who epitomised the Restoration.

Historians gathered at Warwick this summer to celebrate the contribution of Christopher Andrew.

Unlike the British Empire, the vast realms of Philip II owed much to the Church.

The North African country is considering how best to serve its rich heritage.

Though we share a common humanity with people of the past, their world can seem alien to us, says Mathew Lyons. Was it just as disconcerting for them, too?

Jad Adams considers the actions of the militant British suffragette movement and its far-reaching impact on the global struggle for female suffrage in the 20th century.

Stella Ghervas examines the Great Powers’ attempt to create a new European order following the defeat of Napoleon.

Roger Moorhouse tells the story of the Lützow, a partly built German cruiser delivered to the Soviet Union in 1940 and renamed the Petropavlovsk, following the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.

The decline of language skills threatens the study of the past. And machines won’t come to the rescue.