Abducted in Argentina

Memorial to the "Disappeared" at the Naval Mechanics Institute, Buenos Aires. Source: Wikimedia Commons Kidnapped by the Junta: Inside Argentina’s Wars with Britain and Itself Julian Manyon, Icon Books, 336 pages, 2022, £20 KEN BELL is gripped by a ripping yarn of kidnap and high politics Julian Manyon’s book is not a history of the…

The life (and luck) of Nigel

Photo: Gage Skidmore. Wikimedia Commons One Party After Another: The Disruptive Life of Nigel Farage Michael Crick, Simon & Schuster, 2022, 606 pages, £25 KEN BELL reflects on the career of Brexit’s cheeky chappie Many of the people involved in the Brexit debate will merit footnotes in the histories of the period that have yet…

Carrie On comedy

Credit: Shutterstock First Lady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie and Boris Johnson Michael Ashcroft, Biteback, 2022, 304pp, £20 KEN BELL is unconvinced by an attempted character assassination Michael Ashcroft’s biography of Caroline ‘Carrie’ Johnson takes the art of reputational destruction to a completely new level, gleefully combining the hatchet and stiletto. By all accounts,…

Courtoom farces

Credit: Shutterstock A Matter of Obscenity Christopher Hilliard, Princeton University Press, 320pp, 2021, £30 KEN BELL follows the story of English law and ‘dirty books’ With its seventy-two pages of footnotes, Christopher Hilliard’s A Matter of Obscenity manages to combine the original archival research of the heavyweight historian with a lightness of touch that should…

Turned off by the turned on decade

Growing Up: Sex in the Sixties Peter Doggett, The Bodley Head, 400 pages, £25.00 KEN BELL finds a survey of Sixties sex is really about 2020s attitudes In Annus Mirabilis, Philip Larkin reflects famously: ‘Sexual intercourse beganIn nineteen sixty-three(which was rather late for me) -Between the end of the Chatterley banAnd the Beatles' first LP.’…

Refighting the last war

The Armchair General: Can You Defeat the Nazis? John Buckley, Century, £14.99 KEN BELL goes on the counterfactual offensive Many historians like to say that counter-factualism is a waste of time, at least until the port has been around the table twice and then they tend to become as keen as the rest of us…

Punishing treatment

Bleeding for Jesus: John Smyth and the Cult of the Iwerne Camps Andrew Graystone, Darton, Longman & Todd, £12.99 KEN BELL winces through a sad story of sadistic abuse and cover-up John Smyth QC had a public image in the 1970s and 1980s as a conservative activist who worked with Mary Whitehouse in her failed…

Brownshirts under the bed

Credit: Shutterstock How to Stop Fascism Paul Mason, Allen Lane, 256 Pages, £20 KEN BELL finds a noted Labour intellectual fighting an imaginary enemy Paul Mason is one of those interesting characters who now seem to pop up everywhere, telling the rest of us what to believe. In his student days he was a member…

Another portion of Chips

Chips and Honor Channon Henry “Chips” Channon, Diaries Vol. 2, 1938-1943 Edited by Simon Heffer, Hutchinson, 1,120 Pages, £35 KEN BELL renews his acquaintance with the famous Tory diarist The Conservative MP and socialite, Henry “Chips” Channon, was a brilliant writer with an acid wit who also had an amazing capacity to misunderstand the people…

The year of Dr. No – and rural poverty

On the Cusp: Days of ’62 David Kynaston, Bloomsbury, 239 P, £18.99 KEN BELL admires a study of 1962, but wonders why that year was singled out for attention David Kynaston must be the premier social historian of post-war Britain writing today, and his latest book is a fine, standalone work which really captures the…