The passing of traditions

Photo: Ben Kirby. Courtesy of Pexels Whatever Happened To Tradition? History, Belonging and the Future of the West Tim Stanley, Bloomsbury Continuum, October 2021, 272 pages, £20 KEN BELL finds that banished traditions can come back in new ways The central theme of Tim Stanley’s Whatever Happened to Tradition is that tradition in the West…

A journey into Britain’s recent past

Image: Clem Onojeghuo. Courtesy of Pexels About Britain: A Journey of Seventy Years and 1,345 Miles Tim Cole, Bloomsbury Continuum, June 2021, 384 pages, £18.99 KEN BELL drives down a northwestern Memory Lane The Festival of Britain in 1951 was intended to show that the war was over and Great Britain was back on her…

Another American empire

Corpse of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico The Last Emperor of Mexico: A Disaster in the New World Edward Shawcross, Faber & Faber, January 2022, 336 pages, £20 KEN BELL reflects on a Mexico that might have been Mexico has only ever had one ruler who cared about the Indians and he was shot by order…

Cuba six decades later

Abyss: The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 Max Hastings, William Collins, September 2022, 576 pages, £30 KEN BELL recalls the Cold War’s most dangerous moment 2022 has been the sixtieth anniversary year of the Cuban Missile Crisis so a lot has been written about the event, with Max Hastings’ Abyss: The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 being…

One last portion of ‘Chips’

Chips Channon. Photo: National Portrait Gallery, Creative Commons licence The Diaries 1943-1957 Henry ‘Chips’ Channon and Simon Heffer, Hutchinson, 896pp, £35 KEN BELL closes the book on the celebrated diarist This third volume of the Channon diaries concludes the publication of all the surviving diaries that have come down to us, and as with the…

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.’…