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Are we there yet?

Seamus Perry: Tennyson, 20 January 2011

The Major Works 
by Alfred Tennyson, edited by Adam Roberts.
Oxford, 626 pp., £10.99, August 2009, 978 0 19 957276 2
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... break, break’ – show much ‘respect for reality’: these are all poems, as Adam Roberts says in the introduction to his generous paperback, about ‘withdrawal from the world’. They tend to turn obsessively in on themselves, repeatedly imagining scenarios of isolation and abandonment and evoking strange conditions of paralysed ...

Her Boy

R.W. Johnson: Mark Thatcher, 16 November 2006

Thatcher’s Fortunes: The Life and Times of Mark Thatcher 
by Mark Hollingsworth and Paul Halloran.
Mainstream, 415 pp., £7.99, July 2006, 1 84596 118 8
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The Wonga Coup: The British Mercenary Plot to Seize Oil Billions in Africa 
by Adam Roberts.
Profile, 304 pp., £9.99, June 2006, 1 86197 934 7
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... a new edition has been rushed out with some added material. For the real story one must turn to Adam Roberts’s gripping, well-researched and – given the ludicrous ease with which African tyrants have been able to milk the English libel laws – legally very bold book. Equatorial Guinea had the bad luck to come to independence under Macias ...


Wynford Hicks: My Summer with Boris’s Mother, 10 September 2020

... of activists – a few hundred, as I recall. Not long afterwards another wave of arrests began. Adam Roberts, then a fellow undergraduate, now an emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford, wrote a vivid account for the New Statesman describing how he was beaten up and kicked, badly enough that he still had internal bleeding three days ...

Sad Stories

Adam Begley, 5 January 1989

Capote: A Biography 
by Gerald Clarke.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £16.95, July 1988, 0 241 12549 9
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... that her biographer can afford to rely exclusively on an intimate narrative of her days, and David Roberts offers little more: his discussion of her novels and stories is limited to summaries and the occasional biographical footnote. He makes no attempt to define the various cultural and intellectual milieux in which she lived: merely to say that early in life ...


Daniel Soar: The Photographic Novel, 20 April 2006

Patrick’s Alphabet 
by Michael Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 230 pp., £10.99, March 2006, 0 224 07596 9
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... nothing ever happens there.’ Perry Scholes, the protagonist and narrator of Michael Symmons Roberts’s first novel, Patrick’s Alphabet, is obsessed with Weegee. Perry is a modern ambulance chaser who patrols the suburban ‘edgelands’ of the M4 corridor and the M25 in self-conscious imitation of the master. He tunes in to the police ...
... taught, it could make him seem unfeeling. One of his pupils, who was briefly a pupil of mine, was Adam Roberts, now Professor of International Relations at Oxford. Adam was a demy at Magdalen and was thought likely to get a first but didn’t; he was understandably a little mortified but his self-reproach can’t have ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith, 3 October 2002

The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... and the Chief Rabbi’ (this takes a whole page) or: Haggadah (Pop Quiz #1) Q. When Alex and Adam had a smoke, how much of the fun was in the rolling? A. In the book it is written: Oh, about 78 per cent. Every so often Smith will surprise us with an informational interpolation: ‘And now here are some facts. When Queen Victoria first met Albert she ...

Short Cuts

Nick Richardson: The Classic Apocalypse, 7 January 2021

... all looked – or look, to some of us – like our last bow. According to an article quoted in Adam Roberts’s book It’s the End of the World: But What Are We Really Afraid Of? (Elliott & Thompson, £14.99), 41 per cent of Americans and 58 per cent of white evangelical Christians believe Jesus will return before 2050, while 83 per cent of Muslims ...


Peter Clarke, 6 July 1995

The Path to Power 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 656 pp., £24, June 1995, 0 00 255050 4
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... early in life, it might lead anywhere. Look what happened to the daughter of Councillor Alfred Roberts of Grantham. ‘Perhaps the main interest which my father and I shared while I was a girl was a thirst for knowledge about politics and public affairs,’ Baroness Thatcher tells us in The Path to Power, thus confirming the centrality of Councillor (later ...

What Nanny Didn’t Tell Me

Bernard Porter: Simon Mann, 26 January 2012

Cry Havoc 
by Simon Mann.
John Blake, 351 pp., £19.99, November 2011, 978 1 84358 403 2
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... add much to what we know about the attempted coup; in some respects it tells us less than Adam Roberts’s excellent The Wonga Coup.* Roberts names more names than Mann does, including Jeffrey Archer’s (he may have donated money), and gives some broad hints as to the identity of Mann’s equivalent of Sir ...


Gordon Brown, 2 February 1989

edited by Robert Skidelsky.
Chatto, 214 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 7011 3342 2
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The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left 
by Stuart Hall.
Verso, 283 pp., £24.95, December 1988, 0 86091 199 3
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... on this aspect that Anthony King and Ivor Crewe concentrate in the Skidelsky collection. Margaret Roberts moved from her Anglo-Poujadist origins via Oxford, the lab and the bar to eventual leadership and Gaullist ambitions, more honoured in rhetoric than in achievement. The grocer’s daughter hectors for national regeneration with less success than the ...

Laptop Jihadi

Adam Shatz: Theoretician of al-Qaida, 20 March 2008

Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of al-Qaida Strategist Abu Musab al-Suri 
by Brynjar Lia.
Hurst, 510 pp., £27.50, November 2007, 978 1 85065 856 6
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... his efforts to attract British attention. Introducing himself as ‘Oscar’, he approached Gwynne Roberts, a Channel 4 journalist, with the idea of making a documentary about bin Laden, with whom he was now on better terms, and led him to the caves; when Roberts asked him what would happen if he were found carrying a ...

Urban Humanist

Sydney Checkland, 15 September 1983

Exploring the Urban Past: Essays in Urban History by H.J. Dyos 
edited by David Cannadine and David Reeder.
Cambridge, 258 pp., £20, September 1982, 0 521 24624 5
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Themes in Urban History: Patricians, Power and Politics in 19th-Century Towns 
edited by David Cannadine.
Leicester University Press, 224 pp., £16.50, October 1982, 9780718511937
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... labour, either his own or somebody else’s. There is, indeed, much truth in this notion, for, as Adam Smith had implied, the market, together with its twin, private property, was the great invoker of city-building energies and the great though blind mediator of their outcome. But then in the last years of Victoria’s reign the great faults of the cities ...

The Need for Buddies

Roy Porter, 22 June 2000

British Clubs and Societies 1580-1800: The Origins of an Associational World 
by Peter Clark.
Oxford, 516 pp., £60, January 2000, 0 19 820376 4
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... included Burke, Reynolds, Goldsmith, Sir Joseph Banks, Burney, Garrick, Sheridan, Gibbon and Adam Smith. In their role as self-appointed custodians of culture, literary clubs combined some of the functions of the Paris salon and the university the capital lacked. There was no true continental equivalent to the British obsession with the institution ...

Enemies of All Mankind

Stephen Sedley: Pirates, 24 June 2010

The Treatment of Prisoners under International Law 
by Nigel Rodley, with Matt Pollard.
Oxford, 697 pp., £85, August 2009, 978 0 19 921507 2
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The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations 
by Daniel Heller-Roazen.
Zone, 295 pp., £21.95, November 2009, 978 1 890951 94 8
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The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates 
by Peter Leeson.
Princeton, 271 pp., £16.95, May 2009, 978 0 691 13747 6
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... economic maximiser, is the conceit of The Invisible Hook, in which a somewhat parodic version of Adam Smith surveys the world of buccaneering. You might wonder what else a pirate could be. But with pirates the unexpected is everywhere. Although he doesn’t get a mention beyond the title, one recalls that Captain Hook himself, in the prose version, lures the ...

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