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The Impermanence of Importance

David Runciman: Obama, 2 August 2018

The World as It Is: Inside the Obama White House 
by Ben Rhodes.
Bodley Head, 450 pp., £20, June 2018, 978 1 84792 517 6
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... to be on the golf course when he was sending soldiers into battle. Obama was not so self-denying. Ben Rhodes describes what happened when news came through in August 2014 that the journalist Jim Foley had been beheaded by Isis. Video footage of this ghastly event arrived while Obama was holidaying on Martha’s Vineyard. He wrestled with how to ...

A prince, too, can do his bit

K.D. Reynolds: King Edward VII and George VI, 27 April 2000

Power and Place: The Political Consequences of King Edward VII 
by Simon Heffer.
Weidenfeld, 342 pp., £20, August 1998, 9780297842200
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A Spirit Undaunted: The Political Role of George VI 
by Robert Rhodes James.
Little, Brown, 368 pp., £22.50, November 1998, 0 316 64765 9
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... for more than a century, politically impotent and irrelevant. Simon Heffer and the late Robert Rhodes James have thought differently, and rightly so. Recent indignation over the ‘co-option’ of royal events by Tony Blair highlights the uses to which politicians can put the monarchy; it is hard to see why Prime Ministers would continue the ritual of the ...

Poets and Pretenders

John Sutherland, 2 April 1987

The Great Pretender 
by James Atlas.
Viking, 239 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 9780670814619
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The Position of the Body 
by Richard Stern.
Northwestern, 207 pp., $21.95, November 1986, 0 8101 0730 9
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The Setting Sun and the Rolling World 
by Charles Mungoshi.
Heinemann, 202 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 434 48166 1
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Conversations with Lord Byron on Perversion, 162 Years after his Lordship’s Death 
by Amanda Prantera.
Cape, 174 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 9780224024235
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... for the English Renaissance. The title of The Great Pretender is triple-loaded: the hero Ben Janis is a claimant for poetic fame, a laureate hoping to crown himself. His claims, he suspects with some justice, are a pretence. He is not much of a poet. And finally, the hit record (‘Oh yes, I’m the Great Pretender’) commemorates a significant spot ...

Diary

Lawrence Hogben: The Most Important Weather Forecast in the History of the World, 26 May 1994

... Americans from the California Institute of Technology were used to forecasting for Hollywood. Ben Holzman was full of liberal optimism and Irv Krick, a salesman to his fingertips, had total faith in his own five-day forecasts. C.K.M. Douglas, the senior Met Office forecaster, was a good counterbalance, full of wise ‘buts’ and pessimistic ...

They could have picked...

Eliot Weinberger, 28 July 2016

... after a character on the 1970s television comedy The Brady Bunch. A graduate of Brown and a Rhodes scholar, he cut state funding for higher education by 80 per cent and instituted a law allowing the teaching of Creationism in science classes. Although Louisiana is one of the poorest states, Jindal remained firm in his opposition to Washington and ...

Sins of the Three Pashas

Edward Luttwak: The Armenian Genocide, 4 June 2015

‘They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else’: A History of the Armenian Genocide 
by Ronald Grigor Suny.
Princeton, 520 pp., £24.95, March 2015, 978 0 691 14730 7
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... in reality: quite a few young non-Muslims believed in the Young Turks promise, including David Ben-Gurion, who went to Istanbul University to study law in 1912, envisaging a future as a community leader-cum-loyal official; in 1914 he personally raised a militia of forty Jews to serve the empire. For many in the Young Turks movement the response of the ...

Late Deceiver

Robert Blake, 17 September 1981

Anthony Eden 
by David Carlton.
Allen Lane, 528 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 7139 0829 7
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... biography is said, though I have never seen any public announcement, to have fallen on Robert Rhodes James. If so, it is an excellent decision. Meanwhile Mr David Carlton has produced a scholarly, well-written work of some five hundred pages. The author admits very fairly that it is in the nature of an interim verdict since the official records of the ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... Crowd tells of the rise of a country singer and cracker-barrel politician, Larry ‘Lonesome’ Rhodes, of his authentic talent and the authenticity merchants who sell him, of his contempt for his audience and the self-contempt that grows with his facility at pleasing the people. A Face in the Crowd comes from 1957: a post-McCarthy production, in which the ...

Syme’s Revolution

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 24 January 1980

Roman Papers 
by Ronald Syme, edited by E. Badian.
Oxford, 878 pp., £35, November 1980, 0 19 814367 2
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... less important than I had thought at first. Born in New Zealand in 1903, Syme came to England as a Rhodes Scholar. He started as a military historian: his first large undertaking was to write for the tenth volume of the Cambridge Ancient History (1934) an admirable account of Rome’s northern frontiers from the start of Augustus’s reign to the end of that ...

William Rodgers reads the papers

William Rodgers, 19 February 1987

The Market for Glory: Fleet Street Ownership in the 20th Century 
by Simon Jenkins.
Faber, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 571 14627 9
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The End of the Street 
by Linda Melvern.
Methuen, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 413 14640 5
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... chair, would write a far more interesting profile than the average political editor. Ben Pimlott, in his brilliant biography of Hugh Dalton, caught the character of a former Chancellor of the Exchequer with great assurance. And, more recently, Robert Rhodes James discovered the roots of Anthony Eden’s ...

Changing Places

Avi Shlaim, 9 January 1992

... even if it is the size of a tablecloth.’ At the same time, the Zionist leaders, especially David Ben-Gurion, were adept at presenting the Palestinian position as unreasonable. It is not that they weren’t interested in a compromise solution. But since the claims of the two sides could not be reconciled, it was preferable to have the Palestinians bearing the ...

Truffles for Potatoes

Ferdinand Mount: Little Rosebery, 22 September 2005

Rosebery: Statesman in Turmoil 
by Leo McKinstry.
Murray, 626 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 7195 5879 4
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... attending over three hundred meetings in his first year of office. The dockers’ leader, Ben Tillett, also an LCC councillor, remarked: ‘he really made London government a living thing.’ Tories like F.E. Smith and Austen Chamberlain complained that Rosebery could never make up his mind completely on any subject. On the contrary, when it ...

Next Stop, Reims

Ardis Butterfield: Medieval Literary Itineraries, 26 April 2018

Europe: A Literary History, 1348-1418 
by David Wallace.
Oxford, 1591 pp., £180, April 2016, 978 0 19 873535 9
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... into Aragonese conducted by the Grand Master of the Order of St John, Knights Hospitaller at Rhodes is an example; another is a Dalmatian Life of Alexander the Great that circulated in the coastal town of Zadar. Religious foundations and pilgrimage explain the inclusion of more far-flung places like Kirkwall Cathedral on Orkney, Lough Derg (an Irish ...

A Country Emptied

Ian Jack: The Highland Clearances, 7 March 2019

The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed 1600-1900 
by T.M. Devine.
Allen Lane, 464 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 241 30410 5
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... of Sutherland in 1833. The duke is remembered by a massive statue that still stands on the top of Ben Bhraggie, surviving frequent mutilation: a memorial that was reviled long before anyone thought to take a hammer to Cecil Rhodes. From events like these, a general picture can be constructed of poor Scots driven overseas ...

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