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The Crisis in Economic Theory

Jon Elster, 20 October 1983

An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change 
by Richard Nelson and Sidney Winter.
Harvard, 437 pp., £20, October 1982, 0 674 27227 7
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A General Theory of Exploitation and Class 
by John Roemer.
Harvard, 298 pp., £22, September 1982, 0 674 34440 5
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... the construction of plausible alternatives to the neo-classical mode of theorising. Nelson and Winter offer an ‘evolutionary’ alternative which derives in equal amounts from Schumpeter and Simon. From the first they take the idea that competition is a process that involves winners and losers, not just a feature of markets which have so many firms that ...


V.G. Kiernan: Leningrad Renamed, 24 October 1991

... In the evening a multitude gathered to watch the fireworks over the river, close to the Winter Palace. A few juvenile rowdies were in evidence, no police. It is melancholy now to learn of that city, with its heroic record, renouncing its name, and going back not even to its last, Russian name of Petrograd, but to the original German one; and of the ...


John Sutherland, 3 December 1992

Robert Louis Stevenson: Dreams of Exile 
by Ian Bell.
Mainstream, 295 pp., £14.99, November 1992, 1 85158 457 9
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... the city, has ‘one of the vilest climates under heaven ... The weather is raw and boisterous in winter, shifty and ungenial in summer, and a downright necrological purgatory in spring.’ Five generations of Stevensons before Louis had braved the Scottish elements, designing lighthouses that defied the worst the country’s storms could throw at ...

Was she nice?

Thomas McKeown, 17 February 1983

Florence Nightingale: Reputation and Power 
by F.B. Smith.
Croom Helm, 216 pp., £12.95, March 1982, 0 7099 2314 7
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Edward Jenner: The Cheltenham Years 1795-1823 
by Paul Saunders.
University Press of New England, 469 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 87451 215 8
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... reached Miss Nightingale from Edwin Chadwick. It was confirmed by her experience during the first winter of the Crimean War, when more than one-third of the British soldiers were disabled by preventable illnesses. The same ideas were the basis of her famous collaboration with Sidney Herbert on sanitary reform in the ...

Lord Cardigan’s Cherry Pants

Ferdinand Mount: The benefits of the Crimean War, 20 May 2004

The Crimean War: The Truth behind the Myth 
by Clive Ponting.
Chatto, 379 pp., £20, March 2004, 0 7011 7390 4
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... either then or now. As early as 23 December 1854 – before the terrible losses of the first winter – the Times was thundering in terms which make today’s criticism of the war in Iraq seem anaemic: ‘The noblest army England ever sent from these shores has been sacrificed to the grossest mismanagement. Incompetence, lethargy, aristocratic ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... of jewellery to the Smithsonian Institution, and Mar-a-Lago to the US government to serve as a winter White House. Trump snapped it up in 1985 when the government put the unused but costly property on the market.As celebrants rang in the year in which Trump would become president, the man himself appeared on the stage of Mar-a-Lago’s gilded ballroom to ...

What sort of man?

P.N. Furbank, 18 August 1994

The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Vol. I: 1854-April 1874 
edited by Bradford Booth and Ernest Mehew.
Yale, 525 pp., £29.95, July 1994, 0 300 05183 2
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The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Vol. II: April 1874-July 1879 
edited by Bradford Booth and Ernest Mehew.
Yale, 352 pp., £29.95, July 1994, 0 300 06021 1
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... wishes, his letters were first presented to the public by his friend, the art historian Sidney Colvin. Colvin, described by Stevenson as a ‘difficult, shut up, noble fellow’, did the job reasonably conscientiously. He was, however, an arch-bowdleriser, using, as he said, ‘the editorial privilege of omission without scruple where I thought it ...

‘Wondered at as an owl’

Blair Worden: Cromwell’s Bad Idea, 7 February 2002

Cromwell’s Major-Generals: Godly Government during the English Revolution 
by Christopher Durston.
Manchester, 270 pp., £15.99, May 2001, 0 7190 6065 6
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... The nation’s moral and sexual habits, as far as can be judged, were barely affected. In the winter of 1656-57 Cromwell abandoned the rule of the Major-Generals in response to Parliamentary criticism of the Decimation. Why had he set them up in the first place? At one level their appointment bowed to the logic that would soon be spelled out by the ...

Britain’s Second Most Famous Nurse

Susan Pedersen: Edith Cavell, 14 April 2011

Edith Cavell 
by Diana Souhami.
Quercus, 417 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 1 84916 359 0
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... exertions in the Crimea, issuing breathless directives on sanitary reform to the secretary of war, Sidney Herbert, and harrying him into an early grave. To save her poor soldiers, Nightingale had not spared herself; how, then, could she ask less of those enlisted in her cause? ‘If Miss Nightingale had been less ruthless, ...

Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Sonnet

Barbara Everett: The Sonnets, 8 May 2008

... poems, manifestations of a particular moment in Tudor court culture. Some of this sonnet-writing, Sidney’s in particular, is highly accomplished; some is haunting, such as Drayton’s (very late) ‘Since there’s no help, come, let us kiss and part.’ But Drayton learned this humanity from Shakespeare. None of his predecessors speaks as Shakespeare ...

Phil the Lark

Ian Hamilton, 13 October 1988

Collected Poems 
by Philip Larkin, edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber/Marvell Press, 330 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 571 15196 5
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... of poems – The North Ship and In the Grip of Light – and two novels – Jill and A Girl in Winter. Three of these books were published, but none of them had made much of a splash. In 1947 and 1948 he seems to have written almost nothing, and when the poetry does start up again in 1949 it is a poetry of failure, loss, rejection. In ‘On Being ...


William Rodgers, 30 March 1989

European Diary 1977-1981 
by Roy Jenkins.
Collins, 698 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 00 217976 8
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... the President and his wife Jennifer, I recalled in a sudden, sad flash of memory a photograph of Sidney and Beatrice Webb at Passfield House in the autumn of their achievement. I did not see Roy Jenkins again in his Brussels home during his Presidency. I felt that they would be wasted years. My own temporary absorption in the British Cabinet and in the ...

English Fame and Irish Writers

Brian Moore, 20 November 1980

Selected Poems 1956-1975 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 136 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 571 11644 2
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Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 224 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 571 11638 8
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... human head, Celtic pagan sacrifice to ‘the goddess of the ground who needed new bridegrooms each winter to bed with her in her sacred place, in the bog, to ensure the renewal and fertility of the territory in the spring’. The Irish earth as devouring goddess of Irishmen: Heaney, the turf-cutter, has spaded up this perfect metaphor for our current ...

Fallen Language

Donald Davie, 21 June 1984

The Lords of Limit: Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Deutsch, 203 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 233 97581 0
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... of Limit is called ‘The Conscious Mind’s Intelligible Structure: A Debate’ (Agenda, Autumn-Winter 1971/2). Here Hill says of Yeats’s ‘Easter 1916’: ‘One is moved by ... the tune of a mind distrustful yet envious, mistrusting the abstraction, mistrusting its own mistrust, drawn half against its will into the chanting refrain that is both paean ...


John Bayley: On Retiring, 25 July 1991

... it then becomes a good end in itself – taking short views, no further than dinner or tea, as Sidney Smith recommended. Of course many people, who are not required to fall off the shelf at a given moment, never need to grasp the facts of retirement, and in many cases don’t do so. Some, too, are living refutations of Larkin’s lugubrious line: ‘You ...

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