SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Ed West

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October 10, 2019
Dominion By Tom Holland Little, Brown, 624pp, £25/$32 The Romans are the most “epic” figures in history, as my son says about anything awesome, exerting a glamour and allure that no other civilisation has successfully matched. That magnetism can appear heightened by what followed: the illiterate bleakness of the early Middle Ages, and the joyless
February 21, 2019
“What is civilisation?” an erudite English gentleman asks the camera. “I don’t know … but I think I can recognise it when I see it.” And then, turning around to Notre-Dame de Paris behind him, he adds: “And I’m looking at it now.” It was 50 years ago this month that BBC Two viewers were
December 20, 2018
As Europe passed the poignant milestone of November 11, it could have escaped no one’s attention what inspired the project to unite the continent. A week after the centenary of the Armistice, the beleaguered French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the German Parliament, saying that Europe “must be stronger … and win more sovereignty.” British newspapers
July 19, 2018
Dictator Literature by Daniel Kalder, Oneworld, 400pp, £16.99 Daniel Kalder is a very funny writer who specialises in Russian history and literature and has an eye for dark humour, the latter probably a necessity for the former. His latest book is a work of literary criticism with an unusual twist: studying the output of Lenin,
July 05, 2018
Last week France’s maddeningly young president Emmanuel Macron became the “first and only honorary canon” of the Basilica of St John Lateran while on a trip to meet the Holy Father in Rome. The title dates back to the 15th century but many French presidents, including François Mitterrand and François Hollande, have declined the honour,
June 28, 2018
Political Tribes by Amy Chua, Bloomsbury, 304pp, £14 Amy Chua, a lawyer and academic at Yale, is perhaps best known for her Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, about the joys of traditional Chinese parenting. The bestseller popularised the term “tiger mom” and inspired three separate television series. Married to a novelist and fellow academic,
December 21, 2017
This Christmas millions of cinema-goers will watch The Last Jedi, the much-hyped eighth instalment in the Star Wars series. The trailer for the film, itself a cinematic event, opens with dramatic footage from a daunting cliff-top on the edge of the world, illustrating just how far from civilisation the Jedi knight Luke Skywalker has strayed.
December 20, 2017
The monks of Skellig Michael kept Christianity alive during years of darkness
December 07, 2017
When buying ordinary products, you may be funding political causes you reject
December 07, 2017
I was in the supermarket the other day, scanning the most pretentious foreign lagers section, when to my horror I caught sight of a crate of Heineken, on the side of which was the message: “Here’s to an open world. To a world without borders or barriers. To the belief that there is more that
August 03, 2017
Does history have to be about the present? I ask after seeing Christopher Nolan’s much-discussed Dunkirk, which is indeed as good as everyone says, among the best war movies ever made (he says in the heat of the moment). The film covers events from May 26 to June 4, 1940, when 350,000 men, a large
August 03, 2017
Dunkirk is a great war movie ­because it’s about people, not issues