SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Michael Duggan

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January 02, 2020
The Northumbrians By Dan Jackson Hurst, 320pp, £20/$34.79 Dan Jackson grew up on the banks of the Tyne to parents from Newcastle and pit-village Northumberland. Later in life, he came to realise that not everywhere was like the place he had grown up. “Why were the pit villages so close-knit, and where did that instinctive
November 15, 2019
At my elbow, as I write, is a small tower of books, all volumes of English history, stacked up in order of age. At the top of the pile are the three published most recently: from 2011, the first volume of Peter Ackroyd’s History of England; then Daniel Hannan’s How We Invented Freedom and Why
November 07, 2019
The Irony of Modern Catholic History by George Weigel, Basic Books, 336pp, £25/$30  From the societas perfecta, its face set against modernity, to a communion of disciples in mission, engaging with modernity in order to convert it. In his compelling new book, eminent American historian, biographer and theologian George Weigel revisits the Church’s tempestuous journey
October 03, 2019
Richard Devane SJ By Martin Walsh Messenger Publications, 176pp, £23/$24.50 For many Irish people nowadays, flicking through the pages of Martin Walsh’s book on Fr Richard Devane SJ will trigger a fit of the giggles. Or the creeps. Here was a social reformer who devoted himself to causes that, in these times, only get an
August 15, 2019
Ships of Heaven: The Private Lives of Britain’s Cathedrals By Christopher Somerville Doubleday, 352pp, £20/$39.95 This is the book in which the walking correspondent of the Times gains his sea legs. Well, sort of. Positing the idea that the cathedrals of the United Kingdom are ships of heaven, Somerville provides a vessel-by-vessel account of “a
July 11, 2019
The Demons of Liberal Democracy By Adrian Pabst Polity, 160pp, £13/$19.95 Throughout his new book, Adrian Pabst patrols the frontier where the immense gains of liberal democracy collapse into grievous losses. Citizens of modern Western states now live mostly on the far side of this boundary, and the prospect, as Pabst describes it, is dismal:
June 20, 2019
The Ghost Factory By Jenny McCartney 4th Estate, 272pp, £12.99/$17.99 The Ghost Factory is set in Northern Ireland at the tail end of the Troubles. While there may be an uneasy peace between the paramilitary groups, certain cycles of in-house violence – vigilantism, extortion, punishment beatings, score-settling of all kinds – are intensifying. Walled up
May 23, 2019
My Father Left Me Ireland By Michael Brendan Dougherty Sentinel, 240pp, £20/$24 “You leave. I cry.” With these four words, Michael Brendan Dougherty sums up for his father their relationship as he perceived it while growing up. Dougherty was raised by his Irish-American mother in New Jersey. His father was far away in Dublin, a
May 02, 2019
Darkness: A Cultural History By Nina Edwards Reaktion books, 288pp, £16.99/$27.50 Buttons. Offal. Weeds. Nina Edwards has written books about all of them. Now she has turned her attention to darkness, producing a “cultural history” with three main objectives in mind: to discover how the idea of darkness, cultural and metaphorical, has come to wield
April 11, 2019
The Territories of Human Reason By Alister E McGrath OUP, 304pp, £25/$35 Alister McGrath is someone who has frequently taken on the New Atheists, once charging Richard Dawkins with practising “the atheist equivalent of slick hellfire preaching”. McGrath’s new book, subtitled Science and Theology in an Age of Multiple Realities, is a different kind of
March 16, 2019
Under a rough, monkish cowl, skulking in the frayed margins of the historical record, Mael Dub feels elusive, barely knowable. An Irish rover of the seventh century, he is the subject of best guesses rather than undisputed fact. His very name compounds the murkiness. It means ‘dark disciple’. Malmesbury, on the other hand, has not
March 14, 2019
The Battle of the Four Courts By Michael Fewer, Head of Zeus, 320pp, £20/$30 Michael Fewer’s The Battle of the Four Courts is an account of the first three days of the Irish Civil War in June 1922. For over two months the judicial buildings in the centre of Dublin had been occupied by around