All Reviews

An End in Themselves

McKenzie Wark, The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International

reviewed by Ian Birchall

Few left currents have been as adept at using capitalist marketing techniques as the Situationists, with their relentless self-promotion. They have succeeded in fooling a younger generation by retrospectively inserting themselves into a history to which they were at best marginal. Thus Jonathan Derbyshire (Guardian, 20 August) assures us that they exerted ‘the most profound influence on the French student movement in May 1968’. I was in Paris in the aftermath of the general strike, meeting... [read more]

Are You Interested in a Murder?

Mark Olden, Murder in Notting Hill

reviewed by John Green

‘Sunday May 17 1959. It was late when the phone rang at the Sunday Express. Frank Draper, a junior reporter on the night shift, reached for it. When he was interviewed by the police five weeks later, this was how he described the conversation that followed; “Are you interested in a murder?”’ That’s how Mark Olden’s investigative Odyssey begins. It could be the opening of a classic detective novel, but this is no fiction. On that early summer day, a young Antiguan carpenter called... [read more]

Closing Access

Tim Wu, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

reviewed by Richard Sharpe

Tim Wu has an interesting and hopefully erroneous thesis about the Internet and the services it provides in the information economy. It, like the other information technologies before it, may come under the control of monopolist or oligopolistic capitalist interests after its short period of openness. The telegraph, the telephone, radio, film and TV have all gone this way: they started as a disruptive and open technology only to become a closed system dominated by a few companies. In other... [read more]

A Last Stand

Emma Fattorini, Hitler, Mussolini & The Vatican: Pope Pius XI and the Speech that was Never Made

reviewed by Hugh O'Shaughnessy

For decades historians have been fascinated by the riddles which surround the attitude of the aristocratic Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, towards the government and people of Germany – in which he served the Vatican as its nuncio before he was appointed Secretary of State – and to Jews whom he is charged with doing too little to protect. Notably through the writings of Rolf Hockhuth’s play The Representative (1963), the impression has been given that there was no strong force in the... [read more]

An Emergent Practice

Charles R. Beitz, The Idea of Human Rights

reviewed by Jeffrey Petts

In the year of the Arab Spring it is timely to examine the role of states and international organisations in the internal politics of other states: rhetorically, what justifies military intervention in Libya but not Syria to defend human rights? Charles Beitz’s arguments for a ‘fresh start’ to understanding the idea of human rights centre on human rights as a matter of ‘elaborate international practice’: that every human being has human rights, is ‘the subject of global concern’,... [read more]

Sugar, Slavery & Colonial Rivalry

Matthew Parker, The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire and War

reviewed by Tony Norfield

Britain was once the world’s biggest slave trader, transporting African slaves to colonies in the Americas. Two-thirds of the slaves worked on sugar plantations in the Caribbean, and this book gives the history of the British families who owned them: the ‘sugar barons’. Parker’s account of the mercantile entrepreneurs who developed plantations in the West Indies tells of how their colossal wealth made the King of England look like he was down on his luck. But more enlightening is his... [read more]

Liquid Modernity

Zygmunt Bauman, Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age

reviewed by Abigail Rhodes

The riots that took place from 6th – 9th August 2011 made Britain sit up and take notice. What began as a peaceful protest in Tottenham, North London, over the police shooting of Mark Duggan soon descended into a free-for-all frenzy of theft and violence which resulted in the deaths of five people. The speed with which the riots spread across the country was shocking. Social networking sites and mobile phones aided those involved to communicate rapidly with each other and led to the... [read more]

English Micro-history

Mark Knights, The Devil in Disguise: Deception, Delusion and Fanaticism in the Early English Enlightenment

reviewed by David Morgan

‘The dramatic story of the Cowpers of Hertford includes a murder mystery, bigamy, a scandal novel, and a tyrannised wife, all set against the backdrop of violently competing local factions, rampant religious prejudice, and the last conviction of a witch in England.’ This sounds like a popular work of fiction from one of our more lurid authors but it is actually a serious work of historical scholarship that is being described. The Devil in Disguise is the latest work from Mark Knights,... [read more]