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The consular official has often been a derided figure in the historiography of foreign services, often seen as uneducated, involved in commerce, and corrupt, perhaps personified in the figure of ‘Charles Fortnum’ in Graham Greene’s spy novel The Honorary Consul.(1) Such criticisms were often levelled at consuls.
Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury (1120–70) is one of the iconic figures in British history – a man who most people have not only heard of, but also have an opinion on. Yet, despite the brutality of his murder, such opinions are not always positive. In fact, this medieval archbishop is an unusually divisive figure, and always has been.
In Room 145 of the Ceramics Galleries of the Victoria & Albert Museum, at the top of case 50, you can see an ‘architectural fragment’, which, according to its label, ‘once ornamented a palace in Yuanmingyuan or “garden of perfect clarity”’.
This book was commissioned by the Bank of England, when Mervyn (now Lord) King was Governor. The aim was to produce a popular history of the Bank, an institution important in Britain since its inception. If it was intended to be a popular volume, the kind that flies off the shelves in bookshops, I hope that I’m right when I say it will not.
The age of lesbian and gay, in which those were the dominant terms for homoeroticism and other things that seemed (sometimes arbitrarily) to be related to it, appears to be over.
The parliamentary papers of the UK are one of the most important sources for the history of the UK and its former colonies in the 18th and 19th centuries, in their original form a series of thousands of printed reports.
On entering Shakespeare in Ten Acts, the British Library’s contribution to the world-wide celebrations commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, visitors are greeted by perhaps the most recognizable Shakespearean artefact: a copy of the 1623 First Folio.
The commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising in the Republic of Ireland have thrown the issue of nationalism and independence into sharp relief once again.
Contemporary punditocracy suggests that the Left has never grasped the joy of shopping, its late 20th–century political katabasis being no clearer indication.
Thomas Dixon’s Weeping Britannia is a tour through six centuries of British tears, from ‘extreme weeper’ Margery Kempe to the televised ‘sob-fests’ of Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor, via tear-stained judges, the emotionally extravagant novel of sensibility, supposedly stiff-upper-lipped politicians, and the bemused disdain of dry-eyed journalists observing the