John Brewer teaches in the Humanities and Social Sciences ­Division at the California Institute of Technology. He is currently working on a book on Vesuvius in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. (October 2015)

Were Top American Leaders…Royalists?

An 1829 engraving of the Sons of Liberty pulling down a statue of King George III at the Bowling Green, New York, in July 1776
The powers of the executive branch are under fierce scrutiny. President Obama’s use of an executive order to modify the enforcement of immigration laws has been opposed by twenty-four states challenging the legality of his actions, federal judge Arthur Schwab has unilaterally issued a judgment striking down the executive order, …

England: The Big Change

Boyd Hilton’s archly titled A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People? covers English history from the loss of the first British Empire in 1783 to the dramatic repeal of the Corn Laws that until 1846 had protected the landed classes from the chilly blast of free competition in the international grain …

Selling the American Way

At first sight it is a little hard to know why the astonishing economic recovery of Europe after World War II should have provoked so much controversy. Yet from the 1950s onward, few questions have been more vigorously discussed than that of how and with what consequences Western European nations …

City Lights

Tristram Hunt’s Building Jerusalem is an erudite and elegant account of the rise and fall of the Victorian city, and an eloquent plea for the return of the pride and civic consciousness that he sees as the great achievement of those who shaped urban life in nineteenth-century Britain. Its focus, …

The Irish Indian Chief

When Sir William Johnson died in July 1774, he was one of the richest and most powerful men in colonial America. He bequeathed large sums of money to his numerous children (including eight by his Native American spouse, Degonwadonti, known as Molly Brant) and an astonishing 170,000 acres of land …

The Return of the Imperial Hero

The French Revolution of 1789 not only overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, and plunged the nation into a sanguinary civil war, but it also inaugurated more than twenty years of European warfare. The monarchies of Europe, notably Prussia and Austria, were appalled by the radicalism and atheism of the …

The First Thatcherite?

A prominent English conservative politician, Ann Widdecombe, has described William Hague’s biography of William Pitt the Younger as a book “about a witty, youthful and ambitious politician by a witty, youthful and ambitious politician.” Her link between William Hague, who in June 1997 was elected the youngest leader of the …

The Art of the Deal

Dapperly dressed, living in the best hotels, and often mentioned in the headlines of the world press, Joseph Duveen (1869–1939), the subject of Meryle Secrest’s new biography, was the great showman of the art market. Chief partner of the powerful art firm of Duveen Brothers, Joseph made some of the …

Big Ben

Publishers, publicists, and broadcasters love anniversaries, those occasions when historical events and characters become marketable artifacts in a commercial culture of celebration. Next year the British will be inundated with books, programs, exhibitions, and memorabilia to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the death at the Battle of Trafalgar of …

Breaking with the Past

James Buchan is the author of a large body of journalism, several sparely written and haunting novels, and one of the best works of nonfiction of the 1990s, his brilliant essay on the meaning of money entitled Frozen Desire. His writing ranges widely: his fiction is as likely to be …