An inescapable dimension of modern history, which I have tried to address in various ways. This strand is also concerned with the fate of internationalist idealism.
Hainburg, on the border between (Czecho)Slovakia and Austria, December 1989 (M. Illik)
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Baldridge (1899-1977) was an American artist whose illustrations appeared in The Stars and Stripes, the official paper of the American Expeditionary Force, during the last year of the First World War. This drawing, which anticipates the rise of what is now called ‘Battlefield Tourism’, is reproduced from Baldridge’s fine autobiography, Time and Chance (1947) – a book that, after so many years of George Bush Junior, should be attributed to the ‘other’ America, from which we look forward to hearing more…
This is the long-forgotten article in which the iron curtain was first taken from the theatre and converted into a political metaphor. It was published in the London-based Suffragist magazine Jus Suffragii, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1 January 1915, p. 218. I count it among the key writings of the First World War. It can also be read – against Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and other latter-day polemicists – as an example of how secular-minded and even atheist writers may engage religious subjects without merely resorting to furious denial. An account of Vernon Lee and her article’s sources, context and influence is given in my book Iron Curtain: from stage to Cold War.
‘First published in 1943, The World of Yesterday could scarcely be less like the popular confessional autobiographies of our time, which tend to be soft-centred victimologies in which the self is presented as an innocent, child-like entity, while history comes across as a form of abuse…’
An article from Guardian Review, 2 February, 2008.
The idea of ‘public art’ has often provoked controversy. Its promoters justify their interventions in public space by talking about access and the importance of reaching beyond the confines of gallery and museum.
‘Winston Churchill took credit for it in 1946, but the phrase ‘iron curtain’ was first adapted from the stage by a pacifist and feminist in 1914.’ Published in the Guardian Review on 3 November 2007, this article describes how the iron curtain was taken from the theatre and converted into a political metaphor by Vernon Lee and others in the early twentieth century.
A review of Margaret Macmillan’s Seize the Hour: when Nixon Met Mao. Published in the London Review of Books, Vol. 29, No. 16, 16 August 2007, pp. 19-20.
An article on the art of camouflage. Written as a review of Hardy Blechman et al (eds.), DPM Disruptive Pattern Material: an Encyclopedia of Camouflage: Nature, Military, Culture, London: DPM, 2004. Published in London Review of Books, Vol. 27 No. 12, 23 June 2005, pp. 16-20.
In the mid-1930s, and in response to the horrors of aerial warfare as waged by imperial powers in Ethiopia, Burma, India and elsewhere, the socialist-feminist Sylvia Pankhurst joined forces with the Dorset sculptor Eric Benfield to create an Anti-Air War Monument. I’m not finished with this story yet, but a version, published in 2003, can be read on the OpenDemocracy website.
On Sven Lindqvist and his book A History of Bombing. Published as ‘Dropping their Eggs,’ London Review of Books, 23 August 2001, pp. 11-14.
In the summer of 1995, I was irritated by a dismissal of the UN made by Ann Applebaum in the Daily Telegraph. Against this tendency to see the UN only as a corrupt and incompetent bureaucracy, I wrote this article about the United Nations Association, a voluntary organisation and some of its elderly advocates. Published in the Guardian, 1 July 1995