The first serious history blog in the world
The Diarist explains his absence for more than a year — the problems of a contemporary author and his concerns about the state of book culture. But the total drama of what happened at Smolensk on 10 April could not be ignored. This is possibly the most significant accident to have occurred since the end of the Second World War. The Diarist explains why.
Decolonization has led to a world of nation states. But many of these nation states are dysfunctional and are the seedbeds of terror. A new book by Arthur Herman on Gandhi and Churchill opens our eyes to alternative political systems that may develop in the future. And we review two new films on terror.
Economic turmoil in the West and sabre rattling in the East force us to look not only at the state of our financial institutions but also into the state of our governments — how we are governed and by what rules we are governed. We review the work of two of the best constitutionalists in Britain today, Anthony King and Larry Siedentop. On constitutional reform, both advise a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude. But can we afford to wait?
Travels across the Paris region expose once more the narrowness and dangers of English ‘Euroscepticism’. A viewing of the Hollywood blockbuster, Sex and the City, set me thinking about the nature of sex, love, marriage and babies in the twenty-first century; while the ensuing quarrel within the Anglican communion carries these thoughts further into an investigation of the divide that separates a Western world of high life expectancy from the developing world still coping with death. An opera competition demonstrates the richness of local culture, as opposed to the weak national culture, in France today.
Referenda are dangerous political devices that play into the hands of demagogues and dictators. They threaten the stability of parliamentary democracies and should be outlawed. It is the height of irony that one of the greatest parliamentary parties of all times, the British Conservative Party, has got so tied up, and confused, by today’s referendum culture. We look at the nature of the Conservative parliamentary tradition as told in a recent history of the Carlton club — London’s club culture played an essential parliamentary role — and we consider this in the light of Britain’s one hereditary historical problem: her total misunderstanding of Europe.
One consequence of natural catastrophes, such as in Burma and in China this last week, is that they blind us to the ongoing human drama of politics. In a world where national culture and memory are weakening this can have dire effects on the future of the world. France’s commemoration, this year, of the end of the Second World War has corrected one injustice. We spend the holiday listening to the blues and inspect the richness of new local cultures in France. And a new Russian film opens our eyes to the state of the arts in the Western world.
We compare the enlightened administration of the American Library in Paris to the miserable philistinism of the British Council on Rue Constantine. We discover corners of beauty in one of the unhappiest corners of the world, the Middle East. We worry about the future of the Conservative Party in the light of their recent success in Britain’s local elections. We celebrate British authors in France. And we bow our heads at the natural and political catastrophe of Cyclone Nargis.
Only fools would deny the cultural malaise the whole Western world is currently suffering through. For a better cultural life, we have only ourselves to create it. We meet one such creator at the Théatre du Chatelet. And we encounter, in the martyred city of Rheims, a movement to make the founder of the European Union, Robert Schuman, a saint.
In reflecting on what to do after Metrostop Paris, I have suddenly been faced with the realities of a tough publishing market, but also with the cultural vandals who created it.
One of the major minorities growing on Continental Europe are the British. They are important because they are going to force us to think.