c o n t r i b u t o r s
This month’s pulpit is written by D J Taylor. His novel Secondhand Daylight was published in March. The paperback of his previous novel, Derby Day, is out at the end of the May. Christopher Andrew is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and the author of the authorised history of MI5 (Penguin). David Annand is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in London. Thomas Asbridge is Reader in Medieval History at Queen Mary University of London and author of The Crusades. Hugh Bicheno was an intelligence officer in Buenos Aires in the 1970s. His latest book, Elizabeth’s Sea-Dogs, is due out in July 2012. Wendy Brandmark’s novel, The Angry Gods, was published by Dewi Lewis. She is currently working on a collection of short stories. Timothy Brook is the author of Vermeer’s Hat, The Troubled Empire and Death by a Thousand Cuts. Jerry Brotton’s A History of the World in Twelve Maps is published by Allen Lane in September. Linden Burleigh is a freelance reviewer. Rupert Christiansen is the author of Prima Donna. He has been opera critic of the Daily Telegraph since 1996. Frank Close is a professor of physics at Oxford and the author of The Infinity Puzzle. Nick Cohen’s You Can’t Read This Book: Censorship in an Age for Freedom has just been published by Fourth Estate. David Collard contributes to the forthcoming Auden in Context (CUP). Anthony Cummins is a freelance reviewer. Theodore Dalrymple’s Junk Medicine: Doctors, Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy is published by Harriman House. Leanda de Lisle is currently completing a dynastic history of the Tudors for Chatto. Ophelia Field is author of The KitCat Club. She is currently working on comparative history and analysis of the essay form. Tom Fort’s new book, The A303: Highway to the Sun, is published this month.
Steve Fuller’s latest book is Humanity 2.0: What It Means to Be Human Past, Present and Future (Palgrave Macmillan). Lyndall Gordon’s Shared Lives is a South African memoir of women’s friendship. John Guy’s biography of Thomas Becket was published last month by Viking. Sam Kitchener is freelance reviewer. Manjit Kumar is the author of Quantum, which was shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize. Sam Leith’s You Talkin’ To Me?: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama is out now from Profile. His novel The Coincidence Engine (Bloomsbury) has just appeared in paperback. Jessica Mann’s The Fifties Mystique is reviewed in this issue. Shiraz Maher is a Senior Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London. Allan Massie’s new novel, Dark Summer in Bordeaux, will be published by Quartet in June. Patrick McGuinness is the author The Last Hundred Days, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. Leo McKinstry has written a trilogy about the RAF in the Second World War. He is currently researching a book about Britain in 1940. Jonathan Mirsky is a journalist specialising in Chinese affairs. In 1990 he was named British Editors International Reporter of the Year for his dispatches from Beijing. Leslie Mitchell is Emeritus Fellow in Modern History at University College, Oxford. His interests lie in the Whig world of the late eighteenth century. Caroline Moorehead’s most recent book, A Train in Winter, is published by Chatto.
Richard Overy’s The Bombing War: Europe 1939–1945 will be published in spring 2013 by Allen Lane. Lucy Popescu was Programme Director of English PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee from 1991 to 2006. Frederic Raphael’s Distant Intimacy, his exchanges of letters with Joseph Epstein, will be published by Yale in October. Anna Reid’s Leningrad: Tragedy of a City under Siege, 1941-44 (Bloomsbury) was shortlisted for the Duff Cooper and Hessell Tiltman prizes. Leyla Sanai is a retired consultant anaesthetist. Elaine Showalter’s most recent book is A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx (2010). Patrick Skene Catling has published twelve novels and nine books for children. Joan Smith is writing a sequel to Misogynies. She gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in November 2011. Frances Spalding’s book Prunella Clough: regions unmapped has recently been published by Lund Humphries. Jonathan Sumption is the author of The Hundred Years War (three volumes to date). John Sutherland’s drunkalog, Last Drink to LA, was published by Short Books in 2001. Simon Thurley is a historian and head of English Heritage. Gillian Tindall’s new book, Three Houses, Many Lives, will be published in June by Chatto & Windus. Donald Trelford was Editor of The Observer from 1975 to 1993. Martin Vander Weyer is business editor of The Spectator. Nicholas Vincent is Professor of Medieval History at the UEA and author of A Brief History of Britain 1066–1485. Sophia Waugh is writing a history of English domestic cookery writers. Katharine Whitehorn is the agony aunt for Saga magazine and writes for The Observer, where she had a column for thirty-six years.
Literary Review | m a y 2 0 1 2 4 h o l y w a r r i o r s t i mothy b r o ok
Raise the Holy Sail Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem
By Carol Delaney (Duckworth & Co 319pp £20) he Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco da Gama
By Nigel Cliff (Atlantic Books 547pp £22)
Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama used to enjoy special status in our pantheon of heroes: Columbus for ‘discovering’ the continents that blocked his way to Asia, and da Gama for figuring out how to circumnavigate Africa for the same end. Both ventures ended up changing history by restructuring the networks of trade linking Europe to distant regions, and gave Europe an upper hand it had not previously enjoyed. Out of Europe’s seaward escape would emerge global capitalism and the social and political arrangements some call modernity.
Both men therefore mattered to history, though their reputations were not secure at the time. As Stanford University anthropologist Carol Delaney reminds us in her careful and thorough reconstruction of Columbus’s life, aristocratic and personal politics nearly erased him from the official version of Spanish conquests. The fact that we call these continents after Amerigo Vespucci, Columbus’s self-appointed acolyte, rather than after the man who organised the expeditions that brought the New World under Spanish control, is a salutary reminder that reputation can be fickle in the transit from memory to history. It was only thanks to his second son and admirers in the next generation that Columbus got his place in the pantheon.
subway interchange at Columbus Circle, perhaps the tallest pedestal that any of his devotees has ever built for him.
A hundred years after the statue was raised, some celebrated the quincentennial anniversary with a certain fervour, but one effect of the attention was to tarnish Columbus’s reputation. The descendants of the people he claimed to have discovered disputed that the right of discovery entailed a right of domination. Charges of genocide, colonialism, ethnic cleansing and cultural eradication threatened to push him off his pedestal. Yet despite the critiques, the reputation of the generation of explorers represented by Columbus and da Gama has survived the shocks of the 1990s. Europeans and their descendants, it seems, just can’t get over the five-century-old delight at finding themselves out in the world – and at having made a killing in the process.
Then came 2001. The new alternative storylines celebrating multiculturalism and cultural relativism were challenged by conservatives unembarrassed to revive old arguments about a virtuous West rising heroically above the fanatical Rest. Delaney and Cliff have written their biographies directly against this backdrop by bringing to light a feature of the zeitgeist of the Age of Exploration that passed mostly unremarked by the army of writers who churned out quincentennial books: the conviction that the end of time was approaching and that the Holy Land had to be recaptured from the Muslims who held it before the Second Coming.
This conviction is impossible to miss in Columbus’s oeuvre, for his most striking composition, compiled before embarking on his fourth voyage in 1502, is his Book of Prophecies. Columbus assembled all the evidence he could muster to prove his theory that the end of the world was only 155 years away, including his own discovery of lands that had been foretold in the Bible. That left precious little time to prepare for the final rapture. Columbus’s purpose was not just theological; it was practical. He needed his sovereigns to continue to fund his expensive expeditions to the New World, though these costs were nothing compared to those of retaking the Holy Land and rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. The expeditions were the answer to this financial nightmare, for the only way to raise the money to retake the Middle East was for him to continue sailing west in search of gold and trade routes to China. His sovereigns had to pony up. In his imagination,
Columbus has since been set on pedestals by many peoples. Sailing for Spain endeared him to Spaniards. Americans claim a special relationship, though he’s more special to some than others. During the quadricentennial in 1892, Italian Americans commissioned the Sicilian sculptor Gaetano Russo to carve a statue of this Genoese mariner to assert their dignity as one of the American founding peoples. Today Russo’s statue still presides over busy New Yorkers as they pass through the
Portuguese sailors swaggering like lords in Goa m a y 2 0 1 2 | Literary Review 5