On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the executive summary and portions of an as yet unpublished report into the torture undertaken by the CIA. In the following days, much was revealed about American programmes of ‘enhanced interrogation’. We had all heard of ‘waterboarding’, of course, but this was different. In scale, intensity and variety, the programmes of torture as described in the report eclipse the expectations of all but the most seasoned and pessimistic of observers. Continue reading
In Medea and Macbeth, both Euripides and William Shakespeare present central female characters in ways that defied the social conventions of their respective eras, influencing different audiences – ancient, Jacobean and modern alike – to consider universal themes such as the feminine within the context of more traditional, patriarchal societies, and indeed our own. Continue reading
Today sees the publication of an entirely excellent article in The Times by Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Oxford. In it, the good professor takes apart a number of myths which have been allowed to coagulate about the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, one of the most evil men in recent history whose autocratic (and kleptocratic) rule led to the foundation not just of ISIS – as if it was not enough – but the creation of much of Iraq’s current sectarian turmoil. Continue reading
On one level, one must agree with the statement entirely: every historian, in the act of writing, is implicitly chronicling his or her own times. In a basic sense, this can be seen in the language or dialect they use, even in the vernacular of their work. Each is connected with history, but each is still of the present, directed by the exigencies of the present day. The words themselves might also have political connotations from which they cannot be entirely dissociated. E. H. Carr, in his seminal work of historiography What is History?, provides a pertinent example:
The names by which successive French historians have described the Parisian crowds which played so prominent a role in the French Revolution – le sans-cullottes, le peuple, la canaille, le bras-nus – are all, for those that know the rules of the game, manifestos of a political affiliation and of a particular interpretation.
The Enlightenment is under attack. The very essence of modernity – and the very engine which drove much of what we take for granted from the present – is under threat. And not just from theocrats and fascists and the usual assortment of nihilistic individuals with a death wish, one of whom was narrowly prevented last week from massacring innocents on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris. Opposition to Enlightenment values is widespread, diverse – and it is growing. Continue reading
Between 1960 and 1965, Malcolm X emerged as a leading voice in the burgeoning civil rights movement. Originally a minister in the Nation of Islam (NOI), Malcolm later set up his own mosque, while developing his own ideas regarding religion and race. At a time of great social change for black Americans, he arguably proved to be tremendously significant in many respects, not least as an orator, an organiser, a religious reformer and an inspirational figure for so many. Malcolm was assassinated on February 21, 1965, but had played an essential part in advancing civil rights both before and after that date. Continue reading
Many hundreds of British citizens – most of them young men, but a significant number among them women, young children and even the elderly – have left these islands with the intention of joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The motivations and stories of these individuals and their tragic desire to reject civilisation are all well known, but there are other British apologists for tyranny and terror – and they are afforded a great deal more in respect and status than those who travel halfway across the world to fight for and serve in the fascistic theocracy establishing itself in the Levant. Continue reading