Category Archives: History

Yemen’s Wars

Mountainous and dry, with a tendency to anarchy in the ample spaces between its cities, Yemen has long been hospitable to insurgency. Yet in ancient times it was home to the Sabaeans and had claims to be the biblical land of the Queen of Sheba. Its fertility and beauty were such that the Romans called it Arabia Felix, ‘happy Arabia’. The people there are mostly Arabs and like much of the rest of Arabia, became subject to the distant domain of the Ottoman sultan. The fate of the peninsula was influenced significantly by Britain, which in 1937 took the port city of Aden as the centre of its colony (on independence in 1967, it became South Yemen). Britain exercised significant influence over who ruled Muscat and Oman; assisted succession to the monarchy and imamate of North Yemen; and together with the US confirmed the al Saud family as hereditary rulers of what became Saudi Arabia. Now combined, the former North and South Yemen are together Sunni by bare majority, but the Zaidi Shia remain a large, mainly northern minority.

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War Records

Prince Philip, who has died aged 99, was a navy man. It is something his obituarists all mention. They note his passage into the Royal Navy after a rackety childhood and Gordonstoun. How he was an able cadet at Dartmouth, the top cadet of his course, and that by the time he married the then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947 he was a confident and handsome first lieutenant, whose wishes to continue his naval career were later ended by her ascent to the throne. He kept a model of HMS Magpie, his first command, in his office in Buckingham Palace in the decades that followed.

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George Shultz and Trust

If the admiring American coverage of his death is to be believed, the lodestar of George Shultz’s life was one of trust. Shultz lived to be a hundred and, in an essay to mark the occasion of his centenary, Shultz held that ‘trust is the coin of the realm’. When trust was ‘in the room’ he wrote, ‘good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen. Everything else is details’. He died two months later on 6 February 2021.

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Sinclair Hood

It is especially fitting when scholars of antiquity reach a great age themselves; doubly so if they remain active and thoughtful even as they surpass a century. Sinclair Hood, who died last month at the age of 103, met both standards admirably. Many fellow archaeologists who remarked upon their sadness at his death noted that his most recent book, The Masons’ Marks of Minoan Knossos: Volume I, was published just last year. Such productivity is rare and it is admirable.

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The Genocide Convention May Hinder Rather Than Help Victims

Each year we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, an anniversary that has increasingly become a rallying point against genocide in the abstract as well as in the specific. This year, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, and a number of other faith and interfaith organisations used the occasion to decry China’s ongoing genocide against the Uighur minority, who have been confined in their millions in re-education-cum-work camps, forcibly sterilised, and impressed into a system of slave labour for which we have increasingly incontrovertible evidence.

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Jan Morris: A Writer’s Life as a Vivid Dream

Jan Morris, who died last week at the age of 94, may have lived one of the more various and accomplished lives on record. She was, in turn, a soldier, a newspaper correspondent with a number of scoops to her name, a fine memoirist, and a writer of books whose scope encompassed the world.

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Class Gasp

Peregrine Worsthorne died not too long ago, at a great age. A former editor of the Sunday Telegraph and an ensign-bearer in retirement not only of the past, but also of long-passed notions. One of those was aristocracy, something Worsthorne adored and advocated. Yesterday I read his offering on the subject, the slight book In Defence of Aristocracy. This essay, taking in his most cherished notions and his most coherent effort at writing, serves both as review and, after a fashion, as obituary.

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Man Against His History

At the moment, in my old college, there is a campaign being run mainly by current students, but drawing in a few alumni, to reconsider the continued existence of a memorial. The memorial, in itself, is almost nothing, taking up a small space in the hall, totalling the guy’s name, some professional information, and a little coloured glass.

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