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Hayek and His Overcoat

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 1 October 1998

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations 
by David Landes.
Little, Brown, 650 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 316 90867 3
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The Commanding Heights 
by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw.
Simon and Schuster, 457 pp., £18.99, February 1998, 0 684 82975 4
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... characteristics. For thirty years, new theories ruled. That, according to Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, was the trouble. Yergin, like Landes, is a gifted narrator. The Prize, his 1991 history of what he called ‘the epic quest for oil, money and power’ in the 20th century, was an excellent read. The Commanding Heights is equally racy. With ...

Don’t let that crybaby in here again

Steven Shapin: The Manhattan Project, 7 September 2000

In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist 
by S.S. Schweber.
Princeton, 260 pp., £15.95, May 2000, 0 691 04989 0
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Atomic Fragments: A Daughter’s Questions 
by Mary Palevsky.
California, 289 pp., £15.95, June 2000, 0 520 22055 2
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... but most professed a fervent belief in some of them. Among the physicists, only the Englishman Joseph Rotblat left Los Alamos when the failure of the German nuclear programme became clear, later writing: ‘I saw the destruction of Hiroshima as a wanton, barbaric act, and it made me very angry.’ The experimental physicist Robert Wilson came to regret ...

The Unpredictable Cactus

Emily Witt: Mescaline, 2 January 2020

Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic 
by Mike Jay.
Yale, 297 pp., £18.99, May 2019, 978 0 300 23107 6
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... reason’. Aleister Crowley used peyote in his séances. Frederick Madison Smith, the grandson of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion, explored it as a possible means of achieving religious ecstasy. Smith also lobbied against the prohibition of the peyote religion, which had grown since the 1890s and was now attracting opposition. After a bill to ...

The Fog of History

Fredric Jameson: On Olga Tokarczuk, 24 March 2022

The Books of Jacob 
by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft.
Fitzcarraldo, 892 pp., £20, November 2021, 978 1 910695 59 3
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... capture Gibraltar. The Turks locked up General Stein in the Veteraner Cave in Hungary, and Emperor Joseph died also. King Gustavus of Sweden conquered Russian Finland, and the French Revolution and the long war began and Emperor Leopold II went to his grave too. Napoleon captured Prussia, and the English bombarded Copenhagen, and the peasants sowed and ...

Britain’s Thermonuclear Bluff

Norman Dombey and Eric Grove, 22 October 1992

... itself apart before any appreciable thermonuclear processes were initiated. Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam, émigré scientists from Hungary and Poland respectively, who were working at Los Alamos, found an ingenious solution in 1951. As part of his work on improved fission weapons Ulam had suggested a two-stage fission design. Teller seized on this ...

A Nation like Lava

Neal Ascherson: Piłsudski’s Vision, 8 September 2022

Jozef Piłsudski: Founding Father of Modern Poland 
by Joshua D. Zimmerman.
Harvard, 623 pp., £31.95, June, 978 0 674 98427 1
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... would sooner or later join the Franco-British alliance. At first, few Poles shared his optimism. Joseph Conrad, meeting gloomily with Kraków friends as war broke out, thought that it presaged the total dominion of great powers over lesser European nationalities: the extinction of Polish hopes for ever.The war came, and then the iconic day of 6 August ...

Unquiet Bodies

Thomas Laqueur: Burying the 20th Century, 6 April 2006

Retroactive Justice: Prehistory of Post-Communism 
by István Rév.
Stanford, 340 pp., £19.95, January 2005, 0 8047 3644 8
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... route to the cathedral where it still rests today. The story of the deeply eccentric artist-writer Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz may be even stranger than it is in Rév’s version. The Communist government of Poland made an effort in 1988 to show respect for the prewar avant-garde by allowing the cultural opposition to try to reclaim his body from ...

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