James Bowman Articles


On Their Honor

A way to look at dueling, then and now.
Oct 05, 2015

During the British election this past year, the press reported that a certain Janek (or John) Zylinski, a Polish prince living in Britain, had taken umbrage at the anti-immigration rhetoric of Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence party, and so did what has long come naturally to Polish princes by challenging Farage to a duel​—​with swords, in Hyde Park. Nigel Farage, who claimed not to own a sword, laughed it off, as did everyone else.

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Power Coupling

A Victorian alliance of love and politics.
Aug 24, 2015

On the first page of this enjoyable double biography, Daisy Hay quotes the Mister-half of her titular couple as having said, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” 

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A Ghost’s Lament

The collision at the corner of Language and Politics.
Jul 27, 2015

It’s a pity that The Speechwriter will be judged, both for good and ill, in the light of the media sensation created six years ago by Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Famous for not hiking the Appalachian Trail, Sanford is Barton Swaim’s former employer and the principal character—under the less-than-cryptic pseudonym of “the governor”—in this immensely sad yet very funny book. 

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Heads Over Heels

Decapitation: the good old days
Feb 16, 2015

To judge by what is fittingly called the “head shot” of Frances Larson on the jacket of her book, she is a young and pretty woman with a remarkably long neck. If one were a headsman—that is, if headsmen were still plying their ancient trade, outside the desert wastes of Iraq and Syria and Saudi Arabia—one might well be licking one’s lips while thumbing the blade of one’s axe. 

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Oneself in Others

The unintended consequences of reading George Eliot
Sep 22, 2014

Let’s face it. Should Rebecca Mead, a New Yorker staff writer, offer us her mere, unadorned autobiography as something to pack along with our pail and shovel as a good beach read, she might risk the odd sarcastic comment from a friend or accusations of presumption or arrogance from those less well-disposed toward her. And yet, she’s proud of her life and has the professional writer’s urge to share. 

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Dean of Contradictions

The savage, satiric, sympathetic Swift.
Jun 09, 2014

The art of biography, as it is practiced today, nearly always involves the biographer as mediator between past and present, a bridge over the ever-widening gap between the two. As history has more and more become the record of what we feel we ought to be ashamed of our ancestors for, the biography-worthy great men of centuries gone by require new champions to explain why they, at least, weren’t so bad as most of their benighted contemporaries. 

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Casualties of War

Medicine as metaphor for the Western Front.
Feb 03, 2014

If you read only one book this year to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, let me suggest Wounded rather than one of the more conventional histories. 

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B&A Podcast: The Great War and Modern Memory

The Books & Arts Podcast is hosted by Philip Terzian.
6:45 PM, Jan 27, 2014

The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast, with literary editor Philip Terzian on the Books & Arts section of our February 4, 2014 issue. He is joined by James Bowman, who authored the review "Casualties of War" in this issue.

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Bases Loaded

The smooth moves, and rough edges, of baseball’s infancy.
Jul 29, 2013

Much has been written about the origins and earliest years of baseball, and much, much more has been written about the period after the founding of the American League and the introduction of the rule to make foul balls strikes in 1901, from which point most people date the modern game. 

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Wisdom of the Age

Words to live by—at the moment.
Oct 01, 2012

‘Modern proverbs” is surely a contradiction in terms—unless “modern” is being used in its unmodern sense of “commonplace,” as in Shakespeare’s “wise saws and modern instances.” The word “proverb” inevitably connotes the idea of age and seasoning—wisdom that has been tried by time. Indeed, a proverb is usually so old that its original author is unknown.

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The Dawn of Print

Has the death of the ‘physical’ book been exaggerated?
Jan 30, 2012

It’s had a great five-hundred-year run .  .  . but it’s time to change.

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Believing Is Seeing

History unfolds beneath the Ivory Tower.
Dec 19, 2011

Mary Ann Glendon begins her chapter on Rousseau by recounting the story of Napoleon’s visit to the grave of that worthy on the estate of the Marquis René Louis de Girardin at Ermenonville and saying, “It would have been better for the peace of France if this man had never lived.” When the marquis sensibly pointed out that, without the impetus given by Rousseau’s writings to the French Revolution, Napoleon himself would not have existed, at least not as Napoleon, the first consul replied that only the future

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