Pretend you’re on holiday with @TheNewEuropean summer special pod!
@rashmeerl on what other countries think of Boris Johnson
@jamesrbuk on Europe and the case for legalised cannabis
@charlieconnelly on the best Euro reads for your green-list beach

- Steve Anglesey (@sanglesey) July 30, 2021

For this week’s bumper summer special issue episode, host Steve Anglesey is joined by journalist Rashmee Roshan Lall who discusses if the government’s love of India is reciprocated and emphasises the importance of keeping your word in politics. Global editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism James Ball considers the issues on both sides of…

Near the Ritz in central London. Photos: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Notice something about the photos above? There’s almost no one around.

Two years ago, a warm July evening in central London would have been very different. People would have been spilling out of pubs and restaurants on to the pavements. Tourists would have been out in force, selfie-sticks at the ready.

Covid-19 sparked the biggest fall in UK gross domestic product — a measure of the size of the economy — for more than 300 years in 2020, sending it plunging by a record 10 per cent.

But now, seven months into 2021, here we are, with London eerily empty…

‘As You Like It’: Shakespeare in the Garden, 2021. Vicky Gaskin (extreme right, in the purple trousers), is co-founder of the Open Bar theatre company Photos: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Morocco. Photo by Chrissie Giannakoudi on Unsplash

In conversation the other day with a writer who also teaches the art and craft of writing at university, I heard a dispiriting truth: that university students in Britain are no longer willing to read Paul Bowles.

He is, said the writer, considered beyond the pale.

I understand what the writer was delicately trying to convey. Bowles, who wrote about North Africa, was not beyond the pale; rather, he was too pale, a pale white male who travelled around recording his impressions of the world and pretending they were somehow true because he said them.

In other words, Bowles, whose…

A national park in Kenya. Photo by Damian Patkowski on Unsplash

I was very taken by a British professor’s assertion the other day that bankers and pastoralists share more than we might think. Both, said Ian Scoones, work with deep, pervasive uncertainty and both often face unknown unknowns. This makes, he suggested, for “a very distinct approach to navigating day-to-day practices, as well as long-term futures”.

It’s a fascinating comparison and Professor Scoones is well placed to make it because he’s an agricultural ecologist at the Institute of Development Studies and is interested in agrarian change and sustainability.

One of the points that emerges from the professor’s argument about pastoralists is…

Joe Biden hasn’t been US president very long but six months are up, as of July 20. In that half-year, he’s run an MOT and a tune-up of America’s foreign policy apparatus.

He’s re-opened the usual diplomatic channels.

He’s reassured allies that America will be predictable.

Adversaries know too that Mr Biden’s America will be predictable.

After four years of Donald Trump’s tweetstorms and social media sulks, we’re back in the usual world of an American presidency that doesn’t have the commander-in-chief undercutting his secretary of state, even as he empowers his diplomats and allows meetings to run as they…

Billionaire Jeff Bezos is launched into space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket on 20 July 2021. Joe Skipper/Reuters/Alamy

On 20 July, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos became the second billionaire in a matter of weeks to take a flashy joyride into space. The date was significant, marking 52 years since the first moon landing in 1969.

Nine days previously, another billionaire, British business mogul Richard Branson, had also taken off for the edge of space. A third billionaire, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, has reportedly reserved a seat to visit space with Virgin Galactic, Branson’s company.

What’s the point of these intergalactic endeavors? The three billionaires claim it’s a necessary, almost philanthropic, investment in the future of humanity.

Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash

Once upon a time, people actually believed in the “ Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention”. It went as follows: No two countries that had McDonald’s restaurants would go to war. Before the turn of the millennium, it was still possible to naively believe that people would consider a Big Mac and fries an acceptable substitute for war, the worst staple of human history.

Not so much in 2021. It’s been seven years since Russia annexed Crimea. The Syrian civil war raged for years and years and now appears to be a frozen conflict. Libya has been at war with…

A fisherman carries a bucket from his boat to the shore in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on July 19. The country of more than 11 million people are still reeling from the July 7 killing of President Jovenel Moise. AP

The aftermath of the assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moise has made apparent the country’s extreme precariousness. It has no head of state, no functioning legislature until recently, two rival acting prime ministers, as well as a third claimant to power — the head of the senate; and the head of Haiti’s supreme court died from the coronavirus in June.

Meanwhile, the country hasn’t administered a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and armed gangs are running amok, with kidnappings and violence on the rise. …

The Parthenon in Athens is considered a sign of the ancient Greeks’ sophistication. Athens, of course, was a city-state.

Not too long ago, I took delivery of my copy of Annalee Newitz ‘s ‘Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age’. (I bought the book on pre-order; it was officially released mid-March.) So, I’m increasingly aware of a slew of new books on cities.

Last year there was Greg Woolf’s ‘The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History’.

And now, American historian Michael Kulikowski ‘s Rome-focussed story ‘Imperial Tragedy: From Constantine’s Empire to the Destruction of Roman Italy AD 363–568' has gone into paperback.

It was Professor Kulikowski’s recent review of Greg Woolf’s book (paywall)…

Rashmee Roshan Lall

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Sign up for free email updates on email me at

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