Peter Stanford

Peter James Stanford is an English writer, editor, journalist, and presenter

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Jimmy: a Legacy of Peace, By Margaret Mizen with Justin Butcher

We live in vengeful times where perpetrators of crime face increasingly punitive sentences, without real consideration as to whether they prevent reoffending. Easy for me to note this illogicality, since neither I nor anyone close to me has been a victim of a serious crime. Margaret Mizen, by contrast, has not been spared. So it makes her commitment to understanding why those in our prisons offend all the more powerful.

How to read a graveyard: Travels among the dead of the Somme

The war graves of the Somme are a familiar sight. But look closely at the headstones, says Peter Stanford, and it is possible to decode hidden histories of the 20th century

Shame on the leaders of the Catholic Church for their sweeping campaign against gay marriage

The one message that echoed this week is that to be Catholic is to be anti-gay. Once this whole dispute over gay marriage has subsided, that is the message that will endure

Human story: Anthony Quinn

The Streets, By Anthony Quinn

A thrilling story of deprivation that shows off the bravura versatility of its author

Cutting-edge history: Roman Catholics beheaded by order of Henry VIII

Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations, By Eamon Duffy

An erudite iconoclast, this historian overturns assumptions about the beliefs of the English in the age of holy wars.

Father Lynch says: 'I can go into confession and say I have been in every sauna and bath-house and sex club in London 10 times a week and I can get absolved from my sins, but if I go in and say, 'I have been in love with a man for 19 years, married for 14,' there's no absolution. That's the sickness in my Church.'

Father Bernard Lynch: 'The Vatican has told them to get rid of me'

He claims that half of all Catholic priests are gay – and has himself been married to his husband for 14 years. He believes celibacy is to blame for many of the Church's problems – and that the Vatican must take responsibility for the paedophilia in its midst. Is it any wonder so many people want rid of Father Bernard Lynch?

Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim, By John Guy

Sub-titles are usually where publishers try to hype up a book, or give its subject a headline-making spin. So Viking should be congratulated for their Ronseal-like directness – "what it says on the tin" – in tagging John Guy's biography of Thomas Becket as "a story retold". For the tale of the 12th-century Archbishop of Canterbury and the king who appointed him, but came to rue the day and saw him murdered in his cathedral, is even on the primary-school curriculum.

The Flight, By M R Hall

Fasten your seatbelts for a quality thriller

God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World, By Cullen Murphy

Television has been widely credited with making history fashionable again, with all those enthusiastic and engaging experts taking to the small screen. They have hauled what had become too often a subject constrained by the lifeless prose of academic books into the mainstream of public debate. Now there seems to be traffic the other way, for there is something televisual about God's Jury, an enormously enjoyable and very modern history of the Inquisition by Cullen Murphy, editor-at-large of Vanity Fair.

Reappraisal of Christian concepts: Michelangelo's creation story, in the Sistine Chapel

Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration, By Jack Mahoney

The relationship between Christianity and science has long been a fraught one, whether you go back to the persecution of Galileo by the Inquisition in the 17th century, the rejection of Darwin by the ecclesiastical bigwigs in the 19th, or the current stand-off between militant atheists among the scientific community, such as Richard Dawkins, and a Church that still has faith in miracles.

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