Arts and Entertainment

Towards the end of this illuminating book, Larry Siedentop describes a fourteenth century battle between two Christian monastic orders. The Dominicans and the Franciscans were mendicant orders, begging monks who had abandoned the comforts of the cloisters to preach among the poor.

The Sketch: IDS takes the lid off social reform as Dave flatters the feckless

It probably wasn't solely to annoy Polly that they held their poverty presser in Toynbee Hall but it must have been an incidental pleasure. Iain Duncan Smith and David Cameron announced the Tory welfare plan in that Edwardian palace of civic goodwill and self-improvement. I'm not sneering at either mind you, that's a trick you find on the professional left. But the venue was iconic, and part of the message-sending thing they enjoy doing – like Ed Balls eating the Kleinwort Benson canapes.

The Ven Ronald Scruby: Archdeacon who overcame injuries sustained after D-Day to serve Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight

Archdeacon for eight years of Portsmouth and for 12 before that of the Isle of Wight, Ronald Scruby was one of the most loved and respected clergy in the Anglican diocese of Portsmouth. The loss of a leg in the Second World War barely inhibited him; he was a man of persistent courage and quiet holiness.

The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death, By John Gray

Our greatest anti-utopian thinker returns to a favourite theme: that there's no such thing as human progress, and science cannot save us

Bishop Samuel Ruiz: Liberation theologian who championed the cause of the Mayan Indians in Mexico

When I interviewed Bishop Samuel Ruiz for The Independent in the picturesque southern Mexican town of San Cristóbal de las Casas in August 1993, he told me the poverty-stricken Mayan Indians of his parish were getting restless and some had taken up arms. He introduced me to a young man – "just call me Juan" – who spoke of a new armed group called the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organisation (EZP0), named after Mexico's peasant and revolutionary leader of the early 20th Century but styled after Peru's Shining Path guerrillas.

The Right Revd Dr Kenneth Stevenson: Colourful priest with a special interest in liturgy who became a popular Bishop of Portsmouth

He was drinking champagne and listening to his favourite Bach only hours before his death in hospital.

Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy, By CE Hill

CE Hill not only rejoices in the title of Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Verily, he is also the anti-Dan Brown. Whereas The Da Vinci Code author and his ilk delight in theories that evil popes and scheming prelates stamped out the many and often competing versions of Christianity circulating in the first four centuries AD, Hill has a more sober message. There was no conspiracy. Far from blaming the demon figure of the Council of Nicaea, Bishop Athanasius, for deciding that only his four chosen gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – should be the canonical ones, Hill argues that the Emperor Constantine's council was no dastardly cover-up enacted to cement the supremacy of Rome. The four we know as the main part of the New Testament today, he says, were commonly accepted as scripture far earlier.

Saintly Newman had a smarter, younger brother

Beatification plans have revived interest in a forgotten Victorian.

Noseda stakes all on Cup with Laddies Poker Two

Having already pulled off one pretty outrageous stunt with the same mare, Jeremy Noseda yesterday contrived to raise the bar higher still with Laddies Poker Two. The Newmarket trainer wants to give the grey her first race since landing a spectacular gamble at Royal Ascot in June – and, as such, only her second in two years – at the Breeders' Cup.

Julian Baggini: If science has not actually killed God, it has rendered Him unrecognisable

There is no room in the universe of Hawking or most other scientists for the activist God of the Bible

Howard Jacobson: Conspiracy theorists lack imagination

In our determined unimaginativeness, we turn Kelly and Blair alike into less than men

Newton and the Counterfeiter, By Thomas Levenson

By 1695, Isaac Newton was increasingly obsessed with odd theology but the towering genius was called on to solve a national crisis. Due to coin-clipping and forgery, His Majesty's coinage was increasingly debased.

Theodora: Actress, empress, whore, by Stella Duffy

Powerful consorts have often been trashed by prurient historians, and none more so than Theodora, Empress of Byzantium, wife of the sixth-century ruler, Justinian. Procopius's official work celebrated her piety and courage, but his scurrilous Secret History claimed to reveal her as a former prostitute of unsurpassed greed. A travesty, but Procopius had a novelist's flair for colourful detail: what reader could forget the circus performance with excited geese?

David Alexander: US national secretary to the Rhodes Trust

American secretary to the Rhodes Trust for 17 years, Professor David Alexander CBE was a driving force behind the success of the Rhodes Scholarships in the US.

One Minute With: Simon Schama

Where are you now and what can you see?

Jeff Tweedy, Union Chapel, London

"This song is about Jesus smoking crack," smiles a wry Jeff Tweedy, the frontman of Chicago rock band Wilco, who stands solo in front of the pulpit at the beautiful Union Chapel. "I keep getting invited to churches to play this song, so I'm guessing it's theologically sound."

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University Edible Garden, Leeds – a sustainable garden in the centre of the university, passers-by can help themselves to the home-grown produce
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
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Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz