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History & Classics

Map of the Ottoman Empire, the Black Sea and the frontiers of Russia and Persia, 1853

The Ottoman Conundrum

Helen Pfeifer

4 June 2020

Injune 1599, with just six months to go until the apocalypse, the Dominican friar Tommaso Campanella and his friends plotted a revolt against Spanish rule in southern Italy. Their plan...

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‘Love at Last Sight’

Chloë Daniel

21 May 2020

Tyler Carrington’s​ micro-history Love at Last Sight opens like a work of true crime, with the unsolved case of Frieda Kliem, a 39-year-old seamstress murdered on 17 June 1914 in a forest on . . .

A Great Wall to Batter Down

Adom Getachew

21 May 2020

Priyamvada Gopal’s focus isn’t on the ways colonial subjects negotiated, resisted and reclaimed the empire, so much as on the ways in which imperial crisis awakened dissent at the metropolitan . . .

Mussolini’s Unrealism

Edward Luttwak

21 May 2020

Scuba diving​ was pioneered in Italy and so was the combat frogman and all his equipment, including hand-placed limpet mines and the explosive motor boats and manned torpedoes that the Japanese would . . .

Medieval Smut

Irina Dumitrescu

7 May 2020

In​ the early decades of the 11th century, a man called Warner who lived in Normandy wrote a very dirty Latin poem. Addressed to Archbishop Robert of Rouen, it relates the adventures of an Irish . . .

The Public Voice of Women

Mary Beard, 20 March 2014

Iwant to start very near the beginning of the tradition of Western literature, and its first recorded example of a man telling a woman to ‘shut up’; telling her that her voice was not...

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Niall Ferguson’s Burden

Pankaj Mishra, 3 November 2011

Worried about the imminent collapse of Western civilisation and awed by the rise of China, Niall Ferguson rewrites the history of the world.

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Diary: Working Methods

Keith Thomas, 10 June 2010

It is possible to take too many notes; the task of sorting, filing and assimilating them can take for ever, so that nothing gets written. The awful warning is Lord Acton, whose enormous learning never resulted in the great work the world expected of him.

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Springtime for Robespierre

Hilary Mantel, 30 March 2000

For a time, early last year, there was no trace of Robespierre to be found on the street where he lived in the days of his fame. The restaurant called Le Robespierre had closed its doors, and...

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The Sound of Voices Intoning Names

Thomas Laqueur, 5 June 1997

In a happier age, Immanuel Kant identified one of the problems of understanding any of the genocides which come all too easily to mind. It is the problem of the mathematical sublime. The...

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Identity Parade

Linda Colley, 25 February 1993

‘Iwill never, come hell or high water, let our distinctive British identity be lost in a federal Europe.’ John Major’s ringing assurance to last year’s Conservative Party...

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Goodbye Columbus

Eric Hobsbawm, 9 July 1992

Afew weeks ago, in Mexico, I was asked to sign a protest against Christopher Columbus, on behalf of the original native populations of the American continents and islands, or rather, of their...

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Grim Eminence

Norman Stone, 10 January 1983

The historian Edward Hallett Carr died on 3 November 1982, at the age of 90. He had an oddly laconic obituary in the Times, which missed out a great deal. If he had died ten years before, his...

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War and Peace

A.J.P. Taylor, 2 October 1980

War has been throughout history the curse and inspiration of mankind. The sufferings and destruction that accompany it rival those caused by famine, plague and natural catastrophes. Yet in nearly...

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You are a milksop

Ferdinand Mount, 7 May 2020

When the fighting was finally over, one cannot escape the conviction that it was primarily Cromwell’s angry will that carried on the civil unsettlement through the Commonwealth and into the Protectorate,...

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You can’t prove I meant X

Clare Bucknell, 16 April 2020

When poets or printers weren’t clever enough with their ambiguities and disguises, the law moved in. Until the second quarter of the 19th century, those convicted of seditious libel – or obscene...

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In 1348

James Meek, 2 April 2020

When you aren’t going anywhere, the danger is that you might start seeing the way things are going. Just as medieval peasants wondered whether the world would end if they refused to give their lord...

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The House of York

John Guy, 2 April 2020

The Yorkists are currently back in fashion, something that has much to do with the excavation of what are widely believed to be the skeletal remains of Richard III in a Leicester car park eight years ago....

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Short Cuts: ‘Parallel Lives’

Tom Crewe, 2 April 2020

Dickens offers a ‘fine example of how not to end a marriage’. The Carlyles made their marriage a ‘spectacle we in later days can witness, with resolutions and tensions we can participate...

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Brandenburg-Prussian Power

Abigail Green, 19 March 2020

Some saw the collapse of the German Empire as a decisive and traumatic break in the historical continuity of the state. Nothing, in Christopher Clark’s view, more profoundly exemplified this revolt...

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Rehabilitating Nero

Michael Kulikowski, 19 March 2020

Three​ centuries after the death of the emperor Nero, his name had become a byword for the very worst kind of ruler. For Ausonius of Bordeaux, in his didactic poem the Caesares, Nero was a...

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At the Corner House

Rosemary Hill, 20 February 2020

We had a rag at Monico’s. We had a rag at the Troc,And the one we had at the Berkeley gave the customers quite a shock.Then we went to the Popular, and after that – oh my!I wish...

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In Quarantine

Erin Maglaque, 20 February 2020

The plague meant that life was interrupted by barriers: the walls of the home, the waxed sheet between lay person and priest, the otherworldly beak worn by the plague doctor as he dosed patients with medicine.

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Emigrés on the Make

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 6 February 2020

Perhaps Soviet dissent was always less remarkable as an actual political movement in the domestic context than for the magnified reflection it gained in international media.

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So many ships and fleets and armies

N.A.M. Rodger, 6 February 2020

There​ can scarcely be a subject about which more books have been written than the Second World War, and yet surprisingly few of them risk a synthesis of the whole. Many writers refer to the war...

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Antigone on Your Knee

Terry Eagleton, 6 February 2020

Elated by the triumph of the indomitable human spirit, we leave the theatre chastened and consoled rather than ready to jump off a cliff. Nothing, it seems, is more life-affirming than watching a bunch...

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Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade, 23 January 2020

Ray Strachey​ is remembered, if at all, for The Cause, her history of the women’s movement, published in 1928. But reading that book – which is dedicated to Strachey’s friend...

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The​ problem presented by Troy: Myth and Reality at the British Museum is not so much the myth as the reality (until 8 March). Troy was a tiny city in what is now the northwestern corner of...

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Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn, 23 January 2020

As he lay on his deathbed at Yuste, Charles seemed to have found an unaccustomed ease: dying monarchs were more often to be found scrabbling remorsefully to make peace with their subjects and their maker....

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C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill, 23 January 2020

In​ 2000 Christopher Sansom took a year off from his job as a solicitor to write a novel: it had occurred to him that the dissolution of the monasteries might make a good backdrop to a murder...

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At the Ashmolean: Pompeii

Christopher Siwicki, 2 January 2020

The​ excellent exhibition Last Supper at Pompeii at the Ashmolean (until 12 January) is about much more than what Pompeians had for dinner. A fresco that once decorated the lararium (the shrine...

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'The Pillow Book'

Rivka Galchen, 2 January 2020

The​ Pillow Book was written in Japan more than a thousand years ago. Little is known about its author, Sei Shonagon, save for what can be deduced from the text itself. In 993, when she was in...

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