History & Classics

'Aeneas and Dido Flee the Storm' by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli (tapestry, 1679)

A Polyphonic ‘Aeneid’

Rebecca Armstrong

4 March 2021

Published​ after Virgil’s death in 19 BCE, the Aeneid is a poem of paradox: a foundation epic which never directly describes the foundation of Rome; a divinely inspired song in the mould of...

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The View from Piccadilly

Rosemary Hill

4 March 2021

Above Primark, at Nos. 14­-28, is the handsome faience frontage of the former Lyons Oxford Corner House. At No. 8, above McDonalds, there is the ‘robust brick front with crowning gablet in the . . .

Reinventing Islam

Elias Muhanna

4 March 2021

In​ the summer of 1325, Abu ʿAbdullah Muhammad al-Lawati al-Tanji, known to posterity as Ibn Battuta, left his home in Tangier to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca. He returned 29 years later . . .

Radical LA

Andy Beckett

18 February 2021

Los Angeles​ is often imagined as a place where fun and culture happen but politics doesn’t. Since it first became a big city in the early 20th century, only a few of its political events have . . .

The Rothschilds

Abigail Green

18 February 2021

In Vienna, the Rothschilds remained the ultimate insider-outsiders. Albert may have been ‘the richest man in Europe’, but it took two prime ministers and a foreign monarch to persuade Emperor . . .

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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Watch this man: Niall Ferguson’s Burden

Pankaj Mishra, 3 November 2011

He sounds like the Europeans described by V.S. Naipaul – the grandson of indentured labourers – in A Bend in the River, who ‘wanted gold and slaves, like everybody else’, but also ‘wanted statues put up to themselves as people who had done good things for the slaves’.

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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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‘What a man this is, with his crowd of women around him!’: Springtime for Robespierre

Hilary Mantel, 30 March 2000

Robespierre thought that, if you could imagine a better society, you could create it. He needed a corps of moral giants at his back, but found himself leading a gang of squabbling moral pygmies. This is how Virtue led to Terror. 

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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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In the 1960s, the stereotype of the Algerian returnee was of an aggressive, vaguely psychotic lout, a know-nothing redneck – depicted as le beauf in cartoons by the Charlie Hebdo illustrator Cabu....

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Reformers said that non-­smokers took fewer sick days, fewer breaks; they rarely referred to smoking as a public health problem that might have something to do with class and racial in­ equality,...

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A Marketplace and a Temple: Ancient Urbanism

Michael Kulikowski, 18 February 2021

The real ancient city was nothing like the way we imagine it, not even Rome after three hundred years of megalomaniac generals and emperors had stuffed it full of ever more grandiose monuments. Most ancient...

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But I wanted a crocodile: Castro in Harlem

Thomas Meaney, 4 February 2021

To cheers of ‘Viva Castro! Viva Cuba!’ the delegation took up position at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, which became a kind of opposition headquarters during the UN session. Malcolm X was the...

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In the late 1950s, the CIA’s schemes included using an aerosol to lace the air with LSD in the Havana studio where Fidel Castro made his radio broadcasts, sprinkl­ing Castro’s boots...

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In​ the opening scene of his television series Civilisation (1969), Kenneth Clark admits that while he can’t define exactly what civilisation is, he knows it when he sees it. The camera...

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Like a Slice of Ham: Unpregnancy

Erin Maglaque, 4 February 2021

In early modern Europe, pregnancy and abortion were not understood as the battleground for conflicts over bodily autonomy; rather, gestation revealed the vulnerability of existing in a body in which someone...

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To King’s Cross Station: Lenin’s London

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 7 January 2021

Lenin liked London primarily because he had fallen in love. The object of his love was the British Museum – or rather, the great circular reading room of the library (now renamed the British Library,...

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War is noise: Letters from My Father

Jonathan Raban, 17 December 2020

Peter had just reached the top of the third page (‘poor Darling!’) when the war reasserted itself and he had to break off. The letter continues on 19 February – the beginning of the end...

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Who Betrayed Us? The November Revolution

Neal Ascherson, 17 December 2020

What would the history of Germany have been if the SPD leaders had let the revolution take its course? Perhaps a radical but generous and democratic socialism, Marxist but not Leninist or Stalinist in...

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This Guilty Land: Every Possible Lincoln

Eric Foner, 17 December 2020

Today, Abraham Lincoln is widely revered, while many Americans, including some historians, consider John Brown mad. Yet it was Brown’s strategy that brought slavery to an end. In a note written shortly...

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The European Coup

Perry Anderson, 17 December 2020

The EU of today is neither the creation of a revolution, nor does it enjoy any homogeneity of culture or language, nor is it united by the intoxicating prospect of expansion. Moreover, and decisively,...

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The young Edward was one of a throng of half-brothers, both Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Danish (while he himself was Anglo-Norman), intent on killing one another. Was he accordingly reluctant to do much in this...

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A Regular Grey

Jonathan Parry, 3 December 2020

To​ have one brother killed by an African animal would be a misfortune. To lose two, at different times, is surely remarkable. Such was the distinction of Sir Edward Grey, who served as foreign secretary...

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The Napoleonic Wars were in no sense purely European events. They involved individuals from around the world and had worldwide ramifications. They left a stamp on everything from the westward expansion...

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Down with Occurrences: Baroque Excess

Erin Maglaque, 3 December 2020

Fernand Braudel’s Italy is radiant, luminous, dazzling; its culture glows, sparks, illuminates Europe. It is a broken mirror, a glinting mosaic. This is a visual language that seems to spring naturally...

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Mr Dug-out and His Lady: Woman’s Kingdom

Helen McCarthy, 19 November 2020

The Endell Street hospital showed what the First World War had made possible for the well-educated spinster. She found useful work, won the vote and became eligible to run for Parliament.

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Mothers were different: The Breadwinner Norm

Susan Pedersen, 19 November 2020

Fathers sat down to a kipper or a boiled egg at breakfast (and gave one fav­oured child the top); their dependants ate porridge. Kind fathers sometimes shared tidbits; others avoided the whole drama...

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