History & Classics

Oxford by Train

Patrick McGuinness

17 June 2021

Edward Thomas​ called the approach to Oxford by train ‘the most contemptible in Europe’. There’s no view to speak of, and the station is a big shed with lots of glass and...

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Ulsterism

Niamh Gallagher

17 June 2021

Younger generations have no direct memory of the conflict and tend not to share the social conservatism of their elders. It is sometimes said that the South jumped straight from the 19th to the 21st century . . .

Nero-as-arsonist

James Romm

17 June 2021

The​ great fire that started in Rome on 19 July 64 CE not only destroyed much of the city but also helped to bring down the Julio-Claudian dynasty that had ruled the empire for nearly a century . . .

Gender Renegades

Sharon Marcus

17 June 2021

James​ Allen was working for a London shipwright when he was killed by a falling piece of timber in 1829. He had been married to his wife, Abigail, for more than twenty years. The medical students . . .

On Muhammad

Tariq Ali

17 June 2021

The​ most stimulating, balanced and sympathetic secular biography of the Prophet of Islam was written by a left-wing French Jewish intellectual in 1961. Maxime Rodinson’s Life of Muhammad was . . .

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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The unlikely union between a Fascist leader and a Jewish American opera singer offers interesting perspectives on Fascism’s evolving attitudes to race, religion, culture, gender and so on, particularly...

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Goethe in China

Edward Luttwak, 3 June 2021

To conquer Goethe, Wei Maoping must have recruited every qualified Chinese Germanist and translator there was, with only a few supplied by his own staff. An academic in the West, in a similar situation,...

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Megacity One: Life in Edo

Jordan Sand, 3 June 2021

The effort to situate Edo in the world, either by emphasising its connections to Europe or by situating the city’s history in a global chronology, suggests a reluctance to let Edo be what it was:...

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Many of the mother and baby home residents were able to make new lives; some feel grateful for the refuge the homes afforded them. Children adopted by loving parents have thrived. But others experienced...

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Favourably Arranged: Horoscopy

Claire Hall, 20 May 2021

Ancient anatomists drew what scanty conclusions they could about the inner workings of humans from pigs and dogs; cosmologists speculated about the structure of the world without much evidence, or much...

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Museums – and great art – were understood to give pleasure as well as instruction. The Enlightenment was concerned with the pursuit of happiness, not just for oneself but for everyone. The...

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A Singular Entity: Classical China

Peter C. Perdue, 20 May 2021

The typical temple of Chinese popular religion contains multiple areas devoted to many gods, more like a circus model of culture than like the Temple of Heaven, where a single officer performed the sacrifice....

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When was Hippocrates?

James Romm, 22 April 2021

Doctors today speak not only of a Hippocratic oath but a Hippocratic face (distorted by the approach of death), a Hippocratic bench (used for setting broken bones) and a Hippocratic manoeuvre (for popping...

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The Flower and the Bee: Many Anons

Irina Dumitrescu, 22 April 2021

Writing is not now considered a collective exercise. The Romantic myth of the lone genius persists. He is no longer always a white man – only most of the time. The black and white author photo is...

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Staying Alive in the Ruins: Plato to Nato

Richard J. Evans, 22 April 2021

While the British adhered to the well-established concept of the ‘two Germanies’, and tried to bring out the civilised tradition of Beethoven and Goethe while suppressing the uncivilised tradition...

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Weavers and Profs

Katherine Harloe, 1 April 2021

The multiple meanings of Classics explain why classicists often seem to be talking at cross purposes, bewildered by voices inside and outside the discipline who say we are refusing to confront its elitism,...

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When Roman ambassadors asked what it would take to get Alaric to open the port, his answer was not citizenship but five thousand pounds of gold, thirty thousand pounds of silver, four thousand silk...

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The ‘I’ of autobiography and racial belonging is not assumed in Imperial Intimacies. Hazel V. Carby’s shifting perspectives for her present and past selves – her narrative moves...

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The well-oiled pistons of the market-state are increasingly accompanied by the creaks and squabbles of a Chinese dynasty. The country’s prized state companies are overrun by kinship networks. It...

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At the House of Mr Frog: Puritanism

Malcolm Gaskill, 18 March 2021

No one wants to be ‘puritanical’: better to be thought fun-loving, broadminded, easygoing, even (perhaps especially) if we’re not. Puritans hold a mirror to the anxious self-image of...

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The Aeneid is not all about male virtues and egos. The overall plot depends on the wrath of the goddess Juno, and room is also made for the quieter voices of aged fathers, local rustic deities and Italian...

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It is usual for urban centres to contain extreme contrasts and not unusual for them to be scenes of conflict. What is striking about the West End is the peculiar compound of establishment and anti-establishment,...

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Reinventing Islam

Elias Muhanna, 4 March 2021

Just like the term ummah, the practical salience of the concept of dar al-islam waxed and waned throughout history. Cemil Aydin wants to remind us that Muslims have always lived in discrete empires, spoken...

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