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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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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'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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Red Clydeside

Jean McNicol, 2 January 2020

An article published in the Times just after the 1922 election suspiciously lists some of the things organised by the Independent Labour Party: ‘Socialist study circles, socialist...

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Pevsner's Hertfordshire

Gillian Darley, 2 January 2020

The volumes​ of the Buildings of England series initiated by Nikolaus Pevsner unsurprisingly confine themselves to buildings and their settings, but it’s tempting to be distracted by what...

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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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Charlemagne

Charles West, 9 December 2019

When​ Charlemagne, king of the Franks, planned the division of his empire between his sons in 806, he allotted Aquitaine, Gascony, Provence and half of Burgundy to one son; Lombardy, Bavaria...

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George Washington, Slave Owner

Eric Foner, 9 December 2019

One of the few​ facts of American history of which Donald Trump appears to be aware is that George Washington owned slaves. Trump mentioned this in 2017 as one reason for his opposition to the...

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Medieval Bestiaries

Tom Shippey, 9 December 2019

One can’t help wondering where the notion of the bonnacon came from. Surely no one in medieval Europe could have encountered a skunk?

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Renovating Rome

Anthony Grafton, 25 November 2019

One of the chief mysteries of late Renaissance Rome is that beauty and order emerged from the chaos and incompetence of planning.

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Lewis Namier’s Obsessions

Colin Kidd, 25 November 2019

In​ 1951, at the height of his celebrity and a year before he received his knighthood, the historian Lewis Bernstein Namier was sufficiently well known to appear – only lightly...

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Richard Sorge’s Fate

Tariq Ali, 19 November 2019

Sorge went to Berlin in May 1933 and spent the next three months fulfilling the tasks set for him. He joined the Nazi Party, obtained a German passport – his profession declared as ‘journalist’...

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Writing about Clothes

Lisa Cohen, 7 November 2019

‘About​ clothes, it’s awful,’ the protagonist thinks in Jean Rhys’s novel Voyage in the Dark (1934). Everything makes you want pretty clothes like hell. People laugh at...

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Still messing with our heads: Hitler in the Head

Christopher Clark, 7 November 2019

Whether Hitler gets into our minds, or we mislay something of our own inside his, it’s clear that this strange and hateful man, who has been dead for 74 years, is still messing with our heads.

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Europe or America?

Ian Gilmour, 7 November 2019

When his book, ‘This Blessed Plot’, came out in 1998, Hugo Young said that it was ‘the story of fifty years in which Britain struggled to reconcile the past she could not forget...

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Rewriting ‘Pericles’

Adam Smyth, 24 October 2019

Ben Jonson’s​ comedy The New Inn (1629) was, by all accounts, a theatrical disaster: ‘negligently played’ at the Blackfriars Theatre, according to its title page, ‘and...

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