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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Don’t break that fiddle: Eclectic Imitators

Tobias Gregory, 19 November 2020

The boundary between the broader and narrower senses has never been firm, and the history of literary imitation has always been bound up with the histories of philosophy, rhetoric and education. Plato,...

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They saw him coming: The Lockhart Plot

Neal Ascherson, 5 November 2020

Secret emissaries promise that a certain army general will bring ten thousand soldiers across to you. Émigré ‘experts’ assure you that the peasantry of a certain province is itching...

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A Thousand Slayn: Ars Moriendi

Barbara Newman, 5 November 2020

Fifteenth-century tracts instructed the imperilled soul to repent, make a good confession and detach from worldly goods, including wife and children. But the idea of dying as an art points to something...

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We know it intimately: Rummaging for Mummies

Christina Riggs, 22 October 2020

Egyptologists operate under quite a large illusion: that the history of their field is something to celebrate rather than scrutinise. The drama plays out against palm trees, pyramids and Nile boats,...

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The stories concocted about Mary Toft are a hybrid of science, folklore, fantasy, pornography and satire, drawing on medical knowledge of pregnancy and childbirth while fuelling ancient superstitions about...

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A Rock of Order: Through Metternich’s Eyes

Christopher Clark, 8 October 2020

While the peacekeeping aspects of the post-Vienna order continue to attract admiration, the same is not true of the intensified surveillance and repression of dissenting political networks that was another...

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Ah, how miserable! Three New Oresteias

Emily Wilson, 8 October 2020

Misogynist tropes often involve present­ing women as interesting in precisely the ways that Aeschylus’ female characters are interesting: charming, articulate, danger­ous, deceitful, too...

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The worlds, pre-internet, were so much smaller and dingier and more accidental than those of today’s feminisms. Whether or not you knew about this group or that argument depended on who you...

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The Spanish Habsburg line expired on the death of the hermaphrodite Charles II. Ferdinand I of Austria suffered from hydrocephalus and crippling epilepsy, which prevented him from reigning effectively...

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Sheets of Fire and Leaping Flames

Thomas Jones, 24 September 2020

It must have seemed like the end of the world, and for thousands of people it was. The Younger Pliny was 17 when he witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. He described it many years later...

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How to Read Aloud

Irina Dumitrescu, 10 September 2020

It is easy to overlook how loud pre­-modern education was. Most of our evidence for more than a thousand years of teaching consists of books, and, to the modern way of thinking, books are objects used...

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Abroad could be a revelation. Harry Ritchie, from Kirkcaldy, went to Majorca in 1969: ‘Being able to take your clothes off for a holiday, rather than having to put more on: that was wonderful in...

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The more we know about the Vikings, the harder it becomes to say anything certain about them. This applies in particular to the area for which we have most archaeological evidence – burial practices....

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He​ had two days to prepare. We’d been thinking about it for a year. Four thousand infantry had to be organised. Eight hundred cavalry. Mules, carts, munitions, medical services. A cannon....

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It is the business of the historian to plunge into the deep waters of the past and to bring up vanished lives, but few lives seem to have vanished so completely, in so short a time, as that of the square-rig...

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Harry Rée wanted his British audience to understand that the French men and women who had taken part in the Resistance were not superhuman. ‘What I shall try to get across,’ he told a...

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Up a grubby set of stairs, ShangriLa was believed to exist, a perfect afternoon of vodkas in a happy land above the banality of everyday custom and talk. The Colony Room, 41a Dean Street, was actually...

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