European History

The Epitaph of Matilda

Catherine Hanley— Great by birth, greater by marriage, greatest in her offspring Here lies the daughter, wife and mother of Henry. So reads the epitaph inscribed on the tomb of Matilda: queen, empress and one of the most remarkable individuals of the Middle Ages. These words were commissioned by her

Continue reading…

Social Control, Political Power, and Epidemics

Manuel Barcia— I should probably begin this blog with a confession. A couple of days ago, when I started writing it, I had a very appropriate and colourful anecdote taken from a nineteenth-century document to begin my text. However, something rather unexpected happened between the moment those lines were written

Continue reading…

Revolutionary or Impostor . . . Who Was Ahmed Khan?

Ian Coller— O Lydian lord of many nations, foolish Croesus,Wish not to hear the longed-for voice within your palace,Even your son’s voice: better for you were it otherwise;For his first word will he speak on a day of sorrow.—Herodotus A Lydian prince, born mute, miraculously acquires the power of speech

Continue reading…

Migration, Disease, and the Making of London Life

Panikos Panayi— On March 24, 2020, Luca Di Nicola, a nineteen-year-old Italian-born chef working in London, died at the North Middlesex Hospital, one of the many thousands of people falling victim to coronavirus in London, Britain, and the world beyond. Luca had moved to work in the city’s massive service

Continue reading…

Hitler on History

Stephen G. Fritz— Life is normally characterized by irony, paradox, ambiguity, and ambivalence, but Adolf Hitler saw it with a startling (and frightening) clarity. Beginning early in his career as an orator and political rabble-rouser, he habitually used history as an explanation and justification for his actions. He had, indeed,

Continue reading…

Wordsworth in Self-Isolation

Jonathan Bate— During the great pandemic lockdown, people on Twitter have been “dreaming of other places”—beautiful places that they remember and of which they have treasured photographs. What they are really dreaming of is other times, happier times, special memories. William Wordsworth, whose 250th anniversary falls on April 7, was

Continue reading…

Orphans in Eighteenth-Century London

Stella Tillyard— On a bleak spring evening in 1741 a crowd gathered in a dark, narrow London street. At its edge well-to-do City merchants on their way westward through Hatton Garden mingled with the wretched and curious poor, washed up from tenements to the north, east, and south, looking for

Continue reading…

Protesting Empire with Railway Tickets

Kim A. Wagner— A traveller alighting at Amritsar railway station in April 1919, after the train came to a jerking halt along the third-of-a-mile-long narrow platform, would have been met by much the same scene as described by Rudyard Kipling: ‘the station filled with clamour and shouting, cries of water

Continue reading…

Ben Hecht on the Holocaust

David Denby— Ben Hecht was not religious in any way, and ignored such Jewish organizations as the Anti-Defamation League and political causes in general. He was a nonjoiner, a skeptic, a man indifferent to the world’s suffering. But in 1937 and 1938, as the threats to the European Jews grew

Continue reading…

What Is Wisdom?

Giambattista Vico— Wisdom is the faculty that commands all the disciplines; by these, all the sciences and arts that complete our humanity are apprehended. Plato defines wisdom as that which is the perfecter of man. Man, in the being proper to him as a man, is nothing other than mind and

Continue reading…