Medieval & Renaissance 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

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The Siege of Acre

John D. Hosler— Richard the Lionheart lowered his lance and drove it into the shoulder of his jousting opponent, the celebrated Ayyubid sultan Salāh al-Dīn (Saladin), knocking him and his horse to the ground. The force of Richard’s charge was unstoppable. He pushed forward, swinging his battle-axe, to slay wave

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The Rising of Croatia

Marcus Tanner— The long rule of the Turks over most of Croatia came to a sudden end in the 1680s. Responsibility for the conflict fell squarely on the Turks. In 1683 the Sultan’s Grand Vizier, Kara Mustafa, decided to revive the tradition of conquest of the previous century. Marching an

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Oppenheim’s Library: A Window into Jewish Culture

Joshua Teplitsky— In January of 2019, Netflix launched a new television program for audiences who had enjoyed previous “home improvement” style shows about living more efficiently with greater style and less clutter called “Tidying up with Marie Kondo.” The show’s primary goal was to help people get rid of unnecessary

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Remembering (and Forgetting) Epidemics

Kevin Siena— Every year my undergraduates are surprised to learn that 50-100 million people died a century ago during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918–20. We can probably thank the stunning success of twentieth-century biomedicine for this particular episode of historical amnesia. Generations of North Americans raised in relative security

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Dante’s Pioneering Poetry and Science

Tracy Daugherty— “At some deep level, poetry and physics are similar endeavors,” writes Mark A. Peterson, a mathematician and science historian. Both the poet and the scientist use the tools of their craft—words, numbers—to discover core truths about the nature and shape of the universe and humanity’s place in it. 

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My First Vampire

Nick Groom — The first vampire I met was in Soho, old Soho. It was probably autumn, it was certainly dark, and the streets were oddly quiet. I’d been in the London Library all day, reading Neo-Platonic treatises by Iamblichus and Pseudo-Dionysius. The daemonic was still on my mind when

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Who Was King Arthur?

Nicholas J. Higham— Chapter 56 of the History of the Britons, written in North Wales in 829-30, presented Arthur as a warrior who, with divine aid, led the Britons to victory against the Saxon (i.e. English) invaders.   ‘Then in those days Arthur fought with the kings of the Britons against

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Reconstructing Seapower

Andrew Lambert— In the late 1880s, American strategist and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan coined the term “sea power” by purposefully splitting the word “seapower,” a direct translation of the Greek thalassokratia, to sustain his agenda. The Greek word had been used by Herodotus and Thucydides to describe states which were

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The Lives of Beowulf

Stephen Mitchell— It’s something of a miracle that any of our ancient literary masterpieces survived the downfall or shift of civilizations, since they all might easily have been lost. Of Heraclitus’s profound insights, we have only tantalizing fragments. Of Sappho’s nine books, there remain just four poems and scattered verses

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