Tag British history

The Brave Silence of Harry Rée

Jonathan Rée— Back in May 2016 I was sitting in the garden of my little cottage outside Oxford when I got an email from someone whose name I didn’t know and a place I hadn’t heard of. He explained that he was a French soldier called Jean-Luc Fleutot, and he

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Magic: The Ambivalence of Sir Walter Scott

Michael Hunter— Sir Walter Scott was second to none in his use of supernatural stories and allusions in a fictional setting. In Rob Roy, for instance, he speaks of fairies as “a race of airy beings, who formed an intermediate class between men and dæmons, and who, if not positively malignant

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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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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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Caged lies and Truth drugs

Helen Fry— The allegations of brutality at the London Cage are shocking enough, but evidence emerges to reveal for the first time in this book that Colonel Scotland apparently sanctioned the use of ‘truth drugs’ on his prisoners. Clearly, this needs to be placed in the broader context of the

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Ep. 33 – Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli, and the Great Stink of 1858

The summer of 1858 was hot and stinky in London and filled with stories and scandals.

Disraeli, de Rothschild, and the Struggle to Admit Jews to Parliament

Rosemary Ashton— What was it like to live in London through one of the hottest summers on record, with the River Thames emitting a sickening smell as a result of the sewage of over two million inhabitants being discharged into the river and floating up and down with the tide, never

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The Office of the Coroner and the Birth of the Modern English State

Matthew Lockwood— The image of the detective is a familiar one to modern eyes. Contemporary culture is rife with crime dramas, police procedurals, and medical investigations. Searching for the origins of this ubiquitous cultural type in the Anglo-American world, few would delve deeply into the past, pinpointing instead the nineteenth

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To Sleep or Not to Sleep?

Sasha Handley— Large swathes of the modern industrialized world are in the grip of a sleep-deprivation crisis. So say Jonathan Crary and Ariana Huffington, who represent just two voices in a chorus of recent critical commentaries highlighting the corrosive effects of our globalized 24/7 culture on sleep’s duration and quality.

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On the Origin of the Coffeehouse

Brian Cowan— It should be easy to identify what a coffeehouse was at the dawn of the eighteenth century: a place where people gathered together to drink coffee, learn about the news of the day, and perhaps to meet with other local residents and discuss matters of mutual concern. Yet

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