Tag British history

Echoes of Edward in British Politics

Tom Licence— As Edward the Confessor lay dying in 1066, according to his contemporary biographer, he foresaw the Norman invasion and England’s downfall within a year. Sir Winston Churchill, in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, alludes to this prophecy at the end of his account of Edward’s reign. “The

Continue reading…

The Letters of King Henry III

David Carpenter— King Henry III of England, the son of King John, reigned for fifty-six years from 1216 to 1272, one of the longest reigns on record. He was nine when he came to the throne, sixty-five when he died. We know more about Henry, on a day-to-day basis, than

Continue reading…

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

Continue reading…

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

Continue reading…

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

Continue reading…

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

Continue reading…

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

Continue reading…

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

Continue reading…

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

Continue reading…