Five minutes with… James Shapiro


James Shapiro is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and author of the Samuel Johnson Prize-winning book 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare. His latest book traces Shakespeare’s life and work from late 1605 through to the publications of King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra during a time of huge political and social upheaval. …

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Matthew Moss reviews “1914” by Allan Mallinson

cover 1914

Allan Mallinson’s ‘1914: Fight The Good Fight’ is an ambitious attempt at giving a overview of the British Army during the first months of WWI. Published in time to coincide with the centennial commemorations 1914 traces the genesis of British war strategy, the efforts of the Army staff to reform and prepare Britain’s military for a continental war. In the …

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The 17th-Century Game of Thrones: John Dryden’s King Arthur (1691)

King Arthur Title Page

Kings, queens, dragons, and swordfights; John Dryden (1631-1700) was the seventeenth century counterpart to George R. R. Martin. His play King Arthur, or the British Worthy (1691) is a piece of pure medieval fantasy. With an elegant score composed by Henry Purcell (1659-1695), the play tells the tale of Arthur attempting to drive the Saxons out of Britain. Yet the …

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Kathryn Johnson reviews “The Most Dangerous Book” by Kevin Birmingham

James Joyce

The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyces’ Ulysses Author: Kevin Birmingham Publisher: Penguin   James Joyce’s acknowledged masterpiece Ulysses, is a book which regularly tops polls as the greatest novel ever written. It’s also a book that thousands of English literature students have ploughed through with gritted teeth, sometimes defeated by its labyrinthine structure and dense, dizzying prose, but …

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Mount Everest Southwest Face Expedition

The 1975 British Mount Everest Southwest Face expedition was the first to successfully climb Mount Everest from this side. The exhibition was led by Chris Bonnington, and on 24 September 1975 Dougal Haston with Doug Scott were the first members of the expedition to reach the Summit, at the South Summit they made the highest ever bivouac for that time. …

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In search of Lord Lovell


It was a beautiful afternoon on which to visit an ancient medieval ruin in the middle of England. Minster Lovell was once home to Viscount Lovell, one of England’s richest barons. But what I saw, when I started to take a few photographs, had the hairs rising on the back of my neck. Lovell was Richard lll’s Lord Chamberlain , who, because of …

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Medieval Textiles


Many modern people think that clothes in the Middle Ages were drab, grey-brown things. Archaeological finds of clothing or textiles, rare as they are, often seem to support this: they all look brown. This brown-ness is deceptive, though. Medieval people enjoyed colours, and dyeing textiles has been done since at least the Bronze Age. Modern methods are getting better and …

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Mercantilism is Dead; Long Live Mercantilism!


The Political Economy of Mercantilism Lars Magnusson Routledge (2015) 230 pages Mercantilism has become one of those historical concepts where its historiography is worthy of academic study in its own right. Despite some attempts, there has been no stemming the flow of contributions to the burgeoning debate over what mercantilism is, what mercantilists thought, and the suitability of its continued …

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Inventing an Outlaw: Joseph Ritson’s Robin Hood (1795)

Robin Hood and the Tanner

Most people have heard of Robin Hood. He is the outlawed Earl of Huntingdon who (supposedly) lived in the 13th century during the reigns of King Richard the Lionheart and King John. He lived in Sherwood Forest with his band of ‘merrie men,’ and they stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Yet this is an image of …

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1940s Tank Crews: Who Did What?

Still from the film Fury

If you’re ever lucky enough to drive a tank, you’ll soon realise that it’s a military monster unlike any other vehicle. Attempting to skid-steer several tonnes of metal on tracks is tricky, to say the least. When you’re in the driving ‘seat’ (many tanks require you to kneel uncomfortably or practically lie down, so there’s no real seat to speak …

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Knowing Medieval Authors: William of Malmesbury

Copy of William of Malmesbury, Gesta regum Anglorum
London, British Library, MS Arundel 35
Mid-Late Twelfth Century

Interpreting our historical past through the lens of medieval historical writers such as William of Malmesbury, Geoffrey of Monmouth and Orderic Vitalis provides both fascinating insight and complex problems. This is certainly the case with the writer William of Malmesbury, who was recently the subject of a recent three-day conference (William of Malmesbury and his Legacy, University of Oxford, 3-5 …

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CARTOON: This Month in History

© Hollie J Withers

NINETIETH ANNIVERSARY 21 July 1925:  Sir Malcolm Campbell becomes the first man to break the 150 mph (241 km/h) land barrier at Pendine Sands in Wales.  He drove a Sunbeam at a two-way average speed of 150.33 mph (242 km/h).

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The Story of the Nazi Super Cows

Heck cows

This may sound like an internet hoax but it isn’t. In January of 2015, farmer Derek Gow from Devon had to put down seven of his rare breed Heck cows. The reason for their demise? The cows were so aggressive they had tried on multiple occasions to attack him and his farm hands (and this is a breed with large …

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Reading Anatomy in Francis J. Cole’s Collections

Durer's Rhino (1515)

Professor Francis J. Cole loved to read. And while this might seem a prerequisite for a professor, it was Cole’s way of reading that first got me interested in him. Despite studying Zoology, Cole didn’t just read for scientific information, but seemed constantly fascinated by how knowledge itself travelled, writing on subjects as diverse as A History of Comparative Anatomy …

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Five minutes with… Gill Hoffs

with Tayleur book on Lambay - harbour

Gill Hoffs grew up on the Scottish coast before gaining a BSc in Psychology from the University of Glasgow. Gill’s short nonfiction, Black Fish, won the 2011 Spilling Ink Nonfiction Prize, and her work is widely available online and in print, including Wild: a collection (Pure Slush, 2012) and The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian …

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