The Nazi “super weapon” so dangerous the Nazis never used it

New chemical compounds are discovered or created regularly, some are created where the properties can already be guessed at, others are complete surprises, in 1930 a new compound was discovered by Ruff and Krug in Germany. It was very volatile so was ignored until a few years later interest was rekindled by Nazi scientists at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. It …

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Rebecca Rideal reviews “A Million Years in a Day” by Greg Jenner

A Million Years in a Day By Greg Jenner Weidenfeld & Nicolson RRP £12.99 Like many of the best ideas, the premise behind Greg Jenner’s debut book is extraordinarily simple – to trace the history of everyday life through the prism of a modern Saturday. Opening with ‘9.30 a.m. Rise and Shine’, each chapter deals with a different part of …

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The Radium Craze – America’s Lethal Love Affair by Matthew Moss

At the beginning of the 20th century America became gripped by a dangerous phenomenon. Radium had been discovered in 1898 and was quickly hailed as a miracle element. The radioactive metal’s unusual and unique properties captured the imaginations of both the scientific community and the public. Within forty years radium had permeated American society to the point where it was …

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Five minutes with… Dr James D. Boys

Dr James D. Boys is a broadcaster, writer and historian of American political history. His latest book Clinton’s Grand Strateg: US Foreign Policy in a Post-Cold War World is published by Bloomsbury and out now. What is an historian? I believe an historian is someone who sheds light on what may happen tomorrow by explaining today through the prism of yesterday. An historian is, …

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Taking Back Tyburn by Jessica Cale

Tyburn. Once enough to send a shiver down the spine of anyone in London or greater Middlesex, these infamous gallows have at last begun to fade from collective memory. Eight times a year, Tyburn served as the place of execution for the condemned from the courts of Westminster, the Guildhall, Middlesex, and the Old Bailey Sessions. Between 1196 and 1783, …

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Kathryn Johnson Reviews “A World Elsewhere” by Sigrid MacRae

“A World Elsewhere” by Sigrid MacRae is a book with many different stories. On the surface, it’s a look at wartime Germany from the inside, but as you read on, you realize that it’s far, far more than that. This is the story of an outsiders view from the inside, of the authors American mother living in wartime Germany; the …

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Rebecca Rideal reviews “Deus Vult” by Jem Duducu

Deus Vult: A Concise History Of The Crusades By Jem Duducu Amberley Publishing (2014) In 312AD, the Roman Empire was in the grips of civil war. Torn between rival emperors Constantine and Maxentius, events reached a crescendo with the Battle of Milvian Bridge. On the eve of the battle Constantine had visions of Jesus and decided to adorn his troops …

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Fear then and now.

During Counter-terrorism week in 2014, police nationwide distributed leaflets to commuters on how to behave in a terror attack, with advice such as “run, hide and tell”. It ignited a debate vacillating between sardonic criticism of this anodyne phrasing and outrage at government fear-mongering. Despite living in an ‘age of terror’, many of us consider self-defence in anticipation of a …

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Concerning Hobbits

A few years back I stumbled upon a Hobbit hole. I chanced upon it in a lecture of 1900 by John Rhys, the first Oxford Professor of Celtic. Rhys was arguing that behind the divinities, demons, fairies and phantoms of Celtic folklore are dim memories of various peoples that once inhabited the British Isles. What especially drew my attention was …

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Of Counter-Factuals and Contingency

“But when fundamentals are doubted, as at present, we must try to recover the candour and wonder of the child; the unspoilt realism of and objectivity of innocence. Or, if we cannot do that, we must try at least to shake off the cloud of mere custom and see the thing as new, if only by seeing it as unnatural.” …

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David Tiedemann reviews ‘Bunker Hill’ by Nathaniel Philbrick

One of the problems with popular history of the American Revolution, and its era, is that it has been largely unable to free itself from the “Great Men of History” style. One needs to look no further than the two books by David McCullough, on John Adams, and the military leadership of the Continental Army in 1776, published in the …

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Five minutes with… Terry Deary

Terry Deary is well known as the author of the Horrible Histories series. His new book series, Dangerous Days is popular history aimed at adult readers.   The latest in the series, Dangerous Days in Elizabethan England, is out now, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. What is an historian? I think you’d have to ask an historian that. I’m just a …

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VIDEO: Victorian Anti-Masturbation Devices

In the 3rd Episode of Under The Knife, Dr Lindsey Fitzharris discusses the medical thinking behind Victorian anti-masturbation devices, and the surprising history of one of the world’s most beloved breakfast cereals. Watch the full video here:  

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Shoes: Pleasure and Pain

Hot off the press!! The V&A Museum announces new exhibition, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain. This is what they have to say: “The transformative power of extreme footwear will be explored in the V&A’s summer 2015 fashion exhibition, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain. More than 200 pairs of historic and contemporary shoes from around the world will be on display, many for the first time. …

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Tolkien’s English Mythology

J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle-earth are hailed as founding texts of modern fantasy. But his recently published commentary on the Old English poem Beowulf suggests that Tolkien saw his creative writing as a work of historical reconstruction. The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings were conceived as the original stories behind an ancient but long lost English …

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