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 …Read More »
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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 …Read More »
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 …Read More »
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 …Read More »
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 …Read More »
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 …Read More »
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 …Read More »
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 …Read More »
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).Read More »
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 …Read More »
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 …Read More »
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 …Read More »
In the 19th century there were a number of Asian nations that had sealed themselves off from the outside world, most famously Japan and China but Korea did it too. The idea was that they had seen what the rest of the world had to offer and they weren’t impressed. So after sealing themselves off from foreign influence their societies …Read More »
Throughout history much has been said of the self-made man, that fabled sort who dragged himself up by his bootstraps to make his mark on the world and usually make a fortune at the same time. Sir Richard Arkwright is truly the model of this Georgian dream; from humble beginnings he triumphed through a combination of his own ambition, shrewd …Read More »
Every year since 2009, Sam Faulkner – photographer on other fascinating projects such as ‘Eagle Hunters’ and ‘Cocaine Wars’ – has travelled to the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium to take photographs of ‘modern day’ Napoleonic soldiers. Faulkner’s photographs give us a highly emotive insight into individual battlefield experience, recreating the faces of those who fought …Read More »