History & Classics

Kerr Ladies football team in 1922.

Fans and Un-Fans

Ferdinand Mount

22 February 2024

In its modern incarnations, sport is a spontaneous thing, blowing wherever the fans fancy. Even the impulses that have transformed Britain into a nation of joggers and gym bunnies remain mysterious. They certainly do not spring from any Department of National Fitness.

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In Mostyska

Keiron Pim

22 February 2024

In spring​ 2019 I stood in a meadow outside the small Ukrainian town of Mostyska, squinting at a transliteration of the Mourner’s Kaddish on my phone. A local farmer had directed my guide towards a . . .

On Mary Magdalene

Marina Warner

22 February 2024

Almost​ every woman in the story of Jesus is called Mary. Sometimes the writers of the gospels got round this by adding a patronymic or a husband (Mary Salome, Mary of Cleophas, Mary Jacobi). The Virgin . . .

Jesuit Methods

Diarmaid MacCulloch

22 February 2024

In the mid-18th century​ an exceptionally adventurous European traveller might have got as far as a desert region in what is now Arizona, to be rewarded with hospitality from the presiding priest in . . .

Constitutional Dramas

Colin Kidd

22 February 2024

Most historians​ nowadays are suspicious of ‘constitutional history’, in part because they’re uneasy about its associations with the Anglocentric arrogance of what is sometimes called Whig history . . .

The Public Voice of Women

Mary Beard, 20 March 2014

Public speech was a – if not the – defining attribute of maleness. A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman.

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Watch this man: Niall Ferguson’s Burden

Pankaj Mishra, 3 November 2011

He sounds like the Europeans described by V.S. Naipaul – the grandson of indentured labourers – in A Bend in the River, who ‘wanted gold and slaves, like everybody else’, but also ‘wanted statues put up to themselves as people who had done good things for the slaves’.

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Diary: Working Methods

Keith Thomas, 10 June 2010

It is possible to take too many notes; the task of sorting, filing and assimilating them can take for ever, so that nothing gets written. The awful warning is Lord Acton, whose enormous learning never resulted in the great work the world expected of him.

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‘What a man this is, with his crowd of women around him!’: Springtime for Robespierre

Hilary Mantel, 30 March 2000

Robespierre thought that, if you could imagine a better society, you could create it. He needed a corps of moral giants at his back, but found himself leading a gang of squabbling moral pygmies. This is how Virtue led to Terror. 

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The Sound of Voices Intoning Names

Thomas Laqueur, 5 June 1997

In a happier age, Immanuel Kant identified one of the problems of understanding any of the genocides which come all too easily to mind. It is the problem of the mathematical sublime. The...

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Identity Parade

Linda Colley, 25 February 1993

‘Iwill never, come hell or high water, let our distinctive British identity be lost in a federal Europe.’ John Major’s ringing assurance to last year’s Conservative Party...

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Goodbye Columbus

Eric Hobsbawm, 9 July 1992

Afew weeks ago, in Mexico, I was asked to sign a protest against Christopher Columbus, on behalf of the original native populations of the American continents and islands, or rather, of their...

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Grim Eminence

Norman Stone, 10 January 1983

The historian Edward Hallett Carr died on 3 November 1982, at the age of 90. He had an oddly laconic obituary in the Times, which missed out a great deal. If he had died ten years before, his...

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War and Peace

A.J.P. Taylor, 2 October 1980

War has been throughout history the curse and inspiration of mankind. The sufferings and destruction that accompany it rival those caused by famine, plague and natural catastrophes. Yet in nearly...

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Unicorn or Narwhal? Linnaeus makes the rules

Lorraine Daston, 22 February 2024

Linnaeus’s personal contradictions do not make him a historical chimera. If he sounds odd to those who hold a view of Enlightenment science as rational and orderly, perhaps that’s because real Enlightenment...

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Strike at the Knee: Italy, 1943

Malcolm Gaskill, 8 February 2024

The gruelling, often grotesque nature of the Italian campaign is reason enough to remember it, but it’s been overlooked, idly regarded as filler between the defeat of Rommel and the Normandy Landings.

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To write about gay men in Britain in the 19th century should be to write about them as sons, brothers, friends, lovers, husbands, fathers, grandparents, members of a social class, employees, employers,...

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There’s a voyeuristic quality to so many of the discussions of Anne’s rise and fall, since it was allegedly her sexual allure that made her queen and her sexual licence that led to her death. The compulsion...

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Diary: Looking for Indraprastha

Raghu Karnad, 8 February 2024

Moving the Sanskrit epics ‘from mythology to history’ turns out to mean the obliteration of an archaeological site by a construction site. This is the kind of historical reckoning which India’s present...

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Wreckage of Ellipses: On Enheduana

Anna Della Subin, 8 February 2024

The Sumerian priestess Enheduana managed the complex affairs of the temple and wrote poems, among them a collection of temple hymns that sought to accomplish in verse what her father, Sargon of Akkad,...

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I know a good deal about the Bonhomme Richard. I know that it was originally a French merchant vessel called the Duc de Duras; that it was loaned to the fledgling US navy; and that it took part in the...

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Petrifying Juices: Fossilised

Liam Shaw, 25 January 2024

Like sculptures, fossils need curators. A raw lump of stone must be prepared and cleaned before it can be studied as a fossil; scientists of the past may well have inadvertently destroyed interesting surface...

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Bertie Wooster in Murmansk

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 25 January 2024

Apart from getting rid of the Bolsheviks, the aims of the Western intervention were remarkably ill-defined. Sometimes it was to protect British interests and keep the Germans, Turks, Poles, or Japanese...

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Antidote to Marx: Oh, I know Locke!

Colin Kidd, 4 January 2024

Contrary to the myth that from itsa founding document America was dedicated to capitalism, private property and the personal accumulation of wealth, ‘happiness’ in its 18th-century definition meant...

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Short Cuts: Edinburgh’s Festivalisation

Rory Scothorne, 4 January 2024

You can’t buy what Edinburgh has. You can, however, rent out certain kinds of access to it. This, as  David Harvey writes, is a recipe for self-destruction. The influx of international capital produces...

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Even the Eyelashes: Inca Mummies

Erin L. Thompson, 4 January 2024

The Chinchorro culture began mummifying their dead in what is now southern Peru and northern Chile around 6000 BCE, making South America’s earliest mummified bodies two thousand years older than those...

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Israel’s security is Germany’s Staatsräson, as Angela Merkel put it in 2008. Solidarity with the Jewish state has burnished Germany’s proud self-image as the only country that makes public remembrance...

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When Paris Sneezed: The Cult of 1789

David Todd, 4 January 2024

The awesomeness of 1789 as a model of human emancipation inspired revolutionaries of various kinds – liberal, socialist, anticolonialist – worldwide until at least the mid-20th century. Only the Anglo-American...

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Who’d want to be English?

Tom Shippey, 4 January 2024

The Hundred Years War created a sense of nationhood, especially in France. In England, the Anglo-Norman dialect died out, and though French was still part of the equipment of ladies and gentlemen, it was...

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Friend or Food?

Alexander Bevilacqua, 14 December 2023

In Indigenous Mesoamerica and Greater Amazonia, feeding someone – whether human or animal – expressed a duty of care. Once tamed, animals lived alongside humans in companionable relationships. The...

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Funhouse Mirror: ‘Capitalism and Slavery’

Christopher L. Brown, 14 December 2023

Perhaps the greatest shame of the Atlantic slave trade was that it inspired no shame at all. In their own time, Britain’s slave traders were men of distinction: ‘worthy men, fathers of families and...

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Case-endings and Calamity: Aldine Aesthetics

Erin Maglaque, 14 December 2023

In his twenties and thirties, Aldus Manutius was an ordinary humanist. But then, at forty, he moved to Venice and reinvented himself as a publisher. Why did he do it? How did he become a printer so ambitious...

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