History

Are the Dead Ringers audience told to laugh?

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Nine on a Thursday morning is University Hour for those of us who don’t commute to an office every day.…

How do Britain’s pubs get their names?

18 May 2019 9:00 am

An easy one: what links Jack Straw’s Castle, The Labouring Boys and The Jolly Taxpayer? No, not the parliamentary expenses…

It’s all Greek to me: a schoolchild’s homework on a wax tablet, Egypt, 2nd century AD

Would James Joyce have finished Ulysses without coloured pens?

11 May 2019 9:00 am

The Mesopotamians wrote on clay and the ancient Chinese on ox bones and turtle shells. In Egypt, in about 1,800…

How will history judge Brexit?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

How will future generations revisit the Brexit years? Through what glass will we be seen? This spring and, I suspect,…

What would happen if the Gospels were judged in a history contest?

20 April 2019 9:00 am

This week, the Wolfson History Prize announced its shortlist. It is always worth drawing attention to, precisely because it is…

How climate change led to capitalism

13 April 2019 9:00 am

At a dinner recently I was told the story of a Canadian billionaire (now defined in banking circles as someone…

A stubborn Conservative PM attempting to negotiate with Germany? Not Theresa May but Neville Chamberlain

13 April 2019 9:00 am

When lists are compiled of our best and worst prime ministers (before the present incumbent), the two main protagonists of…

Danny Dyer trying to keep a straight face in his latest bizarre TV outing. Photo: BBC / Wall to Wall Media

Danny Dyer’s Right Royal Family might well be the oddest TV show of recent times

26 January 2019 9:00 am

Last year on Who Do You Think You Are?, Danny Dyer — EastEnders actor and very possibly Britain’s most cockney…

Rorke’s Drift: a desperate brawl at a mission station up there with the great battle honours of the British army

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat: the triumph of Rorke’s Drift

19 January 2019 9:00 am

On 22 January last year, the entrance whiteboard at London Underground’s Dollis Hill carried a brief factual statement: On this…

‘Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon’ by Edward S. Curtis, 1914

Let there be night: adventures in the dark

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Edward S. Curtis’s 1914 photograph, ‘Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon’, shows the Kwakiutl tribe of North American Indians circling…

Grand Duke Francesco I de Medici may have been poisoned with arsenic by his brother Ferdinando. Portrait by Agnolo Bronzino

The age of chivalry was an age of devilry

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Agatha Christie’s spirit must be loving this poisonous new historical entertainment. Eleanor Herman has already enjoyed the success of Sex…

Neil MacGregor: belief is what holds a society together

8 December 2018 9:00 am

‘But what must it be like for the fish?’ We’re talking about cormorants, Neil MacGregor and I, and the spectacular…

‘He strikes me dumb with admiration.’ Van Gogh on Howard Pyle’s pirate illustrations

The facts – and fiction – of piracy

17 November 2018 9:00 am

Avast there, scurvy dogs! For a nation founded on piracy (the privateer Sir Francis Drake swelled the exchequer by raiding…

King David with his musicians: a page from the Vespasian Psalter, 8th century

To say this is a ‘once in a generation’ exhibition seems absurdly modest

17 November 2018 9:00 am

‘The barbarians drive us to the sea, the sea drives us to the barbarians; between these two means of death…

Members of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) celebrate Armistice Day, 1918 in London

Celebrating the 1918 Armistice resulted in thousands more deaths

10 November 2018 9:00 am

Reflecting on the scenes of celebration, the ‘overpowering entrancements’, that he had witnessed in November 1918 on the first Armistice…

Georges Barbier’s imaginative illustration of an opium den c. 1921

In the garden of good and evil: the power of the poppy

3 November 2018 9:00 am

America has for years been struggling with a shortage of the drugs it uses to execute people, yet it was…

‘The Sorrows of Boney, or Meditations on the Island of Elba’, published by John Wallis, 15 April 1814

Just a man: Demystifying Napoleon

3 November 2018 9:00 am

Who says that the ‘great man’ theory of history is dead? Following hard on the heels of Andrew Roberts’s magnificent…

Silk-weaving in China. An illustration from a book on the silk industry. Chinese school, 19th century

Stitches in time: The history of the world through the eye of a needle

13 October 2018 9:00 am

I recently read a book in which the author, describing rural life in the early 19th century, casually mentioned clothing…

Replica of The Endeavour

A date with Venus in Tahiti

1 September 2018 9:00 am

There is something about the Transit of Venus that touches the imagination in ways that are not all to do…

Man behind bars: John Lilburne spent more than 12 years of his short life in prison or exile - THE BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY

John Lilburne: champion of liberty and born belligerent

1 September 2018 9:00 am

John Lilburne was only 43 when he died in 1657, an early death even for the time. But in many…

Why is it that so many leading Brexiteers studied history?

11 August 2018 9:00 am

What do Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Dominic Cummings all have in common? They are Brexiteers, of course. Yet little…

Three generations and two royal families sit for a family portrait at Cowes in 1909. The portly Edward VII (centre) is flanked by the Tsar and Tsarina

2018: a year of dangerous liaisons with Russia

11 August 2018 9:00 am

First it was McMafia. After which it was the Skripals. Then the World Cup. Come the end of the year…

Captain Scott’s 1911 expedition to Antartica, with the Terra Nova anchored in the background, from The Colour of Time

The artist who breathes Technicolour life into historic photographs

4 August 2018 9:00 am

There is something of The Wizard of Oz about Marina Amaral’s photographs. She whisks us from black-and-white Kansas to shimmering…

A cuerda seca tile made of stone paste, showing the figure of an archer. Safavid dynasty, early 17th century (From The History of Central Asia)

Russia’s obsession with securing a warm-water port changed the history of Central Asia

16 June 2018 9:00 am

In the 13th century, having overrun and terrorised Europe as far as Budapest, and in the process possibly bringing with…

Before fleeing to London, Emmanuel Barthélemy commanded a barricade during the June Days uprising in Paris in 1848. Painting by Tony-François de Bergue

The cruel end of Emmanuel Barthélemy –as a waxwork in the Chamber of Horrors

26 May 2018 9:00 am

This is a biography that begins with a bang, swiftly followed by puddles of blood, shrieks of ‘Murder!’ and a…