Who's Who

Volume 60 Issue 10 October 2010

The philosophical writings of the author of War and Peace inspired followers from Moscow to Croydon and led to the creation of a Christian anarchist reform movement. Charlotte Alston examines the activities and influence of Tolstoy’s disciples.

Magnus Stenbock, the Swedish aristocrat and war hero, lived his life in pursuit of honour. Yet, as Andreas Marklund reveals, he died in disgrace, broken by the schemes of a cunning spy. 

In October 1935 Mussolini’s Fascist Italian forces invaded Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) at a crucial moment in the run-up to the Second World War. Daniel Whittall looks at the complex issues the invasion raised in Britain and the responses to it, especially from black Britons.

The idea of a female monarch was met with hostility in medieval England; in the 12th century Matilda’s claim to the throne had led to a long and bitter civil war. But the death of Edward VI in 1553 offered new opportunities for queenship, as Helen Castor explains.

The author Graham Greene journeyed to West Africa in 1935, ostensibly to write a travel book. But, claims Tim Butcher, it was a cover for a spy mission on behalf of the British anti-slavery movement which was investigating allegations that Liberia, a state born as a refuge for freed US slaves, was guilty of enslaving its own people.

Emma Christopher analyses the recent treatment of the sensitive issue of slavery and abolition, both by historians and popular culture at large.

Janet Voke meets Joachim Rønneberg, survivor of one of the most daring actions of the Second World War: the sabotage of a German heavy water plant deep in occupied Norway.

Stephen Gundle, joint curator of a current exhibition on anti-Fascist art and the decline of the cult of Mussolini, examines the political demise and commercial rebirth of the Italian dictator.

Court fashion, a love of birdsong and the pressures of being a king are some of the subjects discussed in letters between Philip II of Spain and his teenage daughters. Janet Ravenscroft explores the human side of one of Europe’s most powerful Renaissance monarchs.

Richard Cavendish traces the evolution of today's 'mega-bucks' sports industry back to a small competition in Scotland in the mid-19th Century.

Richard Cavendish marks an important anniversary for one of Europe's most fantastic pieces of medieval architecture.

Richard Cavendish commemorates the traumatic but ultimately victorious march of Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communists.

A cremation ghat built in Brighton for Indian soldiers who fought in the First World War has recently been inscribed with their names, writes Rosie Llewellyn-Jones.

With the chance of renewed political will to fund the Navy, possibly to the detriment of the Army, Nick Hewitt wonders if British defence policy is reverting to type.

The Neanderthals failed to adapt to climate change and may have died out in as little as a thousand years. Are we making the same mistakes, asks Mike Williams.

Nick Poyntz looks at the ways in which mobile phone 'apps' can bring historical insight to our everyday environment.

When Captain Robert FitzRoy was looking for a naturalist to accompany him on his voyage on the Beagle, he almost turned down Charles Darwin. For FitzRoy, Darwin’s nose was too short, which suggested that this candidate lacked the stamina for the lengthy journey. Thankfully, the captain laid aside his preconceptions, steering history in a different direction. FitzRoy was a pupil of the ‘science’ of physiognomy, which maintained that physical appearance was a clue to character.

 

Bridges define places. London is represented in countless souvenirs and tourist photographs by Tower Bridge. San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge and Sydney has its Harbour Bridge. Venice has more than 400 of them. Bridges come to symbolise the places they span and they mean a lot to us. 

 

The field of Pevsner studies is red with the blood of academic controversy. Did this mild-mannered scholar give the English back their own artistic heritage through his architectural guides, or was he the malign agent of foreign ideology who destroyed our cities with modern architecture? The introduction to this reprint of an unpublished manuscript, written jointly by Matthew Aitchison and John Macarthur, helps to clean up some of the mess.

America’s entry into the Second World War was the catalyst for a mutually beneficial but often troubled public/private partnership between the United States government and the American publishing industry that long out-lasted the war itself.

 

G.M. Trevelyan wrote that Social History, a subject of special interest to that great Whig historian, was history with the politics left out. London’s Shadows is one of a number of recent scholarly titles which has taken that one stage further: history with the politics and most of the cheerful bits left out.

American Caesars is not for beginners: it is too superficial and sprinkled with too many inaccuracies; its style is undistinguished when not over-excited. Hamilton’s concern is to take the Twelve Caesars of C. Suetonius Tranquillus as a model for a book about 12 US presidents, but as he would be the first to admit he is much more long-winded than Suetonius (the publisher made him cut his first draft by half) and he does not attempt to throw light on the moderns by careful comparison with the ancients.

If one wants to take the temperature of wartime Britain – particularly life on the Home Front – there are few better ways than through the pages of Punch. In Punch Goes to War, 1939-1945, the gamut of wartime attitudes, scorn at the fumbling bureaucracy of government (particularly the pomposity of the Ministry of Information and the calm, sardonic and ironic view of wartime postures, attitudes and confusion) is brilliantly captured in a series of cartoons by such master draughtsmen as Fougasse (Kenneth Bird, Punch’s art director) E.H.

The day before yesterday, the very recent past, is a difficult period for historians to tackle because we feel we know so much about it already. We all know the categories used by journalists and historians to describe this period of living memory – ‘the postwar consensus’, ‘the affluent society’, ‘relative economic decline’, ‘the permissive society’ – but sometimes they obfuscate through their overfamiliarity.

 

In The Myth of Absolutism (1992) Nicholas Henshall destroyed many clichés. Die Henshall-these, as it is known in Germany, demonstrated that absolute monarchies resembled limited monarchies with representative institutions more closely than they did the ‘rogue’ despotic monarchies of Denmark, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. There could be more limits on the power of an absolute monarch than on a ruler who had the support of his parliament. Both conducted an independent foreign policy. 

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