Volume 61 Issue 2 February 2011

The creation of the modern unified German state in January 1871 constitutes the greatest diplomatic and political achievement of any leader of the last two centuries; but it was effected at a huge personal and political price, argues Jonathan Steinberg.

The English diet has been mythologised as one of roasted meats and few vegetables but, as Anita Guerrini concludes from a survey of early modern writings on the subject, the nation’s approach to food has been rather more complicated than that.

Richard Cavendish remembers the death of Emperor Septimius Severus on February 4th, AD 211.

Richard Cavendish remembers Ivan Pavlov who died on February 27th, 1936. Pavlov won the Nobel Prize for physiology in 1904.

George Augustus Frederick was appointed Prince Regent to his father King George III on February 5th, 1811. He was a heavy drinker and a compulsive gambler.

Few British soldiers have written of their experiences of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Here, former infantry officer Patrick Mercer recalls his tours, which offer lessons for today’s soldiers and politicians.

Chris Wickham revisits an article by J.B.Morrall, first published in History Today in 1959, on the strange, shortlived emperor who in the tenth century sought to rule the lands we now call Germany and Italy.

As we soak up television dramas that revel in the scandalous personal lives of popes and kings, we are in danger of losing sight of these figures’ real historical importance, argues Tim Stanley.

The successful Broadway run of The Pitmen Painters, Lee Hall’s drama set in a north-east mining community, has introduced US audiences to a remarkable chapter in British working-class life, writes  Robert Colls.

Jan Gossaert made his name working for the Burgundian court and was among the first northern artists to visit Rome, writes Susan Foister, curator of 'Jan Gossaert's Renaissance', the only exhibition in more than 45 years of works by this archetypal ‘Old Master’.

Decadent, effeminate, outdated, the image of the Cavalier remains that of his enemies, victorious in the Civil Wars. John Stubbs offers a rather more complex corrective view.

Paul Lay introduces the February issue of our 61st volume.

A series of violent attacks by pale shrouded figures on lone pedestrians, especially women, was widely reported in the early 19th century. Jacob Middleton uncovers the sham ghosts of Georgian London.

The current House of Commons is notable for the number of members who are also historians. Will Robinson welcomes this trend, while reminding us of Parliament’s sometimes troubled relationship with its own past.

A monarch’s divine ability to cure scrofula was an established ritual when James I came to the English throne in 1603. Initially sceptical of the Catholic characteristics of the ceremony, the king found ways to ‘Protestantise’ it and to reflect his own hands-on approach to kingship, writes Stephen Brogan.

In our series in which historians look back on the changes that have taken place in their field in the 60 years since the founding of History Today, Daniel Snowman takes a personal view of new approaches to the study of the history of culture and the arts – and of music in particular.

The innocence of France’s Captain Dreyfus – a Jewish officer incarcerated on Devil’s Island after he was accused of spying for Germany – has long been established. But was there a real traitor? And what part did Oscar Wilde play in the murky affair?

From pasta to coalballs and from papier mâché ornaments to fertilisers made from all kinds of waste products – these were typical of the novelties that Sir Hugh Plat advocated in the various books that he published between 1593 and his death in 1608.

Few guns achieve iconic status. One that indubitably has is the AK-47 – the Kalashnikov. Simply engineered, reliable and easy to use, it is now nearly ubiquitous, with an estimated 100 million currently in circulation. Instantly recognisable the world over, it is a subject of political iconography from the gable-ends of Belfast to the flags of Hezbollah and Mozambique and is the weapon of choice for generations of freedom fighters, terrorists and jihadis. It has become ‘the people’s gun’.

The origins of the first edition of the Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain are traced in this book to the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, the Enlightenment, several technical changes, a director of the Paris Observatory, the third Duke of Richmond, Napoleon Bonaparte, two lowland Scots and some hithertoobscure Englishmen.

Too little attention has been given to the multiracial make-up of the British Home Front. Given that race was such a central issue throughout the Second World War, it may seem surprising that the racial politics of wartime Britain have often been ignored by mainstream histories. Stephen Bourne’s Mother Country offers an excellent corrective to this tendency.

The premise of Amanda Foreman’s magnificent new book is that the American Civil War – the greatest military confrontation in the world between the fall of Napoleon and the Great War – was fought in the shadow of Britain, the world’s greatest military and economic power, just as Britain, for those years, lived in the shadow of that bloody conflict. There are many splendid narrative histories of the Civil War, but none that describe its global impact as clearly as this one.

Around 1250 BC, Hattusili III, king of the Hittites (Central Turkey), asked Ramesses II to send him a doctor to help his sister conceive. The Egyptian ruler pointed out that, as the lady in question was well over 50, even a doctor arriving with exotic medicines was unlikely to be successful. Nevertheless, he continued, one never knows what miracles the gods might wreak, so to please his ‘brother’ the requested expert would be despatched.