Volume 61 Issue 3 March 2011

Roger Moorhouse revisits a perceptive article by John Erickson on the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, first published in History Today in 2001, its insights born of a brief period of Russian openness.

Though it is immersed in the theological ideas of the Middle Ages, the cosmology of Dante’s Divine Comedy is sophisticated, sceptical and tolerant, argues James Burge.

As China reclaims its central role in the world, Robert Bickers appeals to Britons and others in the West to take account of the legacy left by the country’s difficult 19th century.

Berlusconi is a product of the country's incomplete unification, argues Alexander Lee.

The Spectator was first published on March 1st, 1711. 

The Mamelukes were massacred in Cairo on March 1st, 1811.

Richard Cavendish marks the anniversary of this great emperor's accession, on March 8th, AD161.

On a research trip to Moscow in the late 1990s, Deborah Kaple was given a package of papers by a former Gulag official who believed its contents would be of great interest to a western audience.

The death-obsessed and inward-looking Aztec civilisation sowed the seeds of its own destruction, argues Tim Stanley.

Medieval historian Nicholas Orme believes that the teaching of history in Britain’s universities is better now than it has ever been.

A peace conference held in Holland in 1899 in fact ended by rewriting the laws of war, says Geoffrey Best.

Hugh Thomas tells Paul Lay about his unparalleled research into the lives of the extraordinary generation of men who conquered the New World for Golden Age Spain.

A groundbreaking project that points the way to the future of the discipline was recognised at our annual celebration of excellence in history.

Natasha McEnroe on the reopening of a fascinating but little-known collection.

Sarah Wise highlights a campaign to save a humble treasure.

Despite their mutual loathing and suspicion, James I and his parliaments needed one another, as Andrew Thrush explains. The alternative, ultimately, was civil war.

What was it like to grow up in Nazi Germany in a family quietly opposed to National Socialism? Giles Milton describes one boy’s experience.

While industrialists in Manchester were busily engaged in developing the factory system, investors in London were applying its principles to the capital’s old pubs. The result was a coldly efficient business model. Jessica Warner explains how it worked and why it failed.

In television criticism there is a phrase ‘jumping the shark’, used when a series gets too excessive, bereft of inspiration, or just plain silly. The heft of authenticity that gave the television series such authority is lost and writers take refuge in placing characters in ever more preposterous situations (the phrase comes from the Fonz in Happy Days literally leaping over a shark whilst waterskiing). Putting hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake on the Mary Rose as it sinks into the Solent seems to me to be the moment that C.J.

The East German State Security Service, or Stasi, has gained a fearsome posthumous reputation, not least through journalistic and filmic representations. With the largest number of employees and unofficial informers per head of population of any 20th-century dictatorship, the Stasi gathered mountains of information about the citizens of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Yet despite blanket surveillance and highly fortified physical borders the Stasi was unable to prevent the collapse of the GDR in 1989-90.

The social costs of the 1926 coal lockout in South Wales were high. The mining areas offered little employment for women and had a culture in which miners’ wives were expected to stay at home. As Sue Bruley makes clear, married women in the mining valleys carried out prodigious feats of cleaning and polishing their homes. However, the main focus of her book is on gender relations during the long running coal dispute of 1926. She has gone a long way in recovering the experiences of women, as well as men, by extensive interviews.

I once viewed, in an art gallery in Australia, a painting of the colonial era depicting the Union flag being planted in the new found land. I remember wondering what the proud colonists, claiming the territory for the British Empire, would have made of modern Australia, where in some quarters the British heritage is regarded as an embarrassment. Australia’s rich military history has been of fundamental importance in forging the country’s modern national identity.

Today western visitors to China come and go in their millions. In 1954 there were just a handful. China was only five years into its Communist rule, enjoying a window of stability after more than a century of war, invasion, warlordism and hunger. Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang party (KMT), carrying the more valuable contents of the Palace Museum, had decamped to Taiwan where it had imposed its own dictatorship on the reluctant Taiwanese. The US was to support it for another 15 years.

Demobbed is a fine winner of the Longman-History Today Book Prize for 2010. In telling the many different stories of returning soldiers at the end of the Second World War Alan Allport takes us on a rollercoaster ride, provoking anger at the authorities who managed the transition to civilian life so badly and sadness at the tragedies that engulfed many returning heroes and their families. Some of the stories reflect the worst of British buttoned-up reserve.