Volume 61 Issue 7 July 2011

James Walvin praises Arnold Whitridge's study of the Atlantic slave trade, first published in History Today in 1958

Throughout its 350-year history the British army has been vulnerable to economic pressures and political interference. Its strength lies in the loyalty of its soldiers to their regiment or corps, argues Allan Mallinson.

Despite numerous attempts by radicals to reform the calendar, it is usually commerce that decides the way we measure time, as Matthew Shaw explains.

A mid-Victorian competition to design new Government Offices in Whitehall fell victim to a battle between the competing styles of Gothic and Classical. The result proved unworthy of a nation then at its imperial zenith.

Though their appeal seems bizarre to the modern mind, relics and reliquaries reflected an entirely logical system of belief bound up in the medieval worldview, explains James Robinson, curator of a new exhibition at the British Museum.

Taylor Downing offers a tribute to the military historian who was a television natural.

Though superb works of art in themselves, the wildlife paintings of Francis Barlow are full of rich metaphors that shed light on the anxieties and concerns of a Britain emerging from the horrors of civil war, says Nathan Flis.

The death of Stalin in 1953 marked a shift in the Soviet Union. Robert Hornsby discusses the underground groups that mushroomed in the aftermath and how the state responded to them.

The 50th anniversary of the trial and execution of the Final Solution’s master bureaucrat has inspired a number of books, exhibitions and films. David Cesarani assesses their contribution to our understanding of both the event and the man.

For much of the British Civil Wars the colony of Barbados remained neutral, allowing both Parliamentarian and Royalist exiles to run their plantations and trade side by side. But with the collapse of the king’s cause in the late 1640s matters took a violent turn, as Matthew Parker relates.

What became of the baby daughter of Henry VIII's widow Katherine Parr and her disgraced fourth husband Thomas Seymour after their deaths? Linda Porter unravels a Tudor mystery.

It is a deeply unfashionable thing to ask, says Tim Stanley, but might a nation's history be affected by the character of its people?

Richard Cavendish explains how Europe's earliest modern-style banknotes were introduced by the Bank of Stockholm in the 17th century.

Richard Cavendish provides an overview of the life of the French monarch who was nicknamed 'the Universal Spider'.

Hiram Bingham re-discovered the 'lost' city of the Incas on July 24th, 1911.

A selection of readers' correspondence with the editor, Paul Lay.

The Italian Renaissance republics are regarded by many as pioneers of good governance. Yet republican rule often resulted in chaos and it was left to strong despotic rulers to restore order, as Alexander Lee demonstrates.

See part one, part two and part three for selections by Tom Holland, Alan Powers, Sarah Dunant, Anna Whitelock and others.

In the second part of our summer reading special, Nick Poyntz, Tom Holland, Chris Wrigley, Alan Powers and Lucy Worsley share their holiday choices. See part one for selections by Sarah Dunant, Anna Whitelock and others, and let us know what you're reading this summer in the comments.

In the first part of our summer reading special, Richard Davenport-Hines, Sarah Dunant, Helen Castor, Anna Whitelock and James Holland share their holiday choices.

In recent years readers in search of Victorian tales of murder have been spoiled for choice. Half an hour spent with Google yielded dozens of titles detailing cases of death on trains and highways, in drawing rooms and bathrooms, and of bodies, whole and in parts, unearthed from fields, stumbled across in alleyways and dredged from rivers. Entertaining as these studies might be, they typically focus on the arresting details of single cases, which limits their ability to illuminate wider social and cultural themes.

These two books by North American academics both focus on the historical context and background of the work of Gilbert and Sullivan and provide intriguing interpretations of its place in Victorian culture.

I often found that I was asking myself one simple, question while reading David Gilmour’s The Pursuit of Italy: what is the point of this book? According to the blurb it is trying to answer the query ‘Was the unification of Italy in 1861 a mistake?’ In order to do this, Gilmour goes way, way back in time. After a section on geographies and another on languages and dialects we are hurled into the Roman Empire, its myths and its histories. Then we are taken through potted histories of various regions and cities at various times.

Charles Bradlaugh stood against much that was dear to Victorian Britain: an outspoken atheist in a seriously Christian culture; a republican in a deeply monarchical country; and an advocate of birth control in a society prudishly reticent about sex. In 1876 Bradlaugh and Annie Besant were prosecuted for publishing a pamphlet advocating the use of birth control. Born in 1833, scorned and vilified through much of his life, he died in 1891, exhausted and prematurely aged yet honoured and lamented in Britain and across the world.

The Jewish experience of medieval England was largely an unhappy one: a small and vulnerable community, isolated from its co-religionists, the Jewish settlement in England endured for about 200 years. The Jews likely arrived with the Normans in the decades after the Battle of Hastings; as Robin R. Mundill comments, ‘by 1070 … the Jews had become another part of the Normanisation of England’.

Medieval Christians profoundly believed that relics shaped their lives and after-lives. They prayed for the help of saints or martyrs, travelled to holy places on pilgrimage or donated to local shrines. Miracles happened: the sick were cured, enemies thwarted, the dead returned to life. Charles Freeman’s Holy Bones, Holy Dust makes clear there was nothing moribund or lifeless about the morbid artefacts which became the focus of relic cults.