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Volume 61 Issue 8 August 2011

Gordon Marsden revisits Henry Fairlie's prescient obituary of Aneurin Bevan, first published in History Today in October 1960.

Robin Waterfield looks at the influence of the mother of Alexander the Great in the years following her son’s death.

A sea voyage in the 12th century was a perilous undertaking, as a Spanish Muslim courtier’s account of his crossing of the Mediterranean demonstrates. Yet, explains David Abulafia, it was also a test of one’s religious devotion, whether Muslim or Christian.

A series of archaeological discoveries off the coast of Sicily reveal how Rome turned a piece of lethal naval technology pioneered by its enemy, Carthage, to its own advantage, explains Ann Natanson.

David Kynaston seeks answers to questions about the fragile future of an institution beloved by historical researchers.

History tells us that the West’s embrace of liberal values was not inevitable and is unlikely to last, says Tim Stanley.

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

Robin Bayley tells how his great grandfather, a Mancunian businessman, became caught up in the tumultuous period of worker unrest that paved the way for the Mexican Revolution.

Thomas Ruys Smith looks at the impact of Hurricane Katrina in the light of the city’s historic troubles.

Syria was among the most unstable states in the Middle East until Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1970. But, asks James Gelvin, can his son, Bashar, maintain the regime’s iron rule in the face of growing dissent?

The poor economic record of Greece goes back a very long way, says Matthew Lynn.

The story of a country that has long punched above its weight is told in Scotland’s refurbished National Museum, says David Forsyth.

Courtly love, celebrated in numerous songs and poems, was the romantic ideal of western Europe in the Middle Ages. Yet, human nature being what it is, the realities of sexual desire and the complications it brings were never far away, says Julie Peakman.

James Whitfield on why the theft of a Spanish master’s portrait of a British military hero led to a change in the law.

The fools of the early Tudor court were likely to have been people with learning disabilities as a new project demonstrates, says Suzannah Lipscomb.

Queen Anne ordered a racecourse to be built on Ascot Heath in 1711. It was officially opened on August 11th.

The theft of the most famous painting in the world on August 21st, 1911, created a media sensation.

Mary Queen of Scots left Calais for Scotland on August 14th, 1561, aged 18 years old.

In late March 1815 William Hay and his fellow 12th Light Dragoons were in a public house, resting from some crowd control work in London, when a man burst through the door. ‘Old Boney has broken out again and got to Paris’, he cried. For the commanders, such as Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba put an end to his efforts in diplomacy at the Congress of Vienna. Humble soldiers, like Hay, anticipated a return to the dangers and privations of the battlefield.

Jay Margrave’s The Nine Lives of Kit Marlowe (Goldenford, £8.99) follows the ‘mercurial’ playwright after he fakes his own death by stabbing in Deptford to escape his enemies.

Historical fiction is no replacement for history. Nor is it history ‘lite’. It is fiction based on a recognisable past. It may be well researched, it may be based on fact and real people, but it is still fiction. Stella Tillyard is the most recent historian to try her hand at this genre and we can expect a few more debuts of this nature before the year is out. The acclaimed author of Aristocrats and Citizen Lord has described with beguiling honesty the struggles experienced by the first-time historical fiction writer in her article for History Today (May 2011).

The Cold War may be over but argument about why it ended continues. The debate is of major historical interest but has contemporary policy implications, too. Those who think that the American arms build-up left the Soviet Union no option but to admit political defeat are more inclined to look to military solutions for ending authoritarian rule elsewhere.

In the ever-slippery effort to define Modernism – a movement spanning nations, taking root in almost every discipline of the arts from the early 20th century onwards and spawning a profusion of sub-species (Dadaism, Vorticism, Objectivism, Futurism, Surrealism, Absurdism ...) – the modernist (though at different times Objectivist and Imagist) poet Ezra Pound’s terse mantra has often been invoked: ‘Make it new!’ Now even these few reliable words turn foul - at least in the case of America.

In her short, quiet, humane book, Audrey Linkman explores the meaning of photographing the dead. Her concern is not with those who died a violent death, killed in wars or disturbances, but those who ‘passed on’ within a familial context and whose families sought to memorialise them, seeking to cherish them in death as in life.

These days the House of Lords is about as useful as a chicken’s wings. But it was not ever thus. In ages past the Lords served, in one metaphorical formulation, as the beam that kept the political balance. Never was this description more apt than in the period between 1660 and 1714 when the House of Lords arose from the ashes of the English Revolution. In 1649 the House had been abolished, many of its members had followed Charles II into exile and those who did not were subjected to punishing taxation.

Just let me get this out of the way, Messrs Nicholls and Williams. Raleigh, Ralegh, Rawleigh or Rawley – I don’t care how you spell it. What you shouldn’t do is to use ‘Raleigh’for your title, because it is the version ‘preferred by many modern popular sources on both sides of the Atlantic’; and ‘Ralegh’ throughout your text, because that’s the way your subject actually spelled his name. It is confusing and it leaves me wondering if you have been bullied by your publisher’s sales team.

In exploring child labour Jane Humphries throws fresh light on the family and the world of work in the century from 1750. She builds on the efforts of David Vincent and John Burnett in studying sizeable numbers of working-class autobiographies. Whereas David Vincent drew on 142 memoirs in his excellent study, Bread, Knowledge and Freedom (Europa, 1981), Humphries draws on 617. She uses these sources for their wealth of qualitative information, as well as cautiously extracting quantative information.

In this very important and revealing – if flawed – study of Adolf Hitler’s early years in the German army between 1914 and 1920, Thomas Weber sets out to fulfill two distinct goals, in one of which he triumphantly succeeds; the other remains far more problematic.