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Volume 62 Issue 10 October 2012

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

The enmity between England and France is an ancient one. But the museum dedicated to a famous English victory offers hope for future relations between the two countries, writes Stephen Cooper.

The release this month of the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall, coincides with the 50th anniversary of James Bond’s first appearance on the silver screen. Klaus Dodds looks back on half a century of 007.

The eldest son of King John was born on October 1st, 1207.

King Leopold II’s personal rule of the vast Congo Free State anticipated the horrors of the 20th century, argues Tim Stanley.

Oliver Stone’s 2004 film Alexander portrayed the great Macedonian king as bisexual. Was he also a transvestite? Tony Spawforth looks to uncover the truth.

US presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon, which is a problem for some voters. But, says Andrew Preston, so was the Catholicism of John F. Kennedy and it did not stop him winning the 1960 election.

Roger Hudson sheds light on a haunting photograph from the Greek Civil War.

Peter Hennessy looks back to his 1994 Longman-History Today lecture, delivered just as a revolution in British contemporary history was beginning to bear fruit.

Richard Lowe-Lauri looks at the decline of bull running in the English town of Stamford.

Onyeka explores the changing meanings of words for Africans in Tudor England.

The ‘British Empire’ was the name given by imperialists in the late 19th century to Britain’s territorial possessions. It was meant to create an image of unity and strength. But such a view is illusory, argues Bernard Porter.

J.L. Laynesmith unravels one of the mysteries of the Bayeux Tapestry.

Graeme Garrard recalls Isaac Brock, the Guernsey-born army officer still celebrated in Canada for his part in defending British North America from the United States in the War of 1812.

In June 1812 Britain and the United States went to war. The conflict was a relatively minor affair, but its consequences were great, says Jeremy Black.

The pioneering female traveller was born on October 13th, 1862.

Constantine won a great victory on October 28th, 312.

In recent decades few fields of historical inquiry have produced as rich a body of work as the British Civil Wars. Sarah Mortimer offers a guide to the latest scholarship.

Today, choosing a new Archbishop of Canterbury is a relatively straightforward process. It was not always so, as Katherine Harvey explains.

Last year when protestors against the iniquities of capitalism set up a tent city outside St Paul’s they also turned a spotlight onto Christian attitudes towards wealth. The Church of England, predictably enough, was split. The Dean, concerned for the dignity and sanctity of his cathedral, sought to have the protestors evicted. The Canon, no less concerned for the Church’s mission to defend the poor, promptly resigned. Sex, it turned out, was not the only topic capable of provoking an Anglican schism.

For nearly a century historians and sociologists have reflected on Max Weber’s idea that a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is a defining characteristic of the modern state. For half a century they have debated the thesis that the establishment of such a monopoly depended on a military revolution located in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In 1554 Antonis Mor, a Dutch painter employed by the Habsburgs, Europe’s most powerful ruling dynasty, was commissioned to paint a portrait of the new wife of Prince Philip, heir to the emperor Charles V. She was Mary Tudor, the eldest child of Henry VIII and a queen in her own right, though European contemporaries viewing the portrait would have seen before them the depiction of a Habsburg consort, not an English queen regnant. Philip had no intention of presenting his wife as a female ruler or of allowing any flattery in the execution of her likeness.

‘Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up to now we have done little or nothing,’ Francis tells his followers. He is now, in 1225, 45 years of age but his health is failing and he is suffering acute pain from the inflammation of his eyeballs. He has 16 months to live. The members of his communities now number in the thousands, most of them in Italy, others scattered further north. The Franciscan organisation is loose, held together by the personal charisma of Francis and a commitment to poverty and obedience.

It is now roughly 50 years since the British Empire came to an end – it’s difficult to give an exact date  and of course there are still some bits left – during which the controversy over it has, if anything, increased; mostly over whether it was a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ thing. That has made it a minefield for serious historians, who are more interested in finding out what it was, why it arose and what its real repercussions were, and are aware (as they must be if they have worked for any length of time at any of the coalfaces of imperial history) of how complex all these questions are.

This is the third major book that John Lynch, Emeritus Professor of Latin American History at University College London, has published with Yale University Press in the last six years. His Simón Bolívar: A Life (2006) quickly became the classic biography of the most famous figure of northern South America’s independence movements two hundred years ago. This was followed by San Martín: Argentine Soldier, American Hero (2009), a similarly detailed and contextualised volume on the liberator of the south of the continent.

With the possible exception of the East End no other part of London has spawned as many books as Soho. Over the last 150 years there have been numerous memoirs, novels and historical surveys of the area, many of them contributing to its enduringly strong associations with crime, bohemianism and the sex industry.

Pity poor Isabella Robinson. Married to Henry, an ‘uncongenial partner’ at best and at worst a ‘mean and grasping’ philistine who had secretly sired two children with his mistress, Isabella seeks solace with a family friend, Dr Edward Lane. After her husband happens upon her unlocked diary, her most private thoughts about Dr Lane and her marriage, she becomes the subject of a great Victorian scandal. Henry accuses her of adultery and in 1858 Mrs.