Volume 63 Issue 6 June 2013

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

One of the strangest literary figures of his time died on June 17th, 1963.

The suffragette jumped in front of the King's horse on June 4th 1913

The future French empress was born on June 23rd, 1763.

The study of the religious upheavals that took place in England during the 16th and 17th centuries has proved one of the most provocative areas of recent scholarship. Alec Ryrie looks at some of the key works of recent years.

Peering through the pines, a German cycle company of the First World War is captured on camera. Roger Hudson explains.

When major political figures die, history is put on hold and the simplicities of myth take over, argues Tim Stanley.

Jonathan Conlin considers a 1990 article on the past, present and future of history broadcasting, whose pessimistic forecasts have not quite come to pass.

The English aversion to eating horse flesh, recently highlighted in a number of food scandals, dates back to the coming of Christianity, as Jordan Claridge explains.

Guy Atkins explains what made the postcard such an extraordinary and successful phenomenon of the early 20th century and draws parallels with today’s social media.

Kathryn Hadley visits an exhibition in Paris that sheds light on the multifarious pre-colonial histories and identities of the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Sarah Gristwood considers some earlier female MPs who might have given Mrs Thatcher a run for her money.

Martin Pugh reconsiders the motives and impact of the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison.

Lord Byron’s death there in April 1824 created an enduring legend. But the real story of the poet’s mission to help Greece in its revolution against Ottoman Turkish rule is one of hard-headed politics, which goes straight to the heart of the country’s present-day crisis, says Roderick Beaton.

Harriet Tuckey’s relationship with her father was a difficult one. Only at the end of his life did she realise the importance of the contribution he had made to the most celebrated of all mountaineering expeditions.   

Joost Schouten was one of the ablest servants of the 17th-century Dutch East India Company, but he came a serious cropper when his fellow countrymen discovered his ‘crimes against nature’, as Peter Murrell explains.

The entry of Turkey into the First World War may have extended the conflict by as much as two years. It certainly changed the country forever. Yet the advent of war was marked by confusion, uncertainty and shifting alliances, says Ian F.W. Beckett.

Benn Steil argues that John Maynard Keynes had an astute grasp of Britain’s debt situation in 1944 and how it might recover from ‘financial Dunkirk’. Yet his arrogance and ineptitude in negotiating with the Americans at Bretton Woods cost Britain dear and has had repercussions to this day.

The Dambusters Raid is one of the best known operations of the Second World War. But, as James Holland explains, the development of the ‘bouncing bomb’ took place against a background of bitter rivalry between the armed services.

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht and the 250th anniversary of the Treaty of Paris. Both treaties reshaped the world and had profound consequences for the future of Britain and North America, as Jeremy Black explains.

A huge volume of ‘Wildeana’ has been published in the last two decades, seemingly taking in all the key players in the Irish playwright’s tragedy: from chief ally Robbie Ross to wife Constance; from lover and partner-in-crime Lord Alfred Douglas – ‘Bosie’ – to ‘Speranza’, Wilde’s Irish nationalist mother and poet. But Oscar Wilde’s nemesis, John Sholto Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, has had to wait until now to become the subject of a revisionist biography.

In October 1935 Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels peremptorily announced that ‘It is forbidden to list the names of fallen Jews on memorials and memorial plaques for the fallen of the world war.’ According to Nazi ideology a Jew, even a Jew who had died for Germany, was not a real German. Following Goebbels’ edict, some war memorials duly underwent ‘Aryanisation’. At Heilbronn a memorial was dedicated in March 1936, but the names of the Jewish war dead had been chiselled out and replaced with those of First World War battles.

‘The changing role of women’, according to the Heritage Lottery Fund, will feature large in events marking the centenary of the First World War next year. Flora Sandes, who strode Whitehall dressed in her Serbian officer’s uniform, was awarded that army’s highest rank and raised thousands of pounds for their cause, should be among them. Her work as both a nurse and a soldier did much to change public perceptions about what women could and should do during a military campaign.

Hunting the otter, it seems, is an endeavour that cannot be made alone. One needs other people, other animals and tools. Not only does the hunter require ‘an assembly of residents from the area in order to gather local intelligence on where otters are most likely to be found’. He also needs ‘varlets from the kennels’, with hounds to sniff out holes, and implements to dig the otter out with.

In this vividly drawn portrait of the life of an early modern executioner, Meister Franz Schmidt, Joel Harrington immerses us in the world of crime, violence and honour of 16th- and 17th-century Germany. Born in Hof in Franconia in 1553 or early 1554, Schmidt was condemned to a life of dishonour. In 1553 his father had been picked from a crowd by Margrave Albrecht Alcibiades to perform an execution, sealing his fate as a shameful hangman; executioners in early modern Europe were tainted by their profession and barred from many positions, activities and civic spaces open to contemporaries.

Horst Wessel, or so ran the propaganda legend created by Goebbels, was the ideal Nazi hero. Young, idealistic and dedicated to the movement for which he had sacrificed his middle-class status and a promising career. Moreover he was a talented speaker and Stormtroop organiser and a few lines of doggerel penned by him became the ubiquitous Nazi anthem Die Fahne Hoch ... aka the ‘Horst Wessel Lied’. Finally, to set the myth in stone, he had been murdered by ‘subhuman Communist bandits’. The truth, as Daniel Siemens convincingly demonstrates in this definitive study, is rather different.

Suburban ghosts have been a problem for city dwellers since the dawn of industrialisation. The term is an oxymoron; ghosts were always expected to lurk in lonely places such as haunted houses or rural crossroads, rather than in modern conurbations. As one writer observed, in the Victorian satirical journal Fun, what was ‘the likelihood of finding a ghost behind the wainscot’ of a Peckham villa?

Brian Levack has long been established as one of the leading authorities on witch trials and witch beliefs in early modern Europe and so is an obvious person to turn his attention to the allied, and sometimes overlapping, phenomenon of apparent demonic possession. The result is an excellent study, covering most of the western half of Europe and the whole period from the ancient world to the present.