Volume 64 Issue 1 January 2014

Kevin Williams revisits H.J. Perkin’s article from 1957 on the rise of the popular press.

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

Penelope Corfield provides an overview of the many recent lively and entertaining studies of 18th-century Britain.

Politics should be informed not just by history but by historians, argues Suzannah Lipscomb.

Roger Hudson takes a hilltop view of a smouldering city, following the devastating earthquake of April 18th, 1906.

Did the story of a stolen Roman ring provide the basis for one of the 20th century’s most popular works of fiction? Mark Horton and Lynn Forest-Hill tell the story of the archaeological dig which  fuelled the fantasies of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Amanda Foreman tells the story of the Stuart courtier, Frances, Countess of Essex.

The world’s first global commodity spawned a network of traders, producers and consumers, whose interactions shaped the modern world, as Giorgio Riello explains.

Two hundred years ago this month, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Britain acquired the tiny island of Heligoland in the North Sea. Ashley Cooper and Stephen Cooper describe how, as the European rivalries shifted in the 19th century, it came to be used as a bargaining chip with Germany.

In 1861 a young clergyman’s son arrived in British Guiana to oversee a sugar plantation. Over the next 30 years Henry Bullock’s letters home caught the texture of life in a remote backwater of Empire – though they don’t tell the whole story, as Gaiutra Bahadur explains.

Before he was tamed by respectable Victorians, the archetypal, bibulous Briton, beloved of cartoonists and satirists, embodied all the virtues and vices of the late 18th century and the scandal-rocked Regency. By Adrian Teal.

The court martial and acquittal of a senior British Intelligence officer accused of presiding over abuses of German prisoners during the Second World War highlights failings in intelligence policy and accountability, says Simona Tobia.

Supreme stylist, polymath, linguist and scourge of specialisation, Hugh Trevor-Roper, whose centenary falls this month, continues to divide opinions. Blair Worden considers his life and legacy.

The most desirable tourist destination of belle époque Europe, Venice became a major naval base during the First World War. Richard Bosworth looks at how La serenissima dealt with the years of peril during which it became a target of enemy bombers.

The great poet passed away aged 73 on January 28th, 1939.

The MP was ejected on January 19th, 1764.

The granddaughter of William the Conqueror was married on January 7th, 1114.

Many paleoanthropologists believe that for most of history it is young people who were in charge. By Michael S. Cummings and Simon Maghakyan.

The controversy over fracking finds echoes in 19th-century concerns over groundwater.

Thirty years after his death, the great critic remains the heretical voice of architectural history.

Proposed changes to the way the census is compiled may hinder future historians’ understanding of the past.

An impressive study of the transformation in the way people thought about democracy across the North Atlantic is presented here. As the editors, Joanna Innes and Mark Philp, note in their preface, the book is the fruit of a larger inquiry into democracy in Europe and the Americas between 1750 and 1850. It contains a series of closely argued essays by a collaborative team of contributors on the language of democracy and on the social and political context in which democratic ideas operated. The interaction between language and practice is at the heart of the exercise.

This is a book with a mission. Struck by how Hitler’s leadership managed to eradicate ‘a long history of mutual admiration and commitment’ between England and Germany, Miranda Seymour aims to set the record straight. Her intention is not to forget the horrors that took place between 1933 and 1945, but to remember the noble endeavours of the many who once built bridges between these chivalrous, and rivalrous, nations.

The purposes of this book are singular and, to an extent, groundbreaking. It explores ways in which 18th-century ‘metropolitan Britons’ spoke and wrote about Empire ‘as they tried to confront its unfolding problems in shifting contexts and to trace the gradual emergence after 1760 of a critique of Empire on the grounds of humanity, justice and liberty’. While so doing this necessitates ‘an analysis of the many discourses or languages that metropolitan Britons used’.

Sometimes history has so many twists and turns that you could not make it up. Today the south-west corner of the Arabian peninsula lies at the forefront of the struggle with Islamic fundamentalism, home to insurgents plotting to add airliners and oil pipelines to a roster of terrorist attacks that includes the suicide mission that killed dozens of sailors aboard the USS Cole in October 2000.

When I was researching the history of the Economist, of which Walter Bagehot was the third and greatest editor (1861-77), I gazed in dread one day at the 15 stern-looking volumes of his collected works, gritted my teeth and began the first. 

This nuanced study of well-mapped territory, science under the Third Reich, recalls a remarkable comment by Albert Einstein. In 1937, when he was an exile from Nazi Germany settled in the United States, Einstein stated: ‘Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the inquiring constructive mind.’

Louis Bayard was one of the most important French spies of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, who led a life of adventure, privileged access and, ultimately, treachery. Elizabeth Sparrow, whose previous book was the acclaimed Secret Service: British Agents in France 1792-1815 (1999), believes Bayard to have been ‘a double if not triple agent’, but by the end of this well-researched study she provides enough evidence to convict him of being that rarest of beasts: a quadruple agent.

Conspiracy stories sell and Rudolf Hess is the gift that keeps on giving. Ever since Hitler’s beetle-browed deputy parachuted into Scotland on the night of May 10th, 1941 to spend the rest of his life in captivity, his story has attracted theories from the mildly intriguing to the thoroughly outlandish.