Subscribe to History Today

Literature

Wild yet chaste, impudent and ageless, Sarah Bernhardt was inescapably Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, ‘the most splendid creation’.

The American poet died on March 26th, 1892 after completing his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, a year earlier. 

If you believe the neologism 'post-truth' describes a new phenomenon, think again. Geoffrey Chaucer diagnosed the problem at the end of the 14th century, as Eleanor Parker points out.

Along with Robin Hood, the romantic highwayman is one of the great myths of English outlawry. But the model for this most gallant of rogues was a Frenchman, who carried out audacious robberies with a touch of Parisian flair. John Sugden on Claude Duval’s life and legend.

Struggling to make sense of the Holocaust, one Hungarian novelist came to the startling realisation that the 20th century’s darkest moment might not yield any lessons for posterity, writes Alexander Lee.

The ideas of a French philosopher provided the great Egyptian novelist with a way of assessing the good and the bad in his nation’s past, writes Alexander Lee.

The feeling of awe and excitement, akin to meeting one’s idol, will be familiar to anyone lucky enough to make medieval manuscripts their life’s...

The son of a country whose history had been written by outsiders, Chinua Achebe recognised the need for African literature with a Nigerian voice, writes Alexander Lee.

Witnessing the slow decline of his native Sicily, the last Prince of Lampedusa saw both blame and possible salvation in the island’s unique location and history, writes Alexander Lee.

Here is is a many-sided tale of Alexander the Great and of arsenic sulphide, of Bavarian limestone and of metaphorical black tigers, of...