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This Month's Magazine


With the World Cup in Brazil almost underway, our July edition looks back at one of the most dramatic finals in the tournament's history.

Paul Legg revisits West Germany’s unlikely World Cup victory of 1954 and explains its importance to the country’s emergence as a liberal democracy after the shame and humiliation of defeat in the Second World War.

Also in this issue:

  • Janie Hampton outlines the opening naval battle of the Great War, fought not in the North Sea but in Central Africa;
  • Penny Young examines the latest insights into ancient religions revealed at a newly excavated site in the Syrian desert;

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Main Features

Germany will be among the favourites to lift the World Cup this summer. But when West Germany won the competition for the first time in 1954 they were the unfancied representatives of a divided nation emerging from defeat and humiliation, says Paul Legg.

Historians have often depicted the final years of Elizabeth I’s reign as a period of decline or crisis. Yet, though the regime faced serious challenges, Janet Dickinson and Neil Younger show that her government operated more successfully than is usually thought.

Why did the diplomatic deceits and deceptions that took place across Europe in the summer of 1914 lead to the First World War? Annika Mombauer seeks answers to one of history’s most complex and controversial questions.

The opening naval battle of the First World War took place not in the North Sea but in Central Africa in August 1914. It would change the course of the African conflict in Britain’s favour, says Janie Hampton.

Africans in Georgian Britain have often been portrayed as victims of slavery, unfortunates at the bottom of the social heap. The reality was far more fluid and varied, as Onyeka shows, with many African gentlemen sharing the same cultural and social aspirations as their fellow Englishmen.

The British colonial policy towards the indigenous people of Tasmania in the first part of the 19th century amounted to ethnic cleansing, a part of its history that Britain still hasn’t confronted, argues Tom Lawson.

Though it all seems rather mild from the distance of half a century, the riots that took place in English seaside towns during 1964 revealed a shift in values from those of the austere war generation to the newly affluent baby boomers, argues Clive Bloom.

The compact between the British state and those prepared to die for it is a dubious one, argues Sarah Ingham.

History Matters

The medieval scriptorium was not necessarily the ordered hive of activity we have come to imagine

Numerous untruths have persisted about Gavrilo Princip, the man who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand. One of them was used by Austria-Hungary as grounds for its declaration of war against Serbia in 1914.

Findings at a desert site in eastern Syria shed light on pagan, Jewish and early Christian religions.

The 1914-18 conflict changed the nature of Scottish identity.

Other articles

The struggle between certainty and doubt is at the heart of history, says Mathew Lyons. It should be relished for what it reveals about a past where facts are sometimes in short supply.

A milestone in transportation was reached on July 25th, 1814.

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

Justin Marozzi admires Hugh Kennedy’s article from 2004, which offers a nuanced portrait of the great Abbasid caliph, Harun al Rashid, much-mythologised hero of The Arabian Nights

The city burned on July 18th, AD 64.

Andrew Lycett untangles the complex story of how the West’s involvement in Middle Eastern affairs has been interpreted by historians.

The former prime minister stood down as an MP on July 28th, 1964.


A social history of Britain as told through pop songs.

The history of the working class used to feature a familiar cast of characters. Selina Todd introduces some new faces.

A record of the enormous advances made by historians of Africa since the specialism took its first tentative step.

Ian Mortimer welcomes a new book on 'one of the most important leaders in the history of the western world'.

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