Long Reads

In-depth articles from the History Today Archive

In the late 19th century, middle-class Britain became fascinated by the existence of a foreign presence in its very own cities and towns. Slums, and the sordid stories of sexual violence and vice within them, held newspaper readers rapt with curiosity and fear.

In the post-Civil War era, Spain’s problem with regional nationalism seemed dominated by Basque separatists. Yet, as recent events show, Barcelona is now the epicentre of the biggest issue facing the Madrid government – an issue with deep historical roots.

In the 1930s, the discovery of the ancient city of Lachish in the British Mandate of Palestine coincided with modern technological advancements which allowed archaeologists to share their breakthroughs with the world. 

In the early 19th century ‘filthy rags’ – or bank notes – became a common form of currency. A surge in forgery followed, accompanied by a surge in harsh prosecutions. How did we get from gold to paper?

On the 500th anniversary of the origins of Protestant Christianity, how should we understand its spread – from an academic dispute in a second-rank German university to a global faith that embraces up to a billion people? 

Members of the Danish Viking Olayers of Fredrikssund rehearse for a pageant marking the 75th anniversary of the Borough of Ramsgate, Kent

We might applaud the tall, blond and ruggedly handsome Vikings of pop culture as being historically accurate, but authentic engagement with the past requires more than just convincing hair and make-up, says Oren Falk.

Prisoners at work at the Noumea Penal Colony, New Caledonia, engraved by Gillot, c.1900.

When the European powers began exporting convicts to other continents, they did so to create a deterrent and to establish new settlements across the world. Clare Anderson traces the history of punitive passages.

The success of the great military order owed much to the charismatic leadership of Herman von Salza, one of the most dynamic individuals of the 13th century.

Terracotta figure with a headdress of flowers, rings and a belt, c.3000 BC.

The civilisation that arose in the Indus valley around 5,000 years ago was only discovered in the early 20th century. Andrew Robinson looks at what we know about this extraordinary culture.

Haile Selassie with his pet cheetahs before the Jubilee Palace, Addis Ababa, c.1955.

Three very different writers reported on the exotic and despotic court of the Emperor Haile Selassie. Jeffrey Meyers compares and contrasts. 

A Portuguese merchant is greeted by his Indian household, early 16th century.

Poor and small, Portugal was at the edge of late medieval Europe. But its seafarers created the age of ‘globalisation’, which continues to this day, as Roger Crowley explains.

The Nazis believed that Islamic forces would prove crucial wartime allies. But, as David Motadel shows, the Muslim world was unwilling to be swayed by the Third Reich's advances.

Jonathan Phillips offers a comprehensive account of a compelling and controversial topic, whose bitter legacy resonates to this day. 

Saint-Just in a portrait by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, 1793. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon / Bridgeman Images

The embodiment of the youthful revolutionary, Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just was devoured by the Terror he helped unleash.

Baynard’s Castle, site of Henry VIII’s final conference on the Hunne case. Engraving, 17th century.

Richard Dale investigates the mysterious death of Richard Hunne in Lollards Tower at Old St Paul’s, one of the most notorious episodes of the English Reformation.

A map of the world illutrating a 14th-century manuscript of al-Biruni's 'Elements of Astrology'

Abu Raihan al-Biruni, an Islamic scholar from Central Asia, may have discovered the New World centuries before Columbus – without leaving his study.

In 1904, when tobacco farmers of Kentucky and Tennessee formed an association to unite against the American Tobacco Company, a vigilante splinter group decided to deliver its own brand of rough justice.

Why, ask Richard Weight and Toby Haggith, do modern Britons still find it so hard to acknowledge their revolutionary past?

The earliest explorers to uncover the ancient Maya civilisation in Central America could not believe that it owed its creation to the indigenous population, whom they saw as incapable savages. Nigel Richardson explains how this view changed.

Britain’s involvement in the Middle East between the wars proved a rich seam for authors of adventure stories. Michael Paris shows how these, in turn, helped to reinforce the imperial mission.