Miscellanies. is History Today's free weekly long read. Every Wednesday, we publish a specially commissioned essay or long read from our archive. The subject? History. As the name suggests, we can’t be more specific…
Fear, Loathing and Zulm in Iran
The protests that broke out across Iran towards the end of 2017 were not triggered by one event. Their cause was mounting unrest at zulm: an all-encompassing term for the injustice, iniquity and oppression that has permeated Iranian society for more than a century.
Aboard the Armchair Voyage
In the late 1950s, Armchair Voyage was the BBC’s first foray into televised historical documentary, taking its viewers on a tour of the classical world and establishing a format that is still popular today. Though it introduced classics to a mass audience, its origins lay in an elite members’ club.
Best of Enemies: Europeans in the Ottoman Elite
European Christians who converted to Islam in the Ottoman Empire were vilified as traitors who had defected to the arch-enemy. But there is a big difference between official propaganda and the lived experiences of these ‘renegades’.
English Rifles: The Victorian NRA
Lured by the romantic appeal of uniforms and guns, a craze for volunteer soldiering swept across Britain in the 1860s, prompting the creation of a British National Rifle Association. But it never gained the power of its American counterpart.
Islam’s ‘Toxic’ Schism
Embodied in the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Sunni-Shia divide is a schism that threatens to tear the Islamic world apart. Though its origins go back to the beginnings of Islam, its present toxicity is a recent development.
The Rise of the Flesh-Avoiders
Modern vegetarianism is concerned largely with issues of animal welfare but its roots are to be found in the early-modern desire to promote spirituality by curbing humanity’s excessive appetites.
The Medieval Gig Economy
While the great and good of the medieval Church secured lucrative and influential posts, the average parish priest was often forced to juggle a variety of casual jobs to make ends meet. The ‘gig economy’ – of which we hear so much today – was part of everyday life in medieval England.
Blasphemy on Trial
In June 1976, Gay News magazine published a poem that – as the subject of a high profile blasphemy trial a year later – was described as ‘the ultimate in profanity’. Whitehouse v Lemon, the trial in question, exposed Britain’s archaic and obscure blasphemy laws.
The Sultan and the Sultan
Faced with a vast, decaying empire, the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II ruled with an iron fist, curtailing press freedom, promoting Islam and severing ties with the West. His similarities with Turkey’s current president have not gone unnoticed.
The Wailing Woman
The legend of La Llorona has supposedly haunted Mexico since before the Conquest. Her story is one of violence, much like the country whose suffering she is often taken to represent. Beware the woman in white ...
The Catastrophe at Caporetto
On 24 October 1917, the Central Powers launched a massive offensive at Italy’s north-eastern border. The resulting battle – popularly known as Caporetto – has been described as the greatest defeat in Italian military history.
Desolation Row: Victorian Britain’s Sensational Slums
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.
Catalonia, Spain’s Biggest Problem
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.
Filming a Biblical City
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.
Satan’s Bank Note
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?
The World’s Local Religion
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?