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South Polar Chart, 1901.

First sighted in 1820, for much of human history Antarctica has been an abstract idea.

Prester John enthroned on a map of East Africa. Detail from 16th century atlas.

For five centuries the legend of a Christian priest king, in Asia or in Africa, sustained the hopes of Europeans in their struggle with Islam. Those who joined the search for Prester John were looking for a man who...

Portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

The French emperor was a hero to the composer, inspiring a revolutionary symphony. But disillusionment was soon to follow.

Power couple: The Lover's Seat: Shelley and Mary Godwin in Old St Pancras Churchyard by William Powell Frith, 1877

Behind the dominating presence of Frankenstein, the richness of Mary Shelley’s life is in danger of being lost.

Corot's Muse

Understanding the Past in the 21st Century

Bust of Marcus Tullius Cicero, first century AD

The man who conspired to kill Julius Caesar was not quite the friend to Romans and countrymen that his legendary status suggests. 

The Roman Empire in AD 117, 19th-century map.

Henri Pirenne transformed the way historians think about the end of the Classical world and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

The myths that surround the ultimately tragic rule of Charles I mask the realities of a courageous and uxorious king who fell foul of a bitter struggle between two sides of English Protestantism.

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