Feature

Plate 38, from 'World in Miniature', 1816, Thomas Rowlandson. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the Victorian countryside, what did going to church on Sundays actually mean?

Edith Cavell, c.1910 © Getty Images

How did an executed English nurse become the unlikely protector of the German poet who pronounced her dead?

Propaganda poster, c.1970 © Getty Images

What do the tyrants of the 20th century have in common? Terror, confusion and quasi-religious followings.

Friedrich Nietzsche, by Edvard Munch, c.1906. © Munch Museet, Oslo, Norway/Bridgeman Images

As a frontline soldier in the First World War, the German artist Otto Dix fell under the spell of the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and his assault on Christian morality.

Nativity, from the Psalter of Ingeborg of Denmark, c.1210 © Bridgeman Images

Medieval French monarchs used – and abused – the charismatic power of religious women.

Interior view of Coucy, 1890 © Roger-Viollet/Getty Images

The changing fates of one of France’s grandest castles are a microcosm for its history.

Louis XIV after Charles Le Brun,17th century © Bridgeman Images

An alliance between Louis XIV and a Transylvanian prince was just one aspect of the Sun King’s ambition to dominate Europe.

Karl Wolff, Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich attend the premiere of the film Verräter (Traitor), Nuremberg, 1936 © akg-images

The Third Reich’s obsession with a pure Germanic past led to a renewed interest in the witch hunts of early modern Germany.

Race of the Steamboats: Robert E. Lee (nicknamed the ‘Monarch of the Mississippi’) and Natchez, chromolithograph, 1870 © Getty Images

Mark Twain painted an evocative vision of the Mississippi River, but he didn’t tell the whole story.

Three Indian men on a verandah pulling punkha strings, c.1900 © Royal Society for Asian Affairs, London/Bridgeman Images

Sweltering British imperialists relied on an army of fan bearers, whose stories are as invisible as the air they circulated.