Volume 62 Issue 1 January 2012

The triumph of liberal democracy was supposed to herald an end to history. But it has returned with a vengeance, says Tim Stanley.

The author of Courtiers: The Secret History of Kensington Palace (Faber & Faber), and presenter of the BBC TV series, If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home discusses her work with Paul Lay.

Ian Bradley looks at the life of Vincent Priessnitz, pioneer of hydrotherapy, whose water cures gained advocates throughout 19th-century Europe and beyond and are still popular today.

Would a new Act in Restraint of Appeals such as Henry VIII enacted against Rome in 1533 achieve a similar objective for Eurosceptics today of ‘repatriating powers’ from the EU? asks Stephen Cooper.

The great debates in Elizabethan history tend to be circular. Their origins lie in the reign itself and subsequent historical revisions simply recycle old arguments. So it is with Sir Francis Walsingham. Mary Stuart herself made what John Cooper calls ‘the most striking allegation’ against Walsingham at her trial at Fotheringhay in October 1586. She accused him to his face of fabricating evidence ‘to bring her to her death’ and insinuated that ‘he had practised against her life and her son’s’.
John Forster, a journalist, biographer and drama critic, first met Charles Dickens in May 1837 and quickly became a trusted friend and adviser. ‘There was nothing written by [Dickens] which I did not see before the world did, either in manuscript or proofs’, he wrote. When Dickens died in 1870 he had already commissioned Forster to write his biography since ‘you know me better than any other man does, or ever will’.
It is 100 years ago this year that the British explorer Robert Falcon Scott was pipped to the South Pole by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen. As if this were not disappointment enough, he and the four men who accompanied him on the trek to the Pole never made it home, slipping instead into unconsciousness on the icy wastes of this bleak continent.
Nostalgia for aspects of life in the GDR, it seems, is still current. In modern Berlin one can buy any number of products that once graced East Berlin households; the Trabant car has acquired cult status; even the humble Ampelmann – which stood guard at pedestrian crossings in the East – has become an icon.
These were some of the questions raised at a recent conference at the Institute of Historical Research at which History Today Editor, Paul Lay, hosted a discussion between Hilary Mantel, author of http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0007230184/ref=as_li_qf_
In this enjoyable and idiosyncratic historical excursion, Norman Davies discusses 15 European states of the past, widely varying in character. Three of them – the Byzantine Empire, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Soviet Union – were great empires which looked as if they would last for ever; but they all disappeared, the first gradually over centuries, the last almost overnight. Another three – Aragon, Prussia and Savoy – spearheaded the respective ‘reunifications’ of Spain, Germany and Italy, which eventually subsumed them.
We are often told that the Second World War was a people’s war. Well, yes and no. While the masses huddled in Anderson shelters and their homes and workplaces were pummelled by the Luftwaffe, the rich in London continued to party like it’s 1939. Readers of the wartime press were appalled by revelations about the luxuries toffs continued to enjoy, including secure, deep shelters and plentiful food that was not covered by the ration. Satirist Michael Barsley dubbed this opulence at a time of sacrifice the Ritzkrieg .
Don’t be misled by the title of this book. If you’re expecting something along the lines of Hitler’s Table-Talk (edited by Hugh Trevor-Roper, 1953) you’ll be disappointed. There’s almost no ‘talk’ here. The book purports to show the importance of Churchill’s dinners to his diplomacy, but doesn’t, apart from telling us that he sometimes met other world leaders over meals, which is obvious. But that’s part one of the book. Part two, on Churchill’s gastronomic tastes, is generally sounder.
One summer’s day in 1802 Samuel Taylor Coleridge strayed off the summit of Scafell in the Lake District and scrambled down a cliff known as Broad Stand. He found the experience terrifying but also exhilarating. When he got safely to the bottom and his limbs had stopped shaking, he ‘lay in an almost prophetic state of trance and delight’. Thus the sport of rock-climbing was born.

The designer of the Colt revolver, the most celebrated killing machine in the history of the Wild West, died on January 10th 1862, aged 47.

Frederick the Great, the man who made Prussia a leading European power, was born on January 24th, 1712.

The designer of the Colt revolver, the most celebrated killing machine in the history of the Wild West, died on January 10th 1862, aged 47.

Frederick the Great, the man who made Prussia a leading European power, was born on January 24th, 1712.

The Maid of Orléans was born on January 6th 1412: she has been an incarnation of French national identity and pride for six centuries.

The black activist Malcolm X was not a civil rights leader. Nor was he a victim of the mass media. He was its beneficiary, in life and death, argues Peter Ling.

The poets Gerard Manley Hopkins and Coventry Patmore both subscribed to a Tory world view, fiercely opposing the reforms of Prime Minister Gladstone. But their correspondence reveals two very different personalities, says Gerald Roberts.

The Zoological Society of London was launched in 1826 to promote scientific research into new species. Roger Rideout describes how it amassed its specimens for its private museum and menagerie, which soon became a public attraction.

The Treaty of Versailles, negotiated by the fractious Allies in the wake of the First World War, did not crush Germany, nor did it bring her back into the family of nations. Antony Lentin examines a tortuous process that sowed the seeds of further conflict.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a masterpiece of Middle English literature, which narrowly escaped destruction in the 18th century. Nicholas Mee examines the poem to discover both its secret benefactor and the location in which its drama unfolds.

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

Simon Heffer argues that until relatively recently most historians have been biased in their efforts to harness the past to contemporary concerns.

With the New Year release of Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse Gervase Phillips explores the true story of the horses and mules that served the British army during the First World War.

David Torrance examines a pioneering article, first published in History Today in 1990, which argued that the Scottish Enlightenment was not restricted to Edinburgh but was a genuinely national phenomenon.

Italian Fascist scouts meet a member of the Hitler Youth in Padua, October 1940: a picture explained by Roger Hudson.

Paul Lay pays tribute to the Renaissance and Early Modern historian who was a pioneer of interdisciplinary scholarship.

Today Jane Austen is regarded as one of the greats of English literature. But it was not always so. Amanda Vickery describes the changing nature of Austen’s reception in the two centuries since her birth.