Volume 63 Issue 11 November 2013

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

Robert Gildea examines the enduring and divisive debate surrounding the reputation of the French emperor who anticipated the best and the worst of the 20th century.

Philip Baker reassesses an article from 1967 on Cromwell and the Levellers, which challenged the orthodoxies of the times.

Stephen Cooper and Ashley Cooper consider how the deeds of Richard III, still controversial today, were judged by his contemporaries.

A new project to analyse the Hearth Tax returns of early modern London and Middlesex offers a revealing portrait of a growing but divided city in the midst of cataclysmic crises. Vanessa Harding explains.

The First World War precipitated a housing crisis in London, which affected all classes of the populace and had a profound effect on the capital, says Jerry White.

The investigation of President Kennedy’s murder was marked by serious blunders. As a result, the truth behind the assassination is unlikely to be known, says Peter Ling.

On the centenary of his birth, Martin Evans looks at the evolving legacy of the Algerian-born French writer Albert Camus

Roger Hudson expands on a photograph of an Edwardian excursion to the sites at Giza around 1910.

Though they are often seen as polar opposites,the architect of modern Germany and the great British Liberal statesman shared more in common than one might think. Roland Quinault draws comparisons.

Buildings like the Shard may look like heralds of the future, but they are part of a long history of idealistic urban planning, says Alexander Lee.

Nicholas Henshall examines the politics of aristocratic culture in Europe between 1650 and 1750.

Proust's epic first appeared on November 14th, 1913.

Thomas Tompion, a master of time, died on November 20th, 1713.

The creator of modern Turkey died on November 10th, 1938.

Marilyn V. Longmuir looks at the historical background to the Burmese obsession with pristine bank notes.

British democracy owes a debt to the country’s first civil rights movement, says Malcolm Chase.

Historians are becoming more ambitious in the breadth and depth of their coverage. Is there a danger that this will reduce the role of humans to a bit part? Not necessarily, says Paul Dukes.

Australia and the US were allies during the Second World War, though that wasn’t always apparent in the relationship between GIs and Diggers. This is the story of one especially bitter encounter.

The rivalry between Gladstone and Disraeli has long been regarded as the most famous political duel in modern British history. As such, it has attracted the attention of numerous historians. This study is by a former Labour MP, who has written a number of books on British premiers, but is not a professional historian. The book is clearly and fluently written, well illustrated and reasonably priced. The assessment of the two men avoids both hagiography on the one hand and dismissive criticism on the other.

Diarmaid MacCulloch begins by reflecting on the silence of Sherlock Holmes’ dog, which did not bark in the night time. Like Holmes he has come to realise the significance of silence. No doubt this was helped by the task of preparing his A History of Christianity (2009). As with that project, Silence: A Christian History begins with Judaism and its legacy for Christianity and is a polemic with Christianity.

Imagine a small town with a population of around 20,000, with its own tradesmen, teaching establishments, theatre and sports clubs, but with one unusual attribute: the entire population is male. Such was Knockaloe on the Isle of Man, the largest internment camp in the British Isles during the First World War.

David Kynaston is the best writer of narrative British history today and this third volume of his series Tales of a New Jerusalem is as gripping as the first two. His strength lies in his ability to let people tell those tales without their voices being turned into ciphers for the author’s politics.

This remarkable rediscovery is both a rarity and an oddity. A rarity because full-length eye-witness accounts of the Spanish Civil War by well-informed observers don’t arrive every day. An oddity because the author, Henry Buckley, was a correspondent for the conservative Daily Telegraph and a fervent Catholic, who was an ardent sympathiser for the left-wing, violently anti-clerical Republic.

The physician Galen of Pergamum was the leading anatomist of antiquity. However his science was based on dissection of animals, since the dissection of humans was virtually taboo in the Roman Empire. He was, therefore, mistaken in many of his views of human anatomy, such as the structure of the heart (though he did disprove Aristotle’s notion that the heart was the seat of reason, noting that gladiators wounded in the heart remained lucid until death). Not until the Renaissance did Andreas Vesalius undertake human dissection in earnest and reveal the true cardiac anatomy.

Here is a familiar story, told in a most unfamiliar way. The story is familiar from many books about the ‘age of reform/improvement’ and others of that ilk. While there is much in it which has been historical knowledge for at least two generations, I was quite affected to find Mr Heffer using Lytton Strachey as a sparring partner in his warm-up pages – just like my tutor at Trinity College, Cambridge 60 years ago. 

In 1429, ‘with a pirouette and a trip’, Owain Tudur, a poor Welsh gentleman, fell into the lap of Henry V’s widow, whom he served as keeper of her wardrobe. They married secretly, Queen Catherine screaming in ecstasy when they were in bed. At 13 their daughter-in-law, the ‘sinister’ Margaret Beaufort, the last Lancastrian heir, gave birth to ‘a fatherless boy and penniless exile with the name of a humble Welsh farmer who nonetheless became a king’: Henry VII. This was the start of a dynasty with a bigger hold on our imaginations than any in English history.

"The boys [of 1 Parachute Brigade] could always find some excuse to have a go at the American troops, either because the Yanks didn’t stand up quickly enough when the National Anthem was played in the local dance hall, or because of some imagined, or manufactured, insult to a local girl."