Volume 63 Issue 12 December 2013

The issues raised by Philip Morgan in a 2007 article on Italian Fascism have been rekindled, says Christopher Duggan.

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

In 1961, rattled by Soviet advances in space, President John F. Kennedy declared that, within a decade, the United States would land a man on the Moon. David Baker tells the story of how it took the US Air Force to change NASA and make the dream a reality.

Loan sharks, youth debt, peer pressure and parental responsibility are not just issues of the moment. Nicola Phillips tells the story of a young Regency buck who pushed his father a financial step too far.

A photograph of shipbuilders working on the liner Queen Mary taken in 1935 tells a wider story, by Roger Hudson.

The Daily Mail has recently caused controversy with its views on patriotism. Adrian Bingham looks back at a time when the newspaper’s belief in its national duty provoked intense debate and copies were burnt in the City of London.

As Home Secretary in 1911 Winston Churchill intervened in a debate about Britain’s role in a future European conflict. His observations were remarkably prescient and, had they been implemented, might have shortened the First World War, says Allan Mallinson.

Mary Sparks describes a female citizen of Sarajevo, whose life in the city coincided with the period of Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and whose impact on the social and cultural events reflected the modern aspirations of the city in the time leading up to the First World War

During the First World War, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist William Lawrence Bragg devised a system to locate enemy guns, which made a dramatic impact on the Allied war effort and beyond, says Taylor Downing.

We ask some of our leading historians to tell us about the books that they have found most stimulating over the past 12 months.

The ‘little town’ celebrated by western Christians as the location of the Nativity is much more than a stylised depiction evoked in Christmas cards each December, says Jacob Norris. 

The tragic figure whose death led to the outbreak of the First World War was born on December 18th, 1863.

Tinseltown pioneers founded the Jesse Lasky Feature Play Company on December 22nd, 1913.

The rebirth of one of the world's great buildings took place on December 24th, 563.

To be present where so many are now absent offers students a profound insight into the realities of history, argues Tom Jackson.

Should one of the greatest of Welsh treasures be returned to the country in which it was found? David R. Howell investigates.

The history of the Bayreuth Festival, the annual celebration of the music of Richard Wagner, is mired in controversy and scandal, as Mark Ronan reports.

Though UK governments rejected US requests to send troops to Vietnam, Britain did not stay out of the war, says Marc Tiley.

Abu Raihan al-Biruni, an Islamic scholar from Central Asia, may have discovered the New World centuries before Columbus – without leaving his study.

Monarchs in pre-modern Europe ruled as well as reigned. Sovereign power could be wielded in the Privy Council as well as the royal bedchamber, while influence could be gained by accessing a ruler who was busy hearing petitions or dining.

The present is the urban age. There are close to 500 cities and urban agglomerations with over a million inhabitants and 26 mega-cities with populations exceeding ten million, compared with just one city, Edo, modern Tokyo, which reached the figure of one million people in the early 18th century.

Anybody who has seen Gordon Corrigan’s clipped and authoritative explanations on television will expect more of the same here. When he describes the composition of the armies, the tactics they employed, the conduct of the campaigns and the unfolding of battles, they will not be disappointed. This is as it should be, because the book is sub-titled A Military History of the Hundred Years War.   

Thomas Babington Macaulay, the Whig historian and politician, is not often seen as one of the makers of the modern world. However, this bold claim is made by Zareer Masani, who presents Thomas Macaulay as the creator of the idea of western liberalist intervention, in effect making Tony Blair and George W. Bush Macaulay’s children. Masani’s main thrust is to prove that without Macaulay the modern united India, the world’s largest democracy, would not have emerged.

This powerful new book is a landmark in the historiography of the English Civil War. But the author does not stress this; he is too modest. After all, historians have grown up with the compelling structure and astonishing detail of Laurence Stone’s 840 pages of closely argued scholarship, The Crisis of the Aristocracy 1558-1641 (1965). Can Stone’s thesis, in arguably his finest book, simply be wrong? Cust shows just how far we have moved on since the time when we demanded causation in social and economic terms of rising, declining or static peers and gentry.

Twenty-first century Britain is a society in which the fascination with the ‘occult’ is flourishing. Paul Kléber Monod’s new book seeks to illuminate one phase of the convoluted history of this phenomenon: its fate and fortunes during the long 18th century. The period 1650-1815 is synonymous with the onward march of scientific reason and the onset of the Enlightenment. It is widely assumed that these developments consigned esoteric knowledge of the supernatural to the category of ‘superstition’ and undermined its credibility in educated circles.

It is a brave writer who attempts the history of our civilisation in 253 pages and a rare writer who brings it off. Paul Kindstedt is not first and foremost a historian, but a professor of food science at the University of Vermont, whose book on the history of cheese is a delight.