Volume 63 Issue 8 August 2013

Daniel Snowman surveys four recent books that look at the impact of antisemitism on Jewish cultural identity during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Established partly in response to the long-feared French invasion and partly to quell unrest at home, the yeomanry were increasingly used by the authorities to intervene on the side of employers in disputes and riots. The ensuing armed clashes present the clearest example of class warfare in early 19th-century Britain, says Nick Mansfield.  

The make-up master died on August 30th, 1938.

The first (and indeed only) Welsh monarch was toppled on August 5th, 1063.

The Byzantine ruler claimed his throne on August 16th, 963.

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

Kate Cooper reassesses Brent Shaw’s 1994 article on women in the early Church, which reveals a key historical principle.

Modern paganism is an invented tradition, says Tim Stanley. So why is the Church of England offering it a helping hand?

The relationship between religion and rationality was an intimate one in 17th-century England. Christopher J. Walker looks at the arguments and controversies of the time, which helped to forge a more open society.

Roger Hudson tells the story behind a moment of violence in 1923 outside China's Forbidden City in Peking.

Large numbers of West Africans came to Britain to study in the postwar years. Many placed their children in the care of white, working-class families. Jordanna Bailkin describes how it was not just Britain’s diplomatic relationships that were transformed at the end of empire but also social and personal ones.

Lady Margaret Douglas, a favourite of Henry VIII, negotiated the shady politics and shifting alliances of the courts of four Tudor monarchs. Leanda de Lisle tells the story of the ‘progenitor of princes’, whose grandson, James VI of Scotland, became the first Stuart king of England.

The collapse of the USSR after 1989 opened up Russia’s Arctic region to a degree of scrutiny previously denied historians. Katherine Harrison and Matthew Hughes examine the Soviet approach to nuclear testing.

The recent killing of a French teenager by fascist sympathisers recalls the tensions and divisions of the 1930s, says Chris Millington.

Adrian Mourby welcomes the return to public view of the Habsburgs’ esoterica.

It is time to ditch the Blackadder view of history, says Gary Sheffield. Britain was right to fight Imperial Germany in 1914.

Richard Kennett calls on his fellow history teachers to embrace narrative. There is no better way to inspire the historians of the future.

The author of Whisky Galore played an active role in the Great War, experiencing both the horror of the Dardanelles in 1915 and the intrigues of wartime Athens. Yet his diplomatic ham-fistedness forced his premature exit. Richard Hughes explains. 

The persecution and execution of Jews in 15th-century Italy highlights the ambiguous attitudes of Renaissance intellectuals towards Jewish people, their beliefs and their historical relationship with Christian theology, as Stephen Bowd explains.

H2O: few symbols are more meaningful in nature or culture. Water is life. Civilisations have arisen along riverbanks and fallen in droughts. In our own anxious age of climate change some predict water will be the ‘blue gold’ of the future. At the same time water has brought celebration, magic and pleasure, spurting from marble fountains and splashing in spas and hot tubs.

The nexus of global history and the history of globalisation is usually hovered over unawares by any book with ‘global’ in the title. A minority of books consciously plant themselves at that very nexus and occupy it fully, for better or worse. In A World Connecting Emily Rosenberg and her authors narrate the world from 1870 to 1945 as the history of widening and deepening networks of global exchange, whether cultural or material. The chronology is boldly crafted, as the book proposes to examine transnational dynamics in an age conventionally seen as dominated by nationalism.

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It is the stuff of which historians’ dreams are made. An archive of some 600 boxes, untouched, which tells a quite incredible story. Lucy Riall came across the Duchy of Bronte archive in Palermo some years ago. This magnificent book is the outcome of what she found there and an object lesson in how to make history readable, exciting, funny and insightful. Bronte is a small town which, as Riall puts it, ‘lies on a precipitous incline at around 800 metres above sea level on the Western slopes of Mount Etna’.

Andrei Pippidi’s enjoyable book is the latest contribution to the study of the historical relationship between Europe and the Ottoman world and concerns the reaction of European intellectuals to Ottoman advance westwards. The author is emeritus chair of medieval history at the University of Bucharest and Visions of the Ottoman World is an expanded version of his 1983 PhD thesis.

The secular West feels itself threatened by Islam, which seems to want to blow it apart, yet Islam is the ideological glue that has kept Iran together for more than 30 years. What is an ‘Islamic Republic’ and how did Iran become one? How long will it remain one? These are the questions addressed by Axworthy in this follow-up to his excellent Iran: Empire of the Mind (2008). The author ended his Foreign Office career as head of the Iran section and now heads the Persian and Iranian Studies Centre at Exeter University.

Robert Edsel evidently aims his book at the US popular market; on the first page he uses the word ‘tremor’ as a verb. He writes in short sentences, which a purist might think is just as well. When he writes expansively, quite a few of his phrases float rather than attach themselves properly to his main clauses. But beautiful prose is not his purpose. Rather he wants to tell a happy tale of the saving of ‘Italy’s artistic and cultural treasures’ from 1943-45.