History Matters

Thoughts, opinions and commentary on all things historical.

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 ‘Is This a Time for Sleep?’, 1883, in which Cholera looms over New York Harbor while Science sleeps 23 © Granger/Bridgeman Images.

Quarantine is intended to protect, but it can also punish.

Woden surrounded by his descendants, English manuscript, 12th century © Bridgeman Images.

In Anglo-Saxon England a hill could be a dragon’s lair and a ditch the home of gods.

‘The city of lovers / Is glowing this evening’: view from the roof of Notre-Dame, 1961. Photo by Gunter R Reitz/Michael Ochs Archives © Getty Images

What does it mean to rebuild Notre-Dame?

A fishing fleet on the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland, copper engraving, French, 1683 © Bridgeman Images.

The first pilgrim settlers to America tried, and failed, to settle in Newfoundland.

Poster by Elena Krylova-Nurenberg, 1972.

The past and future of punctuation marks.

The body beautiful: the Wound  of Christ, from the Prayer Book of Bonne de Luxembourg, attributed to Jean Le Noir, French, c.1345 © akg-images

Medieval women’s bodies were a battleground: they were either irretrievably sinful, or they were Christ-like.

Mail-order radiation protection suits made by Civil Defence Supply, c.1980 © Hulton/Getty Images.

The 1980 Protect and Survive booklet opened government plans to ridicule.

Flagellants known as the Brothers of the Cross proceed through Tournai to free the world of the plague. Chromolithograph after the Chronica Aegidii Li Muisis (1349) © Ann Ronan/Getty Images.

The Plague was not just a medieval illness.

Written in stone: graffiti on the Great Wall of China © Warren Pettine/Getty Images.

Carving our names on great monuments is a millennia-old tradition, but why do we do it?

Labour Cabinet ministers walking in the Peak District, 1947. Roderick Floud, courtesy James Franklin/Gresham College.

Britain’s National Parks are a forgotten legacy of postwar reconstruction.