Miscellanies

Miscellanies is History Today's free weekly long read. Every Thursday, we publish a specially commissioned essay or long read from our archive. The subject? History. As the name suggests, we can’t be more specific…

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Gabriele D'Annunzio and supporters in Fiume. 1919.

The poet’s conquest of the Adriatic city of Fiume in 1919 was flamboyant, comedic and never likely to last – but it ushered in a new era of showman politics across Europe.

Occupying British troops march past the Nusretiye mosque in Istanbul in 1920, as the Ottoman Empire collapses.

Across the Balkans, relics of Ottoman glory and decline, such as mosques, bridges and hamams, exist in various states of disrepair. Can they be brought back to life?

Napoleon’s birthday fell on 15 August. How better to celebrate than by creating a new saint – one ‘Neopolus’ – and using the theatre to emphasise his links to historical kings and emperors?

Ancient Egypt’s bureaucratic society depended on an army of scribes. To get ahead, you had to be able to write – but that didn’t necessarily mean mastering hieroglyphs.

During the 1770s there emerged a new type of fashionable fellow: the Macaroni, whose style was frequently and easily lampooned by cartoonists and the media.

In 17th-century England, talking about Islam was a way of criticising the powers that be. When an introduction to the first translation of the Quran described a ‘leader of a band of fugitives’, was it aimed at the Prophet or Oliver Cromwell?

Detail from the Bull-leaping fresco from the Minoan Palace of Knossos

King Minos and the Minotaur remain shrouded in mystery and mythology, yet evidence of a Bronze Age ‘Bull Cult’ at the Minoan palaces abounds. Were bulls merely for entertainment or did they have a deeper significance?

'A New Thing in Burglary', Illustrated Police News, 2 April 1898.

‘Lady burglars’ – as they were primly named by the late-Victorian press – had an almost mythical status. That nocturnal robberies were committed by women was often too much to countenance.

Still from 1913 adaptation of The Prisoner of Zenda with James K. Hackett as Rudolf Rassendyll.

There are many ways to visit Ruritania, although the country doesn’t exist. Anthony Hope’s bucolic kingdom – replete with chocolate-box royalty and swashbuckling adventure – has a long cultural history.

From 'A Tour in Wales' by Thomas Pennant (1726-1798).

Historical facts about the Druids are few, yet this very lack of tangible evidence has allowed their image to be reworked and appropriated by the English, Irish, Scots and Welsh for over 500 years.