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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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Before the harmful effects of radiation were acknowledged, the beauty industry sold radium as ‘liquid sunshine’. Marie Skłodowska Curie’s death would change that. 

Muscat, Oman, 20th century.

The tension between Oman’s outward-looking coastal regions and its religious interior came to a head in the 20th century. Would the country be governed by sultan or imam?

In the 18th century, new scientific ideas meant new thinking about what it meant to be male and female. As everything became gendered, anxieties proliferated.

Beauty, Leningrad Zoo, c.1932.

The Siege of Leningrad imposed horrific conditions on its residents, severe food shortages among them. Remarkably, many of the animals in the city’s zoo survived.

After decades of turmoil, in 1181 Jayavarman VII restored order to the Angkor Empire by embracing Buddhism and introducing an unprecedented public healthcare programme.

Life and death in a Viking battle depended not on military prowess, but on the favour of the valkyries. Why were these mythical figures, who decided a warrior’s fate, female?

In 1805, a lady’s maid from Cork visited the palace of a Russian princess and inadvertently became one of the first published Irish writers on Russia.

Soviet soldiers in Bornholm, 1945.

The small island of Bornholm gave Stalin a Danish foothold at the end of the Second World War. Why did he give it up?

Ancient Rome by Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1757.

The French Grand Tour was the preserve of the elite, but in the decades before the Revolution ‘the art of being abroad’ endured a crisis. Who should travel and why?

First aid to the wounded on the battlefield at Colenso during the Boer War, print after J.J. Waugh, c.1900.

Eight years after giving up medicine for writing, the internationally famous creator of Sherlock Holmes became Dr Doyle once more, on the front line of the Boer War.