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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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Fort Sumter, 14 April 1861, under the Confederate flag.

One in every four soldiers surrendered at some point during the American Civil War. It was an honourable way of accepting defeat – provided it was done under the right circumstances.

Hindu goddess Durga riding a tiger, Kota, Rajasthan, c.1800.

No other creature has embodied so many attributes: magic spirit, vermin, guardian of holy men, symbol of mother India, an incarnation of evil yet also its vanquisher. 

The much-vaunted 'special relationship' between Britain and the United States obscures another history of rivalry and suspicion between the two allies.

A drunken scene in a dancing hall with a sly customer eyeing a young girl. Coloured etching by George Cruikshank, 1848.

Do you want to dance? As the 19th century wore on, the Victorians certainly did, requiring new venues in which to mix music and movement, whether a pub or a palace.

'Scene in Zion Tabernacle: Christ is All', 11 January 1895.

In the late 1800s, a new church promised to reshape human bodies into a redeemed race, transcending biology and ethnicity. Inhabitants of the dirty, sick slums of the world’s recently industrialised cities were increasingly drawn to the call of Zion.  

Viking ship carrying Harold III of Norway against his half-brother Olaf II in 1030, c.1375.

Norse travellers reached every corner of the known world, but they were not tourists. The ‘racially pure’ Vikings of stereotype were, in fact, cultural chameleons adopting local habits, languages and religions. 

Flag of the African Union.

Is a united Africa, freed from the legacy of colonialism, possible? The Pan-African movement has been advocated by many different voices, underpinned by a belief in the common destiny in the peoples of Africa.

Native Police of Port Phillip, 1850.

The Native Police was one of the most deadly death squads in Australian history, considered by some historians to be the single biggest killer of Aboriginal people in the colony during the late 19th century. The consequences are still playing out today. 

Mosaic from Hagia Sofia depicting Constantine I with a representation of the city of Constantinople

Though the beginnings of the Byzantine Empire are unclear, its demise is not. The history of the Eastern Roman Empire, from its foundation in 324 to its conquest in 1453, is one of war, plague, architectural triumphs and fear of God's wrath.

Bran Castle, March 2013.

Bram Stoker’s novel was a mixed blessing for Romania. It attracted tourists, but the legend was at odds with communist ideals and made a villain of a national hero.