Miscellanies

Miscellanies is History Today's free weekly long read. Every Wednesday, 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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What goes on in other people’s minds? The idea of writing about what we can never know – the interior lives of others – was born in the fertile hybrid culture of 12th-century England and made possible by the pursuit of romantic love.

The Cohen sisters, Nellie (left) and Rose (right), c.1932. Nellie is holding her daughter Joyce and Rose is holding her son Alexey. Courtesy of P. Harris.

Following the Russian Revolution, a small number of suffragettes transferred their allegiance from the women’s movement to international communism. For two young activists, the ‘Lenin Revolution’ promised adventure, kinship and the chance to reshape women’s role in society.

Growing impatient with the slow chug of a stagnant war, in 1968 the North Vietnamese authorities planned a major offensive that they hoped would produce a decisive victory. Launched on 30 January 1968, the Tet Offensive did not deliver the anticipated fatal blow, but it did help turn the tide of the Vietnam War.
The Normans advance in battle.

Little is known about the origins of the Bayeux Tapestry, or its journey from Norman propaganda to a world-famous tourist attraction. Yet those moments in which its story does come into focus reveal a surprising history of cross-cultural exchange. 

The protests that broke out across Iran towards the end of 2017 were not triggered by one event. Their cause was mounting unrest at zulm: an all-encompassing term for the injustice, iniquity and oppression that has permeated Iranian society for more than a century. 

In the late 1950s, Armchair Voyage was the BBC’s first foray into televised historical documentary, taking its viewers on a tour of the classical world and establishing a format that is still popular today. Though it introduced classics to a mass audience, its origins lay in an elite members’ club.

European Christians who converted to Islam in the Ottoman Empire were vilified as traitors who had defected to the arch-enemy. But there is a big difference between official propaganda and the lived experiences of these ‘renegades’.

Lured by the romantic appeal of uniforms and guns, a craze for volunteer soldiering swept across Britain in the 1860s, prompting the creation of a British National Rifle Association. But it never gained the power of its American counterpart. 

Embodied in the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Sunni-Shia divide is a schism that threatens to tear the Islamic world apart. Though its origins go back to the beginnings of Islam, its present toxicity is a recent development.

Modern vegetarianism is concerned largely with issues of animal welfare but its roots are to be found in the early-modern desire to promote spirituality by curbing humanity’s excessive appetites.