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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Hitler and Goebbels on the set of Barcarole, 1935.

Nazi art never caught on, its architecture was unbuilt or destroyed, but its films were shot and seen by millions. The German dictator was a keen believer in the power of cinema and used it to spread the ideology of his murderous regime.

New universities sprung up across medieval Europe at a rapid rate, yet at the start of the 19th century, England had only two: Oxford and Cambridge. For centuries, England’s two oldest institutions enjoyed a strict duopoly on higher learning, enforced by law. Why were they allowed to?

Christie's Auction Rooms, from 'The Microcosm of London', published by Rudolph Ackermann, 1808.

Auctions, presided over by charismatic storytelling showmen, became social events in the 18th century, where middle-class Georgians could pick over the possessions of the dead and see close up the tactile relics of celebrity.

Prester John enthroned on a map of East Africa. Detail from 16th century atlas.

For five centuries the legend of a Christian priest king, in Asia or in Africa, sustained the hopes of Europeans in their struggle with Islam. Those who joined the search for Prester John were looking for a man who was not there. 

An illuminated knight from the Hunterian Psalter, c.1170.

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.