Postwar Germany and the legacy of Nazism

Armin Grünbacher | Published 21 May 2018
West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, makes his farewell speech before resigning from office on 15 October 1963, with Willy Brandt, Chancellor 1969-74, on his left. Jeffrey Olick, in his latest book, follows up on his earlier research on memory of the Nazi era in Germany. In The Sins of the Fathers , he analyses the language used by politicians at commemorative events and political speeches in (West) Germany since the end of the Second World War. He argues that such speeches were used to either deflect from (like Konrad Adenauer, first chancellor of West Germany) or acknowledge (like Willy Brandt)...Read more »
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A Personal History of South India

Andrew Robinson | Published 17 May 2018
Thiruvalluvar statue at Kanya Kumari, Tamil Nadu, India. The history of India is notoriously hard to define. ‘Quicksand in every direction. Dates and figures never certain. Here the centuries move back and forth as months do elsewhere’, notes Roberto Calasso in Ardor , his recent book about the earliest Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, aptly quoted by Charles Allen in Coromandel: A Personal History of South India . For example, the date of the Vedas’ composition lies somewhere between 1500 and 500 BC; the Buddha’s death date varies between 483 and 400 BC; and even the Taj Mahal’s completion date is...Read more »
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Longman-History Today Book Prize 2018: The Shortlist

We are pleased to announce the shortlist for the Longman-History Today Book Prize for 2018.

Listed alphabetically by author name, the books are:

  • James DelbourgoCollecting the World: The Life and Curiosity of Hans Sloane (Allen Lane)
  • Tera W. Hunter, Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century (Belknap Harvard)
  • Emily Jones, Edmund Burke & the Invention of Modern Conservatism, 1830-1914: An Intellectual History (Oxford University Press)
  • Tom Lambert, Law & Order in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press)
  • Chris Renwick, Bread for All: The Origins of the Welfare State (Allen Lane)
  • Zoë Waxman, Women in the Holocaust: A Feminist History (Oxford University Press)

The winner will be announced at the Longman-History Today awards evening in summer 2018.

History Today | Published 10 May 2018
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The Mysterious Death of Henriette, Duchesse d’Orléans

Poisoned? Henriette portrayed by Pierre Mignard, 17th century,
Poisoned? Henriette portrayed by Pierre Mignard, 17th century,

Henriette, Duchesse d’Orléans, the sister-in-law of Louis XIV, took a drink of her usual chicory water and immediately clutched her side, crying out in pain. Pale and in obvious distress, she was put to bed, but her pains were so severe that she believed she must have been poisoned and asked for an antidote. As her husband, Philippe, rushed to her bedside, Henriette chided him, ‘Alas, Monsieur, it is a long time since you loved me, but this is unjust.’ Alerted, Henriette’s lady-in-waiting watched the duke closely, but he showed no indication of guilt and every sign that he was distressed by his wife’s condition.

Josephine Wilkinson | Published 10 May 2018
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Volume 68 Issue 5 May 2018

National Gallery: Wales

‘The Welsh would be insuperable if only they were inseparable.’

In 1995, an obituary of the Welsh historian Gwyn A. Williams published in the Independent neatly described his view of Wales as ‘the very anvil on which the progress of the urban working class had first been hammered out’. It is true that the Industrial Revolution changed Wales, leaving an enduring association between the country’s southern Valleys and the production of iron and coal. Seen below, the artist Iwan Bala confronts Wales’ recent industrial past and the post-industrial era in which the Welsh were like ‘a naked people under an acid rain’. Williams is also quoted in Bala’s artwork – ‘Wales is an artefact which the Welsh produce. If they want to’ – faintly echoing the opinion of the country’s first historian, the 12th-century clergyman Gerald of Wales: ‘The Welsh would be insuperable if only they were inseparable.’


Caratacus at the Tribunal of Claudius at Rome, after Henry Fuseli, 1792.

The Pilgrims’ Way

Visiting sites of importance can connect us with history – and each other – in a way that echoes the power of medieval pilgrimage.

A good job: John Sweet as Bob Johnson and Sheila Sim as Alison Smith in A Canterbury Tale (1944).

My favourite moment in my favourite film occurs towards the end of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1944 classic A Canterbury Tale. A young American soldier, visiting wartime Canterbury when he would much rather be at home, wanders into the city’s cathedral. He looks around him, up into the soaring space of the great building, and under his breath he reminds himself that his grandfather built the first Baptist church in his hometown in 1887. ‘Well, that was a good job too,’ he says.

It is a reaction of mingled awe and pride: gazing with wonder at the ancient cathedral, he admires it by calling to mind his own home and a humbler but still precious building. In this foreign country, he finds a parallel between the old world and the new, the strange and the familiar and the craftsmanship which built both churches.

The Times They Were A Changin’

Joe Street | Published 04 May 2018
‘Has this country gone mad?’, declaimed the Democratic politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Saturday Evening Post during May 1968. To find the answer, all he needed to do was turn on the television, tune into the news and drop into a frenzy of political assassinations (including Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King), violent and nonviolent protests, an overseas war that was turning sour and a generation of young Americans seemingly hell-bent on summoning the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Fifty years later, historians still wonder about the meaning of this tortured year. Separated into three sections, Reframing 1968 cleverly...Read more »
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Across the Great Divide

In an age of renewed faction, a reminder of the power of friendship over politics. 

Friend to all: Sir Kenelm Digby. Studio of Anthony van Dyck, 17th century.
Friend to all: Sir Kenelm Digby. Studio of Anthony van Dyck, 17th century.

Sir Kenelm Digby lived through one of the most turbulent periods of British history. His father was hung, drawn and quartered for his role in the Gunpowder plot of 1605, when Kenelm was just two  years old. His devoutly Catholic wife, the society beauty Venetia Stanley, died suddenly in 1633 – and was portrayed on her death bed by Anthony van Dyck. His brother and his eldest son died fighting in the Civil Wars, while Digby was imprisoned by Parliament for his prominence among the ‘popish faction’, though he was allowed to keep a laboratory in captivity – which doubled up as a kitchen – where he continued to pursue his experiments in alchemy and natural science against a backdrop of intellectual ferment that would climax with the establishment of the Royal Society.

Name of Thrones

The lives of the kings and queens of England are among the best documented of the medieval period. Yet though we might be familiar with the objective details of a monarch’s reign – the battles they fought, the alliances they forged, even the intrigues of their courts – insights into what mattered to them personally are often elusive.

Rachel Tod | Published 02 May 2018

The Suffragette Songstress

Ethel Smyth took on the forces of inequality, in both politics and culture, producing highly acclaimed works of music that are now all but forgotten.