Tulipmania: An Overblown Crisis?

The Menniste Bruyloft (Mennonite Wedding) was a well-known tavern and musical centre in the Oude Brugsteeg in Amsterdam, a tiny alley near the port and the commodity exchange. In the early part of the 17th century it was run by Jan Theunisz, perhaps an unusual man for an innkeeper; he was a religious liberal, a printer, a scholar in Latin, Greek, Arabic and Hebrew. Although Theunisz probably died between 1635 and 1640, the tavern remained a popular sight for visitors, in part because of a cabinet of curiosities it contained.

Anne Goldgar | Published 17 April 2018

Monstrous Regiment

Whether the stories come via a 17th-century ballad, a 19th-century newspaper or a 21st-century tablet, the public has been fascinated for centuries by tales of women who put on men’s clothes, take a male name and run away to join the army – or to go to sea.

Mark Stoyle, Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton, is the latest scholar to add to these entangled histories of war and gender. His forthcoming article, ‘“Give mee a Souldier’s coat”: female cross-dressing during the English Civil War’, is based on the study of hundreds of printed works and original manuscripts, and unsurprisingly drew The Guardian’s attention.

These stories of transgression have, as Stoyle writes, an ‘intrinsic human interest’ as well as a ‘peculiar elusiveness’ and have captured the imaginations of women dreaming of life outside restrictive gender norms. Feminist writers such as Julie Wheelwright, author of Amazons and Military Maids: Women Who Dressed as Men in Pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness, have written dozens of ‘cross-dressing soldiers’ into a history of women’s collective struggle for emancipation, which they themselves project back on to the past.

Yet does calling all these individuals who went to war in men’s attire ‘cross-dressing women’ account for all the possibilities of how they might have viewed themselves?

Catherine Baker | Published 17 April 2018
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On the Spot: Llewelyn Morgan

The historian of Roman literature on Augustus’ funeral and the world’s best museum.

Why are you a historian of Roman literature?
If I have any talent at all, it’s for figuring out what Roman poets are on about. I’ve no other professional option.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?
That for the vast majority of human beings the best time in history to be doing anything, including studying Greco-Roman literature, is 2018.

Which book has had the greatest influence on you?
My old supervisor Philip Hardie’s Cosmos and Imperium. It transformed our understanding of the Aeneid.

What book in your field should everyone read?
David West’s The Imagery and Poetry of Lucretius, Emily Gowers’ The Loaded Table, Oliver Lyne’s Further Voices and Alessandro Barchiesi’s The Poet and the Prince.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?
Augustus’ funeral in AD 14. Actors wore funerary masks of the greatest men of Rome’s past: what a weird, arresting scene that must have been.

National Gallery: Morocco

In their study of North Africa’s indigenous population, The Berbers, Michael Brett and Elizabeth Fentress lament the tendency of histories of the Maghreb to focus on ‘events which involved the conquerors’. In a Moroccan context it was not until the arrival of Islam in the seventh century that a conquering force had a lasting influence extending beyond coastal areas and the Atlas Mountains. In the late-1950s, the American writer Paul Bowles wrote – in a probable allusion to Morocco’s medieval Islamic Almoravid and Almohad dynasties – that ‘this region’s contact with Europe has been that of conqueror: in its decline it has been comparatively unmolested by industrial Europe’. The country did have to endure its own ‘Years of Lead’ under Hassan II, after gaining independence from France in 1956.


Rhys Griffiths | Published 13 April 2018

Rhys Griffiths is Assistant Editor at History Today.

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Volume 68 Issue 4 April 2018

Brutus, the Noble Conspirator

Matthew Leigh | Published 12 April 2018
The death of Brutus following the Battle of Philippi, 19th-century engraving. Marcus Junius Brutus is one of the great names of Roman history. Central to the notorious conspiracy that resulted in the assassination of the dictator Julius Caesar on the Ides of March 44 BC, Brutus gave brief hope to those who longed for the restoration of republican government. Yet by August of the same year he was on his way from Italy to the Greek east; a little over two years later he had committed suicide in the face of defeat at the hands of Mark Antony and Octavian...Read more »
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Throwing Light on the Menorah

Julia Neuberger | Published 10 April 2018
Menorah from the King’s Bible by Isaac ben Judah of Toulouse, 1384. As a child, Steven Fine was fascinated by the flickering of the candles on the Chanukkah menorah. The Jewish festival of Chanukkah, also known as the festival of lights, commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Greeks in 161 BC. On winning, the Maccabees purified the Temple in Jerusalem and re-established within it traditional Jewish worship. The candles on the Chanukkah menorah that Fine so loved refer to the story that the victorious Maccabees only found a small jug of oil, enough for one day, for...Read more »
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The Lost Classics

Though originally set to music, we almost always encounter the Ancient Greek epics as mute texts. But now their songs can be heard again.

Play on: red-figure amphora with musical scene, attributed to the Niobid Painter, c.460-50 BC. At the beginning of Homer’s Iliad, the Greeks besieging Troy are struck down with a plague in punishment for Agamemnon’s stubborn refusal to return Chryseis to her father, a local priest of Apollo. After nine days, so many have died that Achilles, the leader of the Myrmidons, summons the army to an assembly and the prophet Calchas warns that, unless the girl is handed over, disaster will surely follow. Reluctantly, Agamemnon agrees to back down; and as soon as Chryseis is released, her father duly asks Apollo to end the Greeks’ suffering. Sacrifices are offered and the Greeks sit down to a celebratory meal. Once they have all eaten their fill, they then fill their cups with wine, and, after the customary libations, give themselves over to music:

All day long they sought the favour of the god in dance and song, the young Achaean men beautifully singing a hymn of praise [paean], celebrating the god who works from afar; and the god rejoiced in his heart as he listened.

No Clockwatching

Time in the early modern world lacked precision, but it did have humanity.

Time stands still: haymaking in July, from the Book of Hours, France, 1510-25.
Time stands still: haymaking in July, from the Book of Hours, France, 1510-25.

Anniversaries are big business. The centenaries, bicentenaries and quincentenaries of major events are hooks on which publishers and TV producers can hang history books and shows. The dates on which key events occurred are etched into our minds. I can probably just give you some dates and you’ll supply the events: 28 June 1914, 2 September 1945, 15 August 1947, 22 November 1963 and 11 September 2001? We live our days by the clock and our lives by the calendar. How old are you? When were you born? Most of you will know these answers without a second thought.

I have found it striking, therefore, to realise that our ancestors did not think like this. I have spent some time working through cases from 16th- and 17th-century France and have slowly recognised that people living then had a completely different relationship to times, dates and years than we do.