Event: History Today at Hatchards, Socrates

Longman-History Today Book Prize 2019: The Shortlist

We are pleased to announce the shortlist for the Longman-History Today Book Prize for 2019.

Listed alphabetically by author name, the books are:

  • Alexander Bevilacqua, The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment (Belknap Harvard)
  • Edyta M. Bojanowska, A World of Empires: The Russian Voyage of the Frigate Pallada (Belknap Harvard)
  • Nora Krug, Heimat: A German Family Album (Particular)
  • Rupali MishraA Business of State: Commerce, Politics, and the Birth of the East India Company (Harvard)
  • Helen Parr, Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper (Allen Lane)
  • Sam White, A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe's Encounter with North America (Harvard)

The winner will be announced at the Longman-History Today awards evening in summer 2019.

Find out more about the Longman-History Today Awards

History Today | Published in
History Today | Published 17 April 2019
More articles by History Today
Published in

Amritsar: Reviewing a Massacre

Zareer Masani | Published 13 April 2019
A century on, it’s hard to say something entirely original about the Amritsar massacre. Kim Wagner pulls together the tragedy’s various threads and presents all the evidence, even that which counters his own ideological preference for seeing the massacre as symptomatic of British oppression, rather than as an exceptional event. Wagner is not squeamish about describing anti-European rioting in the Punjab and elsewhere during the days leading up to Amritsar. Although Gandhi had issued a call for satyagraha , non-violent resistance, his request was not heeded. A poster on the clock tower next to the Golden Temple in Amritsar called...Read more »
More articles by Zareer Masani

How to Respect the Past

Prolix puritan: Richard Baxter, engraving on a 19th-century bookplate.

William Lamont wrote serious history with intensity and authority. Although non-religious himself, he was fascinated by puritan zeal and the puritan yearning for the Second Coming and he made the most recondite and prolix of puritans accessible to the present. He published major studies in puritanism in the period up to, in to and out of the English Civil War, as well as numerous essays on many themes including, way back in May 1966, an essay on ‘Sir Edward Dering: the Squire who Changed Sides’ in History Today; a short essay that showed how moderate critics of Charles I’s Personal Rule were left behind by radical Puritans as the nation edged towards Civil War.

John Morrill | Published 12 April 2019
More articles by John Morrill
Published in
Volume 69 Issue 4 April 2019

Vikings: Warriors of No Nation

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. 

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

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

In January 2018, President Trump expressed a preference for immigrants from affluent nations such as Norway, as opposed to those from what he termed ‘shithole countries’. The indignant response was on a global scale. Photos of beautiful African sunsets and wildlife were posted. One Norwegian woman tweeted: ‘We are not coming. Cheers from Norway.’

On the Spot: Alexandra Wilson

‘What’s the most important lesson history has taught me? That the same arguments come around again and again.’

Alexandra Wilson.

Why are you a historian of music and opera?
I’m fascinated by the social, cultural and political contexts that shape works of art. I came to opera via a love of drama and all things Italian.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?
That the same arguments come around again and again. (Opera was ‘on its deathbed’ a century ago, too.)

Which book has had the greatest influence on you?
Carl E. Schorske’s Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Jerrold Seigel’s Bohemian Paris introduced me to a type of interdisciplinary cultural history that struck a chord.

What book in your field should everyone read?
Marcia J. Citron’s Gender and the Musical Canon has much of wider interest to say about why we listen to the music we do.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?
It’s a toss up between E.M. Forster’s Italy and Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford.

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?
Katharine Ellis, who ignited my enthusiasm for investigating the reception history of musical works.

Which person in history would you most like to have met?
Giacomo Puccini, about whom I have written so much.

The Shia Century

Fitzroy Morrissey | Published 29 March 2019
Those few students in Britain who study Islamic history by and large learn the Sunni version. This is the familiar story of the four ‘rightly-guided’ caliphs who succeeded Muhammad and the Umayyad, Abbasid and Ottoman caliphates that followed them. When Shia dynasties, like the Buyids of Iraq and Iran, the Fatimids of Egypt and North Africa, the Hamdanids of Northern Iraq and Northern Syria or even the Safavids of Iran, feature in this version of Islamic history, they appear mainly as foils for the Sunni narrative. Given that Sunni-Shia sectarianism is a key factor in the politics of the Middle...Read more »
More articles by Fitzroy Morrissey

Travels Through Time #7 – Aanchal Malhotra, 1947

Travels Through Time Aanchal Malhotra Remnants of a Separation

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, it became clear that the British Raj was no longer sustainable. But how should the British leave the Indian subcontinent after such a long period of colonial rule? Should the territory be divided? How could this be done? 

The long-contested answers to these questions were delivered between June and August of 1947. In this episode of Travels Through Time the writer and artist Aanchal Malhotra explores the bewildering and traumatic events of that summer. We meet the officials, including the man responsible for drawing the border line between India and Pakistan, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, and many of the individuals whose lives were altered irrevocably by his decisions. 

History Today | Published in
History Today | Published 19 March 2019
More articles by History Today
Published in

The Dream of Constantine

A mythical turning point in the history of Europe.

‘Constantine’s Dream’ by Piero della Francesca, from the fresco cycle, the History of the True  Cross, 1459-66, Basilica di San Francesco, Arezzo, Italy.

On the eve of his battle with Maxentius to decide who was to be the undisputed Emperor of Rome, Constantine lies asleep in his tent. An angel descends from the night sky, holding a glowing golden crucifix. One of Constantine’s guards, on the left of the painting, echoes the cross with his lance. A bored attendant, oblivious to a vision visible only to his sleeping master, rests his elbow on the bed.

Following the abdication of the Emperor Diocletian in AD 305, a number of emperors and deputy emperors in the West and the East of the Empire contended for power. Acclaimed as emperor by his troops in York in 306, Flavius Galerius Constantinus was appointed deputy emperor of the West by Galerius, Diocletian’s successor. But, while Constantine was away in Britain and Gaul, his brother-in-law, Maxentius, waged war against Galerius and seized Italy and Rome. After Galerius died in 311, Constantine invaded Italy, won battles at Turin and Verona and headed for Rome.

Smith, Kant and de Gaulle

General de Gaulle on 18 June 1940 in the recording studio of the BBC at Broadcasting House, London.Never in recent history has a single news story so dominated the media agenda as Brexit. The unexpected referendum result of June 2016 brought to the surface tensions present since Britain entered the Common Market in 1973, as European integration developed by stealth through treaty change. This had been stymied by a culture of ‘opt outs’, leaving Britain outside the single currency, social charter and Schengen migration arrangements. But treaty changes began to impact on Britain’s semi-detachment, with developments such as the single market, ironically a British-designed construct.

These tensions between nationalism and supranationalism have their roots in deeper European history. Over centuries European states were forced to cooperate through wars, revolutions, constitutional change, economic cycles, empire, decolonisation, migrations, religious schisms and challenges from outside Europe. At the same time, states struggled to stand alone, without institutional links to others. Wars became more destructive, economic expectations were elevated, European empires collapsed and secularism became a unifying factor.

Stuart Sweeney | Published 15 March 2019
More articles by Stuart Sweeney
Published in
Volume 69 Issue 3 March 2019

The Riot Police who Revolt France

Revolting: members of the CRS throw grenades during student riots in Paris, 1968.The gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement has reopened old wounds in France, and also resurrected some old chants. During the 1968 student uprising there was one refrain above all others that reverberated through the rues and boulevards of Paris as protesters battled with police: ‘CRS = SS’. Half a century later a new generation of demonstrators is drawing the same comparison between the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité [CRS], France’s elite police unit – which describes itself as ‘specialists in the maintenance of order’ – and the Nazi’s protection squad, the Schutzstaffel, as they vent their fury against rising taxes and falling wages.

Gavin Mortimer | Published 12 March 2019
More articles by Gavin Mortimer
Published in
Volume 69 Issue 3 March 2019