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Lisbon After The Earthquake

Iona McCleery | Published 20 November 2018
There are several ways of writing the history of a place. There is the personal approach, in which history is interspersed with experiences and anecdotes; Bill Bryson is the master here. There is the focused thematic approach: a city viewed through one lens, as in Jim Chevalier’s history of food in Paris. There is the monumental approach; see Peter Ackroyd’s biography of London in over 800 pages. A key factor should be knowing your audience and making it accessible to them. This new history of Lisbon is a readable, if rather breathless, chronological whirlwind. Hatton tries to pack everything into...Read more »
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The History of Knowledge

Peter Burke | Published 13 November 2018
In recent decades there have been so many intellectual turns (global, emotional, material, performative) that it becomes difficult to think about them without feeling dizzy. All the same, the ‘informational turn’ and the ‘archival turn’ are worth reflecting on. The sudden rise of interest at the start of the century in the history of information, or the history of knowledge, is surely connected to current debates about the kind of ‘information society’ in which we are living. Also linked to this interest is the ‘archival turn’, in which historians, who have long studied in archives, have begun to take them...Read more »
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To Each, Their Own God

Matthew Leigh | Published 02 November 2018
Julius Caesar launched two abortive invasions of Britain in 55-54 BC: he came, he saw, he went home. In AD 43, during the reign of the Emperor Claudius, the Romans got serious about conquering the Britons. They were to rule the new province until the early fifth century, when the emperor Honorius effectively threw in the towel. In an intriguing and beautifully illustrated study, Miranda Aldhouse-Green examines the meeting of Iron Age British and Roman religious traditions and some of the surprising marriages that resulted from the encounter. To speak of ‘the Romans in Britain’ can itself be rather misleading...Read more »
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Ireland: A Nation in its Own Right

Patrick Walsh | Published 26 October 2018
Ireland’s history has long been dominated by its troublesome relationship with its larger neighbour. In the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the Irish question seemed to be slowly slipping away from the agenda of politics and into the realm of history. The complexity of the Brexit negotiations, however, has seen it return to centre stage. New tensions have arisen in Anglo-Irish relations and once again history seems to be intruding into politics. These present concerns are one of the reasons why the publication of the Cambridge History of Ireland is especially timely. This four-volume undertaking reveals an...Read more »
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The Global Success of Silk

Evelyn Welch | Published 19 October 2018
As this erudite volume makes clear, silk connects, communicates and challenges our assumptions about luxury and consumption. In the introduction, the editors explain why they have focused on ‘a liquid extruded by a caterpillar [which] upon contact with air … solidifies into a filament’. The results, they argue, form the basis for a remarkable story of wealth and power, ‘transforming economies and societies’. To understand this story across time and space, three scholars organised an international conference almost a decade ago. This brought together specialists in silk cultivation, spinning, weaving, trade, design and use from across Europe, Asia and the...Read more »
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The End of the English Republic

Rise and fall: Cromwell Dissolving the Long Parliament, by Benjamin West (1782).By the early months of 1658, the young English republic was in crisis. Nine years earlier, after a decade of civil war and three years of famine, leaders in the New Model Army had, as the poet Andrew Marvell later put it, ruined ‘the great work of time, / And cast the kingdom old / Into another mould’. In early December 1648, frustrated by the ambiguities and hesitations of those negotiating with the defeated king, a detachment of soldiers purged Parliament of its most conservative MPs, opening the way for the hasty organisation of a High Court of Justice and the consequent trial of Charles I. As the king resisted the legitimacy of the court and refused to enter a plea, power passed to the more radical military and political leaders, as they became increasingly interested in exploring republican solutions to the political crisis. After multiple attempts to have Charles recognise the court by entering a plea, his judges found him guilty of treason. He was beheaded on 30 January 1649 outside Westminster Hall and, four months later, England was formally established as a republic.

Crawford Gribben | Published 08 October 2018
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Published in
Volume 68 Issue 10 October 2018

Abraham’s Descendants in Love, Life and War

Nicola Clarke | Published 02 October 2018
One reason why history continues to fascinate us, generation after generation, is that there are always new questions to ask, new ways to view the evidence and new lessons to learn. Our medieval forebears felt much the same way: while today we might frame our understanding in different ways, debate over the structure and meaning of past events is nothing new. For centuries, the Iberian Peninsula or, simply, Iberia – that is, modern Spain and Portugal – was a land of three monotheisms, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, multiple ethnicities, at least half a dozen languages and an ever-changing array of...Read more »
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A New Peru

José Luis Bustamante y Rivero, c.1940s. (Alamy)This October marks 70 years since the overthrow of José Luis Bustamante y Rivero, a reform-minded Christian Democrat, first elected president of Peru in 1945. Bustamante’s victory was significant in many ways. Not only was it, arguably, the first truly democratic election in Peru’s history, but it produced a government formed without members of the established elites. Peru’s political and economic life had long been dominated by landed, commercial and military figures. The majority of Peru was subjected to a state akin to feudalism, a discriminatory electoral system that prevented most Peruvians from casting a ballot and land ownership restricted to a powerful oligarchy. In confronting social issues, they often employed a carrot-and-stick approach: undertaking welfarist schemes while suppressing civil rights and seeking to prevent the spread of popular politics. In the early 20th century such politics was represented most strongly by the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). Formed in 1924 to develop a socialist society for the benefit of Peru’s working class and historically exploited indigenous Indian population, APRA was viewed as a threat by the traditional elites and was outlawed.

Vittorio Trevitt | Published 27 September 2018
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Published in
Volume 68 Issue 10 October 2018

Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Taylor Downing | Published 14 September 2018
Daniel Ellsberg is well known as the whistle blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Less well known is that, at the time he copied the secret documents about Vietnam, he also copied a mass of material about US nuclear policy that he similarly intended to leak, but which was eventually lost. The Doomsday Machine goes back over his time as a nuclear war consultant at the RAND Corporation, the think tank that advised the US Air Force, and his later work for the Department of Defense and the White House. The revelations are truly shocking. Official US policy...Read more »
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The History of Council Housing

David Brady | Published 31 August 2018
In the 1950s, the nation gathered beside the wireless to enjoy Take It From Here , the BBC Home Service comedy about Ron Glum and his fiancée Eth, suffering an interminable engagement because they were unable to find a home of their own. In Municipal Dreams , John Boughton, who has blogged about the history of councils for years, provides an overview of the beginnings and the development of local government housing. After setting out the background, he moves briskly through a chronology of council estates. Examples include the Latchmere Estate in Battersea (opened in 1903), which was built by...Read more »
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