Predicting the Fall of Anne Boleyn

Fallen from grace: Anne Boleyn, by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1533-36. (Bridgeman Images)
Fallen from grace: Anne Boleyn, by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1533-36. (Bridgeman Images)

There can be few moments which have captured the imagination of historians, authors and the public like the fall of Anne Boleyn. The events which led to the arrest and execution of Henry VIII’s second wife, alongside her brother and a number of courtiers, in May 1536 have been seen very differently by historians. Perhaps the most enduring recent interpretation has presented Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, as having orchestrated an elaborate plot to remove Anne and her supporters from court. After all, Cromwell himself admitted to the Imperial Ambassador of Charles V, Eustace Chapuys, that he had ‘discovered and followed up the affair’. 

Andy Holroyde | Published 20 April 2017
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Published in
Volume 67 Issue 5 May 2017

Hotel Castel Dracula

By the time he was ousted in the revolution of October 1989, comparisons between Romania’s dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and the eponymous villain of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula (set in Romania) were commonplace. Ceaușescu was met with chants of ‘Dracula!’ on a visit to the US in 1978, perhaps explaining why his attitude towards Dracula tourism – previously tolerated as a lucrative industry – hardened soon afterwards. Though it is possible Ceaușescu was not aware of Stoker’s novel (first published in Romanian in 1990) and that he understood ‘Dracula’ to be Vlad the Impaler, it has been claimed that he banned the word. He may also have unwittingly authorised his country’s biggest concession to western interest in Dracula

Rhys Griffiths | Published 02 February 2017

Rhys Griffiths is Assistant Editor at History Today.

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Published in
Volume 67 Issue 2 February 2017

Portrait of the Author as a Historian: Toni Morrison

The dead, white, male canon has not merely stifled African-American history so much as smothered it. One author has spent her career grappling with the problem of America’s whitewashed past, writes Alexander Lee.

Toni Morrison. Copyright Everett Collection/Alarmy
Toni Morrison. Copyright Everett Collection/Alarmy

In 1990 Toni Morrison delivered a series of lectures at Harvard University in which she drew attention to a major weakness of contemporary literary criticism. Until that point, she argued, it had commonly been thought that the ‘classic’ works of American literature had been ‘uninformed … and unshaped by the 400-year-old presence of … Africans and African-Americans in the United States’. Although African-Americans had ‘shaped the body politic, the Constitution and the entire … culture’ of the United States, the characteristics of American literature were believed to have emanated from a sense of ‘Americanness’ that was separate from – and indeed indifferent to – their existence. 

Pain behind the Pleasure: the Italian Social Republic

Salò was Mussolini’s German-backed experiment in ‘real Fascism’ and fine living. Italians find it hard to come to terms with its legacy.

The armistice between the Allies and Italy was made public on September 8th, 1943, five days after it was signed. It had a disastrous impact on Italians. Vengeful German forces, many already stationed in the peninsula, took over the northern two thirds of the country. At 5.10am on the 9th, Victor Emmanuel III, his son Umberto, other members of the Savoy dynasty, Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio and subordinate military ministers cravenly fled east from Rome to Pescara. Caring for their persons but not the people, they had ample funds (the king at least 13 million lire, Badoglio ten).  

Blades not Bullets: the Battle of Culloden

The Battle of Culloden, which vanquished for good Jacobite claims to the British throne, is a much mythologised and misunderstood event. Murray Pittock cuts through the fog of war to find out what really happened in April 1746.   

For two centuries, British historiography has defined Jacobitism as ‘primitive’: first, it was demeaned because of the very real threat it posed to the Hanoverian state; second, because of the role played by the Jacobite defeat in the creation myth of the British Empire. It is no coincidence that this approach began to founder in the 1970s, as the former imperial state, which grew to maturity in part as a consequence of the defeat of the Jacobites, took on a more fragmentary, modern and multicultural existence. Yet the popular image of the Jacobites, not least at the Battle of Culloden, fought on April 16th, 1746, remains. Though the Jacobite armies were well armed and decently led by officers familiar with the courts of Europe, both British ‘Whig history’ and Scottish patriot nostalgia relies on an image of them as dirty, poorly armed primitives sacrificing themselves with pointless nobility on the orders of an Italian princeling, ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charlie. That they are not remembered entirely with contempt is due to the fact that all agree that they were defending an ancient way of life. 

Shadow on the South China Sea

'A New Map of the East India Isles', from Cary's New Universal Atlas (1801), by John CaryAmerican and Chinese warships shadow one another around disputed islets, planes jostle in the skies overhead and seven different governments argue over who has the rights to the oil and fish in the waters beneath. At the heart of this is the question of who owns the rocks and reefs of the South China Sea. They may be tiny – their total area is just a few square miles – but they could trigger a global confrontation.

Bill Hayton | Published 28 September 2016
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Published in
Volume 66 Issue 10 October 2016