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We All Scream for Ice Cream

Sweets made of ice or snow have been with us for millennia, evolving slowly into the modern chilly treat.

The Ice Cream Seller, Austria, 1895

Who doesn’t like ice cream? According to the International Dairy Foods Association, 3.7 million tons of it are consumed in the US each year alone – an average of 23lbs per person. But, while we are only too eager to guzzle it down, we seldom pause to consider how our favourite frozen dessert came into being.

Feminist Energy vs Vehement Opposition

Lyndsey Jenkins | Published 24 August 2018
Detail from the song sheet of Ethyl Smyth’s The March of the Women, by Margaret Morris (1911). One hundred years after some women in Britain won the right to vote, we are once again experiencing an extraordinary moment of feminist energy and vehement opposition. A woman’s right to choose seems to be in reach in Ireland, yet is under increasing attack in the US. High profile campaigns on sexual harassment and equal pay are bringing together women across classes and countries, but legitimate concerns are being raised about whose voices are privileged within these movements. Women have new platforms and...Read more »
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The Case for Applied History

Can the study of the past really help us to understand the present?

Surprised! by Henri Rousseau, 1891.

In An Autobiography, published in 1939, R.G. Collingwood offered an arresting statement about the kind of insight possessed by the trained historian. The philosopher of history likened the difference between those who knew and understood history and those who did not to that between ‘the trained woodsman’ and ‘the ignorant traveller’ in a forest. While the latter marches along unaware of their surroundings, thinking ‘Nothing here but trees and grass’, the woodsman sees what lurks ahead. ‘Look’, he will say, ‘there is a tiger in that grass.’

What Collingwood meant was that, through their familiarity with people, places and ideas, historians are often equipped to see how a situation might turn out – or at least identify the key considerations that determine matters. Collingwood’s musings implied an expansive vision of the role historians might play in society. Their grasp of human behaviour, long-term economic or cultural processes and the complexities of the socio-political order of a given region of the world meant that they could be more than just a specialist in the past. By being able to spot the tiger in the grass, historians might profitably advise on contemporary and future challenges as well.

Helen the Whore and the Curse of Beauty

In the archives of Trinity Hall College, Cambridge, there is an infrequently studied medieval manuscript. Created in 1406 it is an illustrated version of Boethius’ sixth-century ad Consolation of Philosophy. The Consolation is a fusion of Christian and pagan principles written in an attempt to identify the root of happiness – and set down while the author Boethius was awaiting execution in Pavia.

Bettany Hughes | Published 14 August 2018

A Very Brief History of the Manx Language

Ellan Vannin: postcard, late 19th/early 20th century.
Ellan Vannin: postcard, late 19th/early 20th century.

The native language of the Isle of Man has undergone a rapid decline and inspiring revival. Since the death of its last native speaker in 1974 it has been brought back from the dead and is now part of a vibrant language community.

Manx is a Gaelic language closely related to both Irish and Scottish Gaelic. It was first brought to the shores of the island by Irish monks and merchants in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, as Christianity spread northwards. The monks founded ecclesiastical settlements and carved ogham stones and, in so doing, established Gaelic as the language of the island, replacing the pre-existing Brythonic language.

Katie Murphy | Published 06 August 2018
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Published in
Volume 68 Issue 8 August 2018

What Have The Greeks Ever Done For Us?

Amy Smith | Published 05 August 2018
It is a truism that the modern world feels the influence of ancient Greece – not least, in languages, arts, politics – yet the interactions of ancient Greece with other cultures rarely surface in popular histories. Jeremy McInerney weaves these two stories seamlessly together, evoking the importance of Greece as a conduit of cultural change. His book opens with a stunning image of a marble statue of a girl directly opposite discussions of ‘cultures in dialogue’ and ‘truth and beauty’. This girl, Kore 674, belongs here. A votive dedication to the gods on the Athenian Acropolis, admired and drawn by...Read more »
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On the Spot: Lucy Inglis

‘People don't learn from others’ mistakes. We have a need to make our own.’

Lucy Inglis

Why are you a social historian?
I’m interested in people, from morphine-addicted veterans of the American Civil War to 18th-century London artisans.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?
That people don’t learn from others’ mistakes. We have a need to make our own.

Which book has had the greatest influence on you?
David Cannadine’s Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy.

What book in your field should everyone read?
Alfred W. McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?
Covent Garden market at dawn, early 1760s, when it sold marmosets and songbirds, and had an Italian food warehouse.

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?
Liza Picard. Like me, she didn’t train as a historian, but found it as a vocation.

Which person in history would you most like to have met?
Peter Mundy, born around 1600 in Cornwall, who travelled to Japan via Constantinople, India and Canton.

How many languages do you have?
I do my best in English, French and German.

Letters to Sardinia

‘Illiterate men can contemplate in the lines of a picture’: Gregory the Great, attributed to Carlo Saraceni, c.1610.
‘Illiterate men can contemplate in the lines of a picture’: Gregory the Great, attributed to Carlo Saraceni, c.1610.

In AD 534, the Emperor Justinian incorporated Sardinia into the Byzantine Empire. The best source for the lives of women, particularly religious ones, from this period is contained in the extensive cache of letters of Pope Gregory I (the Great; 540-604), which now survive in the medieval manuscript Registrum epistularum. Gregory’s letters show his special connection with, and concern for, women, capturing their lives and their problems.

Susanna Hoe | Published 28 July 2018
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Published in
Volume 68 Issue 8 August 2018

Britain and America’s Theatrical War

In the years before managers could dim auditorium lights and keep audiences in darkness during a performance, culture and politics met head-on in 19th century American theatres. Endowed with a conviction in their ‘natural right’ of self-expression, audiences would attack bad acting, poor plays and, more commonly, English actors. In 1821, Bostonians ended a performance by the tragedian Edmund Kean because he had refused to play Richard III for a small audience.

Robert Davis | Published 24 July 2018