A Game of Battleships

Roger Hudson expands on an image of Russian ships destroyed by the Japanese at Port Arthur, 1904.

Two badly damaged warships of the Russian Far East Fleet lie in Port Arthur sometime in the middle of 1904. On February 8th Admiral Togo of Japan had launched a surprise torpedo attack on the fleet with his destroyers, hitting two old pre-Dreadnought Russian battleships as well as the 6,600-ton cruiser Pallada, on the left in the photograph. Only three hours later did Japan formally declare war (a trait that was to reach its culmination at Pearl Harbor in 1941). A series of inconclusive naval actions followed. On April 12th two old Russian battleships slipped out of Port Arthur, but both hit Japanese mines, the Petropavlovsk sinking within minutes and taking the Russian commander Admiral Makarov down with her. The Pobeda (on the right in the picture) got back into harbour, though badly disabled. The following month it was the turn of two Japanese battleships to be sunk by Russian mines.

James Bond at 50: Shaken and Stirred

The release this month of the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall, coincides with the 50th anniversary of James Bond’s first appearance on the silver screen. Klaus Dodds looks back on half a century of 007.

A design by Ken Adam for the set of 'You Only Live Twice', 1967. Danjaq/UAOn October 5th, 1962 Dr No premiered at the London Pavilion and made a relatively unknown Scottish actor, Sean Connery, a star. Sent to Jamaica to investigate a suspicious disappearance, the British spy James Bond (007) eventually tracks the killer and a previously unknown secret organisation to Crab Key. With the help of an innocent girl called Honey Ryder, famously dressed in a white bikini, Bond confronts the first of many evil geniuses intent on implementing plans for global domination. Dr No, a disfigured but gifted scientist, reveals that he works for SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism and Revenge and Extortion). The organisation is planning to sabotage the US space programme in nearby Florida in order to wreak havoc and trigger a conflict between East and West. SPECTRE hopes the United States will attack the Soviet Union in retaliation. Bond, after evading capture and assassination, kills Dr No and scuppers the plot.

Bishops, Kings and Queens

Today, choosing a new Archbishop of Canterbury is a relatively straightforward process. It was not always so, as Katherine Harvey explains.

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1533 to 1555. Portrait by Gerlach Flicke, 1545In December this year, shortly before Rowan Williams completes his tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, the name of his successor will be announced. The new archbishop will have been chosen by the Crown Nominations Commission (a committee made up of 16 prominent members of the Anglican Communion), following a period of consultation. His name will be presented to the prime minister, who will commend him to the Queen. Royal assent will be given and Downing Street will announce the new appointment. Only after this process is complete will the College of Canons of Canterbury Cathedral formally elect the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

Beyond the Rivalry: Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole

Florence Nightingale from Carte de Visite, circa 1850s
Florence Nightingale from Carte de Visite, circa 1850s

Museums can provide a neutral yet contextualised space where discussions flourish, as has been seen at the Florence Nightingale Museum this summer with an ongoing debate about the suitability of a proposed statue to Mary Seacole at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Natasha McEnroe | Published 03 September 2012
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In Pursuit of the Apocalypse

Christian apocalyptic literature and ecological predictions both anticipate the end of the world. Are they born of the same tradition, asks Jean-François Mouhot?

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887.

Does modern apocalyptic literature, announcing the imminent endtimes, fret about environmental problems? Are modern ecologists a reincarnation of the fanatics of the Apocalypse described by historian Norman Cohn in his classic work The Pursuit of the Millennium(1962), as some climate sceptics argue?

Mary Tudor: Queen of Hearts

Mary Rose was the younger sister of Henry VIII. David Loades describes how this forgotten Tudor was something of a wild card.

Mary is ceremonially welcomed to Paris by her new husband Louis. AKG Images/British LibraryMary was Henry VIII’s favourite sister, indeed the only one of his siblings for whom he ever expressed a marked affection. Being four years younger than her brother and female, it is unlikely that she shared in his rigorous intellectual training and her upbringing seems to have been largely determined by her paternal grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Derby. Margaret’s views on the rearing of girls were strict but conventional, with much emphasis on piety and chastity. Mary was trained, like her sister Margaret, to be a royal bride and this involved literacy and needlework, along with a knowledge of French and a strong sense of noblesse oblige. We know little of this stage of her life beyond the accounts for her wardrobe, but she appears to have been an intelligent child and may have found this regime of aristocratic domestication somewhat frustrating. At some stage she seems to have acquired a knowledge of Latin and to have read some suitable classical authors, although possibly in French translation. Her relations with her parents are equally obscure. Henry VII (r.1485-1509) may well have been a distant father who was seldom seen but she was probably closer to her mother.

10 Essential History Books Written by Women

In celebration of International Women’s Day, here are 10 great history books... which happen to be written by women.

1. Veronica Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War (NYRB Classics, 2005). More than 70 years old (it was first published in 1938), but still the best history of Early Modern Europe’s bitter sectarian bloodbath by the master (or mistress?) of narrative history.

2. Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory (Pimlico, 1992). Another Dame’s masterpiece, this time the erudite, esoteric and influential account of how Ancient art of mnemonics influenced the Renaissance.

Paul Lay | Published 08 March 2012

Paul Lay is the editor of History Today. He is the author of a book on the late Protectorate.

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The Way the Ladies Ride

Richard Almond has trawled medieval and Renaissance sources for insights about ladies’ riding habits in the Middle Ages and what they reveal about a woman’s place in that society.

A French illumination of c.1480 showing King Rene of Naples before a duel with the Duke of Alençon. The lady is sitting demurely on-the-side of her ambler or palfry, her feet hidden but presumably supported by a foot-board.When Gerald of Wales wrote in The Topography of Ireland (c. 1188) that ‘The women, also, as well as the men, ride astride, with their legs stuck out on each side of the horse’ he was making a comment on something significantly unusual in everyday medieval life. Readers were expected to seize on this female departure from the norms of decency and splutter with indignation. However are we any different from our ancestors in our conception of how women rode horses, asses and donkeys hundreds of years ago? I suspect that most of us rather vaguely assume that medieval and Renaissance courtly ladies rode side-saddle and the rest of female society walked. But research reveals that there were four different riding styles and whether and when women rode astride, pillion, on-the-side or true side-saddle has never been fully investigated by historians. Did how women rode indicate class or role, or did it depend upon what activity they were doing?

Hitler Youth and Italian Fascists: Dressing the Part

Italian Fascist scouts meet a member of the Hitler Youth in Padua, October 1940: a picture explained by Roger Hudson.

A member of the Nazi Hitler Youth (centre) and two Balilli, from the Italian Fascist equivalent for younger boys, demonstrate their comradeship and show off their uniforms for the camera in Padua, north-east Italy in October 1940, four months after Italy entered the Second World War.

In Focus: The Prince and the Pauper

A class confrontation at the Epsom Derby of 1920.

Click on image to enlarge

Three European empires have just vanished and the Troubles are raging in Ireland, but George V, the King-Emperor, drives to the Derby at Epsom in 1920 without a single policeman or security man in view. A beggar is able to run alongside the carriage and thrust his cap under the nose of Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, one of the King’s sons. The medals just visible flapping on the man’s chest tell us he is an old soldier, so perhaps that is why the King and his companions show no alarm, guessing he is harmless. (There will be increasing numbers of jobless war veterans as the post-war recession bites.) But there is no sign either that any of them is reaching for a coin to throw into the cap. Monarchs, as we know, do not carry money, and perhaps the King is conscious that he must watch his spending – the deficit on his Civil List income this year is £45,000. Besides it is not long since he personally gave £100,000 towards the war effort.