Miscellanies

Blasphemy on Trial

In June 1976, Gay News magazine published a poem that – as the subject of a high profile blasphemy trial a year later – was described as ‘the ultimate in profanity’. Whitehouse v Lemon, the trial in question, exposed Britain’s archaic and obscure blasphemy laws. 

The Sultan and the Sultan

Faced with a vast, decaying empire, the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II ruled with an iron fist, curtailing press freedom, promoting Islam and severing ties with the West. His similarities with Turkey’s current president have not gone unnoticed.

The Wailing Woman

The legend of La Llorona has supposedly haunted Mexico since before the Conquest. Her story is one of violence, much like the country whose suffering she is often taken to represent. Beware the woman in white ...

The Catastrophe at Caporetto

On 24 October 1917, the Central Powers launched a massive offensive at Italy’s north-eastern border. The resulting battle – popularly known as Caporetto – has been described as the greatest defeat in Italian military history.   

Desolation Row: Victorian Britain’s Sensational Slums

In the late 19th century, middle-class Britain became fascinated by the existence of a foreign presence in its very own cities and towns. Slums, and the sordid stories of sexual violence and vice within them, held newspaper readers rapt with curiosity and fear.

Catalonia, Spain’s Biggest Problem

In the post-Civil War era, Spain’s problem with regional nationalism seemed dominated by Basque separatists. Yet, as recent events show, Barcelona is now the epicentre of the biggest issue facing the Madrid government – an issue with deep historical roots.

Filming a Biblical City

In the 1930s, the discovery of the ancient city of Lachish in the British Mandate of Palestine coincided with modern technological advancements which allowed archaeologists to share their breakthroughs with the world. 

Satan’s Bank Note

In the early 19th century ‘filthy rags’ – or banknotes – became a common form of currency. A surge in forgery followed, accompanied by a surge in harsh prosecutions. How did we get from gold to paper?

The World’s Local Religion

On the 500th anniversary of the origins of Protestant Christianity, how should we understand its spread – from an academic dispute in a second-rank German university to a global faith that embraces up to a billion people?