Miscellanies

St James and the Two Faces of Spain

Spain’s patron saint has been depicted as apostle, pilgrim and slayer. His various guises reflect the deep divisions that have dominated Spanish history.

The Puzzles of Thermopylae

The story of 300 Greeks withstanding the might of Persia at the Thermopylae pass is well known. But how accurate is it? And, with few sources, how can we know?

The World of Medieval Dogdom

The people of medieval Europe were devoted to their dogs; one great French dog-lover declared that the greatest defect of the species was that they ‘lived not long enough’.

What is a Concentration Camp?

‘Concentration camps’ are difficult to define. Even the survivors of the most notorious and universally recognised camps in history discovered this problem in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Gabriele D’Annunzio’s Fiume Escapade

The poet’s conquest of the Adriatic city of Fiume in 1919 was flamboyant, comedic and never likely to last – but it ushered in a new era of showman politics across Europe.

Ottoman Empire 2.0?

Across the Balkans, relics of Ottoman glory and decline, such as mosques, bridges and hamams, exist in various states of disrepair. Can they be brought back to life?

Napoleon’s Hot Date

Napoleon’s birthday fell on 15 August. How better to celebrate than by creating a new saint – one ‘Neopolus’ – and using the theatre to emphasise his links to historical kings and emperors?

Scribe Like an Egyptian

Ancient Egypt’s bureaucratic society depended on an army of scribes. To get ahead, you had to be able to write – but that didn’t necessarily mean mastering hieroglyphs.

Meet the Macaronis

During the 1770s there emerged a new type of fashionable fellow: the Macaroni, whose style was frequently and easily lampooned by cartoonists and the media.

Muhammad, Republican Revolutionary?

In 17th-century England, talking about Islam was a way of criticising the powers that be. When an introduction to the first translation of the Quran described a ‘leader of a band of fugitives’, was it aimed at the Prophet or Oliver Cromwell?