History & Classics

Happy Thoughts

Keith Thomas

20 May 2021

On​ 1 November 1755 an earthquake in Lisbon, followed by fire and floods, killed between thirty and sixty thousand people. The disaster, all the preachers said, was God’s punishment for...

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Classical China

Peter C. Perdue

20 May 2021

In​ the 1950s, Western scholars and Chinese émigrés were writing extensively on the classical tradition in China, but historians in the People’s Republic were constrained by a . . .

Ireland’s Lost Children

Clair Wills

20 May 2021

Unlike Tuam, which closed in 1961, the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home continued to operate until 1998. Members of the congregation claimed not to know where the children might be buried. The commission . . .

Horoscopy

Claire Hall

20 May 2021

It​ was an auspicious beginning: ♄☌♃. On 25 October 1979, the date of the first issue of the London Review of Books, Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction in the sign of Virgo . . .

When was Hippocrates?

James Romm

22 April 2021

The doctor​ who first urged his colleagues to ‘do no harm’, and also instructed them, less memorably, to ‘observe all concretions of excreta’, was a pioneering Greek practitioner . . .

The Public Voice of Women

Mary Beard, 20 March 2014

Iwant to start very near the beginning of the tradition of Western literature, and its first recorded example of a man telling a woman to ‘shut up’; telling her that her voice was not...

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Watch this man: Niall Ferguson’s Burden

Pankaj Mishra, 3 November 2011

He sounds like the Europeans described by V.S. Naipaul – the grandson of indentured labourers – in A Bend in the River, who ‘wanted gold and slaves, like everybody else’, but also ‘wanted statues put up to themselves as people who had done good things for the slaves’.

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Diary: Working Methods

Keith Thomas, 10 June 2010

It is possible to take too many notes; the task of sorting, filing and assimilating them can take for ever, so that nothing gets written. The awful warning is Lord Acton, whose enormous learning never resulted in the great work the world expected of him.

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‘What a man this is, with his crowd of women around him!’: Springtime for Robespierre

Hilary Mantel, 30 March 2000

Robespierre thought that, if you could imagine a better society, you could create it. He needed a corps of moral giants at his back, but found himself leading a gang of squabbling moral pygmies. This is how Virtue led to Terror. 

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The Sound of Voices Intoning Names

Thomas Laqueur, 5 June 1997

In a happier age, Immanuel Kant identified one of the problems of understanding any of the genocides which come all too easily to mind. It is the problem of the mathematical sublime. The...

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Identity Parade

Linda Colley, 25 February 1993

‘Iwill never, come hell or high water, let our distinctive British identity be lost in a federal Europe.’ John Major’s ringing assurance to last year’s Conservative Party...

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Goodbye Columbus

Eric Hobsbawm, 9 July 1992

Afew weeks ago, in Mexico, I was asked to sign a protest against Christopher Columbus, on behalf of the original native populations of the American continents and islands, or rather, of their...

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Grim Eminence

Norman Stone, 10 January 1983

The historian Edward Hallett Carr died on 3 November 1982, at the age of 90. He had an oddly laconic obituary in the Times, which missed out a great deal. If he had died ten years before, his...

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War and Peace

A.J.P. Taylor, 2 October 1980

War has been throughout history the curse and inspiration of mankind. The sufferings and destruction that accompany it rival those caused by famine, plague and natural catastrophes. Yet in nearly...

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Staying Alive in the Ruins: Plato to Nato

Richard J. Evans, 22 April 2021

While the British adhered to the well-established concept of the ‘two Germanies’, and tried to bring out the civilised tradition of Beethoven and Goethe while suppressing the uncivilised tradition...

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The Flower and the Bee: Many Anons

Irina Dumitrescu, 22 April 2021

Writing is not now considered a collective exercise. The Romantic myth of the lone genius persists. He is no longer always a white man – only most of the time. The black and white author photo is...

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Weavers and Profs

Katherine Harloe, 1 April 2021

The multiple meanings of Classics explain why classicists often seem to be talking at cross purposes, bewildered by voices inside and outside the discipline who say we are refusing to confront its elitism,...

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The ‘I’ of autobiography and racial belonging is not assumed in Imperial Intimacies. Hazel V. Carby’s shifting perspectives for her present and past selves – her narrative moves...

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The well-oiled pistons of the market-state are increasingly accompanied by the creaks and squabbles of a Chinese dynasty. The country’s prized state companies are overrun by kinship networks. It...

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At the House of Mr Frog: Puritanism

Malcolm Gaskill, 18 March 2021

No one wants to be ‘puritanical’: better to be thought fun-loving, broadminded, easygoing, even (perhaps especially) if we’re not. Puritans hold a mirror to the anxious self-image of...

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When Roman ambassadors asked what it would take to get Alaric to open the port, his answer was not citizenship but five thousand pounds of gold, thirty thousand pounds of silver, four thousand silk...

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Reinventing Islam

Elias Muhanna, 4 March 2021

Just like the term ummah, the practical salience of the concept of dar al-islam waxed and waned throughout history. Cemil Aydin wants to remind us that Muslims have always lived in discrete empires, spoken...

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The Aeneid is not all about male virtues and egos. The overall plot depends on the wrath of the goddess Juno, and room is also made for the quieter voices of aged fathers, local rustic deities and Italian...

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It is usual for urban centres to contain extreme contrasts and not unusual for them to be scenes of conflict. What is striking about the West End is the peculiar compound of establishment and anti-establishment,...

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Motorised Youth Rebellion: Radical LA

Andy Beckett, 18 February 2021

A typical headline in the Los Angeles Times read: HIPPIES BLAMED FOR DECLINE OF THE SUNSET STRIP. Yet in the longer term the teenagers won a partial victory. As the bands that played on the Strip...

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In the 1960s, the stereotype of the Algerian returnee was of an aggressive, vaguely psychotic lout, a know-nothing redneck – depicted as le beauf in cartoons by the Charlie Hebdo illustrator Cabu....

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Reformers said that non-­smokers took fewer sick days, fewer breaks; they rarely referred to smoking as a public health problem that might have something to do with class and racial in­ equality,...

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Insider-Outsiders: The Rothschilds

Abigail Green, 18 February 2021

The ease with which members of the second generation of Sassoons acquired the trappings of Englishness, after moving to Britain, and (like Ferdinand de Rothschild) became intimate with the Prince of Wales...

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A Marketplace and a Temple: Ancient Urbanism

Michael Kulikowski, 18 February 2021

The real ancient city was nothing like the way we imagine it, not even Rome after three hundred years of megalomaniac generals and emperors had stuffed it full of ever more grandiose monuments. Most ancient...

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In the late 1950s, the CIA’s schemes included using an aerosol to lace the air with LSD in the Havana studio where Fidel Castro made his radio broadcasts, sprinkl­ing Castro’s boots...

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But I wanted a crocodile: Castro in Harlem

Thomas Meaney, 4 February 2021

To cheers of ‘Viva Castro! Viva Cuba!’ the delegation took up position at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, which became a kind of opposition headquarters during the UN session. Malcolm X was the...

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In​ the opening scene of his television series Civilisation (1969), Kenneth Clark admits that while he can’t define exactly what civilisation is, he knows it when he sees it. The camera...

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