Book review – History

Portrait of Persia’s Prince Abbas Mirza, c.1820. From his bailiwick near the Russian border he dispatched educational missions to Europe, sponsored translations of key European works and imported metal casting techniques and the printing press. (Getty images)

When Islam was synonymous with knowledge and erudition

11 March 2017 9:00 am

Christopher de Bellaigue, a journalist who has spent much of his working life in the Middle East, has grown tired…

Pomak Muslims still live in Greek and Bulgarian villages. Left: a bride embarks on her two-day winter wedding in Ribnovo, 210 km from Sofia

The long tragedy of Europe's borderland

25 February 2017 9:00 am

The border between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey has long been a flashpoint. Now, more than ever, says Simon Kuper, it’s a hazardous transit realm for the homeless

Paul Durand-Ruel, who created the market for impressionism, commissioned Renoir’s ‘Dance in the Country’, painted in 1883

Connoisseurs and con artists

25 February 2017 9:00 am

Rogues’ Gallery describes itself as a history of art and its dealers, and Philip Hook, who has worked at the…

Portrait of Persia’s Prince Abbas Mirza c. 1820. From his bailiwick near the Russian border he dispatched educational missions to Europe, sponsored translations of key European works and imported metal casting techniques and the printing press

When Islam was a byword for benign Enlightenment

25 February 2017 9:00 am

Christopher de Bellaigue, a journalist who has spent much of his working life in the Middle East, has grown tired…

Magic lantern slides from the mid-19th century

The importance of being frivolous

18 February 2017 9:00 am

Sam Leith is delighted by the idea that having fun is the key to human progress

The game butcher, with dead rabbits and live, caged ones beneath. (Scene from the 1840s)

How many slaves existed in George V’s Britain?

18 February 2017 9:00 am

Oddly enough, one of the most historically influential pieces of British writing has turned out to be an essay that…

Cosette, by Emile-Antoine Bayard. Illustration for Les Misérables

Victor Hugo speaks volumes for the outcast and the destitute

18 February 2017 9:00 am

Somewhere between his first and second drafts, Victor Hugo decided to change the title of his great novel from Les…

Rod Taylor works his invention in a film version of HG. Wells’s The Time Machine

Cheating death by time travel

11 February 2017 9:00 am

The concept of time travel is surprisingly recent, says Jenny Colgan. Before H.G. Wells, it barely existed

The interior of Hagia Sophia by Gaspare Fossati, 1852

There is no one Istanbul, but a series of competing, clashing, coexisting cities

11 February 2017 9:00 am

I was a young, aspiring writer when I decided to leave everything behind and move to Istanbul more than two…

Why is the world crumbling in anger and terror?

21 January 2017 9:00 am

America’s global hegemony from 1944 onwards has led to a world now riven by hatred and terror, says Jonathan Steinberg

‘The Continuation of the Road from London to Aberystwyth’, from John Ogilby’s Britannia

The first British road atlas — a luxury fit for a king

14 January 2017 9:00 am

Given that he wrote and published some of the most stunningly handsome books of the 17th century, John Ogilby has…

Britain’s black history has been shamefully whitewashed

14 January 2017 9:00 am

I have been researching and writing about black British history for over 30 years but never before have I been…

The cradle of Henri IV, made from a turtle shell edged with silver, is displayed under the royal flags of France and Navarre

Falling standards and flagging spirits

31 December 2016 9:00 am

Did you know that 190 out of 200 nations in the world have either red or blue on their flags?…

Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens in 1835

Depressed monkeys, constipated llamas and suicidal kangaroos: the dark age of London Zoo

10 December 2016 9:00 am

If you’ve ever read a history of the early days of the Foundling Hospital, you’ll remember the shock: expecting to…

‘The Cheesemonger’ by Eric Ravilious.

Round and ripe: the role of cheese in global history

3 December 2016 9:00 am

‘Blessed are the cheesemakers.’ The line from Life of Brian is followed by: ‘It’s not meant to be taken literally.…

A Tommy rescues two canaries from a ruined house on the Western Front in 1915. Canaries were treasured not only as gas detectors but also in ambulance trains, where their song comforted wounded soldiers

Foreign fields forever England

26 November 2016 9:00 am

In July 1915 the poet Edward Thomas enlisted as a soldier with the Artists’ Rifles, even though, at the age…

Why has the Peninsular War been so readily forgotten?

12 November 2016 9:00 am

You learn startling things about the long entanglement of the British with Spain on every page of Simon Courtauld’s absorbing…

Hurstbourne Park, the Earl of Portsmouth’s family home in Hampshire, provided the only protection and stability in his life

The fascinating, disturbing tale of the mad Earl of Portsmouth

8 October 2016 9:00 am

The 55-year-old ’flu-ridden John Charles Wallop, 3rd Earl of Portsmouth, his feet in a basin of warm water, shivered in…

Robinson Crusoe — with more company than Alexander Selkirk enjoyed

The story behind the story of Robinson Crusoe

10 September 2016 9:00 am

Some years ago, when I stepped from an unstable boat onto Juan Fernández island, a friendly man took my bag…

Time-travel along the Elizabeth line

10 September 2016 9:00 am

The year is 1963. A girl is walking around Stepney with a pack of index cards, visiting old residents in…

Illuminated manuscript c.1335 depicting seven fiery red seraphim, the highest order of angelic beings

The power and glory of red

20 August 2016 9:00 am

The colour contains the greatest contradictions, the richest play on nuances and goes further back than any other. Paul Keegan follows the red thread through history

The Oxford English Dictionary: not just a labour of love, a feat of endurance

20 August 2016 9:00 am

What the Great Eastern was to Brunel, the New English Dictionary was to James Murray (1837–1915) — an unequalled task…

Neolithic burial chamber at Pentre Ifan, Pembrokeshire

The wonders of the Neolithic Age

13 August 2016 9:00 am

All organic beings descended from a single primordial blob, according to Darwin. Some of them developed sufficiently to leave the…

Just two of many controversial Games: Hitler’s racist jamboree in Berlin (above right); and the Stockholm Olympics, in which the brilliant Native American Jim Thorpe — sometimes regarded as the greatest athlete of all time — was stripped of his gold medals

The modern Olympics have always been a fiasco

30 July 2016 8:00 am

There’s nothing new about lying and cheating at the Olympics. Scandal has dogged the Games for well over a century, says David Horspool

The two victory towers at Ghazna, Afghanistan, with the citadel in the background. To the left are the remains of the tower commissioned by Sultan Masud III ibn Ibrahim (r. 1099–1115). The tower on the right was built on the orders of Bahram Shah (r. 1117–1157)

Conquest and vandalism in Central Asia

23 July 2016 8:00 am

When I first visited the complex of Buddhist cave grottoes, dating from the fifth to the 14th century, at Bezekilk…