History

Rorke’s Drift: a desperate brawl at a mission station up there with the great battle honours of the British army

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat: the story of Rorke’s Drift

19 January 2019 9:00 am

On 22 January last year, the entrance whiteboard at London Underground’s Dollis Hill carried a brief factual statement: On this…

‘Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon’ by Edward S. Curtis, 1914

Let there be night: adventures in the dark

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Edward S. Curtis’s 1914 photograph, ‘Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon’, shows the Kwakiutl tribe of North American Indians circling…

Grand Duke Francesco I de Medici may have been poisoned with arsenic by his brother Ferdinando. Portrait by Agnolo Bronzino

The age of chivalry was an age of devilry

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Agatha Christie’s spirit must be loving this poisonous new historical entertainment. Eleanor Herman has already enjoyed the success of Sex…

Neil MacGregor: belief is what holds a society together

8 December 2018 9:00 am

Neil MacGregor on belief, identity and the meaning of Christmas

‘He strikes me dumb with admiration.’ Van Gogh on Howard Pyle’s pirate illustrations

The facts – and fiction – of piracy

17 November 2018 9:00 am

Horatio Clare explores the fact – and fiction – of piracy

King David with his musicians: a page from the Vespasian Psalter, 8th century

To say this is a 'once in a generation' exhibition seems absurdly modest

17 November 2018 9:00 am

‘The barbarians drive us to the sea, the sea drives us to the barbarians; between these two means of death…

Members of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) celebrate Armistice Day, 1918 in London

Celebrating the 1918 Armistice resulted in thousands more deaths

10 November 2018 9:00 am

Reflecting on the scenes of celebration, the ‘overpowering entrancements’, that he had witnessed in November 1918 on the first Armistice…

Georges Barbier’s imaginative illustration of an opium den c. 1921

In the garden of good and evil: the power of the poppy

3 November 2018 9:00 am

America has for years been struggling with a shortage of the drugs it uses to execute people, yet it was…

‘The Sorrows of Boney, or Meditations on the Island of Elba’, published by John Wallis, 15 April 1814

Just a man: Demystifying Napoleon

3 November 2018 9:00 am

Who says that the ‘great man’ theory of history is dead? Following hard on the heels of Andrew Roberts’s magnificent…

Silk-weaving in China. An illustration from a book on the silk industry. Chinese school, 19th century

Stitches in time: The history of the world through the eye of a needle

13 October 2018 9:00 am

I recently read a book in which the author, describing rural life in the early 19th century, casually mentioned clothing…

Replica of The Endeavour

A date with Venus in Tahiti

1 September 2018 9:00 am

There is something about the Transit of Venus that touches the imagination in ways that are not all to do…

Man behind bars: John Lilburne spent more than 12 years of his short life in prison or exile - THE BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY

John Lilburne: champion of liberty and born belligerent

1 September 2018 9:00 am

John Lilburne was only 43 when he died in 1657, an early death even for the time. But in many…

Why is it that so many leading Brexiteers studied history?

11 August 2018 9:00 am

What do Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Dominic Cummings all have in common? They are Brexiteers, of course. Yet little…

Three generations and two royal families sit for a family portrait at Cowes in 1909. The portly Edward VII (centre) is flanked by the Tsar and Tsarina

2018: a year of dangerous liaisons with Russia

11 August 2018 9:00 am

First it was McMafia. After which it was the Skripals. Then the World Cup. Come the end of the year…

Captain Scott’s 1911 expedition to Antartica, with the Terra Nova anchored in the background, from The Colour of Time

The artist who breathes technicolor life into historic photographs

4 August 2018 9:00 am

Marina Amaral brings black-and-white photographs back to life with colour. But, she tells Laura Freeman, she never changes their story

A cuerda seca tile made of stone paste, showing the figure of an archer. Safavid dynasty, early 17th century (From The History of Central Asia)

Russia’s obsession with securing a warm-water port changed the history of Central Asia

16 June 2018 9:00 am

In the 13th century, having overrun and terrorised Europe as far as Budapest, and in the process possibly bringing with…

Before fleeing to London, Emmanuel Barthélemy commanded a barricade during the June Days uprising in Paris in 1848. Painting by Tony-François de Bergue

The cruel end of Emmanuel Barthélemy –as a waxwork in the Chamber of Horrors

26 May 2018 9:00 am

This is a biography that begins with a bang, swiftly followed by puddles of blood, shrieks of ‘Murder!’ and a…

The best single-volume history of the Great War yet written

5 May 2018 9:00 am

The historiography of the Great War is stupendous, the effects of the conflict being so far-reaching that even today historians…

A folding screen depicting views of Versailles

The splendour and squalor surrounding the Sun King

5 May 2018 9:00 am

The château at Versailles remained the grandest palace in the whole of Europe from the moment that Louis XIV established…

Why are there no pubs called after Lord North? Portrait of the prime minister by Batoni

Why are there no pubs called after Lord North?

24 March 2018 9:00 am

If you associate Lord Salisbury more with a pub than with politics, here is Andrew Gimson to the rescue, with…

For some soldiers, the VC was easier to win than to wear

24 March 2018 9:00 am

‘The Victoria Cross,’ gushed a mid-19th-century contributor to the Art Journal, ‘is thoroughly English in every particular. Given alike to…

The Marquis de Lafayette was inspired to fight in the American Revolutionary War

Why do people risk their lives to fight for a foreign cause?

17 February 2018 9:00 am

What’s the point of a cover if not to judge a book by? One look at the image on the…

Did a vodka ban precipitate the Russian Revolution?

16 December 2017 9:00 am

It’s one of the more mysterious features of human history that people of every era and in almost every place…

The vibrant tradition of English folk song

16 December 2017 9:00 am

After hundreds of densely packed pages on folk song in England — a subject for which I share Steve Roud’s…

The making of a happy home: cold milk for tea. A 1930s advertisement for General Electric

How cool is your fridge?

9 December 2017 9:00 am

The fridge may have saved us from food poisoning, but is it now poisoning the planet, wonders Stephen Bayley