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

Reinventing Baku: one of the three Flame Towers, comprising apartments, offices and a hotel, which dominate the old town. The project, costing an estimated US$350 million, was completed in 2012

Reading Norman Davies’s global history is like wading through porridge

2 December 2017 9:00 am

Following Norman Davies’s explorations is like travelling, mildly jet-lagged, from one air-conditioned lounge to another, says Philip Hensher

Making musical history: Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton

Why has there never been a hit musical about the history of Britain?

11 November 2017 9:00 am

Why has there never been a hit musical about British history? Iain Hollingshead investigates

From blissful dawn to bleak despair: the end of the revolutionary dream

4 November 2017 9:00 am

Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey were undergraduates when they met in June 1794, Coleridge at Cambridge university and Southey…

Cross-dressing in the Met. Policemen don women’s clothes to catch the Whitechapel murderer. Charles West (far right) leads the search in Jack the Ripper, 1974

What do Robin Hood, Jack the Ripper and Winston Churchill have in common?

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Houdini, Antarctica, a maternity ward, the electric chair – they’re all subjects of failed musicals. But it’s impossible to predict what will work, says Roger Lewis

The Normansfield Theatre in Teddington, a beautiful ‘lost’ Victorian playhouse, is still used for concerts and music-hall evenings, and by small opera companies

Capital dramas on and off the stage

9 September 2017 9:00 am

Theatre buildings are seriously interesting – as I ought to have appreciated sooner in the course of 25 years writing…

Finger counting from 1 to 20,000. From De Numeris by Rabanus Maurus. (Carolingian school, 9th century)

Centuries of calculation – from tally sticks to computers

9 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s odd, when you think about it, that mathematics ever got going. We have no innate genius for numbers. Drop…

The source of Mozart’s inspiration - a great musical whodunnit

2 September 2017 9:00 am

If you were to compare Mozart to a bird it wouldn’t be the starling. Possibly the wood thrush or nightingale,…

Sheep being milked in a pen. (From the Luttrell Psalter, English School, 14th century)

Wolves, wheat and wool: in search of old England

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Englishness is big business in the nation of shopkeepers, and not just in politics and tourism. In literature, the gypsy…

Aubrey Beardsley’s ‘The Climax’ — an illustration for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome

From anchorites to zeppelins: the giddy range of Levitation

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Levitation. We all know what it is: the ‘disregard for gravity’, as Peter Adey puts it in his new book,…

Michael Kidson — in a class of his own

5 August 2017 9:00 am

The Enigma of Kidson is a quintessentially Etonian book: narcissistic, complacent, a bit silly and ultimately beguiling. It is the…

RSC's latest is like a week-long episode of Blackadder without the jokes

22 July 2017 9:00 am

The RSC’s summer blockbuster is about Queen Anne. It’s called Queen Anne. It opens at the Inns of Court where…

Hanna Reitsch — a committed Nazi and idol of German aviation.

Hitler’s glamorous high flyers

1 July 2017 9:00 am

Keith Lowe on Nazi Germany’s two remarkable female pilots, both holders of the Iron Cross, First Class

Hilary Mantel explains the difference between facts and truths

17 June 2017 9:00 am

‘History is not the past,’ says the writer Hilary Mantel in the first of her Reith Lectures on Radio 4…

Is London’s Green Belt responsible for its housing crisis?

17 June 2017 9:00 am

‘The area’s isolation has given it a strong sense of community and independence,’ runs the Wikipedia entry on New Addington.…

The post-truth is out there

10 June 2017 9:00 am

In a political ‘post-truth’ world, currently the subject of a slew of books, emotions and personal belief are said to…

The Lost City of Z is a very long way from a true story — and I should know

1 April 2017 9:00 am

A new Hollywood film portrays Percy Fawcett as our greatest explorer. It’s pernicious nonsense

Red dawn: Lenin demands revolution, April 1917

March 1917: Russians are proving themselves worthy of self-government

25 March 2017 9:00 am

From ‘The Russian revolution’, 24 March 1917: Even now, though the Revolution is young, the Russians have proved that they are fit…

The charms of old Paris – and the naughtiest girl of the 20th century

25 March 2017 9:00 am

Paris used to be the most self-confident city in the world. Brash, assertive, boastful: Manhattan claimed to be the best.…

The first recorded woman golfer (clue: it wasn’t Mary Queen of Scots)

18 March 2017 9:00 am

Mary Queen of Golf? The vote by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers to admit women as members has reawakened…

‘The worst fault any military plan can have’: on the Dardanelles debacle

18 March 2017 9:00 am

From ‘The Dardanelles report’, 17 March 1917: The plan of the government in the case of the Dardanelles Expedition had…

A new Ripper mystery: Why Patricia Cornwell won't stop hunting him

18 March 2017 9:00 am

Why has crime writer Patricia Cornwell spent two decades and $6 million hunting Victorian London’s most notorious killer?