Tuesday, March 31
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In front of the Mayflower | History today

In front of the Mayflower | History today

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This year, the United States looks back four centuries on an intrepid group of refugees who have found a dangerous home in New England. The Mayflower Pilgrims had been outlaws in England, members of an underground church known as brownists or separatists. They believed that the church should be a voluntary community and not a mandatory state religion. For their refusal to submit to the Church of England, they have faced raids, prison, exile and death for the past 60 years. The pilgrims were not the first British settlers in North America. The officially recognized colony of Jamestown, Virginia, was 13 years old in 1620 and the Roanoake colony, founded in the 1580s, had disappeared. What is less known is that the Brownists themselves had undertaken an earlier expedition to North America...
Poland 's resistance | History today

Poland 's resistance | History today

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The purpose of this very valuable addition to the literature on the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 is clear. Roger Moorhouse insists that the heroic resistance of the Poles against German aggression in the West has received too little attention. Indeed, they were the first nation to face Hitler's appetite for an empire, and they paid a heavy price for this decision. By the end of the war, almost six million Poles, half of whom were Polish Jews, had died. The great strength of this new report lies in the extensive use of Polish sources, which are all too often overlooked when trying to summarize the history of the campaign. Moorhouse insists that, despite the large differences in the number of men and weapons between the opposing sides, the Germans did not have everythin...
The Scholarly Tale | History today

The Scholarly Tale | History today

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Even in the world of academic publishing, where time moves at its own pace, 29 years is a long time to work on a project that has never been completed. In 1922, J.R.R. Tolkien was commissioned by Oxford University Press as a junior collaborator for a student edition of selected passages from Chaucer. He was a young academic at the start of his career and it should have been a pretty easy job: adapting excerpts from an existing edition with notes and glossary for a student readership. Tolkien worked back and forth on the project in the 1920s, but was hampered by an unreliable co-editor and his own inability to meet the publisher's limits. He asked for 20 pages of notes and produced 160 pages of material, far too detailed for the readership. The project failed, but was finally stoppe...
A story of the monkey story today

A story of the monkey story today

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In 1562 an etching by Pieter van der Heyden turned the Dutch art world upside down. Modeled after a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, it shows a well-known folk story. A peddler lies in the middle of the scene and sleeps under a tree. However, while he is sleeping, he is attacked by a group of monkeys. Small in size but with a distinctly human appearance, they can withstand all kinds of mischief. After rummaging through the shopping basket, some have fun with his goods. You try on children's pants; a second looks at his reflection in the mirror; a third flies away with a set of knives. Another, sitting in a branch, plays the flute while his friends are dancing. Two more have a hobby horse race. Meanwhile, members of the band torture the peddler himself. One urinates in his hat;...
Is social media good for history?

Is social media good for history?

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"Social media prefers the bizarre, the visual, the cruel" Catherine Fletcher, professor of history at Manchester Metropolitan University and author of Beauty and Terror: An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance (Bodley Head, 2020) At best, social media is a remarkable mechanism for the exchange of ideas, book recommendations and contacts, which makes the life of the historian considerably easier. Last year I attended a conference round table that researched Manchuria, Korea, Russia and Italy, which would not have been possible without Twitter. Archiving can be isolating and social media an excellent virtual water cooler, a place to share jokes and amusing stories, like the secret of the shrinking crocodile that kept me and my followers busy when I was working on the ...
Lies, damned lies and history

Lies, damned lies and history

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Truth-based policies and the way they transform the public pose an existential threat to past studies. On January 27, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the liberation from Auschwitz. The existence of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps, and in particular the campaign to eradicate the Jewish people, is one of the best documented events in history. But five months before the anniversary, director Ken Loach was asked on tape: "There was a discussion about the Holocaust - did it happen or not?" And he replied: "I think history is there for all of us to discuss , “History is a discursive topic, but when asked about the denial of the Holocaust, Loach's answer was at best an ambiguity that said the fact of the Holocaust was up for debate. A few days later, Loach wrot