The little Ice Age

From about 1550 the climate again grew colder with the intensification of what is known as “The Little Ice Age” which had begun in 1320s. In February 1565 Pieter Brueghel the Elder painted his famous […]

Bear River massacre in 1863

Four miles north of Preston, Idaho, the Bear River quietly ambles through green valleys and sagebrush covered mountains, the Shoshone call this place Boa Ogoi. Something happened on this site that is little known to […]

Coffee-houses in 17th century England

Coffee was one of the fancy new comestibles introduced to England in Stuart times. The first coffee-house was opened in Oxford in 1650; two years later they began to appear in London, and then elsewhere […]

Mail-order queen

July 8th, 2014

Well aware of this increase in realism, Henry VIII decided to choose his fourth wife from her portrait. Traditionally, dynastic marriages were arranged between (often teenage or even pre-teen) parties who may never even have seen one another before the ceremony – they were pawns in power plays, and personal preference did not have much to do with it. Henry, however, in middle age, felt free to be choosy; he sent an artist to paint pictures of Europe’s most eligible young ladies.

The death of King Edward VI of England

June 26th, 2014

On 6th February 1553, Mary rode to court to see Edward who was still ill. By March, some observers believed that he was dying. It was possibly about this time that he drafted his ‘device for the succession’, which proposed arrangements that ran counter to Henry VIII’s 1544 Act of Succession. On 11th April, he left London by barge for Greenwich.

The cultural legacy of Alexander the Great

June 24th, 2014

On his death, Alexander left as heirs only a mad brother and a posthumous son, neither of whom were able to rule. Power in the provinces was seized by Alexander’s generals and the empire broke up in a complex series of conflicts known as the Wars of the Diadochi (‘the successors’). The big winners were Ptolemy (r. 323 – 283 B.C.), who seized Egypt, and Seleucos (r. 312 – 281 B.C.), who took Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia.

The Battle of Normandy, 1944

June 6th, 2014

The Allies agreed that the establishment of a second front in north-west Europe was essential to defeat Germany. The Soviets had been calling for a Second Front since the German invasion of their country in 1941. But it was not until the United States entered the war, bringing its huge reserves of manpower and resources, that such an operation became feasible.


May 28th, 2014

The fashion for “Egyptian” design that swept Europe after Bonaparte’s expedition was actually a revival of sorts. Europeans had drawn inspiration from the Nile at least since the fifth century B.C., when the Greek historian Herodotus wrote his famous account of the land that even then was seen as the fountainhead of ancient wisdom. 

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