Category Archives: HISTORY

Place to visit: Blenheim Palace

Place to visit: Blenheim Palace


Blenheim Palace: a magnificent rival to Versailles. Blenheim is only a few miles out of Oxford at the edge of the little town of Woodstock. It was built on land given to John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, by Queen Anne to celebrate his victory over the French at Blenheim in 1704. His success prevented Louis XIV from dominating Continental Europe and, as his descendant Winston Churchill wrote, ‘changed the political axis of the world’. Vanbrugh was commissioned to design a palace suitable for the hero, and £240,000 was voted for it by Parliament.

The end of the gladiators

The end of the gladiators

In AD 350 the gladiatorial games were as popular, magnificent and widespread as they had ever been. An unbroken history of development and adaptation stretching back some 600 years lay behind the combats. A century later not a single gladiator, lanista or munus was to be found anywhere. For an institution that had survived for so long and been so popular to disappear so completely was dramatic indeed.

Hawara mummies

Hawara mummies

Hawara mummies created a sensation when they were discovered, and in 1997 visitors to the British Museum found the first major exhibition of the mummy portraits from the Fayum very disquieting. Some burst into tears, some had to leave, unable to bear the clear bright gaze of the living dead.

The ascent of the Medieval Serbia

The ascent of the Medieval Serbia

The main stages in the development and expansion of the Serbian States were also stages in its relationship with the Byzantine Empire, and each one represented a struggle: for independence under the Nemanja, for the heart of the Macedonian Balkans since the time of Milutin, and for hegemony over the Balkan peninsula in Dušan’s time. During each of these periods, Serbia’s progress was conditioned by the contrasting and gradual decline of Byzantium.

The Inquisitors’ work

The Inquisitors’ work

Hideously unjust and psychotic in their devotion to duty, the Inquisitors went to any lengths to wring confessions from their victims. Anyone who denied being a heretic was tortured. Among the devices monks had at hand were the rack which would pull the limbs in different directions until tendons tore or bones cracked. There was the strappado in which the accused was suspended by his wrists and heavy attached to his ankles.