The fifth of November is not just an excuse to marvel at sparklers, fireworks, and effigies; it is part of a national tradition that is based on one of the most famous moments in British political history. The Gunpowder Plot itself was actually foiled on the night of Monday 4 November, 1605. However, throughout the following day, Londoners were asked to light bonfires in order to celebrate the failure of the assassination attempt on King James I of England.
Today, 27 October sees the centenary of the birth of the poet, Dylan Marlais Thomas. Born on Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea, and brought up in the genteel district of Uplands, Thomas’s childhood was suburban and orthodox — his father an aspirational but disappointed English teacher at the local grammar school.
On 27th October 1914 Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea, South Wales. He is widely regarded as one the most significant Welsh writers of the 20th century.Thomas’s popular reputation has continued to grow after his death on 9th November, 1953, despite some critics describing his work as too ‘florid’. He wrote prolifically throughout his lifetime but is arguably best known for his poetry. His poem The hand that signed the paper is taken from Jon Stallworthy’s edited collection The Oxford Book of War Poetry.
When an old friend told me he had saved the former Edward Everett Hale house in Matunuck, Rhode Island, from demolition and gifted it to a local historical society, I remembered there was a significant collection of E. E. Hale letters at the Library of Congress that might throw light on the house.
When it was first published in September 2004, the Oxford DNB included biographies of people who had died (all in the ODNB are deceased) on or before 31 December 2001. In the subsequent ten years we have continued to extend the Dictionary’s coverage into the twenty-first century—with regular updates recording those who have died since 2001. Of the 4300 people whose biographies have been added to the online ODNB in this decade, 2172 died between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2010.
When it was first published in September 2004, the Oxford DNB brought together the work of more than 10,000 humanities scholars charting the lives of nearly 55,000 historical individuals. Collectively it captured a generation’s understanding and perception of the British past and Britons’ reach worldwide.
Edgar Allan Poe died 165 years ago today in the early morning of 7 October 1849. Only a few details of the illness that extinguished his “bright but unsteady light”4 are known because his physician, Dr. John Joseph Moran, used the illness to promote his own celebrity and in the process denied posterity an accurate clinical description.
Today’s publication of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s September 2014 update—marking the Dictionary’s tenth anniversary—contains a chronological bombshell. The ODNB covers the history of Britons worldwide ‘from the earliest times’, a phrase which until now has meant since the fourth century BC, as represented by Pytheas, the Marseilles merchant whose account of the British Isles is the earliest known to survive
The Roosevelts: Two exceptionally influential Presidents of the United States; 5th cousins from two different political parties; and key players in the United States’ involvement in both World Wars. Theodore Roosevelt negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War and won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.
Most of what we hear and read about twelfth-century hottie Rosamund Clifford, aka “Fair Rosamund,” just wasn’t so. True, she was Henry II’s mistress. But that’s about it. Like so many other medieval myths, Rosamund’s legendary life and death are a later invention.
As soon as humanity began its quest for knowledge, people have also attempted to organize that knowledge. From the invention of writing to the abacus, from medieval manuscripts to modern paperbacks, from microfiche to the Internet, our attempt to understand the world — and catalog it in an orderly fashion with dictionaries, encyclopedias, libraries, and databases — has evolved with new technologies.
In 1701, one year before Princess Anne succeeded to the throne, musicians from London traveled to Windsor to perform a special ode composed for her birthday by the gifted young composer Jeremiah Clarke. The anonymous poet addressed part of his poem to the performers, taking note of Anne’s keen interest in music.
By Sarah Rahman
Clara Bow, whose birthday falls on 29 July, was the “it” girl of her time, making fifty-two films between 1922 and 1930. “Of all the lovely young ladies I’ve met in Hollywood, Clara Bow has ‘It,'” noted novelist Elinor Glyn. According to her entry in American National Biography, “With Cupid’s bow lips, a hoydenish red bob, and nervous, speedy movement, Bow became a national rage, America’s flapper. At the end of 1927 she was making $250,000 a year.”
By Nyla Ali Khan
To analyze the personal, political, and intellectual trajectory of Akbar Jehan—the woman, the wife, the mother, and the Kashmiri nationalist, not simply an iconic and often misunderstood political figure—has been an emotionally tempestuous journey for me. The Kashmiri political and social activist is my maternal grandmother.
By Ronald Schechter
This past 5 July was Daniel Mendoza’s 250th birthday. Or was it? Most biographical sources say that Mendoza was born in 1764. The Encyclopedia Britannica, the Encyclopedia Judaica, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, and the Encyclopedia of World Biography all give 1764 for Mendoza’s year of birth, as do the the websites of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Hall of Fame, WorldCat, and Wikipedia.
By Mark Curthoys
Behind the victory anthems to be used by the competing teams at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, which open on 23 July, lie stories both of nationality and authorship. The coronation of Edward VII in 1902 prompted the music antiquary William Hayman Cummings (1831-1915) to investigate the origin and history of ‘God Save the King’.