Of the many controversies surrounding the life and legacy of Christopher Columbus, who died on this day 510 years ago, one of the most intriguing but least discussed questions is his true country of origin. For reasons lost in time, Columbus has been identified with unquestioned consistency as an Italian of humble beginnings from the Republic of Genoa. Yet in over 536 existing pages of his letters and documents, not once does the famous explorer claim to have come from Genoa.
Family historians know the sensation of discovery when some longstanding ‘brick wall’ in their search for an elusive ancestor is breached. Crowds at the recent ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ exhibition at Birmingham explored the new resources available to assist their researches, and millions worldwide subscribe to online genealogical sites, hosting ever-growing volumes of digitized historical records, in the hope of tracking down their family roots.
How well do you know your military strategists? Napoleon Bonaparte and Carl von Clausewitz are considered some of the finest thinkers on war and strategy. Although they were enemies on the battlefield, both men’s insights into the dynamics of war are still widely consulted today. Take our quiz and see if you can tell who said what. Quotes are drawn from Napoleon: On War and On War by Carl Von Clausewitz.
World War Two was the most devastating conflict in recorded human history. It was both global in extent and total in character. It has understandably left a long and dark shadow across the decades. Yet it is three generations since hostilities formally ended in 1945 and the conflict is now a lived memory for only a few. And this growing distance in time has allowed historians to think differently about how to describe it, how to explain its course, and what subjects to focus on when considering the wartime experience.
There’s a lot we can learn from ancient Athens. The Greek city-state, best recognized as the first democracy in the world, is thought to have laid the foundation for modern political and philosophical theory, providing a model of government that has endured albeit in revised form. Needless to say, the uniqueness of its political institutions shaped many of its economic principles and practices, many of which are still recognizable in current systems of government.
In 1979, one of the most prominent Russian classical scholars of the later part of the twentienth century, Mikhail Gasparov, stated: “Vergil did not have much luck in Russia: they neither knew nor loved him.” Gasparov mostly blamed this lack of interest on the absence of canonical Russian translations of Vergil, especially when it came to the Aeneid.
The Renaissance vision of Jerome (c. 347-420 AD), as depicted by Albrecht Dürer in a world-famous engraving of 1514, seems to represent an ideal type of the scholar: secluded in the desert, far removed from the bustle of ordinary life (with a lion to prove it), well-established in his institution (as shown by the cardinal’s hat), and devoted to his studies.
In arguing that Greece—or modern Greece—is, in fact, a “trailblazer” of sorts, Stathis N. Kalyvas, author of Modern Greece: What Everyone Needs to Know, gives us some very compelling answers for us to consider.
In 1858, German Princess Katharina von Hohenzollern entered the strict Franciscan convent of Sant’Ambrogio della Massima. Instead to finding the solitude and peace she was looking for she stumbled across a sex scandal of ecclesiastical proportions filled with poison, murder, and lesbian initiation rites. Based on Hubert Wolf’s vividly reconstructed telling of the scandal, we’ve created a short quiz where you can try your hand and unravel the secrets of the Sant’Ambrogio convent.
Historians should be banned from watching movies or TV set in their area of expertise. We usually bore and irritate friends and family with pedantic interjections about minor factual errors and chronological mix-ups. With Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and the sumptuous BBC series based on them, this pleasure is denied us. The series is as ferociously well researched as it is superbly acted and directed. Cranmer probably didn’t have a beard in 1533, but, honestly, that’s about the best I can do.
Dante can seem overwhelming. T.S. Eliot’s peremptory declaration that ‘Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them: there is no third’ is more likely to be off-putting these days than inspiring. Shakespeare’s plays are constantly being staged and filmed, and in all sorts of ways, with big names in the big parts, and when we see them we can connect with the characters and the issues with not too much effort.
Decades before P. Diddy, Jay-Z, and Russell Simmons, there was Frederick Bruce Thomas, known later in his life as Fyodor Fyodorovich Tomas — one of the most successful African-American musical impresarios and businessmen of his generation.
The centenary of the Great War in 2014 has generated impressive public as well as scholarly attention. It has all but overshadowed some other major anniversaries in the history of international relations and law, such as the quarter-centenary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) or the bicentenary of the Vienna Congress (1814–1815).
The recent attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the siege in Sydney, and the Canadian parliament attack have heightened fears of the type of home-grown security threats that had been realised earlier in the July 2005 London bombings. Looking to the future, security agencies and governments have warned grimly of battle hardened jihadists returning home from Middle Eastern and North African theatres of war.
Greed (avarice, avaritia) has never gone out of fashion. In every age, we find no shortage of candidates for the unenviable epithet, “avaricious.” Nowadays, investment bankers and tax-dodging multinationals head the list. In the past, money-lenders, tax collectors, and lawyers were routinely denounced, although there was a strong feeling that any person, male or female, […]
The unbelievable story of the Roman convent of Sant’Ambrogio in Rome is about crime and murder, feigned holiness, forbidden sexuality, and the abuse of power over others. Does this controversial story, which casts high dignitaries of the 19th century Catholic Church in a less than flattering light, need to be retold for the 21st century?