Samuel Pepys’s diary of the 1660s provides ample evidence that he enjoyed writing about himself. As a powerful naval administrator, he was also a great believer in the merits of official paperwork. The upshot is that he left behind many documents detailing the dangers and the pleasures of his life in London. Here are some facts about him that you may not know…
For four centuries Britain was an integral part of the Roman Empire, a political system stretching from Turkey to Portugal and from the Red Sea to the Tyne and beyond. Britain’s involvement with Rome started long before its Conquest, and it continued to be a part of the Roman world for some time after the final break with Roman rule. But how much do you know about this important period of British history?
The First World War threw the imperial order into crisis. New states emerged, while German and Ottoman territories fell to the allies who wanted to keep their acquisitions. In the following three videos Susan Pedersen, author of The Guardians, discusses the emegence of the League of Nations and its role in imperial politics.
On 9 July 1755, British troops under the command of General Edward Braddock suffered one of the greatest disasters of military history. Braddock’s Defeat, or the Battle of the Monongahela, was the most important battle prior to the American Revolution, carrying with it enormous consequences for the British, French, and Native American peoples of North America.
Today marks the forty-sixth anniversary of Prince Charles’s formal investiture as Prince of Wales. At the time of this investiture, Charles himself was just shy of his twenty-first birthday, and in a video clip from that year, the young prince looks lean and fresh-faced in his suit, his elbows resting on his knees, his hands clasping and unclasping as he speaks to the importance of the investiture.
As a schoolboy I was told that on the eve of the battle of Marston Moor in 1644, as the rival armies drew up, a sturdy yokel was found ploughing his fields. When brought up to speed about the war between King and parliament he asked, “What has they two fallen out again?”.
The National Health Service (NHS) has never just been about the state’s provision of universal healthcare. Since 1948, it has been invested with a spectrum of ‘British values’, including decency, fairness, and respect. Featured in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and hailed in polls as the thing that makes people most proud of being British, the NHS enjoys widespread affection.
From the moment the news of the victory was announced in London, Waterloo was hailed as a victory of special significance, all the more precious for being won on land against England’s oldest rival, France. Press and politicians alike built Waterloo into something exceptional. Castlereagh in Parliament would claim, for instance, that Waterloo was Wellington’s victory over Napoleon and that ‘it was an achievement of such high merit, of such pre-eminent importance, as had never perhaps graced the annals of this or any other country till now’.
King John II of England ascended to the throne in 1199 after a tumultuous accession war with his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, and his ally Phillip II of France. His inheritance was the Angevin Empire, consisting of England, most of Wales and Ireland, and a large swathe of France stretching south to Toulouse and Aquitaine. And yet, this empire was crumbling. It is in this context that one of the greatest legal documents in the world was written.
The importance of Magna Carta—both at the time it was issued on 15 June 1215 and in the centuries which followed, when it exerted great influence in countries where the English common law was adopted or imposed—is a major theme of events to mark the charter’s 800th anniversary.
On 15th June 2015, Magna Carta celebrates its 800th anniversary. More has been written about this document than about virtually any other piece of parchment in world history. A great deal has been wrongly attributed to it: democracy, Habeas Corpus, Parliament, and trial by jury are all supposed somehow to trace their origins to Runnymede and 1215. In reality, if any of these ideas are even touched upon within Magna Carta, they are found there only in embryonic form.
The British Museum’s current blockbuster show, Defining Beauty: the Body in Ancient Greek Art, amasses a remarkable collection of classical sculpture focusing on the human body. The most intriguing part of the show for me was the second room, “Body colour,” which displays plaster casts of several Greek sculptures brightly painted in green, blue, yellow, red and pink. The press has not known what to make of “Body colour.” It has been met with surprise, sneers, or been entirely ignored in otherwise glowing reviews.
The general election of May 2015 brought an end to five years of coalition government in Britain. The Cameron-Clegg coalition, between 2010 and 2015, prompted much comment and speculation about the future of the British party system and the two party politics which had seemed to dominate the period since 1945. A long historical perspective, however, I think throws an interesting light on such questions.
Film is little over 120 years old, and lives in film seem to fall into three phases. The first comprises those who were born before the era of film, and whose different experiences and expectations helped shape the young medium. The second comprises those who grew up with film, in the era of the studios and mass cinema-going. The third consists of those who saw the bastion of the film world assailed by new technologies, from television to video games, which divided the audience’s attention and changed professions.
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.