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.
On 10 June 1692, the condemned Bridget Bishop was carted from Salem jail to the place that would later be known as Gallows Hill, where Sheriff George Corwin reported he “caused the said Bridget to be hanged by the neck until she was dead.” She would be the first of 19 victims executed during the Salem witch trials.
In April 1822, sailors from the British warships HMS Iphigenia and HMS Myrmidon, after a brief but fierce fight, captured two Spanish and three French slave ships off the coast of what is now Nigeria. Prize crews sailed the ships to Freetown in Sierra Leone, where the international mixed commission which was competent to hear cases regarding the slave trade decided to liberate the slaves found on the Spanish schooners, as well as those slaves found on a Portuguese ship which the British naval vessels had taken earlier.
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.
Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco (1546-1591) describes the perils of her profession in one of her Familiar Letters, which she published in 1580: “To give oneself as prey to so many men, with the risk of being stripped, robbed or killed, that in one single day everything you have acquired over so much time may be taken from you, with so many other perils of injuries and horrible contagious diseases; to drink with another’s mouth, sleep with another’s eyes, move according to another’s desires, always running the clear risk of shipwreck of one’s faculties and life, what could be a greater misery?”
You may have heard about the recent Pew Research Center study that shows millennials (born roughly between 1980 and 1995) fleeing Christian churches to occupy the ranks of the “nones,” those professing no religious affiliation. But how much do you know about the decade that gave birth to the millennial generation?
Argentina, 1976. On the afternoon of 3 August, Fr. James Weeks went to his room to take a nap while the five seminarians of the La Salette congregation living with him went to attend classes. Joan McCarthy, an American nun who was visiting them, stayed by the fireplace, knitting a scarf. They would have dinner together and discuss the next mission in Jujuy, a Northwestern province of Argentina, where McCarthy worked. Suddenly, a loud noise came from the door. Before McCarthy could reach it, a mob burst into the house. Around ten men spread all over the house, claiming to be the police, looking for weapons, guerrilla hideouts, and ‘subversive fighters.’
Silent-screen star ZaSu Pitts is usually remembered for her extraordinary name, her huge eyes, and her fluttering fingers, but not many know that she also put her nimble fingers to confectionery use, crafting elegant candies that were famous on Hollywood sets.
Surely no President epitomized the Progressive Era like Theodore Roosevelt, from trustbusting to conservation. Oddly, we rarely remember him as his contemporaries often did: “the greatest preacher of righteousness in modern times” (Gifford Pinchot); “essentially a preacher of righteousness” (William Loeb); “a veritable preacher of social righteousness with the irresistible eloquence of faith sanctified by work” (Jane Addams); “always ready to appeal for justice and righteousness” (Henry Cabot Lodge).
Brigham Young is well known in history as the founder of Salt Lake City, the first governor of the Utah Territory, and a leader in the Latter-day Saint movement. Thomas L. Kane, on the other hand, is not quite as known; he was an attorney born in Philadelphia. However, some would say Kane is the most important non-Mormon in the history of the Church of Latter-day Saints.
In Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism, Mark Stoll explores the religious roots of the American environmental movement. We sat down with him to find out a bit more about his process researching the book, issues in the field, and some tips for aspiring authors.
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.
Surprisingly few people have heard of Amelia Edwards. Archaeologists know her as the founder of the Egyptian Exploration Fund, set up in 1882, and the Department of Egyptology at University College London, created in 1892 through a bequest on her death. The first Edwards Professor, Flinders Petrie, was appointed on Amelia’s recommendation and her name is still attached to the Chair of Egyptian Archaeology.
Happy Australian Library and Information Week! We’re wrapping up Library and Information Week here in Australia. This year’s theme is “Imagine.” Help us celebrate all of the fantastic libraries and librarians doing great things over on that side of the world. Oxford University Press has put together a quiz about all things Australia and New Zealand. Once you’ve made it through the quiz, reward yourself with a dollop of Vegemite or catch a Russell Crowe flick to get your fix of the good old outback.