How did the Peanuts gang respond to–and shape–postwar American politics? How has a single game become a cultural touchstone for urban Chinese Americans in the 1930s, incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, and Jewish American suburban mothers? Were 19th Century Brits very deeply bored? Cultural and social history bring to life the beliefs, understandings, and motivations of peoples throughout time. Explore these nine books to expand your understanding of who we are.
This summer will mark the 85th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War, a brutal struggle that began with a military uprising against the democratic Second Republic and ended, three years later, in victory for the rebels under General Francisco Franco. The enduring fascination of that conflict, its ability to grip the global imagination, belies its geographical scale and is testament to the power of art.
Russian “information warfare”—from hacking to efforts to sow “fake news” abroad—has captured international headlines in recent years. Although Russian efforts to influence western opinion are usually seen as a product of the Cold War, they have a much longer lineage.
What does one do with a castle? The Venetian Terraferma (and, indeed, all of Europe) is dotted with medieval castles that have long outlived the purposes for which they were intended. And yet, built of stone, they are costly to demolish and—more importantly—of great historical interest.
Beer is one of the world’s oldest produced alcoholic beverages and since its invention some 13,000 years ago, people across the globe have been brewing, consuming, and even worshiping this amber nectar. Whether you prefer a pale ale, wheat beer, stout, or lager, from the cask or a humble bottle, beer enthusiasts can agree that the topic of beer is as complex as its taste.
To know Russia, you really have to understand 1837. The assertion might seem strange. Even among historians of Russia, it is likely to produce head-scratching rather than nods of knowing approval. Most would point to other years—1613 and the birth of the Romanov dynasty; 1861 and the end of Russian serfdom; 1917 and the Bolshevik seizure of power—as more consequential. But in fact 1837 was pivotal for the country’s entry into the modern age and for defining many of Russia’s core attributes. Russia is what it is today, in no small measure, because of 1837.
Musicians from Haydn to Liszt were captivated by the rich tone and mechanical refinement of the pianos and harps invented by Sébastien Erard, whose firm dominated nineteenth-century musical life. Erard was the first piano builder in France to prioritise the grand piano model, a crucial step towards creating a modern pianistic sonority.
On the afternoon of 27 April 1859, two top-hatted businessmen, standing in a gravel pit outside the French city of Amiens, were about to change history. Joseph Prestwich and John Evans had brought with them a photographer, scientific witnesses, and a great deal of zeal and perseverance to answer a longstanding question: how old was humanity?
Research for Transcending Dystopia over the course of almost a decade was truly a journey, piecing together disparate snippets that have been transmitted in different repositories to gain insight into the musical practices and lives of Jews in postwar Germany. Among the 26 archives and private collections I consulted, two experiences stand out—the first being somewhat unusual, the second being quite extraordinary.
A new interpretation of the Domesday survey, the famous survey of England taken on the orders of William the Conqueror in 1086, has emerged from a major study of the survey’s earliest surviving manuscript. It is now clear that the survey was more even more efficient, complex, and sophisticated than previously supposed.
COVID-19 has ignited global interest in past pandemics, and the Black Death of 1346-53 is the worst in recorded history. Recent research has transformed our understanding of this lethal disease, which coincided with environmental stress and rapid climate change. But in the long term it proved a watershed in human history, triggering a range of institutional, economic, and social changes that opened up the route to liberal modernity.
“Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfs.” Nero’s fiddle is back in the news thanks to Bernie Sander’s criticism of President Trump’s pandemic leadership. But are we being entirely fair to Nero?
Universities are crucial for international understanding and cooperation, especially during a pandemic. In the midst of a pandemic, we seldom hear universities mentioned as crucial sites for international understanding and cooperation.
Roman civilization is one of the foundation stones of our own western culture, and we are often exposed in newspaper and magazine articles, books, and even TV documentaries to the glories of Roman art, architecture, literature (the chances are you’ve read Virgil’s Aeneid), rhetoric (we’ve all heard of Cicero), even philosophy. Yet in the late first century BC the Roman poet Horace wrote: “Captive Greece captured her rude conqueror and introduced her arts to the crude Latin lands” (Epistle 2.1.156). Did he really mean that Rome owed its cultural and intellectual heritage to the Greeks?
The Athenians were in a panic in 490 BC. A Persian army had landed at Marathon, on the coastline east of Athens, intent on capturing the city and even conquering all Greece. The famous battle of Marathon was Athens’ coming of age as a military power; a decade later its navy helped to block another Persian invasion (led by Xerxes), a stepping-stone to Athens’ rise as a wealthy imperial power.
On 21 July 2020, the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee published its long-delayed report on “the Russian threat to the UK.” Although heavily redacted, the report was wide-ranging and dealt with a number of issues, including the threat to democracy, highlighting concerns about potential Russian interference in the Scottish referendum in 2014, the EU […]