English Rifles: The Victorian NRA


These were not regular soldiers but amateur members of a new Volunteer Army who donned their uniforms a few evenings a week for drills under the watchful eye of a professional instructor, often after a long day at the office They were also permitted to openly carry a weapon in public, a manly practice that had been long out of fashion Large numbers of women attended NRA shooting competitions and...

St Nicholas of Myra


The patron saint of children and barrel-makers died on 6 December 343 Very little is definitely known about St Nicholas, despite the large amount of material concerning his life, beginning with a ‘Life’ by St Methodius, written before 847 Due to his popularity, a number of legends have obscured the real St Nicholas, most famously that of Santa Claus Born in Patara in Asia Minor on 15 March 270...

National Gallery: Jamaica


The words barbecue ( barbacoa ), canoe ( kanoa ) and tobacco ( tabaco ) all stem from the Taíno language, which has no writing system and thus no written sources In Schliefer’s painting the Jamaican flag drips red blood and black ink into a Spanish jar showing cracks induced by the pressure of ‘collecting so much misery’ On 25 June 1503, during his fourth voyage, he was shipwrecked at St Ann’s...

Islam’s ‘Toxic’ Schism


Few political analysts – including those in the CIA and MI6 – knew much about them In order to answer that question, we need to establish how most Muslims became either Sunnis or Shia and examine why the split is still theologically significant But this was problematic for those who believed Muhammad had intended Ali to follow him He remains alive to this day but is hidden, or absent, from the...

Naming the Un-Named


Turner Prize nominee Lubaina Himid’s artworks fill in the gaps that history leaves behind Nearing Guadaloupe, Captain Boucher ordered the deaths of 36 people whose blindness was deemed permanent There are no names recorded, only a continued repetition of collective, distanced, historical ‘slaves’ Though she is unable to name the people, Himid gives us an opportunity to revisit their histories...

The Rise of the Flesh-Avoiders


It was rather, he argued, an exercise in rhetoric by the young philosopher, intended as a display of his debating skill For an answer, we need to examine what vegetarianism, or rather ‘flesh avoidance’, meant to people in early 17th-century England Holland’s dismissal of an ethical stance in Plutarch’s essay might have been simply because it did not correspond to biblical injunction Though there...

A Postwar Progress


Every generation feels that it is moving on the uncharted frontier of time and historians, too, are subject to this insecurity However, it is some comfort to view the life one has led in a wider social context Juliet was editor of History Today for several years in the 1980s, when ‘history from below’, Cobb and Ladurie-inspired studies of long-past petits papiers , working-class, black and...

Against the Grain


His new book offers a convincing, deep history of this (in)famous product Walvin’s work generally concentrates on slavery in the Americas and he reminds us forcefully that sugar continued to be produced by unfree labour, transported across oceans for that purpose, long after America’s slaves had been emancipated: from indentured Indian labourers in Fiji to Japanese workers in Hawaii and South Sea...

Roman Loans


Given the unlikelihood of Aurelia ever being able to pay back the loan, by ‘signing’ a document she could not read, she was essentially selling herself, because of her father’s debt, into domestic servitude for the rest of her life in a village some 30 miles from her home But it is not just papyri which tell us about the practice of lending money to those in need in the Roman Empire From Pompeii...

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner: The Savagery and Civility of the Thanksgiving Feast


Ferris’ painting shows a female colonist leaning forward to offer a platter of roast turkey to a semi-naked Indian, who sits before her cross-legged as he stretches out his hand to take the food Behind the composition’s central female figure stands an upright man, presumably her husband, in austere black, carrying a bowl of food This concept has taken on a specifically American dimension in 16th...

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