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Maxim and Ivy Litvinov in London in 1933. Photo by Hulton/Getty

Essay/
History
Madame comrade

How Ivy Litvinov, the English-born wife of a Soviet ambassador, seduced America with wit, tea and soft diplomacy

Brigid O’Keeffe

Hexensabbat in Trier (‘witches’ sabbath’, 1593), by Pastor H H Lauen, Germany. Courtesy the Witchcraft Collection, Cornell University.

Essay/
History
Rich witches

How a flawed logic of economic scarcity and social climbing spurred witch hunts in early modern Germany

Johannes Dillinger

New Delhi, 6 June 1994. Photo by Sunil Malhotra/Reuters

Essay/
Nations and empires
Brand India

How a country used myth and mystique to tempt global investors – and seeded a toxic Hindu nationalism in the process

Ravinder Kaur

Vehicles on the Streets of Tokyo (1870) by Utagawa Yoshitori. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Essay/
Nations and empires
The myth of Westernisation

Americans liked to believe that Japan was Westernising through the 20th century but Japan was vigorously doing the opposite

Jon Davidann

Mahatma Gandhi visits the Greenfield Mill at Darwen during his tour of the cotton areas of Lancashire, England, in 1931. Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Essay/
History
History from below

What shaped the thought of E P Thompson, the great historian of ordinary working people and champion of their significance?

Priya Satia

A drunkard is challenged to walk in a straight line. Detail from Walking the Chalk (1838) by Charles Deas. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Essay/
Food and drink
Drunks and democrats

Violent, lively and brash, taverns were everywhere in early colonial America, embodying both its tumult and its promise

Vaughn Scribner

From The Moomins and the Great Flood (1945) by Tove Jansson. ©Moomin Characters™

Essay/
Stories and literature
Pippi and the Moomins

The antics in postwar Nordic children’s books left propaganda and prudery behind. We need this madcap spirit more than ever

Richard W Orange

Cologne Cathedral stands out from the rubble of a city destroyed during the Second World War. Photographed from a US spotter plane in September 1945. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

Essay/
History
Repetition and rupture

Reinhart Koselleck, the last great theorist of history, sought in the apparent chaos of events a science of experience

Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann

Carl Schmitt addresses the German Industry and Trade Day at the Kroll Opera House, Berlin, 8 April 1930. Photo by Ullstein Bild/Getty

Essay/
Political philosophy
Lawyer for the strongman

Demagogues do not rise on popular feeling alone but on the constitutional ideas of Weimar and Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt

David Dyzenhaus

From Piers Plowman (1427) by William Langdon. Bodleian Library MS. Douce 104. Courtesy the Bodleian Library, Oxford

Essay/
Language and linguistics
On gibberish

Babies babble, medieval rustics sing ‘trolly-lolly’, and jazz exults in bebop. What does all this wordplay mean for language?

Jenni Nuttall

The Death of General Wolfe (1770) by Benjamin West. Wolfe was killed during the Battle of Quebec (1759) that decided the fate of French lands in North America. Courtesy the National Gallery of Canada/Wikipedia

Essay/
History
Are there laws of history?

Historians believe that the past is irreducibly complex and the future wildly unpredictable. Scientists disagree. Who’s right?

Amanda Rees

Abigail Mary Allen and James Allen (The Female Husband); a hand-coloured etching and aquatint by Thomas Howell Jones (c1829). Courtesy the National Portrait Gallery, London

Essay/
History
Female husbands

Far from being a recent or 21st-century phenomenon, people have chosen, courageously, to trans gender throughout history

Jen Manion

Adolf Hitler greets German workers in 1934. Concern for workers’ rights was part of the initial appeal of fascist leaders. Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann/Ullstein Bild/Getty

Essay/
Politics and government
The lure of fascism

Fascism promised radical national renewal and supreme power to the people. Are we in danger of a fascist revival today?

Jonathan Wolff

Berlin, Potsdamer Platz (1932) by Carl Grossberg. Photo by AKG-Images

Essay/
Education
The scholar’s vocation

A century ago, Weber both diagnosed the ills of the corporatised, modern university, and pointed out the path beyond it

Chad Wellmon

The historical Buddha, preaching on Vulture Peak. Japanese, Nara period, 8th century. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Essay/
Religion
Who was the Buddha?

When we strip away the myths, such as his princely youth in a palace, a surprising picture of this enigmatic sage emerges

Alexander Wynne

Adoration of the Magi (1423) by Gentile da Fabriano. Courtesy Uffizi Gallery, Florence/Wikipedia

Essay/
History
Wonder works

History and philosophy should reveal to us the baffling, strange and wondrous qualities of other lives and other times

Marnie Hughes-Warrington