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The 16th century was a time of crisis and change for Portugal’s empire.
On the Spot: Hannah DawsonBy Hannah Dawson The historian on her love for Mary Wollstonecraft, Locke’s manuscripts and why you should wash your hands. [[{"fid":"37701","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px;","class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Why are you an intellectual historian?I’ve always been drawn to theory, but theory that is grounded in life.What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?That privilege does not see itself as such.Which book has had the greatest influence on you?I remember reading Michel Foucault at university and that tingling, creeping awareness that so much of what I thought I knew was a construct of power – and might be resisted.What book in your field should everyone read?Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.Which moment would you most like to go back to?1640s London to hear the ideas at work in the revolution. And to every moment before a doctor delivered a baby, and ask him to wash his hands.Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?Quentin Skinner: scholar, mentor, feminist.Which person in history would you most like to have met?John Locke.What foreign languages do you speak?In...
First sighted in 1820, for much of human history Antarctica has been an abstract idea.
For five centuries the legend of a Christian priest king, in Asia or in Africa, sustained the hopes of Europeans in their struggle with Islam. Those who joined the search for Prester John were looking for a man who was not there. 
Beethoven and NapoleonBy Alexander Lee The French emperor was a hero to the composer, inspiring a revolutionary symphony. But disillusionment was soon to follow. In April 1802, Ludwig van Beethoven left Vienna for Heiligenstadt, a village about five miles to the north. In the preceding weeks he had been deeply depressed by the realisation that he was going deaf; but there, surrounded by nature, he recovered his spirits and found a new sense of musical purpose. Wandering through the countryside, sketchbook in hand, he began toying with a theme in E flat major. Before long, he had the outlines of a completely new symphony – his third – clear in his mind. Though inspired by some of his earlier works, especially the so-called Eroica Variations (Op. 35), it was unlike anything he had written before. Vast in scope and strikingly original in style, it was bold, daring, even triumphalist.While Beethoven was labouring over the score, he decided to name the symphony after Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France. Where this idea came from is unclear. According...
Behind the dominating presence of Frankenstein, the richness of Mary Shelley’s life is in danger of being lost.
Understanding the Past in the 21st Century
The man who conspired to kill Julius Caesar was not quite the friend to Romans and countrymen that his legendary status suggests. 
Charlemagne, Muhammad and the Fall of RomeBy Conrad Leyser Henri Pirenne transformed the way historians think about the end of the Classical world and the beginning of the Middle Ages. A study in early medieval history appeared in 1937, called Mahomet et Charlemagne. Its author, a Belgian scholar named Henri Pirenne, had died two years previously, after a long and distinguished career. The 300-page manuscript of the work was found on his desk. Precisely because it was an unrevised draft it represents, perhaps, the boldest statement of views formulated over the last 40 years of his life. Its posthumous publication ensured his immortality.The Pirenne Thesis broke decisively with what had been until then the standard accounts of the end of Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages. Received wisdom designated the harbingers of change as the Christianisation of the Roman Empire in the fourth century and the barbarian invasions of Rome in the fifth century. Not so in Pirenne’s view: while what Edward Gibbon called ‘superstition’ and ‘barbarism’ may have changed the cultural and political temper of...
The myths that surround the ultimately tragic rule of Charles I mask the realities of a courageous and uxorious king who fell foul of a bitter struggle between two sides of English Protestantism.
What goes on in other people’s minds? The idea of writing about what we can never know – the interior lives of others – was born in the fertile hybrid culture of 12th-century England and made possible by the pursuit of romantic love.
Cake NewsBy Paul Lay A lack of historical knowledge is easily exploited in the fractious world of social media. Every day appears to have become a National or International Day of something or other. Take 27 January. In addition to being the Feast of St Angela Merici, founder of Christendom’s first teaching congregation of women, it is now, apparently, National Chocolate Cake Day. To celebrate, Jonathan Healey, a mischievous young Oxford historian, offered the following post on social media: Happy #NationalChocolateCakeDay #Cake FactOliver Cromwell banned the eating of chocolate cake in 1644, declaring it a pagan form of pleasure. For 16 years, cake eating and making went underground until the Restoration leaders lifted the ban on cake in 1660.— Jonathan Healey (@SocialHistoryOx) January 27, 2018 Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of British history will have guessed right away that this was a spoof, not least because Cromwell was serving under the Earl of Manchester in 1644 – the year of Marston Moor – and did not come to power until after the execution of Charles I in...
Iran: Cold War Crucible By Rowena Abdul Razak During the Second World War, Britain, the US and the Soviet Union worked together in oil-rich Iran. But cooperation was to degenerate into suspicion and hostility. [[{"fid":"37146","view_mode":"float_right","fields":{"format":"float_right","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"'Britain shall fight on until peace is restored to Iran and all the other Allied nations' British propaganda poster with Persian text, 1940s","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"'Britain shall fight on until peace is restored to Iran and all the other Allied nations' British propaganda poster with Persian text, 1940s"},"type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"'Britain shall fight on until peace is restored to Iran and all the other Allied nations' British propaganda poster with Persian text, 1940s","title":"'Britain shall fight on until peace is restored to Iran and all the other Allied nations' British propaganda poster with Persian text, 1940s","style":"width: 833.578px;","class":"media-element file-float-right"}}]]One of the first major conflicts of the Cold War broke out in Azerbaijan, the northernmost province of Iran. Bordering the Soviet Union and divided from Soviet Azerbaijan, the regional capital Tabriz was an important gateway between the two countries. From Baku, capital of Soviet Azerbaijan, socialist ideas were brought in to Iran, inspiring the...
Théodore Tronchin, Doctor to the StarsBy Giacomo Lorandi In the fashionable female circles of 18th-century Paris, a physician who recommended fresh air, exercise and looser corsets became a celebrated figure. [[{"fid":"37116","view_mode":"float_right","fields":{"format":"float_right","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Théodore Tronchin, by Galliard after Liotard, 18th century.","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":"Théodore Tronchin, by Galliard after Liotard, 18th century."},"type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Théodore Tronchin, by Galliard after Liotard, 18th century.","title":"Théodore Tronchin, by Galliard after Liotard, 18th century.","class":"media-element file-float-right"}}]]‘He is six-foot tall, wise as Asclepius and beautiful as Apollo.’ Thus did Voltaire describe his friend and personal doctor, the Swiss physician Théodore Tronchin, who was a specialist in women’s diseases and inoculation. His clinic attracted patients from all over the world and his reputation, especially for groundbreaking research on the prevention of smallpox through inoculation, grew so much that the Duke of Orleans, Louis-Philippe I (1725-85), summoned him to Paris to treat his children, the younger Louis-Philippe and Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde. His success sparked interest in both him and the practice of inoculation among the Parisian aristocracy and his rise to fame meant inoculation became widespread, even if it was adopted more because of the wish...
Georges Auguste EscoffierBy Justin and Stephanie Pollard The chef and restaurateur died on 12 February 1935. Escoffier’s brilliance as a master chef was forged in the fires of war. Taking his first kitchen job aged just 13, he worked his way up to chef saucier at Le Petit Moulin Rouge, haunt of the Parisian demi-monde.With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 he was appointed Chef de Cuisine for the army on the Rhine in Metz, later spending his six months as a prisoner of war cooking for the captured Marshal MacMahon and his staff. On his return to Paris he escaped the siege on the last train to Versailles.Escoffier made his name during his partnership with César Ritz, managing the kitchens at his new Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo. Here, Escoffier introduced the prix fixe set menu, designed to guide his wealthy but inexperienced clientele through the intricacies of haute cuisine.He became an international celebrity. Never forgetting his time in the army, he promoted simplicity and freshness in his cooking, the use of preserved...
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