Latest from the H for History blog

‘Take the Skull of a Hanged Man …’ – Karen Maitland

Posted on: 27/09/2017 with tags: karen maitland, Medieval, Skulls, the raven's head, Medieval, Middle Ages

The Medieval period was an age of contradictions and none more so than the curious attitude towards the skulls of the dead. Skulls were thought to be where the human soul or spirit resided in life, and after death the skull retained the consciousness of the deceased. This belief is so ingrained in our imagination that, even to this day, if ancient skulls are discovered in houses and removed, some people fear misfortune will follow. The skull of Theophilus Brome was reported to have screamed in f…

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Tuesday Tidbits from Karen Maitland

Posted on: 26/09/2017 with tags: karen maitland, Medieval facts, The Plague Charmer, Tuesday Tidbits, Medieval, Middle Ages

Larks claw Delphinium consolida, also known as larkspur, larks toe and larks heel. In Medieval times this plant was used to pack wounds and treat the stings of scorpions. Oil from the seeds was extracted to kill lice. If tossed in front of any venous beast, it was widely believed the creature would not be able to move until the herb was removed. Leek sops A popular medieval dish. The white part of leeks was sliced and boiled until tender in a meat broth, together with lard or butter. Then the le…

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Politicians then and now: How Clement Attlee shaped today’s Labour party

Posted on: 24/09/2017

John Bew, author of the Orwell Prize winning biography, tells us about Clement Attlee’s influence on the Labour Party and of how politics has changed over time. Clement Attlee is regarded as Labour’s most successful ever leader. He led the party for twenty years and presided over the most radical reforming government of the twentieth century. Many of the things he achieved in office – such as the foundation of the National Health Service or the formation of NATO – continue to define our domestic…

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13 September 1942 – the British Special Forces raid Tobrook.

Posted on: 13/09/2017

The 13th September 2017 marked the 75th anniversary of one of the most daring and audacious raids ever undertaken by British special forces in World War Two. The little-known raid on Rommel’s desert fortress at Tobruk was launched on 13 September 1942, along with a raft of simultaneous deep desert attacks, each as extraordinary as each the other. All were true ‘Mission Impossibles’. The Tobruk raid was designed to strike a knock-out blow against the German General’s main supply depot and port, t…

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CONSTANTINOPLE 1453: THE GREATEST SIEGE IN HISTORY – JAMES HENEAGE

Posted on: 18/08/2017 with tags: author blog, By Blood Divided, Constantinople, English History, historical fiction, history, James Heneage

CONSTANTINOPLE 1453: THE GREATEST SIEGE IN HISTORY – JAMES HENEAGE There have been longer sieges, there have been ones involving bigger armies and worse slaughter, but none have been so dramatic and consequential as the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The siege didn’t last very long- just 53 days- and the armies numbered perhaps 50,000 Turks and 7,000 defenders. But it while it lasted, the whole world held its breath. And when it was over, the world had changed forever. Why was it so important?…

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Gill Paul’s 6 Favourite Historical Fiction Novels

Posted on: 17/08/2017 with tags: andrew miller, Another Woman's Husband, Barbara Kingsolver, Dinah Jefferies, Favourite Novels, Gill Paul, historical fiction, Paula McLain, Rose Tremain, Sebastian Faulks, 20th Century

Gill Paul’s Another Woman’s Husband is available now in ebook and from 2nd November in paperback. Here she reveals her six favourite historical fiction novels: The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, is one of my all-time favourite novels. Set in the Belgian Congo in 1959, it is narrated by the wife and four daughters of a Baptist missionary who goes there to convert the locals. Each of the five voices is distinct and compelling, and the story has comic moments at the start but gradually da…

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Pied Piper: Memories of World War Two

Posted on: 07/08/2017 with tags: author blog, English History, historical fiction, historical novel, world war II, 20th Century, WW2

In this charming essay, author Frank White, whose novel There Was A Time, was published recently by Hodder & Stoughton, shares two memories of the earliest days of the Second World War. During the second and third weeks of August, 1939, our family was  in Wales  – at Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey. We were in Mr. Evans’ cottage, which sat, isolated and self-absorbed, hiding its face behind festoons of ivy, five strides from the beach.  When we arrived, on the Saturday afternoon, we found a bunch of…

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The Venice that inspired CITY OF MASKS

Posted on: 07/08/2017 with tags: author blog, historical fiction, medieval history, s d sykes, Venice, European, Renaissance

Author SD Sykes introduces the Venice that has inspired her latest novel, City of Masks. The approach from the sea.  My first visit to Venice was in 1982, and we had crossed the modern road bridge by car and then parked near the railway station. I’m not criticizing this way of approaching Venice, except that it slightly misses the point of this place. In my opinion, Venice is best approached from the water, so that you can really appreciate her as a city of the Sea. The first time I had the oppo…

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Commemoration the Great Fire in Thessaloniki 1917 – Victoria Hislop

Posted on: 24/07/2017 with tags: 1917, Great Fire of Thessaloniki, The Thread, Thessalonkik, Victoria Hislop, 20th Century

The first historical event I remember learning about at school was this: It had been a very hot summer, with no rain for weeks.  A fire broke out in small shop, and within hours a huge area of the city had been destroyed: 13,000 homes, 87 churches and a huge cathedral.  Soldiers blew up buildings to make firebreaks but only when the strong winds died down, could the fire be contained.  It smouldered for days. This catastrophe caused huge economic problems and homelessness.  And there were plenty…

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Jane Austen – Reading at Home

Posted on: 18/07/2017 with tags: English History, 19th Century

Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen at Home follows the author throughout her life’s households. Below is an extract from the book detailing the Austen family’s fondness for reading aloud in the Rectory.   Her brother Henry described Jane’s novels, with their many drafts, as ‘gradual performances’. And Pride and Prejudice was written for a more literal type of ‘performance’, too: as entertainment for the family circle. This novel – indeed, all Jane’s novels, with their extended and theatrical dialog…

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