Latest from the H for History blog

The Perennial Allure of the Royal Family by Gill Paul

Posted on: 06/12/2017 with tags: Another Woman's Husband, Gill Paul, Royal family, The Windsors, Wallis SImpson, 20th Century, Modern

The public euphoria at the engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle is proof, were any needed, that our fascination with the Windsor family is as strong as ever. But why should this be? Monarchs no longer have the power to order beheadings or start wars and crusades. The Queen has, at best, minimal influence on her government and every now and again the newspapers get on their high horses about how much she and her relatives cost the taxpayer. But if polls are to be believed, it’s a price mos…

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Festive Tidbits from Karen Maitland

Posted on: 05/12/2017 with tags: boxing day, christmas, Holly, karen maitland, The Plague Charmer, tidbit, Yule Log, Christmas, Medieval, Middle Ages

Feast of Fools In the Middle Ages, on the eve of the Feast of Circumcision (31 December) when the Magnificat was read out in cathedrals and abbeys – He has put down the mighty – all the junior clergy would start chanting Deposuit! (Put down!). They’d drag senior clergy from their seats and take their places, appointing a fool precentor. For the next few days the ‘humble’ ruled. On 1 January, a donkey carrying a woman and baby was led into the church. At the end of the Mass, the priest brayed thr…

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Tuesday Tidbits from Karen Maitland

Posted on: 28/11/2017 with tags: karen maitland, Medieval facts, The Plague Charmer, Tuesday Tidbits, Medieval, Middle Ages

Rock-a-bye Baby To prevent babies being abandoned in unsafe places, some religious houses in the Middle Ages, introduced Foundling Wheels. These were swivelling barrels built into their walls that had a hole cut into one side. A mother would creep up to the outside wall, pop the baby in the barrel, ring the bell to alert the monks or nuns, then hurry away. The barrel would be turned around by those inside and the baby safely removed to be cared for in the monastery. Some Orders would only take i…

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Would Bletchley Park have recruited YOU? Try our Chessboard War puzzle!

Posted on: 23/11/2017 with tags: Bletchley Park Brainteasers, Enigma, Puzzles, world war II, 20th Century, WW2

When scouring the land for top-level code breakers, the Bletchley Park recruiters left no stone unturned. As well as approaching the country’s fi nest mathematicians, they cast their nets much wider, interviewing sixth-form music students who could read orchestral scores, chess masters, poets, linguists, hieroglyphics experts and high society debutantes fresh from finishing school. To assess these individuals they devised various ingenious mind-twisters – hidden codes, cryptic crosswords, secret…

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Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney has been shortlisted for the 2017 Costa Novel Award

Posted on: 22/11/2017

We are extremely proud to announce that Stef Penney’s panoramic historical epic Under a Pole Star has been shortlisted for the 2017 Costa Novel Award! The judges (Lucy Atkins, Freya North and Wayne Winstone) have described it as “A novel of huge scope with a tremendous sense of period and place”.  Follow the path to the freezing north. Follow your ambition. Follow your heart Flora Mackie first crossed the Arctic Circle at the age of twelve. Years later, in 1892, determination and chance lead her…

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What’s a passionate man to do? Sarah Shoemaker

Posted on: 15/11/2017 with tags: Charlotte Bronte, Divorce, Jane Eyre, Mr Rochester, Nineteenth Century, Sarah Shoemaker, 19th Century

Love, marriage and divorce in the world of Jane Eyre Sometimes, seeing Mr Rochester tied down to an insane wife and loving Jane, it would seem easy to ask: Why doesn’t he just get a divorce? That may be cruel, but, indeed, what kind of marriage have they anyway? Or have they ever had after the first few months? I’m sure I must have asked that question when I first read Jane Eyre. Some history will make Rochester’s situation a little clearer: Before the latter part of the nineteenth century, marr…

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Why I Admire Admiral Saumarez

Posted on: 01/11/2017 with tags: author blog, English History, fiction, historical fiction, Julian Stockwin, Thomas Kydd, 19th Century, Napoleonic Wars

Author Julian Stockwin on a unsung hero of the Napoleonic naval war. In the course of writing the Kydd series I’ve researched many real-life naval personages,  a number of whom I’ve included in the books, part of the rich naval heritage that is the backdrop to those fascinating times. Julian Stockwin outside HMS Victory, Saumarez’s flagship during the Baltic campaign. Of course Horatio Nelson has appeared in several titles in the series, along with ‘Black Dick’ Howe, Cuthbert Collingwood, Home R…

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Neil Spring tells us about the lost village of Imber and real-life ghost hunter Harry Price

Posted on: 28/10/2017

In the middle of Salisbury Plain, at the bottom of a low valley, are the remains of an abandoned village. Deserted at the outbreak of the Second World War, Imber has since been used by the army to train its troops but over the years has developed a ghostly reputation. The people who lived there were told that they would one day be allowed to return but ever since Imber has remained out of bounds. It’s a long tradition that in the winter months, Imber reopens to the public and a service is held i…

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My Top Five Historical Ghost Stories

Posted on: 26/10/2017

Katherine Clements, critically acclaimed novelist (The Crimson Ribbon, The Silvered Heart), editor of Historia, member of the HWA committee and current Royal Literary Fellow at the University of Manchester, introduces her five favourite historical ghost stories. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters After The Night Watch, which was impressive but left me a little cold, I welcomed Sarah Waters’ return to the gothic with The Little Stranger. There is no one better at bringing a fresh approach to a t…

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‘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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