Latest from the H for History blog

Henry VIII – tyrant or hero?

Posted on: 02/02/2016 with tags: alison weir, henry viii, Tudor

It’s easy to get the wrong idea about Henry VIII. Some see him as a Charles Laughton caricature, throwing chicken bones over his shoulder, changing wives and chopping off heads at a whim – or as a dangerously suggestible ‘great puppet’. The multiplicity of propagandist images of the mature King, which derive from Holbein’s ‘annihilating’ portrait, have overlaid all other perceptions the of younger, less embittered and tyrannical monarch. Henry was complex – you can’t just label him a monster, al…

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Review of The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements

Posted on: 29/01/2016 with tags: english civil war, katherine clements, Reviews, the silvered heart, Stuart

I have never read a book by Lady Katherine Clements before, and have not read many pieces of fiction that are set during the civil war, so I was really intrigued when I picked up this book. From the first page, I knew I would soon be hooked as Katherine plunges the reader straight into the action! The year is 1648 and we meet a young and frightened Lady Katherine Ferrers travelling along a treacherous road, away from her beloved home. By page 2, the coach they’re travelling in is stopped by a pa…

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Inspired by The Killing Fields

Posted on: 29/01/2016 with tags: Cambodia, Jacob's Colours, Lindsay Hawdon, The Killing Fields, 20th Century, Asian History, World History

Lindsay Hawdon has written this brilliant and moving article for us about her trip to Cambodia which helped inspire her novel Jakob’s Colours: ‘In October 2011 I set off with my two young boys on a trip around South East Asia for a year.  Though Jakob’s Colours is set during WWII, the following story very much affected a large part of the writing.  The events that occurred in Cambodia, only thirty six years ago, are very similar to what occurred during the holocaust.  Tragically they are still o…

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H for History February Highlights

Posted on: 26/01/2016 with tags: Book Recommendations, Reviews

The Road to Rangoon Lucy Cruickshanks In 1980s Burma, the British ambassador’s son goes missing. Discovered in the north of the country, Michael Atwood is in imminent danger, trapped between sides fighting a bitter civil war and with no way of getting back to Rangoon. His best hope of salvation is to trust Thuza, a ruby smuggler who offers to help him escape. Beautiful and deeply scarred, Thuza has spent her entire life in a frontier town between rebel and government forces, never choosing a sid…

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My inspiration for ‘Deep Trouble’ by Rob Lofthouse

Posted on: 26/01/2016 with tags: Deep Trouble, Rob Lofthouse, WW2

I have always been interested in Military History, but I’ve a particular interest in the Second World War as my Grandfather served in 6th Airborne Division as an artilleryman. I was only young when he told me his stories – of taking part in D-Day and making drops throughout North West Europe – but they stayed with me and have inspired me ever since. Did it have an impact on my own decision to join the army? Perhaps, but what is certain is that when I left the army in 2013 and decided I wanted to…

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The Man Who Cancelled Christmas

Posted on: 09/12/2015 with tags: civil war, katherine clements, oliver cromwell, the crimson ribbon, the silvered heart, Stuart

Katherine Clements, author of The Silvered Heart and The Crimson Ribbon, writes about the man who supposedly cancelled Christmas. Ask people what they know about Oliver Cromwell and you get the same answer time and again: He’s the one who cancelled Christmas. It’s an enduring story and one that fits the caricature of Cromwell as a Puritan killjoy who didn’t believe in having any fun. It’s easy to imagine Old Nol turning up his famous warty nose at the plum pottage or snuffing the candles and bol…

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Roast peacock for a medieval Christmas

Posted on: 07/12/2015 with tags: christmas, karen maitland, Medieval, richard II, the raven's head, wassial, Medieval

Karen Maitland, author of The Raven’s Head, writes about a typical medieval Christmas banquet… If you’re feverishly shopping for all those meals you’ll have to cook during the extra-long Christmas weekend this year, spare a thought for medieval cooks. In centuries past, Christmas lasted not just two or three days but twelve, from Christmas Day to Epiphany on 6th January. In 1398, after King Richard II remodelled Westminster Hall, originally built in 1097/8 by William the Conqueror’s son, Rufus,…

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Christmas at the court of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

Posted on: 02/12/2015 with tags: alison weir, christmas, henry viii, katherine of aragon, Tudor

Henry VIII always kept the feast of Christmas with ‘much nobleness and open court’. It was incumbent upon kings to dispense hospitality throughout the twelve days of the festival, and in Henry’s reign more than a thousand people dined at court during the Yuletide season, and an Italian visitor noted that on one occasion the guests remained at table for over seven hours. All meats were carried into the dining hall with ceremony; far from confirming to the chicken-throwing image of Henry VIII popu…

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The last Russian Christmas

Posted on: 01/12/2015 with tags: christmas, laurie graham, Russia, 20th Century

Christmas 1916.  In just a few weeks  –  bearing in mind that the Russian Orthodox church used (and still uses) the Julian calendar, with Christmas celebrated on January 7th  – the cataclysm of the February Revolution was going to change Russia forever. The way Christmas was celebrated depended very much on who you were and where you lived. In 1916 St Petersburg was still the capital and its inhabitants had a high opinion of themselves and their (literally) westward-looking city. They looked dow…

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William the Conqueror – Problem Child

Posted on: 25/11/2015 with tags: david churchill, leopards of normandy, normans, william the conqueror, Norman

Imagine a baby boy – call him Baby W – born to an unmarried 16 year-old girl, known as ‘H’ from a working-class background. The baby’s father, ‘R’ comes from a wealthy, powerful family in which power is maintained by the ruthless use of violence: a gang culture, essentially. R agrees to support and eventually adopt his son. He maintains some kind of relationship (its precise details uncertain) with H, but insists on retaining custody, so that Baby W can grow up within his family’s strong, but ex…

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