Latest from the H for History blog

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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And so this is…Saturnalia? The pagan origins of Christmas

Posted on: 25/11/2015 with tags: Anthony Riches, christmas, pagan, Thunder of the Gods, Roman

Thunder of the Gods author Anthony Riches on the pagan origins of Christmas. ‘Those people who, if a little cynically, take pleasure in calling the Christmas holiday period the ‘mid-winter pagan festival’, are closer to the truth than they might realise, because the ancient celebration of the year’s death and rebirth never really went away – or at least not when it was supposed to. While the idea of lighting up the otherwise dreary low point of winter’s shortest day and longest night with drinki…

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Guy Saville on The Man in the High Castle

Posted on: 23/11/2015 with tags: Afrika Reich, guy saville, Madagaskar Plan, nazi germany, third reich, World History, WW2

Guy Saville, author of The Madagaskar Plan, has written this brilliant article for us about  The Man in the High Castle and and the move in alternative history from sci-fi to the thriller. ‘The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick is arguably the most influential what-if-the-Nazis-won-the-war novel. Published in 1962, it was considered unfilmable for decades. Amazon, however, has just released a big budget TV adaptation produced by Ridley Scott. The original book is a work of science fiction…

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Censorship in the Age of Hypocrisy

Posted on: 19/11/2015 with tags: Elieen Horne, Emile Zola, Zola and the Victorians, Victorian

Zola and the Victorians: Censorship in the Age of Hypocrisy This is an untold story of an altruistic opportunist – a colourful footnote in British history about an adventurer who loved literature and made his living from it. Henry Vizetelly (1820-1894) was a writer and publisher who rightly appreciated the great French novelist and social reformer Émile Zola as the French Tolstoy, and knew, in terms of his sales potential in Britain, that Zola was also a French Dickens, that most popular of Vict…

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Adele Parks reveals the real-life inspiration behind her novel If You Go Away

Posted on: 19/11/2015 with tags: adele parks, author, first world war, historical novel, if you go away, inspiration, novelist

People are always interested in knowing where novelists get their ideas; I think the most honest answer is everywhere and anywhere. When I started to write If You Go Away, I had a very clear idea as to who my heroine Vivian was (a strong-willed, sexually curious yet naïve debutante, who was basically born before her time and going to get into trouble for it); however, initially I was less certain about my hero Howard. I had quickly realised that writing a conscientious objector was layered and c…

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