Volume 61 Issue 5 May 2011

The ‘biggest, bloodiest and longest battle on English soil’ was fought at Towton in Yorkshire on Palm Sunday 1461. Its brutality was a consequence of deep geographical and cultural divisions which persist to this day, writes George Goodwin.

Ian Bradley examines the achievements of the surprisingly radical Victorian dramatist and librettist who, in collaboration with the composer Arthur Sullivan, created classic satires of English national identity.

A selection of readers' correspondence with the editor, Paul Lay.

Writing her first historical novel has raised some unexpected challenges for the historian Stella Tillyard.

Alex von Tunzelmann reassesses a two-part article on the troubled relationship between the United States and Cuba, published in History Today 50 years ago in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Richard Cavendish charts the events leading up to the Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz's fall from power on May 25th, 1911.

Richard Cavendish describes the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary on May 27th, 1936.

Richard Cavendish describes the Battle of Albuera, on May 16th, 1811.

The Victorian era was an age of faith – which is why it was also a golden period of progress, argues Tim Stanley.

The historical roots of the dispute between China and Japan over control of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands reveal a great deal about the two countries’ current global standing, says Joyman Lee.

As the Coalition government marks its first anniversary Martin Pugh sees its blend of Liberal and Conservative policies mirrored in the long and chequered career of the most famous of all 20th-century prime ministers.

Almost none of the large outdoor artworks commissioned for the 1951 Festival of Britain has survived. Alan Powers discusses one that did, a mural by John Piper, which returns to London’s South Bank this month.

Patrick Little celebrates the life and career of a major historian of Early Modern Britain.

In the interests of historical research Lucy Worsley adopted the dental hygiene habits of previous centuries.

The  trade in human organs has given rise to many myths. We should look to its history, argues Richard Sugg, if we are to comprehend its reality.

The great trading companies that originated in early modern Europe are often seen as pioneers of western imperialism. The Levant Company was different, argues James Mather.

One of the last popes to play a major role in international affairs, Innocent XI defied Louis XIV, the Sun King, and played a decisive part in the defence of Christianity against the spread of Islam under the auspices of the Ottoman empire, as Graham Darby explains.

Janina Ramirez, presenter of a new BBC documentary on Iceland and its literature, explores the country’s sagas, their wide-ranging legacy and what they tell us about the history and culture of the Arctic island and its peoples.

The Wild West, a thrilling but imprecise concept, with it’s colourful cast of characters such as ‘Buffalo Bill’, General Custer, Kit Carson, Billy the Kid and Sitting Bear, has been ill- served by confining it to the ‘lore of the trans Mississippi United States in the late 1880s’, argues Michael Wallis.

The nephew was certain of his inheritance – so certain that he treated his elderly uncle in ‘a most unpardonable fashion’. But the old man still had a trick or two up his sleeve. In 1788 he placed an advertisement in the Hibernian Telegraph spelling out his family circumstances: the reprobate nephew, his urgent need for another heir. The old man was advertising for a bride and his needs were both particular and peculiar: ‘a healthy pregnant widow, of a reputation unsullied, however contracted her sphere of life be’.

The assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934 is one of the great murder mysteries of the 20th century and the subject of a highly charged historical controversy. Kirov, the boss of the Leningrad party, was one of Stalin’s inner circle and everybody agrees he was shot by an unemployed Communist Party member, Leonid Nikolaev. But Stalin accused his former party rivals – Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev and the exiled Leon Trotsky – of orchestrating the assassination.

During the First World War the artistic establishment divided into combatants and non-combatants. While Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were battling through mud and John Nash was painting the desecration in the trenches, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry were decorating the exquisite interiors of Bell and Grant’s home in the Sussex countryside. Grant and Fry were conscientious objectors who saw themselves as fighting, albeit obliquely, for peace.

What could be more historical than the search for utopia? Visions of an ideal place elsewhere that is better than our own are not only persistent in human history, they are also deeply revealing of that history. Past imaginings of a fairer social organisation, of a more secure existence and of a more harmonious environment all expose the failings of the time they arise from as well as testing the limits of an age’s thought. Telling this history in its entirety is the goal of this concise yet comprehensive and richly illustrated book.

One name stands above all others among surviving early modern autobiographies: Samuel Pepys. Thanks to him we are accustomed to seeing the diary as one of the principle ways in which the impulse to record one’s life became popularised. Adam Smyth argues that our admiration for Pepys has a lot to answer for. He suggests that our focus on diaries has obscured a whole range of other ways in which men and women in 16th- and 17th-century England wrote about their lives.

The key question about the Yalta Conference of February 1945 is whether to see it as the last act in the great drama of the grand alliance that fought and won the Second World War, or as the curtain raiser for the new drama of the Cold War. Of course, in a sense, Yalta was both of these things but Fraser Harbutt in his revisionist diplomatic history of the wartime alliance offers a new way of understanding the real meaning of the conference.

The civil war of Stephen’s reign has etched itself on the national consciousness. The 19 summers and winters when, according to the Peterborough chronicler, the saints slept have become a byword for feudal anarchy and violence.

In his latest collection of essays, some published in English for the first time, Eric Hobsbawm brings over half a century of historical research and scholarship to bear on the extraordinary impact of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. He charts the labyrinthine story of how their work was disseminated and chronicles how it hardened into doctrine.

An illustration showing an aerial view of the Festival of Britain, South Bank, London, 1951During the Second World War the Royal Society of Arts suggested that the 1851 Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations should be commemorated when peace came.