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Volume 62 Issue 6 June 2012

In the Middle Ages, with the re-emergence of Salic Law, it became impossible for women to succeed to the throne in most European kingdoms. Yet between 1274 and 1512 five queens ruled the Pyrenean kingdom of Navarre, as Elena Woodacre tells their stories.

As London gears up for the start of the Olympics next month, David Runciman compares the 2012 games with the London Olympics of 1908 and 1948 to see what they reveal about the changing relationship between politics and sport over the last century.

As a boy growing up in Munich Edgar Feuchtwanger witnessed the rise of Germany’s dictator at extraordinarily close range.

Commentators repeat with regularity the claim that the Queen’s greatest achievement, besides simple longevity, is her modernisation of the monarchy. But, says Dan Jones, she still owes a great deal to her medieval predecessors.

Nicholas Mee recalls Jeremiah Horrocks, the first astronomer to observe Venus cross in front of the Sun, whose discoveries paved the way for the achievements of Isaac Newton.

As Elizabeth II celebrates 60 years on the throne, Ian Bradley looks at the fundamentally religious nature of monarchy and the persistence of its spiritual aspects in a secular age.

In the summer of 1941 a collection of paintings by serving members of the London Fire Brigade  was exhibited in the United States. Anthony Kelly describes the success of a little-known propaganda campaign celebrating Britain’s ‘spirit of civilian heroism’.

Marilyn V. Longmuir asks if Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent election victory completes the political journey begun by her father?

Julia Lovell reappraises Leslie Marchant’s article on the Opium Wars, first published in History Today in 2002.

The pioneer of English travel writing was born on June 7th, 1662.

Over the next four issues we will be looking at the history of the British Isles by examining its former and present constituent parts – Wales, Scotland, Ireland and, finally, England. This month Hywel Williams writes about Wales.

The boxer's great victory over James J. Braddock took place on June 22nd, 1937.

Richard Cavendish remembers the royal favourite who died on June 19th, 1312.

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

From Captain Cook to playboy Prince Bertie, Tessa Dunlop examines the appeal of the tattoo among high society.

Roger Hudson on a moment in the story of Scottish emigration captured in 1923.

Nicola Phillips reports from a recent London conference that looked at the ways in which new technology is changing local and family history.

A public spat between a historian and a writer shows why some subject matter deserves special reverence, says Tim Stanley.

Jonathan Fenby on the long history behind the rapid demise of one of the brightest lights in China’s political firmament.

Chris Millington says we shouldn’t be surprised by the Front national’s show of strength in the recent French elections.

How did Napoleon do it? How did he succeed in projecting such a heroic image both to contemporaries and posterity? His wars killed well over a million Frenchmen and double that number of other Europeans and ended in total defeat, not once but twice. He condemned his adopted country to at least a century of social and economic backwardness, while his former enemies across the Channel and across the Rhine powered ahead on all fronts.

For many children, a goldfish or guppy will be their first experience of owning a pet. Yet a dip into this revised and updated edition of The Ocean at Home: An Illustrated History of the Aquarium shows that keeping fish has not always been child’s play.

Verso’s Revolutions series delivers historic revolutionary authors, such as ‘El Libertador’, Simon Bolivar, teamed-up with present-day radicals (Bolivar’s literary companion being the socialist President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez). This contribution to the series features veteran left-winger Tony Benn introducing Gerrard Winstanley, the leader of the 17th-century English radical Digger movement.

Our Man in Rome opens a window onto a vanished world. The British foreign secretary is one of the historic secretaries of state; his staff occupy a building designed as ‘a national palace or drawing room for the nation’. Yet today, when matters are serious, the prime minister jets off or makes a conference call. Ambassadors who manage relations between their hosts and the home country are rarely called upon in a world of electronic communication and air travel.

British comics are some of the best in the world and have brought us characters as diverse as Ally Sloper and Judge Dredd and as beloved as Dan Dare, Rupert the Bear, Dennis the Menace and Oor Wullie. The UK has a rich history of comics publication, and has been home to legendary artists such as Leo Baxendale, Dudley D. Watkins, Frank Hampton, Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd and Dave McKean, and the writing of Pat Mills, John Wagner, Alan Grant, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis.

In May 1945 an 18-year-old Auschwitz survivor, Roman Halter, encountered a Red Army soldier. Initially friendly, he quickly realised that the soldier intended to rob him and he protested, in vain, that he was a Jew. With that the soldier ordered him to strip by way of proof and then, with a look of contempt, he drew his pistol, pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger. Fortunately for Halter, the gun jammed, but he was left to muse on the fact that his treatment by the Red Army had been little different from what he had endured at the hands of the SS.

It is instructive to compare the decline and post-Second World War destiny of the British and French empires. Whereas a Labour government in Britain, resigned to the end of its imperial role, granted independence to India and later governments through the 1950s and early 60s handed power to a string of new states in Africa and Asia, largely peacefully, France fought two disastrous wars in a futile bid to hang on to its colonial possessions.