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Volume 64 Issue 2 February 2014

Julia Jones examines the career of Willem van de Velde the Elder, the first official war artist.

The First World War provided unprecedented opportunities for scientists, especially women, says Patricia Fara.

After reading an article first published in History Today in 2004, Jeremy Treglown is struck by how much more complex our view of the Spanish Civil War has become in just a decade. 

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

Jerome de Groot considers recent releases.

Christopher Smith revels in reappraisals of both Augustus 2,000 years after his death and of Cleopatra, the so-nearly queen of Rome.

When he started researching the great era of Antarctic exploration, Chris Turney had no desire to add to the commentary on the deaths of Scott and his men. But, during his investigations, he stumbled across a new aspect of the story, with implications for the way the men’s memory is honoured.

The desire to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor is nothing new, says David Filtness. The founder of the Thames Police, Patrick Colquhoun, was both radical and draconian in his approach to crime and Poor Law reform.

Roger Hudson explains a photographic panorama, taken at the beginning of the Second Afghan War, of the ancient and forbidding fortress of Bala Hissar.

Henry VIII’s masterful administrator and reformer forged an unlikely friendship with a prioress, as Mary C. Erler explains.

The newspaper was born when publishers in Protestant lands began to produce printed versions of the hand-written bulletins that had provided news for Europe’s elites. It was to prove a difficult birth, as Andrew Pettegree explains.

The Japanese ruler was laid to rest on February 24th, 1989.

The playwright was baptised on February 26th, 1564.

Having conquered England, the Viking king died after a fall from his horse on February 3rd, 1014.

Adopting the guise of a man was a path to influence for medieval women. It could be a dangerous one, too.

The elites of ancient Rome transformed the nature of hunting.

As interest in the Protector grows, the axe hangs over his former school.

Studying the 17th century reveals a lot about modern conceptions of toleration.

Why, ask Richard Weight and Toby Haggith, do modern Britons still find it so hard to acknowledge their revolutionary past?

Our conceptions of time have become more accurate but less personal, says Mathew Lyons.

The worst thing that the Borgia family ever did was to be born Spanish. Or rather, not Roman, nor even Italian. First and foremost they worked for the benefit of the family, but so did most others in their position. Like the Piccolomini family from Siena, who produced Pius II (1458-64) and Pius III (1503), and the della Rovere family from Liguria, from whence came Sixtus IV (1471-84) and Julius II (1503-13), the Borgias spawned two popes, Calixtus III (1455-58) and Alexander VI (1492-1503). But, unlike these other families, the Borgias were foreigners.

This elegantly conceived volume adds considerably to our knowledge and understanding of one of the most remarkable buildings to have been constructed over the last two millennia. Old St Peter’s was built at the behest of the Emperor Constantine soon after the introduction of Christianity as the official state religion in the early fourth century. Commemorating the reputed site of the tomb of the apostle St Peter, the first pope, it was one of the largest and most prestigious churches in the Empire and it became a focus for patronage of many successive popes and emperors.

When scholars refer to ‘the’ encyclopedia, they most likely mean that great Enlightenment product, the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D’Alembert. Appearing from 1751, this vast project filled, depending on which edition you follow, 35 volumes, and took over two decades to complete. It first stepped out with the utmost confidence – ‘to set forth as well as possible the order and connection of the parts of human knowledge’ – but was immediately mired in intellectual and political controversy.

One important reason why human cultures have horrified one another throughout history is that each defines religious pollution differently. The Greeks had one word for it, miasma; the 1983 book of that title by Robert Parker remains a standard work on Hellenic religion. The Romans had no equivalent word, which Lennon sees as one reason why their version has lacked its own book until now. Focusing on what is distinctive to Roman culture, he puts the case that pollution mattered in ancient Roman religion and that it deserves more attention today.

‘Oho! The Pope! How many divisions has he got?’ Recalling Stalin’s remark, Winston Churchill came up with a retort: the dictator’s interlocutor, he wrote, ‘might have mentioned a number of legions not always on parade’. Invisible powers subtended the papacy and they were a force to be reckoned with, Stalin’s scorn notwithstanding. In his latest book Peter Heather concurs with Churchill. Medieval popes had few warbands to command – but the papacy was, all the same, an imperial regime, the mightiest and most successful attempt to revive the greatness that had been Rome.

For anyone who teaches, conducts research or carries out fieldwork in the history of the wider Mediterranean world, The Making of the Middle Sea offers an invaluable and beautifully illustrated resource, incomparable in its scope, depth and originality. Broodbank’s narrative style is compelling and intelligent, making the book widely accessible, from undergraduate student to specialist, to anyone interested in the Mediterranean over the five million years from the formation of the ‘Middle Sea’ to the dawn of the Classical world.

Much – perhaps too much – has been written on the origins of the First World War. But few works are likely to match the calm and measured judgement of The War that Ended Peace. Margaret Macmillan’s book is less a work of research or scholarship than a synthesis of what is known based almost entirely on secondary sources. She should not be criticised for this, since the archives have been thoroughly combed by others and it is unlikely that there are any ‘secrets’ still to be found.

Mohandas Gandhi has always generated partisan feelings. Gandhi was barely 37 years old when a follower christened him Mahatma, the great souled one. The term is now so universal that in India those who do not use it are seen as anti-Gandhi and anti-Indian. However, many have never bought into this saint-like picture. During the war, after Gandhi called the British to quit India, the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, told Winston Churchill that he had always considered Gandhi a ‘humbug’.

In 1953 the Italian radical democrat and Anti-Fascist, Gaetano Salvemini, who found sanctuary from Mussolini’s dictatorship at Harvard, published Prelude to World War II. His focus was the Italian invasion of Ethiopia that began on October 3rd, 1935 and culminated in the fall of Addis Ababa on May 5th, 1936; the Emperor Haile Selassie had fled abroad three days earlier. This conflict was an imperial grab for Africa and a rude dismissal of the ambitions of the League of Nations to achieve permanent peace and justice through collective security.