‘Arena Three’: Britain’s First Lesbian Magazine

Looking at at how Britain’s first lesbian magazine came about and its impact on society. Introduction In 1958 the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS) was founded in the wake of the Wolfenden Report, published on 4 September 1957. The society launched with a series of high profile advertisements in national newspapers and became a beacon[…]

On the Trail of King John before (and after) the Signing of the Magna Carta

Plotting John’s route for all 17 years of his reign to produce digital maps of his progress as he struggled to maintain his grip. John was the most peripatetic of all English monarchs. His 17 years on the throne are often described as a reign of crisis.  In 1214 John lost his lands in France,[…]

Crime in England, 1780-1925

Many acts we would describe as crimes today were largely unprosecuted before the mid-nineteenth century. Introduction As with all periods in history, there were many illegal acts which could, if detected (and the perpetrator was prosecuted) appear as “crimes”. However, the vast majority of crimes were never prosecuted. Modern historians can sometimes study unprosecuted acts[…]

Elizabeth I and the Power of Image

Elizabeth I engage in a memorable invention of herself as a legend in her own lifetime. Introduction Aware of the power of appearances, Elizabeth I of England (r. 1558-1603 CE) carefully controlled her image throughout her reign and through costume, hair, jewellery, and art, she presented herself as the great Virgin Queen. Like a goddess[…]

Sacred Street Theater in Medieval England

Doomsday, 1433. In York, after dark. A red curtain. Painted stars. Actors in hoses, wigs, and two-faced masks—some in angel wings, some with trumpets. Wooden clouds and pieces of rainbow, and an iron frame with pulleys meant to effect Christ’s movements between Heaven and Earth. a “hell mouth” billowing smoke and the smell of sulfur.[…]

Gender Roles in 19th-Century Victorian Patriarchy

From marriage and sexuality to education and rights, looking at attitudes towards gender in 19th-century Britain. Introduction During the Victorian period men and women’s roles became more sharply defined than at any time in history. In earlier centuries it had been usual for women to work alongside husbands and brothers in the family business. Living[…]

Drinking in Victorian and Edwardian Britain

People drank for many different reasons and these reasons ranged across social class, gender, and region. Introduction This offers different and sometimes contrasting perspectives on the reasons why alcohol was consumed and on the drinking cultures that emerged from the Victorian period. Alcohol played a key role in the everyday lives of men and women[…]

What a Portrait of a British Family Reveals about 18th-Century England and Tea

Exploring tea time in the portrait of John, Fourteenth Lord Willoughby de Broke, and his Family. Because I am currently spending most of my time at home, as are many of you, I’ve been thinking more and more often to the domestic setting. While most of us aren’t being served tea in 18th-century country houses, in[…]

The ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’ by Henry VIII in 1536

It was the first step of what would turn out to be a rocky and far from straightforward road to making England a Protestant state. Introduction The Dissolution of the Monasteries was a policy introduced in 1536 CE by Henry VIII of England (r. 1509-1547 CE) to close down and confiscate the lands and wealth[…]

Childbirth and Maternal Health in 17th-Century England

Historical material about the bodily and emotional experience of the period after birth has been relatively neglected. Summary For a month after childbirth, the authors of medical and religious prescriptive literature instructed new mothers to keep to their beds. During this time they were expected to bleed away the bodily remnants of pregnancy. At the[…]

Roundheads and Cavaliers: The English Civil Wars, 1642-1651

These wars were between supporters of the king’s right to absolute authority, and supporters of the rights of Parliament. Introduction The term English Civil War (or Wars) refers to the series of armed conflicts and political machinations which took place between Parliamentarians (often called the Roundheads) and Royalists (or the cavaliers) from 1642 until 1651.[…]

The History, Culture, and Religion of the Celts

Little is known about their lifestyle due to the numerous conflicts and combinations of cultures that occurred in European history. Introduction The term Celt, normally pronounced /kɛlt/ now refers primarily to a member of any of a number of peoples in Europe using the Celtic languages, which form a branch of the Indo-European languages. It[…]

An Overview of the Origins of Stonehenge

It was built in five constructional stages spanning a period from around 3000 to 1500 BCE. Stonehenge represents one of Britain’s most important and enigmatic archaeological sites. Beginning in Neolithic times and modified during the Bronze Age it currently comprises a number of incomplete stone circles and stone horseshoes, built in five constructional stages spanning[…]

Travel, Transport, and Communications in Victorian England

During Queen Victoria’s reign Britain was the most powerful trading nation in the world. Introduction Victorian advances in transport and communications sparked a social, cultural and economic revolution whose effects are still evident today. The railway network flourished between 1830 and 1870. By 1852 there were over 7,000 miles of rail track in England and[…]

From Poison Peddlers to Civic Worthies: Apothecaries in Georgian England

Examining the slow transition whereby reputable practitioners differentiated themselves from ‘quacks’. Abstract Trust is not automatically granted to providers of professional services. The doctors of Georgian England were, by later standards, deficient in medical knowhow, particularly before the mid-nineteenth-century scientific understanding of antiseptics, and much satirised. Nonetheless, the emergence of a coherent medical profession indicates[…]

British India and the Anti-Colonial Movement during the 1918 Flu Pandemic

When the 1918 influenza pandemic struck India, the death toll was highest among the poor. Introduction In India, during the 1918 influenza pandemic, a staggering 12 to 13 million people died, the vast majority between the months of September and December. According to an eyewitness, “There was none to remove the dead bodies and the[…]

The Great Plague of London, 1665-1666

It was the last widespread outbreak of bubonic plague in England during the 400-year Second Pandemic. Introduction The Great Plague, lasting from 1665 to 1666, was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague to occur in England. It happened within the centuries-long Second Pandemic, a period of intermittent bubonic plague epidemics which originated in[…]

Mid-Victorians and Their Food

Improved agricultural output and a political climate dedicated to ensuring cheap food led to a dramatic increase in the production of affordable foodstuffs. Introduction The mid-Victorian period is usually defined as the years between 1850 and 1870, but in nutritional terms we have identified a slightly longer period, lasting until around 1880. During these 30[…]

Doctors and the Invention of the Georgian English Seaside

Examining Georgian England’s new craze for sea-bathing. The Wellcome Library has a first edition of a book by a Sussex doctor, Richard Russell, published in 1753, entitled A Dissertation Concerning the use of Sea Water in Diseases of the Glands. Who would have guessed – Russell certainly didn’t – that this serious medical book would[…]

Tudor Visual Culture

The accession of Henry VII as the first Tudor king is generally considered the end of the Middle Ages in England. By Dr. Libby Karlinger EscobedoArt Historian Introduction The Tudor age spans 118 years and the reigns of five monarchs. The first Tudor king, Henry VII, ascended the throne following a period of dispute between[…]

Shakespeare in Plague-Ridden London

Despite the plague’s high contagiousness and terrifying symptoms, life in Elizabethan England went on. By Lindsey Rachel Hunt William Shakespeare died 400 years ago, in April of 2016. But, thanks to the plague’s many sweeps through London, he could have actually died much, much sooner. While the plague hit London particularly hard in 1665, it[…]

Consequences and Effects of the Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses displayed an ever-increasing tendency to use violence to achieve political aims. Introduction The Wars of the Roses (1455-1487 CE) was a dynastic conflict where the nobility and monarchs of England intermittently battled for supremacy over a period of four decades. Besides the obvious consequences of Lancastrian and Yorkist kings swapping[…]

The Name of the Rose: ‘Wars of the Roses’ in Late Medieval England

Regicide had become a shocking but not unsuccessful political strategy. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Wars of the Roses (1455-1487 CE) was a dynastic conflict between the English nobility and monarchy which led to four decades of intermittent battles, executions, and murder plots. The elite of England was split into two camps with each centred around a branch of[…]

Mad King George and the Fall of Monarchy in America

While tremendously popular in Britain, George was hated by rebellious American colonists. Introduction George III (George William Frederick; June 4, 1738 – January 29, 1820) was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from October 25, 1760 until January 1, 1801, and thereafter King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until[…]

‘Free-and-Easy,’ ‘Japaneasy’: British Perceptions and the 1885 Japanese Village

Examining press reviews and accounts of the Japanese Village in London from newspapers and periodicals in 1885. Although writers in 1885 were fairly confident that they “knew” the Japanese culture, they had only a superficial understanding of it, and they often depicted Japanese people as simple, coarse, and inferior. These writings largely reflect British feelings[…]

Mobile Cinema: The British Empire’s Propaganda Tool for ‘Primitive Peoples’

In the dying days of empire, the British financed a global cinema service. Introduction It’s 1945. A mobile cinema van drives into a village in Ghana. Word spreads, music plays and a crowd gathers. The travelling commentator gives local chiefs a tour of the equipment, showing off this latest British technology, and explains the aims[…]

Imperialists Like Us: British Pamphlet Propaganda in the Great War

Empire was a consistent theme in these hundreds of pamphlets. In the Great War, the British government modernised and systematised propaganda for the first time. From the beginning in 1914, it aimed not only at domestic and enemy audiences, but also at the most powerful neutral country: the United States. The Propaganda Bureau, operating secretly[…]

Hadrian’s Wall: Protecting Southern Britannia from Northern Pictish Tribes

A significant portion of the wall still exists, particularly the mid-section, and for much of its length the wall can be followed on foot. Introduction Hadrian’s Wall (Latin: Rigore Valli Aeli, “the line along Hadrian’s frontier”) is a stone and turf fortification built by the Roman Empire across the width of what is now modern-day[…]

“Theire Soe Admirable Herbe”: How the English Found Cannabis

First encountered in the 17th century in the form of bhang, an intoxicating edible which had been getting Indians high for millennia. This article, “Theire Soe Admirable Herbe”: How the English Found Cannabis, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ In[…]

Infighting in Medieval England: Causes of the Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses (1455-1487 CE) was a series of dynastic conflicts between the monarchy and the nobility of England. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The ‘wars’ were a series of intermittent, often small-scale battles, executions, murders, and failed plots as the political class of England fractured into two groups which formed around two branches[…]