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[…]

Alfred the Great: Vikings, Vengeance, Victory

Alfred’s impressive military and administrative skills stabilized Britain after almost a century of Viking raids and warfare. Introduction Alfred the Great (r. 871-899 CE) was the king of Wessex in Britain but came to be known as King of the Anglo-Saxons after his military victories over Viking adversaries and later successful negotiations with them. He[…]

“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[…]

Exporting Animals in the Victorian Era

Acclimatization societies believed that animals could fill the gaps of a deficient environment. Introduction In 1890, a New York bird enthusiast released several dozen starlings in Central Park. No one knows for sure why Eugene Schieffelin set the birds aloft, but he may have been motivated by a sentimental desire to make the American Northeast[…]

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[…]

Edward Bancroft, Double Agent: Spying for Both Sides during the Revolutionary War

Bancroft’s activity as a double agent was not revealed until 1891, when British diplomatic papers were released to the public. Introduction Edward Bartholomew Bancroft (January 20, 1745 [O.S. January 9, 1744][1] – September 7, 1821) was a Massachusetts-born physician and chemist who became a double agent, spying for both the United States and Great Britain[…]

Celtic Christianity in the Early Medieval British Isles

The term is misleading since it implies a notion of a self-identifying unity that did not exist. Introduction Celtic Christianity (also called Insular Christianity) refers to a distinct form of Christianity that developed in the British Isles during the fifth and sixth centuries among the Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, and Manx (Isle of Man) peoples.[…]

The Elizabethan Age and the English Renaissance

The Elizabethan Age is viewed so highly because of the contrasts with the periods before and after. Introduction The Elizabethan Age is the time period associated with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603) and is often considered to be a golden age in English history. It was an age considered to be the height[…]

A History of the British Crown Jewels

The regalia includes several medieval articles and gemstones. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Crown Jewels of the monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are today kept in the Tower of London and date mostly to the 17th century CE, with a few later sparkling additions such as the Koh-i-Noor and[…]

On Young England: A Parliamentary Movement in the 1840s Taking on Class

They were appalled at the state of party politics, class conflict, and the economic and moral condition of Victorian England’s poor. Young England was the name of a short-lived social and political movement that developed from the altruistic ideas of a small parliamentary ginger group within the Conservative Party in the 1840s. The name, coined by[…]

The Nichols Family and Their Press: The Antiquarian Community in Victorian England

Looking at of the Gentleman’s Magazine, printers of county histories, collectors of manuscripts, and founder members of historical societies. John Nichols: Printer and Antiquary For three generations the Nichols family was central to topographical research and publication. Julian Pooley explores how as editors of the Gentleman’s Magazine, printers of county histories, collectors of manuscripts and[…]

Women on the River and the Railway in Victorian England

The impact of the early railway was registered as both exciting and horrifyingly destructive by Victorian writers. The opening of the first direct railway line from London to the Kent coast in 1862 challenged traditional dichotomies between town and country, and contributed to a growing nostalgia associated with the river. Fin-de-siècle writers used the apparent[…]

A Brief History of the Development of the Common Law in Medieval England

Prior to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, there was no unitary, national legal system. Before 1066 the English legal system involved a mass of oral customary rules, which varied according to region. The law of the Jutes in the south of England, for example, was different from that of the Mercians in the[…]

The New London Docks, 1800-1830

William Daniell’s prints of the new docks represented London’s modernization in particularly exultant terms. Introduction From 1800, London’s dock system was revolutionised, and many commemorative prints were published to celebrate the transformation. William Daniell’s prints of the new docks represented London’s modernisation in particularly exultant terms. Alice Rylance-Watson explores. In the 1790s a formidable and[…]

Consequences of Magna Carta

Considering the Civil War, the re-issue of the charter and the formation of early forms of parliament. Introduction The agreement at Runnymede in 1215 had broad consequences for medieval England. The charter agreed at Runnymede was intended merely as the beginning of a process of reform, not an end in itself. Magna Carta’s first purpose[…]

Why Magna Carta Still Matters Today

Exploring the evolution of our rights and freedoms and the relevance of the Great Charter today. Introduction Magna Carta is a cornerstone of the individual liberties that we enjoy, and it presents an ongoing challenge to arbitrary rule. But over time, while not envisaged at the time of its drafting, Magna Carta has for many[…]

Magna Carta and Jury Trial

The history of jury trials and their relationship to Magna Carta. Introduction From medieval justice to the trial of Charles I, and the trials of John Lilburne to the Human Rights Act, discover the evolution of one of the most venerated features of Anglo-American law. Trial by jury is the most venerated and venerable institution[…]

Magna Carta in Context

How Magna Carta was both influenced by, and impacted upon, the institutions and customs of its day. Introduction From the medieval Church to money-lending, feudal rights to the royal forest, discover how Magna Carta was both influenced by, and impacted upon, the institutions and customs of its day. Despite the enduring legacy of Magna Carta and[…]

Underground Comics and Britain’s Obscenity Trials in the 1970s

Like its American counterpart, the burgeoning British underground scene held comics in high esteem. By John Harris DunningComics Writer Oz was a seminal 1960s counterculture publication that originated in Sydney, Australia in 1963. It quickly raised a storm of controversy around its coverage of abortion and homosexuality, and its editorial team was promptly charged with[…]

Staging Kingship in Scotland and England, 1532-1560

In terms of its staging of sovereignty, passivity distinguished the Scottish king from the English tyrant. Introduction ‘Quhat is ane king?’ asks Divine Correctioun in David Lyndsay’s Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis before supplying the answer ‘Nocht bot ane officiar’ (1613),[1] thereby articulating a commonplace of medieval Scottish literature on kingship that the monarch’s[…]

Crime and Punishment in Elizabethan England

Looking at crime in Elizabethan England and the brutal punishments offenders received. Thieves and Pickpockets The crowded nave of St Paul’s Cathedral was a favourite with pickpockets and thieves, where innocent sightseers mixed with prostitutes, and servants looking for work rubbed shoulders with prosperous merchants. A visitor up from the country might be accosted by[…]

Magna Carta: Neutering a King at Runnymede in 1215

During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. “The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history . . . It was written in Magna Carta.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1941 Inaugural address Introduction On June 15, 1215, in a field at Runnymede, King John affixed his[…]