Culture

The definitions of what is culture may change but the practice of understanding, and unpicking cultural history is an important dimension to understanding any historical period. In this section articles explore the way that definitions of culture have changed and how those changes have affected values and attitudes.  The impact of the written word on fashions and ideas and the role of historic movements such as the renaissance are all addressed in this section.

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  • The cultural biography of opium in China

    Article

    Zheng Yangwen shows that despite its association with trade, war and politics, opium was first of all a history of consumption. Opium has fascinated generations of scholars and generated excellent scholarship on the opium trade, Anglo-Chinese relations, the two opium wars, and Commissioner Lin. The field has diversified in the post-Mao...

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  • Petit’s impact on our understanding of Victorian life and culture

    Article

    Tiffany Igharoro, a Young Historian Award-winner, introduces us to the artwork of Revd John Louis Petit, showing that art not only reflects the times in which it is created, but can also be used to shape opinions. The Revd John Louis Petit (1801–68) created thousands of paintings in his lifetime, many of which...

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  • My Favourite History Place: Queen Square, Bath

    Article

    Some years ago, on the shore of Loch Lomond, I met a Scotsman. As we started to converse he asked me where I was from. When I replied ‘Bath’, his response was ‘Ah, the most beautiful city in Britain,’ adding, out of patriotism or good judgement, ‘Edinburgh is second.’ The Roman...

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  • History Abridged: The City of Alexandria

    Article

    History Abridged: This feature seeks to take a person, event or period and abridge, or focus on, an important event or detail that can get lost in the big picture. Think Horrible Histories for grownups (without the songs and music). See all History Abridged articles One of the oldest cities...

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  • The Radical Potter: Josiah Wedgwood and the Transformation of Britain

    Article

    The Radical Potter: Josiah Wedgwood and the Transformation of Britain, Tristram Hunt, Allen Lane, 2021, 323pp., £25. ISBN 978-0-24128-789-7.  As MP for Stoke-on-Trent, Tristram Hunt was prominent in the 2014 fight to save the Wedgwood Museum at Barlaston and prevent its contents going to auction. As director of the Victoria...

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  • Frans Hals: The Male Portrait

    Article

    Frans Hals: The Male Portrait, Lelia Packer and Ashok Roy, The Wallace Collection, Philip Wilson Publishers, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2021, 130pp., £20. ISBN 978-1-78130-110-4.  The Wallace Collection, bequeathed to the nation in 1897, houses the art collection of the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, widely regarded...

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  • Film: How new is Asia’s ‘new era’?

    Article

    The 2021 Medlicott Medal recipient was Professor Rana Mitter, expert on Modern Chinese history and politics. Professor Mitter's Medlicott lecture was on the subject of ‘How New is Asia’s “new era”?’.

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  • Thomas Chippendale

    Article

    Thomas Chippendale, Adam Bowett and James Lomax, Shire Publications, 2021, 64p, £8-99. ISBN 978-1-78442-477-0. Thomas Chippendale has a claim to be Britain’s most famous furniture designer and manufacturer. Although we will have seen examples of his exquisite work in country houses and museums, we will not necessarily know very much...

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  • What did it mean to be a city in early modern Germany?

    Article

    Alexander Collin examines the significance of cities within the Holy Roman Empire in early modern times. With a strong political identity of their own, cities were at the heart of the Empire’s economy and, also, centres of theological and social change. If you have ever read a description of a...

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  • Out and About in Cairo

    Article

    Nicolas Kinloch guides us round the fascinating city of Cairo. Cairo has always been a traveller’s destination. That indefatigable explorer, ibn Battuta, arrived there in 1326, and declared that it was ‘boundless in its multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendour...extending a friendly welcome to strangers’. Most of this is...

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  • Real Lives: Robert and Thomas Gayer-Anderson

    Article

    Wendy Barnes describes the real lives of identical twins, Robert and Thomas Gayer-Anderson, who collected a vast quantity of paintings and art objects, much of which was donated to museums around the world. The twins’ final home, Little Hall, Lavenham is now a museum and the headquarters of The Suffolk...

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  • The British Empire on trial

    Article

    In the light of present-day concerns about the place, in a modern world, of statues commemorating figures whose roles in history are of debatable merit, Dr Gregory Gifford puts the British Empire on trial, presenting a balanced case both for and against. In June 2020 when the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston...

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  • History Abridged: Language and the African continent

    Article

    History Abridged: This feature seeks to take a person, event or period and abridge, or focus on, an important event or detail that can get lost in the big picture. Think Horrible Histories for grownups (without the songs and music). Africa is a huge continent with an expansive geography and...

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  • The Christian Kingdoms of Nubia and Ethiopia

    Article

    Adam Simmons draws our attention to the need for further research into the relationship between the medieval Kingdoms of Ethiopia and Nubia – a fascinating time and place in African history which is neglected in the historical archive and about which, so far, there are only limited sources. The kingdoms of Ethiopia...

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  • Ancient Athenian inscriptions in public and private UK collections

    Article

    Peter Liddel introduces us to a rich source of historical information and encourages us to make some purposeful visits to museums. From the seventeenth to the mid nineteenth century, travellers from the UK explored the Mediterranean lands of ancient civilisations in search of trophies that demonstrated the achievements of the classical world. Highly...

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  • My Favourite History Place: St James Church, Gerrards Cross

    Article

    Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, is a well-to-do town in the Chilterns and a wealthy commuter dormitory for London. It also harbours what might be one of the most remarkable, under-appreciated churches of the mid-nineteenth century. St James, the parish church, was built for the ‘unruled and unruly’ agricultural labourers and traders who inhabited...

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  • The Florentines: From Dante to Galileo

    Article

    The Florentines: From Dante to Galileo, Paul Strathern, Atlantic Books, 2021, 372p, £20-00. ISBN 9781786498724. Very occasionally we are offered an entirely new perspective on a body of detail with which we already seem entirely familiar but which has the effect of transforming our understanding. Paul Strathern’s The Florentines: From...

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  • German universities under the Nazis

    Article

    In this article A.D. Harvey draws out the influence that Nazism and Nazi practices had on German universities and their staff. He explores how some university professors were active members of the party while others saw a chance of advancement by becoming conduits of the Nazi ideas. Finally he considers...

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  • Real Lives: Harry Daley

    Article

    Hardly any documentation exists about gay police officers who served before the 1967 Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised homosexuality. An exception is Sergeant Harry Daley’s autobiography, This Small Cloud, published posthumously in 1986. Humorous, endearing and self-deprecatory, Daley acknowledged himself as a champion of the underdog and the oppressed. His...

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  • A (non-Western) history of versatility

    Article

    Waqās Ahmed broadens our perspective on where in history we might find polymaths, those who embody versatility of thought and action. While Western scholars might identify the likes of Leonardo da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin as the archetype of the polymath, they have in reality existed throughout history and across...

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