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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  • My Favourite History Place: The Musée Carnavalet, Paris

    Article

    Until it was overtaken in the twentieth century by Berlin and Moscow, Paris was the political, cultural and revolutionary hub around which Europe revolved.  When the revolutionary Parisian crowd trudged out to Versailles in 1789 to attack the chateau and bring the king and his family back to the capital, they...

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  • Real Lives: Rebecca West

    Article

    Our series ‘Real Lives’ seeks to put the story of the ordinary person into our great historical narrative. We are all part of the rich fabric of the communities in which we live and we are affected to greater and lesser degrees by the big events that happen on a daily...

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  • Out and About in Stockholm

    Article

    When Désirée Clary – wife of French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte – arrived in Stockholm in 1811, she was appalled. It was true that she would eventually become Queen Desideria of Sweden and Norway, her husband having been elected heir-presumptive to the throne the previous year. But she left her new capital...

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  • The Great Spa Towns of Europe: a UNESCO World Heritage Site

    Article

    Catherine Lloyd introduces us to an international heritage initiative to celebrate ‘spa’ culture. From ancient times, people believed that gods and spirits brought the means of natural healing. Step back in time to imagine an eerie wilderness, a glade in a wood, or a pool by a river, where the snow...

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  • History Abridged: Libraries

    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. See all History Abridged articles The collecting of stories through written record is one of the most important methods societies...

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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). See all History Abridged articles Africa is a huge continent...

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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

    Our series ‘Real Lives’ seeks to put the story of the ordinary person into our great historical narrative. We are all part of the rich fabric of the communities in which we live and we are affected to greater and lesser degrees by the big events that happen on a daily...

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