Between fact and fiction

This article first appeared in the January 2016 issue of History Today. What does it mean to write history today? What claims can historians make about their work? These are just two of the questions that sprang to mind after listening to Niall Ferguson tussle with the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley on Radio 4’s Start … Continue reading Between fact and fiction

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The future is ours to write: some thoughts on Britain after Brexit

Like most of my friends, I was heartbroken by the vote on Thursday. Heartbroken but not wholly surprised. Let's leave aside the dishonesty of the campaign. This was a vote that has been brewing since the crash of 2007/08 when across the developed world governments supported the financial and political elites who created the conditions … Continue reading The future is ours to write: some thoughts on Britain after Brexit

Heart of darkness: from the time-honoured barbarity of the Tudors in Ireland to Islamic State

The leader of a small military force – perhaps 500 strong – is determined to subdue a province, and to do so quickly. Terror is his explicit policy. Every inroad he makes into enemy territory is followed by indiscriminate slaughter and destruction. Every man, woman and child is killed. Houses, churches, crops – everything is … Continue reading Heart of darkness: from the time-honoured barbarity of the Tudors in Ireland to Islamic State

History Today column: Charlie Hebdo and the judgement of history

As I write this, millions of people are on the streets of France to protest about the murders of eight writers and artists at Charlie Hebdo, of four Jewish patrons of a kosher food store, and of three police officers. Much comment in the media has identified the slaughter in Manichean terms, reflecting a battle … Continue reading History Today column: Charlie Hebdo and the judgement of history

The death of Anne Boleyn: a correspondent writes to Elizabeth I

It is impossible to know what Elizabeth I thought or felt about the fact that her father, Henry VIII, had executed her mother, Anne Boleyn, on charges of adultery with, among others, Elizabeth’s uncle and Anne’s brother. It is entirely possible, given that she was not yet three when her mother died, that she had … Continue reading The death of Anne Boleyn: a correspondent writes to Elizabeth I

Sir Thomas Smith and covetousness in history

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about Sir Thomas Smith, late in life and in poor health, complaining about how difficult it was to work for Elizabeth I. (I also quoted his trenchant observation on the implications of the Ridolfi plot here.) Smith is a fascinating example of those apparently minor figures in Tudor … Continue reading Sir Thomas Smith and covetousness in history

Towards a higher journalism: The Sun, Trevor Kavanagh and tabloid news culture

For those of us who enjoy a little schadenfreude with our morning coffee, today was a very good day. At the weekend, five senior journalists on The Sun were arrested in dawn raids involving considerable numbers of police officers as part of Operation Elveden, the investigation into allegedly illegal payments to police and other public … Continue reading Towards a higher journalism: The Sun, Trevor Kavanagh and tabloid news culture