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BBC History MagazineBBC History Magazine

BBC History Magazine January 2019

BBC History Magazine aims to shed new light on the past to help you make more sense of the world today. Fascinating stories from contributors are the leading experts in their fields, so whether they're exploring Ancient Egypt, Tudor England or the Second World War, you'll be reading the latest, most thought-provoking historical research. BBC History Magazine brings history to life with informative, lively and entertaining features written by the world's leading historians and journalists and is a captivating read for anyone who's interested in the past.

United Kingdom
Immediate Media Company London Limited
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“Welcome to our first issue of 2019. If you’re looking to escape the January blues this month then a trip to the cinema might well be in order as two major historical films will soon be hitting the screens. First up is The Favourite, which stars Olivia Colman and takes a somewhat unconventional look at the Stuart court. That’s followed by Tudor biopic Mary Queen of Scots, which is based on a biography by historian John Guy. In this month’s edition we bring you the history behind both of these films. In our cover feature, on page 40, Kate Williams considers who was ultimately responsible for Mary, Queen of Scots’ downfall. Was it Elizabeth I, Lord Darnley or even Mary herself? Then, on page 60, Hannah Greig, consultant on The Favourite,…

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this issue’s contributors

Hannah Greig Acting as historical consultant to The Favourite provided a welcome opportunity to revisit my research and long-standing interest in the early 18th-century court and the politically influential women who surrounded it. • Hannah introduces us to the powerful women of Queen Anne’s febrile court on page 60 Piers Brendon My feature on 20th-century leaders reflects themes in my most ambitious book, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s. This opens up the age through mini-studies of key figures such as Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Mao Zedong. • Piers reappraises the Great Man theory of history on page 20 Eric Lacey The Anglo-Saxons were astute observers of their natural world. This is sometimes overlooked because they rationalised it through recourse to supernatural agency. • Eric explores how 10th-century Anglo-Saxon warriors would have reacted…

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thomas paine gives americans common cause

Few pamphlets have ever caused a greater stir than Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. After it was published in Philadelphia on 10 January 1776, it became a huge success in the American colonies and was popular in Britain and France too. Such was the demand that in the first year alone it went through some 25 editions, not including summaries and copies. Probably no printed publication in history had ever had such an immediate impact: as one historian remarked two centuries later, a modern equivalent would have to sell millions of copies within a few months to cause a similar furore. Born in Norfolk, England, Paine had been in the American colonies for barely a year when he decided to put pen to paper. Although fighting between the colonists and the…

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tunnel vision comes to fruition

For its critics, the arrival of the London Underground marked the moment the capital descended into bedlam. The idea of a subterranean train had first been mooted in the 1840s, but work did not begin on what became the Metropolitan Railway until 1860. What sceptics called “the Drain” was not universally popular. Some warned that the tunnels would collapse under the weight of the houses above; others thought an underground railway so infernal that convicted criminals should be “condemned to round trips”. And the construction work infuriated locals. It was all a “monstrous tyranny and oppression”, one grumbled. But by January 1863, the first trains were ready to roll. On Friday 9 January, a special train packed with politicians made the first journey – though the prime minister, Lord Palmerston, declined to…

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henry iv cracks down on alchemy

In all the years of English political history, few acts of parliament look odder than the Act Against Multipliers, signed into law by Henry IV on 13 January 1404. Instead of liberating the nation’s schoolchildren from the tyranny of times tables, this was actually an attempt to deal with a much more unsettling threat: the rise of alchemy. Although the idea of alchemy – the belief that, with the right formula, a philosopher could turn base metals into gold – now seems absurd, it was one of the foundations of what became modern chemistry. Early scientists, from the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe to Sir Isaac Newton, were often fascinated by alchemy. To many national governments, however, it seemed a threat to the natural order. For if an alchemist managed to make…

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gandhi is assassinated on his way to prayer

The clock had ticked past 5pm on 30 January 1948, and in the garden at Birla House, New Delhi, Mohandas Gandhi was running late. At the age of 78, the leader of India’s independence struggle still played a prominent role in the politics of the subcontinent, and had only recently completed a fast in protest at the violence between Hindus and Muslims. Now, the day’s business concluded, he and his great-nieces were on their way to a prayer meeting. Outside, a crowd of several hundred schoolchildren, businessmen, holy men and even street-sellers was waiting. As Gandhi approached, one man pushed his way to the front. “Bapu [Father] is already 10 minutes late, why do you embarrass him?” asked Gandhi’s great-niece, Manuben. At that, the man pushed her aside, so that she…