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BBC History Magazine

BBC History Magazine August 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.

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Immediate Media Company London Limited
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1 min.

“England expects that every man will do his duty.” That was the signal sent by Horatio Nelson as the British fleet prepared to meet its French and Spanish foes off the coast of Spain in October 1805. Though he didn’t live to see the final outcome, Nelson would surely have felt that his sailors did indeed do their duty at the Battle of Trafalgar. It was a decisive victory that remains a landmark in British history more than 200 years later. But, though the Royal Navy’s triumph was clear, how much did Trafalgar really affect the wider war against Napoleon? In this month’s cover feature, on page 40, Sam Willis offers a provocative new take on one of the Royal Navy’s finest hours. Another key moment – this time in global…

1 min.
this issue’s contributors

Janet Nelson It was far from being a foregone conclusion how Charlemagne’s dynasty would work out. There were all kinds of tensions and unforeseen events, which meant that it was anything but plain sailing. Janet discusses her new book on Charlemagne, on page 70 Kendrick Oliver It is important to remember the complex roots of the space race – and to recognise that not every American agreed that lunar landings were a national priority. Kendrick traces the 25-year scramble to be first to the moon, on page 22 Lucy Bland Through various means, including radio talks, I managed to find many mixed-race GI war ‘babies’, now in their 70s. I interviewed them around the country, from south Wales to Scotland. Lucy tells the story of babies born to black American GIs in wartime Britain, on page 62 * 3…

1 min.
back in the game

A world-famous medieval chess piece has been rediscovered in an Edinburgh family home. The figure, measuring 8.8cm tall and carved from walrus ivory, was one of five missing pieces from a collection of four sets known as the Lewis chessmen, found on the Isle of Lewis in 1831. The object’s owners, who purchased it for £5 in 1964, were unaware of its importance until it was valued at Sotheby’s in London. At the time of going to press, the artefact was expected to fetch up to £1 million at auction on 2 July. Have a story? Please email Jon Bauckham at jon.bauckham@immediate.co.uk…

2 min.
a source of contention

First there was Jacob Rees-Mogg and AN Wilson squaring up on Radio 4’s Today programme over the MP’s new book, The Victorians, and then Matthew Sweet, presenter of Radio 3’s Free Thinking, demolished the central thesis of Naomi Wolf’s latest work, Outrages. Wolf had argued that executions for sodomy increased in the second half of the 19th century, but as Sweet – a Victorian specialist – pointed out, she had critically misinterpreted Old Bailey trial evidence: the term ‘death recorded’ meant that a judge actually abstained from handing down a death sentence. Historians everywhere performed a sharp intake of breath; the tension was palpable and tweets erupted. For some, like Helen McCarthy (@HistorianHelen), the broadcast was an excruciating experience: “I actually can’t bear to listen,” she wrote. For braver sorts like Jonathan…

2 min.
deadly flu ‘lingered for two years’

An influenza outbreak that killed more than 50 million people at the end of the First World War may have emerged two years earlier than previously thought, argues a new academic study. The journal article, published in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, suggests an early manifestation of the ‘Spanish flu’ virus was already claiming the lives of soldiers in England and France before it spread globally. If doctors had recognised that the influenza was ultimately responsible for the deaths, scientists would have had better grounds to embark on an early vaccination programme and prevent the worst effects of the pandemic. As part of the study, virologist Professor John S Oxford and military historian Douglas Gill studied records from the Étaples administrative district in northern France, where up to 30,000 soldiers were admitted to…

2 min.
history in the news

Norwich Castle to be ‘restored to former glory’ A £13.5m restoration of Norwich Castle is set to begin later this year. The project, supported by organisations including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will see the landmark opened up from “basement to battlements”, with the original Norman floor levels and rooms reinstated inside the castle keep. In addition to a new exhibition gallery, created in partnership with the British Museum, the attraction will also boast a new visitor entrance, café and shop. Kent archaeologists unearth ‘significant’ Roman settlement Archaeologists have found the remains of an entire Roman town in north Kent. Excavation of the 18-acre site, located near the village of Newington, has yielded a wide variety of ancient artefacts, including coins, pottery and jewellery. As well as finding evidence of a previously unknown…