National Geographic History November/December 2020

See how National Geographic History magazine inflames and quenches the curiosity of history buffs and informs and entertains anyone who appreciates that the truth indeed is stranger than fiction with a digital subscription today. And that history is not just about our forebears. It’s about us. It’s about you.

United States
National Geographic Society
6 Issues

in this issue

1 min
from the editor

Four hundred years ago, the Mayflower landed in North America and delivered to its shores a group of English colonists known as the Pilgrims. They described the land as a “hideous, desolate wilderness full of beasts and wild men.” This description of a place devoid of progress came to be widely accepted, but it was wrong. This so-called New World was actually quite old and bursting with civilizations. Native Americans had been living in what is now the northeastern United States for centuries before Europeans arrived. They developed rich, sophisticated cultures and intense rivalries with each other, but their history prior to the 1600s remains unfamiliar ground to most, while the colonists’ perspective is still well-trod territory. Delving into the life of the Wampanoag leader Ousamequin, commonly known as Massasoit, reveals some…

3 min
ancient dna reveals insights in the andes

Unlike prehistoric Europe, where major migrations from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia produced remarkable genetic variability, a recent study of ancient human DNA in the Andean region of South America has revealed a different story: Except in large urban centers, the genetic makeup of the Andean populations remained relatively constant for 2,000 years. The study is the first broad survey of the genomic history of civilizations in the central Andes (centered on modern-day Peru) before European contact and Spanish conquest in the 1500s. The Inca had ruled the region, but the central Andes saw other powers rise and fall: the Chimú, from a.d. 900 to 1470, when they were conquered by the Inca; the Tiwanaku and Wari until a.d. 1000; the Moche and Nasca before them; and the Chavín from…

1 min
ancient empire of the andes

THE INCA are perhaps the best known culture that ruled this region of the Andes, but one of their predecessors, the Tiwanaku empire, laid a strong foundation for its greatness. In the lands surrounding Lake Titicaca, the Tiwanaku empire came to power around a.d. 200. Between 30,000 and 70,000 people lived in its capital city, located some 12,000 feet above sea level. Connected by a system of roads (which the Inca would later capitalize on), the empire extended up and down the coast, including lands in present day southern Peru, western Bolivia, and northern Chile. Tiwanaku’s art and architecture spread throughout the region before disappearing around a.d. 1000, when the empire collapsed.…

8 min
jane dieulafoy, france’s superstar archaeologist

An archaeologist, explorer, and writer in fin de siècle France, Jane Dieulafoy was awarded two remarkable distinctions by the French government in her lifetime: the Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian award, and special legal permission to wear men’s clothing in public. Born Jane Magre in 1851 in the southern French city of Toulouse, Dieulafoy grew up in a traditional family and inherited their social and religious values. She was a devout Catholic who opposed divorce, and a patriot who broke rules to fight for her country. Her conservative stances partly explain why she was “never denigrated as a hysteric or a pervert, more likely labels for 19th-century women in pants,” said Rachel Mesch, author of a biographical study of Dieulafoy, Before Trans: Three Gender Stories From 19th-Century France. The other reason…

7 min
china in turmoil: the taiping rebellion

Failure of a civil service exam led to one of the most important political events in Chinese history: the Taiping Rebellion. This social and spiritual upheaval of the mid-19th century was led by Hong Xiuquan, who was born in 1814 in the Guangdong Province of China. Hong’s academic struggles put him on the path to religious zealotry and leadership of peasants of southeastern China in a mass movement that threatened the security of the ruling Qing dynasty and led to the deaths of millions. Hong’s family belonged to a marginalized ethnic group, the Hakka, who had their origins in northern China but migrated to the southern regions in the 13th century. The Hakka retained their own separate culture and never fully blended into the local culture in southern China. Their traditions…

6 min
secrets of stonehenge

Massive and mysterious, Stonehenge has stood for 4,500 years on Salisbury Plain. Located some 90 miles southwest of London, England, the world’s most famous prehistoric monument forms just one piece of an intricate complex of ancient sites, many of which in 1986 were designated part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today, traffic whizzes by on the nearby A303, but the megaliths’ presence makes it easy to step back thousands of years to a much slower time with much slower transportation. Over the last two decades, archaeologists have made huge strides in piecing together these different elements of the landscape, their relationships to each other, and what they are revealing about the Neolithic people who built them. Armed with astronomical knowledge, engineering skills, and unmovable determination, their creations succeeded in capturing…