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Concerning Hobbits

A few years back I stumbled upon a Hobbit hole. I chanced upon it in a lecture of 1900 by John Rhys, the first Oxford Professor of Celtic. Rhys was arguing that behind the divinities, demons, fairies and phantoms of Celtic folklore are dim memories of various peoples that once inhabited the British Isles. What especially drew my attention was …

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Of Counter-Factuals and Contingency

“But when fundamentals are doubted, as at present, we must try to recover the candour and wonder of the child; the unspoilt realism of and objectivity of innocence. Or, if we cannot do that, we must try at least to shake off the cloud of mere custom and see the thing as new, if only by seeing it as unnatural.” …

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Tolkien’s English Mythology

J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle-earth are hailed as founding texts of modern fantasy. But his recently published commentary on the Old English poem Beowulf suggests that Tolkien saw his creative writing as a work of historical reconstruction. The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings were conceived as the original stories behind an ancient but long lost English …

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The Mighty Turkey: An American Historical Icon

Thanksgiving is fast descending on the American landscape. At the end of November, millions of Americans, fueled by an unquenchable passion for gluttony-based nostalgia, will sharpen their carving knives and engage in the mass ritual slaughter of turkeys in the name of a national feast that puts any pyramid-topped, beating heart extirpating, ancient Aztec sun-god sacrifice to shame. Yes, it’s …

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Temporality Matters: The History Manifesto

“A history undergraduate places aside her work on an assignment for a few hours to surf the Web, and what she sees there worries her. It always troubles her, because her conscience keeps asking her how to connect her work with the world outside the university. She thinks of herself as a reformer, and corruption, pollution, and inequality rock her …

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The Bloody History of Chocolate

Delicious chocolate has a far stranger history than you may at first think biting into its brown creamyness. Chocolate is derived from Theobroma cacao seeds, better known as cocoa beans, which are indigenous to South America. The very earliest discovery of chocolate being processed for human consumption comes from drinking cups that have been dated to around 1,750 BC. These cups were …

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The Romans Couldn’t Decide on Their Origins

We are often told how “civilised” and how much better the Romans were than the surrounding barbarians (the word barbarian comes from the Roman era, the Romans couldn’t understand these languages and thought they were just saying “bar, bar” all the time so barbarian means some who says bar all the time). However the Romans weren’t always as smart as …

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An Endangered Species: Britain’s Non-Royal Duchesses

What a joy it is in this internet era, when so much information is ‘out there’ and (it seems) just about everything has been discovered, to find subjects which remain unexplored.  With historical topics, newly-opened archives can offer fresh information. When an area of what might be called living history turns out to be unexamined, it is very exciting. Britain’s …

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The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell

Exclusive extract from the first chapter of  ‘The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse’ by Piu Marie Eatwell After a long and dreary drive through wet country lanes, the party that included the ‘young duke ’ – for that was the identity of the pale and heavy-eyed young man of twenty-two – arrived at its destination. Welbeck …

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The Mystery of Edward II’s Death

Everyone knows how Edward II died. He was murdered at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire on 21 September 1327 by being held down and having a red-hot poker inserted inside his anus, and his screams could be heard miles away. This cruel torture was most probably devised as punishment for his presumed sexual acts with men. Right? Wrong. Edward II’s murder by …

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