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Lilliburlero – The Biggest Hit of the 17th Century

In the seventeenth and eighteenth century people of all classes listened to what we might now call folk songs. In The Spectator in 1711, Joseph Addison remarked how, for instance, the ballad of The Two Children in the Wood was not only ‘one of the darling songs of the common people’ but also ‘the delight of most Englishmen in some …

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Matthew Moss reviews “1914” by Allan Mallinson

Allan Mallinson’s ‘1914: Fight The Good Fight’ is an ambitious attempt at giving a overview of the British Army during the first months of WWI. Published in time to coincide with the centennial commemorations 1914 traces the genesis of British war strategy, the efforts of the Army staff to reform and prepare Britain’s military for a continental war. In the …

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Scandalous Liaisons, Charles II and his Court by R.E. Pritchard

Everyone knows of King Charles II as ‘the merry monarch’, with his perky Cockney mistress, Nell Gwyn. We think of a Court life of gaiety and romance; portraits of the time depict glamorous figures flamboyant in silks, satin and ruffles, with flowing, lustrous locks (and that’s just the men,let alone the Court beauties); records list astonishing displays of wealth, often …

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The 17th-Century Game of Thrones: John Dryden’s King Arthur (1691)

Kings, queens, dragons, and swordfights; John Dryden (1631-1700) was the seventeenth century counterpart to George R. R. Martin. His play King Arthur, or the British Worthy (1691) is a piece of pure medieval fantasy. With an elegant score composed by Henry Purcell (1659-1695), the play tells the tale of Arthur attempting to drive the Saxons out of Britain. Yet the …

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Kathryn Johnson reviews “The Most Dangerous Book” by Kevin Birmingham

The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyces’ Ulysses Author: Kevin Birmingham Publisher: Penguin   James Joyce’s acknowledged masterpiece Ulysses, is a book which regularly tops polls as the greatest novel ever written. It’s also a book that thousands of English literature students have ploughed through with gritted teeth, sometimes defeated by its labyrinthine structure and dense, dizzying prose, but …

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In search of Lord Lovell

It was a beautiful afternoon on which to visit an ancient medieval ruin in the middle of England. Minster Lovell was once home to Viscount Lovell, one of England’s richest barons. But what I saw, when I started to take a few photographs, had the hairs rising on the back of my neck. Lovell was Richard lll’s Lord Chamberlain , who, because of …

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Medieval Textiles

Many modern people think that clothes in the Middle Ages were drab, grey-brown things. Archaeological finds of clothing or textiles, rare as they are, often seem to support this: they all look brown. This brown-ness is deceptive, though. Medieval people enjoyed colours, and dyeing textiles has been done since at least the Bronze Age. Modern methods are getting better and …

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Mercantilism is Dead; Long Live Mercantilism!

The Political Economy of Mercantilism Lars Magnusson Routledge (2015) 230 pages Mercantilism has become one of those historical concepts where its historiography is worthy of academic study in its own right. Despite some attempts, there has been no stemming the flow of contributions to the burgeoning debate over what mercantilism is, what mercantilists thought, and the suitability of its continued …

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Inventing an Outlaw: Joseph Ritson’s Robin Hood (1795)

Most people have heard of Robin Hood. He is the outlawed Earl of Huntingdon who (supposedly) lived in the 13th century during the reigns of King Richard the Lionheart and King John. He lived in Sherwood Forest with his band of ‘merrie men,’ and they stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Yet this is an image of …

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