Hattie McDaniel and Gone With the Wind

Gone with the Wind, the 1939 film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel – which, to say the least, valorises the antebellum South – was always controversial. When producer David O Selznick announced the production, his decision was widely condemned by civil-rights organisations such as the NAACP. African-American actors who took roles in the film were... Continue Reading →

The Viking raid on Lindisfarne

The northern diaspora we call the age of the Vikings is testament to the mobility of early medieval Europe. So too is the fact that the most contemporary account we have of the viking raid on Lindisfarne of 8 June 793 comes from the court of Charlemagne in faraway Aachen. Alcuin, a Northumbrian monk and... Continue Reading →

The fall of the Songhay Empire

The Songhay Empire wouldn’t be the first military power to set too much store in its cavalry. But by the time it fell to Morocco at the end of the sixteenth century it had little cause for complacency about anything. Founded in 1464 out of the ruins of the Malian Empire, Songhay was the largest... Continue Reading →

The forgotten story of Silent Night

Silent Night is one of the best-known songs in the world. It has been translated into over 200 languages and one version alone, Bing Crosby’s 1937 recording, sold over 30 million copies. But who knows anything of its authors? The lyrics to Silent Night were written by a somewhat loose-living Austrian priest named Joseph Mohr... Continue Reading →

The first Svengali

Whenever Dominic Cummings makes the headlines, commentators reach for the same word to describe his relationship with the prime minister: he is Boris Johnson’s Svengali, they write. But who was the original Svengali? Svengali is one of those rare literary creations so seemingly archetypal his name becomes short-hand for a kind of behaviour: in this... Continue Reading →

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