For Queen and Country

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

As a nation, we love the Tudors. We treasure their culture, poetry and theatre, their palaces, pictures and costumes. We cherish their armour, their castles and, to a certain extent, their prejudices about foreigners. Above all, we delight in their characters – bold, histrionic, tortured, vengeful and flamboyant. For Tudor historians, this is both a […]

A Bellicose Bibliophile

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

He was born Matthias Hunyadi in 1440, or perhaps 1443, in Transylvania, in what is now the Romanian town of Cluj, which has also been Kolozsvár (Hungarian) and Klausenburg (Saxon). The Hunyadi family came originally from Wallachia, and his father János Hunyadi was a notable warrior, his life consisting of one almost unbroken crusade against […]

The Monster Hedgehog

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Yezhov means ‘Hedgehog’, although Stalin called him affectionately Yezhevichka, ‘little bramble’. Despite the implicit prickliness, there was momentary relief in the USSR when, in autumn 1936, Stalin appointed N I Yezhov head of the NKVD, as the secret police was then called. It seemed that at last a series of Polish gentry (Dzierżyński and Menzhinsky) […]

He Drank His Enemies Under the Table

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Whatever one makes of Alexander the Great today – blood-soaked mass-murderer or enlightened advocate of the fellowship of nations – his achievements instantly captured the imagination of peoples from Ireland to Afghanistan, from Iceland to India. Part of the reason is that the ancient world understood military force and thoroughly approved. O, to be as […]

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