Almost History archives

Opening the Iron Curtain – the East Germany’s day of dissent

. It’s the summer of 1953, and, across East Germany, angry people take to the streets. This isn’t a polite protest. This is a furious, red flag ripping, police beating, office burning rampage. The crowds demand: better living conditions; the reunification of Germany; and free elections. Instead, they […]

Louis of England – history’s forgotten King of England

. In August of 1216, the King of Scotland rode down the entire length of England to pay homage to a new English king at Dover. The Scottish monarch bent his knee to a warrior prince who was the pride and hope of his dynasty. His name was […]

Princess Mary Tudor’s flight to freedom

In the summer of 1550, Princess Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII, was packing her belongings and preparing to flee her home. Her Tudor brother was the figurehead for an increasingly Protestant regime. Mary clung to her mother’s Catholicism. She feared for her life and, as the […]

Canterbury’s cancelled Christmas and the Plum Pudding Riots

. In 1647, the new Puritan government tried to cancel Christmas. People in Canterbury protested in a peculiarly English way, with a destructive game of football followed by a mass brawl. The city’s Plum Pudding Riots led to a royalist revolt throughout Kent and the second round of the […]

The Prince of Poyais – settling in the country that never was

In 1822, Gregor MacGregor committed what The Economist newspaper has called the ‘biggest fraud in history’ and ‘the greatest confidence trick of all time’. Investors, many of them Scottish, put forward vast sums towards creating a colony in central America. They were told it was a sure bet, […]

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third term and the voice from the sewer

. In the first half of 1940 only one question mattered in American politics. Would Franklin D. Roosevelt break with tradition and run for a third term as President of the United States? The New York Times proclaimed it as ‘the all-absorbing political riddle’. Roosevelt kept the country […]

Achtung! Achtung! Nazi Germany’s dystopian experiments with TV and radio

. Everywhere you turn, you see the unmistakable face of Adolf Hitler. His voice echoes in your head, broadcast from a thousand loudspeakers. His wild, gesticulating speech is reaching its foam speckled crescendo. Nazi television is everywhere. Looming over city squares, above the concourse of the railway station, […]

Hitler’s plan for monster railways across Europe

In 1941, Adolf Hitler issued orders to Nazi Germany’s railway officials. He wanted them to develop a new type of railway. It was to be bigger, far bigger, than anything that had ever been seen. Trains the height and width of a suburban house and the length of the […]

What were the inalienable heirlooms of the Habsburgs?

Amongst a glittering treasury of splendours, the Habsburgs revered two objects above all others. One was a bowl reputed to be the Holy Grail and the other was a unicorn’s horn.  . A truly Imperial collection The Habsburgs were amongst Europe’s pre-eminent collectors. They collected titles (from the […]

The most spectacular incident of biological warfare?

The Black Death was one of history’s most destructive and transformative disasters. Was it caused by an intentional act of biological warfare?   A modern-day plague The United States was under attack. In New York City, the twin towers of the World Trade Centre had been destroyed. In […]

Give peace a chance? Congress’s lone World War pacifist

Only one Member of Congress, Representative Jeannette Rankin, voted against the resolution that brought the United States into the Second World War. Astonishingly, she had also voted against American participation in the First World War.   A clear, steady and solitary voice ‘In a clear, steady voice, Rankin […]

The Englishman who started the Spanish Civil War

. This week, on the Vaguely Interesting Podcast, we go back to the 1930s and visit the Croydon Airport to meet the Englishman who started the Spanish Civil War. Just after seven o’clock in the morning on 11 July 1936, Captain Cecil Bebb prepared his plane for take-off. […]

Commuting hell on the underground steam railway

What happened when steam engines were placed in the tunnels of the world’s first underground railway? The Metropolitan Railway opened in 1863 and, for the first 45 years, it ran steam trains. There are few sounds as emotive as the chug, clatter and whistle of a steam train. […]

A dream that burst into flames – the British Hindenburg disaster

Scores of people died when the airship burst into flames. It crashed into the ground just over 50 miles away from one of the world’s most important cities. Its demise marked the end of a national programme of airship construction and the death of an imperial dream. But […]

Warwolf – King Edward’s secret weapon to hammer the Scots

Stirling Castle is a striking, man-made addition to an already formidable natural fortress. Sheer cliffs thrust up from the rolling Scottish Lowlands. The thick castle walls extend these solid quartz-dolerite foundations towards the sky. It is imposing and seems impregnable. It probably was, at least until Warwolf came […]

Which European country tops the sovereign default league table?

Sovereign debt default was a lot more common when it was literally sovereigns defaulting. Kings liked money. They didn’t like paying it back. So, quite often, they didn’t. In the richest economies, default has become rare. One of the reasons the Greek financial crisis is dominating headlines and […]

The coronation that never was

On 12 May 1937, Westminster Abbey rang with shouts acclaiming the new King-Emperor. In 1936, Britain had prepared for the coronation. Much of this effort was wasted when Edward VIII abdicated on 10 December 1936. Everyone had been getting ready for the coronation that never was.  The Coronation of a […]

Adolf Hitler Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-13774 / Unknown Heinrich Hoffmann / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Fuck off, mein Führer!

By 1935, the Nazi Party had consolidated its grip on the Third Reich. The Enabling Act and November 1933’s election made Hitler the supreme power in Germany. The Night of the Long Knives saw the party bear its murderous teeth to opposition but the regime’s brutality had been […]

The Cenotaph on Whitehall in London is designated as the United Kingdom’s primary war memorial. It commemorates the end of World War One.

How shall we remember them?

In 1919, London hosted a Victory Parade that marked a unique moment of national rejoicing, mourning and catharsis. The Parade, also known as the London Peace Parade, saw returning troops march through packed streets in the capital. The city’s iconic monuments were momentarily joined by a series of […]

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria Carl Pietzner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The United States of Greater Austria

As the world tumbled into the chasm of conflict in the early years of the twentieth century, one European country carried a light for tolerance, federalism, peace and prosperity. The United States of Greater Austria had been forged from an amalgam of nationalities, linguistic and ethnic groups. Nationalistic […]

A thoroughly middle-class emperor

Russia’s Tsars typically surrounded themselves with the opulence they felt befitted their status as the autocratic rulers of the world’s largest country. Their palaces were sumptuous and vast, ornate gilded statements of power and wealth. But not every occupant of the throne was as enamoured with what had […]

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