Articles


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 Count of […]

What were the inalienable heirlooms of the Habsburgs?


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 Washington D.C., […]

The most spectacular incident of biological warfare?


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 voted “No,”. […]

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



1
. 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. At a […]

The Englishman who started the Spanish Civil War


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 […]

Commuting hell on the underground steam railway


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 this is […]

A dream that burst into flames – the British Hindenburg disaster



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 to visit. […]

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


On Sunday, Greeks will go to the polls to vote in a crucial referendum. The politics are fraught, the media is frenzied and accusations and recriminations are already flying. The ballot paper has attracted plenty of attention, both inside and outside of Greece. The question is detailed and, to eyes […]

Framing the question – history’s lessons for winning and losing referenda


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 moving markets […]

Which European country tops the sovereign default league table?