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Editor’s pick: 9 of his favourite articles from the BBC History Magazine archive to read right now

From the fascinating psychology of Elizabeth I to the not-so Great Escape during WW2, HistoryExtra hosts a wealth of history articles from top historians, which first appeared in Britain’s bestselling history magazine. With all subscriber areas of the site open to all readers until 8 April 2020, BBC History Magazine editor Rob Attar selects nine articles from our archive that you can read for free, right now…

Princes in the Tower
Published: April 1, 2020 at 10:44 am
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Princess Diana: when grief gripped a nation

“There are moments in history when you can feel a nation changing course, and the summer of 1997 felt like one of them,” wrote Dominic Sandbrook in the September 2017 issue, in a feature published 20 years after the death of Princess Diana. What does the extraordinary outpouring of emotion that followed her death tell us about the state of Britain 20 years ago? Read the full article here

Floral tributes to Diana, Princess of Wales, outside Kensington Palace
Floral tributes to Diana, Princess of Wales, outside Kensington Palace. (Photo by Liba Taylor/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Elizabeth I's personality: the unfathomable queen

Elizabeth I is an icon. The Virgin Queen is more instantly recognisable even than her monstrously charismatic father, Henry VIII. But she is also an enigma. The image of ‘Gloriana’ is a mask – literally so, in the ‘mask of youth’ portraits painted in the last two decades of her life. In this feature from the March 2018 issue, historian Helen Castor attempts to decipher what the Virgin Queen was really thinking behind that inscrutable visage. Read the full article here, and you can also listen to Helen talking about the psychology of Elizabeth I on the HistoryExtra podcast


“London is the place for me”: David Olusoga on the Windrush generation

The story of the Windrush, and the journey it made in the summer of 1948, has been inducted into the British national story. But the ship was not even the first to bring West Indian migrants to Britain. In this feature from the July 2018 issue which marked the 70th anniversary of its arrival, David Olusoga argues that Britain's nostalgia for this event obscures a more complex story of imperial subjects attempting to exercise their rights in the face of institutional racism. Read the full article here


Veggie Victorians

In the 1840s, the press began reporting on the rise of an odd new movement whose adherents championed the benefits of a flesh-free diet. In this article from September 2018, James Gregory explores how vegetarianism was greeted by a population used to munching mutton chops, mincemeat and jugged hare…

Intellectuals, dieting businessmen, Indian students and fitness fanatics were among those to exhort the benefits of a meat-free diet in the 19th century, as shown in our illustration. (Illustration by Femke de Jong for BBC History Magazine)
Intellectuals, dieting businessmen, Indian students and fitness fanatics were among those to exhort the benefits of a meat-free diet in the 19th century, as shown in our illustration. (Illustration by Femke de Jong for BBC History Magazine)

Fleeing Idi Amin: the long journey to a new life

Following the expulsion by Idi Amin of Uganda's Asian population in the summer of 1972, some 28,000 people arrived in Britain in a matter of weeks – to a mixed reception from their new neighbours. Writing in the February 2019 issue of BBC History Magazine, Becky Taylor charts their story. Read the full article here


The not-so Great Escape

In the April 2019 issue, Guy Walters shed new light on the mass Allied breakout from Stalag Luft III PoW camp which, with the help of Hollywood, has become one of the most feted episodes of the Second World War. But, writes Walters, the reality of the events in March 1944 was far less triumphant. Read the full article here

Steve McQueen stars in the 1963 film The Great Escape
Steve McQueen stars in the 1963 film that turned the 'Great Escape' into a symbol of Allied pluck and ingenuity. (Image by Alamy)

Did Richard III really kill the Princes in the Tower?

For centuries, received opinion has had it that the Yorkist king ordered the murder of his young nephews, Edward and Richard, in a ruthless bid to secure his throne. But might the two princes instead have lived on into the Tudor era? In the September 2019 issue, historians Matthew Lewis and Nathen Amin laid out the evidence and debated the issue. Read the full article here


Was William the Conqueror a war criminal? The brutal story of the Harrying of the North

The episode known as ‘the Harrying of the North’ was the most notorious of William the Conqueror’s career. “Nowhere else,” said the 12th-century historian Orderic Vitalis, “had William shown such cruelty.” Yet 950 years after the event, historians continue to disagree over its extent, its long-term effects, and even its morality. Should it, asked Marc Morris in the November 2019 issue, be branded a genocide? Read the full article here. Also, don’t miss this bonus episode of the HistoryExtra podcast, in which Marc tackles some of the big questions about William the Conqueror and his followers.


A medieval new England: the Anglo-Saxons’ eastern odyssey

As unlikely scenarios go, the one that saw a band of English exiles fleeing William the Conqueror and setting up a colony on the shore of the Black Sea takes some beating. In this article from the Christmas 2019 issue, Caitlin Green tells the story of a remarkable medieval adventure

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