How capitalism tamed medieval Europe

At CapX European capitalism had begun in northern Italy, chiefly Venice, one of nine Italian cities that had surpassed 50,000 people by this point. Like Flanders, Venice was at the mercy of the sea but its isolated and vulnerable geography led to what John Julius Norwich called: “a unique spirit of cohesion and cooperation… not only at times of national crisis but also, and still more impressively, in the day-to-day handling of their affairs.” Venice was high in trust,… Read on

The first Britons were black. What does that say about Who We Are?

The ancient Britons were dark skinned, a new analysis of the island’s oldest complete skeleton has discovered. Cheddar Man, who was in his early twenties, was killed around 7150BC and his body remained in Gough Cave’s for over nine millennia before being discovered by workmen in 1903. (The Red Lady of Paviland is older but incomplete. He was actually a man but the man who first analysed the skeleton was a creationist who therefore concluded, due to the… Read on

Can you get ten out of ten on this language quiz?

First person to email, tweet or comment below with the correct answer I’ll send a copy of my new book, published this week, England in the Age of Chivalry (and Awful Diseases).   How many of the 100 most common words in English derive from French?* Which two European nationalities are named after the same tribe in two different, totally unrelated languages? Which English football club (top four divisions) has a name derived from Arabic? Which English football club… Read on

The Normans were the original liberal metropolitan elite ‘Remainers’

The Normans were the original liberal metropolitan elite ‘Remainers’

Originally appearing at the Spectator Coffee House, October 14, 2016 Today is the most important date in our history, the day on which thousands of men fought outside Hastings and England was changed forever. By the end of Saturday, October 14, 1066, thousands were dead, among them England’s king, Harold II, and most of the country’s leaders. As historian Elizabeth van Houts put it, ‘No other event in western European history of the central Middle Ages can be compared… Read on

Me, my voice, again. This time talking about Vikings this time

And my face too, looking a state (and I wasn’t even drunk). At the Future Nations vlog, talking about Alfred the Great and the Vikings.

1215 and All That: A Very, Very short history of Magna Carta

Is available from Amazon. This began as an ebook in 2015 and was last year bought by Skyhorse to publish in print form. The downside is that I lost all the reviews for the original, and as the Spectator’s Rory Sutherland wrote, when a company upgrades a product now they do not always give it a new name because they want to keep its positive record. (I realised this when I bought a mini-hoover this year which was… Read on

Plutôt anglais que britannique

A Spectator article of mine on the modern significance of identifying as British or English appears in the latest Courrier International.

Saint of the day: Oswald of Northumbria

After Edwin’s death the different parts of Northumbria split once again, and Ethelfrith’s son  Eanfrith ruled Bernicia, the people reverting to the ‘abominations’ of paganism in Bede’s words, whatever that means. Paulinus fled, leaving another Italian, James the Deacon, all alone to run an isolated church in the wilds of Deira. Luckily Northumbrian kings never lasted long, and Eanfrith was no exception; he had made a truce with the local British chieftain Cadwallon but after falling out he went off… Read on

How single men and women are making politics more extreme

At the Week In the late 20th century a similar thing happened with a number of products on the market, among them children’s toys. When Lego first came out, your options were basically a Lego set or a slightly different Lego set; even when I was very young in the 1980s the spaceman was about as complex as it got. But today you have a vast range of options, including Star Wars Lego, Batman Lego, princesses, knights, aliens, and… Read on

The Great Viking Army turned up in early medieval England. What happened next will blow your mind

I thought I’d take a sideways step from making the world a better, happier place writing about politics and how everything is terrible – and instead write some history books about how everything used to be terrible. They’re aimed at the young adult market, although they can happily be read by adult-adults, a sort of slightly older Horrible Histories. The five books cover English history in the medieval period, from the fall of Rome to the War of the Roses…. Read on