Essays
Culture & History

Lost Libraries

Lost Libraries

In the latter half of the 17th century the English polymath Thomas Browne wrote Musaeum Clausum, an imagined inventory of 'remarkable books, antiquities, pictures and rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living'. Claire Preston explores Browne's extraordinary catalogue amid the wider context of a Renaissance preoccupation with lost intellectual treasures. more

Phillis Wheatley: an Eighteenth-Century Genius in Bondage

Phillis Wheatley: an Eighteenth-Century Genius in Bondage

Transported as a slave from West Africa to America when just a child, Phillis Wheatley published in 1773 at the age of twenty her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Vincent Carretta takes a look at the remarkable life of the first ever African-American woman to be published. more

An Unlikely Lunch: When Maupassant met Swinburne

An Unlikely Lunch: When Maupassant met Swinburne

Julian Barnes on when a young Guy de Maupassant was invited to lunch at the holiday cottage of Algernon Swinburne. A flayed human hand, pornography, the serving of monkey meat, and inordinate amounts of alcohol, all made for a truly strange Anglo-French encounter. more

The Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi

The Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi

Andrew McConnell Stott, author of The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi, introduces the life and memoirs of the most famous and celebrated of English clowns. more

Peter The Wild Boy

Peter The Wild Boy

Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces and author of *Courtiers: The Secret History of the Georgian Court*, on the strange case of the feral child found in the woods in northern Germany and brought to live in the court of George I. more

On Benjamin’s Public (Oeuvre)

On Benjamin’s Public (Oeuvre)

On the run from the Nazis in 1940, the philosopher, literary critic and essayist Walter Benjamin committed suicide in the Spanish border town of Portbou. In 2011, over 70 years later, his writings enter the public domain in many countries around the world. Anca Pusca, author of Walter Benjamin: The Aesthetics of Change, reflects on the relevance of Benjamin's oeuvre in a digital age, and the implications of his work becoming freely available online. more

Slavery in North Africa – the Famous Story of Captain James Riley

Slavery in North Africa – the Famous Story of Captain James Riley

When Captain James Riley published in 1817 the account of his and his crew's capture and enslavement at the hands of a group of North African tribesmen it became an immediate hit, readers being enthralled by this stark reversal of the usual master-slave narrative they were all so used to. Robert C. Davis, author of Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters, looks at the story in the context of other similar tales of Europeans being taken as slaves on the North African coast. more

Geronimo: The Warrior

Geronimo: The Warrior

In 1906, Geronimo published his autobiography recounting the fascinating story of his life, from his years as a resistance fighter, to his capture and subsequent period of celebrity in which he appeared at the 1904 St Louis World Fair and met President Roosevelt. Edward Rielly, author of Legends of American Indian Resistance, tells of the tragic massacre which underpinned his life. more

Labillardière and his Relation

Labillardière and his Relation

When the French explorer Lapérouse went missing, a search voyage was put together to retrace his course around the islands of Australasia. On the mission was the naturalist Jacques Labillardière who published a book in 1800 of his experiences. Edward Duyker, author of Citizen Labillardière: A Naturalist’s Life in Revolution and Exploration (1755-1834), explores the impact of his pioneering work. more

Was Charles Darwin an Atheist?

Was Charles Darwin an Atheist?

Leading Darwin expert and founder of Darwin Online, John van Wyhe, challenges the popular assumption that Darwin's theory of evolution corresponded with a loss of religious belief. more

Bugs and Beasts Before the Law

Bugs and Beasts Before the Law

Murderous pigs sent to the gallows, sparrows prosecuted for chattering in church, a gang of thieving rats let off on a wholly technical acquittal - theoretical psychologist and author Nicholas Humphrey* explores the strange world of medieval animal trials. more

The Life and Work of Nehemiah Grew

The Life and Work of Nehemiah Grew

In the 82 illustrated plates included in his 1680 book The Anatomy of Plants, the English botanist Nehemiah Grew revealed for the first time the inner structure and function of plants in all their splendorous intricacy. Brian Garret explores how Grew's pioneering "mechanist" vision in relation to the floral world paved the way for the science of plant anatomy. more

Tales from Tahiti

Tales from Tahiti

In 1890, Henry Adams - the historian, academic, journalist, and descendent of two US presidents - set out on a tour of the South Pacific. After befriending the family of "the last Queen of Tahiti," he became inspired to write what is considered to be the first history of the island. Through Adams' letters, Ray Davis explores the story of the book's creation. more

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