History Guild publishes articles that provide interesting insights into history. We cover all aspects of history, from around the world and across time.

The Roman dead: new techniques are revealing just how diverse Roman Britain was

The Roman dead: new techniques are revealing just how diverse Roman Britain was

Reading time: 6 minutes
Our knowledge about the people who lived in Roman Britain has undergone a sea change over the past decade. New research has rubbished our perception of it as a region inhabited solely by white Europeans. Roman Britain was actually a highly multicultural society which included newcomers and locals with black African ancestry and dual heritage, as well as people from the Middle East.

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How the Ancient Egyptian economy laid the groundwork for building the pyramids

How the Ancient Egyptian economy laid the groundwork for building the pyramids

Reading time: 5 minutes
In the shadow of the pyramids of Giza, lie the tombs of the courtiers and officials of the kings buried in the far greater structures. These men and women were the ones responsible for building the pyramids: the architects, military men, priests, and high-ranking state administrators. The latter were the ones who ran the country and were in charge of making sure that its finances were healthy enough to construct these monumental royal tombs that would, they hoped, outlast eternity.

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Neanderthals: Javelin athletes helped us show how effective they were at hunting with weapons

Neanderthals: Javelin athletes helped us show how effective they were at hunting with weapons

Reading time: 5 minutes
Neanderthals used to be portrayed as unintelligent and technologically deficient, a species that went extinct because of its inferiority to humans. But researchers now generally agree that Neanderthals were adept predators, innovative builders and symbolic thinkers. So how were early humans actually different from Neanderthals? It’s getting increasingly difficult to tell. But the capability to kill at a distance – such as with a bow and arrow – has long been thought of thought of as one important threshold in our human success story.

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Why we must better understand our history

Why we must better understand our history

Reading time: 5 minutes
History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme. Mark Twain.
As a society it is vitally important that we understand our own history, as well as the history of other peoples throughout time. This is the only way we can make informed decisions about how we should approach the challenges that we face in the present and the future.

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Left to ruin: we must preserve our forgotten wartime defences

Left to ruin: we must preserve our forgotten wartime defences

Reading time: 5 minutes
Australia built a number of coastal defences to help protect the country from any enemy attack during the second world war. Now, almost 80 years later, some of the physical remnants of those historic facilities lie forgotten and decaying.

These monuments to the nation’s home defence are in desperate need of preservation. While their condition varies greatly, too many have faded into obscurity.

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100 Years on, a New German Putsch?

100 Years on, a New German Putsch?

Reading time: 9 minutes
On December 7, 2022, German federal police arrested 25 people who were allegedly plotting to violently overthrow the German government. This planned coup resurrected the spectre of a failed coup attempt 100 years before, when Adolf Hitler and his then still nascent Nazi party tried something similar. But is there a link between this modern coup and the one of 1923? Does the history of these events rhyme?

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Old teeth from a rediscovered cave show humans were in Indonesia more than 63,000 years ago

Old teeth from a rediscovered cave show humans were in Indonesia more than 63,000 years ago

Reading time: 6 minutes

Modern humans were present in Southeast Asia about 20,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to new evidence published in Nature today.

An international research team led by Macquarie University applied new archaeological techniques to a longstanding question – were the human teeth discovered more than 120 years ago from Lida Ajer cave really modern human? The techniques allowed us to identify and date ancient human teeth from this Sumatran cave.

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Protecting country: Indigenous Australians in the defence of the north

Protecting country: Indigenous Australians in the defence of the north

Reading time: 5 minutes
Notions of ‘protecting country’ have, anecdotally at least, been a key motivation for Indigenous people to participate in Australia’s defence services since World War I. It may well be one reason they have been joining the army reserve’s Regional Force Surveillance Units for the past 30-odd years. The youngest of the three units, 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, even has as its motto Ducit amor patriae, ‘The love of country guides me’.

Given that it’s been almost three decades since we last considered the defence of Australia’s north, it’s time to think about whether there are new ways to involve Indigenous people in that endeavour.

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18th- and 19th-century Americans of all races, classes and genders looked to the ancient Mediterranean for inspiration

18th- and 19th-century Americans of all races, classes and genders looked to the ancient Mediterranean for inspiration

Reading time: 6 minutes
The ancient world of the Mediterranean has long permeated American society, in everything from museum collections to home furnishings. The design of the nation’s public monuments, buildings and universities, as well as its legal system and form of government, show the enduring influence of Mediterranean antiquity on American culture.

Until the late 19th century, Americans encountered the ancient world almost exclusively through reproductions – in books, artwork and even popular plays. Very few could afford to travel abroad to encounter Mediterranean artifacts firsthand.

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A snapshot of our mysterious ancestor Homo erectus

A snapshot of our mysterious ancestor Homo erectus

Reading time: 6 minutes
Homo erectus is now extinct. This enigmatic human ancestor probably evolved in Africa more than 2 million years ago, although the timing of their disappearance is less clear.

Homo erectus was in the news over 2018 thanks to new discoveries in the Philippines and China, which have transformed our understanding of this not too distant family member.

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What the Romans can teach us about immigration and integration

What the Romans can teach us about immigration and integration

Reading time: 4 minutes

At its largest, the Roman empire encompassed an area from Spain in the west to Syria in the east, and while start and end dates are largely a matter of perspective, it existed in the form most people would recognise for over 500 years.

The empire of course had many great strengths – but it could be argued that one of the most important keys to its durability was its inclusiveness.

Roman society was, of course, marked by stark inequalities. It was inherently misogynistic and rigidly classed, while slavery was ubiquitous. But in other ways, it was surprisingly open-minded – even by the standards of 2015.

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Carols, ration books and bomb shelters: how Britain celebrated Christmas in 1940

Carols, ration books and bomb shelters: how Britain celebrated Christmas in 1940

Reading time: 6 minutes
At Christmas 1939, Britons had been able to maintain a semblance of normality. The blackout prevented displays of lighted Christmas trees in front windows, but there was no rationing and Britain’s key ally, France, remained unconquered behind the allegedly impregnable Maginot Line.

Following the fall of France, the evacuation at Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, Christmas 1940 was much bleaker – the first real wartime Christmas. It took place in the middle of the Blitz. In December, the Luftwaffe attacked Southampton, Bristol, Sheffield and Leicester. Manchester took heavy pounding on the night of December 22/23 and again on Christmas Eve. Rationing was beginning to bite hard as the German occupation of Europe and blockade by U-boats cut off important sources of supply.

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How did we come to celebrate Christmas?

How did we come to celebrate Christmas?

Reading time: 6 minutes
The western date for Jesus’ birth is quite arbitrary. It was chosen by Pope Leo I, bishop of Rome (440-461), to coincide with the Festival of the Saturnalia, when Romans worshipped Saturn, the sun god. This was the day of the solar equinox, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, which officially marked the halfway point of winter.

The date of the feast varies within Christian denominations. Western Christians celebrate the Nativity on a fixed date, 25 December. Some Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate it on 6 January together with Epiphany, the revelation of the infant Jesus to three wise men. The Greek and Russian Orthodox celebrate Christmas on 7 January and Epiphany on 19 January.

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The borrowed customs and traditions of Christmas celebrations

The borrowed customs and traditions of Christmas celebrations

Reading time: 6 minutes
Not long to go now before many of us get to spread some good tidings and joy as we celebrate Christmas.
The main ways we understand and mark the occasion seem to be rather similar across the world. It’s about time with community, family, food-sharing, gift-giving and overall merry festivities.

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Harking back: the ancient pagan festivities in our Christmas rituals

Harking back: the ancient pagan festivities in our Christmas rituals

Reading time: 5 minutes
When we think of the Romans, gift-giving, carol-singing and celebrating the birth of Christ don’t immediately present themselves. Waging wars, general oppression and a never-ending desire to rule the world are more likely to spring to mind.

But various Christmas traditions come from ancient pagan festivities, including the Roman celebration of the Saturnalia.

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The busy Romans needed a mid-winter break too … and it lasted for 24 days

The busy Romans needed a mid-winter break too … and it lasted for 24 days

Reading time: 5 minutes
The actual reasons for celebrating Christmas at this particular time in the year have long been debated. Links have often been drawn to the winter solstice and the Roman festival of Saturnalia. Some people have also associated it with the supposed birthday of the god Sol Invictus, the “unconquered sun”, since a fourth-century calendar describes both this and Christ’s birth as taking place on December 25.

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Popular Histories Have Influenced World Leaders, Sometimes For the Better

Popular Histories Have Influenced World Leaders, Sometimes For the Better

Reading time: 6 minutes
Sometimes presidents are influenced by history books. Bill Clinton consulted Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History by Robert Kaplan when dealing with conflicts in southeastern Europe. In 2008 Barack Obama consulted Jonathan Alter’s The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope for ideas about launching a strong presidency. Joe Biden liked The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels so much that he made its author, Jon Meacham, a key adviser. No historian, however, has made a more significant impact on an American president’s thoughts and actions than Barbara Tuchman. President John F. Kennedy drew important lessons from one of her books when seeking a peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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Sino-Vietnamese War

Sino-Vietnamese War

Reading time: 5 minutes
The Sino-Vietnamese war was a short, nasty conflict fought between China and Vietnam in early 1979. Largely forgotten by almost everybody including the belligerents, it was a side plot of the Sino-Soviet split, itself a sideshow to the Cold War. Let’s go over the events before, during and after the war to see what it was all about.

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When did Homo erectus die out? A fresh look at the demise of an ancient human species over 100,000 years ago

When did Homo erectus die out? A fresh look at the demise of an ancient human species over 100,000 years ago

Reading time: 11 minutes
A key site in our understanding of Homo erectus, at Ngandong, in Java, Indonesia, has until now defeated all attempts at reliable dating since it was first excavated more than 90 years ago. With the aid of new techniques, we have now found that the Ngandong Homo erectus fossils are the most recent known specimens, dating from between 117,000 and 108,000 years ago.

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General History Quiz 147

1. When did the famous Charge of the Light Brigade occur?
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General History Quiz 146

1. When was the USSR formed?
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General History Quiz 145

1. Who led the communists to victory in the Chinese civil war?
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General History Quiz 144

1. The 430 BCE plague of Athens coincided with what event?
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General History Quiz 143

1. Which country operated the Mexico-Manila galleon trade from the 16th to the 19th centuries?
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Christmas History Quiz 2022

1. Where was the historical Saint Nicholas born?
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General History Quiz 142

1. L’Anse aux Meadows is an important archaeological site from which culture?
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General History Quiz 141

1. In 1493 Pope Alexander VI issued a proclamation dividing the ‘New World’ between Spain and which other country?
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General History Quiz 140

1. Who did the 1521 Edict of Worms decree was “a notorious heretic”?
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General History Quiz 139

1. In the 1930’s which country introduced deliberate errors into its maps in order to confuse potential invaders?
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