Aspects of History Day: Two Years On

Oliver Webb-Carter

Our editor reflects on two years of Aspects of History.
Home » Articles » Aspects of History Day: Two Years On

As we all celebrate Aspects of History Day – I thought I’d reflect on where AoH is after two years. The whole project: magazine, website and podcast has been hugely rewarding. After all, for the four years previously I’d worked in an obscure office at a large American investment bank, carrying out mind-numbing tasks of spirit-crushing mundanity. Now I get to edit a magazine that has included contributions from authors and historians such as William Boyd, Margaret MacMillan, Bernard Cornwell, Sarah Gristwood, Max Hastings, Anne O’Brien, Andrew Roberts, Tessa Dunlop, Saul David, Lucy Worsley, Ben Macintyre, Leanda de Lisle, James Holland, Ruth Scurr, Peter Stothard, Nicola Cornick, Paul Cartledge, Miranda Malins, Douglas Murray, Deborah Swift, Dan Jones, Helen Fry, Ben Kane, Philippa Gregory, Charles Spencer, Catherine Ostler, Richard Overy, Katja Hoyer, Antony Beevor, Katie Stallard, Roger Moorhouse, Daisy Dunn, Adrian Goldsworthy, Jessie Childs, Giles Milton, Gordon Corrigan and Simon Sebag Montefiore, plus so many more.

The latest issue

In late 2021 I set up the podcast, and that has been enjoyable as I’ve had relaxed and informal chats on well-known periods of history, and some less well-known. History with humour is our watchword. My rule of always having read the book before speaking with the guest certainly means I can talk with a little more authority, and the length of each one results in us getting to the heart of the stories, and giving them proper time. Bonus podcasts allow me to go a little off-piste, and so my recent Top 10s (Dynasties and movies) have prompted a certain amount of debate on social media.

Ah yes, the world of social media and history has perhaps been the most eye-opening for me. Whilst it is a worthwhile place for an exchange of ideas, it is also seems to bring the worst out in people. I’ve seen posts from historians that I admire, on opposite sides of debate, talk past each other. I find that so frustrating. One example is in colonisation. I don’t think any serious historian would deny the dark side of empire, it’s the nature of empire after all – but at the same time was it the objective of say, the British Empire, to commit genocide in each territory in which it ruled? To see some historians wilfully ignore each other’s argument is frustrating to witness – I include both sides in this criticism. Could we not see an engagement with argument and a proper debate?

Myth-busting has been one area that I find so satisfying. Whether it is the Polish cavalry against German tanks or Oliver Cromwell the republican, it’s been enthralling learning from historians that even now are uncovering truths.

Historical Fiction is one area we also champion. We frequently include contributions from novelists both on the site and magazine. In the past year we’ve published two collections of short stories, indeed the mag always features two. I remain struck by the (entirely) justifiable outrage Anne O’Brien had when pushing back against a certain historian’s view that novelists just ‘make stuff up.’ Sadly this year, we’ve lost Hilary Mantel which was quite a shock. Here was an author who transcended the genre to become one of the country’s greatest writers.

Love of history is strong, and I can assure readers that Aspects of History will continue to showcase the work of historians and novelists, as the subject seems to me to be in rude health. To our subscribers, readers, listeners and viewers, thank you and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

A shameless plug, but you can subscribe to the e-Magazine of Aspects of History for a year (6 issues), for under £10.

Ollie’s Christmas Quiz Questions

  1. Which play, written by Euripides, is set in Thebes during the rule of Pentheus?
  2. Alexander of Macedon is known as The Great, but what number Alexander was he?
  3. After Nero’s botched suicide attempt, Rome entered the year of the four emperors, but can you name them?
  4. Who was the writer, living in 8th century England, who is sometimes called ‘The Father of English History’?
  5. Which English princess became Empress when married to Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor?
  6. Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, was descended from which two prominent dynasties?
  7. What was the last battle to take place on British soil? Bonus point for the year.
  8. Toussaint Louverture led the revolt against the French in which Caribbean nation?
  9. The battle of Isandlwana in January 1879 saw the British annihilated by the Zulus, but who was the Zulu general on the day?
  10. What was the name of the last Queen of Romania?


Answers Here