The History Collective

Vikings: The One Where Bjorn goes Fishing

In the second episode of Vikings, we seem to have a nod to Oscar season as Bjorn, having just set out to explore and conquer southern Europe does his best Leonardo DiCaprio impression from the Revenant, including an encounter with a bear. Although fortunately for the audience, he is spared an ursine sexual assault (that’s a sentence you don’t write everyday). There isn’t really much to say about this story line. Bjorn has no dialogue and all we see him do is fish for his dinner. It may set the scene for reminding us of his fortitude, but there is no plot or character development which is unfortunate since that screen time could have been replaced with more about the drama taking place at Kattegat which is sadly absent from this episode. Continue reading “Vikings: The One Where Bjorn goes Fishing”


A Paris Wedding – A Review of Vikings Season 4, ep 1

The fourth season of Vikings began this past Thursday on the History Network and as with the previous seasons it didn’t disappoint. The visuals are stunning and the realization of Carolingian Paris is a thing of beauty notwithstanding the misplaced hill in the centre of what will be become the Ile de la Cite.

We are currently experiencing a golden age of historical drama and it is not surprising that many of these dramas draw upon the rich source material of the Middle Ages to tell their stories. Vikings stands out as one of the best shows at the moment not only because of the production values and the quality of acting, but also because of the high degree of faithfulness to the historical period depicted. Continue reading “A Paris Wedding – A Review of Vikings Season 4, ep 1”

Happy Birthday…

“Brutus is an honourable man. And if you believe that, then I have a bridge in Londinium to sell you.”

To Marcus Antonius, better known to history as Mark Antony the Latin speaking Roman general (not to be confused with the Latin singing Marc Anthony), born on this day in 83BC.  Part of the original Triumvir, Mark Antony, as a supporter of Julius Caesar, was instrumental in transforming the late Roman Republic into the autocratic state that Augustus would continue during his reign as the first official Roman emperor.

Continue reading “Happy Birthday…”

This day in…

Today represents an important watershed in the history of investigative journalism.  In 1893, Emile Zola published J’Accuse.  The piece exposed the antisemitism of the Third Republic.  In 1894, the Alsatian Jew, Alfred Dreyfus


Zola faces the mob, oil on canvas by Henry de Groux, 1898

was accused of sending secret documents to the Germans. Continue reading “This day in…”

Happy Birthday to Edmund Burke

Born this day in 1729, Edmund  Burke has come to be regarded as one of the greatest political philosophers of the modern age.  In fact, it is easy to argue until the bizarre spectacle of the American conservatives shifts towards ideologically driven demography,

“Oh, you’ve caught me thinking disapprovingly on the nature of revolution.”

Edmund Burke was the founder of modern conservatism, at least until Barry Goldwater’s failed bid at the 1968 Republican Convention began the slow unraveling of the traditional intellectual underpinnings of the GOP.

Continue reading “Happy Birthday to Edmund Burke”

This Day in History….

Today in 532, the capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople was convulsed by one of the most violent riots in its history.  Known as the Nika Riots, the aftermath represents a major turning point in the development of modern Istanbul.

In an example of the past not being a foreign country, Constantinople supported to major chariot teams known as the Blues and Greens.  Part sports organization and political factions, the Blues and Greens reflected the political life of the city with pro and anti imperial factions using the chariot races as an outlet for the often violent passions that dominated daily life in the imperial capital.

A year earlier, in 531, several members of both the Blues and Greens were arrested for murder during an earlier riot (The English Football Fan Association has a few things to learn about the art of sport rioting).  Most of the murderers were hanged except for a Blue and a Green who had sought sanctuary in a local church.

At the same time, the emperor Justinian was negotiating a peace treaty with the Persians as well as facing a possible revolt in the city itself.  In an attempt to reduce these pressures, Justinian called for a chariot race.  By the end of the race, the Blues and Greens had put aside their differences and began shouting Nika (“Win” or “Conquer”) and began a 5 day riot throughout the city, including besieging the palace.  Seeing an opportunity, many of the nobles joined the rioters in an attempt to take advantage of the situation.

The riots nearly led to the abdication of Justinian, but his wife Theodora was not about to give up her position without a fight and convinced her husband to stay and face the rioters which he did.

Employing his general Belisarius in a classic case of divide and conquer, the leader of Blues was reminded that the emperor was a supporter and while we’re at it, why are the Blues making common cause with their rivals in the first place. And if this alone was not incentive enough, Belsarius bribed the Blues to cease rioting, leaving the Greens at the mercy of the imperial troops. Needless to say, very little mercy was given and it is estimated that approximately 30,000 people were executed.  In addition to the loss of life, nearly half of the city was burned to the ground, including the Hagia Sophia.

While the riots were the largest in the city’s history, the results on the architectural legacy of the city have been longer lasting.  With half of the city destroyed, Justinian took advantage of the opportunity to rebuild the city in his own image, especially with the newly rebuilt Hagia Sophia which would a fitting monument not just to the glory of God, but an eternal testament to the power of the state which only a few years earlier had nearly been toppled by a sports riot.  gohistoric_21643_m


News from the Front: Rediscovering German soldiers’ letters

The History Collective welcomes our new contributor, Patrick Miller. His interest in military history provides a fascinating window into the lives of the soldiers who have fought our wars.

Continue reading “News from the Front: Rediscovering German soldiers’ letters”

September 23, 1889: Nintendo is founded as a playing card company under the name Nintendo Koppai. Today the company is synonymous with video games, but by the time it entered the video game market it was already nearly 90 years old.


Happy Birthday to Michael Faraday, 22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867. Faraday’s work on magnetism and electricity was hugely important to scientific development.

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