BBC History Magazine: January 2022

Table of Contents

Queen of spies
Victoria’s intelligence networks helped her defy her enemies – and her own governments – as Rory Cormac and Richard J Aldrich explain

A king of fire and light
Louis IX embodied both the horror and beauty of medieval Europe, write Matthew Gabriele and David M Perry

1921: a brave new world?
The release of the 1921 census leads Sarah Hellawell to consider whether Britain really did “roar” in the 1920s

The BBC at 100
In the first in a new series on the BBC’s history, David Hendy revisits the corporation’s earliest broadcasts

Enemies of the state
Mark Cornwall on 10 infamous treason cases and what they said about the power of the state in Britain

Captive of the revolution
Monica Whitlock meets Kim Gordon, who spent two years imprisoned in a Beijing hotel room during China’s Cultural Revolution

Actress, writer and rebel
Helen Batten charts the amazing life of Emily Soldene, a star of the Victorian stage.


New books are regularly announced in the magazine. Insulin: The Crooked Timber by Kersten T Hall, from Oxford University Press, is one a noted owing to the history of diabetes in my family. “Derived from an observation by Immanuel Kant- “out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made” this book ‘s subtitle highlights its focus on the complex, at times unsympathetic, scientists who discovered insulin a century ago. The creation of medication from that hormone transformed the lives of people with diabetes and this vivid take puts that milestone into its wider context. 

There’s also news of a film I might well want to see Operation Mincemeat starring Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald and Matthew Macfadyen .  “It’s an espionage story that almost defies belief. In 1943 the Allies were preparing t0 invade southern Europe but were, for good reason, woried they would face heavy resistance. But what if the Axis could be tricked into believing that an invasion would be coming via Greece and Sardinia rather than Sicily? It was preciselythis subterfuge that was perpetuated by British intelligence operatives Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley. They oversaw a cunning plan to place misleading papers on the body of a recently deceased man and drop it off the coast of Spain, hoping the information would be passed on to the Nazis.”
Opening in UK cinemas this week, Operation Mincemeat will stream on Netflix in North America.

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