Anne Royall: Common Scold

by Jeff Biggers

Bloody feet, sisters, have worn smooth the path by which you have come hither.
—Abby Kelley Foster, National Women’s Rights Convention, 1851

In the summer of 1829, more than a century after Grace Sherwood had been plunged into the Lynnhaven River in Virginia in what is generally considered the last American witch trial, a bedraggled Anne Royall took the stand at the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia to face charges of being an “evil disposed person” and a “common scold.”

The US district attorney had conjured the charges from an ancient English common law that had long been dismissed in England as a “sport for the mob in ducking women,” especially for older women, as a precursor in trials for witchcraft.

Read more ›

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Modern History

The Many Affairs of Crown Prince Rudolf

by Greg King and Penny Wilson

On a snowy January morning in 1889, a worried servant hacked open a locked door at the remote hunting lodge deep in the Vienna Woods. Inside, he found two bodies sprawled on an ornate bed, blood oozing from their mouths. Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary appeared to have shot his seventeen-year-old mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera as she slept, sat with the corpse for hours and, when dawn broke, turned the pistol on himself.

A century has transformed this bloody scene into romantic tragedy: star-crossed lovers who preferred death together than to be parted by a cold, unfeeling Viennese Court. But Mayerling is also the story of family secrets: incestuous relationships and mental instability; blackmail, venereal disease, and political treason; and a disillusioned, morphine-addicted Crown Prince and a naïve schoolgirl caught up in a dangerous and deadly waltz inside a decaying empire. What happened in that locked room remains one of history’s most evocative mysteries: What led Rudolf and mistress to this desperate act? Was it really a suicide pact? Or did something far more disturbing take place at that remote hunting lodge and result in murder?

Read more ›

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Modern History

World War II: The Fear and the Freedom

by Keith Lowe

The Second World War was not just another crisis—it directly affected more people than any other conflict in history. Over 100 million men and women were mobilized, a figure that easily dwarfs the number who fought in any previous war, including the Great War of 1914–18. Hundreds of millions of civilians around the world were also dragged into the conflict—not only as refugees like Georgina Sand (a Jewish child survivor), but also as factory workers, as suppliers of food or fuel, as providers of comfort and entertainment, as prisoners, as slave labourers, and as targets. For the first time in modern history the number of civilians killed vastly outweighed the number of soldiers, not just by millions, but by tens of millions. Four times as many people were killed in the Second World War as in the First. For every one of those people there were dozens who were indirectly affected by the vast economic and psychological upheavals that accompanied the war.

Read more ›

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Contemporary History

The Lordly Roscoe Conkling

by Scott S. Greenberger

Despite his promising start as a young man, by his early fifties Chester A. Arthur was known as the crooked crony of New York machine boss Roscoe Conkling. For years Arthur had been perceived as unfit to govern, not only by critics and the vast majority of his fellow citizens but by his own conscience. As President James A. Garfield struggled for his life, Arthur knew better than his detractors that he failed to meet the high standard a president must uphold.

Read more ›

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Modern History

Echoes of Mayerling: The Unlikely Career of Countess Marie Larisch

by Greg King and Penny Wilson

By 1918, the Austro-Hungarian and the German Empires had collapsed into nothingness.  Imperial families were stripped of their titles and relegated to the status of citizen; their laws and traditions were wiped away and—absent the suffocating censorship of their former rulers—artists, musicians, playwrights, and writers burst forth with a wave of creativity as they explored previously banned historical and cultural subjects.  At the same time, attracted by the combination of this immediate post-war artistic excitement and middle Europe’s gorgeous scenery, motion-picture companies descended on the larger cities, including Munich in the former kingdom of Bavaria.

Read more ›

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Modern History
CLOSE SIGN UP

Sign up for The History Reader Newsletter!

By submitting this form, I agree to receive updates from The History Reader and other communications from Macmillan and its related companies.