World History

Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of Omai, circa 1776

The Polynesian 'Prince' Who Took 18th-Century England by Storm

A new nonfiction release revisits the life of Mai, the first Pacific Islander to visit Britain

A recently discovered portrait believed to be of Jane Strachey, English School, c.1788

What an Englishwoman's Letters Reveal About Life in Britain During the American Revolution

A new book highlights the writings of Jane Strachey, a middle-class woman whose husband worked for the famed Howe family

Procession marking the opening of the Belfast-based Ulster parliament in June 1921

One Hundred Years Ago, Northern Ireland's 'Unholy War' Resulted in a Deadly Summer

In July 1921, an outburst of sectarian violence in Belfast claimed 16 lives on the eve of a truce between Great Britain and Ireland

Some of the details between the film and its source material are, of course, different, but the themes at their respective hearts remain consistent.

'The Green Knight' Adopts a Medieval Approach to 'Modern' Problems

A new film starring Dev Patel as Gawain feels more like a psychological thriller than a period drama

Interest in gymnastics soared during the Cold War, when the Olympics emerged as a cultural battleground for Western and Eastern nations.

The Tokyo Olympics

A History of Gymnastics, From Ancient Greece to Tokyo 2020

The beloved Olympic sport has evolved drastically over the past 2,000 years

A mural in Munich's former Olympic Village features Otl Aicher's pictograms.

The Tokyo Olympics

This Graphic Artist's Olympic Pictograms Changed Urban Design Forever

Having lived through Germany's Nazi regime, Otl Aicher went on to pioneer democratic design

James Delgado, the former director of NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Program, says there is consensus that the Prinzessin Victoria Luise was the “first purpose-built, non-private excursion ship: what we call ‘cruise’ ships today.”

The History of the World's First Cruise Ship Built Solely for Luxurious Travel

At the turn of the 20th century, a German Jewish shipping executive had an innovative idea for a new revenue stream: the cruise

Detail of medieval roll showing England's Henry VIII tilting at a joust in front of his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. In the West, chariot racing died out rather quickly, but beginning in the second half of the 11th century, knightly tournaments were the spectacle of medieval Europe.

The Tokyo Olympics

What the Medieval Olympics Looked Like

The Middle Ages didn't kill the Games, as international sporting competitions thrived with chariot races and jousts

Pure athletic prowess wasn’t really the point—the People’s Olympiad was about cultivating a spirit of equality, in direct contrast to Nazi ideals.

The Tokyo Olympics

The 'Protest' Olympics That Never Came to Be

A leftist response to the 1936 Games being held in Nazi Germany, the proposed competition was canceled by the Spanish Civil War

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry, which famously depicts William the Conqueror's victory over the so-called Anglo-Saxons

The Many Myths of the Term 'Anglo-Saxon'

Two medieval scholars tackle the misuse of a phrase that was rarely used by its supposed namesakes

Map of Nova Scotia made in 1755 by provincial chief surveyor Charles Morris

Unraveling the Colonialist Myths of Nova Scotia

Planners saw the region as a blank space ripe for transformation: the perfect canvas for imperial fantasies

Detail from a manuscript made for King Lebna Dengel, circa 1520, Tädbabä Maryam Monastery, Ethiopia.

A New History Changes the Balance of Power Between Ethiopia and Medieval Europe

For centuries, a Eurocentric worldview disregarded the knowledge and strength of the African empire

An eight-foot-wide model of the intact monument was placed in an acoustics-testing chamber. Researchers found that sounds emanating from near the center reverberated within the structure.

What Did Stonehenge Sound Like?

Researchers have developed a new understanding of what it meant to be a member of the inner circle

Beneath the ruins of the Bubasteion temple, archaeologists discovered “megatombs” crammed with burials. The coffins pictured date to more than 2,000 years ago.

Inside the Tombs of Saqqara

Dramatic new discoveries in the ancient Egytptian burial ground. A special report produced with Smithsonian Channel

“The shape of the Spitfire's wing and all of the compound curves on the airplane made it beautiful,” says the Smithsonian's Alex Spencer, curator of British and European military aircraft at the National Air and Space Museum.

Remembering the Supermarine Spitfire, Iconic Fighter Plane of World War II

'Spit' pilots flew their first combat missions over Dunkirk during the Battle of France

This month's book picks include African Europeans, X Troop and Chasing the Thrill.

Books of the Month

African Europeans, Jewish Commandos of WWII and Other New Books to Read

These May releases elevate overlooked stories and offer insights on oft-discussed topics

A children's seesaw stands among former apartment buildings in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat, built in the 1970s to house the workers and families of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, now stands abandoned inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Thirty-Five Years Later, a First Responder at the Chernobyl Disaster Looks Back

In her new book, Alla Shapiro shares her experience of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history

Yeondeunghoe is the Korean celebration of the Buddha’s birthday.

Ten Cultural Experiences to Put on Your Post-Pandemic Bucket List

From a lantern festival in Korea to camel racing in Oman, these traditions have us dreaming of future travel

Peter Mark Roget compiled his influential thesaurus late in life.

Before He Wrote a Thesaurus, Roget Had to Escape Napoleon's Dragnet

At the dawn of the 19th century, the young Brit got caught in an international crisis while touring Europe

Peace Corps volunteer Marya Cota-Wilson gives a gardening lesson in Costa Rica in the 1980s.

Why the Peace Corps’ Mission Is Needed Now More Than Ever

On its 60th anniversary, a moment of reckoning arrives for the nation's globe-trotting volunteers

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