European History

Ferdinand and Barbara, Married Mad Royals

Despite ascending to power in a court filled with intrigue, juggling relations with Britain and France, and both likely having mental health conditions, the reign of Ferdinand VI of Spain and his wife Barbara was surprisingly stable.

Thomas Cook, John Cook, and the Rise of the Tourism Industry

Thomas Cook and his son John Mason Cook were pioneers of the idea of a travel agency to manage tourist holidays. But Thomas Cook was initially motivated by his support of the temperance movement and his deeply held religious beliefs. 






Marie Laurencin: Avante-garde Painter of Paris

Laurencin is a difficult painter to study. In addition to her work not quite falling in line with the artists who were her contemporaries, her personal papers are difficult to access, are censored, and have strict limitations put on their use. 




Samuel Pepys, Beyond the Diary

We’re coming up on the 350th anniversary of Pepys’ last diary entry, written May 31, 1669, so it seemed like a good time to take a closer look not just at the diary, but also at who Pepys was beyond his famous chronicle of life in 17th-century London.




The Limerick Soviet

For two weeks in 1919, the city of Limerick went on a labor strike. During that time, the strike committee managed the workings of the city, including food supplies, and it even began printing its own currency. 





Evil May-day Riots

On May Day in 1517 a riot was carried out by apprentices, journeymen and other workers. While this was an uprising of laborers, this incident, called the Evil May-day or Ill May-day, was also rooted in immigration and xenophobia in Tudor London.

Hennig Brand and the Discovery of Phosphorus

Spoiler alert: Hennig Brand discovered phosphorous by boiling pee. And phosphorous is the first element whose discoverer we can name. But he was really trying to do something else: He thought the secret to the philosopher’s stone might be found in urine. 

Baron Franz Nopcsa

Nopcsa lived an adventurous, scholarly life, funded entirely by his family money. He identified dinosaurs, inserted himself into Albanian politics, and wrote volumes and volumes of books and papers. But his life was not entirely charmed. 


The Tiara of Saitaphernes

Our April Fool’s Day story is the tale of an elaborate hoax. It starts with the Scythians and how their artifacts became highly prized in 19th century Europe, and ends with an artist who came into fame as a result of his part in a forgery. 



The Life and Disappearance of Ettore Majorana

Had his life had taken a different course, he may have become as widely known as Albert Einstein. In the 1930s, Majorana contributed to the field of quantum mechanics in ways that fundamentally shaped the field. And then he vanished.