Prophecies and (Hi)Stories: Telling the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453

From a Euro-Mediterranean perspective, the conquest of Constantinople led by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1453 not only marked the end of the Byzantine empire that had lasted more than a millennium, but also the end of the European Middle Ages. Rightly considered a ‘moment of great historical significance’1 by both contemporaries and modern researchers, the conquest of Constantinople ‘had repercussions that went far beyond its walls’2 not only politically and economically, but also culturally and socially.

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  1. The Siege of Constantinople 1453: Seven Contemporary Accounts, ed. by John Melville-Jones (Amsterdam, 1972), vii. []
  2. Michael Angold, ‘Turning Points in History: The Fall of Constantinople’, Byzantinoslavica, 71 (2013), 11–30, at 12. []

Britten’s Virtual Mystery

In 1964 the first of composer Benjamin Britten and writer William Plomer’s ‘Church Parables’—Curlew River—was premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in St. Bartholomew’s Church in Orford. Britten had been working on the project off and on with his librettist Plomer following Britten’s encounter with Noh theatre during a visit to Japan in 1955. Though the initial intention was simply to set the famous Noh play Sumidagawa to music, it was decided in 1959 that, given that the work was to be premiered in St. Bartholomew’s, it should be ‘a Christian work’ and set in medieval England in the form of a mystery play.1

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  1. Letter to Plomer, 15 April 1959, quoted in: Mervyn Cooke, Britten and the Far East: Asian Influences in the Music of Benjamin Britten (Woodbridge, 1998), 142–143. ‘Christian’ underline in original. []

Vicarious Observation: Conveying Pleasure and Sensory Experience in Eighteenth-Century British Periodicals

The time I spent perusing the British Library’s early modern treasures—thanks to a scholarship from the German Historical Institute London—left me with much to think about for my current research project on the body and pleasure in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century periodicals. First and foremost, my time in London gave me a heightened sense of how newspapers and magazines functioned as a medium for conveying pleasure, not least as a sensory experience.

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Days of Betrayal: Violations of Trust and Loyalty in Late Medieval England

Tensions have been running high in what, by any reckoning, has been a challenging year: a raging pandemic, social instability, and political unrest.1 And amidst all this, battle cries are heard from every corner of the political spectrum that threaten to exacerbate the situation: Plotters! Betrayers! Traitors!—the world is full of them if you believe what is written in the comment sections of media outlets.

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  1. I would like to thank the German Historical Institute London for supporting my research despite the adverse circumstances, and for giving me the chance to take part in the Institute’s always lively and constructive doctoral colloquium, which helped me to come to a better understanding of my subject and source material. []

An Ancient Church Father and his Victorian Audience: Christian von Bunsen’s Unusual Work on Hippolytus of Rome and its Influence on Nineteenth-Century Debates

[T]he amiable curates were politely requested to dribble out a few drops from the full fountain of their patristic lore, that poor benighted Farmer Giles in his chimney-corner might read, for the first time in his life, the talismanic name of Hippolytus.1

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  1. [Anon.], ʻHippolytus and his Ageʼ, The Eclectic Review, 8 (1854), 690–8, at 690. []

Germans, the Dutch East India Company, and Early Colonial South Africa

Germans were the largest foreign European group in the Dutch empire during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They worked for the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC) in its territories along the Indian Ocean, stretching from present-day South Africa to Sri Lanka, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia. Initially serving on temporary labour contracts as officials, sailors, and soldiers, soon Germans began to stay in the Dutch overseas territories for good. Some continued to work for the Company for the rest of their lives, while others applied for citizenship and became farm holders, teachers, ministers, or tradesmen.

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