Insight History

Viruses, Epidemics and Experiments: The History of Biological Warfare - The use of bacteria, viruses and other biological agents as weapons of war has a long and gut-wrenching history. Despite some early examples, it was not until the 20th century that biological warfare truly became scientifically callous. During the First World War, the German military was a notable practitioner of this art of warfare.

The Japanese were particularly interested in this area of warfare, intensifying their efforts through the Second World War. One of the most prominent advocates of the use of biowarfare was the Japanese Surgeon General and microbiologist, Shiro Ishii, who went on to head the central unit of Imperial Japan’s biological warfare programme during WWII: Unit 731, which was based in occupied China. As part of their biowarfare program, the Japanese army tested a minimum of 25 biological agents on civilians and prisoners of war, with operations including the poisoning of over 1,000 Chinese water wells with typhus and cholera, and dropping fleas infested with plague on Chinese cities. At least thousands of people were killed by this programme, with some even arguing that approximately 200,000 Chinese were killed.

What makes all of this worst however is that fact that the US government gave immunity to many of these Japanese biowarfare officers in exchange for getting the data from the Japanese biological warfare programme, akin to Operation Paperclip. There are also numerous examples of militaries conducting biological warfare experiments on their own, unsuspecting citizens. Aside from civilians being used as guinea pigs by biowarfare units, biological warfare programmes can also pose another risk to civilians: in the form of pathogens accidently escaping from biowarfare facilities.

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Sources:
Barnett, A. (April 21 2002) Millions were in germ war tests, The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/politics/...
Frischknecht F. (2003). The history of biological warfare. Human experimentation, modern nightmares and lone madmen in the twentieth century. EMBO reports, 4 Spec No(Suppl 1), S47–S52 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti...
Hilts, P. (Nov. 18 1994) Deaths in 1979 Tied to Soviet Military, New York Times - https://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/18/wo...
Horrock, N. (Sept. 19 1975) Senators Are Told of Test Of a Gas Attack in Subway, New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/1975/09/19/ar...
Kristof, N. (March 17, 1995) Unmasking Horror -- A special report.; Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/17/wo...
Loria, K. (Sept. 25, 2016) Over and over again, the military has conducted dangerous biowarfare experiments on Americans, Business Insider – https://www.businessinsider.com/milit...
Riedel S. (2004). Biological warfare and bioterrorism: a historical review. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center), 17(4), 400–406 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti...
Walker, A. (Nov. 21 2005) Project Paperclip: Dark side of the Moon, BBC News – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4...

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Why Did the Spanish Flu Kill More People Than World War I? 1918 marked the inception of a global pandemic that would go on to devastate the entire world, with the Spanish flu claiming more lives than World War I itself. Although estimates range widely, the Spanish flu killed anywhere between 20 and 100 million people, with the Centre for Disease Control estimating that at least 50 million people died worldwide; compared to approximately 17 million people dying in the First World War.

The insanely high death toll from the 1918 pandemic begs the obvious question: why did the Spanish flu become so lethal? The 1918 influenza pandemic is often referred to as the ‘Spanish’ flu because the press of neutral Spain was the first to report on the pandemic. It was caused by a virus which spread from person to person through the respiratory tract, with a high percentage of deaths resulting from bacterial pneumonia caused by a secondary infection of the lungs, which had been debilitated by the virus.

The variables which explain why the Spanish flu became so lethal are multi-faceted. One key reason was that the Great War created an environment that was highly conducive to the rapid spread of viruses. In 1918, there was a vast movement of people and goods - both within countries, and across the globe – which created a perfect network of human carriers for the virus to quickly travel.

The prioritization of war over adopting preventative measures is another reason why the Spanish influenza became so deadly. Aside from the war however, there were other important reasons why the influenza claimed so many. One reason pertained to there being a critical lack of medical knowledge concerning the causative agent of the virus, and the subsequent absence of an effective treatment. Even though the Spanish flu killed more people than the First World War did directly, the two events are inextricably intertwined, as the Great War provided the springboard for the influenza to become so deadly.

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Sources:

Aimone, F. ‘The 1918 Influenza Epidemic in New York City: A Review of the Public Health Response,’ Public Health Reports (1974-) Vol. 125, Supplement 3: The 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic in the United States, (2010), pp.71-79 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862336/.
Andrews, E. (Jan 12, 2016) Why was it called the “Spanish Flu?” History, HTTPS://WWW.HISTORY.COM/NEWS/WHY-WAS-IT-CALLED-THE-SPANISH-FLU
Byerly, C. ‘The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919,’ Public Health Reports, 125.Suppl 3, (2010), pp.82–91.
Holmes, F. (2019) The Influenza Pandemic and the War, The University of Kansas Medical Center - http://www.kumc.edu/wwi/medicine/influenza.html
Patterson, D. ‘The influenza pandemic of 1918-19 in the Gold Coast,’ Journal of African History, 24:4, (1983), pp.485-502.
Snow, D. (25 Feb 2014) Viewpoint: 10 big myths about World War One debunked, BBC News - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25776836
Song L. (2014). It is Unlikely That Influenza Viruses Will Cause a Pandemic Again Like What Happened in 1918 and 1919. Frontiers in public health, 2, 39 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4019839/
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 Virus) - https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html
The Washington times. [volume] (Washington [D.C.]), 19 Sept. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1918-09-19/ed-1/seq-1/

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Scurvy, Citrus Fruits and the Expansion of the British Empire - Scurvy is a disease that has plagued humanity for at least 5,000 years, as the first recorded case of scurvy occurred in ancient Egypt between 3800 and 3600 BC. This disease was at its most deadly during the Age of Discovery, as this was a period of time when European empires expanded their territory to mysterious lands across unknown oceans, beginning with the expansion of Portuguese power in the 15th century. Scurvy became such an issue during this time that shipowners expected that 50% of any ship crew would die from scurvy on any long voyage.

For millennia, scurvy was a highly enigmatic disease, with various theories circulated about what caused and what cured this pernicious horror. In 1747, the Scottish physician, James Lind, undertook one of the first controlled clinical trials in human history, onboard the Royal Navy ship, HMS Salisbury. The experiment consisted of Lind taking 12 sailors who were suffering similar degrees of scurvy, dividing them into six groups of two. After just one week, the group that was taking two oranges and a lemon each day were helping Lind take care of the ill sailors in the five other groups.

More than four decades past between Lind’s experiment and the Navy taking action. In 1795, the British Navy made it official policy for sailors to be issued lemon juice, with the Scottish physician, Gilbert Blane, playing an important role in convincing the Navy’s hierarchy to introduce this measure. Importantly, simply adding citrus juice into the diet of British sailors had a profound impact on the power of the British Empire, an Empire which relied heavily on control over the seas.

Yet, despite some victories against scurvy in the 19th century, it was not as effective as it could have been, as the Navy did not properly understand the mechanism by which citrus fruits prevented scurvy. Today, we now know that scurvy is caused by a vitamin C deficiency. This is because without vitamin C, humans can’t produce collagen, a critical protein found in skin, bones, blood vessels, cartilage and other connective tissue. It is interesting to note that humans are one of only a few mammals – including guinea pigs - who can’t produce vitamin C in their own bodies. As this story illustrates, the war against scurvy was a long and painful one. What is most shocking of all however, is the fact that 250 years on from Lind’s revolutionary experiment, people who consume fast food diets are still being admitted to hospital with scurvy.

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Sources:

BBC News (Jan. 2016) Is scurvy making a comeback? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35380716
Harrison M. (2013). Scurvy on sea and land: political economy and natural history, c. 1780-c. 1850. Journal for maritime research, 15(1), 7–25 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4337985/
Killgrove, K. (Jan. 2016) Earliest Case Of Scurvy In Ancient Egypt Detected By Archaeologists, Forbes - https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakillgrove/2016/01/21/earliest-case-of-scurvy-in-ancient-egypt-detected-by-archaeologists/
LLOYD, C. (1961). THE INTRODUCTION OF LEMON JUICE AS A CURE FOR SCURVY. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 35(2), 123-132.
National Geographic, (Oct. 2005) - The World in a Glass: Six Drinks That Changed History - https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/10/the-world-in-a-glass-six-drinks-that-changed-history/
Price, C. 14 (Aug. 2017) Science History Institute - The Age of Scurvy - https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/the-age-of-scurvy
White, M. (4 Oct. 2016) James Lind: The man who helped to cure scurvy with lemons, BBC News - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37320399

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The 1320 Scottish Declaration of Independence - In the fourteenth century, Scotland produced one of the most inspired political documents in medieval history. The fact that the Declaration of Arbroath was created during a historical period of darkness makes it all the more remarkable. Addressed to Pope John XXII, the Declaration of Arbroath was a letter signed by over thirty nobles, barons and freeholders on behalf of the community of the realm of Scotland. The Declaration of Arbroath emphasized Scotland’s independence, the nobilities support for Robert the Bruce to be the King of Scotland and called on the Pope to help halt the attempted domination of Scotland by Edward II, King of England.

Originally written in Latin, the Declaration of Arbroath was produced during the First Scottish War of Independence, which had started with the English invasion of Scotland in 1296 and ended in 1328 with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton – a treaty where the independence of the Kingdom of Scotland was recognised, yet this was reneged upon in 1332. One of the most revolutionary aspects of the Declaration of Arbroath pertained to the perspective of the Scottish nobility towards Robert the Bruce. Even though they endorsed the legendary Scottish figure as the rightful King on one hand, they did so with a caveat that can be considered truly revolutionary in an age of the divine right of Kings. Daring to even whisper what the writers pronounced in practically any other region of the world seven hundred years ago would have been met with persecution and the sword; yet for the writers of the Declaration of Arbroath, absolute freedom was far more valued than absolute monarchy. In other words, liberty was King.

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Sources:

BBC NEWS – Robert the Bruce (1274 - 1329) -http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic...
Cornell, J. (1986) "Dark and Drublie Days": The Black Death and the Growth of Scottish Nationalism (c. 1300-1500). Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, 6, 166-182.
Cowan, E. (2008) For Freedom Alone: The Declaration of Arbroath, 1320 (Edinburgh: Birlinn).
Philip, J. (1947) Sallust and the Declaration of Arbroath. The Scottish Historical Review, 26:101, 75-78.
The Declaration of Arbroath (1320), National Records of Scotland - https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/researc...

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Mass Manipulation: The Use of Internal Propaganda in Nazi Germany. How did the Nazi regime manage to manipulate the minds of its population to gain enough support to survive for over a decade and engage in perennial atrocities? A central theme through the Nazis internal propaganda operations was the emphasis on the state or community being more important than the individual. Slogans such as - ‘One People! One Reich! One Führer!’ – were relentlessly used to persuade the population to value the community over the individual. Cheap cinema tickets, radios and the introduction of the Volkswagen (or people’s car), were all designed to symbolise the triumphs of the national community.

The Nazi regime also introduced social initiatives to amplify this sense of national community. The Winter Help program was one, which consisted of collections of clothing, food and money to help those families who had been hit hardest by unemployment. Another major feature of the Nazi regime was its focus on targeting the German youth for propaganda operations. The Nazis understood that indoctrinating the young people of the country was the most effective way to ensure you had an obedient citizenry in the future. The Nazi party progressively gained control over the teaching profession until almost completely dominating it by 1937. These avenues to maintain control were supplemented by the youth comradeship organizations in the form of the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls, organizations where Nazi ideology was reinforced and Hitler was worshipped as a demigod.

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Sources:
Goutam, U., & Gautam, U. (2014). Pedagogical Nazi Propaganda (1939-1945). Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 75, 1018-1026.
Welch, D. (1993). Manufacturing a Consensus: Nazi Propaganda and the Building of a 'National Community' (Volksgemeinschaft). Contemporary European History, 2(1), 1-15.
SPEIER, H. (1943). Nazi Propaganda and its Decline. Social Research, 10(3), 358-377.

Note: the sources consulted to construct this narrative do not necessarily endorse the narrative constructed.

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Illuminati 101: Was the Illuminati a Real Secret Society? Today, many people use the term Illuminati without any real understanding of where it came from or what it actually referred too. This video will reveal the fascinating true history behind the word Illuminati, a factual history that is far more interesting than many of the speculative stories often thrown about. The Illuminati refers to a real secret society that was founded in 1776 as the Order of the Illuminists by a Professor of Canon Law at the University of Ingolstadt, Adam Weishaupt. Taking inspiration from the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, the Greek mathematician, Pythagoras, and numerous other sources, the Bavarian Illuminati was founded with the grand objective of launching a form of global revolution aimed at perfecting (from their perspective anyway) humanity. Through infiltrating German freemasonic lodges and recruiting disgruntled freemasons, the Illuminati managed to rapidly expand into the 1780s. The Illuminati was also somewhat connected to the American and French revolutions, with the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, at least aware of the Illuminati and the ideology that Weishaupt proselytised. This is the true story of the Illuminati…

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Sources:

Billington, J. E. (1999) Fire in the Minds of Men - Origins of Revolutionary Faith (New Jersey: Transaction Publishers).
Ferguson, N. (2018) The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power (London: Penguin Books).
Hernández, I. Meet the Man Who Started the Illuminati (National Geographic) - https://on.natgeo.com/33qI7zy
Letter from Margaret B. Bonneville to Thomas Jefferson, 13 March 1813 - https://bit.ly/2B8X9xG
Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Bishop James Madison, 31 January 1800 - https://bit.ly/31baNuT
Saine, T. (1989). ‘A. G. F. Rebmann and the Condition of Germany in the 1970s.’ Monatshefte, 81:1, 10-18.

Note: the sources consulted to construct this narrative do not necessarily endorse the narrative constructed.

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Incense, Opium and Imperial Games: A Brief History of Hong Kong - With protests erupting in Hong Kong recently, it is important to understand the fascinating history of this special administrative region of China. From being under British control for over 100 years (starting with the First Opium War), to being occupied by Japan during the Second World War, Hong Kong has been at the center of global affairs for much of its history. Hong Kong is also a region of great symbolic significance to China, as the loss of Hong Kong Island after defeat in the First Opium War marked the start of the century of humiliation, a key event in the psychological history of China. This is the story of Hong Kong…

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Sources:

Basic Law Text - https://bit.ly/2FzoHzL
BBC News (2019) Hong Kong Profile - https://bbc.in/2MK2eW1
Blakemore, E. (2019) How Hong Kong’s complex history explains its current crisis with China National Geographic - https://on.natgeo.com/2kQkWOr
Callahan, W. (2004) National Insecurities: Humiliation, Salvation, and Chinese Nationalism, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, 29:2, 199-218.
Gelber, H. (2019) China as "Victim"? The Opium War That Wasn't, Center for European Studies Harvard - Working Paper Series #136.
Kwok-kin, A., A. (1989) ‘The History of Hong Kong: From a Village to a City,’ Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 29, 391-394.
Ng, J. (2017) Beijing says Sino-British treaty on Hong Kong handover still binding but does not allow UK to interfere, South China Morning Post - https://bit.ly/2m0v5Zi
Ng, J. (2017) Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong ‘no longer has any realistic meaning’, Chinese Foreign Ministry says, South China Morning Post - https://bit.ly/2HHr58s
Pletcher, K. (2019) Opium Wars, Encyclopaedia Britannica - https://bit.ly/2hSHBFs
Treaty of Nanjing, US-China Institute - https://bit.ly/2lVZjwm
UK Parliament Briefing (2019) Hong Kong: Joint Declaration - https://bit.ly/2YjgucH
Note: the sources consulted to construct this narrative do not necessarily endorse the narrative constructed.

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Michael Angelo Hayes (artist), James Henry Lynch (lithographer) Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection https://bit.ly/2m8kX0g
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Newspeak: George Orwell Predicted Brexit in his Book 1984...

Unless you have been living on Pluto for the past couple of years, you are probably sick to death of hearing about Brexit, irrespective of your political views on the matter. Despite the mass media endlessly covering many aspects of Brexit, the history of the word “Brexit” itself has had less coverage. This is the story of the word Brexit and how it pertains to George Orwell’s masterpiece, 1984. As it turns out, Brexit is directly from the pages of Orwell’s most famous book, as Brexit is literally newspeak!

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Sources:

Allen, K. (2012) Greek impasse raise fears of 'Grexit' – The Guardian, 7 Feb.
BBC News. (2016) Brexit added to Oxford English Dictionary - 15 Dec.
Buiter, W. Expert Bio – Council on Foreign Relations.
Courtine, J, J., and Willett, L. (1986) ‘A Brave New Language: Orwell's Invention of "Newspeak" in 1984’ SubStance, 15:2, 69-74.
Dowd, V. (2017) Why George Orwell is returning to the BBC – BBC News, 7 Nov.
Flood, A. (2016) Brexit named word of the year, ahead of Trumpism and hygge – The Guardian, 3 Nov.
Orwell, G. (2008) Nineteen Eighty-Four (London: Penguin Books).
Ro, C. (2019) How Brexit Changed the English Language – BBC News, 14 Mar.
Scott, J., and Gordon, T. (2009) Ogden, Charles Kay – Oxford Dictionary of National Bibliography.
Wilding, P. (2012) Stumbling towards the Brexit – BlogActiv, 15 May.

Note: the sources consulted to construct this narrative do not necessarily endorse the narrative constructed.

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PSYOP Master: Genghis Khan’s Use of Psychological Warfare to Expand the Mongol Empire - This is the story of how one of the greatest conquerors in human history, Genghis Khan, managed to found and expand perhaps the most epic empire to have ever existed: the Mongol Empire. At its zenith, the Mongol Empire stretched from India to Hungary, with Mongol warriors ripping through much of Eurasia.

One of the key ways Genghis Khan managed to expand his Empire so dramatically was through the effective use of psychological warfare. Genghis Khan’s use of psychological warfare essentially entailed using deception and propaganda to reduce the desire of a target population to fight what may have seemed to be a superhuman Mongol army. One of the psychological operations (or PSYOPS) used by Genghis Khan was to order his Mongol warriors to attach tree branches to the tails of their horses so that more dust and sand would flick-up into the air when riding, meaning that enemies observing a Mongol army from a distance would think that the army was far larger than it actually was in reality. Please watch the video to get the full story…

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Sources:

Kelly, J. (2008) The secret world of 'psy-ops' BBC News - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7464430...
Kerchner, P., Deckro, R., & Kloeber, J. (2001) Valuing Psychological Operations. Military Operations Research, 6(2), 45-65.
Narula, Sunil (2004) 'Psychological operations (PSYOPs): A conceptual overview', Strategic Analysis, 28:1, 177-192.
Padover, S. (1951) Psychological Warfare and Foreign Policy The American Scholar, 20(2), 151-161.
Weatherford, J. (2004) Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (New York, Broadway Books).
Tzu, S. (2009) The Art of War (New York: Classic Books International).

Note: the sources consulted to construct this narrative do not necessarily endorse the narrative constructed.

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Was Democracy Really Born in Ancient Athens? Why is the relationship between democracy and ancient Athens far more nuanced in reality than the way it is often portrayed? This is the story of the genesis of democracy and how it relates to ancient Athens in classical Greece. From the early reforms of Solon to the more comprehensive reforms of Cleisthenes, ancient Athens flourished as a democracy for well over a century, although this ancient form of democracy had notable limitations by present-day standards. The adoption of a form of this radical idea by the ancient Athenian civilisation did not go unchallenged however, as the Spartans invaded in a failed bid to reverse the move towards a more democratic constitution by the political leaders of classical Athens.

This video will also highlight the views of some of the most famous and arguably some of the wisest and greatest philosophers in the ancient world – namely, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – whose views on democracy as a governing constitution may surprise you, considering how well and how highly people think of democracy today. Interestingly, Socrates and Plato had deep suspicions of democracy at best, and hated democracy at worst, although Aristotle had a more nuanced view of the form of governing constitution that is widely perceived today to be the pinnacle political system any nation-state can adopt.

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Sources:

Aristotle (Translation – Sinclair, T., and Saunders, T.) (1981) The Politics (London: Penguin Group).
Berg-Schlosser, D. (2019) “Long Waves and Conjunctures of Democratization,” in Haerpfer, C., Bernhagan, P., Welzel, C. and Inglehart, R. (eds.) Democratization, 2nd edn. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 67-81.
Braund, D. (1994) ‘The Luxuries of Athenian Democracy David Braund,’ Greece and Rome, 41:1, 41-48.
Fox, R. L. (2006) The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome (London: Penguin Group).
McWhorter, R. L. (1951) ‘The Athenian Democracy,’ The Georgia Review, 5:3, 290-299.
Plato (Translation Lee, D.) (2007) The Republic (London: Penguin Group).

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This is the story of how subsidized grain and violent gladiatorial games were part of a Machiavellian political strategy by the Roman elite to keep the masses under control.

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Sources Consulted:

Beard, M. (2015) SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (London: Profile Books).
Brantlinger, P. (1983) Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay (Ithaca: Cornell University Press).
Fox, R.L. (2006) The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome (London: Penguin Books).
Killeen, F. (1953/54) ‘Bread and Circuses,’ Journal of Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, 25:3/4, 67-77.
Machiavelli, N. (Translation Constantine, P.) (2009) The Prince (London: Vintage Books) quote p.69.
Potter, D. (2013) The Emperors of Rome: The Story of Imperial Rome from Julius Caesar to the Last Emperor (London: Quercus Editions Ltd).

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Created 7 months, 2 weeks ago.

11 videos

CategoryEducation

This channel is dedicated to exploring the fascinating stories from history that often go untold.

Although I have a particular interest in ancient civilizations, this channel will highlight stories from a variety of time periods and geographical areas - if there is a story to be told, nothing else matters.

My name is Steven and I have a first-class honours degree in Politics and International Relations from Strathclyde University. As part of my degree, I took classes in history, journalism, creative writing and statistics, giving me a broad understanding of global affairs, both past and present.

Please subscribe to this channel and help support it by sharing, liking and donating to it. If you have any questions, sponsorship offers, copyright enquiries or if you need to get in touch for any other reason, please contact me via: [email protected]

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