By Order of General Ludd and His Luddites

The Luddites were a British labor movement active roughly between 1811 and 1817. They opposed the growing mechanization of the British textile industry by smashing machines, burning buildings, and threatening – and sometimes killing – business leaders and magistrates. They had a secret, probably fictional, leader. And they’re more relevant now than ever. Let’s look at what […]

The Hidden Treasure of Bahadur Shah & Ultraviolet Grasslands Review

Last week, I wrapped up my five-part Babur series, but I still wanted to present a little coda to the Babur story: a tale of hidden treasure found by his son and successor, Humayun. Because this post is about half the length of what I usually shoot for, I also found the time to (finally) […]

The Scandalous Memoirs of Regency England

For the upper classes, the early 1800s in Britain were an elegant and glamorous age. This is the time of Bridgerton, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice. In London high society, it was an era of lavish balls, fabulous outfits, and not thinking too much about the ongoing Napoleonic Wars or the growing poverty in the […]

The Lavish High Society of 1888 Vienna

In 1888, the Austro-Hungarian empire was in its decadent final decades. In Vienna, the capital, baroque splendor was on full display. Yet while ‘baroque’ can mean glitzy and overwrought, it also refers to an artistic style then over a century out of date. And that’s late 1800s Vienna: a cultural Mecca that was also the […]

“No, I’m the Real Martin Guerre!”

In 1548, Basque peasant Martin Guerre disappeared from his village in southwest France, abandoning his wife and child. Eight years later, he returned. Life improved; he was a better husband, father, and member of his community. But Guerre’s uncle brought a lawsuit against him claiming this peasant wasn’t the real Martin Guerre, but a similar-looking […]

The Wreck of the Convict Ship ‘George III’

In 1835, the British convict ship George III struck an unmapped rock off Tasmania and sank. 134 people died, most of them prisoners being transported to Tasmania to serve their sentences at hard labor. The story has some interesting wrinkles that make this a very gameable template for a sea voyage at your table, and […]

The Pirate King of Iceland

In 1809, a British merchant ship carrying the former Danish pirate Jørgen Jørgensen arrived in Iceland, a Danish dependency. The pirate overthrew the Danish governor without bloodshed and proclaimed himself king of an independent Iceland. Two months later, a British warship arrived, arrested Jørgensen, and restored the Danish governor – even though Denmark and Britain […]

Earnest Pleas in Early Muslim Poetry

Khalifa ibn Khayyat was an Arab historian and religious scholar active in the 800s A.D. His history of the Umayyad and early Abbasid caliphates is one of the oldest to have survived. It records a lot more poetry than you see in Western histories. Most of these poems are put in the mouths of people […]

Madame Chouteau’s Clever Frontier Inheritance

Marie-Thérèse Chouteau was one of the founders of the city of St. Louis, Missouri. She was a powerful and unusual woman, existing both inside the Franco-Spanish colonial system and outside it, depending on what suited her needs. The way she obtained her inheritance from her not-husband screams to be turned into an adventure, and she […]

High Society NPCs from Aubrey’s Lives

Last month we looked at eleven bizarre scholarly NPCs from 1600s Britain, taken from a wonderful historical source: Aubrey’s Brief Lives. This week we return to the Lives for fourteen high-society NPCs, and – as before – we’re less interested in the real biographies of these people than in the gossip Aubrey reports about them. One […]

The Great Onion Scheme

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The Capitalist Cannibal Butthole Bird

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Theobald Meyrick, Urban Villain

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Shen Fu’s Complicated Family

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More NPC Foibles from Suetonius

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