Wednesday 1 March 2017

Aztecs, Vikings, Graves and Mammoths by Mary Hoffman

March can't seem to decide if it's coming in like a lion or a lamb. While it makes up its mind, I want to fill you in a bit on what's happening on The History Girls in the next 31 days.

Unusually we have not one but TWO competitions, to make up for the fact that February had its usual 28 days and no scope for a guest.

On March 4th, Sophia Bennett will be talking about her YA novel featuring the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Following Ophelia and asking a competition question. Then, on 29th we will be having a guest post and competition from Georgia Hunter.

On 18th March, I am swapping my usual first of the month post with Celia Rees and she will post on 1st April. The reason for this is a meeting at the Society of Authors on 16th March, Past Imperfect, called by Histeria, a group to which I also belong. The meeting is specifically to talk about historical fiction for children and Young Adults and will be Chaired by Kevin Crossley-Holland, who was our first ever History Boy (our first male guest).

So lots for you to look out for.

In the meantime, I'm giving you a round up of history-related stories I've read about this month.

First up, the search for the grave of James the First of Scotland:
National Gallery of Scotland
Ever since the skeleton of Richard the Third was excavated from a Leicestershire car park, the quest to find the resting place of other dead monarchs has become the new metal-detecting. You can read the full story here. A hostage, a victim of assassination and father of eight, he was married to Joan Beaufort (granddaughter of John of Gaunt), whose grave is also being sought.

The last resting-place of Margaret Tudor, Henry the Eighth's sister and another Queen of Scots, might also be discovered.

Next, two great English 16th century names together: Thomas Tallis and Katherine Parr. This fascinating story begins in 1976 when some papers were discovered in a wall at Corpus Christi College Oxford and identified as music by the Tudor composer.

Only recently were the words confirmed to be by Henry the Eighth's last queen, who had translated the Psalms into English in 1544 and published them anonymously.

The shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction will be announced this month. Here is the longlist:

Jo Baker A Country Road, A Tree (Doubleday)
Julian Barnes The Noise of Time (Jonathan Cape)
Sebastian Barry Days Without End (Faber)
Richard Francis Crane Pond (Europa)
Linda Grant The Dark Circle (Virago)
Charlotte Hobson The Vanishing Futurist (Faber)
Hannah Kent The Good People (Picador Australia)
Ed O’Loughlin Minds of Winter (riverrun)
Sarah Perry The Essex Serpent (Profile)
Dominic Smith The Last Painting of Sara de Vos (Allen & Unwin Australia)
Francis Spufford Golden Hill (Faber)
Graham Swift Mothering Sunday (Scribner)
Rose Tremain The Gustav Sonata (Chatto & Windus)

A Harvard team of scientists has claimed to be able to make woolly mammoths "de-extinct" within two years. The boast created some scepticism.

Mammoth at Ecomuseum in Rousse, Bulgaria. Photo by Tiia Monto
Could the Aztecs have died out because of Salmonella? We are all familiar with the idea that colonists bring weapons with them that are more deadly than guns and swords but this is a new theory. It's not yet confirmed but interesting.

In 2011 a Viking Boat Burial was unearthed in the appropriately named Swordle Bay in Scotland. A first report has just been issued describing the process of such a burial, the status of the corpse and the type of grave goods that were burial with him (they were rarely female).

Photograph of the Ardnamurchan Viking boat grave site, near Ockle in Scotland, taken by Jon Haylett.

(I acknowledge History's Headlines in History as the source for some of the above)

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