Dan Jones

Dan Jones

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They're too cool for school: meet the new history boys and girls

W hat does history mean to you? Dusty tweed in ivory towers, perhaps, or a man of a certain age, with a slightly funny voice, being both caustic and informative on television? Does it mean tramping around a site of historical interest on a wet afternoon? Or, at best, a weighty tome read by an open fire.

Today's schoolchildren do not leap at the chance to study history - in fact, it's no longer even a core subject. The Conservative education spokesman, Michael Gove, says that history has been dying out in Britain's schools in the last decade - and it's true that the percentage of pupils taking GCSEs in the subject has fallen. But that might be about to change because history is becoming cool and the fightback is being spearheaded by a group of young, fashionable writers.

They have been an actor, an artist and a TV presenter, are aged between 25 and 35 and they all have book contracts. One wrote his account of the year 1381 in a corner of the trendy London members' club, Soho House, during leave from his day job at a men's magazine. And rather than being looked down upon by the old guard, they are highly regarded by the academic establishment: David Starkey is considered a mentor by two of them Simon Sebag Montefiore by others.

"They have brilliant new ideas, excellent writing and they're exceptionally clever," says Georgina Capel of the literary agency Capel & Land, who represents established historians Sebag-Montefiore and Tristram Hunt, and who counts four of the new crop among her clients. Her only worry is that they might be "too pretty" to be taken seriously. "They'll just have to prove what formidable minds they have."

So who are the new history boys (and girls) and why have they come along now, when the subject is said to be in decline? The crop of six being tipped as the Starkeys of the future are Dan Jones, Claudia Renton, Ben Wilson, John Bew, Francesca Beauman and Simon Reid-Henry. They believe the key to revitalising history is a mix of strong narratives, exciting personalities and quirky facts.

According to 31-year-old Reid-Henry - a geographer by training who is currently working on his second book for general readers - this wave of young historians has sprouted up to fill the vacuum left by the departure of theory - or the "-isms" - from mainstream academic life. "Academic history has been facing a 'What the hell are we doing?' moment," he says. Claudia Renton, who is 27 and writing a biography of the Wyndham sisters (she carries their famous portrait by John Singer Sargent around with her on her iPhone), agrees: "I think writing your books with specific political aims in mind is an old-fashioned approach. It's not particularly helpful. I think if you produce a good narrative history, which convincingly creates the world you're writing about, then people will read it and draw their own conclusions."

"The greatest of all crimes," Francesca Beauman insists, "is dullness." For her, the secret to making history compelling is to pick quirky subjects. "Two years into my degree when it came to picking subjects for our dissertations, everyone else was choosing to write about something sensible like 'The New Deal 1933-1939' but it seemed more fun to become the world's expert in something nobody else knew about, hence, pineapples, the subject of my first book."

Of the six historians, Georgina Capel represents Simon Reid-Henry, Claudia Renton, Dan Jones (27 years old recently published a well received book on the Peasants' Revolt) and John Bew (29 working on a book on Lord Castlereagh, the British foreign secretary who oversaw the defeat of Napoleon).

Unlike Bew and Reid-Henry, Dan Jones and Claudia Renton left university after their undergraduate degrees, he to work in journalism and she to act. Since then they have co-authored a book on historical heroes with Sebag Montefiore. "They were both wonderful," he says now. "They are the vanguard of the new generation of talented historians and gifted storytellers. Dan's book on the Peasants' Revolt is both exciting and scholarly and I know that Claudia's will be equally admirable."

Renton is attempting to finish her book on the Wyndham sisters before beginning law school, but until recently she was juggling history with a successful acting career. It was only after starring in ITV's Distant Shores and a run at the National Theatre in The Voysey Inheritance last year that she conceded it needed a period of full-time concentration. "I try to write about 2,000 words a day," she says. "Although if I feel like cheating, I can always quote a really long letter."

Renton describes writing history as "like being able to read someone else's diary without getting busted". She explains that, despite getting a first-class degree from Oxford and citing her tutors at Trinity College as her inspirations, it was working with Sebag Montefiore that was "the best education I could have had: write so that people can enjoy, wear your knowledge lightly. Enjoy the process, rather than trying to impress. Acting definitely informed my approach: it taught me how to get under the skin of my characters and the importance of a strong narrative line."

Jones agrees that having a separate career can be advantageous. "Working as a journalist" - he was features editor of Men's Health magazine - "helped me immeasurably with knowing how people like to consume biographical narrative history. I had toyed with the idea of staying in academia but I was advised not to by people at Cambridge. You see too many academics in Britain dragged down by constant paperwork and they never have the time to write much." Jones was taught at Cambridge by Starkey, whom he describes as an "inspiration". "Contrary to his Mr Nasty image, he has been a great patron of young historians. I am very friendly with him still."

Ben Wilson, 29, also worked with David Starkey - he was employed after Cambridge as a researcher on Starkey's Channel 4's Monarchy series on Channel 4. Wilson's third book, What Price Liberty, was published recently by Faber and, as befits a member of this pack who look forward while looking back, his was among the first books to be sold online - not through Amazon and other similar websites, but to be downloaded for whatever price people chose to pay. Based on the model used by Radiohead for their last album, the publisher made it free to access (ideally to be read on a Sony e-reader, Kindle electronic book, or even a normal computer) and asked for donations. "What was very pleasing was that some people came back and paid after they'd read it," says Wilson.

The new historians are aware of the need to use the web to engage with their readers. While Reid-Henry points out it's nothing new and harks back to a world of pamphleteers, Jones says it gives a good opportunity to prove the abiding relevance of history. "We can write on blogs about contemporary events seen through a historical prism," he explains. "But we have to accept that people are not just buying books any more: when you look at a historian you're being offered a brand and people expect you to share your lives with Twitter updates and Facebook postings, as well as your findings in your books."

For future historians, the fact that this generation is happy to do so is fortunate indeed.

Dan Jones on 1,000 years of British history

To mark HistoryExtra’s 1,000th episode, Dan Jones takes us on a whistlestop tour through the last millennium of British history, touching on some of the most memorable moments and reinterrogating the familiar stories we tell about our national past.

Dan Jones is the author of Crusaders: An Epic History of the Holy Land (Head of Zeus, 2019).


Dan Jones, author of The Templars, returns to dazzle readers with a fascinating look at the Crusades. And lest you hesitate because events that took place a thousand years ago appear irrelevant, rest assured: This is no dry, boring tome. Entering the world of Crusaders: The Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Lands is a bit like plunging into the political machinations of the fight for the Iron Throne of Westeros, only in this case all the players and events are real.

Like &ldquoGame of Thrones,&rdquo this epic tale is peopled with a large cast. Helpfully, Jones begins with a chart of major characters (17 pages&rsquo worth). The book also boasts several maps, copious source notes, lists of major rulers in the appendix and, of course, an extensive bibliography. In other words, even neophytes will feel well armed to appreciate the journey.

And what a journey (or rather journeys) it is. The book is organized into three parts, with the first section devoted to the personalities and events that birthed the crusader movement from the 1060s forward the second takes place in the 12th century and focuses on crusader states in Syria and Palestine and the third covers the events that precipitated the Second and Third Crusades in 1144 and 1187.

Jones&rsquo focus on human characters and his strength as a storyteller are what make Crusaders a success. Vivid descriptions and the use of primary source quotes help readers span the centuries. The book begins, for instance, with a colorful scene between a Norman count reacting to advice from his courtiers: &ldquoCount Roger of Sicily lifted his leg and farted. &lsquoBy the truth of my religion,&rsquo he exclaimed, &lsquothere is more use in that than in what you have to say!&rsquo &rdquo

In a thought-provoking epilogue, Jones brings his narrative into the present day. For while the Crusades are part of history, violent conflicts between Christians and Muslims continue to shadow the 21st century. &ldquoThe Crusades are over,&rdquo Jones notes in a final thought. &ldquoBut as long as there are crusaders&mdashreal or imaginary&mdashin the world, the war goes on and on.&rdquo

Welshman Dan Jones Was One of Zion’s Busiest Bees

One of Utah’s more colorful founders was Dan Jones, so beloved by Mormon immigrants from Wales that he was called “the Welsh apostle.” As a speaker he was said to have captivated audiences for up to three hours at a time, wrenching tears and laughter from believer and nonbeliever alike. He saturated Wales with thousand of pages in pamphlets, tracts, and translations of Mormon texts so that anyone who read Cymric must have found it difficult not to be aware of Mormonism.

Jones was born in northern Wales in 1811. He went to sea as a teenager, sailing five oceans and learning a smattering of many languages, including Hindi. Arriving in America at age 29, he and a partner built the Maid of Iowa and began steaming freight and passengers up the Mississippi. After Jones dealt kindly with a passel of immigrants to Nauvoo, Joseph Smith said of him, “God bless this little man.”

In 1843 Jones became a Mormon. He was one of five men who stayed with Joseph and Hyrum Smith their last night in Carthage Jail. The next day, while Jones was away fetching a lawyer, the Smiths were shot and killed.

In 1844 Jones and his wife returned to northern Wales where they had small success reviving a handful of Mormon branches. Then they transferred to the urban south. There Jones began publishing his monthly magazine, the Udgorn Seion (“Zion’s Trumpet”), and baptizing converts by the score. Once an entire Protestant congregation was baptized after hearing Jones preach. On another occasion he disarmed, solely through oratory, a police band sent to arrest him for disturbing the peace. When the Joneses left Wales, 55 Mormon branches boasted 3,603 members.

In late 1848 some 2,000 Welsh converts sailed to America with the Joneses. By then the main body of Saints was in Utah, so Jones followed, arriving in the summer of 1849. Initially, he established his followers on the west bank of the Jordan River. He himself was soon on the road again, accompanying Parley P. Pratt to central Utah on a scouting expedition for likely settlement sites. During this 800-mile trip he met the Utah chief Wakara.

Wakara had asked Brigham Young to send settlers to Sanpete Valley, perhaps hoping that Mormon cattle could substitute for the bison Utes were traveling all the way to Colorado to hunt. In response, Isaac Morley colonized Manti. Two years later, with the Utes and Shoshones warring, Mormon settlers were advised to fortify their communities. So Jones added his Welsh group to the struggling Manti settlement. He helped build the fort, ran a store, procured and operated a wheat threshing machine, and served as Manti’s first mayor.

In 1852 Jones returned to Wales where he made 2,000 more converts by preaching in homes, schools, theaters, inns, chapels, blacksmith shops, rented halls, public squares, and on river banks and bridges. When he left Wales again, it was with a company of 700 English, Welsh, and Irish Saints headed for Boston.

Back in Utah, Jones for a time operated Brigham Young’s Great Salt Lake boat, The Timely Gull. In 1859 he settled in Provo. He was involved in a proposal to freight coal from Wales, Sanpete County, by wagon to Utah Lake and from there by boat to Salt Lake Valley, the latter leg under his direction, but nothing came of this project. He died in 1861, leaving three wives and six children and having lived several lifetimes in his 49 years.

Sources: Ronald D. Dennis, The Call of Zion: The Story of the First Welsh Mormon Emigration (Provo: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1897) Wendell J. Ashton, Theirs Is the Kingdom (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1948).

Dan Jones

Dan Jones, a prominent early Latter-day Saint from Wales, was born into a mining family but soon left the trade to travel the world as a mariner. In 1840, he immigrated to the United States with his wife, Jane Melling Jones, where he was a steamboat captain on the Mississippi River. In 1843, Dan and Jane Jones joined the Church in Nauvoo. Jones became a close friend and business partner of Joseph Smith, who purchased a half-share in Jones’s steamboat, the Maid of Iowa. When the Prophet went to Carthage Jail in June 1844, Jones accompanied him.

On June 26, 1844, Jones spent a restless night with the Prophet. When Smith asked him if he was afraid to die, Dan Jones’s reply was simple: “Engaged in such a cause I do not think death would have many terrors.”

In response, Smith spoke his last known prophecy: “You will yet see Wales,” Smith told Jones, “and fulfil the mission appointed you.” The next morning, Jones was sent on errands by the Prophet and was gone when Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred.

A few months later, Dan and Jane Jones left for Wales. Jones preached the restored gospel in person and in print with a zeal matched by few others. In the April 1845 conference of the British Mission, Jones said “he had been in search of the principles of truth—he had sought it in almost every clime” but had not found it until he met the Latter-day Saints. Jones then pledged to be an instrument in bringing his countrymen into the Church. His words, said the clerk in the meeting, were so moving that “we ceased to write, in order to give way to the effect produced upon our feelings.”

For more than a decade, Jones fulfilled several missions to Wales. During his time as a missionary in his homeland, Jones produced several tracts and other published materials to expound and defend the doctrine of the Church. In 1846, as the president of the Church in Wales, Jones began publishing Prophwyd y Jubili, the first Welsh-language periodical devoted to defending the Latter-day Saints. Through his preaching and publishing, Jones brought numerous converts to the Church and helped many of them immigrate to Utah.

Book Review: The Plantagenets, by Dan Jones

“What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?” ponders Eleanor of Aquitaine in James Goldman’s 1966 play The Lion in Winter. If she only knew! Eleanor was the wife of King Henry II (r. 1154-89), the first of the Plantagenet dynasty to rule England, as well as much of what is now France, for the next 250 years. Indeed, if one were to plot the fortunes of the succeeding generations of Plantagenet kings, the result would resemble something very like a sine curve.

The fortunes of the Tudors and Stuarts ran smoothly compared with those of the turbulent Plantagenets. Their story began with a shipwreck that drowned the only male heir to King Henry I, the last surviving son of William the Conqueror. When Henry died, England was subjected to a ruinous civil war over the succession that lasted nearly 20 years and from which emerged Henry II. Over the next 35 years Henry II, through a combination of military prowess, diplomatic statesmanship and seemingly inexhaustible effort, managed both to rebuild England and to establish a Continental empire to rival that of the Holy Roman emperors. Yet in only a few short years Henry’s last surviving son and heir, the disastrous King John, almost completely undid his father’s magnificent life’s work. At the time of his death John left England once again under the power of the rebellious Norman barons, and most of Henry’s continental holdings in the hands of King Philip II of France. For the next 200 years the history of the Plantagenets is traceable through a line of kings who seemingly alternated between strong and powerful nation-builders and their extremely weak and ineffectual successors.

Dan Jones’ book traces the history of that royal dynasty, beginning with the rise of Henry II in 1154. It concludes with the downfall of King Richard II in 1399, deposed by cousin Henry Bolingbroke who, as King Henry IV, established the new ruling house of Lancaster. The book recounts the sweeping story of the development of England from a primitive feudal society toward a modern nation. For all the despotic turbulence, it was the Plantagenet period that also witnessed the signing of the Magna Carta, the basis of modern British law, as well as the creation of Parliament, the basis of today’s British government.

Nevertheless, the central characters of the book are the Plantagenet kings who, regardless of their differing fortunes, all shared certain distinct family characteristics—namely pride, ambition, cruelty, greed and violent tempers. In fact, as the text reveals, hot tempers often seem to have proved their undoing.

The Plantagenets is a lively and entertaining retelling of the history of medieval England, although historians may argue the ruling family didn’t actually die out with Richard II. A case could be made that the succeeding houses of York and Lancaster, the members of which contended violently with each other over the crown during the 15th century, were nothing more than rival branches of the Plantagenet family. The Plantagenet connection of Henry Tudor, the usurper who eventually succeeded to the throne in 1485 as King Henry VII, was far more tenuous than that of the houses of either York or Lancaster, both of which had pretty much wiped each other out over three decades of civil war. All in all The Plantagenets is a must for those interested in medieval history or the history of the royal family.

Dan Jones’s Girlfriend

Dan Jones is single. He is not dating anyone currently. Dan had at least 1 relationship in the past. Dan Jones has not been previously engaged. He was born in Reading, England but is of Welsh descent. According to our records, he has no children.

Like many celebrities and famous people, Dan keeps his personal and love life private. Check back often as we will continue to update this page with new relationship details. Let’s take a look at Dan Jones past relationships, ex-girlfriends and previous hookups.

Dan Jones’s birth sign is Leo. Leos love being coddled and having their egos stroked. Leos are attracted to someone who's just as vibrant and unique as they are. The most compatible signs with Leo are generally considered to be Aries, Gemini, Libra, and Sagittarius. The least compatible signs with Leo are generally considered to be Taurus and Scorpio. Dan Jones also has a ruling planet of Sun.

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What the Far Right Gets Wrong About the Crusades

I n January this year, at a courthouse in Wichita, Kansas, three members of a right-wing militia group were sentenced to a combined total of 81 years in jail for plotting the mass murder of Muslims on American soil.

During the 2016 presidential election campaign, the men &ndash convinced that they had a duty to prevent the American government from &lsquoselling this country out’ &ndash had stockpiled weapons and attempted to manufacture or buy explosives. And they had picked their target: an apartment complex in Garden City housing Somalian Muslim refugees.

Their plans were foiled by FBI agents, who infiltrated the group and bugged their communications, recording them making detailed plans to detonate car bombs. The plotters discussed the possibility of shooting Muslim people with arrows dipped in pigs&rsquo blood, and they referred to Muslim immigrants and refugees as cockroaches.

The group&rsquos ethos was anti-government, nationalist, and anti-Islamic. In a four-page manifesto scrawled in black, blue and green ink on a spiral-bound notepad they claimed they were ready to rescue the Constitution and prevent the government from &lsquoillegally bringing in Muslims by the thousands.&rsquo And in case any doubt remained about their feelings toward Muslims in the United States, they called themselves &lsquoThe Crusaders&rsquo.

The crusades &ndash the long series of wars fought between 1096 and 1492 under the direction of medieval popes against a wide range of enemies of many different faiths, including Sunni and Shia Muslims &ndash have long been fascinating to the extreme right wing, both in the United States and elsewhere.

The square-limbed crusader cross, often accompanied by the Latin phrase Deus Vult (God Wills It &ndash a catchphrase shouted by warriors during the First Crusade in 1095 -1099AD) is a symbol often spotted on white supremacist marches. Crusader memes, such as an image of a Knight Templar accompanied by the caption &lsquoI&rsquoll see your jihad and raise you one crusade&rsquo, are popular on hard-right talk-boards and Facebook pages. The masthead of the prominent white supremacist website The Daily Stormer features a cartoon image of a crusader knight and the phrase Deus Vult.

Crusader iconography and the language of crusading is usually rolled together with other right-wing tropes and generic threats of violence against non-whites and women. Last month, for example, the FBI arrested 35-year old Eric Lin in Seattle, WA, on charges of sending dozens of racist and threatening Facebook messages to a woman in Miami, in which Lin invoked the authority of Adolf Hitler, promised to cut out the woman&rsquos heart and eat it, called for the death of all Hispanic people and said he thanked God that “President Donald John Trump is President and he will launch a Racial War and Crusade” in which black people, Hispanics and Muslims would be sent to concentration camps.

Sometimes, the crusading rhetoric of online cranks and neo-Nazis is translated into deadly action. Nowhere has this been more chillingly demonstrated recently than in New Zealand, where on March 15th this year a lone gunman murdered more than forty people worshiping at mosques in Christchurch. The assault rifles and automatic shotguns used to carry out his crimes were daubed with the references to crusader battles dating back to the twelfth century AD and the names of crusader warriors including the medieval lord Bohemond of Taranto, prince of Antioch.

In a manifesto explaining his actions, which was emailed to recipients including New Zealand&rsquos Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, the killer called his crimes &lsquorevenge against Islam for 1,300 years of war and devastation that it has brought upon the people of the West. He quoted Urban II, the first pope to preach a crusade, in 1095, and wrote in block capitals: “ASK YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD POPE URBAN DO?”

In harking back repeatedly to the crusading era, the angry young men of the white supremacist far right mirror the language often used by Islamist extremists and ISIS fighters, who glorify suicide bombings and other terror attacks on westerners and Christians (such as the Sri Lanka church bombings of Easter Sunday this year) as strikes against “citizens of the crusader coalition.” Both groups remember with barely concealed glee the unfortunate moment on September 16th 2001 when President George W. Bush stood on the White House lawn and told reporters that “this crusade, this war against terrorism, is going to take a while.”

It is easy to see why. The crusades have immense propaganda value to anyone who wishes to suggest that the Islamic world and the Christian West are engaged in a permanent civilizational war dating back a thousand years or more, from which there is no escape and in which there can only be one victor.

Superficially, at least, it is possible to read the history of the medieval crusades in such a way. In 1095-6 Pope Urban sent the first crusader armies out of western Europe with the twin aims of attacking Muslim warlords were at war the Christian Byzantine emperor in Constantinople, then seizing Jerusalem from its Islamic rulers, loyal to the Shi&rsquoite caliph in Cairo. From the 1090s until the 1290s, territorial wars were thereafter waged against a variety of Muslim rulers in Syria, Palestine and Egypt.

At the same time, a second theatre of warfare saw clashes between Christian rulers of the petty medieval kingdoms of Spain and Portugal do battle with a variety of Islamic rulers in the southern Spanish region known as al-Andalus: this was the Reconquista, which ran until 1492, when Granada, the last Muslim stronghold on mainland Spain, surrendered to the “Catholic monarchs” Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile.

Later, from the fourteenth century onwards, Christian rulers and crusading military organizations did battle with armies of the Ottoman empire across the Mediterranean and into eastern Europe and the Balkans. (This is one reason why the anti-Islamic fascist rhetoric is particularly prevalent today in countries like Serbia and Hungary.)

In other words, the medieval crusades did indeed contain a clear spine of conflict between Christian and Islamic powers. It is also true that at certain times, these wars were essentially spiritual: that is to say, making war on unbelievers, either through the crusade or its Islamic equivalent, the jihad, was an end in itself. Yet we do not have to look very far at all to realize that the story is rather more complex than it appears.

For a start, medieval crusades were by no means exclusively fought against Muslims. One of the busiest regions of crusading was in fact the Baltic, where for centuries armies wearing crusader crosses fought against pagans in modern Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In the south of France there was a long crusade in the thirteenth century against heretics known as Cathars (the &lsquoAlbigensian crusade&rsquo).

In 1204, during the ill-fated Fourth Crusade, a French and Venetian fleet disgorged an army which laid siege to Constantinople, slaughtering and robbing Greek Christians and burning hundreds of acres of the greatest city in eastern Christendom to the ground. And after the papacy of Innocent III (1198-1216) popes began to use the crusade as a blunt political instrument against their allies, launching crusades against Christian rulers up to and including Holy Roman Emperors &ndash supposedly the secular defender of Christendom in the west.

Into this more nuanced picture, historians will also point out that crusader armies were not exclusively staffed with Christian soldiers. In the Holy Land, Muslim mercenaries such as the light cavalry known as turcopoles were often happy to fight alongside Christians. In 1244, one of the most important battles of the entire crusading period was fought between the sultan of Egypt and an alliance of crusader knights and Islamic forces from the cities of Homs, Aleppo and Kerak. (The crusaders and their allies suffered a crushing defeat.)

Finally, for all that modern zealots like to paint the crusades as a period of mutual hostility between Christians and Muslims, the truth is that the story was more often one of co-operation, trade and co-existence between people of different faiths and backgrounds. A staple of modern crusader memes is the image of a Templar knight preparing to make righteous war on non-Christian unbelievers. Yet the great Syrian soldier-poet Usama ibn Munqidh (d.1188) wrote of the Templars in warm and friendly terms, recounting that when he visited crusader Jerusalem the Templars in their global headquarters would clear out one of their chapels to allow him to pray towards Mecca.

None of this nuanced history tends to appear in the manifestos of terrorists, or would-be car-bombers. They are content, alas, to perpetuate an idea of the crusades that is binary and zero-sum: an us-or-them narrative designed to justify hatred, racist vitriol, violence and even murder. The medieval crusades were a largely dreadful misdirection of religious enthusiasm towards painful and bloody ends. They were neither a glorious clash of civilizations, nor a model for the world as it is today.

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