Photograph of Josephine Butler

30 December

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Josephine Butler (pictured above) the Christian feminist and social reformer, died today in 1906. She campaigned for an end to child prostitution and child trafficking to Europe, as well as for the right of women to vote and to have a better education. Towards the end of her life, she also wrote about racism:

‘Great Britain will in future be judged, condemned or justified, according to her treatment of those innumerable, coloured races, heathen or partly Christianized, over whom her rule extends … Race prejudice is a poison which will have to be cast out if the world is ever to be Christianized…’ Josephine Butler

Bernard Gui, infamous as a medieval inquisitor, thanks to his fictional cameo role in the novel, The Name of the Rose, died today in 1331. Gui was chief ‘inquisitor of heretical depravity’ (as he styled himself) of Toulouse, France. Modern historians reckon he sentenced 45 people to be burned at the stake, 307 to be imprisoned, and 143 to wear yellow crosses advertising their heresy.

Grigori Rasputin died in – to say the least – bizarre circumstances today in 1916. A dissolute Siberian monk, he gained enormous control over the family of Tsar Nicholas II by ‘healing’ their son Alexei of haemophilia. Authenticated accounts of his assassination agree that he consumed enough poisoned gateaux and wine to kill a regiment, and when that had no effect, his assailant emptied a revolver into him. The gang who plotted his death wrapped up the corpse and started celebrating, when he leapt up and tried to strangle one of them. He was shot four more times, wrapped up again and thrown into the river. The police autopsy found that he had died of a combination of the cold and drowning.

Image: LSE Library

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