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The myth-eaten corpse of Robert Burns

‘Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt,’ so wrote the other bard, Shakespeare. Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, has had a surfeit of biographical attention: upwards of three hundred biographical treatments, and as if many of these were not fanciful enough hundreds of novels, short stories, theatrical, television, and film treatments that often strain well beyond credulity.

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The death of Sir Winston Churchill, 24 January 1965

As anyone knows who has looked at the newspapers over the festive season, 2015 is a bumper year for anniversaries: among them Magna Carta (800 years), Agincourt (600 years), and Waterloo (200 years). But it is January which sees the first of 2015’s major commemorations, for it is fifty years since Sir Winston Churchill died (on the 24th) and received a magnificent state funeral (on the 30th).

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An interactive timeline of the history of anaesthesia

The field of anaesthesia is a subtle discipline, when properly applied the patient falls gently asleep, miraculously waking-up with one less kidney or even a whole new nose. Today, anaesthesiologists have perfected measuring the depth and risk of anaesthesia, but these breakthroughs were hard-won.

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The quintessential human instrument

The neat thing about the voice is that, while we don’t usually change the material, the shape is very flexible, and we can manipulate it to change our timbre. Overtone singing like Hefele’s takes an element of vocal sound and turns it into a new sort of instrument, inverting the typical relationship between instrument and timbre.

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Salamone Rossi as a Jew among Gentiles

As a Jewish musician working for the Mantuan court, and competing for the favors that its Christian musicians and composers hoped to gain, it was only inevitable for Rossi to have been considered an intruder.

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Top 10 commercial law cases of 2014

2014 was an eventful year in commercial law, but what were the top most significant cases? Read our run-down of the biggest cases from the past 12 months. For example, in December 2014, Apple won a long-running class action that was brought against them in 2005.

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ISIS’s unpredictable revolution

Revolutions have been surprising experts for generations. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, for example, the CIA commissioned a report into why it had predicted, 100 days before the fall of the monarchy, that the Shah’s regime would ride out the protests. During the “Arab Spring” uprisings in 2011, President Obama reportedly chastized the intelligence community for not having warned him in advance.

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A Motown music playlist

More than half a century after its founding, Motown is still remembered by fans, musicians, and historians as the mover and shaker of its generation. From The Temptations’ “My Girl” to Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” its reverberating influence is recognized even today, echoed in modern hits like Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ wildly popular “Uptown Funk.”

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Women’s contributions to the making of Motown: Solo artists

Starting in the early 1960s, female artists embarked upon solo careers with the Motown label. The first to be signed to the label was Mable John, a blues vocalist born in Bastrop, Louisiana. Slow melodic songs like “No Love” and “Who Wouldn’t Love a Man Like That” stood firmly in the blues genre yet only appealed to a limited, mature audience and did not translate into commercial success.

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Women’s contributions to the making of Motown: Girl Groups

The Marvelettes, a girl group consisting of Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, Juanita Cowart and Wanda Young, recorded Motown’s first number one pop hit, “Please Mr. Postman.” The upbeat song topped both the pop and R&B charts, making the Marvelettes one of the first all-girl groups in the industry to achieve such a feat.

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British lives by the numbers

January 2015 sees the addition of 226 biographies to the Oxford DNB, offering the lives of those who have played their part in shaping British history between the late 20th and early 21st century. The sectors and professions each of these individuals influenced range from medicine to film, including Nobel Prize and Oscar winners.

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Women’s contributions to the making of Motown: The Duets

Perhaps no other record label in America’s music history performed a more significant role in fashioning Rhythm and Blues’ assimilation into the country’s popular culture than Motown Records. Founded by Detroit songwriter Berry Gordy, Jr. in 1959, Motown (originally named Tamla Records) began producing hit records almost from its inception and continued to do so throughout the sixties.

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New lives added to the Oxford DNB include Amy Winehouse, Elizabeth Taylor, and Claude Choules

The New Year brings with it a new instalment of Oxford DNB biographies which, as every January, extend the Dictionary’s coverage of people who shaped British life in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. This January we add biographies of 226 men and women who died during 2011. These new biographies were commissioned by my predecessor as editor, Lawrence Goldman, but having recently assumed the editor’s chair, I take full and appreciative responsibility for introducing them.

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Ideology and a conducive political environment

ISIS is a “revolutionary” organization in a way that al-Qaeda and other like-minded extremist groups never were, and never really wanted to be. The “caliphate” — the historical political entity governed by Islamic law and tradition — might have been an inspiration as well as an aspiration, but it wasn’t actually going to happen in real life.

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ISIS is an outcome of a much bigger problem

To answer this question, one has to go back to the roots of this organization. ISIS did not come from a vacuum, and it is not this shadowy bunch of militants that mysteriously managed to control large areas of Iraq and Syria. ISIS has been around for a very long time, and its roots go deeper than its current military achievements.

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