This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Easter Rising, a violent attempt by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland. Though a momentous event in itself, the Rising should be understood in the context of a decade of revolutionary activity during which Irish political culture was profoundly radicalised and partition came to look inevitable. It must also be understood in the context of the First World War.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about the consequences of David Cameron’s Bloomberg speech, where he set out his plans for a referendum on British membership of the EU. I was rather dubious about such a vote even happening, and even more so about the quality of the debate that would ensue. As much as I was wrong about the former, the latter has been more than borne out by events so far.
Many playwrights have explored race relations, particularly in America. The growth of the Civil Rights Movement gave rise to a range of plays protesting racism and exploring the African-American experience. Lorraine Hansberry made history as the first black woman to have a play on Broadway: A Raisin in the Sun, also the first play on Broadway to be directed by a black director.
Ancient Egyptian art dates all the way back to 3000BC and provides us with an understanding of ancient Egyptian socioeconomic structures and belief systems. The Ancient Egyptians also developed an array of diverse architectural structures and monuments, from temples to the pyramids that are still a major tourist attraction today. But how much do you know about Ancient Egyptian art and architecture?
It was only after I finished writing The Founding Fathers: A Very Short Introduction that I got to see the off-Broadway version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton: An American Musical” at New York City’s Public Theater. I was lucky enough to see the Broadway version (revised and expanded) last month.
Proving to be both varied and fascinating, moons are far more common than planets in our Solar System. Our own Moon has had a profound influence on Earth, not only through tidal effects, but even on the behaviour of some marine animals. But how much do we really know about moons?
Pre-eminent among writers of mystery stories is, in my opinion, Dorothy L. Sayers. She is ingenious, witty, original – and scientific too, including themes like the fourth dimension, electroplating, and the acoustics of bells in some of her best stories. She is also the inventor of the voice-activated lock, which her hero Lord Wimsey deploys in the 1928 short story ‘The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba’.
In Rome on 22 June 1633 an elderly man was found guilty by the Catholic Inquisition of rendering himself “vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having held and believed a doctrine which is false and contrary to the divine and Holy Scripture”. The doctrine in question was that “the sun is the centre of the world and does not move from east to west, that the earth moves and is not the centre of the world.
Some individuals loom larger in mycological history than they deserve, but, to be fair, this mild indictment applies both to those with, and those without, a Y chromosome. The science of mycology blossomed in Darwin’s time, when German botanist Anton de Bary (1831-1888) began to decode the life cycles of fungi and penned the first textbook on fungi.
Those who argue that lame-duck presidents should not nominate justices to the Supreme Court have forgotten or ignored the most consequential appointment in the Court’s — and the nation’s — history: President John Adams’s 1801 appointment of John Marshall as the nation’s fourth Chief Justice.
The discovery of gravitational waves, announced on 11 February 2016 by scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), has made headline news around the world. One UK broadsheet devoted its entire front page to a image of a simulation of two orbiting black holes on which they superimposed the headline “The theory of relativity proved”.
This year, 2016, is a very special year for the Very Short Introductions (VSI) series. Not only is our 21st birthday but we are also publishing our 500th VSI title in the autumn. Since our launch in 1995, Very Short Introductions have been filling in the gaps of our knowledge with a VSI to almost everything.
Noise barriers are not regarded with a great deal of affection. In fact, they’re not much regarded at all; perhaps not surprising, given that the goal of their installers is to ensure that those who benefit notice neither the barrier nor the noise sources it hides. The majority are basic workmanlike structures, built according to tried and trusted principles.
Most people have a good idea what it is to have a Stoical attitude to life, but what it means to have an Epicurean attitude is not so obvious. When attempting to decipher the true nature of Epicureanism it is first necessary to dispel the impression that fine dining is its central theme.
Towards the end of his lecture on ‘techniques of the body’, delivered to a meeting of the Société Française de Psychologie in 1934, the sociologist and anthropologist Marcel Mauss discussed the methods of breathing practiced by Daoist priests and Yogic mystics. Far from being instinctive, these techniques require a lengthy apprenticeship.
Though caused by microscopic agents, infectious diseases have played an outsized role in human history. They have shaped societies, lent us words and metaphors, and turned the tide of wars. Humans have eliminated some diseases, but others continue to plague us. In this quiz, find out if confusion is contagious or if you’re immune to the challenge.