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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Why posh politicians pretend to speak Latin

When Jacob Rees-Mogg wished to criticise the judges of the European Union, he said, “Let me indulge in the floccinaucinihilipilification of EU judges.” The meaning of the jocular term (the action of judging something to be worthless) is not as important as its source—the Eton Latin Grammar. Latin and Latinate English flow readily from the […]

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What early modern theater tells us about child sexual abuse

The sexual abuse of children endemic in the Roman Catholic Church is once again in the news, with Pope Francis mandating reporting within the Church. The Catholic Church is not alone; investigative journalists have revealed a pattern of sexual misconduct among Southern Baptist pastors and deacons over a twenty-year period, involving more than seven hundred victims.

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Defining Central Europe in the aftermath of World War I

The Great War ended the age of empires in continental Europe. National narratives of the successor states have it that they materialized like the proverbial jack-in-the-box in 1918. In reality, the transition from empire to nation state was a process that lasted years, and thus prolonged the violence of the World War long into the postwar area. It is only logical, if one thinks about it: in Central Europe, a vast area between Russia and Germany was turned into a tabula rasa on which now new borders had to be drawn. It certainly does not come as a surprise that this was not achieved by peaceful means. In 1919, while peace was established in Paris, fighting went on in Central Europe.

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Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday

Few lives have been as heavily documented as Queen Victoria’s, who kept a careful record of her own life in journals from a young age. In celebration of Victoria’s 200th birthday today, discover six facts you may not have known about one of the longest-reigning British monarchs.

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Looking at Game of Thrones, in Old Norse

The endtime is coming. The night is very long indeed; sun and moon have vanished. From the east march the frost-giants, bent on the destruction of all that is living. From the south come fiery powers, swords gleaming brightly. A dragon flies overhead. And, terrifyingly, the dead are walking too.

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Preaching as teaching in the Medieval church

We have long assumed that medieval sermons were written for the laity, that is, those with no Latin and probably minimal literacy. But most of the sermons that survive in English contain a significant amount of Latin. What did a medieval lay person understand when he or she heard a sermon?

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9 forgotten facts about Leonardo da Vinci

For over 500 years, the masterful works of Leonardo da Vinci have awed artists, connoisseurs, and laypeople alike. Often considered the first High Renaissance artist, Leonardo worked extensively in Florence, Milan, and Rome before ending his career in France, and his techniques and writings influenced artists for centuries after his death. However, to refer to Leonardo da Vinci as just an artist minimizes his role in numerous areas of study; in addition to painting, sculpture, and drawing, the quintessential “Renaissance Man” left an indelible mark on architecture, engineering, science, philosophy, and even music.

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Exploring the Da Vinci Requiem

Wimbledon Choral Society and conductor, Neil Ferris, commissioned me to write the Da Vinci Requiem to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. Leonardo died on 2 May 1519 at the Château du Clos Lucé, Amboise, France; Wimbledon Choral Society will premiere the work in the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 7 May 2019.

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Notre-Dame, a work in progress

At dusk on Monday, April 15th, just in time for the evening news, the world was treated to the horrendous spectacle of uncontrollable flames licking the roof of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. The fire spread from a scaffold that had been installed six months earlier for restorations.

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Reconsidering the period room as a museum-made object

Period rooms were widespread among European museums during the last decades of the nineteenth century, and became popular in North American institutions in the early twentieth. But the debate about whether period rooms are “authentic” or “fake” tends to ignore what they really are: a museum-made object.

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Contemporary lessons from the fall of Rome

It’s a time-honored game, and any number can play. The rules are simple: just take whatever problem is bothering you today, add the word “Rome,” and voilà. You have just discovered why the mightiest empire in Western history came to an end.

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A European peace plan turns 325

2018 marks the 325th anniversary of the publication of William Penn’s Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe, which proposed, among other things, the establishment of a European Parliament.

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Forty years of democratic Spain

Spaniards are celebrating with some fanfare the 40th anniversary of their democratic constitution that was approved overwhelmingly in a referendum on 6 December 1978, sealing the end of the 36-year dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, the victor of the country’s civil war. Whichever way one looks at it, Spain has been transformed profoundly since then.

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Remaking Europe after the First World War

In the wake of the November 11, 1918 armistice between Germany and the Allies, high-minded idealism confronted a mélange of very unpleasant realities. All the belligerents had claimed to be fighting for a noble set of aims, and the United States President, Woodrow Wilson, went further. He proposed the creation of a supranational agency, the League of Nations, to govern international relations in a pacific age of transparent, altruistic diplomacy.

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