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  • History

The life and work of Herman Melville

August 1st marks the 200th anniversary of Herman Melville’s birth. We have put together a timeline of Melville’s life to celebrate the event.  Feature Image credit: “Arrowhead farmhouse Herman Melville” by United States Library of Congress. Public domain via Wikimedia.

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How microwaves changed the course of the Battle of the Atlantic

Sir Robert Watson Watt is credited as the inventor of radar. In Britain radar was known as RDF (radio direction finding). The way that radar works is that pulses of microwave radiation of controlled frequency and polarisation are emitted from a transmitter. Some of these microwaves reach an object (an aircraft or submarine for example) directly […]

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Why British communities are stronger than ever

Although it’s fashionable to bemoan the collapse of traditional communities in Britain and the consequent loss of what social scientists have come to call “social capital”, we should be wary of accepting this bold story at face value.

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How Germany’s financial collapse led to Nazism

The summer of 1931 saw Germany’s financial collapse, one of the biggest economic catastrophes of modern history. The German crisis contributed to the rise of the Nazi Party. The timeline below shows historic events that led up to Adolf Hitler’s taking control of Germany.

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How will wars be fought in the future?

Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the rise (and apparent fall) of ISIL in Syria and northern Iraq, and Chinese activity in the South China Sea have prompted renewed debate about the character of war and conflict, and whether it is undergoing a fundamental shift. Such assertions about the apparent transformation of conflict are not new; one […]

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From the farm to rocket road: one engineer’s story

Retired engineer Henry Pohl can vividly recall his first encounter with a rocket. During the early 1950s, the Army drafted him and shipped him from Texas to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. “That dadgum thing looked pretty simple,” he says of the rocket engine. It didn’t look much bigger than the tractor engine back […]

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Did Caravaggio paint Judith Beheading Holofernes?

A disconcerting exclusion of alternative views and scholarship has marked the very carefully choreographed two-year long build-up toward the most controversial sale of a seicento picture this year—that of the so-called Toulouse Judith Beheading Holofernes, ascribed to Caravaggio. The arguments presented in its favour look compelling. A contemporary document refers to it in Naples in 1607; a copy of it by Louis […]

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A forgotten African satirist: A.B.C. Merriman-Labor

In 1904, twenty-six-year-old A.B.C. Merriman-Labor stamped the red dust of Freetown’s streets from his shoes and headed for London. There he intended to prove his literary skill to the world. The Sierra Leone Weekly News had assured him that his color would no obstacle there, and he could “go anywhere, wherever his merits, either intellectual or social, will take him.”

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Standing in Galileo’s shadow: Why Thomas Harriot should take his place in the scientific hall of fame

The enigmatic Elizabethan Thomas Harriot never published his scientific work, so it’s no wonder that few people have heard of him. His manuscripts were lost for centuries, and it’s only in the past few decades that scholars have managed to trawl through the thousands of quill-penned pages he left behind. What they found is astonishing—a glimpse into one of the best scientific minds of his day, at a time when modern science was struggling to emerge from its medieval cocoon.

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The gender riots that rocked Cambridge University in the 1920s

On 20 October 1921, a sombre procession took over King’s Parade, a usually bustling thoroughfare in Cambridge. A hearse made halting progress, bearing the weighty effigy of the Last Male Undergraduate, and accompanied in shuffling steps by ‘Mere Males’: bowed and wretched figures wearing long grey beards. Their sprightlier colleagues made speeches about the risks of female governance at the side of the road, hassled young women on bicycles and eventually raised the cry: “We Don’t Want Women!”

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A visual history of slavery through the lens [slideshow]

During the 1840s and 1850s, enslavers began commissioning photographic portraits of enslaved people. Most images portrayed well-dressed subjects and drew upon portraiture conventions of the day, as in the photograph of Mammy Kitty, likely enslaved by the Ellis family in Richmond, who placed an arm on a clothed, circular table.

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First ladies throughout American history

Attention to the spouse of the president of the United States has been a constant throughout American history, but the role of the first lady has changed over time. The first lady has always been an exemplar of idealized femininity and thus connected to expectations of the role women should play in society. While initially […]

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Four remarkable LGBTQ activists

Around the world, the LGBTQ community faces inequality and discrimination on different levels. Although an increasing number of countries have legalised same-sex marriage in recent years, in countries such as Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, members of the LGBT community are still fighting for their simple right to exist. In the USA, much of LGBTQ activism […]

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The impeachment illusion

The best barometer of political anger is how often the word “impeachment” appears in news stories, editorials, and Congressional rhetoric. These days, the references have grown exponentially, despite the House Speaker’s efforts to keep her members focused on legislation. The constitutional definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is vague enough to have encouraged members of […]

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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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