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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

“Camping” with the Prince of Wales through India, 1921-22

As senior correspondent of the London Times, Sir Harry Perry Robinson travelled the world in search of a good story. In November 1921 he was invited by the newspaper’s proprietor, Lord Northcliffe, to make a passage to India, following the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) on his nearly five-month goodwill tour of the East. For […]

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Winston Churchill and the media in the 1945 British general election

Seventy-five years ago this week, the House of Commons in Britain began debating the legislative programme of Clement Attlee’s Labour government, elected by a landslide at the end of the previous month. John Freeman, one of the fresh intake of socialist MPs, declared boldly: “Today, we go into action. Today may rightly be regarded as […]

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Writing a non-fiction historical thriller

The distinguished biographer, Ben Pimlott, used to say that historians should try to write like novelists. To my knowledge, he never developed the thought, but what he meant was clear. While the historical monograph may make a significant contribution to knowledge, too often it is boring to read. He wanted us to deploy the skills […]

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The life and legacy of Florence Nightingale [timeline]

This year, to celebrate the role nurses and midwives play in providing health services across the world, the World Health Organisation has declared that 2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. In honour of this, we are taking this opportunity to recognise the work of Florence Nightingale, a British nurse, statistician, […]

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War, memory, and morale during a pandemic

In a seemingly natural way, reports of societal responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Britain invoked the very familiar images of the Blitz and the wartime Home Front more broadly. Such images and representations are now everywhere: references to the “Army of Volunteers” raised to aid vulnerable groups; notions of the spirit, character, resolve, or […]

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The scientists who transformed modern medicine

Structural biology, a seemingly arcane topic, is currently at the heart of biomedical research.  It holds the key to the creation of healthier, cleaner and safer lives, since it guides researchers in understanding both the causes of diseases and the creation of medicines required to conquer them. Structural biology describes the molecules of life. It […]

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What does ‘Honest to God’ tell us about Britain’s “secular revolution”?

On 17 March 1963, John Robinson, the Anglican bishop of Woolwich, wrote an article for the Observer entitled “Our Image of God Must Go.” He was writing to advertise his new book, Honest to God, which made a deeply controversial argument: that modern Christians would eventually find it necessary to reject classical theism. God Himself, Robinson argued, was causing […]

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The ‘What If’ moments of modern Britain

We often talk about there being days that “changed history”; modern British history has had its fair share of them. But what about the days that looked as though they would – but didn’t? Which days once felt like they would change everything but, with the benefit of hindsight, now seem false-starts? Here are three […]

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How the prime minister can suspend Parliament

On 28 August, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson officially notified Parliament and the public of his decision to prorogue (i.e., suspend or end) the session by mid-September. Proroguing is the term for ending a legislative session of parliament. All sessions are technically prorogued and most in recent memory have happened without much ado. What makes […]

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Enoch Powell and the rise of neo-liberalism

The Conservative politician Enoch Powell is best known for his outspoken opposition to immigration, but he also adopted distinctive positions on a range of other prominent issues in the post-1945 era. Indeed, he was the most prominent early exponent of neo-liberalism, the free-market perspective linking economic and political freedom in British politics. Yet there has […]

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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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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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250 Years of Oxford weather

Talking about the weather is a national obsession. Thomas Hornsby talked about the weather, or at least wrote about it, in Oxford back in the mid-eighteenth century. His surviving diaries from 1767 mark the commencement of the longest continuous single-site weather records in the British Isles, and one of the longest anywhere in the world.

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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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Should the people always get what they want from their politicians?

Should we listen to the voice of “the people” or the conviction of their representatives? Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has inspired virulent debate about the answer. Amidst Theresa May’s repeated failure to pass her Brexit deal in the House of Commons this spring, the Prime Minister appealed directly to the frustrations and feelings of the people. “You the public have had enough,” she asserted in a speech of March 20.

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