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These are featured articles related to the United Kingdom which appear on Portal:United Kingdom.

Biographical articles are at Portal:United Kingdom/Featured biography.

For a full list of UK related FAs sorted by topic see Portal:United Kingdom/Featured article/List.

South facade of Belton House
Belton House is a country house near Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. The mansion is surrounded by formal gardens and a series of avenues leading to follies within a greater wooded park. Belton has been described as a compilation of all that is finest of Carolean architecture, the only truly vernacular style of architecture that England had produced since the Tudor period. Only Brympton d'Evercy has been similarly lauded as the perfect English country house. For three hundred years, Belton House was the seat of the Brownlow and Cust family, who had first acquired land in the area in the late 16th century. Between 1685 and 1688 the young Sir John Brownlow and his wife had the present mansion built. Despite great wealth they chose to build a modest country house rather than a grand contemporary Baroque palace. The contemporary, if provincial, Carolean style was the selected choice of design. However, the new house was fitted with the latest innovations such as sash windows for the principal rooms, and more importantly completely separate areas for the staff. (more...)

Joshua Reynolds's "Puck" was painted for Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery
The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery was a three-part project initiated in November 1786 by engraver and publisher John Boydell in an effort to foster a school of British history painting. Boydell planned to focus on an illustrated edition of William Shakespeare's plays and a folio of prints, but during the 1790s the London gallery that showed the original paintings emerged as the project's most popular element. Boydell decided to publish a grand illustrated edition of Shakespeare's plays that would showcase the talents of British painters and engravers. He chose the noted scholar and Shakespeare editor George Steevens to oversee the edition, which was released between 1791 and 1803. The press reported weekly on the building of Boydell's gallery, designed by George Dance the Younger, on a site in Pall Mall. Boydell commissioned works from famous painters of the day, such as Joshua Reynolds, and the folio of engravings proved the enterprise's most lasting legacy. However, the long delay in publishing the prints and the illustrated edition prompted criticism. Because they were hurried, and many illustrations had to be done by lesser artists, the final products of Boydell's venture were judged to be disappointing. The project caused the Boydell firm to become insolvent, and they were forced to sell the gallery at a lottery. (more...)

Bramall Hall from the west
Bramall Hall is a Tudor mansion in Bramhall, within the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport, Greater Manchester, England. Dating to Saxon times, the manor of Bramall was first described in the Domesday Book in 1086. It was first held by the Masseys, then from the late 14th century by the Davenports, a wealthy family and a significant landowner in the north-west of England. The Davenports built the present house, and remained lords of the manor for about 500 years before selling the house to the Nevill family. It was subsequently purchased by John Henry Davies, and then acquired by the local council. Bramall Hall is owned by the Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, who describe it as "the most prestigious and historically significant building in the Conservation Area". It is a timber-framed manor house surrounded by 70 acres (28 ha) of landscaped parkland featuring lakes, woodland, and gardens; its oak timber framing was originally infilled by wattle and daub. The oldest parts of the house date from the 14th century, with later additions from the 16th and 19th centuries. The house and grounds are open to the public, and the house functions as a museum where special events are held throughout the year. (more...)

St. Mary Redcliffe from the north west

The buildings and architecture of Bristol are an eclectic combination of styles, ranging from the medieval to 20th century brutalism and beyond. During the mid-19th century, Bristol Byzantine, an architectural style unique to the city was developed, of which several examples have survived. Buildings from most of the architectural periods of the United Kingdom can be seen throughout Bristol. Parts of the fortified city and castle date back to the medieval era, as do some churches dating from the 12th century onwards. As the city grew, it merged with its surrounding villages, each with its own character and centre, often clustered around a parish church. The construction of the city's floating harbour, taking in the wharves on the Avon and Frome rivers, provided a focus for industrial development and the growth of the local transport infrastructure, including the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Temple Meads railway station. The 20th century saw further expansion of the city, the growth of the University of Bristol, and the arrival of the aircraft industry. During World War II, the city centre suffered from extensive bombing during the Bristol Blitz. The redevelopment of shopping centres, office buildings, and the harbourside continues to this day. (more...)

Bruce Castle's south facade

Bruce Castle is a Grade I listed 16th-century manor house in Lordship Lane, Tottenham, London. It is named after the House of Bruce who formerly owned the land on which it is built. Believed to lie on the site of an earlier building, about which little is known, the current house is one of the oldest surviving English brick houses. It was remodelled in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The house has been home to Sir William Compton, Richard Sackville, the Barons Coleraine and Sir Rowland Hill, among others. After serving as a school during the 19th century, when a large extension was built to the west, it was converted into a museum exploring the history of the areas which constitute the present London Borough of Haringey and the history of the postal service. The building also houses the archives of the London Borough of Haringey. Since 1892 the grounds have been a public park, Tottenham's oldest. The building was Grade I listed in 1949 and the 17th-century southern and western boundary walls of the park were Grade II listed in 1974. In 1969, the castle additionally became home to the regimental museum of the Middlesex Regiment. (more...)

Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial
Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the British monarch (or sovereign), and the largest working royal palace remaining in the world. In addition to being the London home of Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace is a setting for state occasions and royal entertaining, a base for all officially visiting heads of state, and a major tourist attraction. It has been a rallying point for the British at times of national rejoicing and crisis. The palace, originally known as Buckingham House, was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 and acquired by King George III in 1762 as a private residence. It was enlarged over the next 75 years, principally by architects John Nash and Edward Blore, forming three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace finally became the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The last major structural additions were made during the Victorian era, with the addition of the large wing facing east towards The Mall, and the removal of the former state entrance, Marble Arch, to its present position near Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park. (continued...)

Frances Griffiths with Fairies
The Cottingley Fairies appear in a series of five photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins who lived in Cottingley, near Bradford in England. In 1917, when the first two photographs were taken, Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 10. The pictures came to the attention of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who used them to illustrate an article on fairies he had been commissioned to write for the Christmas 1920 edition of The Strand Magazine. Conan Doyle, as a Spiritualist, was enthusiastic about the photographs, and interpreted them as clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena. Public reaction was mixed; some accepted that the images were genuine, but others believed they had been faked. Interest in the Cottingley Fairies gradually declined after 1921. Both girls grew up, married and lived abroad for a time. Yet the photographs continued to hold the public imagination; in 1966 a reporter from the Daily Express newspaper traced Elsie, who had by then returned to the UK. Elsie left open the possibility that she believed she had photographed her thoughts, and the media once again became interested in the story. In the early 1980s, both admitted that the photographs were faked using cardboard cutouts of fairies copied from a popular children's book of the time. But Frances continued to claim that the fifth and final photograph was genuine. The photographs and two of the cameras used are on display in the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford. (more...)

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump is a 1768 oil-on-canvas painting by Joseph Wright of Derby, part of a series of candlelit scenes that Wright painted during the 1760s. The Air Pump departed from previous painting conventions by depicting a scientific subject in the reverential manner formerly reserved for scenes of historical and religious significance. Wright was intimately involved in depicting the Industrial Revolution and the scientific advances of the Enlightenment, but while his paintings were recognized as something out of the ordinary by his contemporaries, his provincial status and choice of subjects meant the style was never widely imitated. The picture has been owned by the National Gallery since 1863 and is still regarded as a masterpiece of British art. The painting depicts a natural philosopher, a forerunner of the modern scientist, recreating one of Robert Boyle's air pump experiments, in which a bird is deprived of oxygen, before a varied group of onlookers. The group exhibit different reactions, but for most scientific curiosity overcomes concern for the bird. The central figure looks out of the picture as if inviting the viewer's participation in the outcome. (more...)

The Second Stage of Cruelty

The Four Stages of Cruelty is a series of four printed engravings published by William Hogarth in 1751. The prints depict the progression of the fictional Tom Nero, from a cruel child to his ultimate fate: the ignominy of dissection after his execution as a murderer. Beginning with the torture of a dog as a child in the First stage of cruelty, he progresses to beating his horse as a man in the Second stage of cruelty, and then to robbery, seduction, and murder in Cruelty in perfection. Finally, he receives what Hogarth warns is the inevitable fate of those who start down the path Nero has followed: his body is taken from the gallows and mutilated by surgeons in the anatomical theatre in The reward of cruelty. The prints were intended as a form of moral instruction: Hogarth was dismayed by the routine acts of cruelty he witnessed on the streets of London. Issued on cheap paper, the prints were destined for the lower classes. The series shows a roughness of execution and a brutality that is untempered by the humorous touches common in Hogarth's other works, but which he felt was necessary to impress his message on the intended audience. Nevertheless, the pictures still carry the wealth of detail and subtle references that Hogarth had made his trademark. (more...)

The paintings of Four Times of the Day

Four Times of the Day is a series of four paintings by William Hogarth from 1736, reproduced as a series of four engravings published in 1738. They are humorous depictions of life in the streets of London, the vagaries of fashion, and the interactions between the rich and poor of the capital. Unlike many of Hogarth's other series, such as A Harlot's Progress, A Rake's Progress, Industry and Idleness and The Four Stages of Cruelty, it does not depict the story of an individual, but instead focuses on the society of the city. Hogarth intended the series to be humorous rather than instructional; the pictures do not offer a judgement on whether the rich or poor are more deserving of our sympathies: while the upper and middle classes tend to provide the focus for each scene there are fewer of the moral comparisons seen in some other of his works. The four pictures depict scenes of daily life in various locations in London as the day progresses. Morning shows a prudish spinster making her way to church in Covent Garden past the revellers of the night before; Noon shows two cultures on opposite sides of the street in St Giles; Evening depicts a dyer's family returning hot and bothered from a trip to Sadler's Wells; and Night shows a drunken Freemason staggering home from a night of celebration . (more...)

Holkham Hall

Holkham Hall, Norfolk, England, is an 18th-century country house built in the Palladian style for Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester by the collaborating architects William Kent and Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington. It is one of England's finest examples of the Palladian revival style of architecture, the severity of the design being closer to Palladio's ideals than many of the other numerous Palladian style houses of the period. The Holkham estate, formerly known as Neals, had been purchased by Sir Edward Coke, the founder of the family fortune, in 1609. It remains today the ancestral home of the Coke family, the Earls of Leicester of Holkham.


The Hoxne Tigress
The Hoxne Hoard is the largest hoard of late Roman silver and gold discovered in Britain. Found by a metal detectorist in the village of Hoxne in Suffolk, England, on 16 November 1992, the hoard consists of 14,865 Roman gold, silver and bronze coins from the late fourth and early fifth centuries, and approximately 200 silver tableware and gold jewellery items. The hoard is now on permanent display in the British Museum and is valued at £3.5 million. The coins of the hoard date it after 407 AD, which coincides with the end of Britain as a Roman province. The Hoxne Hoard contains several rare and important objects, including a gold body-chain and silver-gilt pepper-pots. The Hoxne Hoard is also of particular archaeological significance because it was excavated by professional archaeologists with the items largely undisturbed and intact. The find has helped to improve the relationship between metal detectorists and archaeologists, and influenced a change in English law regarding finds of treasure. (more...)

Lindow Man on display at the British Museum
Lindow Man is the name given to the preserved bog body of a man discovered in a peat bog at Lindow Moss, Cheshire, North West England. The body was found on 1 August 1984 by commercial peat-cutters. Lindow Man is not the only bog body to have been found in the moss; Lindow Woman was discovered the year before, and other body parts have been recovered. The find, described as "one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 1980s", caused a media sensation. It helped invigorate study of British bog bodies, which had previously been neglected in comparison to those found in the rest of Europe. Lindow Man was a healthy male in his mid-20s. He may have been someone of high status, as his body shows little evidence of heavy or rough work. There has been debate over the reason for Lindow Man's death. The nature of his demise was violent, perhaps ritualistic; after a last meal of charred bread, Lindow Man was strangled, hit on the head, and his throat cut. Dating the body has proven problematic, but it is thought that Lindow Man was deposited into Lindow Moss, face down, some time during the 1st century AD. The body has been preserved by freeze-drying and is on permanent display at the British Museum, although it occasionally travels to other venues such as Manchester Museum. (more...)

The rampart and ditch at Maiden Castle
Maiden Castle is an Iron Age hill fort 2.5 km (1.6 mi) south of Dorchester, in the English county of Dorset. Hill forts were fortified hill-top settlements constructed across Britain during the Iron Age. The earliest archaeological evidence of human activity on the site consists of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure and bank barrow. In about 1800 BC, during the Bronze Age, the site was used for growing crops before being abandoned. Maiden Castle itself was built in about 600 BC; the early phase was a simple and unremarkable site, similar to many other hill forts in Britain and covering 64,000 m2 (690,000 sq ft). Around 450 BC it underwent major expansion, during which the enclosed area was nearly tripled in size to 190,000 m2 (2,000,000 sq ft), making it the largest hill fort in Britain and by some definitions the largest in Europe. In around 100 BC habitation at the hill fort went into decline and became focused at the eastern end of the site. It was occupied until at least the Roman period, and by this time was in the territory of the Durotriges, a Celtic tribe. After the Roman conquest of Britain in the 1st century AD, Maiden Castle appears to have been abandoned, although the Romans may have had a military presence on the site. In the 1930s, archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler undertook the first archaeological excavations at Maiden Castle, raising its profile among the public. Today the site is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is maintained by English Heritage. (more...)

The Mary Rose in Portsmouth Dry Dock
The Mary Rose was a warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII in the first half of the 16th century. During four decades of service in wars against France, Scotland and Brittany, she was one of the largest ships in the English navy and one of the earliest ships specially built for warfare. The Mary Rose is well-known today due to the fact that she sank intact on 19 July 1545 in the battle of the Solent north of the Isle of Wight, while leading an attack on French galleys. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in October 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology. Though much of the ship has deteriorated, the surviving section of the hull, with thousands of artefacts, is of immeasurable value as a time capsule of the Tudor period. The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose has since become a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961. The finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew, providing detailed knowledge of the era in which the ship was built, in peacetime as in war. Many of the artefacts are unique to the Mary Rose and have provided insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments. While undergoing conservation, the remains of the hull and many of its related artefacts have been on display since the mid-1980s in the Mary Rose Museum in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. (more...)

Foundations of the monastic buildings and the back of the museum
Norton Priory is an historic site in Norton, Runcorn, Cheshire, North West England, comprising the remains of an abbey complex dating from the 12th to 16th centuries, and an 18th-century country house. The remains are a scheduled ancient monument and have been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building. They are considered to be the most important monastic remains in Cheshire. In 1966 the site was given in trust for the use of the general public. Excavation of the site began in 1971, and became the largest to be carried out by modern methods on any European monastic site. It revealed the foundations and lower parts of the walls of the monastery buildings and the abbey church. Important finds included: a Norman doorway; a finely carved arcade; a floor of mosaic tiles, the largest floor area of this type to be found in any modern excavation; the remains of the kiln where the tiles were fired; a bell pit used for casting the bell; and a large medieval statue of Saint Christopher. The site, including a museum, the excavated ruins, and the surrounding garden and woodland, was opened to the public in the 1970s. In 1984, a redesigned walled garden was also opened. Norton Priory is now a visitor attraction, and the museum trust organises a programme of events, exhibitions, educational courses, and outreach projects. (more...)

The new Scottish Parliament Building at Holyrood

The Scottish Parliament Building is the home of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, within the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Edinburgh. Construction on the building commenced in June 1999 and the Members of the Scottish Parliament held their first debate in the new building on Tuesday, 7 September 2004. The formal opening by Queen Elizabeth II took place on 9 October 2004. Enric Miralles, the Catalan architect who designed the building, died during the course of its construction. From the outset, the building and its construction have proven to be highly controversial. The choices of location, architect, design and construction company were all criticised by politicians, the media and the Scottish public. Scheduled to open in 2001, it did so in 2004, more than three years late with an estimated final cost of £414m, substantially higher than initial costings of between £10m and £40m. A major public inquiry into the handling of the construction, chaired by the former Lord Advocate, Peter Fraser, was established in 2003. The inquiry concluded in September 2004 and criticised the management of the whole project from the realisation of cost increases down to the way in which major design changes were implemented. Despite these criticisms and a mixed public reaction, the building was welcomed by architectural academics and critics. (more...)

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion is a 1944 triptych painted by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon. The work is based on the Eumenides, or Furies, of Aeschylus' The Oresteia, and depicts three writhing anthropomorphic creatures set against a flat orange background. The triptych was executed in oil paint and pastel on Sundeala fibre board, and was completed within the space of two weeks. The work summarizes themes explored in Bacon's previous paintings, including his examination of Picasso's biomorphs, and his interpretations of the Crucifixion and the Greek Furies. Bacon did not realize his intention to paint a large crucifixion scene and place the figures at the foot of the cross. The Three Studies triptych is generally considered Bacon's first mature piece; he regarded his works before the triptych as irrelevant, and throughout his life he tried to suppress their appearance in the art market. When the painting was first exhibited in 1945, it caused a sensation, and helped to establish him as one of England's foremost post-war painters. Commenting on the cultural significance of Three Studies, the critic John Russell observed in 1971 that "there was painting in England before the Three Studies, and painting after them, and no one ... can confuse the two." (more...)

The Tower of London, seen from the River Thames
The Tower of London is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. Since at least 1100, the castle has been used as a prison, although that was not its primary purpose. The Tower of London has played a prominent role in England's history. It was besieged several times and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The zenith of the castle's use as a prison came in the 16th and 17th centuries, when many figures fallen into disgrace, such as Elizabeth I before she became queen, were held within its walls. Today the Tower of London is a popular tourist attraction. It is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces and is protected as a World Heritage Site. (more...)

Triptych, May–June 1973 is a triptych completed in 1973 by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon. The oil-on-canvas work was painted in memory of Bacon's lover George Dyer, who committed suicide on the eve of the artist's retrospective at Paris's Grand Palais in October 1971. The triptych is a portrait of the moments before Dyer's death. Bacon was preoccupied by Dyer's suicide in his last twenty years, during which time he painted a number of similarly themed works. He admitted to friends that he never fully recovered from the event, and described painting the triptych as an exorcism of his feelings of loss and guilt. The work is stylistically more static and monumental than Bacon's earlier triptychs. It has been described as one of his "supreme achievements", and is generally viewed as his most intense and tragic canvas. Of the three "Black Triptychs" that Bacon created to confront Dyer's death, Triptych, May–June 1973 is generally regarded as the most accomplished. In 2006, The Daily Telegraph's art critic Sarah Crompton wrote that "emotion seeps into each panel of this giant canvas…the sheer power and control of Bacon's brushwork take the breath away". In 1989, the work sold at Sotheby's for US$6,270,000, the highest price then paid for a Bacon work. (more...)

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is a medieval shell keep castle in Warwick, the county town of Warwickshire, England. It sits on a cliff overlooking a bend in the River Avon. Built by William the Conqueror in 1068 to replace an Anglo-Saxon burh, Warwick Castle was used as a fortification until the early 17th century, when Sir Fulke Greville converted it to a country house. It was owned by the Greville family, who became earls of Warwick in the mid-18th century, until 1978. Warwick Castle has been compared with Windsor Castle in terms of scale, cost, and status. Since its construction in the 11th century, the castle has undergone structural changes with additions of towers and redesigned residential buildings. Originally a wooden motte-and-bailey, it was rebuilt as a stone shell keep in the 12th century. It is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building. The castle is a popular tourist attraction and features one of the world's largest siege engines. (more...)

West Wycombe's double colonnade

West Wycombe Park is a country house near the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England. Built between 1740 and 1800 as a pleasure palace for the decadent 18th century libertine and dilettante Sir Francis Dashwood, the house is long and rectangular, and all four façades are columned and pedimented, three theatrically so. The house combines and encapsulates the entire progression of British 18th century architecture from early idiosyncratic Palladian to the Neoclassical, although anomalies in the design of the house make it architecturally unique. It is in an 18th century landscaped park, surrounded by smaller temples that act as satellites to the greater temple, the house. The house was given to the National Trust in 1943 by Sir John Dashwood, 10th Baronet, an action strongly resented by his heir. Dashwood retained ownership of the contents of the house, much of which he sold; after his death, the house was restored at the expense of his son, Sir Francis Dashwood. Today, while the structure is owned by the National Trust, the house is the home of Sir Edward Dashwood and his family. The house is open to the public during the summer months and a venue for civil weddings and corporate entertainment, which help to fund its maintenance and upkeep. (more...)

Military Badge of the Order of the Bath

The Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the ancient ceremony wherein individuals participated in a vigil of fasting, prayer, and bathing on the day before being knighted. Apart from the Sovereign and the Great Master, before 1815 there were a maximum of thirty six 'Knights of the Bath' (K.B.). After 1815 the number of classes and members were increased several times; the Order now includes three classes in civil and military divisions. The Order's motto is Tria juncta in uno (Latin for "Three joined in one"), a reference to either the union of England, Scotland and Ireland, or to the Holy Trinity. The Order is the fourth-most senior in the British honours system, after Order of the Garter, Order of the Thistle, and Order of St Patrick. The last of the aforementioned Orders—which relates to Ireland, which, except for Northern Ireland, is no longer a part of the United Kingdom—still exists but is in disuse; no appointments have been made to it since 1934. (more...)

Members of the Order wear ceremonial robes.
The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an English order of chivalry with a history stretching back to mediæval times; today it is Europe's oldest national order of knighthood in continuous existence and the pinnacle of the British honours system. Its membership is extremely limited, consisting of the Sovereign and not more than twenty-five full members. Male members are known as Knights Companion, whilst female members are known as Ladies Companion. The Sovereign alone grants membership of the Order; the Prime Minister does not tender binding advice as to appointments, as is done for most other orders. (more...)

The Irish Crown Jewels included the Grand Master's star and badge
The Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick is an order of chivalry associated with Ireland. The Order was created in 1783 by George III. The regular creation of knighthoods of St Patrick lasted until 1922, when most of Ireland became independent as the Irish Free State. While the Order technically still exists, no knighthood of St Patrick has been created since 1934, and the last surviving knight, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, died in 1974. The patron saint of the Order is St Patrick. Its motto is Quis separabit?, which is Latin for "Who will separate us?". Most British orders of chivalry cover the entire kingdom, but the three most exalted ones each pertain to one constitutent nation only. The Order of St Patrick, which pertains to Ireland, is the third-most senior in precedence and age. The Order of St Patrick earned international coverage when in 1907 its insignia, known generally as the Irish Crown Jewels, were stolen from Dublin Castle shortly before a visit by the Order's Sovereign, King Edward VII. Their whereabouts remain a mystery. (continued...)

Insignia of a Knight of the Order of the Thistle

The Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry associated with Scotland. While its original date of foundation is unknown, James VII instituted the modern Order in 1687. The Order consists of the Sovereign and sixteen Knights and Ladies, as well as certain "extra" knights (members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs). The Sovereign alone grants membership of the Order; he or she is not advised by the Government, as occurs with most other Orders. The sixteen members are required to be Scottish-born, though not the "extra" knights and ladies. The Order's primary emblem is the thistle, the national flower of Scotland. The motto is Nemo me impune lacessit (Latin for "No one provokes me with impunity"). The patron saint of the Order is St Andrew. Most British orders of chivalry cover the entire kingdom, but the three most exalted ones each pertain to one constituent country only. The Order of the Thistle, which pertains to Scotland, is the second-most senior in precedence. (more...)

The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of some Commonwealth countries and previous British Empire territories. It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations, medals and postnominals. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and civilians under military command, and is presented to the recipient by the British monarch during an investiture held at Buckingham Palace. It is the joint highest award for bravery in the United Kingdom with the George Cross, which is the equivalent honour for valour not "in the face of the enemy". The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then the medal has been awarded 1,356 times to 1,353 individual recipients. Only 14 medals have been awarded since the end of the Second World War. Due to its rarity, the VC is highly prized and the medal can reach over £200,000 at auction. There are a number of public and private collections devoted to it, most notably that of Lord Ashcroft, which contains over one-tenth of the total VCs awarded. (more...)

The title page of the 1859 edition of On the Origin of Species
Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published on 24 November 1859, is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Darwin's book presented evidence that the diversity of life arose through a branching pattern of evolution with common descent caused by the mechanism of natural selection. Prior to its publication various evolutionary ideas had been proposed to explain new findings in biology, but the English scientific establishment, closely tied to the Church of England, believed that species were unchanging parts of a designed hierarchy and had rejected ideas of transmutation of species and of humans being related to animals. The book attracted widespread interest, and generated scientific, philosophical, and religious discussion. This debate contributed to establishing secular science based on scientific naturalism. Within two decades there was widespread scientific agreement that evolution had occurred, but until the modern synthesis of the 20th century there was much less agreement on the significance of natural selection. (more...)

Red deer stag in Glen Torridon, Scotland

The fauna of Scotland is generally typical of the north-west European part of the Palearctic ecozone, although several of the country's larger mammals were hunted to extinction in historic times and human activity has also led to various species of wildlife being introduced. Scotland's diverse temperate environments support 62 species of wild mammals, including a population of Wild Cats, important numbers of Grey and Harbour Seals and the most northerly colony of Bottlenose Dolphins in the world. Many populations of moorland birds, including Blackcock and the Red Grouse, live here, and the country has internationally significant nesting grounds for seabirds such as the Northern Gannet. The Golden Eagle has become a national icon, and White-tailed Eagles and Ospreys have recently re-colonised the land. The Scottish Crossbill is the only endemic vertebrate species in the British Isles. Scotland's seas are among the most biologically productive in the world; it is estimated that the total number of Scottish marine species exceeds 40,000. An estimated 14,000 species of insect, including rare bees and butterflies protected by conservation action plans, inhabit Scotland. Conservation agencies in the UK are concerned that climate change, especially its potential effects on mountain plateaus and marine life, threaten much of the fauna of Scotland. (more...)

Suffolk Punch horses
The Suffolk Punch is an English breed of draught horse. The breed takes the first part of its name from the county of Suffolk in East Anglia, and the name "Punch" from its solid appearance and strength. It is a heavy draught horse which is always chestnut in colour, although the colour is traditionally spelled "chesnut" by the breed registries. Suffolk Punches are known as good doers, and tend to have energetic gaits. The breed was developed in the early 16th century, and remains similar in phenotype to its founding stock. The Suffolk Punch was developed for farm work, and gained popularity during the early 20th century. However, as agriculture became increasingly mechanised, the breed fell out of favour, particularly from the middle part of the century, and almost disappeared completely. Although the breed's status is listed as critical by the UK Rare Breeds Survival Trust and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, there has been a resurgence in interest, and population numbers are increasing. As well as being used for farm work, the breed pulled artillery and non-motorised commercial vans and buses. It was also exported to other countries to upgrade local equine stock. (more...)

Thoroughbreds racing
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Considered a "hot-blooded" horse, and known for its agility, speed and spirit, the Thoroughbred as it is known today was first developed in 17th and 18th century England, when native mares were crossbred with imported Arabian stallions. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the breed spread throughout the world; they were imported into North America starting in 1730 and into Australia, Europe, Japan and South America during the 19th century. Millions of Thoroughbreds exist worldwide today, with over 118,000 foals registered each year worldwide. Thoroughbreds are used mainly for racing, but are also bred for other riding disciplines, such as show jumping, combined training, dressage, polo, and fox hunting. They are also commonly cross-bred with other breeds to create new breeds or to improve existing ones, and have been influential in the creation of many important breeds, such as the Quarter Horse, the Standardbred, the Anglo-Arabian, and various warmblood breeds. Thoroughbred racehorses perform with maximum exertion, which has resulted in high rates of accidents and other health problems. (more...)

BAE Systems' headquarters
BAE Systems is a British defence and aerospace company headquartered at Farnborough, UK, which has worldwide interests, particularly in North America through its subsidiary BAE Systems Inc. BAE is the world's third-largest defence contractor and the largest in Europe. BAE was formed on 30 November 1999 by the £7.7 billion merger of two British companies: Marconi Electronic Systems, the defence electronics and naval shipbuilding subsidiary of the General Electric Company plc (GEC) and aircraft, munitions and naval systems manufacturer British Aerospace (BAe). It has increasingly disengaged from its businesses in continental Europe in favour of investing in the United States. Since its formation it has sold its shares of Airbus, EADS Astrium, AMS and Atlas Elektronik. BAE Systems is involved in several major defence projects, including the F-35 Lightning II, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. The company has been the subject of criticism, both general opposition to the arms trade and also specific allegations of unethical and corrupt practices, including the Al-Yamama contracts with Saudi Arabia that have earned BAE and its predecessor £43 billion in twenty years. (more...)

Medieval plowing with oxen
Carucage was a medieval English land tax introduced by King Richard I in 1194, based on the size of the estate owned by the taxpayer. It was a replacement for the danegeld, last imposed in 1162, which had become difficult to collect because of an increasing number of exemptions. Carucage was levied just six times: by Richard in 1194 and 1198; John, his brother and successor, in 1200; and John's son, Henry III, in 1217, 1220, and 1224, after which it was replaced by taxes on income and personal property. The taxable value of an estate was initially assessed from the Domesday Survey, but other methods were later employed, such as valuations based on the sworn testimony of neighbours or on the number of plough-teams the taxpayer used. Carucage never raised as much as other taxes, but nevertheless helped to fund several projects dear to the kings' hearts. It paid the ransom for Richard's release in 1194, after he was taken prisoner by Leopold V, Duke of Austria; it covered the tax John had to pay Philip II of France in 1200 on land he inherited in that country; and it helped to finance Henry III's military campaigns in England and on the European continent. Carucage was an attempt to secure new sources of revenue to supplement and increase royal income in a time when new demands were being made on royal finances. (more...)

Quarrymen splitting slate at Dinorwig Quarry, Wales c. 1910

The slate industry in Wales began during the Roman period when slate was used to roof the fort at Segontium, modern Caernarfon. The slate industry grew slowly until the early 18th century, from when it expanded rapidly and reached its peak output in the late 19th century, at which time the most important slate producing areas were in north-west Wales. These included the Penrhyn Quarry near Bethesda, the Dinorwig Quarry near Llanberis, the Nantlle Valley quarries and Blaenau Ffestiniog, where the slate was mined rather than quarried. Penrhyn and Dinorwig were the two largest slate quarries in the world, and the Oakeley mine at Blaenau Ffestiniog was the largest slate mine in the world. The Great Depression and the Second World War led to the closure of many smaller quarries, and competition from other roofing materials, particularly tiles, resulted in the closure of most of the larger quarries in the 1960s and 1970s. Slate production continues on a much reduced scale. (more...)

The corporation tax is a tax levied in the United Kingdom on the profits made by UK-resident companies and associations. It is also levied on non-UK resident companies and associations which trade in the UK through a permanent establishment. The tax was introduced by the Finance Act 1965, which simultaneously removed companies and associations that became liable to corporation tax from the charge to the income tax. The tax borrowed its basic structure and many of its rules from income tax. Recently the tax has come under pressure from a number of sources. Tax competition between jurisdictions has reduced the headline charge to 30 percent; judgments from the European Court of Justice have found that certain aspects of UK corporate tax law are discriminatory under European Union treaties and are expected to continue to do so; and tax avoidance schemes marketed by the big accountancy and law firms and by banks have threatened the tax base. The British government has responded to the last two by introducing ever more complex legislation to counter the threats.

The Manchester Mark 1 was one of the earliest stored-program computers, developed at the Victoria University of Manchester from the Small-Scale Experimental Machine. Work began in August 1948, and the first version was operational by April 1949; a program written to search for Mersenne primes ran error-free for nine hours on the night of 16/17 June 1949. The machine's successful operation was widely reported in the British press, which used the phrase "electronic brain" in describing it to their readers. The Mark 1 was initially developed to provide a computing resource within the university, to allow researchers to gain experience in the practical use of computers, but it very quickly also became a prototype on which the design of Ferranti's commercial version could be based. Development ceased at the end of 1949, and the machine was scrapped towards the end of 1950, replaced in February 1951 by a Ferranti Mark 1, the world's first commercially available general-purpose computer. The computer is historically significant because of its pioneering inclusion of index registers, an innovation which made it easier for a program to read sequentially through an array of words in memory. Many of the ideas behind its design were incorporated in subsequent commercial products such as the IBM 701 and 702. The chief designers, Frederic C. Williams and Tom Kilburn, concluded from their experiences with the Mark 1 that computers would be used more in scientific roles than in pure mathematics. (more...)

Replica of the Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM)

The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine was the world's first stored-program computer. It was built at the Victoria University of Manchester by Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill, and ran its first program on 21 June 1948. The machine was not intended to be a practical computer but was instead designed as a testbed for the Williams tube, an early form of computer memory. It was considered "small and primitive" compared to its contemporaries, although it did contain all of the elements essential to a modern electronic computer. As soon as the SSEM had demonstrated the feasibility of its design a project was initiated at the university to develop it into a more usable computer, the Manchester Mark 1. The Mark 1 in turn quickly became the prototype for the Ferranti Mark 1, the world's first commercially available general-purpose computer. The SSEM had a 32-bit word length and a memory of 32 words. It was designed to be the simplest possible stored-program computer; the only arithmetic operation it could perform was subtraction. The first of the three programs written for the machine found the highest factor of 218 (262,144), a calculation it was known would take a long time to run—and so prove the computer's reliability. The program consisted of 17 instructions and ran for 52 minutes before reaching the correct answer of 131,072, after the SSEM had performed 3.5 million operations. (more...)

Caricature of Major Lord Henry Arthur George Somerset

The Cleveland Street scandal occurred in 1889, when a homosexual male brothel in Cleveland Street, London, was uncovered by police. At the time, sexual acts between men were illegal in Britain, and the brothel's clients faced possible prosecution and certain social ostracism if discovered. It was rumoured that one of the brothel's clients was Prince Albert Victor, who was the son of the Prince of Wales and second-in-line to the British throne. Officials were involved in a cover-up to keep the prince's name and others' out of the scandal. One of the clients, Lord Arthur Somerset, was an equerry to the Prince of Wales but he, as well as the brothel keeper, Charles Hammond, managed to flee abroad before a prosecution could be brought. The rent boys, who also worked as messenger boys for the Post Office, were given light sentences and none of the clients were prosecuted. After Henry FitzRoy, Earl of Euston was named in the press as a client, he successfully sued for libel. The British press never named Prince Albert Victor, and there is no evidence he ever visited the brothel, but his inclusion in the rumours has coloured biographers' perceptions of him since. The scandal fuelled the attitude that male homosexuality was an aristocratic vice that corrupted lower-class youths. (more...)

An 18th century drawing of Cock Lane
Fanny scratching in 18th-century London's Cock Lane was so notorious that interested bystanders often blocked the street. It became the focus of a religious controversy between Methodists and orthodox Anglicans, and was reported on by celebrities of the period such as Samuel Johnson. Charles Dickens referred to the phenomenon in several of his books, including Nicholas Nickleby and A Tale of Two Cities, and other Victorian authors also alluded to it in their work. One enterprising resident diverted the crowds that gathered in Cock Lane by allowing them to converse with a ghost he claimed was haunting his home, to which he charged an entrance fee. Fanny scratching eventually resulted in several prosecutions, and the pillorying of a father. (more...)

Magpie Lane in Oxford, once known as Gropecunt Lane

Gropecunt Lane was a street name found in English towns and cities during the Middle Ages, believed to be a reference to the prostitution centred on those areas; it was normal practice for a medieval street name to reflect the street's function, or the economic activity taking place within it. Gropecunt, the earliest known use of which is in about 1230, appears to have been derived as a compound of the words "grope" and "cunt". Streets with that name were often in the busiest parts of medieval towns and cities, and at least one appears to have been an important thoroughfare. Variations include Gropecunte, Gropecountelane, Gropecontelane, Groppecountelane, and Gropekuntelane. Although the name was once common throughout England, changes in attitude resulted in it being replaced by more innocuous versions such as Grape Lane. Gropecunt was last recorded as a street name in 1561. (more...)

An 1888 Punch cartoon depicting Jack the Ripper as a phantom stalking Whitechapel
"Jack the Ripper" is the best known pseudonym given to an unidentified serial killer active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name originated in a letter by someone claiming to be the murderer that was disseminated in the media. Attacks ascribed to the Ripper typically involved women prostitutes from the slums whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations. Rumours that the murders were connected intensified in September and October 1888, and extremely disturbing letters from a writer or writers purporting to be the murderer were received by media outlets and Scotland Yard. Mainly because of the extraordinarily brutal character of the murders, and because of media treatment of the events, the public came increasingly to believe in a single serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Extensive newspaper coverage bestowed widespread and enduring international notoriety on the Ripper. An investigation into a series of brutal killings in Whitechapel up to 1891 was unable to connect all the killings conclusively to the murders of 1888, but the legend of Jack the Ripper solidified. As the murders were never solved, the legends surrounding them became a combination of genuine historical research, folklore, and pseudohistory. The term "ripperology" was coined to describe the study and analysis of the Ripper cases. There are over one hundred theories about the Ripper's identity, and the murders have inspired multiple works of fiction. (more...)

Prince Albert Victor of Wales

Jack the Ripper conspiracy theories seek to explain a series of murders in the East End of London in 1888 that were blamed on an unidentified assailant known as "Jack the Ripper". Since then, the identity of the killer has been hotly debated. Over a hundred suspects have been proposed, including Prince Albert Victor, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales and the grandson of Queen Victoria. The theory that Albert Victor was the Ripper was brought to public attention in 1970 by elderly British physician Dr. T. E. A. Stowell, who argued that Albert Victor committed the murders after being driven mad by syphilis. Subsequently, conspiracy theorists have elaborated on the supposed involvement of Albert Victor in the murders. Rather than implicate Albert Victor directly, they claim that he secretly married and had a daughter with a Catholic shop assistant, and that Queen Victoria, British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, his freemason friends, and the London Metropolitan Police conspired to murder anyone aware of Albert Victor's supposed child. Many facts contradict this theory, and its originator, Joseph Gorman (also known as Joseph Sickert), later retracted the story and admitted to the press that it was a hoax. (more...)

A contemporary French print on the English custom of wife selling
Wife selling was a traditional English practice for ending an unsatisfactory marriage. Instead of dealing with an expensive and dragged-out divorce, a husband would take his wife to market and parade her with a halter around her neck, arm, or waist, before publicly auctioning her to the highest bidder. Any children from the marriage might also be sold along with their mother. Prices paid for wives varied considerably, from a high of £100 (plus £25 each for her two children), to a low of a glass of ale, or even free. The Duke of Chandos bought his second wife at one such sale in Newbury in about 1744. Along with other English customs, wife selling was exported to England's American colonies, where one man sold his wife for "two dollars and half [a] dozen bowls of grogg". Husbands were sometimes sold by their wives in a similar manner, but much less frequently. Wife selling persisted in some form into the early 20th century, as general attitudes began to shift. (more...)

A contemporary newspaper illustration of "Jack the Ripper"
The Whitechapel murders are eleven unsolved brutal murders of women, committed in or near the impoverished Whitechapel District in the East End of London between 3 April 1888 and 13 February 1891. At various points some or all of the killings have been ascribed to the notorious, but elusive, individual known as Jack the Ripper. Most, if not all, of the victims were prostitutes. The Metropolitan Police Service, City of London Police, and private organisations such as the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee were involved in the search for the killer or killers. Despite extensive inquiries and several arrests, the culprit or culprits evaded identification and capture. The murders drew attention to the poor living conditions in the East End slums, which were subsequently improved. The enduring mystery of who committed the crimes has captured the imagination of writers to the present day. (more...)

Title page of the first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica

The Encyclopædia Britannica is a general encyclopaedia published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., a privately held company. The articles in the Britannica are aimed at educated adult readers, and written by a staff of 19 full-time editors and over 4,000 expert contributors. The Britannica, widely considered to be the most scholarly of encyclopaedias, is the oldest English-language encyclopaedia still in print. It was first published between 1768 and 1771 in Edinburgh and quickly grew in popularity and size, with its third edition in 1801 reaching 20 volumes. Its rising stature helped in recruiting eminent contributors, and the 9th and 11th editions are regarded as landmark encyclopaedias for scholarship and literary style. Beginning with the 11th edition, the Britannica gradually shortened and simplified its articles. In 1933, the Britannica became the first encyclopaedia to adopt a "continuous revision" policy, in which the encyclopaedia is continually reprinted and every article is updated on a regular schedule. The current edition (the 15th) has a unique three-part structure: a 12-volume Micropædia of short articles, a 17-volume Macropædia of long articles and a hierarchical outline of all human knowledge in a single Propædia volume. The size of the Britannica has remained roughly constant over the past 70 years, with about 40 million words on half a million topics. Certain earlier editions of the Britannica have been criticised for inaccuracy, bias and unauthoritative contributors; the accuracy of the present edition has likewise been questioned, although such criticisms have been challenged by the Britannica's management. (more...)

Sarah Trimmer, editor of The Guardian of Education
The Guardian of Education was the first successful periodical dedicated to reviewing children's literature in Britain. It was edited by eighteenth-century educationalist, children's author, and Sunday School advocate Sarah Trimmer and was published from June 1802 until September 1806 by J. Hatchard and F. C. and J. Rivington. The journal offered child-rearing advice and assessments of contemporary educational theories and Trimmer even proffered her own educational theory after evaluating the major works of the day. Fearing the influence of French revolutionary ideals, particularly those of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Trimmer emphasized orthodox Anglicanism and encouraged the perpetuation of the contemporary social and political order. Despite her conservatism, however, she agreed with Rousseau and other progressive educational reformers on many issues, such as the damaging effects of rote learning and the irrationalism of fairy tales. The Guardian of Education was the first periodical to review children's books seriously and with a distinctive set of criteria. Trimmer's reviews were carefully thought out; they influenced publishers and authors to alter the content of their books, helped to define the new genre of children's literature, and greatly affected the sales of children's books. (more...)

The School Building of the Judd School
The Judd School is a voluntary aided grammar school in Tonbridge, Kent, England. It was established in 1888 at Stafford House on East Street in Tonbridge, by the Worshipful Company of Skinners. There are 935 students in the school aged 11 to 18; the lower school is all boys, but of over 300 students aged 16–18 in the sixth form, up to 60 are girls. Judd pupils generally take ten General Certificate of Secondary Education tests in Year Eleven, and they have a choice of four or five A-levels in the sixth form. An Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills inspection in 2007 graded The Judd School as "outstanding", and in 2009, The Sunday Times newspaper ranked The Judd School as the 27th best state secondary school in the country. The Judd School is a music, English, science and mathematics specialist school. (more...)

Title page for an 1801 edition of Lessons for Children, part I
Lessons for Children is a series of four age-adapted reading primers written by prominent 18th-century British poet and essayist Anna Laetitia Barbauld. Published in 1778 and 1779, the books initiated a revolution in children's literature in the Anglo-American world. For the first time, the needs of the child reader were seriously considered: the typographically simple texts progress in difficulty as the child learns. In perhaps the first demonstration of experiential pedagogy in Anglo-American children's literature, Barbauld's books use a conversational style depicting a mother and her son discussing the natural world. Based on the educational theories of John Locke, Barbauld's books emphasize learning through the senses. One of the primary morals of Barbauld's lessons is that individuals are part of a community; in this she was part of a tradition of female writing that emphasized the interconnectedness of society. Charles, the hero of the texts, explores his relationship to nature, to animals, to people, and finally to God. Lessons had a significant effect on the development of children's literature in Britain and America. Maria Edgeworth, Sarah Trimmer, Jane Taylor, and Ellenor Fenn, to name a few of the most illustrious, were inspired to become children's authors because of Lessons and their works dominated children's literature for several generations. (more...)

Main entrance of Oriel College, Oxford

Oriel College is the fifth-oldest of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Oriel has the distinction of being the oldest royal foundation in Oxford, a title formerly claimed by University College, whose claim of being founded by King Alfred is no longer promoted. The original medieval foundation set up by Adam de Brome, under the patronage of Edward II, was called the House of the Blessed Mary at Oxford. The first design allowed for a Provost and ten Fellows, called 'scholars', and the College remained a small body of graduate Fellows until the sixteenth century, when it started to admit undergraduates. During the English Civil War, Oriel played host to high-ranking members of the King's Oxford Parliament. The College has nearly 40 Fellows, about 300 undergraduates and some 160 graduates, the student body having roughly equal numbers of men and women. Oriel's notable alumni include two Nobel laureates; prominent Fellows have included John Keble and John Henry Newman, founders of the Oxford Movement. As of 2003, the college's estimated financial endowment is £63.5m. (more...)

Title page from the tenth edition

Some Thoughts Concerning Education is a 1693 treatise on education written by the English philosopher John Locke. For over a century, it was the most important philosophical work on education in Britain. It was translated into almost all of the major written European languages during the eighteenth century, and nearly every European writer on education after Locke, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, acknowledged its influence. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke outlined a new theory of mind; he contended that the child's mind was a tabula rasa or "blank slate," that is, it did not contain any innate ideas. Some Thoughts Concerning Education explains how to educate that mind using three distinct methods: the development of a healthy body; the formation of a virtuous character; and the choice of an appropriate academic curriculum. Locke originally wrote the letters that would eventually become Some Thoughts for an aristocratic friend, but his advice had a broader appeal, since his educational principles allowed women and the lower classes to aspire to the same kind of character as the aristocrats for whom Locke originally intended the work. (more...)

First page of the first edition of Thoughts (1787)
Thoughts on the Education of Daughters is British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft's first published work. Published in 1787 by her friend Joseph Johnson, Thoughts is a conduct book that offers advice on female education to the emerging British middle class. Although dominated by considerations of morality and etiquette, the text also contains basic child-rearing instructions, such as how to care for an infant. An early version of the modern self-help book, the eighteenth-century British conduct book drew on several literary traditions, such as advice manuals and religious narratives. There was an explosion in the number of conduct books published during the second half of the eighteenth century, and Wollstonecraft took advantage of this burgeoning market when she published Thoughts. However, the book was only moderately successful: it was favourably reviewed, but only by one journal and it was reprinted only once. Although it was excerpted in popular magazines of the time, it was not republished until the rise of feminist literary criticism in the 1970s. The book encourages mothers to teach their daughters analytical thinking, self-discipline, honesty, contentment in their social position, and marketable skills (in case they should ever need to support themselves). (more...)

A view from a windfarm towards Clyde's best known landmark, Ailsa Craig

The production of renewable energy in Scotland is an issue that has come to the fore in technical, economic and political terms during the opening years of the 21st century. The natural resource base for renewables is extraordinary by European, and even global standards. In addition to an existing installed capacity of 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of hydro-electric schemes, Scotland has an estimated potential of 36.5 GW of wind and 7.5 GW of tidal power, 25% of the estimated total capacity for the European Union and up to 14 GW of wave power potential, 10% of EU capacity. The renewable electricity generating capacity may be 60 GW or more, considerably greater than the existing capacity from all fuel sources of 10.3 GW. Much of this potential remains untapped, but continuing improvements in engineering are enabling more of the renewable resource to be utilised. Fears regarding 'peak oil' and climate change have driven the subject high up the political agenda and are also encouraging the use of various biofuels. Although the finances of many projects remain either speculative or dependent on subsidies, it is probable that there has been a significant, and in all likelihood long-term, change in the underpinning economics. (more...)

A Rolls-Royce Merlin engine
The Rolls-Royce Merlin is a British, liquid-cooled, 27-litre (1,650 cu in) capacity, V-12 piston aero engine, designed and built by Rolls-Royce Limited. Initially known as the PV-12, Rolls-Royce named the engine the Merlin following the company convention of naming its piston aero engines after birds of prey. The PV-12 first ran in 1933, and a series of rapidly applied developments brought about by wartime needs improved the engine's performance markedly. The first operational aircraft to enter service using the Merlin were the Fairey Battle, Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire. More Merlins were made for the four-engined Avro Lancaster heavy bomber than any other aircraft; however, the engine is most closely associated with the Spitfire and powered its maiden flight in 1936. Considered a British icon, the Merlin was one of the most successful aircraft engines of the World War II era, and many variants were built by Rolls-Royce in Derby, Crewe and Glasgow, as well as by Ford of Britain in Trafford Park, Manchester. The Packard V-1650 was a version of the Merlin built in the United States. Production ceased in 1950 after a total of almost 150,000 engines had been delivered, the later variants being used for airliners and military transport aircraft. In military use the Merlin was superseded by its larger capacity stablemate, the Rolls-Royce Griffon. Merlin engines remain in Royal Air Force service today with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and power many restored aircraft in private ownership worldwide. (more...)

Rolls-Royce R (R27) on display at the London Science Museum
The Rolls-Royce R was a British aero engine designed and built specifically for air racing purposes by Rolls-Royce Limited. Developed from the Rolls-Royce Buzzard, it was a 37-litre (2,240 cu in) capacity, supercharged V-12 capable of producing just under 2,800 horsepower (2,090 kW), and weighed 1,640 pounds (770 kg). Factory testing initially revealed mechanical failures that were reduced by the use of redesigned components, greatly improving reliability. The R was highly successful during its use in the Schneider Trophy seaplane competitions held in England in 1929 and 1931. Shortly after the 1931 competition, an R engine using a special fuel blend powered the winning Supermarine S.6B aircraft to a new airspeed record of over 400 miles per hour (640 km/h). Continuing through the 1930s, both new and used R engines were used to achieve various land and water speed records by such racing personalities as Sir Henry Segrave, Sir Malcolm Campbell, and his son Donald; the last record was set in 1939. Nineteen R engines were assembled in a limited production run between 1929 and 1931. The experience gained by Rolls-Royce and Supermarine designers was invaluable in the subsequent development of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and the Spitfire. (more...)

Aerial View of Scout Moor Wind Farm

Scout Moor Wind Farm is the largest onshore wind farm in England. The wind farm, which was built for Peel Holdings, is powered by 26 Nordex N80 wind turbines. It has a total nameplate capacity of 65 MW of electricity, providing 154,000 MWh per annum, enough to serve the average needs of 40,000 homes. The site occupies 1,347 acres (545 ha) of open moorland between Edenfield, Rawtenstall and Rochdale, and is split between the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale in northern Greater Manchester and the Borough of Rossendale in south-eastern Lancashire. The turbines are visible from as far away as south Manchester, 15–20 miles (24–32 km) away. A protest group formed to resist the proposed construction, and attracted support from botanist and environmental campaigner David Bellamy. Despite the opposition, planning permission was granted in 2005, and construction began in 2007. Although work on the project was hampered by harsh weather, difficult terrain and previous mining activity, the wind farm was officially opened on 25 September 2008 after "years of controversy", at a cost of £50 million. (more...)

The Webley Mk IV

The Webley Revolver was, in various marks, the standard-issue service pistol for the armed forces of the United Kingdom, the British Empire, and the Commonwealth from 1887 until 1963. The Webley is a top-break revolver with automatic extraction; breaking the revolver open for reloading also operates the extractor, removing the spent cartridges from the cylinder. The Webley Mk I service revolver was adopted in 1887, but it was a later version—the Mk IV—which rose to prominence during the Boer War of 1899–1902. The Mk VI, introduced in 1915 during World War I, is perhaps the best-known model. Webley service revolvers are among the most powerful top-break revolvers ever produced, firing the .455 Webley cartridge. Although the .455 calibre Webley is no longer in military service, the .38/200 Webley Mk IV variant is still sporadically in use as a police sidearm in a number of countries. (more...)

Palladian Pulteney Bridge and the weir at Bath
Bath is a city in south-west England, most famous for its baths fed by three hot springs. The city was first recorded as a Roman spa, though tradition suggests an earlier foundation. The waters from its spring were considered to be a cure for many afflictions. From Elizabethan to Georgian times it was a resort city for the wealthy. As a result of its popularity during the latter period, the city contains many fine examples of Georgian architecture, particularly The Royal Crescent. The city has a population of over 90,000 and is a World Heritage Site.

Farming activity at Carrington Moss, with the Shell facility in the background
Carrington Moss is a large area of peat bog near Carrington in Greater Manchester, England. It is south of the River Mersey, approximately 10 miles (16 km) south-west of Manchester, and occupies an area of about 1,100 acres (445 hectares). The depth of peat varies between 17 feet (5 m) and 20 feet (6 m). Originally an unused area of grouse moorland, the Moss was reclaimed in the latter half of the 19th century for farming and the disposal of nearby Manchester's waste. A system of tramways was built to connect the Moss with the Manchester Ship Canal and a nearby railway line. During World War II the land was used as a Starfish site, and in the latter half of the 20th century a large industrial complex was built along its northern edge. More recently several sporting facilities have been built on Carrington Moss. Today, the land is still used for farming, and several nature reserves have been established within its bounds. Parts of the Moss are accessible to the public over several rights of way. (more...)

The Chew Valley as seen from East Harptree
The Chew Valley is an area in North Somerset, England, named after the River Chew, which rises at Chewton Mendip, and joins the River Avon at Keynsham. Technically, the area of the valley is bounded by the water catchment area of the Chew and its tributaries; however, the name Chew Valley is often used less formally to cover other nearby areas, for example, Blagdon Lake and its environs, which by a stricter definition are part of the Yeo Valley. The valley is an area of rich arable and dairy farmland, interspersed with a number of villages. The landscape consists of the valley of the River Chew and is generally low-lying and undulating. It is bounded by higher ground ranging from Dundry Down to the north, the Lulsgate Plateau to the west, the Mendip Hills to the south and the Hinton Blewett, Marksbury and Newton Saint Loe plateau areas to the east. The valley's boundary generally follows the top of scarp slopes except at the southwestern and southeastern boundaries where flat upper areas of the Chew Valley grade gently into the Yeo Valley and eastern Mendip Hills respectively. (more...)

Birds on Chew Valley Lake at Herriots Bridge
Chew Valley Lake is a large reservoir in the Chew Valley, Somerset, England, and the largest artificial lake in south-west England with an area of 1,200 acres (4.9 km²). The lake, which was created in the early 1950s and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956, provides much of the drinking water for the city of Bristol and surrounding area, taking its supply from the Mendip Hills. Some of the water from the lake is used to maintain the flow in the River Chew. Before the lake was flooded, archaeological investigations were carried out which showed evidence of occupation since Neolithic times and included Roman artefacts. The lake is also an important site for wildlife and has been dedicated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area. It is a national centre for birdwatching with over 260 species recorded, including some unusual sightings. The lake has a range of indigenous and migrant water birds throughout the year, and two dedicated nature trails have been created. The flora and fauna provide a variety of habitats and include some of the less common plants and insects. Some restricted use for recreational activities is permitted by the owners, including Dinghy sailing and fishing, primarily for trout. (continued...)

Brick Lane
The East End of London is the area of London, England, east of the medieval walled City of London and north of the River Thames. Starting in the 19th century, the area experienced extreme overcrowding and a concentration of poor people and immigrants. Successive waves of immigration began with Huguenot refugees creating a new extramural suburb in Spitalfields in the 17th century. They were followed by Irish weavers, Ashkenazi Jews and, in the 20th century, Bangladeshis. Many of these immigrants worked in the clothing industry. The abundance of semi- and unskilled labour led to low wages and poor conditions throughout the East End. This brought the attentions of social reformers during the mid-18th century and led to the formation of unions and workers associations at the end of the century. The radicalism of the East End contributed to the formation of the Labour Party and demands for the enfranchisement of women. Official attempts to address the overcrowded housing began at the beginning of the 20th century under the London County Council. World War II devastated much of the East End, with its docks, railways and industry forming a continual target, leading to dispersal of the population to new suburbs, and new housing being built in the 1950s. The final closure of the London docks in 1980 created further challenges and led to attempts at regeneration and the formation of the London Docklands Development Corporation. The Canary Wharf development, improved infrastructure, and the Olympic Park mean that the East End is undergoing further change, but some of its parts continue to contain some of the worst poverty in Britain. (more...)

View of the Porlock Vale

Exmoor is a National Park situated on the Bristol Channel coast of South West England. The park straddles two counties, with 71% in Somerset and 29% located in Devon. The total area of the park, which includes the Brendon Hills and the Vale of Porlock, covers 267 square miles (692 km2) of hilly open moorland, and includes 34 miles (55 km) of coast. It is primarily an upland area with a dispersed population living mainly in small villages and hamlets. The three largest settlements are Porlock and Dulverton, and the combined villages of Lynton and Lynmouth, connected by the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway, which together contain almost 40% of the National Park population. Prior to being a park, Exmoor was a Royal Forest and hunting ground, which was sold off in 1818. Exmoor was one of the first British National Parks, designated in 1954, under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, and is named after its main river, the River Exe. Several areas of the moor have been declared a Site of Special Scientific interest due to the flora and fauna, which have some legal protection from development, damage, and neglect. In 1993 Exmoor was designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area. (more...)

Gilwell Park (2006)

Gilwell Park is a campsite and activity centre for Scouting groups, as well as a training and conference centre for Scout Leaders. The 44 hectares (110 acres) site is located in Sewardstonebury, Epping Forest close to Chingford, London. In the late Middle Ages, it started as a farm, growing to a wealthy estate that fell into disrepair towards 1900. It was given in 1919 by Scout Commissioner William De Bois Maclaren to The Scout Association of the United Kingdom to provide camping facilities to London Scouts, and training facilities for Scouters. As Scout Leaders from all countries of the world have come to Gilwell Park for their Wood Badge training, it is one of the great landmarks of the world Scouting movement. The site contains campfields for a small patrol up to a 1200 people camp, indoor accommodations, historical sites, monuments of Scouting, and activities suitable for all sections of the Scouting Movement. It can accommodate events for up to 10,000 people. Accommodation of Gilwell Park can also be hired for non-Scout activities such as school group camping, wedding receptions and conferences. (more...)

Portland Harbour

The Isle of Portland is a limestone tied island, 6 kilometres (4 mi) long by 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi) wide, in the English Channel. Portland is 8 kilometres (5 mi) south of the resort of Weymouth, forming the southernmost point of the county of Dorset, England. Chesil Beach connects it to the mainland, and the A354 road bridge connects it to Weymouth, which together form the borough of Weymouth and Portland. The population of Portland is almost 13,000. Portland is a central part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site on the Dorset and east Devon coast, important for its geology and landforms. Its name is used for one of the British Sea Areas, and has been exported as the name of North American and Australian towns. Portland limestone is still quarried here, and is used in British architecture, including St Paul's Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. The large, deep artificial harbour on Portland's northern shore was a Royal Navy base during World War I and World War II; the Navy and NATO trained in its waters until the 1990s. The harbour is a small civilian port and popular recreation area; the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy will host the sailing events for the 2012 Olympic Games. (more...)

An aeriel view of Little Thetford looking north-east
Little Thetford is a small village 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Ely in Cambridgeshire, England, about 76 miles (122 km) by road from London. The village is built on a boulder clay island surrounded by flat fenland countryside, typical of settlements in this part of the East of England. In 1007, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman named Ælfwaru granted her lands in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, including the "land at Thetford and the fisheries around those marshes", to the abbots of Ely Abbey; the village was still listed as a fishery in the Domesday Book, 79 years later. Little Thetford resisted the Parliamentary Inclosure Acts of William IV for seven years, which may have led to the strong Baptist following amongst the poor of the village. About half of Little Thetford was eventually enclosed under the Parliamentary Inclosure Thetford Act of Victoria. The Cambridge station to Ely station section of the Fen Line passes through the east of the village and the rail journey from Ely to London takes about 75 minutes. Occupying an area of 2 square miles (5 km2), and with a population of 693, Little Thetford is the smallest civil parish in the ward of Stretham; notable buildings in the village date from the 14th century. (more...)

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester, England. In 2007, the population of the Manchester local government district was estimated to be 458,100, whilst the surrounding Metropolitan County of Greater Manchester had an estimated population of 2,562,200. Forming part of the English Core Cities Group, often described as the second city of the UK, and the "Capital of the North", Manchester today is a centre of the arts, the media, higher education and commerce. In a poll of British business leaders published in 2006, Manchester was regarded as the best place in the UK to locate a business. Manchester was the host of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and among its other sporting connections are its two Premier League football teams, Manchester City and Manchester United. Historically, most of the city was a part of Lancashire, with areas south of the River Mersey being in Cheshire. Manchester was the world's first industrialised city and played a central role during the Industrial Revolution. Manchester City Centre is now on a tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, mainly due to the network of canals and mills constructed during its 19th-century development. (more...)

The Mendip Hills
The Mendip Hills are a range of limestone hills situated to the south of Bristol and Bath in Somerset, England. Running west to east between Weston-super-Mare and Frome, the Hills overlook the Somerset Levels to the south and the Avon valley to the north. The hills give their name to the local government district of Mendip, which covers most of the area. The hills are largely carboniferous limestone, which is quarried at several sites. The higher, western, part of the Hills, has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which gives it the same level of protection as a national park. The AONB is 200 km2 (80 sq mi). The Mendip Hills AONB Service and Somerset County Council's outdoor education centre is at the Charterhouse Centre near Blagdon. Mendip is home to a wide range of outdoor sports and leisure activities, many based on the particular geology of the area. It is recognised as a national centre for caving and cave diving. In addition to climbing and abseiling, the area is popular with hillwalkers and those interested in natural history. (more...)

Navenby village from the Viking Way
Navenby is a village and civil parish in Lincolnshire, England. Lying 8.7 miles (14 km) south of Lincoln and 8.9 miles (14 km) north-northwest of Sleaford, Navenby has a population of 1,666 and is a dormitory village for Lincoln. It forms part of the North Kesteven local government district. A Bronze Age cemetery has been discovered in the village, as well as the remains of an Iron Age settlement. Historians also believe Navenby was a significant staging point on the Roman Ermine Street, as the Romans are reported to have maintained a small base or garrison in the village. Navenby became a market town after receiving a charter from Edward the Confessor in the 11th century. The charter was later renewed by William Rufus, Edward III and Richard II. When the market fell into disuse in the early 19th century, Navenby returned to being a village. The civil parish of Navenby is rural, covering more than 2,100 acres (8.5 km2). It straddles Ermine Street, a Roman road built between 45 and 75 AD, which runs between London and York. The Viking Way, a 147-mile (237 km) footpath between the Humber Bridge in North Lincolnshire and Oakham in Rutland, also cuts through the village. Among the buildings of note in Navenby is Mrs Smith's Cottage, a mid-19th century Grade II listed building made from early Victorian red bricks which is now run as a museum. (more...)

View over Neilston
Neilston is a village and parish in East Renfrewshire set in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. It lies in the Levern Valley at the southwestern edge of the Greater Glasgow conurbation. Neilston is a dormitory village comprising a resident population of just over 5,000 people. Neilston is mentioned in documents as early as the 12th century, and its early history is marked by its status as an important ecclesiastical parish linked with Paisley Abbey to the north. Neilston Parish Church—a Category B listed building—has lain at the centre of the community since 1163. The urbanisation and development of Neilston largely coincided with the Industrial Revolution. Industrial-scale textile processing was introduced to Neilston around the middle of the 18th century with the construction of several cotton mills. Although known as a former milling village, agriculture has, and continues to play, an economic role for Neilston. The annual Neilston Agricultural Show is an important trading and cultural event for farmers from southwest Scotland each spring. Although heavy industry demised during the latter half of the 20th century, as part of Scotland's densely populated Central Belt, Neilston has continued to grow as a commuter village, supported by its position between Paisley and Glasgow, from roughly 1,000 people in 1800 to 5,168 in 2001. (more...)

West front of Peterborough Cathedral
Peterborough is a cathedral city and unitary authority area in the East of England, with an estimated population of . Situated 75 miles (121 km) north of London, the city stands on the River Nene. The local topography is flat and low-lying, and in some places lies below sea level. The area known as the Fens falls to the east of Peterborough. Human settlement in the area dates back to before the Bronze Age, as can be seen at the Flag Fen archaeological site to the east of the current city centre. This site also shows evidence of Roman occupation. The Anglo-Saxon period saw the establishment of a monastery, then known as Medeshamstede, which later became Peterborough Cathedral (pictured). The population grew rapidly following the arrival of the railways in the nineteenth century (the city is an important stop on the East Coast Main Line railway) and Peterborough became an industrial centre, particularly noted for its brick manufacture. Following the Second World War, growth was limited until designation as a New Town in the 1960s. In common with much of the United Kingdom, industrial employment has fallen, with new jobs tending to be in financial services and distribution. (more...)

Sheerness clock tower

Sheerness is a town located beside the mouth of the River Medway on the northwest corner of the Isle of Sheppey in north Kent, England. With a population of 12,000, it is the largest town on the island. Sheerness began as a fort built in the sixteenth century to protect the River Medway from naval invasion. After a Dutch attack in 1692, Samuel Pepys, the Secretary to the Admiralty, established a Royal Navy dockyard in the town, where warships were built and repaired until its closure in 1960. In the nineteenth century, Sheerness also became a seaside resort, when a pier and promenade were constructed. Industry remains an important part of the town, and the port of Sheerness is one of the United Kingdom's leading car and fresh produce importers. The town is the site of one of the UK's first co-operative societies and the world's first multi-storey building with a rigid metal frame. (more...)

The High Street of the deserted village of Hirta, St Kilda

St Kilda is an isolated archipelago 64 kilometres (40 mi) west-northwest of North Uist in the North Atlantic Ocean. It contains the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The largest island is Hirta, whose sea cliffs are the highest in the United Kingdom. The Gaelic-speaking population probably never exceeded 180 and was never more than 100 after 1851. Although St Kilda was permanently inhabited for at least two millennia, and despite the inhabitants' unique way of life, the entire population was evacuated in 1930. The only residents are now military personnel. The islands are administratively a part of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar local authority area. The islands' human heritage includes numerous unique architectural features from the historic and prehistoric periods, although the earliest written records of island life date from the Late Middle Ages. The medieval village on Hirta was rebuilt in the 19th century, but the influences of religion, tourism and the First World War contributed to the island's evacuation in 1930. The story of St Kilda has attracted artistic interpretations, including a recent opera. The entire archipelago is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It became one of Scotland's four World Heritage Sites in 1986 and is one of the few in the world to hold joint status for its natural, marine and cultural qualities. (more...)

Trafford Town Hall

Trafford is a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester, England. It has a population of 211,800, covers 41 square miles (106 km2), and includes the towns of Altrincham, Partington, Sale, Stretford, and Urmston. The borough was formed on 1 April 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972 as a merger of the boroughs of Altrincham, Sale, and Stretford, the urban districts of Bowdon, Hale, and Urmston and part of Bucklow Rural District. The Trafford area has a long heritage, with evidence of Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Roman activity. The area underwent change in the late 19th century and the population rapidly expanded with the arrival of the railway. Trafford is the home of Manchester United F.C., Lancashire County Cricket Club, Manchester Phoenix, and formerly Sale Sharks. Also in Trafford is the Imperial War Museum North. Trafford has a strong economy with low levels of unemployment and the Trafford Park industrial estate and Trafford Centre – a large out-of-town shopping centre; apart from the City of Manchester, Trafford is the only borough to be above the national average for weekly income. Socially, the area is middle class and contains commuter towns. (more...)

Weymouth, Wyke Regis and Portland Harbour
Weymouth is a town in Dorset, England, situated on a sheltered bay at the mouth of the River Wey on the English Channel coast. The town is 13 kilometres (8 mi) south of Dorchester and 8 kilometres (5 mi) north of the Isle of Portland. The population of Weymouth is almost 52,000. The A354 road bridge connects Weymouth to Portland, which together form the borough of Weymouth and Portland. The history of the borough stretches back to the 12th century; including involvement in the Black Death, the settlement of the Americas, the Georgian era, and World War II. Although fishing and trading employ fewer people in the area since their peak in earlier centuries, tourism has had a strong presence in the town since the 18th century. Weymouth is a popular tourist resort, and the town's economy depends on its harbour and visitor attractions. Weymouth is a gateway town situated half-way along the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site on the Dorset and east Devon coast, important for its geology and landforms. Weymouth Harbour is home to cross-channel ferries, pleasure boats and private yachts, and nearby Portland Harbour is home to the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, where the sailing events of the 2012 Olympic Games will be held. (more...)

A hunger strike memorial in Derry's Bogside

The 1981 Irish hunger strike was the culmination of a five-year protest during the Troubles by Irish republican prisoners in Northern Ireland. The protest began as the blanket protest in 1976, when the British government withdrew Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners. In 1978 the dispute escalated into the dirty protest, where prisoners refused to wash and covered the walls of their cells with excrement. 1980 saw seven prisoners participate in the first hunger strike, which ended after 53 days. The second hunger strike took place in 1981, and was a showdown between the prisoners and the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. One hunger striker, Bobby Sands, was elected as a Member of Parliament during the strike, prompting media interest from around the world. By the end of the strike, ten prisoners had starved themselves to death including Sands, and 100,000 people attended his funeral. The strike radicalised nationalist politics, and was the driving force that enabled Sinn Féin to become a mainstream political party. (more...)

The Union Jack, flag of the British Empire

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom, that had originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1922, the British Empire held sway over a population of about 458 million people, one-quarter of the world's population, and approximately a quarter of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, it was often said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire" because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous territories. The growth of Germany and the United States eroded Britain's economic lead by the end of the 19th century. Subsequent military and economic tensions between Britain and Germany were major causes of the First World War, for which Britain leaned heavily upon its Empire. The Second World War accelerated the decline of the Empire. Within two years of the end of the war, Britain granted independence to its most populous and valuable colony, India. During the remainder of the 20th century, most of the territories of the Empire became independent. After independence, many former British colonies joined the Commonwealth of Nations, a free association of independent states. Fourteen territories remain under British sovereignty, the British Overseas Territories. (more...)

The original brown dog statue
The Brown Dog affair was a political controversy about vivisection that raged in Edwardian England from 1903 until 1910, becoming a cause célèbre that reportedly divided the country. It involved the infiltration of University of London medical lectures by Swedish women activists, pitched battles between medical students and the police, round-the-clock police protection for the statue of a dog, a libel trial at the Royal Courts of Justice, and the establishment of a Royal Commission to investigate the use of animals in experiments. The affair was triggered by allegations, vigorously denied, that Dr. William Bayliss of University College, London had performed an illegal dissection on a brown terrier dog — anaesthetized according to Bayliss, conscious according to the Swedish activists. A statue erected by antivivisectionists in memory of the dog led to violent protests by London's medical students, who saw the memorial as an assault on the entire medical profession. The unrest culminated in rioting in Trafalgar Square on December 10, 1907, when 1,000 students marched down the Strand, clashing with 400 police officers, in what became known as the Brown Dog riots. (more...)

JMW Turner's 'Battle of Trafalgar' shows the last three letters of this famous signal
"England expects that every man will do his duty" was a signal sent by Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson from his ship HMS Victory as the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) was about to commence. Trafalgar was the decisive naval engagement of the Napoleonic Wars. It gave the United Kingdom control of the seas, removing all possibility of a French invasion and conquest of Britain. The phrase has become extremely well-known in Britain as a result of Lord Nelson's fame and the importance of the Battle of Trafalgar in British history. The phrase is known so widely in Britain that it has entered the British popular consciousness. Today "England expects…", as an abbreviated version of the phrase, is often adapted for use in the media, especially in relation to the expectations for the victory of English sporting teams.

Detail of painting from 1666 of the Great Fire of London

The Great Fire of London was a major conflagration that swept through the central parts of London from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman City Wall. It threatened, but did not quite reach, the aristocratic district of Westminster and Charles II's Palace of Whitehall and left the suburban slums surrounding the City largely untouched. It consumed 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, St Paul's Cathedral, and nearly all the buildings of the City authorities. It is estimated that it made homeless 70,000 of the City's 80,000 inhabitants. The death toll from the fire is unknown and has traditionally been thought to have been small, as only a few verified deaths are recorded. (more...)

Contemporary engraving of eight of the thirteen plotters
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Sir Robert Catesby. The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on 5 November, as the prelude to a popular revolt in the Midlands during which James's nine-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was to be installed as the Catholic head of state. Catesby may have embarked on the scheme after hopes of securing greater religious tolerance under King James had faded, leaving many English Catholics disappointed. His fellow plotters were John Wright, Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, Robert Wintour, Christopher Wright, John Grant, Sir Ambrose Rookwood, Sir Everard Digby and Francis Tresham. Fawkes, who had 10 years of military experience fighting in the Spanish Netherlands in suppression of the Dutch Revolt, was given charge of the explosives. (more...)

The Endurance under sail c.1915
The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was the last major expedition of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Conceived by Sir Ernest Shackleton, its purpose was to achieve the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. The expedition failed entirely to accomplish this aim, but it remains memorable as an epic of heroism and survival. It required two ships; the Endurance would take Shackleton’s party to the Weddell Sea, and the Aurora, under Captain Aeneas Mackintosh, would take the Ross Sea party to McMurdo Sound. In the event, Endurance became beset in the ice of the Weddell Sea before reaching Vahsel Bay. Despite efforts to free her, she drifted northward with the pack throughout the Antarctic winter of 1915. Eventually, she was crushed in the ice and sank, stranding her 28-man complement on the ice and subjecting them to a series of harrowing episodes—months spent in makeshift camps on the ice, a journey in lifeboats to Elephant Island, an 800-mile (1,300 km) open boat journey in the James Caird, and the first crossing of South Georgia—that led eventually to their rescue with not a life lost. Meanwhile, the Ross Sea party overcame great hardships to fulfil its mission, after Aurora was blown from her moorings during a gale and could not return. (more...)

King Authur by Peter Vischer in Hofkirche
King Arthur is a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against the Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and his historical existence is debated and disputed by modern historians. The sparse historical background of Arthur is gleaned from various histories, including those of Gildas, Nennius and the Annales Cambriae. The legendary Arthur developed as a figure of international interest largely through the popularity of Geoffrey of Monmouth's fanciful and imaginative 12th-century Historia Regum Britanniae. Geoffrey depicted Arthur as a king of Britain who defeated the Saxons and established an empire over the British Isles, Iceland, Norway and Gaul. In fact, many elements and incidents that are now an integral part of the Arthurian story appear in Geoffrey's Historia, including Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, the wizard Merlin, the sword Excalibur, Arthur's birth at Tintagel, his final battle against Mordred at Camlann and final rest in Avalon. The 12th-century French writer Chrétien de Troyes, who added Lancelot and the Holy Grail to the story, began the genre of Arthurian romance that became a significant strand of medieval literature. In the 21st century, the legend lives on, both in literature and in adaptations for theatre, film, television, comics and other media. (more...)

"The Premature Burial" by Antoine Wiertz
The Manchester Mummy, Hannah Beswick (1688–1758), was a wealthy woman with a pathological fear of premature burial whose body was embalmed and kept above ground for over 100 years after her death. The "cold dark shadow of her mummy hung over Manchester in the middle of the eighteenth century", according to writer Edith Sitwell. The mid-18th century saw an upsurge in the public's fear of being mistakenly buried alive, and Beswick had seen one of her brothers show signs of life just as his coffin lid was about to be closed. Writing in 1895, the physician J. C. Ouseley claimed that as many as 2,700 people were buried prematurely each year in England and Wales. For more than 50 years Beswick's mummified body was kept in an old clock case in the home of her family physician, Dr Charles White, and periodically checked for signs of life. Eventually it was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Natural History Society, where it was put on display in the entrance hall. Beswick's home was converted into workers' tenements following her death; several of those living there claimed to have seen an apparition dressed in a black silk gown and a white cap, and described it as Hannah Beswick. (more...)

The southern party after its return

The Nimrod Expedition was the first of three expeditions to the Antarctic led by Ernest Shackleton. Its ship, Nimrod, departed from British waters on 7 August 1907, fewer than six months after Shackleton’s first public announcement of his plans. Initially, the expedition's public profile was much lower than that of Scott’s Discovery Expedition six years earlier. However, nationwide interest was aroused by the news of its achievements. The South Pole was not attained, but the expedition’s southern march reached a farthest south latitude at 88°23′S, and it could thus claim that it had got within a hundred miles of the Pole. This was by far the longest southern polar journey to that date and a record convergence on either Pole. During the expedition a separate group led by Welsh-born Australian geology professor Edgeworth David reached the estimated location of the South Magnetic Pole, and the first ascent was made of Mount Erebus, the lofty Ross Island active volcano. The scientific team, which included the future Australian Antarctic Expedition leader Douglas Mawson, carried out extensive geological, zoological and meteorological work. Shackleton’s transport arrangements, based on Manchurian ponies, motor traction, and sledge dogs, were innovations which, despite limited success, were later copied by Scott for his ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition. (more...)

A painting of the Peterloo Massacre published by Richard Carlile

The Peterloo Massacre occurred at St Peter's Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60–80,000 gathered at a meeting to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. The Manchester Patriotic Union, a group agitating for parliamentary reform, organised a demonstration to be addressed by the well-known radical orator Henry Hunt. Shortly after the meeting began, local magistrates called on the military to arrest Hunt and several others on the hustings with him, and to disperse the crowd. Cavalry charged into the crowd with sabres drawn, and in the ensuing confusion, 15 people were killed and 400–700 were injured, among them many women and children. The massacre was given the name Peterloo in ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo, which had taken place four years earlier. Historian Robert Poole has called the Peterloo Massacre one of the defining moments of its age. In its own time, the London and national papers shared the horror felt in the Manchester region, but Peterloo's immediate effect was to cause the government to crack down on reform, with the passing of what became known as the Six Acts. It also led directly to the foundation of The Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian), but had little other effect on the pace of reform. (more...)

The Red Barn, scene of the murder
The Red Barn Murder was a notorious murder committed in Suffolk, England in 1827. A young woman, Maria Marten, was shot dead by her lover, William Corder, the son of the local squire. The two had arranged to meet at the Red Barn, a local landmark, before eloping to Ipswich in order to be married. Maria was never heard from again. Corder fled the scene and although he sent Marten's family letters claiming she was in good health, her body was later discovered buried in the barn after her stepmother claimed to have dreamt about the murder. Corder was tracked down in London, where he had married and started a new life. He was brought back to Suffolk, and, after a well-publicised trial, found guilty of murder. He was hanged in Bury St. Edmunds in 1828; the execution was watched by a huge crowd. The story provoked numerous articles in the newspapers, and songs and plays. The village where the crime had taken place became a tourist attraction and the barn was stripped by souvenir hunters. The plays and ballads remained popular throughout the next century and continue to be performed today. (more...)

Ross Sea party members
The Ross Sea party was a component of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–17. Its task was to lay a series of supply depots across the Great Ice Barrier from the Ross Sea to the Beardmore Glacier, along the polar route established by earlier Antarctic expeditions. The expedition's main party, under Shackleton, was to land on the opposite, Weddell Sea coast of Antarctica, and to march across the continent via the South Pole to the Ross Sea. As the main party would be unable to carry sufficient fuel and supplies for the whole distance, their survival depended on the Ross Sea party's depots, which would cover the final quarter of their journey. Shackleton set sail from London in his ship Endurance, bound for the Weddell Sea, in August 1914. Meanwhile, the Ross Sea party personnel gathered in Australia, prior to departure for the Ross Sea in the second expedition ship, SY Aurora. After their arrival the inexperienced party struggled to master the art of Antarctic travel, in the process losing most of their sledge dogs. A greater misfortune occurred when, at the onset of the southern winter, Aurora was torn from its moorings during a severe storm and was unable to return, leaving the shore party stranded. (more...)

Dunnottar Castle
The history of Scotland in the High Middle Ages concerns itself with the era between the death of Domnall II in 900 and the death of king Alexander III in 1286, which led indirectly to the Scottish Wars of Independence. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, northern Great Britain was dominated by Gaelic culture, and by a Gaelic regal lordship called "Alba", in Latin called either "Albania" or "Scotia," and in English called "Scotland", although the kingdom only controlled part of modern Scotland, and other kingdoms existed for much of the era. After the twelfth century reign of King David I, the Scottish monarchs are better described as Scoto-Norman than Gaelic, preferring French culture to native Scottish culture, although Gaelic remained the dominant language of the people throughout the period. After the twelfth century too, the trend was towards unity under the Scottish crown, a unity which was not maintained after the Wars of Scottish Independence. (continued...)

Sir Ernest Shackleton taken during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (Endurance expedition)

The Shackleton–Rowett Expedition was the last Antarctic expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton (pictured), and the final episode in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. The venture, lasting from 1921 to 1922, financed by businessman John Quiller Rowett, is

sometimes referred to as the Quest Expedition after its ship, a small converted Norwegian whaler. Before the expedition's work could properly begin, Shackleton died aboard ship, just after its arrival at the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. The major part of the subsequent foreshortened expedition was a three-month cruise to the eastern Antarctic, under the leadership of second-in-command Frank Wild. In these waters the shortcomings of Quest were soon in evidence: slow speed, heavy fuel consumption, a tendency to roll in heavy seas, and a steady leak. The ship was unable to proceed further than longitude 20°E, well short of its easterly target, and its engine's low power was insufficient for it to penetrate far into the Antarctic ice. Following several fruitless attempts to break southwards through the pack ice, Wild returned the ship to South Georgia, after a nostalgic visit to Elephant Island, where he and 21 others had been stranded during Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition six years earlier. Although not greatly regarded in the histories of polar exploration, the Quest voyage is of historical significance, standing at the very end of the Heroic Age and the beginning of the "Mechanical Age" that followed it. (more...)

Robert Falcon Scott
The Terra Nova Expedition was led by Robert Falcon Scott with the objective of being the first to reach the geographical South Pole. Scott and four companions reached the Pole on 17 January 1912 to find that a Norwegian team, led by Roald Amundsen, had preceded them by 33 days. Scott's entire party died on the return journey from the pole; some of their bodies and journals were discovered by a search party in November 1912. The expedition, named after its supply ship, was a private venture, financed by public contributions augmented by a government grant. As well as its polar attempt, the expedition carried out a comprehensive scientific programme, explored Victoria Land and the Western Mountains, and made the first-ever extended sledging journey in the depths of an Antarctic winter (to Cape Crozier, to collect Emperor Penguin eggs). For many years after his death, Scott's status as tragic hero was unchallenged and few questions were asked about the causes of the disaster which overtook his party. In the final quarter of the 20th century, the expedition came under closer scrutiny and more critical views were expressed about its organisation and management. The degree of Scott's personal culpability remains a matter of controversy among commentators. (more...)

Abraham Thornton
Ashford v Thornton was an 1818 English legal case in the Court of King's Bench that upheld the right of the defendant, on a private appeal from an acquittal for murder, to trial by battle. In 1817, Abraham Thornton (pictured) was charged with the murder of Mary Ashford. Thornton met Ashford at a dance, and walked with her from the event. The next morning, Ashford was found drowned in a pit, with little outward signs of violence. Although public opinion was heavily against Thornton, the jury quickly acquitted him, and also found him not guilty of rape. Mary's brother, William Ashford, launched an appeal, and Thornton was rearrested. Thornton claimed the right to trial by battle, a medieval usage which had never been repealed by Parliament. Ashford argued that the evidence against Thornton was overwhelming, and that he was thus ineligible to wager battle. The court decided that the evidence against Thornton was not overwhelming, and that trial by battle was a permissible option under law; thus Thornton was granted trial by battle. Ashford declined the offer of battle and Thornton was freed from custody. Appeals such as Ashford's were abolished by statute the following year, and with them the right to trial by battle. Thornton emigrated to the United States, where he died about 1860. (more...)

Ian Tomlinson remonstrates with police after being pushed to the ground, minutes before he died.
Ian Tomlinson (1962–2009) was an English newspaper vendor who collapsed and died in the City of London on his way home from work during the G-20 summit protests. A first postmortem examination suggested he had suffered a heart attack and had died of natural causes, but his death became controversial a week later when The Guardian obtained footage of his last moments, filmed by an American investment fund manager who was visiting London. The video shows Tomlinson being struck on the leg from behind by a police officer wielding an expandable baton, then pushed to the ground by the same officer. It appears to show no provocation on Tomlinson's part—he was not a protester, and at the time he was struck, the footage shows him walking along with his hands in his pockets. He walked away from the incident but died moments later. After the newspaper published the video, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) began a criminal inquiry from which the police were removed, and ordered a second postmortem, this one indicating that Tomlinson had died from an abdominal haemorrhage, the cause of which remains unknown. The IPCC completed its investigation in August 2009 and passed its file to the Crown Prosecution Service. A police officer has been interviewed on suspicion of manslaughter but has not been named or charged. The incident sparked an intense debate in the UK about what appeared to be a deteriorating relationship between the police and the public, the degree to which the IPCC is independent of the police, and the role of citizens in monitoring police and government activity—so-called sousveillance. (more...)

Edward VIII

The Edward VIII abdication crisis occurred in the British Empire in 1936, when the desire of King-Emperor Edward VIII to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite, caused a constitutional crisis. The marriage was opposed by the King's governments in the United Kingdom and the Dominions. Religious, legal, political, and moral objections were raised. Mrs Simpson was perceived to be an unsuitable consort because of her two failed marriages, and it was widely assumed by the Establishment that she was driven by love of money or position rather than love for the King. Despite the opposition, Edward declared that he loved Mrs Simpson and intended to marry her whether the governments approved or not. The widespread unwillingness to accept Mrs Simpson as the King's consort, and the King's refusal to give her up, led to Edward's abdication on 11 December 1936. He was succeeded by his brother Albert as George VI. Edward was given the title His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor following his abdication, and he married Mrs Simpson the following year. They remained married until his death 35 years later. (more...)

Gray's Inn Square
Gray's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wales, an individual must belong to one of these Inns. Located at the intersection of High Holborn and Gray's Inn Road, the Inn is both a professional body and a place of living and office accommodation (chambers) for many barristers. It is ruled by a governing council called "Pension", made up of the Masters of the Bench (or "Benchers"), and led by the Treasurer, who is elected to serve a one-year term. The Inn is known for its gardens, or Walks, which have existed since at least 1597. Gray's Inn does not claim a specific foundation date; there is a tradition that none of the Inns of Court claims to be any older than the others. Law clerks and their apprentices have been established on the present site since at least 1370, with records dating from 1391. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Inn grew steadily, reaching its pinnacle during the reign of Elizabeth I. The outbreak of the First English Civil War in 1642 during the reign of Charles I disrupted the systems of legal education and governance at the Inns of Court, shutting down all calls to the Bar and new admissions, and Gray's Inn never fully recovered. Fortunes continued to decline after the English Restoration, which saw the end of the traditional method of legal education. Although now more prosperous, Gray's Inn is still the smallest of the Inns of Court. (more...)

18th-century drawing of the first Marshalsea prison
The Marshalsea was a prison on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark, now part of London. From at least 1329 until it closed in 1842, it housed men under court martial for crimes at sea, including "unnatural crimes", political figures and intellectuals accused of sedition or other inappropriate behaviour, and—most famously—London's debtors, the length of their stay determined largely by the whim of their creditors. Run privately for profit, as were all prisons in England until the 19th century, the Marshalsea looked like an Oxbridge college and functioned largely as an extortion racket. For prisoners who could afford the fees, it came with access to a bar, shop, and restaurant, and the crucial privilege of being allowed to leave the prison during the day, which meant debtors could earn money to pay off their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others, possibly for decades for the most modest of debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated. The prison became known around the world during the 19th century through the writings of the English novelist Charles Dickens, whose father was sent there in 1824 for a debt of £40 and 10 shillings. Much of it was demolished in the 1870s, though some of its buildings were used into the 20th century. (more...)

Saddleworth Moor, the location where three of the bodies were found, viewed from Hollin Brown Knoll
The Moors murders were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July 1963 and October 1965, in and around what is now Greater Manchester, England. The victims were five children aged between 10 and 17, and at least four of them were sexually assaulted. The murders are so named because two of the victims were discovered in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor (pictured); a third grave was discovered on the moor in 1987, more than 20 years after Brady and Hindley's trial in 1966. The body of a fourth victim is also suspected to be buried there, but as of 2010, it remains undiscovered. The investigation was reopened in 1985, after Brady was reported in the press as having confessed to two of the murders. Brady and Hindley were taken separately to Saddleworth Moor to assist the police in their search for the graves, both by then having confessed to the additional murders. Hindley later made several appeals against her life sentence, claiming she was a reformed woman and no longer a danger to society, but she was never released. She later died in 2002 at the age of 60. Brady was declared criminally insane in 1985, since when he has been confined in the high-security Ashworth Hospital. He has made it clear that he never wants to be released, and has repeatedly asked that he be allowed to die. (more...)

Edward II of England
The Ordinances of 1311 were a series of regulations imposed upon King Edward II by the peerage and clergy of the Kingdom of England to restrict the power of the king. The twenty-one signatories of the Ordinances are referred to as the Lords Ordainers. English setbacks in the Scottish war, combined with perceived extortionate royal fiscal policies, set the background for the writing of the Ordinances in which the administrative prerogatives of the king were largely appropriated by a baronial council. The Ordinances reflect the Provisions of Oxford and the Provisions of Westminster from the late 1250s, but unlike the Provisions, the Ordinances featured a new concern with fiscal reform, specifically redirecting revenues from the king's household to the exchequer. Just as instrumental to their conception were other issues, particularly discontent with the king's favourite, Piers Gaveston, whom the barons subsequently banished from the realm. Edward II accepted the Ordinances only under coercion, and a long struggle for their repeal ensued that did not end until Thomas of Lancaster – the leader of the Ordainers – was executed in 1322. (more...)

Passing of the Parliament Bill, 1911
The Parliament Acts are two Acts of Parliament of the United Kingdom, passed in 1911 and 1949. They form part of the Constitution of the United Kingdom. The first Parliament Act, the Parliament Act 1911, asserted the supremacy of the House of Commons by limiting the legislation blocking powers of the House of Lords—the suspensory veto. Providing the provisions of the Act are met, legislation can be passed without the approval of the House of Lords. Additionally, the 1911 Act amended the Septennial Act to reduce the maximum permitted time between general elections from seven years to five years. The first Parliament Act was amended by the second Parliament Act, the Parliament Act 1949, which further limited the power of the Lords by reducing the time that they could delay bills, from two years to one. The Parliament Acts have been used to pass legislation against the wishes of the House of Lords on only seven occasions since 1911, including the passing of the Parliament Act 1949. Doubts which had existed in academic circles concerning the validity of the 1949 Act were refuted in 2005 when members of the Countryside Alliance unsuccessfully challenged the validity of the Hunting Act 2004 which had been passed under the auspices of the Act. (more...)

Two of the accused witches, Anne Whittle (Chattox) and her daughter Ann Redferne

The Pendle witch trials of 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history, and some of the best recorded of the 17th century. The twelve accused lived in the area around Pendle Hill in Lancashire, and were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. All but two were tried at Lancaster Assizes 17–19 August 1612 along with the Samlesbury witches and others, in what became known as the Lancashire witch trials. One was tried at York Assizes on 27 July 1612, and another died in prison. Of the eleven Pendle witches who went to trial – nine women and two men – ten were found guilty and executed by hanging and one was found not guilty. The Lancashire witch trials were unusual for England at that time in two respects: the official publication of the trial proceedings by the clerk to the court, Thomas Potts, in his The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, and in the number of witches hanged together: ten at Lancaster and one at York. In more recent times, the witches have become the inspiration for Pendle's tourism and heritage industries. (more...)

Illustration from William Harrison Ainsworth's novel The Lancashire Witches
The Samlesbury witches were three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury—Jane Southworth, Jennet Bierley, and Ellen Bierley—accused by a 14-year-old girl, Grace Sowerbutts, of practising witchcraft. Their trial at Lancaster Assizes in England on 19 August 1612 was one in a series of witch trials held over two days, among the most famous in English history. They were unusual for England at that time in two respects: Thomas Potts, the clerk to the court, published the proceedings in his The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster; the number of the accused found guilty and hanged was unusually high, ten at Lancaster and another at York. However, all three Samlesbury witches were acquitted. The charges against the women included child murder and cannibalism. In contrast, the others tried at the same assizes, who included the Pendle witches, were accused of maleficium—causing harm by witchcraft. The case against the three women collapsed "spectacularly" when Grace Sowerbutts was exposed by the trial judge to be "the perjuring tool of a Catholic priest". Many historians, notably Hugh Trevor-Roper, have suggested that the witch trials of the 16th and 17th century were a consequence of the religious struggles of the period, with both Catholic and Protestant Churches determined to stamp out what they regarded as heresy. (more...)

The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English narrating the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The annals were created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great. Multiple manuscript copies were made and distributed to monasteries across England and were independently updated. In one case, the chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154. Nine manuscripts survive in whole or in part, though not all are of equal historical value, and none of them is the original version. The oldest seems to have been started towards the end of Alfred's reign, while the most recent was written at Peterborough Abbey after a fire at the monastery there in 1116. Much of the information given in the Chronicle is not recorded elsewhere. In addition, the manuscripts are important sources for the history of the English language; in particular, the later Peterborough text is one of the earliest examples of Middle English in existence. Seven of the nine surviving manuscripts and fragments now reside in the British Library. The remaining two are in the Bodleian Library and the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. (more...)

The first edition The Country Wife" (1675)

The Country Wife is a Restoration comedy from 1675 by William Wycherley. A product of the tolerant early Restoration period, the play reflects an aristocratic and anti-Puritan ideology, and was controversial for its sexual explicitness even in its own time. Even its title contains a lewd pun. Based on several plays by Molière, it turns on two indelicate plot devices: a rake's trick of pretending impotence in order to safely have clandestine affairs with married women, and the arrival in London of an inexperienced young "country wife", with her discovery of the joys of town life, especially the fascinating London men. The scandalous trick and the frank language have for much of the play's history kept it off the stage and out of print. Between 1753 and 1924, The Country Wife was considered too outrageous to be performed at all and was replaced on the stage by David Garrick's cleaned-up and bland version The Country Girl. The original play is again a stage favourite today, and is also acclaimed by academic critics, who praise its linguistic energy, sharp social satire, and openness to different interpretations.

Ben Greet in the role of Boomblehardt

Creatures of Impulse is a short story by English dramatist W. S. Gilbert, which he later adapted for the stage with music by composer-conductor Alberto Randegger. Both the short story and the play concern an unwanted and ill-tempered old fairy who enchants people to behave in a manner opposite to their natures, with farcical results. The short story was written for The Graphic's Christmas number of 1870, and the play was first produced at the Court Theatre on 2 April 1871. It originally included six songs, but three were eventually cut, and some productions dispensed with the music entirely. While the lyrics survive, the music was never published and is lost. Reviews of the play were mostly positive, though it was criticised for the lack of a significant plot or superstructure to support its comic premise. Nonetheless, reviewers found it enjoyable, and it was a modest success, running for 91 performances and enjoying revivals into the early part of the 20th century. Gilbert had already written a considerable body of stories, plays, poems, criticism and other works before writing Creatures of Impulse and would go on to write the libretti to the famous Savoy operas (composed by Arthur Sullivan) between 1871 and 1896. (more...)

The "gravedigger scene" by Eugène Delacroix
Hamlet is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, probably written between 1599 and 1601. Set in Denmark, the play tells how Prince Hamlet exacts revenge on his uncle for murdering the previous king, Hamlet's father. Hamlet's uncle has since stolen the throne and taken Hamlet's mother, the dead king's widow, as his wife. The play vividly charts the course of real and feigned madness—from overwhelming grief to seething rage—and explores themes of treachery, incest, and moral corruption. Despite much literary detective work, the exact year of writing remains in dispute. Three different early versions of the play survived, which are known as the First Quarto, the Second Quarto, and the First Folio. Each has lines, and even scenes, that are missing from the others. Shakespeare probably based Hamlet on an Indo-European legend—preserved by a 13th-century chronicler, and retold by a 16th-century scholar—and a lost Elizabethan play known today as the Ur-Hamlet. The play's dramatic structure and Shakespeare's depth of characterisation mean that Hamlet can be analysed and interpreted—and argued about—from many perspectives. Hamlet is by far Shakespeare's longest play, and among the most powerful and influential tragedies in the English language. The title role was almost certainly created for Richard Burbage, the leading tragedian of Shakespeare's time; in the four hundred years since, it has been played by the greatest actors, and sometimes actresses, of each successive age. (more...)

Exterior of Her Majesty's Theatre, 2007
Her Majesty's Theatre is a West End theatre, located in the Haymarket, in the City of Westminster. The present building was designed by Charles J. Phipps and was constructed in 1897 for actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who established the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the theatre. In the early decades of the 20th century, Tree produced spectacular productions of Shakespeare and other classical works, and the theatre hosted premières by major playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Synge, Noël Coward and J. B. Priestley. Since World War I, the wide flat stage has made the theatre suitable for large-scale musical productions, and the theatre has specialised in hosting musicals. The theatre has been home to record-setting musical theatre runs, notably the World War I sensation Chu Chin Chow and the current production, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, which has played continuously at Her Majesty's since 1986. The theatre's capacity is 1,216 seats, and the building was Grade II* listed by English Heritage in January 1970. Really Useful Group Theatres has owned the theatre since 2000. (more...)

Title page from the second volume of Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of France
The Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men were five volumes of Dionysius Lardner’s 133-volume Cabinet Cyclopaedia (1829–46). Aimed at the self-educating middle class, this encyclopedia was written during the 19th-century literary revolution in Britain that encouraged more people to read. The Lives formed part of the Cabinet of Biography in the Cabinet Cyclopaedia. The three-volume Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of Italy, Spain and Portugal (1835–37) and the two-volume Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of France (1838–39) consist of biographies of important writers and thinkers of the 14th to 18th centuries. Most of them were authored by the Romantic writer Mary Shelley. Shelley's biographies reveal her as a professional woman of letters, contracted to produce several volumes of works and paid well to do so. Her extensive knowledge of history and languages, her ability to tell a gripping biographical narrative, and her interest in the burgeoning field of feminist historiography are reflected in these works. At times Shelley had trouble finding sufficient research materials and had to make do with fewer resources than she would have liked, particularly for the Spanish and Portuguese Lives. She wrote in a style that combined secondary sources, memoir, anecdote, and her own opinions. (more...)

Title page from Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark
Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark is a deeply personal travel narrative by the eighteenth-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. It covers a wide range of topics, from sociological reflections on Scandinavia and its peoples to philosophical questions regarding identity. Published by Wollstonecraft's career-long publisher, Joseph Johnson, it was the last work issued during her lifetime. Wollstonecraft undertook the tour of the three countries in order to retrieve a stolen treasure ship for her lover, Gilbert Imlay, believing that the journey would restore their strained relationship. However, over the course of the three-month trip, she realized that Imlay had no intention of renewing the relationship. The twenty-five letters which constitute the text, drawn from her journal and from missives she sent to Imlay, reflect her anger and melancholy over his repeated betrayals. Using the rhetoric of the sublime, Wollstonecraft explores the relationship between the self and society in the text. Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark is both a travel narrative and an autobiographical memoir, and was Wollstonecraft's most popular book in the 1790s—it sold well and was reviewed positively by most critics. (more...)

Portrait of William Wordsworth by William Shuter
The Lucy poems are a series of five poems composed by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth between 1798 and 1801. All but one were first published in the second edition of Lyrical Ballads in 1800, a collaboration between Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge that was both Wordsworth’s first major publication and a milestone in the early English Romantic movement. In the series, Wordsworth sought to write unaffected English verse infused with abstract ideals of beauty, nature, love, longing and death. Although they individually deal with a variety of themes, as a series they focus on the poet's longing for the company of his friend Coleridge, who had stayed in England, and on his increasing impatience with his sister Dorothy, who had travelled with him abroad. Wordsworth channeled his frustrations into an examination of unrequited love for the idealised character of Lucy, an English girl who has died young. The idea of her death weighs heavily on the poet throughout the series, imbuing it with a melancholic, elegiac tone. Whether Lucy was based on a real woman or was a figment of the poet's imagination has long been a matter of debate among scholars. The "Lucy poems" consist of "Strange fits of passion have I known", "She dwelt among the untrodden ways", "I travelled among unknown men", "Three years she grew in sun and shower", and "A slumber did my spirit seal". (more...)

Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (c. 1797)
Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman is the unfinished novelistic sequel by Mary Wollstonecraft (pictured) to her revolutionary political treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The Wrongs of Woman was published posthumously in 1798 by her husband, William Godwin, and is often considered her most radical feminist work. Wollstonecraft's philosophical and gothic novel revolves around the story of a woman imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband. It focuses on the societal rather than the individual "wrongs of woman" and criticizes what Wollstonecraft viewed as the patriarchal institution of marriage in eighteenth-century Britain and the legal system that protected it. The novel pioneered the celebration of female sexuality and cross-class identification between women. Such themes, coupled with the publication of Godwin's scandalous Memoirs of Wollstonecraft's life, made the novel unpopular at the time it was published. Twentieth-century feminist critics embraced the work, integrating it into the history of the novel and feminist discourse. (more...)

Title page from Mary: A Fiction
Mary: A Fiction is the first and only complete novel written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Published in 1788, it tells the story of a heroine's successive "romantic friendships" with a woman and a man. Helping to redefine genius, Wollstonecraft describes Mary as independent and capable of defining femininity and marriage for herself. It is Mary's "strong, original opinions" and her resistance to "conventional wisdom" that mark her as a genius. Making her heroine a genius allowed Wollstonecraft to criticize marriage as well: geniuses were "enchained" rather than enriched by marriage. Mary rewrites the traditional romance plot through its reimagination of gender relations and female sexuality. Wollstonecraft later repudiated Mary, writing that it was laughable. However, scholars have argued that, despite its faults, the novel's representation of an energetic, unconventional, opinionated, rational, female genius (the first of its kind in English literature) is an important development in the history of the novel because it helped shape an emerging feminist discourse. (more...)

Tracing of an engraving of the Sosibios vase by John Keats
"Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a poem written by the English Romantic poet John Keats in May 1819, published in January 1820. It is one of his "Great Odes of 1819", which include "Ode on Indolence", "Ode on Melancholy", "Ode to a Nightingale", and "Ode to Psyche". Keats found earlier forms of poetry unsatisfactory for his purpose, and the collection represented a new development of the ode form. He was inspired to write the poem after reading two articles by English artist and writer Benjamin Haydon. The poem focuses on two scenes: one in which a lover eternally pursues a beloved without fulfillment, and another of villagers about to perform a sacrifice. The final lines of the poem declare that "'beauty is truth, truth beauty,' – that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know", and literary critics have debated whether they increase or diminish the overall beauty of the poem. "Ode on a Grecian Urn" was not well received by contemporary critics. It was only by the mid-19th century that it began to be praised, although it is now considered to be one of the greatest odes in the English language. A long debate over the poem's final statement divided 20th-century critics, but most agreed on the beauty of the work, despite various inadequacies that kept it from perfection. (more...)

Drawing of a Grecian urn by John Keats
The "Ode on Indolence" is one of five odes composed by English poet John Keats in the spring of 1819. The others were "Ode on a Grecian Urn", "Ode on Melancholy", "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode to Psyche". The poem describes the state of indolence, otherwise known as laziness, and was written during a time when he felt that he should devote his efforts to earning an income instead of composing poetry. After finishing the spring poems, Keats wrote in June 1819 that its composition brought him more pleasure than anything else he had written that year. Unlike the other odes he wrote that year, "Ode on Indolence" was not published until 1848 (see 1848 in poetry), 27 years after his death. The poem is an example of Keats's break from the structure of the classical form. It follows the poet's contemplation of a morning spent in idleness. Three figures are presented—Ambition, Love and Poesy—dressed in "placid sandals" and "white robes". The narrator examines each using a series of questions and statements on life and art. The poem concludes with the narrator giving up on having all three of the figures as part of his life. Some critics regard "Ode on Indolence" as inferior to the other four 1819 odes. Others suggest that the poem exemplifies a continuity of themes and imagery characteristic of his more widely read works, and provides valuable biographical insight into his poetic career. (more...)

A page from the Ormulum
The Ormulum is a 12th-century work of biblical exegesis, written in early Middle English verse by a monk named Orm (or Ormin). Because of the unique phonetic orthography adopted by the author, it preserves many details of English pronunciation at a time when the language was in flux after the Norman Conquest. Consequently, and in spite of its lack of literary merit, it is invaluable to philologists in tracing the development of the language. Orm was concerned with priests' ability to speak the vernacular, and developed an idiosyncratic spelling system to guide his readers to pronounce each vowel. He composed using a strict poetic meter which ensured that readers would know which syllables were stressed. Modern scholars use these two features to reconstruct Middle English as Orm spoke it. (more...)

Proserpine, extract from Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting

Proserpine is a verse drama written for children by the Romantic writers Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary wrote the blank verse drama and Percy contributed two lyric poems. Composed in 1820 while the Shelleys were living in Italy, it is often considered a partner to the Shelleys' play Midas. Proserpine was first published in the London periodical The Winter's Wreath in 1832. The drama is based on Ovid's tale of the abduction of Proserpine by Pluto, which itself was based on the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Mary Shelley's version focuses on the female characters. In a largely feminist retelling from Ceres's point of view, Shelley emphasises the separation of mother and daughter and the strength offered by a community of women. Ceres represents life and love, and Pluto represents death and violence. The genres of the text also reflect gender debates of the time. Proserpine is part of a female literary tradition which, as feminist literary critic Susan Gubar describes it, has used the story of Ceres and Proserpine to "re-define, to re-affirm and to celebrate female consciousness itself". However, the play has been both neglected and marginalised by critics. (more...)

John Vanbrugh, author of The Relapse

The Relapse is a Restoration comedy from 1696 by John Vanbrugh, a sequel to Colley Cibber's notorious tear-jerker Love's Last Shift, or, Virtue Rewarded. In Cibber's Love's Last Shift, a free-living Restoration rake is brought to repentance and reform by the ruses of his wife, while in The Relapse, the rake succumbs again to temptation and has a new love affair. His virtuous wife is also subjected to a determined seduction attempt, and resists with difficulty. Vanbrugh planned The Relapse around particular actors at Drury Lane, writing their stage habits, public reputations, and personal relationships into the text. One such actor was Colley Cibber himself, who played the luxuriant fop Lord Foppington in both Love's Last Shift and The Relapse. However, Vanbrugh's artistic plans were threatened by a cut-throat struggle between London's two theatre companies, each of which was "seducing" actors from the other. The Relapse came close to not being produced at all, but the successful performance that was eventually achieved in November 1696 vindicated Vanbrugh's intentions, as well as saving the company from bankruptcy. (more...)

This naval battle was one of the sets for Elkanah Settle's Empress of Morocco
The Restoration spectacular, or elaborately staged "machine play", hit the London public stage in the late 17th-century Restoration period, enthralling audiences with action, music, dance, moveable scenery, baroque illusionistic painting, gorgeous costumes, and special effects such as trapdoor tricks, "flying" actors, and fireworks. These shows have always had a bad reputation as a vulgar and commercial threat to the witty, "legitimate" Restoration drama; however, they drew Londoners in unprecedented numbers and left them dazzled and delighted. Basically home-grown and with roots in the early 17th-century court masque, though never ashamed of borrowing ideas and stage technology from French opera, the spectaculars are sometimes called "English opera". The expense of mounting ever more elaborate scenic productions drove the two competing theatre companies into a dangerous spiral of huge expenditure and correspondingly huge losses or profits. (more...)

Romeo and Juliet on the balcony by Ford Madox Brown

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two teenage "star-cross'd lovers" whose untimely deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime and, along with Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed plays. Its plot is based on an Italian tale, translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562, and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1582. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both, but developed supporting characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris, in order to expand the plot. Believed to be written between 1591 and 1595, the play was first published in a quarto version in 1597. The play ascribes different poetic forms to different characters, sometimes changing the form as the character develops. John Gielgud's 1935 version kept very close to Shakespeare's text, and used Elizabethan costumes and staging to enhance the drama. In the 20th century the play has been adapted in versions as diverse as MGM's comparatively faithful 1936 film, the 1950s stage musical West Side Story, and 1996's MTV-inspired Romeo + Juliet. (more...)

The various kits worn by Melchester over the years
Roy of the Rovers is a British comic strip about the life and exploits of a fictional footballer named Roy Race, who played for Melchester Rovers. The strip first appeared in the Tiger in 1954, before giving its name to a weekly (and later monthly) comic magazine, published by IPC and Fleetway from 1976 until 1995, in which it was the main feature. The weekly strip ran until 1993, following Roy's playing career until its conclusion after he lost his left foot in a helicopter crash. When the monthly comic was launched later that year, the focus switched to Roy's son, Rocky, who also played for Melchester. This publication folded after only 19 issues. The adventures of the Race family were subsequently featured from 1997 until May 2001 in the monthly Match of the Day football magazine, in which father and son were reunited as manager and player respectively. Football-themed stories were a staple of British comics from the 1950s onwards, and Roy of the Rovers was one of the most popular. To keep the strip exciting, Melchester was almost every year either competing for major honours or struggling against relegation to a lower division. The strip followed the structure of the football season, thus there were several months each year when there was no football. (more...)

A collage of the four alternative candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare's works
The Shakespeare authorship question is the argument that someone other than William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the works traditionally attributed to him. Proponents (called "anti-Stratfordians") say that Shakespeare was a front to shield the identity of the real author or authors, who for some reason did not want or could not accept public credit. Although the idea has attracted much public interest, all but a few Shakespeare scholars and literary historians consider it a fringe belief, and for the most part disregard it except to rebut or disparage the claims. Despite the scholarly consensus, the controversy has spawned a vast body of literature, and more than 70 authorship candidates have been proposed, including Francis Bacon, the 6th Earl of Derby, Christopher Marlowe, and the 17th Earl of Oxford. In 2010 James S. Shapiro surveyed the topic in Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, in which he criticised academia for ignoring the issue and effectively surrendering the field to anti-Stratfordians, marking the first time a recognised Shakespeare scholar has devoted a book to the topic. Filmmaker Roland Emmerich's next movie, Anonymous, starring Rhys Ifans and Vanessa Redgrave, portrays Oxford as the real author. (more...)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (from original manuscript, artist unknown)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Middle English alliterative chivalric romance outlining an adventure of Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table. In this Arthurian tale, Sir Gawain accepts a challenge from a mysterious warrior who is completely green, from his clothes and hair to his beard and skin. The "Green Knight" offers to allow anyone to strike him with his axe if the challenger will take a return blow in a year and a day. Gawain accepts, and beheads him in one blow, only to have the Green Knight stand up, pick up his head, and remind Gawain to meet him at the appointed time. The story of Gawain's struggle to meet the appointment and his adventures along the way demonstrate chivalry and loyalty. The poem survives on a single manuscript, the Cotton Nero A.x., on which are also written three religious pieces. These works are thought to have been written by the same unknown author, dubbed the "Pearl Poet" or "Gawain poet". All four narrative poems are written in a North West Midland dialect of Middle English. Everything from the Green Knight, to the beheading game, to the girdle given to Gawain as protection from the axe, is richly symbolic and steeped in Celtic, Germanic, and other folklore and cultural traditions. (more...)

Evelyn Waugh, 1940
The Temple at Thatch is an unpublished novel by the British author Evelyn Waugh, his first adult attempt at full-length fiction. He began writing it in 1924 at the end of his final year as an undergraduate at Hertford College, Oxford, and continued to work on it intermittently in the following 12 months. After his friend Harold Acton commented unfavourably on the novel in June 1925, Waugh burned the manuscript. In a fit of despondency from this and other personal disappointments, he then made a half-hearted suicide bid before returning to his senses. In the absence of a manuscript or printed text, the only information as to the novel's subject comes from Waugh's diary entries and later reminiscences. The story was evidently semi-autobiographical, based around Waugh's Oxford experiences. The protagonist was an undergraduate and the work's main themes were madness and black magic. Some of the novel's ideas were incorporated into Waugh's first commercially published work of fiction, the 1925 short story "The Balance", which includes several references to a country house called "Thatch" and, like the novel, is partly structured as a film script. Acton's severe judgement did not deter Waugh from his intention to be a writer, but it affected his belief that he could succeed as a novelist. For a time he turned his attention away from fiction, but with the gradual recovery of his self-confidence he was able to complete his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was published with great success in 1928. (more...)

The interior of the third and largest theatre to stand at Drury Lane, c. 1808

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is a theatre in the Covent Garden district of London, facing Catherine Street and backing onto Drury Lane. The building standing today is the most recent in a line of four theatres at the same location dating back to 1663. For its first two centuries, Drury Lane could "reasonably have claimed to be London's leading theatre" and thus one of the most important theatres in the English-speaking world. Through most of that time, it was one of a small handful of patent theatres that were granted monopoly rights to the production of "legitimate" drama in London. The first theatre on the location was built on behest of Thomas Killigrew in the early years of the English Restoration. The building that stands today opened in 1812. It has been home to actors as diverse as Shakespearean Edmund Kean, comedian Dan Leno, and musical composer and performer Ivor Novello. Today, the theatre is owned by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and generally stages popular musical theatre. It is a Grade I listed building. (more...)

Illustration for "To Autumn" by W.J. Neatby
"To Autumn" is a poem written by English Romantic poet John Keats. The work was composed on 19 September 1819 and published in a volume of Keats's poetry that included Lamia and The Eve of Saint Agnes in 1820. "To Autumn" is the final work in a group of poems known as Keats's "1819 odes". Although he had little time throughout 1819 to devote to poetry because of personal problems, he managed to compose "To Autumn" after he was inspired to write the poem following a walk near Winchester one autumnal evening. The work marks the end of his poetic career as he needed to earn money and could no longer devote himself to the lifestyle of a poet. A little over a year following the publication of "To Autumn", Keats died in Rome. The poem has three stanzas, each of eleven lines, that describe the tastes, sights, and sounds of autumn. Much of the third stanza, however, is dedicated to diction, symbolism, and literary devices with negative connotations, as it describes the end of the day and the end of autumn. "To Autumn" includes an emphasis on images of motion, growth, and maturation. The work can be interpreted as a discussion of death, an expression of colonialist sentiment, or as a political response to the Peterloo Massacre. "To Autumn" has been regarded by critics as one of the most perfect short poems in English literature, and it is one of the most anthologized English lyric poems. (more...)

Alfred Tennyson
"Ulysses" is a poem by the Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, written in 1833 and published in 1842 in Tennyson's well-received second volume of poems. An oft-quoted poem, it is popularly used to illustrate the dramatic monologue poetic form. Ulysses describes, to an unspecified audience, his discontent and restlessness upon returning to his kingdom, Ithaca, after his far-ranging travels. Facing old age, Ulysses yearns to explore again, despite his reunion with his wife Penelope and son Telemachus. The character Ulysses (Greek: Odysseus) has been explored widely in literature. The adventures of Odysseus were first recorded in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey (c. 800–600 BC), and Tennyson draws on Homer's narrative in the poem. Most critics, however, find that Tennyson's Ulysses recalls the character Ulisse in Dante's Inferno (c. 1320). For most of the poem's history, readers viewed Ulysses as resolute and heroic, admiring him for his determination "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield". The view that Tennyson intended a heroic character is supported by his statements about the poem, and by the events in his life—the death of his closest friend—that prompted him to write it. In the twentieth century, scholars began to offer interpretations of "Ulysses" that highlight potential ironies in the poem. (more...)

Gerry Anderson
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons is a 1960s British science-fiction television series created by Gerry Anderson (pictured) and produced by Century 21 Productions for Associated Television. In keeping with Anderson's earlier productions such as Thunderbirds, it mixes marionette puppet characters and scale-model special effects in a filming technique dubbed "Supermarionation". The plot of the 32-episode series, set in 2068, centres on an interplanetary war between Earth and a race of Martians known as the Mysterons. Captain Scarlet, top agent of Spectrum, an international security organisation, acquires "retro-metabolism" (a Mysteron healing power that enables him to recover from normally fatal injuries), making him Earth's "indestructible" ultimate weapon against the threat from Mars. Reception to the series has acknowledged a "dark" tone and a large amount of depicted violence, although the programme has a target audience of children. A computer-animated reboot series, Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet, commenced broadcast in 2005. (more...)

The Doctor Who missing episodes are the many instalments of the long-running British science fiction television programme Doctor Who of which no known film or videotape copies exist. They were wiped by the BBC during the 1960s and 1970s for a variety of economic and space-saving reasons. In all, there are 27 serials that do not exist in complete form in the BBC's archives, because 108 of 253 episodes produced during the first six years of the programme are missing. Many more were thought to have been so in the past before episodes were recovered from a variety of sources, most notably overseas broadcasters. Doctor Who is not unique in this respect, as thousands of hours of programming from across all genres were destroyed up until 1978, when the BBC's archiving policies were changed. Unlike other series, Doctor Who is unique in having all of its missing episodes surviving in audio form, recorded off-air by fans at home. Additionally, every 1970s episode exists in some form, which is not the case for several other series. Efforts to locate missing episodes continue, both by the BBC and by fans of the series. Extensive restoration has been carried out on many surviving and recovered 1960s and 1970s episodes for release on VHS and more recently on DVD. (more...)

Dakota Blue Richards
Dustbin Baby is a BBC television film directed by Juliet May, based on Jacqueline Wilson's 2001 novel Dustbin Baby. It was first broadcast on BBC One on 21 December 2008. The film stars Dakota Blue Richards as April, a troubled teenager who was abandoned in a dustbin as a baby, and Juliet Stevenson as Marion Bean, April's adoptive mother. The screenplay was written by Helen Blakeman, and the film was produced by Kindle Entertainment. Dustbin Baby deals with themes including maternal bond, bullying, and youth crime. The story revolves around April running away on her fourteenth birthday, while Marion searches for her. Critics, as well as Wilson, responded positively to the film. It was released on DVD on 12 January 2009. Dustbin Baby was awarded the International Emmy in the children and young people category at the 2009 ceremony. Helen Blakeman won a Children's BAFTA for the screenplay, while the film itself was shortlisted for a Children's BAFTA in the drama category and shortlisted for the Kids' Vote award. The film was also awarded the 2010 KidScreen Award for best one-off, special, or TV movie aimed at a family audience and the KidScreen Award for best acting. (more...)

Moffat, Gillies and Bathurst

Joking Apart is a BBC television sitcom written by Steven Moffat about the rise and fall of a relationship. It juxtaposes a couple, Mark (Robert Bathurst) and Becky (Fiona Gillies), who meet and fall in love before getting separated and finally divorced. The twelve episodes, broadcast between 1993 and 1995, were directed by Bob Spiers and produced by Andre Ptaszynski for independent production company Pola Jones. The show is semi-autobiographical; it was inspired by the then-recent separation of Moffat and his first wife. Some of the episodes in the first series followed a non-linear parallel structure, contrasting the rise of the relationship with the fall. Other episodes were ensemble farces, predominantly including the couple's friends Robert (Paul Raffield) and Tracy (Tracie Bennett). Paul-Mark Elliott also appeared as Trevor, Becky's lover. Scheduling problems meant that the show attracted low viewing figures. However, it scored highly on the Appreciation Index and accrued a loyal fanbase. One fan acquired the home video rights from the BBC and released both series on his own DVD label. (more...)

Cafe used as a filming location in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire
Last of the Summer Wine is a British sitcom written by Roy Clarke and broadcast since 1973 on BBC One. The longest-running sitcom in the world, it premiered as an episode of Comedy Playhouse. Having run for 31 series, the last episode aired on 29 August 2010. Set and filmed in and around Holmfirth, West Yorkshire (pictured), the series centres on a trio of old men whose line-up has changed over the years, although most notably comprised Bill Owen as the scruffy and child-like Compo, Peter Sallis as deep-thinking, meek Norman Clegg and Brian Wilde as quirky war veteran Foggy. Other "third men" in the trio include Michael Bates as authoritarian snob Blamire, Michael Aldridge as eccentric inventor Seymour and Frank Thornton as former police officer Truly. Gradually, the cast has grown to include a variety of supporting characters, each contributing their own subplots to the show and often becoming unwillingly involved in the schemes of the trio. Although critics have noted a decline in the show's quality since Owen's death in 1999, Last of the Summer Wine has been shown in 25 countries, garnered large audiences for the BBC and has been praised for its positive portrayal of older people and family-friendly humour. (more...)

A pint of Guinness

noitulovE is a British television and cinema advertisement launched by Diageo in 2005 to promote Guinness-brand draught stout. The sixty-second piece formed the cornerstone of a £15M advertising campaign targeting men in their late twenties and early thirties. The commercial follows three patrons of a London pub on a journey back through time, showing the group "de-evolving" through a number of forms, from apes, to lizards, to mudskippers. The commercial was handled by the advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, and was directed by Daniel Kleinman. It debuted on British television on 3 October 2005. It is the fifth piece in the Good things come to those who wait series, and its premiere marked the end of a four-year hiatus. The advert was a critical and financial success, receiving over thirty awards from organisations in the advertising and television industries, and was the most-awarded commercial of 2006. The impact of the campaign was such that during a period in which the UK beer market experienced a substantial decline in revenue, Guinness reported that its earnings within the region had noticeably increased. At the same time, Guinness achieved its highest ever volume and value shares and became the market leader within the region. This was attributed in no small part to the positive reception garnered by noitulovE. (more...)

Our Friends in the North is a British television drama. A serial produced by the BBC and originally screened in nine episodes on BBC2 in early 1996, Our Friends tells the story of four friends from the city of Newcastle in North East England over 31 years from 1964 to 1995. The storyline includes real political and social events both specific to the north-east and from Britain as a whole during the era portrayed. The show is commonly regarded as having been one of the most successful BBC television dramas of the 1990s. It was also a controversial production in some respects, as the issues and occurrences upon which its fiction were based involved real politicians and political events. It took several years before the production–adapted from a play originally performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company–finally made it to the screen, due in part to the BBC's fear that it might become involved in legal action.

Pauline Fowler is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, portrayed by Wendy Richard. Pauline was created by scriptwriter Tony Holland and producer Julia Smith as one of EastEnders' original characters, making her debut in the soap's first episode in 1985, and remaining for twenty-one years and ten months, making her the second longest-running original character. Her storylines focus on drudgery, money worries and family troubles. She is portrayed as a stoic, opinionated battle-axe – a family-orientated woman who alienates her kin due to overbearing interference. Her marriage to the downtrodden Arthur was central to the character for the first eleven years of the programme, culminating with his screen death in 1996. She was used for comedic purposes in scenes with her launderette colleague Dot Branning, and scriptwriters included many feuds in her narrative, most notably with her daughter-in-law, Sonia, and Den Watts, a family friend who got her daughter Michelle pregnant at 16. The character was killed off in a "whodunit" murder storyline, with Richard making her final appearance in 2006. (more...)

"The Power of Nightmares" title screen

The Power of Nightmares is a BBC documentary film series, written and produced by Adam Curtis. The series consists of three one-hour films, consisting mostly of a montage of archive footage with Curtis's narration, which were first broadcast in the United Kingdom in late 2004 and have been subsequently aired in multiple countries and shown in several film festivals, including the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. The films compare the rise of the American Neo-Conservative movement and the radical Islamist movement, making comparisons on their origins and noting strong similarities between the two. More controversially, it argues that the threat of radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organised force of destruction, specifically in the form of al-Qaeda, is in fact a myth perpetrated by politicians in many countries—and particularly American Neo-Conservatives—in an attempt to unite and inspire their people following the failure of earlier, more utopian ideologies. The Power of Nightmares has been praised by film critics in both Britain and the United States. Its message and content have also been the subject of various critiques and criticisms from conservatives and progressives. (more...)

The Quatermass Experiment is a British science-fiction serial, broadcast by BBC Television in the summer of 1953, and re-staged by BBC Four in 2005. Set in the near future against the background of a British space programme, it tells the story of the first manned flight into space, overseen by Professor Bernard Quatermass of the British Experimental Rocket Group. When the spaceship that carried the first successful crew returns to Earth, two of the three astronauts are missing, and the third is behaving strangely. It becomes clear that an alien presence entered the ship during its flight, and Quatermass and his associates must prevent the alien from destroying the world. Originally comprising six half-hour episodes, it was the first science-fiction production to be written especially for an adult television audience. The serial was the first of four Quatermass productions to be screened on British television between 1953 and 1979. As well as spawning various remakes and sequels, The Quatermass Experiment inspired much of the television science fiction that followed it, particularly in the United Kingdom, where it influenced successful series such as Doctor Who and Sapphire and Steel. It also influenced Hollywood blockbusters such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien. (more...)

Richard III is a 1955 British film adaptation of William Shakespeare's historical play Richard III. The film also contains elements of Shakespeare's Henry VI, part 3. It was directed by Laurence Olivier, who also played Richard. The cast includes many noted Shakespearean actors of the time, including a quartet of acting knights. The film depicts Richard plotting and conspiring to grasp the throne from his brother, King Edward, played by Cedric Hardwicke. In the process, many are killed and betrayed, with Richard's evil leading to his own downfall. The prologue of the film states that history without its legends would be "a dry matter indeed", thus the film admits that it is not portraying the actual events of the time, but rather the legend. Many critics now consider Olivier's Richard III his best screen version of Shakespeare. As well, the British Film Institute has called Olivier's rendition of the play "definitive" and that it has done more to popularise Shakespeare than any other single piece of work. (more...)

The first edition of the Echo - on 22 December 1873

The Sunderland Echo is an evening provincial newspaper serving the Sunderland, South Tyneside and East Durham areas of North East England. The newspaper was founded by Samuel Storey, Edward Backhouse, Edward Temperley Gourley, Charles Palmer, Richard Ruddock, Thomas Glaholm and Thomas Scott Turnbull in 1873, as the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette. Designed to provide a platform for the Radical views held by Storey and his partners, it was also Sunderland's first local daily paper. The inaugural edition of the Echo was printed in Press Lane, Sunderland on 22 December 1873; 1,000 copies were produced and sold for a halfpenny each. The Echo survived intense competition in its early years, as well as the depression of the 1930s and two World Wars. Sunderland was heavily bombed in the Second World War and, although the Echo building was undamaged, it was forced to print its competitor's paper under wartime rules. It was during this time that the paper's format changed, from a broadsheet to its current tabloid layout, because of national newsprint shortages. (more...)

Yes Minister is a multi-award winning satirical British sitcom written by Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn that was first transmitted by BBC television and radio between 1980 and 1984, split over three seven-episode series. The sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, ran from 1986 to 1988. In total this made 38 episodes, all but one of which lasts for half an hour. Set principally in the private office of a British government cabinet minister in the Department for Administrative Affairs in Whitehall (and, in the sequel, in 10 Downing Street), the series follows the senior ministerial career of The Rt Hon. Jim Hacker MP, played by Paul Eddington. His various struggles to formulate and enact legislation or effect departmental changes are opposed by the will of the British Civil Service, in particular his Permanent Secretary (head of each government department's bureaucrats), Sir Humphrey Appleby, played by Nigel Hawthorne. His Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley, played by Derek Fowlds, is usually caught between the two. Almost every programme ends with the line "Yes, Minister" (or "Yes, Prime Minister"), uttered (usually) by Sir Humphrey as he relishes his victory over his "political master" (or, sometimes, acknowledges defeat). A huge critical and popular success, the series received a number of awards, including several BAFTAs and in 2004 came sixth in the Britain's Best Sitcom poll. (more...)

Pink Floyd playing Dark Side of the Moon at Earls Court, 1973
The Dark Side of the Moon is the sixth studio album by English progressive rock group Pink Floyd. Released in March 1973, the concept built on the ideas that the band had explored in their live shows and previous recordings, but it lacks the extended instrumental excursions that characterised their work following the departure in 1968 of founding member, principal composer and lyricist, Syd Barrett. The album's themes include conflict, greed, ageing, and mental illness, the latter partly inspired by Barrett's deteriorating mental state. The album was developed as part of a forthcoming tour of live performances, and premièred several months before studio recording began. The new material was further refined during the tour, and was recorded in two sessions in 1972 and 1973 at Abbey Road Studios in London. Pink Floyd used some of the most advanced recording techniques of the time, including multitrack recording and tape loops. Analogue synthesisers were given prominence in several tracks, and a series of recorded interviews with staff and band personnel provided the source material for a range of philosophical quotations used throughout. Engineer Alan Parsons was directly responsible for some of the most notable sonic aspects of the album, including the non-lexical performance of Clare Torry. (more...)

"Hey Jude" is a song attributed to Paul McCartney and John Lennon (though largely the work of McCartney), originally recorded by The Beatles for the self-titled The Beatles album, but released instead as a single. The song, despite its unusually long length (seven minutes, 12 seconds), became the Beatles' best-selling single, although they did produce a trimmed down version for American radio due to most stations' refusal to air a song of such length. The song–originally titled "Hey Jules"–was written for John Lennon's son Julian by McCartney, at a trying time for the Lennon family when John and his first wife, Cynthia, were getting divorced. The senior Lennon related to the song extremely well too, as he had just begun his relationship with his future second wife, Yoko Ono. McCartney had also just broken up with Jane Asher and was about to start seeing Linda Eastman.

Scene from 1886 Savoy Theatre souvenir programme
H.M.S. Pinafore is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and a libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It opened at the Opera Comique in London, England, on 25 May 1878 and ran for 571 performances, which was the second-longest run of any musical theatre piece up to that time. H.M.S. Pinafore was Gilbert and Sullivan's fourth operatic collaboration and their first international sensation. The story takes place aboard the titular ship, H.M.S. Pinafore. The captain's daughter, Josephine, is in love with a lower-class sailor, Ralph Rackstraw, although her father intends her to marry Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty. Drawing on several of his earlier "Bab Ballad" poems, Gilbert imbued this plot with mirth and silliness. The opera's humour focuses on love between members of different social classes and lampoons the British class system in general. Pinafore also pokes good-natured fun at patriotism, party politics, the rise of unqualified people to positions of authority and the Royal Navy. Pinafore's extraordinary popularity in Britain, America and elsewhere was followed by the similar success of a series of Gilbert and Sullivan works. Their works, later known as the Savoy operas, dominated the musical stage on both sides of the Atlantic for more than a decade and continue to be performed today. (more...)

"The Long and Winding Road" is a pop ballad written by Paul McCartney that originally appeared on the Beatles' album Let It Be. It became The Beatles' last Number 1 song in the United States on 13 June 1970. While the released version of the song was very successful, the post-production modifications to the song by producer Phil Spector angered McCartney to the point that when he made his case in court for breaking up the Beatles as a legal entity, he cited the treatment of "The Long and Winding Road" as one of six reasons for doing so. (more...)

David Gilmour
A Momentary Lapse of Reason is the eleventh studio album by English progressive rock group Pink Floyd, released in September 1987. In 1985 guitarist David Gilmour (pictured) began to assemble a group of musicians to work on his third solo album. At the end of 1986 however, he changed his mind, and decided that the new material would instead be included in a new Pink Floyd album. Subsequently Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Richard Wright (who had left the group in 1979) were brought on board the project. Although for legal reasons Wright could not be re-admitted to the band, he and Mason helped Gilmour craft what would become the first Pink Floyd album since the departure of lyricist and bass guitarist Roger Waters in December 1985. The album was recorded primarily on Gilmour's converted houseboat, Astoria. Its production was marked by an ongoing legal dispute between Waters and the band as to who owned the rights to Pink Floyd's name, which was not resolved until several months after the album was released. Unlike most of Pink Floyd's other studio albums, A Momentary Lapse of Reason has no central theme, and is instead a collection of rock songs written mostly by Gilmour and musician Anthony Moore. Although the album received mixed reviews and was derided by Waters, with the help of an enormously successful world tour it easily out-sold their previous album The Final Cut. (more...)

"Paranoid Android" is a song by English alternative rock band Radiohead, featured on their 1997 third studio album OK Computer. The lyrics of the bleak but intentionally humorous song were written primarily by singer Thom Yorke, following an unpleasant experience in a Los Angeles bar. Six minutes long, and in four distinct sections, the track is significantly influenced by The Beatles' "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". "Paranoid Android" takes its name from Marvin the Paranoid Android of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. When released as the lead single from OK Computer, "Paranoid Android" charted at number three on the UK Singles Chart. It was well received by music critics and highlighted in many reviews of OK Computer. The track has appeared regularly on lists of the best songs of all time, including Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Its animated music video, directed by Magnus Carlsson, was placed on heavy rotation on MTV, although the network censored portions containing nudity. Since its release, the track has been covered by numerous artists working in a variety of musical genres. (more...)

Bloc Party performing at Warfield in San Francisco, US, in September 2005
Silent Alarm is the debut studio album by British indie rock band Bloc Party (pictured). Recorded in Copenhagen and London in mid-2004 with producer Paul Epworth, it was first released on 2 February 2005 in Japan, with Wichita Recordings as the primary label. The record peaked at number three on the United Kingdom Albums Chart. In the United States, it entered the Billboard 200 at number 114 and the Billboard Top Independent Albums at number seven. The double A-side "So Here We Are/Positive Tension", "Banquet", and "Pioneers" were released as singles. Silent Alarm went on to achieve worldwide sales of over one million copies. Bloc Party aimed to create an album that appealed to followers of different musical genres. Building on the arrangements in their demo songs recorded in 2004, the band members moulded tracks largely through live takes during the Silent Alarm studio sessions. The compositional focus was on rhythm and the drum and bass parts, while lyricist Kele Okereke's writing examined the feelings and hopes of young adults, including views on global politics. Following the album's completion, Bloc Party embarked on promotional tours before its release. Silent Alarm garnered widespread critical acclaim and has received accolades throughout the music industry since its release. (more...)

The Beatles

"Something" is a single released by The Beatles in 1969, and featured on the album Abbey Road. "Something" was the first song written by George Harrison to appear on the A-side of a Beatles single, sharing top billing on the double A-side single with "Come Together" in the United States. It was one of the first Beatles singles to contain tracks already available on a long playing (LP) album, with both "Something" and "Come Together" having appeared on Abbey Road. "Something" was the only Harrison composition to top the American charts while he was a Beatle. Although John Lennon and Paul McCartney—the two principal songwriting members of the band—both praised "Something" as among the best songs Harrison had written, the recording of the song was marked by acrimonious spats. Despite this, the single managed to top the Billboard charts in the United States, and also entered the top 10 in the United Kingdom. After the breakup of The Beatles, the song was covered by many artists including Elvis Presley, Shirley Bassey, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Julio Iglesias, Smokey Robinson, and Joe Cocker, becoming the second-most covered Beatles song after "Yesterday." (more...)

Illustration of Thespis by D. H. Friston

Thespis is an operatic extravaganza that was the first collaboration between dramatist W. S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. It was never published, and most of the music is now lost. However, Gilbert and Sullivan went on to become one of the most famous and successful partnerships in Victorian England, creating a string of comic opera hits, including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado, that continue to be popular. Thespis premièred in London at the Gaiety Theatre on 26 December 1871. Like many productions at that theatre, it was written in a broad, burlesque style, considerably different from Gilbert and Sullivan's later works. It was a modest success—for a Christmas entertainment of the time—and closed on 8 March 1872, after a run of 63 performances. It was advertised as "An entirely original Grotesque Opera in Two Acts". The story follows an acting troupe headed by Thespis, the legendary Greek father of the drama, who temporarily trade places with the gods on Mount Olympus, who have grown elderly and ignored. The actors turn out to be comically inept rulers. Having seen the ensuing mayhem down below, the angry gods return, sending the actors back to Earth as "eminent tragedians, whom no one ever goes to see." (more...)

"This Charming Man" is a song by British rock band The Smiths, released as their second single in October of 1983 on the indie label Rough Trade. The song was composed by guitarist Johnny Marr and singer/lyricist Morrissey. Musically, the song is defined by Marr's bright jangle pop guitar riff and Morrissey's characteristic vocals. The rhythm section of Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce provides an unusually danceable beat, featuring a motownesque bassline. The lyrics revolve around the popular Smiths theme of sexual ambiguity and as with many of Morrissey's compositions, features a line taken from a cult film, play, poem or novel—in this case "A jumped-up pantry boy who doesn't know his place" from the 1972 film Sleuth. Though only moderately successful on its release (reaching #25 on the UK charts), today it is widely considered to be a classic and is one of the most popular songs in the band's catalog. In 2004, BBC Radio 2 listeners voted it #97 on the station's "Sold On Song Top 100" poll, while in 2001 UNCUT pegged it as #10 on their "100 singles that changed your life" feature. (more...)

A scene from Trial by Jury as illustrated in "Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News"
Trial by Jury is a comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was first produced on 25 March 1875, at London's Royalty Theatre, where it initially ran for 131 performances and was considered a hit, receiving critical praise and outrunning its popular companion piece, Jacques Offenbach's La Périchole. The story concerns a "breach of promise of marriage" lawsuit in which the judge and legal system are the objects of lighthearted satire. Gilbert based the libretto of Trial by Jury on an operetta parody that he had written in 1868. The opera premiered more than three years after Gilbert and Sullivan's only previous collaboration, Thespis. As with most Gilbert and Sullivan operas, the plot of Trial by Jury is ludicrous, but the characters behave as if the events were perfectly reasonable. This narrative technique blunts some of the pointed barbs aimed at hypocrisy, especially of those in authority, and the sometimes base motives of supposedly respectable people and institutions. Critics and audiences praised how well Sullivan's witty and good-humoured music complemented Gilbert's satire. The success of Trial by Jury launched the famous series of 13 collaborative works between Gilbert and Sullivan that came to be known as the Savoy Operas. (more...)

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman title page from the first American edition

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is a 1791 book of feminist philosophy by Mary Wollstonecraft. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to the educational and political theorists of the eighteenth century who wanted to deny women an education. She argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be "companions" to their husbands, rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men. Wollstonecraft was prompted to write the Rights of Woman by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord's 1791 report to the French National Assembly which stated that women should only receive a domestic education; she used her commentary on this specific event to launch a broad attack against sexual double standards and to indict men for encouraging women to indulge in excessive emotion. Wollstonecraft wrote the Rights of Woman hurriedly in order to respond directly to ongoing events; she intended to write a more thoughtful second volume, but she died before completing it. (more...)

Map showing counties and unitary authorities from 1998

The Local Government Commission for England was the body responsible for reviewing the structure of local government in England from 1992 to 2002. It was established under the Local Government Act 1992 replacing the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. The Commission could be ordered by the Secretary of State to undertake 'structural reviews' in specified areas and recommend the creation of unitary authorities in the two-tier shire counties of England. The Commission, chaired by John Banham, conducted a review of all the non-metropolitan counties of England from 1993 to 1994, making various recommendations on their future. After much political debate and several legal challenges, the Commission's proposals resulted in the abolition of Berkshire county council and the counties of Avon, Cleveland, Hereford and Worcester and Humberside. Combined with a second wave of reviews in 1995, under the chairmanship of David Cooksey, the Commission's proposals led to the creation of unitary authorities covering many urban areas of England. It was replaced by the Boundary Committee for England in 2002, which finished this review cycle in 2004. (more...)

Henry VIII introduced a new method of granting the Royal Assent to England

The granting of Royal Assent is the formal method by which the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, or the Sovereign's representative in Commonwealth realms, completes the process of the enactment of legislation by formally assenting to an Act of Parliament. While the power to withhold Royal Assent was once exercised often, it is almost never exercised under modern constitutional conventions. The power remains as one of the reserve powers of the monarch. The granting of the Royal Assent is sometimes associated with elaborate ceremonies. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the Sovereign appoints Lords Commissioners who in turn announce that Royal Assent has been granted at a ceremony at the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace or another royal residence. Two methods of notifying the Parliament are available: the Lords Commissioners or the Sovereign's representatives may grant Assent in the presence of both Houses of Parliament; alternatively, each House may be notified separately, usually by the presiding officer.

Debating chamber in Scottish Parliament building

The Scottish Parliament is the national unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of Edinburgh. The Parliament is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members who are known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). Members are elected for four-year terms under the proportional representation system. The original Parliament of Scotland was the national legislature of the independent Kingdom of Scotland and existed from the early thirteenth century until the Kingdom of Scotland merged with the Kingdom of England under the Acts of Union 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. Following a referendum in 1997 where the Scottish people gave their consent, the current Parliament was established by the Scotland Act 1998, which sets out its powers as a devolved legislature. The Act delineated the areas in which it can make laws by explicitly specifying powers that are "reserved" to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. All matters that are not explicitly reserved are automatically the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. The UK Parliament retains the ability to amend the terms of reference of the Scottish Parliament, and can extend or reduce the areas in which it can make laws. The first meeting of the new Parliament took place on 12 May 1999. (more...)

Mary Wollstonecraft
A Vindication of the Rights of Men is a 1790 political pamphlet, written by the eighteenth-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, which attacks aristocracy and advocates republicanism. Wollstonecraft's was the first response in a pamphlet war sparked by the publication of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, a defence of constitutional monarchy, aristocracy, and the Church of England. Wollstonecraft not only attacked hereditary privilege but also the rhetoric that Burke used to defend it. Most of Burke's detractors deplored what they viewed as his theatrical pity for Marie Antoinette but Wollstonecraft was unique in her attack on Burke's gendered language. By redefining the sublime and the beautiful, terms first established by Burke himself in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756), she undermined his rhetoric as well as his argument. (more...)

Title page from the first English edition of Part I

The Age of Reason is a deistic treatise written by eighteenth-century British radical and American revolutionary Thomas Paine that critiques institutionalized religion and challenges the inerrancy of the Bible. Published in three parts in 1794, 1795, and 1807, it was a bestseller in America, where it caused a short-lived deistic revival. British audiences, however, fearing increased political radicalism as a result of the French Revolution, received it with more hostility. The Age of Reason presents common deistic arguments; for example, it highlights what Paine perceives as corruption of the Christian Church and criticizes its efforts to acquire political power. Paine advocates reason in the place of revelation, leading him to reject miracles and to view the Bible as an ordinary piece of literature rather than as a divinely inspired text. The Age of Reason is not atheistic, but deistic: it promotes natural religion and argues for a creator-God. Most of Paine's arguments had long been available to the educated elite, but by presenting them in an engaging and irreverent style, he made deism appealing and accessible to a mass audience. The book was also inexpensive, putting it within the reach of a large number of buyers. Fearing the spread of what they viewed as potentially revolutionary ideas, the British government prosecuted printers and booksellers who tried to publish and distribute it. (more...)

The attack on Joseph Priestley's home, Fairhill
The Priestley Riots took place from 14 July to 17 July 1791 in Birmingham, England; the rioters' main targets were religious Dissenters, most notably the religious and political controversialist, Joseph Priestley. The riots started with an attack on a hotel that was the site of a banquet organized in sympathy with the French Revolution. Then, beginning with Priestley's church and home, the rioters attacked or burned four Dissenting chapels, twenty-seven houses, and several businesses. Many of them became intoxicated by liquor that they found while looting, or with which they were bribed to stop burning homes. A small core could not be bribed, however, and remained sober. They burned not only the homes and chapels of Dissenters, but also the homes of people they associated with Dissenters, such as members of the scientific Lunar Society. While the riots were not initiated by Prime Minister William Pitt's administration, the national government was slow to respond to the Dissenters' pleas for help. Local Birmingham officials seem to have been involved in the planning of the riots, and they were later reluctant to prosecute any ringleaders. Those who had been attacked gradually left, leaving Birmingham a more conservative city than it had been throughout the eighteenth century. (more...)

Westminster Abbey serves as the location of coronations
The Coronation of the British monarch is a ceremony in which the monarch is formally crowned and invested with regalia. The coronation usually takes place several months after the death of the previous monarch, for the coronation is considered a joyous occasion that would be inappropriate when mourning still continues. For example, Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1953, having ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952. The ceremony is officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior cleric of the Church of England. Many other government officials and guests attend. (more...)

Elizabeth II
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The terms British monarch and British monarchy may mean different things in different contexts beyond the United Kingdom. The present monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 6 February, 1952. The heir apparent is her eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales and Duke of Rothesay. They and the Queen's husband and consort, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, undertake various public duties in accordance with their positions. Elizabeth II is Head of the Commonwealth and also reigns as head of state of 15 other Commonwealth countries. This developed from the former colonial relationship of these countries to Britain, but they are now independent and the monarchy of each is legally distinct. (more...)

Peers at the Opening of Parliament, 4th February 1512
The privilege of peerage is the body of special privileges belonging to members of the British peerage. It is distinct from Parliamentary privilege, which applies to those peers serving in the House of Lords, and members of the House of Commons, during and forty days before and after a Parliamentary session. The privileges have been lost and eroded over time. Only three survived into the 20th century: the right to be tried by other peers of the realm instead of juries of commoners, freedom from arrest in civil (but not criminal) cases, and access to the Sovereign to advise him or her on matters of state. The right to be tried by other peers was abolished in 1948. Legal opinion considers the right of freedom from arrest as obsolete. The remaining privilege was recommended for formal abolition in 1999, and may be retained, arguably, by peers whether members of the House of Lords or not. Peers have other rights that do not formally comprise the privilege of peerage. For example, they are entitled to use coronets and supporters on their achievements of arms. (more...)

Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to Wakefield Cathedral for the Maundy money ceremony
Royal Maundy is a religious service in the Church of England held on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday. At the service, the British Monarch or a royal official ceremoniously distributes small silver coins known as "Maundy money" as symbolic alms to elderly recipients. The name "Maundy" and the ceremony itself derive from an instruction, or mandatum, of Jesus at the Last Supper that his followers should love one another. In the Middle Ages, English monarchs washed the feet of beggars in imitation of Jesus, and presented gifts and money to the poor. Over time, additional money was substituted for the clothing and other items that had once been distributed; the custom of washing the feet did not survive the 18th century. Today, Queen Elizabeth II (pictured at the 2005 service) almost always attends, and the service is held in a different church (usually a cathedral) every year. Maundy money is struck in denominations of one penny, two pence, three pence, and four pence. In most years there are fewer than 2,000 complete sets; they are highly sought after by collectors. (more...)

Wembley Stadium

The 1956 FA Cup Final was the final match of the 1955–56 staging of English football's primary cup competition, the Football Association Challenge Cup, better known as the FA Cup. The showpiece event was contested between Manchester City and Birmingham City at Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday 5 May 1956. Manchester City's victories were close affairs, each settled by the odd goal, and they needed a replay to defeat fifth-round opponents Liverpool. Birmingham City made more comfortable progress: they scored eighteen goals while conceding only two, and won each match at the first attempt despite being drawn to play on their opponents' ground in every round. They became the first team to reach an FA Cup final without playing at home. Birmingham entered the match as favourites, in a contest billed as a contrast of styles. Watched by a crowd of 100,000 and a television audience of five million, Manchester City took an early lead through Joe Hayes, but Noel Kinsey equalised midway through the first half. Second half goals from Jack Dyson and Bobby Johnstone gave Manchester City a 3–1 victory. The match is best remembered for the heroics of Manchester City goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann, who continued playing despite breaking a bone in his neck in a collision with Birmingham's Peter Murphy. (more...)

Arsenal's players and fans celebrate their 2004 title win
Arsenal Football Club is a football club based in north London. It plays in the FA Premier League and is one of the most successful clubs in England. Arsenal has won thirteen First Division and Premier League titles, and ten FA Cups, as well as being the first London club to reach the UEFA Champions League final. Arsenal was founded in south-east London in 1886, but moved across the city to the Arsenal Stadium, Highbury, in 1913. In 2006, the club moved again to the new 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium in nearby Ashburton Grove. Arsenal enjoys a fierce rivalry with Tottenham Hotspur, from nearby Tottenham, whom they play in the North London derby.

Jack Fingleton evades a Bodyline ball
Bodyline was a cricketing tactic devised by the English cricket team for their 1932–33 tour of Australia, specifically to combat the extraordinary batting skill of Australia's Don Bradman. It involved bowlers deliberately aiming the cricket ball at the bodies of batsmen. This caused several injuries to Australian players and led to ill-feeling between the countries that rose to diplomatic levels. Following the 1932–33 series, several authors, including many of the players involved in it, released books expressing various points of view about Bodyline. Many argued that it was a scourge on cricket and must be stamped out, while some claimed not to understand what all the fuss was about. (more...)

Brabham BT3 Formula One car
Brabham was a British racing car manufacturer and Formula One racing team. Founded in 1960 by driver Jack Brabham and designer Ron Tauranac, the team won four drivers' and two constructors' world championships in its 30-year Formula One history. Jack Brabham's 1966 drivers' championship remains the only victory by a car bearing the driver's own name. In the 1960s, Brabham was the world's largest manufacturer of open wheel racing cars for sale to customer teams, and had built more than 500 cars by 1970. During this period, teams using Brabham cars won championships in Formula Two and Formula Three and competed in the Indianapolis 500. British businessman Bernie Ecclestone owned Brabham between 1972 and 1988. Under his ownership, Brabham introduced innovations such as the "fan car", in-race refuelling, carbon brakes, and hydropneumatic suspension, and was the first team to win a drivers' championship with a turbocharged car. Ecclestone sold the team in 1988. Its final owner was the Middlebridge Group, a Japanese engineering firm. Midway through the 1992 season, the team collapsed financially as Middlebridge was unable to meet loan repayments. In 2009 an unsuccessful attempt was made by a German organisation to enter the 2010 Formula One season using the Brabham name. (more...)

Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League final in 2008

Chelsea Football Club are a professional English football club based in West London. Founded in 1905, they play in the Premier League and have spent most of their history in the top tier of English football. Chelsea have been English champions three times, and have won the FA Cup four times, the League Cup four times and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup twice. The club had their first major success in 1955, winning the league championship. Chelsea won several cup competitions during the 1960s and 1970s, but after that did not win another major title until 1997. The past decade has been the most successful period in Chelsea’s history, capped by winning consecutive Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006, and reaching their first UEFA Champions League final in 2008. Chelsea's home is the 42,500-person-capacity Stamford Bridge football stadium in Fulham, West London, where they have played since their establishment. Despite their name, the club are based just outside the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Chelsea's traditional kit colours are royal blue shirts and shorts with white socks. (more...)

City of Manchester Stadium

The City of Manchester Stadium is a sports venue in Manchester, England. Originally designed as part of Manchester's failed bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics, the stadium was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games at a cost of GB£110 million. After the Games it was converted for use as a football facility, and became the home of Manchester City F.C. who moved there from Maine Road in 2003, signing a 250 year lease. The stadium is bowl shaped, with two tiers all the way round the ground and third tiers along the two side stands. With a seating capacity of 47,726, it is currently the fourth largest stadium in the FA Premier League and tenth largest in the United Kingdom. On 4 October 2006 it was announced that the stadium will host the 2008 UEFA Cup Final. (more...)

The current England manager, Roy Hodgson
The role of an England national football team manager was first established in May 1947 with the appointment of Walter Winterbottom. Before this, the England team was selected by the "International Selection Committee", a process by which the Football Association would select coaches and trainers from the league to prepare the side for single games, but where all decisions ultimately remained under the control of the committee. A 1–0 defeat by Switzerland prompted FA secretary Stanley Rous to raise Winterbottom from "National Director of coaching" to "Manager". Fifteen men have occupied the post since its inception; three of those were in short-term caretaker manager roles. Alf Ramsey is the only manager to have won a major tournament, winning the 1966 FIFA World Cup with his "Wingless Wonders". No other manager has progressed beyond the semi-finals of a major competition. The incumbent is Roy Hodgson (pictured). The England manager's job is subject to intense press scrutiny, often including revelations about the incumbent's private life. Due to the high level of expectation of both the public and media the role has been described as "the impossible job" or compared in importance in national culture to that of the British Prime Minister. (more...)

England (white) playing Argentina (blue) at Twickenham

The England national rugby union team is a sporting side that represents England in rugby union. They compete annually in the Six Nations Championship with France, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and Wales. They have won this championship on twenty-six occasions, twelve times winning the Grand Slam. England also compete for the Calcutta Cup—which they currently hold—with Scotland as part of the Six Nations. They are currently ranked fifth in the world. The history of the team extends back to 1871 when the English rugby team played their first official Test match. England dominated the early Home Nations Championship (now the Six Nations) which started in 1883. England players traditionally wear white shorts, navy socks with white tops, and a white shirt with a red rose embroidered on it. Their home ground is Twickenham Stadium where they first played in 1910. The team is administered by the Rugby Football Union. Four former players have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. (more...)

Picture of Stoke City F.C. team of 1877-78.
The history of Stoke City F.C., an English association football club based in Stoke-on-Trent, covers the years from the club's formation to the present day. The Stoke Ramblers were formed in 1863, playing their first documented match on 17 October 1868 at the Victoria Cricket Club ground. In 1878 the club moved to the Victoria Ground, its home for the next 119 years, and merged with Stoke Victoria Cricket Club to become Stoke Football Club. The club joined the Football League upon its formation in 1888, making it the second oldest club in the Football League. The club moved in 1997 to the Britannia Stadium, a 28,383 all-seater stadium; the Victoria Ground was demolished later that year. In the 2007–08 season, Stoke won promotion from the Football League Championship, the second tier of English football, and as of 2008–2009 are playing in the top flight (currently English Premier League) for the first time since 1985, when they were relegated with just 17 points, a record low unsurpassed for 21 years. Stoke's only major trophy was the 1972 League Cup, won by beating Chelsea 2–1 in the final before a crowd of 97,852. (more...)

An 1840s depiction of the college's rowing outfit
Jesus College Boat Club is a rowing club for members of Jesus College, Oxford, one of the colleges of the University of Oxford. The club was formed in 1835, but rowing at the college predates the club's foundation: a boat from the college was involved in the earliest recorded races between college crews at Oxford in 1815, when it competed against a crew from Brasenose College. In the early years of rowing at Oxford, Jesus was one of the few colleges that participated in races. A number of college members have rowed for the university against Cambridge University in the Boat Race and the Women's Boat Race. Barney Williams, a Canadian rower who studied at the college, won a silver medal in rowing at the 2004 Summer Olympics, and participated in the Boat Race in 2005 and 2006. Other students who rowed while at the college have achieved success in other fields, including John Sankey, who became Lord Chancellor, and Alwyn Williams, who became Bishop of Durham. The college boathouse, which is shared with Keble College's boat club, dates from 1964 and replaced a moored barge used by spectators and crew-members. (more...)

City of Manchester Stadium

Manchester City F.C. are an English Premier League football club based in Manchester and founded in 1880. The club has played at the City of Manchester Stadium since 2003, having played at Maine Road from 1923. The club's most successful period was in the late 1960s and early 1970s when they won the League Championship, FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup under the management team of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison.

After losing the 1981 FA Cup Final, the club went through a tumultuous period of decline culminating in relegation to the third tier of English football in 1998 for the first time in their history. The club has since regained top flight status where they have spent the majority of their history. In 2008, they were bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group, spending millions of pounds on top class players. Success soon followed. In 2011, Manchester City made a breakthrough and qualified for the lucrative Champions League and won the FA Cup. In 2012, the club won the Premier League with a last-minute goal from Sergio Aguero, beating rivals Manchester United to the title on goal difference and ending their 44-year wait for the English football championship. (more...)

Norwich City players celebrate promotion to the FA Premiership

Norwich City Football Club is an English professional football club based in Norwich, Norfolk. As of the 2011-12 season Norwich play in the Premier League. Norwich have won the League Cup twice, in 1962 and 1985. The club was founded in 1902. Since 1935, Norwich have played their home games at Carrow Road and have a long-standing and fierce rivalry with East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town, with whom they have contested the East Anglian Derby 138 times since 1902. The fans' song "On The Ball, City" is regarded as being the oldest football song in the world. (more...)

Old Trafford after its most recent expansion
Old Trafford is an all-seater football stadium in the Trafford borough of Greater Manchester, England, and is the home of Premier League club Manchester United. With space for 75,811 spectators, Old Trafford has the largest capacity of any club football stadium in England. The stadium is approximately 0.5 miles (0.8 km) from Old Trafford Cricket Ground. It was nicknamed the Theatre of Dreams by Bobby Charlton, and has been United's permanent residence since 19 February 1910, with the exception of an eight-year absence from 1941 to 1949 due to bomb damage during the Second World War. The ground underwent several expansions in the 1990s and 2000s, raising the capacity to over 75,000. The stadium's current record attendance was recorded in 1939, when 76,962 spectators watched the FA Cup semi-final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Grimsby Town. The ground regularly hosts FA Cup semi-final matches as a neutral venue and has also hosted England international fixtures, as well as matches at the 1966 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 1996, and the 2003 UEFA Champions League Final. Outside football, Old Trafford has hosted rugby league's Super League Grand Final since 1998. (more...)

A Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Fulham

The Premier League is an English professional league for association football clubs. At the top of the English football league system, it is the country's primary football competition. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Football League. The Premier League is a corporation in which the 20 member clubs act as shareholders. Seasons run from August to May, with teams playing 38 matches each, totalling 380 matches in the season.

The competition formed as the FA Premier League on 20 February 1992 following the decision of clubs in the Football League First Division to break away from The Football League and take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal. The Premier League is the most-watched football league in the world, broadcast in 212 territories to an audience of 643 million viewers. The Premier League ranked first in the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) coefficients of leagues based on performances in European competitions over the last five years, ahead of the Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A.

Of the 45 clubs to have competed since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, five have won the title: Manchester United (12 titles), Arsenal (3), Chelsea (3), Blackburn Rovers (1) and Manchester City (1). The current champions are Manchester City, who won the title in the 2011–12 season. (more...)

External view of the Medway Stand

Priestfield Stadium is a football stadium in Gillingham, Kent, England. It has been the home of Gillingham Football Club since the club's formation in 1893, and was also the temporary home of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club for two seasons during the 1990s. The stadium has also hosted women's and youth international matches. The stadium underwent extensive redevelopment during the late 1990s, which has brought its capacity down from nearly 20,000 to a current figure of 11,582. It has four all-seater stands, all constructed since 1997, although one is only of a temporary nature. There are also conference and banqueting facilities and a nightspot named the Blues Rock Café. Despite having invested heavily in its current stadium, Gillingham F.C. has plans to relocate to a new stadium. (more...)

Wednesday lift the 2005 League One Playoff Trophy

Sheffield Wednesday F.C. is one of the oldest football clubs in England; this season they play in the Football League. Based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, Sheffield Wednesday's chief rivals are Sheffield United F.C. with whom they play in the Steel City Derby. As of 2006, The Owls have won four league titles, three FA Cups and one League Cup, but their League Cup triumph (secured in 1991) is their only major trophy since World War II. They did reach both domestic cup finals in 1993, but lost 2-1 to Arsenal each time. Sheffield Wednesday currently play in the Football League Championship. Home games are played at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, which had staged numerous FA Cup semi-finals prior to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans. (more...)

Sunderland Stadium of Light
Sunderland A.F.C. is an English association football club based in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear that competes in the Premier League. Since its formation in 1879, the club has won six First Division titles—in 1892, 1893, 1895, 1902, 1913, and 1936 and the FA Cup twice, in 1937 and 1973 (see Sunderland A.F.C. seasons). The club was founded by schoolteacher James Allan and was elected into The Football League in 1890 where the team performed well in the league, earning plaudits such as a "wonderfully fine team". The Sunderland team won their first FA Cup in 1937 with a 3–1 victory over Preston North End, and remained in the top league for 68 successive seasons, losing the record to Arsenal when they were relegated in 1958. Sunderland's most notable trophy win after the Second World War was their second FA Cup in 1973, when the club secured a 1–0 victory over Leeds United. The team has won the second tier title five times in that period and the third tier title once. Sunderland play their home games at the 49,000 capacity all-seater Stadium of Light having moved from Roker Park in 1997. The original ground capacity was 42,000 which was increased to 49,000 following redevelopment in 2000. Sunderland have a long-standing rivalry with their neighbouring club Newcastle United, with whom they have contested the Tyne–Wear derby since 1898. (more...)

A young Courtney Walsh impressed many in the Third Test.
The West Indian cricket team in England in 1988 played 16 first-class cricket matches under the captaincy of Viv Richards. The West Indian cricket team enjoyed tremendous success during the tour while the England cricket team endured a "disastrous summer" of continuous change. England easily won the initial three-match One Day International (ODI) series, retaining the Texaco Trophy and raising expectations for a successful summer against West Indies in the following five-match Test series. However, West Indies comfortably retained the Wisden Trophy, winning the Test series 4-0. Perhaps as a reference to the Year of the Four Emperors in 69 AD, this West Indian tour has become known in cricketing circles as the "summer of four captains" as the England cricket team used four different captains in the five-match Test series. (more...)

Chris Brass hugs Viv Busby after a win for York City in 2004

York City F.C. is an English football club based in York, North Yorkshire. The club participates in the League Two, the fourth tier of English football. Founded in 1922, they joined The Football League in 1929, and have spent the majority of their history in the lower divisions. The club once rose as high as the second tier of English football, spending two seasons in the Second Division in the 1970s. In the 2003–04 season the club lost their League status when they were relegated from the Third Division. They remained in the Conference National until the end of the 2011–12 season, when they were promoted back to the Football League following a 2–1 victory against Luton Town in the 2012 Conference National play-off Final.

York have enjoyed more success in cup competitions than in the league, with highlights including an FA Cup semi-final appearance in 1955. In the 1995–96 Coca-Cola Cup, York beat Manchester United 3–0 at Old Trafford; Manchester United went on to win the FA Cup and Premiership double that season. York play their home games at Bootham Crescent. The stadium was known as KitKat Crescent as part of a sponsorship deal with Nestlé from 2005 to 2010. (more...)

Battersea Bridge, London
Battersea Bridge is a cast iron and granite five-span cantilever bridge crossing the River Thames in London. It is situated on a sharp bend in the river, and links Battersea south of the river with Chelsea to the north. The bridge replaced a ferry service that had operated near the site since at least the 16th century. The first Battersea Bridge was a toll bridge commissioned by John, Earl Spencer. A poor design by Henry Holland made the bridge unpopular and dangerous both to its users and to passing shipping. Although boats often collided with it, the bridge was the last surviving wooden bridge on the Thames in London, and was the subject of paintings by many significant artists such as J. M. W. Turner, John Sell Cotman and James McNeill Whistler, including Whistler's controversial and influential Nocturne: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge. In 1879 the bridge was taken into public ownership, and in 1885 demolished and replaced with the existing bridge, designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and built by John Mowlem & Co. The narrowest surviving road bridge over the Thames in London, it is one of London's least busy Thames bridges. The location on a bend in the river makes the bridge a hazard to shipping, and it has been closed many times due to collisions. (more...)

An Aveling and Porter locomotive in operation on the Wotton Tramway
The Brill Tramway was a six-mile (10 km) rail line in rural Buckinghamshire, England. It was privately built in 1871 by the 3rd Duke of Buckingham as a horse tram line to help transport goods between his lands around Wotton House and the national rail network. Lobbying from the nearby town of Brill led to its extension to Brill railway station and conversion to passenger use in early 1872. Although locomotives were bought, the line had been designed for horses and thus trains travelled at average speed of only 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h). In the 1880s, the Duke of Buckingham planned to upgrade the route to main line standards and extend the line to Oxford, and in anticipation, the line was named the Oxford & Aylesbury Tramroad. The extension to Oxford was never built. Instead, the Brill Tramway became part of London's Metropolitan Railway. In 1933 the Metropolitan Railway became the Metropolitan Line of London Transport, and thus the Brill Tramway became part of the London Underground, despite being 40 miles (65 km) from London and not underground. In 1935 the London Transport management closed the Brill Tramway and the infrastructure was dismantled and sold. Little trace remains other than the former junction station at Quainton Road, now the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre. (more...)

A postcard for the Central London Railway depicting a railcar and passengers
The Central London Railway was a railway company established in 1889 to construct a deep-level underground "tube" railway in London. Funding for construction was obtained in 1895 through a syndicate of financiers and construction work took place from 1896 to 1900. When opened in 1900, the railway served 13 stations and ran completely underground in a pair of tunnels between its western terminus at Shepherd's Bush and its eastern terminus at the Bank of England. After a rejected proposal to turn the line into a loop, it was extended at the western end to Wood Lane in 1908 and at the eastern end to Liverpool Street station in 1912. In 1920, it was extended along a Great Western Railway line to Ealing. After initially making good returns for investors, the railway suffered a decline in passenger numbers due to increased competition from other underground railway lines and new motorised buses. In 1913, it was taken over by the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, operator of the majority of London's underground railways. In 1933 the two companies were taken into public ownership and, today, the railway's tunnels and stations form the central section of the London Underground's Central line. (more...)

A picture of a City & South London Railway train from the Illustrated London News, 1890
The City and South London Railway was the first deep-level underground "tube" railway in the world, and the first major railway to use electric traction. Originally intended for cable-hauled trains, the collapse of the cable contractor while the railway was under construction forced a change to electric traction, an experimental technology at the time, before the line opened. When opened in 1890, it had six stations and ran for 3.2 miles (5.1 km) in a pair of tunnels between the City of London and Stockwell, passing under the River Thames. The diameter of the tunnels restricted the size of the trains and the small carriages with their high-backed seating were nicknamed padded cells. The railway was extended several times north and south; eventually serving 22 stations over a distance of 13.5 miles (21.7 km) from Camden Town in north London to Morden in Surrey. Although the C&SLR was well used, low ticket prices and the construction cost of the extensions placed a strain on the company's finances. In 1913, the C&SLR became part of the Underground Group of railways and, in the 1920s, it underwent major reconstruction works before its merger with another of the Group's railways. In 1933, the C&SLR and the rest of the Underground Group was taken into public ownership. Today, its tunnels and stations form the Bank branch and Kennington to Morden section of the London Underground's Northern Line. (more...)

A traditional general aviation fixed-wing light aircraft
General aviation in the United Kingdom has been defined as a civil aircraft operation other than a commercial air transport flight operating to a schedule. Although the International Civil Aviation Organization excludes any form of remunerated aviation from its definition, some commercial operations are often included within the scope of general aviation in the UK. The sector operates business jets, rotorcraft, piston and jet-engined fixed-wing aircraft, gliders of all descriptions, and lighter than air craft. Public transport operations include business (or corporate) aviation and air taxi services, and account for nearly half of the economic contribution made by the sector. There are 28,000 Private Pilot Licence holders, and 10,000 certified glider pilots. Although GA operates from more than 1,800 aerodromes and landing sites, ranging in size from large regional airports to farm strips, over 80 per cent of GA activity is conducted at 134 of the larger aerodromes. GA is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority, although regulatory powers are being increasingly transferred to the European Aviation Safety Agency. The main focus is on standards of airworthiness and pilot licensing, and the objective is to promote high standards of safety. (more...)

Electric locomotive and freight cars on the Hellingly Hospital Railway in 1906

The Hellingly Hospital Railway was a light railway owned and operated by East Sussex County Council, used to deliver coal and passengers to Hellingly Hospital, a psychiatric hospital near Hailsham, via a spur from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway’s Cuckoo Line at Hellingly railway station. The railway was constructed in 1899 and opened to passengers on 20 July 1903, following its electrification in 1902. After the railway grouping of 1923, passenger numbers declined so significantly that the hospital authorities no longer considered passenger usage of the line to be economical, and the service was withdrawn. The railway closed to freight in 1959, following the hospital's decision to convert its coal boilers to oil, which rendered the railway unnecessary. The route took a mostly direct path from a junction immediately south of Hellingly Station to Hellingly Hospital, past sidings known as Farm Siding and Park House Siding respectively, used as stopping places to load and unload produce and supplies from outbuildings of the hospital. Much of the railway has since been converted to footpath, and many of the buildings formerly served by the line are now abandoned. (more...)

The London congestion charge is a fee charged on most motor vehicles operating within the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) in central London between 07:00 and 18:00 (Monday-Friday only). The charge, which was introduced on 17 February 2003, remains one of the largest congestion zones in the world despite the cancellation of the Western Extension which operated between February 2007 and January 2011. The charge aims to reduce congestion, and to raise investment funds for London's transport system.

The standard charge is £10 each day for each non-exempt vehicle that travels within the zone, with a penalty of between £60 and £187 levied for non-payment. Enforcement is primarily based on automatic number plate recognition. Transport for London is responsible for the charge which has been operated by IBM since 1 November 2009. (more...)

The LSWR N15 class was a British 2-cylinder 4-6-0 express passenger steam locomotive designed by Robert W. Urie. The class has a complex build history spanning several years of construction from 1919 to 1926. The first examples were constructed for the London and South Western Railway, where they hauled heavy express trains to the south coast ports and further west to Exeter. Following the Grouping of railway companies in 1923, the LSWR became part of the Southern Railway and its publicity department gave the locomotives names associated with Arthurian legend. The Chief Mechanical Engineer of the newly-formed company, Richard Maunsell, increased the King Arthur class strength to 74 locomotives. Maunsell incorporated several improvements, notably to the steam circuit. The new locomotives were built in batches at Eastleigh and Glasgow. Maunsell's successor, Oliver Bulleid, further improved performance by altering exhaust arrangements. The locomotives continued operating with British Railways (BR) until the end of 1962. One example, 30777 Sir Lamiel, is preserved as part of the National Collection and can be seen on mainline railtours. (more...)

The M62 crossing the Pennine hills in West Yorkshire
The M62 motorway is a west-east trans-Pennine motorway in northern England, connecting the cities of Liverpool and Hull. The road also forms part of the unsigned Euroroutes E20 (Shannon to Saint Petersburg) and E22 (Holyhead to Ishim). The road is 107 miles (172 km) long; however, for seven miles, it shares its route with the M60 motorway around Manchester. The motorway, which was first proposed in the 1930s, and originally conceived as two separate routes, was built in stages between 1971 and 1976, with construction beginning at Pole Moor and finishing in Tarbock. The motorway also absorbed the northern end of the Stretford-Eccles bypass, which was built between 1957 and 1960. Adjusted for inflation to 2007, the motorway cost approximately GB£765 million to build. The motorway is relatively busy, with an average daily traffic flow of 100,000 cars in Yorkshire, and has several areas prone to gridlock, in particular, between Leeds and Halifax in West Yorkshire. Since the Stretford-Eccles bypass was opened, the motorway's history beyond construction has included a coach bombing on 4 February 1974, and a rail crash on 28 February 2001. (more...)

The steam crane at Mount Sion, on the Bury arm

The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal is a disused canal in Greater Manchester, North West England, built to link Bolton and Bury with Manchester. The canal, when fully opened, was 15 milesfurlong (24.3 km) long. It was accessed via a junction with the River Irwell in Salford. Seventeen locks were required to climb to the summit as it passed through Pendleton, heading northwest to Prestolee before it split northwest to Bolton and northeast to Bury. The canal was commissioned in 1791 by local landowners and businessmen and built between 1791 and 1808, during the Golden Age of canal building, at a cost of £127,700. Originally designed for narrow gauge boats, the canal was altered during its construction into a broad gauge canal to allow an ultimately unrealised connection with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The majority of the freight carried was coal from local collieries but, as the mines reached the end of their working lives, sections of the canal fell into disuse and disrepair and it was officially abandoned in 1961. In 1987, a society was formed with the aim of restoring the canal for leisure use and, in 2006, restoration began in the area around the junction with the River Irwell in Salford. The canal is currently navigable as far as East Ordsall Lane, in Salford. (more...)

The join between the narrow 1770s structure and the paler 1930s widening is clearly visible under the Richmond Bridge arches

Richmond Bridge is a Grade I listed 18th-century stone arch bridge which crosses the River Thames at Richmond, in southwest London, England, connecting the two halves of the present-day London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Because the river meanders from its general west to east direction to flow from southeast to northwest in this part of London, what would otherwise be known as the north and south banks are often referred to as the "Middlesex" (Twickenham) and "Surrey" (Richmond) banks respectively, after the historic counties to which each side once belonged. The bridge was built between 1774 and 1777 to the designs of James Paine and Kenton Couse, as a replacement for a ferry crossing which connected Richmond town centre on the east bank with its neighbouring district of East Twickenham (St. Margarets) to the west. Its construction was privately funded by a tontine scheme, to pay for which tolls were charged until 1859. The bridge was widened and slightly flattened in 1937–40, but otherwise still conforms to its original design. The eighth Thames bridge to be built in what is now Greater London, it is today the oldest surviving Thames bridge in London. (more...)

The SR Leader class was a class of experimental 0-6-6-0 articulated steam locomotive, produced to the design of the innovative engineer Oliver Bulleid. Intended as a replacement for the ageing fleet of M7 class, the Leader was an attempt to extend the life of steam traction on the Southern Railway by eliminating many of the operational drawbacks associated with existing steam locomotives. Design work began in 1946, and development continued after the nationalisation of the railways in 1948, under the auspices of British Railways. The Leader project was part of Bulleid's desire to modernise the steam locomotive based on experience gained with the Southern Railway's fleet of electric stock. The design incorporated many novel features, such as the use of thermic siphons, bogies, and cabs at either end of the locomotive, resulting in its unique appearance. Several of its innovations proved to be unsuccessful however, partly accounting for the project's cancellation in the early 1950s. Five Leader locomotives were begun, although only one was completed. Problems with the design, indifferent reports on performance, and political pressure surrounding spiralling development costs, led to all locomotives of the class being scrapped by 1951. (more...)

Southern Railway (UK) official works photograph of 21C1 Channel Packet
The SR Merchant Navy Class was a class of air-smoothed 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive designed for the Southern Railway by Oliver Bulleid. The Pacific design was chosen in preference to several others proposed by Bulleid. The first members of the class were constructed during the Second World War, and the last of the 30 locomotives in 1949. Incorporating a number of new developments in British steam locomotive technology, the design of the Packets was among the first to use welding in the construction process; this enabled easier fabrication of components during the austerity of the war and post-war economies. The locomotives featured thermic syphons and Bulleid's controversial, innovative chain-driven valve gear. The class members were named after the Merchant Navy shipping lines involved in the Battle of the Atlantic, and latterly those which used Southampton Docks, an astute publicity masterstroke by the Southern Railway, which operated Southampton Docks during the period. Due to problems with some of the more novel features of Bulleid's design, all members of the class were rebuilt by British Railways during the late 1950s, losing their air-smoothed casings in the process. The Packets operated until the end of Southern steam in July 1967. A third of the class have survived and can be seen on heritage railways throughout Great Britain. (more...)

Talyllyn Railway Number 4: Edward Thomas at Tywyn Wharf

The Talyllyn Railway is a narrow-gauge preserved railway in Wales running for 7.25 miles (11.67 km) from Tywyn on the Mid-Wales coast to Nant Gwernol near the village of Abergynolwyn. The line was opened in 1866 to carry slate from the quarries at Bryn Eglwys to Tywyn, and was the first narrow gauge railway in Britain authorised by Act of Parliament to carry passengers using steam haulage. Despite severe under-investment, the line remained open, and in 1951 it became the first railway in the world to be preserved as a heritage railway by volunteers. Since preservation, the railway has operated as a tourist attraction, significantly expanding its rolling stock through acquisition and an engineering programme to build new locomotives and carriages. In 1976 an extension was opened along the former mineral line from Abergynolwyn to the new station at Nant Gwernol. In 2001 the preservation society celebrated its 50th anniversary, and in 2005 a major rebuilding and extension of Tywyn Wharf station took place, including a much expanded facility for the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum. The fictional Skarloey Railway, which formed part of the Railway Series of children's books by the Rev. W Awdry, was based on the Talyllyn Railway. The preservation of the line inspired the Ealing Comedy film The Titfield Thunderbolt. (more...)

Vauxhall Bridge
Vauxhall Bridge is a Grade II* listed steel and granite deck arch bridge in central London. It crosses the River Thames in a north-west south-east direction between Vauxhall on the south bank and Westminster on the north bank. Opened in 1906, it replaced an earlier bridge, originally known as Regent Bridge but later renamed Vauxhall Bridge, built between 1809 and 1816 as part of a scheme for redeveloping the south bank of the Thames. The original bridge was itself built on the site of a former ferry. The building of both bridges was problematic, with both the first and second bridges requiring multiple redesigns from multiple architects. The original bridge, the first iron bridge over the Thames, was built by a private company and operated as a toll bridge before being taken into public ownership in 1879. The second bridge, which took eight years to build, was the first in London to carry trams and later one of the first two roads in London to have a bus lane. In 1963 it was proposed to replace the bridge with a modern development containing seven floors of shops, office space, hotel rooms and leisure facilities supported above the river, but the plans were abandoned due to costs. With the exception of alterations to the road layout and the balustrade, the design and appearance of the current bridge has remained almost unchanged since 1907. The bridge today is an important part of London's road system and carries the A202 road across the Thames. (more...)

HMS Ark Royal c. 1939
HMS Ark Royal was an aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy that served in the Second World War. Designed in 1934 to fit the restrictions of the Washington Naval Treaty, she was built by Cammell Laird and Company, Ltd. at Birkenhead, England, and completed in November 1938. Her design differed from previous aircraft carriers. Ark Royal was the first ship on which the hangars and flight deck were an integral part of the hull, instead of an add-on or part of the superstructure. Designed to carry a large number of aircraft, she had two hangar deck levels. She served during a period that first saw the extensive use of naval air power; a number of carrier tactics were developed and refined aboard Ark Royal. She served in some of the most active naval theatres of the Second World War, including operations off Norway, the search for the German battleship Bismarck, and the Malta Convoys. She was torpedoed on 13 November 1941 and sank the following day. Her sinking was the subject of several inquiries; investigators were keen to know how the carrier was lost, given there were efforts to save the ship and tow her to the naval base at Gibraltar. Several design flaws were discovered during the investigation and were rectified in new British carriers. (more...)

HMS Cardiff in Portsmouth, circa 2005
HMS Cardiff (D108) is a Type 42 destroyer, the third ship of the Royal Navy to be named in honour of the Welsh capital city of Cardiff. She was built by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria and launched on 22 February 1974. During her career, Cardiff served in the Falklands War, where she shot down the last Argentine aircraft of the conflict and accepted the surrender of a 700-strong garrison in the settlement of Port Howard. During the 1991 Gulf War, her Lynx helicopter sank two Iraqi minesweepers. She later participated in the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as part of the Royal Navy's constant Armilla patrol; Cardiff thwarted attempts to smuggle oil out of the country, but was not involved in the actual invasion. Cardiff was decommissioned in July 2005, having earned two battle honours for service in the Falklands and Gulf wars. She is currently moored in Portsmouth Harbour, next to sister ship HMS Newcastle. Former servicemen have petitioned for her preservation as a museum ship and local tourist attraction at Cardiff, but her fate remains undecided. (more...)

HMS Indefatigable
HMS Indefatigable was a battlecruiser of the Royal Navy and the lead ship of her class. Her keel was laid down in 1909 and she was commissioned on 24 February 1911. When the First World War began, the ship was serving with the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron (BCS) in the Mediterranean, where she unsuccessfully pursued the battlecruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau of the German Imperial Navy as they fled towards the Ottoman Empire. The ship bombarded Ottoman fortifications defending the Dardanelles on 3 November 1914, then, following a refit in Malta, returned to the United Kingdom. Indefatigable was sunk on 31 May 1916 during the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the war. Part of Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty's Battlecruiser Fleet, she was hit several times in the first minutes of the "Run to the South", the opening phase of the battlecruiser action. Shells from the German battlecruiser Von der Tann caused an explosion ripping a hole in her hull, and a second explosion hurled large pieces of the ship 200 feet (60 m) in the air. Only three of the crew of 1,017 survived. (more...)

View of the wreck of the French ship Le Droits D' Homme

The Action of 13 January 1797 was a small naval battle fought between a French ship of the line and two British frigates off the coast of Brittany during the French Revolutionary Wars. The action is notable for its outcome: the frigates successfully outmanoeuvred the much larger French vessel and drove it on shore in heavy seas, resulting in the death of over 900 of the 1,300 persons aboard. One of the British frigates was also lost in the engagement, running onto a sandbank after failing to escape a lee shore. The French ship Droits de l'Homme had been part of the Expédition d'Irlande, a disastrous attempt by a French expeditionary force to invade Ireland. During the operation, the French fleet was beset by poor co-ordination and extremely violent weather, eventually being compelled to return to France without landing a single soldier ashore. Two British frigates, HMS Indefatigable and HMS Amazon, had been ordered to patrol the seas off Ushant in an attempt to intercept the returning French force and sighted Droits de l'Homme on the afternoon of 13 January. The damage the more nimble British vessels inflicted on the French ship was so severe that as the winds increased, the French crew lost control and Droits de l'Homme was swept onto a sandbar and destroyed. (more...)

The Sultan's harem after the bombardment

The Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar on 27 August 1896. The conflict lasted around 40 minutes and is the shortest war in recorded history. The immediate cause of the war was the death of the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on 25 August 1896 and the subsequent succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash. In accordance with a treaty signed in 1886, a condition for accession to the sultancy was that the candidate obtain the permission of the British Consul, and Khalid had not fulfilled this requirement. The British considered this a casus belli and sent an ultimatum to Khalid demanding that he order his forces to stand down and leave the palace. In response, Khalid called up his palace guard and barricaded himself inside the palace. The ultimatum expired at 9:00 am East Africa Time (EAT) on 27 August, by which time the British had gathered three cruisers, two gunships, 150 marines and sailors and 900 Zanzibaris in the harbour area. The Royal Navy contingent were under the command of Rear-Admiral Harry Rawson whilst the Zanzibaris were commanded by Brigadier-General Lloyd Mathews of the Zanzibar army. A bombardment was opened at 9:02 am which set the palace on fire and disabled the defending artillery. The flag at the palace was shot down and fire ceased at 9:40 am. The Sultan's forces sustained roughly 500 casualties, while only one British sailor was injured. (more...)

A British machine gun post near Feuchy
The Battle of Arras was a British offensive during World War I. From 9 April to 16 May, 1917, British, Canadian, and Australian troops attacked German trenches near the French city of Arras on the Western Front. The Arras offensive was conceived as part of a plan to break through the German defences into the open ground beyond and engage the numerically inferior German army in a war of movement. It was planned in conjunction with the French High Command, who were simultaneously embarking on a massive attack (the Nivelle Offensive) about eighty kilometres to the south. The stated aim of this combined operation was to end the war in forty-eight hours. At Arras, the British Empire's immediate objectives were more modest: (1) to draw German troops away from the ground chosen for the French attack and (2) to take the German-held high ground that dominated the plain of Douai. After considerable bombardment, Canadian troops advancing in the north were able to capture the strategically significant Vimy Ridge. Only in the south, where British and Australian forces were frustrated by the elastic defence, were the attackers held to minimal gains. Although these battles were generally successful in achieving limited aims, many of them resulted in relatively large numbers of casualties. (more...)

Part of the Battle of Blenheim tapestry at Blenheim Palace
The Battle of Blenheim was a major battle of the War of the Spanish Succession fought on 13 August, 1704. King Louis XIV sought to knock Emperor Leopold out of the war by seizing Vienna, the Habsburg capital, and gain a favourable peace settlement. Realising the danger, the Duke of Marlborough resolved to alleviate the peril to Vienna by marching his forces south from Bedburg and help maintain Emperor Leopold within the Grand Alliance. When Marshall Tallard arrived to bolster the Elector of Bavaria's army, and Prince Eugene arrived with reinforcements for the Allies, the two armies finally met on the banks of the Danube in and around the small village of Blindheim. Blenheim has gone down in history as one of the turning points of the War of the Spanish Succession. The overwhelming Allied victory ensured the safety of Vienna from the Franco-Bavarian army, thus preventing the collapse of the Grand Alliance. Bavaria and Cologne were knocked out of the war, and King Louis' hopes for a quick victory came to an end. France suffered over 30,000 casualties including the commander-in-chief, Marshal Tallard, who was taken captive to England. Before the 1704 campaign ended, the Allies had taken Landau, and the towns of Trier (Trèves) and Trarbach on the Moselle in preparation for the following year's campaign into France itself. (more...)

"Battle of Lissa, 13 March 1811", engraving by Henri Merke
The Battle of Lissa was a naval action fought between a British frigate squadron and a substantially larger squadron of French and Venetian frigates and smaller ships on 13 March 1811 during the Adriatic campaign of the Napoleonic Wars. The engagement was fought in the Adriatic Sea for possession of the strategically important island of Lissa (later renamed Vis), from which the British squadron had been disrupting French shipping in the Adriatic. The French needed to control the Adriatic to supply a growing army in the Illyrian Provinces, and consequently despatched an invasion force in March 1811 consisting of six frigates, numerous smaller craft and a battalion of Italian soldiers. The French invasion force under Bernard Dubourdieu was met by Captain William Hoste and his four ships based on the island. In the subsequent battle Hoste sank the French flagship, captured two others and scattered the remainder of the Franco-Venetian squadron. The battle has been hailed as an important British victory, due to both the disparity between the forces and the signal raised by Hoste, a former subordinate of Horatio Nelson. Hoste had raised the message "Remember Nelson" as the French bore down and had then manoeuvred to drive Dubourdieu's flagship ashore and scatter his squadron in what has been described as "one of the most brilliant naval achievements of the war". (more...)

The Queen’s Regiment breaking through on the right flank
The Battle of Ramillies was a major engagement of the War of the Spanish Succession fought on 23 May, 1706. 1706 had begun well for Louis XIV's generals who gained early success in Italy and in Alsace. Louis now pressed Marshal Villeroi to seek out Marlborough and bring the Allies to battle in the Spanish Netherlands. Accordingly, the French marshal set off from Louvain at the head of 60,000 men, and provocatively marched towards Léau. Marlborough, also determined to fight a major engagement, assembled his forces – some 62,000 men – near Maastricht, before advancing towards the Mehaigne River and the plain of Ramillies. But the French had forestalled the Allies, and Marlborough's advance party found the location already occupied. Nevertheless, the Duke decided to attack at once. In less than four hours, Villeroi's army was utterly defeated. Marlborough's subtle moves and changes in emphasis during the battle – something the French and Bavarian commanders failed to realize until it was too late – caught his foe between the jaws of a tactical vice. The Franco-Bavarian army broke and ran en masse, losing in total over 20,000 casualties. With Prince Eugéne's subsequent success at Turin in northern Italy, the Allies had imposed the greatest loss of territory and resources Louis XIV would suffer during the war. Town after town – including Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp – fell to Marlborough's forces; by the end of the campaign, the Franco-Spanish army had been driven from most of the Spanish Netherlands. (more...)

Oil painting of British general Jeffrey Amherst
The 1759 Battle of Ticonderoga was a tactically minor confrontation at Fort Carillon (now known as Fort Ticonderoga) on July 26 and 27, 1759, during the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Seven Years' War). A British military force of more than 11,000 men under the command of General Sir Jeffery Amherst moved artillery to high ground overlooking the fort, which was defended by a garrison of 400 Frenchmen under the command of Brigadier General François-Charles de Bourlamaque. Rather than defend the fort, Bourlamaque, operating under instructions from General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and New France's governor, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, withdrew his forces, and attempted to blow the fort up. The fort's powder magazine was destroyed, but its walls were not severely damaged. The British then occupied the fort, which was afterwards known by the name Fort Ticonderoga, and embarked on a series of improvements to the area and the construction of a fleet to conduct military operations on Lake Champlain. (more...)

The coastline of Tory Island
The Battle of Tory Island was a naval action of the French Revolutionary Wars, fought on 12 October 1798 between French and British squadrons off the northwest coast of Donegal in Ireland. The last action of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the Battle of Tory Island ended the final attempt by the French Navy to land substantial numbers of soldiers in Ireland during the war. In May 1798 the Society of United Irishmen, led by Theobald Wolfe Tone, precipitated an uprising against British rule in Ireland. At the urging of the rebels a small French force under General Humbert was landed at Killala, but by early September both this expedition and the rebellion had been defeated. Unaware of the defeat, on 16 September the French despatched reinforcements. However, having missed one invasion force, the Royal Navy was on alert for another, and when the squadron carrying the reinforcements left Brest they were soon spotted. After a long chase, the French were brought to battle in a bay off Donegal close to Tory Island. During the action the outnumbered French attempted to escape, but were run down and defeated piecemeal, with the British capturing four ships and scattering the survivors. Over the next two weeks, British frigate patrols scoured the passage back to Brest, capturing three more ships. Of the ten ships in the original French squadron, only two frigates and a schooner reached safety. British losses in the campaign were minimal. The battle marked the last attempt by the French Navy to launch an invasion of any part of the British Isles. (more...)

Battle of Towton, a depiction by Richard Caton Woodville
The Battle of Towton was the "largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil". The engagement took place near the village of the same name in Yorkshire on 29 March 1461, a Palm Sunday. It was part of the series of civil wars—the Wars of the Roses—fought between the Houses of Lancaster and York. More than 50,000 soldiers were mustered for this battle. The reigning king of England, Henry VI, headed the Lancastrians, while the Yorkists were led by Edward IV, who had declared himself king and was using this battle to affirm his claim. Their armies met on a plateau near Towton amidst a snowstorm. The Lancastrians, superior in numbers, were lured out of their defensive positions by the Yorkist archers, who took advantage of the strong wind to outrange their counterparts and inflict casualties without suffering any in return. The ensuing melee raged for hours, and the Yorkists finally gained victory after the arrival of their reinforcements. Many Lancastrians were killed in their panicked flight from the battlefield, and the heralds reported a count of 28,000 dead. Henry fled to Scotland, leaving Edward free to start the Yorkist dynasty. (more...)

Z33 under attack by Allied aircraft on 9 February 1945
In the "Black Friday" air attack of World War II a force of Allied Bristol Beaufighter aircraft suffered heavy casualties during an unsuccessful attack on German destroyer Z33 and her escorting vessels on 9 February 1945. The German ships were sheltering in a strong defensive position in Førde Fjord, Norway, forcing the Allied aircraft to attack through heavy anti-aircraft fire. The Beaufighters and their escort of North American P-51 Mustang fighters were also surprised by twelve German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters. In the resulting attack the Allies damaged at least two of the German ships for the loss of seven Beaufighters shot down by flak guns. Another two Beaufighters and one Mustang were destroyed by the Fw 190s. Either four or five German fighters were shot down by the Allied aircraft, including one flown by an ace. Due to the losses suffered in this raid the Allied anti-shipping force adopted new tactics which placed a lower priority on attacking warships. (more...)

A coastal searchlight
British anti-invasion preparations of World War II entailed a large scale programme of military and civilian mobilisation in response to the threat of invasion by German armed forces in 1940 and 1941. The army needed to recover from the defeat of the British Expeditionary Force in France and one and a half million men were enrolled as part-time soldiers in the Home Guard. The rapid construction of field fortifications transformed much of Britain, especially southern England, into a prepared battlefield. Short of heavy weapons and equipment, the British had to make the best use of whatever was available. The German invasion plan, known to English speakers as Operation Sealion, was never taken beyond the preliminary assembly of forces stage. Today, very little remains of Britain's anti-invasion preparations. Only reinforced concrete structures such as pillboxes are common and even these have, until very recently, been unappreciated as historical monuments. (more...)

An 1875 print by John Steeple Davis depicting Ethan Allen demanding the fort's surrender
The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga occurred during the American Revolutionary War on May 10, 1775, when a small force of Green Mountain Boys led by Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold overcame and looted a small British garrison. Cannons and other armaments from the fort were transported to Boston and used to fortify Dorchester Heights and break the stalemate at the Siege of Boston. After seizing Ticonderoga, a small detachment captured the nearby Fort Crown Point on May 11. On May 18, Arnold and 50 men boldly raided Fort Saint-Jean on the Richelieu River in southern Quebec, seizing military supplies, cannons, and the largest military vessel on Lake Champlain. Although the scope of this military action was relatively minor, it had significant strategic importance. It impeded communication between northern and southern units of the British Army, and gave the nascent Continental Army a staging ground for the invasion of Quebec later in 1775. It also involved two larger-than-life personalities in Allen and Arnold, each of whom sought to gain as much credit and honor as possible for these events. (more...)

The Glorious First of June by Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg, 1795

The Glorious First of June was the first and largest fleet action of the naval conflict between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the First French Republic during the French Revolutionary Wars. The British Channel Fleet under Lord Howe attempted to interdict the passage of a vitally important French grain convoy from the United States, which was protected by the French Atlantic Fleet, commanded by Louis Thomas Villaret de Joyeuse. The two forces clashed in the Atlantic Ocean, some 400 nautical miles (741 km) west of the French island of Ushant. The action was the culmination of a campaign that had criss-crossed the Bay of Biscay over the previous month. Both sides had captured numerous merchant ships and minor warships and had engaged in two partial, but inconclusive, fleet actions. The aftermath of 1 June 1794 left both fleets shattered and in no condition for further combat. Both sides claimed victory; despite losing seven ships of the line, Villaret bought enough time for his grain convoy to reach safety. However, he was also forced to withdraw his battle-fleet to port, leaving the British free to conduct a campaign of blockade for the remainder of the war. The Glorious First of June demonstrated some of the major problems inherent in the French and British navies at the start of the Revolutionary Wars. The result of the battle was seized upon by the press of both nations as a shining example of the prowess and bravery of their respective navies. (more...)

An ammunition carrier of the 11th Armoured Division explodes

Operation Epsom was a Second World War British offensive that took place between 26 and 30 June 1944, during the Battle of Normandy. The offensive was intended to outflank and seize the German-occupied city of Caen, which was a major Allied objective in the early stages of the invasion of northwest Europe. Epsom was launched early on the 26 June, with units of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division advancing behind a rolling artillery barrage. Additional bomber support had been expected, but poor weather led to this being cancelled; air cover would be sporadic for much of the operation. Supported by the tanks of the 31st Tank Brigade, the 15th Scottish made steady progress, and by the end of the first day had largely overrun the German outpost line. In heavy fighting over the following two days, a foothold was secured across the River Odon, and efforts were made to expand this by capturing strategic points around the salient and moving up the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division. However, in response to powerful German counterattacks, by 30 June some of the British positions across the river were withdrawn, bringing the operation to a close. Although the Germans had managed to contain the offensive, to do so they had been obliged to commit all their available strength, including two panzer divisions newly arrived in Normandy and earmarked for a planned offensive against British and American positions around Bayeux. (more...)

C–47 transport aircraft drop hundreds of paratroopers as part of Operation Varsity

Operation Varsity was a joint American–British airborne operation that took place in March 1945, towards the end of World War II. It was planned to aid the British 21st Army Group, under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, in securing a foothold across the River Rhine in western Germany by landing two airborne divisions on the eastern bank of the Rhine near the towns of Hamminkeln and Wesel. The operation involved two airborne divisions from US XVIII Airborne Corps: the British 6th Airborne Division and the US 17th Airborne Division. Despite some errors by the airborne forces, the operation was an overall success, with both divisions landing and capturing a number of bridges across the Rhine and securing several towns which could have been used by the enemy to delay the advance of the British ground forces. The two divisions incurred more than 2,000 casualties, but captured approximately 3,000 German soldiers in the process. The operation was the last large-scale Allied airborne operation of World War II, and was the largest single airborne drop in history. (more...)

The charge of the Highlanders at the Battle of Bushy Run. Oil on canvas by by CW Jeffreys (1869 - 1951)

Pontiac's Rebellion was a war launched in 1763 by North American First Nations who were dissatisfied with British policies in the Great Lakes region after the British victory in the French and Indian War/Seven Years' War (1754–1763). Warriors from numerous tribes joined the uprising in an effort to drive British soldiers and settlers out of the region. The war is named after the Odawa leader Pontiac, the most prominent of many native leaders in the conflict. The war began in May 1763 when American Natives, alarmed by policies imposed by British General Jeffrey Amherst, attacked a number of British forts and settlements. The First Nations were unable to drive away the British, but the uprising prompted the British government to modify the policies that had provoked the conflict. Warfare on the North American frontier was brutal, and the killing of prisoners, the targeting of civilians, and other atrocities were widespread. The ruthlessness of the conflict was a reflection of a growing racial divide between British colonists and American Indians. The British government sought to prevent further racial violence by issuing the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which created a boundary between colonists and Indians. (more...)

Pashtun tribesmen attacking a British–held fort in 1897

The Siege of Malakand was the 26 July – 2 August 1897 siege of the British garrison in the Malakand region of modern day Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. The British faced a force of Pashtun tribesmen whose tribal lands had been dissected by the Durand Line, the 1,519 mile (2,445 km) border between Afghanistan and Pakistan drawn up at the end of the Anglo-Afghan wars to help hold the Russian Empire's spread of influence towards British India. The unrest caused by this division of the Pashtun lands led to the rise of Saidullah, a Pashtun Fakir who led an army of at least 10,000 against the British garrison in Malakand. Although the British forces were divided amongst a number of poorly defended positions, the small garrison at the camp of Malakand South and the small fort at Chakdara were both able to hold out for six days against the much larger Pashtun army. The siege was lifted when a relief column dispatched from British positions to the south was sent to assist General William Hope Meiklejohn, commander of the British forces at Malakand South. Accompanying this relief force was second lieutenant Winston S. Churchill, who later published his account as The Story of the Malakand Field Force: An Episode of Frontier War. (more...)

For most of World War I, Allied and German Forces were stalled in trench warfare
The western front of World War I opened in 1914, with the German army invading first Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne. Both sides then dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France. This line remained essentially unchanged for most of the war. Between 1915 and 1917 a series of major offensives took place along this front. The attacks employed massive artillery bombardments and massed infantry advances. However, a combination of entrenchments, machine gun nests, barbed wire, and other defenses, repeatedly inflicted severe casualties on the attackers. As a result, no significant advances were made during these assaults. In an effort to break the deadlock, this front saw the introduction of new military technology, including poison gas and tanks. But it was only after the adoption of improved tactics that some degree of mobility was restored. In spite of the generally stagnant nature of this front, this theater would prove decisive. The inexorable advance of the Allied armies in 1918 persuaded the German commanders that defeat was unavoidable, and the government was forced to sue for conditions of surrender. (More...)