Our last big plague
as reported by Daniel Defoe
The Daily Mail says our judges are biased. Are they?
Joshua Rozenberg responds
'Better managed conflicts are better suited to resolution. At present, the Iran-Saudi Arabian conflict is chaotic. Sectarianism, security, competition over global leadership, geopolitics and even nationalism all appear to affect it, with little distinction as to …
Genre Local History
The topography of East Anglia is flatter than any other in England, the most vulnerable to invasion and the most transformed by war
The Sandlings landscape is quintessential East Anglia. It is a place of long, gentle lines with a vast open sky. Much of its distinctive character derives from the juxtaposition of the coastline with heath and marsh, which in places blend almost seamlessly with the beaches to make, in extent if not always in detail, a landscape unique in the British Isles. The idiosyncrasies of the Sandlings first began to be appreciated in the late 19th century with the development of the tourist industry …
Genre Travel History
Four friends planned an overland trip to India in the early 1960s. They hadn’t expected John Betjeman’s wife to bag a ride
Penelope Betjeman had been on the point of flying to India to rediscover the Kulu Valley, retracing on ponies the steps she had taken in 1931 with her mother Lady Chetwode, wife of the Commander-in-Chief in India, Lord Chetwode, so an overland journey with us was preferable to taking a plane, and considerably cheaper. ‘Having looked after my husband and children badly for 30 years I need a break, don’t you think?’ she told Tatler. ‘Everybody nowadays wants to cross a continent by Mini, but you need to have people who can deal with an appendix in the desert and take out an engine by the light of a candle.’ …
Genre Post-Holocaust Studies
Polish Jewry was once the beating heart of European Jewry. By the end of the war three million Polish Jews had perished in the Holocaust. For the survivors, their former world disappeared beneath a landscape of apocalyptic devastation. Ongoing and often murderous anti-semitic incidents, combined with an increasingly repressive Communist regime, convinced many survivors that their future lay outside Poland …
Genre Naval History
In August 2019 the world’s largest container ship the MSC Gülsün arrived in Europe from China. At 1,300 feet long, MSC Gülsün is three times the length of my first ship, MV Deido, and carries 26 times more cargo. Built 58 years before, Deido needed a crew of 50 to man her engine room, maintain her twenty two derricks, and keep navigation and cargo watches. MSC Gülsün needs a crew of just 26. It’s a dramatic illustration of the vast changes experienced in the world of marine transport. And of a life gone …
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Genre Social policy
by Mary O’Hara (with audio)
The home I lived in until I was seven was nothing short of a slum. It had just two tiny bedrooms for eight people, and was perpetually damp. Rats were so commonplace they may as well have been members of the family.
I knew there were people who were well off or rich. I knew my teachers were better off. I’d just never been anywhere near a wealthier part of town and interacted with people who lived there. So when I began to understand that more financially fortunate people looked down upon or pitied us, the undercurrent of shame stayed with me …
Genre Politics / Literature
To what extent are literary Scottishness and the demand for statehood predicated on each other? The modern SNP is noted for its ‘acultural’ nationalism, with far more emphasis on economic powers. Indeed, as Cairns Craig notes with regret, ‘there is probably no nationalist party in the world less focused on mobilising culture as part of its political strategy than the SNP’. And yet …
Animals come in many shapes. We see far more variety in animals than, say, in sports cars, which are all generally streamlined to reduce drag. In part, this is because there is more to shape than just getting from A to B the fastest way—otherwise, every animal would be aerodynamically streamlined like a sports car. Underwater and in air, there are different forces at play. Since water-dwelling animals are the same density as their surroundings, the pressure of the surrounding water supports their weight. As a result …
Nine o’clock and only three more nights before the war starts. Rob Watson urges Cilla, his black Labrador, into the back of the patrol car, settles her on an old yellow carpet, and drives out of Acacia Court for his first night back on patrol. Swinging right past Banyan and Cactus Courts, he turns onto Perimeter Road and cruises beside the high chain-link fence of the airbase, headlights searching for breaks in the wire. Even at this time, the oil camp’s streets and courtyards are deserted, people huddled in their homes waiting for the next news bulletin, the first Scud alerts to start wailing out …
Genre Literary Detective
In 1903 Einstein’s first child disappeared. Since then there have been three explanations; is any of them sufficient?
At 23 Einstein sired an illegitimate daughter with Mileva Marić, a fellow physics student at the Zurich Polytechnikum, who later became his first wife. No-one to date has solved the mystery of the infant’s fate.
Three hapless ‘must have’ theories hold sway. Lieserl must have died in an outbreak of scarlet fever in Novi-Sad in the late summer of 1903. She must have been adopted by family friends in Belgrade. She must have been placed in a home for children with special needs. In The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter, Holmes is led to a dramatic Fourth Theory …
British socialists in the period 1880–1920 produced millions of words of political rhetoric. Some of it was a recycling of traditional literary forms like the fairy tale, the fable, the parable, the allegory and the moral tale, much of it published in newspapers, magazines and journals produced by socialist groups and parties.
There are no simple explanations for why such stories were thought an appropriate way to talk about politics. The implication is that just as Bible stories were thought to make Christianity comprehensible and appealing, so socialist fairy stories would do the same for socialism …
Within the EU, the United Kingdom was for years Poland’s closest ally, according to Radosław Sikorski, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and current MEP. ‘Britain was inside the EU for us what the United States was in NATO—namely, the country that most consistently acted on behalf of enlargement and of our inclusion back into the Western family of nations that we felt we belonged to all along. And so we now have this paradoxical situation in which Poland is staying and Britain is leaving.
‘For 500 years, your national strategy was to prevent the continent from uniting to the exclusion of Britain: that was what the Seven Years’ War was about, the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, the Second World War and the Cold War—and now you’re doing it voluntarily?! Why would you do that?’ …
We are all deeply concerned about the risk to public health caused by the coronavirus and the disruption it is causing in the global economy. In my new book Apocalypse How? I write about how we can best protect ourselves against the effects of a different global crisis …
Was it an error to have spent so much of my life reading books? Not just The Magus, the mistake of clocking up almost as many hours reading as sleeping. I’ve never really kicked the habit. As a boy, I was a regular visitor to the local public library—a solitary one; I wasn’t taken there. As a teenager …
These aren’t original—but they’ve been doing the rounds recently and I wondered if you could add to them. Prizes, as ever, for the best.
Genre Medical ethics
Should chemicals be allowed to control our romantic lives? They already are. Especially for those who self-prescribe
‘How LSD Saved One Woman’s Marriage.’ That’s a headline from the New York Times. The reference is to a self-experiment with the drug colloquially known as acid by novelist Ayelet Waldman, as recounted in her memoir, A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage and My Life.
Microdosing refers to a practice now popular among Silicon Valley types of taking a tenth or so of a regular dose of a psychedelic substance every few days. The effects are supposed to be subperceptual: not enough to cause a full-blown trip but enough, apparently, to bring a troubled relationship back from the brink …
Genre Pharmaceutical policy
We’ve never had a scientifically objective policy on drugs, says David Nutt. He should know; he was sacked as the UK’s drugs czar
In 2009, a lecture I’d given was released as a pamphlet on the internet. For some reason, this got picked up by the media and I was interviewed on BBC Radio 4. More interviews followed. A few days later I received an email from the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson asking me to resign from my position as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. When I refused he released a statement saying that I had been sacked.
The lecture that sparked off this chain of events had covered a number of topics, but all the media wanted to talk about were my views on cannabis and the government did not act on a drug where there was proof of harms—alcohol? ...
Genre Economic History
With the onset of WW1, the unprecedented trade and capital flows seen in the prewar period ceased, and the gold standard was suspended. America emerged as a major creditor nation; the governments in Europe were swamped with debt. The victors had borrowed to win, and the losers were saddled with reparations. American banks entered a period of massive international lending which ended spectacularly in a crash, turning a financial panic into a worldwide depression …
Genre Environmental Science
Recognition of man-made climate change constitutes a new energy revolution and, perhaps, the ultimate challenge. Can we respond to it in time?
The availability of energy enables work and stabilizes complexity, two factors that define how life has developed. Our planet has already seen six energy revolutions, from the energising of the first living cell to the exploitation of fossil fuel by industrialisation. Each revolution was notably for being logarithmically shorter than the one before, with measures of hundreds of millions of years collapsing to just millions, then hundreds of thousands, and thousands. The most recent revolution is less than a century old. Can we hold off a complete melt down? …
Genre Business / Management
Wealth creation’s benefits are outweighed by its costs. We need a new form of capitalism that respects life instead of exploiting it
One of the first things the chair of a listed company may do upon appointment is to write to the top twenty institutions which hold shares in the company and offer to meet them. A few meetings may follow. Typically, many institutions will reply, saying that they see no need to meet at the present time, but will be in touch if this changes.