Posted on

A History of British Banknotes

The first recorded use of paper money was in the 7th century in China. However, the practice did not become widespread in Europe for nearly a thousand years.

In the 16th century the goldsmith-bankers began to accept deposits, make loans and transfer funds. They also gave receipts for cash, that is to say gold coins, deposited with them. These receipts, known as “running cash notes”, were made out in the name of the depositor and promised to pay him on demand.

Many also carried the words “or bearer” after the name of the depositor, which allowed them to circulate in a limited way. In 1694 the Bank of England was established in order to raise money for King William III’s war against France. Almost immediately the Bank started to issue notes in return for deposits. Like the goldsmiths’ notes, the crucial feature that made Bank of England notes a means of exchange was the promise to pay the bearer the sum of the note on demand. This meant that the note could be redeemed at the Bank for gold or coinage by anyone presenting it for payment; if it was not redeemed in full, it was endorsed with the amount withdrawn. These notes were initially handwritten on Bank paper and signed by one of the Bank’s cashiers. They were made out for the precise sum deposited in pounds, shillings and pence. However, after the recoinage of 1696 reduced the need for small denomination notes, it was decided not to issue any notes for sums of less than £50. Since the average income in this period was less than £20 a year, most people went through life without ever coming into contact with banknotes.

During the 18th century there was a gradual move toward fixed denomination notes. From 1725 the Bank was issuing partly printed notes for completion in manuscript. The £ sign and the first digit were printed but other numerals were added by hand, as were the name of the payee, the cashier’s signature, the date and the number. Notes could be for uneven amounts, but the majority were for round sums. By 1745 notes were being part printed in denominations ranging from £20 to £1,000.

In 1759, gold shortages caused by the Seven Years War forced the Bank to issue a £10 note for the first time. The first £5 notes followed in 1793 at the start of the war against Revolutionary France. This remained the lowest denomination until 1797, when a series of runs on the Bank, caused by the uncertainty of the war, drained its bullion reserve to the point where it was forced to stop paying out gold for its notes. Instead, it issued £1 and £2 notes. The Restriction Period, as it was known, lasted until 1821 after which gold sovereigns took the place of the £1 and £2 notes. The Restriction Period prompted the Irish playwright and MP, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, to refer angrily to the Bank as “… an elderly lady in the City”. This was quickly changed by cartoonist, James Gillray, to the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, a name that has stuck ever since.

The first fully printed notes appeared in 1853 relieving the cashiers of the task of filling in the name of the payee and signing each note individually. The practice of writing the name of the Chief Cashier as the payee on notes was halted in favour of the anonymous “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of …”, which has remained unchanged on notes to this day. The printed signature on the note continued to be that of one of three cashiers until 1870, since when it has always been that of the Chief Cashier.

The First World War saw the link with gold broken once again; the Government needed to preserve its stock of bullion and the Bank ceased to pay out gold for its notes. In 1914 the Treasury printed and issued 10 shilling and £1 notes, a task which the Bank took over in 1928. The gold standard was partially restored in 1925 and the Bank was again obliged to exchange its notes for gold, but only in multiples of 400 ounces or more. Britain finally left the gold standard in 1931 and the note issue became entirely fiduciary, that is wholly backed by securities instead of gold.

The Bank has not always been the sole issuer of bank notes in England and Wales. Acts of 1708 and 1709 had given it a partial monopoly by making it unlawful for companies or partnerships of more than six people to set up banks and issue notes. The ban did not extend to the many provincial bankers – the so-called country bankers – who were all either individuals or small family concerns. However, the Country Bankers’ Act of 1826 allowed the establishment of note issuing joint-stock banks with more than six partners, but not within 65 miles of London. The Act also allowed the Bank of England to open branches in major provincial cities, which gave it more outlets for its notes.

In 1833 the Bank’s notes were made legal tender for all sums above £5 in England and Wales so that, in the event of a crisis, the public would still be willing to accept the Bank’s notes and its bullion reserves would be safeguarded. It was the 1844 Bank Charter Act which was the key to the Bank achieving its gradual monopoly of the note issue in England and Wales. Under the Act no new banks of issue could be established and existing note issuing banks were barred from expanding their issue. Those, whose issues lapsed, because, for example, they merged with a non-issuing bank, forfeited their right of issue. The last private bank notes in England and Wales were issued by the Somerset bank, Fox, Fowler and Co in 1921.

a British £5 note
a British £5 note

Posted on

Colosseum ‘built with loot from sack of Jerusalem temple’


THE Colosseum, the huge Roman amphitheatre used for animal shows and gladiatorial combat, was built with the spoils of the sack of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, a new archaeological find suggests.

A recently deciphered inscription was made public yesterday as organisers prepared for an exhibition on the monument, opening next week. A feature of the show is a large, altar-like stone with a chiselled Latin inscription, which tells how a senator, Lampaudius, had the Colosseum restored in AD 443.

But holes still visible in the surface clearly corresponded to different lettering, this time in bronze, which had been previously fitted into the stone. After a long study, Prof Geza Alfoldy of Heidelberg University, working with Italian archaeologists, deciphered the puzzle. He concluding that the original inscription read: “Imp. T. Caes. Vespasianus Aug. Amphitheatrum Novum Ex Manubis Fieri Iussit.”

The translation is: “The Emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus had this new amphitheatre erected with the spoils of war. There is no doubt what war this was, the sack of Jerusalem,” said Cinzia Conti, the director of surface restoration at the Colosseum, yesterday.

Ms Conti said the Emperor Titus inaugurated the Colosseum in AD 80 with 100 days of festivities, but his father, Vespasian, had first opened it in AD 79, shortly before he died, when it was still unfinished. The original bronze lettering on the stone altar would have been made for the original opening.

The sack of Jerusalem occurred in Vespasian’s reign in AD 70, when a revolt by the Jews was crushed and Jerusalem was captured by Titus. The temple was destroyed and a million people were said to have died in the siege. The Arch of Titus, at the end of the Roman Forum nearest to the Colosseum, commemorates the victory, and bas-reliefs show Roman soldiers making off with booty from the temple.

Two years after the sack of Jerusalem, in AD 72, work on the Colosseum, officially known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, began.

Posted on

What’s So Great About History?


Imagine that you wake up one morning to find out you have no memory! You’re not
able to remember who you are or what happened in your life yesterday or the day
before that. You’re unable to recognize your children, and you can’t communicate with
neighbors and other people because you no longer know how to greet them, and you
can’t understand what they are saying. You don’t remember what the words “elections,”
“wars,” or “movies” mean.  Just as having no personal memory deprives us of a sense of our own identity, having no historical memory deprives us of a sense of our national identity.

Knowledge of world history enables us to understand other cultures. Additionally, without
historical memory, we miss a great source of enjoyment that comes from piecing together
the story of the past – Our own,, our nation’s and the world’s. Our historical memory is
enriched by our understanding of geography, which lets us better see the physical
context of cultures and environments around the world and across time.

We are committed to the goals of raising educational standards for all children and providing them with teaching and instruction based on scientific and philosophical research and methodologies. By showing interest in their children’s education, families can spark enthusiasm in them and lead them to a very important understanding—that learning can be enjoyable as well
as rewarding and is well worth the effort required.

We hope that you find these timelines a valuable tool for developing and reinforcing your
child’s interest in and knowledge of history, and that you and your family may increase
your appreciation for why such knowledge is important.

Posted on

The War of Jenkins’ Ear: 1740-1750

Jenkins' ear

As part of the Treaty of Utrecht Britain received a thirty-year trade agreement from Spain which permitted British merchants to trade up to 500 tons of goods per year in the Spanish colonies as well as sell an unlimited number of slaves. This process was often hindered by military conflicts between the two nations. In the wake of the Anglo-Spanish War (1727-1729), Britain granted Spain the right to stop British ships to ensure that the terms of the agreement were being respected.
Believing that the British were taking advantage of the agreement and smuggling, Spanish authorities began boarding and seizing British ships, as well as holding and torturing their crews. This led to an increase in tensions and an up swell of anti-Spanish sentiment in Britain. Though wishing to avoid war, First Minister Sir Robert Walpole was pressured into sending additional troops to Gibraltar and dispatching a fleet to the West Indies.
In return, King Philip V suspended the agreement
Wishing to avoid a military conflict, both sides met at Pardo to seek a diplomatic resolution. The resulting Convention of Pardo, which was signed in early 1739, proved unpopular in Britain and the public clamored for war. By October, both sides had repeatedly violated the convention’s terms. Though reluctant, Walpole officially declared war on October 23, 1739. The term “War of Jenkins’ Ear” derives from Captain Robert Jenkins who had his ear cut off by the Spanish Coast Guard in 1731. Asked to appear in Parliament to recount his tale, he reputedly displayed his ear during his testimony.
The War of Jenkins’ Ear:
In one of the first actions of the war, Vice Admiral Edward Vernon descended on Porto Bello, Panama with six ships of the line. Attacking the poorly defended Spanish town, he quickly captured it and remained there for three weeks. The victory led to the naming of Portobello Road in London and public debut of the song Rule, Britannia! With the beginning of 1740, both sides anticipated that France would enter the war on the side of Spain. This led to invasion scares in Britain and resulted in the bulk of their military and naval strength being retained in Europe.
Overseas, Governor James Oglethorpe of Georgia mounted an expedition into Spanish Florida with the goal of capturing St. Augustine. Arriving in June, he began a bombardment of the city while Royal Navy forces blockaded the port. Seeking to reinforce the garrison, the Spanish were able to penetrate the blockade, forcing Oglethorpe to abandon the siege and withdraw back to Georgia. Though the Royal Navy was focusing on home defense, a squadron was formed in late 1740, under Commodore George Anson to raid Spanish possessions in the Pacific.
Departing on September 18, 1740, Anson’s squadron encountered severe weather and was plagued by disease. Reduced to one ship, Anson succeeded in capturing the treasure galleon Nuestra Señora de Covadonga off the Philippines on June 20, 1743. Completing a circumnavigation of the globe, he returned home a hero. Encouraged by Vernon’s success against Porto Bello in 1739, efforts were made in 1741 to mount a larger expedition in Caribbean. Assembling a force of over 180 ships and 30,000 men, Vernon planed to attack Cartagena.
Arriving in early March 1741, Vernon’s efforts to take the city were plagued by a lack of supplies, personal rivalries, and rampaging disease. Endeavoring to defeat the Spanish, Vernon was forced to withdraw after sixty-seven days which saw around a third of his force lost to enemy fire and disease. News of the defeat ultimately led to Walpole leaving office and being replaced by Lord Wilmington. More interested in pursuing campaigns in the Mediterranean, Wilmington began to wind down operations in the Americas.
Repulsed at Cartagena, Vernon attempted to take Santiago de Cuba, but was forced to abandon the operation when he met heavier than anticipated opposition. In the Mediterranean, Vice Admiral Nicholas Haddock worked to blockade the Spanish coast and though he took several valuable prizes, was unable to bring the Spanish fleet to action. British pride at sea was also marred by the damage inflicted by Spanish privateers which attacked unescorted merchantmen around the Atlantic.
In Georgia, Oglethorpe remained in command of the colony’s military forces despite his earlier failure at St. Augustine. In the summer of 1742, Governor Manuel de Montiano of Florida advanced north and landed on St. Simons Island. Moving to meet this threat, Oglethorpe’s forces won the Battles of Bloody Marsh and Gully Hole Creek which compelled Montiano to retreat back to Florida.
While Britain and Spain were engaged in the War of Jenkins’ Ear, the War of the Austrian Succession had broken out in Europe. Soon drawn into the larger conflict, the war between Britain and Spain was subsumed by mid-1742. While the bulk of the fighting occurred in Europe, the French fortress at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia was captured by New England colonists in 1745.
The War of the Austrian Succession came to an end in 1748 with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. While the settlement dealt with the issues of the wider conflict, it did little to specifically address the causes of the 1739 war. Meeting two years later, the British and Spanish concluded the Treaty of Madrid. In this document, Spain bought back the asiento for £100,000 while agreeing to allow Britain to trade freely in its colonies.

Posted on

The Crab Nebula


The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant and pulsar wind nebula in the constellation of Taurus. Corresponding to a bright supernova recorded by Chinese astronomers in 1054, the nebula was observed later by John Bevis in 1731. At an apparent magnitude of 8.4, comparable to that of the largest moon of Saturn, it is not visible to the naked eye but can be made out using binoculars under favourable conditions.

At X-ray and gamma-ray energies above 30 keV, the Crab is generally the strongest persistent source in the sky, with measured flux extending to above 10 TeV. Located at a distance of about 6,500 light-years (2 kpc) from Earth, the nebula has a diameter of 11 light years (3.4 pc, corresponding to an apparent diameter of some 7 arc minutes) and expands at a rate of about 1,500 kilometers per second (0.5% c). It is part of the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.

At the center of the nebula lies the Crab Pulsar, aneutron star 28–30 km across, which emits pulses of radiation from gammarays to radio waves with a spin rate of 30.2 times per second. The nebula was the first astronomical object identified with a historical supernova explosion.

The nebula acts as a source of radiation for studying celestial bodies that occult it. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Sun’s coronawas mapped from observations of the Crab’s radio waves passing through it, and in 2003, the thickness of the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan was measured as it blocked out X-rays from the nebula.

Crab pulsar dazzles astronomers with its gamma-ray beams Researchers have detected pulses of gamma rays with energies exceeding 100 billion electron volts — a million times more energetic than medical X-rays and 100 billion times more than visible light. By Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts — Published: October 6, 2011

A thousand years ago, a brilliant beacon of light blazed in the sky, shining brightly enough to be seen even in daytime for almost a month. Native American and Chinese observers recorded the eye-catching event. We now know that they witnessed an exploding star, which left behind a gaseous remnant known as the Crab Nebula.

The same object that dazzled skygazers in 1054 continues to dazzle astronomers today by pumping out radiation at higher energies than anyone expected. Researchers have detected pulses of gamma rays with energies exceeding 100 billion electron volts (100 GeV) —a million times more energetic than medical X-rays and 100 billion times more than visible light.

“If you asked theorists a year ago whether we would see gamma-ray pulses this energetic, almost all of them would have said, ‘No.’ There’s just no theory that can account for what we’ve found,” said Martin Schroedter of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The gamma rays come from an extreme object at the Crab Nebula’s center known as a pulsar. A pulsar is a spinning neutron star — the collapsed core of a massive star. Although only a few miles across, a neutron star is so dense that it weighs more than the Sun.

Rotating about 30 times a second, the Crab pulsar generates beams of radiation from its spinning magnetic field. The beams sweep around like a lighthouse beacon because they’re not aligned with the star’s rotation axis. So although the beams are steady, they’re detected on Earth as rapid pulses of radiation.

An international team of scientists reported the discovery. Nepomuk Otte from the University of California, Santa Cruz, said that some researchers had told him he was crazy to even look for pulsar emission in this energy realm.

“It turns out that being persistent and stubborn helps,” Otte said. “These results put new constraints on the mechanism for how the gamma-ray emission is generated.”

Some possible scenarios to explain the data have been put forward, but it will take more data, or even a next-generation observatory, to really understand the mechanisms behind these gamma-ray pulses.

The Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) — the most powerful high-energy gamma-ray observatory in the Northern Hemisphere —detected the gamma-ray pulses. VERITAS is located at the Smithsonian’s Whipple Observatory, just south of Tucson, Arizona.

Astronomers observe very-high-energy gamma rays with ground-based Cherenkov telescopes. These gamma rays, coming from cosmic “particle accelerators,” are absorbed in Earth’s atmosphere, where they create a short-lived shower of subatomic particles. The Cherenkov telescopes detect the faint, extremely short flashes of blue light that these particles emit (named Cherenkov light) using extremely sensitive cameras. The images can be used to infer the arrival direction and initial energy of the gamma rays.

This technique is used by gamma-ray observatories throughout the world, and was pioneered under the direction of CfA’s Trevor Weekes using the 10-meter Cherenkov telescope at Whipple Observatory. The Whipple 10-meter telescope was used to detect the first galactic and extragalactic sources of very-high-energy gamma rays.

Posted on

Salad Days

Agriculture is the foundation of human advancement. As soon as we were able to reliably grow our own food, we could finally do-away with the nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle and begin the serious business of cultivating a staggering array of vegetables, that would one day terrorise our children at tea-time and be hilariously compared to the shape of David Beckham’s genitals. All vegetables have an interesting story to tell. Instead of that, here’s this:

10 Johnny Appleseed
Johnny Appleseed was a real person. Mystery surrounds his name so that, like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, he has passed into the realm of legend. He roamed the New World territories of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana in the late 1700s and early 1800s, planting 100,000 square miles of apple orchards as he went, some of which remain today. Barefoot and dressed in sackcloth, people were greatly entertained by his activities. He was quick to befriend Native Americans, children, and animals alike.
He was not a saint however; growing apples was big business. He seemed to have an uncanny knack for knowing where the next settlement was going to spring up and arrived ahead of time. When the pioneers came along, he would sell his trees for a few pennies and move on and due to this commercial prowess, he died a wealthy man.
Johnny’s apples did not go into pies and cobblers: Apples were not highly valued as food back then. Johnny’s orchards were planted for making strong cider and applejack. After all, there was no sense in conquering frontier if you couldn’t suck down a gallon of scrumpy of a night.

9 Negative-Calorie Celery
There is no pursuit fraught with more anecdotal, questionable, and downright dangerous advice than dieting. One of the most dubious claims is that there are “negative calorie” foods—so low in calories that the very act of chewing and digesting them consumes more energy than the food actually gives us. The most commonly cited example is celery, which contains about six calories per stalk. Dozens of otherwise reliable sources assert that celery will actually help you lose weight.
However, the act of digestion is remarkably efficient and burns very few calories. Humankind often had to expend enormous amounts of energy to obtain food. If digesting what they managed to amass was also susceptible to energy-consumption tax, they would have most likely starved to death. Celery is no replacement for exercise, but feel free to chow down on the stuff until your heart is content. It would take over 300 sticks to equal the average daily ration of calories.

8 Banana Extinction
Our Great-grandparents had to deal with The Great War and The Great Depression, but they did have something we don’t – Great bananas. Prior to the 1950s, the most widely distributed banana in the world was the “Gros Michel.” Unfortunately, the Gros Michel banana was nearly wiped out by a fungus called Panama Disease.
Today, we enjoy a similar version of the banana called the Cavendish. The Cavendish is smaller, more fragile, and less tasty than the Gros Michel, but it has a resistance to the Panama Disease. But like the Gros Michel before it, the Cavendish is in big trouble. There’s a new strain of Panama Disease on the rise, and most scientists believe that it is only a matter of time before the Cavendish, which is susceptible to this version, will also disappear functionally; There are still Gros Michels around, just not enough to meet global demand.

7 Toxic Potatoes
The common potato is a member of the Solanum genus and a kissing cousin of deadly nightshade. Like nightshade, the potato produces large amounts of substances called glycoalkaloids, particularly one nasty strain called solanine. This poison is the potato’s defense mechanism that keep it from getting eaten, and is most concentrated in the leaves, stems, and shoots. Spotting any green on the skin of the potato is a sure indication of the presence of solanine. Most commercially available potatoes are carefully cultivated for low levels of the poison, but it is possible to get one with a high amount present, and people have died from ingesting potato solanine. While cooking can reduce the level, every potato you eat gives you at least some small amount of exposure.

6 Grape Plasma
A simple grape can be turned from a solid to a gas to a plasma with a little ride in the microwave. There are some inherent dangers involved in catastrophically changing states of matter, and the microwave might not survive this stunt. There is also a chance, however remote, that you might set your house on fire, but you’ll never know unless you try it..
The set up is simple. Take a grape, and slice it about 90 percent of the way through, leaving both halves attached by a small strip of skin. Remove the rotating tray from the microwave, insert grape, and set it for no more than ten seconds. After a couple seconds, the moisture inside the grape emerges as a gas, and the charge between the two halves turns the steam into a brief electric lightshow. Placing a clear glass over the top of the grape will contain the plasma a few moments longer.

5 Cannibal Tomato
Cannibal tom
The Cannibal Tomato is actually an aubergine. The plant closely resembles a tomato and was used by the natives of Fiji, who have practiced cannibalism for thousands of years, to create a sauce said to be the perfect complement to eating human flesh. Some modern-day folks who have tasted human meat have likened its flavour and consistency to that of veal, so it would seem entirely appropriate to pair it with a nice marinara.

4 Designer Melons
The watermelon originated in southern Africa, and its spread throughout the world highlights the existence of sophisticated trade routes in ancient times. It was consumed by Egyptians during the time of the pharaohs. It reached China by the 10th century and Europe in the 13th century.
Highly adaptable, the watermelon was a natural target for the Japanese appetite for novelty. Farmers discovered a way of raising the melons inside glass boxes so that they grow into cube shape for easy storage in refrigerators. Other shapes—including pyramids—have also been formed. Even more outlandish are the prices paid for gourmet “Densuke” watermelons. Grown only on Hokkaido Island, the first few specimens harvested each year sell for thousands of pounds. The average Densuke melon retails for about £180.

3 Purple Carrots
Like the watermelon, the carrot’s migration around the world can be traced, though there are some doubts regarding its origin. It is believed to have been first cultivated in modern-day Afghanistan, then swept into Europe along Middle Eastern trade routes. Of course, we would hardly recognize these ancient carrots—they were rather straggly and either white or purple. In the green fingers of the Dutch, the carrot was lovingly bred into its current orange splendour. While most of us have never seen anything but orange carrots, other colours are available in high-end grocery and health food stores, often in “rainbow packs,” including white, yellow, red, purple, and even black varieties.

2 Spinach
Many people, particularly children, turn up their nose at spinach. Enter Elzie Segar, whose Popeye character derived superhuman strength from a can of spinach. There is no telling just how profound an impact Popeye has had on the worldwide consumption of spinach, but there have been statues erected of him in growing communities. Canner Allens Vegetables even markets a Popeye brand. It was said that spinach was chosen by Segar because of a dubious study from the 1800s that misplaced a decimal point in estimating the iron content of the vegetable.

1 The World’s Most Hated Vegetable
Unfortunately, vegetables are often the most reviled of foods. President George H.W. Bush so hated broccoli that he made headlines when he banned it from the White House. Surveys in the UK have shown celery to be their least favourite green. But the world over, one vegetable continually tops the lists of “most hated”: The Brussels Sprout.
These tiny cabbages are extremely healthy, with over a dozen vitamins and minerals, but their flavour turns off most palates. In fairness to the sprouts, certain cooking methods can improve their taste. For best results, aficionados claim that smaller sprouts taste sweeter. Halving them, plunge boiling them and then sautéing with pumpkin seeds will deliver any set of discerning taste-buds into transports of delight.

Posted on

Floods? Whatever next?


The true cost of fossil fuel emissions, which has seen two centuries of meteoric advances in technology and living standards is now being counted in the billions that will be needed to build flood defences and relocate many thousands of people. Rising water levels, causing devastating floods are now occurring regularly in various regions throughout the world.

This weekend, more than 80,000 emergency personnel including fire-fighters and soldiers were on duty, working to contain the most dramatic floods in Germany in a decade. Thousands of residents were still unable to return to their homes, and bridges and streets were impassable in many regions of eastern and southern Germany.

Twenty people have already died in the floods across central Europe after several days of heavy rains. Thousands have been temporarily housed in emergency shelters waiting for the waters to recede so they can return to their homes.

High water levels were also reported in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, while thousands of people in Austria were busy shoveling away mud left by the receding flood-waters of the Danube. In Hungary, around 2,000 residents of the town of Gyorujfalu north west of Budapest were evacuated because authorities were afraid the levees would not withstand the pressure of the Danube’s waters.

The rising waters of the Danube, Europe’s biggest river, were expected to reach Budapest on Monday, inching close up to the top of the river’s flood fences, which are 30.5 feet (9.3m) tall. In one of the most devastating floods, in 1838, the Danube killed 150 people and left over 50,000 homeless.

Similar and worse catastrophic floods have been suffered in China, Mexico, India, Australia, Chile, the U.S. and the list goes on. Predictions for the future are grim. Things are only going to get worse – or are they? In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by 1950 every street in the city of London would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure. In 1894 they could not have envisaged the birth of the motor car.

The Iter project is the biggest scientific collaboration ever. Using nuclear fusion, the project aims to recreate the process at the centre of the sun, converting hydrogen to helium with a method quite literally as old as the stars. The 34 nation collaboration, representing half of the world’s population, are seeking to create and produce a clean, cheap energy source for the planet and reduce the quantity of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Should this happen, it is predicted by some that the Earth would begin to cool again.

Staying with the Sun, some astronomers believe that the Sun’s natural cycles of sunspots and solar storms, point to a period of extreme cold or a ‘mini ice-age’ similar to the one experienced in the 300 years between 1400-1700.

If the ice-caps re-freeze and consequently, the water levels fall, maybe flooding would be avoided, but in 1400 there were 350m people in the world. Would we have enough fresh water for the 8bn people of today, or would ‘Water-wars’ ensue and water become as sought after as oil is today? And with all the cheap, clean fuel and the medical advances expected in the coming decades, how long before we are 20bn? Or 50bn? And won’t that present a whole raft of new challenges?

The floods are real and their consequences are dire. Their causes can be explained but using that evidence to forecast the prevailing predicaments of the future is not such an exact science.

Posted on


Primarily emerging in Germany and Austria during the first decade of 20th century, the flexible concept of Expressionism refers to art that emphasizes the extreme expressive properties of pictorial form in order to explore subjective emotions and inner psychological truths.

Although much influenced by the work of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Edvard Munch, the artists who pioneered Expressionism departed even further from traditional notions of recording the appearance of reality than the Post-Impressionists or the Symbolists had.

They were also influenced by Henri Matisse and the other Fauves, the Cubists, African and Oceanic art, and the folk art of Germany and Russia. In conjunction with poets, dramatists, and other writers, they championed idealist values and freedom from the constricting forces and repressive materialism of bourgeois society.

One prominent Expressionist group, Die Brücke (The Bridge), which was active as a group from 1905 to 1913, included founders Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff as well as Otto Müller, Emil Nolde (for a brief period), and Max Pechstein.

Members of Die Brücke conveyed pictorially the Modernist themes of alienation, anxiety, and social fragmentation. They employed emotionally charged images, a primitive simplification of form, a deliberate crudeness of figuration, agitated brushwork, and powerful, often violent juxtapositions of intense color.

Expressionism is characterised by distortion, exaggeration, primitivism and fantasy through the vivid, jarring, violent, or dynamic application of formal elements to strongly impose the artist’s own sensibility to the world’s representations.munch-the-scream

Posted on

German Occupation of the Channel Islands

Hitler considered the Channel Islands – Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm – a valuable landing stage for the invasion of mainland France, as they sat just 20 miles off the French coast. Winston Churchill, however, thought they held no strategic importance for Britain and decided to de-militarise them and leave them undefended.

The Germans invade

As the German army stormed through France in June 1940, some 30,000 Channel Islanders (one third of the total population) were evacuated. Once the initial panic was over, the rest decided to stay and tough it out, mainly on Jersey and Guernsey.

On 28 June, the Luftwaffe bombed Jersey and Guernsey, unaware that the islands were undefended. They killed 44 people. Two days later, Luftwaffe personnel took control of Guernsey airfield. There they met the chief of police, who informed them that the islands were undefended.

The following day, a detachment of troops arrived on Guernsey and that afternoon the German flag was raised. More arrived later and their attention turned to the other islands.

Jersey surrendered on 1 July and soldiers were swftly stationed. Islanders had to show their compliance by flying white flags over their houses.

Sybil Hathaway, the Dame of Sark, received German officers on 2 July. They assured her she had nothing to fear and the island’s garrison of just ten men arrived on 4 July.

Alderney, meanwhile, was almost completely empty, but was garrisoned by a company of troops. Herm, the smallest of the islands, was visited by German soldiers on 25 July, although they did not set up a permanent station there.

Life under Nazi rule

A curfew was imposed between the hours of 11pm and 5am and ID cards had to be carried. The sale of spirits was banned. Later, wirelesses were banned and all British-born Islanders were deported to Germany.

A register of Jewish people was created and all Jewish business had to publicly identify themselves. Some were deported to concentration camps. Cars were requisitioned and the Germans controlled the food grown by farmers and caught by fishermen. Anyone caught trying to escape to Britain was imprisoned or shot – if they didn’t drown.

Four concentration camps were built on Alderney – the only ones on British territory. Alderney became the most heavily fortified of the islands, built by slave labour.

Resistance and collaboration

Whilst there was no consolidated resistance movement as there was in France, V for Victory signs were painted around the islands, underground newsletters were written, and guns and ammunition were stolen from German stores. Some Islanders assisted their Jewish neighbours and fed slave labourers. On Jersey, letters sent to the Commandant by informants were intercepted by the Post Office and destroyed. Many who did collaborate were attacked after liberation.

The beginning of the end

The D-Day landings in June 1944 came as both a blessing and a curse. Whilst they marked the beginning of the end for the German occupiers who relied on supply lines from the continent, they also meant that food lines were cut. As supplies dwindled, everyone began to starve. However, after negotiation with the Home Office, the Germans allowed the Red Cross’ SS Vega to deliver food, saving many of the Islanders’ lives. The Vega continued to bring food parcels even after the British liberated the islands on 9 May 1945.