The eighth Rugby World Cup (@) kicks off tomorrow in England (and Wales), contested by twenty qualifying teams. While the All Blacks are unbackable (5/4) favourites to be the first team to retain Bill, the Cup is equally a celebration of the diverse world rugby family, offering the minnows a chance to pit themselves against the best. [more inside]
In just 12 days, the 2015 general election for the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) takes place. On the surface, the math is simple: there are 650 seats, so winning 326 gives you a simple majority. In the previous parliament, governance was through a coalition of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. But this time, predicting who will be Prime Minister, or have the most seats, or what form the government will take, is ... complicated. [more inside]
Ordnance Survey Maps - England and Wales, 1842-1952: ‘The most comprehensive, topographic mapping covering all of England and Wales from the 1840s to the 1950s,’ courtesy of the National Library of Scotland. You can browse the maps as individual sheets using a zoomable map of England and Wales; as a seamless zoomable overlay layer on modern Google and OS maps; or as a seamless zoomable layer side-by-side with modern Google and OS maps. Also, Maps of Scotland: ‘Access high-resolution zoomable images of over 91,000 maps of Scotland and beyond.’
The 'worst storm since 1987' is due to hit the UK over the next few days. It may also hit 'northern France and the Low Countries'. It may be 'overwhelming' and 'there is a risk of some parts getting two inches of rain in a six hour period'. The Met Office has warned that 'England and Wales will be hit by a significant storm on Sunday night with winds of up to 80mph in some areas'. They also said the predicted storm was 'not one you would see every year' and that 'exceptional winds will batter Surrey'. Drivers are advised to 'at a minimum, take a fully-charged mobile phone and warm, weatherproof clothing.' Some media outlets claim, however, the storm will only be the worst of the last five year, though in Bristol it'll be the worst in 'two decades'. Never the less, 'stay well away from trees'. [more inside]
In the mid-1920s, Claude Friese-Greene filmed The Open Road, a record of his journey through Britain, using the 'Biocolour' technique first developed by his father William. Eighty years later, the BFI produced a digital version of the preserved and restored film. We've seen London in 1926 previously on MeFi, but there's plenty more of The Open Road to see, including weavers in Kilbarchan (1:16), farmers harvesting with oxen in Cirencester (0:52), Glamorgan coal-miners (0:46), and more. [more inside]
"A fundamental shift in the relationship between the government and the governed is taking place: by restricting access to the law, the state is handing itself an alarming immunity from legal scrutiny. There are several aspects to this: the partial or total withdrawal of state financial support for people who lack the means to pay for legal advice and representation; and for those who can pay, a restriction on which kinds of decision by public bodies can be challenged. In the area in which I work, criminal law, defendants who receive legal aid will lose the right to choose who represents them in court. Specialist criminal barrister Francis FitzGibbon on the impact the UK government's legal aid reform plans are having on the English & Welsh justice system. [more inside]
The findings for England and Wales from the 2011 British Census have now been released. The BBC provides a handy guide to changes by area while The Guardian has a neat infographic and a set of Top 10 Charts. [more inside]
The British Council Film Collection "is an archive of over 120 short documentary films made by the British Council during the 1940s designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played. Preserved by the BFI National Film Archive and digitised by means of a generous donation by Google, the films are now yours to view, to download and to play with for the first time." A couple of essays and case studies also already up, with more to come.
Here is Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever and other neat videos by C.G.P. Grey who explains non-obvious aspects of science, history, geography, elections, and economics in entertaining and clear ways. [more inside]
UK adoption agencies are reporting "huge numbers of calls from 'deeply distressed' adoptive parents whose children have been contacted" through Facebook and other social networking sites, in violation of the traditional, confidential reunion process between birth parents and their offspring who have been placed with other families. Full report from Channel 4. [more inside]
The Soldier in later Medieval England is a historical research project that seeks to 'challenge assumptions about the emergence of professional soldiery between 1369 and 1453'. They've compiled impressive databases of tens of thousands of service records. These are perhaps of interest only to specialists; but the general reader may enjoy the profiles of individual military men: these run the gamut from regional non-entities like John Fort esquire of Llanstephan ("in many ways a humdrum figure" though once accused of harbouring a hostile Spaniard!) to more familiar figures such as rebel Welsh prince Owain Glyndŵr, who began his soldiering, as did many compatriots, in the service of the English king. Between such extremes of high and low we find, for example, Reginald Cobham, who made 6,500 florins ransoming a prisoner taken at Poitiers and rests eternal in a splendid tomb; and various men loyal and rebel who fought at the bloody Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403.
Utopia Britannica is a collection of stories and a gazetter about utopian communes in the British Isles from the 14th Century up until the end of World War II. There are some incredible tales in here, such as 'Free Love' in 19th Century Somerset, St. Kilda, Death of an Island Republic, Percy Bysshe Shelley's attempted communes, Augustus John, the King of Bohemia and many more.
British Women Romantic Poets Project is a collection of poetry written by women from the British Isles between 1789 and 1832. Over a hundred female poets are represented. Women rarely feature in literary histories of the Romantic period but there is treasure if you search (some poems are, frankly, terrible). A few places to start are Charlotte Turner Smith's Elegiac Sonnets, and Other Poems, Christian Ross Milne's Simple Poems on Simple Subjects and Mary Robinson's sonnet cycle Sappho and Phaon. The oddest works to modern readers may be Elizabeth Hitchener's Enigmas, Historical and Geographical and Marianne Curties' Classical Pastime, which are collections of verse riddles (the answers are at the end of the text).
Smuggler's Britain tells "the fascinating story of smuggling in 18th and 19th century Britain, when high taxes led to an dramatic increase in illegal imports. As the 'free trade'" grew, smugglers openly landed contraband in full view of the customs authorities: columns of heavily-armed thugs protected the cargoes." Includes a gazetteer with Google maps links so you can scope out some lonely cove to land contraband of your own in the footsteps of your forefathers and introduces you to famous smugglers like Isaac Gulliver, who never killed a man in a long career. Though of course, it was an enterprise where things often would turn ugly.
Mapping Medieval Townscapes: a digital atlas of the new towns of Edward I For each town you will find maps and images, as well as historical interpretation, bibliographical information, and access through to a geographical database. (The fancy interactive maps are especially good.) Warning: you'll have to click to agree to some terms and conditions before you can view the site.
UK Govt. votes to ban hunting in England and Wales. Browsing the web last night, several national polls were showing that more of the British Public were against a ban than in favour. Will the MPs who turned up to vote but not to debate (not very democratic?) live to regret their decision as the debate turns from animal welfare to civil rights?