For more than 100 years, Britain has been perpetually at war. Some conflicts, such as the Falklands, have become central to our national narrative, but others, including the brutal suppression of rebels in Oman, have been deliberately hidden.
Does the Left have a future? (SLGuardian) A longish article on how globalisation, nationalism and changing work has put parties of the left (and particularly Labour in the UK) in crisis.
As the UK continues to absorb the implications of the Brexit referendum vote, further splits open due to the (possibly overcooked) arguments between TV cooking show hosts. The declaration of one, that “no family should own a deep-fat fryer” leads to the reply that “...the UK was built on chips and spam fritters.” Host hostilities are further inflamed by the cultural flashpoint of whether Jaffa Cakes should, or could, be dunked in tea, with the retort of “We don't do that in the south, you know.” (Previously  and ) [more inside]
"British politics has never seen a purer example of the Overton window than the referendum on membership of the EU." Brexit Blues, John Lanchester for LRB [more inside]
Dead Man Laughing. Comedy, family, class (British) and death intertwine in this essay by Zadie Smith. [more inside]
Roman Inscriptions of Britain is a searchable online database that "hosts Volume One of The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, R.G. Collingwood's and R.P. Wright's magisterial edition of 2,401 monumental inscriptions from Britain found prior to 1955. It also incorporates all Addenda and Corrigenda published in the 1995 reprint of RIB (edited by R.S.O. Tomlin) and the annual survey of inscriptions published in Britannia since."
If you ever had the dal tadka or the Club Sandwich and wondered who to thank, you may want to look at our Colonial Rulers and their second big gift: the Dak Bungalow. More on colonial food from the British Raj. Recipes. Old recipes. Controversy in Portland. What came back Home. Comparisons. Hang on, deliciousness aside, what is a Dak Bungalow?
Professor David Britain from the University of Bern added: “People in Bristol speak much more similarly to those in Colchester now than they did fifty years ago. Regional differences are disappearing, some quite quickly. However, while many pockets of resistance to this levelling are shrinking, there is still a stark north-south divide in the pronunciation of certain key words.”
The Company That Bribed The World - It was the company with jet-set style and dirty hands. From the tiny principality of Monaco, Unaoil reached across the globe to pay multi-million dollar bribes in oil rich states. The beneficiaries? Some of the biggest companies in England, Europe, America and Australia.
Despair Fatigue - How hopelessness grew boring. The big lie of austerity, how the crushing of the working classes was commodified, the rise of Corbofuturism and how it might shape a radical 21st century.
April 2015: The vault at the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit of London's Diamond district is ransacked by thieves. They score an estimated £14 to £35 million in cash, jewels and other valuables. The media calls it "the greatest heist in British history" and speculates about the acrobatic feats the gang must have used. London’s newspapers are filled with artists’ renderings of the heist, featuring hard-bodied burglars in black turtlenecks doing superhuman things. Experts insist that a foreign team of navy-SEAL-like professionals must have masterminded the theft. Nope. [more inside]
Children of the Stones (previously) is the revolutionary 1977 British children's television drama telling the story of an astrophysicist and his son who arrive in the village of Milbury to study the giant Neolithic stones which surround it, and the community which is held in a strange captivity by the psychic forces generated by the stones. For BBC Radio, writer and comedian Stewart Lee explores the ground breaking television series and examines its special place in the memories of those children who watched it on its initial transmission in a state of excitement and terror. [more inside]
Grace's Guide to British Industrial History ‘is a free-content not-for-profit project dedicated to publishing the history of industry in the UK and elsewhere. Its aim is to provide a brief history of the companies, products and people who were instrumental in industry, commencing with the birth of the Industrial Revolution and continuing up to recent times.’ It ‘contains 115,164 pages of information and 163,140 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.’ Browse by Archived Publications, Biographies (‘over 35,000 pages of biographical notes on individuals’), Industries, Locations or Timelines. There is also a blog.
I was made to recite the story of my greatgrandmother, to the extent that I knew it: Her name was Sujaria, and this was her village. The British took her away in 1903 to work their sugar plantations in a place now known as Guyana. She sailed on a ship called The Clyde. My grandfather was born on that ship.Gaiutra Bahadur traces the story of her great grandmother's singular journey as indentured labour meant for the sugar plantations of the Caribbean, shedding light on the lives of women in British India over a hundred years ago.
The Perimeter Photographer Quintin Lake is walking 10,000 miles round the British coast, clockwise in sections starting from St Paul's Cathedral, posting a picture a day. [more inside]
The Jihadis Next Door follows a small cadre of British born extremists, including a bouncy castle salesman turned alleged Daesh executioner and a part time bus driver who moonlights as an online theological superstar. Documentary maker Jamie Roberts, who spent two years filming the cell, was ambivalent about giving fundamentalists a platform, but as the film makes clear, this is not what mainstream Muslim Britain wants. [more inside]
Peterborough & The Great War. At the Peterborough (UK) East Railway Station during 1916 and 1917, the Women’s United Total Abstinence Council ran a tea stall. There were two visitors books there signed by the soldiers travelling to and from the various fronts during World War I which have been digitised for the website. [more inside]
Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories by Colleen Gillard [The Atlantic] Their history informs fantastical myths and legends, while American tales tend to focus on moral realism.
If Harry Potter and Huckleberry Finn were each to represent British versus American children’s literature, a curious dynamic would emerge: In a literary duel for the hearts and minds of children, one is a wizard-in-training at a boarding school in the Scottish Highlands, while the other is a barefoot boy drifting down the Mississippi, beset by con artists, slave hunters, and thieves. One defeats evil with a wand, the other takes to a raft to right a social wrong. Both orphans took over the world of English-language children’s literature, but their stories unfold in noticeably different ways.
The high-street staple is under threat. Can a new generation of entrepreneurs save the nation’s tandoori?
Legal Curiosities: Fact or Fable? Among its other responsibilities, Britain's Law Commission works to repeal antiquated or irrelevant laws (NYT article) such as a 1536 law extending a London graveyard or the India Steam Ship Company Act 1838. The commission's "Legal Curiosities" note provides guidance as to which notorious "silly laws" are actually in force (actual example in force: it is illegal to be drunk in charge of a horse, and it is illegal to be drunk on licensed premises, both due to the Licensing Act 1872; not a real law in force: it is illegal for a lady to eat chocolate on a public conveyance.)
There can be few more contentious subjects than the empire, and few artistic legacies more explosive. Now, Tate Britain is to hold the first major British exhibition of masterworks from the colonial period – and the results are revealing - William Dalrymple writes
“So at Christmas in this court I lay down a challenge: / If a person here present, within these premises, / Is big or bold or red-blooded enough / To strike me one stroke and be struck in return, / I shall give him a gift of this gigantic cleaver / and the axe shall be his to handle how he likes. / I'll kneel, bare my neck and take the first knock. / So who has the gall? The gumption? The guts? / Who’ll spring from his seat and snatch this weapon? / I offer the axe — who’ll have it as his own? / I’ll afford one free hit from which I won't flinch, / and promised that 12 months will pass in peace, / then claim / the duty I deserve in one year and one day. / Does no one have the nerve to wager in this way?” [more inside]
Down Cemetery Road (1964), from the BBC Monitor series, in which Larkin was interviewed by John Betjeman. - A casual conversation that halts and resumes in Larkinland. [more inside]
Thurston Hopkins was a British photojournalist. Here is his black-and-white photo essay from the 1950's called Cats of London.
Can You Survive A Week As Jeremy Corbyn? The press hates you, lots of your party hates you – can you make it through a week without resigning? (NSFW, Buzzfeed, Choose Your Own Adventure format)
Thanks to a Freedom of Information request, Transport for London have released a geogrphically-accurate map of the tube. [PDF] [more inside]
"Hollywood brings glitz, glamour and big budgets to movie-making; France has avant-garde artistry. But what about Britain? Looking at our selection of the 75 greatest British movies of the past century, you'll find that Britain excels at genres you'd expect (kitchen sink and period drama, class-obsessed satire) and plenty you wouldn't (strange sci-fi, blood-freezing contemporary horror). Here are the essential home-grown films to watch, listed in the order they were made..." [SLTelegraph]
The UK's desperate-measures approach to teaching Japanese during WWII, and its lasting impact. [SLBBC] [more inside]
From the manuals of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), a discussion of camouflage, disguises, and other ways to conceal oneself. (SLSlate) [more inside]
“We had to block the road, we had to call out the bomb squad, we had to call up supervisors to come down, we had to close everywhere off because your vehicle was parked in a higher security hotspot in London with that written on the sides. That’s the justification, it doesn’t say ‘Spain is Great’, ‘Italy is Great’, whatever.” Counter-terrorism police were called this week to investigate a family van parked in central London, with ‘Iran is Great’ emblazoned on its sides [more inside]
Spirit of the Nation. The Guardian has invited readers to submit their uninspiring holiday photos. That is all.
Near empty trains rattle around the countryside at odd hours of the day and night... Why Britain has secret ghost trains [more inside]
Fred Perry Subculture Films - A series of short films documenting the evolution of street style, music and counter culture over the last 60 years. [more inside]
Americans ruin their jokes with two simple letters. Miserable twits. I can’t abide “just kidding.” It’s an exculpatory waiver, a spoiler alert, which bludgeons spontaneity. It regulates humour, robbing us of the joy of discovering it ourselves. Surely we can discern shades of seriousness, unaided.
Something about this country – the divisions, the class system, the general sense of distrust and dissatisfaction – seems to breed youth subcultures like no other place on Earth. The strange, stylish clans that this island incubates have been exported across the world, influencing everything from high street fashion to high art. From teddy boys to 2 Tone rudeboys, soulboys to Slipknot fans, grunge bands to grime crews, mods to mod revivalists, the history of these groups shows us a version of modern Britain that goes way beyond Diana and Blair.[more inside]
It's Election Day here in the UK and it's looking likely that neither party is going to win an outright majority of the seats in the house of commons: are the conservatives and the right wing media machine in the UK already looking to manipulate the system to stay in power? [more inside]
"What does it mean to be British? Read five outspoken collectives' views on identity in UK culture in this roundtable." - text by Zing Tsjeng for Dazed magazine (part of a series of articles on the state of the nation as the May 7 election approaches in the UK).
YoutTube: The story of Bitter Sweet Symphony | Andrew Oldham Orchestra - The Last Time (1965) | Original video | 2010 studio performance for Radio 1 Presents | 2008 concert performance | Live at Glastonbury 2008 | Glastonbury 2011 | potted history of The Verve at BBC News
The two sides in the Cold War, finding each other irresistible, ended up in a contrapuntal relationship where, as George Urban put it, ‘they marched in negative step, but in step all the same.’ They had their spies, we had ours. They had their files, we had ours. True, we didn’t have gulags. But what kind of democracy is it that congratulates itself on not having gulags? Never mind the dragnet surveillance, the burglaries, the smearing of reputations, the bugging of public telephone boxes, cafés, hotels, banks, trade unions, private homes, all this legitimised by the thesis that everyone is a potential subversive until proven otherwise – the problem is that the defenders of the realm took on the symptoms of the disease they were meant to cure.– In the essay Stuck on the Flypaper historian and journalist Frances Stonor Saunders goes through the recently released MI5 file on Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm [previously] to explain how the British secret service surveilled and interfered with the lives of British citizens during World War II and the early part of the Cold War.
"In short, it seems that when a white male thinks about the meaning of things, any things, it is philosophy..." (SLTheGuardian)
Since ascending to the throne in 1952, the monarch has seen 12 Prime Ministers serve Britain, and lived through another 12 US Presidents. For at least 12 days — between her passing, the funeral and beyond — Britain will grind to a halt. It'll cost the British economy billions in lost earnings. The stock markets and banks will close for an indefinite period. And both the funeral and the subsequent coronation will become formal national holidays, each with an estimated economic hit to GDP of between £1.2 and £6 billion, to say nothing of organisational costs.
"Slipknot, Papa Roach, Soulfly, Disturbed, Amen and Mudvayne were all there, supported by the kind of bands that made every teenage stoner bunking off GCSE maths believe they too could one day play a half-hour set to a room full of disinterested teenagers. I charged to the front as if I was a Minotaur and not a young girl with developing boobs and easily breakable bones." How to be Nu-Metal in British Suburbia
Being held up as “beating the odds”, “done good”, or “escaped” does not make me happy. (slTheGrauniad)