The Foreign Office’s “guilty secret” revealed Thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments. Those papers that survived were flown back to Britain and hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain. The Guardian details some of those papers released earlier this week. [more inside]
Welcome to the world of Britain's working poor. The Rowleys belong to a section of society not much mentioned in ministerial and media dispatches. They are neither the very wealthy affected by the 50p tax nor the "squeezed middle" expressing anxiety about child benefit and this week's budget; nor are the Rowleys representative of the long-term unemployed or one of the 120,000 "troubled families" in which the government is investing £448m over the next three years. [more inside]
Railway termini are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return.
Network Rail virtual archive Original drawings and plans of Britain's railway infrastructure from Network Rail, including the Forth Bridge, Bristol Temple Meads station, the Tay Bridge and lots more.
"Everyone knows there’s a catastrophe unfolding, that few can afford to live in their own city. It was not always so." - China Miéville on Apocalyptic London
If Britain were Greece... (audio slideshow)
MI6 intends to use the 1994 Intelligence Services Act to deny all application of UK law to extraordinary rendition. The case in question revolves around the forcible extradition of several Libyan dissidents back to Gaddafi's Libya and entirely predictable torture, including a pregnant woman. s.7 of the Act states that any intelligence agency action authorised on foreign soil by a Secretary of State is automatically exempt from legal action in any UK court. This could be said to conflict in some ways with the Human Rights Act 1998 and international law, especially since the HRA may be held to have implicitly repealed s.7 of the 1994 Act. [more inside]
Five senior journalists and editors at the News International tabloid the Sun were arrested on Saturday along with three public officials as Operation Elveden, the British investigation into bribery of police by News International papers, broadened to include corruption of officials in the armed forces and Ministry of Defence as well. The Guardian reports that the new arrests escalate the stakes of the ongoing US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation of News Corporation, which carries potential penalties of millions of dollars of fines and prison sentences for senior executives. [more inside]
Argentina will take Falklands claim to the UN Cristina Kirchner warns of 'grave risks to international security' and states intention to prevent war over natural resources. (Argentina) has mobilised much of South America and the Caribbean in a diplomatic and commercial squeeze. Ships flying the Falklands flag are barred from the region's ports, depriving the islands of bananas and other fresh fruit. [more inside]
India tells Britain: We don't want your aid According to a leaked memo, the foreign minister, Nirupama Rao, proposed “not to avail [of] any further DFID [British] assistance with effect from 1st April 2011,” because of the “negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID”. But officials at DFID, Britain’s Department for International Development, told the Indians that cancelling the programme would cause “grave political embarrassment” to Britain, according to sources in Delhi. Further embarressment ensues. Emma Boon, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is incredible that ministers have defended the aid we send to India, insisting it is vital, when now we learn that even the Indian government doesn’t want it.”
"...the ghost of George Walker, his family, and his business practices have continued to haunt Britain in all sorts of odd ways." Filmmaker Adam Curtis blogs about the Walker brothers (Billy and George) on the BBC website. A story of boxers, gangsters, the British film industry, Dodi Fayed, Guy Hands and... hardcore mutant prawn. [more inside]
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]
"Asked if he thought he should have been paid, he said: 'I reckon they should have paid me … I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco. I had the uniform and I was in the staff canteen. I obviously got access to the food and drinks in the staff canteen … that's what they let you do … but I got nothing else apart from that.'" -- The Guardian on Britain's "Work Experience Programme," which provides thousands of free man-hours to some of the country's largest and most profitable private companies
Do you like bivalves? Do you like Britain? Then Marine Bivalve Shells of the British Isles is the site for you! [more inside]
Welcome to the Birmingham Small Arms & Military Bicycle Museum. Always wanted to bicycle with your rifle? Observe the 1942 BSA military Mk. V Roadster. Also featuring the "Airborne", the Airborne folding Paratrooper, the Peugeot Captain Gerard folding bicycle, the Lady Back tandem model T64 with Watsonian sidecar and, many more. See the many vintage posters and learn the exciting history of the soldier-cyclist.
The Reel History of Britain, a BFI/BBC co-production, brings archive film into the nation’s living rooms. The footage shown in the series has been selected from the hundreds of thousands of films and programmes preserved in Britain’s film and television archives. We are complementing the series by making many of the films featured in The Reel History of Britain available online in their entirety, alongside expert commentary from the nation’s archive curators.
RIP David Croft, writer / producer of some of Britain's most well known and loved sitcoms including Dad's Army, Are You Being Served?, It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Hi-de-Hi! and 'Allo 'Allo!
On the 25th March 2011, Mark Coop of 'Keep Calm and Carry On LTD' registered a trademark of the words Keep Calm and Carry On in an attempt to take control of the very British and now very famous, nostalgia invoking, wartime poster. The trademark has angered Barter Books (who discovered the poster), wartimeposters.co.uk (owners of an original poster) and Kerry Cade from Simply Printing 4U whose business was greatly affected by the trademark. Now, in true British Spirit, a group of wartime enthusiasts has come together in an attempt to overturn the trademark. [more inside]
Hot on the heels of the stunning revelation that Twining's had changed the 180-year-old recipe for Earl Grey tea, the Telegraph continues its reporting on the decline of British civilization with word that HP Sauce -- condiment of choice in millions of bacon butties around the United Kingdom -- has been brought "in line with changes in consumer tastes."
London Metropolitan Police formulated policy of refusing bail to all arrested in London riots which might have influenced high remand in custody rate.
Although the sculptor Hiram Powers (1805-73) enjoyed considerable success with his portraits and more allegorical works, he is now almost entirely remembered for one of nineteenth-century America's most hotly-debated sculptures: The Greek Slave. Powers was a little vague about the inspiration for the statue--longstanding dream, or response to the Greek War of Independence (see previously)? Understood at the time as a major leap forward in establishing America as a serious force in the art world, the statue was an international hit (appearing at the Great Exhibition of 1851), and was endlessly copied and daguerrotyped. (Some of the copies turn the statue into a much more ambiguous bust, or hark back to one of its major influences, the Venus de Milo.) However, some observers, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning and, much more pointedly, the illustrator and caricaturist John Tenniel, suggested that an American sculptor might wish to think about other slaves.
The Sexperience 1000 is a neat interactive journey / visualization through the sexual experiences and preferences of British individuals. [more inside]
Cameron said: “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them.”
British figurative painter Lucian Freud, whose uncompromising, fleshy portraits made him one of the world's most revered and coveted artists, has died aged 88. Tate Gallery Google image search. [NSFWish]
The British Film Institute has a youtube channel with rare footage going back over 100 years, covering many aspects of British life. Highlights include: 'Solarflares Burn For You' (1973) (featuring a soundtrack by Robert Wyatt); Rush Hour, Waterloo Station (1970); London Bridge (1926); Productivity Primer (1964); Today in Britain (1964); Snow (1963); Holiday (1957).
Dr Beachcombing is curious about the strange and the unexpected in records of the past. This is his engaging blog.
"Using pejorative terms like "handouts" and "doling out", some parts of the media are mounting a campaign to suggest Britain should be embarrassed by our level of aid giving. But the idea that aid is generous is absurd. Some families, inspired by religious tradition, think it is appropriate to give 10% of what they have to charity, £10 in every £100 of earnings. In 2010, the UK gave not £10, not £1, but 56p ($0.91) in overseas aid for every £100 ($163) we earned as a country. On average, since 1990 we have given even less, 35p ($0.57)." [Giving aid to poor countries is hardly a great act of generosity] [more inside]
"From Papua New Guinea to Stoke-on-Trent, Prince Philip has left his mark around the world. As his 90th birthday looms, Hannah Ewan recalls the soundbites that could only have come from one man"
In the UK, "super-injunctions" can prohibit the press from reporting a story on privacy grounds and from reporting that any such injunction has been issued. Newspapers are occasionally quite playful in getting around these increasingly unpopular injunctions. The Telegraph famously pointed its readers to the then-trending twitter campaign against Trafgura and, today, the Daily Mail appears to be playing a similar game. More prosaically, The Independent has simply reported a Tory MP's comments in Parliament that a currently sitting MP has taken out a super-injunction. [more inside]
""The GAA player who performs in front of 70,000 at the weekend will be teaching your kids on Monday..."
"It was a picture of the dissidents' worst nightmares. The GAA was defining the police in Northern Ireland as "us" and Ronan Kerr's killers as "them"." Fintan O'Toole muses on the role of the Gaelic Athletic Association in defining and redefining what it is to be Irish.
It's an odd thing that libraries – by tradition temples to the unfleshly – can sometimes seem such sexy places. The Secret life of libraries.
Australian comedy troupe The Chaser (best known for breaking into the APEC summit in 2007) have been banned from reporting on the Royal Wedding by the Royal Family. The Chaser respond. [more inside]
How Britain's largest corporations helped engineer the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.
Indian prison authorities in Hyderabad have opened up a call centre inside the jail with hopes of servicing customers from the UK.
Coalition health reforms will spell the end for the NHS and lead to U.S. style system, claim researchers. 'Prof Allyson Pollock, from the Barts and The London School of Medicine, and David Price, senior research fellow at its Centre for Health Sciences, write in a paper published on BMJ.com that the legislation “amounts to the abolition of the English NHS as a universal, comprehensive, publicly accountable, tax funded service, free at the point of delivery”. They say the Government “has repealed the health secretary’s duty to provide or secure the provision of comprehensive care” in order to create a commercial market in care. Instead, under the new system the state "finances but does not provide healthcare", in “equivalent to Medicare and Medicaid schemes in the US”'. Meanwhile, Dr Kim Price, claims 'the UK coalition government's planned NHS and welfare reforms, and their use of 'nudge' theory, hark back to ideas on welfare and recession from the end of the nineteenth century, according to studies by a University of Leicester historian whose research paper has recently been published in the Lancet'. [more inside]
Recreate a part of history in High Tea, a game where you trade Indian opium in China to supply tea to England. Part of the High Society exhibit at Wellcome Collection. [more inside]
Snow is a short film directed by Geoffrey Jones (1931-2005) and shot by Wolfgang Suschitzky [imdb], simultaneously spectacle and social-commentary it can be viewed online (YouTube). Snow was made under the aegis of British Transport Films (wiki) and nominated for an Oscar in 1965; unable to afford to licence his choice of soundtrack—“Teen Beat” by Sandy Nelson—Jones enlisted Johnny Hawksworth to rerecord “Teen Beat” with an altered tempo and effects by Daphne Oram [wiki, BBC]. The result is a masterpiece of sound and image.
Champion Swedes to take on British Challengers... in rabbit jumping.
The snowpocalypse has hit Britain, again, and you've still not bought a snow shovel. Naturally, all the shops have sold out and have no idea when they'll get more. Let the Internet help you by sending you a reminder for next year...
Robert F. Gallagher served in the United States Army's 815th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion (Third Army) in the European Theater during WWII. He has posted his memoir online: "Scratch One Messerschmitt," told from numerous photos he took during the war and the detailed notes he made shortly afterwards. [more inside]
Stephen Fisk runs a website called Abandoned Communities, which documents unsettled settlements around Britain. Some were huge, like Sarum, between (roughly) the eleventh and fourteenth centuries a royal city with its own cathedral, while some were never bigger than a few dozen people. There are places that have been swallowed by the sea, places that have been swallowed by London, and some that simply dwindled into nothingness. Some you may have heard of already, like St. Kilda or Capel Celyn (cofiwch Dryweryn!). There's also a handy map that links straight to any particular location, and collections of painting and poetry pertaining to these vanished places
The Independant's 2010 Pink List... and why Stephen Fry is giving up his Number 3 spot to Louie Spence. [more inside]
The Curfew "is an adventure web-game created by Littleloud, published by Channel 4 and written by acclaimed comic book author, Kieron Gillen. Set in 2027 in the heart of an authoritarian security state, The Curfew could be described as a miniature Canterbury Tales set in a not-so-distant future, where citizens must abide by government security measures and 'sub citizens' are placed under curfew at night. The player must navigate this complex political world and engage with the characters they meet along the way to work out who they should trust in order to gain freedom. Choose wisely and you could change the course of history. Choose poorly, and it'll be changed for you."
Britain Is Puzzled by Its Inflation Problem in a Downturn. Inflation in Britain is an economic mystery. It seems unique in the Western World which on the whole is closer to the dangers of deflation than inflation. April of this year was particularly bad - in an inflation spike that alarmed Britain, 'British price inflation including housing costs hit a 20-year high of 5.3% in April, sending shockwaves through an economy still struggling to exit recession'. [more inside]
London Lives 12 London archives – digitised, marked up and tagged – to "create a comprehensive electronic edition of primary sources on criminal justice and the provision of poor relief and medical care in eighteenth-century London". The Lives page is a good place to start browsing. [related]
The Martians And Us a BBC documentary series on the history of British science fiction. Part 1 - 'From Apes To Aliens' (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Part 2 - 'Trouble In Paradise' (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Part 3 - The End Of The World As We Know It (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) [more inside]
Educational gamesmaker Preloaded has recently made two strategy games for English TV station Channel 4. 1066 is a mix of tactics, insult-typing, bowmanship, rhythm-game and narration by Ian Holm. Trafalgar Origins is all Napoleonic high seas derringdo all the time, as you sail your English ship in real time against the damnable French and Spanish. Whether you want to hoist the sails or call your opponent a stench weasel, they are fun little games which have the added bonus of teaching you about British history. Both games can be played solo or multiplayer. [via Rock Paper Shotgun, where they like those games quite a lot]