“I wish I had a more reliable way of figuring out how to write. It’s all just intuition and waking dreams.” – Robbie Arnott
Posts tagged "history"
Africa uncovered

Africa uncovered

We launched the It’s a Continent podcast in March 2020. The idea stemmed from us questioning our understanding of the histories of the countries we were from and of the wider continent. Having grown up in the UK (Chinny in Southend-on-Sea and Astrid in Plymouth), our exposure to black history primarily focused on African-American figures....
The seductive spark of danger

The seductive spark of danger

I still remember the awe and unease I felt as a child at the arrival of the wrecking machines in Barbapapa’s New House, a brilliant but unnerving picture book by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor that channelled the urban alienation of its time. And, with his “terrible teeth and terrible claws”, Maurice Sendak has surely...
The train

The train

The train to Paris, which had been expected at 2:37 p.m., pulled in five minutes behind schedule. Albert Le Prince didn’t see his younger brother, Louis, very often anymore. Louis had moved away from France over twenty years ago – and if that wasn’t enough, lately he had been consumed by his work on a...
Trading places, writing stories

Trading places, writing stories

It can be argued that few gestures in the history of humanity can claim to have had such an impact on societal structures, on cultural evolution, and on civilisational encounters as trade. From the first barter exchanges (you had to be ready to meet someone else, and to acknowledge different, mutually complementary needs, in order...
Knowing who the real monsters are

Knowing who the real monsters are

A crucial juncture in world history was the encounter between the Helleno-Judeo-Christian tradition on the one hand, and the new tenets of Islam on the other. It manifested itself with particularly momentous poignancy on the intellectual plane through a single concept, upon which depended almost everything that mattered: the right to existence itself, cultural, national,...
It takes guts to make good art

It takes guts to make good art

“As for you, the vultures will feast on you!” With these words of visceral triumph (quite literally, since he has just thrust his spear into his fallen opponent’s underbelly), Hector, “preeminent among the war-loving Trojans”, finishes off Patroclus in Book XVI of Homer’s Iliad, but only after the latter had been struck down twice already,...
Lost souls

Lost souls

Suzanne O’Sullivan’s The Sleeping Beauties (Picador) is utterly fascinating. It reminds us that the brain is a wonderful and powerful thing and we have a long way to go before understanding it fully. Suzanne, a consultant in neurology, delves into cases that doctors and scientists have struggled to explain. Why are refugee children in Sweden...
Settlers and shenanigans

Settlers and shenanigans

The nineteenth century was the century of cities. Across the planet, their number and size mushroomed in the biggest urban expansion in history. London’s population grew between 1800 and 1900 from one million to seven million, making it far and away the largest city in the world. Even so, it was in the USA where...
Who makes history happen?

Who makes history happen?

Imagine a perfect (imperfect), remote and rural, Volkisch German landscape: replete with lush meadows and muddy, green pastures, well-ordered small villages abuzz with their perennial hierarchies of landed gentry, newly rich bourgeois grandees, the teachers and clergy, the pure and echt common Volk of farmers and housewives, the idle, reminiscing elderly, the burgeoning young. A...
On the matter of eternity

On the matter of eternity

The past few years have seen the explosive emergence of a highly fetishised and merchandised cult of the home: as a fiercely protected private space of explicitly public (voyeuristic) visibility, as the locus of a redefined, globalised community of purported ecumenical camaraderie, as the shrine of high-design spirituality, and as a new status symbol of...
Bread and circuses

Bread and circuses

Historians say that during the fourteenth century Europe lost one-third of its population in seven years. The roads were strewn with unburied corpses. In the worst times of famine and despair, people used their ingenuity to grind anything they thought could replace grain, flour and bread. In their endeavour to keep making bread, they did...
Not quite the way to the stars

Not quite the way to the stars

“O, it is excellent / To have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous / To use it like a giant.” Shakespeare certainly knew his Romans; even though the lines that capture so brilliantly – and devastatingly – the allure of power and its raw brutality come from Measure for Measure, they could well have...