The club had its genesis around 1931 at University College, Oxford when a group of students and lecturers met to read aloud and discuss their unfinished works. Among them were two writers whose books would go on to sell over 400 million copies: C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. The original group came to an end after a couple of years, but Lewis and Tolkien resurrected it at Lewis’s own Oxford college, Magdalen.Most of the members were associated with Oxford University and all were male. Like-minded in their love of fantasy and the importance they attached to narrative in fiction, their principal purpose was literary criticism. From the outset they had plenty of material to get their teeth into: amongst the earliest works to be discussed was Tokein’s The Lord of the Rings.
This post was most recently updated on October 24th, 2017
Learning to speak English is one thing, learning to speak British English like a native is quite another. With a bewildering variety of slang phrases and idioms, the Brits have a way of expressing themselves that can leave the uninitiated in the dark.
But never fear – over the next few pages is our list of 101 words and phrases that will have you speaking the lingo as if you were born in England…
- Hard lines – originating in the 1950s, this simply means bad luck.
- Blast – used to express surprise, particularly when something has gone wrong
- Spend a penny – visit the bathroom
- Dog’s bollocks – rude expression meaning extremely good (also known as “the mutt’s nuts”)
- Knock off – to steal, or sometimes counterfeit (“That’s not Chanel, it’s a knock off”)
- Mate – friend
- Gormless – clueless
- Wonky – unstable or not firm
- Collywobbles – extreme nausea or pain in the stomach as a result of stress
- Donkey’s Years – ages, as in “I haven’t seen that type of thing in donkey’s years”.
This post was most recently updated on December 24th, 2017
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill is revered as one of the most famous and celebrated Britons in the long history of the United Kingdom. His leadership as prime minister during World War II and the many stories surrounding his turbulent political career are well known from frequent repetition in books, films and elsewhere. But many details of his long life are less familiar and, indeed, often surprising.
Unpromising BeginningsThe future leader was born prematurely during a dance held on 30 November 1874, in the ladies lavatory at the Churchill family home, Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. His was a family of the highest aristocratic origins, and the fact that his father — Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill, himself the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough — was an MP, Secretary for India, Chancellor or the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons was bound to have an influence upon the young Winston.
His father (who went mad and died of syphilis at a relatively young age) was a stern parent who thought little of his son’s failure to excel while at school. The young Winston, it has to be said, did not attract undue attention for his mental prowess and was generally considered slow-witted. He also had a lisp. When the time came for him to enter the Royal Military College at Sandhurst it took him three attempts before he was admitted.
This post was most recently updated on October 17th, 2017
English hoaxes have ranged far and wide in the subject of their pranks – from pretending to be foreign royalty to offering evidence of mystical creatures and alien life. It seems there’s nothing some people like more than pulling the wool over each other’s eyes. We take a look at some of the most famous tall tales concocted through the decades.
The Cottingley Fairies
Proof that even the most cerebral of people can be fooled by a simple hoax is provided by the case of the so-called Cottingley fairies.
In 1917 nine-year old Frances Griffiths and her sixteen-year old cousin Elsie were playing, as they often did, near the stream at the bottom of Elsie’s garden in Cottingley, Yorkshire. It was a pastime that wasn’t popular with their mothers, the girls often returning to the house with wet shoes and clothes. This time, though, they had their alibi at the ready: the reason they played there, they said, had nothing to do with the joy of splashing in the water; it was simply that they went to see the fairies.
One might suppose it wasn’t the kind of story any parent would fall for, but Frances and Elsie had proof – a series of photographs taken with a camera borrowed from Frances’s father. When two years later Elsie’s mother took them to a lecture on “Fairy life” and showed them to the speaker, the story assumed a life of its own.
This post was most recently updated on January 10th, 2018
It is less than a hundred years since the suffragette movement and the right to vote being extended to English women on the same terms as men. The suffragettes had a prominent profile in the struggle – but who were they, and what was their real legacy?
[A single page version of this post is available here >>> The Suffragette Movement: Its Deeds, Campaigners and Legacy (Single Page)]
Thirst for Change
The movement to extend the franchise to women had begun to take shape in 1897 when the campaigner Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage. New Zealand had given the right to vote to women over the age of 21 four years earlier and South Australia had followed suit in 1895, but there was still no sign of change in Britain.
Millicent’s patient arguments that women held responsible roles on school boards, that they employed men who had the vote whilst they did not, and that they had to pay tax and were subject to the same laws as men, converted a handful of politicians – but progress was slow.
In 1903, frustrated by the failure of reasoned arguments to change the status quo, political activist Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union. This, she was clear, was to be an organisation dedicated to “deeds not words”. The suffragette movement was born.