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Autograph of the Week

Education, Education, Education

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The question of education is one of those topics that keeps cropping up in political debate. The other day, walking down the King's Road, I turned into a side street where I had worked many years ago and there I saw a quotation which stopped me in my tracks. The quote is from Plutarch, and read "The mind is not...

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The Question of Trade

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Trade is top of the headlines these days in the U.K.  It has always been a priority here. Britain, more than most other countries - the United States may be the closest - has always been concerned about trade throughout its history.  What can history teach us about the subject? Quite a lot, one would hope, although I sometimes fear that...

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Women of the Eighteenth Century

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I love the eighteenth century. More specifically, the long eighteenth century, which ended sometime between the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the death of Shelley in 1822. It was the Age of Enlightenment, the age of revolutions (American and French) and an age full of interesting, intelligent women who wielded a great deal of influence.I say “influence” advisedly, not...

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Adolphe Sax's wonderful invention

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How many of you recognize the name of Ambroise Thomas?  To the more dedicated music lovers, his name will probably ring a bell. Aged 60, Thomas was appointed Director of the Paris Conservatoire. Throughout his working life, he produced opera after opera - twenty-four of them in all. Some were very popular in their day, but that phrase "in their...

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A helping hand

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It is very obvious that there are more and more people today who need a helping hand. Whether you look close to home, at the elderly lady next door who can't quite manage to carry her shopping, or the growing number of homeless people in major cities all over the world, or the mother desperately juggling a part-time job, looking...

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Easter 1916

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This year marks the centenary of the Easter Rising. In many ways, the dust has barely settled on this event. For many, it was the Queen's visit to Ireland in 2011 that marked the most significant emotional turning point in the relationship between the two countries. But go back to 1926, a mere ten years after the Rising, and you...

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Who would you like to see around today?

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There is supposed to be a Chinese curse which says "May you live in interesting times".  There is no denying that these are interesting times. In fact, you might think that the world has gone mad, everything is in chaos, and where will it all end? This is not the first time people have felt this way. The 1640s saw a...

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It's time to start thinking of your New Year's resolutions!

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Christmas is almost upon us, with its Christmas stockings, cards, presents, dinners, parties ... and exhaustion. No sooner have we got over that exhaustion than it is time to start all over again, with parties heralding the start of the new year, its hopes and good intentions. Russians, observing the Orthodox calendar, would celebrate New Year a fortnight later, as...

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Snooper's Charter? How they did it in 1805...

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There's been a lot of talk in the media about government "snooping" into private lives, from the revelations of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, to the current debate raging in Parliament about the "snooper's charter". Is this all new?  The internet and social media may have added another dimension to this, but from a historical perspective, it was ever thus. If...

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