Friday, 18 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Nonsuch HP would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a very happy new year. If you would like to learn more about the history of Christmas and its traditions, check out the History Channel's website, which includes information on subjects as diverse as the Christmas Truce during World War 1, the Roman celebrations of Saturnalia which were "adapted" by the Christian church to mark the birth of Jesus, and the story of Rudolph, who is 70 years old this year!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Political X Factor?

Simon Cowell has been proposing a new programme which allows the public to debate and vote on important political issues, "in the style of the X Factor".

Is this workable? Watchable? Please let us know.

PS: Here is Cowell being interviewed on Newsnight discussing his ideas (plus his views on the war in Afghanistan and whether he would make "X Factor North Korea".

PPS: Here's The Guardian's view, comparing Cowell's ideas to the politics of Silvio Berlusconi.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Origins of Santa

You have probably seen the irritating adverts associating Coca-Cola with Santa Claus. However, History Today reports that a rival drinks company, White Rock, began using images of the jolly red and white chap in 1915, 20 years earlier than Coca Cola. More images here.

In other Santa news, claims have been made that St Nicholas of Myra, the Turkish Bishop considered to be the inspiration for Father Christmas, may be buried in, of all places, Ireland. Apparently crusaders removed the Saints body for its protection, briefly buried it in Italy, and then transferred it to the Cistercian Monastery in Jerpoint, County Kilkenny. So if you want to see Santa, don't fly off to Lapland - cross the Irish Sea instead!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Alison Weir on Anne Boleyn

Alison Weir - our visitor last year - has written a new book on the last days of Anne Boleyn investigating the reasons for and circumstances of her fall. Very kindly, an old Nonsuch girl who left last year gave us a copy of the book which is now in the library. Here is a review from the Independent and here is a podcast of a discussion with Alison Weir at the British Library. Enjoy!

Review of the American political year

A helpful reminder of American political events this year here from CNN.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Australian History

Regular readers of the blog may have noticed the world map at the bottom of the page. We have had visitors from across Europe, Asia and America but so far none from Australia. If you have friends or relatives from Australia please encourage them to take a look! As an incentive, here is an interesting site that takes a comprehensive look at Australian history, from the arrival of the first aborigines through to the election of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. Australia and the UK share many common values as a legacy of an imperial past, but Australia's landscape, climate, immigration and location have contributed to its unique cultural identity. Important references within its heritage would include of course the arrival of Captain Cook and the first fleet (and its subsequent impact on the native Australian population), the settlement and federation of the country, the impact of war (particularly the involvement of the ANZACs in Gallipoli in World War 1, but also Ausralia's involvement in the Korean and Vietnam Wars) and perhaps more recently the success of the Sydney Olympics.

If you think there are other important moments in Australian history or politics that should be noted, please let us know.

PS: TheNational Library of Australia has a useful set of links here to other interesting websistes.

New First Minister in Wales

Rhodri Morgan has stepped down as First Minister in Wales and leader of the Labour Party after nearly ten years in the post. His replacement is the comparatively young Assembly Member (AM) Carwyn Jones, previously a barrister from Cardiff before he became an AM in 1999. See here for more information about him and here for the BBC story.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Brian Landers

Here is the video of Brian Landers' fascinating talk to the HP Society today. It was a wide ranging discussion of the nature of American and Russian imperialism, which covered everything from the Pilgrim Fathers to John McCain and Barack Obama. Nonsuch HP was fascinated to learn that 400 American marines were dispatched to the Arctic Circle to hunt down Bolsheviks in the "Polar Bear expedition" and also that parts of California were claimed by the Tsar of Russia, which directly influenced the "Monroe Doctrine ".

PS: Many thanks to Mr Berry for his technical help with this post.

Are the Tories wobbling?

This article from the Guardian suggests that the Tories electoral campaign may have hit trouble. Criticisms of David Cameron's background and political inconsistency appear to have hit home with some voters, and a recent opinion poll cut the Conservative lead to six points. If voting behaviour remained like this on election day it could quite likely lead to a hung parliament. What's your opinion of the current state of play between the main parties?

Monday, 7 December 2009

The politics of US companies

A great interactive guide here to how some famous US brands try to influence the political process through their donations. Have a look to see which party your favourite donates to and how much money they have given over the last 4 years. Does this change your opinion of them? How much influence do you think they have?

Friday, 4 December 2009

CIA Challenge

If you like code-breaking you might enjoy this site from the CIA. There are chances to look at and solve various famous codes from history. You never know - if you crack them quickly enough you might be offered a job!

The main site is full of interesting information and primary sources, especially documents on the cold war, including recently declassified Soviet material. Please let us know if you find anything interesting!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The End of the Cold War

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the "End of the Cold War". On 3 December 1989 George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev held a summit meeting aboard a storm-lashed Russian cruise ship off the coast of Malta. It was the first time the two had met since the sequence of events in Eastern Europe that had led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Gorbachev said, "we are at the beginning of a long road to a lasting peaceful era" and assured Bush that he would never start a "hot war" against the USA. More details of the summit can be found here. December 3 also marked the date that the entire East German government resigned, paving the way for reunification with the West.

Christmas History Reading

If you are thinking of doing some wider reading over Christmas, or have been asked what you want in your stocking, you may find inspiration at these websites. The Guardian and Telegraph History books sections have excellent reviews, often by historians, and give you a good idea of what is currently being published. of course has a vast range of books and you can see a few of them here.

Here is a specific selection of Tudor History books and here is a guide from to useful authors.

PS: On a similar subject, please note our new link to the Nonsuch English Blog on the right hand side of this page.

Author's Christmas Visit

On Tuesday 8 December at 1.20pm in Room 103, Nonsuch HP Society is lucky enough to have the author Brian Landers in to give a talk. He has written a book called 'Empires Apart' analysing the parallel development of Russian and American Empires over the course of 400 years. It has some great reviews and promises to spark some debate about the role of Russia and America in the world today.
Everyone is invited but it will obviously be particularly useful to GCSE students and above. See his website here for more information about the book and the author.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Scottish Independence?

It was St Andrew's Day yesterday and Alex Salmond grabbed the opportunity to publish his plans for Scotland's constitutional future including a proposal to put forward a referendum on independence. Although it is unlikely to happen as he does not have enough support in the Scottish Parliament, it is raising the issue of independence and putting more pressure on the government to give more powers to the Scots. Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, has in fact already tried to pre-empt this announcement with proposals that do give more powers to the Scots.
What do you think? Should the Scots go independent? Or would it mean the break up of the rest of the UK and a significant drop in European and World status? What might be the benefits and drawbacks? Here is the Economist's view on the issue and here is a comprehensive look at the issue from the BBC.