Sunday, 27 February 2011

Alison Weir at Sutton Library

Alison Weir, the author of numerous novels set in the Tudor period will be speaking about writing historical fiction at Sutton Library on Saturday 5 March at 8pm. Tickets cost a very reasonable £1.50 which cover refreshments and are available from the Sutton Library itself.

The event is part of World Book Day. Details of other events hosted by the borough on Saturday are here.

Monday, 21 February 2011

From Russia with Love

Greetings from St Petersburg!

We arrived at Heathrow at 6am and after a long check-in we were safely on board and very excited for our journey ahead.

When we arrived in St Petersburg it was a mild -20. The girls were well-prepared for the freezing conditions, but nonetheless it was still a shock. The girls were surprised by the nice hotel, but not so much the cheese and egg dinner! However, that was followed by a beef curry, of sorts. After a pleasant first day we looked forward to a packed schedule on Monday.

It is our second day in Russia and what a fantastic day it has been! We saw some amazing sites such as: The Bronze Horseman, the Hermitage, the Political History Museum-where Lenin gave his famous April Thesis (WOW!!) and the Russian Museum. Lunch consisted of some more Russian delights.

We are looking forward to tomorrow in which we will be visiting Nevsky Monastery, Church on the Spilled Blood, the Hermitage and the Kazan Cathedral not to forget the overnight train to Moscow! Hotel Cosmos here we come!

До свидания!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Filibuster in US Politics

This week's Americana is well worth listening to for both AS and A2 Politics students. Its main feature is on the Filibuster, a rarity in British politics but used recently in the 17 day standoff in the House of Lords by Labour peers over electoral reform. The programme charts its increased use in the US since the 1950s and asks whether it is an abuse of power by Senators, or a useful democratic tool ensuring the minority do not yield to the tyranny of the majority. It also discusses the growth of the 'shadow filibuster' but you will have to listen to find out what that is!! About 16 minutes in is a quick discussion of the reclaiming of 'racial language' by young mixed race Americans - useful for A2 students currently studying race.

Find the programme here or listen to the podcast via iTunes (remember, you don't have to help fund Apple's attempt at world domination by buying their products - you can download iTunes and listen to podcasts for free on your computer)

Friday, 18 February 2011

One day until Russia!

Ladies I hope you are all looking forward to the fantastic trip. Remember to wrap up warm, it is currently a mild -20! See you all bright and early at the airport on Sunday.

If you want to check the status of the flight have a look at the BA website.

Assessments of Bill Clinton (in verse)

The Year 13 Government & Politics group were set a task to read various assessments of Bill Clinton as President and sum up their own conclusions on his presidency in verse. Below are some of our favourites:

There was a fellow called Bill
Who lived near Capitol Hill
He had an affair,
the Dems did despair, nearly losing him his seal.

Renowned for missed opportunities,
Congress was known for disunity,
a disappointment for some.
Having too much fun,
He had lost touch with community.

An era of fiscal prosperity,
Two terms of energy and clarity,
Crime figures were low,
Employment was a go,
Free trade was a popularity.

There was a young gov'ner named Bill,
With undeterrable political will,
Despite tales of scandals,
And Congressional mishandles,
He remains ever popular still.

Bill Clinton had lots of charm
It didn't do his presidency harm
Although he had flair
He failed with healthcare
And he and Republicans didn't get on.

By the end there was a budget surplus
But Congress had turned into a circus
He gave the Middle East support
Then avoided going to court
In the end all was forgiven.

Was Bill Clinton a superficial president?
His lack of moral authority was evident
White Water, Lewinsky, impeachment, the lot
Clintonian scandals will not be forgot
His obstruction of justice was reprehensible
But the Republican attack was hardly defensible.

In domestic affairs the guy showed ability
An era of economic prosperity and social stability
Yes relations with Congress were at a strain
And healthcare reform went down the drain
But surplus was up and crime was down
The role of government re-asserted, even Newt didn’t frown.

In foreign affairs he didn’t do as well
The Test Ban Treaty was hard to sell
Yet global trade was encouraged at least
Peace established in the Balkans, Northern Ireland and Middle East.

So to conclude our judgement of his presidency
In the art of persuasion he clearly lacked competency
He did leave the country in robust good health
Welfare reform and economic wealth
But we can’t help but feeling a sense of talent wasted
His hopes of a fairer society only briefly tasted.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Moscow Forecast

As the Russia trip is about to depart, here is the latest forecast for Moscow (the information will continuously update itself). The forecast for St Petersburg can be found here. Nonsuch HP is sure all those taking part will have a fantastic time - but they will need to wrap up warm!

Downing Street Cats

Year 12 Politics students who have been studying the decline of cabinet government will be well aware that one proposed reason for this has been the increase in the PM's staff at No. 10. This has increased again this week with the
appointment of Larry, the official Downing Street cat, brought in to solve the growing rat problem in the old building. Larry spent 30 minutes in discussion with his new boss and, although the content of the talks remained private, Larry attacked a news correspondent soon after, which may hint at the Prime Minister's darker side. One thing is more certain however. At just four years old, Larry will likely serve at Downing Street for another 12 years plus so he will probably see off Mr Cameron and perhaps a couple more PMs before his retirement. See here for the history of Downing Street moggies.

PS: This is the first post delivered by iPad!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Belgium Trip Information Evening

Here is the the powerpoint for the information evening. The group list has been removed in accordance with our internet safety policy. If you have any further questions, please contact a member of the History Department.

PS: To view the presentation in full screen, click here

Title (iPhone Test)


This is the first blog post to be delivered by iPhone. An exciting development for the blog!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Belgium Trip 2011: Map and Useful Links

View Nonsuch Belgium Trip in a larger map

Above is a map which shows the main sites that we will be visiting during the Year 10 trip to the battlefields of Flanders on 11 and 12 March. (We recommend that you click on "View Nonsuch Belgium Trip" to see it more clearly. The blue flags represents places we will visit on Friday and the green ones those on Saturday. More details for the trip will appear on the blog shortly.

If you would like to read more about what took place around Ypres during the First World War, this site is an excellent general guide. This gives more specific information about the first battle of Ypres (plus information on the other battles: (second, third, more on the third.)

The Commonwealth War Graves Commisson website is ideal for searching for those who lost their lives during the fighting.
The Long Long Trail site is excellent for more detailed searches for particular individuals and family members involved in World War One.

Monday, 14 February 2011

The First Valentine

To mark Valentine's Day, the BBC has written an article on the first mention of Valentine in English, which can be seen in an exhibition at the British Library. It is in a letter written in 1477 by Margery Brews (aged 17) to her fiance John Paston (aged 33). Although the two are engaged, there appears to be a problem with the dowry, and her family are refusing to increase it. Margery pleads with John not to give her up. Calling him her "ryght welebeloued Voluntyne" (right well-beloved Valentine), she promises to be a good wife, saying, "Yf that ye loffe me as I tryste verely that ye do ye will not leffe me" (If you love me, I trust.. you will not leave me) and promising "Myne herte me bydds ever more to love yowe truly" (My heart me bids ever more to love you truly).

You will be pleased to know that John and Margery got married soon after, and had a son, William, in 1479. The Paston family were prolific letter writers, and over 1000 of their letters have been preserved in the British Library and elsewhere. They make for a fascinating record of the lives of a landowning family, with commentary on the Black Death and the Wars of the Roses as well as more everyday matters.

PS: You can read more about the Paston Letters here, the British Library exhibition here and read some more historical love letters (including one from Henry VIII here)

Thursday, 10 February 2011


A2 Students may find this official definition of Synopticity from AQA of interest:

Synopticity is 'Approaching History in the way a professional historian would' by drawing together knowledge, ideas and arguments to show overall historical understanding.

Essentially, we are looking for breadth of understanding (an ability to see beyond the obvious and to see the deeper implications of questions), together with a relevant linking of ideas and arguments across the topic / period of the question.

It mixes breadth of understanding (an ability to see the key underlying themes of the Unit 3 period the 'drivers' bringing change; the degree of continuity; the relationship between state and people), with depth of example and understanding of the importance of precise supporting detail.

At A2, essays are likely to have more than one focus; more than one issue to discuss and more than one viewpoint to analyse. The question itself invites a 'synoptic response' so a good conventional essay answer will do all these things.

For further details, check the AQA website here or find a member of the History Department...

Monday, 7 February 2011

Boardwalk Empire

Paul Lay, editor of History Today, has written in praise of some of the latest US dramas to be found on Sky's new "Atlantic" channel. These include Boardwalk Empire, set in the casinos of Atlantic City during the Prohibition, and Mad Men, set in the world of advertising in 1960s New York. Both pay excellent attention to period detail, and through their scope and ambition give a very real sense of what it might be like to live through that period, in the same way that "The Wire" recently portrayed the political, judicial and criminal worlds of Baltimore. Have you been watching any of these? If so, please let us know what you think, and whether they have lived up to their billing.

PS: We should point out that these shows contain adult themes and language and should only be watched by those aged appropriately to appreciate them...

Zac Goldsmith - An Insider's View

One of Nonsuch HP's correspondents recently attended a meeting between Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith and his local constituents. The meeting raised some fascinating issues, with his attitude towards referendums and the use of Parliament being of particular interest to AS Politics students. Many thanks for BM for providing this - here is her report...

Zac Goldsmith, Tory MP for Richmond Park & North Kingston, speaks about flaws in the UK’s democratic system.
On Thursday 3rd February, Zac Goldsmith came to talk to his constituents at a local church. I along with around 30 others attended to pose questions and hear the MP discuss with us important issues that affected our lives. Much of the hour long meeting was taken up discussing local issues such as the Kingston bingo hall being turned into a night club, and the new crime map system which shows levels of crime around the constituency. However as well as this, several important national issues were brought up. The privatisation of forests is a very conscientious issue, which many conservatives and liberal democrats in general discussion seemed opposed to. However when the time came for the vote, only 6 LibDem/Tory MPs voted against, Zac Goldsmith being one of them.
This led onto the point which he admirably raised about the dysfunctional nature of parliament, where MPs have lost the ability to think for themselves, being voted in and then being ‘lobotomised’ to follow the orders of those above them. As well as this, amendments offered by backbenchers are seen as being an act of hostility, leading to them generally being ignored. Zac considers Labour under Ed Miliband as being an ineffective opposition as they do not appear to be making relevant points that may actually achieve something and as a result the government is not being held to account. The fact that parliament is no longer effectively doing this has caused it in many ways to be ‘broken’.
Zac Goldsmith also discussed with us the referendum on AV, deeming it to be a waste of time, and a distraction from what the government should really be focussing on. He claims that AV would just cause a reshuffle of seats here and there, but nothing major would come from it. And what the government should instead be pushing is the idea of recalling MPs, which at the beginning seemed to be a key policy, but has appeared to have lost some vigour. This, in Zac’s view would be much more beneficial to the people, as some of the power would be given back to them. Zac also agrees that more people need to participate in elections, and this could be done through the use of referendums, creating a more direct democracy. Countries such as Switzerland are criticised for using them too much, but at least the people are having their say. This would engage people in politics as they would feel involved, as just having one vote every five or so years is not substantial.
The talk then moved to finances, with bankers and the richest of the countries being criticized for their cunning methods of paying as little tax as possible. In Goldsmith’s view, the figures that are being thrown around in the media are largely guesses and wild assumptions, and there is no real way of knowing how big the issue is. As well as this he raises the important issue that if the taxes are raised too high for the rich, it would encourage this behaviour of using offshore banks to store money, or alternatively, the rich person in question could just up and leave to another country where the tax is far lower. There is a fine line, and the government have to be very careful not to cross this line, the lower the tax, the more likely that the more elite of society are to pay it.

PS: For further Goldsmith updates, here is a link to his blog.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Abraham Lincoln: Saint or sinner?

A fascinating programme here on BBC Four analysing the reputation of this renowned US President. Was he the 'Great Emancipator' who saved the Union or was he a racist and a war criminal? Or, as is normally the case, was he somebody entirely more complex? A great exercise in interpretation and a thoroughly enjoyable programme. HP recommends.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Egypt and Lessons from History

Here is an interesting article from the BBC's John Simpson putting the events in Egpyt into historical context. He examines other popular uprisings, such as the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989, and the events in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the same year. Massive crowds of people gathered to make their feelings known in each case, but they weren't always successful. In Iran the Shah resisted for some time but then gave up and escaped. In Eastern Europe the communist governments lost the backing of the Soviet Union and swiftly folded, but in China Deng Xiaoping found army generals prepared to use force against the people, leading the deaths of thousands but the survival of his regime. If a leader can guarantee the support of his military and police forces there is a reasonable chance that they can hang on, but this may not be the case for Mubarak. We will have to wait and see what the outcome will be.

PS: Now that President Mubarak has been successfully removed, this article by Professor Mark Almond compares the events in Egypt with previous revolutions, including Indonesia and Ukraine, looking for particular patterns. He writes:

"What collapses a regime is when insiders turn against it. So long as police, army and senior officials think they have more to lose by revolution than by defending a regime, then even mass protests can be defied and crushed. Remember Tiananmen Square in 1989. But if insiders and the men with guns begin to question the wisdom of backing a regime - or can be bought off - then it implodes quickly."

Who gets the best jobs?

Social mobility and its decline in Britain is the theme of an excellent BBC programme analysing why social mobility is decreasing in Britain today and why the best jobs are increasingly likely to be taken by those who went to independent school. Are you troubled by this? If so, how is the situation to be improved? On the latter question, there were few answers provided by Richard Bilton, the programme's presenter, although grammar schools and work experience programs were mooted. With last week's programme 'Posh and Posher' by Andrew Neil, there is begining to be more of an interest in this issue. You can even go on to the BBC site and take a test to see which class you belong to. Was it right?

Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! Today is the start of the Year of the Rabbit, and Chinese communities across the world will be busy celebrating. Special dumplings and spring rolls will be eaten, and children will be given given "lucky money". You can read more about the customs here, and a great overview of the history of China here. There is plenty of information about Modern Chinese history here and here is a useful timeline.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Happy Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day, when a furry marmot (or groundhog) in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania decides whether there will be six more weeks of winter based on whether he can see his shadow or not. The ceremony has been taking place since 1887, and became particularly famous after the 1993 "Groundhog Day" film was made there. You can find out more about it at the official website and watch a live webcast here. He should make his prediction just after middday at about 12.20 GMT.

PS: More about the history of Groundhog Day here.

UPDATE: Good news. The Groundhog DID NOT see his shadow yesterday, which means that spring will come early!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A2 Government & Politics Pressure Groups Homework

The task set is to write a short paragraph explaining the impact that a chosen pressure group has had on a particular policy area. Examples of the policy area could be economic, environmental, civil rights related or deal with domestic social issues or foreign policy. You should outline the position taken by the pressure group and show how it related to a politician, party, individual bill or Supreme Court decision. You could also mention whether you think the pressure group has made a positive or negative impact on the US as a result of its actions. Your paragraph should be posted into the comments box and you should identify yourself by your initials only. All posts should be completed by midday on Friday 4 February.