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The Little University on the Prairie

content discovered on Saturday, November 25, 2017

Apparently there is a plan in Scotland to pay students £8000 per year to study. Scottish students already have their fees paid by the taxpayer. The idea now is that they should be paid the equivalent of the "living wage" to study. This all begins to get rather expensive for the tax payer. But is it worth it? A while back I came across an exam paper from the late nineteenth century. The task involved translating various passages from English literature into Ancient Greek. With a bit of effort I could ima...

Bought and sold for RT gold

content discovered on Saturday, November 11, 2017

Does it matter very much that Alex Salmond has chosen to appear on Russia Today (RT)? No. I sometimes glance at this site. It has a perspective, but then again so does the BBC, CNN and the New York Times. RT has a Russian perspective. It’s not a perspective we often have access to in the Western media, so in that sense RT can be useful. I find some of its reporting and opinion pieces to be very biased, but others are no worse than what we get in British newspapers or television. But then every story on e...

Bach’s wife

content discovered on Friday, November 10, 2017

Many people think the greatest composer who ever lived was Johann Sebastian Bach. There might be some debate about this. Some think Mozart was greater, others Beethoven. It doesn’t much matter. If you look at a list of the greatest composers these nearly always make up the top three. But who is the greatest female composer? Is there a woman composer who ranks with Bach? No. How many women composers would make a list of the top one hundred? Perhaps Hildegard von Bingen a medieval abbess might just sneak i...

The trial of Effie Deans

content discovered on Saturday, November 04, 2017

Imagine if thirty years ago someone had been murdered in Cambridge. Suddenly the police arrive and knock on my door and accuse me of being the murderer. They take me into custody, question me and eventually charge that on the night of November 4th 1987 I did wilfully and with malice aforethought murder one Scott Walters. What would I say in my defence? The trial of Effie Deans I might say that I’m fairly sure I was in Cambridge on that particular night, but I don’t remember anything else about it. All...

The Catalan handkerchief

content discovered on Saturday, October 28, 2017

Spain isn’t greatly liked in Britain. This has been particularly noticeable in the past few weeks as the crisis in Catalonia has developed. Quite a few writers have indulged in the pleasures of Spain bashing and for a variety of reasons. Some Eurosceptic Brexiteers have sympathised with the Catalans and used the crisis to complain about democracy in Spain and the EU. Some people have just found another underdog to champion. Plucky little Catalonia up against nasty Spain only needs Francis Drake to come t...

The casting coach goes back to the cave

content discovered on Friday, October 20, 2017

How many fat, ugly sixty five year old men do you know who have an addiction to sex? How many have beautiful wives or girlfriends in their twenties? I don’t know very many. Aging academics may chase after girls who could be their daughters and sometimes even their granddaughters and some may even succeed in catching them, but still it is not a common sight to see fat ugly sixty five year old men with the problems associated with addiction to sex with the youngest most beautiful women in the world. Stra...

An unknown face for a new Conservative party

content discovered on Friday, October 13, 2017

The great moment in modern British politics upon which all else turns was the election in 1979. The decade that followed brought in fundamental change, not because the Conservative Party sought consensus and the centre ground, but rather because it decided to take a different direction. There was disagreement, there was struggle. Sometimes it was even violent. But the results of the decade that followed are still with us. Britain had been in decline since 1945. Both Conservatives and Labour had come to ...

A senseless struggle about nothing

content discovered on Saturday, October 07, 2017

There are two forces going on in human nature, the desire to unify and the desire to separate. The reason that we have nation states at all is because people have felt the need to unify with others who are similar to them. In antiquity each small village had its own ruler, its own customs and often its own variety of language. Historical progress across the world has involved the process of people uniting to form nation states. These are the building blocks of international relations and without them the...

No-one expects the Liberal Inquisition

content discovered on Saturday, September 30, 2017

There must be something in human nature that means we always need to take a good thing too far. In this way far from turning it into a very good thing we instead turn it into a very bad thing. The fault, for instance, with Christianity is not what Jesus and his disciples taught, but that many centuries later when the Church had become powerful it started burning people at the stake for believing one thing about Jesus rather than another thing. It’s impossible to imagine either Jesus or his disciples thin...

Encouraging nationalism involves a heavy respon...

content discovered on Saturday, September 23, 2017

As many of us have noticed this week, Spain is trying to prevent one of its parts from holding a referendum on independence. I normally don’t pay much attention to the internal politics of European countries. I can’t even routinely name the leaders of more than a few EU countries. But I began noticing the dispute in Spain a few years ago and from time to time have paid attention. There is a reason for this. Independence movements feed off each other. Scottish nationalists wave Catalan flags and vice vers...


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