Echoes from Eternity 6. William Cowper

William Cowper by Lemuel Francis Abbott (1792) Q regulars will know that William Cowper has been a personal favourite for years. He had to navigate the storms of mental illness throughout his adult life, without any of the understanding, support…

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On MLK, #MeToo, and the possibility of Pride in the Flawed

Does the legacy of a heroic struggle for justice cover over a multitude of sins? Or does the iconic hero’s fatal flaw render him and, perhaps even his legacy, leprous? Is it 'one strike and you're out' or might the twitteratti just possibly permit nuance and, dare I say it, complexity?

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Coming Soon: Why on earth do they think THAT?!

In a couple of months, I'll be leading a study day here in Maidenhead on postmodernism and stuff, revamping and updating old material that led to writing A Wilderness of Mirrors. It's been a while since I worked on it,…

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Michael Faraday’s appeal for scientific humility

Have been dipping into Max Adams equally fascinating and frustrating book The Firebringers - Art, Science and the Struggle for Liberty in nineteenth-century Britain (aka The Prometheans). The cast of heroes, rogues, and geniuses is startling in its breadth and…

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Friday Fun 48: Monopods vs Monobracchs Cricket

Well, the book’s first draft is done and sent off – the initial editors’ comments are awaited with trepidation. But the good news (I hear you ALL cry) is that I can get back to some serious blogging. And what better way to mark this momentous event than by offering some Friday Fun.

One of my recent excitements is the quirky Cox’s Fragmenta. This is edited by Simon Murphy from a really bizarre tome in the British Library – essentially a scrap-book of news clippings kept by one Francis Cox (1752-1834) on every subject under the sun. In fact, it takes up 20 feet of shelving. So I thought it might be fun to pick out a few choice morsels.

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The British Empire was never quite what you thought: John Darwin’s Unfinished Empire

Nearly 10 years ago, a dear friend of mine was addressing a gathering of Ugandan MPs in the Parliament building in Kampala (around the 40th anniversary of independence). It included those from all shades on the political spectrum, including not a few post-colonial firebrands. My friend is certainly no great apologist for imperialism, but he posed two simple questions.

  • “Which Ugandan regions (of those that the British failed to develop) have we since developed?”
  • “What aspects of public life, government and rule of law have we improved on or done better in than the colonial regime?”

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Christmas realism and keeping dying faith alive

It is rather a tired Christmas cliché for preachers to go on about how we need to get beyond the tinsel and trimmings to the heart of Christmas – but one that sadly needs repeating. And while I love what Christmas is all about it, perhaps even more now than ever, it is interesting how different aspects strike home amidst all the familiarity and form. There’s no predicting what it’s going to be, if anything. But this year, I’ve been struck by how often the tradition pierces through the vacuous, trite and superficially jolly to engage with even the deepest hurts and doubts. (more…)

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Friday Fun 27: The delights of political Amphibology

Well, the US presidential election is in its final month at last. Will any of us sleep safely in our beds again?

History has been full of people who have hedged their bets and emulated the venerable Vicar of Bray. And in smaller ways, politicians are doing it all the time. Saying things that don’t actually say too many things in case they be accused of actually saying things they don’t want to be heard actually to be saying. (more…)

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