Category Archives: History

Pathologically wrong: Humours and Miasma.

Humours and Miasma: Science in Society 8. Humoral theory and miasma theory: two long-lasting medical paradigms now consigned to the history of human error but which shaped our ideas about health and disease and the development of medical practice and … Continue reading

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My islands – by Line Mariani Playfair

I have always had a strong affinity for atlases and islands. Whether a single volcanic rock or one likely to fragment or disappear underwater, each one seems to be calling me, speaking to my imagination. I was fascinated by Thor … Continue reading

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Matisse in Corsica.

The great artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was inspired to use colour in radical new ways during his first visit to Corsica. After their wedding in early 1898, Matisse and his wife Amélie Parayre spent their honeymoon first in London and … Continue reading

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Brecht’s radical Galileo

Brecht’s ‘Life of Galileo’ is a great piece of theatre with universal appeal. It’s also a particularly good one for science students because it brings the scientific method to life. Galileo’s struggle to get acceptance for the ‘Copernican’ heliocentric model … Continue reading

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From ‘slumming’ to solidarity.

The evolution of responses to urban poverty and inequality. Part 2. From London to Chicago and back again Two selective and interlinked chronologies: London 1884: Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel was founded by Canon Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta Barnett … Continue reading

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From Toynbee to TELCO via Chicago.

The evolution of responses to urban poverty and inequality. Part 1. From settlement to social activism Living and working in East London, I am interested in how our part of the city has been shaped by its past, how today’s … Continue reading

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Four cousins went to war.

This is a very brief account of the lives of 4 young men from around a century ago; all members of the same Scottish family. The accounts are neither special nor representative and they form a tiny fraction of the story … Continue reading

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Les réfugiés francophones de Londres.

Nous nous sommes réunis au Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle le 19 Octobre pour rappeler les évènements qui ont bouleversé le monde il y un siècle. Avant d’évoquer le Londres de 1916, je me permets d’évoquer celui de 1966. C’est … Continue reading

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London’s francophone refugees

We are roughly at the mid point of our commemoration of the First World War. Let’s look back just over a hundred years. London before the outbreak of war in 1914 was the greatest industrial city in the world and … Continue reading

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Jean Jaurès: ‘what is courage?’

Jean Jaurès (1859-1914), member of the French National Assembly, leader of the Parti Socialiste Français and peace campaigner was an eloquent and compelling public speaker. One of his most famous speeches was his 1903 address to young people at the … Continue reading

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Jane Addams and John Dewey

The Toynbee papers #2 An imagined conversation. Toynbee Hall, Commercial street, Whitechapel, 1921. Jane Addams of Chicago is greeting her old friend John Dewey who has just arrived. John, my dear friend – welcome to Toynbee Hall. I trust you … Continue reading

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Boswell in Corsica.

The Scottish lawyer and writer James Boswell (1740-1795), famous for his Life of Samuel Johnson, was also a great supporter of Pasquale Paoli and Corsican independence. Boswell met enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire and Rousseau and was encouraged by Rousseau to … Continue reading

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W.E.B. DuBois, black liberation and liberal education for all.

The great African American academic, socialist, peace and civil rights activist William Edward Burghardt DuBois (1868-1963) wrote about philosophy, sociology, history, race equality and education as well as writing fiction. He is best remembered for his The Souls of Black … Continue reading

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Jane Addams and Toynbee Hall.

Toynbee Hall, Commercial street, Whitechapel, 1921. Jane Addams of Chicago (aged 60) is visiting Europe. She is in conversation with a young Whitechapel schoolteacher while preparing for the arrival of four other eminent educators. If I may ask, Miss Addams, are … Continue reading

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Hadrian, the enlightened pre-enlightenment leader?

Marguerite Yourcenar’s wonderful novel Memoirs of Hadrian takes the form of a personal memoir written for the future Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius by the emperor Hadrian (76-138 CE) as he faces death. The book is a brilliant portrayal of a leader who … Continue reading

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