Category Archives: History

Socrates and the euro elections: A democratic dialogue

SCENE: A LONDON BACK STREET…

SOCRATES: Hey, you there, why are you tearing up those placards?

ANGRY VOTER: It’s over, the racists have won. It’s a black day for democracy.

SOCRATES: Ah, you’ve been taking part in the recent election. I’m an immigrant from a fellow democracy myself, so I’m fascinated to understand your system better. Continue reading

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How one man battled the bureaucrats to save a billion lives

THE 1960s was a decade of explosive change, but the most important revolution wasn’t sexual: it was green. While Western intellectuals looked the other way, lost to well-meaning doom-mongering, one visionary saved a billion lives. Private foundations supported his work; rich governments’ aid programmes often thought it was wrongheaded. But Norman Borlaug (it’s pronounced Bor-log), born 100 years ago this week, triumphed anyway. Continue reading

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Why commercialism captures the true spirit of Christmas

It’s a shame all the shopping has to spoil the true meaning of Christmas. Or so we get told at this time of year, usually by the same prophets of good cheer who want us to celebrate the season by donning hair shirts and cutting back on the booze. Continue reading

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Filed under Christmas, Economics, Freedom, History, Human nature, Religion

Three reads for Christmas: Glamour, Cicero’s web and high-tech fiction

I wrote at the end of November that the rise of the selfie marked the death of the audience and the rise of an age committed to universal self-expression and performance. This week, even world leaders have been joining in. Continue reading

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Filed under Business, Christmas, History, Publishing, Technology

Nelson Mandela: Mourning the father of a rainbow nation

One of my earliest memories is of a primary teacher encouraging my class to pray every day for the release of Nelson Mandela. “Your prayers will pile up like leaves, until their weight forces open his prison.” That would have been in the early 1980s, by which time Mandela had already spent two decades in prison – it took nearly 10 more years, and more prayers than mine, for Mandela to walk free. Continue reading

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Selfie-nomics: The world’s now a stage and we’re all performing

My smartphone has a feature I can’t ever imagine using – it promises to insert my live picture into any snapshot I take by turning on both front and rearfacing cameras at once. But I’m clearly behind the times. Even as I cling to my old-fashioned desire to take photographs of the things that I see, “selfie” – the new nickname for a photographic self-portrait – has been declared Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year, following a 17,000 per cent increase in usage year-on-year. Continue reading

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Filed under Economics, History, Human nature, Innovation, Publishing, Technology

Antibiotics are in critical condition: An open culture will help us find alternatives

Here’s a Halloween horror story for you. One of America’s top experts on disease control has just announced that we are now in the post-antibiotic era. Continue reading

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