Two-minute tales from history, myth and fiction, accompanied by word games, grammar games and writing practice, all based on traditional school textbooks.

A to Z Index

Japan’s First Railway
two-part story
Music: Gustav Holst
As Japan’s ruling shoguns resist the tide of progress, a Nagasaki-based Scottish entrepreneur steps in.

FOR over two centuries, Japan isolated herself from the rest of the world, a policy vigorously pursued by the Tokugawa shogunate that had sidelined the Emperors. But from 1853, zealous American, Russian and British merchants and their modern wares were grudgingly admitted into selected Japanese ports.

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Six Posts
The Massacre at Amritsar
Music: Frederic Hymen Cowen
After one of the worst outrages in modern British history, Winston Churchill made sure there was no cover-up.

ON 13th April 1919, thousands of Sikhs crowded into the Jallianwala Bagh [i.e. garden, park] in Amritsar, Punjab, on their harvest festival.

The Punjab had become a restless province during the Great War, and London, warned of terrorist ties to Germany and Russian revolutionaries, had imposed a crack-down.

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An Exceptional Nation
Music: Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky
William Gladstone explains that a truly ‘exceptional nation’ respects the equality and rights of all nations.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)

YOU may sympathize with one nation more than another. You sympathize most with those nations, as a rule, with which you have the closest connection in language, in blood, and in religion, or whose circumstances at the time seem to give the strongest claim to sympathy. But in point of right all are equal.

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A Many-Chorded Lyre
Music: Jan Ladislav Dussek
Stylish batting in cricket is about variety, invention and frankly anything that works, and we have Dr W.G. Grace to thank for it.
By Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji of Nawanagar
(1872-1933)

“BEFORE W. G. batsmen were of two kinds, — a batsman played a forward game or he played a back game. Each player, too, seems to have made a specialty of some particular stroke. The criterion of style was, as it were, a certain mixed method of play. It was bad cricket to hit a straight ball; as for pulling a slow long-hop, it was regarded as immoral.

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Hyder Ali and Tipu
two-part story
Music: Johann Christian Bach
The British encountered no stouter resistance in India than Mysore’s gifted commmander Hyder Ali and his son, Tipu.

IN 1778, King Louis XVI of France declared war on Britain, and London responded by driving the colonial French out of the port of Mahé in Mysore, a kingdom in southwest India dating back to the turn of the fifteenth century.

This trespass incensed Hyder Ali, Mysore’s brilliant military commander whose hero status had already relegated King Krishnaraja Wodeyar II to a mere figurehead.

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The Man Who Would Be King
two-part story
Music: Charles Villiers Stanford
Two rascally former British soldiers in India set off to become kings of Kafiristan.
Based on the short story by Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)

TWO rascally former soldiers in the British Army, Danny Dravot and Peachey Carnehan, arrived one day in the cramped offices of a newspaper in Lahore. The sole correspondent remembered them as two fellow-freemasons, for whom he had recently done a small favour.

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The ‘Black Hole’ of Calcutta
Music: George Frideric Handel
The inhuman cruelty of the Nawab of Bengal’s men brought swift retribution on their master.

CALCUTTA in 1756 was an uneasy trading centre within Bengal, home to French, Dutch and English merchants; but it was wealthy, growing, and tended not to pay its exorbitant taxes, and the young Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, saw it as a threat.

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All Posts
Tagged British Empire (26 posts)
page 1
1 Japan’s First Railway
As Japan’s ruling shoguns resist the tide of progress, a Nagasaki-based Scottish entrepreneur steps in.
2 An Exceptional Nation
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone explains that a truly ‘exceptional nation’ respects the equality and rights of all nations.
3 The Din of Diplomacy
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
4 Hooked
By Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji of Nawanagar
(1872-1933)
The great British public leaves a German tourist speechless during a county match at the Oval in London.
5 A Many-Chorded Lyre
By Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji of Nawanagar
(1872-1933)
Stylish batting in cricket is about variety, invention and frankly anything that works, and we have Dr W.G. Grace to thank for it.
6 Mir Kasim
The East India Company installed Mir Kasim as Nawab of Bengal, only to find that he had a mind of his own.
page 2
7 Hyder Ali and Tipu
The British encountered no stouter resistance in India than Mysore’s gifted commmander Hyder Ali and his son, Tipu.
8 Mysore’s Golden Age
The Princely State of Mysore (today in Karnataka) was hailed as an example of good governance to all the world.
9 Britain’s Best Gift to India
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
Samuel Smiles reminds us that until we brought the railways to India, we had little to boast about as an imperial power.
10 India’s First Railway
The opening of the Bombay to Thane line was the real beginning of British India.
11 Ranji
A young Indian student from Cambridge was selected for England’s cricket team after public pressure.
12 The Boer Wars
South African settlers of Dutch descent could not escape the march of the British Empire.
page 3
13 Wellington’s Secret
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
The future hero of Waterloo dealt with political ambush as comfortably as he dealt with the military kind.
14 The Battle of Plassey
A year after the infamous ‘Black hole of Calcutta’, Robert Clive was sent to exact retribution.
15 Victoria and the Munshi
Abdul Karim’s rapid rise in Victoria’s household made him enemies.
16 David Livingstone
The Scottish missionary and medic believed that slavery could better be eradicated by trade than by force.
17 The ‘Black Hole’ of Calcutta
The inhuman cruelty of the Nawab of Bengal’s men brought swift retribution on their master.
18 Courage Under Fire
Robert Clive turned seven hundred frightened recruits into crack troops by sheer force of personality.
page 4
19 Clive of India
Robert Clive helped to establish a lasting bond between India and Britain, laying the foundations of modern India.
20 The Indian Mutiny
Army unrest spread throughout northeast India, and brought direct rule from London.
21 Cecil Rhodes
The ruthless diamond magnate who donated his fortune to the education and empowerment of Africans.
22 The Anglo-Zanzibar War
It lasted barely forty minutes, but it brought slavery to an end in the little island territory.
23 The Massacre at Amritsar
After one of the worst outrages in modern British history, Winston Churchill made sure there was no cover-up.
24 The Siege of Khartoum
General Gordon’s death was a sensation and a scandal in its day.
page 5
25 The Man Who Would Be King
Based on the short story by Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
Two rascally former British soldiers in India set off to become kings of Kafiristan.
26 The Siege of Arcot
By Thomas Babington Macaulay
(1800-1859)
A young Robert Clive’s extraordinary daring helped to prevent India falling into the hands of the French King.
Authors
2 posts
Samuel Smiles (1812-1904)
2 posts
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Active or Passive?

Use each of the verbs below in either the active or the passive form. Can you use both forms?

Cut. Tell. Bridge.

JB Cramer was one of the finest pianists of his day, though his reverence for Mozart made his own music more popular in the drawing room than the concert hall.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792-1822)
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley says that the pinnacle of political achievement is the government not of others, but of ourselves.
By John Keats
(1795-1821)
Poet John Keats speaks of the beauties of Autumn, her colours, her sounds and her rich harvest.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792-1822)
Poet Percy Shelley calls on November’s sister months to watch by the graveside of the dead Year.
Cut
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Polyword ‘Peal’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Practise your twelve times table against the clock.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Do you know ‘entertainer’ (7 letters), and ‘distant’ (3 letters)?
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with FAST and finish with SLOW.
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
A word-making and word-searching game with a dash of strategy to it.
top topics
History (379)
Fiction (82)

letters game

Make words from two or more of the tiles below. What is the highest-scoring word you can make?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

More like this: High Tiles (Letters Game) Games with Words

numbers game

Work across from the number on the left, applying each arithmetical operation to the previous answer. What’s the final total?

Tip: Click any of the four inner squares to check your running total.

More like this: Maths Steps (Mental Arithmetic Game) Mental Arithmetic