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

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Glorious John
Music: Johann Baptist Cramer
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 1784, thirteen-year-old Johann Baptist Cramer was such a naturally gifted pianist that Muzio Clementi, his distinguished teacher, performed a duet with him in public. Four years later, Johann toured Europe, and again in 1799, attracting the notice of both Haydn and Beethoven, who declared him the finest pianist of the day.

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Six Posts
The First Train Journey by Steam
Richard Trevithick’s boss hailed the engineer as a genius. Today he’d have been fired.

IN 1803, the owner of the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, Samuel Homfray, brought Richard Trevithick over to South Wales to build a steam-driven hammer for his factory.

Instead, Trevithick mounted his steam engine on wheels and set it running along the factory’s primitive railway.

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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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Somersett’s Case
Music: William Herschel
James Somersett’s new Christian family used every available means to keep him from slavery.

WHEN Charles Stewart, a customs officer, was in Boston (at that time a town in Massachusetts Bay, a British Crown Colony in America) he purchased an African slave named James Somersett, and brought him back to England. There the young man escaped.

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Out of Touch
Music: Francesco Geminiani
William Pitt the Elder berates Parliament for treating the public like know-nothings.
By William Pitt the Elder
(1708-1778)

MY lords, I myself am one of the people. I myself am by birth an English elector, and join with the freeholders of England as in a common cause. Believe me, my lords, we mistake our real interest as much as our duty, when we separate ourselves from the mass of the people.

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John Harrison’s Marine Chronometer
Music: Johann Christian Bach
When Harrison won the Longitude Prize, fair and square, Parliament wouldn’t pay up.

IN their day, John Harrison’s innovative clocks were perhaps the most precise in the world.

But his greatest achievement was a watch that could keep accurate time on long sea-journeys, such as Britain’s trade empire depended on.

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Clive of India
Robert Clive helped to establish a lasting bond between India and Britain, laying the foundations of modern India.

IN 1744, eighteen-year-old Robert Clive went out to India as a lowly clerk, bearing a reputation for indiscipline.

But after enlisting in the militia of the British East India Company, which was vying with the French government for the control of trade with India, Clive proved to be a resourceful and daring leader.

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All Posts
Tagged Georgian Era (102 posts)
page 1
1 Glorious John
From performance and composition to instrument-making, Clementi left his mark on British and European classical music.
2 The Economic Case for Generous Wages
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
Adam Smith asks employers to pay the most generous wages their finances will allow.
3 The Economic Case for Time Off
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
Adam Smith encourages employers to restrict working hours to reasonable limits, for humanity and for profit.
4 Ode to (English) Joy
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was commissioned by a fiercely independent Britain, and Beethoven was excited to oblige.
5 Anne Ford Thicknesse
A young English girl in Dr Johnson’s London struggles to share her gift for music.
6 Beethoven’s First
Everyone wanted to know who Beethoven’s favourite composer was.
page 2
7 ‘My English Joy’
By Sir William Sterndale Bennett
(1816-1875)
In 1837 William Sterndale Bennett, then regarded as England’s most exciting young composer, made history in quite another... field.
8 Sir William Sterndale Bennett
Acclaimed in Germany as a composer on a par with Mendelssohn himself, Bennett sacrificed his life and talents for music in Britain.
9 Mir Kasim
The East India Company installed Mir Kasim as Nawab of Bengal, only to find that he had a mind of his own.
10 Dr Johnson and the Critic’s Ambush
By James Boswell
(1740-1795)
A literary man tries to trick Samuel Johnson into an honest opinion, which was neither necessary nor very rewarding.
11 The Economic Case for Sovereignty
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
A nation with its own laws and a strong sense of shared cultural identity makes good economic sense.
12 Big Spenders
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
Adam Smith warns that politicians are the last people who should lecture the public about how to run their affairs.
page 3
13 Kanguru!
James Cook describes his first sight of a beloved Australian icon.
14 Mary Anning
A twelve-year-old girl from Lyme Regis made a historic discovery while selling seashells to tourists.
15 Why England’s ‘Revolution’ was Glorious
By Edmund Burke
(1729-1797)
Edmund Burke argues that England’s ‘revolution’ of 1688 worked because we changed the Government, not the Constitution.
16 John Dalton
At fifteen John Dalton was a village schoolmaster in Kendal; at forty he had published the first scientific theory of atoms.
17 The Ladies’ Diary
A long-lived annual of riddles, rhymes and really hard maths aimed specifically at Georgian Britain’s hidden public of clever women.
18 Francesco Geminiani
The most brilliant violinist of his generation, whose finely-crafted compositions showed off bravura and spoke tenderness.
page 4
19 A Pledge to the People
By Edmund Burke
(1729-1797)
Edmund Burke pleaded with Parliament to emerge from behind closed doors and reconnect with the British public.
20 The Rainhill Trials
To prove that steam power was the future of railways, George Stephenson held a truly historic competition.
21 The Battle of Flamborough Head
An American revolutionary harassed British commercial shipping off the Yorkshire coast, with mixed results.
22 The Story of ‘Charlotte Dundas’
The invention of the steamboat was a formidable challenge not just of engineering, but of politics and finance.
23 Character Witness
A former convict gives his own account of his debt to Thomas Wright, the prisoner’s friend.
24 The Prisoner’s Friend
Thomas Wright never earned more than a foreman’s wage, but he helped hundreds of prisoners back into society.
page 5
25 Ireland’s First Railway
The Dublin to Dun Laoghaire line opened in 1834, and proved a remarkable testimony to the speed of technological progress.
26 A Selfish Liberty
By Frederick Douglass
(1818-1895)
American anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass contrasts two kinds of ‘nationalist’.
27 Douglass’s Debt
By Frederick Douglass
(1818-1895)
British statesmen were among those who inspired the career of one of America’s greatest men, Frederick Douglass.
28 Sweet and Sour
By Samuel Johnson
(1709-1784)
The great Dr Johnson argues that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
29 The ‘Empire’ of Free Trade
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
Free trade brings to smaller nations all the advantages of empire without the disadvantages.
30 Man was not made for the Government
By Edmund Burke
(1729-1797)
Good government is not about enforcing uniform order, but about maximising liberty among a particular people.
page 6
31 The Bond of Liberty
By Edmund Burke
(1729-1797)
Britain’s ‘empire’ owed its existence not to her armies or politicians but to her merchants and her unique brand of liberty.
32 A Little Common Sense
By William Pitt the Elder
(1708-1778)
William Pitt the Elder doubts the wisdom of letting experts run the country.
33 The Jealousy of Trade
By David Hume
(1711-1776)
David Hume encourages politicians to put away their distrust of other countries, and allow free trade to flourish.
34 Out of Touch
By William Pitt the Elder
(1708-1778)
William Pitt the Elder berates Parliament for treating the public like know-nothings.
35 The Obstinacy of Fowell Buxton
Fatherless teenage tearaway Fowell Buxton was not a promising boy, but the Gurney family changed all that.
36 Heathcoat’s Bobbinet
John Heathcoat’s lace-making machine created thousands of jobs, and gave ordinary people clothes they could never have dreamt of.
page 7
37 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.
38 The Founding of Australia
Within little more than half a century a British penal colony turned into a prosperous, free-trade democracy.
39 Pirates at Penzance
The people of Penzance in Cornwall did not think an Algerian corsair much better than a French warship.
40 ‘Really, I do not see the signal!’
Sometimes it is right to ‘turn a blind eye’.
41 The Battle of Plassey
A year after the infamous ‘Black hole of Calcutta’, Robert Clive was sent to exact retribution.
42 Jane Austen
The blushing clergyman’s daughter is recognised today as one of the great figures of English literature.
page 8
43 The Genius Next Door
William Murdoch’s experiments with steam traction impressed his next-door neighbour, with world-changing results.
44 The Hat that Changed the World
Young William’s hat caught the eye of Matthew Boulton, and the world was never the same again.
45 The Great Chessboard
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
If Britain is a chessboard, then politicians should remember that the ‘pieces’ are alive, and they generally play a better game.
46 Muzio Clementi
From performance and composition to instrument-making, Clementi left his mark on British and European classical music.
47 The Stockton and Darlington Railway
George Stephenson and his son Robert created the world’s first passenger railway.
48 The Hetton Railway
The railway earned a special place in history as the first to be designed for steam locomotives only.
page 9
49 The Music of the Spheres
Sir William Herschel not only discovered Uranus and infrared radiation, but composed two dozen symphonies as well.
50 The Jacobite Rebellions
Loyal subjects of King James II continued to fight his corner after he, and any real hope of success, had gone.
51 Fit and Proper Persons
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
No one is more dangerous than the man who thinks that it is his destiny to direct things for the common good.
52 The Battle of Glen Shiel
King Philip V of Spain sent a second Spanish Armada against Britain, but it suffered much the same fate as the first.
53 The Bully and the Brakesman
A young George Stephenson takes responsibility for the team spirit at Black Callerton mine.
54 The Battle of Trafalgar
At the cost of his own life, Lord Nelson showed Napoleon that he could rule neither Britain nor the waves.
page 10
55 Jesty and Jenner’s Jab
Benjamin Jesty and Edward Jenner continue to save millions of lives because they listened to an old wives’ tale.
56 The Bombardment of Algiers
For two centuries, human traffickers had stolen English men, women and children for the slave-markets of the Arab world.
57 The Small Compass
By Jeremy Bentham
(1748-1832)
The role of government in a nation’s prosperity is important but limited.
58 The ‘Black Hole’ of Calcutta
The inhuman cruelty of the Nawab of Bengal’s men brought swift retribution on their master.
59 Courage Under Fire
Robert Clive turned seven hundred frightened recruits into crack troops by sheer force of personality.
60 The Case of Jonathan Strong
Granville Sharp and his surgeon brother William rescued a young African man from the streets of London.
page 11
61 Sharp’s Castle
At Bamburgh, John Sharp organised free healthcare and education, bargain groceries, and the world’s first coastguard service.
62 The Tanfield Railway
Opened in 1725, the Tanfield Railway is one of the oldest railways still operating anywhere in the world.
63 ‘God Save the King!’
The simple melody of the United Kingdom’s national anthem has stirred the souls of some great composers.
64 Earl Stanhope and the Re-Invention of Printing
Britain never knew she was a nation of voracious readers until printing entered the steam age.
65 Captain Moorsom’s ‘Revenge’
The Whitby man held his nerve to keep five enemy ships busy at Trafalgar, and subsequently led Nelson’s funeral procession.
66 Sir Humphry Davy
A Cornish professor of chemistry with a poetic turn who helped make science a popular fashion.
page 12
67 The Geordie Lamp
Based on an account by Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
The engineer put his own life on the line for the safety of his fellow-workers in the coal industry.
68 Charles Avison
Music by Charles Avison
(1709-1770)
The most important English-born composer of Handel’s day, known for his tuneful music and very busy diary.
69 Elias Parish Alvars
Music by Elias Parish Alvars
(1808-1849)
Eli Parish of Teignmouth in Devon became one of Europe’s most celebrated virtuosos.
70 The Character of Horatio Lord Nelson
By The Revd Alexander Scott
(1768-1840)
High praise from someone who knew him better than most.
71 The Return of Plum Pudding
The Puritans said it was unfit for God-fearing men, but George I thought it fit for a King.
72 Lessons in British values for a Future King
Music by Thomas Arne
(1710-1778)
‘Rule Britannia’ was a discreet way of telling a German prince what was expected of a British King.
page 13
73 The Calendar ‘English Style’
An English monk warned of a flaw in the world’s most widely-used calendar.
74 Clive of India
Robert Clive helped to establish a lasting bond between India and Britain, laying the foundations of modern India.
75 Fiddler Tam
Music by
Thomas Erskine, Earl of Kellie
An 18th century bon viveur and virtuoso violinist, Thomas Erskine is currently being ‘rediscovered’ by the classical music industry.
76 A Touch of Silk
Music by John Field
(1782-1837)
A Dubliner with a roving eye and a gift for melody, John Field challenged some of Europe’s finest pianists to demand more of themselves and their music.
77 Ignaz Moscheles
Music by Ignaz Moscheles
(1794-1870)
Moscheles taught his adopted country how to write enchanting music for decades to come.
78 The Story of Handel’s ‘Water Music’
Handel’s German boss fired the composer for spending all his time in London. When they met again, it was... rather awkward.
page 14
79 Zadok the Priest
Music by George Frideric Handel
(1685-1759)
Handel’s anthem sets to glorious music words sung at English coronations for over a thousand years.
80 The Harmonious Blacksmith
Music by George Frideric Handel
(1685-1759)
Handel called it ‘Air and Variations’, but by Charles Dickens’s day everyone knew it as ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’.
81 The Story of ‘Messiah’
Music by George Frideric Handel
(1685-1759)
The first thing George Frideric Handel’s oratorio ‘Messiah’ did was to set a hundred and forty-two prisoners free.
82 The Tea-Cup Revolutionary
Josiah Wedgwood, a village potter whose disability meant he could not use a potter’s wheel, brought about a quiet revolution in English society.
83 John Harrison’s Marine Chronometer
When Harrison won the Longitude Prize, fair and square, Parliament wouldn’t pay up.
84 The First Train Journey by Steam
Richard Trevithick’s boss hailed the engineer as a genius. Today he’d have been fired. (Oh, and the train was delayed.)
page 15
85 Edmond Halley
Edmond Halley will forever be associated with the comet named after him, but his greatest achievement was getting Sir Isaac Newton to publish ‘Principia Mathematica’.
86 The Star that Winked
John Goodricke’s observations of Algol won him the Copley Medal while still in his teens, despite his disability.
87 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.
88 Heads I Win, Tails You Lose!
By Charles H. Ross
(1835-1897)
(That’s cat-tails, obviously.) And who ever said cats were unpredictable?
89 The Persistence of Thomas Clarkson
Today, the slave trade is a £150bn global business. Back in the late 18th century, it was making a lot of influential people very rich too, but some in England were determined to stop it.
90 In the Nick of Time
Thomas Lewis was rescued from slavery with only minutes to spare.
page 16
91 Somersett’s Case
James Somersett’s new Christian family used every available means to keep him from slavery.
92 Timothy Hackworth
Timothy Hackworth (1786-1850) turned steam locomotives into a reliable commercial success.
93 Fashionable Freedom
By Thomas Clarkson
(1760-1846)
Josiah Wedgwood’s promotional gift made Abolitionism fashionable.
94 The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
When Parliament sent the Army against American colonists, people still calling themselves ‘British’ had to decide very quickly what that meant to them.
95 The Boston Tea Party
In the time of King George III, Parliament forgot that its job was not to regulate the people, but to represent them.
96 There is no Liberty without Self-Control
By Edmund Burke
(1729-1797)
Anti-Christian governments don’t make us free, they just impose their own, illiberal morality.
page 17
97 The ‘Jay Treaty’
The Jay Treaty can be seen as the start of the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and America.
98 The Science of Salix
Edward Stone wondered if the willow tree might have more in common with the Peruvian cinchona tree than just its damp habitat.
99 Mrs Clements
Mrs Clements of Durham is not a household name, but the product she invented is.
100 Richard Arkwright
Arkwright invented the factory, without which modern life would be impossible.
101 The Ladder with Twenty-Four Rungs
The Duke of Argyll was pleasantly surprised to find one of his gardeners reading a learned book of mathematics - in Latin.
102 ‘No dog exchanges bones with another’
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
How do we get the help of millions of people we don’t know? Only by trade.
Authors
1 post
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
1 post
James Boswell (1740-1795)
1 post
Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
5 posts
Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846)
1 post
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
2 posts
David Hume (1711-1776)
1 post
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
1 post
2 posts
Charles H. Ross (1835-1897)
1 post
1 post
Samuel Smiles (1812-1904)
1 post
Adam Smith (1723-1790)
8 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?

Tour. Begin. Call.

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 ‘High’
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
Find the longest word that can be made from nine randomly chosen letters.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with PIG and finish with STY.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with CHIP and finish with PUTT.
Practise doing sums using multiples of 25, 50 and 75.
Do you know ‘brainy fellow’ (7 letters), and ‘drink’ (3 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
A word-making and word-searching game with a dash of strategy to it.
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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