English Language and History .com is a collection of two-minute tales drawn from history, myth and fiction. Each tale is accompanied by word games testing grammar and expression, based on textbooks used in British schools from the 1920s to the 1960s.

August 16, 1920
The tennis tournament at the Antwerp Olympics opens, and Max Woosnam wins men’s doubles gold
Max Woosnam
two-part story
Music: Sir Hubert Parry
Max fully deserves his reputation as England’s greatest all-round sportsman.

THE oddest of Max Woosnam’s many sporting achievements must be defeating Charlie Chaplin at table tennis, wielding only a butter knife. His more conventional sporting career began with cricket at Winchester College, and a century against the MCC for Public Schools.

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Alan Blumlein
two-part story
Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Railway enthusiast, music lover, and the man who gave us stereo sound.

IN 1935 Alan Blumlein, an avid railway enthusiast, made a five-minute film of trains running through Hayes in Middlesex.

There was a serious purpose to Blumlein’s subject. A maddening feature of early talkies was that as actors moved around the screen, the sound of their voices and movements appeared rooted to one spot.

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Four Posts
John Logie Baird
Baird’s inventions didn’t always work as well as his televisions.

IN 1923, John Logie Baird pressed an old hatbox, a pair of scissors, some darning needles, a handful of lenses taken from bicycle lights, a tea chest, and some glue into service, and made the world’s first working tv set.

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Penicillin
Music: Percy Grainger
An improbable chain of coincidences led to one of the great medical revolutions just when it was most needed.

EARLY on Friday, September 28, 1928, Alexander Fleming walked into his laboratory in St Mary’s Hospital, London, and noticed an open Petri dish with a culture of staphylococcus lying in it.

A nearby open window had let mould spores blow into the lab, and where these had settled in the dish the bacterial culture would not grow.

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Max Woosnam
two-part story
Music: Sir Hubert Parry
Max fully deserves his reputation as England’s greatest all-round sportsman.

THE oddest of Max Woosnam’s many sporting achievements must be defeating Charlie Chaplin at table tennis, wielding only a butter knife. His more conventional sporting career began with cricket at Winchester College, and a century against the MCC for Public Schools.

Continue reading ›
Benno Moiseiwitsch
Music: Johannes Brahms
One of the twentieth century’s greatest pianists, who put himself and his art at the service of his adopted country.

AT fifteen, budding pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch inquired at the Royal Academy of Music in London about continuing studies that had begun in his hometown, Odessa, and had brought him the Anton Rubinstein Prize when he was nine. His prospective tutors told him frankly that they did not know what they could teach him.

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AZ Index

See a complete A-Z List of all the stories on this website.

Featured Topic
Tagged ‘Classical History’ (24 posts)
page 1
1 The Golden Age of Carausius
A Roman commander facing court martial took refuge in politics, and for ten years London was an imperial capital.
2 A Pyrrhic Victory
By Plutarch
(AD 46-120)
The ancient Greek King knew victory had cost his army more than it could afford to lose.
3 The Rewards of Treachery
By Marcus Tullius Cicero
(106-43 BC)
Cicero warns those who seek power through civic unrest that they will never be the beneficiaries of it.
4 St Helen Finds the True Cross
Based on ‘Elene’ by Cynewulf
(8th century)
The mother of the Roman Emperor goes to Jerusalem on a quest close to her heart.
5 Xerxes Scourges the Hellespont
By Herodotus
(?484-?425 BC)
The Persian King felt that a lord of his majesty should not have to take any nonsense from an overgrown river.
6 Boudica
British sympathy for Roman imperial progress evaporated when officials began asset-stripping the country.
page 2
7 St George the Triumphant Martyr
One of the Emperor Galerius’s most trusted generals openly defied him.
8 ‘Stand out of my Sunshine!’
By Plutarch
(AD 45-120)
Alexander the Great dropped a hint to his sycophantic entourage.
9 Alcibiades
In the populist democracy of 5th-century BC Athens, heroes fell as quickly as they rose.
10 Pericles and the Fickle Public of Athens
The leader of 5th-century BC Athens lavished public money on the city and its adoring citizens.
11 The Last Days of Socrates
Socrates was placed on death row while Athens celebrated a religious festival.
12 The Battle of Marathon
Remembered as the inspiration of the famous Olympic road race, but much more important than that.
page 3
13 First Contact
Julius Caesar came over from France expecting to silence the noisy neighbours, but things did not go according to plan.
14 The Season of ‘Goodwill’
‘Goodwill’ was on everyone’s lips, but the Roman Emperor and the God of Israel had very different ideas about it.
15 Keep away from the Games!
From ‘Letters to Lucilius’ by Seneca the Younger
(?4BC-?AD65)
The wise old philosopher had learnt that popular entertainments rot the soul.
16 The Speech of King Caratacus
By Cornelius Tacitus
(AD 56-117)
A proud British king, taken to Rome as a trophy of Empire, refused to plead for his life.
17 A Battle of Wills
Based on ‘A Book of Golden Deeds’ by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
Two strong and determined men refused to back down.
18 A Man called ‘Beta’
For a perennial ‘runner-up’, Eratosthenes had a peculiar knack of being first.
page 4
19 Hannibal’s Passage of the Alps
Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with nearly 50,000 men and 38 elephants is the stuff of legend.
20 A Bird in the Hand is Worth...
From ‘History of the Wars’ by Procopius of Caesarea
(c.500—c.560)
The Roman Emperor Honorius, so the story goes, had more on his mind than the impending sack of one of Europe’s iconic cities.
21 The Battle of Ynys Mon
Based on an account by Cornelius Tacitus
(AD 56-117)
Suetonius Paulinus, Governor of Britain, hoped to enhance his reputation.
22 Horatius at the Bridge
Based on a story by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
Horatius Cocles was the last man standing between Rome’s republic and the return of totalitarian government in 509 BC.
23 The Last Gladiator
The people of Rome suddenly turned their back on centuries of ‘sport’ - all because of one harmless old man.
24 The Battle of Salamis
Defeat for the Greeks would have changed the course of Western civilization.

Word Play: Verb or Noun?

Use each of the words below once as a noun and once as a verb:

Milk. Pass. Matter.

New Stories
The only truly global conflict in history began when German troops crossed into Poland in September 1939.
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
Richard Cobden questioned both the wisdom and the motives of politicians who intervene on foreign soil.
To the poor of England, the Worcestershire man gave affordable pots and pans, and to all the world he gave the industrial revolution.
After Louis XIV’s grandson Philip inherited the throne of Spain, the ‘Sun King’ began to entertain dreams of Europe-wide dominion.
New Puzzles
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.
Try writing complete sentences using these nouns as either the subject or the object of a verb.
Try writing complete sentences using these verbs in either the active or the passive voice.
Polyword ‘Perch’
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
Change ROCK into SALT, one letter at a time.
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 FRIES and finish with CHIPS.
Find prepositions to follow each of these words.
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.
top topics
History (359)
Fiction (77)

letters game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

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

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numbers game

Make the total shown using two or more of the numbers underneath it. You can add, subtract, divide and multiply. Use any number once only.

More like this: Maths Gym Mental arithmetic