English Language and History

The brief stories below are taken from history, myth or fiction. Each one is accompanied by games and exercises in essential grammar and free composition, based on old school textbooks.

A to Z Index

Latest
The Lion and the Ant
two-part story
Music: Anonymous; King Richard I, the Lionheart
Richard I thought a veteran Crusader and conqueror of Saladin could handle a few French peasants.

KING Richard I of England gained his nickname of ‘Lionheart’ in the Holy Land, fighting to liberate Jerusalem from the ruling Muslims. In this he narrowly failed, but returned to his estates in France (he rarely spent time in England) in 1194 a hero, having conquered Cyprus, defeated his arch-enemy Saladin in battle, and been expensively ransomed out of the hands of a disgruntled former ally, Leopold of Austria.

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Five Posts
The Signing of the Great Charter
two-part story
Music: Muzio Clementi; Sir Hubert Parry
King John promised his nobles respect, but he was not a man to regard his word as his bond.

AS the thirteenth century opened, King John of England was losing the support of his noblemen, the barons. High taxes, unsuccessful military campaigns in France, and persistent disagreements with the Pope became a source of anxiety and grievance.

So the Barons met the King at Runnymede in Surrey on June 15th, 1215, and handed him a document to sign.

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The Langbaurgh Charter
Music: Sir Hubert Parry
Peter de Brus and his tenants agreed to work together after King John ordered a crackdown on unpaid rents.

THE wapentake of Langbaurgh, an area of modern-day Cleveland south of Middlesbrough, was granted by King John to Peter de Brus, Lord of Skelton, in 1207. Naturally, Peter was expected to pay rent to the Crown, a burden which was passed on to his tenants.

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The Peasants’ Revolt
Music: York Bowen
In 1381, violent agitators hijacked a protest against the government’s meddling in the labour market.

AFTER the Black Death wiped out nearly three-quarters of England’s population in the 1340s, fit working men were scarce. Much to their disgust, wealthy landowners actually found themselves bidding against each other for a labourer’s favour.

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The Battle of Agincourt
Music: Sir William Walton
One of the best-known of all battles in English history, but not because of the conflict of which it was a part.

IN 1340, Edward III was persuaded by his Flemish allies to assume the title of ‘King of France’, precipitating the Hundred Years’ War. Initial success gave way to a truce in 1396, and in 1415 the young Dauphin, Charles, impatiently demanded that Henry V renounce his great-grandfather’s claims, or come over and prove them in battle.

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The Battle of Neville’s Cross
Music: Charles Avison
Ralph Neville spoiled David of Scotland’s alliance with France in the Hundred Years’ War

FOLLOWING a heavy defeat at the Battle of Crécy on the 26th of August, 1346, King Philip VI of France appealed to the Scottish King David II to honour the ‘Auld Alliance’, and help him by harassing England from the north.

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AZ Index

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

Featured Topic
Tagged ‘Abolition of Slavery’ (15 posts)
page 1
1 An Incorrigible Fanatic
By William Wilberforce
(1759-1833)
William Wilberforce told Parliament that the more his opponents slandered him, the more he was sure he was winning.
2 A Selfish Liberty
By Frederick Douglass
(1818-1895)
American anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass contrasts two kinds of ‘nationalist’.
3 Douglass in Britain
Frederick Douglass, the American runaway slave turned Abolitionist, spent some of his happiest days in Britain.
4 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.
5 How Britain Abolished Slavery
The Church’s campaigns against slavery were boosted by competition for labour after the Black Death.
6 The Obstinacy of Fowell Buxton
Fatherless teenage tearaway Fowell Buxton was not a promising boy, but the Gurney family changed all that.
page 2
7 How Liberating the Slaves also Clothed the Poor
Based on an article by Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
The closure of slave plantations following the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833 had a curious side-effect.
8 David Livingstone
The Scottish missionary and medic believed that slavery could better be eradicated by trade than by force.
9 The Bombardment of Algiers
For two centuries, human traffickers had stolen English men, women and children for the slave-markets of the Arab world.
10 The Case of Jonathan Strong
Granville Sharp and his surgeon brother William rescued a young African man from the streets of London.
11 The Anglo-Zanzibar War
It lasted barely forty minutes, but it brought slavery to an end in the little island territory.
12 Fashionable Freedom
By Thomas Clarkson
(1760-1846)
Josiah Wedgwood’s promotional gift made Abolitionism fashionable.
page 3
13 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.
14 In the Nick of Time
Thomas Lewis was rescued from slavery with only minutes to spare.
15 Somersett’s Case
James Somersett’s new Christian family used every available means to keep him from slavery.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Adjectives

The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone explains that a truly ‘exceptional nation’ respects the equality and rights of all nations.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson won the admiration of French navvies by showing them how a Geordie works a shovel.
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 ‘Tram’
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
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with FOAL and finish with MARE.
Try writing complete sentences using these adjectives in the attributive position.
Divide one number by another number. See how quickly you can solve the sums.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Do you know ‘snare’ (6 letters), and ‘better’ (3 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
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History (375)
Fiction (80)

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

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