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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.

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Keep away from the Games!
The wise old philosopher had learnt that popular entertainments rot the soul.
From ‘Letters to Lucilius’ by Seneca the Younger
(?4BC-?AD65)

I HAPPENED to drop in at the midday games, expecting a bit of fun and wit and something relaxing for eyes that needed a break from human cruelty. What I got was the opposite.

The fighting that went before was miserable enough; now they dropped all sporting pretence, and it was straightforward murder.

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

Featured Topic
Tagged ‘British Empire’ (25 posts)
page 1
1 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.
2 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.
3 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.
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 Mir Kasim
The East India Company installed Mir Kasim as Nawab of Bengal, only to find that he had a mind of his own.
6 Hyder Ali and Tipu
The British encountered no stouter resistance in India than Mysore’s gifted commmander Hyder Ali and his son, Tipu.
page 2
7 Mysore’s Golden Age
The Princely State of Mysore (today in Karnataka) was hailed as an example of good governance to all the world.
8 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.
9 India’s First Railway
The opening of the Bombay to Thane line was the real beginning of British India.
10 Ranji
A young Indian student from Cambridge was selected for England’s cricket team after public pressure.
11 The Boer Wars
South African settlers of Dutch descent could not escape the march of the British Empire.
12 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.
page 3
13 The Battle of Plassey
A year after the infamous ‘Black hole of Calcutta’, Robert Clive was sent to exact retribution.
14 Victoria and the Munshi
Abdul Karim’s rapid rise in Victoria’s household made him enemies.
15 David Livingstone
The Scottish missionary and medic believed that slavery could better be eradicated by trade than by force.
16 The ‘Black Hole’ of Calcutta
The inhuman cruelty of the Nawab of Bengal’s men brought swift retribution on their master.
17 Courage Under Fire
Robert Clive turned seven hundred frightened recruits into crack troops by sheer force of personality.
18 Cecil Rhodes
The ruthless diamond magnate who donated his fortune to the education and empowerment of Africans.
page 4
19 The Siege of Khartoum
General Gordon’s death was a sensation and a scandal in its day.
20 Clive of India
Robert Clive helped to establish a lasting bond between India and Britain, laying the foundations of modern India.
21 The Massacre at Amritsar
After one of the worst outrages in modern British history, Winston Churchill made sure there was no cover-up.
22 The Indian Mutiny
Army unrest spread throughout northeast India, and brought direct rule from London.
23 The Anglo-Zanzibar War
It lasted barely forty minutes, but it brought slavery to an end in the little island territory.
24 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.
page 5
25 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.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Verb or Noun?

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

Leave. Influence. Part.

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 ‘Mole’
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
Do you know ‘bashful’ (3), and ‘an open area of shrubs and coarse grass’ (5)?
Do you know ‘entertainer’ (7 letters), and ‘distant’ (3 letters)?
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Do you know ‘knock over and scatter’ (7 letters), and ‘a measure of length equal to 45 inches’ (3 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
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History (375)
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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.

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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.

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