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english language and history .com
Very short stories from history, myth and fiction
with traditional exercises in grammar and composition.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND HISTORY .COM is a collection of very short stories from history, myth and fiction, with traditional-style practice in grammar and composition.

On Good English

N. L. Clay

“IF ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ are to be more than catchwords, clear communication must be the rule, and not the exception. In a totalitarian state it may be sufficient for the dictator and his henchmen to be able to use straightforward language. Do we want a society in which placid masses take their orders from bosses?

“The alternative to government by force is government by persuasion. The latter must mean that the governed can talk back to the governors.”

From ‘Straightforward English’ (1949), by schoolmaster N. L. Clay

See Straightforward English

On Tales and Imagination

Charles Dickens

“FORBEARANCE, courtesy, consideration for poor and aged, kind treatment of animals, love of nature, abhorrence of tyranny and brute force - many such good things have been first nourished in the child's heart by this powerful aid.

“Every one who has considered the subject knows full well that a nation without fancy, without some romance, never did, never can, never will, hold a great place under the sun.”

On fairy-tales. From ‘Frauds on the Fairies’, by novelist Charles Dickens

See Presumption and Innocence

On British Culture

Leslie Howard

“WE have also taken the Roman ideal of just administration, the Greek ideal of democracy and freedom of art, and the French tradition of the family unit, along with the Norse courage and loyalty and the Christian faith.

Like all people, we have made some mistakes and have committed some crimes during our history, but we can say that we have built something worthy of our defence.”

From a radio broadcast ‘New Order in Europe’, 23/24 December 1940, by actor Leslie Howard

See Britain’s Destiny

About the Grammar Games

AFTER most of the stories and many of the puzzles, you will find a selection of language games for testing and practising your command of English grammar, vocabulary and composition.

These games are based on textbooks used in Grammar Schools and Secondary Moderns from the 1920s to the 1960s. There is rarely a single ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer: their purpose is to invite imagination and creativity.

From the Editor

I started this site as a pastime during a long period of ill-health, which regrettably continues to this day. I make no claim to professional expertise as a historian or a linguist or anything else: the purpose of this site is to share my discoveries as I try to deepen my knowledge of, and appreciation for, the culture, history and heroes of the British Isles.

Picture: Yew Tree Farm cottage near Coniston Lake in Cumbria. Beatrix Potter lived here in the 1930s. By Peter Trimming, Geograph. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0.