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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 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.

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

On History

St Bede of Jarrow

I WARMLY welcome the genuine eagerness with which you make the effort to acquaint yourself in detail with the sayings and doings of earlier generations, and particularly the famous men of our own nation.

For if history relates good things about good men, the attentive listener is stirred to imitate what is good; whereas if it records the evil done by wicked men, the listener will himself be all aflame to pursue, more skilfully than before, those things which he knows are good and worthy in God’s eyes.

Abridged from Bede’s ‘History of the English Church and People’, completed in 731 and dedicated to King Ceolwulf of Northumbria.

See The Lessons of History

AZ Index

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


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.