About This Site

Bite-sized tales of character, discovery and imagination, with grammar practice and word puzzles.

‘ENGLISH Language and History’ is based on school textbooks used across England from the 1930s to the 1960s. It offers over six hundred and eighty very short passages from history, myth and fiction, accompanied by light exercises in grammar, vocabulary and composition. Each passage is designed to take no more than 90 seconds to read.

Our Stories

This is not a course in English history or grammar: our purpose is simply to provide a wealth of material for reading, listening and writing practice. What the reader will find here is a miscellany of brief tales in no particular order, drawn not just from the British Isles, nor just from Europe (an unhealthy obsession) but from peoples and cultures all over the world.

Passages include ‘set piece’ events of British history such as The Battle of Hastings, The Great Fire of London and The Evacuation of Dunkirk, but there is much else besides.

There is the short but tumultuous history of Sunderland Albion FC, and the tale of how Arthur MacPherson made Russia into a sports-mad nation.

There is a profile of Mysore’s Golden Age, when Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV presided over ‘the best-administered state in the world’; and from the early years of the Industrial Revolution comes the story of The Hat that Changed the World.

Follow The Story of Moses as he leads the children of Israel on an epic journey to their promised land, and listen as the Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf takes us through The Six Leaps of Faith.

We reveal how terrible may be The Price of Treachery, and why Scottish economist Adam Smith thought it significant that ‘No dog exchanges bones with another’. In literature, we relive the classic moment when Oliver Twist announces ‘Please Sir, I Want Some More!’, and listen to The Nightingale and the Glow Worm work out who’s on the menu. And last but definitely not least, there are no fewer than nineteen Stories about Cats.

Our Heroes

‘English Language and History’ has been written for people who have no wish to bend all the peoples of Europe and the world to their own idea of justice or civilisation.

Consequently, our heroes are not people of power or political ideologues. They are entrepreneurs and inventors, novelists and musicians, saints and sinners, campaigners against slavery, and champions of liberal government, from Parliamentary reform to free trade.

Their struggles, sacrifices and achievements will surely appeal to those who desire neither lordship nor the wealth of nations – not even to do good, knowing that the desire of them corrupts the heart – but the making of useful and beautiful things, the healing of harms, and the friendship of equals. They will surely be an inspiration to those who can cherish all that seems worthy in the world without having to possess it or control it.

You might like:

Aesop of Samos (15)

Bible and Saints (114)

Cats, Dogs and Other Animals (22)

Character and Conduct (34)

Discovery and Invention (69)

Free Trade and Markets (14)

International Relations (12)

Extracts from Literature (95)

Greek Myths (31)

Liberty and Prosperity (64)

Music and Musicians (36)

A-Z Sitemap

Care is taken in writing our stories, but they are designed for private practice in reading, listening and writing, and are no substitute for balanced personal research.

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

On Freedom and Responsibility

Edmund Burke

MEN are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.

It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

From ‘A Letter to a Member of the French Assembly’ (1791).

See There is no Liberty without Self-Control

On the Website

IT’S a plan of my own invention. You may try it if you like.

The White Knight, in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ (1871).

Picture: © Aleem Yousaf, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
Flags flying from Admiralty Arch in London, which connects The Mall and Trafalgar Square. These flags are the naval White Ensign, combining the flag of St George with the flag of the United Kingdom.

About our calendars

Featured Music

Selected Stories
Based on a short story by Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
Part One. The sly cat hatches a plan to get all the benefits of domestic life without any of the responsibilities.
A warning not to be forgetful of others, even in triumph.
Timothy Hackworth (1786-1850) turned steam locomotives into a reliable commercial success.
The proof of Thomas Ferres’s rags-to-riches tale is quite literally written in stone, but popular lore adds some tantalising and romantic detail.
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
Forced from his throne and threatened with murder, Edwin makes a curious bargain for his deliverance.
Philip of Spain’s attempt to teach Elizabeth I a lesson did not go as planned.
Remembered as the inspiration of the famous Olympic road race, but much more important than that.
Nicholas used his inheritance to help three vulnerable girls escape a life of exploitation.
The martyr St Euphemia played a vital role in preventing the message of Christmas from being watered down.
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
The young monk taught some hard-hearted pagans a lesson they’d never forget.

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.

More like this: High Tiles Games with Words

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 Game) Mental Arithmetic