Saturday, 13 May 2017

Storms talk, North London




Thank you to the Friends of Highgate Library for inviting me to give a talk on my latest book Storm: Nature and Culture (Reaktion) last Thursday (May 11).

Very kind and appreciative audience.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Storm-Nature-Culture-John-Withington/dp/1780236611

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Free talk on storms TONIGHT, North London




What were the deadliest storms ever? Which storms changed the course of history?  How have storms been portrayed in literature, art and films? What impact have they had on religions?And are they going to get even stronger?

These are some of the topics I will be tackling in my free talk at Highgate Library Civic and Cultural Centre, Croftdown Road, London NW5 1HB at 1930 tonight.

The talk is based on my book, Storm: Nature and Culture (Reaktion).

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Free talk on storms - a week today, North London




What were the deadliest storms ever? Which storms changed the course of history? What impact have storms had on religions? How have they been portrayed in literature, art and films? And are they going to get even stronger?

These are some of the topics I will be tackling in my free talk at Highgate Library Civic and Cultural Centre, Croftdown Road, London NW5 1HB at 1930 on Thursday 11 May.

The talk is based on my book, Storm: Nature and Culture (Reaktion).


Friday, 21 April 2017

The power of lying. The Popish Plot Part 2


For part one, see my post of yesterday.

When Titus Oates presented his ‘evidence’ to the Privy Council, King Charles II tore it to shreds, but Oates had the support of the London mob, and standing up to him publicly - that was quite another matter. It would have caused an almighty row.

So the king did nothing to save from execution at least 15 people he must have known to be innocent, while Oates was heaped with honours and money.

But gradually people became more and more sceptical about Oates' claims, and in 1681 Charles had him arrested and imprisoned. And when the king was succeeded by his brother, the Catholic James II, who Oates had denounced, the perjurer was imprisoned for life, put in the pillory and whipped through the streets of London.


The story was not quite over, though. When James was deposed by his daughter Mary and his son-in-law, William III, Oates was pardoned, released and given a pension.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The power of lying. The Popish Plot Part 1

Some of the Brexit strategists and bankrollers think they are awfully clever to have conned people into supporting them by a campaign of mendacity and deceit, but actually there’s nothing new about lying in order to achieve a political objective, even in England.

Back in 1678, Titus Oates (pictured)  was in a tight corner. His cv included being expelled from school, failing to get a degree at Cambridge, then falsely claiming he had one to get ordained as a Church of England priest. Next he had lied about a schoolteacher whose job he wanted, accusing him of sodomy.

This time Oates got arrested for perjury, but he escaped and in 1675 managed to get a job as a ship’s chaplain. The following year he was sacked for buggery, and arrested again for perjury, but managed to escape again.

Next he tried his hand at becoming a Catholic priest, but got expelled from three different seminaries. What on earth was he to do? Oates decided to turn to the thing he did best. Lying. In September 1678, he concocted fake news on a heroic scale, claiming there was a huge foreign-backed Roman Catholic plot, involving hundreds of priests and nobles.

They were planning a Catholic takeover of England while the Queen’s doctor and her sister-in-law’s secretary were to assassinate King Charles II.


To be continued…………….

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

North Korean famines



North Korea does not just make the headlines for missile and nuclear bomb tests, it is also well-known for famines. Though there is plenty of money for military hardware, the hardline Communist regime often struggles to feed its own people.

In such a secretive country, it is hard to be sure which was its most disastrous famine, but there were fears that one in the first decade of the 21st century may have killed up to 3.5 million people, with tens of thousands fleeing into China, and women being sold as brides or forced into brothels and illegal sweatshops.

A decade earlier, in 1994, defectors were reporting things had got so bad that old people were going out into the fields to die so their families would not have to feed them. As floods and drought struck in 1995-97, the government had to appeal for international help while it appeared to be channelling what food there was to the army of one million and party activists.

In 1998, a visiting research team from the US State Congress estimated that at least 900,000 had died of starvation over the previous 3 years, though it reckoned the real figure might be as high as 2.4 million. Malnutrition was also widespread.

For more see A Disastrous History of the World. See also my posts of 22 September 2010, 26 May 2011 and 31 January 2016.


Friday, 31 March 2017

Free talk on storms - May 11



A note for your diary. I am booked to give a free talk on storms, based on my book Storm: Nature and Culture at 7.30 pm on May 11 at Highgate Library Civic and Cultural Centre, Croftdown Road, London NW5 1HB.

More details nearer the time.