Category Archives: History

Wonder food

ns_logoIN April 1789, Lieutenant William Bligh set off from the Pacific island of Tahiti to sail halfway round the world to Jamaica. Twenty-three days into the voyage, his crew mutinied. They set him adrift in the Bounty’s launch, along with 18 men who were loyal to him, and dumped the ship’s cargo overboard. That cargo included 1000 breadfruit plants destined for the Jamaican sugar plantations, whose owners were clamouring for a cheap and reliable source of food for their slaves…

This article was first published in New Scientist on 28 June 2014. To continue reading, click here.

 

White War

telegraphFacebookAT first glance Peio is a small alpine ski resort like many others in northern Italy. In winter it is popular with middle-class Italians as well as, increasingly, Russian tourists. In summer there’s good hiking in the Stelvio National Park. It has a spa, shops that sell a dozen different kinds of grappa, and, perhaps, aspirations to be the next Cortina. A cable car was inaugurated three years ago, and a multi-storey car park is under construction…

This article was first published in the Telegraph Magazine on 22 March 2014. Click here to continue reading.

Human cycles

page11-nature_logoSOMETIMES, history really does seem to repeat itself. After the US Civil War, for example, a wave of urban violence fuelled by ethnic and class resentment swept across the country, peaking in about 1870. Internal strife spiked again in around 1920, when race riots, workers’ strikes and a surge of anti-Communist feeling led many people to think that revolution was imminent. And in around 1970, unrest crested once more, with violent student demonstrations, political assassinations, riots and terrorism…

This article was first published in Nature  on 1 August 2012. To continue reading click here.

Wanda

titlepieceI met Wanda (pronounced Vanda) in late 2003, a year before she became my mother-in-law. She was nearly 80 and her mind was as sharp as a scalpel. Behind her glasses, her pale-blue eyes sparkled with intelligence. She disliked sentimentality but was a sucker for beauty, and would gaze in rapture at the ice-dancing on television. She was happy when surrounded by family, but she had a more private pleasure too: losing herself in the city. She would wander aimlessly through the streets of London and, though short-sighted, would leave her glasses behind when she went…

This article first appeared in the Guardian on 9 June 2007. To continue reading click here.

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