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Archive for April, 2013
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Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Historical articles, History, Literature, War on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about Troy originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 237 published on 30 July 1966.
A Trojan warrior returns at the end of the day to his wife and child at home within the walled city of Troy by Ron Embleton
The story of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, which Homer described in his epic poem, the Iliad, was as far removed from him in time as we are from Elizabethan England. The Greek poet Homer lived about 900 B.C. and the war took place at least 300 years earlier. It ended with the Greeks utterly destroying the city of Troy. Any Trojans who survived the war were enslaved or became fugitives.
But did Troy ever really exist, or was it simply born of Homer’s imagination? This question was argued for centuries, and those who claimed that there had once been a real city called Troy pointed to a particular spot in Turkey, about three miles from the coast. Here a low mound rises about 120 feet above the plain. The Turks called it Hissarlik, which means “castle”, for there were fort-like ruins upon its summit, and from the very earliest days tradition asserted that this was the true site of Troy.
Xerxes, Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Julius Caesar – all visited the spot and paid homage to the mighty dead of the war. Nevertheless, scholars mocked at the idea that Troy was buried within the mound. Homer could not be used as a guide, they said, for he was a poet, not an historian, and he was writing centuries after the events he described.
In any case Troy, according to Homer, had been situated on beetling cliffs – a description which hardly applied to the unimpressive hillock of Hissarlik. The most likely spot was the steep cliffs near a place called Bunarbashi, 36 miles from the coast.
No one troubled to do anything practical about the problem, however, until 1873, when a German, Heinrich Schliemann, confounded the scholars by the simple method of actually digging.
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Posted in Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Ships, World War 2 on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about the Second World War originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 237 published on 30 July 1966.
The merchant cruiser Jervis Bay fought to the death when a British convoy was ambushed in the North Atlantic by Graham Coton
By the autumn of 1940, the RAF had won the Battle of Britain and saved the country from invasion by the enemy. But the Royal Navy was only beginning the long-drawn-out Battle of the Atlantic. Already losses in merchant shipping had reached the appalling figure of over one million tons lost in three months, with only five U-boats sunk in the same period. The convoy system, so successful in World War I, had been introduced, but as yet protection for the convoys was hopelessly inadequate.
On the evening of Monday, 28th October, 1940, Convoy H.X.84 left Halifax, Nova Scotia escorted by the armed merchant cruiser Jervis Bay. For ten days or more they would face the dangers of the North Atlantic, not only from the enemy, but from the gales and icy winds which took their own toll of ships and men.
On board Jervis Bay there was a mixed ship’s company. Some, like Captain Fogarty Fegen, were regular naval men. The majority were in the Royal Naval Reserve or came from a motley assortment of civilian occupations.
Captain Fegen controlled his crew of 256 officers and men with a sure touch which knitted them together into one of the most efficient and keen ship’s companies in the Navy. They had learned how to fire their seven guns as well as could be expected of them, considering that the majority of these guns were stamped with dates around the 1900 mark!
Of the 37 ships in the convoy, 11 were tankers, and a few were from foreign countries – from Norway, Holland, Greece and Sweden.
Six days earlier, Captain Krancke, commander of the German pocket battleship Scheer, had manoeuvred his ship from alongside the quay at Kiel and sailed for northern waters. Like the Jervis Bay, Captain Krancke had a mixed crew, and among the 1,300 men on board there was a fair sprinkling of reservists.
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Posted in Animals, Australia, Birds, Nature, Wildlife on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about parrots originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 237 published on 30 July 1966.
From as far back in history as we can go, primitive tribes have kept parrots as pets. The Ancient Greeks and Romans kept parrots, and when English seamen went out to the Spanish Main to harass ships from West Africa to the West Indies, a parrot became almost as great a prize to bring back as a pocketful of doubloons.
Parrots are related to pigeons on the one hand, and to cuckoos on the other. Yet they are unlike both of these in appearance. And they are so unlike all other birds that nobody has any difficulty in telling a parrot when he sees one. All have large heads, short necks, two toes in front and two behind, and they all have strong, hooked beaks.
As might be expected, because they are scattered all round the globe, the members of this family are known by many different names, such as parrots, cockatoos, parakeets, macaws, lovebirds, parrotlets and budgerigars, as well as many others. It would take too long to tell how one kind differs from another, there are more than 300 species, but in general, all parrots are brightly coloured, easily tamed, and can learn to talk. The range of sizes is large. Some, like the pygmy parrots of Papua, are no bigger than a sparrow, while the gaudy macaws of South America may be over three feet long. A good way to identify two of the more usual kinds is that cockatoos have erectile crests and parakeets usually have long, pointed tails.
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Posted in Engineering, Famous Inventors, Historical articles, History, Inventions, Trade on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about John Spencer originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 237 published on 30 July 1966.
John Spencer seeing the accidentally sheet of metal which gave him an idea which revolutionised the building trade, by John Millar Watt
In the 1840s, railways were spreading rapidly across England. The Spencer Iron Works in Birmingham was making rails for a new line to run between London and Worcester via Oxford. In those days, rails were shaped rather like a broad upside-down “U”.
One day, a sheet of metal serving as a protection for men working on the rail – making machine, worked loose and was pulled into the machine. It emerged thoroughly crunched into a series of waves. The workmen cast it aside, put up a new sheet and got on with the job.
John Spencer, master of the ironworks, was walking round the works, checking that everything was running smoothly, when he saw the spoiled sheet. He picked it up.
Instead of flopping about as a thin sheet of metal normally would, it remained straight and rigid. Spencer stared at it. He stood it up and leaned his weight on it. It did not bend.
Spencer stood still for several minutes. Here was a marvellous new process which actually increased the strength of metal sheets! The sheets would be cheap to produce, easy to transport. They would revolutionise the building industry . . .
Spencer obtained a patent and started manufacturing corrugated sheets, and other iron masters soon followed his example. The sheets were made from wrought or puddled iron.
They were corrugated in the black (raw) state and were then galvanised by dipping in an open bath of molten zinc, to prevent corrosion or rusting. In the early days of the process, the output was small, and the cost higher than John Spencer had anticipated, but the quality was excellent and showed great promise.
In 1860, the corrugating of steel sheets became a commercial proposition, but they were produced only in heavy gauges, and it was not until 30 years later that light gauges were successfully achieved.
By 1891, the total production of corrugated metal exceeded 200,000 tons, 75 per cent of which was exported. The sheets were used for roofing, siding, fume-ducts and culverts, etc. Some of this sheeting is still in use, although it was fixed in place more than 60 years ago.
Nowadays, cardboard, aluminium, plastics and most malleable materials may be corrugated to increase their strength – and all because of that incident at the Spencer works in 1843.
Posted in Education, Historical articles, History, Religion on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about Robert Raikes originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.
Robert Raikes, the Founder of Sunday Schools, and the House where the First Sunday School was held in hare Lane, Gloucester, in 1780
Ever since the earliest days of Christianity there have been special arrangements for explaining the teaching of the church to children.
What was called the catechism (a Greek word for “teaching”) formed a part of the earliest Prayer Books, including those first published in English. In them the teaching took the form of question and answer, and we still talk sometimes about “catechizing” people when we ask them a lot of questions.
In England the custom from the time of the Reformation was for the children to come into church after the second lesson at the evening service, and to be taught the catechism, there and then. Such things as Children’s Church or Sunday Schools were unknown.
It was a Gloucester man, Robert Raikes, who planned the first Sunday Schools. Raikes was born in 1735, and, as a young man, became more and more troubled at the fact that so many children in the towns were growing up in ignorance and idleness. On Sundays many of them got into all kinds of mischief and trouble, and the day seemed to mean nothing to them as a Christian holy day – which is what a “holiday” really means.
He therefore decided to gather all those who were willing to come into a large hall, and to give them some instruction. At first it was almost impossible to get them quiet. He is said to have amused them with a mop on the end of a pole to gain their attention. Gradually they were organised into classes, with senior pupils in charge. He called these senior pupils “monitors” and was the first to do so.
These were on both Sunday mornings and afternoons. All sorts of things were taught in addition to Scripture. Many children could neither read nor write, for there was no national system of compulsory education at that time. Simple arithmetic was also taught, and the parents of poor families were glad to take advantage of such opportunities for their children.
A number of people were strongly opposed to Sunday Schools. Some regarded them as a breaking of the Sabbath: others feared that too much popular education would pave the way for revolution! But the movement spread.
John Wesley wrote to Robert Raikes in warm support of what he called “this blessed work of Sunday Schools”, and before Raikes died in 1811 the movement had become nation-wide and the National Sunday School Union had been founded.
A statue of Robert Raikes, bearing the words “founder of Sunday Schools” and showing him with an open book in his hand, stands in the garden on the Thames Embankment in London.
Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Medicine, World War 1 on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about Hugh Walpole originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.
Sir Hugh Walpole based one of his books on his experiences during the First World War when he tended wounded soldiers for the Red Cross in Russia, by Frank Lea
Sir Hugh Walpole believed that we have two sides to our natures, one good and one evil, and that they are continually fighting each other. This struggle provides the theme for much of his writing, and earned him a reputation as one of the foremost novelists between the two World Wars.
But he wrote many happier books – his family sagas, childhood stories, and a series of novels set in Cornwall helped to add to his wide popularity.
Hugh Walpole was born at Auckland, New Zealand, in 1884, the son of a clergyman who later became Bishop of Edinburgh. When he was five, he sailed with the rest of his family to England, which was to become his true home. He did not enjoy school very much, and it was not until he went to Cambridge that he really settled down in England.
After a short, unhappy spell as a schoolmaster, he worked as a book reviewer, and in 1909 published his first novel, The Wooden Horse, a story of a Cornish family. He quickly followed this with Maradick at Forty, and Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill, a novel about two schoolmasters, which attracted much attention.
His service with the Red Cross in Russia during the First World War gave him the material for two impressive novels, The Dark Forest, and The Secret City. Then, in 1919, he published Jeremy, the first of three books about childhood, which became very popular.
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Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about John Keats originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.
John Keats in his last illness from the sketch by Joseph Severn
A gloomy mass of ivy partly hides the front door of a house in Keats Grove, Hampstead, which was once, as the old brown plaque on the wall explains, the home of John Keats. The house is now maintained as a museum.
Keats was born at the “Swan and Hoop”, Moorfields, son of the head ostler at the inn’s livery stable. Reports of his early school life gave little indication of the “poet within”, for fun and fighting seemed his only interests.
Among his friends John Keats had a reputation for daring and generosity, a reputation he maintained even after he was seized by a love for books and study. He found himself drawn particularly to classical mythology and he won all the school literary prizes available to him.
At 15 he was apprenticed to a surgeon but he still found time to visit his old school, where his literary flair was encouraged. His writing was at that time imitative and showed very little promise.
His medical tutor probably had the same opinion of his medical work which led to quarrels and the apprenticeship being broken off by common consent. Despite this, Keats continued to study surgery at the London teaching hospitals – St. Thomas’s and Guy’s. It was at the latter that he was appointed dresser in 1816.
This was also the year in which he passed his medical examination and his poems came into print.
His heart was not in surgery, however, and although he performed a few operations, in 1817 he gave it up.
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Posted in Historical articles, History, Religion, Royalty, War on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about the First Crusade originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.
Richard the Lionheart on the First Crusade
The Crusades to the Holy Land of Palestine, which began in the late 11th century, were inspired by a mixture of deep religious faith and selfish intrigue.
In 1095, Pope Urban II made a great speech at Clermont in France, in which he urged men to lay aside their personal quarrels and go to Palestine, to rescue the Holy City of Jerusalem which had fallen into the hands of the Infidel Turks.
Thousands took the Pope’s words to heart and set off to the Holy Land in pursuit of a religious ideal. But among the leaders were men of high rank but little authority in their own countries who were anxious to acquire land and power in the East.
Thus the glory of the Crusade lay with the armies who fought in the spirit of faith: for most of the leaders, the journey to the Holy Land was a rewarding “business” trip.
It is said that even the most hardened among the crusaders was moved by the sight of the Holy City. After a month’s siege, Jerusalem was finally captured in July, 1099. The Crusaders were so carried away by their victory that they slaughtered the inhabitants of the city. Blood ran down the streets and men splashed through it as they rode.
With Jerusalem won, some settlement had to be made and a ruler chosen. Godfrey de Bouillon was elected on July 22, 1099, but refusing to style himself King of Jerusalem, took the title and responsibility of “Defender of the Holy Sepulchre”.
Jerusalem was one of four states founded in Palestine under Western rulers. In this way both the religious ideal and the material motives behind the Crusade were temporarily satisfied.
Posted in Architecture, Art, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Trade on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about Henry Tate originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.
It was through lumps of sugar that London got its Tate Gallery, which was opened to the public on July 21, 1897.
In 1834, when 15-year-old Henry Tate started work in a Liverpool grocer’s shop, sugar was sold in either granular form or in large pieces weighing several pounds (one of these pieces was called a “loaf”). Tate realized that it would be much more convenient if people could buy their sugar in small lumps, each containing about as much sugar as a teaspoon would hold.
When he set up in business as a sugar refiner a few years later, Tate invented a machine for cutting sugar loaves into small cubes for household use. The idea proved tremendously popular and Tate made a huge fortune from the sale of his sugar lumps.
Tate believed that some, at least, of the wealth he had made from the public should be devoted to the public good. He built and equipped the Hahnemann Hospital in Liverpool, provided libraries for Liverpool and Manchester universities, and public libraries at Brixton, Streatham and Lambeth.
A life-long enthusiast for 19th-century art, Tate formed a collection of nearly 100 paintings by the outstanding artists of his day. In 1892, he offered his collection to the nation on condition that the government provided a site for a gallery to house them. He also promised £80,000 for the cost of building the gallery.
This offer was accepted and the Tate National Gallery of Modern Art was built on the banks of the Thames. Two years later, Tate doubled its accommodation at his own expense. Other benefactors added new galleries to the Tate, which now houses some 3,000 works by British painters and sculptors and about 500 by foreign artists.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Sport, Sporting Heroes on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about W G Grace originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.
William Gilbert Grace, born on July 18, 1848, became one of the greatest cricketers of all time. Although he qualified as a doctor, his whole life was devoted to cricket.
He came from a famous cricketing family. His father, also a doctor, was a well-known player, and his two brothers both played for Gloucestershire and England.
W. G. Grace was in the team which in 1880 played the first Test Match against Australia, and he subsequently captained the England eleven in all the Tests until 1899.
An unrivalled batsman, Grace scored 54,000 runs between 1863 and 1900, his best single total being 344 (out of 546) for the M.C.C. against Kent in 1876.
His total of 126 three-figure innings in first-class cricket remained a record until it was beaten by Jack Hobbs in 1925. Grace also passed the double century on ten occasions; three times his score in a single innings was a triple century; and on three occasions he made a century in both innings of a match.
Besides being a superb batsman, Grace was an outstanding bowler. During his career he took a total of 2,800 wickets, and in each of seven seasons took over 100 wickets. Once, in an innings against Oxford University, he took all ten wickets.
On another occasion, Grace and his spaniel defeated the St. George’s Club, Bristol. The Club batted, Grace bowled, and the spaniel “fielded”. When Grace went in to bat, nothing could move him.
Over six feet tall and with a long, black beard, Grace was always an impressive figure at the wicket. He died on October 23, 1915.