What's new on this website
New podcasts on Equality, and on Liberty, in today's Britain (we're working on the Fraternity...)
Mon 23 Feb: New Blake mosaics on Google map for 'The Tyger'
A series of mosaics after designs by William Blake have just been unveiled near to where Blake lived and worked in Lambeth, south London, not far from Waterloo station.
So we've added them to the map of Blake-related sites which accompanies the exhibition item The Tyger.
Thu 19 Feb: Is Liberty British? – podcast
We've put up this recording from Wednesday 28 January, of one of the events accompanying the Taking Liberties exhibition. Two experts on British history ask how British is the notion of liberty: Princeton Professor Linda Colley, guest curator of Taking Liberties; and Professor AC Grayling, writer and professor of philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London.
Covering every major domestic constitutional event from the Laws of Forests to the Human Rights Act, this debate is required listening for anyone interested in history, warning us about mistakes of the past that are being repeated today.
Thu 12 Feb: Equality and Human Rights in modern Britain – podcast
We've put up this recording from Tuesday 27 January, of one of the events accompanying the Taking Liberties exhibition. Trevor Phillips, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, asks why human rights has such a bad press when it's such a good thing – and talks about the best way to make it work for a better Britain.
Listen to find out how the Human Rights Act is misunderstood and misused, and how it can be made to work for all of us - and, only half-jokingly, what the Jeremy Kyle show can teach us about it.
Tue 20 Jan: Debate on tackling climage change – podcast
We've put up this recording from Wednesday 14 January, of one of the events accompanying the Taking Liberties exhibition. Five experts debate how we can best tackle the biggest single issue facing us all - climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.
The panel was chaired by climate change broadcaster Dr Gabrielle Walker and included Simon Retallack, Andy Atkins, Ken Livingstone and David North.
Listen to the full debate to find out why it doesn't matter from a greenhouse gas point of view whether you buy milk from next door or the other end of Britain; how Tesco halved plastic-bag use at a stroke; how we could halve our emissions without changing lifestyles; and how to persuade politicians to make it happen.
Tue 6 Jan: First meeting of the anti-slavery committee – podcast
We've added a new podcast. It discusses a very historic item in the exhibition: the minute-book of the first ever meeting of the committee for abolishing slavery.
The group included such notable anti-slavery figures at Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp and William Wilberforce. Of those, only Sharp was present at that first meeting in George Yard, London, on 22 May 1787.
In the nine-minute podcast, which includes a full transcript, slavery researcher Nigel Sadler talks about what this extraordinary item tells us – perhaps sometimes without intending to – about attitudes to the slave trade, and about British society of the time.
You can also read about the minute book, and explore some of today's London sights associated with slave history.
Mon 5 Jan: Old age pensions celebrate centenary, thanks to Booth
The state pension in Britain celebrates its centenary in January 2009.
The proposal to pay a weekly pension to the old had been around since Thomas Paine's Rights of Man in 1791.
A century later, Charles Booth's Poverty Map of London (top image) showed that levels of deprivation in the capital were much worse than previously thought.
Following years of campaigning, Liberal Chancellor Herbert Asquith managed to juggle the Budget to free up funds for a free state pension. As Prime Minister he saw it through Parliament in August 1908.
The first pensions were paid a century ago, on 1 Jan 1909 (2 January in Scotland). The picture above, from the Daily Record of 9 Jan 1909, shows a man receiving his pension on that historic first day. The other image shows one of the first payment slips for the pension, in the form of a 'postal order'.
At a thanksgiving service held on 3 Jan Frederick Rogers, secretary of the NCOL, acknowledged Booth's considerable work and added: "Pensions were given to the aged, not as a charity, but as a right."
So, as the old age pension itself reaches 100, we've updated the Online Exhibit description about Booth's poverty map to acknowlege his part in securing some security for the retired.
Fri 2 Jan: Yet more blogs
We keep a regular eye on who's writing what about us, and list them all in our blog index, which is updated daily. The list includes a brief extract to give a flavour of their entry, and a link to it.
We don't link to simple announcements or notifications. However, we do link to all blogs that give some sort of opinion, irrespective of how positive.
But out of the 48 blogs we've found so far, at least 46 rate us very highly.
They're a mixed bunch: campaigners, flaneurs, philosophers, gap-year diarists, political journalists... and plenty who make no claims about what they're doing, but who simply enjoy sharing their experiences.
The latest list is linked below. Browse and enjoy.
Thu 18 Dec: Women's rights, what now? – podcast
We've added a podcast of the debate chaired by Polly Toynbee at the British Library on 4 December on women's rights in the 21st century.
You can read a short review of the event, and hear the entire 90-minute debate – or listen to a two-minute extract.
Mon 15 Dec: People's Charter is newest Online Exhibit
We've added a new Online Exhibit: the People's Charter of 1838.
It was published by the reformist group the Chartists. The electoral system then was hopelessly unrepresentative – only a few percent of the population, all of them wealthy men, could vote – and still had to shake off long-entrenched corruption.
The Charter, styled as an 'updated Magna Carta', was a plan to put right those inequalities.
Mon 15 Dec: Online Exhibits now with maps, photos
The addition of the People's Charter brings the total of Online Exhibits to 40.
Every one has an in-depth description; almost all have both a high-resolution image and extremely high-resolution zoomable image.
And now, 27 of them also have Google maps, which relate the exhibits to sites you can see today round the British Isles. Most of the sites are illustrated with high-resolution photographs.
The majority of the Google maps show sites in central London. For these items, where appropriate, we link to historical maps from the British Library's Online Gallery showing how the city was at the time of the relevant item.
Here is a full list of Online Exhibits which have Google maps:
Wed 10 Dec: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 60
It was 60 years ago today since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You can see our Online Exhibit about both the UDHR, and about the Human Rights Act 1998, which sprang from it.
There's also a six-minute curator talk on the Human Rights Act by our curator Ian Cooke. Another of our curators, Matthew Shaw, blogged about the anniversary.
Tue 9 Dec: John Milton at 400
The great English poet and polemicist John Milton was born 400 years ago today, on 9 Dec 1608.
He is chiefly known for his epic account of Adam and Eve's fall, Paradise Lost, published in 1667. But his pamphlet Areopagitica of 1644, a powerful argument against censorship and for press freedom, is just as significant. Indeed, it's a key document on display in the Taking Liberties exhibition.
To mark the Milton anniversary, we've added Areopagitica to the Online Exhibits section of this website.
We've also added an illustrated Google maps page, pinpointing today's locations in and around London associated with Milton – his birthplace, his homes, and his burial site – complete with photographs.
Compare the London shown on today's map with that of Milton's lifetime. St Giles Cripplegate, his burial site, appears in all of them (it's labelled '100' in the 1666 map below).
Fri 5 Dec: Podcasts
New additions to the audio section include an absorbing 70-minute lecture on Magna Carta, and that curator talk on the Human Rights Act mentioned above.