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New podcasts on Equality, and on Liberty, in today's Britain (we're working on the Fraternity...)

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Is Liberty British? Hear a fascinating talk discussing this country's constitutional conundrums
Hear short extract
(MP3, 2min, 0.8MB)
Hear full debate
(MP3, 1hr 28min 35sec, 35MB)

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Mon 23 Feb: New Blake mosaics on Google map for 'The Tyger'

Blake mosaic in Carlisle Lane South, near Waterloo, south LondonA 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.

Blake sites map

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.

More about the minutes
Podcast talk

Mon 5 Jan: Old age pensions celebrate centenary, thanks to Booth

Man taking payment of pension on 1 Jan 1909, from Daily Record of 9 Jan 1909The 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.

Man taking payment of pension on 1 Jan 1909, from Daily Record of 9 Jan 1909The 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.

More about Booth's Poverty Map

Fri 2 Jan: Yet more blogs

Screen grab of blog about a visit to Taking LibertiesMore bloggers have been visiting the Taking Liberties exhibition during the holiday season.

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.

Blog index

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.

More about the People's Charter

Mon 15 Dec: Online Exhibits now with maps, photos

image of Google map of sites related to John Milton's ArepagiticaThe 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:

Magna Carta 1215
Map of Britain 1250
Chronicle of Mann 1261
Ayr Manuscript 1318
Declaration of Arbroath 1385
Pennal Letter 1406
Areopagitica 1644
Putney Debates 1647
Charles I death warrant 1649

Petition to Cromwell 1656
Locke's Treatises
Articles of Union 1706
Proceedings of House 1766
Gordon Riots 1780
Abolition minutes 1787
Rights of Man 1791
Rights of Woman 1792
Blake's notebook 1794

Black Dwarf 1817
Peterloo Report 1820
London WMA minutes 1836
People's Charter 1838
Booth Poverty map 1891
Gladstone's notes 1893
Wharry's scrapbook 1913
Oz trial 1971
Belfast Agreement 1998

Wed 10 Dec: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 60

logo of United Nations on original 1948 Universal Declaration of Human RightsIt 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.

UDHR, and Human Rights Act 1998
Human Rights Act: curator talk
UDHR at 60: blog

Tue 9 Dec: John Milton at 400

bust of John Milton in St Giles Cripplegate, LondonThe 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).

About Areopagitica
Milton map and photos
London map pre-Great Fire, early 1600s (Online Gallery)
London map post-Great Fire, 1670s (Online Gallery)

Curator's blog entry on Milton's 400th

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.

Magna Carta lecture
Human Rights Act

Curator's blog

Curator Matthew Shaw on today's key issues of rights and freedoms

Read blog


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