Lecturer: Cheda Panajotovic
The year 1492 is known as the year in which history books state that Christopher Columbus ‘DISCOVERED’ America. For many centuries, history was accepted and written to coincide with the Columbus stories that were taught in the USA. By replacing fiction with facts, most of the old myths are no longer seen as acceptable.
Christopher Columbus is now recognised as an avaricious man who went west in search of wealth, fame and title. He did not discover but instead he collided with a highly developed culture then prevalent on the Caribbean islands that was in many ways on par with that of Europe. His arrival in ‘The Americas’ was the very beginning of destruction, death, enslavement and misery for millions of innocent people.
At this moment in time there are places in the Americas where statues of Columbus are being destroyed and where the very name is seen as an unwelcome embarrassment to the truth. There is a likelihood that the very capital city of the USA – Washington, will no longer be synonymous with the mini state that is currently known as District of Columbia.
Lecturer: John Hopwood
This talk is entirely non-technical, given by someone who has never set foot on a submarine – leave alone sailed in one.
It opens with some surprising events in ancient history and ends at the outbreak of the first world war which was when submarines, as we know them today, began to be developed.
Surprisingly for many, the History of the Submarine commences with stories of Greek warriors using straws to survive underwater whilst removing obstructions placed to damage their ships in the harbour at Syracuse in Italy in 415BC and later using pigs’ bladders to contain and provide air at Thebes in 371BC.
In 321BC there were stories of Alexander the Great submerging in a glass sphere! However, the use of a submarine vessel began in England in 1620 when a Dutchman called Cornelius Drebbel built one for King James 1st.
Believe it or not – it was rowed underwater and it frequently remained submerged in the Thames for up to three hours. It is believed that even King James himself enjoyed a trip!
Development of the submarine really intensified during the American war of Independence when, in 1776, one was deployed – unsuccessfully – against the British warship HMS Eagle.
Later, during the American Civil War, in 1864, the first successful submarine attack occurred when The Hunley, a Confederate submarine, sank the 1,240-ton Unionist Sloop-of-War USS Housatonic.
As a result of this success the development of the submarine rapidly became a prime objective for many of the navies around the world.
Lecturer: Alan Hunton
John Flamsteed became a hugely influential astronomer and mathematician at the end of the 17th Century but why is it that he is so little known? Isaac Newton was a contemporary and it is probably true that without Flamsteed’s discoveries the laws of gravity may not have been formulated. So, in this talk we will discuss why it is that John Flamsteed is largely forgotten whereas Isaac Newton became famous even during his own lifetime.
These two scientists were born during the English Civil Wars and both contributed a huge amount of new knowledge to mathematics and astronomy. It is in this period that modern science, based on observed facts, replaced the philosophical beliefs that had been taught since the time of Aristotle.
Whilst Newton was busy at Trinity College Cambridge, Flamsteed was appointed by Charles II as England’s first Astronomer Royal. Flamsteed convinced the king that an observatory at Greenwich would help in the search for longitude. His meticulous observing skills attracted the attention of Newton. Initial correspondence was friendly but distrust led to a 30-year long feud. We will see how this tempestuous relationship played out and how Edmund Halley (of Comet fame) made matters worse. Brian Cox would never behave this badly!
Lecturer: Rosalind Miranda
Art is usually considered a uniquely human ability, but keep your minds open!
This talk will be divided into two parts: The first will concentrate on art made by animals other than humans, both in their natural environment and also when encouraged by humans. The second part will show some of the possibilities that can be produced by artificial intelligence.
For both of these types of art, some of the legal implications will also be discussed.
‘On a warm summer night in 1947, the largest Empire the world had ever seen did something no Empire had done before; it gave up. The British Empire did not decline, it simply fell; and it fell proudly and majestically on to its own sword’ (Alexandre von Tunzelmann 2007)
This complex story needs to be told from the beginning;
In 1600 Queen Elizabeth the First issued a charter to the 59 businessmen who had formed the East India Trading Company to commence commercial trade with Mughal India. The charter was for 15 years and was valid as long as the agreement remained profitable.
James the First amended that agreement and instead gave ‘John Company’, as it was colloquially known, a new open ended charter but it was Charles the second who gave the Company unlimited powers enabling the Directors to circumvent Parliament, establish a secretive headquarters in London, raise its own army in India, mint its own coins, impose its own laws and, taking advantage of the extreme length of time to communicate with London, generally behave much as it pleased.
India had so many immensely profitable riches that it was never the intention to colonise the continent- but persistent interference from especially the French, led to increasing military activity and a decision to finally defeat the French, and the Native forces who supported them.
England did eventually prevail and control was established over all but several of the larger independent, Princely States with whom Britain established amicable relationships.
All went relatively smoothly until paranoia about a perceived threat that Russia would invade India from the north, precipitated the First Afghan war in 1846. Subsequent humiliating defeats and a disastrous retreat from Kabul, combined with later disasters began to sow the seeds of dissent in certain political minds in India.
The rebellion of the Bengal Army (there were two other armies: Madras and Bombay) in 1857, known as the Great Mutiny, was caused by many factors that could and should have been avoided.
This resulted in the East India Company finally losing its charter and the British government taking direct control.
Military incompetence leading to further humiliating defeats by the Zulus and the Afghans in 1878-80 at Isandlwana and Maiwand plus dramatic events in the first half of the 20th century resulted in Britain’s presence in India becoming increasingly difficult and finally untenable.
The division of India in 1947 to create Pakistan, known as Partition, and the dreadful, religious violence that ensued will be the subject of a second talk.