Stranger Than We Can Imagine
By John Higgs
The twentieth century should make sense. It's the period of history that we know the most about, an epic geo-political narrative that runs through World War One, the great depression, World War Two, the American century and the fall of the Berlin Wall. But somehow that story doesn't quite lead into the world we find ourselves in now, this bewildering twenty-first century, adrift in a network of constant surveillance, unsustainable competition, tsunamis of trivia and extraordinary opportunity.Time, then, for a new perspective. With John Higgs as our guide, we step off the main path and wander through some of the more curious backwaters of the twentieth century, exploring familiar and unfamiliar territory alike, finding fresh insight on our journey to the present day. We travel in the company of some of the most radical artists, scientists, geniuses and crazies of their age. They show us that great innovations such as relativity, cubism, quantum mechanics, postmodernism and chaos maths are not the incomprehensible, abstract horrors that we assume them to be, but signposts that bring us to the world we live in now.John Higgs brings us an alternative history of the strangest of centuries. He shows us how the elegant, clockwork universe of the Victorians became increasingly woozy and uncertain; and how we discovered that our world is not just stranger than we imagine but, in the words of Sir Arthur Eddington, 'stranger than we can imagine'.
By David Hall
The astonishing story of the project that launched Mass Observation In the late 1930s the Lancashire town of Bolton witnessed a ground-breaking social experiment. Over three years, a team of ninety observers recorded, in painstaking detail, the everyday lives of ordinary working people at work and play - in the pub, dance hall, factory and on holiday. Their aim was to create an 'anthropology of ourselves'. The first of its kind, it later grew into the Mass Observation movement that proved so crucial to our understanding of public opinion in future generations. The project attracted a cast of larger-than-life characters, not least its founders, the charismatic and unconventional anthropologist Tom Harrisson and the surrealist intellectuals Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings. They were joined by a disparate band of men and women - students, artists, writers and photographers, unemployed workers and local volunteers - who worked tirelessly to turn the idle pleasure of people-watching into a science. Drawing on their vivid reports, photographs and first-hand sources, David Hall relates the extraordinary story of this eccentric, short-lived, but hugely influential project. Along the way, he creates a richly detailed, fascinating portrait of a lost chapter of British social history, and of the life of an industrial northern town before the world changed for ever.Published in partnership with the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex, which holds the papers of the British social research organisation Mass Observation from 1937 to the early 1950s, as well as new material collected continuously since 1981 about everyday life in Britain.www.massobs.org.uk@MassObsArchive
A Million Years in a Day
By Greg Jenner
'A wonderful idea, gloriously put into practice. Greg Jenner as is witty as he is knowledgeable' - Tom HollandWho invented beds? When did we start cleaning our teeth? How old are wine and beer? Which came first: the toilet seat or toilet paper? What was the first clock? Every day, from the moment our alarm clock wakes us in the morning until our head hits our pillow at night, we all take part in rituals that are millennia old. Structured around one ordinary day, A MILLION YEARS IN A DAY reveals the astonishing origins and development of the daily practices we take for granted. In this gloriously entertaining romp through human history Greg Jenner explores the gradual and often unexpected evolution of our daily routines.This is not a story of politics, wars or great events, instead Greg Jenner has scoured Roman rubbish bins, Egyptian tombs and Victorian sewers to bring us the most intriguing, surprising and sometimes downright silly nuggets from our past. Drawn from across the world, spanning a million years of humanity, this book is a smorgasbord of historical delights. It is a history of all those things you always wondered - and many you have never considered. It is the story of your life, one million years in the making.