The Habit of Return

What do the unsettling and astonishing multi-generational migratory habits of the monarch butterfly tell us about humans?... The multiple life stages of butterflies were strangely upsetting to me as a boy. Their transformations were supposed to inspire wonder, and the eruption of the adult butterfly from the pupa, I was told, ... Read More...

Michaelmas Goose

This coming Monday is Michaelmas, so you've still got time to get yourself a goose. Just make sure you don't pick any blackberries afterwards. Professor Nick Groom explains.... September 29 is Michaelmas: the Feast of Michael and All Angels. It was also one of the four quarter days of the English business ... Read More...

Come to the Fair

Forget Glastonbury and the Notting Hill carnival - the Bartholomew Fairs of old would have dwarfed them, and far outdone them for debauched behaviour too. For his August post, Prof Nick Groom looks at England's history of late summer fairs... The end of harvest in England was usually celebrated in the ... Read More...

A Walk in the Woods in Midsummer

Today is midsummer, and Professor Nick Groom turns his attention to the woods. Trees are a special part of our national identity, and they need us as much as we need them... Woods occupy a special place in the imaginative topography of England. The greenwood is the haunt and habitat of ... Read More...

Stonehenge and British art

Visiting Stonehenge this half-term? Here's Alexandra Harris' post on its influence on British culture, from Turner to Hepworth... Stonehenge is a good example of how a particular landmark in the English countryside could inspire different kinds of appreciation. Its image was particularly potent because it signified strength and endurance while at ... Read More...

To Whit, Spring Bank Holiday

From speaking in tongues to cheese rolling in Gloucester, this month Professor Nick Groom looks at the origins, customs and meaning of Whitsun... Whit Sunday is the seventh Sunday after Easter, also known as ‘Pentecost’ (from the Greek for fiftieth, counting inclusively). It is therefore part of the cat’s cradle of Eastertide dates ... Read More...

The Cuckoo and the Dragon

It's cuckoos, buck deer farts and alternative St George's day festivities this month, as Professor Nick Groom looks at the English April... What does a cuckoo sound like? Silly question: ‘cuck-oo!’ So imagine my surprise when a university lecturer confessed to me that she didn’t know and couldn’t recognize this seasonal ... Read More...

The Life of the Robin

Nige rediscovers a pioneering work of English natural history... The world was made to be inhabited by beasts, but studied and contemplated by man: 'tis the debt of our reason we owe unto God, and the homage we pay for not being beasts. Without this, the world is still as though ... Read More...