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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: biography, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 675
1. Heroes of Social Work

Few professions aspire to improve the quality of life for people and communities around the globe in the same way as social work. Social workers strive to bring about positive changes in society and for individuals, often against great odds. And so it follows that the theme for this year's National Social Work Month in the United States is "Social Work Paves the Way for Change."

The post Heroes of Social Work appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Selfies, Memoir, and the World Beyond the Self

When I was a teenager in Colorado during the late '90s, I liked to climb 14ers — 14,000-foot mountains. I'd often hike with friends, and at the top we'd take a photograph of ourselves standing on the summit. We'd set the camera on a rock and use the timer function, or, if another hiker happened [...]

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3. Pilgrim’s Wilderness

Tom Kizzia's Pilgrim's Wilderness is a riveting blend of true crime and environmental studies set in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in remote Alaska. In 2002 a bearded stranger and his wife and fourteen children arrived in McCarthy, Alaska, to claim in a deserted mining camp deep in the wilderness, and proceeded to blaze roads [...]

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4. Into Thin Air

A deadly storm striking tragedy on unsuspecting climbers isn't subject matter I would typically expect to inspire adventure. Yet Jon Krakauer's riveting account of a disastrous 1999 ascent of Mt. Everest did just that. At its heart, this outstanding book thrillingly recounts an ill-fated and deadly climb. But the remarkable reportage also captures the striking [...]

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5. Unbossed, unbought, and unheralded

March is Women’s History Month and as the United States gears up for the 2016 election, I propose we salute a pathbreaking woman candidate for president. No, not Hillary Rodham Clinton, but Shirley Chisholm, who became the first woman and the first African American to seek the nomination of the Democratic Party for president. And yet far too often Shirley Chisholm is seen as just a footnote or a curiosity, rather than as a serious political contender who demonstrated that a candidate who was black or female or both belonged in the national spotlight.

The post Unbossed, unbought, and unheralded appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. One in the Oven; or, Why You Should Suck It Up and Meet Your Favorite Author

At first, I was dead set against it. I would not try to meet Nicholson Baker while I was writing a book about Nicholson Baker. I had a good reason for this. I didn't want to meet Baker because Baker, in U and I, his fretful, hand-wringing account of his literary relationship with John Updike, [...]

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7. Erik Larson: The Powells.com Interview

I've been a fan of Erik Larson's riveting brand of narrative history for years, and his latest book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, is his finest work yet. Suspenseful and expertly researched, Dead Wake transports the reader to the Atlantic theatre of WWI, where the luxury passenger liner Lusitania and a German [...]

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8. Beyond the Headlines: How to Visit Cuba

Ever since President Obama's December announcement that the United States is resuming full diplomatic ties with Cuba, the Powell's buyers' office has been suffering from an epidemic of reverse island fever. It turns out that almost all of us harbor a secret desire to visit Cuba. Some of us want to eat lobster, swim in [...]

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9. Thematic Book List - Biographies of Early Scientists (through Newton)

In a letter to Robert Hooke in 1676, Isaac Newton wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants." Newton, just like the scientists of today, relied on the work of scientists and mathematicians who came before him.

Below you will find a list of books on scientists before and including Newton. I've also thrown in a couple of important mathematicians. Titles are roughly arranged in chronological order.
The Life and Times of Aristotle (2006), written by Jim Whiting - This biography from the Biography from Ancient Civilizations series provides a compelling look at Aristotle and his influence across history in a wide range of subjects. Though Aristotle was a philosopher, he was for many centuries considered the world's greatest scientist. Whiting explores Aristotle's contributions to science, as well as history and politics. Back matter includes a chronology, selected works, timeline in history, chapter notes, glossary, and further reading ideas.

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth, written by Kathryn Lansky and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes - This biography of the Greek philosopher and scientist Eratosthenes, who compiled the first geography book and accurately measured the globe's circumference, tells the story of his life from his birth over two thousand years ago in northern Africa (modern Libya) to his work as the chief librarian at the great library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt. 

Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia, written by D. Anne Love and illustrated by Pamela Paparone - The daughter of Theon, a mathematician, philosopher, and the last director of the Library at Alexandria, Hypatia was educated in the ways of many young men of her time and was one of the first women to study math, science, and philosophy. This book provides a nice overview of the time and place in which Hypatia lived. The artwork evokes both Egyptian and Greek styles and nicely incorporates images that reflect the subjects Hypatia studied. This is a carefully crafted picture book biography on a woman that little is known of. Despite this, her story is one that will inspire. Included are an author's note and bibliography, as well as some additional notes about mathematics.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci (2009), written by Joseph D'Agnese and illustrated by John O'Brien - Medieval Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci is introduced in this first person biography. In traveling with this father, Fibonacci learned geometry in Greece, fractions from the Egyptians, and Hindu-Arabic numerals in India. Largely responsible for converting Europe from Roman numerals to Hindu-Arabic numerals, he also realized that many things in nature followed a certain pattern, today known as the Fibonacci sequence.
Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer (2012), written and illustrated by Robert Byrd - In this gorgeously illustrated picture book biography, Byrd provides a wealth of information about da Vinci's life and work. In addition to the traditional narrative, da Vinci's own words, anecdotes, and journal excerpts are found in sidebars and small panel illustrations. Byrd clearly and concisely explains da Vinci's theories in a way all readers can understand.

Leonardo da Vinci: Giants of Science (2008), written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Boris Kulikov - An extensive biography for older students (middle grades and up), this engaging work in the Giants of Science series focuses on the life of da Vinci while exploring his study the natural world, including aerodynamics, anatomy, astronomy, botany, geology, paleontology, and zoology. Special attention is given to da Vinci's notebooks and their meaning.

Leonardo da Vinci for Kids: His Life and Ideas: 21 Activities (1998), written by Janis Herbert - This biography of da Vinci is interspersed with activities readers can try on their own, including observing nature, painting birds, growing an herb garden, making minestrone soup, building a kite, and more. Includes extensive reproductions of da Vinci's sketches and paintings. Includes a list of related Web sites.

Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci (2009), written and illustrated by Gene Barretta - This biography for younger students focuses on the ideas and inventions found in the more than 20,000 pages of da Vinci's notes. Readers learn how many inventions that came centuries after da Vinci's time were actually imagined and described in his notes.
Galileo For Kids: His Life and Ideas: 21 Activities (2005), written by Richard Panchyk - This biography of Galileo is interspersed with activities readers can try on their own, including letter writing, observing the moon, playing with gravity and motion, making a pendulum, painting with light and shadow, and more. Back matter includes glossaries of key terms, people, and places in Italy, helpful web sites, and a list of planetariums and space museums.

Galileo's Telescope (2009), written by Gerry Bailey and Karen Foster and illustrated by Leighton Noyes - Every Saturday morning, Digby Platt and his sister Hannah visit Knicknack Market to check out the interesting and unique “antiques” for sale. In finding a telescope, the children learn about the life of mathematician, physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei. Back matter includes a glossary.

I, Galileo (2012), written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen - This first person biography opens with Galileo imprisoned and remembering his life from childhood onward, highlighting his education and scientific discoveries. In the Afterword, Christensen explains that it took nearly 400 years for the Catholic Church to admit they were wrong to condemn Galileo. Back matter includes a glossary, chronology, and descriptions of his experiments, inventions, improvements, and astronomic discoveries. 

Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei, written and illustrated by Peter Sis - In this Caldecott honor book, gorgeous illustrations take center stage in telling the story of Galileo. Sis creates for readers images of the things Galileo saw in his observations of space, including sunspots, planets revolving around Jupiter, valleys and chasms on the moon, and more. Though not a detailed treatment of his life, the text is enhanced by notes and quotes from Galileo's own writings, scrawled throughout the pages.

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Maria Merian was an artist and scientist who studied plants and animals in their natural habitat and then captured them in her art. This book is based on the true story of how Merian secretly observed the life cycle of summer birds (a medieval name for butterflies) and documented it in her paintings. Focusing on her young life, this book shows readers how curiosity at a young age can lead to a lifelong pursuit. 

Isaac Newton: Giants of Science (2008), written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Boris Kulikov - An extensive biography for older students (middle grades and up), this engaging work in the Giants of Science series focuses on the life of Newton, a boy who was incredibly curious. Though he lived a solitary life, he attended Cambridge, worked for an apothecary, served in Parliament, and so much more. Despite his successes in the fields of math and science, Newton was also "secretive, vindictive, withdrawn, obsessive, and, oh, yes, brilliant." 

Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities (2009), written by Kerrie Logan Hollihan - This biography of Newton is interspersed with activities readers can try on their own, including making a waste book, building a water wheel, making ink, creating a 17th century plague mask, tracking the phases of the moon, testing Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, and more. Back matter includes a list of useful books and web sites.  
World History Biographies: Isaac Newton: The Scientist Who Changed Everything (2013), written by Philip Steele - This book in the National Geographic World History Biographies series profiles Newton as more than just a physicist, but also as an acclaimed mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, philosopher, and inventor as well. 


Online Resources

That's it for this list. Coming up next is a list of biographies for scientists from the 18th and 19th centuries.

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10. Suffragist Lucy Stone in 10 facts

Lucy Stone, a nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist, became by the 1850s one of the most famous women in America. She was a brilliant orator, played a leading role in organizing and participating in national women’s rights conventions, served as president of the American Equal Rights Association [...]

The post Suffragist Lucy Stone in 10 facts appeared first on OUPblog.

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11. My Top 10 Talking Books

I have always been a reader, but eight years ago, strange circumstances conspired to make me totally book-dependent. I was stuck within four walls, desperate for distraction and a conduit to the world; but I had to live in total darkness, unable to see words on a page. So, from the small player in the [...]

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12. Four remarkable figures in Black History

Given the scope and the length of time I’ve been working on the African American National Biography (over 13 years and counting), selecting just a few biographies that were somehow “representative” of the overall project would have been an impossible task. Instead, working with The Root’s managing editor, Lyne Pitts, I chose four entries that showcased some of the diversity of the collection, but focused on hidden or barely remembered figures in black history.

The post Four remarkable figures in Black History appeared first on OUPblog.

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13. Every student who studied with the Rev. Gary Davis

RevGaryDavis2

The Reverend Gary Davis was born in Piedmont, South Carolina, on April 30, 1896. He died in Hammonton, New Jersey, on May 5, 1972. In between, he become one of the most protean guitar players of the twentieth century, and his finger-picking style influenced everyone from Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead to Keb’ Mo’ and Blind Boy Fuller.

Born partially blind as the sole surviving son to two sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South, by the 1940s, Davis, ordained as a Baptist minister, was playing on Harlem streetcorners and storefronts, making his living as an itinerant, singing gospel preacher. By the beginning of the 1960s folk revival, he had moved in circles that included Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie, recorded a series of albums for the legendary Folkways label, and been embraced by a generation of educated, middle-class young people eager for fodder to spur a folk revival. See his performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival for further illumination of this cultural congruence. Even before his death in 1970, he was the subject of two television documentaries. Davis’s legacy, however, still exists outside a canon that has acknowledged his peers, including Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson—his music, like his troubled life, is the stuff of myth, and as such, has charted a more intimate course through a series of covers and the musical offerings of his students, a group numbering in the dozens.

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In concert with the publication of Say No to the Devil: The Life and Music of the Reverend Gary Davis, the first biography of Davis, written by Ian Zack, one of his former students, we’re putting together a special feature, with performances, of every student who studied with the Reverend. In the meantime, here’s a teaser list of some names, just to give you a sense of the breadth of those who sought Davis out, and in whose own compositions, the master player’s gospel still lingers.

Phil Allen
Roy Book Binder
Danny Birch
Rick Blaufeld
Rory Block
Larry Brezer
David Bromberg
Ian Buchanan
Harry Chapin
Ry Cooder
Bruce Cornforth
Dion DiMucci
John Dyer
Allen Evans (one of Davis’s final guitar pupils; a week or two before his death, Davis gave him a two-and-a-half hour lesson, then wanted to arm wrestle)
Joan Fenton
Janis Fink
Geno Forman
Blind Boy Fuller
John Gibbon
Stefan Grossman
Ernie Hawkins
Larry Johnson
Steve Katz
Nick Katzman
Jesse Lee Kincaid
Ken Kipnis
Barry Kornfeld
John Mankiewicz
Woody Mann
Alexander McEwen
Rory McEwen
Dean Meredith (drove Davis to visit Woody Guthrie at Brooklyn State Hospital in 1964)
North Peterson
Rick Ruskin
Alex Shoumatoff
Alan Smithline
John Townley
Dave Van Ronk
Bob Weir
Tom Winslow
Geoff Withers

As a bonus, here’s Bob Dylan playing Davis’s arrangement of the song “Candy Man,” from a 1961 Minneapolis hotel tape (it’s really good):

 

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14. Black History Month & Beyond – My #NF10for10 + 10 Book Giveaways

Today is the annual Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10, hosted by Cathy Mere from Reflect and Refine, Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning, and Julie Balen of Write at the Edge.… Continue reading

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15. 5 Guys and a Girl pick their all-time favorite NBA All-Stars

As the city buzzes around us in preparation for the 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend, hosted jointly by the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, we caught up with a few of our office’s basketball fans to reflect on their all-time favorite NBA All-Stars — and their entries in the Oxford African American Studies Center. Without further ado, Oxford University Press New York’s ‘5 Guys and a Girl’ weigh in:

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Everett Jones: NY Office Services

Everett J

Everett J

Top Pick: Julius Erving
Second Pick: Bernard King

“Dr. J made it popular to dunk and have an above the rim game.”

Known to fans and announcers as Dr. J, Julius Erving set new standards of performance in his sport and made the slam-dunk into one of the most exciting moves in professional basketball.

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Kishiem Laws: NY Office Services

Kishiem L

Everett J

Top Pick: Kobe Bryant
Second Pick: Kevin Durant

“Kobe has 18 straight All-Star appearances.”

At age seventeen, Kobe Bryant became the youngest guard to be drafted in the history of the National Basketball Association. Bryant blossomed into an NBA superstar within his first three years and went on to lead the Lakers to three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002.

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Michael Franks: NY Office Services

Michael F

Everett J

Top Pick: Michael Jordan
Second Pick: Dominique Wilkins

“The 1987 Slam Dunk Contest says it all!”

In 1987, Michael Jordan ran from beyond half-court, leaped from the free-throw line, and glided through the air in a seemingly effortless manner—lifting the ball and then lowering it, contracting his legs and then spreading and extending them—finally dunking the ball fifteen feet later cinching the Dunk Contest Title over Dominique Wilkins.

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Godwin Joseph: NY Office Services

Godwin J

Everett J

Pick: Shaquille O’Neal
Second Pick: Dwayne Wade

“With 15 All-Star Team selections, how could I not pick Shaq?”

A 15-time NBA All-Star, Shaquille O’Neil quickly became one of the NBA’s top centers, and only one of three players in the history of the NBA to win the NBA MVP, All-Star game MVP and Finals MVP awards in the same year.

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Fred Hampton: OUP US IT

Everett J

Everett J

Top Pick: Wilt Chamberlain
Second Pick: Kareem Adbul-Jabar

“He is the ORIGINAL.”

A legendary basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain was a gifted offensive shooter who scored and rebounded prolifically. In 1978 Chamberlain was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 1996 for the NBA’s fiftieth anniversary he was named one of the fifty greatest players in NBA history.

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Ayana Young: Online Marketing

Ayana Y

Everett J

Top Pick: Magic Johnson
Second Pick: Jerry West

“There’s a reason they called him Magic.”

Considered one of the greatest point guards and play-makers in the history of the NBA, Magic Johnson ended his 13-year professional career in 1991, but returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game becoming the first and only retired player to do so and win the All-Star MVP Award.

*   *   *   *   *

Image credits: (1) Knicks v Thunder 2010 MSG. Photo by Matt Pirecki. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Julius Erving, 6 November 1974, Sport Magazine Archives. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. (3) Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket against the Washington Wizards in Washington, D.C., USA on February 3, 2007. Photo by Keith Allison. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (4) Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 1997. Photo by Steve Lipofsky at Basketballphoto.com. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (5) Shaquille O’Neal preparing to shoot a free throw in 2009. Photo by Keith Allison. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (6) Wilt Chamberlain, 1967. Philadelphia 76ers press photo. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. (7) Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson and Boston Celtics Larry Bird in Game two of the 1985 NBA Finals at Boston Garden. Photo by Steve Lipofsky at Basketballphoto.com. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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16. Invincible Louisa (1933)

Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women. Cornelia Meigs. 1933/1995. Little, Brown. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

My mom has wanted me to read Invincible Louisa for years. I finally did, and I enjoyed it. Did I love it? Probably not LOVE. But I certainly appreciated it and found it pleasant enough.

Invincible Louisa is a biography of Louisa May Alcott written for children. It reads much like a novel. There is plenty of dialogue; there is plenty of emotion and description. It covers her whole life--from birth to death. Though not equal attention is given to every year, of course!!! Much of the focus is on the whole Alcott family.

Probably half the book focuses on Louisa Alcott "becoming" a writer: how she came to write stories, sketches, poems, novels, etc., how she came to be published, how her works were received by critics and the public. But the book focuses much on her character. (It's not a word you hear a lot about now perhaps. But her values, beliefs, and principles.) So, yes, the book is about her being a writer, but, it is just as much about her being a daughter and sister.

Would I have appreciated Little Women more if I'd read Invincible Louisa as a child? Perhaps. The two books would definitely complement one another.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Little Author in the Big Woods

Little Author in the Big Woods. Yona Zeldis McDonough. 2014. Henry Holt. 176 pages. [Source: Library]

I expected to love this biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It did not disappoint even slightly. It is written for an audience ready to appreciate the Little House novels. That was a nice touch, I thought. For children who already love the original Little House books, this book is great for telling more of the whole story. Readers can see for themselves the similarities and differences between the books and her real life. There were details she left out or changed. There were periods of her life she didn't write about. Readers also get a fuller story for her whole life birth through death. Some details, of course, I'd read before, but, there were a handful of things that I'd not read before, or, that I don't remember reading before!

It is a quick read. It is an interesting read too! I love the subject, of course, I must have read the books dozens of times growing up. (Long Winter and These Happy Golden Years are my favorites in the series.) I also love the cute title of this one!!!

It is easy to recommend this one! It just says, read me! read me!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Taking Biography to the Next Level: The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra + An Interview + A Giveaway

If you aren't familiar with this delightful biography of Sun Ra by Chris Raschka, you should be. Learn about the ways that this book is a perfect mentor text, and hear about the writing process from the author.

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19. Elvis: a life in pictures

Today, 8 January, would have been Elvis Presley’s 80th birthday. In remembrance of his fascinating life we’re sharing a slideshow from the beautiful images in Elvis Presley: A Southern Life by Joel Williamson. How did this Southern boy make it from Nashville and Vegas, to Grafenwoehr and the White House?

Featured image credit: Headline and 1956 photo from article on Elvis and Mae Axton, who wrote “Heartbreak Hotel,” just after the record sold 1 million copies, 1956. Published in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Courtesy of the Memphis and Shelby County Room, Memphis Public Library & Information Center.

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20. New lives added to the Oxford DNB include Amy Winehouse, Elizabeth Taylor, and Claude Choules

The New Year brings with it a new instalment of Oxford DNB biographies which, as every January, extend the Dictionary’s coverage of people who shaped British life in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. This January we add biographies of 226 men and women who died during 2011. These new biographies were commissioned by my predecessor as editor, Lawrence Goldman, but having recently assumed the editor’s chair, I take full and appreciative responsibility for introducing them.

The new biographies bear vivid witness to an astonishing diversity of personal experience, individual achievement, and occasional delinquency; and they range from Claude Choules (b.1901), the last British-born veteran of the First World War, who died at the age of 110, to the singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse (b.1983), who died from alcohol poisoning aged just twenty-seven. The great majority of the people whose biographies are now added (191, or 84%) were born before the outbreak of the Second World War, and the majority (137, or 60%) were born before 1930. Typically, therefore, most were active between the 1940s and the 1980s, but some (such as Choules) are included for their activities before 1918, and several (such as Winehouse, or the anti-war campaigner, Brian Haw) only came to prominence in the 2000s.

The lives of Choules and Winehouse—the one exceptionally long, the other cut tragically short—draw attention to two of the most significant groups to be found in this new selection. A generation after Choules, many Britons served bravely during the Second World War, among them the SOE veteran Nancy Wake who led a group of resistance fighters and who killed German soldiers with her bare hands; SOE’s French section sent 39 women agents into France during the war, and Wake was undoubtedly among the toughest and most redoubtable. Her fellow SOE officer, Patrick Leigh Fermor, is best known for his capture, on Crete, of the German officer General Kreipe—an event that was retold in the film Ill Met by Moonlight (1957). In March 1942 Leslie Audus was captured by the Japanese and put to work in a slave labour camp. There he employed his skills as a botanist to create a nutritional supplement from fermented soya beans, saving him and hundreds of his fellow prisoners from starvation. After the war, Audus enjoyed a distinguished scientific career though, with great modesty, he made little of his remarkable prison work, which remained known only to former captives who owed him their lives.

The troubled creative life of our latest-born person, Amy Winehouse, is representative of a second significant group of lives to emerge from our new set of biographies. These were the entertainers for whom the celebrity-devouring world of show business was a place of some highs but ultimately of disenchantment and disappointment. Forty years before Winehouse came to public attention, the singer Kathy Kirby enjoyed a glittering career. Ubiquitous in the early 1960s with hit after hit, she was reputedly the highest-paid female singer of her generation. However, she failed to adapt to the rise of rock’n’roll, and soon spiralled into drug and alcohol abuse, bankruptcy, and psychiatric problems. The difficulties Kathy Kirby experienced bear similarities to those of the Paisley-born songwriter Gerry Rafferty, best known for his hit single ‘Baker Street’, which deals with loneliness in a big city; Rafferty too found fame hard to cope with, and eventually succumbed to alcoholism.

Of course, not all encounters with modern British popular culture were so troubled. One of the longest biographies added in this new update is that of the actress Elizabeth Taylor who shot to stardom in National Velvet (1944) and remained ever after a figure of international standing. While Taylor’s private life garnered almost as much attention as her screen roles, she’s also notable in pioneering the now popular association between celebrity and charitable causes—in Taylor’s case for charities working to combat HIV/AIDS. To that of Elizabeth Taylor we can also add other well-known names, among them Lucian Freud—by common consent the greatest British artist of his day, whose depictions of human flesh are unrivalled in their impact and immediacy; the journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, who made his career in the US; Ken Russell, the enfant terrible of British cinema; and the dramatist Shelagh Delany, best-known for her play, A Taste of Honey (1958).

In addition to documenting the lives, and legacies, of well-known individuals—such as Freud, Hitchens, and Delaney—it’s also the purpose of each January update of the ODNB to include people of real historical significance who did not make the headlines. In creating a rounded picture of those who’ve shaped modern Britain, we’re helped enormously by more than 400 external specialists. Divided into specialist panels—from archaeology and broadcasting to the voluntary sector and zoology—our advisers recommend people for inclusion from long lists of possible candidates. And it’s their insight that ensures we provide biographies of many less familiar figures responsible for some truly remarkable achievements. Here is just one example. Leslie Collier was a virologist who, in the 1960s, developed a heat-stable vaccine for smallpox which made possible a mass vaccination programme in Africa and South America. The result was the complete eradication of smallpox as proclaimed by the World Health Organization in 1980. How many figures can claim to have abolished what was once a terrifying global disease?

Whether long or short, good or bad, exemplary or tragic, or something more nuanced and complex in-between, the 226 new biographies now added to the Oxford DNB make fascinating—and sometimes sobering—reading.

Featured image credit: Amy Winehouse, singing, by NRK P3. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

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21. British lives by the numbers

January 2015 sees the addition of 226 biographies to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, offering the lives of those who have played their part in shaping British history between the late 20th and early 21st century. The sectors and professions each of these individuals influenced range from medicine to film, including Nobel Prize and Oscar winners. Explore our infographic below as we highlight a selection of these new lives: some well-renowned, some lesser-known, yet all significant.

ODNBInfographic_Jan15Update_2_official2

You can download both jpg and pdf versions of the infographic. To discover more about these lives, visit the Oxford DNB’s January update page.

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22. On Trimming Roses

Gardens do not wait. Weeds grow and flowers wilt. In the days and weeks following my father's death, my parents' garden continued to flourish and demand our attention, for plants do not know grief. When it came to our garden, my parents were a team. My father — dyslexic, spatial thinker, and dreamer — looked [...]

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23. A Show-Trial: An excerpt from Bengt Jangfeldt’s Mayakovsky

9780226056975

“A Show-Trial”

Excerpted from Mayakovsky: A Biography by Bengt Jangfeldt

***

Mayakovsky returned to Moscow on 17 or 18 September. The following day, Krasnoshchokov was arrested, accused of a number of different offenses. He was supposed to have lent money to his brother Yakov, head of the firm American–Russian Constructor, at too low a rate of interest, and to have arranged drink– and sex–fueled orgies at the Hotel Europe in Petrograd, paying the Gypsy girls who entertained the company with pure gold. He was also accused of having passed on his salary from the Russian–American Industrial Corporation ($200 a month) to his wife (who had returned to the United States), of having bought his mistress flowers and furs out of state funds, of renting a luxury villa, and of keeping no fewer than three horses. Lenin was now so ill that he had not been able to intervene on Krasnoshchokov’s behalf even if he had wanted to.

His arrest was a sensation of the first order. It was the first time that such a highly placed Communist had been accused of corruption, and the event cast a shadow over the whole party apparatus. Immediately after Krasnoshchokov’s arrest, and in order to prevent undesired interpretations of what had happened, Valerian Kuybyshev, the commissar for Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, let it be known that “incontrovertible facts have come to light which show Krasnoshchokov has in a criminal manner exploited the resources of the economics department [of the Industry Bank] for his own use, that he has arranged wild orgies with these funds, and that he has used bank funds to enrich his relatives, etc.” He had, it was claimed, “in a criminal manner betrayed the trust placed in him and must be sentenced to a severe punishment.”

Krasnoshchokov was, in other words, judged in advance. There was no question of any objective legal process; the intention was to set an example: “The Soviet power and the Communist Party will […] root out with an iron hand all sick manifestations of the NEP and remind those who ‘let themselves be tempted’ by the joys of capitalism that they live in a workers’ state run by a Communist party.” Krasnoshchokov’s arrest was deemed so important that Kuybyshev’s statement was printed simultaneously in the party organ Pravda and the government organ Izvestiya. Kuybyshev was a close friend of the prosecutor Nikolay Krylenko, who had led the prosecution of the Socialist Revolutionaries the previous year, and who in time would turn show trials and false charges into an art form.

When Krasnoshchokov was arrested, Lili and Osip were still in Berlin. In the letter that Mayakovsky wrote to them a few days after the arrest, the sensational news is passed over in total silence. He gives them the name of the civil servant in the Berlin legation who can give them permission to import household effects (which they had obviously bought in Berlin) into Russia; he tells them that the squirrel which lives with them is still alive and that Lyova Grinkrug is in the Crimea. The only news item of greater significance is that he has been at Lunacharsky’s to discuss Lef and is going to visit Trotsky on the same mission. But of the event which the whole of Moscow was talking about, and which affected Lili to the utmost degree—not a word.

Krasnoshchokov’s trial took place at the beginning of March 1924. Sitting in the dock, apart from his brother Yakov, were three employees of the Industry Bank. Krasnoshchokov, who was a lawyer, delivered a brilliant speech in his own defense, explaining that, as head of the bank, he had the right to fix lending rates in individual cases and that one must be flexible in order to obtain the desired result. As for the charges of immoral behavior he maintained that his work necessitated a certain degree of official entertainment and that the “luxury villa” in the suburb of Kuntsevo was an abandoned dacha which in addition was his sole permanent dwelling. (It is one of the ironies of history that the house had been owned before the Revolution by the Shekhtel family and accordingly had often had Mayakovsky as a guest—see the chapter “Volodya”). Finally, he pointed out that his private life was not within the jurisdiction of the law.

This opinion was not shared by the court, which ruled that Krasnoshchokov had lived an immoral life during a time when a Communist ought to have set a good example and not surrender to the temptations offered by the New Economic Policy. Krasnoshchokov was also guilty of having used his position to “encourage his relatives’ private business transactions” and having caused the bank to lose 10,000 gold rubles. He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and in addition three years’ deprivation of citizen’s rights. Moreover, he was excluded from the Communist Party. His brother was given three years’ imprisonment, while the other three coworkers received shorter sentences.

Krasnoshchokov had in fact been a very successful bank director. Between January 1923 and his arrest in September he had managed to increase the Industry Bank’s capital tenfold, partly thanks to a flexible interest policy which led to large American investments in Russia. There is a good deal of evidence that the charges against him were initiated by persons within the Finance Commissariat and the Industry Bank’s competitor, the Soviet National Bank. Shortly before his arrest Krasnoshchokov had suggested that the Industry Bank should take over all the National Bank’s industrial–financial operations. Exactly the opposite happened: after Krasnoshchokov’s verdict was announced, the Industry Bank was subordinated to the Soviet National Bank.

There is little to suggest that the accusations of orgies were true. Krasnoshchokov was not known to be a rake, and his “entertainment expenses” were hardly greater than those of other highly placed functionaries. But he had difficulties defending himself, as he maintained not one mistress but two—although he had a wife and children. The woman who figured in the trial was not, as one might have expected, Lili, but a certain Donna Gruz—Krasnoshchokov’s secretary, who six years later would become his second wife. This fact undoubtedly undermined his credibility as far as his private life was concerned.

When Lili and Elsa showed Nadezhda Lamanova’s dresses in Paris in the winter of 1924, it attracted the attention of both the French and the British press, where this photograph was published with the caption “soviet sack fashion.—Because of the lack of textiles in Soviet Russia, Mme. Lamanoff, a Moscow fashion designer, had this dress made out of sackcloth from freight bales.”

By the time the judgment was announced, Lili had been in Paris for three weeks. She was there for her own amusement and does not seem to have had any particular tasks to fulfill. But she had with her dresses by the Soviet couturier Nadezhda Lamanova which she and Elsa showed off at two soirees organized by a Paris newspaper. She would like to go to Nice, she confided in a letter home to Moscow on 23 February, but her plans were frustrated by the fact that Russian emigrants were holding a congress there. She was thinking of traveling to Spain instead, or somewhere else in France, to “bake in the sun for a week or so.” But she remained in Paris, where she and Elsa went out dancing the whole time. Their “more or less regular cavaliers” were Fernand Léger (whom Mayakovsky had got to know in Paris in 1922) and an acquaintance from London who took them everywhere with him, “from the most chic of places to the worst of dives.” “It has been nothing but partying here,” she wrote. “Elsa has instituted a notebook in which she writes down all our rendezvous ten days in advance!” As clothes are expensive in Paris too, she asks Osip and Mayakovsky to send her a little money in the event of their managing to win “some mad sum of money” at cards.

When she was writing this letter, there were still two weeks to go before Krasnoshchokov’s trial. “How is A[lexander] M[ikhailovich]?” she asked, in the middle of reporting on the fun she was having. But she did not receive a reply, or if she did, it has not been preserved. On 26 March, after a month in Paris, she took the boat to England to visit her mother, who was in poor health, but that same evening she was forced to return to Calais after being stopped at passport control in Dover—despite having a British visa issued in Moscow in June 1923. What she did not know was that after her first visit to England in October 1922 she had been declared persona non grata, something which all British passport control points “for Europe and New York” had been informed of in a secret circular of 13 February 1923.

 

 

“You can’t imagine how humiliating it was to be turned back at the British border,” she wrote to Mayakovsky: “I have all sorts of theories about it, which I’ll tell you about when we I see you. Strange as it may seem, I think they didn’t let me in because of you.” She guessed right: documents from the Home Office show that it was her relationship with Mayakovsky, who wrote “extremely libellous articles” in Izvestiya, which had proved her undoing. Strangely enough, despite being refused entry to Britain, she was able to travel to London three weeks later. The British passport authorities have no record of her entry to the country. Did she come in by an illegal route?

At the same time that Lili traveled to Paris, Mayakovsky set out on a recital tour in Ukraine. Recitals were an important source of income for him. During his stay in Odessa he mentioned in a newspaper interview that he was planning to set out soon on a trip round the world, as he had been invited to give lectures and read poems in the United States. Two weeks later he was back in Moscow, and in the middle of April he went to Berlin, where Lili joined him about a week later. According to one newspaper, Mayakovsky was in the German capital “on his way to America.”

The round–the–world trip did not come off, as Mayakovsky failed to obtain the necessary visas. It was not possible to request an American visa in Moscow, as the two countries lacked diplomatic ties. Mayakovsky’s plan was therefore to try to get into the United States via a third country. Britain’s first Labour government, under Ramsay MacDonald, had scarcely recognized the Soviet Union (on 1 February 1924) before Mayakovsky requested a British visa, on 25 March. From England he planned to continue his journey to Canada and India. In a letter to Ramsay MacDonald, Britain’s chargé d’affaires in Moscow asked for advice about the visa application. Mayakovsky was not known to the mission, he wrote, but was “a member of the Communist party and, I am told, is known as a Bolshevik propagandist.” Mr. Hodgson would not have needed to do this if he had known that on 9 February, the Home Office had also issued a secret circular about Mayakovsky, “one of the principal leaders of the ‘Communist’ propaganda and agitation section of the ‘ROSTA,’” who since 1921 had been writing propaganda articles for Izvestiya and “should not be given a visa or be allowed to land in the United Kingdom” or any of its colonies. In Mayakovsky’s case the circular was sent to every British port, consulate, and passport and military checkpoint, as well as to Scotland House and the India Office. But in the very place where people really ought to have known about it, His Majesty’s diplomatic mission in Moscow, they were completely unaware of it.

While he waited for an answer from the British, Mayakovsky made a couple of appearances in Berlin where he talked about Lef and recited his poems. On the 9 May he traveled back to Moscow in company with Lili and Scotty, the Scotch terrier she had picked up in England, tired of waiting for notification that never came. When he got to Moscow he found out that on 5 May London had instructed the British mission in Moscow to turn down his visa application.

VLADIMIR ILYICH

The preliminary investigation and subsequent trial of Krasnoshchokov caused a great stir, but it would certainly have got even more column inches if it had not been played out in the shadow of a significantly more important event. On 21 January 1924, Vladimir Lenin died after several years of illness.

Among the thousands of people jostling one another in the queues which snaked around in front of Trade Unions House, where the leader of the Revolution lay in state, were Mayakovsky, Lili, and Osip. Lenin’s death affected Mayakovsky deeply. “It was a terrible morning when he died,” Lili recalled. “We wept in the queue in Red Square where we were standing in the freezing cold to see him. Mayakovsky had a press card, so we were able to bypass the queue. I think he viewed the body ten times. We were all deeply shaken.”

Mayakovsky with Scotty, whom Lili bought in England. The picture was taken in the summer of 1924 at the dacha in Pushkino. Scotty loved ice cream, and, according to Rodchenko, Mayakovsky regarded “with great tenderness how Scotty ate and licked his mouth.” “He took him in his arms and I photographed them in the garden,” the photographer remembered. “I took two pictures. Volodya kept his tender smile, wholly directed at Scotty.” The photograph with Scotty is in fact one of the few where Mayakovsky can be seen smiling.

The feelings awakened by Lenin’s death were deep and genuine, and not only for his political supporters. Among those queuing were Boris Pasternak and Osip Mandelstam, who shared a far more lukewarm attitude to the Revolution and its leader. “Lenin dead in Moscow!” exclaimed Mandelstam in his coverage of the event. “How can one fail to be with Moscow in this hour! Who does not want to see that dear face, the face of Russia itself ? The time? Two, three, four? How long will we stand here? No one knows. The time is past. We stand in a wonderful nocturnal forest of people. And thousands of children with us.”

Shortly after Lenin’s death Mayakovsky tackled his most ambitious project to date: a long poem about the Communist leader. He had written about him before, in connection with his fiftieth birthday in 1920 (“Vladimir Ilyich!”), and when Lenin suffered his first stroke in the winter of 1923 (“We Don’t Believe It!”), but those were shorter poems. According to Mayakovsky himself, he began pondering a poem about Lenin as early as 1923, but that may well have been a rationalization after the event. What set his pen in motion was in any case Lenin’s death in January 1924.

Mayakovsky had only a superficial knowledge of Lenin’s life and work and was forced to read up on him before he could write about him. His mentor, as on so many other occasions, was Osip, who supplied him with books and gave him a crash course in Leniniana. Mayakovsky himself had neither the time nor the patience for such projects. The poem was written during the summer and was ready by the beginning of October 1924. It was given the title “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin” and was the longest poem Mayakovsky ever wrote; at three thousand lines, it was almost twice as long as “About This.” In the autumn of 1924 he gave several poetry readings and fragments of the poem were printed in various newspapers. It came out in book form in February 1925.

The line to the Trade Unions’ House in Moscow, where Lenin was lying in state.

So the lyrical “About This” was followed by an epic poem, in accordance with the conscious or unconscious scheme that directed the rhythm of Mayakovsky’s writing. If even a propaganda poem like “To the Workers in Kursk” was dedicated to Lili, such a dedication was impossible in this case. “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin” was dedicated to the Russian Communist Party, and Mayakovsky explains why, with a subtle but unambiguous reference to “About This”:

I can write
about this,
about that,
but now
is not the time
for love–drivel.
All my
resounding power
as a poet
give to you,
attacking class.

In “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin” Lenin is portrayed as a Messiah–like figure, whose appearance on the historical scene is an inevitable consequence of the emergence of the working class. Karl Marx revealed the laws of history and, with his theories, “helped the working class to its feet.” But Marx was only a theoretician, who in the fullness of time would be replaced by someone who could turn theory into practice, that is, Lenin.

The poem is uneven, which is not surprising considering the format. From a linguistic point of view—the rhyme, the neologisms—it is undoubtedly comparable to the best of Mayakovsky’s other works, and the depiction of the sorrow and loss after Lenin’s death is no less than a magnificent requiem. But the epic, historical sections are too long and prolix. The same is true of the tributes to the Communist Party, which often rattle with empty rhetoric (which in turn can possibly be explained by the fact that Mayakovsky was never a member of the party):

I want
once more to make the majestic word
“PARTY”
shine.
One individual!
Who needs that?!
The voice of an individual
is thinner than a cheep.
Who hears it—
except perhaps his wife?

The party
is a hand with millions of fingers
clenched
into a single destroying fist.
The individual is rubbish,
the individual is zero  …
We say Lenin,
but mean
The Party.
We say
The Party,
but mean Lenin.

One of the few reviewers who paid any attention to the poem, the proletarian critic and anti–Futurist G. Lelevich, was quite right in pointing out that Mayakovsky’s “ultraindividualistic” lines in “About This” stand out as “uniquely honest” in comparison with “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin,” which “with few exceptions is rationalistic and rhetorical.” This was a “tragic fact” that Mayakovsky could only do something about by trying to “conquer himself.” The Lenin poem, wrote Lelevich, was a “flawed but meaningful and fruitful attempt to tread this path.”

Lelevich was right to claim that “About This” is a much more convincing poem than the ode to Lenin. But the “tragic” thing was not what Lelevich perceived as such, but something quite different, namely, Mayakovsky’s denial of the individual and his importance. In order to “conquer” himself, that is, the lyrical impulse within himself, he would have to take yet more steps in that direction—which he would in fact do, although it went against his innermost being.

If there is anything of lasting value in “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin,” it is not the paeans of praise to Lenin and the Communist Party—poems of homage are seldom good—but the warnings that Lenin, after his death, will be turned into an icon. The Lenin to whom Mayakovsky pays tribute was born in the Russian provinces as “a normal, simple boy” and grew up to be the “most human of all human beings.” If he had been “king–like and god–like” Mayakovsky would without a doubt have protested and taken a stance “opposed to all processions and tributes”:

I ought
to have found words
for lightning–flashing curses,
and while
I
and my yell
were trampled underfoot
I should have
hurled blasphemies
against heaven
and tossed
like bombs at the Kremlin
my: NO!

The worst thing Mayakovsky can imagine is that Lenin, like Marx, will become a “cooling plaster dotard imprisoned in marble.” This is a reference back to “The Fourth International,” in which Lenin is depicted as a petrified monument.

I am worried that
processions
and mausoleums,
celebratory statues
set in stone,
will drench
Leninist simplicity
in syrup–smooth balsam—

Mayakovsky warns, clearly blind to the fact that he himself is contributing to this development with his seventy–five–page long poem.

The fear that Lenin would be canonized after his death was deeply felt—and well grounded. It did not take long before Gosizdat (!) began advertising busts of the leader in plaster, bronze, granite, and marble, “life–size and double life–size.” The busts were produced from an original by the sculptor Merkurov—whom Mayakovsky had apostrophized in his Kursk poem—and with the permission of the Committee for the Perpetuation of the Memory of V. I. Lenin. The target groups were civil–service departments, party organizations and trade unions, cooperatives, and the like.

After his return from Berlin in May 1924, Mayakovsky met with the Japanese author Tamisi Naito, who was visiting Moscow. Seated at the table next to Mayakovsky and Lili is Sergey Tretyakov’s wife, Olga. To left of Naito (standing in the center) are Sergey Eisenstein and Boris Pasternak.

The Lef members’ tribute to the dead leader was of a different nature. The theory section in the first issue of Lef for 1924 was devoted to Lenin’s language, with contributions by leading Formalists such as Viktor Shklovsky, Boris Eikhenbaum, Boris Tomashevsky, and Yury Tynyanov—groundbreaking attempts to analyze political language by means of structuralist methods. Lenin was said to have “decanonized” the language, “cut down the inflated style,” and so on, all in the name of linguistic efficiency. This striving for powerful simplicity was in line with the theoretical ambitions of the Lef writers but stood in stark contrast to the canonization of Lenin which was set in train by his successors as soon as his corpse was cold.

This entire issue of Lef was in actual fact a polemic against this development—indirectly, in the essays about Lenin’s language, and in a more undisguised way in the leader article. In a direct reference to the advertisements for Lenin busts, the editorial team at Lef in their manifesto “Don’t Trade in Lenin!” sent the following exhortation to the authorities:

We insist:
Don’t make matrices out of Lenin.
Don’t print his portrait on posters, oilcloths, plates, drinking
vessels, cigarette boxes.
Don’t turn Lenin into bronze.
Don’t take from him his living gait and human physiognomy,
which he managed to preserve at the same time as he led history.
Lenin is still our present.
He is among the living.
We need him living, not dead.
Therefore:
Learn from Lenin, but don’t canonize him.
Don’t create a cult around a man who fought against all kinds of
cults throughout his life.
Don’t peddle artifacts of this cult.
Don’t trade in Lenin.

In view of the extravagant cult of Lenin that would develop later in the Soviet Union, the text is insightful to the point of clairvoyance. But the readers of Lef were never to see it. According to the list of contents, the issue began on page 3 with the leader “Don’t Trade in Lenin!” But in the copies that were distributed, this page is missing and the pagination begins instead on page 5. The leadership of Gosizdat, which distributed Lef, had been incensed by the criticism of the advertisements for Lenin busts and had removed the leader. As if by some miracle, it has been preserved in a few complimentary copies which made it to the libraries before the censor’s axe fell.

To read more about Mayakovsky, click here.

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24. The death of Sir Winston Churchill, 24 January 1965

As anyone knows who has looked at the newspapers over the festive season, 2015 is a bumper year for anniversaries: among them Magna Carta (800 years), Agincourt (600 years), and Waterloo (200 years). But it is January which sees the first of 2015’s major commemorations, for it is fifty years since Sir Winston Churchill died (on the 24th) and received a magnificent state funeral (on the 30th). As Churchill himself had earlier predicted, he died on just the same day as his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, had done, in 1895, exactly seventy years before.

The arrangements for Churchill’s funeral, codenamed ‘Operation Hope Not’, had long been in the planning, which meant that Churchill would receive the grandest obsequies afforded to any commoner since the funerals of Nelson and Wellington. And unlike Magna Carta or Agincourt or Waterloo, there are many of us still alive who can vividly remember those sad yet stirring events of half a century ago. My generation (I was born in 1950) grew up in what were, among other things, the sunset years of Churchillian apotheosis. They may, as Lord Moran’s diary makes searingly plain, have been sad and enfeebled years for Churchill himself, but they were also years of unprecedented acclaim and veneration. During the last decade of his life, he was the most famous man alive. On his ninetieth birthday, thousands of greeting cards were sent, addressed to ‘The Greatest Man in the World, London’, and they were all delivered to Churchill’s home. During his last days, when he lay dying, there were many who found it impossible to contemplate the world without him, just as Queen Victoria had earlier wondered, at the time of his death in 1852, how Britain would manage without the Duke of Wellington.

Winston Churchill, 1944. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Like all such great ceremonial occasions, the funeral itself had many meanings, and for those of us who watched it on television, by turns enthralled and tearful, it has also left many memories. In one guise, it was the final act homage to the man who had been described as ‘the saviour of his country’, and who had lived a life so full of years and achievement and honour and controversy that it was impossible to believe anyone in Britain would see his like again. But it was also, and in a rather different emotional and historical register, not only the last rites of the great man himself, but also a requiem for Britain as a great power. While Churchill might have saved his country during the Second World War, he could not preserve its global greatness thereafter. It was this sorrowful realization that had darkened his final years, just as his funeral, attended by so many world leaders and heads of state, was the last time that a British figure could command such global attention and recognition. (The turn out for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, in 2013, was nothing like as illustrious.) These multiple meanings made the ceremonial the more moving, just as there were many episodes which made it unforgettable: the bearer party struggling and straining to carry the huge, lead-lined coffin up the steps of St Paul’s; Clement Attlee—Churchill’s former political adversary—old and frail, but determined to be there as one of the pallbearers, sitting on a chair outside the west door brought especially for him; the cranes of the London docks dipping in salute, as Churchill’s coffin was born up the Thames from Tower Pier to Waterloo Station; and the funeral train, hauled by a steam engine of the Battle of Britain class, named Winston Churchill, steaming out of the station.

For many of us, the funeral was made the more memorable by Richard Dimbleby’s commentary. Already stricken with cancer, he must have known that this would be the last he would deliver for a great state occasion (he would, indeed, be dead before the year was out), and this awareness of his own impending mortality gave to his commentary a tone of tender resignation that he had never quite achieved before. As his son, Jonathan, would later observe in his biography of his father, ‘Richard Dimbleby’s public was Churchill’s public, and he had spoken their emotions.’

Fifty years on, the intensity of those emotions cannot be recovered, but many events have been planned to commemorate Churchill’s passing, and to ponder the nature of his legacy. Two years ago, a committee was put together, consisting of representatives of the many institutions and individuals that constitute the greater Churchill world, both in Britain and around the world, which it has been my privilege to chair. Significant events are planned for 30 January: in Parliament, where a wreath will be laid; on the River Thames, where Havengore, the ship that bore Churchill’s coffin, will retrace its journey; and at Westminster Abbey, where there will be a special evensong. It will be a moving and resonant day, and the prelude to many other events around the country and around the world. Will any other British prime minister be so vividly and gratefully remembered fifty years after his—or her—death?

Headline image credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, New Bond Street, London. Sculpted by Lawrence Holofcener. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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25. I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer


I'm so glad I decided to participate in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted at Kidlit Frenzy.  It is a great reminder to keep up with my nonfiction reading in 2015!


The newish picture book biography series, "Ordinary People Change the World" by Brad Meltzer's a perfect nonfiction series for elementary students.  We have the first few books in our classroom and I've noticed that several kids are picking them up on their own to read during independent reading time.  They are great stories and are very accessible to young children.

These books look simpler than they are.  I read the newest title, I Am Jackie Robinson this weekend and realized how packed the book is.  The focus of the story and the theme of all of the books is one about heroes.  So the story focuses on the things Jackie Robinson did to change the world.  The stories is an engaging one for kids and the illustrations make them books that kids will pick up even without our nudging.

From a nonfiction reading standpoint, I plan to use these books to teach lots of mini lessons.  The page layouts, the ways the talking bubbles share details that go beyond the main text, the timeline at the end of the book, and other features all make these books a new favorite nonfiction series for me.

I love this new edition and am looking forward to the next book in the series--I Am Lucille Ball coming in July.

This short clip tells a bit more about the series:

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