Select Page

Before longitude

In her best-selling book  Longitude, Dava Sobell told the story of the ultimately successful efforts made in the England of the first half of the Eighteenth Century to measure longitude at sea using very accurate clocks, and also mentioned that attempts had been made in the second half of the Seventeenth Century to do the same thing. Christiaan Huygens figured prominently in the account but there is much more to that part of the story than appeared in the book. It began with an obscure Scottish nobleman.

Manuela’s marriage

When Rose de Freycinet was in Rio de Janeiro in December 1817 and January 1818 she saw very little of the crioulas, the women of pure Portuguese decent, but what she did see did not impress her. She had a much better opinionof of their Spanish-speaking sisters, the criollas of Montevideo, a city she visited in May 2020, but had she been at that time by some miracle transported across the continent to the city of Quito, she would have found there a criolla whose conduct she would have found even more shocking, but for very different reasons.

Rand and royalty

Inevitably, the coronation of Charles III has focused many minds in the UK on issues surrounding the inheritance of wealth, power and privilege. Notably, it prompted the Guardian newspaper to undertake a detailed analysis of just how much the new king is worth, in strictly monetary terms and how much he costs his subjects. The results have been surprising, and shocking, but equally surprising, and shocking is the extent to which such information has been, and still is, concealed from those who, ultimately are paying the bills. That secrecy has been very necessary, because what it has hidden is almost impossible to justify.