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The Hidden History of Ruskin College

A few weeks ago I was writing about Noah Ablett, a coalminer who attended Ruskin College in 1907. I was surprised to read that in March, 1909, he led a student strike in protest at the sacking of Dennis Hird, the Principal of Ruskin, who had been accused of teaching socialism through his lectures on sociology and evolution. This seemed an interesting story so I went to the Ruskin College official website to see if I could find out more about this incident.


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John Simkin

In September, 1997, Spartacus Educational founder and managing director John Simkin became the first educational publisher in Britain to establish a website that was willing to provide teachers and students with free educational materials.

According to a survey carried out by the Fischer Trust, Spartacus Educational is one of the top three websites used by history teachers and students in Britain (the other two are BBC History and the Public Record Office’s Learning Curve). The Spartacus Educational website currently gets up to 7 million page impressions a month and 3 million unique visitors.

As well as running the Spartacus Educational website John Simkin has also produced material for the Electronic Telegraph, the European Virtual School and the Guardian's educational website, Learn. He was also a member of the European History E-Learning Project (E-Help), a project to encourage and improve use of ICT and the internet in classrooms across the continent.

We have published six e-books, Charles Dickens: A Biography (October, 2012), First World War Encyclopedia (October, 2012), Assassination of John F. Kennedy Encyclopedia (November, 2012), Gandhi: A Biography (December, 2012), The Spanish Civil War (December, 2012) and The American Civil War (December, 2012). He also contributed an article to the recently published book, Using New Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Learning in History (December, 2012).

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John Snow
John Snow

In August 1854 cholera cases began to appear in Soho. John Snow investigated all 93 local deaths. He concluded the local water supply had become contaminated, for nearly all the victims used water from the Broad Street pump. At a nearby prison, conditions were far worse, but few deaths. Snow concluded that this was because it had its own well.

On 7th September he requested the parish Board of Guardians to disconnect the pump. Sceptical but desperate, they agreed and the handle was removed. After this very few cases were reported.

In 1855, Snow gave his views to a House of Commons Select Committee set up to investigate cholera. Snow argued that cholera was not contagious nor spread by miasmata but was water-borne. He advocated the government invested in massive improvements in drainage and sewage. It has been claimed that his research "played some part in the investment by London and other major British cities in new main drainage and sewage systems."


Anna Seward
Anna Seward

Erasmus Darwin established a small literary circle in Lichfield that included Anna Seward, Thomas Day and Richard Lovell Edgeworth. (19) In 1780 Anna Seward published Elegy on Captain Cook (1780). This was followed by a poem Monody on Major Andrè (1781) on John André, who was hanged as a British spy in 1780. Seward's most ambitious work was Louisa: a Poetical Novel, in Four Epistles (1784). It was a great success and was reprinted five times in the next twelve months.

According to Seward's biographer, Sylvia Bowerbank, "Throughout her life, Seward's main occupations were managing the family household, keeping up a wide correspondence with both famous and ordinary people, and writing poetry and criticism, when time allowed. As the only surviving child of invalid parents, Seward decided that she was required to care first for her ailing mother... and then for her beloved father, whose increasingly diminished capacities of body and mind required, she claimed, that she develop stationary habits and limited ambitions".