Tuesday, 30 October 2012


William Blake was an English poet, engraver, and painter. A boldly imaginative rebel in both his thought and his art, he combined poetic and pictorial genius to explore life.

He was born in London in 1757.  His father  soon recognized  his son’s artistic talents and sent him to study at a drawing school when he was ten years old. At the age of 14, he asked to be apprenticed to the engraver James Basire, under whose direction he further developed his  innate skills. As a young man Blake worked as an engraver, illustrator  and drawing teacher.
Blake wrote poems during this time as well, and his first printed collection, Poetical Sketches, appeared in 1783.  Songs of Innocence was published in 1789, followed by Songs of Experience in 1793 and a combined edition the next year bearing the title Songs of Innocence and Experience showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.
Blake’s political radicalism intensified during the years leading up to the French Revolution. He disapproved of Enlightenment rationalism, of institutionalized religion, and of the tradition of marriage in its conventional legal and social form (though he was married himself). His nonconformist religious thinking  is particularly evident in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In the 1790s and after, he shifted his poetic voice from the lyric to the prophetic mode, and wrote a series of long prophetic books, including  Milton and Jerusalem. Linked together by an intricate mythology and symbolism of Blake’s own creation, these books propose a revolutionary new social, intellectual, and ethical order.
Blake published almost all of his works himself, by an original process in which the poems were etched by hand, along with illustrations and decorative images, onto copper plates. These plates were inked to make prints, and the prints were then coloured in with paint. This production method was called “illuminated  printing”. Most students of Blake find it necessary to consider his graphic art and his writing together; he himself thought of them as inseparable.
Blake believed that his poetry could be read and understood by common people, but he was determined not to sacrifice his vision in order to become popular. When an exhibition of his works met with financial failure in 1809, Blake sank into depression and withdrew into obscurity; he remained alienated for the rest of his life.
During his lifetime Blake never made much money. His contemporaries saw him as something of an eccentric. It was only after his death that his genius was fully appreciated. His engravings and commissioned work drew enough money to survive, but at times he had to rely on the support of some of his close friends.
Blake left no debts at his death on August 12, 1827. Wordsworth's verdict after Blake's death reflected many opinions of the time: "There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott."

Suspended between the Neoclassicism of the 18th century and the early phases of Romanticism, William Blake heavily influenced the Romantic poets with recurring themes of good and evil, heaven and hell, knowledge and innocence, and external reality versus inner. 
Only in the 20th century wide audiences began to acknowledge his profound originality and genius.
His works  have been used by people rebelling against a wide variety of issues, such as war, conformity, and almost every kind of repression.

Sunday, 28 October 2012



The period from the Declaration of American Independence  to about 1830  was marked  by great revolutions: the Industrial Revolution reshaped the social and political background of Britain;  the British colonies on the other side of the Atlantic became a new and free nation; the French Revolution brought  its ideas  of freedom and equality  all over Europe.  All this was  to influence  also the cultural and literary aspects  of life.

Saturday, 20 October 2012


In the 18th century the discovering of new populations in America, Polynesia, Africa, because of the explorers’ travels around the world, brought around a new vision of the human being. They found whole populations organised in a very different way than the Europeans, with no royal absolutism, without inequalities, without religious  intolerance, without excessive ambitions of profits.  The “myth of the Noble Savage” showed up in the scenario, as a pure being in contact with Nature, not contaminated by  modern society.
Then the whole structure of  European society, based on a system ruled by the Church and the Kingdom, was debated  and  all its rules and moral concepts, considered until  that time as absolutes, were seriously  discussed and criticised. 

Here  you can download a PDF Presentation to improve your knowledge of the "myth of  the Noble Savage".  

Friday, 19 October 2012


The novel originated in the early 18th century after the Italian word "novella", which was used for stories in the medieval period. Its identity has evolved and now a work of prose fiction is at least 50,000 words. Novels focus on character development more than plot. In any genre, it is the study of the human psyche.
The ancestors of the novel were Elizabethan prose fiction and French heroic romances, which were long narratives about contemporary characters who behaved nobly.  The novel came into popular awareness due to a growing middle class with more leisure time to read and money to buy books. Public interest in the human character led to the popularity of autobiographies, biographies, journals, diaries and memoirs.  The early English novels concerned themselves with complex, middle-class characters struggling with their morality and circumstances.

Thursday, 18 October 2012


1714 - 1727
Queen Anne  was succeeded by George I of the House of Hanover, who was a descendant of the Stuarts through his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth, daughter of James I.

He was an unpopular king partly because of his attachment to Germany, he didn't speak English  and had no knowledge of British customs.
During George's reign, the powers of the monarchy diminished and Britain began a transition to the modern system of cabinet government led by a Prime Minister.  This laid the foundations for that form of Parliamentary monarchy which has been in existence  in England  ever since.
Towards the end of his reign, actual power was held by the Whigs’ leader,  Sir Robert Walpole,  Britain's first Prime Minister.

1727- 1760
George II  exercised little control over British domestic policy, which was largely controlled by Great Britain's parliament.

During the last years of  his reign, William Pitt the Elder of the Whigs, was appointed Prime Minister. He became famous  as the wartime political leader of Britain in the Seven Years' War, especially for his single-minded devotion to victory over France. Victory made Britain dominant in world affairs.  He was also known for his wide popular appeal, his opposition to corruption in government, his advocacy of British greatness, expansionism and colonialism, and his antagonism toward Britain's chief enemies and rivals for colonial power, Spain and France.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


The Stuart dynasty reigned in England and Scotland from 1603 to 1714, a period which saw a flourishing Court culture, but also  uproar  and instability,  plague, fire and war.
It was an age of intense religious debate and radical politics. Both contributed to a bloody Civil War in the mid-17th century between the Crown and Parliament, resulting in a parliamentary victory for Oliver Cromwell and the dramatic execution of King Charles I.
There was a short-term republic, the first time that the country had experienced such an event.
The Restoration of the Crown was soon followed by another 'Glorious' Revolution. William and Mary of Orange ascended the throne as joint monarchs and defenders of Protestantism, followed by Queen Anne, the second of James II's daughters.

As Queen Elizabeth I of England’s nearest relative, James I, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, succeeded to the throne of England at her death.
He became the first Stuart king  and he combined the thrones of England and Scotland  for the first time.
He had problems with Parliament throughout his reign because he believed in the divine  right of kings to rule and in the subjection of Parliament to the King’s will; he also insisted on strict conformity to the Anglican Church which  excluded both Catholics and Puritans from government.

A group of Puritans (a branch of extreme Protestants within the Anglican Church; they obeyed strict moral rules, believed spiritual life should become the focal point of all human existence, wanted to purify their Church from any traces of Catholicism), the Pilgrim Fathers,  sailed to  America on the Mayflower and founded New Plymouth in Massachusetts - the New World provided a convenient ground for unwanted religious and political agitators  and also a valuable market for English goods.

When Charles I  became king of England, he engaged in a struggle for power with Parliament, attempting to obtain royal revenue, while Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which he believed was divinely ordained.

When Parliament refused to give him money, Charles I responded by dissolving Parliament and reigned as an absolute sovereign  causing great hostility.

The  conflict between the King and Parliament  led  to the Civil War.  There were two factions:  the Royalists or Cavaliers, who supported the King, and the Roundheads, the parliamentary faction  led by Oliver Cromwell, who were supported by the landed gentry, the mercantile classes and Puritans.

The King was made prisoner and Cromwell took control of London and  arrested more than 100 Members of Parliament loyal to the King.

Charles I was executed, monarchy was abolished and Cromwell established a republic  known as  the “Commonwealth”.  However it was little more than a dictatorship, and Cromwell  made himself  Lord Protector, a position he held until his death in 1658.

After a period of political uncertainty, the son of the beheaded Charles I was invited to return from his exile in France and became Charles II.
The restoration of monarchy was greeted with a sigh of relief by most people,  who had felt oppressed in their everyday life  by the strict rules of the Puritan Commonwealth.

London was struck by an outbreak of bubonic plague, during which more than 100,000 people died.

The so-called “Great Fire of London” destroyed  most of the city in four days.

To reassert the predominance of the Church of England, the Test Act was passed,  which excluded from public offices those who refused to  receive the communion according to the rites of the Church of England.

James II,  Charles II’s brother, came to the throne.  He had open Catholic sympathies  and wanted to impose  Catholic religion on  a country which was largely  Protestant.  Thus Parliament made secret arrangements to  depose him.

James II was forced to abdicate  leading to the event  which became known as the Glorious Revolution because it was  successful with minimal bloodshed. Parliament offered the throne  to William of Orange, who reigned as William III,  and his wife Mary, who were established as joint monarchs.
Their  reign marked the beginning of the transition from the personal rule of the Stuarts to the more Parliament-centred rule of the House of Hanover.

The Bill of Rights  established that the Crown could not rule the country without Parliament; it weakened the power of the monarch  and Britain became a constitutional monarchy.

The Toleration Act allowed more religious  freedom.

The Act of Settlement prohibited Catholics from inheriting the British throne.

Queen Anne, the Protestant daughter of James II,  came to the throne.
Despite seventeen pregnancies, Anne died without surviving children and she was the last monarch of the  Stuarts. 
Anne favoured moderate Tory politicians, who were more likely to share her Anglican religious views than their opponents, the Whigs.
Since the time of the Glorious Revolution there had been a development of the two great parties which would  dominate English political life  for the next two hundred  years: the Whigs represented the interests of the middle  classes; the Tories represented the old aristocracy, they were loyal supporters of the Crown and stricter in religious  matters.

With the Act of Union England, Wales and Scotland joined to form the united Kingdom of Great Britain.

Now try these quizzes!  

Friday, 5 October 2012

World Teachers' Day 2012: "Take a stand for teachers!"

“Take a stand for teachers!” is the slogan of World Teachers’ Day, 5 October 2012 , which UNESCO is celebrating along with its partners, the International Labour Organization, UNDP, UNICEF and Education International (EI).  
Taking a stand for the teaching profession means providing adequate training, ongoing professional development, and protection for teachers’ rights.
All over the world, a quality education offers hope and the promise of a better standard of living. However, there can be no quality education without competent and motivated teachers.
Teachers are among the many factors that keep children in school and influence learning. They help students think critically, process information from several sources, work cooperatively, tackle problems and make informed choices.
Why take a stand for teachers? Because the profession is losing status in many parts of the world. World Teachers’ Day calls attention to the need to raise the status of the profession - not only for the benefit of teachers and students, but for society as a whole, to acknowledge the crucial role teachers play in building the future.

On this day, we call for teachers to receive supportive environments, adequate quality training as well as ‘safeguards’ for teachers’ rights and responsibilities ...  We expect a lot from teachers – they, in turn, are right to expect as much from us. This World Teachers’ Day is an opportunity for all to take a stand.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General