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The Longitude Act of 1714, offering £20,000 to anyone devising a method of calculating longitude at sea to an accuracy of one degree, was ‘an unprecedented moment when natural philosophers put a scientific problem on the political and national agenda’
In Germany, Frank Uekötter notes, environmentalism is so entwined with national identity it’s as if ‘Germans have finally found a type of patriotism that is truly safe’
There’s an Arab proverb: ‘When Allah created Hell, he thought he could improve on it, so he added flies and called it Mesopotamia.’ Much the same has been said about Baghdad, capital city of Mesopotamia, or Iraq as it became known
According to official figures, our windswept moorlands account for just six per cent of the UK’s total area, which, despite drainage, grazing, tourism and other development, is only slightly less than the statistic from the 19th century
Alastair Humphreys informs us that he has ‘visited almost half the countries on Earth’ and indulged in his share of epic exploits: ‘I have rowed and sailed across oceans, walked across deserts and cycled across continents’
Carefully selected from Pisani's years living and working in Indonesia, and also her more recent travels, the characters that populate Indonesia Etc are diverse and vividly described, fittingly for what she describes as ‘this kaleidoscope nation’
The paradox at the heart of Ian Morris’s book is that warfare ‘has made humanity safer and richer’. Wars were hellish, but the victors created larger, more secure societies
The Bolon people of northwest Burkina Faso aren’t alone in practising rituals involving the wearing of masks, but for photographer Michel de Combes – whose involvement with the Bolon began as a trader in African curios – their traditions exert a particular fascination

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DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Natural Capital: Putting a price on nature
    Natural capital is a way to quantify the value of the world that nature provides for us – the air, soils, water, even recreational activity. Advocat...
    The human game – tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    The air that we breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...

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