The current ‘woke’ insistence on the erasure of what is judged to be beyond the pale in history is often associated with radical ‘cancel culture’ and its very concrete expression in the removal of statues, especially of those with reprehensible historical connections to slavery such as Christopher Columbus and Edward Colston.

In his entry for the word liberation in Keywords, his seminal inquiry into the changing meanings of 131 keywords in English, Raymond Williams notes the parallel development in English from words derived from Latin liber and Teutonic freo (the source of freedom).

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus from 1992, famed for selling 15 million, and Allan and Barbara Pease’s Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps from 2001, which only sold 4 million copies but was translated into thirty-three languages. 

I have long been very interested in my own family history, following in the footsteps of my father who was a keen amateur genealogist.

The word artificial, like many other words, is a mixed bag, best conceived of as a semantic continuum encompassing positive, neutral and negative connotations.

I need to begin with a confession. I approach music not as a disengaged academic or critical exercise but from an experiential perspective as a keen amateur pianist, music lover and unashamed advocate of the power of music to move, inspire and heal the soul.

When I was studying history at ‘A’ level in 1964, our syllabus identified 1492 as the year in which ‘Modern History’ began, the year that Columbus ‘discovered’ the ‘New World’. I was not told that it was also the year in which Columbus, in his relentless search for gold and slaves, instituted shockingly cruel and genocidal policies in the Caribbean islands he had ‘discovered’, including the rapid decimation of the populations of indigenous Arawak Indians.

A striking aspect of the cultural elevation of the celebrity chef has been the use of inflated (and some would say hyperbolic and pretentious) superlatives to describe them, their techniques, and their output.

What is the umma and how do we conceive of the role of ‘community’ in advancing human values? 

I need to begin with a confession and clear statement of intent. I’d like to write about nature not from a distance, neither as an object of abstract study – a disengaged academic or critical exercise – nor as an occasion for the recital of well-worn platitudes.