Friday, 10 June 2011

The King James Bible - 400 years On

2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication on the King James Bible.

Seen as one of the most significant publications in the history of writing and printing, The King James Bible is still widely used and favoured by many Christians around the world today.

Last weekend I went to Oxford for the day and visited the Bodleian Library there. The library is part of the University of Oxford and is the second largest library in the UK after The British Library in London. The library is currently hosting a small exhibition about the making of the King James Bible.

The King James Bible was not the first English translation of the Bible. You can see at the exhibition earlier translations, such as a beautifully preserved and illustrated version of Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament, which belonged to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII second wife.

King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603, when his second cousin, Elizabeth I left the English throne without an heir. At that time it was thought that earlier
English translations of the Bible were all too often inaccurate. So just a year after becoming King of England, James brought together Bishops of the Church of England and Puritans at a conference at Hampton Court Palace. At the conference, a new English translation of the Bible was proposed and James commissioned a total of 47 scholars, all members of the Church of England, to do the translation from Greek, Hebrew and Latin.

In 1611 the Authorized Bible, as it was officially known, was published after six years of work by the scholars in Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster.
The reason that the King James version of the Bible was so successful and remains popular today, is due to the fact that a great deal of time and study was put into it. It was thought to be the most accurate translation of the Bible.

As an interesting anecdote to show that nothing ever seems to go without some hitch; a re-printing of the King James Bible appeared to say that it was OK to commit adultery. The now infamous 'Naughty Bible' accidentally left out the word 'not' in the Commandment that says "Thou shalt not commit adultery". King James
was horrified by this and the printers were ordered to pay a substantial fine and burn all the copies. At least one still survives however and is displayed at the exhibition in Oxford.

The exhibition, 'Oxford and the Making of the King James Bible', is on until the 4th September 2011 at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Admission is free.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Musical Past

Everybody has songs that they loved when they were growing up, or songs that remind us of certain times and events. Here are a few that I love, some even before my time, hope you approve (of some if not all).

Growing up I absolutely loved ABBA, still do actually and would have to say they are my all time favourite band. No idea how I got in to them. This is my Dad's favourite ABBA song that he remembers from when he was 20 back in1977.

One of my Mum's all time favourite singers is the very talented Roy Orbison. I love this song and heard it quite a lot when I was growing up. Though to be fair there's probably quite a few of his songs I could have chosen. I love this simple black and white performance.

How's this one for a classic 80s track? I may only have been 5 years old when it reached number one in the UK for 5 weeks, but I remember it well.

To anyone who knows me personally wouldn't be surprised by my next selection. I was obsessed with The Spice Girls back in the late 90s. So of course I went to see their film at the cinema and this song was the opener to the film.

I am such a true 90s child...

I think I will always love Kylie Minogue, this song is so cheesy and it also reminds me of my primary school "girlfriend", Sarah. She still has my vinyl copy of this.

My all time favourite artist is Janet Jackson and although I knew of her beforehand, it's got to be this song made me fall in love with her...

One final song, reminds me of Dan ;-)

Sunday, 29 May 2011

MY Historical Hero...Birmingham

At the back of every BBC History magazine, a celebrity or historian is invited to share who their favourite person from history is and why they have chosen them. I thought about who I would choose and there are quite a few, including slavery abolitionist campaigner William Wilberforce, Queen Victoria Empress of India and Grandmother of Europe or even Marilyn Monroe, silver screen icon who reportedly had an affair with America President John F. Kennedy.
But I've decided that the historical hero who means most to me is in fact a place: My home town of Birmingham.

There has been evidence of a settlement in the Birmingham area thanks to some artefacts found which date back about 10,400 years. In the 7th century Birmingham was a small farming hamlet and is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book. Listed as a small village it was valued at just 20 shillings.

Today the Bullring is the name of the modern shopping centre which lies at the heart of the retail centre. But the Bull Ring dates back to the 1160s when the Lord of the Manor, Peter de Birmingham was granted a royal charter to hold a market in his castle grounds, thus Birmingham became a market town.

Over the following centuries Birmingham continued to grow, it had access to abundant amounts of iron and coal which meant the metalwork industry flourished. To fuel this growing need that Birmingham was supplying, the population had to grow, so in the late 17th Century the population stood at around 15,000 but a century later it had grown to 70,000 plus.
By this point Birmingham was literally at the centre of the Industrial Revolution and thanks to all the trades and workshops that had sprung up, the city became known as the 'Workshop of the World'.

During the Victorian era, the population of Birmingham grew to well over half
a million, making it the UK's most populous city outside London. Although Birmingham wasn't officially a city until Queen Victoria granted it City Status in 1889.

In recent years, as most of the old industries have died away, Birmingham has been redeveloped to make it a world class city. With the Bullring shopping centre, which is home to the innovative Future System's Selfridges building, and the many squares such as Centenary Square and Millennium Place and there are plans to completely renovate New Street Station, which is the busiest rail station outside London.

I could prattle on about all the things I think make Birmingham great, but here's a list of 10 things that prove it...

1) The poet and author W.H. Auden grew up in the area I live in, Harborne. Auden's most famous poem "Funeral Blues" (Stop All the Clocks) was notably featured in the film 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' when the poem was read recited at the films one funeral.

2) I love that Birmingham is such a diverse city with all walks of life living here. This is because historically immigration from the Commonwealth nations was very high following World War II.

3) The city is often thought as an industrial concrete jungle but in fact Birmingham has over 8000 acres of parklands, including the largest urban nature reserve in Europe, Sutton Park. Also worth a mention is The Botanical Gardens, Winterbourne Gardens, Woodgate Valley Country Park and Chamberlain and Victoria Squares.

4). Birmingham was ranked as a 'world class shopping centre' in 2004, coming in behind London's West End and Glasgow.

5) Two words: Cadbury's chocolate. And also Cadbury World.

6) Birmingham has produc
ed some world famous musical artists: Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, 2 members of Led Zeppelin, Electric Light Orchestra, UB40, Ocean Colour Scene, The Streets, The Twang and Toyah Wilcox.

7) Famous entertainers who were born/lived in Birmingham include, Julie Walters, Tony Hancock, Jasper Carrott, Trevor Eve and Martin Shaw.

8) The author J. R. R. Tolkien was raised in the city and many parts of the city, including Sarehole Mill, Moseley Bog and the Lickey Hills inspired his writings for Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit and the Silmarillion.

9) Birmingham is home to 3 universities: The University of Birmingham, Aston University and Birmingham City University. As well as 2 University Colleges: Newman College and University College Birmingham.

10) Many advances in Science have taken place in Birmingham. Inventions and scientific breakthroughs such as gas lighting, custard powder, Brylcreem and the first ever Hole-In-Heart operation in the UK at Birmingham Children's Hospital.

There are many more great things about my home town. Or my historical hero, Birmingham. It's the city I've grown up in, and it may get a lot of stick, but I love it.

For more information about 'Brum', check out these websites:

Saturday, 21 May 2011

What I'm reading this afternoon...

I love BBC History Magazine, and I love finding little reads like 'Katherine the Queen', about the life of the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII, Katherine Parr.

The Eurovision Song Contest: 56 Years of...

In 56 years the Eurovision Song Contest has provided so many entertaining moments that we see on television. It has a reputation of being “naff” or “tacky”. It also however attracts anything between 100 million and 600 million viewers and has been the launch pad for many artists, such as ABBA, who went on to become one of the biggest selling bands of all time after their win in 1974.

But what about what goes into Eurovision? It has changed and evolved so much and more than half a century later it is still growing. Where did it come from and who’s idea was it?

The 1950s saw a Europe that was still recovering from World War II, rationing was still in use in the UK for instance. So the Switzerland based European Broadcasting Union began seeking ways in which to bring together and maybe unite in friendship a divided Europe. The song contest was the brainchild of the Swiss Television Director General, Marcel Bezencon, who thought that the contest could be broadcast by all participating nations at the same time.

The first contest was held in Switzerland in on May 24th 1956, in which just 7 countries participated: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland. It was won by the host nation. Since then it grew each year, with the United Kingdom taking part in the second year.

Over the years 51 countries have participated. Since the year 2000 though the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain have automatically qualified for the following years competition regardless of their placement. They are known as the ‘Big Four’. These countries fund the majority of the competition and without such funding, the contest wouldn’t take place. As of 2011′s contest, Italy re-entered for the first time in 14 years and joined the big four in their special status of auto-qualification, thus becoming the ‘Big Five’.

Eurovision in the new millennium has seen many countries winning the contest for the first time, particularly Eastern European countries like Latvia and Ukraine. Finland however have been in the competition since 1961 but had never won it until 2006, in which they broke traditional ‘bubble-gum pop’ and entered with Lordi’s “Hard Rock Hallelujah”.

Up until the 21st Century, more ‘traditional’ European countries mostly won the Contest. The country with the most wins is Ireland, who have won it 7 times in 1970, 1980, 1987, and four times in the 1990s (’92, ’93, ’94 and ’96).

Countries now can sing in any language they choose, this is how the contest started out in 1956. However from 1966 to 1973 and 1977 to 1999 the EBU decided that countries must sing in their native language. Since the year 2000 some countries have even experimented with artificial languages,such as the Belgian entry ‘Sanomi’ in 2003. The 2011 Norwegian entry was the first in Eurovision history to use an non-European language, when the song was sung in a mixture of English and Swahili.

The voting has always been an area of controversy and in many cases it is almost predictable which countries will receive points from which. The current awarding of points has been in use since 1975. Countries award points 1 through 7, which from 2006 is automatically placed on the screens to save time. From there a representative from the awarding country reads out the 8th, 10th and 12th point. Again predictable voting patterns show countries giving the most points to their closest neighbours or allies, for example the Scandanavian nations, the Eastern European nations, Spain and Portugal. Even the UK and Ireland are guilty of it.

Throughout Eurovision history, there are many acts that have gained international status as a result of taking part. The most notable being ABBA, who won with ‘Waterloo’ for Sweden in 1974; they used Eurovision as a platform and went on to sell over 375 million records and still sell about 2 million records a year now. Other acts who used Eurovision to launch their careers include Celine Dion, who won the contest for Switzerland in 1988, Brotherhood Of Man (UK 1976), Dana (Ireland 1970), Bucks Fizz (UK 1981) and Dana International (Israel 1998).

Whatever people’s perception of the Eurovision Song Contest, it has continued to grow for more than half a century and it does, at least if only for one night, unite Europe as Marcel Bezencon originally intended.

Mary I, the interesting Tudor?

Okay we all know about Henry VIII and his Six Wives, or the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I, but what about the often misunderstood Tudor, Mary I? Or as history calls her, “Bloody Mary”.

Fervently Catholic Mary had almost 300 Protestants burned at the stake in her short 5 year reign. Her marriageto a Spaniard was very unpopular and her religious policies left her people feeling very resentful at a time of bad harvests and military defeats.

So what led to Mary getting such a reputation? Was she really the tyrant that history would have us believe? Or was she a victim of circumstance?

In recent years people are coming round to the idea that she may not have been evil at all. I have read a couple of books which argue that England’s first reigning queen became what she did because of her upbringing.

The only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, Mary was adored as an infant princess. However Henry had his marriage to Catherine annulled when she continually failed to produce a male heir, so Mary fell from favour and was bastardised.

As well as never being allowed to see her mother, she also had to watch as Henry cast out her beloved religion, Catholicism and separate his country from Papal authority in Rome. All so he could marry one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting, Anne Boleyn in the hopes of producing a male heir.

As a teenager Mary was sent to attend her infant half sister, Elizabeth. Now just called Lady Mary, she was expected to even curtsey to the Princess Elizabeth. However throughout the dissolution of the Catholic monasteries and seeing her father marry another 4 women, Mary never gave up on the one thing she held most dear, her faith.

All this would have had a massive impact on Mary. She may not have handled it in the best way, but does that mean she was evil?

Further reading on the life of Mary and what led her to become what she did can be found in ‘Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen’ by Anna Whitelock.

I hope this proves just a little, my point that Mary was just as interesting and fascinating as more famous father and half-sister.