Archive for September 28th, 2009

A Design for Life

28 September 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour, Channel 4, Sunday 27 September 2009

Pantheon by PaniniConsider this. You’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a mini series on the British grand tourists who travelled through early modern Europe, the places they visited, the foods they tasted, the ideas they borrowed, the things they saw. The second of four instalments details the link between the reconstruction of London after the Great Fire and the architecture of early modern Florence and Rome. In the corners of these majestic cities it uncovers the influences borrowed by the architect Christopher Wren in the construction of St Paul’s Cathedral, the greatest monument to his elaborate and uncompleted plans to transform and rejuvenate a devastated London.

So far, so good, you might think.

But then you place your knowledgeable and articulate presenter (Kevin McCloud of the excellent Grand Designs) on the floor of the Medici Chapel in Florence and have him gaze up at the simple beauty of its Michelangelo-designed dome. McCloud utters something profound about the master’s craft, about this being architecture as power rather than architecture for the people. This is, he tells us, the place where ‘classical mythology meets dynasty, without the shoulder pads. Come to think of it, with the shoulder pads.’

And there it is: the slap in the face for the unsuspecting viewer, the reminder that this is diet history, history zero, history free, or whichever faddish description most tickles your fancy. But is it forgivable?

Just about. Read More

David Mitchell on the point of research

28 September 2009

By Juliana Adelman

David_mitchellI didn’t catch Mitchell’s column, ‘Pointless studies are the key to evolution’, in the printed Observer this weekend, but it has been doing the rounds in cyberspace.  Mitchell was reacting to the news that the British government will ask funding bodies to evaluate whether research has economic or social value before funding it.  This is to replace the Research Assessment Exercise, with a new ‘Research Excellence Framework’ (Ref, how cute).  I don’t think economic and social value were ever really off the radar in terms of funding research, but this article in the Guardian implies that the initiative is directly intended to discourage research which has no economic outcomes.  I haven’t read much about it so I’m not sure if Mitchell is making a mountain out of a mole hill, but his article is very funny indeed.  There is now a move to nominate Mitchell to a research council, put forward by academic Steve Fuller.  I will follow the story with interest…

Bring out your events!

28 September 2009

Billy_Clark_town_crier_NantucketThis post is really just an effort to highlight our Events page.  We aim to provide a central listing for all kinds of history events taking place in Ireland.  Please oh please send us your events.  Email us at  As you can see on the Events page, we usually put in a single sentence which also serves as a hyperlink to a website for the actual event.  So far in October there are conferences on Monism in Belfast, the history of New Age religion in Maynooth, the War of Independence in Dublin, and the Ulster plantation, also in Dublin.  Finally the Roscrea conference is on Irish Saints and the Liturgy.  I’m sure there’s more going on.  We are happy to add exhibitions, radio and tv programmes and public lectures.  (Have a look at Lisa’s tv and radio guide for the week while you’re at it.)  So bring out your events, we want your events!