Jane Struthers looks at the history of wassailing in this extract from The Book of Christmas. English is a fascinating melting pot of languages acquired from other countries, especially those whose kings once occupied our throne. So it’s hardly surprising that the word ‘wassail’ is thought to have come from the Old Norse ves heill, which […]

In this extract from The Book of Christmas, Jane Struthers demystifies the protagonist of a popular Christmas carol. We sing about him every Christmas in the eponymous carol, which tells us that the ‘good king’ and his page ventured out in the snow on the feast of Stephen (26 December) to take food, wine and […]

Bright Earth examines the vast spectrum of colours we live with, from the illustrious history of monarchic purple to the 17th century attempts to make and define pink. In this extract, author Philip Ball uncovers the history and chemistry behind the infamously patented International Klein Blue.

In Hello World, Alice Rawsthorn explores the relationship design plays in society, and how it influences our lives as one of the most powerful forces that can determine how we feel and what we do, often without our noticing. In this extract, the role of the colour green is explored, from its use as a colour denoting environmental causes, to the irony of it being one of the least natural colours in the man-made world.

To this day, the Ministry of Defence responds to all enquiries about submarine operations with a simple phrase: “The Ministry of Defence does not comment on submarine operations.” Written with privileged access to both documents and personnel, The Silent Deep is the first authoritative history of the British submarine service since the end of the […]

In an extract from Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads, author and activist Benedict Rogers recalls his unceremonious exit from Burma in 2011.

As the Rugby World Cup draws to a close, Think Smarter rewinds to the 1995 final in South Africa, one of the most momentous moments of post-apartheid unity. In this extract from Republic or Death, music journalist Alex Marshall looks at the South African national anthem’s messy beginnings, and how it might influence the nation’s future.