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April 11, 2019
by Bloomsbury International

A nation of tea drinkers

Tea is seen by many people around the world as being a very typically British drink. Most people think that we drink tea more than any other nation in the world although Turkey is actually the world’s largest consumer of this beverage with Britain in third place after Ireland.

Tea first became fashionable in Britain in the late 17th century after the Portuguese Queen Catherine of Braganza: the wife of King Charles 11 promoted drinking tea regularly among her court and the British aristocracy proceeded to follow this fashion in the 1680’s. The first tea room was opened by Twinings in 1706 on the Strand (between Waterloo and Embankment) and this establishment is still open for business today.

In the 18th century tea became an increasingly patriotic choice of drink due to the fact that the British East India Company was the monopoly importer of this commodity. Although it was not produced in Britain, it was only provided by Britain to Britons. Moreover, the British East India Company was able to keep the price of tea down because it alone controlled the supplies of this export and this meant that tea became more popular than coffee, chocolate and alcohol.  It was also seen as a drink which encouraged and expressed polite civilized behaviour: a symbol of national character.

In 1784 the tax on tea imports was cut from 119% to  just 12% and by the beginning of the 19th century it had become cheaper than beer, making it more and more popular among Britain’s working classes. The teabreak became an increasingly important tradition among Britain’s labourers especially because it was a hot, sweet, cheap non-alcoholic mass-produced drink which enabled workers to keep going all day in  cold, wet,  grey weather conditions.

March 28, 2019
by Bloomsbury International

The Queen

How much power does the Queen have?

The Queen is probably the most famous symbol of Great Britain but many students often want to know what she actually does, and how much power she has as the United Kingdom’s head of state.

Britain has been a constitutional monarchy since 1688, meaning that its laws are passed by the authority of its parliament not the king or queen. The Queen formally announces her government’s plans for the year when she delivers the Queen’s Speech during the State Opening of Parliament every autumn. But the Queen is not able to decide which laws her government will pass: that is the responsibility of the elected government, headed by the Prime Minister. Although the Prime Minister is formally appointed by the Queen, the Queen does not personally choose the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the elected leader of the largest political party in the House of Commons which usually has the majority of seats in parliament. But the Queen does hold a regular private meeting with the Prime Minister for 20 minutes each week so she is officially informed in person about what her government is doing.


How much is the Queen paid?

Between 1760 and 2012 the monarch and their spouse were paid by a government grant called the Civil List which covered the money they spent doing their royal duties (for example, representing the country abroad on  State Visits, attending banquets and holding charity functions). Since 2012, the Queen gets paid 15% of revenues received from the Crown Estate: the land she owns within the country of the United Kingdom. The Queen’s net worth was valued as being equivalent to £340 million in 2015.


Who does the Queen represent?

The Queen is not only the head of state for Great Britain & Northern Ireland; she is Head of the Commonwealth (an association of nations which were formerly colonies of the British Empire), Head of the Church of England and head of state for the Dominions: countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

March 14, 2019
by Bloomsbury International

The history of the English Language

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the English language? Where does the language come from, and when did people start speaking it in its modern form? Read on to find the answers.

Let’s start our story 2000 years ago, when Britain was inhabited by a group of people called Celts, who spoke a language called Celtic. They were conquered by the Romans, who ruled England for about four hundred years and spoke Latin. So you might think that the English language comes from Latin or Celtic – but you’d be wrong. Some people in Wales and Scotland still speak languages (Welsh and Scottish Gaelic) that are descended from Celtic, but modern English has very few words that are directly from the Roman or Celtic periods.

Instead, the main influence on English was a group of people called Anglo-Saxons. They originally came from Germany and invaded England around 1500 years ago. They brought their language with them, and that’s why modern English has many words in common with German – the two languages come from the same source.

But English isn’t just based on German: it also has a lot of influence from the French language. That’s because of a group of people called the Normans, who came from a part of France and conquered England in 1066. After they conquered England, the Normans made themselves the new aristocrats – the Kings and Queens, Lords and Ladies of England, and they spoke their own language: French. So for a long time, there were two languages in use in England: the rich people, who were Normans, spoke French, and the poor people, who were the descendants of the Anglo-Saxons, spoke Old English. Gradually, the two languages combined: the rich Normans started speaking English, while the poor Anglo Saxons took on some French words into their own language.

We can still see the impact of this in some of our modern day vocabulary. For example, the English word “sheep” comes from the Anglo Saxon, because the Anglo Saxons were the farmers who worked with the animals, while the English word “mutton”, meaning sheep meat, comes from French, because the rich Normans were the ones who ate the meat.

Of course, English has changed a lot in the last 900 years as well. The grammar and spelling has changed and new words have entered – for example, the word “tomato” comes from a language used in Central America. English has changed so much that when we read Chaucer, who was writing in the fourteenth century, he is very hard to understand. By Shakespeare’s time (around 1600), English was closer to modern English, but even so, as many bored British schoolchildren will tell you, Shakespeare can be very confusing!

So there you have it – a quick history of the origins of the English language. If you’re wondering how it will change in the future – well, who knows?! What do you think?