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What's the origin of Boxing Day

A. Boxing Day, celebrated in Britain on 26 December, has its origins the Middle Ages. Thanks to smanian76 for the question. Some historians say the holiday developed because servants were required01:00 Mon 24th Dec 2001

Who was the 8th Earl of Ormond

A. Thanks to rogerdavidge for the question - and I'd be interested to know the reasons for his interest. My thanks also go to John Butler, webmaster of, for his help in answering01:00 Mon 24th Dec 2001

Why did William conquer

A. A number of reasons. Some could argue that it had been waiting to happen for a century. For a start, the English and Normans didn't like each other. This was made worse when the English King01:00 Wed 17th Oct 2001

I've just received an e-mail offer to invest money in the Nigerian government. I'm a little suspicious. What do you reckon

A. Be very suspicious. Don't touch it. This is an old-fashioned con that's been going for years - but has just been updated on to e-mail. Let me guess. The e-mail says something along the lines of:01:00 Mon 17th Dec 2001

Why are our train services so useless At least Mussolini made the trains run on time.

A. An interesting point. As well as delays and inefficiency, there have been terrible tragedies too. Take the Hatfield disaster in October, 2000. Fourteen minutes into its journey to Leeds, the01:00 Mon 17th Dec 2001

Who was Annie Besant

A. Victorian. Independent woman, vicar's wife, atheist, feminist campaigner. Q. Interesting combination. Background A. Annie was born in 1847, the daughter of William Wood and Emily Morris.01:00 Mon 10th Dec 2001

What was the matchgirls' strike

A. A pioneering era in labour history - and a moment when Victorian hypocrisy and cruelty was exposed. Q. More details A. In June 1888, reformer Annie Besant (click here for a feature on this01:00 Mon 10th Dec 2001

What's a turnpike trust

A. A group of people who looked after roads within a certain area, and then charged people to used them. Q. Why A. As road use increased in the 17th and 18th Centuries, the condition of the01:00 Mon 10th Dec 2001

Who was Genghis Khan

A. A fearsome Mongol warrior, who founded an empire that reached well into Europe. Q. When A. From 1162-1227. Genghis Khan was born to Yesugei, a Mongol chieftain, and called Temujin, which01:00 Mon 03rd Dec 2001

Why Stonewall Jackson

A. Thomas Jonathan Jackson, Confederate soldier, was given the nickname at a battle in 1861. Somebody said: 'Look, there stands Jackson like a stone wall,' and it stuck. Q. Who was he A. Born01:00 Mon 03rd Dec 2001

Are Arthur's Seat coffins a real thing or just part of a novel by Ian Rankin

A. Good question from HyperGary. Fans of Ian Rankin will, of course, know that the Arthur's Seat coffins get a mention in his novel The Falls, one of the Detective Inspector John Rebus series. A tiny01:00 Mon 03rd Dec 2001

What's a south sea bubble

A. You may be confusing it with The South Sea Bubble - a popular name for the disastrous speculation in the South Sea Company, which failed dramatically in 1720. Q. What sort of company was01:00 Mon 26th Nov 2001

When was the last Zeppelin built

A. The airships, whose name became synonymous with German atrocities in the First World War, are still being built. The NT07 - the NT stands for New Technology - is in the air, although it appears01:00 Mon 26th Nov 2001

What's this habeas corpus that David Blunkett wants to ban

A. An ancient right of liberty. Mr Blunkett, the home secretary, is planning to detain terrorists without trial. It is an emergency measure that would make Britain safer, but - say its critics - a01:00 Mon 26th Nov 2001

Who were the Reivers

A. A lawless lot who roamed the Scottish borders for 350 years. They gave the word bereaved to the English language. Q. Explain. A. Reivers were bandits whose profession was raiding their01:00 Mon 26th Nov 2001

What was Kristallnacht

A. Beautiful name, terrible deed. Kristallnacht means The Night of the Broken Glass - the start of all-out Nazi attacks on Jews - on 9 November, 1938. Q. How did it start A. The attack came01:00 Mon 19th Nov 2001

Hitler's bunker has just recently been rediscovered. What do the Germans intend to do with it

A. Thanks for the question, Pussing. As Incitatus points out, the Germans knew where it was, but are having a big problem knowing what to do with it. In October, however, another section was01:00 Mon 19th Nov 2001

What was the notorious Medway raid

A. A daring raid by the Dutch up the River Medway, In Kent, in June, 1667. It was a great embarrassment to King Charles II and a terrible disaster for the British navy. Q. The Dutch They're01:00 Mon 12th Nov 2001

I've heard that the Romans' biggest battle was in Kent. Where Is it commemorated in some way

A. Thanks to Cynthia Dyke for the question. The answer is yes to both. The Battle of Kent is arguably the most important battle apart from Hastings. It lasted two days and the Roman legions, under01:00 Mon 12th Nov 2001

What's the London Gazette

A. Well, it's not a local paper that you'll see on the news-stands - that's for sure. It started as a king's private publication and is now the official voice of the government. You can log into it01:00 Mon 12th Nov 2001

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