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1/2 idea No. 19: History of UK through elements

By Jon Agar, on 30 July 2021

(I am sharing my possible research ideas, see my tweet here. Most of them remain only 1/2 or 1/4 ideas, so if any of them seem particularly promising or interesting let me know @jon_agar or jonathan.agar@ucl.ac.uk!)


Book proposal: a history of the UK, but each chapter is a different element

Follow each element through the land, its cycles and processes, both natural and technological.


Carbon – the fattest chapter. Coal. Organic chemistry. The Industrial Revolution. Climate change.

Nitrogen. Fertiliser and air.

Beryllium. Aero-engines and defence research.

Uranium. Calder Hall. Windscale. Dungeness.

Gold. The Bank of England. Teeth.

Flourine. More teeth.

Calcium. Chalk. Cheese.

Neon. The city at night.

Iron. The Forest of Dean. Magnets. Ironbridge. Steel. Irn-bru.

One Response to “1/2 idea No. 19: History of UK through elements”

  • 1
    Tarquin Holmes wrote on 4 April 2022:

    If you want to look further back in history, one of the first major references to the British Isles in classical literature relates to the ancient Cornish tin trade (Diodorus Siculus, supposedly based on Pytheas’ lost 4th century BC account). Even further back, Maybe material for the introduction given focus in the rest on 18th century onward.