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    From 1972 to 1984, Major Vasiliy Mitrokhin was a senior archivist in the KGB’s foreign intelligence archive – with unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of files from a global network of spies and intelligence gathering operations.

    At the same time, having grown disillusioned with the brutal oppression of the Soviet regime, he was taking secret handwritten notes of the material and smuggling them out of the building each evening. In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he, his family and his archive were exfiltrated by the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service.

    Now, more than twenty years after his defection to the UK, Mitrokhin’s files are being opened by the Churchill Archives Centre, where they sit alongside the personal papers of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

    Professor Christopher Andrew, the only historian to date allowed access to the archive, and author of two global bestsellers with Mitrokhin, said: “There are only two places in the world where you’ll find material like this. One is the KBG archive – which is not open and very difficult to get into – and the other is here at Churchill College where Mitrokhin’s own typescript notes are today being opened for all the world to see.

    “Mitrokhin dreamed of making this material public from 1972 until his death; it’s now happening in 2014. The inner workings of the KGB, its foreign intelligence operations and the foreign policy of Soviet-era Russia all lie within this extraordinary collection; the scale and nature of which gives unprecedented insight into the KGB’s activities throughout much of the Cold War.”

    Among the 19 boxes and thousands of papers being opened are KGB notes on Pope John Paul II, whose activities in Poland were closely monitored before his election to the Papacy; maps and details of secret Russian arms caches in Western Europe and the USA; and files on Melita Norwood, ‘the spy who came in from the Co-op’.

    Norwood, codename Hola, was the KGB’s longest-serving UK agent, who for four decades passed on classified information from her office at the British Non Ferrous Metals Research Association in Euston, North London, where nuclear and other scientific research took place.

    “The Mitrokhin files range in time from the immediate aftermath of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution to the eve of the Gorbachev era,” said Andrew. “Initially he smuggled his daily notes out on small scraps of paper hidden in his shoes. After a few months, he began to take them out in his jacket pockets then buried them every weekend at the family dacha in the countryside near Moscow.

    “The enormous risks in compiling his secret archive might well have ended with a secret trial and a bullet in the back of the head in an execution cellar. He was a dissident willing to make the most extraordinary sacrifice.”

    Vasiliy Mitrokhin was born in 1922. From 1948, he worked in foreign intelligence before being assigned to the foreign intelligence archives in the KGB First Chief Directorate. From 1972 until 1982 he was in charge of the transfer of these archives from the Lubyanka in central Moscow to a new foreign intelligence HQ at Yasenevo. 

    Following his retirement in 1984, Mitrokhin organised much of this material geographically and, in ten volumes, typed out systematic studies of KGB operations in different parts of the world.

    After his exfiltration to London, Mitrokhin continued to work on transcribing and typing his manuscript notes, producing a further 26 typed volumes, which, together with his notes, provided the basis for his publications with Professor Christopher Andrew. Vasiliy Mitrokhin died in January 2004.

    Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives Centre, said: “This collection is a wonderful illustration of the value of archives and the power of archivists. It was Mitrokhin's position as archivist that allowed him his unprecedented access and overview of the KGB files. It was his commitment to preserving and providing access to the truth that led him to make his copies, at huge personal risk. We are therefore proud to house his papers and to honour his wish that they should be made freely available for research."

    In accordance with the deposit agreement, the Churchill Archives Centre is opening Mitrokhin’s edited Russian-language versions of his original notes. The original manuscript notes and notebooks will remain closed under the terms of the deposit agreement, subject to review.

    KGB files from the famous Mitrokhin Archive – described by the FBI as ‘the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source’ – will today open to the public for the first time.

    There are only two places in the world where you’ll find material like this. One is the KBG archive – which is not open and very difficult to get into – and the other is here at Churchill College.
    Chrisopher Andrew
    Mitrokhin's handwritten copy of the KGB First Chief Directorate Lexicon

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    The Festival - which runs from 20 October to 2 November - will focus on ‘Identities’, and features leading thinkers, academics, writers and performers including Ha-Joon Chang, Professor Sir Richard Evans, Ben Okri, Carol Ann Duffy, Caroline Criado-Perez, Alexander McCall Smith and Bridget Christie.

    Now in its seventh year, the Festival aims to explore some of the most essential and thought-provoking ideas of our time, from rising nationalism, gender and racial politics to digital rights and innovation.  It celebrates the very best of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Over 250 events ranging from talks, debates and film screenings to exhibitions and comedy nights are held in lecture halls, theatres, museums and galleries around Cambridge and entry to many is free.

    The Festival continues to develop its special mix of events for all ages, with an exciting programme for young people and families that accompanies the events offered for adult audiences. The Festival team are collaborating with the University of Cambridge Museums and partners across Cambridge to kick off a month-long cultural season, Curating Cambridge. For the first time, they are also partnering with the Women of the World Festival with a special day of events on gender politics, including a panel discussion on cyberbullying with feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, herself the victim of internet 'trolls'. The Women of the World Festival celebrates women’s achievements and discusses the obstacles that prevent them from achieving their full potential and contributing to the world.

    Highlights of the Festival of Ideas include the following:

    Leading economist Ha-Joon Chang discusses the idea that economics is a science and addresses the failures in economics thinking that he says led to our current predicament

    Learning to Remember: how should we teach history? A debate with Professor Sir Richard Evans, Professor David Cesarani, teacher Katherine Edwards and Damian Collins MP, chaired by BBC Cambridgeshire's Chris Mann

    Booker prize winner Ben Okri speaks about his life and work

    Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy presents an event where stars of the ‘Routes into Languages East: Mother Tongue Other Tongue’ 2014 competition perform their shortlisted entries

    Author Alexander McCall Smith, one of the world’s most popular and prolific authors, discusses the art of combining traditional publishing formats with contemporary writing

    Award-winning comic and Radio 4 regular Bridget Christie talks gender equality as she brings her smash-hit Edinburgh show to Cambridge

    The Festival celebrates the very best of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Over 250 events, which range from talks, debates and film screenings to exhibitions and comedy nights, are held in lecture halls, theatres, museums and galleries around Cambridge and entry to most is free.

    The Identities theme is picked up in a series of debates:

    - Mixed Race: the future of identity politics in Britain. Journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown chairs a discussion with journalist and broadcaster Sarfraz Manzoor, campaigner Dinah Morley and Research Associate Nathaniel Coleman and Senior Research Fellow Chamion Caballero.

    - Nationalism 101 - should we be afraid? This debate encompasses the Arab Spring, the events in Ukraine, and the tensions of English and Catalan nationalism with Professors Mike Kenny and Montserrat Guibernau, Professor Margot Light and Glen Rangwala, lecturer on the politics of the modern Middle East.

    - Common European Identity: a myth, a reality or an aspiration? This panel discussion welcomes academics with anthropological, historical, legal and political science backgrounds, and students’ personal views and experiences

    - Challenges to Sexual Identities. Campaigner Peter Tatchell, Anthony Obidike of Justice for Gay Africans, Professor Susan Golombok and Dr Katherine Browne debate the rise in extremism against gay people in some parts of the world and what drives tolerance and diversity

    - Remembering the Benefits of Multi-Cultural Britain. Author and playwright Bonnie Greer explores how the UK’s cultural and ethnic diversity enriches our communities and how the UK benefits both socially and economically from its diversity

    - Identity Politics and the Anglican Church. This panel discussion will address women, homosexuality and the Global South in the Anglican Communion.

    The Festival will see a host of inspiring interactive sessions for people of all ages, including a pre-history day, a comic creation master class, a hip hop event which explores mental illness through hip hop beats and lyrics, medieval storytelling, family drawing workshops and a speed mentoring session for women. Heffers will run a unique Classics Forum with experts including Professor Paul Cartledge, Tom Holland and Professor Maria Wyke.

    The University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas is sponsored by Cambridge University Press and Anglia Ruskin University. Event partners include Heffers, University of Cambridge Museums, RAND Europe, the Junction. The Festival's media partner is BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

    Malavika Anderson, the Festival of Ideas Coordinator, said: “We all subscribe to identities that are in permanent states of flux, personally and politically. This year's Festival of Ideas will aim to address the most important identity crises of the day with a wide-ranging and diverse programme of events. Last year we welcomed over 18,000 visitors, and we look forward to even more participating this time around.”

    The programme will be published on 26 August. More information from:


    Cyberbullying, climate conspiracies, gender politics and how to teach history are just a few of the important and contentious topics covered in this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

    We all subscribe to identities that are in permanent states of flux, personally and politically. This year's Festival of Ideas will aim to address the most important identity crises of the day.
    Malavika Andersen, Festival of Ideas Coordinator

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    Although the session used real application forms, all information which could have identified the school or the candidate had been removed to protect privacy.

    The session was part of a Teachers’ Roadshow organised by Pembroke and St Catharine’s Colleges and hosted by The King’s School, Peterborough.

    “Suddenly this is so much more impressive,” commented one of the teachers, reaching the school reference for a candidate who had achieved over 95% in their AS modules – at an inner city school with a very high proportion of pupils with SEN, and from a family with no tradition of higher education.

    “We have found that one of the most effective ways of demonstrating what we are looking for in an application is to show teachers the same evidence that we see,” explains Dr Caroline Burt, Admissions Tutor for Pembroke College.

    “We find this particularly brings home the importance of the school reference,” Caroline added. “This is the school’s chance to place the achievements of each applicant in context, and it’s information we will come back to if an applicant under-performs at interview compared to their exam results.”

    The Teachers’ Roadshow has been developed to give local teachers the most up-to-date information on what Cambridge can offer their students, the Cambridge admissions process, course choice and career prospects. Advice is also given on how to support able students in studying outside the confines of the formal syllabus. Roadshows also allow plenty of time for conversation and questions.

    Kate Griggs, Head of 6th Form at Arthur Mellows Village College, Peterborough, said “It’s so important to be able to give correct guidance on the application process.

    “The advice from Caroline and Laura was clear, informative and incisive. It is very clear what is being looked for by Cambridge.

    “I can take this information back and use it for all our university applicants – we aim for the top.”

    The Roadshow was co-ordinated by Laura McGarty, Schools Liaison Officer for Pembroke and St Catharine’s Colleges, and Merrina Wilson, UCAS Co-Ordinator at The Kings School.

    “I’m passionate about making sure our students have all the information they need to make their applications,” said Merrina. “But I’m also working to raise aspirations across Peterborough as well.”

    “Teachers and advisers are such important allies for us in ensuring that prospective students receive all the support and encouragement they might need to make informed decisions and strong applications,” added Laura.

    “Events like this give us the opportunity to equip participants with information and resources which they can take back to their colleagues and students, but we also want to get the message across that all teachers and advisers are welcome to contact us at any time for advice about supporting applicants to Cambridge – no enquiry is too big or too small.”

    • Teachers' Roadshows are held throughout the UK. For more information visit the Events for Teachers, Tutors and HE Advisers web page.

    Teachers and HE advisers from across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough stepped into the role of Admissions Tutor last week, reviewing real, anonymised, Cambridge application forms. Faced with three high-achieving students, they were asked: what would you decide?

    The advice from Caroline and Laura was clear, informative and incisive. It is very clear what is being looked for by Cambridge.
    Kate Griggs, Head of 6th Form at Arthur Mellows Village College, Peterborough

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    Plant scientist and geneticist Sir David Baulcombe, FRS, has been elected President of the Biochemical Society, the largest learned society in the biosciences.

    Sir David will become President of the Society from January 2015 as it implements its five-year strategy to strengthen its international relationships.

    “I have always admired the Biochemical Society and the way it promotes our subject. It will be a privilege to help with its current exciting work,” said Sir David.

    The Society’s chairman Steve Busby said: “His findings have opened new avenues in areas like HIV and cancer treatment and disease-resistant agriculture. It will be an honour to have someone of Sir David’s calibre at the helm of the Biochemical Society.”

    Plant scientist and geneticist elected as president of learned society for work on cancer, HIV and disease-resistant crops

    His findings have opened new avenues in areas like HIV and cancer treatment and disease-resistant agriculture.
    Steve Busby, chairman of the Biochemical Society
    Field of Gold

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    Pembroke College staff member Edward Button has been given the 2014 Iain More award by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Europe.

    The award recognises outstanding achievements by a development professional and is named in honour of Iain More, one of Europe's leading fundraisers.

    Mr Button works as a development officer in the college and has helped raise more than £2 million for Pembroke since he joined in 2011.

    He is also serving as treasurer for the Cambridge Colleges Development Group (CCDG), which represents all development professionals at Cambridge colleges.



    Edward Button awarded 2014 CASE Europe Iain More Award.

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    At a ceremony held in the University’s Senate House, in which Honorary Degrees were conferred on such remarkable individuals as actor and activist Sir Ian McKellen, classical pianist Mitsuko Uchida, and lawyer and anti-Apartheid campaigner Albie Sachs, Dr Hamied – who is Chairman of the Indian pharmaceutical giant Cipla Ltd—was recognised for his contribution to public health in the developed world.

    His degree citation described his life-long efforts to provide life-saving medicines to those who could least afford it:

    “He produced AIDS medicines at a cost of less than a dollar a day. He combined the drugs into a single pill which can be taken daily. His drugs have saved so many people that his company has been called the world’s pharmacy. Indeed, in Africa, it has been said, Cipla is a temple, and Dr Hamied its God. But this most humanitarian of men simply replies, ‘I don’t want to make money from these diseases which cause the whole fabric of society to crumble.”

    Dr Hamied (Christ’s College, m. 1954), who studied Natural Sciences and then completed a PhD in Organic Chemistry at Cambridge, and has generously helped establish the Cambridge Hamied Visiting Lectureship, is the latest in a distinguished line of Indian citizens to receive such a distinction. Previous honorary graduates from India include Nobel laureates, statesmen, industrialists, and philanthropists.

    The nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha, FRS, known as the “father of India’s nuclear programme” was awarded an honorary degree in 1959. Bhabha worked at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and received a doctorate in physics from the University in 1934.

    In 1993 the then President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma, who attended Fitzwilliam College, was awarded an honorary degree. The University has recognised former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh, in 2006, and Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1953, with honorary doctorates. In 1953, the then Vice President (who went on to become President), Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, also had a degree conferred upon him.

    The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science recipient, Amartya Sen, received an honorary doctorate in 2009. Sen, an economist, was Master of Trinity College from 1998 to 2004. Another well-known Indian Nobel Prize winner, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, had her degree conferred upon her in 1975.

    India's leading industrialist Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group, received his honorary degree of Doctor of Law in 2010.

    Dr Hamied’s award reflects the continued importance Cambridge ascribes to its partnerships with India, stretching back over 150 years.

    The importance that the University of Cambridge attributes to its ties with India was underscored on Wednesday 18 June when Dr Yusuf Hamied, the leading Indian pharmaceutical chemist and philanthropist, was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science.

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    The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme has been established by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and is run in partnership with Comic Relief and the Royal Commonwealth Society

    It aims to discover, celebrate and support young people aged 19 to 29 from every Commonwealth nation. They will be chosen for having transformed their own lives and the lives of those around them, despite challenges they may have faced along the way.

    In recognition of the 60 years that The Queen had served as Head of the Commonwealth at the time of her Diamond Jubilee, 60 inspirational young leaders from across the Commonwealth nations will be selected each year from 2014 to 2018.

    The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry were joined today by former Prime Minister Sir John Major, as Chairman of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Kevin Cahill, Chief Executive of Comic Relief, Lord Howell of Guildford, President of the Royal Commonwealth Society and Dr Rebecca Lingwood, Director of ICE.

    The Award recognises and celebrates the achievements of a diverse group of exceptional young people and supports them to reach their potential and create real change in their lives and in the lives of those around them.

    The Programme will further strengthen the skills and confidence of Award winners so that they are ready to change the lives of those around them and to inspire the next generation of young leaders through their own actions and values.

    ICE will be making an important contribution to the Programme, in conjunction with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and Cambridge University Press, by providing tailored support to the award winners to develop their skills as leaders, equipping them to lead change in their chosen sphere in their communities and countries.

    This will include an annual two-day residential leadership course at Madingley Hall, Cambridge, to which the 60 annual award winners from the 53 Commonwealth countries will come as part of a week-long visit to the UK.

    Their visit will culminate in the presentation of their awards at Buckingham Palace

    Dr Lingwood said: “Our goal is to promote the enormous impact of the Commonwealth on young people and their communities by nurturing the young leaders of the future and enabling them to become ambassadors for others. It is an ambitious and exciting project, and one that promises to be not just a useful contribution during its lifetime but part of a lasting legacy.”

    Speaking on behalf of the partnership Sir John Major said: “We wish to identify and nurture the talent of the younger generation across the Commonwealth. We’re inspired by the belief that one talented individual can be a positive force for good within their community.

    “This programme will celebrate the achievements of these extraordinary individuals and help develop their skills, thus creating a lasting legacy – benefiting the whole of the Commonwealth – to honour the long and successful reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”

    Over the next five years, at a time when the Commonwealth is home to the largest generation of young people ever in its history – over 1.3 billion of a total 2.2 billion citizens – The Queens’ Young Leaders Programme will support thousands of young people to make their visions of a better society a reality.

    Comprising two parts, it will create a lasting legacy for the Queen through:

    • An awards scheme to recognise the achievements of 240 inspirational young people and provide support enabling them to take up leadership roles and inspire future leaders.
    • Grants to support organisations in selected countries across the Commonwealth that work with young people top transform their lives.

    From today, young people from across the Commonwealth can apply or be nominated to win an award and become a Queen’s young Leader.

    For more information visit  # TheSearchIsOn

    ICE is a Department of the University, based at Madingley Hall, which provides part-time and short courses for adults.

    The University of Cambridge Institute for Continuing Education (ICE) will be leading the University’s major contribution to an initiative launched at Buckingham Palace today which will celebrate talented young people from across the Commonwealth over the next four years.

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    Law in Focus is a collection of short videos featuring academics from the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Law, addressing legal issues in current affairs and the news.

    “…An individual’s right to decide by what means and at what point his or her life will end, provided he or she is capable of freely reaching a decision on this question and acting in consequence, is one of the aspects of the right to respect for private life within the meaning of article 8 of the Convention [right to private and family life].” So said the European Court of Human Rights in Haas v Switzerland (2013) 56 EHRR 6, at para 51.

    However section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961 makes it a criminal offence to encourage or assist the suicide of another person. Should it be an offence for anyone in any circumstances to help someone commit suicide? Nine judges in the Supreme Court considered a series of questions, which included the constitutional and somewhat technical question of whether it was for the judiciary to strike down section 2, or whether they should leave the question to Parliament. By a majority of seven to two, they voted not to issue a declaration that section 2 is incompatible with article 8.

    Nicola Padfield explores some aspects of the important decision of the Supreme Court in Nicklinson (R (Nicklinson and another) v Ministry of Justice; R (AM) v The DPP [2014] UKSC 38) focusing on the minority judgement of Baroness Hale.

    The law currently draws a horribly artificial divide between ‘killing’ and ‘letting die’, which means that those people who can breathe without artificial help are denied a choice which is available to those who cannot breath alone.
    Nicola Padfield
    Nicola Padfield

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    The main contractor Morgan Sindall hosted the event at the University’s West Cambridge site, where the state-of-the-art laboratory is being built. The event marked the completion of the concrete frame and roof - key milestones in the £60 million project, which is due to be handed over in June 2015.

    The dignitaries attending included the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research Professor Lynn Gladden and Angus Stephen, Director of Operations for the University's Estate Management.

    The CEB will be used to promote collaboration and interdisciplinary working among research groups, researchers and students.

    The project follows the merger of the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Institute of Biotechnology. They are presently located in separate buildings in Cambridge city centre and need room for growth. The departments have outstanding reputations in the fields of chemistry, physics, mathematics, clinical medicine and biology. 

    The new building is the first to facilitate collaboration between undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers through the whole cycle of scientific investigation. 

    Professor Nigel Slater, Head of Department, said; “Since last year the Department has followed the building progress through the CCTV-internet link and our excitement has grown steadily as it has sprouted ever upwards.  We appreciate that the diverse research and teaching activities of the Department, and the specialised facilities that these require, make the building extremely complex yet we have been amazed by the pace of progress.  Our excitement is heightened by today’s topping out ceremony, and we are grateful for what has been achieved on the project to date.”

    Bob Ensch, area director for Morgan Sindall, said: “The Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Building is a landmark project for the University of Cambridge and will add further to its international reputation for learning and research in this field. The project team is working well with all of the stakeholders involved, and it’s a privilege to bring our construction expertise to bear on such a significant scheme.”

    The CEB was designed by BDP architects, with a project team that includes Ramboll UK as civil and structural engineers and Hoare Lea as services engineers.

    The CEB will feature a wide range of biological laboratories to Bio Safety Levels Two and Three, cleanrooms, sensitive laser, optics and imaging laboratories, a Magnetic Resonance Research Centre, materials and processes laboratories and an undergraduate teaching laboratory.

    The undergraduate teaching facilities support these laboratories through dedicated spaces that include two 120-seat lecture theatres, a postgraduate open plan researcher write-up space, and academic and administrative offices.

    It stands on the University’s West Cambridge site which covers 66-hectares between the M11 motorway, Madingley Road, and Clerk Maxwell Road.  The site is already home to the renowned Cavendish Laboratories and the British Antarctic Survey.

    To watch a video made on the occasion click here

    Progress on the new home for the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (CEB)  has been celebrated with a traditional topping-out ceremony.

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    In the early 1960s two young Cambridge academics – John Goldthorpe and David Lockwood – embarked on a study of the newly affluent working class. The town they chose to carry out their research was Luton, home of Vauxhall Motors which then employed some 18,000 people. Goldthorpe and Lockwood wanted to capture how greater prosperity was reshaping class divides and their team of investigators interviewed nearly 300 workers, recording their responses to open-ended questions.

    Transcripts of these interviews, together with the investigators’ field notes, are held by the UK Data Service at the University of Essex. Fifty years on, they make compelling reading about an era more readily associated in the public imagination with the rowdy classlessness of sex, drugs and rock and roll than with the fine-tuned nuances of social status. What this remarkable snapshot of British life reveals about the ways in which the boundaries of social class are established, and how cross-class differences are navigated, is the subject of a paper by Cambridge historian Dr Jon Lawrence, published earlier this year by History Workshop Journal.

    One of the classic hits of the mid-1960s, Lennon and McCartney’s A Hard Day’s Night is a bitter-sweet tribute to the pain and pleasure of ordinary working-class life seen from the male point of view. “Arguably the song is about exactly the issues that the men discuss in the Luton study – how they work hard to provide the good things in life, and how their shared domestic lives are their main reward - Lennon sings ‘I work all day to get you money to buy you things’,” said Lawrence. “And it’s significant that the Luton study focused exclusively on married men deeply invested in the idea of being the male provider.”

    The men recruited for the study were interviewed first at work and then in their own homes alongside their wives. For these home interviews, success depended on the researchers establishing a rapport with their subjects. The investigators made notes about participants’ manners, the décor and cleanliness of their houses, and the details of any refreshments offered, sometimes right down to the type of teapot and the way in which the sandwiches were cut. 

    One interviewer noted: “At the end of the interview I was given a number of cups of tea in a newish tea service. It was served on a tray and I had an egg sandwich, which was cut into 4 diagonally.” He then went on remark that his hosts: “Didn’t strike me as being conscious of any middle class strivings even though their house and their desire to pay for their son’s education certainly indicate an intention to get some of the good things in life.” Half a century on, the sense of approval implicit in this judgement offers a fascinating glimpse of the sensitivity of the researcher’s class antennae.

    In his essay, Social Science Encounters and the Negotiation of Difference in early 1960s England, Lawrence explores the ways in which the investigators carried their own deep-rooted perceptions of class – the ‘classes of the mind’ – into their interactions and how these judgments shaped their conclusions that British workers remained untouched by middle-class values and aspirations. It was a conclusion that provided scientific legitimacy to the Left’s rehabilitation of class politics in the aftermath of Labour’s surprise defeat in the 1970 election.

    The Luton study, which followed a pilot carried out in Cambridge, presented a considerable challenge to the research team of a dozen or more investigators, some of whom were recent graduates. “The working-class poor had long been accustomed to providing accounts of their lives to those with more power. Written records of these encounters are essentially transcripts that speak volumes about inequality. They give historians rich opportunities to explore the negotiation of class and power differentials,” said Lawrence.

    “But cross-class encounters are not always so unequal. Once social investigators turned their attentions to the worker-citizens at the heart of the post-war vision for Britain, they were engaging with a fiercely independent culture summed up by the phrase ‘we keep ourselves to ourselves’. The lengthy questionnaire researchers used to gather their data covered workers’ lifestyles, attitudes and behaviour. It probed subjects on topics often considered taboo: child rearing, relations with family and neighbours, party politics and, above all, class.”

    Goldthorpe and Lockwood were keen to test – and disprove – the widely-held belief that prosperity was making British workers ‘bourgeois’, and this led them to spend much of the home interview probing attitudes to social class. Less used today in discussions of class, bourgeois was a label carrying with it a burden of upwardly-mobile pretention which grated with the notion that to be “working class and proud” was to stand in the face of class snobbery.

    Apparent from the transcripts of the Luton and Cambridge interviews is that the interviewers were acutely sensitive to the class symbolism of material culture, dress and social etiquette. “Many of the interviewers saw their task as to identify examples of the so-called bourgeois worker, and they meticulously recorded examples of workers who appeared to display middle-class taste. They were most likely to label as bourgeois, not those who shared their own taste but those they considered to be both status-conscious and aspiring,” commented Lawrence.

    The researchers drew heavily on the nature of their interactions with respondents when making these judgments: were respondents trying to impress or was their behaviour ‘natural’ and lacking in pretention?  Interestingly, it appears that none of the researchers saw themselves as bourgeois.

    The Luton study took place when sociology was only just emerging as a discipline in its own right – albeit one regarded with a fair degree of scepticism – and it was a field profoundly influenced by the methods of social anthropology. However, some of the notes made by the Luton researchers read as startlingly bald judgments about taste.  In describing a car worker’s house, one interviewer lamented a “garish side-board” and a “revolting vase and ewer of peach, gold and other colours.” In contrast, another researcher remarked approvingly of the “delightful coffee cups of chunky Scandinavian build” observed in one Luton home. 

    One researcher declared of a clerk’s home: “The living room at the back was furnished in goodish petit-bourgeois taste.” A visit to the “upper middle” home of a young teacher prompted the observation: “Taste perhaps a little shaky?? brass ornaments and a large photo of a poodle on the wall.”

    Observations made about the presence or absence of books and art in interviewees’ home reveal researchers’ sensibilities about working-class affluence. “Time and again, one sees the investigators making distinctions between rational – and good – consumption made possible by rising living standards, and irrational – and bad – consumption driven by the status anxieties that advertising and the mass media played on,” said Lawrence. “Such thinking drew on the New Left’s critique on affluence: rising prosperity was not itself a problem, so long as workers did not become slaves to ‘false’ wants and the culture of ‘display’.Workers who shared the interviewers’ modern, non-conformist sensibilities were deemed free of bourgeois pretentions.”

    The researchers’ field notes reflect a growing awareness that their own theoretical assumptions were being undermined by what Lawrence describes as the “messy complexity of qualitative research”. After interviewing an ex-army couple, from who he elicited precious little, one of the investigators wondered whether the team’s theoretic model of class might be “suffering from a fallacy of misplaced concreteness’. Most people will construct their picture of the classes, but what they ‘spontaneously recognise’ hasn’t much to do with reference groups”.

    Most striking was that few workers felt that the distinction between the shop-floor and the office (between “works” and “staff”) had any meaning outside the factory despite being, for the researchers, the fundamental dividing line in the society of 1960s Britain.

    Over the last decades, many politicians (most famously Margaret Thatcher) have argued that class is irrelevant. Lawrence, however, argues that there is still a need to talk about class – not least because a framing of society in crude and often cruel class terms (from self-obsessed Vicky Pollard to ineffectual Tim Nice-but-Dim) in popular media and beyond remains ubiquitous in modern Britain. What it means to be working class, and how class identity has changed over the past 50 years, is a theme he explored in a recent BBC Radio 4 programme called The Unmaking of the English Working Class.

    Talking about the Luton study, Lawrence argued that: “If we reconceptualise class in cultural terms, and see it as a malleable resource through which people construct claims about personal, familial and group identity, we can see how class runs through the interviews as a structuring presence. The fixity of the researchers’ emphasis on class images precluded capturing the inherent fluidity of class as a cultural resource. They hoped to find a thing, not explore a process.”

    The researchers went into the field with stronger preconceptions about what was bourgeois than what was proletarian. “They were clear that a new working class was in the making and in a sense set out to establish that it was making itself to its own blue print, not that of the conformist and judgemental English middle class. The ‘class in the head’ for researchers was not the working class, traditional or new, but the traditional middle class – a class that many of them had shrugged off in their own lives in favour of the modern and meritocratic world of the new professions,” said Lawrence.

    “Unless workers presented themselves as aspiring Hyacinth Buckets, with her la-di-da airs and graces, they were unlikely to be labelled bourgeois – and for reasons that probably have more to do with gender than class, there were very few Hyacinth Buckets among Luton’s factory workers in the early 1960s. But there were plenty of men who found redemption in home life even if, being interviewed by Cambridge academics, few chose to give it the sexualised twist of Lennon’s lyrics - ‘But when I get home to you I find the things that you do/Will make me feel alright’.”

    Inset images: Vauxhall VX4/90, dainty sandwiches, a birthday party, 1960s ceramics, Hyacinth Bucket (all Flickr Creative Commons)

    The Beatles' song A Hard Day’s Night was released 50 years ago today. Its runaway success in the charts overlapped with a major sociological study of the newly-affluent working class that features in Lennon and McCartney’s lyrics. Cambridge historian Dr Jon Lawrence discusses what this study reveals about perceptions of class identity in 1960s Britain. 

    The researchers appear to have worked with strong existing ideas about class taste which were then mobilised not only to identify workers displaying signs of ‘bourgeois’ pretension, but also to place all respondents into a broad class schema based on cultural markers.
    Jon Lawrence
    London Picadilly Circus 1964

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    Grandmother and grandchildren

    The study also raises questions over how epigenetic effects are passed down from one generation to the next – and for how long they will continue to have an impact.

    The mechanism by which we inherit characteristics from our parents is well understood: we inherit half of our genes from our mother and half from our father. However, epigenetic effects, whereby a ‘memory’ of the parent’s environment is passed down through the generations, are less well understood. The best understood epigenetic effects are caused by a mechanism known as ‘methylation’ in which the molecule methyl attaches itself to our DNA and acts to switch genes on or off.

    In a study published today in the journal Science and funded mainly by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, an international team of researchers has shown that environmentally-induced methylation changes occur only in certain regions of our genome (our entire genetic material) – but, unexpectedly, that these methylation patterns are not passed on indefinitely.

    Researchers led by the University of Cambridge and Joslin Diabetes Center/Harvard Medical School, Boston, used mice to model the impact that under-nutrition during pregnancy had on the offspring and to look for the mechanisms by which this effect was passed down through the generations. The male offspring of an undernourished mother were, as expected, smaller than average and, if fed a normal diet, went on to develop diabetes.  Strikingly, the offspring of these were also born small and developed diabetes as adults, despite their own mothers never being undernourished.

    Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, from the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge, says: “When food is scarce, children may be born ‘pre-programmed’ to cope with undernourishment. In the event of a sudden abundance in food, their bodies cannot cope and they can develop metabolic diseases such as diabetes. We need to understand how these adaptations between generations occur since these may help us understand the record levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes in our society today.”

    To see how this effect might be passed on, the researchers analysed the sperm of offspring before the onset of diabetes to look at the methylation patterns. They found that the mouse’s DNA was less methylated in 111 regions relative to a control sperm. These regions tended to be clustered in the non-coding regions of DNA – the areas of DNA responsible for regulating the mouse’s genes. They also showed that in the grandchildren, the genes next to these methylated regions were not functioning correctly – the offspring had inherited a ‘memory’ of its grandmother’s under-nutrition.

    Unexpectedly, however, when the researchers looked at the grandchild’s DNA, they found that the methylation changes had disappeared: the memory of the grandmother’s under-nutrition had been erased from the DNA – or at least, was no longer being transmitted via methylation.

    “This was a big surprise: dogma suggested that these methylation patterns might persist down the generations,” adds co-author Dr Mary-Elizabeth Patti from the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston. “From an evolutionary point of view, however, it makes sense. Our environment changes and we can move from famine to feast, so our bodies need to be able to adapt. Epigenetic changes may in fact wear off. This could give us some optimism that any epigenetic influence on our society’s obesity and diabetes problem might also be limited and/or reversible.”

    The researchers are now looking at whether epigenetic effects no longer have an impact on great-grandchildren and their subsequent offspring. So, even if it’s true that ‘you are what your grandmother ate’, it might not be true that ‘you are what your great grandmother ate’.

    When a pregnant mother is undernourished, her child is at a greater than average risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes, in part due to so-called ‘epigenetic’ effects. A new study in mice demonstrates that this ‘memory’ of nutrition during pregnancy can be passed through sperm of male offspring to the next generation, increasing risk of disease for her grandchildren as well – in other words, to adapt an old maxim, ‘you are what your grandmother ate’.

    When food is scarce, children may be born ‘pre-programmed’ to cope with undernourishment
    Anne Ferguson-Smith
    Grandma inspecting the kids (cropped)

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    The Paper, Fair weather or foul: the macroeconomic effects of El Niño, by Dr Kamiar Mohaddes of Cambridge's Faculty of Economics and Paul Cashin and Mehdi Raissi of the International Monetary Fund comes as the Australian Bureau of Meteorology says there is at least a 70% chance of an El Nino weather event developing in 2014.

    El Niño is a band of above-average ocean surface temperatures that periodically develops off the Pacific coast of South America, and causes major climatological changes around the world. The last one was in 2009/2010.

    El Niño can affect commodity prices and the macroeconomy of different countries. It can constrain the supply of rain-driven agricultural commodities; reduce agricultural output, construction, and services activities; create food-price and generalised inflation; and may trigger social unrest in commodity-dependent poor countries that primarily rely on imported food.

    The El Niño effect is found to be most severe in the Asia and Pacific region. For instance, it causes hot and dry summers in southeast Australia; increases the frequency and severity of bush fires; reduces wheat exports, and drives up global wheat prices. Moreover, El Niño conditions usually coincide with a period of weak monsoon and rising temperatures in India, which adversely affects India’s agricultural sector, increases domestic food prices, and adds to inflation and inflation expectations. Furthermore, mining equipment in Indonesia relies heavily on hydropower; with deficient rain and low river currents, less nickel (which is used to strengthen steel) can be produced by the world’s top exporter of nickel. For the United States, on the other hand, El Niño typically brings wet weather to California (benefiting crops such as limes, almonds and avocados), reducing fires in the west and bringing warmer winters in the Northeast, increased rainfall in the South, diminished tornadic activity in the Midwest, and a decrease in the number of hurricanes that hit the East coast.

    The Cambridge paper analyses the international macroeconomic transmission of El Niño weather shocks in a dynamic multi-country framework, taking into account the economic interlinkages and spillovers that exist between different regions.

    Overall, the paper shows that while Australia, Chile, Indonesia, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa face a short-lived fall in economic activity in response to an El Niño shock, other countries may actually benefit from an El Niño weather shock (either directly or indirectly through positive spillovers from major trading partners), for instance, Argentina, Canada, Mexico and the United States. Furthermore, most countries in the sample experience short-run inflationary pressures following an El Niño shock, while global energy and non-fuel commodity prices increase.

    The researchers argue that, given these implications, macroeconomic policy formulation should take into consideration the likelihood and effects of El Niño episodes. Kamiar Mohaddes says: “Our research shows that the economic consequences of El Niño differs across countries – some lose and some benefit from such a weather shock. This is important for economic planning, particularly as such weather events are happening in cycles and their impact is sometimes very large. Countries with elevated inflation like India could be particularly susceptible to such episodes.”





    El Niño has a significant impact on the world and local economies - and not always for the worst - and countries should plan ahead to mitigate its effects, according to a new Working Paper from the University of Cambridge.

    Weather effects are becoming more common and their impact is getting stronger and stronger
    Kamiar Mohaddes
    El Niño waves crash into a pier

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    Browsing the internet

    Although precise estimates are unknown, previous studies have suggested that as many as one in 25 adults is affected by compulsive sexual behaviour, an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviour which they are unable to control. This can have an impact on a person’s personal life and work, leading to significant distress and feelings of shame. Excessive use of pornography is one of the main features identified in many people with compulsive sexual behaviour. However, there is currently no formally accepted definition of diagnosing the condition.

    In a study funded by the Wellcome Trust, researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge looked at brain activity in nineteen male patients affected by compulsive sexual behaviour and compared them to the same number of healthy volunteers. The patients started watching pornography at earlier ages and in higher proportions relative to the healthy volunteers.

    “The patients in our trial were all people who had substantial difficulties controlling their sexual behaviour and this was having significant consequences for them, affecting their lives and relationships,” explains Dr Valerie Voon, a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellow at the University of Cambridge. “In many ways, they show similarities in their behaviour to patients with drug addictions. We wanted to see if these similarities were reflected in brain activity, too.”

    The study participants were shown a series of short videos featuring either sexually explicit content or sports whilst their brain activity was monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which uses a blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal to measure brain activity.

    The researchers found that three regions in particular were more active in the brains of the people with compulsive sexual behaviour compared with the healthy volunteers. Significantly, these regions – the ventral striatum, dorsal anterior cingulate and amygdala – were regions that are also particularly activated in drug addicts when shown drug stimuli. The ventral striatum is involved in processing reward and motivation, whilst the dorsal anterior cingulate is implicated in anticipating rewards and drug craving. The amygdala is involved in processing the significance of events and emotions.

    The researchers also asked the participants to rate the level of sexual desire that they felt whilst watching the videos, and how much they liked the videos. Drug addicts are thought to be driven to seek their drug because they want – rather than enjoy – it.  This abnormal process is known as incentive motivation, a compelling theory in addiction disorders.

    As anticipated, patients with compulsive sexual behaviour showed higher levels of desire towards the sexually explicit videos, but did not necessarily rate them higher on liking scores.  In the patients, desire was also correlated with higher interactions between regions within the network identified – with greater cross-talk between the dorsal cingulate, ventral striatum and amygdala – for explicit compared to sports videos.

    Dr Voon and colleagues also found a correlation between brain activity and age – the younger the patient, the greater the level of activity in the ventral striatum in response to pornography. Importantly, this association was strongest in individuals with compulsive sexual behaviour.  The frontal control regions of the brain – essentially, the ‘brakes’ on our compulsivity – continue to develop into the mid-twenties and this imbalance may account for greater impulsivity and risk taking behaviours in younger people. The age-related findings in individuals with compulsive sexual behaviours suggest that the ventral striatum may be important in developmental aspects of compulsive sexual behaviours in a similar fashion as it is in drug addictions, although direct testing of this possibility is needed.

    “There are clear differences in brain activity between patients who have compulsive sexual behaviour and healthy volunteers. These differences mirror those of drug addicts,” adds Dr Voon. “Whilst these findings are interesting, it’s important to note, however, that they could not be used to diagnose the condition. Nor does our research necessarily provide evidence that these individuals are addicted to porn – or that porn is inherently addictive.  Much more research is required to understand this relationship between compulsive sexual behaviour and drug addiction.”

    Dr John Williams, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust, says: “Compulsive behaviours, including watching porn to excess, over-eating and gambling, are increasingly common. This study takes us a step further to finding out why we carry on repeating behaviours that we know are potentially damaging to us. Whether we are tackling sex addiction, substance abuse or eating disorders, knowing how best, and when, to intervene in order to break the cycle is an important goal of this research.”

    Pornography triggers brain activity in people with compulsive sexual behaviour – known commonly as sex addiction – similar to that triggered by drugs in the brains of drug addicts, according to a University of Cambridge study published in the journal PLOS ONE. However, the researchers caution that this does not necessarily mean that pornography itself is addictive.

    There are clear differences in brain activity between patients who have compulsive sexual behaviour and healthy volunteers
    Valerie Voon
    Browsing (cropped)

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    A yak will provide most of the things humans need to survive: meat and milk, fibre and fuel, traction and transport – and, last but not least, warmth and companionship. A traditional Tibetan recipe for making a luxurious blue-black paper goes a step further: it lists fresh yak brain, along with soot and a small amount of hide glue. Mixed into a glutinous paste, these ingredients create the glossy surface used to stunning effect in illuminated manuscripts.

    Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond, an exhibition at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), explores not just the cultural and religious significance of the texts used in Tibetan manuscripts but also the production of these manuscripts – from the making of paper using locally available plants through to the sourcing of pigments used for writing and painting – as well as their transmission across mountains and oceans.

    The interdisciplinary exhibition is the outcome of a number of AHRC-funded projects that made it possible to explore the vaults of Cambridge libraries and museum, connect literary artifacts to their place of origin, and the living traditions of book making, and in some cases discover the significance of objects that have long been kept hidden in boxes and never put on display before.

    Suspended above the entrance to Buddha’s Word is an oblong book wrapped in bright orange cloth. This is a Buddhist text. “Its presence reminds us of the Tibetan pilgrims’ practice of walking underneath book shelves in the monasteries they visit to get the blessing from the sacred scriptures,” said Dr Hildegard Diemberger, curator of the exhibition with colleagues Dr Mark Elliott and Dr Michela Clemente.

    “It also reminds us of a story narrated in many Tibetan texts telling of the miraculous arrival of the first Buddhist scriptures.  At the dawn of the Buddhist civilisation, a text fell from heaven and was received by a king. Unable to read it, and unsure what to do, he placed it in a casket and worshipped it. The scripture dispensed its blessings and the king’s youth and vigour were restored.”

    Diemberger went on: “Tibetan stories and ritual practices highlight the power of the written word and connect the Land of Snow to the wider context of Buddhist civilisations in which books containing the words of the Buddha and of Buddhist masters have travelled widely and shaped the spiritual and material world of many peoples.”

    Buddha’s Word and the accompanying catalogue provide a window into the world-wide scholarship that explores the techniques and technologies developed by Tibetan craftsmen and scholars to illustrate and disseminate the teachings of Buddha. “In creating the displays we’re telling multiple interconnecting stories about the production and dissemination of texts right up to the present day when Buddhists have embraced the opportunities offered by digital media and the internet,” said Diemberger. “We’ve also made exciting connections across time and space as we’ve traced objects in Cambridge University collections back through their trajectories to their sources.”

    A wide range of beautiful exhibits that found their way to Cambridge from various parts of Asia over the 19th and early 20th century are on display, including some of the world most ancient extant Buddhist illuminated manuscripts. Together they provide an insight into the variety and beauty of Buddhist literary artifacts, setting Tibetan book culture in its wider context.

    For the first time in the UK, the public are also able to see the tools and processes used to create sacred texts that are both spiritually significant and visually stunning. They include examples of the moulds, mallets and stirrers used to make paper, and the printing blocks and cutting tools needed to produce prayer flags as well as pens and pen cases. 

    “The objects we have taken out of store for the first time include an iron pen case given, along with other items, to MAA by Alexander (Sandy) Wollaston, a doctor on the 1921 British Everest Exhibition, and we can imagine it being used by a local official in Kharta or one of the other valleys north of Mount Everest. Other objects come straight from the living context like the bamboo pen recently donated to the exhibition by a hermit living in the Sherpa area to the south of Mount Everest,” said Diemberger.

    The curators have invited experts from throughout the world to contribute their insights into the craftsmanship of manuscript production. Among them is James Canary of Indiana University, who has travelled extensively in the Himalayan region researching Tibetan book craft. In an article for the catalogue, he focuses on the production of mthing shog manuscripts – those in which a burnished blue-black surface provides the background to sacred writings.

    “To prepare the black mixture, the craftsman kneaded by hand the brains of a freshly slaughtered yak, sheep or goat combined with the very fine powdered soot and a small amount of cooked glue hide,” explained Canary.

    “If there is too much brain material in the mix the paper will have an oiliness that will resist later writing and can also develop saponification problems, resulting in a white soapy bloom. The paste is painted on the surface of the paper which is then burnished with a piece of conch shell or a bead to make a lustrous surface for the calligraphy.”

    On display in the exhibition is a modern mthing shog manuscript by the late Sonam Norgyal, one of the few artists to have maintained the tradition to the present day. Collected by Canary, its gold lettering on a rich background is a fine example of a technique known to scholars as chrysography.

    Wood, birch-bark and palm leaf predated paper as a writing surface in Tibet: palm-leaves, which do not grow in Tibet, have had a long lasting impact on the physical characteristics of Tibetan books; the majority of them is in fact made of narrow long sheets of paper that remind of the ancient palm-leaf manuscripts with which Buddhist teachings travelled from India to Tibet and across Asia. It is thought that the craft of paper-making spread from neighbouring countries at a time when Tibet developed a powerful empire and record keeping became a critical undertaking. Research suggests that from at least the ninth century Tibetans began to collect plants growing locally to make paper.

    A number of plants in the Thymelaeaceae family have stems and roots with conductive tissue that is strong and fibrous – ideal for making string and paper. Several early medical treatises listing plants used for medicinal purposes also mention their suitability for paper making.  The widespread use of some of these plants, according to reports by British visitors to Tibet, continued right up until the 1920s - and even today a few printing houses and paper-making centres make use of plants gathered locally to make specialist products.

    Research by paper specialist Agnieszka Helman-Wazny (University of Arizona) shows that the hand processes of making paper from plant material has changed little over the centuries with each sheet being made separately. Paper pulp is prepared by beating the plant material on a stone with a wooden mallet. The resulting fibrous mass is mixed with water and poured into a mould. This mould is ‘floated’ in water and tipped to and fro until its contents are evenly distributed. The mould is then removed from water and left to dry.

    “Further processes were often used to make a smooth surface for writing and to produce particular types of paper. Tibetan paper makers often glued several sheets together using a paste of boiled wheat flour or animal-based glue,” said Helman-Wazny. “They were extremely resourceful in their exploitation of materials to make books and used ramie, hemp and mulberry bark as well as stone, metal and rock.”
    Tibetan artists and painters used pigments and colourants obtained locally from minerals and plants.

    One of the star items in the exhibition are two pages/folios of the 1521 Royal Edition of the Mani bka’ ‘bum (One hundred thousand proclamations of the Mantra), a treasure given to Cambridge University Library by Lt-Col Laurence A Waddell in 1905 following the Younghusband Military Expedition to Tibet.  A non-invasive analytical technique called reflectance spectroscopy, carried out by experts at the Fitzwilliam Museum, revealed that the colours seen in the figures it depicts were achieved using a red obtained from cinnabar, blue from azurite, indigo from woad, and yellow from arsenic, a chemical that had the added benefit of protecting manuscripts from insect damage.

    Developments continue. Tibetans and the worldwide community of Tibetan scholars have enthusiastically embraced the opportunities offered by digital media and the internet to collate and open up access to manuscripts that lie scattered across the world.  Just as past technologies – such as printing – provided a means for circulating Buddhist teaching so are digital technologies being increasingly explored and used today. In the words of the well known Tibetan lama Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche:

    I’ll be doing prostrations every morning to this computer.
    Thank you so much
    You are giving all of us a huge gem,
    a jewel and a gem.

    Insetimages: detail of Mani bka''bum (Tibetan 149) (Cambridge University Library), example of mthing shog by late Sonam Norgyal (James Canary); manufacture of daphne-bark paper in Bhutan (Karma Phuntsho).


    The wide-ranging objects on display at Buddha’s Word, an exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, show how Tibetan book makers used the resources around them to produce manuscripts conveying the messages of a faith in which texts themselves are sacred objects. 

    In creating the displays we’re telling multiple interconnecting stories about the production and dissemination of texts right up to the present day when Buddhists have embraced the opportunities offered by digital media and the internet.
    Hildegard Diemberger
    Buddhist books are paraded through the valleys and invited to bless the environment

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    Elderly patient

    The estimate is lower than the previous estimate of one in two cases as it takes into account the fact some of the risk factors used in previous studies are related. For example, three of the risk factors (diabetes, hypertension and obesity) are linked with physical inactivity and all of these are related to educational level.

    Current estimates suggest that by 2050, more than 106 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s disease, a huge increase on the 30 million people affected by the disease in 2010. Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a complex interplay of genetic and lifestyle factors. Amongst the greatest lifestyle factors are lack of exercise, smoking, poor educational attainment and depression, all of which can be targeted to reduce the risk.

    A study published in 2011 suggested that as many as one in two cases of Alzheimer’s could potentially be prevented by modifying lifestyle factors. However, this study treated the risk factors as being independent of one another. In today’s study, led by Professor Carol Brayne from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge and involving co-authors from the 2011 study, this estimate has been lowered to one in three cases.

    The seven key risk factors for which there is consistent evidence of an association with the disease are diabetes, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity, physical inactivity, depression, smoking, and low educational attainment. The researchers estimate that by reducing the relative risk from each of these risk factors by 10%, it will be possible to reduce the prevalence of Alzheimer’s in 2050 by 8.5%, preventing 9 million cases.

    Dr Deborah Barnes from the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center, who led the 2011 study and is a co-author on this new study, says: “It’s important that we have as accurate an estimate of the projected prevalence of Alzheimer’s as possible, as well as accurate estimates of the potential impact of lifestyle changes at a societal level. Alzheimer’s disease is placing an ever increasing burden on health services worldwide as well as on both patients and their carers. Our hope is that these estimates will help public health professionals and health policy makers design effective strategies to prevent and manage this disease.”

    Professor Brayne adds: “Although there is no single way to prevent dementia, we may be able to take steps to reduce our risk of developing dementia at older ages. We know what many of these factors are, and that they are often linked. Simply tackling physical inactivity, for example, will reduce levels of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and prevent some people from developing dementia as well as allowing a healthier old age in general – it’s a win-win situation.”

    The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRC) for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

    A third of Alzheimer’s disease cases worldwide can be attributed to risk factors that can be potentially modified, such as lack of education and physical inactivity, according to NIHR-funded research published in The Lancet Neurology today.

    Tackling physical inactivity will reduce levels of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and prevent some people from developing dementia – it’s a win-win situation
    Carol Brayne
    The Unwelcome Season (cropped)

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    An archaeological dig in southeast Turkey has uncovered a large number of clay tokens that were used as records of trade until the advent of writing, or so it had been believed.

    But the new find of tokens dates from a time when writing was commonplace – thousands of years after it was previously assumed this technology had become obsolete. Researchers compare it to the continued use of pens in the age of the word processor.

    The tokens – small clay pieces in a range of simple shapes – are thought to have been used as a rudimentary bookkeeping system in prehistoric times.

    One theory is that different types of tokens represented units of various commodities such as livestock and grain. These would be exchanged and later sealed in more clay as a permanent record of the trade – essentially, the world’s first contract.

    The system was used in the period leading up to around 3000 BC, at which point clay tablets filled with pictorial symbols drawn using triangular-tipped reeds begin to emerge: the birth of writing, and consequently history.

    From this point on in the archaeological record, the tokens dwindle and then disappear, leading to the assumption that writing quickly supplanted the token system.

    However, recent excavations at Ziyaret Tepe – the site of the ancient city Tušhan, a provincial capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire – have unearthed a large quantity of tokens dating to the first millennium BC: two thousand years after ‘cuneiform’ – the earliest form of writing – emerged on clay tablets.

    “Complex writing didn’t stop the use of the abacus, just as the digital age hasn’t wiped out pencils and pens,” said Dr John MacGinnis from Cambridge’s MacDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, who led the research.

    “In fact, in a literate society there are multiple channels of recording information that can be complementary to each other. In this case both prehistoric clay tokens and cuneiform writing used together.”

    The tokens were discovered in the main administrative building in Tušhan’s lower town, along with many cuneiform clay tablets as well as weights and clay sealings. Over 300 tokens were found in two rooms near the back of the building that MacGinnis describes as having the character of a ‘delivery area’, perhaps an ancient loading bay.

    “We think one of two things happened here. You either have information about livestock coming through here, or flocks of animals themselves. Each farmer or herder would have a bag with tokens to represent their flock,” said MacGinnis.

    “The information is travelling through these rooms in token form, and ending up inscribed onto cuneiform tablets further down the line.”

    Archaeologists say that, while cuneiform writing was a more advanced accounting technology, by combining it with the flexibility of the tokens the ancient Assyrians created a record-keeping system of greater sophistication.

    “The tokens provided a system of moveable numbers that allowed for stock to be moved and accounts to be modified and updated without committing to writing; a system that doesn’t require everyone involved to be literate.” 

    MacGinnis believes that the new evidence points to prehistoric tokens used in conjunction with cuneiform as an empire-wide ‘admin’ system stretching right across what is now Turkey, Syria and Iraq. In its day, roughly 900 to 600 BC, the Assyrian empire was the largest the world had ever seen.  

    Types of tokens ranged from basic spheres, discs and triangles to tokens that resemble oxhide and bull heads.

    While the majority of the cuneiform tablets found with the tokens deal with grain trades, it’s not yet known what the various tokens represent. The team say that some tokens likely stand for grain, as well as different types of livestock (such as goats and cattle), but – as they were in use at the height of the empire – tokens could have been used to represent commodities such as oil, wool and wine.

    “One of my dreams is that one day we’ll dig up the tablet of an accountant who was making a meticulous inventory of goods and systems, and we will be able to crack the token system’s codes,” said MacGinnis.    

    “The inventions of recording systems are milestones in the human journey, and any finds which contribute to the understanding of how they came about makes a basic contribution to mapping the progress of mankind,” he said.

    An ancient token-based recording system from before the dawn of history was rendered obsolete by the birth of writing, according to popular wisdom. But now, latest excavations show that, in fact, these clay tokens were integral to administrative functions right across the Assyrian empire – millennia after this system was believed to have vanished.

    The inventions of recording systems are milestones in the human journey
    John MacGinnis
    Examples of clay book keeping tokens discovered at the dig in Turkey

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    Dr Richard Hickman, Reader in Art and Design Education and Dean of Homerton College, has been recognised for his contribution to education through art.

    He received the Sir Herbert Read lifetime achievement award at the World Congress of the International Society for Education through Art in Melbourne, Australia.

    The aim of the award is to acknowledge life-long contributions by an individual during their career to education through art.

    Previous recipients include Elliot Eisner (USA) and Ana Mae Barbosa (Brazil).

    Image credit: Clorinde Peters

    International recognition for contribution to education through art.

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    The latest statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show a significant percentage of Cambridge students secure graduate level jobs within six months of leaving.

    HESA has just released the 2012/13 UK Performance Indicators – Employment of Graduates statistics.

    They show that 95.5% of University of Cambridge UK full-time first degree leavers were in employment and/or further study six months after graduating.

    That figure relates to those who replied to the survey and were either employed, studying or unemployed. The figure does not include those travelling or otherwise engaged.

    Cambridge’s 95.5% compares to a national average of 92.2%, from the 161 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) responding to the survey.

    The employment rates for institutions varied from 81.4% to 100.0%.

    Gordon Chesterman, Director of Careers Services at the University, said: “This year Cambridge has done exceptionally well. It shows how employable our students are and is a strong indicator that the courses that they study are of interest to a wide range of employers.

    “But it is more than that at Cambridge I think. The course you study and the system here will give you tremendous skills which are of direct interest to the employment market.”

    He added key aspects of a Cambridge education build on the skills learnt in students’ chosen course.

    “The supervisory system allows you to present your case persuasively and extracurricular activities give a huge range of skills. For instance if you are arranging a club trip it demonstrates organisational skills and team working – attractive qualities in the job market.”

    The news is even better when you look at employment type - 92% of those in employment are in graduate level roles, an increase of 2% from last year. 

    The success of the Careers Service comes down to the way it is tailored around the individual student said Gordon.

    “We are funded by the University to give advice to students whatever career they want to follow so for instance we have run events on how to be a professional opera singer, theatre critic and foreign correspondent,” added Gordon, “Many careers do not have obvious graduate level entry points so we ask alumnae to come in who are pursuing those careers and they share how they got there.”

    Interactions with students start early with many seeing the service three or four times - 50% of undergraduates will engage with the Careers Service in their first year.

    “We can tell them to relax and get involved in extracurricular activites while looking for shadowing opportunities between their first and second years.

    “That gets you ready during the second year to meet employers to get internships between the second and third year. If you get that then you could get an offer later in the year with a sell-by-date of 14 months later so you can finish your studies knowing you have a job to go to,” said Gordon.

    But it’s not all about chasing the big jobs and big money.

    “Much of the work our students look for is in the charity sector or in areas not known for their high wages. And of course many want to go into post-graduate study and we put equal resources into helping them go on to courses in the UK or even abroad.

    “The figures tell us our efforts have been successful and focussed in the right directions. We are helping students secure the future they have hoped and worked for.”
    More information:

    To see the data visit:

    University of Cambridge graduates have excelled in the latest employability figures.

    We are helping students secure the future they have hoped and worked for.
    Gordon Chesterman, Director of Careers Services.
    Stuart House

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    Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, has received an Honorary award from the University of South Wales.

    The University of South Wales' Chancellor, Rowan Williams, presided over the ceremony which was the first of the USW ceremonies, where students from Diploma to PhD level wore new graduation gowns and mortarboards in the University colours of red and grey.

    On receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Science, Prof Sir Borysiewicz said: “Universities are unique institutions that play a formative role, not only for students, but throughout society. I am delighted to have received this Honorary award from the University of South Wales, and to be associated with an institution that is committed to becoming known for learning that is fed by world class research.”

    The ceremony saw hundreds of Creative Industries students graduating in St David’s Hall, Cardiff.

    Martin Turner, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) President, also received an Honorary award.


    The Vice-Chancellor is among those to receive Honorary award.

    I am delighted... to be associated with an institution that is committed to becoming known for learning that is fed by world class research.
    Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
    Graduation continues this week, where the following distinguished individuals will become Honorary Fellows:
    • Professor John Barrow – Research Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge
    • Professor Polina Bayvel – Professor of Optical Communications and Networks, University College London
    • Professor Chen Zhigang – Chairman of Suzhou University of Science and Technology
    • Gerard Elias QC – Barrister and Standards Commissioner for Wales
    • Margaret Hodge MBE MP – Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and MP for Barking
    • Michael Lawley – Chairman of Cooke & Arkwright, Governor of the University 2001-2013
    • Datuk Dr Choo Yuen May – Director of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board
    • Lord Morris of Aberavon KG PC QC – Chancellor of the University 2001-2013, former Attorney-General
    • Paul Murphy MP – Former Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, MP for Torfaen

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    Funded by the Rutherford Physics Partnership, the residential has been held for four years alongside the Senior Physics Challenge.

    The residential provides teachers with copies of the resources and ideas which underpin the Rutherford Physics Project and the Senior Physics Challenge, so that they can take them back to school and into their classrooms, and the opportunity to see how the students taking part in the Challenge tackle the problems.

    “It can be really difficult to find things for our higher-level physics students to do,” said Holly Lindsay, Head of Physics at Ormiston Sudbury Academy, Suffolk.

    “This residential has provided lots of resources and two really good websites which I can use with our top physicists.”

    “It’s also been a great opportunity for networking – we’ve been sharing our emails and are going to carry on sharing ideas when we get back into the classroom,” Holly added.

    The residential also gives teachers the opportunity to discuss physics and physics education with each other and with Cambridge academics, and a chance to think in alternative ways about teaching.

    John Crossland, Science Teacher at Beaminster School, has travelled from Dorset to join the residential.

    “It’s been really invaluable – it’s going to really help me add value to teaching our Gifted and Talented A Level students," John said.

    “We’ve been hearing about the plans for the Rutherford Physics Partnership MOOC – it’s really exciting that these resources will be available for me to use as extension activities, and that our more able and talented physicists will have somewhere to go to challenge their brains.

    “The insight into the course provision at Cambridge and the requirements to gain entry into the university have also been an eye-opener for me.”

    "Because we’ve been visiting and staying in the different Colleges, I feel like I’ve had a good chance to see what it would be like to attend Cambridge as an undergraduate.”

    The Rutherford Physics Project is a five-year project, that began in 2013, aimed at developing the skills of sixth-form physicists  (funded by a £7 million grant by the Department for Education) which is delivering extension materials, on-line learning, workshops for students and support for physics teachers. 

    “Our hope and goal is that the learning resources and activities offered by the project will enable more students from all backgrounds to gain physics expertise beyond school level, encourage more students to apply for physics, engineering and mathematics at highly-selective universities throughout the UK, and equip them to best demonstrate their academic potential,” said Dr. Lisa Jardine Wright, co-director of the Rutherford Physics Project.

    “The residential is also an opportunity for the Faculty to discuss ideas and concepts with teachers. Teachers know the areas of the curriculum which students find challenging. Their assistance in developing our Rutherford Physics Project resources is invaluable,” she added.

    “It’s a proper brain workout,” said one of the thirty-seven physics teachers enjoying three days of subject workshops, practical experiments and teaching observations at the Physics Teachers Cambridge Residential.

    Science Teachers carry out experiments in the Cavendish Laboratory

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