Rehabilitating ‘Like’

Written by: Agnes Palmer

‘Like’: one of the most frequently spoken words in the English language. It’s clear that the reputation of ‘Like’ is tarnished by its overuse. But maybe it’s time to reform our impression of it. Perhaps it is not merely the ‘lazy linguistic filler’ of the present day – why not give it a chance.

The word ‘Like’ plagues me constantly. Whether I’m talking to friends or speaking in class – it follows me everywhere; I can’t stop saying it and it has become a hugely irritating habit. But we all say it! A few days ago, when talking to my cousin, they said the word ‘like’ 23 times in the space of 2 minutes of talking. Wow. While Shakespeare is not exactly ‘guilty’ of using the detested form of ‘like’, an abbreviation for the word ‘likely’ is used in Twelfth Night when Valentine says to Cesario, ‘you are like to be much advanced’. So, this could be where our society’s obsession with ‘like’ began. Although there is more to ‘like’ than meets the eye.

The degradation of the word ‘Like’ is, in fact, surrounded by Sexism. How many women have been told that ‘like’ makes them sound stupid and ‘girlish’ – Quite a few! Our supposedly meaningless filler is at the centre of discussion surrounding the way women are linguistically stereotyped. ‘Like’ is said to have been intrinsically linked to women’s language, typically associated with the stereotype of a ‘valley girl accent’. Or, a ‘Californian Bimbo’, as you may have heard. This pejorative view of it and its association with the apparently ‘spoiled’ and ‘idiotic’ young women of 1980s California, has been a condescending remark targeting women’s speech for decades. There are records stating that an American law firm sent a memo to female employees, telling them to ‘Learn hard words,’ and ‘Stop saying ‘like’’ Being the Wimbledonian I am, I am incredibly frustrated by this. Women shouldn’t be made to feel foolish and less-than our male counterparts just because we use it when conversing. Maybe the word just needs a renewal? Maybe it needs to be made a new component of everyday speech rather than merely a ‘filler’?

Enter linguists.

Recent studies show that society’s negative preconceived ideas surrounding ‘like’ are far from the truth. It is, as Malcolm Gladwell, a renowned Canadian Journalist, said, a word with a ‘rich emotional nuance’. He claims that the word ‘like’ can enhance speech, particularly when retelling accounts. An example of this is, ‘And I was like, ‘That’s amazing!’’. Here, the speaker can still capture the vividness of direct speech with this singular word while the pragmatic force of a conversation without the syntactic complexity of indirect speech, is still retained. In short, ‘like’ enriches our speech, creating a more immersive and engaging atmosphere when sharing an anecdote.

We must not disregard the versatility of ‘like.’ There are, in fact, six different forms of the word ‘like’, according to linguist Alexandra D’Arcy. The verb and the preposition are the traditional, widely accepted forms. However, there are four others. As previously mentioned, there is the quotative form: ‘and I was like, “that’s amazing!”’, allowing a person to tell a story while conveying the feeling of what was said and thus, providing a sense of familiarity between the speaker and the person being described. There is the Discourse Marker: ‘What was the work? Like, we had to write out…’. This functions as an adverb, meaning approximately whereas the Discourse Particle comes in the middle of the sentence, ‘This dinner is, like, the best I’ve ever eaten.’ There are even more forms such as the Geordie tradition of using ‘like’ at the end of a sentence: ‘She helped my with my homework, like’. And of course, we are all familiar with ‘like’ the noun on social media (She gave it a like). So, ‘like’ continues to surprise us: perhaps one of the most versatile words in the English language?

But take a moment to reflect on when you use it, how often you use it, whether someone tells you not to use it. Our use of ‘like’ is specific: we don’t just pin it anywhere in the sentence. There are patterns in the way that we use it. Even if you still believe that saying ‘like’ is a bad habit, just notice it come up in your speech. Which type of like did you use just then? Remember: it shouldn’t make you feel stupid when you say it and it certainly shouldn’t be used to stereotype women’s language – it has a depth to it that often goes unseen.

The Bends

Written by: Antonia Beevor

Humans have always explored – this is a fact that has remained unchanged throughout history. And as our technology has adapted, this has allowed us to explore places that have never been seen by people, including the depths of the ocean.

Over seventy percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and it represents a vast and unknown landscape for many. The human body can adapt to being deep underwater (as proven by the deepest free dive of 214 meters) thanks to very well-designed biology. Your Eustachian tubes – which connect your throat and nose to the middle ear – allow divers to equalise the internal pressure of their ears with the pressure underwater.

But holding your breath can only take you so deep, and for years, we have been trying to find a way to dive deeper and longer. We can trace these attempts as far back as 332BC, where Alexander the Great was lowered into the ocean in a ‘diving bell’. Later, during the Renaissance, DaVinci designed his own underwater breathing apparatus, made of tubes connected to an air source near the surface. But it was only around the 18th century that the first self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) was created by Henry Fleuss.

But for over 50 years, one of the great mysteries for divers was the bends. It was referred to as such because the joint pain experienced led to the afflicted bending over, but these days it’s more commonly called decompression sickness. In addition to joint pain, decompression sickness can manifest as a skin rash, amnesia, vertigo and many other symptoms.

Divers usually breathe compressed air when diving- a mix of 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen. When you breathe out on land, the nitrogen is also exhaled. But underwater, the gas you breathe is under pressure, so instead of being breathed out, nitrogen begins to be forced into body tissue. When in its tissue, the nitrogen is dissolved, but when a diver ascends too quickly, the pressure exerted on the diver’s body changes rapidly, causing this nitrogen to come out of solution and form bubbles in the blood.

These bubbles can form anywhere in the body, and the varied symptoms of decompression sickness show this. The most effective way to treat decompression sickness is recompression therapy. Patients are placed in recompression chambers, where the pressure is increased, allowing the nitrogen bubbles to redissolve, where it can then be harmlessly respired.

Decompression sickness can be avoided by limiting the amount of nitrogen that dissolves during a dive. This can be done by limiting the depth and length of dives, ascending slowly, and stopping at points during ascent, which allows the excess nitrogen to escape.

Despite the risks associated with diving, the innovation and ingenuity that has taken us from diving bells to equipment that allows divers to spend hours underwater is a testament to humanity’s desire to discover.

Consumerism and the Loss of Beauty in Everyday Objects

Written by: Maria Pavin

This essay makes generalisations and assumptions that may not be true to all people and is modelled off what is seen in the wider world, particularly in western cultures.

The book ‘The beauty of everyday things’ by philosopher and Japanese folk craft pioneer Soetsu Yangai is a collection of essays discussing the relationships people have with objects. His main focus is on folk craft, ‘mingei’ in Japanese, and how the appreciation for these objects has diminished through time.

Folk craft objects are the objects of the everyday, not created by renowned artists and are neither expensive nor rare. Through his book, Yangai shares the importance of them and their natural beauty.

Although I disagree with his idea that objects have moved away from serving a truly utilitarian purpose and instead have become focussed on the aesthetics, with his idea that we no longer appreciate the objects used day to day is that one that resonates most powerfully. The epidemic of single use objects highlights this, whilst the recent ban on some of the most polluting single use plastics has made a step to reduce our reliance on them, the underlying problem of overconsumption still prevails.

So how does beauty relate to our consumption of products and our appreciation of them? One of the ideas that has settled in our minds mostly unconsciously is that beauty is something remarkable, unattainable or something that can only be attributed to the most significant things. Is it perhaps that if we label too many things ‘beautiful’ then suddenly the value of the word diminishes and society, which has been built to hold up those beautiful unattainable things, will crumble? Of course, in actuality societal collapse will not occur after coming to the realisation that beauty can indeed be found in almost anything, but it may help us to value the things we have more. Yangai explores this by saying ‘Beauty and life are treated as separate realms of being. Beauty is no longer viewed as an indispensable part of our everyday lives’ but in Yangai’s opinion, we will find the most beauty in that of the everyday. As he references that the very first people to recognize this beauty in ‘miscellaneous objects’ was that of the ‘first generation of tea masters’ and the ‘ido tea bowls’. These bowls now reaching the status of ‘omeibutsu’ (object of great renown) and thus high value is a testament to the way they were crafted.

However, beauty cannot and should not be found in every object that exists, even if there is always an element of beauty in most;to label an object as ‘beautiful’ must be conserved for those which wholly embody it. So which objects are beautiful? Yangai tells us that through the lens of folk craft, objects that are beautiful are those that which ‘honestly fulfil the practical purpose for which they were made.’ nYangai suggests the way to achieve a ‘kingdom of beauty’ is to ‘not place emphasis on appearance to the detriment of utility’. This is important to consider especially on the theme of sustainability and consumption, as the removal of the unnecessary can greatly reduce the materials and waste produced by an object.

Yangai writes: ‘what matters is not whether the manufacturing is new or old but whether the work is honest and sincere.’ However, as Yangai wrote this before the age of AI and automation the question of whether machines can be ‘honest and sincere’ arises. Although the company which programmes the machines and manufactures the products may have ‘honest and sincere’ intentions, many of the principles set out by Yangai require a sense of consciousness of the thing producing the object.

This contradicts some of his further statements that ‘no machine, no matter how powerful, can match its (the human hand’s) freedom of movement’ ‘modern-day organization, machinery, and labour conditions are not suited to the honest and sincere production of utilitarian ware’ therefore implying that his earlier statement does not encompass all new manufacturing but instead the resurgence of the production of folk craft and how this can be applied to a modern world.

In ‘Ways of seeing’ by art critic and essayist John Beger chapter one he states ‘we never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves.’ Applying this to the trend cycles that has exponentially sped up as a result of overconsumption and capitalism we can see how in context all objects can be deemed as valuable and thus beautiful. Yangai highlights this in his essays stating that ‘though these objects [folk craft] are the most familiar to us throughout our lives, their existence has been ignored in the flow of tie, because they are considered low and common’

On the contrary objects surrounded by those that we view as ugly or cheap (not in the monetary sense) can therefore become of little value themselves. Social media perpetuates ideas of grandeur and beauty, most to be unattainable whether that be to cost, scarcity or simply that it is falsified. Yet even when knowing this we apply them to our everyday lives. Suddenly what once was beautiful is bland and what was once a rarity is banal.

But could one see too much beauty in things, consumerism has led to people buying endless amounts of things they do not need, weather it is because they have been tricked into thinking they do or if they simply ‘want’ to have the item. Is it that they deem the objects as ‘beautiful’ or is it from other desires such as those to collect and surround themselves with objects of value. Reselling offers an interesting outlook on the value of objects, the main cause of reselling is the idea of exclusivity. If these products were not exclusive, then they would largely not be resold furthermore people’s desires for rare and unobtainable objects drive this market creating platforms where products are sold for tens or hundreds of pounds more than they are worth. By applying Yangai’s principles of folk craft, the mere idea of reselling contradicts that of the beauty of everyday things. Regardless of the fact that resold products are not those of folk craft and the every day, I think it adds an interesting perspective of why people find value in exclusivity especially when it comes about through processes as monotonous as mass production.

Furthermore, by applying John Berger’s description of how people perceive things in that ‘although every image embodies a way of seeing, our perception or appreciation of an image depends also upon our own way of seeing’, every object becomes exclusive for no two people can perceive it in the same way, therefore the correlation of scarcity to value loses some of its influence.

John Berger in chapter five of ‘Ways of seeing’ describes how ‘A patron cannot be surrounded by music or poems in the same way as he is surrounded by his pictures…. The[y] show him sights: sights of what he may possess. This perhaps gives an insight into why we feel the need to buy so many things, with so much diversity in culture, arts and academics surrounding ourselves with things that remind ourselves of them it helps to create our own identity as surround ourselves with things that may otherwise be unobtainable. After all, how do you represent the pursuit for knowledge on a wall, if not for a bookshelf? John Berger goes on to reference the anthropologist Levi-Strauss who wrote ’It is this avid and ambitious desire to take possession of the object for the benefit of the owner or even of the spectator which seems to me to constitute one of the outstandingly original features of the art of Western civilization.’ This reflection on the history and nature of the human condition to feel the need to possess something for ones own gain can perhaps give an explanation for overconsumption. Perhaps we have always felt the need to acquire products and objects but did not have the means, whether that be money, status, or locality. Globalisation resulting in time-space compression as well as the increase in industrialisation, manufacturing techniques and transnational corporations has

allowed for products to become dramatically cheaper. Therefore, the ability for us to buy things is easier than ever, but has it caused depreciation in our perception of their beauty?


Utilitarian design- Design that prioritizes function over form and other elements.

Time-space compression- the way the world is perceived to be smaller due to the increase in transport, communications, and capitalist processes.


Berger, J., 1972. Ways of Seeing. s.l.:Penguin Classics.

Yanagi, S., 2019. The Beauty of Everyday Things. s.l.:Penguin Classics.

The Creole Origins of the Chemise de la Reine

Written by: Phoebe Clayton

If you’ve spent enough time around me, you will have heard about the infamous 18th century dress, the so called ‘Chemise de la Reine’. To explain, a ‘chemise’ was a women’s undergarment, worn directly against the skin under a set of stays or as a nightgown, and usually made of fine white material. In 1783, Marie Antoinette (the ‘reine’ at that time) was painted wearing a dress which loosely resembled a ‘chemise’, displayed at the Salon de Paris in the Louvre. The gown sparked outrage due to its perceived informality and nonconformity with the highly structured aesthetic of traditional court gowns. It was unlike anything worn by French aristocracy before. But although named after the queen, the ‘Chemise de la Reine’ was not invented by Marie Antoinette. So, where did it come from?

 Marie Antoinette en gaulle, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, 1783

The dress itself was made by her tailor, Rose Bertin, who adapted it based on clothes of white women in the West Indies, who had themselves appropriated the style from women of colour. The gown first came Paris in the form of a fashion plate published in 1779 depicting a women dressed ‘in the Creole style’. In fact, Antoinette herself refers to the gown as ‘Le Robe a la Creole’ in her diaries, suggesting a direct awareness of the colonial cultural origins of the dress.

The term ‘creole’ refers to ‘a person of mixed European and black descent, especially in the Caribbean’, implying the inherently multi-racial context of the dress’ origins. Thus, the dress was likely first worn by women of colour, made of undyed madras material – which already widely imported to both West Africa and the Caribbean at this time, as it was light and well-suited to hot or tropical climates. Two black women wearing similar white, flouncy gowns strikingly reminiscent of Antoinette’s ‘chemise’ are featured in a Brunias painting from 1770, and two other women of colour wearing the style are featured in similar painting of his from c.1780. Agostino Brunias, who was active in documenting colonial life in the Caribbean in his art, later depicts white, black and creole women all wearing similar loose, white, chemise-type dresses in his ‘Linen Market’, 1780.

Free West Indian Dominicans, Agostino Brunias, c.1770

It is clear from this series of visual evidence the gradual appropriation of ‘chemise’ style dresses by white women – likely for reasons of practicality as well as a more hostile jealousy towards black beauty and style. One can ascertain the latter from the increasing sumptuary laws (legislation controlling what certain demographics can or can’t wear) that enslaved and formerly enslaved people were subject to during this period in the Caribbean, suggesting that white colonist elites felt threatened by the fashion and expression of black communities and thus restricted it to the best of their ability.

However, while the adoption of ‘chemise’-type gowns by white women in the West Indies is a clear appropriation and attempt at mimicry of black fashion, Marie Antoinette’s motivations in donning the style are harder to discern. Although she shows clear awareness of the apparent ‘creole’ origins of the dress, general contemporary and modern census is that the queen was instead imitating a romanticised, pastoral, ‘shepherdess’ style, trying to emulate the perceived idyllic simplicity of a rural lifestyle. For reasons obvious to anyone with a passing awareness of 18th century France (think: economic crisis, famine and widespread destitution), such an imitation was met with decidedly ill reception and offence caused at the queen’s ignorant naiveté and apathy to the struggles of her own subjects.

After Antoinette was painted in her controversial rendition of the gown, it immediately became known as the ‘Chemise de la Reine’ and quickly caught on, gaining popularity amongst upper class women in France, England and wider Europe. The style caused a seismic shift in 18th century women’s clothing and, as the 1790’s dawned, sent fashion careening straight into the regency period. The white, gauzy fabric finely gathered beneath the bust, puffed sleeves, square neckline and simple skirt all became foundational staples of women’s fashion for the next 40 years. It had a truly transformative impact. And, although the gown travelled far from its birthplace of the Caribbean, it is important to acknowledge the black and Creole origins of the Chemise de la Reine and recognise their monumental influence on an entire century of Western women’s fashion.


DuPlessis, R. (2019). Sartorial Sorting In The Colonial Caribbean And North America. The Right To Dress: Sumptuary Laws In A Global Perspective, c.1200–1800,


pp.346–372. doi:

Halbert, P. (2018). Creole Comforts and French Connections: A Case Study in Caribbean Dress. [online] The Junto. Available at:

Peterson, J. (2020). Robe en Chemise or Chemise a la Reine – Pattern 133. [online] Laughing Moon Merc. Available at:

Square, J.M. (2021). Culture, Power, and the Appropriation of Creolized Aesthetics in the Revolutionary French Atlantic | Small Axe Project. [online] Available at:

Van Cleave, K. (2021). On the Origins of the Chemise à la Reine. [online] Démodé Couture. Available at:

Whitehead, S. (2021). À la Creole, en chemise, en gaulle: Marie Antoinette and the dress that sparked a revolution.


Retrospect Journal. Available at:

Taking a Stand in Hollywood: WAG and SAG-AFTRA Strikes Explained

Written by: Emilia Lovering

N.B As of the date of writing this article, negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) are still ongoing.

As many of you may be aware, this summer saw almost unprecedented levels of striking in Hollywood, as both the Writers Guild of America, as well as the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists both went on strike, protesting working conditions in Hollywood. This article seeks to examine the causes, impacts and results of both strikes.

WGA Strike:

The 2023 Writers Guild of America Strike is the largest strike action taken by screenwriters in America since the 2007-8 strike over residuals based on DVD selling, as the Guild argued that residuals were a key part of any writer’s income. Also, in this strike it was agreed that all streaming cinemas were subject to the Guild’s Minimum basic wage. However, in 2023, this agreement has not stood the test of time subject to new streaming services, as the amount of media that was put out straightaway instead on cable TV increased dramatically. Essentially, this means that more and more writers are being paid a minimum salary for the work that they do. Additionally, streaming services are much more likely to offer fewer writing jobs and shorter contracts – effectively becoming gig writers. Reducing writers’ rooms and the amount of time writers are able to spend on set dramatically decreases the options available to new writers coming into the industry, as they are offered much less experienced than their more well-established counterparts. Instead, unpaid internships have been offered by studios to ‘allow’ a writer to visit the set on the show that they effectively helped come into being. Moreover, the strike comes at a time where there is growing concern about automation in creative industries, where AI is being produced that creates scripts far closer to one created by a human in the industry – however, due the nature of Ais, such as ChatGPT, this work is able to be produced by sampling already-written works. Therefore, AI is at risk of taking writers jobs and using their intellectual properties, without giving writers due credit. The lack of respect given to writers by Hollywood is intolerable, with President Carol Lombardini of AMPTP saying, that writers should be grateful to have “Term employment.” (Thurm, 2023).

Thankfully, after what became the second longest strike in Hollywood industry AMPTP and the WGA finally reach an agreement. Although the exact results and wording of the agreement has not been released, we do know that the negotiation results in increases to minimum wage, compensation, pension, health fund rates, length of employment, size of writing teas and royalties. They also reached agreements regarding social media, where AI is banned from being used to exploit writers, although the writers themselves may be able to use ChatGPT in their own work. (Bar, 2023)

Writer’s Strike:
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)


SAG-AFTRA faces similar problems to WGA, albeit from a different perspective. But much like the writers, they are also in disputes about residuals from shows – which are only guaranteed when shows are repeated on network television. On streaming services, the actor’s work can be kept up in perpetuity and they are not compensated for the levels of viewership, which is not shared by the networks. Despite attempts to resolve these disputes in 2019, the pandemic quickly shut down negotiations and undermined all progress taken. Similarly, actors receive far less of the profits of films when they are delivered straight to streaming – which many mid-budget films are. With streaming, actors face a flat payment whereas with cinema, the higher the box office takings, the more opportunity there is for an actor to be paid fairly for their contributions. And much like writers, the actors are at threat from the increased AI used in film. As I wrote about in 2022, regarding the use of ‘deep faking’ actors in film (insert link here), there is little to no legal protection for an actor’s image, which can be increasingly exploited by streaming services using new technologies. SAG-AFTRA is a union that may also be joined by influencers, which means that they also may be afforded greater security under possible agreements, yet, as many influencers have been involved in continuing to promote TV and film (forbidden under the SAG-AFTRA strike rules) they will banned from ever rejoining the union (Shoard, 2023).

Unfortunately for the actors and influencers, the results of the strike are still up for negotiation, yet AMPTP has now finally entered negotiations, willing to make new agreements.

Impacts of the Strikes:

Whilst the strike has been a triumph for the WGA, and will hopefully mitigate the effects on streaming and AI on the creative industries, there have been many serious effects for the creative industries. During the strikes, many film and crew workers in Hollywood, who also are facing unfair pay for the work they do, have been out of work for months. Many remain wholeheartedly in support of strike, yet thousands of dollars of income have been lost, not just in California, but also for the 1.7 billion people who work in the film industry outside of the state (Wilson, 2023). Many jobbing actors also are facing financial pressure, as the vast majority of actors do not make the kind of salaries, we envisage them having – many are having to rely on foodbanks and charitable donations in order for the strikes

to continue. Even UK film and TV workers have been forced to find new jobs and claim benefits due to Hollywood strikes (Breese, 2023). In order for the film industry to recover, AMPTP need to realise the value that writers and actors hold for Hollywood and compensate them fairly, before it becomes too late, and the film industry faces a max exodus of employees.


Bar, N. (2023, September 28). The Hollywood’s writers’ strike is over – and they won big. Retrieved from Vox:

Breese, E. (2023, September 16). UK film and TV workers forced to find new jobs and claim benefits due to Hollywood strikes. Retrieved from Big Issue:

Shoard, A. P. (2023, July 14). The Hollywood actors’ strike: everything you need to know. Retrieved from The Guardian:

Thurm, E. (2023, May 5). All About the Writers Strike: What Does the WGA Want and Why Are They Fighting So Hard for it? Retrieved from GQ:

Wilson, T. (2023, August 10). Hollywood strikes’ economic impacts are hitting far beyond LA. Retrieved from NPR:’s%20devastating%20to%20this%20industry,of%20money%20lost%20is%20tremendous.%22

Sri Lanka’s Financial Crisis: What Has Happened So Far and What Are the Next Steps for this Struggling Economy?

Written by: Indi Chrishan

Sri Lanka’s financial crisis is the worst that the country has faced since its independence in 1948 and has included a steep increase in the amount of debt that the country owes, and extremely high rates of inflation. Although the peak of the crisis occurred in the spring and summer of 2022, the country is still dealing with the effects of the disastrous period and is slowly starting to try to work towards some forms of solution to help heal the broken economy and repair the damage that was caused.

How did the financial crisis happen?

The current economic crisis in Sri Lanka is thought to have started in 2019, however Sri Lanka has been facing economic problems for many years. It has received bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) twice in the last decade: once in 2009 (after the end of their civil war) and once more in 2016, with the promise that Sri Lanka’s government would aim to control its debt to return to 5% of the country’s GDP by 2021. However, rather than the economic situation improving at the start of the 2020s, Sri Lanka’s economy has worsened, to the point where, in May 2022, it was forced to default on its foreign debt (meaning that they failed to pay back the money that they owed according to the initial agreement).

There are many factors that can be attributed to the start of the financial crisis, but most of them link back to the president at the time, and many of the decisions he made and policies which he put in place. Gotabaya Rajapaksa served as president from November 2019 until July 2022, and was part of the Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna party (SLPP) (which was founded by his own brother) and was put forward by the party as presidential candidate in 2019. The party promised stability and progress after the turmoil and uncertainty people felt after the 2019 Easter bombings (where suicide bombers killed hundreds during attacks on churches and luxury hotels), and because of their strategic campaigning, the SLPP won the election by a landslide vote, securing 145 out of 225 seats. However, as soon as he won the election, Rajapaksa was able to appoint other members of his family to government positions such as finance minister, and even appointed his own brother (who had been defeated in the 2015 presidential election) as prime minister of the country. The amount of power which the Rajapaksa family held allowed them to put into place many unwise policies, which had widespread and disastrous effects on both the people and economy of Sri Lanka.

This government greatly decreased taxes (the Goods and Services Tax rate was cut from 15% to 8%) and income tax brands were altered, meaning that there was a 33.5% decrease in the number of taxpayers. This is estimated to have lost the government over $1.4 billion a year, and therefore the amount of debt which they owed increased, contrary to their agreement with the IMF. The government also ordered a sharp transition to organic farming, and banned all synthetic fertilisers in 2021, without providing any support to farmers, which led to a massive decrease in crop exports, further contributing to the burgeoning financial crisis. In early 2022, this crisis greatly worsened, and the rate of

inflation grew to 50%. The country also experienced many shortages of necessities such as food, electricity and fuel, meaning many vehicles such as ambulances or emergency services could not be used, as there was not enough fuel to power them.

Whilst there were factors outside the government that can be said to have been a cause of the financial crisis, such as the lack of tourism from the COVID-19 pandemic and tourists’ fear to travel to Sri Lanka after the Easter 2019 bombings, the majority of Sri Lankans blame the government for the failure of the economy. As a result, many have protested against the Rajapaksa government, and after following violent protests on the 9th of July 2022, Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country on the 13th of July.

What are the next steps for Sri Lanka?

The current president, Ranil Wickremesinghe is working towards a solution to the financial crisis, however, it will certainly not be an easy resolution. Tax rates have been increased and the government is working to be able to pay off all debts, however the country owes a total of $46.9 billion, which will take a long time to be able to be paid off on the current terms. 52% of the country’s total foreign debt is owed to China, its biggest lender, and Sri Lanka has recently reached a deal with them to restructure £3.4 billion of debt (meaning that the terms of the debt are altered to make it easier to pay back) – a big step in the journey to heal Sri Lanka’s broken economy.

Bibliography: Timeline of Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence | Business and Economy News | Al Jazeera Sri Lanka attacks: What we know about the Easter bombings – BBC News Sri Lanka’s Financial Crisis: Origins, Impact, and Next Steps ( Sri Lanka crisis: Colombo reaches debt deal with China – BBC News Gotabaya Rajapaksa | Sri Lanka, Family, & Biography | Britannica Sri Lanka: Why is the country in an economic crisis? – BBC News

The Science of Apologising

Written by: Emily Evans

Be honest – have you ever found it difficult to apologise? It could range from not wanting to admit a mistake, to refusing to admit you were wrong to a friend because it’s so awkward. And whilst apologising can be awkward and uncomfortable in the moment, the long-term benefits always outweigh the emotional discomfort in the moment. But why do we find it so uncomfortable to apologise, even though we understand that the pros will usually outweigh the cons in the long-term?

The biggest factor is usually that apologising puts us in a place of emotional vulnerability. We’re giving power back to the person that we’re apologising to, and that puts us in a less powerful position. We’re asking people, usually people we care about, for forgiveness, knowing that we could be rejected – not an empowering position to be in. Psychologically, it temporarily lowers our self-esteem, because firstly, we’re feeling public shame for something we’ve done that we acknowledge secondly, for an apology to be genuine, you’ve got to admit to yourself and the other person that you’ve done something wrong. Often, the feeling of embarrassment of having done this action is a factor in making apologies feel uncomfortable; however, the emotional discomfort of admitting our mistakes – for the reasons mentioned above- is also a major factor.

Some of this discomfort is evolutionary. We naturally want to feel part of a ‘pack’, or ‘group’, which is the result of strong and stable bonds, and admitting mistakes makes us feel vulnerable in a way that undermines those bonds. We feel reluctant to expose ourselves for having done something wrong, because it makes us less secure in our social standing. And those feelings aren’t all down to evolution – it’s almost acknowledged that most people will experience some sort of social insecurity in their lives, and apologies can be an easy place for these feelings to arise.

However, on the flip side, we’ve got to be concious of over-apologising; always taking the blame, even when it’s not your fault, as a way to ensure that you stay on people’s good side. This can have a serious effect on your self-esteem and mental wellbeing, as you can fall into a pattern of constantly blaming yourself for other people’s mistakes. But, this is different to apologising when you aknowledge that you’ve made a mistake.

But, whist it can be difficult to apologise, the alternative, just brazening out the storm and hoping everything will pass – often leads to tensions in relationships that make things a little bit more uncomfortable. In marriage counselling, for instance, couples are told to discuss their problems, rather than cover them up. Psychologists often reference the ‘skill’ of having uncomfortable conversations; yes, they’re awkward in the moment, but they’re better in the long-run.

And like the ‘skill’ of uncomfortable conversations, apologies are also a ‘skill’ that people learn over time. Think about the most recent apology you’ve said, and the first one you can remember doing in primary school. You are most likely better at communicating your feelings recently than you were when you were younger. That’s because apologising better is part of maturing. It’s like a skill that you gain along the way – like working with challenging people, or empathy. It doesn’t matter how many how-to articles or self-help books you read; it’s a skill that comes with practice, reflection, and a willingness to try. But a big part of it is putting your ego aside, accepting the fact that you will feel uncomfortable emotions when apologising, but acknowledging that your relationships come before the feelings of pride and self-preservation that stop you from wanting to avoid those feelings. Additionally, it’s important not to instantly expect forgiveness – sometimes, for difficult issues, it may

take time. But relationships are defined both by how we recover from our lowest points, as well as how good things are at the highest ones.

To summarise, whilst apologising isn’t something anyone really enjoys doing, it’s an important life skill to have. We shouldn’t feel shame, or weakness, in apologising. It’s a testament to how much you care about the relationship, that you’re willing to be emotionally vulnerable with each other.

China’s Population Demographics: Winners and Losers

Written by: Shreya Gupta

Until recently, China was the world’s most populous country with around 1.4 billion people, equivalent to a staggering 17.72% of the total world population. Yet, an irreversible population decline in China has led to India overtaking it as the world’s most populous country. Reasons for this mainly centre around the transition of China’s traditional centrally planned economy to a mixed economy, allowing for greater freedom from the state in many industries. This has allowed for China to become an internationally competitive country, with employment opportunities for men and women that has resulted in households no longer feeling obligated to have children. In fact, between 2019 and 2021, large Chinese provinces and cities have seen huge drops in birth rates, largely due to China’s economic boom. China’s urbanisation has also shown a change of view in a woman’s “purpose” and “role” in the household, particularly in rural areas. Chinese traditions that were once focussed on women being responsible for all domestic duties and having children, rather than aspiring to obtain a future career, have given way to greater emphasis on gender equality, especially in education. These progressive values have encouraged women to work rather than settling down and is leading to a view that marriage and birth are barriers to freedom.

However, the one-child policy implemented from 1980 to 2016 comes to mind as the most significant and impactful cause for this population change. Economic pressures and food insecurity during this period meant that Deng Xiaoping had to introduce this measure for the welfare of society. But many economists argue that, whilst this may have reduced short-term economic pressures, the policy is quite detrimental to China’s future economy. Predictions that China will surpass USA’s GDP in 2041 are now projected to be in danger due to its rapidly ageing population. One would never link a population shortage to such a populous country, but this can be seen in its shrinking labour force and consequent decrease in productivity levels. As an export-led economy, this could potentially have devastating consequences to both China’s domestic economy as well as global markets. China’s influence on the international stage is greatly threatened by its elderly demographic – by 2040, people 60 years or older will make up 28% of the population.

From a global perspective, this can potentially threaten many developing countries that rely on Chinese aid and investment. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has put 150 countries under its influence, which has undermined US influence as a major creditor across the world, particularly in Asia and Africa. Whether this is through the Belt and Road Initiative which is specifically a global infrastructure development project, or bilateral agreements, such as with Libya or Tanzania, China has transformed into the largest investor in the world. Therefore, population decline can have harmful effects in countries that have deep economic ties with China, particularly when major investments in developing countries are at stake. Sub-Saharan Africa is especially vulnerable to China’s economic slowdown – IMF (International Monetary Fund) shows how a 1% decrease in China’s growth rate can reduce growth in sub-Saharan Africa by 0.25%. We’ve already seen Chinese loans fall in this region since 2017. Lower investment and aid are bound to increase poverty with lower employment, living standards and development in general.

One can put a positive spin on this by arguing that a decline in Chinese influence on developing countries provides governments a perfect opportunity to escape from this “dependency culture.” Reports offer evidence that China’s investments are targeted at not improving conditions in countries, but rather exploiting Africa’s abundant natural resources. Geopolitically, this is a strategic move by China to improve their own economic growth and therefore dominance in the world, as well as compete with US influence and capitalist interests. Therefore, lower levels of Chinese commitments in African countries will allow them to become more self-sufficient or rely on other

countries such as the USA, improve competitiveness, and perhaps diversify their own exports for faster growth.

It is fair to say that this is a pivotal moment in global geopolitics and will have a significant impact on the shift in power dynamics between continents and nations; this will certainly be closely monitored by all countries as well as global institutions, such as the World Bank.

Comparing Dido and Cleopatra

Written by: Emma Hamilton

Virgil’s epic, ‘The Aeneid’, tells the story of Aeneas; the dutiful Trojan hero who (after several sorrowful episodes) founds the city of Rome. It makes sense, therefore, that Virgil, writing under the first Roman emperor Augustus, creates links between the characters of his foundation myth and the powerful figures of ancient Rome which his readers inhabit. Often these links are quite clearly spelled out: readers can trace the bloodline from Aeneas right through to Julius Ceasar and Emperor Augustus, basking in the glory of Rome’s prestigious ancestry (Aeneas’ mother is a goddess). But I would like to highlight a less explicit but by no means less important comparison between Dido, the Queen of Carthage with whom Aeneas falls in love in Virgil’s poem, and Cleopatra, the last Egyptian Pharoah, and a crucial figure in the tumultuous final moments of the Roman Republic.

Firstly, arguably the most striking point of comparison between the two is that they are both women in positions of huge power and authority. This is rare in antiquity, as the power women obtained was ‘often obtained by the men they knew’ (kerriganfournier, 2020) and was exercised privately, such as Agrippina, Emperor Nero’s mother who applied her political influence under Nero’s official political office. However, this is not the case for Dido or for Cleopatra – they are powerful rulers in their own right. After her husband was murdered by her brother, Dido escaped across the Mediterranean to found a city of her own, where she was an active leader: ‘she was giving laws and rules of conduct to her people, and dividing the work that had to be done in equal parts’ (Virgil & West, 1991). Similarly, Cleopatra reigned over Egypt for 21 years, controlling the military, economy and society of this extremely powerful nation (not to mention keeping invading forces out). She was also a skilled linguist, speaking up to 7 languages (Plutarch & kerriganfournier, 2020) which was unusual, even for a Pharoah. Although these accomplishments are often hidden by the more dramatic elements of her story, it is important to acknowledge she was ruthless in her elimination of threats to her throne, with several siblings assassinated, but this was not unusual at this time – her own father killed off many of his rivals (including his children). As women in power were so uncommon in the ancient world, the comparison between Dido and Cleopatra here is important, as this power can be manipulated in retellings of their stories to explain their demises and act as an antithesis to the ‘untouchable’ power of Rome.

Another crucial aspect in these queens’ contrast to Rome is the fact they are foreign (to Rome). Foreigners had fewer rights than the average Roman citizen, and xenophobia was commonplace in Roman culture. Additionally, there is a ‘mystical’ element to foreign travellers/peoples in Roman literature. Necromancers (people who raised the deceased from the dead) were typically foreign characters, such as Zatchlas, an Egyptian prophet, from ‘sagae Thesselae’. These elements of distrust and disdain would have played a part in how Roman citizens viewed Cleopatra and Dido. So, why is this aspect of comparison important to Virgil? Because it allows him to emphasise the dutiful nature of Aeneas, the symbol of Roman glory, in contrast to the lovesick and non-Roman Queen. In a similar vein, Octavian’s (Emperor Augustus’ old name) triumph over Cleopatra and Mark Anthony becomes more than just a personal victory, but the victory of Rome over the ‘foreign threat’. In both cases, the power of Rome is emphasised, and the power of Cleopatra and Dido diminished.

I think it is also important to discuss their infamous deaths – so infamous that they have somewhat eclipsed their characters and accomplishments. Both die by suicide – a noble death in Roman times as it displayed a dedication to grief or to love. And yet, very few great male heroes of the classical world commit suicide – many die in battle, doing what they were most respected for. But in the case

of Dido and Cleopatra, they become remembered for the causes of their death: relationships with Roman (or Trojan) men, rather than their successes as rulers. They are remembered through their connection with Rome.

In my opinion, this final point summarises the most crucial comparison between Cleopatra and Dido: their stories are remembered in connection with Rome – how Rome defeated or abandoned them for the advancement of the empire. This is most likely because the stories were chiefly told by Romans. A large portion of our information about Cleopatra comes from Roman historian Plutarch’s biographies on Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, and Dido’s story is only a short segment of Aeneas’ epic. Dido’s links with Cleopatra would reemphasise the power of Rome in Roman readers minds, and it could be argued this was intentional, acting as propaganda for Augustus, as he welcomed in a new age of Roman authority. It is a poignant reminder to be wary of historical sources, as the source will often tell you as much (or even more) about the writer as it does about the subject.

The Classical Manuscript Tradition

Written by: Martha Thompson

For thousands of years humanity has been recording more than we realise. Whether it be Linear B tablets showing trades in Ancient Mycenae, extracts of epic poetry in Byzantium or a shopping list on the back of a receipt, the written word is an intrinsic part of the way our society functions. The key question when considering this is then, how do we still have records of these texts from over 2 millennia ago, and where do they come from?

The first literary papyrus dates back to the Egyptian Middle Kingdom and was discovered by the French orientalist Achille Constant Théodore Émile Prisse d’Avennesat at Thebes in 1856. The papyrus is named after him and is now called the Prisse Papyrus and is housed in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. While we have other papyri fragments that date to earlier than this, the Prisse Papyrus is the oldest of its kind. Though perhaps this is not the best example of how these fragments have been preserved for hundreds of years.

Many medieval manuscripts of classical texts came to the European libraries late, and Homer was not read in early Middle Ages Europe; Europeans had effectively lost the ability to read Greek. So, to see how these texts first came back to us, we must go back to 1488 when the first printed copy of Homer in the original Greek was published by Demetrius Chalcondyles (an Athenian who came to Italy to teach Greek to the humanists of the Renaissance) in Florence. That being said, some other records did exist; Petrarch owned a copy of Homer’s Iliad (an epic poem telling the story of 2 weeks in the 10th year of the Trojan War) but he wasn’t able to understand a word of it, he said that the text was “dumb to me as I am deaf to it”.

A better example may be the Venetus A manuscript, found by Jean-Baptiste-Gaspard d’Ansse de Villoison in 1788 in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. Many argue that this is the most important Greek text of the Iliad ever printed and all modern editions are descendants of this text. It is estimated to have been written down c.950 CE in Byzantium and is made up of 654 pages decorated with Byzantine images of heroes and additional notes (called the A Scholia) which are said to be the editorial notes of the scholars at the Library of Alexandria in the second century BCE. The Byzantine scholar who wrote this manuscript included in the A Scholia remarks made to him not only about the text of the Iliad itself, but also about previous commentators on it. While Villoison suggested that this was the essence of the work of a single Homer, the idea already existed that Homer was not a single person, and that the Iliad and Odyssey were not a product of an individual genius, but instead composed by a series of poets over generations. His discovery of this text was the Copernican moment in the debate of the Homeric question (whether Homer was one man, or many) and is an indication of a continuous tradition of creating new manuscripts of classical texts.

Continuing chronologically and maintaining the theme of Homer, we have the papyri found by William Flinders Petrie in 1888 when he began to dig in a necropolis at Hawara (near the Fayum depression, west of the Nile Valley in Egypt), which was the site of a pyramid build by Pharah Amenemhat III in the 19th century BCE. On the 21st of February of that year, he found a scroll of papyri under the head of a woman who was buried there, though she was not named. Revered Professor Archibald Sayce (an Oxford Assyriologist) studied these papyrus fragments and found them to contain parts of the text of Books 1 and 2 of Homer’s

Iliad and as such they are referred to as the Hawara Homer. Somewhat remarkably, the text of the Hawara Homer is impressively close to the text of Homer that was passed down to the Byzantine scholars assembling the Venetus A manuscript eight hundred years later. The Hawara Homer are now housed in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the rest of the papyri found were given to the Egyptology Department at UCL.

Despite the brilliant nature of this discovery, it is one of many. The Oxyrhynchus papyri, a collection of hundreds of thousands of fragments that date between the third century BCE and the seventh century CE, were found in modern day al-Bahnasa in Egypt by the Oxford classicists Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt between 1896 and 1907 (though others were also found by John de Monins Johnson in Antinoopolis between 1913 and 1914). This is the largest collection of its kind. The texts found at al-Bahnasa were written in a wide range of languages, including Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, Demotic (an ancient Egyptian language that did not use a hieratic or hieroglyphic script), Aramaic, Pahlavi, and Coptic (another Egyptian language that used the Greek alphabet with a few additional characters). Despite their age, these fragments of papyrus are in remarkable condition, and this is due to where they have been. They were found in what used to by the town dumps of ancient Oxyrhynchus and while from above they looked like very little (just mounds covered with layers of sand) these dumps provided the ideal conditions for preservation. They were buried in what is the perfect layer of sand, where ground water cannot reach it, and the lack of rain in this region means that the papyri have been kept perfectly dry and therefore preserved for centuries.

Grenfell and Hunt found these dumps entirely by chance, but the contents of the papyri covered a vast range of topics, from mathematics, drama, and historiography to early copies of the Old and New Testaments. These texts have taught us a huge amount, both by providing remarkably whole fragments of key classical texts such as Euripides’ Bacchae (a tragic play written in fifth century BCE Athens), but also about life in ancient Oxyrhynchus. For example, we know where Anicetus the dyer lived in the town, as well as Philammon the grocer. We can figure out how much farmers were charged when they brought goods to the market. And we know that Juda needed two nurses to turn him over when he fell over a horse and that Sabina hit Syra with a key which meant Syra was in bed for four days.

Looking at many of the most influential manuscripts that survive of classical texts we see the many ways in which they have made their way through history to us. Be it in a seemingly ignorable ancient town dump, found by accident in a library in Venice, or in an Egyptian tomb, the survival of these texts is key to our understanding of the classical world and the beliefs of those who lived in it.


Nicolson, Adam. The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters. William Collins, 2014. Accessed 4 October 2023 Accessed 6 October 2023 Accessed 4 October 2023 Accessed 6 October 2023