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From forest cottages and Antarctic cruises to Chengdu and Greece in London

Classical discoveries: Some humans begin to suspect the existence of laws of nature

Signs of a distinctive, new and eccentric pattern of human behaviour began to occur in what became the most famous of all the Greek city states – Athens. Long before the Persians razed the city to the ground in 480BCE this city had become a laboratory for experiments in novel human behaviour. In c594BCE, a poet called Solon won a victory for the city by capturing the nearby island of Salamis. He used the considerable power and prestige gained from this triumph to seize political control.

Age of heroes: How violence between mediterranean civilisations became the stuff of legends

The period between 1400BCE and 1100BCE set the stage for some of the most epic military struggles of all time, including the legendary Trojan Wars, supposedly fought between a confederation of small Greek states and the people of Troy, a city in western Asia Minor. Accounts of the wars are contained in the Greek poet Homer's Iliad and Odyssey which, although partly mythological, provide a vivid account of the chaos and violence of the late Mediterranean Bronze Age.

A military revolution: How bronze age innovations ushered in an age of violence and inequality

About 3,000 years ago, from around the Black Sea, came a troublesome trilogy of innovations – horses, chariots and bronze weapons – that gave some people a huge military advantage over others. They did not hesitate to exploit it. Soon, the whole Eurasian world was locked in an arms race. Civilisations rose and fell, and warfare became endemic. Disputes erupted between Eastern and Western peoples (initially Persians and Europeans); a race called the Jews got caught in the middle. Meanwhile, in Greece and Asia Minor, enough people became sufficiently prosperous and secure to experiment with new lifestyles and ideas that would form the foundations of Western culture.

Minor British Institutions: The county of Rutland

Is it appropriate that the county arms and flag of Rutland feature an upturned horseshoe? The county's luck certainly ran out in 1974, a year of shame when many of the nation's idiosyncratic counties were welded together.

Aristotle and Alexander: The man who codified Greek ideas about nature, and the man who spread them abroad

Greek philosophers were edging towards the radical idea that there were no gods who controlled the destiny of life on earth from some detached mountaintop. Rather, it was man himself who, thanks to his own brainpower, could decipher the laws of the universe to become master of all nature.

Pandas prepare for return to Britain after 16 years

Edinburgh Zoo hopes to be first to host the animals in this country since 1994 as Prime Minister backs deal

Simply sensational: Mark Hix uses cheaper cuts of meat to create some heart-warming Asian stews, and save on washing up, too.

If I've been out for a night on the town I usually end up in a restaurant in London's Chinatown with a craving for a beef flank hot-pot or a comforting stew made from the cheaper cuts of meat which yield a real depth of flavour when slowly cooked. But these Asian classics are easy to make at home, too; so why not treat your mates to a great dinner party without breaking the bank?

Hui beef stew with chickpeas

Serves 4

China Witness, By Xinran, trans. Julia Lovell, Esther Tyldesley & Nicky Harman

As she took her leave of Yao Popo, a medicine woman she had met by chance on the step of her ramshackle shop in Xingyi, south China, Xinran asked her to share the three happiest and unhappiest times in her life. Yao Popo was fairly certain about her list: the second hardest thing, she said, was "bringing up seven children in a tiny room of only twelve metres square". The second hardest thing.

The Investment Column: Carpetright floored by retail slowdown

AG Barr; Et-China

Three killed in Chinese earthquake

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck China's southwestern Sichuan province today, killing three people, state media has said.

Panda cub dies three days after birth

A panda cub has died three days after its celebrated birth following a rare success in artificial insemination, a Japanese zoo said today.

Dr Dre's son dies

Dr Dre's 20-year-old son has died, the rapper's publicist said last night

Morales poll win fails to ease tensions

Confirmed in office in a landslide recall election vote, the Bolivian President Evo Morales now plans to push through major constitutional reforms early next year that will further antagonise his rightist opponents.

Torch relay visits Sichuan earthquake zone

After a controversial journey dogged by international protests over China's crackdown in Tibet, the Olympic torch made a poignant visit to the Sichuan earthquake zone, shortly before the region was hit by a 6.0 magnitude aftershock yesterday.

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
Prices correct as of 20 February 2015
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn