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

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.

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.

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

Hui beef stew with chickpeas

Serves 4

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?

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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A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice