25 October

It's stick two fingers up to the French day, if you're into that sort of thing.

October 25, 2009 · 2 min read

Today is St Crispin’s Day, on which a retreating and outnumbered English army under Henry V defeated a much larger force of French nobility at Agincourt. The English victory was down to their lead in the arms race – in particular, their longbows, which cut the superior French numbers to pieces.

The two-fingered ‘fuck off’ salute is said to have arisen from the fact that the French would cut three fingers from the right hand of captured bowmen. The two fingers are supposed to have been raised to show that those raising them could still wield their bows.

Despite its later adoption as one of the central myths of the English nation, Agincourt was more a battle between competing nobles over lands in northern France than it was a conflict between two nations. And – some consolation for ordinary English and French alike – at least those who sent the armies to war were doing the fighting themselves. In all, more than 7,000 French knights and gentlemen and 120 of their lords perished on the field of battle at Agincourt.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England, now a bed,

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here;

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon St Crispin’s Day.


From the US to the UK: shared legacies of black struggle

Far too often, we think of police brutality in the US as exceptional. Families on both sides of the Atlantic tell stories that prove otherwise. Black Britain must be heard, writes Wail Qasim

Swords into ploughshares; planes into ventilator parts

The speedy switch in from producing airplane wings to ventilator parts at a north Wales factory holds out an example for a transition to a low-carbon economy, writes Hilary Wainwright

Immigration detention and the politics of Covid-19

 The response to the pandemic has allowed us to imagine a world without immigration detention centres, writes Rachel Harger


The Gold Vaults of the Bank of England [Credit: Bank of England]

Fighting the inequality pandemic: the case for a super-tax

Keval Bharadia argues for a super-tax on financial markets to curb extreme inequality in the wake of Covid-19

Breaking the Big Pharma stranglehold

Affordable healthcare means breaking the stranglehold that Big Pharma has on our medicines system, writes Dana Brown

Gender, class and cliché in Normal People

The BBC hit drama shows the complexities of class mobility, but can’t avoid class and gender stereotypes, says Frances Hatherley