Daddy, Why ….. ?

(For a detailed list of all the subjects covered, see end of this introduction)


When my children were growing up in the late 1980s and the 1990s, they would see things happening around them and in the world on television and read things in newspapers and books that made them curious to know more. They and many other young people, both then and now, would ask “Daddy, Why ….?”, “Daddy, What ….?”, “Daddy, How ….?”, seeking simple answers to difficult questions.

One of the very first “Daddy, Why ….. ?” questions to be asked (in 1989) was                 “Why do we have to sort our plastic waste before it can be recycled ?”.                           Then “Why are the people in Yugoslavia fighting each other ?”.

Over 60 subjects are covered and around 150 questions are answered,                    including these other examples:

Why is Easter on a different date every year ?

Why is printing paper called A4 ?

What’s the difference between Sunni and Shia ?

What is the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah ?   What is the Taliban ?

Why are North African people Muslims ?

Why are there people from India, Pakistan and the West Indies in Britain ?

What’s the difference between beer and lager ?

What does mediaeval mean ? What were the Dark Ages ?

Why are Conservatives called Tories ?

What’s the difference between a county and a shire ?

Why do they speak Spanish in South America ?  Why don’t they speak Spanish in Brazil ?

Why is it B for bravo and C for Charlie ?

What do the road numbers on signposts mean ?

What was the Cold War ?

Why is Northern Ireland separate from the republic ?

Now, in these early years of the 21st century, there are many things in our living environment that young people will take for granted (such as the use of electronic equipment and social media, instant communication, climate change and the ever-present risks from terrorism) but without much, if any, understanding of where these things came from, nor that the changes which brought them about have generally occurred within only the last two generations and thus within the living memory             of parents and grandparents.

The pace of technological change may seem very fast, but it is actually not always the case. Thus it is that we can recognise modern day clothes, cars or aircraft as not very different from the clothing, motor cars and aeroplanes that were newly appearing in   the streets and in the skies over a century ago, yet personal computers did not appear    in homes and offices until the early 1990s and now, less than a quarter century later,    we cannot live without them.

Our electronically dependent world can provide us with infinite amounts of data, but benign (and malign) altruism bombards us with so much information, it has become difficult to find simple explanations of the background as to how and why the world is how we now find it. When I was at school in the 1960s we had simple wooden rulers with inches and centimetres on the front and a list of all the English kings and queens  on the back, 30cm long. Things are no longer so simply available and Wikipedia offers   so much information that the same list of kings and queens runs to the equivalent of     25 pages if printed on A4 paper. And why is it called “A4” anyway ?

Information today is very easily accessible through the internet, but it is frequently presented in too much detail and with endless cross-references to related subjects.      The essays in “Daddy, Why …..?” aim to distil the detail and cross-references into shorter, simpler, succinct pieces that extend to only a few pages (although sometimes grouped into a larger collection of multiple related pieces). The compilation seeks to respond to questions that a child may ask a parent, not only when young, but also when grown older, such as “how to buy a house ?”

For the past 40 years, the availability of crude oil has dominated global political events and the principal source of that oil has returned the geographical focus of these events  to the Middle East, the original cradle of human civilization and now also the world’s greatest area of conflict. For much of that period and for 20 years preceding it, global political events were also driven by fierce competition between the ideologies of two great superpowers, themselves the successors to previous great empires. Thus many of these questions and their answers trace themselves back to common themes, such as language, colonial imperialism, communism, Islam, migration and communication technology.

For a detailed list of all the responses to questions, see Contents .

For a detailed list of questions, see Index of Questions .

For a detailed list of all the subjects covered, see Index of Subjects.

To read about any of the subjects, select the appropriate link from the following list.

Daddy, Why ….. ?

AC        Ancestry and Nationality

AE        Austrian Empire and the Balkans

AJ         Arabs and Jews

AN        Arab Nations

AP        Alphabets and Pronunciation

BA        Baking, Acid and Alkaline

BE         Boiler Efficiency

BF         British Food

BH        British Heads of State

BJ         Origins of European Jews in Britain

BL         Beer, Ale and Lager

CA        Colonisation of Africa

CC        Cities, Cathedrals, Universities in Britain

Ce        Coffee

CF        Calendars and Festivals

CH       China – brief history

Ci         Citrus Fruits

Cm       Communism and global opposition by USA

Co        Colours and Colour Names

CP        Chinese Place Names

CW       Civilisations around the World

DN        Divided Nations

Dr         Driving on the Left or Right

DS        Demographics and Social Classes

EB        English and British

EC        European Colonial Empires

EE        Empires within Europe 1000-1918

EG        Eastern Europe – Historical Glossary

EH        Ages in European History

EI         Immigration into Western Europe

EL        European Language comparisons

FC        Fahrenheit and Centigrade

FH        French Heads of State

GL        Global Languages

HA        Holy Roman Emperors and Emperors of Austria

HB        House Buying and Selling

HH        Human Body Reaction to Heat

HM        Brief History of Mankind

HR        Hierarchy and Rank

IE         Islamic Empires

IP         India and Pakistan – history

IR         Indian Restaurant dictionary

LA        Latin America

LC        Low Countries

LL         Land, Lords and Law of England

LR        London Railway Terminus Stations

MA       Music, Art, Science 1400-1950

MI         Metric, Imperial, US Measurements

NR        Natural Remedies

Or         Orange

PC        Postal Codes, UK Towns and Counties

PF        Private Finance Initiative

PI         Petroleum Industry

PR        Plastics and Recycling

PS        Paper Sizes

RG       Road Gradients

RM       Retail Myths

RN        Road Numbering in Great Britain

RP        Russian Empire and Poland

SB        Suburbs of British Cities

Sc         Scandinavian Nations

SE        Spanish Empire

SP        Southern Africa 1 – the Peoples

SN        Southern Africa 2 – the Nations

SS        Sunni and Shia

TC        Telephone Dialling Codes

TE        Turkish Empire

TT        Trees, Timber and Wood

VR        Vehicle Registration Numbers UK

WL       World Leaders 1775-2018

WT       Whig, Tory, Conservative, Liberal, Labour

WW     World War II Fronts and Theatres


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