Episode 32: The Paperclip

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Americans bought 11 billion paper clips last year – that’s about 35 paper clips per person.  (The Atlantic.com). For this episode let us join the jester of journals, Professor James Daybell, and the custodian of conundrums, Dr Sam Willis as they bundle together the facts to bring you the unexpected history of the paperclip. Our two stationary buffs will take you on a journey from early patents and licences to a history before paper clips and Jan Gossaert’s ‘Portrait of a Merchant’ 1530, from Lord Burleigh and the rise of the private secretary during the reign of Elizabeth I to Norway during the Nazi occupation of World War II, and from the recent terror attacks in Paris to the puzzle women of post Stasi East Berlin.

James and Sam will bind together the links to discover that this unexpected history is actually all about; organisation and innovation, state formation and bureaucracy, literacy and knowledge, symbolism and resistance, identity and solidarity, observation and paranoia.

Swiss psychiatrist Mario Gmur has developed a personality test based on how people bend paper clips. Apparently a spiral suggests a high achiever, a wavy line suggest a ‘party animal’ type, and making a circle at one end and a point at the other means you may be the next 007! (Mario Gmur, A Paperclip Test: A Personality Quiz Like No Other (Random House, 2016))

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