These days the word strikes a sour note, arousing images of rough settlements, starving ‘piccaninies’, whips, shackles, thoughtless government from a distance of thousdands of miles etc. If there are any ‘colonies’ left after the post-war rush to be rid of them I think it is because the ‘colonists’ prefer it that way. 90% of colonies which achieved independence have suffered under bad or atrocious rule since being ‘freed’, with the possible exception of the United States, and even there half the settlers in the Thirteen Colonies claimed they did not wish for independence from British rule, and after 1776 sold up lock, stock and barrel and moved to Canada, where they were welcomed. Continue reading
This Atlantic, south-western European country is on the western side of the Iberian Peninsula, bounded to north and east by Spain and to the west and south by the ocean. Its first kingdom came in 1139 under Alfonso I, but by the fifteenth century Europeans were beinning to talk of a Portuguese Empire, due to world exploration by Portuguese navigators and adventurers. In 1580 however, Portugal came under Spanish domination which lasted until 1640. The French invaded too, in 1807. Continue reading
Civilization in Europe is an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes compared with China’s. The Shang dynasty, for instance, began 1766 years before Christ, according to reliable records, and lasted until 1122 B.C – six hundred and forty-four years making some of our modern dynasties look rather short-lived. Archeological evidence suggests that the Shang monarchy emerged from an earlier, actually Neolithic culture. Shang territory stretched from the Yellow River plain to Shandong in the east. A sort of capital region was established is what is now a northern Henan province. There might have been others, but the capital that lasted was that at Yin (now Anyang). Inscriptions on the royal tombs are the oldest form of Chinese writing. Continue reading
The carrier-based Japanese air force began the war in the air over the Pacific Ocean by attacking without prior warning the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. The damage to American capital ships and the loss of life were enormous, but as pointed out in another post on this site, no US aircraft carriers were present on 7 December, 1941.
The Japanese, as industrious as ever, had made great strides in the design and construction of these floating airfields, and at Pearl Harbor they made full use of them. Four hundred bombers and fighters were launched from the six carriers used in the assault. Surprise too was an essential element, as Japan had not declared war on the United States, though everyone from the President in Washington to the Texan cowpokes knew the two countries were on a war footing, and that Japan had joined the Axis. Continue reading
The Blizkrieg from Nazi Germany that opened the Second War in 1939 showed that apart from tank power, air power was a vital component of Hitler’s war efforts. Germany pounded the meagre defences of Poland from the air, breaking communications, causing death and chaos on a scale not known by the suffering Poles not even during their centuries of abuse by neighbours. Dive-bombers called Stukas were used by the Luftwaffe, and a malevolent touch was added by their fitted sirens, terrorizing populations as the bombers hurtled almost vertically down from brilliant blue skies, releasing their lethal cargo at the last moment before straightening out. Many pilots, very young and with very little experience, did not straighten out, with the result that the Stuka made a bigger hole in the earth than its bombs. The efficient and very fast Messerschmidt I09 and 110 fighters attacked the ramshackle Polish aircraft without mercy, destroying most of the aeroplanes on the ground even before the pilots could climb into them. Many of these young ill-disciplined but courageous young men escaped to England, and were to take an important part in the air Battle of Britain. Assault parachutists were dropped from heavier German aircraft – a new use of air power pioneered by the Germans and quickly copied by Germany’s enemies. Parachutists were extensively used in the attack and invasion of Crete in 1941. Continue reading
In the very late nineteenth century hot-air balloons were first used in Europe for observing enemy troop movements. War in the air had started. Later the same balloons were used for comparatively accurate direction indication for artillery. In Woolwich, England, the British Army Balloon School was founded (in 1878) to train soldiers in this new mode of war. The balloons were soon found to be limited in manoeuvrability and the new airships or dirigibles replaced them. The Germans were particularly fast in this new development, and began arming the airships too.
After the success of the Wright brothers in 1903, fragile wood and canvas aeroplanes powered by engines began to appear everywhere in Europe and the United States, but it was in France that the enormous potential of fighting from and in the air was first recognised. When the Great War started in 1914 aircraft were available that could fly up to 120 miles per hour – and stay in the air for up to two hours with the aid of freshly designed fuel tanks. The aeroplanes were small, and at first could take only two crew, the pilot and the observer/gunner. They were most uncomfortable, but at least the airmen could return to their airfield (if they survived war in the air) to sit in the sun and drink tea. Continue reading
William Cecil was the first illustrious Cecil, men from an ordinary background who managed, by determination, hard work, guile, ambition and not a little luck to reach very near the top in English history. William worked as a young lawyer with the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland. He was born in 1520 and was made Secretary of State at thirty. He cleverly avoided the fates of both his bosses (executed for some reason or other) and when Henry VIII’s daughter by Catherine of Aragon – Mary – became Queen he rapidly became a fair imitation of a devout Roman Catholic by conversion.
Mary Tudor died (rather fortunate for England, for she had been Bloody) and Elizabeth her half sister, born of Anne Boleyn, became Queen. She made him her Chief Secretary of State, and for the following forty years he was her chief advisor, counsel, and loyal subject. He was also the architect of her successful reign as he kept an iron grip on the Administration, influenced the Queen’s pro-Protestant foreign policies, and got rid of the troublesome Mary Queen of Scots by getting Elizabeth to sign the essential death warrant. The Queen, as always, sat on various fences at once by using special Tudor skills of her own, and bitterly complained after the execution that William had ‘tricked her into signing’. This was the nearest that he sailed into the wind, and indeed he was banned from the Court for a while, but Elizabeth soon needed him again. Working closely with the cunning Francis Walsingham (q.v.), who ran the 16th century forerunner of the SIS, he knew all about King Philip of Spain’s intention to invade Britain, and made more than adequate preparations for the country’s defence against the Gran Armada. Continue reading
General History in book format!
Don’t forget Volumes One & Two of GENERAL HISTORY
are available on Amazon wherever you may be.
These books are simply the articles posted on the website
in the form of a properly printed paperback book.
Volume Three will be published around Christmas time, 2014.
‘Dean Swift’ is the pen name used by author Jeremy Taylor
for his History books.
Just go to Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk, or Amazon.es etc.
Click on the long top rectangle ‘All’
Click on ‘Books’
Key in General History Dean Swift.
Both volumes will appear; become a subscriber to Amazon
or if you are already a subscriber, choose your mode of payment.
It is just as easy as that.
This article deals with the former Soviet Union, a.k.a. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The USSR was a federation of fifteen republics, forming what was the world’s largest sovereign state from the 1920s until dissolution in 1991. To call it a ‘sovereign’ state is perhaps a misnomer, as the regime that ruled the Soviet Union was 100% Communist, having executed most of the Russian royal family in Siberia in 1918. Continue reading
Jews in the Spain of the Middle Ages, though never popular, were permitted to convert from Judaism to Christianity; rigorous tests conducted by priests followed equally stern training. The ‘converts’ were called Conversos to define the essential difference between someone born and baptized Christian and a ‘convert’. In addition, they were sometimes called ‘New Christians’ to distinguish them from Old or Non-Semitic Christians. In popular speech they were often called Marranos which is vulgar Spanish for pigs. The correct term is Cerdo, but this word is also used by the Spanish to describe any male they happen to deprecate, probably with reason. Continue reading