François P.G. Guizot

/ en.wikipedia.org

/ en.wikipedia.org

This statesman was born 1787, not a safe time to be born anywhere in France. His father was killed by the guillotine during the Terror (q.v.); somehow François survived to serve Louis XVII after the Bourbon Dynasty (q.v.) was restored. Following the subsequent murder of the Duc de Berry, son of the future Charles X (1820) he lost his position in the Council of State, and went over to the Liberals. Continue reading

Immigration to the United States

Immigrants – those who arrive in a new country having left their own:

Emigrants – those who leave their own country to go to another:

Emigration – the act of leaving one’s country to start a new life in another:

Immigration – the noun that describes the action of immigrants:

 

Almost there: arrival at Ellis Island / mrstratton.com

Almost there: arrival at Ellis Island / mrstratton.com

This brief lesson in English vocabulary is essential before starting an article about immigration or emigration. Television news programmesand the rest of the media continuously mix up the words which makes for confusion. Continue reading

The influenza pandemic (and panic) of 1918

Mass treatment for influenza in the USA / en.wikipedia.org

Mass treatment for influenza in the USA / en.wikipedia.org

The Plague, or the Black Death or Bubonic Plague struck down nearly a third of the population in most European countries during the Middle Ages. There being no known antidote, populations had to wait until these plagues vanished or burnt themselves out. Literally, as it turned out in the Plague during the reign of Charles II in England, when the Great Fire of London succeeded where no doctors or medicines could. Influenza or the rudely named ‘Spanish ‘flu’, is a common virus which spreads rapidly, attacking very young and elderly people for preference. Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, had it been made in the Middle Ages, would according to the scientists have killed the Bubonic virus instantly. Fleming was born in the late Eighties of the nineteenth century, and penicillin was still not around in 1918 when the fly virus mutated and a very virulent form of it occurred in three different forms in a matter of months. Continue reading

The riot in the Haymarket Square

/ fineartamerica.com

/ fineartamerica.com

Haymarket Square is in Chicago. In 1886 a diminutive anarchist movement, led by German agitators, gathered there to cause trouble. They called on the crowds to achieve reforms by violent action, after police and strikers had clashed at the McCormic Harvester factory on 3 May; three strikers had been killed in the fight, and several more badly hurt. The next day, the 4th, anarchists and strikers gathered in the Haymarket Square to protest at ‘police brutality’.

   The rally was interrupted quite soon by someone throwing a bomb; it killed one policeman outright and another seven bystanders, and injured more than sixty more. This atrocity caused the police to open fire in all directions, killing four more onlookers. Eight anarchists were arrested, and it was found that all but one were foreign-born. In itself this is an interesting part of the report, because all Americans except Native Americans are or were foreign-born. In the tribunal which followed, though no evidence was shown that they had anything to do with the bomb-throwing, seven of the eight were condemned to death.

   Later, two of these had the sentence reduced to life imprisonment, one killed himself, and four were hanged. In 1893 the liberal governor of the State of Illinois pardoned the three anarchists still in prison. He said in a summing-up that there had been a miscarriage of justice. Even if this was true, the statement caused tremendous public unrest, and naturally increased hostility towards the labour movement in general.

The Russo-Polish War of 1929

Following the collapse of Germany at the end of the Great War, Poland foundf herself independent, a most unusual position for that sad country. It was November, 1918; Marshal Pilsudski was commander of Polish forces and Prime Minster of Poland. He saw Russia as the principal opponent of Polish independence, and as a soldier recognised Russia’s weaknesses as a result of the Great War. In a moment of insanity, he thought there was an opportunity to recover Polish territory lost to Russia during the partitions of the 18th century.

   To the great surprise of the world’s newspapers, and the annoyance of Russia, Pilsudski launched a surprise attack on the Ukraine. The Ukrainians, astonished, provided little resistance and the Poles occupied Kiev. But then the Red Army got itself together and counter-attacked, forcing the Poles back to their own frontier. Among the Soviet leaders only Trotsky wanted to let sleeping dogs lie, but Lenin, true to form, decided to invade Poland, with two objects in mind; first, to occupy Poland, and second, to start a proletarian revolution there too. It did not work, for the presence of Russian troops in Poland roused Polish nationalism, and the vast Red Army was halted by the dogged Poles before it reached Warsaw. Not only halted but pushed backwards. Luckily peace was signed by both parties at Riga in Latvia in 1921. Continue reading

Friedrich Engels

Engels as a young man / theguardian.com

Engels as a young man / theguardian.com

Marx and Engels go together like Marks and Spencer; Karl and Groucho are however better known than Engels, though without him we would probably have had less Marxism, and therefore less Communism. In 1920 Friedrich was born into the family of a very rich owner of factories in the Rhineland. Higher education (universities) not exerting their present-day stranglehold over the young, Friedrich left school at sixteen to work with the family firm. Ar twenty-two this required going to England, where his father’s company had good relations (contracts) with cotton manufacturers in Manchester. Though he was well housed and paid a German-sized wage, he lost no time in observing conditions among lowly workers in middle-Victorian England. Using his contacts with the newspapers he wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1845. Though truthful and accurate, his exposé cannot have pleased his family much. Continue reading

Charles James Fox

/ telegraph.com

/ telegraph.com

was born in 1749, but his upward mobility was such that he was in Parliament at the age of nineteen. This may have been been because in debating societies at school even the ushers had noted his skill in debate and his accuracy; in class he shone because he could absorb facts and arguments rapidly and store them away in his brain for future use. After Rockingham died in 1782 he became in effect leader of the Whig party.

   Almost everybody found him charming and agreeable, and he made many friends, but there was a mutual loathing between him and Lord North, who probably thought him a whippersnapper; George III King of Great Britain, whose illness of porphyria made him quite mad at the most inopportune moments, and William Pitt the Younger, a careful and more astute politician, ten years younger, who was Prime Minister at twenty-four. In the last-named case I think jealousy played a great part in the animosity between two excellent politicians. Nevertheless, making an enemy of a landed aristocrat, a King and a Prime Minister kept Fox out of all the high posts he deserved for all but one and a half years out of the thirty-seven he spent in Parliament. He had no means of controlling his volatile tongue, and no intention of doing so. Continue reading

Erich von Falkenhayn

/ es.wikipedia.org

/ es.wikipedia.org

This Junker was born in 1861. As a child at severe schools he was perceived as self-reliant, honest and intelligent. He must have used these talents well because by 1913 he was Minister for War at fifty-two. After von Moltke’s nervous breakdown in November, 1914, he was made Chief of Staff. Using that famous intelligence, he knew at once that the Allies in the Great War had greater resources to call on, and that Germany must win the War quickly, or fail miserably. Continue reading

Who were ‘the Free French?’

/ en-wikipedia.org

/ en-wikipedia.org

Germany attacked France in May, 1940. 136 German divisions faced 125 British, French and Belgian ones. The Germans had over two thousand tanks, but even their commander admitted half were obsolete. The Allies had a little more than three thousand six hundred tanks, among which the French armour was better than anything the Germans had. But they had many more aircraft. Only the French, with their thousand aeroplanes, could provide much opposition. 400 British fighters, mostly Hawker Hurricanes were based in France. The French seemed paralysed by ther audacity and skill of Guderian’s Panzer tanks and troops, and watched with their mouths open as the Panzers crossed the Meuse,, open a fifty-mile gap in the Allied front, and then raced along the valley of the Somme towards the channel (q.v.). By 20 May they had got there. Gamelin, the French commander, seemed immovable and was replaced by a seventy-three year old – Weygand, who had been sitting in Syria. By 28 May the Germans were in Calais, cutting off the French, British and Belgian forces in the north from the remainder of French forces. The Dutch and the Belgians surrendered. The British got to Dunkirk where, miraculously, they evacuated nearly four hundred thousand troops back to English shores, unfortunately leaving tanks and ammunition behind, as there was not sufficient time to load them on to the Royal Navy ships sent, along with hundreds of small motor and sail craft which had also crossed the Channel to help. Meanwhile the French retreated to the Loire, thus separating themselves from those still holding the Maginot line, which Guderian had contemptuously avoided. In June two million Parisians left their homes and scuttled south, joining the six million who had already fled from northern France and Belgium. Weygand was replaced by Marshall Petain, who instantly accepted German surrender terms. The Atlantic coast and all Northern France were to be occupied and controlled by German forces. The rest of the country would be governed, hand in glove with the Germans, by Petain, in what became known as Vichy France. The French Army had been beaten in six weeks. Continue reading

Herbert Asquith (Ist Earl of Oxford and Asquith)

/ en.wikipedia.org

/ en.wikipedia.org

Only Dickens, or perhaps Anthony Trollope, could have invented the name Asquith for one of their novels. It is a respectable surname, but certainly rather odd. Our subject was born in 1852, in the middle of the century that saw Britain’s empire in a state of permanent and very expensive growth, protected by the Royal Navy, with a tiny, young and resolute Queen on the throne. He lived until 1928, when the Great War had almost bankrupted Britain, and the rumour of the break-up of Empire would soon become the shattering noise of World War II. Continue reading