The Anglo-Dutch Wars, Maarten & Cornelis Tromp, Michiel de Ruyter & Robert Blake

Ruyter causing havoc in the river Thames / badassoftheweek.com

Ruyter causing havoc in the river Thames / badassoftheweek.com

In the seventeenth century two dominating naval powers emerged, following the reduction of the great Spanish Empire and her navy. They were Holland and Britain: commercial and colonial rivalries caused a lot of trouble at sea between these two. Four naval wars were fought at intervals between the Dutch Republic and Britain from 1652 to 1784.

   Historians mostly agree that the first three of these, fought in the second half of the seventeenth century had little positive result. Certainly they did nothing to give supremacy to either nation, but the fourth, fought towards the end of the eighteenth century (1780 – 84), just before ‘curtain up’ in the French Revolution, was badly lost by the Dutch, ending their claim to commercial domination. All these wars did however give a major chance to certain men to behave heroically. Four stand out – one English, the other three Dutch. Continue reading

Nine kings at Buckingham Palace

Nine kings - an historic photograph made in 1910

Nine kings – an historic photograph made in 1910

The photograph, still in pristine condition, obviously made by a master photographer, is historic in that it shows no less than nine holders of European thrones, some stable, some shaky. The date is May, 1910, and the shattering Great War is but four years off. Standing in the back row (from left to right) are Haakon VII of Norway, Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, Manoel II of Portugal, Wilhelm II of Germany (The Kaiser), George I of Greece and Albert I of Belgium; seated in the front row are Alfonso XIII of Spain and Frederick VIII of Denmark with their host, in whose palace the photograph was taken in the central position – George V of Great Britain. Continue reading

The Two Koreas

Distracting the traffic in Pyongyang / koryogroup.com

Distracting the traffic in Pyongyang / koryogroup.com

The Korean Peninsula is divided into two, the northern part is officially called The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, while the southern part is simply The Republic of Korea. Unofficially, the world knows these two respectively as North and South Korea.

   North Korea is a ‘socialist’ state, with borders to the north with China, to the north-east with Russia; to the west is Korea Bay and the Yellow Sea; to the east is the Sea of Japan. Very asiatic. Separation from South Korea is provided by a demilitarized zone of 1,262 kilometres. Continue reading

Discovery (Part II)

Usual weather at Tierra del Fuego (rounding Cape Horn) / cleargreengems.com

Usual weather at Tierra del Fuego (rounding Cape Horn) / cleargreengems.com

Columbus started his working life travelling in his father’s business. The first long trip was to Chios in the eastern Mediterranean, but he also sailed to London. It is not certain if he was simply a member of the crew, or the captain of the ship, but in February, 1477, if we are to believe his own word, he went to Iceland. Most historians do not give this tale much credence, and think he got as far as the Faroes, and why not? In winter the Faroes are as cold as Iceland anyway. What is important is that Columbus met and talked with descendants of the Vikings who had settled in Greenland in the 9th and 10th centuries, as well as the eastern coast of North America – and had tales to tell. Continue reading

Brief stars in the firmament

/ oocities.org

/ oocities.org

There might have been others, and we will look for them, but the shortest period as a ‘star’ in Hollywood I can discover so far was Roger Herren’s. This promising young man was fourth in the Titles under Raquel Welch, John Huston, and Rex Reed (who was not an actor anyway) in a movie called Myra Breckenridge shot under the direction of an Englishman called Michael Sarne, who also wrote the screenplay. He made an adaptation from the original satirical novel by Gore Vidal, who was having one of his periodic goes at Hollywood. The film disappeared beneath a welter of terrible reviews, including dozens which pronounced it as ‘the worst film ever made’. Gore Vidal called it ‘a bad joke’, but then he could because he wrote the novel – not the screenplay. This was the task of the director, Michael or Mike Sarne, chosen one assumes because of the success of a recording he made called ‘ComeOutside’ – a best seller.

   Young Mr Herren had been to acting school and done well, and was chosen perhaps because of his athletic image, because one of the repulsive scenes in this movie is one depicting Raquel Welch anally raping Mr Herren, who is naked, with an ‘implement’ while he is tied to a gym box. Poor Roger starred in this travesty and then disappeared, presumably for ever from the silver screen. He was therefore a star at the premiere, after which me might as well have rushed off to wear monkey makeup in one of those innumerable re-makes of Planet of the Apes. Continue reading

Discovery (Part I)

The Cape of Good Hope / theora.com

The Cape of Good Hope / theora.com

The Crusades had not achieved very much, had cost a great deal in money and lives, but had at least one merit: they introduced the idea of travel abroad; the fine feeling of leaving your own shores or borders and visiting other countries. Even so, few were the brave souls who ventured from Britain or France, say, to exotic places of renown like Venice or Copenhagen.

  In the 13th century A.D. two brothers called Polo, who actually came from Venice, had the courage and the resources to wander across the huge Mongol desert, and climb high mountains; at last they found themselves in the Court of the Great Khan at Cathay (which they had thought of as a myth). They even met the Emperor of China without having their hats nailed to their heads. This great adventure was written up by one of their sons, Marco, and it covered a period of around twenty years. Young Marco wrote about a mysterious group of islands on the edge of the world called (by him) Zipangu. We would call this breathlessly beautiful place Japan. But even then, though people wished to Go East, where there are spices and jewels and gold, few made the effort because world travel was dangerous. So they stayed at home, where life was only moderately so. Continue reading

General History – the first volume

The first Volume of General History as a book is on Amazon

For those who are interested the first volume of my 3-volume printed version of articles from General-History.com is on Amazon. Just click on Books, and then key Jeremy Taylor General History and you should find the first volume on sale at around £8. Do not be confused by the name ‘Dean Swift’ – it is just one of my pen-names!

Balliol, John and Edward

The Old Library at Balliol, an Oxford college founded by the father of John Balliol / balliol.ox.ac.uk

The Old Library at Balliol, an Oxford college founded by the father of John Balliol / balliol.ox.ac.uk

John Balliol was born in his native Scotland around 1250, the exact year is uncertain, because of faulty records. When Margaret ‘The Maid of Norway’ died in 1290, John was a claimant to the throne, and was supported in his petition by none other than Edward I (‘Hammer of the Scots’), King of England. The reason for this was probably that another claimant was Robert Bruce, whom Edward had reasons for disapproval.

  Balliol was the claimant chosen and he swore fealty to Edward both before and after his investiture at Scone in 1292. He was then forced to cancel the Treaty of Bingham (signed in 1290) with its guarantees of Scottish liberties. This reinforced his popularity with English rulers but made him unpopular with the Scots. Continue reading

Augsberg (Interim, Confession, League of & Peace of)

Augsberg in 1550 / en-wikipedia.org

Augsberg in 1550 / en-wikipedia.org

On the northern tip of the Lechfeld plain in Bavaria, two rivers meet and conjoin – the Lech and the Wertach. Here an occupying Roman called Nero Claudius Drusus (a younger brother of Tiberius) founded a colony in 15 B.C. which eventually grew to become the impressive and ancient city of Augsberg.

   Banks and business houses such as the Fugger (q.v.) and Welser were responsible for its development in the 15th and 16th centuries. It became an important centre for banking and finance, as well as encouraging the arts and sciences. Both Holbein painters, father and son, came from Augsberg, but the city declined in importance in the 17th century and quietly became just another town in Bavaria in the nineteenth. Continue reading