Commodore Perry & the ‘Unequal Treaties’

The Commodore meets the Shogunate /

The Commodore meets the Shogunate /

Matthew Galbraith Perry was born into the American ruling class in 1794. He entered the Navy in his teens and was soon a naval officer. It was as a Commodore ( rank with meaning in the American navy) that Perry entered Tokyo Bay fifty-nine years later in July 1853, in command of four fighting ships, two under sail and two powered by the new steam engines. Japan had been closed to foreign conact for more than two hundred years because the Tokugawa Shogunate feared foreign trading would allow rebellious warlords to become rich, allowing them to buy foreign arms. Commodore Perry’s brief from his president had clarified that the US wanted to extend and expand her trade in the Far East, especially coal supplies from Japan for US ships trading with China. Continue reading

How did the Tudors do it?

Imaginative re-construction of the marriage of Catherine and Own Tudor /

Imaginative re-construction of the marriage of Catherine and Own Tudor /

The ‘gentry’ in English history were and are middle to upper class folk, untitled except for the odd baronet or hastily-dubbed knight, owning land, serving as magistrates, being ‘squires’ of villages. They were the backbone of English rustic life, fighting and often giving up their lives for their king; on the reverse side they frequently plotted against their king, and were usually axed for their pains.

The Tudors, obscure and nearly penniless squires from North Wales, would have remained obscure were it not for the fact that one of them, a handsome young man called Owen, had got himself into service in the royal household. He was about twenty-six years old when it is said he ‘caught the eye’ of a widow only a year or two younger; but she was the widow of Henry V – that gallant royal winner of the battle at Agincourt, the third great victory for England in the Hundred Years War against the French after Creçy and Poitiers. Henry had died young and left his wife, Catherine of Valois, herself a French princess as well as ex-Queen of England, at the London court. Just how young Owen managed to ‘catch her eye’ is not noted, but it is said that he fell drunk into her bed (a likely story!), or that she saw the good-looking youth bathing without the benefit of clothes in the River Thames. An historian of the time, who apparently knew Catherine well, wrote that she was ‘unable fully to curb her carnal passions’ when confronted with the superb sight of young Owen disporting himself in the water. Continue reading

Don’t forget to read books!

Don’t neglect your reading!

Expert or inexpert, millions of people read blogsites, blogspots, online books, political pamphlets etc. The offer is endless using the Internet. But one should NOT forget the good old book . . . books have been around in printed, readable form for centuries. A well-made bookshelf full of printed knowledge may take up much more room in your bed-sitter or your palace, but it is worth it.

Talking of books, General-History comes in book form too, in softback and on sale at reasonable prices on almost any of your Amazon outlets; (USA),, even which invariably deals with books in Spanish. General-History by Dean Swift has not yet been translated from the original English. The book is divided into 3 volumes – Vol. I with a red cover stripe, Vol.II with a green one, and Vol. III with a blue stripe. There are well over a thousand pages in all three volumes, all selected and edited from the website

Please go to Amazon, click on ‘Books’, then key the following – General History Dean Swift. Up should comethumbsof all three volumes, with details of price and packaging, delivery etc. Do not be confused by the author-name: ‘Dean Swift‘ is a pen name of historian Jeremy Taylor.

This website receives an average of 48,000 hits per annum according to Statistics. Why not consider having all three volumes among your own books?

Plagues, Epidemics & Pandemics

Asian 'flu patients /

Asian ‘flu patients /

In the book of Isaiah you will find records of outbreaks of pestilence, when God is supposed to have punished the Chosen People for offences against Him. He destroyed, for example, the people of Sennacherib; but 2000 years before the Old Testament was composed, outbreaks of plague and other lethal visitations are recorded in Egyptian and early Chinese texts.

‘Plagues, pestilence, epi- and pan-demics’ have reduced the human population of this planet for thousands of years. A recent example was the Aids Pandemic, which killed enormous swathes of people of both sexes, and their children, before it was brought, somewhat jerkily, under control. In much earlier times, epidemics of smallpox, tuberculosis, measles, sweating sickness and even the common cold or ‘flu decimated populations before correct palliatives were found. Even now malaria kills, despite the discovery of penicillin especially in the continent of Africa and parts of the Far East, and many bacteria are now antibiotic-resistant. Continue reading

Correct behaviour of gentlemen

/ illustration by 'Tea at the Ritz'

/ illustration by ‘Tea at the Ritz’

Four Europeans of different nationality sat down at a tea table with the great lady who was their host. As they sipped the Lapsang or the Earl Grey, according to taste, the lady moved her position in the chair slightly and emitted a positively Chaucerian diffusion of gas: PIU! All conversation halted. Then the Italian gentleman said, “Spirito Santo! Mea culpa! Arrividerci!” and left the table. A few minutes later the hostess moved her rear end again; PIU! The German gentleman wiped his mouth with his napkin and said, “Mein Gott! Das bombf mich ist!” and left the table. It is difficult to believe but only one minute later, in the middle of an apprehensive silence, the lady did it again . . . PIU . . . and the English gentleman muttered, “Oh pardon me! My lunch . . .too much! Ate too plentifully! Thank you and goodbye!” and he went.

The great lady and the Spanish gentleman were left by themselves at table. The Spaniard sipped his tea reflectively; the great lady tucked into her cucumber sandwiches with relish. Then she changed her sitting position leaning over to the left and . . .PIU! The remaining guest got up, said “¡Hago mío el pedo de la señora y me voy!”

The revolutionary plot of M. Babeuf

babeufGracchus Babeuf was one of the first communists in history, not counting almost mythical characters such as such as Spartacus. He was born the son of a poor office clerk about twenty years before the beginnings of the French Revolution. Being outspoken about his political beliefs, he was in prison during most of the Great Terror (q.v.). The problem he had with the Jacobins (q.v.) was that he believed in the Revolution but thought that it should and must secure the best of life’s blessings for all the French people, not just its surviving leaders. With the Jacobins, however, he thought that ownership of private property produced inequality and that the only way to establish real equality was to to introduce communal management of property, abolishing any private possession. As a matter of fact these ideas were more radical than those of the Jacobins, whose plan was to take all private property away from its owners by force and then re-establish it with themselves as the new owners. Continue reading

‘The Stab in the Back’ – Myth or Reality



After the Normandy Invasion of 1944, the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler, and during the last few months of the Third Reich, with Russian and Allied armies closing on Berlin, Hitler gave orders to his remaining generals and field marshals that could leave no doubt in their mind; they had to fight to the last man and the last round . . . and then fight on . . .for the Fatherland!’ The word ‘defeat’ was not permitted use on any document, or on radio broadcasts. Nor were euphemisms like ‘strategic withdrawal’. Hitler was determined that no such thing as ‘the stab in the back’ of 1918 would occur again. But what was this apparently mythical stab in the back? Continue reading

20th century Chinese warlords



These provincial military self-appointed rulers were one of the collateral results of the Taipan Revolt (q.v.). Their power base was a private army, which each lord raised and maintained. Government of China (a vast and over-populated nation) was therefore partially in the armoured hands of these gentlemen from the beginning of the 20th century until the advent of Chiang Kai-shek (Jeng Jieshi) in 1928. Until Jeng imposed restraint and a semblance of disciplined unity, dozens of zones were ruled by warlords, not always kindly, not always just, though there were exceptions. Continue reading

The Taiping Revolt



This uprising, which started in 1850 and ended fourteen years later, was the greatest peasant rebellion in China in the 19th century. The 18th had seen a rise in China’s population from 150 to 350 million – more than double – and by 1850 the figure had risen to 450 million. This extraordinary fertility was not matched by any increase in cultivable land, so the peasants, among whom the population rise was marked, were worse off than they had ever been. The majority could not pay their bills, taxes or rents, and were therefore dispossessed and homeless. Something had to give.

What happened was a series of peasants’ revolts lasting twenty years from 1850. Part of the North China Plain, between the Huai and Yellow rivers, came under the control of the Nian rebels. In Yunnan the Chinese Muslim population rose up between 1862 – 1873, and the Miao natives revolted in the Kweichow mountains from 1854 – 72. Continue reading