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Russians versus the Japanese (1904) & the Turks (4 times in the 19th century)

Marshal Kutuzov /

Marshal Kutuzov /

The fight between the Japanese and Russia was (and is) significant because it was all about control of both Manchuria and Korea. The Japanese launched an unexpected and unheralded assault on Russian warships anchored in their Manchurian naval base at Port Arthur. Pearl Harbor 37 years later was a sequel (Port Arthur now has another name of course).


The Nine Years War


William III/

William III /

Of all the wars known by duration in years, the least well-known is the Nine Years War (1688 – 97). Nevertheless this conflict has its important side, as it involved the Sun King himself, Louis XIV of France, and Britain under her Dutch-born monarch, William III. (more…)

The Hohenzollern family

William ! of Prussia /

William ! of Prussia /

Of all the great and influential German families, descending from the mists of time, always involved in something – providing kings, making a nuisance of themselves, being or not being involved in charitable causes etc., the Hohenzollern top the list. There are still plenty of them around, but their power has waned. (more…)


As villeins or servants of a medieval lord serfs were not actually slaves, though many writers of historical novels would have them so. Peasants they were, and by no means free. They were there to work the land of the lord (from which comes the more modern expression ‘landlord’). Serfs represented the lowest possible level of society. (more…)

Frederick (the Great) of Prussia

He was born in 1740, the son of Frederick William I and his queen, Sophia Dorothea, a daughter of George I of Great Britain. As a boy he was bullied by his father, who thought nothing of whipping the child in front of shocked servants. His father was known is royal circles as ‘the royal drill-sergeant’, and with reason. Frederick William was a strict religionist, violent-tempered, notorious for his malreatment not only of his son but for women and servants too. It is not surprising that that the boy grew up to be peculiar. (more…)

By | 2012-12-05T11:18:18+00:00 December 5th, 2012|Austrian history, German History, World History|0 Comments

Another modest proposal: Gibraltar

Gibraltar: contentious since 1704

Gibraltar: contentious since 1704

The spiky old issue of Gibraltar is digging Spanish and British statesmen in the most tender part of their well-fed anatomies – what to do with Gibraltar? Ever since the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 (very nearly three hundred years ago), the two puissant old ladies have been scratching at each other’s eyes because of Gibraltar. (more…)

Switzerland: where Italians, Frenchmen & Germans don’t bother with nationalism


  A half-dozen of the planet’s most important countries are now infected by the nationalist mosquito. Europe (after the Second War) invented a large country called Yugoslavia which has again been divided into different nations in order to provide more jobs for high-earning politicians as well as to keep Balkan nations from reaching for each other’s throat. Spain has its autonomous community Cataluña itching for total independence, and threatening the country’s elected government in everything from school curriculuae to the language to be spoken in the courtroom. Scotland already has its own Parliament in Edinburgh, where no seats are held by anyone English. The British Parliament in Westminster has a multitude of seats occupied by Scotsmen. (more…)

Gibraltar in the news again


President of the Spanish Government Mariano Rajoy spoke to the United Nations recently. He explained the country’s economic situation, which is disastrous, though no fault of his own, and clarified what his government is doing (or trying to do) to improve the situation. But he also brought up the thorny and contentious subject of Gibraltar. He said that the two governments, British and Spanish and the UNO itself must reach a consensus of opinion about the Rock, and be quick about it. He pulled no punches. It is not his job to pull punches. (more…)

Rich in history: the Rothschilds

Nathan Rothschild, who 'organised' the purchase of those Suez Canal shares /

Nathan Rothschild, who ‘organised’ the purchase of those Suez Canal shares /

Whole books have been published about this world-famous banking family. Some of the authors have indulged in hagiography, others have been perhaps unconsciously anti-Semitic. The latter view is particularly irritating, as it is the very Jewishness of the Rothschilds that makes their family history so interesting. Here, we can engage in a brief potted biography of the family. For further reading, I consider the best and most intimate biography is by Frederic Morton. It is probably out of print by now, but ransack the libraries for The Rothschilds – a family portrait. (more…)

Great War Commanders: Hans von Seeckt: who?

Hans Von Seekt

Hans von Seekt /

I am not being frivolous. If you were to ask even German or Austrian nationals of below a certain age, say seventy, who Hans von Seeckt was, you might well get a blank expression. But it was Seeckt who prepared and made the German Army of which Hitler was so proud, and which he could use so effectively in France, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Poland etc. in the early years of the Second War. (more…)

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