Category Archives: EU History

Alsace/Lorraine & Schleswig/Holstein

These two tongue-twisters used not only to twist tongues, but eject furious spittle from the pursed mouth of European statesmen and politicians. The problem is not only of dual nationality and two different languages, but also historic bickering between countries traditionally seeing each other as treacherous enemies.

Alsace is a part of North/East France, comprising Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin. They lie on the frontier with Germany. Thus enters the traditional loathing of the French for the Germans, and vice-versa. Alsace was a simply a part of France (Lorraine) before finding itself fairly suddenly a part of the German Empire: the fault lies with treaties, as usual: The Peace of Westphalia (1648) and Treaty of Rijwijk (another tongue-torturer, 1697) handed over most of Alsace to France – but in 1871 it was re-annexed by Germany! As if this were not complicated enough, Alsace was subsequently returned to France in 1919 (Treaty of Versailles of immortal memory), and then, though this may difficult to believe, regained by Germany during the Second World War! Continue reading

The Treaty of Trianon (1920) and its effect on Hungary

This treaty is another good example of the collateral damage to be expected when states join in wars with the express intention of gaining territory, though the war in question has nothing or little to do with them. In the First or Great War of the 20th century, Hungary, because of its alliances with Austria, fought against the Western allies. Romania, sensing a chance to do well out of it, declared for the allies.

The Treaty of Versailles decreed that Hungary, among the states which fought for the loser, Germany, should share the blame and pay the price. After the four terrible years spent mostly advancing and retreating over the trenches were over, Hungary became a Republic, but a Communist revolt established a Communist administration in 1919. This failed, and a monarchical regime (in name only) was introduced with a new constitution, under the leadership of Admiral Horthy. Continue reading

Appeasement

A bit of a dirty word since 1938 but it shouldn’t be. There is enough appeasement going on now over the disgusting situation in Syria to fill the Golden Bowl with appeasers eager to keep Assad Junior happy. It is all rather puzzling. With one Bush, America went with its cautious allies to war against Iraq because Saddam invaded Kuwait. Firepower won, of course, but Saddam’s government remained! Then Bush Jr. went to war with Iraq with equally cautious allies, beat him up, and permitted the locals to lynch Saddam in a particularly horrible way. Now in Syria the Assad boy kills hundreds of fellow citizens every day, even using poison gas to do it, and the world’s committees sit expensively around asking themselves what to do. Continue reading

Missing or misdirected: $13,000 million for Haiti

   

Only two years after the catastrophic earthquake that almost destroyed the island of Haiti, killing many (200,000 is one estimate) and leaving more homeless, it would not be incorrect to ask what has happened to the huge sums of money raised by international organisations and private donors to finance the recovery of the island. Continue reading

Margaret Thatcher, the ‘Iron Lady’

  

R.I.P. / guardian.co.uk

R.I.P. / guardian.co.uk

  Margaret Hilda Thatcher was born in 1925 in Lincolnshire, the daughter of the owner of a small grocer’s shop. She was a scholarship girl, brainy and hard-working, who moved rapidly upwards, starting with Magdalen College, Oxford, where she achieved everything she wanted.

She became the leader of the British Conservative Party in 1975, in the teeth of serious opposition from fellow conservatives such as Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine, who could hardly believe that any mere woman might have such targets. In 1979 she became Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, and went on to serve the longest in that office in the 20th century. Continue reading

Metternich

Prince Metternich painted by Laurence / en.wikipedia.org

Prince Metternich painted by Laurence / en.wikipedia.org

Of all the great statesmen and diplomats whose many different names have managed to confuse so many history students in the last century or two, this one is perhaps the most important, because of the significance of what he achieved before he finally failed. We have dealt with most of them in this general-history blog – John of Gaunt, Cardinal Richelieu,  Thomas Cromwell, von Bismarck, both William Pitts, Palmerston, Gladstone, Disraeli – the list is long indeed. Continue reading

The first European Community (failed)

Edward III / fanpop.cpm

Edward III / fanpop.cpm

The EEC as we know it today bears no resemblance to this first attempt, but at least enough initiative was shown by its inventors to make it last for a few years, changing the name occasionally. The basic idea is sound, but the firm proposition thought up by the German and the French is now out of control, divided into Commissions, Committees, Parliament, Court of Justice etc. which lead of course to chaos and desperate over-spending.

In 1337 Edward III of England sent a special group to what was then called the Low Countries. The group’s aim was to make friends with the Counts of Flanders and Hainault, along with many other European princes of the blood, in order to be prepared for yet another impending war with France, but Edward’s diplomatic strategy (he preferred battles) was only faintly discernible. In fact the embassy was a disaster, humiliating Edward before his own courtiers as well as his enemies, and leaving him with a near-bankrupt England. The King was semi-reluctantly drawn into his favourite strategy – war. He was very good at that. A lot of wars then took place, which rescued him from his worst mistake in a long reign. Continue reading

SPAIN today: a prediction and some questions

Morning, noon and night it is predicted by the Spanish news programmes that Mariano Rajoy may resign and take his Popular Party with him. The reason, we are told, is that an ex-treasurer of the party has said that he made extra payments to high ranking members of the PP since 2008 or before. The news programmes insists that these ‘payments by plain envelope’ mean ‘black money’, or payments NOT declared on tax forms. This is now found to be palpably untrue. Rajoy has even taken the unprecedented step of publishing his tax declarations on his own website. The payments are part of the declared emoluments and expenses, and as such are completely legal – if rather rich-making.

Showing the kind of hypocritical cynicism that I had hoped had vanished with Felipe González, leaders of the PSOE are insisting on ‘complete investigations’ of something that has been completely investigated. This is not unusual at all. But for the saintly Rubalcaba to put on his most Dominican face and find all this ‘disgraceful’ would be extremely funny, a Brian Rix Aldwych farce, if it were not so serious. If the PSOE’s plans to dislodge the Popular Party via articles and headlines in their organ El País lead to Sr. Rajoy’s resignation, Spain will be in the same position as it was on the unexpected and unnecessary abdication of King Alfonso XIII in the Thirties, which led indirectly to the Spanish Civil War. Continue reading

SPAIN: from black comedy to farce

     Not even the Monty Python team could have invented the present situation in the democracy with a monarchy, Parliament, and civilized population called Spain. The Marx Brothers might have shaken the head and said, “No-one would believe such a script, so fergettaboudit!” Continue reading