In World History, the last years of the eighteenth century as opposed to the middle years, were full of unrest, rebellion, revolution and unworthy, unlawful acts. Ireland and ‘the Irish Question’ has cropped up in British history since William the Conquerer’s successful invasion of Saxon England. At all times there has been trouble brewing, or happening, in the Emerald Isle, a place of beauty and mystery. Since English kings decided Ireland belonged to them, instead of the Irish, English gentlemen have crossed the Irish Sea to quell some rebellion or other, always with the best (or worst) intentions. Like Essex and Raleigh, they failed and returned with their English tails between the legs, to face the block. Continue reading
A large part of the island of Ireland, mainly Leinster and Munster was under English rule from the twelfth century for three centuries.The Gaelic King of Leinster had invited Anglo/Norman barons to come with their private armies to Ireland in 1167* to expand his territory. With their help, he brought much of the south under his dominance.
Henry II, first Plantagenet King of England had learned to be wary of his barons’ undue influence in English affairs, and certainly did not wish their powers to spread into Ireland. Not being one to stand about wringing his hands, he crossed immediately to Dublin, where he re-asserted his authority with the menace of summary justice, and established ‘The Lordship of Ireland’. He would himself be the Lord, of course. Continue reading
The Blizkrieg from Nazi Germany that opened the Second War in 1939 showed that apart from tank power, air power was a vital component of Hitler’s war efforts. Germany pounded the meagre defences of Poland from the air, breaking communications, causing death and chaos on a scale not known by the suffering Poles not even during their centuries of abuse by neighbours. Dive-bombers called Stukas were used by the Luftwaffe, and a malevolent touch was added by their fitted sirens, terrorizing populations as the bombers hurtled almost vertically down from brilliant blue skies, releasing their lethal cargo at the last moment before straightening out. Many pilots, very young and with very little experience, did not straighten out, with the result that the Stuka made a bigger hole in the earth than its bombs. The efficient and very fast Messerschmidt I09 and 110 fighters attacked the ramshackle Polish aircraft without mercy, destroying most of the aeroplanes on the ground even before the pilots could climb into them. Many of these young ill-disciplined but courageous young men escaped to England, and were to take an important part in the air Battle of Britain. Assault parachutists were dropped from heavier German aircraft – a new use of air power pioneered by the Germans and quickly copied by Germany’s enemies. Parachutists were extensively used in the attack and invasion of Crete in 1941. Continue reading
Edmund Burke was born in Dublin in 1729. Educated in this city, it was not long before he quit ‘the bogs of Ireland’ and moved to London, where he got the job of being private secretary to Lord Rockingham in 1765, when Burke was 36. So far so slow, but the Irishman never wasted a moment of his long apprenticeship with Rockingham, which lasted until the latter’s death in 1872. Continue reading
Ireland, in the form of the Republic of Eire, or that still-British bit at the top around Belfast, has never been a safe place. Throughout the Middle Ages blood was spilled every day there, for one reason or another. The English, under Kings or a Lord Protector, were particularly prone to killing Irish people. Even in the more ‘civilized’ nineteenth century English politicians swore they could do nothing with the Irish, whose potato famine was killing them off in thousands. Death by starvation is no better than a bullet in the brain, but that is precisely what two placid Englishmen got when out for a bracing walk in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, on a blustery 6th May in 1882.
Lord Frederick Cavendish was the newly appointed Secretary for Ireland; his Under-Secretary was Thomas Burke, a good Irish-sounding name, whereas his boss was a brother of the 8th Duke of Devonshire, who held land in Ireland but hardly ever visited; the classic absentee landlord in fact.
One of the dozens of Irish terrorist groups was called with characteristic modesty ‘The Invincibles’: the actual word ‘terrorist’ had not then been invented, but such groups were out to cause maximum trouble, and murder was high on the list. Members of this band shot and killed Cavendish and his Secretary in the Park. More murders followed in the Irish summer, though the British Government reacted in the usual manner with the fearsome ‘Coercion Act’, allowing trials for treason and murder to be held before a ‘judicial tribunal’ without a jury. In addition, the police were awarded extensive additional search powers.
It was not long before five of the Phoenix Park assassins were caught, sentenced and hanged. It is not certain what these very public murders were supposed to achieve, apart from the calming of an insatiable blood lust. Things were made much worse by killing Cavendish and Burke, but ever since the time of the terrible O’Neils no-one in Ireland seems to have been much bothered by the reactions of authority.
It is difficult to find any time since the Byzantine Empire when the North African coast from Morocco to Libya was not infamous for piracy. The worst period was the beginning of the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth. The Berbers, who may or may not have originally populated the Canary Islands, were piratical by nature and good navigators in the treacherous Atlantic and unpredictable Mediterranean.
Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania (Libya) take their name from the infamous pirate Barbarossa. Even the English adjective barbaric has its roots in berber, bereber or Barbarossa. Continue reading