Category Archives: History

William Turner (Painter)

 

William Turner VeniceJoseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was an English painter who stood out thanks to his extraordinary watercolour landscapes and oil paintings.

The particular confusion between brilliance and madness was very obvious in the biography of William Turner. An academic painter during his origins, Turner developed his art until reaching a free, atmospheric and in occasions, abstract style that made critics reject his creations until they finally understood he was just a genious. 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; www.amazon.com (USA), www.amazon co.uk, even www.amazon.es. 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 www.general-history.com

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?

The wit of two conductors

Sir Thomas Beecham / dailymail.co.uk

Sir Thomas Beecham / dailymail.co.uk

It is possible that many players in orchestras have heard very funny comments made to them during rehearsal, or even during the actual performance of an orchestral piece. But someone needed to be quick enough to scribble what was said, and this has not always happened. The following remarks were noted at the time, though critics simply attribute them to the speaker. Continue reading

The demise of the Church of England

Dr. Michael Ramsey

Dr. Michael Ramsey

A distinguished elderly gentleman on a professional foreign tour, lay on his hotel bed waiting for news of a cancelled flight. His press secretary found him there, hands clasped behind his white head. He was repeating the words, “I hate the Church of England.” The secretary commented, “ It’s a good thing nobody’s here but me to hear you say that!” Dr. Ramsey, for it was he, said again, “Oh, but it’s true. I do hate the Church of England. Indeed I do.”

Ramsey was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time. At the time of his enthronement at Canterbury, he said, “Here in England, the Church and State are linked together . . . We ask for a greater freedom in the ordering and in the urgent revising of our forms of worship . . . If the link of Church and State were broken, it would not be we who ask for this freedom who broke it, but those – if there be such – who denied that freedom to us.”

The Reformation that took place in sixteenth century England was the process by which an English Church rejected the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church’s established doctrine and liturgy. At the same time it was the means by which Chancellor Thomas Cromwell, urged on by Henry VIII, sequestered Church lands and property ready for ‘redistribution’ to the Crown and those at Court who wished to buy it cheaply. Henry became Head of the Church of England (though he never stopped being a Catholic) and the ancient authority at Canterbury continued under the same name.

When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned at Westminster Abbey Ramsey had been beside her when she was annointed by the Archbishop, Ramsey’s former headmaster Dr. Fisher. One should not be surprised to learn that Fisher had told the Prime Minister when the time came for his retiremen that he could not recommend his former pupil for the job. Harold Macmillan replied, “Well, Archbishop, you may have been Michael Ramsey’s headmaster, but you are not mine (Fisher had been Head Man at Repton; Macmillan a boy at Eton) and I intend to appoint Dr. Ramsey. Good afternoon.”

Dr. J.A. Robinson

Dr. J.A. Robinson

In the early 1960s the Bishop of Woolwich, Dr. J.A. Robinson, was apparently a real Church of England man, son of a famous theologian, married with three daughters and a son. He was not the ‘fashionable and photographed’ bishop, a trendy who might advocate practices and doctrines which would offend the sensibilities of any narrow-minded or puritanical church-goer. He was not a ‘Red Dean’ of Westminster, who believed that Stalin has established an Earthly Paradise. Nor was he Barnes, Bishop of Birmingham who once described himself as ‘a troubled theist’ – a difficult phrase which an unconcentrating news sub-editor rendered next day as ‘a troubled atheist’.

But it was this Bishop of Woolwich who wrote a very short paperback and offered it to a small Christian publishing company. When it was ready for what promised to be a tiny sale, the good Bishop wrote an ad. for his own book in The Observer with the hardly subtle headline ‘Our Image of God must Go’. Not even the mild Dr Robinson could have predicted the result; His tiny paperback opus Honest to God sold 300,000 copies in the three months after publication and was translated into other languages many times. Though hard to believe, it might well be that this little book was the beginning of the not so gradual collapse of the Church of England, and a great wave of disbelief in the Christian Church generally. Many previously practising Christians felt that what Robinson wrote was simply heresy, questioning the very basis of what they thought was Christianity itself. The Archbishop (Ramsey) wrote a short essay denouncing Honest to God, insisting on a more orthodox theology, but Macmillan wrote to him, ‘I think it is a mistake to bewilder people.’

The Most Reverend Arthur Michael Richard Ramsey was the hundredth Archbishop of Canterbury, and was surely one of the strangest occupants of that office, though historically one of the most significant. The old Great Britain was breaking up by the Sixties, in every sense, and Ramsey deliberately and systematically set in motion the machinery and the means required to dismantle the Church of England. He and others of course, but he was one of the key players.Part of the ‘dismantling’ which began in the middle Sixties of the last century was the Church of England’s stunning policy of selling off its parsonages, rectories and vicarages, as well as empty churches and accompanying land. The descending trend of church attendance was alarming and relentless. In 1968 only 5% of Anglicans went to Communion Service. Hardly anyone used churches for weddings, baptisms or funerals. Within ten years of the publication of Honest to God churches in England were getting together in desperation, calliong it ‘ecunemism’. In the future years,the Church would make the effort to delude itself that the sudden secularization of the West was not terminal. They tried popular music to attract believers, but the dwindling congregations were nothing to the millions who had firmly decided not to attend church. Britain after the 1960s became a purely secular state.

(I am indebted to Andrew Wilson and his book Our Times, the age of Elizabeth II; Hutchinson, 2008)

An error in author names

Our editor has noticed that on Wikipedia, one of the pieces on Winston Churchill originally appeared, with a new link, under the author name of JAMES DEAN instead of DEAN SWIFT. In case this error appears again, we must remember that Dean Swift is a pen name used by a living author, and that James Dean was the name of a celebrated American film actor who sadly died in a traffic accident in 1955. James Dean starred in only three movies, each of them exceptionally good – East of Eden (1955), Rebel without a cause (1955), and Giant, released the year after Dean’s death.

Jeremy Taylor, editor of General-History.com and three volumes of collected history articles by Dean Swift.

Hohenstaufen & Hohenzollern Dynasties (further notes)

what remains of the castle at Staufen / flickrhivemind.net

What remains of the castle at Staufen / flickrhivemind.net

Brief details of these two important German dynasties have appeared before on in General-History.com. Here are some additional notes:

The Hohenstaufen royal dynasty got its name from the castle of Staufen, in north Swabia. From 1138 to 1254 members of the family wore the crown as Holy Roman Emperor (q.v.). The dynasty reached its most significant period with Frederick I Barbarossa and Frederick II; both were Kings of Germany and Sicily. The dynasty is best remembered for its support of culture and courtly behaviour, though their wars are by no means to be discounted.

As Holy Roman Emperor:

1138 – 1152 Conrad III

1152 – 1190 Frederick I Barbarossa

1190 – 1107 Henry VI

1198 – 1208 Philip of Swabia

1198 – 1214 Otto IV (both Otto and Philip maintained their claim)

1215 – 1250 Frederick II

1250 – 1254 Conrad IV

The German dynasty of Hohenzollern ruled Brandenburg/Prussia from 1415 to 1918, and Imperial Germany from 1871 to the end of the Great War. The family was first noted in the ninth century, in Swabia, and a branch became Burgraves of Nuremberg. Then a descendant, Frederick VIII was awarded the title of Elector of Brandenburg in the same year as the Battle of Agincourt (1415). The Thirty Years War over, the family continued its policy of expansion and consolidation of power, starting a lengthy rivalry with the House of Habsburg (1740 – 1871). Otto von Bismarck ensured that the Hohenzollerns obtained the imperial title in 1871, but the Great War destroyed Hohenzollern fortunes and forced abdication on the last emperor, Wilhelm II, a grandson of Queen Victoria of Britain.

As Electors of Brandenburg:

Frederick I (1417 – 1440), Frederick II, Albert, John, Joaquim I, Joaquim II, John George, Joaquim Frederick, John Sigismund, George, Frederick William (the Great Elector, 1640 – 1688).

As Kings of Prussia:

Frederick I (Frederick III as Elector Brandenburg 1688 – 1713), Frederick William I, Frederick II The Great, Frederick William II, Frederick William III, Frederick William IV (1840 – 1861).

As Emperors of Germany:

William I (also King of Prussia) 18611868, Frederick III (only 1888), Wilhelm (William) II 1888 – 1918

A new head of the House of Alba

The Duchess starts her third marriage / nick verreos.blogsite.com

The Duchess starts her third marriage / nick verreos.blogsite.com

The best known duchess in Spain, probably Europe too, has died after a long life (1926 – 2014) and a short but fatal illness. She was Cayetana, made 18th Duchess of Alba in 1954 after the death of her father the Duke. At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War the Albas had left Spain to live in London, where the Duke was Ambassador until the Treaty of Lausanne.

The new (19th) Duke of Alba /vanitatis.com

The new (19th) Duke of Alba /vanitatis.com

The new Duke of Alba is Carlos Fitzjames-Stuart, a prematurely white-haired, serious man, separated from his wife, is in his late fifties; he became Duke of Huescar when his mother was named duchess. The white hair might possibly have come about because Carlos’ mother led an extraordinary life, speaking several languages, being much loved by the ordinary people of Sevilla; at the slightest opportunity she would, even in her eighties, throw up her arms in flamenco movements and ululate on the pavement, observed with love by her third and last husband Alfonso Diez, and a certain gloom by her oldest son. Her first husband was another aristocrat, Luis Martínez de Irujo, with whom she had six children, all boys until the last. They are Carlos, Alfonso, Jacobo, Fernando, Cayetano and Eugenia. All have dukedoms. Cayetana had more titles than any other grand aristocratic family in Europe. This privileged position used to be held by another grand duchess, that of Medinaceli, who had more than ninety, but many were lost during the Second Republic, while others simply expired. Continue reading

Nicolas I of Russia

/ en.wikipedia.org

/ en.wikipedia.org

This younger brother of Alexander I was born in 1796, and became Tsar in 1825 at nearly thirty years old. Any chance that there might have been to make him a reformist monarch was destroyed in the Decembrist Conspiracy. Secret societies had been formed in northern and southern Russia, mostly by army officers who had experienced the West for the first time in their lives during the Napoleonic Wars. One of these, the Prince Volkonsky, wrote: ‘the campaigns of eighteen twelve to fourteen brought Europe nearer to us, made us familiar with its forms of state, its public institutions, the rights of the people. By contrast with our own state of life, the laughably limited rights which our people possessed, the despotism of our regime first became truly present in our hearts and understanding.’ Continue reading

Sir Robert Peel, ‘Peelites’ and ‘Peelers’

/ en.wikipedia.org

/ en.wikipedia.org

He was a Lancashireman, son of a rich industrialist. Born in the eighteenth century (1778) he got into Parliament as a Tory at twenty-one years of age. By 1812 he was in Lord Liverpool’s cabinet as Secretary for Ireland, when he was twenty-four. Looking back through history at the misadventures of Englishmen trying to administrate Ireland, one would know that Robert Peel could not treat his job as a sinecure.

   Between 1822 and 1827, and 1828 to 1830 he was Home Secretary – the second period under the Duke of Wellington’s premiership. He was never an expert ‘speechifier’, not in any way an orator like Palmerston or George Canning, but simply efficient, mastering details rapidly. He proceeded with unexpected reforms of the legal system, removing obsolete laws, and taking the death penalty off at least one hundred offences. Do not forget that in England even a hungry youth could be hanged for stealing a load of bread. Continue reading

The United States Constitution (in brief)

/ myfoxphilly.com

/ myfoxphilly.com

Among other things, mainly physical or medical, a Constitution embodies the fundamental principles on which a state is governed, especially when considering the rights of its subjects. Therefore the Unites States Constitution embodies the conception on which the American system of government is based. Most great countries have a written constitution, with the notable exclusion from the list of Great Britain.

   In America the Constitution has been the law of the land since 1789; it established a federal republic, with the intention of balancing the power of the states and that of the federal government. In the latter, power is divided among three independent branches – legislative, executive and judicial. The Document contains a brief preamble followed by seven articles which include: the organization, powers and procedures of Congress (the legislative branch); the powers of the elected President and his/her executive; powers of the judiciary (judges) which include the Supreme Court; the rights of the states, and correct procedures for amending the Constitution.

   The articles are followed by the amendments; many of the first amendments are to do with the Bill of Rights, while later ones deal with civil rights issues. Others cover concerns such as the election, death or removal (impeachment) of the President, and eligibility to stand for a seat in Congress.

   It was drafted at the Constitutional Convention held at Philadelphia in 1787, and adopted after ratification by nine of the states.