Category Archives: Jewish History

Conversos (the converted)

 

Religious poet Fray Luis de León

Religious poet Fray Luis de León

Jews in the Spain of the Middle Ages, though never popular, were permitted to convert from Judaism to Christianity; rigorous tests conducted by priests followed equally stern training. The ‘converts’ were called Conversos to define the essential difference between someone born and baptized Christian and a ‘convert’. In addition, they were sometimes called ‘New Christians’ to distinguish them from Old or Non-Semitic Christians. In popular speech they were often called Marranos which is vulgar Spanish for pigs. The correct term is Cerdo, but this word is also used by the Spanish to describe any male they happen to deprecate, probably with reason. Continue reading

The Inquisition

Popular conception of question time in the Spanish Inquisition / newsbiscuit.com

Popular conception of question time in the Spanish Inquisition / newsbiscuit.com

This was a Catholic tribunal founded on a temporary basis in France and Germany. Its purpose was to seek out heresy, prosecute and punish it. In the thirteenth and later centuries how you decided to worship God in Europe was not optional. Heretics were severely punished, often capitally, by burning alive. The latter is probably the most painful way to die, but the Church believed that only by burning could the non-conformist devil in a person be driven out and destroyed.

   The country of Spain, and later its empire, is chiefly associated by historical novelists with the Inquisition, also known as the ‘Holy Office’ or Santo Oficio. A medieval inquisition was set up in the kingdom of Aragon, with headquarters in Tarragona, but this was superceded in the late fifteenth century by the newly invented Castilian or Spanish Inquisition, founded by a papal bull by Sixtus VI in 1478. The branch was devoted first and foremost to investigating how converted Jews and Muslims were behaving now that they were Christian. The Spanish Jews and Muslims of Castilla had been forced to embrace Christianity in the stern form of Catholic Faith in 1492 and 1502 respectively. Continue reading

Alexander II (killed) & Alexander III (survived) of Russia

Alexander II, the second son of Nicholas I was born in 1818. It is true but sad to say that the only significant reforms made in Russia in all the nineteenth century were carried out by him; yet his reward at the age of seventy-one was to be murdered.

As a boy and young man he liked to imitate his father’s admiration for autocracy, and announced that he had not the least intention of allowing any of the Czar’s powers to be diverted into a popularly elected parliamentary assembly, when he, too, became Czar. The surprising reforms probably came about because of the unsuccessful Crimean War (q.v.), which clearly showed the world that Russia was not the all-powerful military nation she aspired to be. Chiefly, there was the lack of money, a direct result of a ‘serf-based’ economy in a largely agricultural state. 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

Pope Pius the Twelfth

/ acatholiclife.blogspot.com

/ acatholiclife.blogspot.com

Eugenio Pacelli was born in 1876, and was elected Pope in 1939. He came from a familyprominent for its loyal service to the Vatican. He was ordained priest in 1899 at twenty-three. By 1901 he was already entrenched in the Vatican administration. Continue reading

Heydrich and the massacre at Lidice

Heydrich /wikipedia.org

Heydrich /wikipedia.org

My new wife and I settled into our new home in a country lane at Santa Úrsula on the island of Tenerife in 1980. In a small cottage on the other side of the narrow road there lived a little old woman who kept her garden well and herself to herself. Still, I managed to make friends with her through my wife’s shared interest in flowers. Continue reading

IG Farben

   

    

I.G. Farben: the factory / frankfurt.nodend.de

I.G. Farben: the factory / frankfurt.nordend.de

This was a cartel formed by the leading chemical companies in Germany after the First World War. ‘IG Farben’ is the diminutive of the rather more tongue-stretching Interessen Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie which has been translated as ‘Community of Interests of Dye Industries’. Three of the many companies which joined were BASF, Bayer and Hoechst.

It was by far the largest corporation or cartel in Germany between the two world wars, controlling five hundred companies (in ninety-two countries). Corporative arrangements were made between Farben and Standard Oil (USA), Imperial Chemical Industries (Gt. Britain), and Mitsui (Japan), which makes the period 1929 – 39 so interesting. You may have noticed that the nationality of the first two of these commercial giants formed the major part of the Allies in World War II, while the third joined Hitler’s Axis. Continue reading

The Emperor Constantine (known as ‘the Great’)

The statue of Constantine before York Minster / york-united-kingdom.co.uk

The statue of Constantine before York Minster / york-united-kingdom.co.uk

Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus was born around 274 AD. His was a patrician family in Rome and his father was Constantius I who died in the year 306, when our subject was thirty-two years old. He should have succeeded immediately, because the army declared him emperor, but there were, as always, complications; several other patricians rather thought they should rule, among them Licinius. Constantine showed consummate skill in staying alive, at the same time ‘removing’ the competition according to the ancient rules of the game. Continue reading

The Final Solution

  

The beginning of the end / oprah.com

The beginning of the end / oprah.com

   Researchers have tried to find cogent reasons for Hitler’s pathological hatred of the Jews. Nothing in his childhood in Austria happened which might have sown the seeds of that poisonous dislike growing in his innermost soul. His military service during the Great War brought him wounds, but what influence could Jewish people have had on him in the trenches? The enemy was British or French, not Jewish. Continue reading

Feminism – a 20th century phenomenon?

A young Suffragette throws herself under the King's horse at the Derby / scotsman.com

A young Suffragette throws herself under the King’s horse at the Derby / scotsman.com

There will I suppose be frenzied and furious cries from members of the ‘gentler sex’ after (not) reading this post in General-History. The title will be enough to raise feminine hackles. “Phenomenon indeed!” Why should a thirst for equality be described as a ‘phenomenon’?

Feminism is an almost international movement concerning the social, political and economic rights of women. For the most part feminism’s voices demand equal rights for both sexes, but some would go further; they assert the right of women to separate development.

For as long as can be remembered women were subjected to their menfolk, and excluded from a proper education, economic independence, the right to own property, have a bank account in their own name, but, hardest of all, excluded from political representation. It is difficult to know why, as one woman’s vote requires the same thinking ability as any man has. Continue reading