When the history student thinks of Denmark, he will not think of that Scandinavian country as a bristling enemy of Britain, except possibly during Denmark (and Norway’s) Viking stages. But the fact is that in 1801 and 1807 Britain found herself at grips with peaceful Denmark. It was all the fault of Bonaparte or course . . . Continue reading
Volunteers from countries foreign to Spain rushed from around the world to aid the republican cause during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1938). Contrary to popular literature’s view, the Brigades were not packed full of European and American playwrights, intellectuals and novelists. Most volunteers came from the working classes. Ernest Hemingway came, but as a war correspondent. Stephen Spender and George Orwell came, but were kept as far away from the front as possible, because the propaganda value of their possible capture to the Nationalist forces would have been great. Poets W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood watched from a safe distance, as indeed they did again, this time from California, during the Second World War. Continue reading
Why ‘curious’? Because the first was agreed between Britain and Germany only fourteen years before the outbreak of a world war, the first of its kind. And the second was signed only four years before the next one. Continue reading
Wars are expensive, brutal and finally useless, as long as human beings will kill others in an argument over territory or sovereignty. The longer they last the worse, it seems, the agreements invented in the ‘peace treaties’ are. This is the first of a series of analyses of famous Congresses or Peace Treaties which left a decidedly nasty taste in the mouth on both sides. Continue reading
In the story of the Cherokee nation can be found the finest and saddest elements of the early history of the United States of America. The ‘Plains People’ were North American Indian tribes who had inhabited a large region stretching right across modern western Virginia and the Carolinas, parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, and even northern Georgia and Alabama.
They had been there since pre-historical times, constructing the city Etowah in Georgia which became a religious centre for Mississippi cultures. Unfortunately, the Cherokee were visited by the conquistador Hernando de Soto around 1541 – an introduction to European culture which many natives did not survive. Continue reading
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
Born into a French middle-class family in 1763, Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte got into the royal army as a private soldier in 1780 when he was seventeen; as he was apparently a terrific supporter of the French Revolution (q.v.) he got rapid promotion, becoming a general in 1793 when he was thirty. It had taken thirteen years to move upwards from private to cadet to colonel to general. This could only have happened in France, amid the insane atmosphere of the Revolution. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Canute was King of England, Denmark and Norway. There are various distinct ways of spelling his name, but he will always stay in the memory because of something he did which has either been misconstrued intentionally by historians and jesters, or properly interpreted, which I hope we will do here. Continue reading
This is one of the planet’s biggest and most unknown continents. It surrounds the South Pole, and lies almost entirely to the south of latitude 66º 33’ S. This is called ‘The Antarctic Circle’.
Travellers who have dared to enter this formidable area of the Earth have noted that the sun neither rises at midwinter nor sets at midsummer. At the South Pole itself the temperature is on average -50º C; this is because an excessively thick icecap covers the continent, forming a huge plateau. Strong winds invariably blow from the centre of the icecap, and it usually too cold to snow. The little snow that does fall takes hundreds of years to change into ice. The ice moves so grindingly slowly that parts of the icecap are millions of years old. Continue reading