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The liberators of Spanish South America

José de San Martín

The end of the great Spanish Empire was to a great extent aided by two officers, one Spanish himself, the other a Creole from Venezuela. Both achieved huge successes, but in the end neither was satisfied.

José de San Martín was born in 1778, the son of a Spanish army officer. He left the Argentine with his father and family when he was eight, as his father had to return to military duties in Spain. Naturally, as these things run in the family he trained as a soldier, and fought against Bonaparte from 1808 to 1811, in the Spanish War of Independence. In 1812, three years before the Battle of Waterloo, he went back to Buenos Aires where he joined the military regime. (more…)

By | 2017-07-21T16:06:41+00:00 September 3rd, 2013|South American History, Spanish History, World History|0 Comments

Commerce in History: the slave trade

Thinking people still get hot under the collar when the subject of the trade in slaves looms. But then, more nonsense is spoken about the slave trade by otherwise intelligent and educated people than one would care to admit. For those determined only to be ‘politically correct’, the trade was perfectly simple, evil of course, and typical of the many important countries which indulged in it. It consisted (for them) of wicked whites landing on the coast of West Africa, driving inland with fire and sword, kidnapping young black people from their homelands, chaining them up, and driving them back to the waiting ships with a whip ever ready in case of complaint. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In the first place, coastal African tribesmen would have taken very badly to any kind of invasion made by white people, unless they knew exactly what the white intruders were in Africa for. (more…)

English monarchs from the Norman Line to the Windsors

The Crown of St. Edward /

The Crown of St. Edward /

Before a Norman Duke successfully invaded England, there had been in the Danish or Viking Line six kings including the last two, Edward the Confessor (started building Westminster Abbey) and Harold II (very much a Viking, killed at the Battle of Hastings). Then it goes as follows:-

Norman Line: William the Conquerer 1066-87 – William II known as Rufus, murdered perhaps at the order of Henry I followed by Stephen and then Henry II (first of the Plantagenet dynasty, who had four sons, three of whom were revolting for one reason or other – Richard Lionheart, John and Geoffrey who was never King. After these came Henry III (1216 – 72 fifty-six years in which he did not do much for anybody including himself but was father of Edward I who did a great deal and was one of England’s greatest kings whatever Mel Gibson says. He had a son who became Edward II who did unsuitable things with male favourites such as the Despensers, ancestors of Diana, Princess of Wales, and a Gascon knight called Piers Gaveston. All three favourites were bumped off by the Barons, as was poor Edward, murdered in Berkeley Castle at the orders of his wife and Mortimer. Then came Edward III 1327 – 77, another long reign and a great King, though he was indeed the son of Edward II. After him came twenty-two years of Richard II, who started well by extinguishing the Peasants’ Revolt, but went wrong, made himself disliked by his barons, and got murdered in 1399 just in time for the – (more…)

The International Brigade(s)

A Brigade section training; note the extreme youth of many of the volunteers /

A Brigade section training; note the extreme youth of many of the volunteers /

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. (more…)

Pope Pius the Twelfth



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. (more…)

‘Adiós Princesa’: a review of the book published in Spanish in 2013

I have carefully read this paperbook book of nearly 300 pages, written in Spanish. The name of the author on the front cover is David Rocasolano. He is a lawyer by profession, and if he is in truth the author of this book then I suggest he changes his profession immediately to that of professional writer. Once begun, it is impossible to put the book down, as horror after horror is exposed in readable prose, composed without mercy either for its subjects or the reader.

The whole book is dedicated to a well-planned and even better timed attack on the following: Don Juan Carlos I, King of Spain; the wife of his son Felipe, Prince of Asturias, the ‘princess’ of the title – Letizia (actually a cousin of the author); the system of protocol in Spain; the Press in Spain; most of the television and radio news programmes in Spain; one of the sisters of the King and every courtier in sight. The Prince of Asturias escapes censure. He is one of the goodfellows. The blind sister of the King also escapes, because she is a Dear Lady and not in the least snobbish. The Queen of Spain also escapes without blemish.

I do not believe for one second that David Rocasolano is the actual author of this gripping and absorbing book. No provincial lawyer without any published literature to his name can write like this. The dialogue (though there is little) is worthy of Hemingway. The planning, the use of cynicism and sarcasm, the imagery, the detail, the literary hammer blows – this is not the work of an unpractised author. Someone has been there at David’s elbow, insinuating this, suggesting that, changing this, altering that – here is a literary master at work. Sorry David, your whole family has suffered tragedy after tragedy, and you have ended by separating yourself from them, which seems the ultimate low blow. But if you really did write this book, I congratulate you, though I may not agree with the book’s general trend. As a piece of literature, the book will enter the most illustrious sections of Spanish literature. I pray that a really decent translation into English will shortly become available.

In Dumas’s series of books about D’Artagnan, someone warns the hero about Richelieu and Milady: “Do not go into unlit streets, be wary of strangers, watch your back in taverns, your very life is in danger.” Do take this as good advice, David.

By | 2013-08-13T15:43:59+00:00 August 13th, 2013|Philosophy, Spanish History, Today|0 Comments

The Thirty Years War

The death in battle of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden /

The death in battle of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden /

The British were involved in this nasty episode, though only on the margins. All wars are horribly wasting, but this one could be taken as the best example. It was about religion, which hardly comes as a surprise. It is amazing that most human conflict since the death of Christ has come about because of differences of opinion and dogma, when Christ taught that all men should love each other. How humans have reacted during the centuries after His death is hardly His fault. (more…)

Reginald Cardinal Pole

 Reginald Pole /

Reginald Pole /

Pole is one of those ancient English surnames that appear in various forms throughout the history of the British Isles. Reginald, born 1500 rose rapidly from being an ordained priest to Cardinal, and then Archbishop of Canterbury.

He could have been archbishop and/or King, as he had a strong Yorkist claim to the monarchy through his mother, who was Countess of Salisbury. It is very easy, by the way, to confuse de la Pole with Pole, as a close blood relationship exists between these two distinguished Plantagenet families. (more…)

‘Lecturas’ puts its foot in it again

This is a pinkish Spanish glossy magazine published with great success throughout Spain. It mostly deals with ‘celebrities’ whatever they are; it is not in my list of great reads. In April of this year that sheet chose to congratulate the Queen of England on her eighty-seventh birthday, running seven colour photographs of Elizabeth II taken at various ages. There was a bit of text too, and in its single paragraph Lecturas managed to place its foot firmly in its own gob as per usual. (more…)

The Merchant Adventurers

MerchantThis early fifteenth century name was coined to cover English merchants engaged in the export/import trade. The first of these was made official in 1407. After this, internationally-based English companies flourished throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The idea derived from a haphazard collection of merchants in the major British ports, mostly selling wool and cloth to the continent of Europe, but specializing in business with Antwerp in the Netherlands. Some of these acquired royal charters in ports like Bristol (1467) and the Port of London (1505) as well as settlements (which would eventually transform themselves into Consulates) in the foreign ports, always concentrating on business.

With this kind of organization at full speed, the merchants became dominant in foreign trade, which did nothing to increase their popularity or that of England. Their rivals were ousted, especially merchants in the Hanseatic League (Cologne, Hamburg, Lübeck, Bremen etc.). The Merchant Adventurers’ ships began arming themselves with cannon, and arming the sailors themselves. In the reign of monarchs such as Elizabeth I, some other European states started calling the Merchant Adventurers by a different name – pirates. It is certainly accepted that the Queen encouraged her Adventurers to be adventurous, and this sometimes involved armed attacks on foreign ports, especially Spanish ones.

In 1611 the Merchants made Hamburg their centre of operations, but their base had always been London. They were the forerunners of the great chartered companies, but declined in importance in the eighteenth century.

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