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A brief history of spectator sports


Le Mans 1955: Pierre Levegh lies near his crashed car that killed over 80 spectators /

Le Mans 1955: Pierre Levegh lies near his crashed car that killed over 80 spectators /

Most (but not all) of the sports which are super-popular with the public today were invented, improved and regulated in the independent private schools of Victorian Britain; that is to say, what in England are still called ‘the public schools’, as opposed to state ones. The most popular of all – Soccer – was being played in early medieval England, and has always been an almost entirely working-class game. (more…)

The Seven Years War


  Most of the eighteenth century featured wars in Europe, as rulers came and went and tried to dominate other rulers. Nearly always the same countries were involved, and the Seven Years War was no exception: Prussia, Britain and Hanover (then a separate state) ranged up against Austria, France, Sweden, Spain and you guessed it – Russia. The date was 1756. (more…)

John of Gaunt

John of Gaunt

John of Gaunt – Duke of Lancaster

The man who would be king – though not of England

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster was a son of an English king. He was the father of an Englishman who was also a father and grandfather of English kings. Through his third and last wife he even engendered the first of the Tudors, for which haters of this dynasty cannot forgive him. But Gaunt never wished to be king of England, though he fought most of his life to be king of Castilla – in Spain.

He was the third surviving son (and actual fourth son) of Edward III (q.v.) and his queen, Philippa of Hainault; born at Ghent in 1340 – his birthplace supplies his name. He was tall, athletically built, appropriately gaunt of visage, clever and ambitious. His father Edward married him to Blanche, daughter and heiress of Henry, Earl and Duke of Lancaster, who was richer than the king. When Henry, who had served the monarchy dutifully died in 1362, John became Duke of Lancaster. He also became very rich indeed because of the marriage laws of that period. (more…)

SPAIN today: a prediction and some questions

Morning, noon and night it is predicted by the Spanish news programmes that Mariano Rajoy may resign and take his Popular Party with him. The reason, we are told, is that an ex-treasurer of the party has said that he made extra payments to high ranking members of the PP since 2008 or before. The news programmes insists that these ‘payments by plain envelope’ mean ‘black money’, or payments NOT declared on tax forms. This is now found to be palpably untrue. Rajoy has even taken the unprecedented step of publishing his tax declarations on his own website. The payments are part of the declared emoluments and expenses, and as such are completely legal – if rather rich-making.

Showing the kind of hypocritical cynicism that I had hoped had vanished with Felipe González, leaders of the PSOE are insisting on ‘complete investigations’ of something that has been completely investigated. This is not unusual at all. But for the saintly Rubalcaba to put on his most Dominican face and find all this ‘disgraceful’ would be extremely funny, a Brian Rix Aldwych farce, if it were not so serious. If the PSOE’s plans to dislodge the Popular Party via articles and headlines in their organ El País lead to Sr. Rajoy’s resignation, Spain will be in the same position as it was on the unexpected and unnecessary abdication of King Alfonso XIII in the Thirties, which led indirectly to the Spanish Civil War. (more…)

By | 2013-02-10T12:06:53+00:00 February 10th, 2013|EU History, Philosophy, Spanish History, Today, World History|0 Comments

SPAIN: from black comedy to farce

     Not even the Monty Python team could have invented the present situation in the democracy with a monarchy, Parliament, and civilized population called Spain. The Marx Brothers might have shaken the head and said, “No-one would believe such a script, so fergettaboudit!” (more…)

The Peninsula War (1807-14)

Joseph, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte /

Joseph, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte /

Napoleon Bonaparte decided he would imitate the Roman emperors. Instead of listening to his better senses, he invaded the Peninsula of Spain and Portugal, causing one of the Napoleonic Wars, and a very great deal of unnecessary bloodshed. Spain is included in the very short list of nations it is unwise to invade or attempt to occupy. (more…)

The Nine Years War


William III/

William III /

Of all the wars known by duration in years, the least well-known is the Nine Years War (1688 – 97). Nevertheless this conflict has its important side, as it involved the Sun King himself, Louis XIV of France, and Britain under her Dutch-born monarch, William III. (more…)

The Hohenzollern family

William ! of Prussia /

William ! of Prussia /

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. (more…)

Two Hawkins, father & son, both ‘pirates’

Sir Richard Hawkins /

Sir Richard Hawkins /

Sir John and Sir Richard Hawkins or Hawkyns would have preferred to be called seamen, or navigators, or simply sailors. That is how British history books describe them. French, Dutch and especially Spanish historians prefer to say corsarios or piratas. But then most European historians describe any man (or woman) who sailed across the seven seas with a crew and attacked other shipping or a passing port – as long as they were British – as pirates or corsairs. The Spanish even call Admiral Lord Nelson a pirate, despite the awkward fact that he was a professional navy man who assaulted Spanish-held ports or Spanish ships when England was officially at war with Spain (or France for that matter). One could claim that that was his job.  Hawkins however was by no means indefatigable, losing a sea battle to the Spanish at San Juan de Ulúa (more…)

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