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About Dean Swift

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

Burgundy: Kingdom,Duchy and House

An artist's impression of Burgundian knights in gothic armour /

An artist’s impression of Burgundian knights in gothic armour /

Burgundy, a region of France, was first a kingdom after the collapse of the Roman Empire, roughly speaking the fifth century. It was incorporated into the Carolingian Empire, divided by the Treaty of Verdun, and finally combined with the Kingdom of Provence in the tenth century.

Dukes of Burgundy, though sometimes richer than kings of France, and owning more land, towns, hamlets and troops, were in fact officially vassals, as indeed was the King of England. Even Henry II Plantagenet paid hommage to the French king; Burgundy was the greates of these vassals. Many dukes tried to gain independence from the royal family, and were prepared to go to any lengths to achieve their purpose. No French king, however wealthy or in need of finance, was able to trust a Duke of Burgundy. (more…)

The reputation of Benedict Arnold



Even in 2015, some two hundred and fourteen years after his death, the name Benedict Arnold can inspìre in thinking Americans either an adverse or admiring reaction. “Traitor!’ “Outcast!” some will cry, curling the lip as if he were something disgusting: whereas some will say, “Brave man!” or “Good fellow!”. It seems to be automatic reaction, not necessarily based on fact.

Benedict Arnold was born in 1741; when the American Revolution(q.v.) broke out he chose to fight for the colonists against the British, and at the siege of Quebec distinguished himself for his courage and tenacity in battle. His reward was promotion to Brigadier-General – an essentially American army rank which means a field officer in command of a brigade. (more…)

By | 2015-08-17T09:53:00+00:00 August 17th, 2015|A History of North America, US History, World History|0 Comments

Further thoughts on American colonial independence

1774: hundreds of anti.Revolution familes leave the Colonies for Canada /

1774: hundreds of anti-Revolution families leave the Colonies for Canada /

The war that established the independence from Britain of the thirteen American colonies took place between 1775 and 1783, and is improperly called ‘The American War of Independence’ when it should more correctly be referred to as ‘The American Revolution’ – for that is what it was, a revolution.

In the early 1760s relations between the government in London and the Colonies became even more strained than they had ever been. The London government was intent on taking measures to control everything in the colonies, and the colonists objected, though only verbally at first. They found it difficult to understand why they should be taxed without having proper representation, indeed any representation in London. Independence-seekers gathered in most of the coastal port towns, such as New York, Richmond, Virginia and Boston, Massachusetts. (more…)

By | 2015-08-14T09:59:15+00:00 August 14th, 2015|A History of North America|0 Comments

That’s Hollywood!

During the 1980s and 90s of the last century a giant crop of young, or very young male actors began appearing in major films made in Hollywood, or on location by Hollywood. They were the replacements for the suddenly elderly chaps (Tracy, Peck, Granger, Ferrer, Gable, Stewart, MacRea etc.) some of whom had been making movies in the late 1930s; for example John Wayne, who played a character called ‘John Wayne’ in more than a hundred pictures until his death of cancer. Sometimes half a dozen of these youngsters appeared together in very small parts in films like Dead Poets’ Society, White Squall, The Outsiders or School Ties.

By the year 2015 two or three had become super-stars, getting millions of dollars in films with their name above the title because they are so bankable. Some have vanished into obscurity, mainly because they never managed to change from ‘leading young man’ to ‘middle-age attraction’. One (Swayze) died absurdly young; another is more or less permanently in a wheelchair (Fox). The passing of Time has of course been the leading factor in their lives. Their attractive youth is frozen for ever on Video/DVD/Blueray, but now many are fat-cheeked, heavy-bellied, balding fifty-somethings. Hollywood has, as it always has, passed most of them by.

Here is a sometimes surprising list: (more…)

By | 2015-08-24T17:37:00+00:00 August 11th, 2015|History of the Cinema|1 Comment

Nikolai G. Chernyshevsky



The name is unknown to most of us in the 21st century, and seems to be in a state of banishment from the minds of some of today’s historians too. Yet Nikolai was, as a revolutionary, greatly admired by, among other, Karl Marx himself.

He was born in 1828, and never saw the twentieth century, or its dreadful beginnings in Russia. As the son of an Orthodox priest, he grew to hate injustice, and hoped in the 1850s that Tsar Alexander’s reforms might improve conditions for the serfs, and go some way towards removing injustice. His hopes were in vain, for though Alexander introduced the Emancipation of the Serfs, results were inconclusive and disappointing. The rebel in Nikolai Gavrilovitch itched to overthrow the Tsar and seek a total change of government. (more…)

By | 2015-08-06T10:39:44+00:00 August 6th, 2015|Russian history|0 Comments

Further thoughts on the Ardennes Offensive

US soldiers fighting in typical Ardennes winer weather /

US soldiers fighting in typical Ardennes winter weather /

Shakespeare has generals dancing together in a suitably stately manner, on board ships in his play Antony and Cleopatra. The Battle of the Bulge, a nickname, properly called the Ardenne Offensive, was Hitler’s last and most surprising offenivfe in World War II. It was the greatest ptiched battle in American history, putting up more than 600,000 American soldiers, mostly young and inexperienced, against a mixture of battle-hardened German troops with a heavy admixture of the infamous Waffen-SS, some Hitler-Jugend regiments (boys from 16 – 19 years of age). Together they reached half a million ferocious fighting men who believed their battle must be won against the Allies because the massive and callous Red Army was closing in from the East. The battle between the opposing soldiery was one thing, while the consistent bickering, jealousies, and outright hatred between the US generals and the newly created Field Marshal Montgomery was another. These men were not dancing together, on board ship or knee deep in the snows of Belgium. (more…)

By | 2015-09-18T10:09:43+00:00 August 4th, 2015|German History, US History, World History|0 Comments

Alsace/Lorraine & Schleswig/Holstein

These two tongue-twisters used not only to twist tongues, but eject furious spittle from the pursed mouth of European statesmen and politicians. The problem is not only of dual nationality and two different languages, but also historic bickering between countries traditionally seeing each other as treacherous enemies.

Alsace is a part of North/East France, comprising Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin. They lie on the frontier with Germany. Thus enters the traditional loathing of the French for the Germans, and vice-versa. Alsace was a simply a part of France (Lorraine) before finding itself fairly suddenly a part of the German Empire: the fault lies with treaties, as usual: The Peace of Westphalia (1648) and Treaty of Rijwijk (another tongue-torturer, 1697) handed over most of Alsace to France – but in 1871 it was re-annexed by Germany! As if this were not complicated enough, Alsace was subsequently returned to France in 1919 (Treaty of Versailles of immortal memory), and then, though this may difficult to believe, regained by Germany during the Second World War! (more…)

Queen Elizabeth I (the ‘Virgin Queen’)

The queen in 'the Armada Portrait', note the right hand resting comfortably on the globe /

The queen in ‘the Armada Portrait’, note the right hand resting comfortably on the globe /

The only half-decent member of the infamous Tudor dynasty was Elizabeth, born in 1533. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. It is a matter for debate from whom Elizabeth inherited the worst genes, though it is admitted that Anne never went to bed with Henry until he was properly divorced from Catharine of Aragon and a marriage between them had taken place; the Catholic Church had meanwhile been assaulted and robbed, Thomas More and others had been shortened by a head etc. etc. (more…)

The importance of being Okinawa

Yamato goes to war! /

Yamato goes to war! /

In April, 1945, the 2nd World War was very far from over. A huge invasion of the French mainland was planned for June. Japan, however, was seen by the Americans as being equally important as Europe. Tokio must be vanquished too if the Allies were to succeed in the destruction of Axis Powers.

Okinawa is a Japanese island some sixty miles long and very narrow – at certain strategic points only two or three miles wide. But it could prove to be the springboard for a massive invasion of the enemy mainland. It is the largest island of the Ryukyu archipelago, and it was that there that the worst, hardest and bloodiest battles of the Pacific War took place between the beginning of April and 22 June, 1945. The Japanese had carefully built and preserved defence lines already built and manned, and had sworn to their Emperor that their resistance would be fanatical. The latest artillery was concealed behind camouflage, and munitions were ample. (more…)

The ‘White Terror’

Jean Cottereau, leader of the 'Chouans' / en

Jean Cottereau, leader of the ‘Chouans’ / en

It is a common misconception that the French Revolution (q.v.), the ‘Terror’ and the fall of Robespierre and other leading Jacobins, led immediately to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in France, and his very nearly successful bid to make that country supreme in Europe, by waging war on almost everybody else. But the fact is that in 1794 revenge became briefly sweet for those whose lives and properties had been seriously affected by the Revolution.

The so-called ‘White Terror’ was an attack launched against the terrorists, and all who could properly be accused of doing well out of the French Revolution. White was a Bourbon colour, and some historians have taken this as indicating the movement for revenge as a royalist adventure, but this is not strictly true. Very few wanted a restoration of the old régime; they simply wanted to settle old scores. Clever men had taken advantage of the Terror, grabbing land and property by force and murder, including Church lands. Many had appointed themselves as government officials, with powers emanating from the awful force of the ‘Terror’ itself. (more…)

By | 2015-07-14T09:59:08+00:00 July 14th, 2015|French History|1 Comment
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