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Caustic Congresses III: the Peace of Utrecht (1713)


Great men conferring / dailykos.com

Great men conferring / dailykos.com

Of all the peace conferences that turned caustic almost at the moment of signing, the Peace of Utrecht which ‘ended’ the War of the Spanish Succession (q.v.) wins a prize. The year was 1713; the comparatively peaceful eighteenth century was just beginning. The seventeenth had been full of blood and thunder.

The Congress met at Utrecht in the Low Countries without the presence of Austria. Philip V (Felipe Quinto) stayed as King of Spain but had to renounce his claim to the French throne, and to accept the loss of Spain’s European empire. Later, Austrian emperor Charles VI found he could not carry out his plans for expansion without allies, and accepted the terms of Utrecht at Rastadt and Baden in 1714, one year later. (more…)

Caustic Conferences

 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. (more…)

The campaign in North-West Europe (September 1944 – May 1945)

      This campaign was the advance of the Allies through France following the successful invasion of D-Day. It is important because it contains the blindest and most incomprehensible mistake made by a commander-in-chief in all History. But we will come to that later.


The Durham Light Infantry moving up / durhamlightinfantry.webs.com

The Durham Light Infantry moving up / durhamlightinfantry.webs.com

Combined with the Soviet invasion of Germany from the east, the campaign would lead to the end of the Second World War and the inevitable Treaties. Following the Normandy invasion most German armies were withdrawn from France, though not all. British and Commonwealth troops entered Brussels on 3 September, 1944, and Antwerp was relieved one day later. The port could not be used immediately because pockets of German resistance had been left behind in the mouth of the Scheldt, and had to be dealt with. (more…)

IG Farben

   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. (more…)

The first Empire upon which the sun never set

A Spanish fleet / bbc.co.uk

A Spanish fleet / bbc.co.uk

Four hundred years before the British Empire never enjoyed the setting sun, the Spanish Empire rose, flourished, dwindled and vanished. From the late fifteenth century, Spain, a fraction smaller than France, forged an empire including the Canary Islands, most of the West Indian Islands, all central America, all of South America except Brazil, parts of the Low Countries and parts of Italy, plus the Philippines. (more…)

The Final Solution


   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. (more…)

The battle of Blood River ( Natal, 1838)


The battle at Blood River / sahistory.org.za

The battle at Blood River / sahistory.org.za

The ‘Great Trek’ was the massed movement of Boer (Dutch/Africans) farmers to the north out of the Cape Colony into the Orange Free State, Natal and Transvaal in the 1830s. The Boers had resented the British ever since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, when they took over the Cape from the Dutch settlers. They disliked new laws which prevented them from buying or keeping slaves, and they equally disliked what they saw as soft treatment of black people in the courts. Therefore trekboers wanted not only to get away from British rule but also to find more land – and new sources of labour; several thousand people migrated northwards across the Orange River and into lands still controlled by blacks. (more…)

The Kaiser (Wilhelm II of Germany)


All in the family; Wilhelm II with, among other, George V and Alfonso XIII. All pictured here are cousins

All in the family; Wilhelm II with, among other, George V and Alfonso XIII. All pictured here are cousins and descendents of Queen Victoria

The future King of Prussia and German Emperor was born in 1859, the eldest son of the then Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia (he later became Emperor Frederick III) and his wife,  daughter and namesake of Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Empress of India. This made George V, against whom Wilhelm went to war his first cousin – an embarrassment to say the least. He was born with a semi-paralysed left arm, several inches shorter than the right one. (more…)

The Nine Years War


William III/ livius.org

William III / livius.org

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…)

Two Hawkins, father & son, both ‘pirates’

Sir Richard Hawkins / thebiggeststudy.blogspot.com

Sir Richard Hawkins / thebiggeststudy.blogspot.com

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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