History of the Low Countries

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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 Following the Normandy invasion most German armies were withdrawn from France, though not all.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 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 (disastrous) Peace of Amiens


PM George Canning painted by R. Evans /es.wikipedia.org

PM George Canning painted by R. Evans /es.wikipedia.org

The months of February and March, 1802 encouraged a fairly peaceful interlude in the Napoleonic Wars between France and (principally) Britain. The British people were sick to death of war and its concomitant high taxation. In March the results of divisive talks produced the Treaty of Amiens, a nonsense by which nearly all Britain’s overseas conquests were to be handed back. These included the sugar-rich islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe; Tobago to Spain (France’s ally) and the entire Cape of Good Hope to the Dutch. Britain was also ordered to give up the strategically important island of Malta, Britain’s sole base in the Eastern Mediterranean. (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 first European Community (failed)

Edward III / fanpop.cpm

Edward III / fanpop.cpm

The EEC as we know it today bears no resemblance to this first attempt, but at least enough initiative was shown by its inventors to make it last for a few years, changing the name occasionally. The basic idea is sound, but the firm proposition thought up by the German and the French is now out of control, divided into Commissions, Committees, Parliament, Court of Justice etc. which lead of course to chaos and desperate over-spending.

In 1337 Edward III of England sent a special group to what was then called the Low Countries. The group’s aim was to make friends with the Counts of Flanders and Hainault, along with many other European princes of the blood, in order to be prepared for yet another impending war with France, but Edward’s diplomatic strategy (he preferred battles) was only faintly discernible. In fact the embassy was a disaster, humiliating Edward before his own courtiers as well as his enemies, and leaving him with a near-bankrupt England. The King was semi-reluctantly drawn into his favourite strategy – war. He was very good at that. A lot of wars then took place, which rescued him from his worst mistake in a long reign. (more…)

The Stuart Dynasty


Fanciful images of Robert II of Scotland / celticjessica.blogspot.com

Fanciful images of Robert II of Scotland / celticjessica.blogspot.com

Stuart, originally Stewart, is the family name of Scottish kings and queens from nearly the end of the fourteenth century until 1714 – English monarchs as well from 1603 to 1714. It was founded by Walter Fitzallen, Steward of the King of Scotland. He in turn descended from Flald Fitzalan who had been Steward of Dol in Brittany.

Walter’s descendent became King Robert II of Scotland, her first Stuart monarch, ruling from 1371 to 1390. Robert’s son the Earl of Carrick became King Robert III, on the Scottish throne from 1390 – 1406. It was this Robert’s son who became James I of Scotland), who married Joan of the Beaufort family, English descendants of John of Gaunt, and this was the first English connection. (more…)

Post-War poverty in Socialist Britain (1945 – 51)


Winter queues 1948 / telegraph.co.uk

Winter queues 1948 / telegraph.co.uk

It was a surrealist time to be British. Six years of total war had left the people with their men and womenfolk dead, wounded and crippled as well as bemedalled, heroic and stoic. Most people had lost their home (or homes) to the German bombing. France and Belgium, just over the narrow Channel, had been occupied throughout almost all the Second War, and were recovering much faster than the British. The latter, having listened avidly to the words of a fat old man with a fondness for brandy and cigars asking them to sacrifice everything to beat the German menace, and having followed his indefatigable leadership, showed their loyalty by throwing him and his party out in the 1945 elections. The new Prime Minister was Clement Attlee, an Old Harrovian, who had been Churchill’s Deputy PM during the war. He was one of those patricians who become members of the Labour Party, presumably to reward their parents for sacrificing everything to educate them privately. He was all for NATO, against private incomes and country life. (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…)

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