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Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela & Archbishop Makarios

Archbishop Makarios /en.wikipedia.org

Archbishop Makarios / en.wikipedia.org

These three names (and the persons themselves) are connected by the historical fact that each was imprisoned as penalty for their nationalism, and each became President of their country. In the case of Kenyatta, he alone of the three did something not tried by the other two: he acted in a Hollywood film made in Africa – Sanders of the river (1935) as a young black tribal chief and troublemaker. Nelson Mandela as a character has appeared in another Hollywood film, played by a black actor, a movie about South African rugby starring a white American, Matt Damon. As far as I know Makarios only appears in newsreels of his period.

Kenyatta was born in 1891 in Kenya, then a British colony. He was well educated by Scottish missionaries who could not, however, persuade him against politics. He joined the Young Kikuyu Association in 1922, and edited a news-sheet with the difficult name of Mwigwithania, representing progressive black opinion in the 30s. He visited London a few times, trying to make lobbies, but went to the USSR more often. (more…)

Russia versus Turkey (1787, 1806, 1828, 1853, 1877 etc.)

Modern Odessa / bbc.com

Modern Odessa / bbc.com

The only major European power to make war on Turkey in the nineteenth century was Russia – at least five times. Russia intended to increase her territory around the Black Sea (I have often wondered about that ‘black‘). She also felt she must help the Orthodox Slavs scattered about the Balkans, always under Turkish domination, and badly bullied. The Balkans, one must remember, were part of the Ottoman Empire (q.v.). (more…)

Once upon a time . . .the Law of Fratricide

Mehmed III rid himself of 19 brothers / crowland.uw.hu

Mehmed III rid himself of 19 brothers / crowland.uw.hu

For those of you who are not entirely confident (very few indeed I should judge) in the English language there are a number of useful words that end in -cide. Parricide, patricide, matricide, fratricide and genocide are a few of them. These mean respectively the killing of one’s parents, father, mother, brother and the attempt made to kill a nation’s whole population. You can probably think of nasty examples of each. In a recent post mention is made of one of the Ottoman Sultans – Mehmed I, a.k.a. The Conquerer. This charmer made a Law which said, “To whichever of my sons the Sultunate may be granted, it is proper for him to put to death his brothers, to preserve the order of the world”. (more…)

By | 2014-08-28T17:27:14+00:00 August 25th, 2014|English Language, History of Turkey|0 Comments

The Ottoman Dynasty (and a warning about names)

Suleyman I the Magnificent / bbc.co.uk

Suleyman I the Magnificent / bbc.co.uk

History students must not confuse the word ‘Ottoman’ with ‘Ottonian’, though it is easy to do so. The latter is another name for an ancient German royal dynasty – the Liudolfinger – founded in the 9th century This family ruled Germany from roughly 920 A.D. To 1024. The kings were Henry I, Otto I, Otto II, Otto III, (this is where the generic name ‘Ottonian’ comes from), and Henry II known as ‘The Holy’. They organised the eastern Frankish kingdom into ‘the German kingdom’ – though this of course did not signify the whole of Germany as we know it. The Ottonians followed the policy of support for churchmen, as an antidote to the pretensions of the nobles. Above all they established the principle that the country could and should not be divided merely by aristocratic inheritance. The Ottonians, though they did not last long, were a Good Thing, as their support to the Church encouraged great achievement in art/architecture and literature; so much so that this improvement was known as ‘The Ottonian Renaissance’.

The Ottoman Dynasty:- (more…)

By | 2014-08-22T09:07:21+00:00 August 22nd, 2014|History of Turkey|0 Comments


Turkey, a European country once described as ‘the sick man of Europe’, decided to unite with the Central Powers in the First World War; by January, 1915, the Western Powers thought it might be prudent to kick Turkey right out of the War. There would be a combined operation of British and Commonwealth and friendly naval and land forces to do the job. By 19 February the Gallipoli Campaign had started.

Winston Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty at thirty-nine years of age; he was convinced that the military stalemate on the Western Front would not be broken without decisive action somewhere else. Gallipoli is the gateway to the Dardanelles, and therefore far enough away from the hopeless bloodbath in the Flanders mud. British and French battle fleets would destroy the Dardanelles defences; troops would then secure the Gallipoli peninsula. After this was successfully concluded the land forces would move on to Constantinople, later known as Istanbul. It was reckoned that with the fall of Turkey’s capital she would withdraw from the fighting. (more…)

Alexander II (killed) & Alexander III (survived) of Russia

Alexander II, the second son of Nicholas I was born in 1818. It is true but sad to say that the only significant reforms made in Russia in all the nineteenth century were carried out by him; yet his reward at the age of seventy-one was to be murdered.

As a boy and young man he liked to imitate his father’s admiration for autocracy, and announced that he had not the least intention of allowing any of the Czar’s powers to be diverted into a popularly elected parliamentary assembly, when he, too, became Czar. The surprising reforms probably came about because of the unsuccessful Crimean War (q.v.), which clearly showed the world that Russia was not the all-powerful military nation she aspired to be. Chiefly, there was the lack of money, a direct result of a ‘serf-based’ economy in a largely agricultural state. (more…)

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…)

Berlin: City, Congress, Airlift & Wall

Berlin was the capital of Germany from 1871, though it was also the capital of Prussia. When the capital moved from Bonn after the Second War, Berlin became again the capital and hub of Germany, but after the War the city found itself 110 kilometres inside the Russian Zone of a Germany divided (at various hideous conferences) into four: Russian, American, British and French sectors. The city itself was divided into West Berlin (480 sq.km.) and East Berlin (403 sq.km.). West Berlin was administered and governed by the United States, Great Britain and France, each having their Sector and military HQ. East Berlin was governed by the Communist GDR, under the military eye of around 200 divisions of Russian troops. West Berlin could probably muster a division and a half, and had its own (American) military commander. There was a complete military imbalance in all the post-war period. (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…)

Knights Hospitaller & Knights Templar: the difference



   The difference is simple, and not very subtle; the Templars ceased to exist, and the Hospitallers certainly exist right now, working for the sick. Originally the latter were of a military order, the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. The name comes from the dedication to St. John the Baptist of their headquarters in Jerusalem.

These are not their only names: from 1310 they were the Knights of Rhodes, and from 1530 the Knights of Malta, but they were established themselves first in (or around) 1070 with Muslim permission, managing a hospital for sick pilgrims in Jerusalem. They only became a formal order of knights when the city fell to the first Crusaders in 1099.

They wore a black habit, with a white eight-pointed Maltese Cross. They elected a Master and under him were at first purely military, in an order which spread quickly across Europe. In questions of order and discipline they followed Augustinian rules (q.v.) and divided themselves into three classes or ranks: knights, chaplains and serving brothers.

Driven out of Jerusalem by Saladin himself they moved to Acre, from which they were expelled a century later, transferring to Cyprus. In 1310, however, they captured the island of Rhodes and remained there until 1522. Then Emperor Charles V made them a present of the island of Malta, which they had to defend by force against the Turks, but they could not deal in a similar fashion with Napoleon: by this time the Order had lost its influence and supporting voices. (more…)

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