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The battle of Caporetto

A scene from the withdrawal /

A scene from the withdrawal /

Not everybody realises that in the First World War Italy fought on the Allied side. In the second ‘war to end all wars’ Italians were persuaded by Mussolini to side with Adolf Hitler, and this decision cost them dear. The battle of Caporetto also cost them dear, for they were fighting against Austro-German forces for nearly a month in the last months of 1917. (more…)

A Pair of Pious Popes (amended)

Pius XI /

Pius XI /

Pius XI was born in 1857 and was Pope from 1922 for eighteen years, during which he inadvertently caused the collapse of the Catholic Popular Party. He did not like the idea of mixing religion with politics anyway, and spoke out against such an idea. He saw the CPP as far too radical in its views, and forbade it utterly to form alliances with any other parties who wished to oppose the rise of Benito Mussolini. For this he was seen by all as a supporter of the Italian leader. (more…)

The Middle Ages

Historians disagree about exact dates, but I believe it is generally accepted that the phrase ‘Middle Ages’ denotes the period in Europe from around 700 A.D. to around 1500. Before 700 were ‘The Dark Ages’ – dark in many senses but mainly because professional historians did not exist after the decline of the civilised Roman Empire in the west, and countless barbarian invasions/occupations in the 5th and 6th centuries after Christ. (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…)

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…)

Field-Marshal Radetzky


Radetzky von Radetz /

Radetzky von Radetz /

Josef Wenzel, Count of Radetz was born in Austria in 1766. He became a soldier aan fought the Turks at the age of twenty-two in one of those interminable Balkan wars. In 1800 he was wounded charging with the cavalry against Napoleon at the battle of Marengo, but had recovered enough to take part in the battle of Wagram in 1809, again against the French, but with a more senior rank. (more…)

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 time when there were THREE Popes

   At this very moment the cardinals gathered in the Vatican are arguing about who shall be the next Pope, following Benedict XVI’s resignation on grounds of health. While the octogenarian Ratzinger rests ( and he certainly deserves to) in Castelgandolfo, dozens of seniors of the Catholic Church will shortly approach the moment when they must vote for the new Pontiff, and we will see white (or possibly) black smoke puffing from the famous chimney, installed again only two days ago. But many Catholic co-religionists do not even know that at the time of the Great Schism in the fourteenth century, there were at one time three popes! (more…)

Frederick II (‘Stupor Mundi’)

To avoid confusion, one remembers that there were two Frederick IIs, Frederick ‘The Great’, an eighteenth century monarch, and our subject in this article, Frederick ‘Stupor Mundi’ a title given him by his courtiers, meaning ‘wonder of the world’.

He was born in 1194, son of Henry VI King of ‘Germany’ (Germany was divided into kingdoms, principalities, dukedoms, archdukedoms and palatinates) and a mother whose background was Sicilian. His grandfather was Frederick I, known as ‘Barbarossa’. (more…)

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