The National Insurance Act

Herbert Asquith in 1908 /

Herbert Asquith in 1908 /

Britain’s industrial revolution was in the eighteenth century, and followed into the nineteen and twentieth. She became super-powerful and rich, but apart from a handful of mine and factory owners, and those estate owners who had anything left to maintain, most workers lived in indescribably poor circumstances in Britain – worst of all in the nineteenth. Thank God for the reformers, the artist Hogarth and Charles Dickens. They showed the great industrial cities as they were – filthy, over-crowded, smelly, fog-ridden, unhygienic and socially divided.

The National Insurance Act was passed to everyone’s surprise by Asquith’s Liberal administration in 1911. It was the first Act of its kind, but it was soon to be copied by most other countries with a strong enough government to see it through, for it was revolutionary indeed. (more…)

‘Lecturas’ puts its foot in it again

This is a pinkish Spanish glossy magazine published with great success throughout Spain. It mostly deals with ‘celebrities’ whatever they are; it is not in my list of great reads. In April of this year that sheet chose to congratulate the Queen of England on her eighty-seventh birthday, running seven colour photographs of Elizabeth II taken at various ages. There was a bit of text too, and in its single paragraph Lecturas managed to place its foot firmly in its own gob as per usual. (more…)

Another figure from the French Revolution: Danton



Georges-Jacques Danton was another of those middle-class Frenchmen, trained as a lawyer like Robespierre, who flourished in what we are supposed to believe was a rising of the masses against regal and parliamentary authority at the end of the eighteenth century. It wasn’t of course: a small group of educated, in some cases moneyed radicals used the masses to promulgate and expand their radical ideas. More members of the rural and urban under-classes died during the Revolution than any other social group. (more…)

By | 2013-07-25T11:15:29+00:00 July 25th, 2013|French History, Philosophy|0 Comments

State theft or The Dissolution of the Monasteries

Rievaulx - 'one of the ruins that Thomas Cromwell knocked about a bit' /

Rievaulx – ‘one of the ruins that Thomas Cromwell knocked about a bit’ /

In civilized society there is a multitude of ways used by ‘the authorities’ to extract money from citizens like squeezing pips from a lemon or orange. Clever people, versed in these ways,  invent new names for new taxes every day, and equally astute parliaments in democratic countries shovel them into a hat and out roll new Acts or Orders perfectly phrased – and the citizen reaches into his fast emptying pocket to pay, again, for something he has certainly already paid for. Charging  direct tax on income, for instance, and then charging indirect tax on everything sold including services, means duplication or triplication of the same tax. As far as I know only the State of New Hampshire USA charges no income tax but maintains indirect taxation on goods and services. (more…)

The ‘good’ old days

The first half of the 19th century saw the population of Britain expand more rapidly than was healthy. Thanks to huge medical advances, more hygiene and better food, and because more children survived (out of the broods of a dozen or more), early Victorian families (1841 – 61) in the population of England, Scotland and Wales grew from 17 to 23 millions. Large families were the rule in upper, middle and lower classes. Queen Victoria herself was to have nine children. In the mining districts seventeen was considered normal.

'Play up and play the game!' /

‘Play up and play the game!’ /


Guests admitted to the sacred circle of the family home would find their hostess pregnant, attended by a flock of little boys and little girls coming for a peep. The father or paterfamilias was the absolute centre of regularity and order; whether or not he adored his children he was an awe-inspiring figure, whiskery, his judgements infallible, supposedly irreproachable in his moral conduct (though many contemporary writers thought not); his wife, who had probably been a mere wisp of a girl when he married her at seventeen or eighteen, had become (and had to become) a ‘housekeeper, nurse, governess, and sitting hen’. She would be broad, stiff in her corsets, and lacking in ideas (though contemporary writers would seem to give this last conceit the lie!). (more…)

By | 2013-06-11T07:21:10+00:00 June 11th, 2013|English History, Philosophy, World History|0 Comments

Missing or misdirected: $13,000 million for Haiti


Only two years after the catastrophic earthquake that almost destroyed the island of Haiti, killing many (200,000 is one estimate) and leaving more homeless, it would not be incorrect to ask what has happened to the huge sums of money raised by international organisations and private donors to finance the recovery of the island. (more…)

Heydrich and the massacre at Lidice

Heydrich /

Heydrich /

My new wife and I settled into our new home in a country lane at Santa Úrsula on the island of Tenerife in 1980. In a small cottage on the other side of the narrow road there lived a little old woman who kept her garden well and herself to herself. Still, I managed to make friends with her through my wife’s shared interest in flowers. (more…)

Caustic Congresses II: the Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles / AKJ Images/Imperial War Museum

The Treaty of Versailles / AKJ Images/Imperial War Museum

This treaty has been blamed by many historians as a more than indirect cause of the Second World War. It was supposed to be a treaty made between the Allies and Germany to be signed on 28 June, 1919, but negotiations continued until 1923. Germany however did not take part in the debates aired before the actual signing. Most intelligent Germans therefore thought it was a dictated agreement for peace, which could not be morally binding. (more…)

The Cherokee



The Cherokee, a painting by Nick Freemon /

The Cherokee, a painting by Nick Freemon /

  In the story of the Cherokee nation can be found the finest and saddest elements of the early history of the United States of America. The ‘Plains People’ were North American Indian tribes who had inhabited a large region stretching right across modern western Virginia and the Carolinas, parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, and even northern Georgia and Alabama.

They had been there since pre-historical times, constructing the city Etowah in Georgia which became a religious centre for Mississippi cultures. Unfortunately, the Cherokee were visited by the conquistador Hernando de Soto around 1541 – an introduction to European culture which many natives did not survive. (more…)

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