South American History

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This is one of the planet’s biggest and most unknown continents. It surrounds the South Pole, and lies almost entirely to the south of latitude 66º 33’ S. This is called ‘The Antarctic Circle’.

     Travellers who have dared to enter this formidable area of the Earth have noted that the sun neither rises at midwinter nor sets at midsummer. At the South Pole itself the temperature is on average -50º C; this is because an excessively thick icecap covers the continent, forming a huge plateau. Strong winds invariably blow from the centre of the icecap, and it usually too cold to snow. The little snow that does fall takes hundreds of years to change into ice. The ice moves so grindingly slowly that parts of the icecap are millions of years old. (more…)

Disasters waiting to happen: Getúlio Vargas


Getulio Vargas /

Getulio Vargas /

Vargas was born in 1883. A small, chubby and discreet man, he grew to become a rich cattle man in Brazil, and in 1928 became the Governor of his state –Rio Grande do Sul. In 1930 he was propelled into the Presidency of his country by the army, which claimed that too much of the country’s wealth was being invested in the coffee trade, in effect propping it up, which it needed due to bad management. The second of many things the army disliked was that too much money was going in the direction of one state of Brazil –Sao Paulo.

Having Vargas in the presidency did not amuse the coffee barons, and they (and the rest of this enormous country) came to dislike even more Vargas’s methods of governing, which he did by decree. He replaced state governors at will, and constructed a patronage network in individual states. Historians agree that he appeared not to recommend any particular political stance, Right or the Left for instance. He was, however, a master of political opportunism, changing policies according to circumstances, and coinciding with the mood in general of the nation. (more…)

What is Isolationism?

Well, very soon we will know what it is. And I might add it is a great pity there is not more of it around. Loss of it caused the Korean and Vietnam wars; too much of the opposite caused Britain, France and Israel the opportunity to deal practically with the Middle Eastern Question. Far too much of the lack of it allowed the United States to enter, and encourage others to enter, an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. But these are merely examples. (more…)

Philippe II & Felipe II: two successful Philips

Felipe II painted by Antonio Moro /

Felipe II painted by Antonio Moro /

There were nearly two hundred years between the births of these two triumphant kings of France and Spain respectively. I shall use the anglicised version of their names. The French Philip came to be known as ‘Augustus’ as well, as if he were a Roman emperor. He did not appear to object to this magniloquence. (more…)


Inca Atahualpa captured /

Inca Atahualpa captured /

The Incas were pre-Columbian (which means before the arrival of Christopher Columbus on American shores) native people of western South America. This is what the text books say, but it would be more accurate to describe Incas as the leaders of these pre-Columbian peoples. Before these modern days of all people being equal, the Incas did not feel at all equal to the illiterate peasants they ruled, though they were not over-educated themselves, speaking a language called Quechua, a series of clicks made with the lips, roof of the mouth and teeth. It was not written, and is still spoken and used for communication purposes across the Andes. In the 1960s a communist military President of Perú tried to re-introduce quechua as the official language; he failed. He had a wooden leg, and this was used in a cruel joke by the Peruvians, who nicknamed him Inca Sinchupata (‘Inca Withoutaleg’ – his real name was Velasco Alvarado). (more…)

By | 2012-03-29T10:56:25+00:00 March 29th, 2012|South American History, Spanish History|0 Comments

The Communist Parties

The word itself – ‘Communist’ – was certainly first heard as long ago as the 1840s. Both Karl Marx (q.v.) and his promoter Engels used the word, but it was not until after the Russian Revolution (q.v.) of 1917 that fervid Marxists detached themselves from the more moderate Social Democrat Parties, to form groups (and committees) called Communist Parties. In Russia, Bolsheviks did not officially adopt the term until 1918. When the news of the shooting of the royal family spread, it was considered wise to tone down the ‘Ekaterinburg/Bolshevik’ connection, replacing ‘bolshevik’ by a little-known word. There had been ‘Communes’ in Europe, especially in France, but ‘Communists’ was something new. (more…)

Palmerston and Canning

Lord Palmerston /

Lord Palmerston /

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston was born in 1784. George Canning was born in 1770. Neither man saw much point in the other, and the difference of fourteen years in their age did not prevent them from internecine conflict. (more…)

History of the Bible

The Bible is the sacred book of Christianity. There are many Christian churches, but all accept the two sections of it: the Hebrew scriptures, which we know as the Old Testament, and the Christian writings, known as the New Testament. Roman Catholics, among other Christian churches, accept a third section known as the Apocrypha. This was included in the Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint).


The Battle of Arnhem 1944

General Browning, husband of novelist Daphne de Maurier / homeusers.brutele.b

Arnhem is the sixth largest city in the Netherlands. It was the scene of fierce and remorseless fighting between 17 and 26 September, 1944, following the successful invasion of Normandy in June, by allied troops, ships and airforces.

The idea for a parachute/glider-mounted attack in the Dutch Netherlands is said to have been General Montgomery’s, though it was backed by General Eisenhower, supreme commander of the allied forces, and Winston Churchill, Britain’s prime minister. The idea was a very good one, strategically speaking, but it failed to take heed of local advice about cleverly hidden German tank regiments between Nijmegen and Arnhem. In fact the allies decided to take no notice whatever of clear and accurate intelligence. Clearly, in the minds of the planners lay the idea that if Arnhem should prove successful, it would raise the morale of the inading allies tremendously – as indeed it would have – had the Arnhem plan worked.



Anti-clericalism is not the same as anti-Christian movements. Most Roman emperors tried to stamp out Christianity from the death of Christ under Tiberius until Constantine the Great decided to adopt Christianity as an official religion within the Empire, thus ceasing the practice of pitting Christians against lions and other wild animals, such as hyenas, in the ring.

The name anti-clericalism applies in modern times to any policy bent on destroying the moral and political power of the Christian Church, and subordinating its non-spiritual functions within the State. Though there have been many instances of anti-clericalism at the expense of the Orthodox Church (Russia and Turkey), and even now in Moslem countries (see recent massacres of Christians in Iraq and Afghanistan), the term is usually restricted to aggressive hostility towards the Roman Catholic Church, its Pope, bishops, priests, monks and nuns. (more…)

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