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  • Originally published 08/20/2013

    Berlin Denies Rift with UK over WWI Centenary

    The German government has denied British media reports that it tried to influence the tone of Britain's planned ceremonies to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. A spokesman has confirmed Germany sent an envoy to London to discuss the plans, though.The German Foreign Ministry on Monday denied allegations that it was attempting to influence Britain's plans to commemorate the 2014 centenary of the outbreak of World War I.A spokesman for the ministry confirmed reports that it had sent an envoy to London in early August to discuss the centenary ceremonies. But he added: "There was no intervention of any kind in how our friends and partners intend to shape their commemoration of World War I."The Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday that the visit by Andreas Meitzner, a German diplomat tasked with coordinating European commemoration plans for the centenary, was prompted by German concerns that the ceremonies might have an excessively "declamatory tone," placing more emphasis on victory rather than reconciliation....

  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    Hometown memorials for Victoria Cross heroes

    Hundreds new memorials honouring those awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War are to be created to mark the conflict’s centenary.Commemorative paving stones will be laid in the home towns of the 480 British-born VC recipients, under plans announced by the Government on Sunday, 99 years to the day since the war broke out.The scheme to celebrate the winners of Britain’s highest award for battlefield valour will be a centrepiece of the events being planned from 2014 to 2018 to mark the conflict 100 years on.Ministers have also unveiled plans to provide extra help to people wanting to renovate previously neglected war memorials, in what is significant step forward for The Sunday Telegraph’s Lest We Forget campaign....

  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    Lost Edinburgh: The Great Fire of Edinburgh

    THE impact of the Great Fire of Edinburgh in 1824 helped to change the face of firefighting forever. It heralded a new era as Scotland’s capital led the way by launching the world’s very first municipal fire service.Edinburgh has been no stranger to devastating blazes throughout its history. The overcrowded and tightly-packed tenements of the Old Town were at constant risk. There is, however, one year in the city’s history which is more intensely associated with such incidents than any other. The unprecedented number of large fires which took place during 1824 threatened to destroy Scotland’s capital and led many citizens to believe that God was out to punish them. The most terrible of these fires ignited on the evening of November 15....

  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    Holocaust denial historian David Irving to hold Himmler talk in UK

    Controversial historian David Irving is to hold a talk on SS chief Heinrich Himmler later this month.Irving, who has served time in jail in Austria for holocaust denial, will address audiences in Newcastle Upon Tyne and then Edinburgh, Scotland, on 27 and 28 August.Promotional material for the talks on Irving's website includes the 75-year-old visiting Himmler's field headquarters and also the home in which the prominent Nazi died. The events are likely to draw protests from far-left groups which call Irving a Nazi sympathiser for comments he made about the genocide of Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II....

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Secret files reveal Queen’s World War III speech

    British government files from 1983, opened to the public for the first time today, include an official’s view of the message Queen Elizabeth II would have broadcast to the nation in the event of World War III.The speech was drafted as part of a war-games exercise codenamed Wintex-Cimex, in which officials in NATO countries acted out responses to an attack by Soviet-led forces. In 1983, they ended the simulated conflict by launching a limited nuclear strike on the enemy.“I have never forgotten the sorrow and the pride I felt as my sister and I huddled around the nursery wireless set listening to my father’s inspiring words on that fateful day in 1939″ when World War II was declared, the scenario had the queen telling her subjects at noon on Friday March 4, 1983. “Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me.”...

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Memos reveal six months of planning behind Thatcher's top secret visit to the Falklands

    Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 visit to the Falklands was akin to a military operation in its own right and followed six months of meticulous planning.The prime minister visited the islands for four days in January to mark the 150th anniversary of the establishment of a permanent British settlement.The trip, less than eight months after the end of the conflict, had to be kept secret because of the “significant” threat from Argentina, confidential government files show.The documents, released today by the National Archives under the new 20-year rule, include extensive briefings from the Ministry of Defence marked “Secret UK Eyes A” about travel arrangements....

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Secret files: Margaret Thatcher planned to use troops to break miners' strike

    Margaret Thatcher secretly considered the use of troops to break a strike by coal miners, according to newly released government papers.Documents released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, show the extent of the planning by Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government for the decisive showdown with the miners which helped define her political legacy.The papers show that ministers and officials repeatedly warned that a confrontation with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and its leftwing leader, Arthur Scargill, was inevitable.Mrs Thatcher, who had been a minister in Edward Heath's government in the 1970s when it was brought to its knees by a miners' strike was only too well aware of the stakes involved....

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Margaret Thatcher warned of Pierre Trudeau’s ‘unsound personal views’ ahead of 1983 visit, secret files reveal

    British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was advised that Canadians’ sensitivity “is a fact of life” spurred on by the country’s “ham-fisted neighbour to the south,” in a set of confidential briefing notes prior to her Canadian visit in 1983.Government files from 30 years ago, released this week by the British National Archives, included two telegrams dated Sept. 1 and Sept. 19, 1983 to No. 10 Downing Street to prepare Thatcher for her visit to Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton. In them, Canada is described as a country that is “dominated commercially and culturally by the United States, but is inclined to resent this.”...

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    'Your Country Needs You' - The myth about the First World War poster that 'never existed'

    It is perhaps the best known and most enduring image of the First World War: the commanding, moustached face of Lord Kitchener, his accusing, pointing finger and the urgent slogan “Your country needs YOU”.The picture is credited with encouraging millions of men to sign up to fight in the trenches, many of them never to return.But new research has found that no such poster was actually produced during the war and that the image was never used for official recruitment purposes. In fact, it only became popular and widely-used after the conflict ended....

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    Sealed coffin found near Richard III grave site in Leicester

    Another body has been recovered from the Leicester car park where the remains of Richard III were discovered last year – but while a king of England was bundled into a hastily dug hole slightly too short for his corpse, the mystery man was buried in splendour, his body sealed in a lead coffin placed in a handsome limestone sarcophagus.The stone lid was lifted carefully by hand last week. Archaeologists from Leicester University expected to find a fragmentary skeleton, since the weight of the lid and centuries of soil on top of it had long since crushed the sides of the box. Instead, to their surprise, they discovered an inner lead coffin, carefully soldered on all sides, its lid decorated with a cross."It's in remarkably good nick except for one end where we think water trickling down has degraded the lead, so we could just see the feet. They look to be in very good condition, so we hope to learn a lot more from the bones," said the site director, Matthew Morris....

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    Scotsman story in world’s longest tapestry

    IT WAS born out of the indignation at the attitude of newspapers to Edinburgh’s under-fire establishment. Now the origins of The Scotsman, dubbed the “Tenpenny Thunderclap” for its radical content, have been immortalised in tapestry.The newspaper is to star in what will be billed as the world’s longest tapestry.William Ritchie and Charles MacLaren, who founded The Scotsman, famously deployed a thistle emblem to prick the pomposity of the middle classes in the early 19th-century capital.The two men, the date of the newspaper’s launch in 1817, its early nickname and its original address, 347 High Street, Edinburgh, all feature in The Great Tapestry of Scotland, which will be unveiled at the Scottish Parliament later this year. The panel features a quote from philosopher David Hume, written in shorthand by The Scotsman’s editor, Ian Stewart, which states: “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.”...

  • Originally published 07/19/2013

    British historian confident attitudes to sexual crimes can change

    Despite rape and other sexual assaults having low conviction rates, a London-based historian is optimistic this situation can be changed and offending reduced.Prof Joanna Bourke, author of a book titled Rape, A History from 1860 to the Present (2007), said in Dunedin this week that rape and other sexual assaults were issues for men and society, not just for women.Her optimism came partly from her perspective as an historian: ''I can see that things have changed and ... they can change again.'...

  • Originally published 07/16/2013

    Cookbook dating back to 1690 reveals Georgian recipes

    A hidden hoard of eighteenth century recipes has come to light for the first time in nearly 200 years in a central London archives centre.Staff at Westminster City Councils Archives Centre came across the recipes earlier this year in a digital project where some sources were posted online and began sharing its culinary delights in the Cookbook of Unknown Ladies blog.With more than 350 recipes dating from 1690 to 1830, followers of the online blog will be able to find out how to make dishes such as Veal kidney Florentine, a pastry tart with kidney, apples, lettuce, orange peel, spices and currants, or Mammas Mince Pyes, made with a mince mixture of candied fruits and cows tongue....

  • Originally published 07/13/2013

    Who edited Shakespeare?

    Sometime in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death, the actors John Heminges and Henry Condell published Mr William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies – what we now know as the First Folio. It was the literary event of the century, recording for all time the sound of Shakespeare's English and the sweep of his imagination: Elsinore, Egypt and the Forest of Arden; a balcony, a spotted handkerchief and a skull.

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Humayun Ansari: Islamophobia Rises in British Society

    Humayun Ansari is a Professor of History of Islam and Culture in the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London. On the 8th anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, and in the aftermath of the killing of British army soldier Lee Rigby, it is timely to assess how Islamophobia within Britain’s political landscape has evolved since that tragic day in July 2005. Much evidence suggests that Islamophobia has moved beyond small fringe far-right groups to being far more widespread across broad sections of the population.

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Memorial for Britons who fought in American Civil War

    The 300,000 Britons who fought in the American Civil War are to be remembered on both sides of the Atlantic.Two war memorials - one in Liverpool and the other in the US state of Virginia, where much of the fighting took place - are being proposed by a British group of historians.Although Britain was officially neutral in the conflict, thousands of men born in Britain but living in America at the time fought for both President Lincoln's anti-slavery Federals and the pro-slavery southern Confederates.Basil Larkins of the American Civil War British Memorial Association is trying to raise £10,000 for the monuments....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Cristina Odone: How About Celebrating UK History for a Change?

    Cristina Odone is a journalist, novelist and broadcaster specialising in the relationship between society, families and faith. She is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies and is a former editor of the Catholic Herald and deputy editor of the New Statesman. She is married and lives in west London with her husband, two stepsons and a daughter. She has recently launched the website freefaith.com.I'm glad to see that the new National Curriculum will be big on British history. The present state of affairs is dire, and has long needed an overhaul. Eric Pickles has stressed the importance of English for immigrants to feel proper citizens – but history is just as necessary, for citizens and immigrants alike. When the natives have been taught to hate their ancestors, who's going to teach the newcomers how lucky they are to be in their new homeland?

  • Originally published 07/03/2013

    Queen opens Sir Walter Scott's house

    The Queen has officially reopened the former home of author Sir Walter Scott in the Scottish Borders after its multi-million pound restoration.Abbotsford House, near Melrose, will open to the public on Thursday.The royal visitor was given a tour of the house, which shut for major renovations nearly two years ago.The Abbotsford Trust hopes the historic building can become both an "important cultural centre and tourist destination" for the region....

  • Originally published 06/27/2013

    Charles Marvin, a Nineteenth-Century Edward Snowden?

    Leslie Rogne Schumacher

    Credit: Wiki Commons.Meet the Press host David Gregory’s recent insinuation that Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald should possibly be charged with the crime of aiding and abetting whistleblower Edward Snowden in the NSA surveillance scandal is alarming for all who value protecting the principles of investigative journalism. It is made more alarming, though, by considering how closely this exchange matches a landmark case in the history of public secrecy and investigative reportage, namely the 1878 Globe scandal. A consideration of this episode in relation to Greenwald’s (and, indeed, Gregory’s) role in the ongoing NSA imbroglio should be unsettling to those who value and want to protect the freedom of the press.

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Is haggis actually from England?

    A RENOWNED food historian has claimed haggis is an English dish, whose Scottish origins are as “made up” as tartan.Peter Brears, 68, said that many traditional tartans were “invented”, claiming that haggis and tartan were both appropriated by Scots in order to revitalise the country’s national identity.“Haggis is a really good English dish,” said Brears, the author of Traditional Food In Northumbria.“The earliest recipes are from 1390 from a book called The Forme of Cury, which means ‘the art of cooking’....

  • Originally published 06/17/2013

    Britain's long history of spying on visiting dignitaries

    Spying on visiting foreign dignitaries is a longstanding habit not only of the British, but of many other countries as well. Most embassies in foreign capitals are designed with windowless safe rooms, on the assumption that their host country will be doing its best to monitor all their communications.In 1985, the British government obtained injunctions attempting to gag the Guardian and Observer after they published disclosures by the renegade MI5 officer Peter Wright of wholesale British bugging. He and his colleagues had "bugged and burgled their way across London", during the cold war, he said.He disclosed that MI5 bugged all diplomatic conferences at Lancaster House in London throughout the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the Zimbabwe independence negotiations in 1979....

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Cross dressing spy who caused a headache for British masters

    As one of Britain’s top spies in the Second World War, being arrested in Spain dressed as a woman caused a major headache for his political masters.Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Clarke, a key figure in British intelligence in the Middle East, was detained in Madrid after being seen “in a main street dressed, down to a brassiere, as a woman”.The spy was on his way to Egypt to pass on key information and the incident sparked a mad scramble in London to ensure he was released and sent on his way as quickly as possible.Files released by the National Archives show that Lt Col Clarke – who was supposed to maintain a low profile, travelling under cover as a war correspondent for The Times – had stopped off in the Spanish capital on his way to north Africa in October 1941....

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    UK bribed Spain to stay out of WWII

    Britain paid millions of pounds to military and political leaders in Spain to ensure they remained neutral during the Second World War, secret files reveal.Some $10 million was paid to one double agent alone to distribute to key individuals, including General Franco’s brother Nicholas, in the hope they would not enter the conflict.But despite the money, intelligence officers later suspected General Franco of ordering his officials to pass on secrets to the Germans.The effective bribes also sparked a row with the US after the Americans froze the money planned for Britain’s “friends in Spain”.The $10 million were to be paid to Juan March, a contact who had served as a double agent for Britain during the First World War, according to the intelligence papers released by the National Archives....

  • Originally published 05/16/2013

    Church discovered under castle

    Experts believe that the church is one of the most important archaeological finds in Britain, as it pre-dates both the castle and the Norman Conquest.Construction workers have also unearthed eight skeletons in the Norman building, believed to be the remains of powerful and wealthy people.Cecily Spall, an archaeologist on the site, said the find was hugely significant for Lincoln. “The information we can get from this undocumented church is gold dust,” she said.“Historical documents only tell part of the story for this area so this find is very special.”...

  • Originally published 05/14/2013

    Hunt doubts Gove on history evidence

    Tristram Hunt, a Labour education spokesman and historian, has attacked Education Secretary Michael Gove over his use of evidence.It follows a Freedom of Information request showing Mr Gove's claim about children's lack of historical knowledge had been based on a UKTV Gold survey.Mr Gove had been setting out the need to raise standards in history.A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "There is plenty of other evidence to support this argument."Mr Hunt, taking up last week's attack by the education secretary on the use of Mr Men characters in teaching history, accused Mr Gove of being "Mr Sloppy"....

  • Originally published 05/10/2013

    Michael Gove attacks use of Mr Men in iGCSE history lessons

    The education secretary, Michael Gove, has attacked a "culture of low expectations" in English schools, criticising the use of Mr Men characters in teaching 15 and 16-year-olds about Hitler.Too many teachers were treating "young people on the verge of university study as though they have the attention span of infants," Gove said. He said worksheets, extracts and mind maps had replaced whole books, sources and conversation in history and other subject lessons."As long as there are people in education making excuses for failure, cursing future generations with a culture of low expectations, denying children access to the best that has been thought and written, because Nemo and the Mr Men are more relevant, the battle needs to be joined," Gove said.

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Lee Donaghy: Writing Like a Historian -- Developing Students' Writing Skills

    Lee Donaghy is an assistant principal at a secondary school in Birmingham in the United Kingdom."Why are we doing English in history, sir?" came the question as I asked my year 9 history class what kind of word disarmament was. Having anticipated this kind of reaction I had an answer prepared: "Do we only use language in English lessons?"The question was anticipated because I have heard it from other classes, and indeed other teachers, since I began to include an explicit focus on language development in my history lessons 18 months ago. And the question goes to the heart of what I believe is a fundamental reason for the attainment gap between children eligible for free school meals and their non-free school meal counterparts in Britain; the misalignment of these pupils' language use with that which is needed for academic success and the need for teachers to explicitly address this misalignment in their teaching.

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    Ireland pardons wartime deserter "heroes"

    LONDON — The Irish government is to reverse what has been described as a historic injustice by granting a pardon to soldiers who deserted their units to fight the Nazis in World War II.An amnesty and immunity bill, scheduled to be enacted on Tuesday, includes an apology to some 5,000 men who faced post-war sanctions and ostracism after they quit the defense forces of neutral Ireland to join the allied war effort against Hitler.The measure comes too late for most of the deserters — only about 100 are believed to be still alive — but it was welcomed by their families and supporters....

  • Originally published 04/28/2013

    Time Again for Repayable Taxes?

    Robert E. Wright

    Denarius of Sabina Augusta, Roman Republic era. Credit: Dartmouth College.Today, legislators facing budget deficits must decide the degree to which to cut spending, increase taxes, or borrow. All three can have negative effects on the economy and legislators’ individual prospects for re-election. Gridlock has resulted on more than one occasion.Until a few centuries ago, governments regularly resorted to additional fiscal techniques. One was to pillage other countries. That does not work well anymore because most wealth today takes the form of flighty human capital, not easily appropriated physical stuff. Moreover, wars have grown too expensive and too destructive to make them paying propositions.

  • Originally published 04/09/2013

    The Secret to Margaret Thatcher's Success

    Peter Dorey

    Image via Wiki Commons.The death of Margaret Thatcher, the former leader of British Conservative Party and Britain’s only female prime minister, will intensify the continuous debate over her legacy. No other modern British political leader has proved so controversial. She divided -- and continues to divide -- academic and public opinion more than any of her recent predecessors.

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    WWI poem wins UK poetry award

    A poem inspired by her late mother's stories of the first world war, which has drawn comparisons with Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, has won the poetry journal Agenda's editor Patricia McCarthy the National Poetry Competition.McCarthy, who has published several poetry collections of her own, beat 13,040 other entries to win the anonymously-judged prize. Her winning poem, "Clothes that escaped the Great War", tells of the plodding carthorse who would take boys away to war, and then return, later, with just their clothes. "These were the most scary, my mother recalled: clothes / piled high on the wobbly cart, their wearers gone," writes McCarthy.

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    New British citizenship test puts emphasis on history, culture and even humor

    LONDON — What does it mean to be British? Monarchs, Margaret Thatcher and Monty Python are all important parts of the nation’s heritage, according to a new guide for immigrants introduced Monday.The government is revising the “Life in the U.K.” handbook and test taken by those seeking to become British citizens or settle here permanently.While the previous version — created under the former Labour government — included some practical questions about daily life, the emphasis is now firmly on British history and culture. There are questions on sports, music and historical figures from William Shakespeare to Winston Churchill....

  • Originally published 01/29/2013

    Queen Elizabeth II not expected to follow Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands into retirement

    LONDON — One European queen has announced her retirement. Any chance Europe’s most famous queen — Elizabeth II of Britain — might join her?Not likely, experts say....Author Robert Lacey, who has written several books about the British monarchy, said Beatrix’s decision would likely firm up Elizabeth’s resolve.“It would reinforce her feeling that the Dutch don’t know what monarchy is about, and that she should go on forever,” he said. “The crown is a job for life in the British system.”...

  • Originally published 09/18/2013

    Revolutions, Liberation Movements and Peoples in Europe and Africa

    Revolutionary Moments

    What is most striking about the analyses to current times are that the parallels with the French revolutionary experience can so easily be made. Editor's Note:  This is a guest post from the blog The French Revolution Network. David Andress is the blog's editor.I recently returned from a workshop at the University of Pretoria, organised as part of the project The Comparative History of Political Engagement in Western and African Societies led by a team at the University of Sheffield. As well as enjoying a very hospitable welcome, I also had a very stimulating series of discussions, which have given me much food for thought about further extension of the debate on ‘revolution’ in the modern world. While recent events have made us focus attention on ‘bottom-up’ revolutionary upheavals, the role of spontaneous interactions and technology in popular mobilizations, and the general question of ‘crowds’ and their agency, a closer look at African examples reminds us that ‘top-down’ modes of revolutionary activism also continue to have a strong role to play. Henning Melber offered us an excellent overview of the extent to which African liberation movements into the present continue to use the rhetoric of liberation as closure, of the achievement of a sort of ‘end of history’ through the movement’s leadership, and necessarily alongside that, the closing-off of possibilities for dissent. Such movements demonstrate simultaneous abilities to use, for example, laws established in the colonial period to repress opposition, and rhetoric that brands such opposition as neo-imperialist conspiracy. Lloyd Sachikonye observed how electoral processes in ‘liberated’ African nations were routinely undermined by violence, over 80% of which came from ruling parties and their affiliated organisations, and Brian Raftopoulos offered a vivid case-study of the steady destruction of an autonomous labour movement in Zimbabwe through its subordination to the demands of a ‘National Democratic Revolution’, that was in practice technocratic and authoritarian – and prejudiced against urban workers in general through its political powerbase in land-hungry war-veterans. David Anderson presented chilling evidence of the example that systematic persecution of Mau Mau soldiers by the British authorities in the 1950s gave to the essentially anti-Mau Mau governments of independent Kenya. Torture and shameless violence continued to mark politics throughout the late twentieth century. This included the astonishing story of Nyayo House, an office-block in Nairobi, completed in 1984, and later exposed as having purpose-built torture-chambers in a sixth-level sub-basement. Like many African conflicts, that in Kenya tangled the concept of ‘national’ identity within colonial boundaries with that of ethnicity, and lived senses of community. Baz Lecocq showed us how in Mali the ‘black’ Mande ethnic leadership took the post-independence lead in defining the supposedly egalitarian features of their agricultural traditions as Malian national identity, while treating the ‘white’ Tuareg of the north of the country as a deviant, lazy, backward-looking feudal remnant. Policies of forced settlement alongside continual cultural humiliations were a systematic effort at cultural delegitimisation, and at the heart of a movement towards open revolt from the Tuareg as socio-economic conditions worsened towards the end of the century. Finally on Africa, Emma Hunter offered a stimulating series of questions about how, outside mechanisms of overt violence, different mechanisms of public engagement could work with and across post-colonial governments. The tensions that result are illustrated in the history of Tanzania’s Ujamaa under Julius Nyerere – despite governmental claims, Swahili did not provide the common language to overcome tribal divisions, and movements to ‘villagization’ cut coercively across claims about cooperation and consultation. Nonetheless, organs including the press remained open as routes of dissent, even if having to tread a careful line of framing loyalty. What, for me, was most striking about all of these analyses was the extent to which parallels with the French revolutionary experience could so easily be made. It would be trite to rehearse these here, ‘as if’ the earlier merely fed unmediated into the later, but the discussions in and around these papers clearly showed that there is a wider comparison, and structural analysis, to be made. The various models of ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ revolutionary mobilization have clearly had a recurrent influence across the centuries of modernity – and indeed are a substantial constituent of ‘modernity’ as a concept itself. A global perspective shows us that we never did reach the ‘end of history’ so vaunted a generation ago, and for historians, there is much more reflection to be done on the cycles of hope and dread packaged as ‘revolutionary’ progress.