It should have been yesterday but a twisted ankle kept Tory Historian from the computer. November 28, 1990 – most of us can remember the day Margaret Thatcher formally resigned as Prime Minister and made a last, tearful statement from Downing Street:
We're leaving Downing Street for the last time after eleven-and-a-half wonderful years and we're happy to leave the UK in a very much better state than when we came here.How many Prime Ministers can honestly say that?
A thirty-minute radio play with that title by Agatha Christie was broadcast in May 1947 on Queen Mary’s 80th birthday, as a present for her (the royal family has had a number of Christie fans among its members).
Later Christie expanded the play into a longer one (she often developed themes first explored in short stories to create novels), called “The Mousetrap”. And who has not heard of it?
The play opened at the Ambassadors Theatre on November 25, 1952 and has been running ever since, though it transferred to St Martin’s Theatre some years ago. There have been over 21,000 performances and more than 300 actors have played in it.
The original stars were Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim. Any other information you want? There is a website devoted to the play, which will tell you everything you want to know. Well, almost everything. The identity of the murderer remains a closely guarded secret.
For once, The Scotsman has produced a fascinating article.
It seems that the diaries of James Fraser, an Episcopalian Minister, who set off in 1657 from Inverness, journeyed to Aberdeen, down the east coast of Scotland to Edinburgh, then to England, where he described the country under Cromwell's rule that he definitely disapproved of, and to a number of Continental countries.
During his expedition, Fraser witnessed the early days of Cromwell's London, was suspected of being a Protestant spy in a Catholic college and even took a job with the Swiss Guard in Rome and guarded the Queen of Sweden's residence.He was fascinated by what he saw in England and by the English, whom he describes as great meat eaters. His view of the body politic was pessimistic:
He was keen to learn about other religions and wanted to see England and Rome: "ones the seat of the Roman Empire, & who suddenly invaded the world and fixt it selfe such firm foundations as [none] other ever did. Also held to be the fountain of all Science, policy and arts civil and Ecclesiastick. Hopeing to find some sparks of these Cinders not yet put out among the modern Romains."
But there was never more treason in England and about London than now; though not against a King, butt against a parlement, a Commonwalth, a Cromuell. Some one or other every day impeacht for high treason against the State (so tearmed) Lords, souldioures, Churchmen, Phisitians, some hangd, others have their heads cut off, some shot to death, which is the Military execution; for after King Charles his death, the Scaffold runs still wt bloud.Equally interesting comments are quoted from his description of other countries.
Fraser was not well off and could not travel in a leisurely fashion affected by the sprigs of nobility. Nor could he, one presumes, live on credit, also done by the self-same sprigs. He travelled cheaply, got jobs, rather the way young people do now and, no doubt, took advantage of hospitality extended by various religious establishments.
The diary is due to be published and Tory Historian, for one, is waiting with bated breath.
The death of Milton Friedman yesterday at the age of 94 has prompted a great deal of reminiscing. While the Nobel laureate economist was not precisely a conservative with either a small or a big c, he was the progenitor of many economic and political ideas that made modern conservatism exciting and successful for a long time.
So, here are a few quotes that Tory Historian would like to share with the readers (who might want to come up with quotes and stories of their own):
I am favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible.And for anyone who has not yet done so, read "Free to choose" by Rose and Milton Friedman. Easy to read, easy to understand, easy to convert to.
Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.
Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.
Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else's resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property.
The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.
There's no such thing as a free lunch.
Today is the Prince of Wales’s birthday but that seems to fade into insignificance when one notes that November 14, 1922 was the day of the first broadcast by the newly formed British Broadcasting Company from station 2LO, located at Marconi House, London.
Of course the real problems came in 1927 when the British Broadcasting Corporation was formed under Lord Reith, a Royal Charter was granted and the possibilities of independent broadcasting were scotched for many years to come.
Indeed, that Royal Charter and the licence (in effect a poll tax) are still with us and still distorting broadcasting in this country, despite the various technological developments since 1922.
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
The First World War produced more poems in the English language than possibly any other. This particular one was written by a Canadian, Dr John McCrae in early May 1915, during the second battle of Ypres. It was first published, anonymously, in Punch in December of that year, though the authorship was soon established.
Dr McCrae stayed in France until January 1918. He died of pneumonia, compounded by exhaustion and depression on January 28. He was 45 years old.
Some years ago one of Tory Historian’s clever-dick journalist friends put forward the suggestion that Remembrance Day should be moved from November 11 (and, presumably, Remembrance Sunday from the nearest Sunday) because that was too closely linked in people’s minds with the First World War. This was before Gordon Brown in a fit of leadership fever suggested having a British Veterans’ Day.
To all of these suggestions Tory Historian can reply with the well-known political adage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t mend it”. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is easy to remember and the inherited memory of that war is hard to erase (or change despite its severe inaccuracies) precisely because of the poems.
While the image created by the poets was potent the analysis that has grown out of it is not entirely accurate. The image serves us well for remembrance of the dead of that and many other wars.
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
With Remembrance Day approaching fast, Tory Historian has at last managed to start reading Margaret Macmillan’s multiple award winning “Peacemakers”, an account of the negotiations, intrigues and agreements that resulted in the Versailles Treaty as well as the various other satellite treaties at the end of World War I.
The twentieth century is a somewhat odd one. Various historians, conservative and others, have called it “the short century” as its reality did not begin till 1914. One must recall that, unlike the twenty-first century, which was greeted with a great deal of gloom and depression, the twentieth was seen almost everywhere (Russia was probably a notable exception) as one that heralded in a new and better, more peaceful, more advanced future.
Those were days when the word “modern” meant something and the something was, by and large, positive. A century later it is a word that is used with deep gloom by most people except politicians who produce it in order to impose something deeply unpopular and, usually, rather oppressive on the population.
The Great War is generally seen as the beginning of the many horrors that the succeeding twentieth century consisted of. And all for what? After tens of millions of deaths, hundreds of millions wounded, tortured, imprisoned, deprived of their homes and property; after whole societies and cultures destroyed, at the end of the century much of what had seemed to have been wrapped up in the first twenty years reappeared in the news.
Once again the media resounds to names like Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kabul and Heart, Baghdad and Basra. Almost a hundred years after the signing of the Versailles Treaty, whose terms are often described as inevitably leading to World War II, we are still grappling with the problems either created or set loose by those negotiations in Paris so ably and wittily described by Dr Macmillan.
Let us, however, look at the beginning of it all, the great hopes of a new world that was going to be created by the great and wise in Paris out of the horrors of the war that had recently ended.
For four years the most advanced nations in the world had poured out their men, their wealth, the fruits of their industry, science and technology, on a war that may have started by accident but was impossible to stop because the two sides were too evenly balanced. It was only in the summer of 1918, as Germany’s allies faltered and as the American troops poured in, that the Allies finally gained the upper hand. The war ended on 11 November. Everywhere people hoped wearily that whatever happened next would not be as bad as what had just finished.Little did they know and, perhaps, just as well. It is always good to have a little period of hope, though it was already disappearing in some parts of Europe. As it happens, yesterday was the anniversary of the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd, a coup which destroyed any hopes of Russia developing along some kind of democratic path; a coup that created the most monstrous of history’s many monstrous systems; a coup that probably completed the destruction of European power.
Margaret Macmillan continues:
Four years of war shook forever the supreme self-confidence that had carried Europe to world dominance. After the western front Europeans could no longer talk of a civilizing mission to the world. The war toppled governments, humbled the mighty and upturned whole societies. In Russia the revolutions of 1917 replaced tsarism, with what no one yet knew. At the end of the war Austria-Hungary vanished, leaving a great hole at the centre of Europe. The Ottoman Empire, with its vast holdings in the Middle East and its bit of Europe was almost done. Imperial Germany was now a republic. Old nations – Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia – came out of history to live again and new nations – Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia – struggled to be born.All this required a great deal of management, which was impossible. The conflicting claims, the desire to go forward with some kind of liberal structures, the need not to destroy the defeated countries (overlooked at some cost to themselves eventually) by some of the victors, the hope for peace that would be guaranteed by international bodies and, above all, the reality on the ground of a messy, disintegrating political world, produced peace treaties that were flawed at best and botched at worst.
There will be more postings about the book and its subject. Responses and discussions will, we hope, be forthcoming.