Tory Historian wanted to see the year out with some spectacular birthday or anniversary. Nothing much seems to have happened on December 31 and the birthday of Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, hardly seems worth celebrating.
History Today enters into its 61st year with an interesting looking issue.
Tory Historian has just finished another book that might be of interest to people who are interested in conservative history and its ramifications. The Third Marquess of Londonderry and his second wife, Frances Anne Emily Vane-Tempest, une femme formidable according to all including Disraeli, spent several months in Russia in the winter of 1836-7, visiting St Petersburg and Moscow as well as a few smaller places, attending many balls, dinners and receptions, being friendly with the Emperor Nicholas I and his family as well as a large number of Russian and foreign aristocrats and generally exploring many sights and events.
It has been said that the 1920s and 1930s were the Golden Age of the detective story. Tory Historian has always found that rather hard to accept as all too many of those novels are either completely unreadable or utterly preposterous, such as the adventures of Colonel Gore.
Overwork means undue congestion of certain lobes of the brain. In order to draw the blood from these lobes, other contiguous lobes must be stimulated. A week in the country merely means that you brood on your work. Detective novels act like iodine on a gum and serve as counter-irritant.Tory Historian has to admit that the pseudo-medical explanation is not very impressive but any excuse to read detective stories is a good thing.
Tory Historian admires Daniel P. Moynihan for many reasons, not least for being the sort of Democrat that seems to be extinct now. This quotation that dates back to 1969 merely confirms that.
Somehow liberals have been unable to acquire from life what conservatives seem to be endowed with at birth: namely, a healthy skepticism of the powers of government agencies to do good.Of course, he uses the word "liberal" in the modern American sense. A true old-fashioned liberal has a very healthy skepticism of anything to do with government, particularly its claims to do good.
One can pick up very interesting and somewhat random information from detective stories. Tory Historian was re-reading Dorothy L. Sayers' novels and, indeed, reading her essays. One of the early Wimsey novels was The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, whose plot revolves round the problem of who died first, General Fentiman or his sister Lady Dorland.
The General's body is discovered in the Bellona Club in the early evening of November 11. Wimsey is asked to find out when he had died but immediately discovers a number of odd facts. He cannot find a single club servant who had seen the general come in on the morning of that day. But there is something else.
Wimsey looks at the general's clothes as sent back to his flat and is surprised to find something missing: a poppy. It is inconceivable, he argues correctly, for someone like General Fentiman to walk about on November 11 without a poppy. However, it is obvious that he does not expect the general or, presumably, anyone else to be wearing a poppy on November 10. Clearly, the habit of wearing the poppy for weeks before actual Remembrance Day developed somewhat later than 1928.
On the whole Tory Historian would prefer not to have the picture of London's Mayor at the top of this website. The organization, the King James Bible Trust, is entirely praiseworthy and TH hopes that many readers will look at the site, bookmark it and note whatever events it organizes to promote a wider knowledge of the book that changed the Anglosphere's understanding of the world and religion. Can one really think English-language literature or politics without the King James Bible or, as it is often known, the Authorized Version?
It is a little sad to read in the little pamphlet that was handed out at the launch that
Each month on average 450,000 people around the world use Google to search for "King+James+Bible", yet only 40,000 of those searches (fewer than 10%) originate in the UK.TH suspects with a deep sigh that it is not because everything about the subject is known to everybody in this country.
One publication to mark the forthcoming anniversary is by the eminent historian Gordon Campbell. It is entitled Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611 - 2011 (reviewed in the Guardian here), a highly entertaining as well as scholarly volume. Among other things, Professor Campbell writes about various editions, which varied from each other until a master text was published in 1769. Before and after that event there were editorial and printers' corrections as well as some highly entertaining misprints.
Tory Historian was particularly taken by this accout:
In the first edition of the KJV designed for private study (1612), as opposed to reading aloud in church, Psalm 119:161 read "Printers have persecuted me without cause": "printers" was a misprint for "princes".Maybe so. But anybody in the writing and publishing business would have agreed with the unfortunate psalmist.
The King James Bible is usually described as the only example of a committee (of scholars in this case) producing something very fine. Its publication was, as it happens, also a political event of great importance. So, perhaps, it is appropriate that there should be the picture of a living politician on the website.
Tory Historian was fascinated by this news item about archaeological excavation at Towton in Yorkshire, the site of one of the bloodiest battles on English soil, fought between the Yorkists and Lancastrians in 1461.
But Sutherland [lead project archaeologist according to the article] is nevertheless unequivocal when it comes to the battle changing the course of English history.Errm, no, not exactly. The Yorkists might have won the throne anyway and Henry Tudor was not that bothered which king he was to overthrow with this French troops.
"Everybody has heard of King Richard III and if it hadn't been for Towton, won by his brother who died early, he would not have taken the throne," he said.
I am now rounding up all possible contributions for the Conservative History Journal (with many thanks to those who have sent theirs). So, any more?
Nobody could really call the last great Whig historian G. M. Trevelyan a Conservative almost by definition though many of his ideas would now be described as conservative with a small 'c'. Here is a somewhat hostile piece about Trevelyan and the Trevelyan family in general by John Vincent, which informs us, among other matters that the famed if outdated historian burned all his personal papers. Tory Historian recalls reading David Cannadine's biography and finding it most interesting as well as surprisingly sympathetic.
Trevelyan published his essay Clio, the Muse of History, in 1913 and in it he wrote:
The dispassionateness of the historian is a quality which it is easy to value too highly, and it should not be confused with the really indispensable qualities of accuracy and good faith.A very useful piece of advice. Trevelyan never pretended to be dispassionate, a state of mind that cannot actually be reached. An historian who describes himself or herself as dispassionate runs the risk of misleading readers and students. However, it is unfortunately true that a number of Trevelyan's critics accused him of lack of good faith, a far worse crime in history writing.
And this account by Nathaniel Morton based on William Bradford's in the Wall Street Journal.
In pursuit of more detective stories Tory Historian came across Lee Jackson's Victorian mysteries, in particular A Metropolitan Murder that starts on the Metropolitan line soon after it opened in 1863, apparently only 3 years after the construction started. No particular opinion of it as yet. The style, which is mostly in the present tense is slightly irritating but the description of mid-Victorian London is fascinating. How good the plot is remains to be seen.
Twenty years ago today Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister. Tory Historian is far too well behaved to launch into invectives against the people in the lady's own party (something nobody outside this country ever understood) who engineered her premature departure. Not only they but, sadly, the whole party has paid the price.
Tory Historian is about to put that book back on the shelf but would like to quote one last paragraph, which says things that TH has also said before: so much about present-day America reminds one of Victorian Britain. Professor Himmelfarb puts it more eloquently:
Having derived a good deal of its own Enlightenment from the mother country, the United States is now repaying Britain by perpetuating the spirit of her Enlightenment. We are often reminded of the theme of American "exceptionalism". America was exceptional at the time of its founding, and continues to be so today. Europeans complain that the United States is unduly, individualistic, religious, and moralistic(the last meant invidiously). And so it is, by European standards, including British standards, today. But not by British standards of old. If America is now exceptional, it is because it has inherited and preserved aspects of the British Enlightenment that the British themselves have discarded and that other countries (France, most notably) have never adopted.As they say, discuss.
Tory Historian has spent some time recently reading M. V. Hughes's books about her life in Victorian London and the later one about life between the wars in Cuffley, a village just outside London that was, in that period, steadily moving towards becoming a suburb.
Tory Historian is very apologetic: a combination of a bad cold and various other commitments produced a neglect of the most important thing, this blog. This cannot happen again.
One historian [Ronald I. Boss] has described the philosophes' belief in the social utility of religion as a "paradox", a "contradiction", a "lag in their social thought" caused by their inability to create an organic, unitary conception of society based upon their secular beliefs. But there could be no such organic, unitary conception so long as the classes were divided, as the philosophes thought, by the chasm not only of poverty but, more crucially, of superstition and ignorance. For the British philosophers, that social chasm was bridged by the moral sense and common sense that were presumed to be innate to all people, in the lower classes as well as the upper. The philosophes, allowing the common people neither a moral sense nor a common sense that might approximate reason, consigned them, in effect, to a state of nature - a brutalized Hobessian, not a benign Rouseeauean, state of nature - where they could be controlled and pacified only by the sanctions and strictures of religion.Much to be discerned from that comparison.
Tory Historian is mortified by neglecting to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar yesterday. Sackcloth and ashes are the order of the day. Instead, time has been spent on reading Gertrude Himmelfarb's The Roads to Modernity, which separates what she calls the three different Enlightenments: British, French and American, and restores the British one to its historic importance.
The three can be characterized as Sociology of Virtue, Ideology of Reason and Politics of Liberty. There were many links between them and cross-pollination of ideas but they were different and led to different political developments.
This is not to say that ideas were the determining factor in each of these countries. The historical situations were obviously, perhaps decisively, different. As Britain had earlier experience a religious Reformation, so it had also undergone a "Glorious Revolution", which gave promise of being a permanent political settlement. France, having had neither a religious reformation nor a political revolution, was, in a sense, ripe for both. And America, having had both as a legacy from Britain, sought the independence that it claimed as part of that legacy.Tory Historian is particularly interested in the distinction Professor Himmelfarb will be making between the British and the American versions of the Enlightenment.
Tory Historian, like so many people, has been often perplexed by people blithely attributing to Burke the saying: "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" or something like it. Perplexed and annoyed, TH has decided to pursue the matter. It would appear that there is no evidence that either Burke or anyone else said that or wrote that, which makes it a non-quotation by any standard.
When bad men combine, the good must associate, else they will fail, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
October 14, 1066 - King Harold II is slain (possibly by an arrow through the eye) at the Battle of Hastings or Senlac Hill
Tory Historian is inclined to the view that the lady who is celebrating her 85th birthday today is the greatest twentieth century Prime Minister though some might disagree. (Feel free to do so.) So, for today, here is video of one of her finest hours:
London Historian reminds all those in or around London that this Saturday there will be no fewer than four guided walks to do with London's rivers, presumably those that are now underneath roads helping to destabilize London's buildings.
Not a war to be proud of and one that might have been avoided with a little more diplomacy on all sides. The second Anglo-Boer War that went on from 1899 to 1902, established Britain's supremacy (more or less) in South Africa, eventually created the Union of South Africa, had enormous impact on domestic politics and blackened Britain's name because of the policy of concentration camps for civilians (later developed to a far higher level by several other countries) began on October 11, 1899 with a Boer offensive into Natal and Cape Colony areas.
1974 was the year of two elections, both lost by the Conservatives but only one resulting in victory for the Labour Party. In February of that year Harold Wilson had formed a minority government, the first in this country, as the BBC tells, since 1929 and called another election in October when he managed to convert it to a majority of 3. Inevitably, as time went on this, too, became a minority government but it managed to stagger on till the end of its term in 1979. This election also signalled the end of Edward Heath's leadership of the Conservative Party.
Tory Historian has been reading a good deal of Dorothy L. Sayers's works, including the detective stories as well as the various essays. More on that lady and her writings at another time. On the whole, her political writings are the weakest of all but this paragraph in the wartime essay, The Gulf Stream and the Channel published in the collection Unpopular Opinions, made TH smile:
All British institutions have an air of improvisation; and seem allergic to long-term planning.Indeed, what else can you expect in a country where it is impossible to predict, from one hour to another, whether it will be hot or cold, wet or dry, windy or still - where every arrangement for an outdoor sport of public function may have to be altered at the last minute owing to uncontrollable causes? "Rain stopped play", "If wet, in the Parish Hall", "Weather permitting" - such phrases punctuate the whole rhythm of our communal life, and compel a general attitude to things which is at once sceptical, stoical, speculative and flexible in the last degree.It is always dangerous to draw conclusions about national character, particularly of a nation that is described cheerfully as "mongrel" by Miss Sayers, from the weather. But she does and, undoubtedly, there are many solemn critics out there who find it difficult to come to terms with such trivial notions. Not Tory Historian, though.
Tory Historian went to the British Museum this evening as it was late opening. Unusually, the Mediaeval Galleries were open (possibly because there is no big exhibition on at the moment) though the fate of the Hinton St Mary mosaic pavement is still unknown. TH distinctly remembers seeing most of that floor laid out on the landing of the BM staircase. Then it was taken apart and the medallion with Christ's face put back. Where is the rest of it?
A big milestone in post-World War II restoration: on October 3, 1952 tea-rationing ended. In theory, de-rationing was to start in 1948 but had been somewhat slow. In actual fact, food rationing was not abolished till 1954, after a great deal of popular discontent.
Tory Historian is always thrilled when a previously mysterious document, particularly if it is a map, can be deciphered. The news that the 2nd Century map of Germania by Ptolemy is being deciphered by a group of scholars of various persuasion is very exciting.
The map, inaccurate though it is in some detail shows that many German settlements are considerably older than thought before, that there was a great deal of interaction with the Romans of peaceful and not so peaceful kind and that trade routes ran through old Germania towards the Baltic and back, as one would expect.
There is an amusing account of the way attitude to the Germanic tribes has changed over the years and decades, motivated by political developments.
Archaeologists' opinions on the Germanic tribes have varied over the years. In the 19th century, Germany's early inhabitants were considered brave, wild-bearded savages. The Nazis then transformed them into great heroes, and in the process of coming to terms with its Nazi past, postwar Germany quickly demoted the early Germanic peoples to proto-fascist hicks. The Romans, it was said, had to put up a border wall between themselves and the nuisance Germans before they could finally get some peace.It is more than probable that Ptolemy's information came from traders and, to a very great extent, military engineers.
More recent research proves this view to be complete invention. New excavations show that the Germanic groups were anything but isolated -- quite the contrary. Veritable hordes of Roman traders crossed the border to deal in amber, pomade, smoked fish and leather with their neighbors. Caesar mentioned that his people traded with the "Sueben," the Swabians of southwestern Germany. As far back as the first century AD, a Roman knight traveled from Carnuntum, a legion camp near Vienna, to the Baltic Sea coast to trade in amber.
Roman diplomats were also eager to intervene in their neighbors' affairs, bribing tribal princes, organizing assassinations and supporting their favorites all the way to the throne. Excavations in the state of Lower Saxony in August 2008 even uncovered a battlefield containing the remains of 3rd century weapons. Closer inspection revealed that a Roman legion equipped with catapults had advanced as far as the Harz region in central Germany in a lightning campaign probably intended to punish insubordinate tribes.
These soldiers didn't have to struggle through wastelands and swamps to get there. "We were able to locate 11 settlements along the highway that started at Moers on the Rhine and reached as far as the Sambia peninsula in present day Kaliningrad," Kleineberg explains.
Tory Historian rarely finds anything in the news to smile about but this is certainly one such item. The BBC and other outlets such as the New York Times reports that when cleaning a painting that was supposed to be possibly by Bruegel the Younger, the Prado restorers that it was, in fact, that rare thing a signed painting by the most talented of all Bruegels, Pieter the Elder.
Tory Historian, having had to read numerous British political philosophers and to discuss their fascinating and overwhelmingly important ideas, has always found it slightly odd to hear people pronounce that the British do not care for ideas - they just muddle through. Given that most of the modern world's ideas (and all of the more beneficent ones) emerged from this country to spread across the world, this seems to be particularly fatuous.
It was, therefore, with some interest that TH received a link to an old essay of Friedrich Hayek's, first published in the Spectator in January of 1945 and reprinted by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, presumably because this is by Hayek and not because they are particularly interested in Britain.
Hayek's friends and acquaintances who tell him that he should not worry because the British always muddle through somehow must have been responding to his great bookd The Road to Serfdom in which he warned that the economic structure that had been put together during the war and was intended to continue afterwards was leading to statist tyranny of the kind the war was supposed to have been fought against.
Well, apart from the fact that British history is ambivalent on whether the people had always simply muddled through, Hayek makes a very important point:
The peculiar point about these invocations of the genius for compromise is that they are produced in reply to an argument which, at least by implication, was a defense of the very institutions which have created this trait, and a warning that they are rapidly disappearing. If in the growth of the social and political structure of Britain the unforeseen and unintended has so frequently emerged, this is of course merely another way of saying that it has never been planned as a whole. In the piecemeal process of adaptation and change there has always been opportunity for the people to change institutions into something different from what they were intended to be, to create a society which was not the result of a single coherent plan, but of innumerable decisions of free men and women.We are still living with the consequences of that insouciant mistake.
The confidence that in the end things would somehow turn out right was largely justified by the fact that in a free society the actions of the government were of minor importance compared with the manner in which the people turned to their own use whatever instruments the government provided. The trust in muddling through, in the capacity for reconciling opposites, is in fact an unconscious tribute to the laissez-faire age, wholly inappropriate to the fully organized society now widely regarded as an ideal.
Reliance on such a belief may indeed prove to be a very dangerous superstition. When one finds this particular argument used in effect as a defense of central planning of all economic activity, when it is appealed to as an assurance that none of the consequences need follow which experience shows to have followed elsewhere, the muddle has clearly been allowed to persist too long. If there is anyone who has no right to argue that things will not work out according to logic, who is not entitled to put his trust in the genius for compromise and for muddling through, it is the modern planner. If everything is to be "consciously directed according to a single blueprint," as he wishes, if every detail is to be thought out beforehand and to be made part of an integrated plan, there can be no room for those spontaneous adjustments by which a people adapt a system to their peculiar genius.
Read the whole piece. Very well worth it.
Readers of this blog will be aware that Tory Historian is very fond of maps. Maps should accompany most history books, especially those that deal with travelling and battles. Sadly, the British Library exhibition, entitled Magnificent Maps - Power, Propaganda and Art, all words to thrill Tory Historian's heart, is coming to an end this week-end. However, there is a Curators' Blog on the subject, which TH hopes will continue beyond the exhibition, as it seems to have wonderful illustrations and descriptions of maps that did not make it into the exhibition.
Tory Historian was once again taking time off and almost missed this extraordinarily witty and touching tribute in the Economist to Bill Millin, the man who piped in the D-Day landing at Sword Beach and who died on August 17, aged 88.
ANY reasonable observer might have thought Bill Millin was unarmed as he jumped off the landing ramp at Sword Beach, in Normandy, on June 6th 1944. Unlike his colleagues, the pale 21-year-old held no rifle in his hands. Of course, in full Highland rig as he was, he had his trusty skean dhu, his little dirk, tucked in his right sock. But that was soon under three feet of water as he waded ashore, a weary soldier still smelling his own vomit from a night in a close boat on a choppy sea, and whose kilt in the freezing water was floating prettily round him like a ballerina’s skirt.And so Mr Millin piped through that terrible advance and into Normandy.
But Mr Millin was not unarmed; far from it. He held his pipes, high over his head at first to keep them from the wet (for while whisky was said to be good for the bag, salt water wasn’t), then cradled in his arms to play. And bagpipes, by long tradition, counted as instruments of war. An English judge had said so after the Scots’ great defeat at Culloden in 1746; a piper was a fighter like the rest, and his music was his weapon. The whining skirl of the pipes had struck dread into the Germans on the Somme, who had called the kilted pipers “Ladies from Hell”. And it raised the hearts and minds of the home side, so much so that when Mr Millin played on June 5th, as the troops left for France past the Isle of Wight and he was standing on the bowsprit just about keeping his balance above the waves getting rougher, the wild cheers of the crowd drowned out the sound of his pipes even to himself.
Three times therefore he walked up and down at the edge of the sea. He remembered the sand shaking under his feet from mortar fire and the dead bodies rolling in the surf, against his legs. For the rest of the day, whenever required, he played. He piped the advancing troops along the raised road by the Caen canal, seeing the flashes from the rifle of a sniper about 100 yards ahead, noticing only after a minute or so that everyone behind him had hit the deck in the dust. When Lovat had dispatched the sniper, he struck up again. He led the company down the main street of Bénouville playing “Blue Bonnets over the Border”, refusing to run when the commander of 6 Commando urged him to; pipers walked as they played.In the comments to the article there is information about a projected memorial to Billy Millin and his bagpipes at Pegasus Bridge.
He took them across two bridges, one (later renamed the Pegasus Bridge) ringing and banging as shrapnel hit the metal sides, one merely with railings which bullets whistled through: “the longest bridge I ever piped across.” Those two crossings marked their successful rendezvous with the troops who had preceded them. All the way, he learned later, German snipers had had him in their sights but, out of pity for this madman, had not fired. That was their story. Mr Millin himself knew he wasn’t going to die. Piping was too enjoyable, as he had discovered in the Boys’ Brigade band and all through his short army career. And piping protected him.
Tory Historian was enthralled by the story of the marine who first served in the Anglo-Sudan war, went on to the Western Front in the First World War, retired but felt he could not live without serving his country so he spent 18 months in the Royal Irish Constabulary.
During the inter-war years he was appointed skipper of a private ocean-going yacht and in 1929 undertook and led a big game hunting party in central Africa.Good grief!
At 63, he got involved in the Spanish Civil War, joining the Spanish non-intervention Organisation as a sea observation officer and helped escort ships into Spanish ports.
At the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 he volunteered for service aged 64 and was commissioned and made responsible for security at the Admiralty.
He won the Defence Medal and War Medal and in 1945 he resigned his commission shortly before his 70th birthday. He died at his Suffolk home in 1968 aged 93.
All this was established from his medals and various documents that were discovered during a house clearance.
Here is an interesting quote from an article Noel Skelton published in the Spectator on May 3, 1924, entitled Private Property: A Unionist Ideal.
It follows that the extent of the distribution of private property is the measure, on its economic side, of a civilization's stability and success. Similarly, character and a sense of responsibility are rooted in a man's possession of 'something of his own'. A democracy withoug scope for the development of economic character and responsibility, cut off from private ownership, cannot be expected to understand the material foundations of civilization.This is the exact opposite of the idea that reliance must be put on the state and property should be held by it in the people's name and for the people's good.
A delightful collection of colour photographs taken in Russia in the early twentieth century by the chemist and photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, who had made numerous innovations in photography and started a systematic photographic documentary of the Russian Empire. About half of the photographs and plates were confiscated by the authorities when Prokudin-Gorsky left the Russia in 1918 to settle eventually in France where he continued his work. The remaining half is now in the Library of Congress. Here are some more of the images. There are so many and they are so fascinating that choosing one seems impossible.
Tory Historian has, once again, been out of action and, therefore, a few dates have not been noted. August 21 was the anniversary of the birth of the last Hanoverian king, William IV and August 22 was the anniversary of the death, in battle, of the last Plantagenet King, Richard III. Tory Historian seems to have written about him several times (far too often some readers might say). Here is the link to all the postings on the subject.
This is actually a quotation within the book. Richard A. Gaunt in his Sir Robert Peel - The Life and Legacy quotes an obituary from Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine of September 1850:
The death of Sir Robert Peel was an event so sudden, so unexpected, and so distressing that it excited a universal feeling of sympathy in the British heart, and stilled for a season every voice but that of melancholy among the immense multitudes to whom his public career had made him known. It stifled, during the first paroxysm of grief, even the loud wail of national distress: it obliterated the deep lines of party distinction: it caused to be forgotten the most painful feelings of extinguished confidence. All classes hastened to pay tribute to the eminent statesman who lay extended on the bed of premature death ... But there is a time for all things. There is a time for sorrow, and there is a time for justice. There is a season for sympathy with the agonised hearts of mourning relaties, and there is a season for calm reflection on the acts of public men. Death at once renders them the province of history.As to how long the gap between the sympathy and the calm reflection ought to be is hard to judge. Indeed, we have no clear views on it and never have had. Much depends on the attitude one takes to the particular public figure.
This comes from David Torrance's Noel Skelton and the Property-Owning Democracy and concerns the founding of the 1922 Committee and the death of a coalition.
The Carlton Club meeting of 1922 was integral to the development of the Conservative Party as a more democratic organisation, and to a country struggling to come to terms with the realities of the post-war era. A revolt by a group of junior ministers was the first hint that something was afoot, and in October backbench Conservatives decided to overthrow their leader, Austen Chamberlain, and withdraw from the coalition. Following speeches from Andrew Bonar Law, a Canadian Scot, and Stanley Baldwin, a half-Scots laird who affected a 'man of the people' image, MPs voted 185 to 85 in favour of discontinuing the six-year coalition and filed out of the Pall Mall club to face the consequences. It triggered an immediate general election and marked, in effect, the beginning of modern British politics.One has to admit that several events are described as marking the beginning of modern British politics so one need to take them with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, there is some truth in it.
World War II ends definitively with Japanese surrender. On August 15 the Emperor broadcast to the people of Japan announcing this fact. Some Japanese soldiers and officers, shocked by the surrender and by the actual fact of the Emperor's broadcast, committed suicide. It was later established that the execution of Allied POWs continued for some time.
The Conservative History Group wants to publish the next issue of the Conservative History Journal at the end of November. So, here is your chance to contribute an article on any aspect of conservative history - not just the party or the politicians but other topics; not just in Britain but in other countries. The glory of being a published author awaits you.
Tory Historian has been wading into literary studies of a kind by reading a fascinating book by that well-known man of letters, John Gross, on Shylock (a review in the Independent). Among other many fascinating things even in the first third, Tory Historian found this aperçu:
Between them, Antonio and Shylock represent two extreme versions of Economic Man, one benevolent, the other malign. Jekyll-Antonio embodies the fantasy that you can enjoy the benefits of economic enterprise and confer them on your society, without being competitive and self-assertive. Hyde-Shylock is the capitalist as total predator conferring good on no one except himself. They are twin aspects of the same phenomenon; and a tremendous amount of the play's energy is pent on keeping them apart.Antonio is the merchant of the title who has trading interests all over the world and is known for lending money without interest, which annoys Shylock for the very good reason that it undercuts his own business and that of people like him.
From the USS Augusta, in mid-Atlantic President Harry S Truman announced the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was dropped from an American B-29 Superfortress, known as Enola Gray. The second picture, from DefenseImagery.mil and reprinted with their permission, shows an aerial view of the USAAF North Field on Tinian Island from which B-29 bombers flew throughout World War II. That included the two that flew to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The two bombs undoubtedly brought the war in the Pacific to a much speedier conclusion and inaugurated a completely new age in military thinking and international affairs.
Reading David Torrance's book about Noel Skelton I came across a number of quotes from various Conservative (and, funnily enough, Labour) politicians, all in their own way exhorting the idea of "property-owning" democracy. John Buchan, who was also a long-standing friend of Skelton's, put it most succinctly in my opinion:
In a 1933 speech Buchan said he "believed in a property-owning democracy. Unless a man owned a certain amount of property he could not have real freedom. The vital task before a civilized state was not to do things for a man, but to put him in a position to do things for himself".This theme continues to resonate both in Britain and developing countries where, it has now been accepted by many people, though not by governments or NGOs, nothing will improve until the idea of property becomes a strong basis of economic life.
Tory Historian's attention was called to a review in the Wall Street Journal of a book that will be borrowed from London Library at the first possible opportunity: Joel Mokyr's The Enlightened Economy. The reviewer, Trevor Butterworth who is the editor of STATS.org and a columnist for Forbes.com, thinks this is the tome that should be read by all those who are interested in financial and economic matters.
The theme of the books is a question: why, of all European countries, many as advanced if not more so, it was Britain that had the Industrial Revolution?
Here is a paragraph from the review that points towards some of the answers:
But the power of knowledge would not, by itself, have given Britain its formidable economic edge; the Continent, too, had an array of scientific genius as brilliant as any in Scotland and England. (Think only of the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier.) The reason for Britain's exceptionalism, Mr. Mokyr says, lies in the increasing hostility to rent-seeking — the use of political power to redistribute rather than create wealth — among the country's most important intellectuals in the second half of the 18th century. Indeed, a host of liberal ideas, in the classic sense, took hold: the rejection of mercantilism's closed markets, the weakening of guilds and the expansion of internal free trade, and robust physical and intellectual property rights all put Britain far ahead of France, where violent revolution was needed to disrupt the privileges of the old regime.Rent seeking remains a constant problem, perhaps a greater one in the Britain of the twenty-first century than that of the eighteenth.
On July 30, 1990 Ian Gow, Conservative MP, a strong opponent of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, an erstwhile close friend and colleague of Airey Neave's, a man who worked closely with the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was assassinated by a bomb planted under his car in his constituency. Direct violence entered British politics again as it had done with the assassination of Airey Neave.
In the Guardian Jonathan Aitken and Edward Pearce called him "a Thatcherite romantic" and said
With the assassination yesterday of Ian Gow, the House of Commons has lost one of its most admired and courageous characters. In government he had played a pivotal role in the making of the Thatcher revolution, while on the backbenches he was one of those rare parliamentarians who could captivate both sides of the House with a stylish humour that was sui generis.Mrs Thatcher lost one of her strongest supporters in her fight for her position though, apparently, Mr Gow had decided that her premiership had run to its natural close and she ought to resign. Perhaps, with him around the resignation and events surrounding it would not have been quite so messy. Perhaps.
David Torrance, author of the book about Noel Skelton that so fortuitously arrived in the post the other day, has an article in the Scottish edition of The Times (channelled here by his publisher BiteBack). He writes about the hero of his book, a man who was a Unionist, Scottish and British, a Conservative and the man who saw clearly the importance of property-owning democracy, which is the exact opposite of socialist re-distribution by the state in whatever form.
The poet, essayist, MP, irascible Catholic, Hilaire Belloc was born on July 27, 1870 in France but became a British subject in 1902.
As this is the Conservative History blog, perhaps one should stick to the political poems, few of whom are better than Lord Lundy [scroll down], who
from his earliest yearsWell, we know what happened to Lord Lundy:
Was far too freely moved to Tears.
It happened to Lord Lundy then,It was that terrible tendency to be far too freely moved to tears.
As happens to so many men:
Towards the age of twenty-six,
They shoved him into politics;
In which profession he commanded
The Income that his rank demanded
In turn as Secretary for
India, the Colonies, and War.
But very soon his friends began
To doubt is he were quite the man:
They let him sink from Post to Post,What could be more conservative and, therefore, anti-utopian and anti-political than Belloc's famous quatrain about an election:
From fifteen hundred at the most
To eight, and barely six--and then
To be Curator of Big Ben!. . .
And finally there came a Threat
To oust him from the Cabinet!
The Duke -- his aged grand-sire -- bore
The shame till he could bear no more.
He rallied his declining powers,
Summoned the youth to Brackley Towers,
And bitterly addressed him thus--
"Sir! you have disappointed us!
We had intended you to be
The next Prime Minister but three:
The stocks were sold; the Press was squared:
The Middle Class was quite prepared.
But as it is! . . . My language fails!
Go out and govern New South Wales!"
The accursed power which stands on PrivilegeReaders of the blog may well have other favourites. They are welcome to post them.
(And goes with Women, and Champagne and Bridge)
Broke and Democracy resumed her reign:
(Which goes with Bridge, and Women and Champagne)
Since the sixtieth anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War (too often forgotten by commentators) was marked by Tory Historian, it is worth pointing out that it ended on July 27, 1953 with the signing of a peace agreement at Panmunjom. It lasted three years and cost around 5 million lives.
... a very interesting looking book by David Torrance, a previous contributor to the Conservative History Journal, about Noel Skelton and property-owning democracy. Once I have read it I shall try to interview David for the Journal or the blog.
Tory Historian returns with a round-up of recent finds in the historical and archaeological world.
Of greatest interest to TH is this collection of Victorian photographs of golfers playing at St Andrews.
Ladies are pictured wearing enormous frocks and wielding their clubs while spectators look on.The album was auctioned on July 13 by Mullock's Auctioneers at St Andrews as part of a Golfing Memorabilia sale.
The women were playing for the Ladies' Monthly Medal in September 1884 and the clubhouse can be seen in the background.
The distinctive sandy beach is also shown in some of the snaps of the course that will host the Open Championship later this week.
Other photographs show a match played between a pair of "strangers" and two locals.
Now we need to move further back in history and in the news items. On July 5 it was reported that the earliest illustrated Bible has been found in an Ethiopian monastery and is being preserved by a British charity, the Ethiopian Heritage Fund.
recently unearthed a clay fragment dating back to the 14th century BCE, said to be the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem.It is, indeed, a fragment but its historical significance may well turn out to be very big, indeed.
The minuscule fragment contains Akkadian words written in ancient cuneiform symbols. Researchers say that while the symbols appear to be insignificant, containing simply the words “you,” “you were,” “them,” “to do,” and “later,” the high quality of the writing indicates that it was written by a highly skilled scribe. Such a revelation would mean that the piece was likely written for tablets that were part of a royal household.That is not all. Nearer home, a huge treasure trove of more than 52,000 coins dating from the third century AD was found by that ever-useful person, a man with a metal detector near Frome in Somerset. Admittedly, the actual find was made in April but it has only just been announced because archaeologists from the British Museum have been working through it and local officials have been making comments about how wonderfully well the scheme they had set up for the finding of local treasures has been working.
The find was uncovered in a fill taken from the Ophel area, which lies between the Old City’s southern wall and the City of David. The Ophel digs are being carried out by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University Institute of Archeology, through funding from US donors Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York.
According to Mazar, the fragment was discovered over a month and a half ago during wet sifting of the Ophel excavations, but was only released to the press this week because researchers wanted to wait until analysis of the piece was complete so as to be absolutely certain of the details of the find.
The most ancient piece of writing found in Jerusalem before the Ophel fragment was a tablet unearthed in the Shiloah water in the City of David, dating back to the eighth century BCE – nearly 600 years “younger” than the Ophel find.
The remains of a thousand years of maritime trade, as well as the products of dozens of wars, are crumbling in the mud and silt at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. In addition to items with great cultural and historical value, the depths conceal the rusting remains of poison gas grenades, high explosive shells and aircraft bombs, all of which represent obstacles to pipeline construction. "It was not an easy situation," says Nord Stream spokesman Steffen Ebert. "We were under considerable time pressure."The Baltic Sea can yield all sorts of interesting objects, even champagne. Swedish divers found about 30 bottles of 220 year old bubbly in a shipwreck off the Island of Aaland.
The day was characterised by convoy raids off North Foreland and Dover. During the night, the east coast, home counties and western Scotland were attacked. The weather was showery in the southeast and Channel, with continuous rain elsewhere.Germany was not really in a position to invade though people may be forgiven for thinking so at the time. The Battle of Britain was the first real set-back for the German forces. Let us not forget the non-British who took part in it, particularly the Poles who were not allowed to take part in the Victory Parade fly-past in 1946.
Tory Historian was intrigued to find this quotation from the Economist of May 3, 1845 on the subject of Sir Robert Peel's Bank Charter Act:
It is because we feel strongly that the interference of Parliament, under the pretext of supplying prudence, and regulating the interests and responsibilities of commerce in any way, has always proved a serious failure, and a miserable substitution for that individual caution which it is so well calculated to supplant, that we feel bound to oppose such legislation generally. And particularly so in the present instance, because we believe that the means proposed are calculated to have an opposite tendency: to endanger more the solvency of banks, and very materially and unnecessarily to aggravate the evils arising from commercial revulsions and adverse exchanges, to which a great commercial country must ever be less or more subject.Tory Historian cannot help wondering whether such words could appear in any media outlet today.
This may come a little too late for some people but I did put up the information a few days ago. The Conservative History Group will be having a meeting today.
Venue: The Grimond Room, Portcullis House
Our speaker will be Dr Tim Bale of Sussex University, whose book The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron was published earlier this year. With Mr Cameron now in Downing Street, it is an opportune moment to consider the recent history of the Party, and we will be joined in doing so by our Chairman, Keith Simpson MP, and by ConservativeHome’s Co-Editor Jonathan Isaby.
The forgotten war, as it is known, especially in Britain, began on June 25, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. Astonishingly enough, it was the UN that mobilized forces to support South Korea but then the USSR was temporarily exercising an empty seat policy. Undoubtedly, it would have stopped any UN action, otherwise. According to recent books on the subject of Soviet espionage in the United States, Soviet penetration of the Manhattan Project, which allowed Stalin to build an atom bomb considerably faster than anyone had expected also enabled him to give North Korea the go-ahead for its invasion.
The picture is being republished with the full consent of the Department of Defence. Their policy is to allow all reproduction of photographs that is their property. It is of Pfc. Julias Van Den Stock of Company A, 32nd Regimental Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division with M1 or M2 Carbine, resting on a Chinese Communist bunker with a Soviet DP light machine gun, along the slope of Hill 902 north of Ip-Tong.
Just to complete the posting here is the beginning of what, in Tory Historian's opinion, is the best film about the Korean War: The Manchurian Candidate.
Tory Historian has finished reading Earl Stanhope's Conversations with Wellington (mentioned here and here) and, having recently read John Charmley's biography of Princess Lieven (here and here) could not help spending some time in meditation about the Duke of Wellington's role as politician.
It was not so long ago that I discussed with a regular contributor to the Conservative History Journal the paucity of Robert Peel biographies. Well, sometimes you wait for ages and then several come at once.
In 2007 we had Douglas Hurd's Sir Robert Peel: A Biography and today the postman delivered Richard Gaunt's new book that I have mentioned in a previous posting. More about it as I read it but as a taster, here is a quotation from Richard Gaunt's musings about Peel's reputation:
At the start of the twenty-first century, we remember Peel for breaking down what he built up (notably his 1842 Corn Law and, more controversially, the Conservative Party itself) or amending what he found (for example, in Ireland and at the Home Office) as well as for the unintended consequences of some of his achievements (not least in respect of the Income Tax and Bank Charter Act). from his youth, Peel was offered up on the altar of Pittite pieties to the future service of the nation. To that extent he has become party of the heroic genealogy of politcal leaders stretching thenceforth from the Younger Pitt by way of Canning down to Gladstone and the triumph of a progressive strand of Conservatism, and/or conservative strand of Liberalism. To designate him a false 'Tory', a renegade 'Conservative', a 'Liberal Tory', a 'Liberal Conservative' or a proto-Gladstonian Liberal, is to play, semantically, with the career of a shrewd, ambitious and complex political operator and try and give it helpful characterisation within a sometimes limited politicla vocabulary. Peel's own outlook and views combined a rigid adherence to certain fixed principles - his Protestantism, his executive outlook, his attachment to Bullionist theory and his growing commitment to the tenets of Free Trade - within an overall process of self-education as to the means of furthering them.As they used to say in examination papers: discuss.
The Battle of Waterloo - the final battle of the long Napoleonic wars that engulfed Europe taking over from the Revolutionary wars before that. It resulted in a comprehensive defeat for Napoleon who left the battle field knowing (whatever he may have dreamed later) that he would now have to go into real exile and stay there.
The Daily Telegraph (prototype of Peter Simple's Feudal Times and Reactionary Herald - those were the days) has published what was undoubtedly the most exciting news of the day: the bones of the female skeleton found in a grave near Magdeburg two years ago do appear to be those of Queen Eadgyth, grand-daughter of Alfred the Great, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I and sister of King Athelstan "became the first official King of England after unifying Saxon and Celtic kingdoms after the battle of Brunanburgh in 937 AD".
The Conservative History Group, which has a new Director in the person of Nigel Fletcher, will be holding its first post-election meeting.
Tuesday, 29th June at 6.30pm
Venue: The Grimond Room, Portcullis House
Our speaker will be Dr Tim Bale of Sussex University, whose book The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron was published earlier this year. With Mr Cameron now in Downing Street, it is an opportune moment to consider the recent history of the Party, and we will be joined in doing so by our Chairman, Keith Simpson MP, and by ConservativeHome’s Co-Editor Jonathan Isaby.
Tory Historian returned to the excellent National Portrait Gallery exhibition, The Indian Portrait. It is free and will not be closing till this coming Sunday. It is thoroughly to be recommended for the wonderful pictures as much as the explanation of various developments - enough to give one some idea of how matter stood in various princedoms, politically and artistically; of the Mughal influence; and of the British one - but not enough to make one's head spin. Of course, those who already know the history in some detail will find the explanations superficial but, Tory Historian hopes, the art superlative.