One cannot read it in full on-line (or not for free, anyway) but December's issue of History Today has an article by me on Yelena Molokhovets, the Russian Mrs Beeton.




Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

This may not seem to be an entirely suitable theme for the Conservative History Journal but from time to time we do look beyond such themes. The purges and show trials of post-Second World War Eastern Europe affected those countries and, consequently, the whole Continent and it history profoundly. The last of those trials took place sixty years ago this week. On the second blog there is a long article on the subject. I can't say enjoy it but I do hope people will read it and find it interesting. I welcome any reasonable comment, question and criticism.

It is appropriate, Tory Historian ventures to observe, that this piece should be written in the Reading of Room of that wonderful institution, the London Library, whose highly active President T. S.Eliot and to whom his widow was remarkably generous.

The story of the salvation she provided to the tormented and guilt-ridden poet, whose first marriage had not only broken down but had destroyed both husband and wife, has been told often enough as has Valerie's care of her husband and the nurturing of his legacy after his death that included such actions as the setting up of the T. S. Eliot prize for poetry.

It is worth reading the detailed and admiring obituary in the Daily Telegraph, an equally admiring piece by David Morley and Ion Trewin's obituary in the Guardian.

An interesting posting by a friend of this blog, Stephen MacLean on 1776 and the ideas of freedom expressed by, among others, Adam Smith and the writers of the Declaration of Independence, also on how these ideas have been undermined by succeeding government on both sides of the Pond. Just a hint: the Founding Fathers did not intend the President to be quite such an important and politically overwhelming figure. Whether he is actually powerful is a moot point.

Anyone who asks what sort of narrative can British Muslims have should be told about the tens of thousands of them who fought for Britain in two world wars and at other times. There are other narratives as well, but this is the one I am concerned with in particular today as I was sent this link.

The Princess Royal has unveiled a sculpture of Noor Inayat Khan, a WWII agent dubbed the "Spy Princess" by her biographer Shrabani Basu, in London's Gordon Square Gardens.
Raised in Britain and France and a descendant of Indian royalty, bilingual Noor Inayat Khan was recruited by the elite Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1942 to work in Paris as a radio operator.
Records from the national archives show she was the first female wireless operator sent to Nazi-occupied France during World War II.
After evading capture for three months, the spy was imprisoned, tortured and eventually shot by the German Gestapo at Dachau concentration camp in 1944.
Her final word - uttered as the German firing squad raised their weapons - was simple. "Liberté".
Liberty was a notion the pacificist-turned-war-heroine held deeply, according to Ms Basu.
 It has been argued that love of liberty rather than love of Britain inspired her and that this love ran in her family.
Noor Inayat Khan's great-great-great-grandfather was Tipu Sultan, an 18th century Muslim ruler of Mysore. He refused to submit to British rule and was killed in battle in 1799.
Born on 1 January 1914 in Russia to an Indian father and American mother, the agent's infancy was spent in London.
The family moved to France when she was a child and lived in Paris, where she was educated and learnt fluent French.
The national archives describe how the sensitive young woman studied both medicine and music.
In 1939 the Twenty Jataka Tales, a collection of traditional Indian children's stories she had retold, were published in Le Figaro.
When war broke out in 1939, Noor Inayat Khan trained as a nurse with the French Red Cross.
She fled the country just before the government surrendered to Germany in November 1940, escaping by boat to England with her mother and sister.
Subsequently, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and was recruited into the SOE. The article implies that there may have been some problems between her and the higher echelons of the service and she may well have gone beyond her orders in her work. One would have to read the book to find out the details.

Many people came to Britain and joined the forces because of their love of their own country or just the desire to fight evil. That, too, is part of this country's history as is Noor Inayat Khan's heroic, tragic and inspiring story.


This is probably the nearest England comes to having a special historical anniversary and a truly gruesome tale it is, too. It's quite a treat to see the horror that dawns on faces of Americans or Europeans as one explains to them what it is exactly that we are celebrating. "That guy is a symbol of the fact that the badly tortured Guy Fawkes who then confessed was hung, drawn and quartered before being burned to death. Let me explain what hanging, drawing and quartering means." Pale faces all round.

A couple of links that are of interest. History Today has an article about the various alternatives that Catholics faced in Jacobean England and why this group decided on terrorism. There are many interesting points in that article, which gives a very coherent analysis of the situation and of the options available. It is worth remembering that any group that wanted to dispose of the existing monarch and put a Catholic one in his place had in mind a complete destabilization of the country, something Elizabeth and her advisers understood very well. A glance across the Channel, the war in the Low Countries and the civil war in France, would have shown what that would entail.

The article touches on the various legends and theories that have been woven round the Plot. Here is a slightly less well written piece that discusses the possibility that it was all either set up or exaggerated by Robert Cecil, the first Earl of Salisbury.

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