Sunday, January 22, 2012

If you aren't getting anywhere with your HEX research, maybe this?

I think that this would make a fascinating subject!

Emmett Till and the Impact of Images
Photos of Murdered Youth Spurred Civil Rights Activism


In 1955, Jet magazine published photographs of the mutilated body of 14-year-old Chicago resident Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered in Mississippi. Many civil rights activists say seeing those pictures both haunted and inspired them. NPR's Noah Adams reports on the decision to publish the photos and the wide-ranging effect they had.

Margaret Block, a long-time activist in Cleveland, Miss., was a young girl when the pictures were published. "I remember not being able to sleep when I saw [the photos]," she says. "Can you imagine being 11 years old and seeing something like that for the first time in your life and it being close to home? The death of Emmett Till touched us, it touched everybody. And we always said if we ever got a chance to do something, we were going to change things around here."

For Charles Cobb, a Washington, D.C., journalist and author, the photos were also a catalyst to activism. Cobb first saw the pictures when he was 12 years old. He went on to develop the "Freedom Schools" that mobilized black voters throughout Mississippi in 1964.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Changing Attitudes During WW1

HSC Modern History markers love it when a student questions something that is taken for granted.

In the WW1 Section you may get a question on Changing Attitudes During WW1. The accepted version has it that everyone was keen and enthusiastic about the war when it broke out in August 1914 and then as the war wore on they became less and less enthusiastic. It may be worth questioning this and raising the possibility that there may have been a large number of people who were not so positive about the conflict right from its beginning.

Trafalgar Square was the site of two large gatherings of people in the last few days of peace. They had very different characters:

On Sunday August 2nd, a crowd gathered for a rally for peace. The speakers included the bearded former MP for West Ham South, Keir Hardie. Public opinion was divided over the war at the time, many wondering why Britain should get involved in a war rooted in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Labour politicians like Hardie were vehemently opposed to the war, many were out-right pacifists while others opposed involvement in this specific conflict. Liberals were divided – which was particularly important as they were the government of the day, led by H.H. Asquith. Attorney-General (and Walthamstow MP) Sir John Simon threatened to resign if Britain entered the war, but was talked out of it by Asquith. Unfortunately, it was a wet day.

This was one of the last major public rallies for peace. On the same day, the Germans demanded the right to enter Belgium; this was denied and on 3rd August, then invaded. The invasion of ‘Gallant Little Belgium’ significantly changed public opinion in Britain. Liberals were more inclined to support a war against an aggressive Germany.

Throughout the day on August 4th, people talked about the war. Crowds gathered in Westminster to find out what was going on and to support British intervention in the war.

The crowds were there when Sir Edward Grey, the foreign secretary, sent Germany an ultimatum to leave Belgian soil on that fateful Tuesdsay. These crowds were also filmed. There was still a crowd when the deadline was reached and Britain declared war on Germany at 11pm.

The idea that this was part of a nationwide spirit of ‘war enthusiasm’ has been comprehensively challenged (see Adrian Gregory, Niall Ferguson and Catriona Pennell among others). These crowds were not representative of the nation as a whole – note the youth of the men and the number of straw boaters, these were not the hats of the working classes! (Boaters are also prominent in the peace rally photo as well, of course). It is important to remember that in the days before the radio, people could not get updated news other than in public places – the square, the post office, the cinema or the town hall. People gathered to find out as well as to express opinions (see Jeffrey Verhey’s book on Germany in 1914). Not everyone in London was enthusiastic about the war – but these Westminster crowds certainly were.

Other ‘enthusiastic’ crowds appeared in London – usually trying to see off Territorial Force troops from local barracks. Further afield, people slept through the momentous declaration and woke to discover the news from newspapers and public announcements on the morning of the 5th.

As many times since 1914, Trafalgar Square was central to public displays of opinion. In recent times we can easily recall Trafalgar Square as the site of poll tax riots, anti-war demonstrations and student protests. It has also seen the parade of the Ashes-winning England cricket team and the celebrations of London winning the Olympic games. Many national moments have culminated in gatherings in the square. It is both rhetorically and literally the centre of London.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Past, Present and Propaganda

By Simon Heffer | Published in History Today Volume: 62 Issue: 1 2012

Simon Heffer argues that until relatively recently most historians have been biased in their efforts to harness the past to contemporary concerns.

I was moved to write my extended essay, A Short History of Power, when I realised, after a lifetime spent reading (and, occasionally, writing) history books, that much of what I had read was simply propaganda. The real reasons why great powers undertook wars or other aggressive policies were often rather unedifying and best dressed up as matters of high principle. Also, many historians have used the struggles of the past to amplify their views about the present.

This is less true with the modern, highly footnoted works of history than with those from the first half of the last century or the centuries before that. By no means is the propagandistic school of history absent from the modern genre – though I should probably attract a writ, if I were to suggest some of the eminent writers who I suspect are guilty of it – but it is harder to get away with blatant skew than once it was. However, from the late 18th to the mid-20th century British historians lived in a golden age of special pleading and downright bias.

I was first alerted to this about 15 years ago when I read, belatedly, James Anthony Froude’s history of the Tudors in the 10-volume Everyman edition. It was published almost a century ago in that format and became enormously popular with Everyman’s target audience of the self-educating lower-middle and working classes. Froude’s facts were as accurate as his researches at the time allowed them to be; but it is his tone that many would find unacceptable today. Through his accounts of the reigns of Henry VIII and his three children, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, Froude is determined at all times to support the Reformation and to uphold its consequences. He writes of Elizabeth as though she were almost saintly, expressing again and again his detestation of those Catholic (and largely Spanish) plotters who sought to knock her off the throne.

That detestation is nothing compared with what he reserves for Mary Tudor. Not only are her deeds outlined in bloodcurdling detail: Froude frequently makes disobliging remarks about her personality and even her looks. In the far more sectarian world of the mid-19th century, not long after John Henry Newman had gone over to Rome and sought to take numerous other bright younger men over with him, such anti-Catholicism was deemed absolutely acceptable.

History as religious propaganda was nothing new when Froude was writing. Edward Gibbon had put an undercurrent of the support of atheism into the Decline and Fall (1776-89). Thomas Babington Macaulay’s History of England (1848), as well as being propaganda for the Whig interpretation of history – for the notion that history is all about progress – also puts the boot into Catholicism. In an age of imperial expansion there was an insatiable demand for accounts of the English – more than the British – past that described the individualism of the nation and its independence of any foreign power. This is as true of J.R. Green as it is of Froude and Macaulay.

But perhaps the historian I had most in mind when I wrote the essay was Thomas Carlyle, to whom the notion of using history simply to tell a story was, with one exception, utter anathema. The exception is his first attempt at the genre, The French Revolution (1837), in which the author is content just to tell a very dramatic story with such power and colour that it is sometimes as if one is reading a screenplay. After that all Carlyle’s histories have a hidden agenda. Past and Present (1843) is a defence of feudalism and an attack on the modern capitalist England of the Industrial Revolution. Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches (1845) is used to further Carlyle’s belief in the hero or the strong man and the notion that might is right; as is Frederick the Great (1858-65).

The trait continued into the 20th century, though more among popular than among academic historians. What is Arthur Bryant if he is not propaganda? What point does the school of Marxist historians serve if it is not to propagandise for their shared political view? The Peterhouse school of historians at Cambridge that took its lead from Herbert Butterfield and, like him, took a caustic Tory approach to the Whig interpretation of history, existed (and in some places still exists) to advance a conservative view of the past. Whenever I talk to academic historians they speak keenly of the factions they perceive themselves to be in. History too often is propaganda: all that matters is that we see it for what, at times, it is.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year Eve 2012?? FAIL!!

Well I have begun my PHD work, in between the cricket of course, and can already see what a hard slog my year might end up being. I will fly through a couple of pages of revision and then spend two days on getting a small section just the way I want it.

I began the New Year with a bang! haha I grabbed an afternoon snack from the fridge on New Year’s Eve and then about 8 pm my tummy started to rumble. At 8.30 pm I began vomiting and spent the rest of the night doing that and sleeping. Food poisoning from Xmas leftovers. No champagne, no fireworks, just the next day hangover without any of the fun of getting it. I do hope it isn’t an omen for 2012 for me!?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Did this "really" cause the the fall of the British Empire?

Elise Foley

BOONE, Iowa (Can such a place truly exist?? haha)

Rick Santorum said Monday that the United Kingdom's development of a social safety net, including universal health care, cost the nation its empire and "world domination," a mantle he said the United States has assumed but is in danger of losing under Barack Obama.

"If you look at every European country that has had world domination, a world presence, from the French to the British -- 100 years ago, the sun didn't set on the British Empire," Santorum said at an appearance in Sioux City, Iowa. "If you look at that empire today -- why? Because they lost heart and faith in their heart in themselves and in their mission, who they were and what values they wanted to spread around the world. Not just for the betterment of the world, but safety and security and the benefit of their country."

"We have taken up that cause," Santorum added. But now, he said, "We have a president who doesn't believe in America."

Santorum said the United States is being handed to the United Nations under President Obama, who he often says cares about making government bigger, not better, for the American people.

"This is a decision about what kind of America you are going to hand to your children and grandchildren," he said in Boone. "Are you going to leave an America that is more and more dependent on bigger and bigger governments that do the things that families and churches and local communities should do?" as audience members shouted, "No!"

(Well he gets my vote for nut job of the day!)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

"The British class divide is not some beautifully costumed anachronism from a bygone era"

Downton Abbey's just the opiate of the middle classes
Retro porn is no cure for Britain's class ills

Barbara Ellen
The Observer, Sunday 1 January 2012

Please give me a moment, I feel queasy; I think I may have over-indulged in festive TV's comforting class retro-ism. Which means Downton Abbey of course. Not that I mind Downton (a decent enough soap), but it appears to have breathed fresh life into the cultural trend for rosy revisionism.

Then came the darker meat of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, depicting a social upstart, cowering in the blessed aura of his "betters", only becoming enlightened when things don't go his way.

All over the country, people were marvelling at how the British class system affected everything, back then, in "the olden days", though, strangely, not giving much thought to how it is still affecting a lot of things right now. Well of course not – one couldn't get a nice box set out of that.

I'm always hearing about how the British are obsessed with class, but I don't think that's so. Generally, people seem more interested in a certain brand of retro-class – class from the past, class at a distance, class that can neither touch nor shame them.

It's the same with the sudden literary fascination with servants' hard times below stairs – the surge of books about the poor, callus-handed maids, struggling up the back stairs with their scrubbing brushes and pails. Egalitarian in their way, they also reflect the ongoing cultural cleansing of class issues.

As in, it's fine to be obsessed with class so long as it's aimed at the very top and bottom of society (those conveniently unimaginable extremes) and occurred at least a century (or more) ago.

This way, we all get to enjoy the exquisite gowns and drawing rooms and tut-tut over the servants' dreadful working conditions, from the moral safety of the 21st century.

All of which obscures the fact that class still very much dominates British life.

Only last week, Lord Glasman said that the Oxbridge-heavy Labour party no longer truly reflected the working classes, while David Skelton, deputy director of Policy Exchange, pointed out that none of the three main parties had leaders, or indeed leading figures, from working-class backgrounds.

Away from politics, the richest still appear to be the richest, seemingly untouched by public anger. The middle classes are struggling, primarily to remain middle class (so much more expensive these days!). And the poorest are (natch!) still the poorest, with even the best and the brightest now stuck like never before, not least with free higher education yanked away and triple tuition fees looming.

This is the truth of Britain as it enters 2012. It's riddled with class inequality and its evil twin, poverty, yet what are we all doing – doping ourselves up on what amounts to stately home porn, fast becoming the sedative of choice, the St John's wort of the masses?

It's understandable enough. Modern class issues are real, depressing and make your brain hurt, while fictional retro-class skirmishes make for great family entertainment. It's not nice to think of the many young people unable to remain in education these days… but, woo hoo, did you see that cute Irish chauffeur run away with Lady Sybil in Downton?

Of course, what do we expect from festive television, where escapism will always trump realism? But would it be too extraordinary for people at least to acknowledge that the British class divide is not some beautifully costumed anachronism from a bygone era? Rather, it's something that's still very much with us and not in a cosy book club discussion kind of way.

At the start of 2012, it seems astonishing that anybody thinks they need to refer all the way back to Dickens or, for that matter, Julian Fellowes, for an education in the rights and wrongs of the British class system.

For those who are interested, it's still going strong, all around you, without a box set in sight.

It lives!

The Blog is back for 2012!