Man your buzzers for the quiz question

It is hard to imagine that the renowned environmental historian Jared Diamond’s new book Upheaval could have arrived in the UK at a more timely moment. The subtitle screams its urgent relevance: How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change. If that advice isn’t needed by our political class right now, you wouldn’t want to see when it was.

The book is made up of a number of case studies looking at how different nations have dealt with crises. Diamond examines Finland after its war with the Soviet Union, Chile and the legacy of General Pinochet’s rule, Japan’s response to foreign superiority in the 19th century, Indonesia after the Suharto massacres, Germany’s postwar rebuilding and Australia’s search for a postcolonial identity.

Ooooh, Ooooh, Teach, I know, I know!

We deal with a crisis by throwing the socialists out of helicopters?

One of you lot will know this

British oaks from some of the UK’s most famous estates could contribute towards the rebuilding of Notre Dame cathedral, following an offer from members of Historic Houses, the association for independently owned historic houses and gardens.

So far more than one hundred donor estates, including Belvoir Castle, Hutton-in-the-Forest, Scone Palace, Castle Howard, Holkham Hall and Powderham Castle have volunteered valuable trees, planted for timber centuries ago, as a gift from the UK to France for the restoration of the iconic landmark’s roof, destroyed by fire last week.

Super and why not.

So, it’s possible to find the trees. But how long does it take to cure (age, mature, what?) cut timber before you start using it as roof joists etc? I know you don’t just stick the green wood up there, but how long?

Utter Twaddle

Prime minister’s plan to lift mood after Brexit is set to clash with anniversary of Irish civil war

It was meant to be a glimmer of positivity to unite a divided nation – a festival to celebrate the best of British, bring communities together and strengthen “our precious union”.

Yet Theresa May is being warned that her plan for a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland risks doing the opposite. The planned 2022 event, announced at last year’s Conservative conference, was criticised as a headline-grabbing distraction. But May now faces concerns that the timing clashes with the centenary of Irish partition and the civil war. Arts industry figures in Northern Ireland and some of those involved in the peace process are also understood to have concerns. These worries are revealed in a report by the thinktank British Future, which examined the potential for arts and heritage to bring the nation together. The study calls on the festival to be delayed by at least three years.

What is now the Irish republic became the Irish Free State in 1922, while Northern Ireland remained part of the UK. A civil war erupted among Irish nationalists over the remaining links with Britain and raged for a year. Sunder Katwala, the report’s author, said: “Holding a festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2022, on the centenary of Ireland’s partition and civil war, would be the worst possible timing. It is only likely to heighten tensions between communities – and that’s before we know Brexit’s implications for the border. Right across the UK, a festival so closely associated with Brexit may only reinforce divides when it could be bridging them.”

Bollocks matey.

The anniversary of the Irish Civil War is an absolutely great and wondrous time to celebrate the unity of the UK and NI.

Because, quite obviously the Irish C W was at about the time that we got rid of those who didn’t want that unity.

Slightly odd thought

The first surprise is the role of Spain in the revolutionary war. In Paris in December 1776, Benjamin Franklin met in secret with the Count of Aranda, quickly convincing him Spain needed to side with the Americans. Ships leaving New England already called at Spanish ports such as Bilbao and Cádiz to purchase cod and flour.

Why would people just off the Grand Banks come to Spain to purchase cod?

I don’t know if they did or not but it does seem to be an odd thing to be doing.

Well, not quite so much

France’s most illustrious Italian import was Napoleon Bonaparte, who came from a family of Tuscan nobles and was born in Corsica as it changed hands from Genoa to France.

The nobility came because Papa made good wasn’t it? Rather than it being a long familial line, it was an appointment to – umm, tax collecting? – which ennobled Papa and thus gained free fees at the military school for Nappy?

Cruel but true

The favourite banana republic leftie hero when I was a kid was Chile’s Salvador Allende, perhaps the first Marxist to be democratically elected to office. Sal set a great example — he was killed before he could wreak any more havoc on his lovely country and so is still revered today by the left.

After three years of redistributing wealth like Robin Hood on steroids, the country was hit by a wage freeze, food shortages, a vicious black market, inflation of 140% — while Chile’s debt soared and the government defaulted on its loans. In other words, it was going exactly — exactly — the same way as Venezuela has gone in the past 17 years. That’s all it takes, three years of revolutionary socialist largesse accompanied by the mimsy poetry of Pablo Neruda and the country’s well on the way to being a basket case.

A coup replaced Allende with the very rightish General Augusto Pinochet and Chile’s economy was back to doing just fine, very quickly. Admittedly, Gus also killed a lot of people.

It did indeed happen


Anyone new to Auschwitz history may be unaware, as I was, that one of its objectives was to set up a local camp at Monowitz that would harbour a workforce to speed up the building (for the flagging war effort) of a nearby chemical factory. Monowitz, when Fritz and Gustav arrived, was a fenced and mud-sodden field of sheds – no kitchen, no sanitation, no heat – to which they were marched for three hours each day before working on the uncompleted factory. Here, swiftly identifying their skills in bricklaying and stitching, the Kleinmanns stayed alive while up to 150 of their less useful comrades went off each day to be gassed at Birkenau (Primo Levi was another survivor).

You’ve only got to change a few words to have a description of the Gulag. Starvation instead of gassing, bourgeois instead of Jew. Oh, and that we didn’t chase one set of guards and perpetrators to the ends of the Earth because reasons.

Telegraph news

The horrors of the Holocaust were once thought to have inflicted a deadly legacy on the health of survivors.

Torture, prolonged malnutrition and the daily grind of living in unhygienic, cold and damp concentration camps left victims suffering a range of chronic illnesses decades after they were liberated.

But a new study suggests that those who survived the Holocaust actually lived longer than others from the same era who were spared the atrocities.

Err, yes, 6 years ago:

Surviving Holocaust contributed to longevity, study finds
Analysis of 55,220 Polish immigrants to Israel finds men who experienced the Shoah lived on average 14 months longer than those who arrived before 1939

Note what the study’s about. It’s not surviving the death camps – the ones where off the rain, into the showers, die and be burnt down within hours. Very, very, few did survive those.

No, the work camps. So, why? Well, if you can survive those work camps you are, already and by definition, “fitter” than those who didn’t. One definition of fit at least.

How stupid can you be?

It started in New York City under Mayor [Ed] Koch, and Reagan took it and ran with it. It became Reaganomics, [which then spread to] Margaret Thatcher in the UK and then across the Western world and beyond.

Ed led to Reaganism? And Maggie, in office in 1979, was directed by Ronnie, in office starting 1981?


There’s a reasonable response to this complaint

Year 13 students are worried they might fail their history exam because they didn’t know what the word “trivial” meant.

The senior students have launched a petition asking for the essay to be marked based on students’ own definition of the “unfamiliar” word. It has so far received more than 1300 signatures.

Students sitting the NZQA Level 3 History causes and consequences paper on Wednesday were confronted with the word in a quote from Julius Caesar: “Events of importance are the result of trivial causes.”

Students were asked to analyse the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with Caesar, with reference to the causes and consequences of a historical event.

“You’re too ignorant to pass this exam” being a reasonable response perhaps?

Via Matthew in standingonheadland


The rehabilitation of Neanderthals has taken another step forward after scientists discovered they were no more violent than modern humans and could probably hunt just as well.

I’ve always assumed they were less violent. Partly because it’s difficult to think of an ape more violent that we are – hunter gatherer murder rates are something like 40% of all males die of murder. And secondly because, well, we won, right?

Hmm, well, yes

Ministers have thrown their support behind a campaign to put World War II hero Noor Inayat Khan on the new £50 note.

After the Bank of England announced there would be an open submissions process for the new note, which will be reissued in plastic in 2020, ministers and historians said it was the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about the brave Muslim spy.

There were other women who went through the same process. Not hugely sure that this particular one is more deserving. Being the unkind person I am though….

Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani…Foreign Office Minister of State Lord Ahmad….The campaign has begun to pick up momentum after being spearheaded by activist Zehra Zaidi, Tom Tugendhat MP and Baroness Warsi,


Subs! Subs!

Wilde’s uncle was John Kingsbury Elgee, who emigrated to New Orleans in the early 19th century and owned a sugar plantation with 515 slaves. Elgee was the brother of Wilde’s sister, Speranza, and “an Elgee family trait was a fondness for white supremacy”, Mendelssohn writes.


Also, the idea that someone in the 19th century might have been racist by modern standards. How much of a surprise is this? It’s like asking whether they had bad teeth by our standards, isn’t it?

Looking at the GCSE syllabus they’re already doing this aren’t they?

School children should be taught about the “grave injustices” of the British Empire, Jeremy Corbyn will say on Thursday, prompting a furious response from Tory politicians.

The Labour leader will announce plans to improve the teaching of black British history and the history of the British Empire, colonialism and slavery “to help ensure their legacy is more widely understood across the country”.

Mr Corbyn will outline Labour’s plans to support a new Emancipation Educational Trust, aimed at educating future generations about slavery and the struggle for emancipation.

How much fish did the Royal Navy eat?

I’m reading some Hornblower – on the basis of why the hell not – and there’s a scene in which they blow up an underwater wreck, an effect of which is to bring dead fish to the surface. Which they don’t collect. A slight oddity, as a major subtheme of this part of the story is how they’re negotiating for supplies from the coastal area they’re off- lamb, kids, lettuce etc.

Yes, I know about salt beef, hard tack and so on, the ritual menus of the day for the seamen. And in the Jack Aubrey books there’s some mention of fish being taken (I seem to recall a turbot at some point?) for the officer’s mess. Or even the Captain’s table.

But a thought occurs, of no importance at all but of interest to me at least. How much did the sailing Royal Navy supplement diets with fish? It obviously cannot be counted upon as anything central to the diet as large parts of the oceans are deserts. But how much supplementing went on? Did they routinely carry small nets? Lines and hooks? I cannot believe that anyone sailing the Grand Banks didn’t take a few cod but then that’s my imagination, not reality.

And to extend this out from the RN to merchantmen. Plenty of people must have ploughed though froths of herring or mackerel – did they take them? Routinely that is? Or out in deep, have lines out for tuna?

Armies often enough did try to live off the land – and as often get soundly beaten by those with good logistics trains. The RN did stock and carry its food, supplementing with bullocks and so on and especially anti-scorbutics when making landfall. But how much did the sea traffic of the time also try to pluck fish to add to the diet?

It couldn’t be that no one on board knew how to fish – the press gangs operated in coastal towns and villages. Similarly, it couldn’t be that fish wasn’t part of the land diet of the crew at the time for the same reason.

Any good sources on this? I can imagine it being anything from no, fishing was a most odd thing, through to a hopeful line dropped out of a gunport now and again right up to official but blind eye perhaps escapades with a jolly boat launched with a few good hands and a net to get some herring.

But does anyone know?

The Goldsmith’s students have been reading Der Stürmer

The equivalent of at least:

Students at a leading London university have been condemned as blind to reality after defending the system of Soviet Gulag labour camps where thousands perished as “compassionate” places of rehabilitation.

Trans rights campaigners at Goldsmiths University described the Gulags as benign places where inmates received education, training and enjoyed the opportunity to take part in clubs, sports and theatre groups.

Yes, OK, they’re idiots and they’re still being educated because we and they agree that they’re still ignorant to boot.

However, there are undoubtedly some out there who describe the Gulag in such terms. There are apologists for every human evil after all.

But here’s the error being made. It’s as if they’re gaining their knowledge of Auschwitz from Der Stürmer. Not exactly the manner by which one becomes enlightened.

But here’s the difference. We abhor those who use Theresienstadt as archetypal. Hound them out of public life. Those who gloss the Gulag likely gain professorships at the more radical Polys.

And wouldn’t it be interesting to have some sleuthing done? Where, in the material these students have likely come across – history books, lecture notes, tankie publications maybe – are those descriptions o that Gulag. Who wrote them? And o we get to go snarl at them as we would those who gloss Chelmno?

If not why not?

How can Imran Khan have 524 servants?

Khan plans to have only two servants instead of 524 reserved for a sitting premier.

A little history. Grandpops went off to Pakistan (then West Pakistan) to build their Air Force engineering college after independence. Ended up with 33 servants.

So, cook, housemaid, gardener. The gardener needs a boy, the cook a scullery maid, the housemaid an assistant. So there needs to be a laundress, soon we get to the point that we need a cook for the servants. Who needs an assistant, meaning a laundress for the servants, who then needs an assistant and……that’s how two people need 33 servants.

Civilisations die without trade

The last Viking settlements may have vanished after walruses moved to safer shores to avoid being hunted for their ivory, a new study suggests.

Norse communities founded by Erik the Red flourished in Greenland for 500 years but then disappeared suddenly in the late 15th century leaving towns and villages abandoned.

Now scientists at Cambridge University think they have solved the mystery. The Norse economy relied so heavily on the ivory trade that when supply and demand slumped they had no other way to make a living and were forced to leave.

Useful news from history, no? The importance of trade?