Something fun from Medieval Merriment (via Deb Salata): signatures of every English sovereign from Richard II to Elizabeth II, including Edward V (one of the disappeared Princes in the Tower) – but not Lady Jane Grey unfortunately.
Something fun from Medieval Merriment (via Deb Salata): signatures of every English sovereign from Richard II to Elizabeth II, including Edward V (one of the disappeared Princes in the Tower) – but not Lady Jane Grey unfortunately.
The V and A website has a Maqdala 1868 page, unfortunately only illustrating one object, a crown, which also appears in the Independent article. I had never heard of the Abyssinia Campaign; here is the introduction to the Wikipedia article:
The British Expedition to Abyssinia was a rescue mission and punitive expedition carried out in 1868 by the armed forces of the British Empire against the Ethiopian Empire. Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia, then often referred to by the anglicized nameTheodore, imprisoned several missionaries and two representatives of the British government in an attempt to get the attention of the British government, which had decided against his requests for military assistance. The punitive expedition launched by the British in response required the transportation of a sizable military force hundreds of miles across mountainous terrain lacking any road system. The formidable obstacles to the action were overcome by the commander of the expedition, General Sir Robert Napier, who was victorious in every battle with the troops of Tewodros, captured the Ethiopian capital and rescued all the hostages. The expedition was widely hailed on its return for achieving all its objectives.
Harold G. Marcus described the action as “one of the most expensive affairs of honour in history.”
April 8, 2018 marked the fifth anniversary of the death of Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady,” Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 1979-1990. Two things to come up on my Facebook feed in observance.
1. Alex Pareene in Salon:
The woman who wrecked Great Britain: Margaret Thatcher earned every single cheer that greeted her death
Despite their quaint maintenance of a monarchy, British politics are less respectful than ours, and the prime minister is afforded much less regal deference than our president — though by the end of her reign Thatcher was always using the royal “we” — so the death of Thatcher has and will be debated in the United Kingdom much more critically than the death of her comrade-in-arms against the postwar liberal consensus Ronald Reagan was in the United States. The more cowardly American press, though, calls her time in office “controversial” and then moves on to the much more comfortable territory of her extraordinary ambition, forceful personality and skill with a cutting remark. (Our weird class of privileged British expat media leeches have also guided the discussion of the Iron Lady along those lines.)
It would be a crime to allow hagiography and personality to distract from what made her so deeply despised: She ruined Britain.
Let’s skip the rise-to-power biographical crap — if you care you can see it in the Meryl Streep movie, I assume — and get to the point. She intentionally immiserated millions of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish people in order to carry out a liberalization of the British economy that benefited the wealthy at the expense of nearly everyone else. Decades after she left office, the country hasn’t recovered.
2. The Blaze offers sixteen memorable quotations:
On April 8, 2013, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the last of a Cold Warrior triumvirate that included President Ronald Reagan and Blessed John Paul II, died of stroke, leaving the world to reflect on her remarkable legacy.
“It was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher’s death. We have lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister, and a great Briton,” said current British Prime Minister David Cameron. “Lady Thatcher didn’t just lead our country, she saved our country.”
“With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend,” President Barak Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
And although she is remembered most for her political achievements and her steely resolve in bringing down the hated Iron Curtain, she was also know for her flair for rhetoric and her razor-sharp wit.
So, in honor of the passing of the great Iron Lady, here are 16 of the best Thatcherisms.
Read them at the link. My personal favorite: “The conference will go on.”
It’s a few years old, but I discovered an interesting article on Smithsonian.com just now:
When Republicans Were Blue and Democrats Were Red
The era of color-coded political parties is more recent than you might think
By Jodi Enda
Television’s first dynamic, color-coded presidential map, standing two stories high in the studio best known as the home to “Saturday Night Live,” was melting.
It was early October, 1976, the month before the map was to debut—live—on election night. At the urging of anchor John Chancellor, NBC had constructed the behemoth map to illustrate, in vivid blue and red, which states supported Republican incumbent Gerald Ford and which backed Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter.
The test run didn’t go well. Although the map was buttressed by a sturdy wood frame, the front of each state was plastic.
“There were thousands of bulbs,” recalled Roy Wetzel, then the newly minted general manager of NBC’s election unit. “The thing started to melt when we turned all the lights on. We then had to bring in gigantic interior air conditioning and fans to put behind the thing to cool it.”
That solved the problem. And when election results flowed in Tuesday night, Nov. 2, Studio 8-H at 30 Rockefeller Center lit up. Light bulbs on each state changed from undecided white to Republican blue and Democratic red. NBC declared Carter the winner at 3:30 a.m. EST, when Mississippi turned red.
That’s right: In the beginning, blue was red and red was blue and they changed back and forth from election to election and network to network in what appears, in hindsight, to be a flight of whimsy. The notion that there were “red states” and “blue states”—and that the former were Republican and the latter Democratic—wasn’t cemented on the national psyche until the year 2000.
Chalk up another one to Bush v. Gore. Not only did it give us “hanging chads” and a crash course in the Electoral College, not only did it lead to a controversial Supreme Court ruling and a heightened level of polarization that has intensified ever since, the Election That Wouldn’t End gave us a new political shorthand.
More at the link. Quite right: in Britain the colors are reversed – a true-blue is “a staunch royalist or Conservative,” while Labour is always represented by red, since they’re Commies. I guess now that the USSR is no more American conservatives can embrace the color red, which they used to be better dead than.
Another irony occurred to me not long ago – Wal-Mart, the reddest of red state institutions, identifies itself with the color blue, while Target, the Minneapolis-based chain with the cool advertisements, the affordable design, and the social conscience, decks itself in red.
On February 12, at the annual conference of the National Sheriffs’ Association, Attorney General Jeff Sessions used the expression “Anglo-American,” and some people have objected. This adjective was in an off-the-cuff digression (or at least, not included in his remarks as prepared for delivery); they may be seen in a YouTube video of the event, courtesy of NBC. A transcription:
Every sheriff in America, since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people, through the elected process. The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement. We must never erode this historic office. I know this, you know this, we want to be partners, we don’t want to be bosses. We want to strengthen you, and help you be more effective in your work.
What’s so wrong with this, you ask? Well, the adjective “Anglo-American” is “problematic” to some people, connoting an America founded by and for white people of British descent (cf. “Anglo-Saxon“) – the antithesis of what we want for America today. On the Facebook group Teaching the Middle Ages, one Mary Valante claimed that “Anglo-American” was “racist” and “an alt-right term,” and suggested the use of “Common Law” as a substitute. And yet, America really did inherit certain things from Britain, and law professor Sasha Volokh, our guest speaker this week, pointed out that “Anglo-American law” and its variants are perfectly legitimate terms, and used all the time (specifically, courtesy Westlaw, 1695 times in U.S. state and federal cases, and 9449 times in legal periodicals). Moreover, “Common Law” isn’t precisely the same thing, given that the Anglo-American legal tradition includes “various administrative and constitutional principles, plus a bunch of procedural rules, which are not thought of as being part of Common Law.” As for the alt-right: well, they talk about the Constitution, too, “but that’s no excuse for us not to also talk about it.” He then quoted some of his favorite alt-right authors who used the terms “Anglo-American law” or “Anglo-American legal [system, tradition, etc.],” extremists such as Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, and Brennan of the US Supreme Court, and President Barack Obama himself.
That sounds pretty convincing to me. But what if you dislike Jeff Sessions anyway, and are not prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt? Well, you can adopt the strategy of one Ken Mondschein. In an article on The Public Medievalist, published on Thursday, Mondschein conceded that Sessions was “technically correct” and “factually correct,” and that “Anglo-American” is “actually a very common legal term, [which is] is not typically racially charged.” But he then proceeded to use the same rhetoric as that of your high-maintenance ex-girlfriend: “Even if I’m wrong, I’m right.” Essentially, everyone else can use the term, but not Sessions, because everyone knows he’s a baddie. Sessions’s use of the term was “incredibly fraught” and “widely interpreted as being a racist dog whistle.” That he addressed his remarks to a group of sheriffs made it even worse: the medieval office of shire-reeve came to be dominated by the local gentry, and in America also represented the locals… who used it to keep black people down. (I’m not denying that this may have been a problem once, but whether law enforcement is centralized or decentralized is a discussion we can have independent of its racial implications – or medieval roots, for that matter.)
Whether he realized it or not, Sessions’ statement had two references to medieval history buried deep within it: the idea of the power of sheriffs, and the idea of “Anglo-American” law. In this we can read Sessions’ words as a part of a disturbing pattern, where pieces of the medieval past are used to justify white supremacy….
Sessions likely did not realize the medieval context of his words. Whether he meant it as a medievalism or not, however, Sessions’ comments are part of a frustrating pattern where parts of our culture with medieval origins are weaponized to justify racist policies. It falls to each of us to remain vigilant, and to continue to push back against the use of the past to justify racism in the present.
I am reminded again of the bone-headed stupidity of the sorts of people who go around policing the discourse in this way, claiming to know you better than you know you, because they learned how to sniff out the real meaning of your words in their trendy sociology classes.* Why focus on the alleged problems of “sheriff” or “Anglo-American,” when in another part of Sessions’s speech, we read that:
Civil asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed. It weakens the criminals and the cartels. Civil asset forfeiture takes the material support of the criminals and makes it the material support of law enforcement. In departments across this country, funds that were once used to take lives are now being used to save lives. And there is nothing wrong with adoptive forfeitures. There can be no federal adoption if the forfeiture is not called for under federal law. In many cases, adoptive forfeitures represent great partnerships between federal and state law enforcement.
They are also deeply corrupting to law enforcement at all levels, a violation of the fourth and fifth amendments, and an unfair hobbling of the defendant (how can you mount an effective defense, if your assets have all been seized?). So much for dog whistles: here is Sessions clearly and publicly endorsing state-sanctioned corruption (and something quite outside the Anglo-American tradition, by the way**). Why can’t we pay attention to that? Alas, apparently it’s a mere bagatelle compared to what Sessions might have meant by “Anglo-American,” if you don’t like him to begin with and you squint at his remarks in just the right way.
The late great David Foster Wallace (at 55) touched on a similar issue once:
Forget Stalinization or Logic 101-level equivocations, though. There’s a grosser irony about Politically Correct English. This is that PCE purports to be the dialect of progressive reform but is in fact — in its Orwellian substitution of the euphemisms of social equality for social equality itself — of vastly more help to conservatives and the U.S. status quo than traditional [language] prescriptions ever were. Were I, for instance, a political conservative who opposed taxation as a means of redistributing national wealth, I would be delighted to watch PCE progressives spend their time and energy arguing over whether a poor person should be described as “low-income” or “economically disadvantaged” or “pre-prosperous” rather than constructing effective public arguments for redistributive legislation or higher marginal tax rates on corporations. (Not to mention that strict codes of egalitarian euphemism serve to burke the sorts of painful, unpretty, and sometimes offensive discourse that in a pluralistic democracy leads to actual political change rather than symbolic political change. In other words, PCE functions as a form of censorship, and censorship always serves the status quo.)
* Yes, I know that one of the most important tasks of an intellectual is to discern meaning that might not be immediately apparent. I continue to be amazed, however, at how this hidden meaning, as exposed by your average academic, is usually predetermined, and no more true than its opposite.
** Perhaps this is why some people are so triggered by “Anglo-American.” The Anglo-American legal tradition endorses such things as presumption of innocence, reasonable standards of evidence, and the right to cross-examine witnesses. Such quaint relics of the bourgeois past are not what we need now – we want revolutionary justice, comrade!
This day marks the twentieth anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, at the age of 36 in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. Her lover Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul also perished in the wreck. Paul had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, and had been driving over 100 km/h, in an attempt to evade a number of photographers chasing them on motorcycles.
Lady Di’s relative youth and the violence of her death were shocking, of course, but what was most remarkable was the great outpouring of sympathy for the deceased. She had admitted to cheating on Prince Charles prior to their divorce and since that time had led a sort of Eurotrash lifestyle, but to a lot of people these things then became badges of “authenticity,” especially when compared to the rest of the allegedly stuffy, uptight royal family – her flaws became her virtues. Press coverage was nonstop, a great carpet of flowers and teddy bears appeared in front of Buckingham Palace, and even Prime Minister Jean Chrétien ordered flags to fly at half-mast in Canada. The Queen remained at Balmoral, her Scottish summer residence, in the week following the crash; by Thursday the headlines were reading “Show us you care!” – the idea being that King George VI had refused to leave London during the Blitz, so Her Majesty should come down to be with her people in their hour of need. I recall someone later writing that this drift “deserved a special Pulitzer for ass-saving improvisation,” as it usefully deflected peoples’ animosity away from the “paparazzi,” whom they blamed for Diana’s death.
There are theories that World War I started because all the Events of 1914 took place starting on June 28 – i.e. during the summer – and that people would have been a lot less hotheaded if the Archduke had been assassinated in January.* Summertime is the “silly season,” and my personal theory is that the higher temperatures and extended daylight hours made the reaction to Diana’s death a lot more intense than it otherwise would have been.
Fortunately, it burned itself out. It reminded me of a medieval political assassination (e.g. that of Thomas of Lancaster or Simon de Montfort); often, such deaths were followed by a burst of miracles at the tomb of the deceased, but these tended to taper off as grief for him waned, and without the active involvement of interested parties, the initial sympathy generally did not evolve into a sustained saint’s cult. I seem to remember that a memorial march on the first anniversary of Diana’s death attracted much fewer people than anticipated, and two years ago the Express newspaper found her gravesite at Althorp, Northants., to be in an unkept state. Furthermore, I am really glad that the Queen has not abandoned her old-school reserve and devotion to duty, that she has not started oversharing her personal feelings with celebrity journalists or publicly working out at the gym, because that’s what people expect these days – and that she retains the respect and affection of her subjects for it. Christopher Hitchens was perhaps too harsh when he called Diana a “silly, trivial woman” and a “simpering Bambi narcissist,” but the revelation that she had borderline personality disorder in retrospect makes complete sense and suggests that she was not really someone worthy of admiration.
* Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring (1989):
The days of that summer were long and full of sunshine; the nights were mild and moonlit. That it was a beautiful and unforgettable season is part of the lore of that summer of 1914, part of its poignancy and mystique…. The fine days and nights of that July and August encouraged Europeans to venture out of their homes and to display their emotions and prejudices in public, in the streets and squares of their cities and towns. The massive exhibitions of public sentiment played a crucial role in determining the fate of Europe that summer. Had it been a wet and cold summer, like that of the previous year or the next one, would a fairground atmosphere conductive to soap-box oratory and mass hysteria have developed? Would leaders then have been prepared to declare war so readily? There is evidence that the jingoistic crowd scenes in Berlin, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Paris, and London, in the last days of July and in the early days of August, pushed the political and military leadership of Europe toward confrontation.
My grad school colleague Anne Huebel has penned an entry on Remedia: the history of medicine in dialogue with its present.
Managing Victorian Reproduction: Medical Authority over Childbirth in British Advice Literature
“Obey implicitly the advice and directions of your medical attendant.” Such was the advice of Dr. Thomas Bull for women in labor. Dr. Pye Henry Chavasse, Bull’s contemporary and rival in the advice literature industry, agreed. Doctors Bull and Chavasse wrote popular books on pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care in mid-nineteenth-century Britain. Like William Smellie a century earlier, they emphasized a doctor’s right to manage a woman’s health and to expect obedience in return for their medical care. Both authors described how women should regulate their lives and bodies prior to and during pregnancy, labor, and lying-in, all of which occurred in the patient’s home. On the surface, the books encouraged women to take control of their health; however, they in fact advanced the medical management of women’s bodies.
Much more at the link.
Like the Satanic Panic noted below, another rumor I recall learning about in the 1980s (although its origins were earlier, of couse), was the notion that Paul McCartney, bassist and lead singer for the rock band The Beatles, had died and was replaced by a lookalike named Billy Shears from Ontario, Canada, who had been given additional plastic surgery and voice training so that he was indistinguisable from the original Paul. You could search for clues explaining this situation in the Beatles’ song lyrics and on the covers of their albums. A newly-made friend in junior high school expanded my universe by explaining some of them to me; I was no longer in grade school, for sure.
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ seminal album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band, here is an image of the gatefold picture, featuring all four Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper’s uniforms – and one of the clues:
The patch on Paul’s left shoulder, I’ve read in several places, reads “O.P.D.” – allegedly a Canadian abbreviation for “Officially Pronounced Dead.” But it in fact reads “O.P.P.” and is the shoulder flash of the Ontario Provincial Police.
The patch, according to Wikipedia, had been “given to John Lennon the day after their 1966 concert in Toronto by a summer student working in the garage of the OPP Headquarters (The group was being transferred to a police van for the trip to the airport).”
But the Ontario origins of the patch doubtlessly contributed to the notion that Paul’s replacement was from that particuar Canadian province.
Courtesy Ron Good, an article from the New Yorker sure to gin up controversy:
WE COULD HAVE BEEN CANADA
Was the American Revolution such a good idea?
And what if it was a mistake from the start? The Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the creation of the United States of America—what if all this was a terrible idea, and what if the injustices and madness of American life since then have occurred not in spite of the virtues of the Founding Fathers but because of them? The Revolution, this argument might run, was a needless and brutal bit of slaveholders’ panic mixed with Enlightenment argle-bargle, producing a country that was always marked for violence and disruption and demagogy. Look north to Canada, or south to Australia, and you will see different possibilities of peaceful evolution away from Britain, toward sane and whole, more equitable and less sanguinary countries. No revolution, and slavery might have ended, as it did elsewhere in the British Empire, more peacefully and sooner. No “peculiar institution,” no hideous Civil War and appalling aftermath. Instead, an orderly development of the interior—less violent, and less inclined to celebrate the desperado over the peaceful peasant. We could have ended with a social-democratic commonwealth that stretched from north to south, a near-continent-wide Canada….
Justin du Rivage’s “Revolution Against Empire” (Yale) re-situates the Revolution not as a colonial rebellion against the mother country but as one episode in a much larger political quarrel that swept the British Empire in the second half of the eighteenth century. Basically, du Rivage thinks that the American Revolution wasn’t American. The quarrels that took place in New York and Philadelphia went on with equal ferocity, and on much the same terms, in India and England, and though they got settled by force of arms and minds differently in each place, it was the same struggle everywhere. “Radicalism flourished in Boston, Bristol, and Bengal, while fears of disorder and licentiousness provoked rural elites in both the Hudson Valley and the English shires,” du Rivage writes. “As radical Whigs gained strength in North America, the political culture of the British Empire became increasingly Janus-faced.”
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: The author asks:
Why is it that, until now, the Civil War cast such a long, bitter shadow, while the Revolution was mostly reimagined as a tale of glory? One reason, too easily overlooked, is that, while many of those who made the Civil War were killed during it, including the Union Commander-in-Chief, none of the makers of the Revolution died fighting in it. The Founding Fathers had rolled the dice and put their heads on the line, but theirs was the experience of eluding the bullet, and, as Churchill said, there is nothing so exhilarating as being shot at without result. Of how many revolutions can it be said that nearly all its makers died in their beds? In the American Revolution, the people who suffered most were not the people who benefitted most, and the lucky ones wrote most of the story. Like everything in history, amnesia has its own causality.
I would go further and suggest that the postwar settlements had a lot to do with it. Former Loyalists were expelled from the new American republic; a lot of them moved to Canada, leaving behind a more ideologically uniform country. The Civil War saw the attempted secession of eleven American states. This attempt failed, but there were simply too many former Confederates to expel them all – reintegrating them into the Union became a priority, at the price of allowing them to wax nostalgic about their Lost Cause for all time.
From the National Post:
‘Blow the bloody place up’: Why, 70 years ago, Britain blew up an entire German island
In 1947, Britain had a problem. It had thousands of tonnes of explosives left over from the Second World War. And it also had a German island in the North Sea that it hated.
So, 70 years ago this week, the Royal Navy enacted an elegant solution: Use the explosives to blow the island to hell.
“Blow the bloody place up,” was reportedly the instructions given to F.T. Woosnam, the British naval engineer tasked with making the island of Heligoland disappear.
The preparation wasn’t overly technical.
For nearly a year, crews had simply stacked up more than 7,000 tonnes of old munitions and wired them together: Depth charges, old torpedoes, boxes of grenades and stacks of aerial bombs.
Photos from the era show crews nonchalantly kicking dismantled torpedoes into large heaps.
The resulting April 19 explosion, triggered with the push of a button by a sharply dressed naval commander, not only shattered every vestige of human habitation on the island — but permanently altered the topography of the place.
The United Kingdom had plenty of reasons to hate Heligoland. For starters, the island had once been part of the British Empire after it was captured during the Napoleonic Wars.
But finding no use for a windy outcrop filled with vacationers, in 1890 London handed it over to the newly formed German Empire in exchange for the African island of Zanzibar.
To the Brits’ chagrin, the Germans then proceeded to spend two world wars using Heligoland as a fortress from which to attack the U.K.
The island was the site of the first naval battle of the First World War, and the first major aerial battle of the Second World War. In both conflicts, it was a key forward base for submarines looking to starve the U.K. into submission.
After the first war in 1918, the victorious Allies had simply ordered the island to be demilitarized.
But when that clearly hadn’t worked, the victors of another war settled on a backup plan: Detonate the place so severely that it could never again be used for military purposes.
“A very reasonable way of celebrating Hitler’s birthday,” proclaimed the narrator of British newsreel documenting the destruction.
Then, just for good measure, the Royal Air Force spent the rest of the 1940s using Heligoland as a target site for their bombers.
Only in 1952 were Heligolanders allowed to move back.
Why the Brits didn’t just keep it I do not know. I seem to remember that the place played a role in the John Malkovich movie Shadow of the Vampire (2000). Click on the link to read more and to see newsreel footage of the explosion.