All 14 entries tagged History

It *is* her degree

View all 181 entries tagged History on Warwick Blogs | View entries tagged History at Technorati | There are no images tagged History on this blog

March 04, 2011

Ideas For New Bank Holidays

Writing about web page

The government wants to move the May Day bank to either St George’s day a week or so before, or to ‘Trafalgar Day’ in October. Now there are some who might suggest that targeting the May Day holiday, a strongly socialist and pagan linked date, rather than the other May bank holiday is a bit ideological. Perhaps it isn’t. but it ignores one simple and undisputable fact – we don’t get enough days off compared to the rest of Western Europe.

The TUC have complained about this for years, saying in 2001 that with a European average of 10.8, Britain still only had 8, a number which would have been part of the European average, thus dragging it down.

So why not let us have another bank holiday without ditching an existing one? Some suggestions:

Pankhurst Day, 14th or 15th July

“Votes for my homegirls or else!”

Emmeline Pankhurst’s birthday. Why not pick a suffragette? Was her struggle, and those of the 50% of the population she fought alongside and for, any less significant than that of Nelson at Trafalgar? The uncertainty of her birth date means we can choose, shall we synchronise with France or strike out on our own? Plus mid-July is a good bet for some half decent weather.

Armada Day, 18th August

“Michel Pez said the weather would be lovely, what an idiot!”

Why Trafalgar Day? Why not another battle? Most WWI and WWII events were over longer periods of time, or are rather more international in flavour, so why not pick a military event which really sums Britain up – the Spanish Armada whose defeat was a combination of British blood mindedness and the weather. Mostly the weather. 18th August is the New Calendar date of Elizabeth I’s “heart and stomach of a king” speech, which is one of the best in British history. The downside is it would be quite close to the existing August holiday.

Reform Act Day, 7th June

George Cruickshank’s depiction of the Peterloo Massacre, a significant event in the history of democracy in Britain (and a possible contender for a bank holiday in its own right).

We don’t really do revolution in Britain, do we? The one time we did, overthrowing Charles I and the ructions that lead to Cromwell taking over, it was reversed within a few decades. Britain has long been the country of incremental changes, so why not celebrate one of the most major incremental changes? The Reform Act 1832 wasn’t perfect, it left a lot of people still disenfranchised (women and poor people mostly), but it was a significant step away from the still borderline feudal world we lived in, towards a slightly more democratic future. We could celebrate the day by going to Old Sarum and pelting effigies of crooked politicians with eggs.

First Association Football International Day, 30th November

Scotland’s 1872 team, great moustaches.

If we want major events that happened in the last three months of the year, currently underserved by bank holidays, forget Guy Fawkes Day (might upset Catholics), Halloween (might upset non-pagans/people who hate costumes and having their houses egged), or my birthday (apparently I am not significant enough, humph). What we need is something which celebrates Britain’s biggest cultural contribution to the world. Which celebrates British innovation and ability to apply rules to anything, even something which essentially used to be an excuse for a fight. Which celebrates the way England and Scotland just love to get one over on each other. The first ever official football international match, a 0-0 draw between England and Scotland. Considering the game involved men with amazing names like Cuthbert Ottaway and Reginald de Courtenay Welch, it seems rude not to celebrate it. (Wales and Northern Ireland can have a day off on the day of the first Wales vs Northern Ireland match).

Any other similarly genius/insane suggestions?

September 29, 2010

E–Mil, Illegitimate Sprogs And The Mail's F Grade In History

Writing about web page

The Mail, today:

[Ed Miliband’s] personal set-up has caused consternation since he became the first major political leader in British history not to be married to the mother of his children.

First major political figure in British history not to be married to the mother of his children?

Poor Charles II. Forgotten again, and by a very Royalist newspaper. :(

Still he probably had a good time having kids (well, having the attendant sexual intercourse) with Lucy Walter, Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Pegge, Barbara Palmer, the Duchess of Portsmouth, Moll Davis, and of course, Nell Gwyn. What a randy monarch (but apparently not a major political leader despite being, y’know, a pretty major political leader and figure).

Of course there was also Henry I, William IV, numerous other male monarchs.

And Ken Livingstone, who clearly much be a major leader based on the amount of bile the Mail and its London mini-me The Evening Standard throw at him.

And what about David Lloyd George? Prime Minister from 1916-22, of whom a newspaper wrote in 2008 “there are no politicians today who could ever think of getting away with the uber-sexed personal life, peppered with illicit lovers and illegitimate offspring, that Lloyd George led over 14 years in Downing Street, first as Chancellor, then as Prime Minister, from 1908 to 1922.”

The newspaper in question? The Mail.

Still, they might be historically ignorant and internally inconsistent, but check out their page three totty:

Phwaor! David Lloyd George!

May 11, 2010

A Guide To Being 'Unelected'

One of the most commonly repeated phrases from the election, and some time before, is that Gordon Brown should not be prime minister because he was “unelected”. It’s a curious thing hat this mantra has been repeated so much that hardly anyone seems to question it, when even a cursory glance at the substance of the argument causes it to fall down, at least in our current system.

First and foremost, the most obvious rebuff is that most people in the UK did not vote for Tony Blair. If you lived in Sedgefield in 1997, 2001 and 2005, and voted Labour, then yes, you voted for Tony Blair. But this covers only a relatively small number of people. Reports, possibly apocryphal but undeniably believable, suggest that voters this time around were confused as to why their ballots did not have Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s names on them. The leadership debates may have contributed to this cult of personality, they have certainly done nothing to show people the reality of their vote – that it is not for the men on the podium unless you live in Kirkcaldy, Witney or Sheffield.

As this is the most obvious and common counter argument, it has frequently been addressed, mostly by people saying “Well yes, I know I was voting for a candidate called James Plaskitt/Fiona Bruce/John Leech, but I knew by voting for them I would be registering support for Brown/Cameron/Clegg”. This is only sort of true because it assumes that Brown, Cameron and Clegg will win their own seats. Whilst it is normal for the party leader to be found in a safe seat, one where you would assume they would get in, this is not guaranteed.

Peter Robinson anyone?


Those who voted for the Democratic Unionist Party may well use the above argument that they knew who they were voting for, but it makes no difference – the DUP will either be lead by a genuinely unelected leader, or it will have to find a leader from the MPs it does have, someone who will be ‘unelected’ by the logic applied to Brown. It is unlikely this will ever happen to the Big Three of politics in Westminster, but this represents a shot across the bows of those who stick to the ‘unelected’ theory.

Moving on from Robinson, a common feature of the British electorate is that it remains remarkably impervious to its own history. The way the rants about Brown being ‘unelected’ come across, you would think he is a terrible precedent, a man dangerously breaking rules which have existed for years, an exception.

He is not.

Not even close.

Here follows a brief history lesson, of the sort that does not get taught in schools because it represents the sort of hot potato that governments are not too keen on having taught, rather like proportional representation or the number of Brits who live abroad (i.e. as immigrants).

There have been 20 prime ministers to begin their terms since 1900. There have also been 29 elections. As a quick quiz question, how many of these 20 prime ministers were like Brown, first becoming prime minister due to a change of party leadership between elections, rather than coming to power by winning an election?

Here is a picture of a campaign poster from the 1923 election whilst you come up with your answers. I wish campaign posters were more like this these days:

And the answer is… 13 out of 20.

Yes, 13. 65%.

Now there are caveats. Two of these were Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George who took over war coalitions in WWI and WWII. Popular choices, both would have been elected anyway, and at a time when an election was unthinkable they represented the flexibility of politics and ability of the parties to work together to protect and help the people.

Three of the remain eleven called elections immediately after taking power. These were Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Liberal), Stanley Baldwin (Conservative) and Anthony Eden (Conservative).

“I’m Anthony Eden, and I ain’t afraid of elections (although I am afraid of Egyptians)”.

The remaining eight ruled on regardless. That is one PM more than the number who won elections from opposition to become PM. The eight were:
Arthur Balfour (Conservative, succeeded his uncle Robert Cecil, hence the phrase “Bob’s your uncle”)
Herbert Asquith (Liberal)
Neville Chamberlain (Conservative, almost called an election but bottled it, rather like Brown)
Harold MacMillan (Conservative)
Alec Douglas-Home (Conservative)
Jim Callaghan (Labour)
John Major (Conservative)
Gordon Brown (Labour)

The seven to take power from opposition were:
Andrew Bonar-Law (Conservative)
Ramsey MacDonald (Labour, and with election posters like the above, can you blame people?)
Clement Atlee (Labour)
Edward Heath (Conservative)
Harold Wilson (Labour)
Margaret Thatcher (Conservative)
Tony Blair (Labour)

Now obviously some of these were elected, re-elected, or took over as leader between elections after their first term as PM (Wilson). This survey looks solely at those on their first terms.

Bob’s your uncle. Literally.

The most surreal thing about Brown is that it is not like this covers only older PMs, John Major arrived ‘unelected’ in 1990, just twenty years ago. Even I vaguely recall this happening and I was only just starting primary school at the time.

If people want to complain about ‘unelected’ PMs, they need to understand that it is a part of the electoral system in this country, and that the alternative, a directly elected PM, is a rare thing. Funnily enough, a lot of those complaining Brown is ‘unelected’ have no such problem with the actual head of state, Elizabeth II, being unelected.

I am not saying I agree with the system as it is. However I do think that throwing the ‘unelected’ label around without awareness of the history of ‘unelected’ PMs, without thinking through the implications of a Peter Robinson situation, and without understanding how the electoral system in this country works, is lazy.

November 13, 2009

Britain Versus

After the question "Which countries has Britain not been at war with?" was posed the other day by a friend, a geekiness overtook me and I attempted to create a nice map showing all the countries Britain has been at war with, coloured in red.

This meant formal war, not just colonising as that was sometimes achieved with the aid of a few fired shots, plenty of deals with local leaders, and some western germs which killed the natives in vast amounts. I am sure there are places missing from this map (the infamously short war with Zanzibar is missing cos it's too small to colour in!) so any uber-geeks out there please correct me and the map.

Note: Hawaii isn't coloured in because Britain has never been at war with it. Alaska is coloured in as, whilst it wasn't part of America during the War of Independence, it was part of Russia during the Crimean War. Which is interesting.


January 31, 2007

How To Sue A Peasant

It’s amazing what you learn from your seminar reading sometimes…

So it turns out that in the Elizabethan and early-to-mid Stuart period (especially c.1580 until c.1640) the English liked nothing more than suing each other. Seriously. All the bloody time! Lacking a police service to deal with those who upset the status quo, and without such other modern recourses as aggrieved blogging, letters to the Daily Mail, or a retaliatory drive by shooting, the villagers, townsfolk, yeomen, gentry, nobles and wenches of the early modern period often resorted to litigation in their attempts to respond.

Some slights would make sense today. Stealing livestock.

Mild-to-severe street violence.

And, of course, personal insults, or defamation as it was called in those days.

Thus sheep thief gets hit with two law suits, and ginger gets hit with one. However as sheep thief also got hit by ginger, he is well and truly the loser in this scenario.

Back then it was really quite severe to insult someone. Naturally being horribly sexist, the men got their cases of defamation dealt with in proper legal courts, whilst women had to make do with the Church courts, which didn’t seem as grown up and involved vicars.

This was a dangerous thing as the records record that one particular vicar was such a model of dignity and vicar-ness that he sued one parishoner 26 times in six years. 26! You can almost imagine how it went…

They couldn’t even spell properly in those days (spot the error)!

So with all these lawsuits flying around people became really worried that this meant the end of all civility and decency. People who started lawsuits were treated with disdain. But they still started lawsuits. Some people, probably including our vicar above, were using what was known as vexatious litigation, that is just suing to annoy someone. How bloody annoying you can imagine. Well, at the time it wasn’t annoying, it was seen as a clear sign that SOCIETY ITSELF WAS FALLING APART!!! They feared there would be riots and chaos as no one would love their neighbour anymore!

Funnily enough, it was this attitude which meant society didn’t fall apart. See, because litigation was such a bad thing whenever a lawsuit was threatened the community would run around and try and prevent it happening. This usually meant making the parties sit down and talk it over with someone there to mediate. The local clergy were useful for this, even if they did appear to have very bad facial hair and were very very skinny.

Often this was enough. The people involved in the lawsuits were just like everyone else. They didn’t like litigation either and often dropped it when they calmed down or realised it would cost loads to actually continue the suit. There were no annoying TV adverts for companies offering “No win, no fee” back then. Some would argue this is a good thing.

Traditionally mediation would take place over some food and drink. Those church ales that clergy were alawys brewing came in useful for a purpose other than enlivening the Sunday sermon.

If this didn’t work then there could be forced arbitration which was like when the priest told them to behave but with a more scary authority figure telling them to behave and them having to by law. Or they could go through with the suit and be disapproved of forever after.

And that was the great thing – most people didn’t want any lawsuits so they tried to avoid getting involved with one, and tried to stop any they found out about. Except there was still a massive rise in litigation (at least one lawsuit per household per year, every year for 60 years). It made no sense! As it turned out people were calming down from about 1600, but the rising population meant more people to have lawsuits with so the fall didn’t occur until all them had calmed down too.

Bunch of whiny hypocritical hippies.

December 05, 2006

Erase And Rewind?

I have a question – if we removed history, if we destroyed all the history books and banned any mention, any reference, any thought of the past, what would be the outcome? Would we be freed from the prejudices which have grown over time, the historical enmities and hatreds, the rounds of “your family killed my family”? Or would we have lost so many lessons that it would cause a mass repetition of all the worst things to have happened?

I wonder…

April 04, 2006

Research For Essay (Not As Dull As You Think)

Whilst researching for my essay I went to Jstor, the wonderful online source of all ranty essays and articles for the discerning historian. However despite my essay being on the utterly pretentious theme of the effects on Parisians of the changes to their city, I can't help but feel I'm doing the wrong topic. Especially when Jstor revealed such beauties as these!

NB I've not read any of these, that would just be silly...

Sodomitical Inclinations in Early Eighteenth-Century Paris
by J. Merrick (1997)

What's it about? Buggered if I know.

Dies of ban pun syndrome

Illicit Wigmaking in Eighteenth-Century Paris
by M. K. Gayne (2004)

How to make one of the least relevant jobs to the current day sound interesting. Why were wigs illicit? Were they obscene wigs, fashioned in crude, rude and downright lewd shapes? Or were they satirical wigs which sang naughty songs about Louis XV whenever you wore them, thus risking death and other horrible things? There's a good way to find out (read the article) but that would be favouritism and I'm not reading all of these articles…

Sobering Reflections on a Forgotten French Opera Libretto
by W. E. Rex (1983)

Not just any old reflections, sobering ones. Well opera would certainly sober me up if I was threatened with it (or ever drunk for that matter).

The Anonymity of the Milanese "Caffe" 1764–1766
by J. T. S. Wheelock (1972)

Well it would naturally be quite anonymous when you, as I did, did a search for PARIS and not MILAN. Honestly, one city is the same as another it would appear…

Toward a History of Spanish Imaginary Voyages
by M. Z. Hafter (1975)

"My name is Manuel and yesterday I was at work when I sat back for a moment and pretended I was on a cruise ship in the south Pacific…"

Paris, I searched for Paris!

The Fate of French Feminism: Boudier de Villemert's Ami des Femmes
by D. Williams (1980)

Well, everyone else on the blogs is always rowing about feminism so I felt a little left out and needed to mention it.

And thus I hope you've all had an insight into the myriad distractions historians writing essays face. Obviously it could be argued that by blogging it I have gone way beyond the ordinary need to procratinate and you know what? You're right. I'm chastened and off now to read more fascinating but slightly repetitive books on what I secretly find really interesting… I never said I was cool, ok?

January 09, 2006

The French Revolution

Colin said it might be a good idea for us to spend this holiday reading up on the causes of the French Revolution so we'd be able to keep up next term. Naturally if I were to read up and leave it then I am quite likely to forget everything. So I've decided this is the best place to put my findings. Avec helpful diagrams of course... This is all largely pilfered sourced from Colin's book.

Part One – Pissed Off.

By 1788 the French were a bit pissed off. Ok, they were very pissed off. The economy was in the dumper, the monarchy was broke and squeezing money out of the populace (but not the nobility or the clergy), and there were a series of poor harvests. The people were broke, hungry and grumpy. Like a student at their last few early morning lectures of term.

Louis XVI was king and he was another of those useless kings who far outnumber the genuinely good ones in history. He was a depressive and a fop. He also had a bunch of ministers who pretty much couldn't agree on what colour grass was, nevermind important decisions of state.

In September 1788 Louis got fed up and summoned Parlement. This was a law court where they passed opinions on the laws of the land but a) couldn't permanently prevent anything the monarch really wanted, because b) they could be exiled, dismissed, recalled and generally abused by the monarch. Not a hugely useful state of affairs. Also they weren't elected like British Parliament.

But by September 1788 they were in a powerful position because Louis was desperate. The people didn't like paying taxes whilst the nobility didn't pay. The Parlement's solution was to ask for an Estates General. This was a meeting of the three estates, the clergy (first estate), the nobility (second estate), and everyone else (third estate). There hadn't been one since 1614. Clearly forward looking solutions weren't fashionable that month.

This wasn't very popular with the people because they thought this meant that the first and second estates (i.e. not the people) would dominate the Estates General. They got angry at Parlement. The people of France got angry a lot in those days. Not like today when they never have massive riots or block entire ports with their lorries.

Anyway, these bolshy people were also publishing a lot of pamphlets and forming clubs to discuss politics, and generally did things which the king didn't like. This was known as thinking for yourself and is not popular with monarchs, especially slightly depressed ones.

The king agreed to the Estates General. Then Parlement changed its mind and decided it didn't want one after all but it was too late as the invitations had been sent out, and the king had ordered in the party hats and it would annoy the people who were very bolshy.

I wouldn't annoy those bolshy people, would you?

Part Two – The Estates General

One problem with the Estates General is illustrated below.

The Third Estate had as many members as the other two Estates put together (and event hen only because it had insisted before Louis XVI called the Estates General) but each Estate had one vote. So they weren't really represented. However the people were, as we have seen, a bit bolshy and Louis was worried, so he changed the rules so that there was per head voting, meaning that the Third Estate had as many votes as the other two put together. This may have been down to the troublesome Parisians or maybe it was the fault of Louis XVI's useless ministers.

The Third Estate were worried about government corruption, and privilege being misused. The people were inspired by this and sent in loads of _cahiers,_ very polite messages to the king to please out their problems, please.

The Third Estate was also letting people come into its sessions and view its working unlike the other two Estates. All of this seems very populist, but it's worth remembering that there were no peasants or workers in the Estates General. Smelly peasants might get mud on the bourgeoisie's clothes and we can't have that now can we?

But there was trouble brewing. The Third Estate were getting pissed off at the lack of progress. So they decided to do something. On 17th June 1789 they declared themselves to be the National Assembly and went it alone with those members of the clergy and nobility who agreed with them.

On 2th June 1789 the National Assembly went along to the chambers as usual only to find them locked by order of Louis XVI! Some people would have sent for the janitor to get it open or taken this as a sign of a day off and then gone shopping. But the National Assembly decided that it meant that Louis XVI was angry and planning to dismiss them or worse. They fled to the nearby tennis courts where they defeated Tim Henman in straight sets swore an oath not to disperse until there was a new constitution. To help future historians remember all this it was called the Tennis Court Oath.

Ironically it turned out that Louis XVI wasn't plotting an attack on the National Assembly, he was just fed up with all the rowing and wanted a day or two of peace and quiet to collect his thoughts, before he addressed the National Assembly in person…

Part Three – Chaos In Paris

On 23rd June 1789, Louis XVI addressed his, by now very bolshy, National Assembly. There was widespread unrest across France and large-scale defections from the First and Second Estates to the National Assembly. Louis XVI offered some reforms, but there was to be very little social change. This wasn't really what the National Assembly wanted to hear. Even when Louis XVI ordered all the remaining clergy and nobles to join the National Assembly there was unease.

For some people at the time this appeared to be a revolution completed. The monarch had been forced to concede and that was as far as revolutions usually went in those days.

Louis XVI then ballsed it up somewhat by sacking his moderate ministers and appointing new ones who were seen as counter-revolutionary. It really didn't help that he then ordered the army to move into Paris. Naturally the Parisians responded by panicking and rioting.

A city council was formed and the bourgeoisie joined a new, revolutionary armed forces. In an attempt to get weapons they stormed the notorious prison, the Bastille. This is a hugely symbolic event in French history, possibly only ruined a little by the fact that there were only seven prisoners in there at the time.

But it was cool enough to get the rest of France to have a few riots and frivolities of its own. This included the towns and the cities as well as the peasants who had practise in revolting before [insert joke about revolting peasants here]. It was united by a feeling of anti-seigneurialism, basically they didn't like the nobles getting all the good stuff in life like no taxes and everyone else getting crapped on from a great height. the National Assembly also called for an end to all this, possibly because they believed it (some did) and possibly because they wanted to gain control of the rioters and stop the rioting.

By the 28th August 1789 had come the Declaration Of The Rights Of Man, which is seen as the end of the Bourbon monarchy's absolute rule. Not that this was the end of the French Revolution. Hell, it was only the start, there was lots of fun to be had with wars, executions, terror and other things which make history quite depressing. But I'm off now to regurgitate all this in a seminar, so have fun!

December 28, 2005

The Worst Britons Ever

Writing about web page

Sod those boring lists that appear in their droves at this time of year, here's a proper list. The Ten Worst Britons Ever!

One per century and chosen for a variety of reasons, I think this is one of the few genuinely interesting lists published recently. I would. I'm a historian and a waste of space. But it is a fascinating set of characters and reasoning.

I wil point out now that I'm an early modern/modern historian and haven't really got much indepth knowledge about anything predating 1600. Hence the first few get the benefit (ahem) of my opinions but the others don't (barring one). I am recognising my limits before I shoot my mouth off and make a fool of myself. This is a novelty as we are all aware.

1900 to 2000: Oswald Mosley (1896-1980)
He wanted to sell us to Hitler, was a racist, a fascist and an all round nasty guy. He was also good at one thing which appears to be a major criteria on this list – he divided the country. I know that members of my own family were on opposing sides over him, some were in the fascist party and some would go out and pick fights with the fascists.

It's quite a political choice. It's certainly very "right-on", picking someone who we, as enlightened 21st century types and all that, should be opposed to. He didn't do anything personally which was as bad as some of the others on this list, but he stood for something pretty bad.

Of course this asks whether we should have put the likes of Edward VIII on the list for being the potential fascist monarch had Germany won WWII?

1800 to 1900: Jack the Ripper
We don't even know who he was and he didn't kill as many people as a lot of later killers (though they were pretty gross killings). He might not even have been one person. But he's a symbol. A proper 'bad' Briton because we can attach any number of beliefs to him, he's an utterly unknown entity and therefore can be held up to represent what we like.

The century had other villians. The exploitative nameless hordes who Dickens was fighting through his literature, the slave owners of the start of the century, the men (including Kitchener) who invented the concentration camps of the Boer War. But none hold the power of the Ripper despite the lessons to be learned from them being greater. If Mosely is a good political choice, then the Ripper is a folklore choice.

1700 to 1800: Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765)
A regional villian. The English (and to an extent the Welsh and Irish) have few reasons to dislike Cumblerland but for the Scottish he was a symbol of all that was done to wrong them. In a millennium in which the two biggest of Britain's countries were often to be found slaughtering each other (and stealing each other's sheep), Cumberland is arguably one of the cruellest of the oppressors, especially as he was acting in a supposed period of Enlightenment.

4. 1600 to 1700: Titus Oates (1649-1705)
A little unfair I think. Oates started a rumour which lead to Catholic persecution but he was a drunk and a lot of important people (including the king, Charles II) didn't believe him. But he fulfills the divisiveness category that is a feature of the list.

This century is in fact a tricky one to deal with. A lot of people (including the never-normally-united hardcore Royalists and Irish) would probably name Cromwell as a bad Briton for his overthrow of the monarchy and his oppressions in Ireland. But some (British) Republicans praise him as a good example and he gets a statue outside parliament in London so it might be bad form to condemn him. Equally his opponebnt Charles I was a quite spectacularly rubbish monarch – he was useless, arrogant and borderline despotic at times. The Irish could equally name William III as a villian though that's a borderline case as he was Dutch despite being king of England and Scotland.

1500 to 1600: Sir Richard Rich (Lord Rich of Leighs) (1496/7-1567)
An interesting and somewhat obscure choice, Rich was a constant self promoter and turncoat who was operating at a time of turbulence and chaos. He probably deserves the title for his repeated treacherousness and general nastiness.

And he has a silly name.

1400 to 1500: Thomas Arundel (1353-1414)
Persecuted the Lollards who turned out to be quite sensible religious reformers. Religious persecution = bad.

1300 to 1400: Hugh Despenser (The Younger) (died 1326)
Played the fourteenth century politics game by having enemies killed and acquiring land unfairly. Got his comeuppance.

1200 to 1300: King John (1167-1216)
A very trad villian though possibly not much worse than other monarchs who killed rivals or ruled badly. I'd like to know more about him because I feel his century might have other villians beyond this one which we (to be honest) are most famillar with from the stories of Robin Hood.

1100 to 1200: Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (c.1120-1170)
Bad bishop? Often seen as a wronged man, his murder apparently brought Henry II out in fits of remorse despite the survey chosing Becket for causing divisions by arguing with Henry. This is the first time I've heard a negative overview of him although (as I've said) I'm no medevialist.

1000 to 1100: Eadric Streona (died 1017)
Betrayed Britain to the monarch with the funniest name ever (if you're immature), Cnut. Wonder if he wore FCUK?

I think, as with a lot of things about history, this says a lot more about the present than the past. Would these have been the villians a century ago? Will they be the villans in a century's time? The verdict appears to be racism and stirring division (especially religious division) is bad, with dishonest (or rather unsporting) self advancement another bad sin. So in the end, have a stiff upper lip, don't argue in public and stop being overtly in it for yourself to avoid the list. That's the most British thing I've heard in ages.

bq.They say the next big thing is here/That the revolution's near/But to me it seems quite clear/That it's all just a little bit of history repeating

It's my blog and I can quote Shirley Bassey if I want!

October 14, 2005

The German Reformation

In the sixteenth century Protestantism spread across Europe like an egg spreads across a frying pan when you're making fried egg. In the middle of this egg was Germany and the yoke was Martin Luther. Thus the tedious egg metaphor was taken too far, but the German Reformation was very important and had to be studied at great length whether Holly an unspecified history student wanted to or not.

Looking at the German Reformation brings up three questions:

  • How important was Luther?
  • How and why did it spread?
  • Why Germany?

There is also the fourth question – Why oh why dear God did I choose to study history instead of something easy like Quantum Physics And Wombat Studies (X145 at the University of Cockup, Cumbria)? – but I can't answer that.


How Important Was Luther?

Luther was a bit odd. He was going to be a lawyer when he got caught in a thunder storm, got a bit scared and decided to be monk instead. This frequently happens. William the Conqueror was going to be a hairdresser before an unfortunate bout of rain in Normandy. Next thing he knows he's woken up in England avec crown, and there's no explanation bar some tapestry, thus providing the first historical evidence of what later became the "If there's no photos it didn't happen" school of nights out.

So Luther goes off and becomes the numero uno, suck up uber-monk and everyone takes one look at him and thinks nerd. He's also uber-religious which was a normal thing at the time, but seemingly the combination of nerd and uber-religious was not a common one because he did something unexpected. He thought about it.

We can imagine the scene as something dramatic, maybe Luther in his room at night, in a thunderstorm, wrestling with theological problems and personal beliefs. We can. But we're not going to because I've a famous artist already drawn it below.

Eventually Luther concluded that:

  • Those indulgences were a bit, y'know, dodgy.
  • Those priests were a bit, y'know, corrupt.
  • Those Latin services were a bit, y'know, alienating.

Especially the indulgences which have been put into bold text here to show just HOW IMPORTANTTM they were. Clue: very*. Basically you went to a priest and paid some money and you got less time in purgatory which is like a waiting room for heaven where souls go to feel guilty for a very long time. Very, very Catholic in other words. Luther did not like this. He didn't like Masses being said for dead souls either which was a derivative of indulgences.

Also Latin services weren't his cup of tea because he was German and preferred words like neunhundertneunundneunzigtausendneunhundertneunundneunzig to poncy ones like in vinas veritas which were way too short.

So anyway he had a lot to say and pinned his Ninety Five (niney five! 95!?! What a whinger…) Theses to the door of the cathedral except he might not have but it makes a better story than posting them to the great and good which is what he did do but is less cool. Try posting your demands for someone to do the bloody dishes to your flatmates. Now try pinning your demands to the door of a cathedral. Neither will work, but the latter will make you feel cool**.

Luther got listened to and is therefore the first radical thinker and we can safely ignore Erasmus and Hus and all the other radicals who came before him, but didn't do the washing and got forgotten.

How And Why Did It Spread? Why Germany?

Luther wasn't the only person who liked neunhundertneunundneunzigtausendneunhundertneunundneunzig as opposed to carpe diem. Some German princes did as well. Not all of them mind, especially not the Holy Roman Emperor who had an awesome title. He liked Catholicism. Others didn't. So they rowed and rowed and rowed, and then they got out of the boat and started arguing about it. The HRE (as I abbrieviated him in my notes) wanted to hurt Luther, but another German prince, who presumably had a smaller hat (in line with the big hat = power principal first seen in Egypt) protected Luther.

The pro-Luther princes decided to spread the word using a clever combination of targetted advertising, incentives and promotional offers for their subjects. Just kidding. They simply threatened to dead anyone who disagreed. And people didn't like being dead in those days which is quite like the situation today and just goes to show that nothing really ever changes. Nothing.

Then some peasants heard about all this and liked the bit about people being equal in God's eyes. It sounded nice and socialist. So they marched around in an attempt to be equal, which included the equal right to make people dead, just like the princes did. Only this got Luther pissed off and on his high horse and the peasants got deaded instead by the princes. Turned out Luther didn't think people were equal. Just rich nobles who protected him.

So Lutheranism spread like a chocolate sauce and Luther celebrated by writing long books and being grumpy.

*Learn this and pass exams.

**Though God only knows who's going to do those damn dishes...

October 2023

Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
Sep |  Today  |
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31               

Search this blog

Blog archive

RSS2.0 Atom
Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder