The First World War by John Keegan is history as a story. Keegan is a journalist, and it is said that journalism is the first draft of history. (The first draft of anything is usually rubbish, so that is why I don’t read the papers.) And a good way to look at this book is as a journalist going back over the previous drafts and making the story tighter. This isn’t a book that probes deeply into the causes of the war or comes to any profound conclusions about its effects. It is just the story of what happened. If that is what you want, this is what you get.
And what a story. Continue reading
Edward Heath led the Conservatives in the 1970s
I wrote this back in 2015 just after Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour Party leader, but before his MPs started the process of trying to get rid of him. At the time his rise seemed the most surprising and unpredicted political event. I didn’t trouble publishing it at the time. It isn’t particularly insightful or even very well written. But it does show how quickly events change how things seem.
I really really wish I had kept the slip of paper I put in my jacket pocket one Saturday night in 1978. I was 18, and was devoting considerable efforts to try and get a girlfriend. This was the height of the Disco era, so it was discos I mostly went to. But a straight forward old fashioned dance was worth a try as well. So this particular weekend I had ended up in the Conservative Club in the seaside town where I grew up, at a dance. I seem to remember enjoying it, but didn’t manage to pull anyone which was my main objective at the time. It was only the next day that I realised that by picking the cheaper admission option I had actually joined the Conservative Party and had a membership card to prove it. Continue reading
Hello I’m Colin Sanders and this is the History Books Review where I read history books and tell you what I think of them, and maybe pick a few interesting points out to give you a taste. This time I’m covering a new book called The Ministry of Spin by Richard Milton, an author whose work I haven’t really come across before.
We all have odd memories that stick in our minds from a young age. I have one from some time in the early seventies. It was an advert on the television advising of the wisdom of making sure you know what is behind you when driving. It was a cartoon that showed a man driving a car that gradually panned out to show that he was being followed by a turban wearing man on an elephant. You should use your mirror frequently. Good advice! I hope you take note. It was credited to the Central Office of Information. Continue reading
Hello, I’m Colin Sanders and this is the history books review. It isn’t a book today. I have just watched the film of the King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter. I’ll leave the merits of the film to the film critics, though I will say that it are nearly brought a tear to my eye. But the thing that interested me was how it showed just how much attitudes have changed in a relatively short period of time. It tells the story of events that are still just about within living memory. I talked about them to my grand parents who remembered them vividly. George VI, the main protagonist, still appeared on coins when I was growing up. Continue reading
An unusual viewpoint expressed in a Youtube video making the rather remarkable assertion that the Nazis were socialists.
If you can’t be troubled to watch it – it is only 5 minutes or so but boy are they long minutes – here is a quick resumé of the gist of the argument. Fascism and Nazism both came out of socialism, and simply reconciled the idea of socialism to that of nationalism. Nazism was similar in many ways to communism, which is defined as being the extreme left. In particular you had a cult of the personality of the leader, collectivist solutions to problems including welfare systems and a large degree of state intervention and were very authoritarian. Continue reading
I didn’t vote in the 1979 election because of some reason or other that I no longer remember. I wasn’t too fussed by the outcome of it, though I think I would have voted Labour had I managed to get to the polling booth. I was vaguely disappointed that the Conservatives had got in, while being quite pleased that we had a woman prime minister. Continue reading
Just before sitting down to right this review I listened to the news. A delivery company went bust on Christmas Day. The venture capital firm that owned it no doubt calculated that this was the most advantageous point in the year to go bust. The positive cash flow of the festive season would have swelled the money in the bank giving them plenty of scope for spending it in creative ways before the receivers moved in. It wasn’t such good timing for the workers who found out that they were out of work via the media. One twist was that the distinctive green and yellow vans were not all owned by the company. Many were owned by the drivers who were technically self employed, subcontracting their services. So that will cut the redundancy bill. In other news it turns out that the UK is poised to regain its economic position ahead of France in the size of the economy. Continue reading
Enoch Powell has become one of those figures about whom the myth matters more than the reality. The basic facts are that he was a reasonably successful Conservative politician until he, apparently inadvertently, made a speech which articulated the feelings of many British people about the dangers of immigration. He became too hot to handle for the Conservatives. He was sacked and ended his career representing the unionists in Ulster. By all accounts he was a highly intelligent man with a strong sense of honour who commanded the respect and affection of those who knew him well. Whether or not he was actually a racist is almost impossible to tell. He probably didn’t know himself – but learning Urdu is hardly the typical behaviour of your average racist. But whether he was or not, his rivers of blood speech was certainly music to the ears of people who definitely were racist. And it definitely wrecked his career and left him to be remembered as a bogeyman. Continue reading
The hundredth centenary of the Great War has been marked by the BBC with a huge quantity of retrospective coverage. We have already had hours and hours of broadcasting. Some people think it will all be over by Christmas, but it looks like the schedules have become gridlocked and it may be four years before we can return again to normal viewing. Continue reading
His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The idea of creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine would have made perfect sense in the nineteenth century. Nationalism was all the rage. Everyone wanted to be in a nation. The British and the French were there already. The Germans and Italians were working on it. Nationalism was opposed to hereditary monarchs and their empires and so was in a way a force for progress and revolution. Why shouldn’t the Jews get in on the act and seek to create their own homeland? Zionism was really just a logical extension of what was the general spirit of the age. As to the people who were already there in Palestine, well the rights of natives weren’t really on anyone’s mind at the time. Continue reading