History Today 05-2014

August 20, 2017 | Author: dzoni32 | Category: John Calvin, Batman, Scotland, Religion And Belief
Share Embed Donate

Short Description

History magazine...


Friendship, betrayal and Kim Philby

Louis XIV meets the King of Siam

Roman Britain’s Industrial Revolution May 2014 Vol 64 Issue 5


The last days of India’s first prime minister

Publisher Andy Patterson Editor Paul Lay Deputy Editor Charlotte Crow Picture Editor Sheila Corr Reviews Editor Philippa Joseph Publishing & Editorial Assistant Nick Liptrot Art Director Gary Cook Website Manager Dean Nicholas Subscriptions Manager Cheryl Deflorimonte Subscriptions Assistant Ava Bushell CONTACTS History Today is published monthly by History Today Ltd 25 Bedford Avenue London WC1B 3AT Tel: 020 3219 7810 [email protected] [email protected] SUBSCRIPTIONS Tel: 020 3219 7813/4 [email protected] ADVERTISING Lisa Martin, Portman Media Tel: 020 7079 9361 [email protected] Print managed by Webmart Ltd. 01869 321321. Printed at W. Gibbons & Sons Ltd, Willenhall, UK. Distributed by MarketForce 020 3148 3539 (UK & RoW) and Disticor 905 619 6565 (North America). History Today (ISSN: 0018-2753) is published monthly by History Today Ltd, GBR and is distributed in the USA by Asendia USA, 17B South Middlesex Avenue, Monroe NJ 08831 and additional mailing offices. Periodicals postage paid at New Brunswick NJ. Postmaster: send address changes to History Today, 17B South Middlesex Avenue, Monroe NJ 08831. Subscription records are maintained at History Today Ltd, 25 Bedford Avenue, London WC1B 3AT, UK.

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Dr Simon Adams University of Strathclyde Dr John Adamson Peterhouse, Cambridge Professor Richard Bessel University of York Professor Jeremy Black University of Exeter Lord Briggs Formerly Chancellor of the Open University Professor Paul Dukes University of Aberdeen Professor David Ellwood University of Bologna Professor Martin Evans University of Sussex Juliet Gardiner Historian and author Gordon Marsden MP for Blackpool South Dr Roger Mettam Queen Mary, University of London Professor Geoffrey Parker Ohio State University Professor Paul Preston London School of Economics Professor M.C. Ricklefs The Australian National University Professor Nigel Saul Royal Holloway, University of London Dr David Starkey Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge Professor T.P. Wiseman University of Exeter Professor Chris Wrigley University of Nottingham @All written material, unless otherwise stated, is the copyright of History Today Total Average Net Circulation 19,551 Jan-Dec 2013


FROM THE EDITOR THE SERIES OF cultural events that go under the name 14-18 NOW, promoted by the Department of Media, Culture and Sport and planned for the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, has taken a turn for the bizarre. On March 27th it was announced that people in Britain will be called upon to switch off all but one light at 10pm on August 4th, to mark 100 years since Britain declared war on Germany. The proposal is inspired, if that’s the word, by the comment of the foreign secretary at the time, Sir Edward Grey: ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime’ and has been met with contempt. ‘A remarkably stupid gimmick’, said the military historian Gary Sheffield, who thought it more in keeping with the spirit of Mr Hodges, the meddlesome ARP warden in the comedy series Dad’s Army, not least because many people and most children will already have their lights out. The culture secretary Maria Miller has yet to tell us if we will be allowed to put them back on in our lifetime. 14-18 NOW has other brilliant ideas up its sleeve, including an arts project based on dazzle paint, the method of camouflage used on the ships of the Royal Navy, whose success was patchy (excuse the pun) at best. An appropriate metaphor, therefore, says the historian Jonathan Boff, for the whole 14-18 NOW programme: ‘little forethought; superficially striking; more liable to confuse than enlighten; and unlikely to have any useful impact’. The prize for the most perilously anachronistic of the projects goes to Letter to an Unknown Soldier. Beginning in June, members of the public will be invited to write to the soldier epitomised in Charles Sargeant Jaggers’ statue that stands on Platform One of Paddington Station. As always, celebrities have been invited to kick things off. No such gathering is complete without an offering from the actor/comedian Stephen Fry, who takes on the guise of a conscientious objector for his epistle: For eternity your image will stand for unquestioning courage. I will die proud of you and ashamed of myself. And that is in spite of me being right. Apart from the issues it raises about the status of conscientious objectors in the Great War, the tone of Fry’s letter is at some remove from the tone of restraint and hesitancy that typifies the correspondence of the men who fought. I live in hope that one day we will start thinking of Them rather than Us.

Paul Lay


Great Britain • Eric Hobsbawm • Hitler and Churchill • Clontarf 1014

Britishness: a Scottish Invention

It was Scots who were the most vocal advocates of a vibrant, imperial, Protestant Great Britain. Ian Bradley CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT from the arguments of the ‘No’ campaign in the current pre-Referendum debate over Scottish independence has been any appeal to a shared sense of Britishness. This is perhaps hardly surprising given that recently released data from the 2011 census reveals that two thirds of Scotland’s inhabitants see themselves as Scottish only and fewer than 20 per cent as Scottish and British. This marked decline in British identity, which is shared to a lesser extent by the population of the rest of the United Kingdom, signals the obsolescence of what was a largely Scottish invention, hammered out in the aftermath of the 16th-century Reformation and the 1707 Act of Union. Scottish enthusiasm for the concept of Britishness is evident in the work of one of the first modern historians of Britain, John Major, who taught at the universities of Glasgow and St Andrews and deeply influenced the first generation of Scottish Reformers, not least John Knox. Major styled himself a ‘Scottish Briton’ and his 1521 History of Greater Britain was a passionate call for the union of Britannia. Most Scottish Protestants supported union with England to form a new strongly Protestant nation, which would resist the might and tyranny of the major Catholic powers in Europe, Spain and France. Several, like Andrew Melville, the founder of the Presbyterian church settlement, styled them-

the civic values of ancient Rome, the covenant theology of Old Testament Israel and the ideals of commonwealth and nation forged by the Protestant reformers. For him, a united Britannia, at once stronger and more varied than its component parts, would lead a Europe of small independent states against Iberian imperialism and papal pretension. In order to foster closer community ties and shared identity in the new United Kingdom, he advocated intermarriage, planting English colonies in Lochaber and the Western Isles to promote ethnic intermingling and levying steep fines on those who continued to describe themselves as Scottish or English. He also proposed a The Union of single parliament for the new England and United Kingdom, with regionScotland, Peter al assemblies in London, York, Paul Rubens, Lancaster and Edinburgh, c.1633. drawing at least a fifth of their members from the country on the other side of the old border. The 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment further encouraged enthusiasm for Britishness north of the border, with Alexander Wedderburn and his fellow contributors to the Edinburgh Review coining the term ‘North Britain’ to describe their country. This selves ‘Scotto-Britons’ and advocated espousal of Britishness by enlightened the full political union of England and Scots in no sense diminished their Scotland following the Union of the sense of Scottishness. Rather their Crowns in 1603 by James VI and I. display of what later became known A good example of the enthusiasm as hybrid or hyphenated identity and expectations that the 1603 Union of expressed their conviction that it was the Crowns created among the Scottish as part of Britain that Scotland had its reformers can be found in the tract De best chance of thriving and improving. Unione Insulae Britannicae, written in In his 1992 book Devolving English 1605 by David Hume, a leading PresLiterature Robert Crawford has argued byterian scholar in post-Reformation that the whole academic discipline of Scotland. He argued for the full union English literature was essentially an of England and Scotland, drawing in18th-century Scottish invention as spiration in almost equal measure from

A united Britannia, at once stronger and more varied than its component parts, would lead a Europe of independent states



Scottish writing entered its ‘British’ phase, which was to reach its apogee in the work of Walter Scott. The best known product of this ‘British’ phase of Scottish literature was the song ‘Rule Britannia’, written in 1740 for a masque about Alfred the Great by James Thomson, a son of the Manse who hailed from Ednam in the Borders and studied arts and divinity at Edinburgh University. Thomson, who initially thought of following his father as a Church of Scotland minister but chose rather to pursue a literary career in London, wrote numerous poems promoting Britain as a cultural

The best known product of this ‘British’ phase of Scottish literature was the song ‘Rule Britannia’ and ethnic amalgam embodying the principles of diversity in unity. Like many 18th-century Scots who took up the idea of Britishness, he did so partly to make clear that Britain included more than England. Sending an early draft of his poem, ‘Summer: A Panegyric on Britain’ to a fellow Scottish poet, he observed: ‘The English are a little vain in themselves, and their country. Britannia too includes our native country, Scotland.’ The opening line of what is often taken to be the first British novel, Tobias Smollett’s Roderick Random (1748) – ‘I was born in the northern part of this United Kingdom’ – provides a further example of dual Scottish-British identity. Two towering Scots of the 20th century, both sons of the Manse deeply imbued with the muscular Christian values of Presbyterianism, made a significant and enduring contribution to the notion of Britishness. John Buchan, whose hyphenated identity was expressed in the fact that his favourite landscapes were the Scottish Borders and the Cotswolds, created in his famous ‘shockers’ a quintessentially British genre of adventure stories. John Reith almost single-handedly constructed one of the great modern 4 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

institutional embodiments of Britishness, the BBC. His determination to invest royal and national occasions with quasi-religious significance earned him the sobriquet ‘Gold Microphone Pursuivant’. He also made sure that the BBC expressed Britain to itself and to the world in all its variety by establishing separate services for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions, which both opted out of the national UK output and also contributed to it their own distinctive accents and cultures. The reasons for the decline of a sense of British identity among Scots over the last 50 years or so include the ending of the British Empire, out of which they had done so well, the economic woes consequent on the collapse of traditional industries like coal mining and ship building and the erosion of Protestant identity. Ironically, that part of the United Kingdom which was once the most consciously British is now the least so. Yet occasionally this old attachment re-surfaces, as when the most recent Scottish prime minister, Gordon Brown, championed Britishness and sought to stem what seems an unstoppable tide in terms of narrower and more exclusive identities across the United Kingdom. Ian Bradley is Reader in Church History at the University of St Andrews and author of Believing in Britain: The Spiritual Identity of Britishness (I.B. Tauris 2008). Alternative Histories by Rob Murray

At Arms, At Easel

Churchill and Hitler painted scenes of the Western Front while in remarkably close proximity to one another. Nigel Jones CHURCHILL AND HITLER did not have much in common, but they shared one interest: both were amateur painters, who took their brushes, sketchpads, pencils and paintboxes into the trenches of the Western Front. Churchill’s paintings had colours liberally applied, while Hitler’s style was classical and his aversion to ‘modern’ art would come to fruition when his Nazi regime confiscated, sold or destroyed works of ‘degenerate’ art and either banned the artists who created them from practising their craft – even when, like Emil Nolde, they were Nazis – or drove them into exile. Churchill also shared Hitler’s aversIon to modernism, telling his painter friend Alfred Munnings that if he ever saw Picasso in Piccadilly he would ‘kick him up the arse’. Hitler’s early ambition was to become an artist, but having twice been turned down by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, in 1907 and 1908, he eked out an existence painting postcards of city scenes, which he either hawked around cafes or sold through middle men. By 1914 Hitler had drifted to Munich, where he joined a Bavarian reserve infantry regiment on the outbreak of war. Churchill’s introduction to art came much later in life. As Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty he was a key minister in the prewar Asquith administration. However in May 1915, aged 40, he fell like Lucifer after the Gallipoli campaign, which he had extravagantly backed, and was demoted to Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. A month later, a frustrated Churchill was prowling the garden of his Surrey country home, Hoe Farm, when he came upon his sister-in-law, Lady Gwendoline ‘Goonie’ Churchill, painting a watercolour. Although according to his youngest daughter, Mary Soames,


Above: Adolf Hitler’s Shelter in Fournes, 1915. Left: Winston Churchill’s Plug Street, 1916.

Churchill had never set foot inside a gallery, he was intrigued. He joined Goonie at the easel, soon tired of pallid watercolours and graduated to oils. Churchill opened an account with the art shop Robinsons in London’s Long Acre. American-born Hazel Lavery, wife of the Irish portraitist John Lavery, was summoned to give Churchill his first formal art lesson, advising him to attack the canvas with the same vigour he brought to politics: ‘Splash into the turpentines, wallop into the blue and white ...’ Always subject to depression, Churchill told the poet and diplomat Wilfrid Scawen Blunt: ‘There is more blood than paint upon these hands’. Indeed Blunt believed that had it not been for painting, Churchill might have gone mad. In November 1915 Churchill resigned from government, feeling he could best assuage his guilt over Gallipoli by serving as a soldier. He was promised command of a brigade by his friend Field Marshal Sir John French, but agreed to learn the ropes of trench warfare first, attaching

himself to the Grenadier Guards. When Churchill arrived at the front, Hitler was billeted in the French village of Fournes-enWeppes near Fromelles. He had already had a vicious ‘blooding’ in the First Battle of Ypres, after which he was promoted to corporal, decorated with the Iron Cross and served as a regimental runner.   The first six months of 1916 was a period of relative quiet and Hitler took advantage of the lull to paint and draw (he was nicknamed ‘the artist’ by his comrades), though his earliest surviving war picture is from December 1914, of the ruined church of St Nicholas in Messines (now Mesen), where he was quartered in the crypt. Just ten miles away was Ploegsteert (known as ‘Plug Street’ to the British), which had seen bitter fighting. On January 5th, 1916 (Temporary) Lieutenant-Colonel Winston Churchill arrived as commander of the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers. He and Hitler would never be in such close proximity again. In December Churchill’s ally Sir John French had been removed as commander of the BEF to make way for Sir Douglas Haig. Asquith reneged on French’s promise to give Churchill a brigade. Churchill had irritated Asquith in Cabinet by his ceaseless bombardment of ideas for running the war more energetically and the prime minister vetoed his former colleague’s promotion. Churchill was dismayed – anticipating his promotion he had already ordered a brigadier-general’s uniform – but he played the good soldier. He took up his command with good grace and quickly won round the initially sceptical officers from a battalion that had seen major losses during the battle of Loos. Meanwhile Corporal Hitler continued reading and sketching, aloof from his comrades. He refused to join in his mess mates’ drinking, still less their visits to the bars and brothels of nearby Lille. Though Hitler took the tram from Fournes to Lille with the rest, unless there was a theatre show or concert to see, he mooched alone around the city’s streets, or sat on benches with his

sketchbook, drawing buildings. Churchill’s battalion held a 1,000yard wide section of the front before Ploegsteert. Its HQ was located in Laurence farm, an already partially ruined domain 500 yards behind the front line; it is depicted in one of Churchill’s paintings. Another, ‘Plug Street’, shows the village itself under shellfire, with cotton-wool puffs of explosions in the sky. Unlike Hitler’s strictly representational work, Churchill’s style bears the influence of Impressionism. Though described as being as visible and voluble ‘as a baby elephant’, Churchill somehow survived unscathed, but during the three months he held command his battalion saw 15 men killed and 123 wounded, a casualty rate of 20 per cent. Churchill’s military career ended in May 1916. Satisfied that he had done his duty and atoned for Gallipoli, Churchill was granted permission to return to England. He resumed his political career and by the end of the war was a minister once more. Hitler was not so fortunate. Wounded in the thigh by shrapnel on the Somme, after recovering he returned to his regiment to take part in the battles of Arras and Passchendaele in 1917. Gassed at the end of the war, he heard of the Armistice while still in hospital and resolved then and there – or so he later claimed – to enter politics. That decision also ended Hitler’s artistic career. Churchill continued to paint with characteristic energy, producing an output of over 500 pictures, chiefly landscapes, right up to and through the Second World War. Many can be viewed by the public at his Kent country home, Chartwell. Hitler’s work occasionally surfaces at auction houses but, because of the artist’s notoriety, are often withdrawn from sale. When sales do go ahead, they fetch high prices, far in excess of their artistic merit. The two war leaders’ opinions of each other’s artistic endeavours was never recorded.

Nigel Jones is author of Peace and War: Britain in 1914 (Head of Zeus, 2014). MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 5


History After Hobsbawm Since the completion of the Marxist historian’s trilogy in 1987, history has changed, but in what ways? Jan RÜger HISTORY AFTER HOBSBAWM, a major international conference taking place in Senate House, London, from April 29th to May 1st, 2014, will bring together some of the most influential historians from across the world to discuss the current state of their discipline. The event draws inspiration from the capacious legacy of the late Eric Hobsbawm, who taught at Birkbeck, University of London for most of his life. Many of the topics that he wrote about are still of crucial relevance today, including the rise of capitalism, nationalism and imperialism. But how should we go forward in our understanding of the past? The conference will seek to address this question. One of the many issues that will be discussed by speakers including Mark Mazower (Columbia), Catherine Hall (UCL), Rana Mitter (Oxford), Antoinette Burton (Illinois) and Maya Jasanoff (Harvard) is the relationship between British, European and world history. For Hobsbawm there was never a question that British history had to be understood in a European as much as a global context. He explained this succinctly in an essay entitled ‘The Curious History of Europe’, which was first published in 1996. ‘Europe’, he wrote, was a ‘shifting, divisible and flexible concept’, not a clearly defined territory or homogenous political entity. The historian’s task was to explore Europe’s diversity – and Britain as part of that patchwork of different European pasts. In Hobsbawm’s writing this task went hand in hand with an understanding of imperialism and globalisation, both of which defined the 19th century. It was ‘impossible to sever European history from world history’. Britain’s past had to be understood in both contexts. This insistence on the link between European and world history came long 6 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

before the ‘global turn’ in historiography. In his trilogy on the 19th century (The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848; The Age of Capital, 1848-1875; The Age of Empire, 1875-1914), published between 1962 and 1987, Hobsbawm offered a narrative that continuously interweaved British, European and global pasts. Apart from the sheer craftsmanship of his writing, what made the trilogy work so well was that it was based on the belief in an underlying structure that explained the 19th century. As he put it in the preface to The Age of Revolution, his approach was to trace ‘the transformation of the world between 1789 and 1848 insofar as it was due to what is here called the “dual revolutions” – the French Revolution of 1789 and the contemporaneous (British) Industrial Revolution’. Any part of the world that was touched in a lasting fashion by these two developments was to be covered; any part not affected by the ‘dual

Central aspects of Hobsbawm’s interpretation have since been profoundly challenged, not least the underlying Marxist model

revolutions’ was not to be included. If the book’s focus was primarily European it was so ‘because in this period the world – or at least a large part of it – was transformed from a European, or rather a Franco-British, base’. It was this focus on socioeconomic change which gave coherence to Hobsbawm’s trilogy, rather than an overarching geographical or political definition. At the same time it allowed him to integrate Britain into his survey. The United Kingdom was a key factor in the socio-economic transformation called the Industrial Revolution and a pioneer of European imperialism. How could it not be at the heart of a narrative aimed at explaining how Europe had changed, allowing it to turn outwards in the 19th century and take on a temporarily global role? Two central aspects of this interpretation have since been profoundly challenged. First, the underlying Marxist model which functioned as the trilogy’s interpretative backbone: the belief in the ‘process of revolutionary transformations’ as the key to an understanding of the 19th century. Second, the Eurocentric perspective that dominated in Hobsbawm’s explanation of the period. How to write a history of the modern world in which ‘Europe’ is neither at the centre nor just a province, how to construct a narrative which takes account of the many varied intersections between Britain, Europe and the world, as well as the undetermined character of the 19th century, remain key questions for modern historians. They are questions that will be hotly debated at the History After Hobsbawm conference.

Jan RÜger is Reader in Modern History at Birkbeck, University of London.

Eric Hobsbawm by Mark Boxer.

To find out more about the History After Hobsbawm conference go to: www.bbk.ac.uk/historyafterhobsbawm. To encourage the next generation of historians, Birkbeck has set up a fund for student scholarships. If you would like to know more, or would like to make a contribution, visit: www.bbk. ac.uk/alumni/supporting-birkbeck/ eric-hobsbawm-scholarships

Battle of Clontarf by Hugh Frazer, 1826. This painting has returned to Ireland in time for Clontarf 2014.

Commemorating Clontarf

One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles in Irish history took place a thousand years ago this month. Ray Cavanaugh CLONTARF IS NOW an affluent suburb north of Dublin, but a thousand years ago it was the setting for an unprecedented event in Ireland’s history. Good Friday 1014 saw the Battle of Clontarf, an all-day affair of infernal carnage, where longstanding animosities climaxed in a spectacular deluge of bloodshed. To commemorate the anniversary, the Clontarf community is hosting a slew of diverse events that range from historical society lectures to a rugby match between Clontarf and the Barbarians FC. According to the website, www.clontarf.ie, there will also be an interactive history display where visitors can see if they are mighty enough to wear the armour and carry the weapons of the 1014 combatants. There are walking tours that explore the old Viking Dublin as well as Brian Boru Millennium Celebration tours that take visitors to the very site where, by most accounts, the old leader was slain. Dublin City Council will hold a Battle of Clontarf Festival on Easter Weekend (April 19th and 20th) at St Anne’s Park in Clontarf. This free festival will include many exhibitions as well as sword and archery sessions

for participants of all ages. Each day will culminate in a 45-minute re-enactment of the battle, featuring hundreds of would-be warriors – including ones on horseback – appearing in an event billed as ‘the biggest living history battle re-enactment ever held in Ireland’. It will be interesting to see the degree to which the Vikings are portrayed as the main enemy, as they often were in contemporary annals. On the other hand, modern historians tend to stress the Celt-on-Celt violence between high-king Brian Boru, ruler of Munster, and the rebel king of Leinster, Máelmórda mac Murchada. One possible reason for the annals’ emphasis on the Viking enemy was religious. Though some Vikings had converted to Christianity, many remained heathen, which meant that the chroniclers tended to view the Battle of Clontarf as a triumph for Christianity in Ireland. Another reason for stressing Viking hostility was that the annals were composed by monks, whose monasteries were the primary targets of Viking pillage. Clontarf 1014 was painted as such a nationalistic struggle for Ireland that it became the medieval equivalent of the Easter Rising of 1916, according to Seán Duffy, author of the recently published Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf (Gill and Macmillan),

not least because of the fact that it took place on Good Friday, with all its associations of Christian martyrdom. Adding to the drama of Clontarf was the fact that Brian Boru died during the battle (though he was almost certainly not an active combatant). Even Norse writers waxed lyrical over him: ‘Brjánn fell ok helt velli’ (Brian fell and was victorious). His victory and martyr-like death made him a national hero, celebrated for having trumped the Vikings in this struggle for Ireland’s destiny. The narrative of Brian Boru’s life and death sounded compelling, so the poets and chroniclers went with it and it is the harp of Brian Boru that became and remains Ireland’s national symbol. There has long been disagreement over how Brian Boru died. Some said that he was killed in hand-to-hand combat. This is unlikely, though, as he was at least in his mid-60s by the time of Clontarf. The more probable account (and the one to which Brian Boru’s biographer Duffy subscribes) is that the old king was killed in his tent, where he sat waiting for the battle’s end, when he was discovered by a fleeing Viking mercenary. This assailant has been identified as Brodir, a commander of the Vikings on the Isle of Man. He was unable to savour the assassination for long, as he was reportedly tracked down and slaughtered by the day’s end. Interestingly, Brodir had a brother named Ospak, who actually fought on Brian Boru’s side. It is uncertain if Ospak was, like his brother, a mercenary; he sacrificed much in the battle, as he was not only injured but he also suffered the loss of two sons. In this last respect he shared something with the fallen Brian Boru, one of whose sons also died at Clontarf. A thousand years later, this onetime venue of wrath and fury is now a site of commemoration and – for some – prayer. The anniversary day of April 23rd will feature an ecumenical service to commemorate the lives cut short on both sides.

Ray Cavanaugh is a historian of medieval Ireland. MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 7



By Richard Cavendish

MAY 27th, 1564

John Calvin dies in Geneva One of the most significant figures in Christian history was born in 1509 in France, at Noyon in the Picardy area, as Jehan or Jean Cauvin. His later opponents would contemptuously label his followers Picard or later still Calvinist, which was originally a term of abuse. His father, a lawyer, intended him for the priesthood and sent him to the University of Paris when he was 14, but he decided not to be a priest. In his student days he was drawn to the rising tide of ideas that would soon be labelled Protestantism, which believed that the Roman Catholic Church had fallen prey to materialism and superstition and called for a return to the original Christianity of the earliest centuries. He would later write that God ‘subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life’. Calvin became so identified with ‘reformism’ that he could not safely stay in France. In 1535 he arrived in Basel in the Swiss Confederation, where in 1536 he published the first edition, in Latin, of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, later known simply as the Institutes. Purporting to teach ‘almost the whole sum of godliness’, it attracted the attention of other Protestant enthusiasts. He published revised editions of it for the rest of his life and it would make him famous. Leaving Basel in 1536 for Strasbourg in Germany, Calvin went by way of Geneva, an independent city just outside Switzerland, which had attracted reformist refugees from France and Italy. One of them, a Frenchman called Guillaume Farel, persuaded Calvin to stay and help to establish Protestantism there. Farel and Calvin were too inflexible for the Geneva city council, which in 1538 ordered them to leave. They went to Strasbourg, where in 1540 Calvin married a widow called Idelette de Bure. 8 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Gone to God: John Calvin in a 16th-century French portrait.

Her death only nine years later would be a dreadful blow to him. By 1541 Calvin’s reputation had grown to the point where the Geneva council asked him back to put the chaotic religious situation there in order, which he did. He believed that the Protestant Church should be run by pastors and teachers to care for and guide the laity, elders to help the pastors maintain discipline and deacons to run charitable work. Citizens who refused to accept Calvinism were expelled from the city or, in extreme cases, executed as heretics. On the surface at least, Calvin was a forbidding and joyless figure. Although he believed that the very few human beings who would attain salvation would gain it, and were predestined to gain it, through the grace of God, not through leading a good moral life, he took an uncompromisingly austere moral line and sternly disapproved of sexual misbehaviour, drunkenness, ribald songs, swearing, gambling and dancing. As Diarmaid MacCulloch put it in his

study of the Reformation, although Calvin enjoyed playing the equivalent of shove ha’penny and an occasional game of quoits, ‘he was not inclined to conviviality … He did, however, relish getting his own way, which he identified with doing the will of God’. Doing the will of God kept Calvin working desperately hard. He preached hundreds of sermons and conducted innumerable baptisms and weddings. He maintained a vigorous correspondence with religious and political leaders all over Europe, as well as writing widely circulated commentaries on the scriptures, including much of the Old Testament and every book in the New Testament except Revelation. In 1559 he founded the Geneva Academy, where students were trained for the ministry, which the Scottish reformer John Knox called ‘the most perfect school of Christ seen on earth since the days of the Apostles’. Protestant immigrants, meanwhile, nourished new industries and businesses and Geneva prospered. Its printing industry was a success for the city’s economy, as well as an efficient Calvinist propaganda machine. The burden of so much work put a growing strain on Calvin’s health. In 1558 he came down with quartan fever, or malaria, but laboured on to complete a hugely enlarged and, as he intended, definitive edition of his Institutes to leave to posterity. Michael Mullett in his biography of Calvin quotes an admiring contemporary, Theodore Beza, who described him in 1563 as ‘exhausted by labour’ and ‘broken down by suffering’. He had lung trouble, gout and excruciating pain in his kidneys and bladder. Calvin was 54 when the end came the following year and the council recorded that he had ‘gone to God’. He was buried with little ceremony in, it is thought, the Cimetière des Rois. The grave was left unmarked, though in the 19th century a stone was placed on the one traditionally identified as the last resting place of the man Beza called ‘the greatest light there was in this world for the direction of the church of God’.

MAY 23rd, 1814

First performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio Ludwig van Beethoven’s only opera went through a troubled evolution, which he once said would earn him a martyr’s crown. In 1803 the composer, then in his thirties, was commissioned by Emanuel Schikaneder, who ran the recently opened Theater an der Wien in Vienna, to write an opera set in ancient Rome and called Vestas Feuer (‘The Vestal Flame’). Beethoven made little progress with Schikaneder’s

O what a joy: the poster for the premiere of Fidelio at Vienna’s Kärtnertortheater.

libretto, which he found uninspiring. He said it could have been created by the Viennese apple-women. Financial problems forced Schikaneder to sell the theatre in 1804, which cancelled Beethoven’s contract. The composer now fell in love with Countess Josephine Deym, a widow to whom he wrote passionate letters and told her ‘you have conquered me’. Their relationship ended in 1807, but meanwhile the new Theater an der Wien management had renewed his opera commission and he had written a different work with a libretto adapted from one by the French playwright, JeanNicolas Bouilly, which had been used for French operas earlier. Set in Spain in the late 18th century and called Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal, it was about the heroism and devoted love of Leonore, who disguises herself as a young man called Fidelio to rescue her husband Florestan. He is being slowly starved to death in solitary confinement in a dungeon by an evil official called Pizarro. Beethoven’s version was called Leonora at first, hence the Leonora overtures, and later Fidelio. The composer’s passion for Josephine,

his longing for conjugal love and the ‘solitary dungeon’ of his worsening deafness may have helped to inspire him, but when the work was performed in 1805 it was a flop and was dropped after just three performances. Beethoven revised it and shortened it from three acts to two, but it achieved only two performances in 1806 and the composer fell out with the theatre director. It would not be seen in public for another eight years. In 1814 the Viennese court theatre suggested reviving the opera and Beethoven agreed, provided it was revised. A drastically altered libretto was written by Georg Joseph Treitschke, who Beethoven thanked for salvaging ‘a stranded ship’. He wrote some magnificent new music for what was now definitely Fidelio, including a new overture. The final version was successfully presented at the Kärtnertortheater and a gala evening in September was organised for the crowned heads and leading political figures attending the Congress of Vienna to reorganise Europe after Napoleon’s abdication. With its appropriate central theme of liberation from tyranny, Fidelio has been part of the repertoire ever since.

Birth of a superhero: the Detective Comics edition featuring Batman’s first appearance.

explanation supplied by Finger, he was driven by seeing his parents murdered by a street thug when he was a child. Batman was instantly popular and sales zoomed still higher when his young sidekick Robin was introduced by Finger in 1940. There were female Robins later on. Many other writers and artists were employed on Batman tales over the years and he starred in films, on television and in video games. Recent suggestions that the early Batman was gay have been fiercely disputed. From the 1950s Superman and Batman worked together in some stories. The rogues’ gallery of villains Batman worsted included the Joker, the Riddler and Catwoman, by whom in one tale he had a son. In the hugely profitable 1989 Batman film, the Joker was so brilliantly played by Jack Nicholson that he stole the limelight from Batman himself. Finger died in 1974, Kane in 1998. Together they created a US cultural phenomenon, who long outlived them.

MAY 1st, 1939

Batman makes his debut The Caped Crusader made his entrance on the US comic book scene in the monthly Detective Comics. His creator was Bob Kane, an artist and writer aiming to find a new hero to rival Superman, who had appeared the previous year. Kane did sketches of a character with wings like those of a bat and showed them to a comic book writer called Bill Finger. The two men, both in their mid-twenties, collaborated on the Batman stories, though it was Kane who got all the credit and most of the money, to Finger’s eventual resentment. In his ordinary human persona the character they invented was a rich, idle playboy called Bruce Wayne. Finger coined the name from Robert the Bruce and ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne, an 18thcentury American general in the revolu-

tionary war against the British. He lived quietly in Gotham City (which was New York City), while as Batman he used his genius-level intelligence, supreme physical abilities and indomitable will to wage a ruthless war against criminals. In an



Horace to Horace Caroline Chapman delves into a wide-ranging and prolific correspondence, spanning half of the 18th century, between two men who spent just a year in the same country: the British court diplomat to Florence, Horace Mann, and the historian and patron of the arts, Horace Walpole.


N 1740 Horace Mann was appointed as Britain’s representative at the court of Tuscany and took up residence at Casa Manetti in Florence. Lacking two of the principal requisites for employment as a diplomat in the 18th century – wealth and nobility – his post was almost certainly due to his family’s connection with Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister. Armed instead with charm, innate courtesy and a meticulous attention to detail, Mann (c.1706-86) proved himself to be a natural diplomat. One of his first visitors was Sir Robert’s son Horace Walpole (1717-97), who was making his Grand Tour accompanied by the poet Thomas Gray. During the 12 months that Walpole stayed at Casa Manetti, he and Mann found they shared a remarkable similarity in their views and outlook. They were both refined and effeminate, delighted in scandal and gossip and laughed at the same jokes, although Walpole’s sense of the ridiculous was in a class of its own. Though the two Horaces were never to meet again, since Mann would spend the rest of his life in Italy, the friendship formed during those months not only survived separation but initiated a correspondence that was to last until Mann’s death 46 years later. This sequence of letters – nearly 1,800 10 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Above left: British gentlemen at Sir Horace Mann’s home in Florence by Thomas Patch c.1763-65, with Mann in blue. The paintings on the wall are of fireworks on the Arno and a portrait of Mann. Above right: Horace Walpole painted c.1741 by Rosalba Giovanna Carriera.

of them – fill seven of the 42 volumes in the Yale edition of Walpole’s correspondence, edited by Wilmarth Lewis. ‘We now come to the great Andean range of the Walpolian continent’, writes Lewis in his introduction. ‘For sweep and variety and the procession of great events it is unrivalled among Walpole’s correspondences.’ Walpole had been a great success with Mann’s Italian friends. They had been charmed by his wit and conversational brilliance and eager to rub shoulders with the son of the most powerful man in Britain. He was feted by even the grandest of the Florentine nobility, who were renowned for their exclusivity and reluctance to entertain foreigners. Their liaisons and intrigues became one of the main topics of Mann’s letters. There is no doubt that Mann’s letters are not a patch on Walpole’s. They were dismissed by one critic as being ‘absolutely unreadable’. But it is hardly fair to compare the letters of a busy diplomat, obliged to compose lengthy dispatches and maintain a large official correspondence, with a man who Lewis believed had ‘brought the art of letter-writing to the highest point it has reached in our language’. Horace Mann wrote from an urgent need

Mann’s letter to Walpole of March 11th, 1742: ‘How extremely kind and obliging you are to write to me at a time that I know you must be so hurried as not to have one moment’s peace. If I could avoid being miserable without your letters I would insist on your not writing at all. Write me but three lines to say you are well, and that all goes well and I shall be happy.’ MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 11

A TALE OF TWO HORACES to communicate with a dear friend. Walpole wrote partly for the same reason, but also as a means of recording the history of his own times for the benefit of posterity. To this end, Mann was required periodically to return Walpole’s letters to England. They were then transcribed into six folio books, the originals presumably later destroyed, as they have never been found.

W Right: Sir Horace Mann, painted by John Astley in Florence, c.1751, and given by Mann to Horace Walpole for Strawberry Hill a year later. Below: Bernardo Bellotto’s painting of the Arno in Florence with the Ponte Vecchio, c.1745.

ITH HIS EYE SO FIRMLY fixed on posterity, did Walpole continue the correspondence with Mann purely as a means of obtaining an accurate picture of events in southern Europe? Lewis certainly thought so. Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, one of Walpole’s 20th-century biographers, believed that Walpole chose his correspondents with care, so that ‘each particular branch of his activities and interests ... should be regularly depicted’, and that should a correspondent fail for some reason another was found to take his place to ensure there was no break in the record. Even if Mann was selected as one piece of Walpole’s great historical jigsaw, there is sufficient evidence throughout the letters to show that Walpole was deeply attached to him. In 1758 he ends a letter: ‘Adieu! my dear child – shall we never meet? Are we always to love one another at the discretion of a sheet of paper?’ Of the depth of Horace Mann’s feelings for Walpole there is no question: on the night before Walpole finally

The night before Walpole left Florence, Mann wrote: ‘One thing alone makes me really happy, which is that I am sure you love me and are convinced of my most sincere and tender affection for you’ 12 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

left Florence in spring 1741, Mann wrote: ‘I am more miserable than I wish you to conceive ... One thing alone makes me really happy, which is that I am sure you love me and are convinced of my most sincere and tender affection for you.’ Their friendship was the single most important element in his life. He had friends in Florence, both English and Italian, and was a gracious host to the endless stream of Grand Tourists who passed through the city, but few of these friendships survived the tests of time and distance. If there was any calculation in Mann’s attachment to Walpole it was limited to his need to be on good terms with the son of his patron (this motive naturally ceased with Sir Robert’s death in March 1745) and, in the 1760s, to his reliance on Walpole to use his influence to speed up both his long-awaited promotion and his investment with the Order of the Bath, an honour that had been promised to him on several occasions but had never materialised. Walpole’s pleading on Mann’s behalf displayed the devotion of a true friend. Walpole also proved his friendship whenever Mann had difficulties with members of his family who consistently failed either to communicate with him or to carry out his simplest requests. Walpole often had to step into the breach, either to chivvy or to conciliate. But with Galfridus, Mann’s much loved twin brother, there was no need for such intervention, as he and Walpole had developed a friendship independent of Horace. During Gal’s protracted last illness, it was Walpole who kept Mann informed of

every stage in his decline and who shared his profound grief when Gal died in 1756. In 1773 it was Walpole who needed help when the eccentricities of his nephew George, 3rd Earl of Orford, turned to madness. Walpole tried to persuade George’s widowed mother, Lady Orford – then living in Florence – to return to England to deal with matters. But she refused and it was left to Walpole to attempt to salvage something out of the ruin of George’s affairs. But he was unable to save Houghton, the great house in Norfolk so lovingly created by his father, or to prevent the magnificent art collection from being sold to Catherine the Great. (Several of the paintings had come from Italy, their acquisition facilitated by Mann.) Walpole was badly shaken by the whole business, seeing it as further evidence of the ‘shipwreck’ of his family. In letter after letter he poured out his feelings to Mann. In the early months of their correspondence the two Horaces addressed each other either as ‘My dear child’ or ‘My dearest child’. It was almost certainly Mann who initiated this form of address. He was 34 when they met and he must have regarded the 23-year-old who arrived at his door as little more than a precocious youth. The freedom with which they expressed their emotions and their frequent avowals of friendship may give the impression that they had been lovers during the months they had spent together at Florence. But in the 18th century it was not only women who gave free reign to their emotions; men, too, were allowed to ‘feel’ and to commit those feelings to paper. However there is one letter from Mann that could indicate that he had wished for a more intimate relationship. It was written in response to a distressed letter from Walpole, who had arrived in England to find the government in crisis and his father’s long reign as prime minister about to end in humiliation and acrimony. The sentiments

expressed by Mann in his reply appear to be built on his assumption that, should the government fall, Walpole would return to Italy: My chief reason I solemnly declare to wish it [Sir Robert’s defeat], is that we may be quiet and happy here together far from the insults of saucy ungrateful people. In such melancholy circumstances what a satisfaction would it be to a heart that overflows with love and gratitude (as I assure you my eyes at present do with tears) to have it in his power to enjoy the only satisfaction it would have left – I say no more. You must certainly understand me; you have an heart too tender yourself not to excuse the want of utterance on such an occasion.

A satire on the duel in 1743 between Horace Walpole’s uncle, also Horace, younger brother and political collaborator of Robert Walpole, on the right, and William Chetwynd. Walpole described the scene in a letter to Mann of March 14th, 1743: ‘Don’t you delight in this duel? I expect to see it daubed up by some circuit painter on the ceiling of the salon at Woolterton.’

This is startling stuff but, significantly, Mann’s heartfelt wish elicited no response from Walpole. Nor did he ever mention it again.


HE THREE WEEKS that letters took to make the journey between Florence and London occasionally led to repercussions. In spring 1745 Mann was still expressing his hopes that Walpole’s father would recover from his illness, when Sir Robert was already in his grave. ‘I wish I had received your letters on his death’, Walpole replied, ‘for it is most shocking to have all the thoughts opened again upon such a subject. It is the great disadvantage of a distant correspondence.’ And, when Mann once apologised for some of his letters arriving in batches, Walpole replied: ‘I am angry at your thinking that I can dislike to receive two or three of your letters at once. Do you take me for a child, and imagine, that though I like one plum tart, two may make me sick?’ There were also occasional signs of the correspondence flagging. These came not from Mann, for whom contact with his friend – and with all he represented – was essential


to his wellbeing, but from Walpole. Lack of news was the usual cause. One letter ends: ‘Adieu! I have scribbled, and blotted and made nothing out, and in short, have nothing to say, so goodnight!’ Sometimes Walpole was in a cross mood when he sat down to write and he made no attempt to hide it. If my share in our correspondence was all considered, I could willingly break it off; it is wearisome to pursue the thread of folly for so many years, and with the same personages on the scene. Patriotism, prostitution, power, patriotism again – one ought to be new to it all, to see it in an amusing light – but I recollect that you wish to hear it, and I submit to run through a recapitulation of what moves little more than my contempt!


UT GIVEN A GOOD SCANDAL or a political crisis and he instantly revived and wrote reams, several letters running to a dozen pages of his giltedged writing paper. The War of the Austrian Succession, the Jacobite Rising in Scotland and the other conflicts that erupted during the course of their correspondence generated long screeds, Mann fulfilling his role as Walpole’s informant on affairs in southern Europe in wearisome detail. Walpole’s close acquaintance with Florentine society proved a rich seam of gossip for many of Mann’s letters: ‘I know you love to hear the most minute circumstances about your Florentine friends’, he wrote in 1741. One such ‘circumstance’ concerned a lady whose new lover, General Braitwitz, was an old friend of Mann. The general, Horace recounted, had insisted on her not following ‘the odious practice of the Italian ladies to wear breeches, such impediments to joy. This she objected to on account of the cold her lower parts might be exposed to’, but he soon removed this objection by presenting her with an under-petticoat ‘made of fine beaver, lined with a scarlet shag, and richly laced with gold, which, and the motion her blood is put into, she finds equivalent to the best velvet breeches’. Walpole countered with details of matches, dispatches and scandals among the English aristocracy, although his tales lack the elements of farce so present in Mann’s anecdotes about his Florentine friends. One of Mann’s letters contains an account of a ‘frightful’ new fashion brought to Florence by a famous opera singer; a broken engagement; two duels; the cost of keeping a mistress; and the deathbed scene of a certain general. Of the latter, Mann wrote: ‘The priests soon got about him and banished the two pictures [of his mistresses] from his bedside to make room for those of saints of both sexes.’ AS THE TWO MEN GREW OLDER, and their memories of the people concerned grew dim, such stories diminished. Walpole once admitted that he had no news because ‘living as I do among people, who, from your long absence, you cannot know, I should talk Hebrew to mention them to you’. But, as the number of Grand Tourists increased during the century, a pattern developed whereby Walpole wrote to


Walpole’s letter to Mann of June 12th, 1753, beginning ‘Now you shall walk into the house ...’ has become one of the most quoted of all his letters describing Strawberry Hill. ‘I like to be there better than I have liked anywhere ...’

warn Mann of the arrival of lord this or earl that and, some months later, Mann would reply with news of their arrival and what he had thought of them. Their health was another recurrent theme. We learn far more than we might wish to know about Horace Mann’s haemorrhoids and wince at the detailed descriptions of the operations he underwent to relieve them. His blinding headaches, from which he suffered all his life, haunt the correspondence, as do his periodic fevers and weak nerves. With age, gout – a malady suffered by many men in the 18th century – increasingly featured in their letters, each of them insisting they had found the ultimate cure. One of Walpole’s remedies was to eat three pears every night for supper. Mann thought pears ‘at that hour must surely be improper’ and instead sat with his feet in cold water. But Walpole’s discovery of ‘bootikins’ – soft boots of flannel covered with oiled silk – transcended all other cures. He tried, unsuccessfully, to convert Mann to their use, even sending him a pair with instructions on how they should be applied. Walpole was to remain a convinced ‘bootikinist’,


Left: A transciption in Walpole’s own hand of a letter he sent to Mann on June 12th, 1753. The letter decribes the location of Strawberry Hill exactly as it is depicted in a painting by Johann Heinrich Muntz’ (opposite left) of 1755-79. Right: Mann bought this small bust of Caligula and sent it to Walpole, who displayed it in a glass case at Strawberry Hill.

although once, when gout had confined him to bed for 22 weeks, he was driven to taking Sir Walter Raleigh’s cordial, a devastating mixture of hartshorn combined with ‘vipers flesh with their hearts and livers’. His subsequent letters make no mention of the result.


CCASIONALLY the correspondence throws up some fact that startles the modern reader, such as Mann’s observation that although ‘the better sort of people’ had embraced the newly discovered inoculation against smallpox, the poor saw the disease as a way of easing ‘them of the burden of their children, whom they cannot maintain ... and they make no mystery of owning it’. While this comment whisks the reader straight back to the 18th century, some of Horaces’ views could have been expressed today. Walpole’s account of his house being wilfully damaged during a break-in and of riots in London in 1771 in support of John Wilkes horrified Mann, who was convinced that England was descending into chaos. He blamed the ‘ill-regulated police’ for their

inability to control the mob and reflected sadly ‘what a piteous light all this puts our nation in abroad’. Such weighty concerns are off-set by frivolous anecdotes, for example, Walpole’s about a man who dropped dead outside White’s club. He was carried inside, whereupon everyone ‘immediately made bets whether he was dead or not and, when they were going to bleed him, the wagerers for his death interposed, and said it would affect the fairness of the bet’. At times, the letters convey an extraordinary sense of immediacy. ‘Nothing was ever so vexatious!’, Walpole once exclaimed. ‘I have just written you a long letter of three sides, and laid it upon the hearth to dry, while I stepped into [the] next room to fetch some sealing wax; a coal has fallen on it, and I find it all in flames’. And in the middle of one letter Mann suddenly cried: ‘Jesus! A large green-house that was near finished in the garden is this instant fallen down.’ Walpole’s intimate knowledge of Casa Manetti enabled him to visualise such incidents, but Mann was handicapped by having no mental picture of either Walpole’s house in London or of Strawberry Hill, the Twickenham villa Walpole purchased in 1747. Walpole had once confessed that he did not favour the country just ‘because it bears turnips well, or because you may gallop over it without meeting a tree’. He now revelled in beautifying his acres and cultivating his garden. From this point on his letters to Mann are suffused with his love for the place and MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 15

A TALE OF TWO HORACES his endless pleasure in transforming it into a little Gothic ‘castle’. His letter to Mann of June 12th, 1753, which begins ‘Now you shall walk into the house...’, has become one of the most quoted of all his letters describing Strawberry Hill. ‘I like to be there’, he told Mann, ‘better than I have liked being anywhere since I came to England. I sigh after Florence ... I can truly say that I never was happy but at Florence’, a sentiment which must have been profoundly gratifying to Mann. But he was not altogether excluded from what had become the passion of Walpole’s life. He was able to contribute to the villa by seeking out objects with which to adorn it. And he had the satisfaction of knowing that several of the presents he had given Walpole found a home there. The first of these was a portrait of Bianca Cappello, mistress and later wife of Francesco I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, which Walpole had admired when he had seen it in Florence. Walpole expressed his astonishment that ‘there is a man in this world’ who, despite the pressure of business and being ‘overrun by cubs and cubbacionis’ (as he called Grand Tourists), should not only remember that he had coveted the picture after 12 years had elapsed, but ‘whips it on board a ship, and sends it to his friend’. Twenty years later it remained a source of pleasure: ‘I am writing to you in the bow-window, of my delicious round tower with your Bianca Cappello over against me, and the setting sun behind me, throwing its golden rays all around ...’


N 1767 MANN SENT WALPOLE a small bronze head of the Roman emperor Caligula, one of the earliest finds during the excavation at Herculaneum. Mann had bought it from a ‘great antiquarian’ who ‘always carried it about in his pocket’. Walpole was enchanted by it, declaring that it was ‘the finest little bust that ever my eyes beheld. I gaze on it from morning to night’. When Walpole received yet another gift from Mann he expressed his gratitude in mock-angry terms: ‘Upon my honour I will pack my house at Strawberry Hill and send it to you, if you send me any more presents. Why, it is full of them, and belongs more to you than to me. Have you no mercy?’ Some five months later he was in nostalgic mood: ‘It is cruel to me never to see you here – what an addition would it be to the tranquility I have had the sense to give myself.’ In December 1775 Mann’s last surviving brother died. Initially there were doubts as to whether the family estate in Kent had been left to him. Walpole at once offered to contest the will on his friend’s behalf, should it prove necessary. Then, displaying a surprising obtuseness by presuming that Mann would move to England, he continues: I flatter myself this thought delights you as much as it does me. I own it was the moment I always looked to. It was my comfort against the melancholy idea of our never meeting again. You must come to your country – and, I trust, to your estate. 16 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Galfridus Mann by John Astley, in a companion portrait to the one of his brother that hung with it in the refectory at Strawberry Hill.

Mann’s reply listed his reasons why leaving Florence was out of the question: his advanced age (he was nearly 70), the long journey, the climate and the high cost of living. ‘What should I ever do in the great town of London, without employment or pursuit of any kind, and without health and strength to partake of the fatiguing amusements of it?’ Clearly, the prospect of trying to start his life afresh in his native country appalled him. ‘It would be imprudent’, he wrote, ‘to quit such an employment as this which I now enjoy with tranquility suitable to my age.’ Walpole was deeply hurt by Mann’s letter: ‘You have chilled me so thoroughly by the coldness of your answer, and by the dislike you express to England, that I shall certainly press you no more to come. I thought at least it would have cost you a struggle.’ Mann’s reply demonstrated that it had indeed been a struggle: his brother’s death had not been unexpected and he ‘had had full time to make all my reflections upon it, and it was then that the conflict in my mind was great indeed’. A month later Walpole was resigned: ‘Your return might have opened a warm channel of affection, which above 30 years could not freeze; but I am sure you know my steadiness too well, to suspect me of cooling to you, because we are both grown too old to meet again.’ This episode had upset them both, but their correspondence soon resumed its usual steady course, though ruffled now by the drip of bad news from America, as Britain fought to retain its colonies. Occasionally an anniversary is marked: ‘I shall ever remember’, Horace mused in January 1780, ‘the year 1739 as the happiest of my life, as it procured me the greatest consolation I have ever since had, in your most inestimable friendship’. And from Walpole: ‘A correspondence of near half a century is, I suppose, not to be paralleled in the annals of the Post Office!’ Horace Mann’s last letter to Horace Walpole, written in a trembling hand on September 5th, 1786, ends: ‘Adieu my dear Sir, I am quite exhausted.’ He died nine weeks later. Caroline Chapman is the author of Elizabeth and Georgiana: The Duke of Devonshire and his Two Duchesses (John Murray, 2002).


From the Archive

The Gossip as Historian

Ian Christie balances the skill and wit of Horace Walpole as a writer against his shortcomings as a historian. www.historytoday. com/archive

Sir Harold Acton, Three Extraordinary Ambassadors (Thames and Hudson, 1983). Horace Walpole, The Letters of Horace Walpole (BiblioLife, 2008). Timothy Mowl, Horace Walpole: The Great Outsider (Faber & Faber, 2010). J. Doran, (ed.), ‘Mann’ and Manners at the Court of Florence (Richard Bentley & Sons, 2 vols, 1876). I. Giberne Sieveking, The Memoir of Sir Horace Mann (Kegan Paul, 1912).



An Intimate Betrayal A brilliant intelligence officer at MI5, Guy Liddell’s reputation was damaged forever by one great failure: his deception by the Cambridge spies. Ben Macintyre describes the slow dawning of treachery described in the final volume of Liddell’s remarkable diaries.

Guy Liddell, photograped in 1938, and his diaries.


BETWEEN 1939 AND 1953 Guy Liddell, MI5’s director of counter-espionage, kept a diary. Almost every working day he would dictate an entry, often several pages long, to his secretary Margot Huggins, who would then type it up and lock it in the personal safe of MI5’s director general. The diary was so secret it had its own code name: ‘Wallflowers’. This diary is probably the single most important British intelligence document of the 20th century. It describes in meticulous detail the daily workings of MI5 (the Security Service), MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service) and other parts of the Whitehall intelligence machine: the turf battles, the personalities, anecdotes, successes and failures. It also tells an extraordinary story of treachery and betrayal. Liddell, a First World War veteran and holder of the Military Cross, was intelligent, sensitive, witty and quite lonely. His marriage to an eccentric aristocrat, Calypso Baring, fell dramatically apart when she ran off with her half-brother to California, taking their four children with her. From then on Liddell lived alone in a flat off Sloane Street and seems to have found it therapeutic to unload his thoughts into his journal. Like all the best diarists, he confides in himself. Liddell was part of the wartime circle of hard-drinking, highly educated, faintly bohemian intelligence officers that gathered frequently at the home of Tommy Harris, a wealthy half-Spanish art dealer who would gain fame as the MI5 case officer for Juan Pujol, the double agent codenamed ‘Garbo’. Harris and his wife Hilda were generous hosts and their Chelsea home, with its large wine cellar, became an open house for spies during the war. Kim Philby of MI6 was a regular at the Harris salon: ‘You’d drop in to see who was around’, Philby remembered, to enjoy the company of fellow intelligence officers in an ‘atmosphere of haute cuisine and grand vin’. Another regular guest was Guy Burgess, a friend of Philby from Cambridge, who had been recruited into MI6 before the war, flamboyant in his homosexuality, faintly malodorous and wildly unpredictable. Here, too, came their friend Anthony Blunt, a Cambridge art scholar and another homosexual. Harris’s evening soirées offered a retreat where intelligence officers could relax, drink and gossip together. Members of the secret services, forbidden to speak of their work to their wives and families, bonded in this strange, elite world. ‘It was an organisation in which a large proportion of one’s colleagues, male and female, were personal friends’, wrote Nicholas Elliott, Kim

Philby made a particular point of cultivating Liddell, one of the few intelligence officers he regarded as an intellectual equal. ‘He would murmur his thoughts as if groping his way towards the facts of a case, his face creased in a comfortable, innocent smile’, wrote Philby. ‘But behind the façade of laziness, his subtle and refIective mind played over a storehouse of photographic memories.’ Philby admired Liddell’s professionalism – and feared it. But in truth Philby had nothing to fear from Liddell, who suspected nothing. In 1946 Philby was appointed MI6 station chief in Turkey. Guy Liddell was ‘profoundly sorry’ to see him go. ‘Kim gave a large farewell party’, he recorded in his diary, ‘which consisted mostly of representatives of our office, SIS [MI6] and the Americans. He is off to Turkey.’ When Guy Burgess was reprimanded for ‘loose and irresponsible talk’ (he had got blind drunk in Tangiers), Liddell stood firm in his defence. Hilariously, he insisted: ‘Guy Burgess was not the sort of person who would deliberately pass confidential information to unauthorised parties … there was no doubt that drink loosened his tongue.’ The first hint of the coming storm appears in Liddell’s diary in April 1951, when he referred to ‘a case of a Soviet agent that we had been looking for who leaked from the British Embassy in 1944 or 1945 … there are two people who might fit the bill; one [is] Donald Maclean’, a friend of both Burgess and Philby, who was also a Soviet spy. The net was closing.

Philby’s closest friend. ‘A sort of convivial camaraderie prevailed, rather like a club, in which we all called each other by our first names, and saw a lot of one another outside the office.’ Professional and social lives merged. Philby’s job as head of the Iberian section of MI6’s counter-intelligence unit brought him into regular contact with Liddell; in 1941 Liddell took on Blunt as his personal assistant. Liddell was entirely unaware that another, even more secret group existed within the club. Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt were all Soviet spies, who had been recruited by the NKVD, Stalin’s intelligence service, fresh from Cambridge in the 1930s. Their Soviet intelligence codenames were, respectively, ‘Stanley’, ‘Orphan’ and ‘Tony’. A slow, grim realisation The first two volumes of Liddell’s diaries, edited by Nigel West, were published in 2005. The final volume, covering the period 1945 to 1953, the years in which the great Soviet spy scandal began to unravel, was declassified in October 2012 and can now be read at the National Archives (KV 4/466-475). It is an astonishing and, in parts, oddly moving document, charting Liddell’s reactions to the mounting evidence of his friends’ treachery, from bland confidence, through apprehension, to open suspicion. The fissures of doubt gradually spread across Liddell’s diary, as he slowly came to the grim realisation that some of his closest friends, men he trusted utterly, had deceived and betrayed him. Liddell’s friendship with the Cambridge spies wrecked his career, unfairly tarnishing the reputation of an exceptional intelligence officer. The scandal is usually seen as an institutional and political calamity but, as Liddell’s diary shows, for some it was also a personal and private disaster, a most intimate betrayal. References to Philby, Burgess and Blunt pepper the early parts of the diary. By 1941 Philby was playing a crucial role in MI6 and Liddell was impressed. ‘Any successes are entirely due to the efforts of Kim Philby’, he wrote of MI6’s counter-espionage efforts in Portugal in 1943. They dined and lunched together. Liddell could be scathing about MI5’s sister service, but he has only praise for Philby. ‘Kim Philby is trying to get things sorted out …’ Blunt, meanwhile, had been promoted from assisting Liddell to a role at the very centre of MI5, working on German counter-espionage, running a surveillance unit and intercepting the diplomatic bags of neutral countries. Liddell’s wartime diaries contain more than 50 references to Blunt, usually referred to informally as ‘Anthony’. Burgess, meanwhile, joined the Foreign Office while secretly working for MI5. He and Liddell often went to the music hall together. While rising through the ranks of British intelligence, all three spies were passing secrets to Moscow in an astonishing torrent. Blunt alone passed over a staggering total of 1,771 documents to his Soviet controller.

Philby admired Liddell’s professionalism – and feared it. But in truth Philby had nothing to fear from Liddell, who suspected nothing

From the Archive

Kim Philby: Living a Lie

Almost everything written about and by Kim Philby is wrong, claims Boris Volodarsky. www.historytoday/archive

Sudden departure A month later, tipped off by Philby, Burgess and Maclean fled to Moscow. Liddell was thunderstruck at their sudden disappearance. ‘In view of the past association between Burgess and Maclean … it seems pretty clear that the pair of them have gone off.’ Quite where or why they had vanished was as yet a mystery: ‘We naturally felt that either the motive was blackmail or that there had been some sort of espionage. These seem to be the only two reasons that could possibly account for so sudden a departure.’ Liddell resisted the idea that Burgess might be behind the Iron Curtain: ‘It seemed to me unlikely that a man of Burgess’s intelligence could imagine that he had any future in Russia.’ As MI5 put the pieces together, the finger of suspicion began to point at Philby. He knew about the investigation into Maclean, while Burgess had been living in his Washington flat until a few weeks before his disappearance. Yet Liddell refused to believe that Philby or Blunt could have been implicated: ‘There is no doubt that Kim Philby is thoroughly disgusted with Burgess’s behaviour’, wrote Liddell after Philby contacted him to express horror at his friend’s defection. MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 19

| SPY DIARIES On May 31st, 1951 Liddell wrote: ‘I dined with Anthony Blunt ... I feel certain that Blunt was never a conscious collaborator with Burgess in any activities that he may have conducted on behalf of the Comintern.’ Yet Liddell’s certainty about the innocence of his friends was beginning to waver. On that very day Philby was interrogated by Dick White of the MI5 counter-intelligence branch. He told Liddell that Philby’s answers were ‘not … wholly convincing’. Despite White’s suspicions, Liddell maintained contact with Philby: ‘Kim is extremely worried’, he wrote. He began to imagine ways in which Philby might have tipped off Burgess accidentally: ‘Personally I think it not unlikely that the papers relating to Maclean might have been on Kim’s desk and that Burgess strolled into the room while Kim was not there.’ This was clutching at straws. In November 1951 Philby was interrogated by Helenus ‘Buster’ Milmo, a harddriving barrister working for MI5. Liddell listened in and was shocked. ‘Philby’s attitude throughout was quite extraordinary; he certainly did not behave like an innocent person … He never made any violent protestation of innocence, nor did he make any attempt to prove his case.’ There was not enough evidence to prosecute, but Milmo concluded that Philby was, and had been for years, a Soviet agent. Still Liddell found it ‘hard to believe’ that Burgess and Maclean, let alone Philby and Blunt, might be spies. He desperately did not want to believe, but the evidence against Philby was mounting. ‘While all the points against him are capable of another explanation their cumulative effect is certainly impressive’, wrote Liddell. And, if Philby was guilty, what of the other friends they shared? What of his good friend Anthony Blunt, who was interrogated by MI5 in 1952 but admitted nothing? ‘While I believe that Blunt dabbled in Communism’, wrote Liddell, ‘I still think it unlikely that he ever became a member.’ And what of Tommy Harris, whose home had been the scene of so many well-oiled get-togethers? Suspicion began to creep through the intelligence establishment, as its senior figures eyed one another and wondered. Guy Liddell clung to the hope that it might all turn out to be a ghastly mistake and that Philby and Blunt would be cleared of suspicion. Wrong conclusion Eventually Philby was told that he would have to resign from MI6 and be paid off with a lump sum. Liddell discussed the Philby imbroglio with Sir Stewart Menzies, ‘C’, the chief of MI6. ‘C seemed to have reached the conclusion that Kim was innocent’, wrote Liddell. ‘I said that I had come to the conclusion that the only thing to do in cases of this kind, where one knew an individual fairly intimately, was to sink one’s personal view and 20 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Kim Philby (standing) at the 1955 press conference during which he denied he was the ‘third man’.

allow those concerned to get on with the job, purely on the basis of ascertainment of facts. Otherwise one was liable to get misled.’ Between 1951 and 1956 Philby was left in limbo: many in MI5 were convinced of his guilt; many in MI6, equally certain of his innocence. Liddell was caught somewhere in the middle. One evening in 1953 Liddell went to a dinner party hosted by Tommy Harris and discovered that Philby had been invited, too. He greeted his old friend Philby ‘in the normal way’, although both knew the situation could hardly have been stranger. Harris himself was now under suspicion. Like Philby, his telephone was being bugged and Liddell knew it. The dinner guests all tried to pretend that the party was no different from the many that had preceded it. Philby seemed ‘somewhat worried’, Liddell wrote in his diary, and left early. They would never meet again. Guy Liddell had hoped and expected to become head of MI5, but he was closely associated with too many suspected spies for the top job and rumours were already circulating to the effect that he, too, might be a double agent. An MI6 report hinted that Liddell himself could be a gay Soviet spy, pointing out that he ‘had parted from his wife, had a faintly homosexual air about him and, during the war, had been a close friend of Burgess, Philby and Blunt’. Dick White was appointed Director General of MI5. Bitterly disappointed, Liddell resigned and took a job as head of security at the Atomic Energy Authority. The diary abruptly ends in May 1953. He died three years later. Liddell did not live long enough to see the guilt of his friends established beyond doubt. Philby fled to Moscow in 1963; that same year, Blunt struck an immunity deal with MI5 in return for a confession. He was finally unmasked in 1979. Liddell’s friendships with the three spies continued to haunt his reputation long after his death. In 1989 he was identified, quite unfairly, as the ‘fifth man’. Liddell was not a Soviet mole. His diary is proof that he was incapable of disloyalty to his country. He was a brilliant intelligence officer, whose many successes have been cruelly obscured by one great failure. The Cambridge spies fooled everybody, but no one more comprehensively, or more destructively, than Guy Liddell. Perhaps he was naïve, but anyone who has ever been deceived must feel for Liddell. For his is a most human story played out, day by day, in the pages of his journal: a spy-hunter who could not see the spies around him; a gentleman-spy who could not bring himself to believe a gentleman could be a spy; a man trained to distrust, who trusted too much.

Ben Macintyre writes for The Times and is the author of A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal (Bloomsbury, 2014).

NEHRU Nehru shares a platform with his defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon in Bombay during the election campaign, early 1962.

Death of a Democrat

Jawaharlal Nehru died 50 years ago this month. Gyanesh Kudaisya describes the final years of India’s founding prime minister, a period marked by major challenges at home as well as abroad in the aftermath of the 1962 war with China.


N DECEMBER 17TH AND 18TH, 1961, on Nehru’s orders, Indian troops marched into Goa, an area of about 1,500 square miles on the country’s western coast, to ‘liberate’ it from the Portuguese, who had ruled the territory since 1510. In a brisk operation over 30,000 Indian troops overran this last colonial enclave, overwhelming and capturing about 3,500 Portuguese soldiers. Condemnation was swift, both from critics at home and abroad. C. Rajagopalachari, one of the country’s most respected elder statesmen, said that India had ‘totally lost the moral power to raise her voice against militarism’. Others pointed out that the MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 21

NEHRU military adventure in Goa was a ploy to divert the nation’s attention from the increasing Chinese border incursions (since 1959 the Chinese had occupied over 12,000 square miles of formerly Indian territory). Further afield, the action was ‘deeply deplored’ by Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, West Germany and other countries. Nehru was denounced as a hypocrite who preached nonviolence and disarmament to the world, yet practised the use of force at home. A UN Security Council resolution against India was almost voted in favour, but for a veto by the Soviet Union.


UST A FEW WEEKS EARLIER, on November 14th, 1961, Nehru had celebrated his 72nd birthday with customary fervour. ‘A miracle of health’ in the words of someone who worked closely with him, Nehru practised yoga regularly, including the headstand. He typically worked a 16-hour day, seven days a week and received about 500 letters and 100 telegrams a day. He travelled widely and wrote and delivered around 25 speeches a month. Then in his 15th year as premier, he held several positions, including Cabinet portfolios of external affairs and atomic energy and chairmanship of the planning commission, exercising unrivalled political authority. In the election campaign that took place immediately after the invasion Nehru was able to strike a patriotic chord, capitalising on ‘restoring Goa to the Motherland’. His ruling Congress party was re-elected in 361 out of 494 parliamentary seats and was back in power for a third successive term. Yet, in spite of the criticism, no one could foresee that the triumphant note sounded over Goa also marked the countdown to the end of Nehru’s leadership. The military conflict with China that broke out in full force in October 1962 would be momentous for India, bringing about extraordinary tribulations for Nehru. In its aftermath came growing tensions with Pakistan, political unrest in the Kashmir valley and domestic criticism and challenges to his political authority. In November 1961, just before the Goa campaign, in response to stinging criticism in parliament, Nehru and his defence minister, V.K. Krishna Menon, had taken steps to reclaim from the Chinese some territory by setting up forward posts. Arguably, this much debated ‘forward policy’ inflamed the situation. In August 1962 Nehru informed parliament that Indian soldiers had re-occupied around 4,000 sq km of some 19,000 sq km of territory that the Chinese had taken. The prospect of war loomed. Later the cabinet secretary, S.S. Khera, recalled: ‘Suspicion, distrust, a mood of general sullenness, seemed to lie like an incubus upon everything and haunted everyone in the defence ministry from Krishna Menon downwards during the critical period before the crisis of 1962.’ In the spring of 1962 Nehru suffered his first serious illness, due to a kidney affliction known as pyelonephritis. He recovered quickly but his body acquired a slight stoop and he was forced by doctors to cut down his long working days. In September he attended the Commonwealth prime ministers’ 22 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

conference in London, even as he knew that border tensions with China were getting out of hand. Yet, when the Chinese strike came on October 19th and 20th, the Indian leadership called it an unprovoked and sudden offensive, a ‘Himalayan Pearl Harbor’. While the Chinese advance was swift and dramatic, beginning with the assault on Namka Chu in Ladakh and the occupation of Tawang in the north-east, the Indian response revealed an utter lack of planning and a failure of leadership. As the Chinese overran the Himalayan frontier, precipitating a full-scale confrontation, the Indian army suffered a virtual rout in both Ladakh and the north-east sectors. In the course of the conflict the Indian casualty figure reached 7,000, with nearly 1,400 dead. A month later, on November 21st, a unilateral ceasefire was called by the Chinese; by then they had wrestled over 23,200 sq km of territory from India, retaining 4,000 sq km in the Ladakh region. Indian counter-defence was catastrophic. Over 3,000 ill-equipped, ill-rationed

Party stalwarts closed ranks to force the prime minister’s hand. They told Nehru bluntly ‘it is Menon today. Tomorrow will be your turn’

and unacclimatised soldiers were mobilised, with only about 400 of them issued with adequate winter clothing. Gurkha and Rajput units had been made to march in biting cold to Namka Chu in Ladakh with just cotton uniforms, canvas shoes and one blanket per man. Unaccustomed to the altitude and the terrain, the Indians faced over 10,000 well-provisioned Chinese soldiers. Raj Thapar, a member of the army chief Lieutenant General P.M. Thapar’s household, later recalled: ‘The picture in my mind ... was of an ill-equipped army, of generals running around barefoot, trying to sort out matters but not succeeding, a sort of bedlam.’ Reports circulated about deep divisions within the military top brass. General Thapar had advocated caution, but was overruled by Menon, whose protégé, Lieutenant General B.M. Kaul, was made corps commander. Within days of the crisis Kaul, unable to withstand the high-altitude battlefront, was stricken with pleurisy and evacuated to his sickbed in Delhi, from where he continued to direct military operations. War led to a declaration of national emergency. Images of poorly armed and ill-shod Indian soldiers fighting desperately across the snowcapped frontier captured the popular imagination. The nation enveloped itself in patriotic sentimentalism. Citizens’ rallies and defence fund collection drives were organised across the country. In the spirit of national unity, criticism was initially muted, but the conduct of the Indian operation badly damaged Nehru’s standing. The perception was widespread that the government had bungled badly. Even President Radhakrishnan, after a visit to the front, publicly acknowledged the government’s ‘credulity and negligence’. As the blame game began, heads started to roll. The army chief and the chief of staff were both fired. Although Nehru maintained a stoic silence, he could not continue to ignore demands for Menon’s resignation. On October 31st he responded with ‘a half-measure’ by taking charge of defence himself, but allowed Menon to continue in the cabinet as minister for defence production. Menon did not help matters by declaring: ‘Nothing is changed. I’m still a member of cabinet and I am still sitting in the defence ministry.’ While Menon took most of the blame for the appalling state of the nation’s defences and his idiosyncratic handling of the generals, critics attributed India’s defeat to Nehru’s altruistic external policy of non-alignment and his failure to take a realistic stance towards China. Congress party stalwarts closed ranks to force the prime minister’s hand. They told Nehru bluntly: ‘It is Menon today. Tomorrow will be your turn.’

T Left: Krishna Menon at a UN debate, late 1961. Top: Nehru with Averell Harriman and J.K. Galbraith after meeting to discuss US military aid over border clashes with China, November 1962. Above: Elizabeth II with Commonwealth ministers at Buckingham Palace in September 1962. Nehru is seated second from the left.

HE HIMALAYAN WAR was a dramatic turning point for Nehru’s leadership. The premier made a desperate plea for military help to the US president John F. Kennedy and the British prime minister Harold Macmillan. He also approached the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to use his influence to restrain the Chinese. Throughout much of the war the two great powers, the US and the Soviet Union, were caught up in a deadly game of brinksmanship over the Cuban Missile Crisis. The American envoy in New Delhi, J.K. Galbraith, however, managed to persuade the Kennedy administration to dispatch help. By the first week of November over 60 plane loads of ammunition had been flown to India. The British response was more circumspect. However, by late November high-powered US and British delegations were in New Delhi, led by US Under Secretary of State Averell Harriman and British Commonwealth Secretary Duncan Sandys. The Chinese ceasefire on November 21st came as a relief, but the greater challenge of defending the long Himalayan frontier remained. Although India and the Soviet Union had signed a deal in August 1962 for MiG-21 fighter planes, these never materialised during the hostilities, leading to speculation that the Soviets would not permit the use of their weapons against another Communist country. A peace conference of African and Asian leaders in Colombo, convened MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 23

An American plane airlifts supplies and Indian troops near Leh in the Himalayas, 1963. Below: Mules carrying ammunition over a mountain pass during the Sino-Indian conflict, November 1962.

by the Ceylonese premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike, only revealed division among the non-aligned nations and failed to produce tangible results. Nehru was upset that US and British offers of military help came with strings attached. India was now forced to accept outside mediation and to open a dialogue with Pakistan over the highly contentious issue of Kashmir. Both the US and UK governments had used the Himalayan crisis to put pressure on India to make concessions to Pakistan and to settle the Kashmir issue. Nehru’s carefully nurtured policy of non-alignment suffered a setback and India’s stature on the global stage, which he had worked so hard to build, diminished.


N APRIL 1963 THE CONGRESS PARTY lost three critical parliamentary by-elections. The political undercurrents now came out into the open. Some of Nehru’s most trenchant critics from across the opposition – the elder politician J.B. Kripalani, the socialist firebrand Ram Manohar Lohia and the suave right-wing Swatantra party leader Minoo Masani – returned to parliament ‘to pour scorn on an ageing and disillusioned prime minister’. In parliament’s monsoon session Kripalani moved a motion of no confidence, the first such challenge to his leadership Nehru had faced since 1947. Although defeated, the motion was deeply symbolic of the shifting political dissatisfaction with the government. Anxious stirrings within the Congress party reflected the mood. Over 80 members of its national committee petitioned for a special session to discuss the slide in the party’s political fortunes. Held on August 9th and 10th, 1963, the special Congress began innocuously with the party delegates deliberating ways to revive the organisation. Behind the scenes, though, a far-reaching purge was being conceived by the party chiefs to refurbish its image and to reinforce Nehru’s


NEHRU standing. The session triggered a political earthquake, the largest reshuffle, both in government and party, in India’s political history. Known as the ‘Kamaraj Plan’ after its author K. Kamaraj Nadar, the influential chief minister of Madras, it called upon Congress leaders holding ministerial office at the centre and in the states to relinquish their positions and devote themselves to organisational work to revive and strengthen the party. A game of musical chairs was played out over who would stay in office and who would be forced to quit. Nehru, working closely with Kamaraj, pondered the political chess board. Finally, after two weeks of suspense, over half of the central Cabinet and the chief ministers of six states were made to take the ‘path of renunciation’. Those eliminated from cabinet posts included the Bombay MP S.K. Patil and Morarji Desai, whose personality and ideology Nehru found distasteful. He was also

Behind the scenes a far-reaching purge was being conceived by the Congress party chiefs to refurbish its image and to reinforce Nehru’s standing

able to get rid of Bakshi Gulam Mohammad, the controversial chief minister of Kashmir. It appeared that Nehru, the consummate politician, had succeeded in regaining his authority over party and government. However, the Congress party heavyweights realised that they had to face up to the inevitable question: ‘After Nehru Who?’ The party had to survive, take care of its electoral interests and move on in uncertain times. Some of these men, including Kamaraj, met quietly in October 1963 in the temple town of Tirupati in southern India to form what came to be known as the ‘Syndicate’, an informal leadership collective to manage the question of political succession. THE OUTBREAK OF WAR WITH CHINA brought another hopelessly tangled issue to Nehru’s urgent attention, that of Kashmir. During the 1962 war Pakistan’s president, Ayub Khan, had protested vehemently against US and British military aid to India, declaring that it ‘may enlarge and prolong the conflict’ and warning that the arms might be used against Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute. To assuage Pakistani fears, Averell Harriman and Duncan Sandys travelled to Rawalpindi soon after visiting New Delhi. The outcome of their visit was a joint statement by Nehru and Ayub Khan issued on November 29th, 1962 agreeing to renew efforts to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Nehru’s hands were tied due to the circumstances but in private he strongly resented this interference in what he considered was a bilateral dispute. Talks began between the Indian minister Swaran Singh and the Pakistani foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. However, in January 1963, even as discussions were underway, Pakistan announced a provisional agreement under which it ceded over 10,000 sq kms of territory in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir to China – territory over which India made claims. New Delhi saw this gesture as adding insult to injury. Held over six prolonged rounds between December 1962 and May 1963, the talks proved unproductive and only hardened attitudes on both sides. American and British diplomatic efforts now turned to getting Nehru and Ayub Khan to accept third party international mediation to solve the Kashmir deadlock, a proposal that went against the grain of Nehru’s creed of non-alignment.


Nehru in Parliament House, New Delhi, on his way to address members about Indian reverses in the war with China, November 1962.

EANWHILE, IN KASHMIR – from where Nehru’s ancestors came and a region with which he identified strongly – the political crisis deepened. Resentment against the unpopular regime of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, who had replaced the charismatic Sheikh Abdullah as chief minister, was rife, even though Bakshi had resigned under the Kamaraj Plan and one of his cronies had succeeded him. People regarded the detention of Abdullah, imprisoned for 11 years without trial, as being part of a political vendetta. To aggravate the situation, on December 26th, 1963 a crisis arose due to the mysterious theft of a relic of the Prophet Muhammad from the shrine of Hazratbal in Srinagar. The relic, a three-inch strand of the Prophet’s hair kept in a silver-capped glass phial, had been brought to Srinagar by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th century. Violent disorder broke out as thousands of Kashmiri Muslims took to the streets to express their distress and Nehru had to make a radio broadcast to calm the situation. Although the relic was returned surreptitiously to the shrine on January 2nd, 1964, rumours circulated MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 25


From the Archive

Gandhi and Nehru: Frustrated Visionaries

Judith Brown assesses the coupling of sage and politician that achieved much – but not all – for Hindu aspirations. www.historytoday. com/archive

Above: Nehru’s cremation made world news. Right: Sheikh Abdullah with Nehru soon after Abdullah’s release from prison, spring 1964. Opposite page: Crowds at Nehru’s funeral in New Delhi on May 28th, 1964.

that it was not authentic and popular protests continued for several weeks. Mass demonstrations also occurred across cities in Pakistan at Karachi, Rawalpindi, Dhaka and Lahore against this ‘Indian conspiracy’. On January 30th Nehru sent Lal Bahadur Shastri, his trusted Congress party lieutenant and political troubleshooter, to Srinagar to deal with the crisis. Shastri ordered that Islamic clerics examine the relic. On February 2nd, in scenes of high drama, the clerics pronounced it to be genuine. A public exhibition followed and anger thereafter subsided. Nonetheless the Hazratbal incident had far-reaching consequences. Sectarian violence broke out in the Khulna and Jessore districts of East Pakistan. Thousands of displaced Hindu families fleeing the rioting took refuge in the Indian State of West Bengal. In retaliation, violence against Muslim minorities was reported from the Indian cities of Calcutta, Jamshedpur and Rourkela. Nehru dreaded the vicious cycle of Hindu-Muslim violence, with its inevitable displacement of people from their homes. He had lived through the horrors of Partition. To his distress it had begun once again. Although he was now seriously unwell, Nehru knew that a turnaround was needed in Kashmir. In April 1964 Sheikh Abdullah was released from prison. After a ten-day triumphant procession across the Kashmir valley, Abdullah addressed an ecstatic crowd of over 250,000 people at a rally in Srinagar, where he strongly reaffirmed the right of Kashmiri people to self-determination. He then visited New Delhi, staying as Nehru’s guest in his house. It appeared that a major initiative was underway to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem centred around Abdullah. The Kashmiri leader held wide-ranging talks with Nehru and several important figures. He also received an invitation from Ayub Khan to visit Pakistan, which Nehru encouraged him to accept. Through these turbulent months, Nehru kept his nerve. Even in the gloomiest moments of the war he did not seek scapegoats. Neither did 26 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Nehru always believed the question of succession should be decided by party and people after he was gone he conceal his grief for the loss of Indian soldiers. In January 1963 he is said to have been moved to tears before more than 50,000 people when the singer Lata Mangeshkar performed the patriotic Hindi elegy ‘Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon!’ (Oh The People of My Country!). During this time he continued to seek the counsel of President Radhakrishnan and of close Cabinet colleagues such as Shastri, T.T. Krishnamachari and Y.B. Chavan, who took over the defence portfolio from Menon.


N JANUARY 7TH, 1964 Nehru suffered a mild stroke at Bhubaneswar in eastern India, where he had gone to attend the annual session of the Congress party. He recovered after a few days and returned to the capital but his left limbs were affected. Recalling those days Harivanshrai Bachchan, Hindi poet and a friend of Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, wrote: ‘When Induji [Indira] brought Panditji [Nehru] home from Bhubaneshwar, I went to visit him early one morning, and found her walking with him hand-in-hand in the Teen Murti garden. The paralysis had affected the left side of Panditji’s body; the lawn was still wet with dew, and while Panditji’s right footprints were distinct and separate, a long continuous trail in the damp grass indicated the dragging of his left foot. It was a most pathetic sight.’ Arrangements were now made to lighten Nehru’s responsibilities. Lal Bahadur Shastri was appointed to the Cabinet as minister without

portfolio. Shastri was to ‘look after’ Nehru’s work relating to foreign affairs, planning and atomic energy, besides handling all important matters requiring the prime minister’s attention. Nehru soon recovered and from March onwards resumed attending parliament. In May he travelled to the India-Nepal border to meet the king of Nepal and then to Bombay for a Congress party meeting. At the same time Abdullah arrived in Rawalpindi, where he met Pakistani leaders. ON THE MORNING OF MAY 27TH after returning in apparently good health from a few days’ holiday at Dehra Dun, Nehru suffered a sudden heart attack. He died later that afternoon. The following day his funeral procession started from Teen Murti House, as an estimated three million people lined the route. Nehru was cremated on the bank of the River Jamuna, about 300 yards from where Gandhi’s funeral pyre had been in 1948. Those present included the British prime minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, the US Secretary of State Dean Rusk and the Soviet vice-premier Alexei Kosygin. Among the mourners was a tearful Sheikh Abdullah, who, on learning of Nehru’s death, had cancelled his tour of the Pakistani-held ‘Azad Kashmir’ and rushed back to Delhi. Twelve days of national mourning were observed, culminating in the immersion of a portion of Nehru’s ashes at the confluence of the holy rivers, the Yamuna and the Ganges, at Allahabad, his birthplace. In a will made in 1954 Nehru had requested that the ‘major portion of my ashes … be carried high up into the air in an aeroplane and scattered from that height over the fields where the peasants of India toil, so that they might mingle with the dust and soil of India and become an indistinguishable part of India’. Deeply respectful of the norms and processes of a young democracy, Nehru always believed that the question of succession should be decided by the party and the people after he was gone. The political

transition that followed his death was remarkably smooth. With the support of the Syndicate, Lal Bahadur Shastri was unanimously elected Nehru’s successor. In his inaugural address Shastri emphasised continuity: ‘There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the crossroads of history and must choose which way to go. But for us there need be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to right or left. Our way is straight and clear – the building up of a socialist democracy at home with freedom and prosperity for all … and friendship with all nations.’ However Shastri also inherited many of the challenges of the Nehru era, including building up defence capabilities, political unrest in Kashmir and worsening relations with Pakistan, which erupted in full-scale war in September 1965. Shastri’s unexpected death in January 1966 brought about yet another political succession. This propelled to the fore Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi – the beginning of a political dynasty, of which Nehru would have strongly disapproved for a democratic country such as India. Gyanesh Kudaisya teaches Contemporary South Asian History at the National University of Singapore.

FURTHER READING Judith M. Brown, Nehru: A Political Life (Yale University Press, 2005). Ramachandra Guha, India After Gandhi (Macmillan, 2007). Sarvepalli Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography, vol 3 (Jonathan Cape, 1984). Walter Crocker, Nehru: A Contemporary’s Estimate (Random House Inida, 2008). MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 27


MakingHistory Without dexterity and imagination historians are in danger of overlooking the telling details that complete the bigger picture, argues Mathew Lyons.

Through the cracks of oblivion ONE OF THE criticisms levelled at education secretary Michael Gove’s revision of the history curriculum was that it would reduce lessons to little more than the recitation and memorialising of facts, to what Sir Philip Sidney called ‘the bare was’ of history. The simpler a statement of fact is, the more it deceives us of its certainty, especially so when facts are strung together like prayer beads to form a providential narrative of national greatness, as Gove’s vision did. English literary history, bound up as it is with ideas about both national greatness and transcendent artistic expression, seems particularly fertile ground for romantic, ahistorical assumptions and nowhere more so than in discussion of Shakespeare’s theatre and the emergence of purposebuilt playhouses in London out of the itinerant performing culture that had preceded them. Even that word ‘preceded’ is problematic. While perfectly true in itself, it implies a Whiggish progression, an evolution that, in Shakespeare’s time at least, was far from evident. The purposebuilt theatres existed as part of the economy of the touring players and, in fact, would not have been financially viable without them. It was the Globe and its rivals in London that were the anomalies: theatre, as Shakespeare would have understood it, was a mobile art and, as such, a lucrative one. The late Barbara D. Palmer, medieval and renaissance drama scholar, constructed a narrative out of the tangled Clifford family accounts at Londesborough in Yorkshire’s East Riding for Shrovetide 1598 that perfectly exemplifies the complexity and sophistication of this neglected convergence of commerce and culture. At some point previously the family had engaged Lord Derby’s players to entertain them and their guests over the 30 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

week. The troupe, perhaps 15-strong, arrived on the Saturday and began its schedule of performances. So far, so commonplace. What is eye-opening is the apparent fact that a second troupe arrived at the house on the Monday afternoon, also claiming to be Lord Derby’s players. After what one must assume was a certain amount of heated debate, they were sent away again, but not without payment. Evidently, a performing economy which could support a fake playing

History, no less than society, deals uneasily with fluidity and indeterminacy and with mobility in general troupe alongside its authentic namesake was by no means a poor one. Nor could it have been as hazardous or haphazard a business proposition as literary scholars are still inclined to think. The common presumption remains that touring was what players did when they couldn’t perform in London, that it was a necessity, not a choice. Hence Ian Donaldson in

Travelling players, from the Album Amicorum by Moyses Walens, Cologne, 1605-15.

his superb recent biography of Ben Jonson, writes, as many others have before him: ‘All of the major theatrical companies travelled regularly, especially … at times when plague forced the closure of the London playhouses.’ But this presumption is based more on the idea that a theatrical base in the capital is the sine qua non of artistic life – that is, on the intensely metropolitan parochialism of our elites – than it is on what data still survives. History, no less than society, deals uneasily with fluidity and indeterminacy and with mobility in general. We think in social strata. We think in fixed polities: the court, the City, the church. Gove’s reductive ‘bare was’ approach is a simplification of a cliché; but it is an intellectual silo not so very different in kind from those we all tend to work in. The truth is that our conceptual Elizabethan England is more centralised and London-centric than the reality ever was. The itinerant performing culture of early modern England is mostly lost; its energy derived from preReformation ideas of festival and performance, its currency was aural, its trade experiential. But given that, there is perhaps a case for saying that it provides an excellent metaphor for the quiddity of history, for those essential protean contradictory truths we try to construct from what scant data remains scattered through archives and libraries. Each individual fact tells us little, but handled with sufficient delicacy, dexterity and imagination they can be shaped to force the merest of cracks in an oblivion that will, in time, entomb us all. For me, that is the strongest argument for the study of history there is. Mathew Lyons is author of The Favourite: Ralegh and His Queen (Constable & Robinson, 2011).


The Vendôme Column, 1871



NE OF THE ENTRANCES to the Place Vendôme at the heart of fashionable Paris has a highly professional sandbag breastwork across it, complete with embrasures for two pieces of artillery. Behind it, the centrepiece of the Place, the Column of the Grande Armée, looks as though it already has attached the cables that will shortly be used to topple it. France, or at least its capital, is in the grip of civil war. It has only recently lost a humiliating war with Germany. It ended, after a long siege, with the surrender of Paris on January 27th, 1871. But the terms inflicted on France – the loss of Lorraine and Alsace – the victory parade of 30,000 German troops along the Champs Elysées and finally the removal of the new French Republic’s right-wing National Assembly from Paris out to Versailles are too much for the city’s lower orders, proud of their revolutionary record stretching back through 1848 and 1830 to 1789. By mid-March the regular troops have all withdrawn to Versailles and Paris is in the hands of the Commune, the world’s first socialist regime. Both sides were guilty of arbitrary executions and open warfare between the ‘Versaillais’ and the Commune forces, which included many members of the Garde Nationale, began on April 11th. Gestures always play an important part in French public life and the destruction of the Vendôme Column was soon being suggested. Modelled on Trajan’s Column in Rome, construction began following Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz at the end of 1805 and the 425 bronze bas-relief panels spiral-

By the time Communard resistance ended, the uprising had cost 20,000 lives, more than the Terror in 1793 ling up it were made from captured cannon. The statue on its top was of Napoleon in classical dress. Gustave Courbet, the great realist painter and homme sauvage, had always paraded his solidarity with the workers. President of the Commune’s Art Commission, he called the column ‘a monument devoid of all artistic value, tending to perpetuate the ideas of war and conquest of the past imperial dynasty, which are reproved by a republican nation’s sentiment’. It was pulled down on May 16th to the sound of the Marseillaise. The ‘forces of order’ from Versailles were let into the city by anti-communards on May 22nd and the pace of atrocities on both sides then accelerated horribly through la Semaine sanglante, as well as the burning of buildings including the Hôtel de Ville and the Tuileries Palace. By the time Communard resistance ended, the uprising had cost 20,000 lives, more than the Terror in 1793. Courbet was given a six-month prison sentence and a fine in September, but the Republic was not finished with him as a scapegoat. In 1873 it was proposed to re-erect the column (the bronze panels had survived) at a cost of 323,000 francs, which Courbet was to pay off in instalments of 10,000 francs a year. Instead he escaped to Switzerland, where he died in 1877, killed either by this persecution and exile or by drink. Whatever its cause, his death was perhaps as well for his posthumous artistic reputation. He had become increasingly sought-after by the mid 1860s, selling 150,000 francs’ worth of pictures after the Salon of 1866, which did much damage to his anti-bourgeois image; more seriously, contemporaries like Monet and Zola also detected a falling off in his art.




Members of the 1684 Siamese mission with their translator, Abott Artus de Lionne. An early 18thcentury French painting by Jacques Vigoureux -Duplessis.


Louis XIV and the King of Siam A foothold in Siam offered new trading opportunities for France in the late 17th century, as well as a chance to spread the Catholic faith. Peter Murrell describes French efforts via a series of embassies between the two countries.

RENCH INVOLVEMENT IN SIAM in the 17th century was an extraordinary episode in the history of that country’s foreign affairs. It began in the naïve and arrogant belief that people in a faraway land, with a religion much older than that of France, could be converted to the Catholic faith and it ended in military humiliation when French forces were drawn into a succession crisis at the Siamese court. In the key years from 1685 to 1688 three great embassies were exchanged, two French and one Siamese, lending an air of exotic charm and ceremonial splendour to what was in reality the flimsiest of relationships based on mutual misunderstanding. Two absolute monarchs, Louis XIV and King Narai, inundated each other with gifts and declared bonds of eternal friendship across a cultural chasm.

A cast of colourful characters peopled this unlikely drama. Intrigue was all-pervasive and at the centre of the web was the Greek adventurer, Constantine Phaulkon, who had risen from obscurity to become the favourite of the Siamese king and his chief minister in all but name. Events would have unfolded very differently without his presence. The French were latecomers to European involvement in Siam. First to arrive were the Portuguese who, by a treaty of 1516, were granted the right to establish godowns (warehouses) at the capital, Ayutthaya, and at several coastal towns. They were also allowed to practise and preach their religion freely. By the late-16th century the Dutch and English were challenging the Portuguese hegemony in Asiatic waters. The formation of East India Companies in Holland and England highlighted MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 31


FRENCH FOLLIES IN SIAM the concern for trade above all else. Both countries set up godowns in monarch on October 18th 1673, a date which marked the start of dipAyutthaya, the Dutch in 1608 and the English in 1612, but it was the lomatic exchanges between France, the Vatican and Siam. Dutch, more adaptable to Siamese ways, who prospered in the long run. French trading activities in the region were sporadic and unsuccessNARAI, WHO HAD ASCENDED THE THRONE IN 1656, was a calm, ful and it was in a missionary capacity that they arrived in earnest. The affable person with an intellectual curiosity about the world beyond Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris (MEP), established in 1659 with his own shores. He always had foreigners in influential positions at the blessing of Louis XIV, arose out of the missionary work of the Jesuit court (initially Persians, who had assisted him in coming to power) Alexandre de Rhodes (1591-1660) in Tonkin. In the 15th century the and he seems to have had a correspondingly low opinion of his own papacy had granted Portugal the whole of Asia as a field for its missionary countrymen, whom he treated as harshly as any of his predecessors. His activity, but the rapid decline of Portugal and the rise of Protestantism relationship with his Buddhist clergy was strained at times, due to his caused the French to intensify their own missionary endeavours. Pope perceived lack of enthusiasm. He listened intently to explanations of Alexander VII tried to avoid Portuguese objections to French missionChristianity but took the tolerant Siamese view that God (using Chrisaries working in regions that they considered to be theirs exclusively by tian terminology) was pleased, rather than insulted, by the diversity reviving lapsed Middle Eastern sees and the system of vicars-apostolic of approaches to Him. Given his role as bodhisattva and chakravartin, the ruler through whom the Wheel of the Dharma turns, to give the bishops jurisdiction in wider areas. Left: contemporary French map In 1660 Lambert de La Motte, Bishop there was not the slightest chance of his conversion, which of the kingdom of Siam showing of Béryte (Beirut) and vicar-apostolic for he knew the Christians desired, but he was not averse to Chaumont’s route of 1685-86. Cochin-China (Vietnam) and parts of China, making occasional ambiguous statements to keep them Below: arrival of the French embassy left France accompanied by two MEP priests. interested. in Ayutthaya by barge, watercolour After an arduous journey, they arrived in AyutThe king of Siam was fascinated to hear about Louis from a Jesuit account of 1688. thaya in 1662. Although Cochin-China was his goal, La Motte quickly realised that, as a hub of cosmopolitan trade and with its religious tolerance, Ayutthaya would make a perfect location for a native seminary. Narai was welcoming and in due course gave the MEP a plot of land and building materials for a church to be erected to the south of the city.


HE UPHILL STRUGGLE that lay ahead in Siam was suggested in a book of the missionaries’ travels by one of the three, Jacques de Bourges, published in 1666. Having found a few positive words to say about the beauty of the temples and austerity of the monks, he states that the Siamese are so tolerant because they think of paradise as a place that can be approached by many routes, some shorter, some more difficult and all to be honoured. Far from finding anything admirable in this view, de Bourges considers it to be proof of the indifference and stupidity of the Siamese. He concludes that the Siamese ‘do not easily accept that they be disabused of their superstitions, and when they notice that you seek to raise scruples about what they believe in, they no longer wish to listen to you’. De Bourges’ account shows little understanding of the core beliefs of Buddhism. Like many of the missionaries of all orders who were to serve in Siam, he was an intelligent, well-intentioned man who was a prisoner of his own dogmatic views. In order to advance its plans and to silence the complaints of other missionary orders, the MEP knew that it would require papal consent for its jurisdiction in Siam. François Pallu, Bishop of Heliopolis and vicar-apostolic for Tonkin, who had arrived in 1664, was dispatched to Rome to acquire it. Clement IX duly gave consent and granted the vicars-apostolic much fuller powers than before. Pallu was not to return to Ayutthaya until 1673; among his other documents he brought a letter in Latin from the pope and one in French from Louis XIV, both for Narai, thanking him for his favourable reception of the MEP. In a dazzling ceremony at the royal palace, these were presented to the delighted

If Narai’s thoughts had started to turn to an alliance with France, it was because of a desire for protection in this world, not the next XIV, especially his military exploits against the Dutch. The latter had a deserved predatory reputation in the East Indies. A recent dispute, which had led to Dutch ships selectively blockading the Chao Phraya river through which most of Ayutthaya’s trade had to pass, had only ended when Narai had made considerable commercial and diplomatic concessions in a treaty of 1664. He felt that he had lost face. If his thoughts had started to turn to an alliance with France, it was because of a desire for protection in this world, not the next. In 1674 Louis Laneau, a man with a saintly reputation, was consecrated as Bishop of Metellopolis and installed as vicar-apostolic of Siam at the same time. The king, overflowing with goodwill for the MEP, decided that Laneau should have a cathedral and allocated extra land for the purpose. He even let it be known that he was prepared MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 33



HIS SUCCESS brought Phaulkon to the attention of the king, who was charmed from their first meeting. Lively and engaging, in spite of his fiery temper, the Greek spoke well on a wide range of topics. Narai was spending more and more time with him and showing his favour with lavish gifts and the granting of new powers. Phaulkon, aware of the jealousy that his rapid rise was producing among the mandarins at court, quickly saw the need to share the king’s enthusiasm for the French, who might prove useful allies for his own purposes. To this end, in May 1682, he converted to the Catholic faith under Jesuit direction (having been an Anglican when in English employ) and soon after married a pretty 16-year-old girl, half-Portuguese and half-Japanese, from a devout Catholic family. By late 1683, when Narai heard of the likely fate of his embassy, Phaulkon was firmly ensconced at court. He had been offered the position of Phra Klang but preferred to exercise his power informally (fooling no one). He had no trouble in maintaining the king’s pro-French disposition and proposed a much reduced delegation to seek ways of deepening the friendship between the two monarchs. Two mandarins were chosen at ministerial level and two MEP priests accompanied them. Their ship left in January 1684, arriving in France in September.

Above: the Chevalier de Chaumont forcing King Narai to stoop to receive a letter from Louis XIV, as Phaulkon urges him to lift it higher. A contemporary French print.

to offer the French a port. To the other foreigners in Ayutthaya it was all becoming very worrying, as if the MEP were merely the first stage of a complete French takeover. A French trading company, established as the Compagnie des Indes Orientales (CIO) in 1664, reopened the French godown in Ayutthaya in 1680 under especially favourable trading terms – more cause for concern.


ARAI HAD WANTED to send an embassy to France since the audience of October 18th, 1673. He had been prevented from doing so by war in Europe. In December 1680 it was finally able to sail. There were three Siamese ambassadors, accompanied by an MEP priest. They took with them royal letters for the pope and Louis XIV, 50 bales of gifts and two baby elephants. Their ship never arrived, however, and probably sank in a storm off the coast of Madagascar around the end of 1681, leaving no trace. It was while Narai was awaiting news of his embassy that an event occurred with great significance for the rest of his reign: he met Constantine Phaulkon. Highly controversial at the time and since, Phaulkon was born in 1647 on the Greek island of Cephalonia to a part-Venetian mother and a father who may have been a tavern keeper. Unhappy at home and yearning for adventure, he joined a passing English ship as a cabin boy at the age of 12. From 1670 he made several trips to Asia on East India Company vessels and then spent time as a clerk at the English godown in Bantam, Java. He probably arrived in Siam in 1678 and joined forces with trading interlopers loosely attached to the East India Company. He engaged in high-risk, high-profit ventures with them, was shipwrecked twice and put back on his feet twice. He was clever, bold and resourceful; to many of the traders he dealt with he was also greedy and unscrupulous. A talented linguist with a command not only of English and the two lingua francas of Asia, Portuguese and Malay, he also spoke Siamese (and soon its specialised court language). At some point he was introduced to the Phra Klang (the Siamese minister responsible for foreign affairs and trade) and distinguished himself on a commercial mission to Persia, which made a much bigger return for the king than when the Persians had been in charge. 34 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

FROM THE START IT WAS OBVIOUS that the envoys were unsuited to their task. Probably suffering from culture shock, they were sullen and uncooperative and did not make a good impression. One of the MEP priests, Bénigne Vachet, made the most dramatic contribution to the mission, informing Louis XIV and his Jesuit confessor, Father de La Chaize, that he thought the Siamese king might be close to conversion. It was possibly Phaulkon who had dropped this outrageous hint to him. Louis XIV liked the idea of a project so redounding to his own glory and a full diplomatic mission was decided upon. It was to be led by the Chevalier de Chaumont, a pious man conscious of his own dignity. His deputy was the well-connected Abbé de Choisy, who had dabbled in transvestism and a libertine lifestyle until a close brush with death had put him on the road to religious devotion. His Siamese memoirs are by far the most lively and entertaining of the many produced. Six Jesuit priests skilled in mathematics and astronomy were also to make the trip. Narai was known to be interested in these subjects and it was natural to take advantage of this to further the evangelisation of Siam. That Jesuit influence would be greatly increased in the process, at the expense of the MEP, was a matter of no small satisfaction behind the scenes at the French court. L’Oiseau, the ship transporting the embassy, was filled with a great

The ruins of Phaulkon’s house at Lopburi. Sited about 200 yards from King Narai’s palace, it included a church. Opposite page: Delegates of Louis XIV on a 17th-century gold painted lacquer door at the Suan Pakkad Palace, Bangkok, originally from Ayutthaya.


FRENCH FOLLIES IN SIAM The Siamese embassy received at Versailles in September 1686, from an almanac of 1687.

volume of baggage, gifts and purchases ordered by Narai himself. It departed in March 1685. As the voyage proceeded, several masses were said each day, litanies recited and voices raised in uplifting songs of praise. What the sailors thought of it all was hinted at in a diary entry by Choisy: ‘There is much zeal among the preachers, and considerable docility among the listeners.’


N SIAM Laneau soon brought the ambassadors down to earth regarding the conversion of the king, pointing out that the work of preparation was not yet complete. The main aim of the mission was therefore nullified before it had even started. The ambassadors were taken on gilded barges to the capital, observing exotic scenery as they went. Riverside bamboo fences with overhanging greenery screened them from anything deemed ugly to behold. At their rest houses in Ayutthaya they were shown splendid hospitality by Phaulkon, who confirmed that the king was not yet ready to convert. Much time was spent discussing protocol for the forthcoming audience, always a tricky matter when Europeans were involved. The king graciously made some concessions. The day chosen for the audience by royal astrologers was October 18th, the 12th anniversary of the first. Amid a great cacophony of noise, a large fleet of golden, naga-headed barges escorted the ambassadors to the royal palace, the letter from Louis XIV raised on a pedestal in its own barge. Phaulkon greeted them mounted on an elephant. The ambassadors were carried in chairs on raised platforms through courtyards filled with soldiers, cavalry and ornately-clad war elephants to the audience chamber. Inside Chaumont advanced between the prostrate mandarins and acknowledged with doffed hat and formal bows the king seated high above in his own chamber. Phaulkon, also prostrate, translated Chaumont’s address, deftly omitting references to Christian conversion. When it was time to present the letter, Chaumont was supposed to lift it on its gilded dish so that the king could the town of Bangkok, strategically placed at the mouth of the Chao take it while seated, but, not having realised the height at which the Phraya river, on condition that soldiers and engineers were sent. The king’s chair was placed, he considered it undignified to do so and held it ambassadors did not feel competent to agree to such a proposal, so only at shoulder level. Phaulkon frantically urged him to lift it higher, Phaulkon quietly suggested something similar to one of the six Jesuits but he was unmoved. Amused, the king stood up, bent down from his accompanying the embassy. His name was Guy Tachard. In awe of chamber and reached for the letter. The moment, later immortalised in Phaulkon and willing to scheme, Tachard readily agreed to take secret orders back to the French court. a Parisian print, came to be seen as the most memorable of the embassy: a hollow victory for French protocol in the absence Narai wished to send another embassy, this time with amof anything of substance. bassadors worthy of the honour. He selected three mandarins From the Archive There was much sightseeing. The ambassadors with much diplomatic experience between them. Chief of Louis XIV’s were taken to Lopburi (known as ‘Louvo’) about these was a clever and able man called Okphra Wisut Sunthon, Mission to Siam 50 kilometres north of Ayutthaya, which Narai better known as Kosa Pan. Two ships were required for the During the second half of the 17th century, writes Robert had developed into a second capital, preferring its return journey since there were now 300 bales of presents Bruce, France hoped to dominate cooler climate. He had a palace there and Phaulkon in addition to the royal letter for Louis XIV written on a thin Siam and convert its sovereign sheet of gold. Phaulkon saw off the ambassadors, French and a smaller one close by. After another more informal to the Christian faith. Siamese, in December 1685 after a final secret meeting with audience, Phaulkon suggested to the ambassadors www.historytoday.com/archive Tachard, now the most important man on board. that the king might be agreeable to granting France 36 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Below: Portrait of Louis XIV, pastel by Charles Le Brun. Bottom: watercolour of Narai at the window, with Phaulkon and some Jesuits watching an eclipse of the sun from the royal palace, Lopburi, April 1688.


HE SHIPS REACHED THE PORT of Brest in June 1686 (where the main street of the old town is still known as the rue de Siam). The three ambassadors, Kosa Pan in particular, were a success, friendly, engaged and willing to flatter. They travelled widely, drawing big crowds. Scribes were kept on hand to take copious notes (even to the extent of describing, on occasion, the number of trees they had seen), so that Narai would have a full record of the trip to absorb at his leisure. Kosa Pan was considered a great wit in society. When asked if he liked the way French women dressed, he said it would be better if they dressed in the manner of his country. Asked what that was, he replied: ‘They are half-naked.’ For a while a fashion developed in France for things Siamese. Courtiers, however, were snootily unimpressed by the quality of many of the Siamese gifts brought by the embassy. The audience with Louis XIV was a magnificent occasion, the royal family present in force amid all the pomp and splendour of the court. Everyone was charmed by the performance of the ambassadors. Meanwhile, the main business of the embassy was being conducted in private between Fr Tachard and the Marquis de Seignelay, Secretary of State for the Navy with responsibility for Siam. It is not certain whether Tachard followed instructions from Phaulkon or exceeded them, but a decision was taken by France to send 600 soldiers, who were to occupy and fortify the towns of Bangkok and Mergui (the latter facing the Bay of Bengal and well-placed for the Indian trade), by force if necessary. This represented a dramatic escalation of anything that had gone before and meant that the French now had colonial expansion firmly in mind. Simon de La Loubère, a clever, irascible man with minor diplomatic experience, and Claude Céberet, a director of the CIO, were named as envoys extraordinary for the mission. It was hoped that by not giving them full ambassadorial rank the flow of embassies and, especially, the torrent of gifts could be curbed. Fifteen more Jesuits, including Tachard, were to accompany the mission; the saving of souls had not been overlooked in the rush to military involvement. In March 1687 a squadron of five ships set sail for Siam. Tachard, bearing secret instructions from the French government, considered himself the leader of the mission and treated the envoys with disdain during the voyage. On arrival his hyperactivity and huddled consultations with Phaulkon left the envoys in no doubt that they were

A decision was taken to occupy Bangkok and Mergui, by force if necessary. This represented a dramatic escalation of anything that had gone before and meant the French now had colonial expansion firmly in mind surplus to requirements. They were accorded a royal audience in Ayutthaya as grand as that of Chaumont’s embassy, were taken round the usual sights and also signed a trade agreement. But they were going through the motions. Phaulkon had persuaded the king to cede Mergui and Bangkok. He now lured the reluctant envoys into signing a treaty that gave him considerable personal control over the troops at Bangkok. For a while he may have felt himself to be almost invincible. He had received from the envoys the Order of St Michael, France’s highest honour, and other tokens of appreciation. There were reports that his arrogance at this time was insufferable. The two envoys left Siam separately around the end of the year. La Loubère, who had come to hate Phaulkon, returned on the same ship as Tachard, whom he despised perhaps even more. He immersed himself in work on an excellent study of all aspects of Siamese life, Du Royaume de Siam, published in 1691. Tachard was accompanied by three young mandarins who were to have audiences at the French court and Rome. But events were soon to overtake them. MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 37

FRENCH FOLLIES IN SIAM Never robust, Narai’s health began to deteriorate rapidly in early 1688. It became apparent that a succession crisis was looming (royal successions were rarely smooth and peaceful affairs in Siam). The king had no son, only a daughter, who had no legal right to the throne. Neither of his two half-brothers, harshly treated by Narai, was considered suitable and his adopted son, Phra Pi, came from humble stock and was therefore unlikely to command much support. In this situation an ambitious courtier could stake his own claim. Natives attacking French Okphra Petracha was the king’s ships on the River Tavoy in foster brother and, like Narai, in his 1688, watercolour from mid-50s. He was superintendent of eyewitness Jesuit account. the elephant corps, a prestigious post. Petracha was popular with the people because of his austere and restrained lifestyle. He had no love of foreigners and was able to harness to his own advantage the widespread unrest after the French takeover of Bangkok, as well as the general fear that the Buddhist religion was under threat. With his son, Okluang Sorasak, he began to raise troops in the provinces.


HAULKON KNEW of Petracha’s activities. He had several opportunities to flee to safety and even the king advised him to do so. But he maintained that his loyalty was to Narai and that he could not leave. This may have been true or perhaps Phaulkon’s boundless ambition led him to hope that he could be the power behind the throne, if the succession went favourably. When he was certain that he had proof of Petracha’s plotting, he summoned the commander of the Bangkok fort, a gullible and greedy man called General Desfarges, to Lopburi. Phaulkon told him to bring to Lopburi 80 of his best soldiers and some officers in order to arrest Petracha. Desfarges said that he would be honoured to do so but, having reached Ayutthaya with his troops, he allowed himself to be swayed by rumours from Frenchmen hostile to Phaulkon that the king was dead and that rebel Siamese troops were waiting to ambush him on the way to Lopburi (Phaulkon had specifically warned him against such rumours). A scout who was sent ahead to check found everything to be peaceful along the route and in Lopburi itself but, believing that this might just mean that the ambush was well-concealed, Desfarges refused to change his mind and returned to Bangkok. The debate continues as to whether he was right or wrong to do so; certainly most contemporary accounts held him culpable. Phaulkon felt that he was lost at this point. He continued to devise stratagems to thwart Petracha, but the latter outmanoeuvred him and on May 18th launched his coup d’état, taking over the palace where the king lay sick. Phaulkon, with three French officers, went to the palace in a last bid to alter the course of events, but was disarmed and imprisoned. The Greek was tortured over the next two weeks and, once Petracha felt confident that the French had abandoned Phaulkon, he was taken by night to a secluded spot and beheaded. It was said that he bore his torments with Christian fortitude. His dismembered body was thrown into a shallow ditch and by morning scavenging dogs had apparently devoured all but a few bones. Petracha quickly consolidated his position, killing off Phra Pi and the king’s half-brothers. Narai himself, a prisoner in his own palace, died on 38 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

July 10th, possibly helped on his way by poison. Petracha had himself crowned king in Ayutthaya in August and shortly after married Narai’s daughter to legitimise his reign. From June onwards there existed a state of war between the French and Siamese. The French were driven in disarray from Mergui and the Bangkok fort was besieged. A truce was finally arranged by which the Siamese were to supply two vessels and provisions so that the French might depart. They were to leave three hostages as security for the return of the vessels. Before this could happen a shameful episode occurred in which Phaulkon’s wife, who had suffered greatly since his death, arrived at the fort seeking sanctuary. Against the views of the whole garrison, Desfarges had her returned to the Siamese, in all likelihood because he had jewellery belonging to her which he did not wish to hand over. She was subsequently made a slave in the royal kitchens. When the two vessels were ready to leave on November 13th, 1688, two of the hostages hurried aboard, contrary to the terms of the truce, leaving the third, Laneau, to face the full fury of the Siamese. His cruel imprisonment did not end until 1691. Many other priests and Frenchmen were also badly treated during that time. Once Petracha had the country to himself he renewed a trade agreement with the Dutch, in recognition of their discreet assistance during the crisis, but he turned much more to Asiatic trading partners in the years to come. The MEP was allowed to remain, hemmed in with restrictions. Ayutthaya became a quieter and less cosmopolitan place. It was not until the mid-19th century that Siam was to show a sustained interest in the West once more. As for the French, the ship returning Desfarges to France sank at sea, thereby sparing him a court martial and the rope. Once news of the Siamese debacle had filtered through, any thoughts of a retaliatory expedition were shelved due to the renewal of war in Europe. Over time people preferred quietly to forget the whole business. As Michael Smithies, a prominent scholar of the period, puts it: ‘The French were entirely out of their depth in Siam, riven with factions, grasping, and there under false pretences.’ The only lasting benefit was all the books on Siam that appeared for a while, providing a far more detailed record of the country at that time than would otherwise exist. Peter Murrell has a PhD in History from the University of Wales and now lives in Thailand.

FURTHER READING Dirk van der Cruysse, Siam and the West 1500-1700 (Silkworm, 2002). E.W. Hutchinson, 1688 Revolution in Siam (Hong Kong University Press 1968, reprinted White Lotus, 2002). Michael Smithies, Aspects of the Embassy to Siam 1685 (Silkworm, 1997); Witnesses to a Revolution: Siam 1688 (Siam Society, 2004). Michael Smithies, Seventeenth-Century Siamese Explorations (Siam Society, 2012).


Asquith bids farewell to General Joffre of France after their meeting at British army headquarters in 1915.

Asquith A Prime Minister at War

As a peacetime premier Herbert Asquith was held in high regard, but the First World War undid his reputation. That is an unfair judgment, argues Roland Quinault.


HE POLITICIANS INVOLVED in the First World War have received a bad press, blamed both for failing to avert the conflict and for the ineffective conduct of it. In the British case much of the criticism has been directed at the Liberal prime minister, Herbert Asquith (1852-1928). His peacetime premiership from 1908 to 1914 has been favourably assessed, though not his performance from the start of the war until his resignation in December 1916. He has been criticised as a lethargic, often intoxicated and somewhat disinterested war premier, who lacked the dynamism and determination to win, exhibited by his successor David Lloyd George. Winston Churchill, a minister under both leaders, claimed that Lloyd George had all the qualities required in wartime that Asquith lacked. Churchill had personal reasons for reaching that verdict but it has been widely shared. Even Asquith’s sympathetic biographer Roy Jenkins observed that Lloyd George thought that he was a better war leader than Asquith and that was half the battle. George Cassar, in a study published in 1994, concluded that ‘history has dealt too harshly with Asquith as a wartime leader’, but the negative view has re-emerged. In 2008 Andrew Adonis condemned Asquith for, inter alia, sleepwalking into world war, a charge repeated by Christopher Clark in The Sleepwalkers (2012). Max Hastings, in another recent work, Catastrophe, has described Asquith as a tired old man with neither the skills nor the inclination to exercise control of military operations, concluding that Asquith was no more appropriate as a war premier than was Neville Chamberlain in 1940. Asquith’s own literary efforts did not greatly enhance his reputation as a war leader. His account of the origins of the conflict, The Genesis of the War, published in 1923, was a dry chronicle, which lacked the anecdotal detail that enlivened the war memoirs of Churchill and Lloyd George. By contrast, the publication in 1982 of Asquith’s letters to Venetia Stanley – his epistolary love affair with a much younger woman from 1912 to May 1915 – illuminated the passionate side of his private life. The correspondence also revealed that Asquith continued to engage during the war in his favourite peacetime recreations, such as golf, bridge and weekends in the country. He wrote to Venetia while the Cabinet was in session and divulged to her confidential information relating to the war. Like all other British premiers between Wellington and Churchill, Asquith had no experience of either combat or military service. He was, however, better prepared to conduct a war than most of his predecessors. He had a long-standing interest in defence and on his appointment as prime minister in 1908 he declared that ‘national security must always hold the first place in the thoughts and in the plans of those who are responsible for the government of any country’. He was a close friend of Richard

Like all other British premiers between Wellington and Churchill, Asquith had no experience of either combat or military service 40 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Herbert Henry Asquith by Andre Cluysenaar, 1919.


ASQUITH Haldane, who, as War Secretary, created both the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the Territorial Army. During the Moroccan Crisis of 1911 Asquith sanctioned Lloyd George’s Guildhall speech, which warned Germany not to risk British enmity. The premier responded to the crisis by putting two ex-Tories with military experience in charge of the armed services. He made Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty to ensure that the Royal Navy was ready for war with Germany and able to transport the BEF to the Continent. He also put J.E.B. Seeley in charge of the War Office, though he resigned in April 1914 after the Curragh Mutiny in Ireland. Asquith then made himself secretary of state for war, gaining direct experience of army matters several months before the start of the conflict.


S PREMIER, Asquith was ex officio chairman of the recently established Committee of Imperial Defence (CID), composed of politicians and military men, and he played an active role in its various committees. By 1914 it had examined most aspects of a possible war with Germany: the naval position, the threat of invasion, the possibility of a blockade, trade, transport and imperial defence. In particular, the War Book, which set out the procedures required in the event of hostilities, had recently been revised. After the outbreak of war Asquith told MPs that everything had been foreseen and provided for in advance, except the necessity for a major increase in the regular forces. The emergence of a pan-European crisis in the summer of 1914 did not entirely surprise Asquith, who had a ‘fixed belief that the Expected rarely happens’. Although the government was preoccupied with the Irish crisis, he was quick to appreciate the gravity of the situation on the Continent. After the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia in late July he wrote: ‘We are within measurable or imaginable distance of a real Armageddon, which would dwarf the Ulster & Nationalist Volunteers to their true proportion.’ A few days later he observed: ‘Of course we want to keep out of it but the worst thing we could do would be to announce to the world at the present moment that in no circumstances would we intervene.’ During the diplomatic phase of the European crisis Asquith was careful to keep in step with Sir Edward Grey, the foreign secretary, but when it appeared that Britain could not avoid the conflict, the premier steered the nation, step by step, towards military engagement. On August 2nd he approved the mobilisation of the fleet and the following day, as secretary for war, he ordered the mobilisation of the army. On August 4th the British ultimatum to Germany, not to violate the neutrality of Belgium, was delivered and expired that evening. On August 6th the Cabinet agreed to despatch the BEF to the Continent in response to the Belgian appeal for assistance. Asquith stepped down from the War Office, which he transferred to Lord Kitchener. Asquith was under no illusion that the war would soon be over. He told Venetia Stanley that the conflict was ‘the 42 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Right: Venetia Stanley in 1915, from the Tatler.

Crowds gather around Asquith’s car in Whitehall soon after war is declared, August 4th, 1914.

biggest thing we are ever likely to see’. At no stage did he succumb to war hysteria or seek to turn the situation to his own political advantage. After being followed to his front door by a cheering crowd he commented: ‘I have never been a popular character with the “man in the street” and in all this dark and dangerous business it gives me scant pleasure.’ Asquith’s decision to go to war was an affirmation, not a betrayal, of his lifelong liberalism. Britain was fighting to fulfil its obligation to protect Belgium and ‘to vindicate the principle that small nationalities are not to be crushed … by the arbitrary will of a strong and overmastering Power’. In both those respects Asquith consciously followed in the footsteps of Gladstone, who in 1870 had warned France and Prussia not to violate Belgian neutrality. At Midlothian in 1879 Gladstone had declared: ‘The same sacredness defends the narrow limits of Belgium, as attaches to the extended

frontiers of Russia, or Germany, or France’. By focusing on Belgium, rather than on any obligation to France, Asquith limited dissension within the government; only two minor Cabinet members, John Burns and John Morley, resigned. The focus on Belgium, a Roman Catholic country, appealed to the Irish Nationalists, on whom the government depended for its majority. Asquith further pleased the Nationalists by insisting that the Home Rule Bill should be placed on the statute book, despite Tory opposition. He pacified the Unionist Tories by suspending its implementation until the end of the war. Max Hastings has condemned Asquith for committing an absurdly small army to the Continent. Certainly the BEF as first despatched was tiny by comparison with the continental conscript armies. It was, however, the best-equipped army Britain had ever sent abroad, designed not to be a stand-alone force but to act on the wing of the much larger French army. In any case the BEF was only the advance guard of a much larger force. Within a month 200,000

A satire on the problems facing Asquith and his Liberal government, Truth magazine, December 1913.

Irish recruiting numbers exceeded those in Britain during the early months. Asquith described Kitchener’s appointment to the War Office as ‘a hazardous experiment but the best in the times’. Certainly Kitchener’s popularity with the public facilitated the raising of a huge volunteer army. In the early part of the war, Asquith saw Kitchener every day, which helped to ensure that there was no serious division between the military and the government, as had recently occurred over Ireland. But Kitchener’s appointment blurred the relationship between the military and the government and his relations with General Sir John French, the commander-in-chief of the BEF, were difficult. Christopher Clark has claimed that Asquith didn’t sufficiently feel the pain that the conflict would generate. Asquith was not one to make a public display of his emotions but he made his horror of war evident both in private and in public. In September 1914 he declared: War is at all times a hideous thing; at the best an evil to be chosen in preference to worse evils and at the worst little better than letting loose a hell upon earth … but in the modern days, with the gigantic scale of the opposing armies and the scientific developments of the instruments of destruction, war has become an infinitely more devastating thing than it ever was before. By the end of 1914 his four adult sons by his first wife, Helen, who died of typhoid in 1891, had all enlisted and they chose to stay with their regiments in the field rather than take safe staff posts. In 1915 and 1916 Asquith made a number of visits to the Western Front, where his accurate command of the language enabled him to converse with the monoglot French generals. The British soldiers that he met on the front told him that they believed in the justice of the cause and were determined to win. Asquith generally left military strategy and tactics to the professionals, with whom he did not always agree. He dismissed the idea that a German invasion of Britain was possible but the generals kept many troops at home to deter such an attack in the first year of the war. Asquith, moreover, believed that ‘one must take a lot of risks in war’ and he shared Churchill’s enthusiasm for bold, imaginative action against the enemy: early in the war he favoured an attack by seaplanes on Cuxhaven and the Zeppelin sheds at the mouth of the Kiel Canal. He initially opposed an assault on the Dardanelles and the Gallipoli peninsula, but Churchill persuaded him that the chance of cutting Turkey in half and winning over the Balkan peninsula was worthwhile. He described the operation as ‘far the most interesting moment up to now in the war’. Even so, he continued to regard the Western Front as the main theatre of conflict. Asquith’s involvement with the war went beyond prime ministerial supervision. In 1914 he briefly took charge at the Admiralty while Churchill was in Antwerp and in 1915 he ran the War Office again when Kitchener visited Gallipoli and Italy. He also managed the Foreign Office while Grey was ill and in 1915 he even offered to combine the premiership with the chancellorship. Despite his workload Asquith still found time to relax, spending weekends in the

Asquith’s involvement went beyond prime ministerial supervision. In 1914 he briefly took charge at the Admiralty and in 1915 he ran the War Office reservists had been called up and 439,000 men had joined the army as volunteers. By the end of the year a million men had enlisted. In addition, two regular divisions from India and volunteers from the Dominions, notably the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, were prepared for service in the European theatre. Asquith accurately predicted that the longer the war lasted the greater would be the contribution of the Empire to securing victory. Asquith took what he called ‘a special and direct interest’ in recruiting, making speeches throughout the United Kingdom. At Edinburgh he reminded his audience of Gladstone’s stance in 1870. At Cardiff he appealed to the Welsh by promising that the new military forces would retain distinctive local identities. At Dublin his defence of the rights of small nations went down well with the Nationalist audience, who even sang ‘God Save the King’.


ASQUITH country, where he combined business with pleasure. From December 1914 he regularly stayed at Walmer Castle, Kent, lent to him by Lord Beauchamp, the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. Its location, close to Dover and to Kitchener’s country home, Broome Park, made it an ideal venue for private conclaves with the top brass. It had been the official residence of both Pitt and Wellington, while Gladstone had stayed there during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Asquith’s decision to form an all-party coalition government in May 1915 enabled him to defuse Tory criticism, raised by both ‘Jacky’ Fisher’s resignation from the Admiralty over Gallipoli and the shell shortage. He had recognised that ‘much our weakest point is deficiency in guns and ammunition’. To remedy the situation he created a munitions committee of the Cabinet, to speed up the supply of war materials, under the chairmanship of Lloyd George, who became minister of munitions in the new coalition. Eight Conservatives joined the Cabinet, though only Balfour was given a key post, at the Admiralty. The pact with the Conservatives enabled the government to postpone the General Election due in 1915 and thus preserved the preponderant position of the Liberals and their allies in Parliament. Arthur Henderson, the Labour leader, also joined the Cabinet, which helped to secure trade union support for war production.

Asquith juggles the ambitions of his two great rivals, Churchill and Lloyd George, Punch, December 1909.


IPLOMATIC CONSIDERATIONS also prompted Asquith to coalesce with the Conservatives. He believed that a show of political unity was required to secure the accession of Italy to the Allies. Although he considered Italy ‘a most voracious, slippery and perfidious Power’, he thought that its support was worth buying. In April 1915, while in temporary charge at the Foreign Office, he speeded up negotiations. They led to the secret Treaty of London, whereby Italy agreed to join the Allies in return for promises of territorial gains. A month later Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. Despite growing public criticism of Kitchener, the premier was reluctant to replace him because he was a ‘symbol of the nation’s will to victory’. But while Asquith was in temporary charge of the War Office he made important changes. The War Council was reduced in size, William Robertson was appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff and Douglas Haig made commander-in-chief of the BEF. Some powers were transferred from the War Office to the Ministry of Munitions. As leader of the coalition, Asquith skilfully pursued policies that appealed to a broad section of opinion. Although he had never been opposed on principle to compulsory military service, he appreciated the strength of Liberal, Labour and Irish Nationalist hostility to conscription. The enactment of compulsory service, early in 1916, owed much to his personal influence over the Liberal party. Although Churchill and Lloyd George considered the measure too little too late, a lack of manpower was not the major weakness of the British army in 1916. The Somme offensive showed that neither a huge army nor a large stock of shells could guarantee military success. The 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin did not take Asquith entirely by surprise. In October 1914 he had been informed that Irish Americans were planning to join up with Nationalists in a pro-German rising. Asquith commented: ‘It sounds like a mad enterprise but … it will require watching.’ He was


Asquith leaves Richmond Barracks, Dublin after visiting the ‘men and lads from the country’ arrested after the Easter Rising, Illustrated War News, May 1916.

also aware that his friend Augustine Birrell, the longserving Irish chief secretary, needed replacing but he kept him on at the request of John Redmond, the Nationalist leader. Redmond declined to join the Coalition, whereas Edward Carson, the leader of the Irish Unionists, became attorney general. Even so, Ireland was excluded from the 1916 Conscription Act in deference to Nationalist opinion. The Easter Rising of 1916 led the government abruptly to end its softly-softly Irish policy. The interception of a German arms ship and the capture of Roger Casement when he landed from a German submarine on the Kerry coast led to the belief that the rising was, in Asquith’s words, ‘a German campaign’. The draconian Defence of the Realm Act was invoked and martial law proclaimed in Dublin. The leaders of the rising were tried in secret by courts-martial and then executed. Nationalist opinion, initially hostile to the rising, was inflamed by the executions and the mass internment of suspected Republicans. Asquith appreciated the gravity of the situation and went to Ireland for a week to see the situation himself. He visited not only Dublin but also Cork and Belfast, unprecedented by a serving British prime minister. He recommended the release of many internees and concluded that Home Rule needed to be introduced in order to undermine support for Sinn Fein. Lloyd George was charged with the task of trying to reach a settlement but the negotiations failed, largely due to Conservative intransigence. Asquith refused to consider more coercive tactics, because he thought that it was impossible to impose Home Rule by force, on Unionist Ulster. The events of 1916 weakened the Nationalist-Liberal alliance, but it stayed in place while Asquith remained premier.

seriously undermined his attention to the war. Asquith remained supreme because he wasn’t supine but continued to have a firm grasp of the military and political situation. Consequently the burden on him of both administration and responsibility was immense. In July 1916 he wrote to a friend: ‘I am (as usual) encompassed by a cloud of worries, anxieties, problems and the rest.’ Two months later his eldest son, Raymond, who had forged a brilliant career at Oxford and the bar, was killed while serving with the Grenadier Guards on the Somme. It was a loss that time did not heal but it strengthened his father’s resolve to win the war.


RONICALLY, IT WAS Asquith’s determination personally to conduct the war that led to his resignation. Late in 1916 Lloyd George, supported by the Conservative leaders, Bonar Law and Carson, demanded reform of the War Council and the exclusion of the premier from its ranks. Asquith agreed to reduce the size of the body and to make Lloyd George its chairman provided that he, as premier, retained ‘supreme and effective control of war policy’. He was supported by Henderson, who declared that Asquith was ‘the indispensable man to lead us to the end of this war and lead us successfully’. But when leading Conservatives, echoing the demands of the press baron Lord Northcliffe, insisted on a new director for the war effort, Asquith resigned because ‘I could not go on without dishonour or impotence or both, and nothing could have been worse for the country and the war’. Lloyd George formed a coalition government in which the Tories were a majority. Though Asquith refused to serve under Lloyd George, he supported his successor’s war policy and he continued to oppose any compromise peace with Germany. Asquith’s reputation as an unsuitable war leader is unfair. Despite having been premier for six increasingly arduous years up to 1914, he showed remarkable resilience and capacity for work during the war. That was evident in his practice of taking over other key offices when the need arose. Bonar Law believed that Asquith might have remained premier throughout the conflict had it not been for the incompetence of Kitchener. But Law also told Asquith early in 1916 that ‘in war it is necessary not only to be active but to seem active’. Asquith’s reluctance to advertise his own contribution to the war or to court the press damaged his reputation with the public. He was more successful at the parliamentary level, for he secured the passage of war measures with little opposition and he kept the Liberal Party united and loyal. He would have won a vote of confidence in the House of Commons, if he had called for one in December 1916. The disintegration of the Liberal party’s alliances with Labour and the Irish Nationalists only became apparent after his resignation. Asquith’s relations with the military remained good. Though sometimes critical of Kitchener or the British commanders in France, he was careful not to offend their

Asquith’s eldest son, Raymond, who had forged a brilliant career at Oxford and the bar, was killed while serving with the Grenadier Guards at the Somme

DISSATISFACTION WITH ASQUITH’S leadership grew in Britain in 1916. High food prices, occasioned by a labour shortage, bad weather and U-boat sinkings, increased support for a negotiated peace in some industrial districts. Some Liberals, as well as Tories, voiced dissatisfaction but there was no conspiracy to remove him. Lloyd George complained that the premier was not conducting the war with sufficient vigour but he showed little desire to replace him. Andrew Bonar Law, the Conservative leader, denied that Asquith was vacillating about war policy and pointed out that the military considered him the best politician on the War Council. George V, who was regularly briefed by his prime minister, also assured Asquith of his confidence in him. A meeting of Liberal MPs announced that his continuance as premier was ‘a national necessity’. Consequently Churchill, now out of office and disgruntled, wrote in July 1916: ‘Asquith reigns supine, sodden and supreme.’ The premier’s fondness for alcohol – shared by Churchill – gave rise to various nicknames, such as ‘Old Squiffo’ and ‘Boozle’, yet there is no substantial evidence that alcohol or lethargy


ASQUITH self-esteem – perhaps too much so. But he had to work with the generals as he found them and he knew that there was no easy way of winning the war. His oversight of the war impressed Maurice Hankey, secretary of the CID and the War Council, who dedicated his war memoir to ‘three supreme commanders’: Balfour who created the CID, Asquith who developed it both in peace and war and Lloyd George. Nevertheless Asquith’s reputation as a war leader has suffered by comparison with that of Lloyd George. The former’s tenure was marked by military failures and stalemate, the latter’s was crowned by eventual victory. Yet such a simplistic contrast is misleading. When Asquith left office the war was far from won but some of the seeds of victory were already present. On the Western Front the Allies had numerical ascendancy and the toll on German manpower had been great. Thanks largely to British efforts, the Allies enjoyed a dominant position both at sea and outside Europe.

Asquith examines an early bomber on the Western Front, 1915.


LOYD GEORGE, LIKE ASQUITH, accepted the advice of the military on almost all major strategic questions and recognised, albeit belatedly, the primacy of the Western Front. The Passchendaele offensive in October 1917 was almost as expensive and as limited in its gains as the Somme had been. It was only from August 1918 that the tide of war turned. By then the US was beginning to play a significant role; they had been neutral during Asquith’s premiership. Lloyd George’s dynamism was not always well directed. His insistence that conscription should be applied to Ireland provoked more nationalist animosity than that generated by the suppression of the Easter Rising. His failure to maintain troop levels on the Western Front in the spring of 1918 gave rise to the ‘Maurice’ debate in Parliament, when Asquith and his followers called for a committee of enquiry. The motion was defeated but those who had voted for the enquiry were denied endorsement by Lloyd George at the 1918 General Election. It was Lloyd George, not Asquith, who was responsible for the division and disintegration of the Liberal Party. Lloyd George’s private life in wartime echoed that of Asquith. He, too, had a relationship with a much younger woman – his secretary Frances Stevenson – and he frequently spent weekends at his country home at Walton Heath, where he regularly played golf. Asquith’s war premiership also stands comparison with that of Chamberlain and Churchill during the Second World War. Chamberlain was premier only during the eight months of the ‘phoney war’, whereas Asquith was prime minister for 28 months during which time there was continuous conflict on the Western Front. The first 28 months of Churchill’s war premiership were also marked by a signal lack of military success. Churchill, moreover, also shared Asquith’s partiality for alcohol and country house weekends. During the Blitz, for example, Churchill usually spent three nights a week either at Chequers or at Ditchley Park, where war talk was mixed with recreation, notably film shows.


Kitchener, in charge of recruitment, tells Asquith and Churchill that things are not as bad as they look. Cartoon from the German magazine Simplicissimus, May 1915.

Asquith’s leadership left a clear imprint on the course of the war. By making Belgium the casus belli he united the nation. His prompt despatch of the BEF to the Continent helped to prevent the Germans breaking through on the Western Front and winning the war in the opening months. He then ensured the creation of a mass volunteer army, later supplemented by partial conscription. Throughout the conflict Asquith was committed to the total defeat of Germany and to securing what he called ‘adequate reparation for the past and adequate security for the future’. His contribution deserves far greater recognition than it has received. Roland Quinault is the author of British Prime Ministers and Democracy: From Disraeli to Blair (Bloomsbury Academic, 2012).

From the Archive

The Genesis of the Western Front

John Terraine on how the Allied Powers became committed to fighting on the Western Front. www.historytoday. com/archive

FURTHER READING Michael Brock, Eleanor Brock (eds.), H.H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley (Oxford University Press, 1982). George Cassar, Asquith as War Leader (Hambledon, 1994). Roy Jenkins, Asquith (Macmillan, 1986). Chris Wrigley, Arthur Henderson (University of Wales, 1990).


A City of Dreams Since two earthquakes destroyed the cathedral and much of central Christchurch in September 2010 and February 2011, the city is slowly recovering. Jenifer Roberts recalls the city’s first settlers.

A view of Christchurch from Columbo Street, c.1870.

THE CONSTRUCTION OF CHRISTCHURCH began with the erection of a few wooden houses and grew over the decades into the most English of ex-colonial cities. By the time of the earthquake of February 22nd, 2011 it was the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, with a population of around 377,000. Christchurch began in 1848 as a gleam in the eyes of two men: Edward Gibbon Wakefield (who had formed the New Zealand Company, giving birth to settlements at Wellington, Nelson and New Plymouth) and John Robert Godley (who had acted as poor law commissioner for County Leitrim during the early years of the Irish potato famine). Together they formed the Canterbury Association, with the aim of establishing a

Church of England settlement in the South Island of New Zealand. The scheme, intended to relieve unemployment and poverty in England, attracted a number of heavyweight supporters: bishops and archbishops, Members of Parliament, aristocrats and landed gentry. Godley sailed for New Zealand in December 1849 to act as resident agent for the Association. On September 1st, 1850 the first emigrants, known as the ‘Canterbury Pilgrims’, were blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in St Paul’s Cathedral. Three days later, four ships, with almost 800 passengers on board, left Gravesend for New Zealand, arriving in Lyttelton harbour (the port for the future city of Christchurch) in December. Preparations had been underway in Lyttelton for 15 months and the little town boasted several houses, an immigration barracks, two hotels (‘no more than small grogshops’), three commercial stores and a few warehouses. Godley and his wife Charlotte lived in the only two-storey building, a gabled wooden house with a deep verandah. It was, according to Charlotte, ‘tolerably furnished but rather short of chairs’. Behind Lyttelton, the Port Hills (the rim of an extinct volcano) rose steeply above the harbour to a height of some 1,500 feet. Patches of low bush grew in the folds of the hills and a track, ‘almost as steep as the roof of a house’, wound its way to the top and down the other side. As the settlers built cabins and shelters, roofing them with bundles of toetoe (a native shrub) and fern, the slopes came alive with huts and other temporary dwellings. The men enjoyed themselves – ‘who can ever forget that delightful and exciting time’ wrote one – but some of the women were less enthusiastic: ‘It is only colonists who have any idea what rough is. It is ill-suited for any but the young, strong and active. I could make you cry with a recital of the various shifts and difficulties that colonists have to encounter.’ Hundreds of men, women and children toiled to the top of the Port Hills carrying bundles of luggage and with pots and pans strung around their necks. Having reached the summit, they scrambled down the other side through a wilderness of tussock grass, then walked five miles over swampy ground, often wading knee deep in the marsh, to the site of Christchurch, the future city on the plains. During the next few weeks, the embryo city sprouted with ‘habitations of every variety: tents, houses of reeds, grass, sods, lath and plaster, boards, mud, and dry clay … and some consisting of sheets and blankets hung on poles’. There were food shops and stores and the streets were ‘busy with bullock drays, horses and innumerable dogs of every conceivable breed’. During the first year of the settlement 19 ships carrying 3,000 immigrants arrived in Lyttelton harbour. Until the New Zealand Constitution Act MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 47

| CHRISTCHURCH (1852) came into force, Godley was in charge, answerable to the Canterbury Association in London. The Act provided for local self-government in New Zealand, with the creation of six provinces, each governed by an elected provincial council headed by a superintendent. At the same time the Association resolved to cease operations, to delegate its assets and responsibilities to the newly-formed province of Canterbury. Symbol of the city The settlers hoped that Godley would stand for election as first superintendent of Canterbury but he declined, announcing his return to England in December 1852. ‘The people here are so anxious for me to stay’, he wrote, ‘that it is not without some hesitation and remorse that I refuse … FitzGerald will, I hope, be the successful candidate.’ James Edward FitzGerald had acted as emigration agent for the Association in London. He sailed on the first emigrant ship to arrive in Canterbury and was the first ‘Pilgrim’ ashore. He edited the founder newspaper (the Lyttelton Times), publishing the launch edition just 26 days after his arrival in the settlement. Ten years later he founded the Press, a newspaper still in print today. FitzGerald also negotiated with George Gilbert Scott on the design of Christchurch Cathedral, a building which became the symbol of the city and which is now in ruins following the earthquake. FitzGerald was elected first superintendent in July 1853, topping the poll with a significant majority. His supporters gathered in the Mitre Hotel and, according to Henry Sewell, a lawyer, ‘over some detestable punch and some very good wine,’ showed their delight at his success ‘with plenty of toasting and speechifying’. FitzGerald gave a more detailed account, explaining that his supporters ‘were drunk for three days, drinking 76 bottles of Madeira in one night’. He found an empty building on the edge of town and, ‘in a wonderfully short space of time’, had it converted into a council chamber. The walls were papered, the floors carpeted and galleries added for the public and the press. He bought red-cushioned chairs and built a dais for the Speaker, on which stood ‘a respectable dignified chair such as one sees in Masonic halls’. In front of the dais was ‘a plain

An early 20th-century poster advertising the delights of the South Island.

table covered with papers, with the English statutes ranged impressively in front so as to give a legislative look to the place’. He described his council chamber as ‘a most elegant apartment’. Others disagreed. The interior, wrote one of his colleagues, had been ‘disguised neatly enough but in a flimsy way’, the seats were ‘of iron hardness’ and the building itself was ‘shabby in the extreme – a low desolate looking wooden tenement, all by itself in a potato garden … approached over an open trackless common … barely passable in dry weather, and miserable in wet’. Elections for the provincial council were held in September 1853 and the first meeting took place two weeks later. FitzGerald insisted that proceedings of council be conducted with ‘extreme dignity and decorum’, that meetings should follow the protocol of the House of Commons in London, a policy that led to confusion among council members with no experience of parliamentary protocol. During the next decade the superintendent and provincial council created a fully-functioning society, passing legislation for everything required to create and administer a new province: land regulations, financial and legal matters, labour supply and immigration, education, roads, bridges, scab in sheep. Christchurch grew into a small Victorian city. ‘Godley would not know it at all’, wrote FitzGerald in January 1864. ‘Miles of straight streets are formed and metalled, with houses filling them up and every trace of the old country disappeared … houses two or three storeys high. Cabs on stands and water-carts watering the streets … A nice little theatre with Shakespeare plays. A new town hall building which will hold 700 or 800 people … It is all like a dream to me.’ The city grew and prospered during the next 147 years – until it was ruined in the earthquake of 2011. Other statues toppled off their pedestals – Godley fell face down in Cathedral Square – but FitzGerald still stands, his gaze directed down Cashel Street, where he and his family lived above the presses of his newspaper. Today he surveys a shattered city. Soon he will see it rise again.

FitzGerald insisted that proceedings of the new provincial council be conducted with ‘extreme dignity and decorum’, following the protocol of the House of Commons


Jenifer Roberts is the author of Fitz: The Colonial Adventures of James Edward FitzGerald (Otago University Press, May 2014).


The gravestone of a Roman cutler with a relief of a shop selling knives and sickles, second century ad.

Britain’s First Industrial Revolution

While the advances in technology and manufacturing that took place in Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries have entered the mainstream of history, few know about the industrialisation carried out during the Roman occupation, says Simon Elliott.



HE PHRASE ‘Industrial Revolution’ plays such a central role in the narrative of British history that few historians have asked whether the British Isles experienced anything similar prior to its advent in the 18th century. It seems, however, that Britain did experience a form of industrial revolution, from the later first century through to the the end of the fourth, the period of the Roman occupation. During this time, parts of the British Isles, especially in the south and the east, developed a wide variety of industries, which, like those of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, were large in scale, were marked by engineering innovation and involved complex manufacturing processes. These industries became incorporated into a sophisticated international economic system, supported by an advanced maritime and land-based transport infrastructure. This revolution played a major role in shaping the nature of society throughout the period of the Roman occupation. While there is no question that the economy of the Roman Empire as a whole remained overwhelmingly agrarian, industry played an important role, a fact still evident today in the high levels of pollutants that remain from Roman industrial activity (such as lead and copper emissions), which can be traced in the Greenland ice cores. Using ice-core copper pollution as an example, it appears that the only other major period of substantial industrial output anywhere in the world between the Roman Empire and the modern Industrial Revolution occured during the 11th century, in Sung dynasty China. The scale of industry that developed in Britain during the Roman occupation was certainly revolutionary compared with what had existed before, during the later Iron Age. It was also extraordinary in comparison with what came later.


The Blackstone Edge Roman road in the Pennines, part of the Roman imperial transport infrastructure.

THE ECONOMY OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE featured largescale state-controlled mining (metalla) and quarrying enterprises, as well as manufactories producing a wide variety of products, including: weapons of uniform quality and size; fine Samian ware pottery; textiles; milling and other food production enterprises, not least the ubiquitous garum fish sauce, beloved throughout the Empire. Such a suite of industries also became a major feature of the British experience of Romanitas. Examples include the huge iron producing enterprises (initially in the Weald of Sussex, Surrey and Kent and later in the Forest of Dean and the East Midlands); industrial-scale quarrying to serve the urbanisation and later fortification of Britain (a demand fulfilled by a thriving construction sector); tile and brick production; mining of all kinds; a huge number of pottery kilns; mosaic and glass production; salt production; and, possibly, the manufacture of garum. Meanwhile the production of quern stones flourished, along with the milling industry to which it was central, while Britain was also home to a thriving textile industry. The latter was highly regarded throughout the empire for two textile products: a form of the birrus hooded cloak and a fine quality tapetia rug. A coin-minting industry also developed, revealing of the political and economic progress made in the province during the occupation. There were more coins minted and circulated in Britain during the occupation than ever before. The principal official mint was in London, where coins were produced between ad 286-324 and 383-388. Of the 29 major mints from across the empire represented in the British Portable Antiquities Scheme database, the 2,987 coins made in London represent the fifth largest category, an impressive statistic as it is surpassed only by the output of the major urban centres of Rome itself, Trier, Arles and Lyon.

ROMAN INDUSTRY To look at a specific regional example of Roman industrialisation in Britain, the south-east featured a range of enterprises, largely based on the extractive industries. These sat broadly within three economic zones of activity. The first was around the river valleys of the Darent, a tributary of the Thames, and (principally) the Medway, both of which were within the economic sphere of London. A second was in a zone running down the east Kent coast from Dover to Lympne (in the economic sphere of Canterbury and the imperial gateway at Richborough). The third was in the Weald of Kent, Sussex and Surrey. While the Darent Valley was notable for the large villa estates constructed for Roman London’s political and economic elites, the luxurious villas constructed along the Medway valley belonged in the main to those who managed a vast and flourishing industrial landscape based around extensive ragstone quarries above the tidal reach at Allington. This industry was facilitated by a complex river infrastructure in the form of locks and weirs, which made the Medway navigable to the ships and barges that carried the enormous quantities of ragstone into the Thames Estuary and beyond. From there the ragstone was shipped around the southeast, as far afield as Colchester (where it was used in the construction of the town’s Claudian temple and the gates of the Circus) and Bradwell (later a Saxon shore fort) to the north, London to the west and Richborough (where it was used in the monumental arch and its superseding Saxon shore fort) to the east. The scale of this industrial activity has led scholars to consider the possibility that the Roman state was directly involved, at least during the earlier years of the occupation. The excavation in the early 1960s of the 14 metre-long merchant ship Blackfriars 1 has shed light on this process. This vessel, dated to the early second century, was found by Blackfriars Bridge on the western edge of Right: Part of a haul of 50,000 coins from the third century ad found at Frome in Somerset, 800 of which were minted in London during the rule of the usurper Carausius, who ruled Britain between ad 286 and 293. Below: Remains of a Wealden Roman ironworks.

the City of London, just where the River Fleet would have entered the Thames. Crucially, it foundered while carrying 26 tonnes of Kentish ragstone from the Medway valley quarries, still in its hold when it was discovered some 1,800 years later.


HILE THERE IS EVIDENCE that other materials were quarried in the Medway valley during the occupation – for example, the sand and chalk for which the industry is better known in the modern era – it is the ragstone quarrying which has left its unmistakable mark to this day on the Roman south-east. Ragstone is a grey-green, sandy and glauconitic limestone found within the Hythe Beds of the Lower Greensand geological formation near Folkestone. It was highly valued by the Romans for its durability and the comparative ease with which it could be worked and is a common feature of many of the region’s buildings and monuments. A primary example is the late second-century Roman land walls of London, over three kilometres long, whose fine quality facing blocks are still visible in surviving sections, such as those near Tower Hill underground station. This enterprise alone is a remarkable example of the demand for the material, with modern estimates indicating that over one million squared and dressed ragstone blocks would have been required for the inner and outer facing, together with a rubble ragstone core, which was then set with mortar. A similar vessel to Blackfriars 1 would have needed to have made around 1,750 voyages of 56km each way to transport the 45,000 tonnes of ragstone required for such a massive building programme. The quarries needed to supply this monumental demand were of a matching scale. While ragstone outcrops are found in the Hythe Beds, the finest quality material lies within the outcrops in the upper Medway valley and these were heavily exploited during the occupation. There are four likely sites for the quarries: at Allington (actually on the tidal reach), Boughton Monchelsea to the south of modern Maidstone, Dean Street (also south of Maidstone and, at 2.5km long, one of the largest man-made features of occupied Britain) and finally at Teston, slightly further upriver. Each of these sites had direct access either to the Medway itself or, in the case of Boughton Monchelsea, to a major tributary, the Loose Stream, notable for its mills. The luxury villas of the associated elite were located in Maidstone, East Farleigh, Barming and Teston, all within easy reach of the quarries. A Roman road ran from the Dean Street quarry to the Roman ford at Barming and to a nearby villa at East Farleigh. EAST WEAR BAY, AT FOLKESTONE, was well known for its quern stone industry, which manufactured high quality Greensand querns from the outcropping in the local cliffs. The success of the industry is evident from the widespread export of the querns made there, examples being found as far afield as Hunsbury in Northamptonshire and possibly in northern France. This particular Greensand was noted for its strength, a quality critical to the quern stone’s grinding power and resistance to wear. It also allowed industrial-sized millstones to be manufactured, for use at high-volume regional water mills, such as that on the River Stour at Ickham, Kent. The archaeological record suggests that the quern stone industry in Folkestone preceded the MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 51

arrival of the Romans, with evidence of its origins in the later Iron Age. However it is clear that the beginning of the occupation marked a dramatic increase in the scale of such activities and in the ability to transport the manufactured goods to new markets, a hallmark, too, of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. Meanwhile other building stone was quarried locally, as the region began its path to Roman urbanisation and fortification. Tufa (volcanic rock), was quarried extensively in the valley of the River Dour above Folkestone. Blocks of the material are found in the walls of the forts of the Classis Britannica, the Roman fleet based in Britain, and also in later Saxon shore forts at Dover and Lympne, the pharos at Dover, settlement buildings in the same town and in the large villa at East Wear Bay. Chalk was also quarried extensively, as was flint. Again, both were used as building materials, while a large ragstone quarry has been located above the Saxon shore fort at Lympne, which supplied the stone for its construction.

Left: Central roundel of Bacchus from a first or second century Roman mosaic pavement, City of London.


URTHER WEST the Weald reveals the extensive industrial landscape renowned for iron manufacturing during the occupation. This industry, too, had its origins in the later Iron Age, at sites such as Garden Hill in East Sussex. However it is with the arrival of the Romans that large-scale activity began, especially near the coast of the eastern Weald. Intensive sites such as Beauport Park, Footlands and Oaklands Park began processing huge quantities of locally mined iron ore to produce high quality iron, which was exported around the region and abroad from ports such as Bodiam on the River Rother and Castle Croft on the River Wallers Haven. These major sites were also linked to the Medway valley by the Roman Road that travelled north from Beauport Park, past Footlands and Oaklands Park, through modern Maidstone and then on to Roman Rochester. Using a ‘direct process’ method, which combined smelting and forging in one procedure, some of the furnaces used during the occupation were larger than any in use again until the coming of the Industrial Revolution proper. Recent estimates indicate that during the 200 years when the Romano-British Wealden iron industry was at its height, based on the current estimate of 100,000 tonnes of slag in the region, the industry produced up to 30,000 tonnes of iron at 113 known sites. The four largest sites produced 44 per cent of the total of this waste volume and were thus by far the largest contributors to overall iron production. The Beauport Park site produced 210 tonnes of 52 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Above: Ragstone facing from the surviving section of the Roman wall near Tower Hill underground station. Above right: Ceramic roof tile from the second century found at Holt, Clwyd and bearing the boar emblem of the 20th Legion.

iron annually from the first to the third centuries ad. There was an extensive brick and tile manufacturing industry in the Weald, which made use of the fine quality clays abundant in the region. The industry is heavily associated with the tiles stamped ‘CLBR’, indicating a building belonging to the Classis Britannica, which are found across the region and have been discovered as far afield as Boulogne. The Grey Wealden shale quarried to make finely cut tiles is regularly found within the boundaries of what was Roman London in the form of Opus Sectile tiled floors, a style of illustrative, mosaic-like decoration. Patterns common to all three of these significant industries are discernible. Kentish ragstone is known to have been used in the first Roman forum in London, built during the ad 50s. It is also found in the Claudian temple in Colchester, constructed sometime before the Boudiccan revolt of ad 43. Meanwhile at least nine of the iron-making sites in the Weald were fully operational by the end of the first century ad, indicating the early beginnings of industry. Although iron manufacturing existed to a limited extent in the Weald before the occupation, there was certainly no ragstone quarrying taking place. It, therefore, seems likely

ROMAN INDUSTRY that the Romans had some knowledge before their official arrival of the available resources in the south-east and of their potential for industrial-scale exploitation.


HERE IS A CLEAR chronological distinction between the period of large-scale industry typical of the middle of the third century and the more localised activity which marks the period immediately before the end of the Roman occupation. The use of Kentish ragstone on a grand scale declined during the third century (the later river wall and bastions of London are made of recycled material from public buildings and mausolea rather than the fine ragstone of the earlier land wall). Meanwhile, iron manufacturing in the Weald had also ceased by this time. The Classis Britannica in its earlier, largescale phase, acting on the authority of the Procurator (the official in charge of a province’s financial affairs), had facilitated the opening up of industrial activity on a large scale, with the emphasis on making the new province pay its way. Across the empire the regional merchant navies had a strong association with the extractive industries (including the Classis Germanica on the River Rhine) and this was certainly the case in the Weald, where many of the larger iron manufacturing sites that have been excavated feature considerable numbers of local CLBR-stamped tiles. The Classis Britannica played a similarly crucial role with the Medway valley’s ragstone quarrying industry, given the need to manage what was a vast business enterprise, including the maritime transport necessary to carry the stone and the building and management of the river infrastructure required. Even the quern industry at East Wear Bay has a Classis Britannica link, evidenced by the plentiful CLBR-stamped tiles found locally (including at the Folkestone villa). But the Classis Britannica disappears from history in the middle of the third century, its last reference being in an epigraphic testament to one Saturninus, ex-captain in the fleet, dated to no later than ad 249. It is at this time that major changes take place in the three zones, for example, the decline of industrial-scale ragstone quarrying and iron manufacturing described above, as well as in settlement patterns. It is in this context that industrial activity becomes much more localised. This transformation is paralleled by other changes in Britain, for example, in settlement patterns. It is a matter of debate whether such changes from large-scale state-run activity and associated settlement to localism was regionally specific or simply a symptom of the maturing imperial project during a century when huge changes were taking place amid the crisis of the third century, which culminated in the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire in the late third and early fourth centuries, ending in 313 with the Edict of Milan, passed by Constantine and Licinius. There were clearly differences between the arrival of industry into Britain during the occupation and the ascendency of industry over agriculture during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. Britain’s census of 1851 shows that over half of the economically active population were for the first time employed in industry (determined as manufacturing, mining and construction). One simply cannot say that the Classical economy was dominated by industry, because it was not, though it did play an important role. In that regard, three questions arise: was there a

Third century glass bottle found at Faversham, Kent, bearing the maker’s mark ‘Felix Fecit’.

pronounced increase in the scale of industry in Britain with the advent of the occupation? Was there a pronounced increase in the level of engineering innovation at the same time? Could one describe some of the industry as manufacturing? The answer to all three questions is yes. The increase in scale of the industries, such as quarrying and iron manufacturing, was enormous. Further, consider the impact that the 18th-century Industrial Revolution had on the economy and on society and ask if this was replicated earlier, during the Roman occupation. While long-range trading networks have been a feature of human economic activity since the Neolithic period or earlier, nothing had existed in Britain before the Roman occupation to compare with the international economy within which it suddenly found itself. Society in Britain dramatically changed with the advent of the occupation and manpower-intensive industries such as quarrying and iron manufacturing had a major social impact in the regions where they were prominent. Both the Britain of the Roman occupation and that of the Industrial Revolution experienced substantial population growth. In the Roman period this peaked at up to four million, an increase from no higher than two million in the later Iron Age. There is evidence that parts of the country experienced a population crash towards the end of the Iron Age, indicating that pre-Roman population levels were not sustainable. The rapid population growth that followed the occupation is evident in the new towns and cities, the civitas capitals, municipa, coloniae and small towns replacing the far fewer oppida (defensive settlements) which had existed before. While Roman population growth can seem insignificant compared with that associated with the later Industrial Revolution, it is important to acknowledge the scale and rate of change in comparison with what had existed before. For all these reasons one can argue that the arrival of the Romans in Britain marked the onset of an Industrial Revolution which would not be replicated nor surpassed until the 18th century. Simon Elliott has embarked on a study of Kent during the Roman occupation, with a particular focus on the extractive industries.

From the Archive Roman Britain: Ruling Britannia

Archaeologist Miles Russell describes discoveries which overturn accepted views about the Roman invasion of Britain. www.historytoday. com/archive

FURTHER READING Jeremy Hodgkinson, The Wealden Iron Industry (The History Press, 2008). David Mattingly, An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire (Penguin, 2007). Barrie Trinder, Britain’s Industrial Revolution (Carnegie Publishing, 2013). Sam Moorhead, A History of Roman Coinage in Britain (Greenlight Publishing, 2014). MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 53


Klaus Dodds explores Antarctica • Cathy Bergin on Holocaust remembrance Maria Luddy admires an eyewitness account of the Easter Rising

Plug-In City, Typical Section by Peter Cook ©Archigram 1964


Constructing Modernism

Andrew Higgott surveys the contested legacy of modern architecture in Britain from the first machine age to the dawn of the digital. YEARS AGO there was a general consensus on the history of modern architecture, based on the idea that the combination of engineering advances and avant garde modern art had produced an inevitable and necessary new architecture, which Nikolaus Pevsner called ‘the true style of our century’. It was the subject of a particularly partisan historiographical tradition that gave the roles of ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ to the historical char56 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

acters within the architecture of the early 20th century. In this formulation, true modern architecture was inevitably the expression of the spirit of the age and seen as the manifestation of social progress: the historian’s role was to uncover and explain that zeitgeist and provide the basis for a sound contemporary practice in architecture. Modernism’s history in Britain forms a singular story: it was initially seen as a foreign

import and the old guard architect Reginald Blomfield warned in his Modernismus (1934) of an alien invasion. The most significant early modern architects, such as Erich Mendelsohn and Berthold Lubetkin, were indeed refugees from continental Europe; their advocates in critical and historical writing included Pevsner, arriving in 1933 from Göttingen, who was to become the dominant historian in the mid-20th century. Alongside his

Pioneers of the Modern Movement (1936) and later published histories, J.M. Richards’ 1940 Penguin book Introduction to Modern Architecture was a popular and long-lasting expression of this progressive position. As modern architecture became widely adopted in the postwar years, the consensus shifted, as did the realisation that this account of the history of modernism was far too narrow and exclusive, that modern architecture would be better served by a pluralist history of overlapping intentions and trends and that ‘modernism’, let alone ‘the modern movement’, was an increasingly questionable term. The pioneer here was Reyner Banham, with his Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960): both he and the equally iconoclastic Colin Rowe, known for an acclaimed series of journal articles and subsequently for Collage City (1978), signify the emergence of a more complex and intellectually substantial history. A reactionary shift was later to take place with an anti-modernist polemic spearheaded by David Watkin, whose Architecture and Morality (1977) repudiated Pevsner’s historical shortcomings. It was a group around him, satirically described as ‘young fogeys’, that led to the celebration of the entirely un-modernist 20th-century architect Edwin Lutyens, with books such as those by Roderick Gradidge (1981) and a major Arts Council exhibition. Banham’s book made a clear distinction between theory and

building, with an emphasis on the former: contrasting with earlier histories, illustrations of buildings are incidental to his argument. He stressed that architects’ practice inevitably emerges from ideas, seeing architecture primarily as a cultural endeavour, and emphasised, for example, the work of the Italian Futurists, who built nothing. The architectural group Archigram was to burst on to the British architectural scene in the 1960s and be celebrated for the radical projects in their self-published magazine. Their ideas influenced much that was built later, particularly the development of so-called High-Tech architecture; this work by Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and others represents a remarkable shift as with it came international attention on the British production of modern architecture. My own Mediating

Modernism was seen as the the spirit of the age and the manifestation of social progress Modernism (2007) aims to trace the development of new architectural ideas in influential books and journals in Britain, a history distinct from the story of what buildings happen to be built. As part of a broadening of the subjects of historical research, postwar British architects such as Ernö Goldfinger and Denys Lasdun have become the subject of serious study, while something of an academic industry has developed on the work of Alison and Peter Smithson, of which the anthology edited by Max Risselada (2011) should be cited. But the outstanding monograph on the work of a modern British architect remains that on Lubetkin by the architect John Allan (1992), extremely thorough in its research as well as having something new to say on the nature of its subject’s architecture. The Twentieth Century Society has long been an energetic campaigning body concerned

with the preservation of modern architecture in Britain. It has done much to effect a shift in attitudes and its publications include a series of original and scholarly studies in an annual journal. Alan Powers, its longtime chair, has published prolifically on British 20th-century architecture, notably Britain: Modern Architectures in History (2007). Academia aside, modern architecture has been a more than usually contentious subject in Britain and has often preoccupied those with interests not usually historical or aesthetic. Its widely perceived failure is a particularly British story, unfamiliar in, say, Holland or Brazil. This has been associated in particular with the failings of much modern housing, but as long ago as 1994, Glendinning’s and Muthesius’s book Tower Block presented a calmly argued and extensively researched study of the history of its social housing. Their aim was to rescue the history of the tower block from its contemporary image of urban degradation and it suggested that politicians (not architects) were the driving force behind these vast programmes of urban renewal. More recent historians have produced studies of the wider processes of postwar architecture: books by Nicholas Bullock (2002) and John R. Gold (1997 and 2007) illuminate the complexities of its history. Currently, and perhaps unexpectedly, those born after this postwar era are fascinated by what is now seen as a heroic period of architecture. The uncompromising modernist buildings engaging with a social brief and often mis-named Brutalist, which an older generation has hated with passion, have now become admired and are also the subjects of study. This latest shift may seem to be a surprising turn of events, but then again the Victorian Ruskin despised Gower Street’s Georgian terraces, while modernist historians in their turn loathed St Pancras Station, each believing that they were, in absolute terms, bad architecture.

The Making of the Modern British Home

The Suburban Semi & Family Life Between the Wars Peter Scott Oxford University Press 270pp £65


A Journey Around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain John Grindrod Old Street Publishing 474pp £25

THESE TWO BOOKS, while dissimilar in most ways, are united by their interest in mass building projects that transformed the look and character of British society and have since become part of popular mythology. Peter Scott’s The Making of the Modern British Home examines the building of millions of suburban semi-detached houses in interwar Britain, while John Grindrod’s Concretopia explores the postwar reconstruction of Britain in the shape of new towns, motorways, high-rise blocks and shopping


Andrew Higgott


REVIEWS centres, using the modernist materials of concrete, glass and steel. Both books usefully challenge received wisdoms about these two historical moments. One of the main insights of Scott’s book is that, contrary to popular belief, the migration to semi-detached suburbia between the wars was not confined to the middle classes. Many skilled and semi-skilled workers also bought these houses, taking advantage of liberalised mortgage terms, the de-skilling of building trades and reduced housebuilding costs, which allowed speculative developers to provide homes at unprecedentedly low prices. As one might expect of a professor of business history, Scott is skilled at collating and interpreting statistics, but he does not overlook the human side, drawing on many first-person accounts of people who moved to the suburbs during the 1920s and 1930s, culled from archives held in places such as local records offices, the Imperial War Museum and the Museum of London. As well as investigating the building of these houses, Scott examines the changing lifestyles produced by mass suburbanisation, such as an emphasis on smaller, more socially restrained families and on household durables, that were exhibited in the estate show houses and advertised in the brochures. Scott devotes a chapter to the subject of gardening. Since the topsoil was often buried under builder’s rubble and sub-soil excavated for the house’s foundation, new suburban home-owners had to work hard to make their gardens grow anything, which is why potatoes were a common first crop; they broke up the soil and brought stones to the surface. One house-builder provided privet hedges, new home-owners being issued with leaflets on how to look after them, while others held best-kept garden competitions. The building of the suburban semis is a familiar story, but Scott tells it with panache and plenty of new research and insights. Grindrod’s Concretopia is a personal book because the author grew up in New Addington, 58 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

described here as ‘an inner-city housing estate abandoned in the country outside Croydon’. Challenging the accepted narrative that postwar modernist architecture is now our most visible articulation of a failed social experiment, his book is addressed to the ‘millions of people like me in Britain, who don’t recognise the village green, country cottage or Georgian square as the epitome of our nation, but whose identities have instead been moulded by concrete monstrosities or bad planning – or rather, the postwar optimism that sought to build a better future’. The book becomes a series of journeys to the places most transformed by postwar reconstruction, such as the new towns of Cumbernauld and Milton Keynes, the rebuilt city centres of Plymouth and Coventry and the system-built housing estates of Sheffield,

Both books have an elegiac quality, looking back on collectively-minded projects that sought to change people’s lives for the better Newcastle and Glasgow. It has a chronological spine, starting with the 1940s prefabs that made up Catford’s Excalibur Estate, many built by POWs, and ending with the Barbican and the National Theatre, which Grindrod argues were ‘a last push to create exciting and experimental public spaces, before responsibility for these kinds of projects shifted decisively away from public into private hands’. The most valuable aspect of the book is Grindrod’s account of his conversations with the residents, some now in their 90s, who first encountered these spaces. Since Grindrod’s previous book was a humorous one about television, I was expecting something wry or light-hearted from Concretopia, along the lines of the Crap Towns franchise. In fact, he has written a thoughtful, scholarly,

generous-minded and often touching book. What emerges from it is a more complicated picture than the popular idea of our postwar concrete landscape currently allows, one that takes in the optimism and public-spiritedness that greeted these public spaces when they were created, while acknowledging that many (but by no means all) of them are now unloved and uncared for. Grindrod’s book is a timely one, as Urban Splash’s redevelopment of Sheffield’s Park Hill flats and the decision to award Preston Bus station a Grade II listing, preventing its planned demolition by the city council, invite reappraisal of this postwar landscape. There is a quietly political tone to Concretopia, written in a contemporary climate in which, as Grindrod puts it, ‘we have moved from the postwar nationalisation of land to build everything from new towns to motorways, into an era where almost everything we think of as public space is actually private land’. In our era of austerity and stalled housebuilding, both books have an elegiac quality, looking back on confident and collectively-minded projects that sought to change people’s lives for the better. Joe Moran

The Lawn Road Flats Spies, Writers and Artists David Burke The Boydell Press 271pp £25

DAVID BURKE, the historian who wrote the immaculately entitled The Spy Who Came in From the Co-op: Melita Norwood and the Ending of Cold War Espionage, has turned his attention to the occupants of a 1930s Bauhaus-

inspired building in North London. Among the occupants of the Isokon building on Lawn Road were Arnold Deutsch, the controller of the Cambridge Five who spied for the Soviet Union, and a starry list of BBC producers, novelists and academics.

Occupants of the Bauhaus-inspired building included Arnold Deutsch, the controller of the Cambridge Five, and a starry list of BBC producers, novelists and academics What Burke captures in this collective biography is a fascinating insight into a generation whose commitment to modernism was expressed as much through their experiments in communal living at the Isokon as it was through their political activities and their art. What an extraordinary collection of people were drawn to the two bedroom, one bath flats, built with ‘the materials characteristic of [the] time – steel, concrete and glass’ within ‘the last acre of unspoiled wilderness in Belsize Park’. Rent included cleaning, a laundry service, shoe shining and hot meals in accommodation designed for young professionals of modest means who wanted to dispense with ‘tiresome domestic troubles’. Although the Isokon had its critics, with one in Hampstead dismissing its concrete exterior as ‘soulless, colourless and repulsive’, it attracted a coterie of devoted residents. Among the Isokon’s most famous residents was the crime novelist Agatha Christie, who lived there with her husband Max Mallowan from 1941 to 1948. When Max volunteered for the RAF Directorate in Cairo in 1942, Christie wrote prodigiously

to keep her loneliness at bay. It was here that she produced her only spy novel, N or M?, which revealed the author’s extensive knowledge about wartime British intelligence and Fifth Column activity. This proved ironic, given that many of Christie’s closest neighbours were much later revealed to have been Soviet spies. According to Burke, there is a revealing passage in Christie’s spy novel that suggests she may have been well acquainted with the Kuczynski family, German-Jewish refugees of ‘an independent Marxist kind’ who were staying in the flats. In fact, resident Jurgen Kuczynski and his sister Ursula, aka Ruth Beurton, played a crucial role in securing Britain’s atomic secrets from the physicist Klaus Fuchs and passing them onto the Soviets. By Burke’s count there were no fewer than 32 agents or sub-agents connected to Soviet espionage associated with the Lawn Road Flats. The story is bookended with the intelligence agent Charles Fenn, who took up residence in the early 1950s and is credited with recruiting the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh into a US intelligence network. He was the last of the gifted spies to occupy the Lawn Road Flats, says Burke, before they were sold to the New Statesman in 1968 and then to Camden Council four years later. They are currently owned by the Notting Hill Housing Group. The Lawn Road Flats exemplified modernism, writes Burke, and was unquestionably the architecture of progressives who were committed to a new system that had, at great cost, given ordinary people affordable food and transport, education and a health service. Although the connective tissue that ties together the lives of these fascinating individuals with the building itself is somewhat tenuous in this account, it is a lively and vivid chronicle of a generation shaped by war, political upheaval and idealism. Julie Wheelwright


Virtual Rome

www.reading.ac.uk/classics/research/ Virtual-Rome.asp STUDENTS OF ANCIENT ROME as well as the many tourists visiting the Eternal City will benefit from a detailed new digital model, Virtual Rome, that has just won the Guardian’s Teaching Excellence Award in Higher Education. Virtual Rome shows the entire city as it appeared around ad 315. I began creating models of individual monuments from the Roman world to use in my teaching at Reading University. Based on my experience of lecturing on ancient Roman cities and leading several groups of students and tourists round ancient sites including Rome, I found that a vivid, 3D, colour reconstruction is a tremendously valuable supplement to the black and white ground plans often found in guidebooks. Student feedback was very positive, so with my university’s support I set out to make the entire city this way – it has taken about five years to achieve. Each building in the model is based on as much evidence as possible, from archaeological digs, ancient literary testimony, inscriptions, and the Forma Urbis – a fascinating marble map of Rome, erected by Rome’s emperors in the early third century ad, that survives today in over a thousand fragments. Piecing this evidence together and using the latest software including SketchUp and Cinema 4D, I created 3D visualisations of Rome’s buildings and assembled them into a master model of the whole city, complete with terrain, roads and several thousand trees, including plenty of Rome’s iconic umbrella pines. The model can be viewed from any direction, or used to make fly-through animations. As direct evidence for many of ancient Rome’s residential and commercial districts has been lost, a degree of imaginative reconstruction has been necessary. Showing just the well-known, well-documented monu-

ments in isolation is not really enough; to get a sense of Rome as a living, sprawling, busy city of over a million inhabitants – matching what we know from ancient sources – it was necessary to give some suggestion of the miles of ordinary streets filling the city’s hills and valleys, up to and beyond the Aurelian wall circuit. Bits and pieces of this landscape survive well and I have incorporated a 3D model of every placed fragment of the Forma Urbis and various residential and commercial buildings known from excavation. Elsewhere I have used what we know of the city’s road network and comparison to other ancient cities like Ostia to fill in the gaps. Virtual Rome is, I believe, a vivid, colourful evocation of the city that allows viewers to see how buildings appeared and how they related to one another, although this is an architectural model, not a cinematic Gladiator-style recreation – so there are no people in it and not enough dirt and mess to match the sometimes squalid realities of life in an ancient city. For now, I am more interested in presenting the physical shape and form of the city, without getting too far into vignettes of daily life. But it is always possible to add extra layers containing new detail of that sort, or to adapt what I have in new ways. Last year, for example, the Discovery Channel used the model to illustrate its documentary Strip the City: Rome, with dramatic flyovers and fly-throughs helping to bring the city’s scale to life. Reaction to Virtual Rome has been positive

Virtual Rome is a vivid

evocation of the city that allows viewers to see how buildings looked and related to one another in ad 315 and encouraging. Professor Christopher Smith, Director of the British School at Rome, says: ‘[This] exemplary computer modelling has given us new ways of imagining and visualising Rome. Matthew Nicholls has a deep knowledge of the city and this will help us others to understand this remarkable example of urban planning and design, which remains fascinating to this day.’ For now, a selection of images from the model can be seen on my website. A detailed visual guide to the city for students and tourists, copiously illustrated with images drawn from the digital model, will be published next year by Cambridge University Press, in paper and ebook formats. Matthew Nicholls



Four Emperors and an Architect How Robert Adam Rediscovered the Tetrarchy Alicia Salter Lexicon Publishing 180pp £20

VISITORS TO VENICE sometimes notice a little porphyry statue outside San Marco – four warriors in flat-topped helmets who are embracing each other. Guide books tell them they depict the tetrarchs, the four men who jointly governed the Roman Empire in ad 300. Most people have heard of Robert Adam, the Scottish architect whose work brought about a revolution in British taste in architecture, interior design and furniture during the last quarter of the 18th century. Fewer, though, are aware of the link between the tetrarchy and Adam. This unusual book explains the connection. Finding the Empire too large to rule properly, in 285 Diocletian divided his authority, governing the east from Nicomedia in Asia Minor, with a co-emperor governing the west from Milan. In 293 two lesser rulers were appointed in addition, at Triers in the Rhineland and Sirmium in Serbia. The system collapsed in 313, but ensured the division into Eastern and Western Roman Empires. By then Diocletian was dead, having retired to what is now Split in Croatia, where he spent his last years in a vast and beautiful palace on the Adriatic coast. Born in 1728, while on a Grand Tour of several years (when he studied under, among others, Piranesi) Adam heard of the ruins at Venetian ‘Spalatro’ (modern Split), which he succeeded in visiting, accompanied by two draughtsmen, despite the hostility 60 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

of the Venetians, who thought he was a spy. Although he had to leave in a hurry, he was able to complete enough drawings for his truly monumental Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia. Published in 1764, this was immensely successful, even Edmund Gibbon calling it a ‘magnificent work’. It inspired the ‘Adam Style’, which made the author’s name as an architect and an interior decorator, resulting in houses such as Kedleston, Syon and Saltram, as well as the (long demolished) Adelphi Terrace in London. Alicia Salter has ingeniously drawn together two very different themes and interwoven them, bringing both to life with surprising success. On the one hand, she describes the personalities of the tetrarchs, their careers and military campaigns and also their palaces – Diocletian’s palace being particularly well done. On the other, she tells the story of Robert Adam’s Grand Tour, culminating with his daring expedition to Split, and then investigates its influence on British architecture. The handsome illustrations are particularly well chosen. Desmond Seward

Antarctica A Biography David Day

Oxford University Press, 64pp £25

DAVID DAY has written a proverbial ‘door stop’ of a book, deftly mapping how and where human encounter was shaped by exploratory, commercial and scientific routes across the Southern Ocean and polar continent.

Arguably, this book is best suited to those broadly familiar with the human geographies and histories of the far south, particularly the period of exploration and discovery in the post Captain Cook era of the last 200 years or so. As the world’s only continental space without an indigenous human population, Antarctica continues to complicate our understandings of what it is to be human. Day shows how discovery, exploration, commerce and science interacted with one another. Commercial agendas informed much 18th- and 19thcentury activity, including largescale pursuits such as sealing and whaling, ensuring that this southerly region was connected to wider flows and networks of global society. This remote and poorly mapped space was being enrolled into the world economy, and later a world of competing nation states and their imperial agendas, including Britain. Day has useful things to say about the contested politics of sovereignty in the early 20th century onwards, which meant that the explorers and scientists, acting as sovereign agents of their respective states, undertook mapping, naming, flag-waving, acts of possession and proclamation and base construction in Antarctica. By the 1950s the Antarctic was a geopolitically contested space. Science and scientists were key accomplices in this ‘sovereignty game’. Antarctica had a claimants’ club – Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Norway, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. For three countries, though, as former British diplomat Bill Hunter Christie recognised, there was an additional problem: their claims overlapped in the geographically proximate and commercially attractive Antarctic Peninsula region. Argentina, Chile and Britain remain locked in a geopolitical struggle to this day, involving the Falkland Islands and wider South Atlantic region. The United States and Russia reserve

the right to make a claim in the future and every other country rejects the claimants’ club. Rightly, Day devotes a great deal of attention to the more contemporary geopolitics and history of Antarctica. Events such as the International Geophysical Year (1957-58) are addressed because this period of scientific cooperation provided the pretext for the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. Day is right to stress that scientific cooperation and geopolitical competition made for awkward bedfellows. However, without the spectre of possible conflict over the ownership of the Antarctic, a co-operative treaty might not have been possible. The terms of the treaty are straightforward but important; all signatories agree to work together and in doing so defer their rival positions on sovereignty.

The only continental space without an indigenous population, Antarctica complicates our understanding of what it means to be human Polar aficionados will notice a few errors along the way and, arguably, Day’s view on Scott’s final expedition is rather too critical. But to focus on these things is to miss the point of this book. Day is trying to bring to a wider audience a point that I passionately share; Antarctica has never been a ‘pole apart’ and there is much to be concerned with in the here and now as well as the future; ocean acidification, living resource exploitation, mineral prospecting, further sovereignty claiming, and ongoing anxieties about climate change and ice cap stability. Klaus Dodds

The Rise of Gay Rights and the Fall of the British Empire Liberal Resistance and the Bloomsbury Group David A.J. Richards Cambridge University Press 282pp £20

WHAT A vital subject – pertinent; necessary; well-conceived! Yet pause, reader. What is this book? Do not let its title, or its author’s eminence as Professor of Law at NYU, or the esteem of its publisher, deceive you. Do not imagine that the cover’s por-

traits imply more than passing interest in Bloomsbury. For this monograph is arguably among the most misconceived and incoherent studies ever published in the field of gay history. The author does not so much address the subjects clearly announced in the book’s title, he lays them waste. Despite the reiteration of his chosen remit on the copyright page – ‘gay rights’, ‘gay rights – Great Britain’, ‘patriarchy’, ‘democracy’ – The Rise of Gay Rights and the Fall of the British Empire adopts something substantially below sophomoric style to consider Richards’ interests, which appear repeatedly and progressively bound by the 50 states. His arguments occasionally stray beyond the national American context. They reference John Locke, Gilgamesh and the Oresteia in an opening chapter. Certain British writers surface later, briefly: Orwell, Osborne, Hollinghurst. Still, the overall impression is of an American seminar group

predicating a tutorial approach that is entirely constrained by that enemy of intellectual enquiry: the pursuit solely of what is ‘relevant’ to its (US) students. The index cannot lie: there are 35 pages on American ‘resistance movements’; barely 10 on Woolf, most prominent of the chosen Bloomsburyists.

Arguably among the most misconceived and incoherent studies ever published in the field of gay history Instead, references revolve overwhelmingly around facets of US history. From thirdrate Nietzschean Ayn Rand to hologram-as-President Ronald Reagan; from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Roe vs. Wade. Margaret Thatcher gets a walk-on role,

but as ‘a kind of latter-day Ayn Rand, who aligned her politics ... with that of Ronald Reagan.’ And Woolf was the English Willa Cather? Repeatedly we are encouraged to consult another of Richards’ ten works ‘on this topic’ (any topic but this topic, actually). But perhaps Bloomsbury had this coming? After all, critics have fastened onto the class-bound constraints of Woolf; the manipulation of evidence wrought by Strachey; the supposed special pleading or traces of misogyny within Forster’s liberalism. At least Forster, late in life, paid his dues to a certain land, blessed with ‘the oldest written constitution in the world’, by visiting it. Woolf paid the New World little attention, though tactfully – presumably bearing in mind her extensive American readership – she did review its writers extensively. In 1938 she responded to the question posed by Hearst’s International and Cosmopolitan magazines, ‘What interests you


REVIEWS most in this cosmopolitan world of today?’ quite categorically: ‘America, WHICH I HAVE NEVER SEEN, Interests Me Most in This Cosmopolitan World of Today.’ Richards would surely have approved. He seems chiefly concerned with hoary anecdotes: what the Bloomsbury set did, not what it wrote. Excepting the odd reference to Mrs Dalloway or A Passage to India, their accommodation of liberal politics – sexual and otherwise – in their works is neglected. This is indefensible, since several literary scholars have done much lately to tease out the complex intersections in the interwar period between post-colonial thinking and socio-political self-positioning – including on sexuality and the law. Yet of their work there is no mention. Once J.R. Ackerley’s Indian memoir Hindoo Holiday was classed as a ‘novel’, I realised, moreover, that this slight work had, perhaps, also not been edited. Richard Canning


Dublin Burning

The Easter Rising from Behind the Barricades W.J. Brennan-Whitmore Gill & Macmillan 162pp £19.99

THE CENTENARY of the 1916 Easter Rising is just around the corner and already a significant number of publications about the event have appeared. Organised by a small group of Republicans (led, among others, by Patrick Henry Pearce or Pádraig Anraí Mac Piarais), the rebels’ intention was

to thwart the political settlement of Home Rule, which was to be implemented after the First World War, and through their ‘blood sacrifice’ secure Ireland’s complete independence from Britain. The Rising began on the Easter Monday, with the rebels occupying central locations, such as the General Post Office in Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) in Dublin. There were minor outbreaks of violence around the country. The Rising lasted for six days, with the centre of Dublin being almost completely destroyed. The Rising, though a military failure, was a pivotal moment that accelerated the fight for Irish independence and changed the political landscape in Ireland. This memoir by W.J. BrennanWhitmore (1886-1977) is an important primary source for this event, as he was the only senior participant of the Rising to leave a memoir. Born in County Wexford, Whitmore-Brennan became a journalist, having spent some time

in the British army. He served in India in the medical corps and attained the rank of sergeant by the time he left the service in 1907. The memoir is well written, exciting and insightful about the events of Easter Week. It is an important source for trying to understand the outlook of those who fought in this historic event. Whitmore-Brennan was not a central figure in the Rising but was closely associated with that group who organised the event. He provides pen portraits of the participants of the Rising, admiring Patrick Pearce’s idealism, if not his military acumen. He found De Valera to be dour and unfriendly, and though not originally taken by Michael Collins, he later served on his intelligence staff during the War of Independence and the two became good friends. Being a conservative Catholic, he did not get on with the socialist James Connolly. Brennan-Whitmore had been active in the Irish Volunteers in his native county. His military

knowledge led to him being coopted onto the Volunteer general staff just before the Rising and he fought in Dublin. It is clear from the memoir that he had reservations about the preparations made for the Rising and advocated guerilla war in the countryside rather than a ‘blood sacrifice’ in Dublin. Given his background there are a number of comments about the military tactics of the rebels and the British army. After the Rising he was imprisoned in Frongoch in North Wales, where he was elected camp commandant. His memoir paints a vivid and evocative picture of the events of Easter Week. In the first few hours of the Rising we see the incredulous yet curious public standing around occupied posts

As a first-hand account of events during the Easter Week of 1916 in Dublin, BrennanWhitmore’s memoir has no equal trying to figure out what was really going on. There are looters, residents who refuse to move out of their dwellings because they have nowhere else to go and there is the publican who offers the contents of his pub for ‘the cause’. He notes the idealism and heroism of his garrison, the deadly danger of snipers and machine-gun posts and shelling. The physical toll on the soldiers was huge and many were exhausted. Scenes of destruction were evident all around and at one stage he writes: ‘I stood on the rooftops in the gathering gloom. Dublin burning! What a sight! Gruesome, awe-inspiring.’ First published in 1996, it is good to see this memoir back in print. As a first-hand account of events during the Easter Week of 1916 in Dublin, Brennan-Whitmore’s memoir has no equal. Maria Luddy

EXHIBITION The overall effect, now as then, is disorienWhy Do Fools Fall in Love by Frankie Lymon tating and the work is taut with the ambiguities and the Teenagers echoes through the vast that would plague the reception of pop artists expanse of Tate Modern’s current retrospective over the decades, as the tomorrow that 1956 of recently deceased British pop-art pioneer promised became our collective past. Does this Richard Hamilton. The sugar-coated, doo-wop gleeful engagement with the stuff and matter of track rings out from a jukebox installed as part popular material and visual culture celebrate or of a recreation of Hamilton’s career-defining excriticise its cultural moment? Does Hamilton’s hibition (with John Voelcker and John McHale), work of this period welcome or caution against This is Tomorrow, originally installed in 1956 at the blurring of the line between high and low the Whitechapel Gallery. It is around the work art, between the individual and the massin this room that the exhibition, like Hamilton’s produced, between the bright and shiny and career, pivots. Collage, installation, photograthe fuzzy and dull? As the exhibition leads its phy, painting (both abstract and figurative), viewers through Hamilton’s life, these questions photo-manipulation and sculpture are all inbecome even less clear: is Hommage à Chrysler cluded. Grand themes are tackled, including the Corp. (1958), a gorgeously abstracted painting of relationship between art and science, the power a brand new car, smooth, slick and perfectly proof propaganda, the Israel-Palestine conflict, portioned, participating in or cautioning against commodity fetishism and the duplicity of the gazing on these mass produced machines, as if digital in contemporary artistic practice, now their bodies were made of staples of many a modern flesh and not aluminium? history curriculum. Is the grotesque, surreal Lymon’s hit and others on The Critic Laughs (1968), the playlist leak into every a sculptural combination room, the barely audible of an electric toothbut ever-present swing brush fused with a set of vocal pop harmony of dentures, warning of providing the thin thread the dangers of advancing that ties Hamilton’s dispatechnology or mocking rate, eclectic, innovative those conservative critics, but often difficult work for whom the past is into something approachalways warm and safe, and ing a coherent whole. the present (let alone the This is Tomorrow future) is always fraught, caused a multi-coloured dangerous and terrifying? sensation in the grey, The Tate’s curators are not austere landscape of Richard Hamilton didactic in giving answers 1950s London and Why to these questions, but Do Fools Fall in Love – so Tate Modern, London the sheer quantity and evocative of the optimisFebruary 13th-May 26th, 2014 range of work on display tic postwar American means the show, like Hamilton’s career, is often consumer culture that on hearing it one can’t difficult to coalesce into a sensible whole. help but conjure celluloid-hazed mental images In the later rooms Hamilton’s work is much of soda shops, diners and drive-thrus – was a hit, clearer in its anger, its politics and its philosofresh from the sun-kissed streets of Hollyphies: Tony Blair is depicted like a cowboy from wood. To find it playing in an art gallery as the soundtrack to a room that included an enormous a Western; brightly coloured maps of the West Bank show the extent of Israeli occupation since ‘fun-house’ festooned with collage murals of Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando and Forbidden partition; interiors rot and peel and visibly decay. Planet’s Robbie the Robot, as well as mountains As the soda-fuelled tones of the 1950s begin of food and drink, would undoubtedly have to evaporate among images of war, the show thrilled gallery-goers in a Britain only two years does rise to a conclusion: the distant hum of the out of rationing. teenagers becomes evocative of an optimistic On the wall hangs Hamilton’s famous, Just tomorrow never realised. what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? (1956) (shown above), a sardonic Why does my heart skip a crazy beat? reflection of televisions, telephones, domestic For I know it will reach defeat, appliances, motor cars, movies and muscles told Tell me why? through the re-use of pop culture’s greatest and Why do fools fall in love? most powerful artefacts – advertising. Matt Lodder MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 63


The Great Kanto Earthquake and the Chimera of National Reconstruction in Japan J. Charles Schencking

Columbia University Press 374pp £34.50

JUST BEFORE lunchtime on September 1st, 1923 the Great Kanto earthquake subjected Tokyo, Yokohama and surrounding areas to almost five minutes of shaking, with an energy release equivalent to some 400 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs, followed by a tsunami 11 metres in height. Soon, small fires merged to form a firestorm. By the morning of September 3rd at least 140,000 people were dead – about 40,000 of them incinerated in one enclosed space – and two thirds of the capital Tokyo, four fifths of Yokohama, were ashes. Yet by 1930 Tokyo had officially been rebuilt, essentially as it was before the earthquake. This cataclysm, its aftermath and the entrenched arguments among Japanese politicians, bureaucrats, business people and other elites over the city’s reconstruction, are the subject of a significant and well-illustrated new study by Charles Schencking, a historian at the University of Hong Kong. His is the first book, either in English or Japanese, to cover this territory. Although others have written about the earthquake, Schencking includes some unfamiliar details. For example, a correspondent from an Osaka newspaper, flying over Tokyo’s ruins in an open-cockpit army reconnaissance plane, observed that, even at a height of 1,000 metres, ‘the disagreeable and 64 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

unmistakable odour of death overpowered the smell of engine exhaust’, causing both the pilot and the reporter to wretch, the author notes. But there are some surprising omissions, given the book’s length. It barely mentions the earthquake-related fiction of the Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata, says nothing about the eyewitness testimony of his well-known contemporary Ryunosuke Akutagawa and totally neglects the haunting memoir of the great film director Akira Kurosawa, who was 13 at the time of the earthquake and later recalled: ‘Through it I learnt not only of the extraordinary powers of nature, but of extraordinary things that lie in human hearts.’ Schencking’s forte is the contested period of reconstruction, 1923-30. Some, such as the home minister of the imperial government, a former mayor of Tokyo, saw the destruction as a blessing in disguise, a chance to clear away Tokyo’s slums and

This signified a street-by-street negotiation with residents, who had to sacrifice up to 10 per cent of their private land without government compensation, in the interests of bettering the city, largely by eliminating its narrow alleys in favour of modern roads with pavements. Local feelings were often outraged in the process and sometimes required religious intervention, as when a sacred tree had to be cut down. One official noted: ‘it was a wonderful time for Shinto priests to gain quick riches.’ The earthquake’s international dimension receives relatively little attention. Schencking also does not touch on the more fascinating question of whether the destruction of Tokyo in 1923 might have been a key factor in propelling Japan towards authoritarianism and war in the 1930s. Andrew Robinson

The earthquake subjected Tokyo to the equivalent of 400 Hiroshimasized atomic bombs remodel the city on a European-style grid as a capital worthy of a great power. Others, such as the finance minister, were in no doubt that such a grandiose plan would cost far more than the nation could ever afford. Yet others, representing impoverished rural regions, resented the idea of massive spending on the capital and forced a further reduction in the budget. The residents of the burnt-out districts were mostly in favour of rebuilding exactly what they had lost and began doing so within days of the disaster. In late 1923 the home and finance ministers clashed in cabinet and the former lost, dying a broken man in 1929. The reconstruction budget was spent chiefly on roads, canals, bridges and ‘land readjustment’.

Commemorating the Holocaust

The Dilemmas of Remembrance in France and Italy Rebecca Clifford Oxford University Press 291pp £65

THIS CLEAR-HEADED study of Holocaust commemoration in France and Italy provides a welcome reflection on the very categories of memory and trauma that have dominated the study of Holocaust representation. Rebecca Clifford’s insistence on examining the ‘political, cultural and social’ motivations for particular forms of remembrance in France and

Italy enables a richly layered work that interrogates the function of commemoration in national myth making. By firmly placing the ColdWar ‘forgetting’ of the Holocaust outside of narratives of trauma and within the realm of postwar political imperatives, the book creates an important space for examining the function of commemoration in the context of the contemporary moment. Holocaust commemoration events in France and Italy are explored as a way of questioning the legitimising function of Resistance narratives during the Cold War and their breaking apart in the 1990s. Moreover, those narratives of resistance and occupation that worked to sever any connection between French and Italian wartime activities and postwar national identity are placed within a framework which reads them not alongside but dialectically related to Holocaust memorialisation. The ambition and execution of such a project is not only laudable but also largely successful in this book. One theme predominates in this study, that of ‘silence’. Yet Clifford subtly distinguishes between the different types of silence that attend Holocaust memorialisation in the early postwar period. In France the silence imposed upon Jewish victims, whose specific experiences were effectively erased in the rival Gaullist and Communist narratives of wartime Resistance, is not of the same nature as the silence which is often attributed to the traumatised victims of Nazism. As Clifford points out, many survivors wanted to speak of their experience, thus the silence is located in the reluctance to listen. Then there is the silence of the state in relation to the crimes of the Vichy regime and the ‘high level of French autonomy in the creation and implementation of the anti-Jewish policies of the occupation era’. In Italy the brava gente (good people) myth cast Fascism as essentially un-Italian. Clifford points to the almost total silence of the Italian state in relation to all deportees who returned to Italy after 1945. In the cause of forging a narrative of wartime resistance, the existence of ‘victims’ was resolutely unhelpful. Again

rival national and Communist narratives of resistance, in which the unwitting Italian population rose up against both Nazis and Fascists, effectively silenced camp survivors, and cast Italians as the rescuers of Jews during the war. While the book draws attention to how official narratives were contested, particularly in the 1960s, it is the post-Cold War 1990s that Clifford names as the key moment in which the dominance of Resistance memory begins to unravel. The 50th anniversary of the war opened up spaces to contest the dominant narratives within a changing post-Communist Europe. The creation of Holocaust Memorial Day in France in 1993 is presented as the culmination of a variety of concerns about France’s place within contemporary Europe,

Holocaust commemoration in France and Italy is explored as a way of questioning the legitimising function of Resistance narratives not least in the light of the rise of the far right and the battle for French identity. Italy’s complex negotiations with its Fascist past also impacted on its particular form of Holocaust commemoration, as did contemporary political anxieties. In both cases Clifford’s stress is on the civil groups that allows for a complex rendering of the politics of commemoration and of the role of Holocaust memorialisation in the forging of a collective identity for the nation. As Clifford states: ‘We would do well to consider, as we examine the origins and institution of these official commemorations, the extent to which they were and are really about the Holocaust at all.’ The book is an extremely well rendered narrative of the deeply complex relationship between past and present in remembering Europe’s genocide. Cathy Bergin

John Biffen Semi-Detached

Biteback Publishing 468pp £30

AS A BACKBENCH Tory MP John Biffen was one of the very few disciples of Enoch Powell. On immigration, free market economics and Europe he followed his mentor’s lead and rebelled against the policies of the Heath government. When Heath fell, however, he rejoiced in the leadership of Margaret Thatcher and once prime minister she returned the compliment by appointing him to three Cabinet posts in succession. From 1979 to 1987, when she gave him the sack, Biffen was a pillar of the Thatcher regime – or so it appeared. Even at the time it was evident that his political style contrasted sharply with hers, but his motives and character were something of a mystery. An amiable, courteous and civilised man, regarded on both sides of the House as ‘a lovely chap’, he was reticent and shy to a point at which even his friends found him hard to fathom. Fortunately his wife Sarah persuaded him to write an autobiography during his last years. To this she has added substantial extracts from the diary he kept from 1968 to 1990. This enjoyable, informative and sometimes very funny memoir offers many insights into a very private man. Brought up on a Somerset farm, he was a bookish only child whose intellect won him scholarships to grammar school and Cambridge. His Conservatism was inherited from his parents and a remote rural community inhabited by generations of his

forebears. Never much attracted by social or economic theory, he based his politics on personal experience and the study of history, the most empirical of subjects. As he freely admits, he was an insular character who disliked foreign food and was always glad to return home from a ministerial trip overseas. His sense of Englishness encompassed broad sympathies. Somerset, along with National Service and a spell on a factory shop floor in Birmingham, gave him a more down-to-earth understanding of working people, and a greater respect for them, than many of his fellow Tories. Like Thatcher and Heath, Biffen climbed the steep slope from a modest provincial background to the summits of power. It was an arduous ascent that tested his self-confidence to the limit, triggering severe bouts of depression about which he writes with confessional relief. Without regular medication he would never have been able to hold office, but alarming episodes recurred which could not have been overcome without considerable reserves of courage. He was loyal to Mrs Thatcher but conscious of her shortcomings and increasingly disenchanted with her faith in continuous social revolution. The key to Biffen was his admiration for Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative leader whose distaste for extremism and conciliatory approach to Labour, dominated the interwar years. The more the Thatcher regime took on the character of an ideological crusade, the less Biffen approved. Eventually he spoke his mind once too often, declaring in favour of a ‘balanced ticket’, in which Mrs Thatcher would share the leadership with a more moderate figure. From the moment he was denounced by her press secretary, Bernard Ingham, as ‘semi-detached’, he was destined for the axe. It was the fate of an old-fashioned conservative, overtaken by the relentless advance of free market economics. Paul Addison

CONTRIBUTORS Paul Addison’s most recent book is No Turning Back: the Peacetime Revolutions of Postwar Britain (Oxford University Press, 2010) Cathy Bergin is a senior lecturer in humanities at the University of Brighton and teaches Holocaust Memory on the Cultural History, Memory and Identity MA. Richard Canning‘s most recent publication is an edition of Ronald Firbank’s Vainglory (Penguin Classics, 2012). Klaus Dodds is co-editor of Polar Geopolitics (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2014). Andrew Higgott has lectured at the Architectural Association, University of East London, and Royal College of Art. Matt Lodder is a lecturer at the University of Essex. His book, Tattoo: An Art History, will be published in 2014. Maria Luddy is Professor of Modern Irish History at the University of Warwick. Matthew Nicholls is Associate Professor in Classics at the University of Reading and the developer of Virtual Rome. Joe Moran‘s latest book is Armchair Nation: An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the TV (Profile, 2013). Andrew Robinson is the author of Earthquake: Nature and Culture (Reaktion, 2012). Desmond Seward’s Richard III: England’s Black Legend will appear in a Folio Society edition in 2014. Julie Wheelwright is the programme director of the MA creative writing in narrative non-fiction at City University and is author of Esther: The Remarkable Story of Esther Wheelwright (HarperCollins Canada, 2011).



Letters No Comparison Clare Makepeace covered a lot of ground in her article about the long fight by Far East prisoners of war to gain compensation for their brutal treatment at the hands of the Japanese (‘Compensating the Railway Men’, April 2014). But I was surprised that she made no mention of the fact that in November 2000 the British government announced that a single ex-gratia payment of £10,000 was to be made to each of the surviving members of British forces held prisoner by the Japanese during the Second World War. The payment was extended to include the widows of former POWs and also to surviving British civilians who were interned by the Japanese. Of course by 2000 many of the Far East POWs who had survived the war were dead, including my father, who was an army chaplain and spent three and half years in Changi Prison and working on the infamous Burma/Siam railway. However my mother duly received a payment of £10,000. Interestingly J.G. Ballard (author of the best-selling book Empire of the Sun, based on his experience of being interned in a camp near Shanghai) was very surprised to learn that he, too, was eligible for the £10,000 payment. He queried the thinking behind the scheme on the grounds that most of the interned civilians never suffered anything like the horrors endured by the military POWs forced to work on the railway. David Cordingly Brighton, Sussex

Hungarian Inaccuracy I read Nora Berend’s article (‘Magyar Myth Makers’) in the History Matters section of the March issue with great interest in Budapest, just four weeks before the April 6th general election 66 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Email [email protected] Post to History Today, 25 Bedford Avenue, London, WC1B 3AT

when, according to all opinion polls, the coalition forming the present ‘authoritarian government’ will probably be re-elected for another four years. I fully agree with Berend: that the interpretation of historical events of the past hundred years matters so much in Hungary and that the election campaign is focusing on historical events and behaviour of past political leaders, rather than election programmes. I do not know whether it is welcome news for historians or not, but one positive outcome of this debate is that the erection of the infamous monument to the German invasion on Liberty Square, opposite the Soviet Heroes’ monument and in front of the US Embassy, has been ‘postponed’. Apologists for Kadar and Horthy are competing for mandates in the 2014 general election. Isn’t it time to move on to the 21st century? As long as Hungary is unable to close the debate on the 20th century, it is condemned to lag behind the rest of Europe. Nevertheless, there is a small inaccuracy in Berend’s article. The secret ballot was introduced and not abolished under Horthy; in 1925 in the cities and countrywide in 1938. Free multi-party elections were abolished in 1949 and reintroduced only in 1990. Denes Bulkai via email

Horthy Enigma I read Nora Berend’s article about Hungary and the legacy of Admiral Horthy with interest. I was also intrigued to note that she lectures in a much earlier period in Hungarian history. Horthy is a controversial figure, but I feel viewing him in the light of modern thought is rather harsh. Reading his memoirs he was clearly a man who valued courage and honour and who

presided over a country which had lost the vast majority of its land (he compared it to the US having to cede southern states to Mexico and northern states to Canada). To the east there was Stalin, to the north Hitler, to the south Mussolini and to the west the dubious democracies, which had let down fledgling democracies in Spain and Czechoslovakia. To say he was between a rock and a hard place is a gross understatement. As a former servant of the Habsburg emperor he naturally looked to Germany as his ally. He was old fashioned and wanted to guide Hungary like an admiral of a ship. He is recorded as having the strength to challenge his ally Hitler and some historians also record that he despised the Hungarian equivalent of the Nazis and that he resisted some requests to hand over Hungarian Jews. He was not a fan of democracy but neither was he a dictator in the sense that Stalin and others were. I will continue to follow with interest the many documents and articles written about this enigmatic man. Andrew Hough Bembridge, Isle of Wight

I Don’t Believe It The material condition of the masses is the only thing that matters. ‘This announcement, made in 1980 by Maurice Larkin, a professor of history at Edinburgh University, encapsulates the neglect since the 1960s of aristocratic culture in early modern Europe.’ Nicholas Henshall’s source for this remark, quoted in his article ‘The Age of the Elites’ (November 2013), must be John Hardman in the introduction to the book French Politics 17741789 (Longman, 1995). When my husband – Maurice Larkin – heard this, he explained that it wasn’t true:

Connect with us on Twitter twitter.com/historytoday

I didn’t say it. Indeed I couldn’t have said it because I don’t believe it. Enid Larkin via email

The Wrong Bromley Patricia Fara’s article ‘A Social Laboratory’ (February 2014) was a fascinating survey of the effects of the First World War on the world of science and women scientists in particular. There is, however, one small error in placing the gin distillery, taken over by Chaim Weizmann for the production of acetone, in the south London borough of Bromley. It was, in fact, at Three Mills in Bromley-by-Bow, now part of the east London Borough of Newham. Full details of the extraordinary history of Three Mills can be found in my book East Ham and West Ham Past (Historical Publications, 2004). Dr Jim Lewis Grantham, Lincolnshire

Change of Plan I do not agree with Chris Turney’s assertion that there was a conspiracy of silence regarding a shortage of supplies in the depots of Scott’s last expedition (‘Captain Scott’s Secret’, February). The official diary clearly states that on March 10th, 1912 Scott found the Mount Hooper depot to have a ‘shortage on our allowance all round’. The article also makes no reference to the loss of fuel through evaporation, which had occurred on earlier expeditions, or to the fact that by taking five men to the Pole Scott forced Teddy Evans’ party to take food for only three men when provisions had been prepared for four. It has been suggested that this change of plan made mistakes more likely and inadvertently caused the shortage. Patrick Adams Cambridge

CLASSIFIEDS For further information about advertising in our classifieds section: [email protected] Books & Publishing





Back Issues


CLASSIFIEDS For further information about advertising in our classifieds section: [email protected] Places to Visit



Home and Garden


Coming Next Month Remembering Rwanda

In 1994 the tiny African country of Rwanda was torn apart by state-sponsored ethnic violence in which nearly a million people were killed in just 100 days. Dean White reflects on the escalating tensions between the minority Tutsi and the majority Hutu peoples that led ultimately to genocide. He traces the roots of the rift between the two tribes to the arrival of the first Europeans, a century earlier, in 1894.

Shelley in Ireland

In February 1812 the 19-year-old poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, together with his teenage wife Harriet and sister-in-law Eliza, arrived in Dublin. The trio had already immersed themselves in the study of Irish history and politics, leading Harriet to assert: ‘I am Irish, I claim kindred with them; I have done with the English, I have witnessed too much of John Bull and I am ashamed of him.’ Believing that the Irish peasantry ’have been too long brutalised by vice and ignorance’, it was Shelley’s intention to galvanise the ordinary people of Dublin into rising up against their oppressors. Eleanor Fitzsimons recounts the activities of the young radical in Ireland, concluding that, while the visit was to have a lasting impact on Shelley, for his part the poet made little political impression on the Irish.

Night Riders of Black Patch Country

March’s Prize Crossword

In 1900 a tobacco farmer from the south-western Kentucky area known as the Black Patch could expect to raise six to eight cents for a pound of cured leaf. Four years later the price had fallen to two or three cents, thanks to the monopolising tactics of one man, James Buchanan Duke. As local farmers increasingly faced destitution, creating a knock-on effect on the banks and local businesses on whose custom they depended, a covert posse of vigilantes – self-styled the Night Riders – began to take matters into their own hands.

Plus Months Past, Making History, Signposts, Reviews, In Focus, From the Archive, Pastimes and much more.

The June issue of History Today will be on sale throughout the UK on May 22nd. Ask your newsagent to reserve you a copy.


The winner for March is Georgia Hill, London W6.

EDITOR’S LETTER: 2 Getty Images/Popperfoto. HISTORY MATTERS: 3 Bridgeman Art Library/Minneapolis Institute of Arts; 5 top AKG Images; 5 bottom Reproduced with permission of Anthea Morton-Saner on behalf of Churchill Heritage Ltd ©Churchill Heritage Ltd; 6 ©2014 Birkbeck MSC/Dominic Mifsud; 7 Kildare Partners, Dublin. MONTHS PAST: 8 Bridgeman/Societe de l’Histoire du Protestantisme francais, Paris; 9 top Lebrecht Music & Arts. HORACE TO HORACE: 10 left Bridgeman/Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection; 10 right Bridgeman/ Private collection; 11 & 12 top Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University; 12 bottom Bridgeman/ Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge; 13 British Museum; 14, 15 & 16 Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. AN INTIMATE BETRAYAL: 18 Corbis/Bettmann & National Archives, Kew; 20 Getty/Popperfoto. NEHRU’S LAST YEARS: 21 Magnum Photos/Marilyn Silverstone; 22 & 23 top Getty/Time Life; 23 bottom Getty/ Hulton Archive; 24 top Getty/National Geographic/Wilbur E. Garnett; 24 bottom, 25 & 26 left Getty/Time Life/ Larry Burrows; 26 right Getty/Time Life/Baldev; 27 Magnum Photos/Marc Riboud. IN FOCUS: 28-29 Getty/Hulton. MAKING HISTORY: 30 Bridgeman/British Library Ms Add 18991 f.11. LOUIS XIV & THE KING OF SIAM: 31 RMNGrand Palais/Agence Bulloz; 32 Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris; 33 Bridgeman/Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; 34 top HT Archive; 34 bottom courtesy of the author; 35 AKG/Gilles Mermet; 36 Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; 37 top Bridgeman/Louvre, Paris; 37 bottom & 38 Bridgeman/Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. ASQUITH: 40 Mary Evans Picture Library/ILN; 41 National Portrait Gallery, London; 42 Mary Evans Picture Library/ILN; 43 Wellcome Images; 44 top HT Archive; 44 bottom Bridgeman/Stapleton Collection; 45 Mary Evans Picture Library/ ILN; 46 top Mary Evans Picture Library/Pump Park Photography; 46 bottom Mary Evans Picture Library. A CITY OF DREAMS: 47 Getty/Hulton; 48 Bridgeman/Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. BRITAIN’S FIRST INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: 49 Bridgeman/Museo della Civilta Romana, Rome; 50 Alamy/David Speight; 51 bottom J.S.Hodgkinson; 52 bottom left courtesy of the author; 52 top, bottom right & 53 British Museum. REVIEWS: 56 Peter Cook ©Archigram 1964, image supplied by the Archigram Archives 2014; 65 Private Collection ©The estate of Richard Hamilton. COMING NEXT MONTH: 69 Press Association Images/AP/Jean-Marc Bouju. PASTIMES: 70-71 Library of Congress. We have made every effort to contact all copyright holders but if in any case we have been unsuccessful, please get in touch with us directly.


Pastimes Amusement & Enlightenment

The Quiz

3 What was the name commonly given to exiled political opponents of Mussolini’s Fascist regime? 4 Which Argentinian president, who came to power in 1916, maintained the country’s neutrality in the First World War? 5 Who, in 1884, coined the phrase ‘Industrial Revolution’? 6 Which US soldier, who became the 12th president in 1849, won a major victory at Buena Vista in the Mexican War of 1846-48?

7 Who was born Princess Sophia Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst in Stettin in 1729? 8 Which German cartographer was responsible for naming the continent of America after the explorer Amerigo Vespucci? 70 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

10 The Sack of Baghdad, which resulted in the death of the last Abbasid Caliph, al-Mustassim, and lasted for seven days in 1258, was carried out by the Mongol armies of which grandson of Genghis Khan? 11 What is the name given to the

descendants of early Arab settlers in the coastal towns of south India? 12 Iskandar, who became the Timurid ruler of Persia in 1412, was named after which all-conquering hero of the classical world?


2 Which financier was appointed by Woodrow Wilson to head the US War Industries Board in 1918?

9 Who founded the British National Socialist Party in 1937, fled to Germany just before the outbreak of the Second World War and was tried and executed for treason in London in 1946?

1. Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86). 2. Bernard Mannes Baruch (1870-1965). 3. Fuorosciti. 4. Hipólito Yrigoyen (1852-1933). 5. Arnold Toynbee (1852-83). 6. Zachary Taylor (1784-1850). 7. Catherine the Great (1729-96). 8. Martin WaldseemÜller (c.1470-1520). 9. William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ (1906-46). 10. Hulagu Khan (1218-65) . 11. Mapillas. 12. Alexander the Great (356-323 bc).

1 Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, married clandestinely the widow of which poet, courtier and soldier in 1590?

Prize Crossword ACROSS 8 City of Basse-Normandie, captured by the English in 1346 and 1417 (4) 9 Jesse ___ (1913-80), US athlete; quadruple gold medalist at the 1936 Olympics (5) 10 Robert, John and James ___, 18th-century architects of Edinburgh (4) 11 ___ Of The King, poem cycle by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) (6) 12 Johanna ___ (1889-1944), anti-Nazi, beheaded in Berlin (8) 13 Swiss city, site of major international conferences in 1932 and 1949 (8) 15 Nelson’s or Trajan’s, perhaps (6) 17 Franz ___ (1913-95), Vienna-born coach of the athletes Bannister, Chataway and Brasher (7) 19 City of ancient Syria, absorbed into the Arab caliphate in ad 637 (7) 22 Ancient country south-east of the Black Sea, flourishing in the ninth and eighth centuries bc (6) 24 Norfolk market-town, home, in folklore, to a legendary pedlar (8) 26 Australian state known until 1856 as Van Diemen’s Land (8) 28 Name taken by Nicholas Breakspear on becoming pope in 1154 (6) 30 ‘___ of the Punjab’, byname of Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) (4) 31 Early history of China, written around 85 bc by Sima Qian (5) 32 The oldest chartered municipality in Austria (4)

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)

DOWN 1 William ___ (1573-1645), Archbishop of Canterbury and adviser to Charles I (4) 2 Symbolic personification of US (5,3) 3 Ernest ___ (1867-1900), English poet, novelist and short story writer (6) 4 August ___ (1840-1916), German linguist, author of an 1871 Handbook of the Old Bulgarian Language (7) 5 Shard of pottery used in certain voting processes of ancient Athens (8) 6 Andy ___ (1928-87), US artist (6) 7 ‘Take away that fool’s bauble, the ___’ – Oliver Cromwell, 1653 (4) 14 John Jacob ___ (1763-1848), German-born fur trader (5) 16 Yemeni port and coffee-trading centre, founded in the 14th century (5) 18 Essex island owned largely by the Ministry of Defence since 1915 (8) 20 The ___, 1925 novel of the Troubles by Liam O’Flaherty (8) 21 Mistress of Pericles (7) 23 Short name for the sixth book of the New Testament (6) 25 Visigoth ruler responsible for the sack of Rome in ad 410 (6) 27 Capital of Samoa since 1959 (4) 29 Second daughter of James II; Queen of Great Britain 1702-14 (4)

The winner of this month’s prize crossword will receive a copy of Ben Macintyre’s new book, A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal (Bloomsbury).

Entries to: Crossword, History Today, 25 Bedford Avenue, London WC1B 3AT by May 31st, 2014 or www.historytoday. com/crossword

Six degrees of Separation Nikola Tesla

got the inspiration for the induction motor while reciting Faust, a work written by ...

the great conductor, who was booked on, but missed, the final voyage in 1915 of the Lusitania, as did ...

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon (1863-1935)

who as ‘Lucile’ designed costumes for ...

whose interest in the active ingredients in coffee led him to hire the young research chemist ...

Billie Burke (1884-1970)

Friedlieb Runge (1795-1867) the discoverer of caffeine, who died on March 25th, 1867, the birthday of ...

Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957)

By Justin Pollard

who played the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz, sometime resident of Shoreham village, New York, home to the Wardenclyffe tower, an early wireless transmitter designed by ...



FromtheArchive Nick Lloyd revisits John Terraine’s article on the decisive Allied victory at Amiens in 1918 and asks why this remarkable military achievement is not as well known as the first day of the Somme.

The Imperial Triumph of Amiens FOR THE historian John Terraine, who fought a long and lonely battle to rescue the reputation of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig – commonly caricatured as a ‘butcher and bungler’ – the Battle of Amiens was his vindication. In his article for History Today, written in 1958, Terraine revisited the scene of the infamous ‘black day’ of the German army on August 8th, 1918. As Terraine reminds us, this battle was a far cry from the barren, bloody results of the first day on the Somme, July 1st, 1916, when the British army suffered its worst day. According to Terraine, Amiens was a triumph of ‘planning and method … of co-ordination and cunning; of the valour and efficiency of the British artillery and tanks; and of the courage, initiative and dash of the infantry’. Much of what Terraine wrote still stands. Amiens was a decisive moment, kicking off Marshal Ferdinand Foch’s ‘series of movements’ that would end with the German government appealing for peace negotiations on October 3rd (an essential prelude to the Armistice on November 11th). Amiens was a perfect demonstration of not only how effective British and Commonwealth forces had become by 1918 – developing an embryonic blitzkrieg – but also how the German army had no answer to this kind of combined, all-arms approach to warfare. Purists will be offended by Terraine’s failure to explain the role of the French army at Amiens (which extended the attack to the south), but more intriguing is the sidelining of Sir Arthur Currie’s Canadian Corps. Indeed, Terraine’s focus on generals Rawlinson and Monash (although not incorrect in itself) seems to miss how important the Canadians were to the battle; it would be true to say that they made the Battle of Amiens. Their four divisions in line, deployed in the 72 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

centre along the Amiens-Roye Road, formed the spearhead of the assault. At the end of the day they had driven eight miles into the position of the German Second Army. Notwithstanding these quibbles, Terraine’s article, with its focus on training and planning and the coordination of firepower and manoeuvre, prefigures much of the debates that would take place in the 1990s and beyond about the nature of change and development in the British

Terraine’s article prefigures much of the debate that would take place in the 1990s and beyond Expeditionary Force (the ‘learning curve’). While the military effort of the ‘white dominions’ – Australia, New Zealand and Canada – has been widely praised (with Canadians being justifiably proud of their tag as the ‘shock army of the British Empire’), the humble British Tommy has often been left behind. Since Terraine wrote his article, however, much work has been done to rectify this imbalance. In contrast to Terraine, who relied mainly on published, secondary sources, a generation of historians have mined the archival record and written detailed studies of many aspects of this story: anything from corps command to individual battles; the development of artillery tactics to logistics, as well as forensic examinations of individual formations, from battalions to divisions. This corpus of knowledge has helped to bring out the complexity of the ‘learning curve’, while helping historians to understand the variety of responses to the Western Front from across the army.

It has also helped to move the focus away from Haig (and other senior commanders) onto how the army as a whole adapted to the series of challenges it faced between 1914 and 1918. Nevertheless, Terraine’s mission to move the conventional wisdom of the war on from July 1st, 1916 remains to be fulfilled. The explosion of interest in the centenary in recent months offers an opportunity to revisit this, but there are concerns that the commemoration will still be dominated by ideas of futility and sacrifice, not victory. Indeed, in January 2013 the President of the Western Front Association, Professor Peter Simkins, called upon the government to include Amiens in its commemorations. He argued that ‘to accord Amiens, a victory, the same status as the first day on the Somme, a defeat, would be a significant step in the right direction. The current official programme is as bizarre as marking the centenary of the Second World War by commemorating the Fall of France but not D-Day’. Whether Amiens will ever become as widely recognised as the Somme remains to be seen. Nick Lloyd is author of Hundred Days: The End of the Great War (Viking, 2013).

VOLUME 8 ISSUE 8 Aug 1958 Read the original piece at historytoday.com/fta

View more...


Copyright ©2017 KUPDF Inc.