Noted things

January 28, 2007

1. Friday 2 February at 9, BBC 2, Timewatch programme on ‘The First Blitz’, including the excavation of Zeppelin remains by the Great War Archaeology Group. Timewatch page is here, but no details up as yet: they seem to follow broadcast.

2. Guardian extract from the late Polish author Ryszard Kapuscinski’s account of his childhood memories of 1945. Well worth a read.

3. Will shortly post something on Sir Thomas Inskip and Caligula’s horse: some useful links – biography from Churchill College Archives, and Time profile from his appointment in 1936.


Is Gordon Brown Neville Chamberlain?

January 21, 2007

Just a thought:

* Successful chancellor with strong domestic agenda.
* Spent a lot of time waiting to be PM.
* Able man in Cabinet distinctly lacking ability.
* Party with strong news management tendencies.
* Reputation as being a bit ‘unclubbable’ with MPs.
* Had to balance threats to national security with individual liberties and need to maintain domestic consent.
* Reputation of premiership dominated by foreign policy mess left unresolved by predecessor?

Not sure that a spin doctor would now let a PM offer up a hostage to fortune like ‘peace in our time’ now. But I think I’ve got an idea for a not terribly good newspaper column on ‘lessons from history’ already.

What’s the most fun, historically, you can have with a Frenchman?

January 16, 2007

Up until yesterday, I would have said, asking him what was the French navy’s last victory. (Rainbow Warrior, incidentally). It turns out that in fact the answer is: point out that the French Premier wanted a union with Britain in 1956, and would have thought about joining the Commonwealth.
This story was all over the BBC yesterday, with particularly bemused soundbites from the French on the Today programme (listen to the 8.17 report). What seemed to be attractive, of course, was less the specific historical details of the story – this was a political tactic to keep the Brits onside – than its appeal to a deep seated mix of inferiority and disdain with which the English in particular regard Europe. ‘What, they really wanted to be like us? With our terrible cuisine/lack of sexual technique/comprehensible films/poor climate? Well, I always suspected it really…’ What might, at first sight, appear a report from the archives was really all about a sense of insecurity.

It’s that man again…

January 16, 2007

Very busy start to January, moving house as well as working on various offline projects. Hence the prolonged silence. But I’m back, newly Mac equipped, and hence more cool than ever.

Something that I’d like to get going over the next few months is a list of local history sites dealing with Britain in the Second World War. Whether supported by local authorities or not, a lot of historians – professionals and non-professionals – have made primary sources accessible online. First up on that roll of honour has, I think, to be Steve Johnson’s remarkable ‘cyber heritage’ site, and the work he has produced off it, particularly in relation to Plymouth. Where else -other than working through car boot sales by yourself – would you come across private collections like this? Steve’s motto is ‘content over style’: but when the content is this good, I think it becomes stylish in itself. The site contains a lot more than just World War two related material – there are also sources for British history from the nineteenth century through to the present day.

It’s not life and death… it’s far more important than that.

January 5, 2007

“It must always remain a great feat when one of the Dominions defeats the Mother Country. But if we did not know it before, the war showed us how it is they do it. They are a magnificent fighting stock, these brothers of ours beyond the seas, and they play, as they fought in France and Gallipoli, to win – but to win like gentlemen.”

Gideon Haigh reminds us of the last time that the Aussies managed to beat us 5-0.