Things that are interesting me…

January 23, 2008

Working out comparative rates of British civilian and military casualties during the Second World War, by service and over time. Making tables and drawing graphs.

The Defence of Britain Project, with its images, maps and records, particularly on the anti-invasion defences constructed in 1940. A very rich site, with much useful material for all sorts of research. And, via the Archaeology Data Service, a download that allows you to locate sites on Google Earth.

The newish Times Higher site, and particularly Alex Danchev’s review of  Darius Rejali’s Torture and Democracy.


France’s oldest trench veteran dies

January 23, 2008

BBC report on the death, which leaves only one poilu alive. Still a shame that the list of ‘WWI veterans’ alongside the main report finds no space to suggest that there might be female survivors of the war. Hat tip to Mike Levitch.

Work in progress

January 18, 2008

Like the East London Line, my book and Joan Rivers’ entire body, this blog is currently a work in progress… Working on tidying up the links and re-organising some categories, so please bear with any presentational issues.

How they made ‘Bloody Omaha’

January 18, 2008

Three men create a not too bad at all version of Omaha for the BBC. It seems from this that D-Day involved a lot of running round and some falling over. Bit of a broad brush summing up, perhaps, but not totally inaccurate. I would say that the noise you can hear is John Reith rolling in his grave, but I can’t see any other sort of history making it to third on the Guardian’s list of viral videos this week.

New Year things noted

January 6, 2008

Cross posted to Cliopatria and Trenchfever to keep things warm whilst many regular Cliopatricians are at the AHA.

Further reactions to the death of George Macdonald Fraser, including the question, ‘Should we mourn Flashman?’

Why where you put certain questions matters, in tests, in semesters, in lives, from Mixing Memory, via Gavin Robinson.

The Decision Hedgehog, for all those who’ve told that joke about why ‘working for this company is like screwing a hedgehog’…

Sad departure of 2007, Alan Eames, ‘the Indiana Jones of Beer’

Self-agrandising media corner, as I talk about doing a podcast for the OU and the BBC, with another corner for agrandising one of my PhDs, Jack McGowan, who spoke to BBC Radio 4 about newly declassified material from the National Archives.

Timewatch podcast

January 6, 2008

At the start of December, I took part in a podcast recorded to back up a BBC Timewatch programme about Omaha Beach on D-Day. The programme goes out this evening on the BBC, and the podcast is now up. I wasn’t asked to be involved because of any great subject expertise, I think, but rather because I’d worked before with the BBC and the Open University (who collaborate on the podcast and website), because they knew I’d probably do it, and, as it turned out, because I could discuss the mythology of the Second World War as well. Although I don’t think this was an influential factor, I also knew the historian who’d been principally involved, Dr Simon Trew, from my time teaching at Sandhurst.

I was, to begin with, rather apprehensive. I got some negative reactions the last time I stuck my head over the parapet of publicity to talk about victory in 1918, and a lot of people know a lot more about Omaha than I do. Timewatch has been the subject of some controversy recently, with accusations of it dumbing down – and even suggestions that it would be axed. And then the transcript and preview DVD arrived, and I learned that the script seemed to bounce from one topic to the next and that the programme would be presented by that well known historian of war, Richard Hammond. What, exactly, was I going to say about that, if I wasn’t going to ruin my chances of ever working with the BBC again? As it turned out, it wasn’t quite as I expected. Read the rest of this entry »

While he can Garryowen hail

January 3, 2008

George Macdonald Fraser, author of the Flashman and McAuslan novels, and of one of the best British soldier’s memoirs of the Second World War, Quartered Safe Out Here, has died aged 82. His politics and nostalgia might not have suited every taste, but the depth of his historical research, his sense of humour and his belief in the influential role of the anti-hero will all be much missed.