Historians have always been bitchy towards one another. It just seems to go with the territory. They are touchy, quick to take offence, or apt to chuck cold water, wet blankets and trenchant abuse on one another in ample doses. Of course, some do operate under that wise axiom: “Rubbish not, lest thou be rubbished” whilst others keep their heads so far beneath the parapet that they become lost in their own ruts forever, failing to notice the whine of crossfire. (more…)
Archive for June, 2010
Tags: Ancient Greek, Classical, Greek Historians, Heccataeus, Herodotus, Historians, Historical Interpretation, Niall Ferguson, Terry Deary
Tags: A Level History, Germany, Herodotus, Historians, Historical Interpretation, History, Thucydides
Gibbon and Goebbels are not the obvious choices for comparison to Herodotus and Thucydides, but bear with me. H & T are frequently regarded as the “first historians.” They wrote the book, you might say, on how to do history. At least, Herodotus was the first writer whose name and work survive.
And yet: have you read what he wrote? And how he did it? (more…)
Tags: A Level History, Alfred the Great, Anglo-Saxon, Burhs, History, Middlesex, Northolt, rural/urban, Saxon
Today, we distinguish the ideas of “urban” and “rural” quite readily. In fact, we are heirs to a whole raft of concepts and snobbery about “townies” and “bumpkins” that have existed for centuries. The Romans made the same distinction. But what of the Anglo-Saxons? Is “Saxon town” a misnomer? (more…)
Tags: A Level History, American History, Civil War, History, USA
July 27th, 1864
My dear wife,
You will perceive from the heading of this that I am at Chattanooga. I obtained the position I have been seeking so long and am now with the Judge Advocate on Gen. Thomas’ staff. I get 40 cents a day or $12 a month extra and 40 cents a day in place of rations which will enable me to get wholesome & comfortable board. I have a good place to sleep in the office. I think I shall be as comfortable as I was at Bowling Green and out of reach of those pesky guns.
My last letter to the Tribune was dated Vining’s Station on the Chattahoochie River July 26. The previous ones were 19th, 21st & 23rd. I shall still write occasionally to the Tribune perhaps three or four times a month. . .
I shall probably stay here a month when I shall again go to the front. I wish you would send me about $5. I have not got a cent until I receive my regimental pay in a short time now. . . I received the tooth brush & everything else you sent. I think if I had staid much longer at the front, I should have had the scurvy or some skin disease. I hope the children are better. I send my best love to them & you. I will write again when I hear from you.
Your afft. husbd.
Excerpted from While Father is Away: The Civil War Letters of William H. Bradbury by Jennifer Cain Bohrnstedt, Editor and Kassandra R. Chaney, Compiler. University Press of Kentucky ©2003. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Bradbury, born in England, was an attorney. He emigrated in 1851 and lived in Chicago and Morris before settling in Dwight, then a town strategically important for its railway linkages. At age 33, Bradbury enlisted in the Union army. He served as a private and clerk for the rest of the war, apparently never firing a gun in battle. Bradbury became a ‘privileged private’ with extraordinary access to powerful Union generals including Daniel Butterfield, future president Benjamin Harrison, and Clinton B. Fisk, the region’s administrator for the Freedmen’s Bureau during Reconstruction.
As a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, the Manchester Guardian and other publications, Bradbury was both eyewitness to and participant in the shaping of events in the world as it moved west.
Bradbury also wrote for the Pontiac Sentinel during the war.
Bradbury’s story haunted me from the beginning, especially because of the length and style of this British immigrant’s writing and the subtext of the war letters to his children. Bradbury was a prolific newspaper correspondent during the war years including newspapers in Cincinnati, Chicago, Pontiac, Illinois, and England.
However, his paid correspondence for the Chicago Tribune and the Manchester Guardian were choice insights to the leaders of the western campaigns, many whom he supported directly as a clerk. His descriptions for readers back ‘home’ ( Manchester of places like Knoxville and Atlanta are illuminating for their social commentary.
Bradbury’s aristocratic background dominated his behavior during the years at war when his family would likely have benefited greatly from county aid and charity from friends. We have not had the opportunity until now of knowing about the nature of long-distance fatherhood and how men stayed involved in their children’s lives. Bradbury provides an important and timeless look at the longing and dedication to personal involvement in decisions affecting Jane, Freddy, Willie, Edwin, Elwood and Charles. You might say we now know more about intimacy and husband-wife longing too; he had three children when he went to war, but six children at the end of the war. ‘Fertile’ furloughs they were!
As a land speculator after the war, Bradbury bought parcels in Kansas for many years, and eventually became the land agent-manager for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railway. He died in 1900. One of his granddaughters, Mary Amelia Grant, who was a professor in the classics department of the University of Kansas for 40 years, donated most of the family records to the Spencer Research Library at the university.
Bradbury’s war-era experience was very unusual. As an army private, he worked for key Union generals in the western campaigns while also sharing some of their quarters and most of their meals. He was treated as an officer; how could that be? He was an attorney, well-educated, and accustomed to working with and among the upper crust of society, wherever he was.
Tags: History, History teaching, KS2 History, Local History, Teaching History in the UK
Great post from James Daley about the way we teach History at school in the UK.
The amount of people who’ve said to me “This is so interesting, but I had a really boring teacher at school. Put me off for life.”
The point being, as Anne of Green Gables was always saying, that the way we do History leaves “no scope for the imagination.” I’m trying here to work from first principles of where we live. I think we have to start in Primary School and get the kids to just examine the street where they live. A kind of deconstruction. What do you think?
Tags: 1917, A Level History, Communism, History, Lenin, Red Terror, Russia, Russian Revolution
It is perhaps significant that Lenin’s biggest contribution to modern Russian life is a monument to death. It was, after all, his characteristic answer to most problems.
Lenin’s period of control over Russia (1917-1924) was dominated by war, conflict and the “Red Terror”. It is the thesis of this essay that he considered that conflict as not only inevitable but necessary in the design and construction of the new Communist order. He saw himself as the architect of that new society. The historian Peter Holquist concluded that Lenin did not initiate “genocide” (as –arguably- Stalin did) but rather showed a “ruthless… dedication to social engineering”, in a “radical attempt to eliminate undesirable social groups.” The distinction is finely drawn, perhaps. (more…)
Tags: GCSE Coursework, History, Nicholas II, Russia, Russian Revolution, Twentieth Century, USSR
“The daily work of a monarch he found intolerably boring. He could not stand listening long or seriously to ministers’ reports, or reading them.” Written by Kerensky, the leader of the government which took over from the Tsar in 1917, in his memoirs in 1934.
“His ancestors did not pass on to him one quality which would have made him capable of governing an empire.” Written by Trotsky, one of the leaders of the revolutionaries who opposed the Tsar, in 1932.
“Nicholas II was not fit to run a village post office.” Said by an unknown cabinet minister
“He never had an opinion of his own … always agreeing with the judgement of the last person he spoke to.” By Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich
: Nicholas was “kind to those around him and deeply religious. … He believed wholeheartedly in autocracy. … He genuinely wanted to bring happiness and prosperity to his people”. From a modern GCSE school textbook.
“He has a quick mind and learns easily. In this respect he is far superior to his father.” By Sergei Witte, chief minister under Nicholas, in his memoirs. Even though he disliked the Tsar, he said this of Nicholas.
“There is no doubt that Nicholas was a kind, well-meaning person, with a deep affection for his family. He was devoted to his wife, Alexandra, his son, Alexis, and his four daughters. Family photographs were in every room of the palace, including the lavatory.” From a modern GCSE school textbook.
“Nicholas would sooner spend time with his family than deal with governmental affairs. [He] could be cruel and merciless. He would not stand for opposition. His answer was always the same – violence.” From a modern GCSE school textbook.
“He kept saying … that he was wholly unfit to reign … And yet Nicky’s unfitness was by no means his fault. He had intelligence, he had faith and courage and he was wholly ignorant about governmental matters. Nicky had been trained as a soldier. He should have been taught statesmanship, and he was not.” From the diary of the Tsar’s sister, the Grand Duchess Olga.
“Nicholas believed wholeheartedly in autocracy. He thought that democracy with elections and parliaments would lead to the collapse of Russia. Nicholas knew very little about the [Russian] people. He did not visit factories or villages, or go on tours. His information about what was going on came from a small number of people, who were quite happy to protect him from the realities of life in Russia.” From a modern GCSE school textbook.
Nicholas was “even more poorly prepared than his father for the burdens of kingship. Nicholas had no knowledge of the world of men, of politics or government to help him make the weighty decisions that in the Russian system the Tsar alone must make.” From H. Rogger, Russia in the Age of Modernisation and Revolution, 1983
“Nicholas was not a stupid man … The problems Russia faced were very great … Nicholas II loved his country and served it loyally and to the best of his ability. He had not sought power … He was very kind, sensitive, generous. … [The situation] would probably have destroyed any man who sat on the throne.” From Nicholas II, Emperor of All the Russians, by Dominic Lieven, 1994.
“Nicholas’ problem was that he could understand many points of view and wavered between them … his personality meant that he was not very good at exercising it.” From Nicholas II, Emperor of All the Russians, by Dominic Lieven, 1994.
Nicholas’ wife, “Alexandra, was clearly very much in love with Nicholas. In the evenings, she demanded that he spend time with the family. She encouraged the Tsar to withdraw from public events to a private family world.” From a modern GCSE school textbook.
Tags: Communism, History of Communism, Russian History, Stalin, Szpakowski, USSR
Professor Michal Spakowski (Jastrӗbie Droj, Poland) was speaking to Rev Dr Kenneth Baker (Roscommon, Republic of Ireland) (more…)
Tags: A Level History, British Empire, Corsica, Corsican Republic, Eigteenth Century, French History, Grafton, Grenville, History, Lord North, Napoleon, Naval History, Niall Ferguson, Rise of Empire, seven years war, Treaty of Paris
One of the more fascinating “what ifs” of European history has to be the handling of the Corsican Crisis of 1768-69. (more…)
Tags: History, Horrible Histories, Niall Ferguson, Rewriting history, Terry Deary, Times, Times Online
He owes his success to history, but the author Terry Deary has described historians as “seedy and devious”.
From The Times May 31, 2010 (more…)