Monday, 21 July 2014

Summer Reading 2014

The Summer Holidays are nearly here so there may be a little time over the next few weeks for some summer reading. We have created some specific reading lists on Historical Fiction which you may find of interest. They are not complete, and need your input! If you have read any great books on any period of history, please let us know, and we will include them. Here are the current pages...

Historical Fiction: Key Stage 3
20th Century Historical Fiction: Years 9-11
Sixth Form Historical Fiction: Wars of the Roses and the Tudors

If you are in the Sixth Form and considering History at University, here are a few ideas...

David Aaronovitch of The Times has helpfully made some recommendations, which include "The Ascent of Money" by Niall Ferguson, which looks at the global history of finance and "The Birth of the Modern World 1788-1800" by Jay Winik, which considers the connections between the momentous political events of the late 18th Century. Both books would obviously provide helpful parallels with our current political and economic problems.

Tudor Historians may find "Mary Tudor:England's First Queen" of interest as it takes quite a sympathetic view of her and David Starkey's "Henry-The Virtuous Prince" looks closely at the often neglected early years of Henry VIII's life. Here is a further selection of Tudor History books and here is a guide from to useful authors.

EH Carr's "What is History" is the classic introduction to the nature of the subject and some ideas of historiography. Although it was published 48 years ago, it still contains many stimulating ideas to get the historian thinking. Other books that follow similar ideas, often written in response to Carr, include Geoffrey Elton's "The Practice of History, Richard Evans' "In Defence of History" and John Tosh's "The Pursuit of History". More information about these ideas can be seen at the Institute of History's special section on "What is History" here and in the Open University's website here.

If you are looking for further inspiration on what to read, check the "History Reviews" sections of the newspapers. Here are links to the The Guardian'sand The Telegraph's history books sections. The Institute of Historical Research also has an extensive Reviews Section

The history section of course has a vast range of books and is worth checking for the latest to be published.

Please pass on any recommendations for books you have enjoyed, and happy reading!

PS: Here is a list of books and articles recommended for old AEA course (for A Level Students who wanted to stretch themselves further) which are worth considering.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Football Through Time

In honour of the World Cup Semi Finals this Tuesday, I thought I would give you all a quick lesson on the history of organised football!

There is evidence that ball games have been played since 300 BC, with FIFA (the Federation Internationale de Football Association) claiming the ancient game of “cuju” to be the first official football-type sport.
“Cuju” was a militaristic game played in 2nd Century BC China, with very different rules to modern football but a similar player formation and crescent-shaped goals creating a pitch.
This game has since evolved worldwide, and today has many different variations across the globe.
The UK variation became popular in the Middle Ages. This new “football” game may be familiar with some of you already – called “mob football” and played between villages, a pig’s bladder was inflated and used as a ball. Played to celebrate occasions such as Christmas, it was very popular with communities.

Historians are not sure whether or not the ball was kicked at this stage, as although the game was known as “foot” ball, accounts describe players hitting and throwing the ball rather than just kicking it.
Over time, the “mob” element of British football was eliminated and through the English Private School system, football became an organised team sport.
Modern football was established around 1519, with more defined rules than previous variations, although still constantly changing, with the first offside rule introduced in the late 1700’s.
Schoolchildren were still at the forefront of developing modern football, as 1780 marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the UK, and with most adults working full time, only children at school could play lengthy sports. However, the Industrial Revolution brought benefits for children in other ways too, inter-school competitions occurred more often as rail travel had improved making it easier for matches between schools to occur.

The first official organised Football Association was formed in 1888, the Football League. Teams in England were officially documented and football became a more professional sport.
In 1922, the top 22 clubs in the Football League split to form the Premier League, the most renowned football competition in the UK. It is currently the most watched league in the world, and broadcast in 212 countries.

FIFA was founded in 1904 to bring the world together to play football in one “World Cup”. This idea was well received and in 1930, the first world cup was held in Uruguay.
As the organiser of the world championships, FIFA reserves the right to change or pass judgement on the modern football rules and regulations. When world football was suggested, all the different variations of the sport had to be taken into account to create one ultimate football game. The current game is based quite heavily on the old English football rules, established at Cambridge University in 1862, which in turn evolved from medieval football, however there are still elements of the game from other world cultures.

I hope you enjoyed this (slightly longer than I intended) history of football, so now go and enjoy the World Cup!  

K. Z. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Lathom and Leave 'Em

The Siege of Lathom House (or, to be more precise, the First Siege of Lathom House) in 1644 is one of those events that, though full of drama and rather significant, never quite makes it into the list of things that come to mind when one mentions the English Civil War. It’s like a bi-election that only makes page eight news.

It’s understandable, I suppose, particularly when compared to events at Nottingham, Edgehill and Marston Moor, but the story of Lathom is a rather exciting one, especially if put into terms of female power, and overcoming the 17th century patriarchy to achieve great things in daring fashion. (Honestly, historical fiction writers would have a field day with this.) The powerful female in question is Lady Charlotte Stanley, wife of James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby (and for the Wars of the Roses enthusiasts, yes, it’s those Stanleys).

I think I’d better set the scene:

Lathom in Lancashire had been part of the Stanley family estates since the turn of the 15th century, when Sir John Stanley married Isabel Lathom. The wooden castle at Lathom then became the main seat of the family until Thomas, 1st Earl of Derby, rebuilt it, so that it became a whopping great palatial mansion, with thick stone walls, a deep moat and nine interestingly named towers. (Imagine staying in the Tower of Madness, for example.) By the time the 7th Earl rocked up over 150 years later, the castle was still standing, and Charlotte - a French lady from Queen Henrietta Maria’s retinue – had now been married into the powerful Stanley family. Charlotte herself came from an even more powerful family, being the daughter of the duc de Thouars, so, politically, it was a dynamite match. The marriage itself was a happy and loving one (again, historical fiction writers, take note) and it was also successful, producing six surviving children.

That said, things weren’t quite as blissful for the couple in the royal court. James Stanley wasn’t on best terms with Charles I, being a rival claimant to the throne, and his Queen disliked the Huguenots (of which Charlotte was one). To avoid being swamped with gossip and criticism, Charlotte spent much of her life away from court, at Lathom and Knowsley.

When civil war broke out, James initially sat on the fence (in true Stanley fashion) but eventually became an enthusiastic royalist, and when he was ordered by King Charles to go the Isle of Man and cut off the Scottish army, he did so, leaving Charlotte and their children behind at Lathom.

Enthusiastic though he was, James wasn’t a great military leader. (There were roundhead jokes going round saying that his wife had nicked his breeches; she was obviously the more capable of the two.) With the royalist grasp on Lancashire and the Isle of Man slipping away, the main focus for Thomas Fairfax’s parliamentarian forces by early 1644 was Lathom House.
The Earl and Countess of Derby with one of their children, painted
by Anthony Van Dyck before the civil war broke out.

Anyway, enough background. Time for some action!

On the 27th February 1644, Fairfax decided that Lathom House had to fall. His troops surrounded it, and Fairfax tried to negotiate with Lady Charlotte for the castle’s surrender. Much like the Queen she served, Charlotte was quite haughty and imperious, and said that it was Fairfax who should be submitting to her, and not the other way around. The negotiations were strung out until mid-March, when Charlotte flatly refused all offers and Lathom was put under siege.

The Lathom garrison was small – somewhere between two and three hundred men – and Fairfax had about ten times as many men waiting outside. The captain of her garrison – Colonel Farmer – carried out raids on the besieging force, while Charlotte herself acted as commander, supervising every detail and raising the morale of her troops.
As I've already implied, to call Lathom a house is a bit misleading. In truth, it was a heavily fortified castle, and Charlotte used this to the best of her advantage. The Eagle Tower provided excellent views of the 1500 infantry and 500 cavalry below, and the six foot thick outer walls coped well with the battering from outside. Meanwhile, the parliamentarians were under threat from Charlotte's snipers, who were good shots, it seems. They had their guns trained on enemy officers, waiting for them to emerge from their trenches. Each of the nine towers also had six cannons.
Lathom House, drawn at some point before the siege.

It's understandable, therefore, that the parliamentarians were willing to negotiate. Charlotte, however, had no such ideas. When Fairfax managed to get a letter from James Stanley asking for his wife to abandon Lathom, she stayed where she was, and when she received a letter from the besiegers asking her to surrender, she apparently tore it up saying:
Tell that insolent rebel, he shall have neither persons, goods, nor house. When our strength and provisions are spent, we shall find a [merciful fire]; and then, if the providence of God prevent it not, my goods and house shall burn in his sight; and myself, children, and soldiers, rather than fall into his hands will seal our religion and loyalty in the same flames.
It’s easy to romanticise the story of this military miracle-working matriarch (for example in this fantastic song about the siege by Steeleye Span) but despite their overwhelming size, Fairfax’s forces weren’t exactly stiff competition, especially when Fairfax was recalled to Yorkshire halfway through the siege. His replacement, Colonel Rigby, obviously did not want to be there, and morale was low. They failed to launch any major offensive, partly because of Lathom's position in the local landscape. Furthermore, it was news that Prince Rupert was on his way to relieve Lathom’s garrison that ultimately caused the parliamentarians to lift the siege and retreat, rather than the strength of the Countess' forces.
Even so, Charlotte and that tiny garrison managed to hold out for eleven weeks with only minimal damage, so hats off to them, I say.
The Parliamentarians seizing the mortar, one of the few
successes of the besiegers in 1644.

(It is worth mentioning, however, that within two years, James had been beheaded, Lathom had been destroyed and most of the Stanley estates were in the control of parliament. Such is war.)


Thursday, 1 May 2014

'Oh do shut up dear' - Mary Beard on the public voice of women

A fantastic lecture about women's role in speaking out over the course of history.  The well-known classicist felt compelled to take on the issue of the public voice of women after her recent treatment on social media - and she does so with gusto!!
See clips from her lecture here and her article in the Guardian about women in the public sphere here.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

'That Martin Luther guy's pretty funky'

          Hello dear readers, it is I, back again for your regular dose of extremely odd and nonsensical ramblings with just a dashing of actual Historical information. Now, please do excuse me, because it's almost half ten in the evening and, unlike actual 'normal' teenagers, I tend to stop functioning all together after around 8pm. Before 12 am doesn't look good either. But nonetheless, here I am, ready to impart the very little knowledge that I have on to you, who probably knows it anyway and is only reading this blog for a good laugh at somebody who attempts to seem knowledgeable.
   Anyway. On to the History bit. You see, the title of this article is, I believe, a brilliant representation of my mental state at the moment. It is, however, my poor, failing brains first response to reading a few articles on line about Luther and Lutherism (I wonder where they got the name from?).
    Now, Luther isn't really 'my type'. Although not a Catholic, he was a bit of a religious fanatic and didn't, in fact, really want to start a revolution at all, it seems. He targeted academics, it seems, at the 95 theses (a document in which he basically ripped the Catholic Church to shreds) was written in Latin, and was so inaccessible for the lay person. He said that it was impossible for all men to become equal and was, in general, concerned with keeping the status quo in all aspects of life apart from religion.
   In fact, from a Lutherist point of view, the Catholic Church could be seen as the revolutionary party, as it had moved drastically away from the teachings of Christ, and Luther could have been seen as a reactionary, trying to 'turn the clock back', and focus on Christians having a personal faith, rather than one controlled entirely by the Church. Luthers main problem with the Catholic Church was that it seemed to lie to the people, telling them that they could effectively 'buy' their way into heaven, as well as placing a lot less store by personal repentance and faith, and instead focusing on the power of the Church itself.
    No, the reason that I like him is that he wasn't afraid to stick up for what he thought was right. He nailed his 95 Theses onto the door of Wittenburg cathedral, and refused to stand down for what he believed, even when facing the prospect of execution at his trial in the city of Worms. That bravery and courage - to fight for what he believed, is something that I think should be admired.
     He has also won a place as one of my favorite History Boys because he did not agree with the idea that it was only through the Catholic Church that you could find freedom and redemption. He thought that a lot of faith should be a personal thing, and although I have my own views on religion, I thoroughly agree with the idea that people should be able to discover it themselves. Because if your ticket to heaven lies in the hands of one body of people, then that body has a supreme control over your every move. And one thing I can't stand is anybody having supreme control over anybody else.
   I think that's why I fell in  love with his story. One document, nailed to the door of a cathedral, sparked a revolution that gave people just a little bit more freedom.
   Anyway, sleep really does call me, so I think I'll have to love you and leave you!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

GCSE Hitler's Germany
I was trying to find a way to relax, but still convince myself I was revising when I came across this gem. Most of it is within 'How did Hitler change Germany from a democracy to a Nazi dictatorship, 1933-34?' part of the syllabus and the programme really captures how scarily well the Nazis managed to indoctrinate so many young Germans- enjoy!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Yet another reason for me to get on my moral high horse...

         Alright guys. I'm back. Tired, snotty, and with ears that feel as if they're clogged up with enough wax to supply a candle-making factory, but back all the same. And haven't you missed me. Now, as much as I'd love to give you the idea that I came back because my emotion towards you all was simply too strong, that is not quite the truth. You see, my friends get a little bit annoyed when I go on and on about politics, and you are a captive audience. I hope. I mean, you could technically stop reading this article but you don't want my broken heart on your conscience, do you? I thought not.
  So anyways, what is it this time that has annoyed me? Well, to be honest, I think I’m justified this time. Because, as some of you may know, Uganda has just passed a bill that angers me when i even think about it. You see, anyone who LGBT could face a lengthy stay in prison, and homosexual sex and same-sex marriage can now mean that the couple live the rest of their lives in prison. It also means that those who help members of the LGBT community can face up to 7 years in prison.
  Now, I don't think I even have to spell out for you why this is a problem. LGBT rights, quite simply, are Human rights, and any violation of these, to me, is just ridiculous. It is simply nonsensical to put people in prison for simply being themselves, and I see absolutely no excuse for making love illegal. Because, quite simply, that's what it is - Love. And whether its between two men, a man and a woman, or two women, it should be accepted.
Anyway, only a short one today I’m afraid but I am extremely tired!
P.S: Here is a petition against the bill

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Musketeers

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while and I’ve finally gotten round to it! You lucky, lucky people. 

Now, for the past few weeks, I’ve been watching The Musketeers (which is excellent and on at 9pm tonight on BBC 1) and I have decided to let you all know who they are because I’ve been watching this for ages and I barely know myself. 

I’m back from google-ing.

The Musketeers come from the French historical novel ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexandre Dumas in 1844. It is set in the 1600s where D’Artagnan (my favourite from the TV series) meets the three musketeers: Athos, Porthos and Aramis (who I always get confused, but who cares when D’Artagnan’s there). But, anyway even if you didn’t know their names (like me up until five minutes ago), I think everyone knows their motto “all for one and one for all” which was first put forward by D’Artagnan.

And don’t think that Dumas just made these people up, oh no, Dumas did very good research because these ‘musketeers’ were real. They were an “early modern type of infantry soldier equipped with a musket” as stated in my favourite, oh-so-reliable source; Wikipedia. However, there are some differences between what the TV show depicts and what actually happened. For example, in episode four, it shows them acting as body guards/ welcoming the Duke of Savoy, when really the musketeers were one of the lower units of the Royal Guard and would therefore have had little to do with the royal family. On the other hand, they did actually have those blue capes that you see occasionally in some of the episodes, but they had to wear them all the time as part of their uniform which they are obviously lacking in the photo above. 

Overall, even though I am glad I now know all of their names, the only thing I have really achieved is 310 words and an hour of procrastination and counting... So I’m afraid that I’m going to have to leave all of you Musketeer fans here while I go and ‘do homework’ (i.e. even more procrastination).


Sunday, 23 February 2014

UN Security Council Website

Okay so it's after midnight, my laptop has 7% battery and I really should be sleeping, but I just made the most amazing discovery. After flicking through my 'The Week' magazine (which I would definitely recommend by the way) I decided to find out more about the UN's report on North Korea. Quite honestly, I did not except to find any sort of report or anything- I would have thought the UN would be relatively secretive about most of their documents etc and understandably so. But no! If you go on their website you can find letters, reports, minutes from their meetings- it's amazing!
There's just so much there and it's definitely worth looking through for information etc. Wow. Just wow. Whether or not they ever intervene in North Korea, there's at least one thing that the UN have done right. ED

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Edward Tudor

Instead of going out with friends or doing my homework, today I decided to be very productive and stay in my onesie all day watching the 1977 adaptation of ‘The Prince and The Pauper’ from the historical novel by Mark Twain. It was actually pretty good and educational (wink, wink). I mean, apart from the fact Edward Tudor was nineteen years old instead of nine. But, as I am not a qualified historian, that didn’t bother me... well not too much anyway.

And I bet you can all guess what this blog is going to be about! Yes, Edward Tudor. 

So now you lucky people are going to get five (hopefully interesting) facts about him:

  1. He was made King of England when he was nine (considering that I can barely make up my mind about what I want to eat and I’m six years older than him, I find that prospect very frightening, even if he did have advisors).
  2. He died when he was 15 (there’s not really any way to sugar coat this one, it’s sad but true).
  3. Despite the fact that his sisters were disowned for a short period, they were still quite close to him- Elizabeth gave Edward a “shirt of her own working” and I thought that was quite cute. 
  4. He liked his step-mother, Catherine Parr, whom he referred to as his “most dear mother” (see, not all step-mothers are evil like in Cinderella).
  5. He could play the lute (for all of the musically inept like me, this is a string instrument that looks like either a small guitar or a big violin. You can see it below).

Overall, I feel that this shortish entry on Edward Tudor can be interpreted as something productive, so now I can just watch another film and eat Ben & Jerry’s Ice-cream instead of starting half term homework. All of Edward’s responsibilities have been stressing me out too much.