Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Race, religion and the UK Supreme Court

An interesting case being taken up by the Supreme Court here. The Jewish Free School (JFS) in north-west London is being accused of racial discrimination in prioritising those children of Jewish faith. This is the result of a case brought on behalf of a boy, known as M, who was refused admission to the JFS because his mother converted to Judaism in a procedure not recognised by the office of the chief rabbi. The Court's decision may have consequences for all religious schools, as discussed here. What do you think?

Friday, 23 October 2009

Terrible Tudors

Have a happy half term!

Holocaust evidence

The use and misuse of History were discussed several times during Question Time last night. The BNP's use of World War 2 imagery has come under much criticism. Nick Griffin's views on the Holocaust were also rather convoluted. If you are looking for good sources of historical evidence on the subject, this is a very good place to start.

PS: The picture above shows some of the evidence collected by war crimes investigators during the Nuremberg trials.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

BNP on Question Time

Is the BBC right to allow Nick Griffin to speak for the BNP on Question Time tonight? Please let us know what you think, and if you watch the programme, post your reaction here.

PS: Here is a strongly worded comment on the subject from The Guardian
PPS: Here is some early reaction to the programme. The BNP is claiming that Griffin was hounded by the panel and the audience.
PPPS: Question Time got more viewers than Strictly Come Dancing this week! Here is the verdict of several writers in The Times. Here is the verdict of Bonnie Greer (a panellist on the programme) in the Daily Mail.
PPPPS: Here's Nick Robinson's observation of the situation, and 300+ comments on his blog post.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

All-women shortlists for the Conservatives?

David Cameron has suggested that he might be prepared now to countenance all-women shortlists for Conservative candidates from January, using it as a threat to recalcitrant Conservative associations. But is this a good idea? Does it help or hinder women? Read Nick Robinson's take here and a debate on the Daily Politics here.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is a useful starting point for researching historical figures (they have to have died by 2005 to be included). Articles are thoroughly researched and have excellent sets of references, including articles by relevant historians. Here for example are the articles on Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I. (Full access to the site is only allowed at school and at public libraries)

The power of social networks

Here is an interesting article about how social networks such as Twitter and Facebook have been very influential this week in building campaigns against the Daily Mail's Stephen Gately article and the Trafigura case (also reported in the Guardian here).

Monday, 19 October 2009

A2 British Interpretations

This post is for British A2 historians to leave comments on Tudor historians they have discovered and their interpretations of particular aspects of Edward and Mary's reign. Please leave comments and discuss each other's contributions.

PS: This booklist may be of use, and here is an lecture on Edward VI given at a conference at Hampton Court in July.

John Guy

The historian John Guy (Clare College, Cambridge) has a useful website with notes on key Tudor issues. His essay on Mary's court and how it affected policy making is very detailed and has a useful bibliography of other Tudor historians, such as David Loades and Penry Williams. His links to primary sources are also interesting, particularly this book, which contains letters from Edward IV to Queen Elizabeth. Have a look! The pages really turn!

Berlin Wall video

Here is an interesting 5 minute video from the Guardian about the Berlin Wall, with residents of the city describing what it was like to live in its shadow. Several people who attempted to escape are also interviewed.

PS: The Guardian is publishing new videos all of this week. Here is a link to them and other interesting articles.

Times Cartoons

Peter Brookes, the cartoonist of the Times, has been on form over the last couple of weeks. See here for some of his latest creations.

Friday, 16 October 2009

East German jokes

West Germany's intelligence service has released a collection of jokes made in East Germany during the Cold War. You can read some of the here, such as,
"If Christmas had happened in East Germany, it would have been cancelled. Mary would't find any napppies for the baby Jesus, Joseph would be called up to the army and the three kings wouldn't get a travel permit."
Or, "What would happen if the desert became communist? Nothing for a while, and then there would be a sand shortage."
The humour is pretty dry, but it reveals the way many East Germans coped with the repressive regime and their dreary surroundings - through cynicism and sarcasm. Of course, the penalty for being caught telling such jokes could be very high. The Stasi had 189,000 informants who reported any criticsm of mockery of the government, and many people were arrested and sent to labour camps.

The report is published by Der Spiegel, a German news magazine, and you can find further coverage (in English) of the events marking the anniversary of 1989 here.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Elizabeth FAQ

Here is a useful set of FAQs on Elizabeth I, including a list of all the errors (and there are many!) made in the Cate Blanchett film. The website also contains a useful Tudor reading list alongside lots of other Elizabeth info.

Mussolini the Spy

News has emerged the Italian Fascist dictator got an early break when he was paid £100 a week to spy for MI5, the British intelligence agency. Working as a journalist, he was paid to spread positive propaganda to ensure Italy continued to fight in World War 1 as an ally of the British. Cambridge historian Peter Martlett writes, "Britain's least reliable ally in the war at the time was Italy after revolutionary Russia's pullout from the conflict...It was a lot of money to pay a man who was a journalist at the time, but compared to the £4m Britain was spending on the war every day, it was petty cash...I have no evidence to prove it, but I suspect that Mussolini also spent a good deal of the money on his mistresses."

PS: The official authorised history of MI5 has just been published. Here is a review.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Battle of Hastings Day

Today is the 943rd anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. Yesterday the HP Society marked this event with an exciting confrontation on the school field. The Saxon shieldwall faced up to the Norman invaders and terrible combat ensued.

Here is a very detailed site on the causes, events and consequences of the battle. There are plenty of videos available on the subject, including this cheerful description of Harold Godwinson's death from Terry Deary. The BBC have also provided a game, and lots of other useful information. Let us know how you get on!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

25th anniversary of conference bomb

Party Conferences were transformed 25 years ago when the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was nearly killed by an IRA bomb. Five people were killed, including one MP, and security was from then on not taken for granted. Read more about this event here.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Battle of Hastings Map

Stand by for the Battle of Hastings in HP Society on Tuesday (Room 103 at lunchtime - bring outdoor clothes) In preparation for this, here is a map of the battlefield prepared on Google Maps (click on each shape and arrow for more information). The creator of the map is a military historian who as plenty more to say on the subject in his blog.

View Battle of Hastings_opening disposition in a larger map

In praise of historical fiction

Wolf Hall's success continues to keep the journalists busy. Here is an article celebrating the best in historical fiction, giving recommendations from Mary Renault's The King must Die (set in Ancient Greece) through to Patrick O'Brien's Hornblower novels (set during the Napoleonic wars). There are also plenty of readers' recommendations in the comments section.

PS: Here is a video of Hilary Mantel explaining how she came to write about Thomas Cromwell

PPS (20 October): Here is more from Hilary Mantel about writing historical fiction

US Healthcare

An excellent piece by Justin Webb on the possible negative effects of President Obama's healthcare bill. Whilst most agree the number of Americans without access to healthcare coverage is too high, the current system encourages investment in research and development of new drugs, something that may be curtailed in the future and impact on all our lives. Listen to it on BBC iplayer here.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

Many congratulations to Barack Obama for winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Here is a list of the previous winners (since 1901) and the Nobel Committee's citation for his award.

PS: Here is comment from The Guardian and Fox News, which curiously follow a similar theme.

PPS: The Times says "Scrap the Nobel Peace Prize". Do you agree?

What if Arthur Tudor had become King?

Arthur Tudor has had a book written about him, which isn't a bad achievement considering he was dead by the age of 15. It considers why Arthur's memory was so deliberately forgotten during the latter Tudors' reigns, perhaps to avoid difficult suggestions about their own mortality and the precarious positions of their heirs. The article also indulges in a bit of virtual history - if Arthur had become King and remained happily married to Catherine of Aragon, would the English Reformation have taken place? Would Arthur have been able to give the Tudors the same strong identity as his brother? We will of course never know, but this exercise in counterfactual history is helpful in identifying which factors were crucial in shaping this period.

PS: Here is some more information about counterfactual history, including some academic links.

International relations

For those of you interested in studying international relations at university this lecture may be of interest. It is titled "International Relations and the new global order" and is being given by the High Commissioner of Pakistan to the UK at Queen Mary's in Mile End on Tuesday 13 October at 6.30pm. It is launching Queen Mary's new International Relations discipline in the Politics Department. Might be worth going to...see here.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Another Vietnam?

Vietnam is increasingly being used as a reason not to send more troops to Afghanistan. But is it right to compare the two wars? What do you think Obama should do? See what you think with a Times article here and Mark Mardell's blog entry here.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Anarchists and Terrorists

Here's an interesting article from the BBC about Emile Henry, an intellectual anarchist who, according to the author, became the first "modern terrorist" when he deliberately targeted innocent members of the public with a bomb in 1894 because they happened to be members of the bourgeoisie. It then goes on to discuss the nature of terrorism and whether even governments can be accused of acting as terrorists. Your thoughts on this, as always, are welcome.

Wolf Hall wins the Booker

Many congratulations to Hilary Mantel for winning the Booker Prize for her historical novel, "Wolf Hall" about the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell. The even better news is that she is planning to write a sequel! If you have read the book, or any of her other works, please let us know.

PS: Here's a podcast from the Guardian's literary critics discussing the novel.

PPS: Here's the official Booker Prize website, including archives of the previous winners.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Conservatives and History Teaching

As we hope you've noticed, the blogs we feature on the right hand side of this page are an excellent source of information and content on what is happening in the world of history and politics. Politics Etc (Sutton Grammar School's Blog) has discovered that grassroots Conservatives consider the "proper teaching of British history" to be their 2nd highest priority. The author has a good grumble about this as the vast majority of Key Stage 3 teaching is already devoted to British history, but it does suggest that core Tory values may not have moved as far as David Cameron may have hoped. Here is a direct link to the report and more from the Conservative Home Page on their views on history teaching (by the MP for Bognor Regis).

PS: The Conservatives are keen to promote the new History section of their website, so here it is.

Key cases before the US Supreme Court

Some fantastic cases to be considered by the Supreme Court this year - from guns to crosses to dog-fighting, terrorism and human rights, it's all there! Have a look at the BBC's compilation of cases here and CNN's view of the Second Amendment case and see what you think. No wonder Sonia Sotomayor looks so pleased to be on the Supreme Court!


You may be aware that the British Museum has just opened an exhibition about Montezuma, leader of the Aztec Empire, which as you can see from the picture above, is full of spectacular artefacts and treasures, dripping with gold and precious stones.

However, the reaction has not been completely positive, as this New York Times article, cheefully summarises. Philip Hensher in the Daily Mail writes that the artefacts are as "evil as Nazi lampshades made of human skin". Boris Johnson himself writes that Montezuma's regime, with its devotion to human sacrifice, fully deserved to be taken over by the Spanish conquistadores in 1519.

Is it right to put objects, however beautiful, in a public exhibition if they come from such a bloodthirsty regime? Do we have any right to pass judgement on other cultures from different periods of history? Let us know what you think, particularly if you have been to the exhibition or have seen the Aztec artefacts in Mexico.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Starkey on Brown

Here's David Starkey on Wednesday's Question Time discussing whether politicians should keep details of their health private. Check out how Ben Bradshaw struggles to maintain his composure despite getting increasingly irritated and how Starkey manages to compare Brown to both Chairman Mao and Henry VIII.

PS: The Adam Boulton clip showing Brown grimacing and getting up to leave while his microphone is still attached is here.

Battle of Bosworth goes missing

The Battle of Bosworth may be in the wrong place! For many years people believed the battle was fought on Ambion Hill in Leicestershire, and an impressive visitor centre has been built there commemmorating the event. Archaeologists now believe the battle took place a mile away, on marshy ground, and have been given £1 million by the National Lottery to look for evidence. Is it worth the bother? Is it important to be in exactly the right spot or is retelling the story for the benefit of the tourists sufficient?

The Irish decide

Today is the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The fate of 26 other countries, all who have now ratified the Treaty, depend on Ireland's decision. Have a look at the Irish Times site here for news, background to the Treaty and comment.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Boris on EastEnders

The Mayor of London will appear on EastEnders tonight. Apparently Boris has a brief walk-on scene in the Queen Vic. Ken Livingstone is a little upset about it as the BBC turned down his requests to be on the programme. Let us know if you see it and what you think of his acting!

PS: Here's some footage of his appearance.

The Supreme Court opens today

The new Supreme Court justices of the UK Supreme Court are to be sworn in today. A 'milestone in British legal history' and one not to be missed by Politics students. See here for the President of the Supreme Court's comments and here for some pictures of the newly transformed building in Parliament Square.