Friday, 24 December 2010

Obama's Christmas Congress success

Despite it looking like Obama was going to end 2010 with little success after the November elections, Obama has managed to pull the START treaty out of the bag and the law allowing gays to serve openly in the military. The former should enhance his reputation abroad to get things done and the latter reassure his own party that he still wants to achieve the radical agenda promised in the 2008 election.
Happy Christmas everyone!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Select Committees

In today's 'Governing the UK' AS Politics lesson, a sheet was handed out detailing some excellent examples of how select committees have been successful in scrutinising and calling the government to account.

A copy of the article can be found here for those who would like to investigate the work of select committees further.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Henry IV's head

The embalmed head of King Henry IV of France has been rediscovered and confirmed as genuine after a series of scientific tests. After Henry was assassinated in 1610 his head was kept in the royal chapel in Paris until it was ransacked in 1793. The head was then kept in private hands before reappearing in public. One piece of evidence which assisted the scientists was a healed facial wound, left from a previous assassination attempt. Henry played a significant role in French history as he converted to Catholicism when he became King and enacted the Edict of Nantes in 1598, guaranteeing religious freedom and effectively the 36 year long French Wars of Religion. He was given the nickname "Le Vert Galant" or "The Green Galant" which (according to Wikipedia) "is a reference to both his dashing character and his attractiveness to women."

PS: Here are articles on the subject (in French!) from Le Monde and Le Figaro.

Monday, 13 December 2010

The Decade's Most Significant... The Top 10!

The HP Society have drawn up a shortlist of significant events, developments and people of the last decade. They are (in no particular order).
  1. September 11
  2. Invasion of Iraq
  3. Facebook
  4. Obama’s election
  5. Harry Potter
  6. Financial Crisis
  7. Launch of the Euro
  8. Civil Partnerships
  9. The Tsunami
  10. Stem Cell Research

What do you think of this list? Which of these do you think is the most significant? You can have your say in our latest poll on the right hand side of the page, but if you would like to justify your decision (or criticise any of the inclusions) please comment below.

As you can see from the image above, Time Magazine are also looking back over the decade, and you can see some of their choices for significant events, etc here.
PS: If you are having trouble remembering back 10 years, here is another set of top 10s from Time focusing just on 2010 (even though the year hasn't finished yet!!) including Top 10 US Political Gaffes and Top 10 Tweets.

Democracy and the X Factor

Apparently 20 million people watched Matt Cardle win the X Factor last night, with the 27 year old decorator beating Rebecca Ferguson and One Direction into 2nd and 3rd place. The result was probably not the one Cowell wanted, as he had made his support for One Direction quite clear. Is this then an example of the public's bloody-mindedness - particularly after the many allegations of poll manipulation this season? The inexplicably long tenure of Wagner (and Anne Widdecombe over on Strictly) presumably has something to do with this. Can any longer political trends be drawn? What lessons should Cameron, Clegg and Milliband be learning from this?

PS: Here is the Guardian's review of the final programme (described as a 2 hour chasm for the slow opening of an envelope...)

PPS: Here are some more detailed stats (and a graph!) on the X Factor voting week by week, if you're interested.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Liu Xiaobo - Nobel Peace Prize Winner

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded an empty chair. The chairman of the Nobel committee placed the prize and citation on the chair because it was supposed to be given to Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese writer and pro-democracy activist, but he is currently in prison in solitary confinement for his activities. His wife and his relatives were also prevented from attending. The last time the prize was awarded in this way was in 1936, when the German writer Carl von Ossietzky was barred by the Nazi authorities. The award was also dedicated to the "Lost souls of 4 June" - a direct reference to the Chinese crackdown in Tiananmen Square in 1989. This has obviously not impressed China, who boycotted the event and encouraged 18 others to do the same. The attention that has been brought to Mr Liu's plight and China's ongoing dubious record regarding political freedoms shows the value that the Peace Prize continues to have. President Obama, who received the award last year, agreed, saying that Mr Liu "was far more deserving of the award than I was." and calling for his immediate release.

PS: Here are profiles of Mr Liu from the BBC and here is a petition you can download from Amnesty International calling for his release.

Slavery Map

The New York Times have published an interactive map of slavery in the southern United States in 1860, based on the census taken in that year. It is fascinating to see where the densest areas of slavery (over 80% of the population in that area) were; Abraham Lincoln regularly referred to it regularly and the map can even be seen in a portrait of his cabinet in 1864, when he read the emancipation proclamation. The map forms part of a timeline project the paper will be doing, marking the 150th anniversary the war. Blog posts will be published regularly on the anniversary of particular events, using material from the papers archives and comments from historians. You can follow the timeline here.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Federal judge impeached

For only the eighth time in US history a federal judge was impeached in the Senate yesterday. Judge Thomas Porteous, a federal judge in Louisiana, was impeached on all four charges of corruption including lying to Congress. See the BBC's reporting of the story and Politico's.

Tuition Fees

It's decision day for the coalition's tuition fees proposals, and the Liberal Democrats in particular are under pressure, as many of their MPs pledged to oppose any increases in the fees during the election campaign. A dozen MPs are expected to rebel, and several others (including Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes) will abstain, but at present this does not seem sufficient to overturn the motion. There is a good overview of the tuition fees debate on this BBC page, and please let us know your opinions on the issue!

UPDATE: What a day! The motion was (just) carried with a majority of 21 votes. 21 Liberal Democrat MPs voted against it and 8 abstained. 6 Conservative MPs also voted against it. 28 Lib Dem MPS voted for the plans. The protests and in particular the attack on Charleshave of course overshadowed this. This Daily Mail article has plenty of dramatic photos. Michael White in the Guardian has some good points to make about how the violence has become the main focus for the media. Benedict Brogan in the Telegraph comments on how Cameron and Clegg are handling the crisis, and here is the New York Times' view to put things into perspective. What are your views?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Coronation Street

This week is the 50th anniversary of Coronation Street. Is this anniversary worthy of a blog about history and politics? Some would say that television programmes and popular culture are too trivial and ephemeral to be of interest to serious historians, and soap operas portray an necessarily exaggerated view of the world for dramatic purposes. Some have also argued that Coronation Street has never accurately represented the urban working class society it was meant to portray, and was considered old fashioned even in 1950.

However, as has been demonstrated by all the fuss about this week's tram crash and live episode, it has proved enduringly popular and has changed (to a certain extent) with the times, allowing historians of the future to chart, for example, changing attitudes towards immigration, class and sexuality based on the activities of characters in the programme. Political students meanwhile could examine how a predominantly working class area has fragmented into a much more socially diverse environment, although it is of course rare to find the characters discussing political events themselves!

This BBC article (accompanied by these pictures) argues hard for why Coronation Street should be considered important in the history of British Television, particularly as its early episodes (when the only other soap opera available was "The Archers") were made despite considerable reluctance from many in ITV that it could be successful. Do you agree? And should the blog cover more of this sort of thing or stick to "proper history"??

Historical Cakes

Miss D'Souza's Year 12s explored the tudor economy today by creating a cake of the world (celebrating exploration) and a working model of an enclosure, complete with tiny animals, and a cupcake quiz. More ideas for historical cakes are always welcome!

Cameron and Lennon

There are two notable anniversaries today. It has been 5 years since David Cameron became the Tory leader, and this article shows some of the highlights of his time in charge. How well do you think he has done, and how significantly has he changed his party? Should he alone take responsibility for allowing the Conservatives back into office - albeit in a coalition?

It is also the 30th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. He was shot outside his home in New York on 8 December 1980, and many people have vivid memories of where they were when they heard the news, because it was so sudden and shocking. This article includes a few of those memories, plus recollections of other sudden historical events, such as the assassination of JFK and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Tom Brook was the first British journalist to report from the scene of Lennon's murder, and he shares his recollections here. A few years ago, John Lennon was included in the shortlist of the 10 "Greatest Britons". Do you think he deserves that accolade? (You can see the programme, presented by Alan Davies, arguing the case for him here)

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Christmas Competitions

Nonsuch HP is pleased to announce its Christmas Competitions! Nonsuch students with time on their hands over the Christmas holiday have an opportunity to take part in a series of challenges, with glory and prizes at stake. There are 3 categories:

Year 7: Castle Building. Year 7s are invited to construct a castle in one of 3 categories:
  • Motte and Bailey

  • Stone Keep

  • "Super" Castle (Any design of castle you like, but still identifiably medieval, and preferably not too Disney-influenced!)
There are only a few rules. Please don't make them too big (ie you should be able to carry it by yourself), and don't make it out of any material that might rot or smell. We would prefer you not to make it out of Lego (as that is basically cheating) but Lego figures /knights / siege weapons are allowed to populate it.

Years 8 and 9: Film-making. Year 8s and 9s are invited to make a short film based on one of the topics they have learned this year. So Year 8s could make a Tudor drama about Anne Boleyn or Lady Jane Grey and Year 9s could make a film on the theme of the British Empire or the Black Peoples of America. Please can these be no more than 5 minutes long and submitted on a USB stick or a CD-Rom to the department office.

Years 10 - 13. The senior students are invited to write a blog post for Nonsuch HP. It can be on any political or historical topic, perhaps concentrating on recent events and developments or even taking Christmas itself as a theme. It should preferably include links to other websites of interest and be illustrated with a suitable picture or diagram. Please submit your entries by email to a history or politics teacher, and we aim to put most of them on the blog. There will be separate categories for GCSE and A-Level students and the winners will be given the opportunity to be regular contributors to the blog.

The closing date for all entries is 3.30 on Monday 10 January. Best of luck to everybody, and if you have any questions, please get in touch with the History and Politics department, or leave a comment here.

Christmas Competitions

Christmas Competitions are coming to Nonsuch! Stand by for further news...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Widdy Waltzes Off

Anne Widdecome had her last dance on Strictly Come Dancing at the weekend, making it all the way to week 10 and nearly into the Semi Finals. What do you think was the secret of her success? Sadly this wasn't shared with Lembit Opik, who was the second person to be evicted from I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Are there any other politician / reality show match ups you would like to see?

Friday, 3 December 2010

Snow, Football, and the Media

Passing a newsagents in snowy Chessington this morning, Nonsuch HP noticed the headline in the Daily Express, "NOW FOOD IS RUNNING OUT". Does this seem to anyone just a little bit irresponsible? The media has indeed got a duty to report events and the not insignificant problems the bad weather has caused, but the tone of a headline like this was surely excessive.

There is obviously plenty of grumpiness about the failure of the World Cup bid this morning, with some of the blame being put on the Panorama investigation into dodgy dealings in Fifa, which followed up a similar report in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago. These reports were specifically referred to by Sepp Blatter just before the vote, and do appear to have had some influence. Is this another example of poor judgement by the media (The Guardian's coverage of the Wikileaks data could possibly be another) or do the media have a duty to expose stories like this whenever they wish? Please add your comments below!

American political update

Lots to keep American politics students busy on a snow day... Another selection of interesting articles from the Economist - on the virtues and talents of Sarah Palin, on a Pentagon report leaving the way clear for gays to serve openly in the military, and on the Wikileaks fiasco. On the latter issue, Mike Huckabee (a 2008 Republican presidential hopeful) sees execution as the only option for dealing with those who leaked the information to Wikileaks and many other politicians are lining up to condemn those involved. Washington Post is concentrating on Congress and Obama's attempt to cut a deal with the Republicans over the Bush-era tax cut and whether to renew it as a whole or only for the middle class. Great topics for discussion and examples for your political analysis - and possible questions for Wednesday's current affairs test.

Mr Coy's Classes (3 December)

Here is a summary of instructions for Mr Coy's classes today. These can also be found on the relevant Fronter pages

12B (History)
Please make sure you have completed your tables on the main characters Henry VII faced during the Pretenders Crises and other rebellions. You should also make notes comparing the scale of the threat of each pretender. Which was most significant? You may have to write something about this in the near future...

Our next topic will be Henry and the nobility, so please start reading this section of the book and consider how effective you think Henry's policy was.

Please can you continue revising as of course your exams will start next week. You must answer 1 question on Russia and 2 on the Cold War (up to and including the Cuban Missile Crisis). A revision checklist will appear shortly!

Many thanks to those of you who have downloaded your song lyrics into the resources folder in Fronter. If the other teams could do the same (and maybe even record some songs?) that would be great.
Our next topic is going to be the American Civil War. Please can you do some research on this topic and bring to the next lesson an information sheet on the main causes of the Civil War, the names of the two sides, their leaders and their flags. Here is one site I found via Google and here is another. I'm sure you can find some more!

12E (Politics)
Please can you spend some of it going over the sections in the book about the development of the Conservative Party, checking that you have understood everything that was said in the last lesson. I would also like you to use your initiative and bring to the next lesson a summary of the key Conservative Party policies, and how some of these may have had to change since the formation of the coalition. You may find websites on the right hand side of the blog of use here.

8 Pluto
If you have completed your homework on a portarit of Elizabeth, and you did it on a computer, please download it (with your name) into the resources section of your Fronter page. I would then like you to do some more research in general into how Elizabeth used portraits (seach Elizabeth portraits in Google) and in particular I would like you to do the "online lesson" from History on the Net to show what you have learned! Here is the link! There are questions to answer (including matching up facts and portraits) and I will check how you got on in the next lesson!

If there are any queries about these lessons, please leave a comment below.

Miss D'Souza's Classes (3 December)

As it is now Snow Day 3, here are details for Miss D'Souza's classes. Please check Fronter for work from other teachers. If you can't get on to Fronter, leave a message below and say what class you are in.

Yr 12 CT: Keep working through the Unit 1 exam paper in your handbook. Remember the Unit 1 test is on 9th December

Yr 12C: Read the chapter on Henry's economy and answer all of the questions in the margin.

10B: Read Pgs 153-155 and makes notes under the sub-headings on those pages, including the case study on Rasputin. Copy the Summary box on P.155. (These are long term factors for the March 1917 Revolution)
Read p.156 about the March Revolution. Answer Qu 2 on p.156. Write one paragraph explaining which reason you think was the most important in leading to the abdication of the Tsar in March 1917.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Snow Days

The snowy season has certainly started early this year, and Nonsuch HP is here to help! Please check here and on Fronter for news of particular classes and work to be done. GCSE students with mocks coming up may wish to look in particular at John D Clare's site (he also writes textbooks) for revision guidance. The AQA website itself has some helpful resources for A-Level and GCSE History (Politics students should look at the Edexcel website). The School History website is very extensive, and is a good source for Years 7-9 as well. A-Level students can use their time profitably by researching some of the historians they are using in their work and taking notes on particular interpretations.

If you do find any sites particularly useful, particularly for historical interpretations, please leave a comment below.

Miss D'Souza's Classes (2 December)

Here is work for Miss D'Souza's classes today. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

12 C 1: Continue with your presentations on the Economy-remember you will be presenting them next Wednesday.

12 C 2: Complete 2 mind maps one on Ordinary Revenue and one on Extra Ordinary revenue- you should have done one of these already. Then answer the following question- Was Henry ruthlessly efficient or just greedy?- there is information in your textbook to answer this question.

8N: Complete the front page (that we usually fill in after we have completed work on a particular monarch) on Mary- was she a Catholic or Protestant- what religious changes did she introduce?
Complete a one page biography on Queen Elizabeth I. Include the following information:
- when did she reign?
-Brief information about her background.
-What religious changes did she introduce?

Advent Calendars

History Today have created an advent calendar which will include daily entries on the most significant historical moments of the year. There is also an interesting article on advent calendars themselves. Apparently the tradition dates back to Germany in the 19th Century, when people counted down the days to Christmas by drawing lines of chalk on their doors. The first printed calendar, with 24 different windows to open, probably appeared in the early 1900s, also in Germany, but chocolates didn't turn up until the 1950s!

PS: Here is an online calendar (about Christmas traditions and fascinating facts) that you may enjoy - although it is really pitched for primary school students...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

World AIDS Day

While the snow keeps us all at home, spare a thought for those 30 million people around the world who live with HIV/AIDS. It is World AIDS Day today - highlighted in the assembly last week. Have a look at the official website to find out more about what you can do to help raise awareness and money. Elton John has also guest edited the Independent today to highlight issues to do with the epidemic and articles include an interview with Elton John by Jimmy Carr, Bill Clinton's view of the issue and Stephen Fry's involvement with AIDS charities like the Terence Higgins Trust.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Scotland's new powers

Appropriately on St Andrew's Day, the government have published the new Scotland bill which will devolve further powers. The bill follows the Calman Commission of 2009 which put forward a series of recommendations about further devolution. These include the power to set new income tax rates from 2015, new borrowing powers and control over issues such as the speed limit and drink-driving. Agreed by the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the SNP unsurprisingly do not think it goes far enough and view it as a 'missed opportunity'. With Scottish elections next year, the three national parties will be hoping that it will appease those in Scotland wanting more power without encouraging further such demands from the SNP. What do you think?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Wikileaks strikes again

Julian Assange's Wikileaks (blocked at school) have gained access to over 250,000 diplomatic documents sent from the USA's embassies back to the State Department. They haven't published them in full on the internet this time, as they have often done in the past. Instead, they have given access to selected newspapers including The Guardian and The New York Times. Highly confidential information is therefore now out in the open, such as reports that the Saudi government urged the US to invade Iran, and that the Chinese government officially approved a cyber-attack on Google. It will take some time to process these reports and analyse their importance. Hillary Clinton had begun apologising over the weekend even before the reports were published.

There are differing reactions to how helpful Wikileaks' activities are. Michael White in The Guardian believes they can help to prevent abuses of power and keep governments in check. Historian Guy Walters (whose blog has been added to our list) thinks that the release of information like this will ultimately make politicians and civil servants more cautious about what they write down in their records, making it much more difficult for the historians of the future to assess their motivations for their actions. The impact of Wikileaks and similar websites will be felt for many years to come...

PS: Here is further comment on the subject from the historian Timothy Garton-Ash, a chance to download the data, and a video discussion (shown below) with The Guardian's editor of the significance of the leaks

PS: Here is further comment on the impact of Wikileaks for historians - from an American perspective.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Nonsuch Palace up for sale

A watercolour of Nonsuch Palace has been put up for sale by Christies, the auction house. It is one of the most realistic pictures of the palace available (it was only ever painted four times) and has rarely been seen in public. Sadly we can't afford it in the history department as it is expected to reach £1.2 million when it goes on sale...

Work began on the palace in 1538, with Henry VIII keen to copy some of his French rival Francis I's palaces. It wasn't completed in his lifetime, and his successors did not have the funds to maintain it properly. The London Historian's Blog describes it as a "white elephant which nonetheless must have been magnificent to behold."

There is little to see of the palace in Nonsuch Park today, but marker posts show where it stood, and you can see the "dip" in the path where its entrance once was. Not far away is the site of the banqueting house, a small building where Elizabeth and others would have been entertained after a busy day's hunting, perhaps even by Shakespeare himself...

Chinese Perspective on the Korean War

Korea is in the news again this week, after the North Koreans shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing four people and causing substantial damage. It has led to a considerable increase of tension on both sides and the threat of further conflict in the near future. These BBC articles examine why tensions are so high along the border, and why, as leader Kim Jong Il prepares for his son Kim Jong Un to take over, they might be escalating now.

The video shown above provides some historical perspective, interviewing a Chinese soldier, Wang Xinshan, who explains why he and his country felt so threatened at the time of the Korean War, and why China chose to intervene. A historian, Barbara Demick, meanwhile explains how ever since North Korean life has been completely dominated by the legacy of the war, with all of its citizens trained to believe that South Korea and its allies were fully responsible and might invade again with the smallest provocation.

PS: Here is an article with British soldiers' memories of their experiences in the Korean conflict.
PS: There is no official comment on the incident yet from North Korea's news agency. Here is a leading foreign policy blog's opinion on why this is the case.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thanksgiving (with a quiz!)

Today is Thanksgiving in the USA, and President Obama has marked it by traditionally "pardoning" a turkey (called Apple) and handing out food supplies at a local Washington charity. The day's origins come from 1621, when the surviving pilgrims from the Mayflower, half of whom had died during the winter from exposure or disease, shared a celebratory feast with the local Wampanoag tribe to acknowledge the successful harvest of their corn. The pilgrims had survived partly due to the help of Squanto, a Native American who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery before escaping to London and then back to America. He spoke perfect English and advised the pilgrims how to cultivate their crops and find food in the local environment.

The thanksgiving story caught the imagination of other settlers, and by the time of the Revolution most states held a day of thanksgiving, albeit on different dates. In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale (also author of the Nursery Rhyme "Mary had a little lamb" organised a campaign for a national holiday, and in 1863 Abraham Lincoln granted her request at the height of the Civil War, scheduling it for the last Thursday in November.

Thanksgiving remains the most traditional and family-orientated of America's holidays, one separated from any religious affiliations so that it can be enjoyed by all...except the turkeys.

PS: Here is a thanksgiving quiz from the BBC, and a more difficult version...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Margaret Thatcher's resignation

Today is the 20th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's resignation as Prime Minister. A controversial figure still today, she was nevertheless Britain's first and only woman Prime Minister, one of the longest serving prime ministers of the twentieth century and an important leader of political change. For those for whom this seems a long time ago, here are a few reminders of her resignation and her premiership as a whole: here is the BBC's On This Day article with some clips, the Telegraph's view and the New Stateman's selection of different views. Do you have any views on Margaret Thatcher? Is she an inspiration to budding female politicians or an example of how not to be a woman in politics?

Friday, 19 November 2010

JFK and the Art of Politics

Andrew Marr has written an article and will be presenting a programme on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy's successful presidential campaign. Kennedy has become iconic because of his youth, great speeches and tragic early death. Marr argues that if you study his campaign closely, the truth is rather more murky. Kennedy's political team (which included Ted Sorensen, who died recently) pulled every trick they could in order to secure victory. "It is a tale of soaring and risk-taking rhetoric..." writes Marr, "but also big money, smears, bribes, wire-pulling and bottomless cynicism." Marr believes this set the template for the modern political campaign, linked very clearly to the rapidly- developing world of advertising and PR as seen in "Mad Men". The most well known aspect of the campaign was the television debates (which we have blogged about before). One interesting fact was that Kennedy asked for a "comfort break" with a minute to go before transmission, and only reappeared with seconds to go. This clearly unsettled his opponent, Richard Nixon, who went on to deliver a rather flustered and unsteady performance. Let us know what you think of the programme.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi

A rather belated post about Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's release by the military junta last Saturday. Under house arrest for seven years, Suu Kyi is the leader of the pro-democracy party in Burma, the National League for Democracy. The party overwhelmingly won elections in 1990 but was prevented from taking power by the junta who continued its military dictatorship. Following the recent elections in Burma, widely criticised for not being free or fair, the NLD leader is now free but for how much longer and will her release really change Burma? Here is her interview with John Simpson and here some more information about the elections and the situation in Burma.
For some more discussion on Burma's history, see Laurence Rees's blog.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Anne Hyde

Nonsuch HP is of course delighted by the news that Prince William and Kate Middleton will get married next year. It has been noted that Kate is the first woman of a non-aristocratic background (or, as The Guardian put it, a "commoner") since Anne Hyde, who married James II in 1660. Her story is certainly very interesting. Anne's father was an adviser to James' brother Charles while the family was in exile during the protectorate. Anne was maid of honour to James' sister, Mary and it is said that James seduced her and was then forced to marry her (possibly in a secret ceremony in 1659, a year earlier than the official marriage). She was described as "plain" by Samuel Pepys, but the French ambassador considered her to have the "courage, cleverness and energy almost worthy of a King's blood." She had 8 children, but only 2 daughters survived past infancy - Mary and Anne, and she died 7 weeks after Anne's birth, aged 33, in 1671. She converted to Catholicism before her death, and probably influenced her husband to eventually do the same. His conversion led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when he was replaced by William of Orange, ruling jointly with his wife Mary, Charles and Anne's daughter.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Kate Rea

Kate Rea will be speaking at the Nonsuch HP society today (1.15 in the Library). She is a historical researcher and has also been involved in the production of documentaries such as "World War 2: Behind Closed Doors" (more details here). She has been closely involved in the creation of, recording much of the eye-witness testimony for the site. She read Russian and Russian History at Cambridge and will be speaking in particular about her interest in that subject today. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Garrow's Law

For those mourning the loss of Downton Abbey, Garrow's Law is a great replacement. Set in 18th century London, it tells the tale of William Garrow, a pioneering barrister at the Old Bailey, and his defence of various unsavoury cases. Before the opening up of the Old Bailey's archives Garrow was little known even among the legal community. This series uses these archives to explore his character and the developments that were made in the legal profession by him at the end of the 18th century. Last night's episode dealt with the case of the Zong slave ship: 'When 133 African prisoners are thrown overboard from a slave ship in suspicious circumstances, Garrow challenges the brutal trade that regards slaves as cargo'. Although a real case, Garrow did not actually take this particular case on but he was a campaigner against the slave trade. How do writers of historical dramas reconcile fact with fiction? Tony Marchant, who wrote Garrow's Law, explains how he did it.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Lembit in the Jungle

Ex-politician and friend of Nonsuch, Lembit Öpik has joined this year's crew for I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. You see his thoughts on this in this ITV video. He will be joined by, amongst others, Linford Christie, Stacey Solomon and "Dr" Gillian McKeith. How do we feel about this? Does he have the potential to be a winner? How will it affect his bid to be Mayor of London? Please let us know.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Armistice Day and Gloster Valley

Today is Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day as it is often known. At 11am (11.15 at Nonsuch) people will pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by British and Commonwealth soldiers (and the many civilians killed) in a century of conflicts. This year's ceremonies have a particular pertinence as the mark the 90th anniversary of the dedication of the Cenotaph, the country's official memorial to its war dead in Whitehall, and the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Westminster Abbey. You can read more about how the soldier was selected and laid to rest in the abbey here and watch a short film about the Cenotaph, shown above.

PS: David Cameron (shown above with Julia Gillard) has marked Armistice Day by visiting Gloster Valley in Korea, where he has laid a wreath to commemorate the sacrifices of British soldiers at the Battle of Imjin River (more archive material here) in the Korean War. Against vastly superior Chinese forces, the soldiers put up a strong resistance defending their position - 59 died and 526 were taken prisoner. This resistance delayed the Chinese advance, preventing them from outflanking the United Nations forces. The cemetery is a very moving, evocative place, and it is very appropriate that the Prime Minister was able to acknowledge the sacrifices that British soliders made during this largely "forgotten" war.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Decade's Most Significant...

Mrs Budden launched today Nonsuch HP's quest to find the most significant event, person or development from the previous decade. Above is the powerpoint with a few ideas, but please let us know your thoughts. What would be your choice, and have we missed anything out?

PS: If you're not sure, here is plenty of material from the Guardian to help you, including reviews of the significant news events, politicians, films and music videos of the decade.

PPS: If you're having trouble seeing the powerpoint, you can download it here.

Remembrance: The Sikh Story

A programme about the Indian contribution to the two World Wars, focusing in particular on participation by Sikh soldiers was shown on BBC1 last night and is available on iPlayer. More soldiers from India fought in these wars for the Empire than the soldiers of Scotland, Wales and Ireland put together. It includes the last interview with World War 2 Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji, and the first television broadcast of a rare audio recording of a World War One Sikh prisoner of war, handed to Britain in 2010 after 94 years in German hands. It's about 30 minutes long, and well worth seeing.

PS: Here is a further article about the Indian contribution to the Western Front in World War One. There are further fascinating photos like the one above here.

Western Dominance?

This BBC article asks why the West (ie Western Europe and North America) was able to dominate politics and economics for the past two centuries, but may well now be losing its advantage to the economies of Asia such as China (which David Cameron is visiting this week) and India. The answer, according to a theory by Ian Morris, of Stanford University, is geography, and in particular the Atlantic Ocean, which was "just the right size" for ships to cross and develop trade from the variety of regions around it. This increased trade created intense competition and imposed a scientific revolution, buoyed by Asian inventions such as gunpowder. Mechanisation and the Industrial Revolution followed, giving an immediate advantages to countries such as Great Britain which were able to use their naval power to build and maintain an empire. (You could also note that these were also the perfect conditions for encouraging the slave trade, which brought profits to England and America for almost 200 years.) Improvement in transport and communications has now reduced the impact of the Pacific Ocean's size, allowing the economies of the East to reassert themselves.

The combination of History and Geography has been considered before when considering long term causes, such as the "Guns, Germs and Steel" theories of Jared Diamond and makes some uncomfortable that historical outcomes are inevitable because of factors beyond our control. What do you think?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Simon Schama's vision

The historian Simon Schama, who is advising the government on revising the History Curriculum, has written this article in the Guardian about his vision for his vision for how British History should be taught in an increasingly globalised culture. "Even during the toughest trials it's our history that binds us together as a distinctive community in an otherwise generically globalised culture," he writes. "Mother Teresa and Lady Gaga are multinationals; Oliver Cromwell and Margaret Thatcher are peculiarly ours."

The six subjects he thinks every child should know are:

1. The murder of Thomas Becket
2. The Black Death and Peasants Revolt
3. The excecution of Charles I
4. The British Empire in India
5. The Irish Conflict - in particular the relationship between Charles Parnell and William Gladstone
6. The Opium Wars between Britain and China

Nonsuch covers the first four topics at Key Stage 3. Should we include the others? What other subjects do you think are essential for every child to know?

Bush's Decision Points

The Nonsuch English Blog brought up Bush's imminent publication last week. Bush has now given an interview to NBC about his book which Mark Mardell has commented on in his blog. Bush has also released his own description of his book on Youtube. The book is released tomorrow - enjoy!

ps for those upset by Obama's 'shellacking' by the voters last week in the mid-terms, Andrew Rawnsley had some more upbeat analysis of what it might mean for his chances in 2012.

PPS: Here are some early reviews of Bush's book.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The First World War from Above

BBC1 showed this evening a fascinating documentary using archive aerial photography from the First World War to show the extent of the destruction created by the conflict. Film footage from an airship showed in close detail how much damage had been wrought both on the battlefields and towns such as Ypres, which was totally devastated and yet still had people on the ground trying to make some sort of a living. The film also touched upon the efforts needed by Royal Flying Corps pilots to take the photographs (their death rates were higher than soldiers in the trenches) and the work of the tunnellers, who set off massive underground explosions (leaving craters still visible today) to try and gain a military advantage. The size of the 29 simultaneous explosions at Messines, near Ypres, was so great it "rattled the teacups in Downing Street". Highly recommended viewing for this Remembrance Week.

PS: More examples of the photography can be seen here and here. The photo at the top of this post shows a German barracks (identified by the British by the flowerbeds the soldiers had dug to amuse themselves) before and after it was shelled.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Is Britain a Liberal Democracy?

The Year 12 Politics group (and the fruit machine) have been debating today whether Britain can be described as a truly Liberal Democracy. What are your opinions? Please add them below, plus any links of interest.

Guy Fawkes Quiz

Happy Bonfire Night! To celebrate the 405 anniversary of the Guy Fawkes' failed plot to blow up Parliament, here is a quiz from the BBC, a biography of Guy Fawkes, and a link to the Gunpowder Plot Society's home page. Have a good weekend and enjoy the fireworks!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Women in American elections

It has been claimed 'The Year of the Conservative Woman' or Mama Grizzlies as Sarah Palin would say conservative women were. What does this really mean? Certainly the elections today will not mean more women in Congress. In fact, there will be fewer if the Republicans make the gains expected - possibly even the lowest number for 40 years. Are they advocating women's rights? They tend not to focus on women's traditional issues and put forward more traditionally male issues such as the concern about the deficit and taxation. Is this post-feminism as claimed in this US News article? Certainly, Democrat women do not see it that way. They argue that repealing healthcare is not helpful to women and the children that the mama grizzlies have supposedly reared up on their hind legs to protect. Michelle Obama in her recent speech for Harry Reid was forceful in her refutation of this argument. The Times have a good article on these arguments which will be up in the Study Room tomorrow.

ps on American women, see here for the story of Dilma Rousseff, who has just won the presidency of Brazil.

10 Unfortunate Midterm Ads

This Guardian article highlights 10 of the more tactless ads put out during the midterm election, including Christine O'Donnell's "I am not a witch...I'm you" video (above), and a rather creepy (and xenophobic) ad from the "Citizens against public waste (below). You'll need Youtube access to watch these, but let us know what you think!

PS: Here is a good comment on the significancd of the midterms from Mark Mardell, plus a good round-up of stories from the BBC. Here is Comedy Central (Home of the Daily Show)'s election site, and analysis of their recent "Rally to restore sanity"

Monday, 1 November 2010

Ted Sorensen

Ted Sorensen, John F Kennedy's speech writer, has died. He cooperated with JFK to write such famous lines as "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" from the President's inaugural speech. His close relationship with Kennedy was particularly important during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when he drafted with Bobby Kennedy a letter to Nikita Khrushchev. This careful piece of diplomacy ignored some of Khrushchev's harsher comments but agreed to remove missiles from the US base in Turkey, persuading the Soviets to withdraw their missiles from Cuba. "That's what I'm proudest of," he once said. "Never had this country, this world, faced such great danger. You and I wouldn't be sitting here today if that had gone badly." You can read more about Sorensen here, plus his comments on Kennedy's inaugural speech here.

Elephant Rescue

An amazing story has emerged today of how a British tea planter rescued hundreds of refugees fleeing the Japanese in Burma in World War 2 using a team of elephants. Gyles Mackrell learned in summer 1942 that British soldiers and civilians were trapped the other side of a swollen river, surviving on rations dropped by the RAF. He believed his team of elephants could be used to rescue them so he trekked 100 miles through the jungle in a week. The river crossing was incredibly dangerous and the elephants and their handlers "took terrible risks being washed away and broken to pieces". Over 200 people were saved and he was given the George medal for his courage. You can read more about the story here and watch archive footage here.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Obama and the mid-terms

The mid-term elections are less than a week away now and the predictions are still dire for the Democrats. Next week, it is likely that the Republicans will have won control of the House and substantially reduced the Democrat majority in the Senate. There is so much to read and look at on the Internet on the elections, here are just a few suggestions: Obama has appeared on Jon Stewart's Daily Show (on Channel 4 OD) which is interesting for his defence to his own rather disappointed supporters and for his constitutional reform suggestions; The Economist has an article setting out why Obama has disappointed but that the criticism has been overblown and another on the electoral position at the moment; the BBC has a special website with a range of articles and features such as the races to watch, the issues of the election and the craziest campaign moments.
What would you suggest? Have you found any good websites?

The Chilean Mine Rescue documentary

A must see if you want to keep faith with human nature. The extraordinary story of the survival of the 33 miners is worth watching again for the way in which so many people pulled together to make sure that they got out. It is on Channel 4 OD - Buried Alive: The Chilean Mine Rescue

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Spending Review - What did you think?

So the spending review has finally been announced. £81 billion of cuts have been made, 490,000 public sector jobs are likely to be lost, departments will have to face an average of 19% cuts and the retirement age is going up to 66. On the other hand, the school budget has been protected, the NHS budget is to rise, and museum entry remains free. You can download the entire document (as a PDF file)here. What do you think? The "fairness" of the cuts has already caused some debate, but George Osborne has stated that "There is no Plan B". We would very much like to hear your opinions!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Did Richard have Breakfast?

Once again there has been a discussion during a lesson on the Battle of Bosworth about whether Richard had breakfast or not, and whether this affected the battle. The main evidence we have for this is the Crowland Chronicle, written in 1486. When describing events on the morning of 22 August 1485, the author states,

'At day-break on Monday morning there were no chaplains on King Richard's side ready to celebrate mass, nor any breakfast prepared to restore his flagging spirits. For he had seen dreadful visions in the night, in which he was surrounded by a multitude of demons, as he himself testified in the morning. He consequently presented a countenance which, always drawn, was on this occasion more livid and ghastly than ususal, and asserted that the issue of this day's battle, to whichever side the victory was granted, would be the utter destruction of the kingdom of England.

It's not the only time breakfast is mentioned in the battle. The Ballad of Bosworth Field, written in the late 16th Century, describes this exchange between Lord Stanley and Sir William Stanle, after Lord Stanley has discovered that his son, Lord Strange has been kidnapped:
"I make mine avow to Marye, that may,
& to her sonne that died on tree,
I will make him such a breakefast vpon a day
as neuer made Knight any King in Cristetntye!"

And so later on, when Sir William Stanley sees Henry in danger from Richard's final attack...
"Sir William Stanley, wise & worthie
remembred the brea[k]ffast hee hett to him;
downe att a backe then cometh hee,
& shortlye sett vpon the Kinge."

So, breakfast (or at least the promise of one) clearly played a crucial part in the battle, leading to Henry's victory and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty. Does anyone know of any other crucial meal-based moments in history?