Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Caption Competition

Comments please! (Slightly dated photograph taken from here).

The Russian Spy Ring

While Presidents Obama and Medvedev ate hamburgers in Virginia, the net was closing in on a ring of 11 Russian spies who had operated in America for over 10 years. They have been accused of taking false identities and acting as "sleeper agents", pretending to be American citizens whilst passing back information to Russia. The revelations have led to huge media coverage, particularly over 28 year old Anna Chapman (see picture below), who had a lively Facebook account with photographs of herself in glamourous locations. Although they often used the internet to pass on information, the agents seem to have used remarkably traditional methods as well, such as secret drop off points and codewords, just like in Cold War espionage stories.

There are some interesting comments on the affair, such as this article from the creator of Spooks suggesting fact is often stranger than fiction, and this analysis that the spy ring, despite the huge effort the Russian security service must have put into it, has actually yielded very little of value. Perhaps the inadequacy of their efforts is the reason why both the US and Russia are optimistic that the affair will cause little damage to their relationship in the long-term, once the media have stopped showing pictures of Anna Chapman...

PS: Some more good stuff here from the BBC, including the history of deep-cover spies, like British agent Kim Philby, who spied for the KGB for 20 years, and a profile of the SVR, formally known as the KGB (Committee for State Security), which can trace its roots back to the Russian Civil War in 1920.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Inspiring pictures

You may have noticed that until recently we had a St George's flag on the side of the blog, but this of course has now gone after events at the weekend (helpfully summarised in lego here). We wondered if there were any other suitable inspiring images that should go there - preferably on an HP theme! If you have any suggestions please send them in - if there are any interesting websites to link to that can be arranged to. The best suggestions will be posted and in the meantime, as an incentive to get you contributing, a picture of Glenn Beck (and links to his book reviews) will stand as a temporary replacement...

Friday, 25 June 2010

Obama and the General

Obama is trying to renew purpose and unity for the war in Afghanistan after the departure of General Stanley McChrystal. His resignation/sacking on Tuesday after an unwise interview by Rolling Stone Magazine has led to questions over both the personnel and policy involved in the conflict. Here is the magazine article and here is Mark Urban from Newsnight's blog which is a good start to trying to work out the reason for this turn of events.
McCrystal has been replaced by General David Petraeus, currently Commander of the US Central Command.

60th Anniversary of the Korean War

60 years ago today, on 25 June 1950, North Korean troops invaded South Korea and the Korean War began. The conflict lasted 3 years and caused many casualties, including 2 million civilians. The war has a reputation as the "Forgotten War" in Britain and America but of course is strongly remembered in North and South Korea, which have held very different commemorations to mark the anniversary.

There is plenty of coverage of the anniversary, including this impressive BBC slideshow and this thoughtful piece in the Independent, explaining how the West were caught off guard (the British government were initially reluctant to get involved and not every minister knew exactly where Korea was) by the invasion and how Truman clashed with General MacArthur over whether nuclear weapons should be used. Truman's view prevailed, and Korea remained a "limited war". This was an unpopular decision for many, and Korea remained divided once the ceasefire was agreed in 1953. Tensions continue in the peninsular, as the recent sinking of a South Korean warship have demonstrated, but hopefully the memory of the massive destruction and loss of live of the previous war will be a sufficient incentive to prevent further conflict.

PS: Here are the views of British veterans who fought in the conflict, many of whom were carrying out their national service and had had no idea where Korea was. "It was trench warfare," said one. "We laid in the trenches and dug holes in the sides of the mountains every now and then and that's where we lived. They were rat-infested. I think I was more afraid of them than I was of the Chinese." Meanwhile here are the views of Chinese soldiers who fought in the conflict. The sacrifices they made make them reluctant to abandon North Korea now, despite its increasingly erratic behaviour.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Australia's New PM

In a rapid turn of events, Kevin Rudd, Labor Prime Minister of Australia since 2007, resigned last night when it became clear that he would not win a leadership ballot. He has been replaced by Julia Gillard, Australia's first ever female Prime Minister. She had previously been the Deputy Prime Minister and was unopposed when the ballot went ahead. Until recently Rudd had been very popular but ran into trouble over a planned super tax on mining and his decision to drop an emissions trading scheme, which led to him being branded as "gutless" by rival politicians. Here is the Sydney Morning Herald's perspective, including the judgement that Australia has "wasted a perfectly good PM".

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

History of Slovenia

It seems appropriate to consider the History of Slovenia this week, so here is some interesting information about the country. It was mainly ruled by Austria-Hungary until 1918 - although it was was briefly liberated by Napoleon and remains fond of the Emperor. It contained an important front during World War 1, when Italy and Austro-Hungarian troops fought bitterly in very difficult conditions. More recently it was an influential region of Yugoslavia, but was one of the first to demand independence in 1991. This led to a 10 day war at the end of which it broke away from Yugoslavia and joined the EU a year later. It's well worth a visit!

PS: Here is a list of famous Slovenians...

Budget Calculator

Today is Budget Day, and George Osborne will reveal the Coalition's latest plans to cut the deficit. The BBC have produced this Budget Calculator to give you the chance to run the Treasury and make your own cuts. What would you cut, and why? Let us know your thoughts.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Football North Korean Style

North Korea have not had the best of days after losing 7-0 to Portugal, but this article provides a fascinating insight into the team and its devoted followers. The dominant team in the North Korean League is known as "April 25" - the founding date of the Korean People's Army who effectively run it and supply many of the players for the national side. Interestingly, Jong-Tae-Se, the team's star player (known for his tearful performances during the national anthem) was born in and plays in Japan but chose to represent North Korea, where his family (and many other Korean immigrants in Japan) originally came from. North Korea has one thing in common with England - both countries are nostalgic about 1966. England may have won the World Cup, but North Korea scored an impressive victory against Italy and reached the Quarter-Finals, only just losing out to Portugal. Sadly they didn't get the chance to avenge that match today...

Friday, 18 June 2010

De Gaulle's broadcast

President Sarkozy is in the UK today to commemmorate the 70th anniversary of General De Gaulle's broadcast from the BBC studios in London to the French just before France's surrender to the Germans in 1940. The French resistance was inspired by his words - "Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished" - and De Gaulle's leadership was an important feature of the Second World War. See the BBC's report and the Guardian's report at the weekend of a new biography which uncovers Britain's suspicion of De Gaulle. France's celebrations of events during the Second World War tend to be more muted than Britain's due to its Nazi occupation so it is particularly important for it to promote De Gaulle's and the French Resistance's activities.

PS: Here is a fascinating comment from the head of BBC History on the significance of the speech - it is a really important event for the French and Nicolas Sarkozy himself has said 'We are all the children of the 18 June' Here is further comment (in French) from L'Express.

PPS: June 18 also marks the 70th Anniversary of Churchill's "Finest Hour" speech, the third of 3 famous speeches given during his first month as Prime Minister. The Sun have made the most of this occasion as you can see below...

Execution by firing squad

Utah eventually executed Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad just after midnight local time. The method of execution was outlawed in the state in 2004 but as he chose it before that date he was still allowed to opt for it. He had been on death row for 25 years for murder. Read the grizzly details here if you can face it. The Guardian also reports the story. What is your opinion? Is the firing squad worse than lethal injection or hanging?

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Niall Ferguson and the History Curriculum

The historian Niall Ferguson has been invited by Michael Gove to overhaul the way history is taught in schools. Ferguson has spoken regularly about the need to teach the "Big Story" in history, encouraging a greater sense of chronology and connection between more popular school topics such as Henry VIII, Adolf Hitler and Martin Luther King. He is working on a four year syllabus (supported by a Channel Four series) that would emphasize in particular the rise of Western European society. Michael Gove is certainly impressed by this, although he has stopped short of supporting Ferguson's call for History to be made compulsory. Here is one response to his comments. What are your thoughts on this?

PS: Here is a comment from Martin Kettle who believes modern multicultural Britain lacks a common culture to support the sustainable teaching of a common history. Do you agree?

PPS: Here is a Daily Mail article from 2009 that believes "Trendy teaching is 'producing a generation of history numbskulls"

PPPS: The Radio 4 Programme "Analysis" has just covered this issue, asking whether Ferguson's proposals can really be a force for social cohesion. You can listen to the programme here and read a summary of it here.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

History and Heritage

Here is a passionate article by Professor Richard Overy who is concerned that his subject is splitting into populist "Heritage" history and what would be regarded as inaccessbile "academic" history. It provides some interesting food for thought about the nature and direction of the subject - worth a read (as is this response) if you are preparing a UCAS personal statement!

PS: If you find any other useful / thgouht-provoking articles for UCAS preparation, please let us know.

PPS: The image is from the Tobu World Square Park in Japan - where 42 of the world's historical landmarks have been reproduced in miniature...

Bloody Sunday

The final report of the Saville Inquiry is due to be published today, which has investigated the events of Bloody Sunday on 30 January 1972 when 13 people on a civil rights march were shot dead by soldiers in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The shootings were one of the most controversial events of "The Troubles" - Northern Ireland's recent turbulent political history, and the unrest that followed led to the imposition of direct rule from London which lasted for over 30 years. The Inquiry has proved controversial, particularly for the length of time it has taken and its expense. The Inquiry has interviewed all of the key individuals and runs to 5000 pages in length, but it is unlikely that everyone will be satisfied by its final outcome.

PS: Here is a overview of Northern Ireland's history to put the events into context.

PPS: Here is the official website of the inquiry

PPPS: Here is an interesting article from the Times comparing the Inquiry to French reluctance to examine the role of the Vichy collaborators, considering differing attitudes to whether the past should be faced or buried.

Monday, 14 June 2010

GCSE Revision

This section of the site has some really helpful information for GCSE revision,including links to other sites. The interactive diagrams seem particularly useful - you can even customise and print off your own. Year 10 revisers may also find this of use!

Republicans and the Tea Party

A great article for those A2 students revising American parties from the Economist this week. What do you think the prospects are for the Republican Party?

Nonsuch HP at the first Labour Leadership Debate

"It's toniiiigggghhhttttt!!!"

This whisper (we were in the school library) starts to reflect the amount of excitement felt by four Nonsuch HP students, two year 12s and two year 13s, three card carrying Labour Party members and one who we're yet to convince, on the day that we went to see David Miliband the very first Labour Leadership debate hosted by New Statesman on Wednesday 9th June 2010.

In the spirit of Nonsuch HP's new internet safeguarding policy, we have been kindly asked to keep our identities protected, and from here on in we shall be known as only HC, CS, AT1 and AT2. Sadly, the price of ensuring our internet safety has been that the photographic evidence of the pièce de résistance of our evening cannot be posted here. We're sure you can already guess who was in that photo. *

As the very first guest editors of Nonsuch HP (much like guests to BBC radio programs) we can, and will, throw most of our impartiality out of the window. So, this is the story of four 'anonymous' Milibandites who went to the first Labour Leadership debate. Enjoy, but be warned: it's long.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Nonsuch HP's Internet Safety Policy

Updated: 11 October 2012

Internet safety is becoming an increasing concern, particularly as many people have unwittingly shared private information through social networking sites such as Facebook. Nonsuch HP is obviously very concerned about this and recommends sites such as "Think U Know" and Facebook's own security page to follow the latest advice.

We have therefore set up a Safeguarding Policy to protect our readers which is published below. Please take time to read it and let us know your comments and if any particular changes are needed.

PS: You may enjoy clicking on the picture to see some of the safety signs in more detail...

The Nonsuch HP Blog: Safeguarding Policy

Since it was created in May 2009, the Nonsuch HP Blog has been very successful at creating interest in historical and political topics and sharing useful information and resources. Clearly as the blog is a public website accessible by all it is important to ensure the safety of everyone using it to prevent personal details being passed on to a third party. These are the steps we have put in concerning safeguarding:

1. We do not publish pictures or specific details of students on the blog. If a student’s work is highlighted on the blog (such as a powerpoint or a poster) it will not contain personal information about its author.

2. We do not post articles focusing on individual students and their activities.

3. Students who comment are free to publish anonymously and are encouraged not to include personal information about themselves.

4. All comments are read and can be deleted by members of staff.

5. Student comments should not reveal extra personal information about their authors. Students who are members of Google or Blogger may show links back to other blogs they follow if they choose but that is the limit of information that can be provided.

6. All students are strongly encouraged not to reveal information about themselves to anyone who makes contact with them via the internet.

Clearly the internet is a continually-changing environment and we will continue to monitor and adapt the blog if further changes are required in the future.


Nonsuch HP now has a presence on Twitter. The steps mentioned above will also be applied to any posts or comments made where relevant. Furthermore…

1. We will accept students as followers of our Twitter feed, but will not follow their personal accounts ourselves.

2. We will not use the Twitter feed to express personal or private opinions, but to raise awareness of historical or political issues.

3. We will encourage students to use Twitter responsibly and to refrain from making any comments that were derogatory towards other users

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Korean Roof Tiles

The BBC and the British Museum's "History of the World in 100 Objects" series has nearly reached the halfway mark, and this evening included a fascinating description of a Korean roof tile, decorated with a dragon, from the 7th Century AD. The programme explained that this came from the "golden age" of Korean history, when the peninsular was largely unified under the Silla Kingdom. A new capital was built at Kyongju, complete with fantastic tiled roofs - a sign of wealth and sophistication but also much better at preventing fires than traditional thatch. The Kingdom's relationship with the much more powerful China was wary, just as it is today, and the programme noted that as Silla's power base was largely in the South, it is much more revered in South Korea than in the North, which prefers to look elsewhere for inspiration.

The programmes last 15 minutes each are available to download or podcast and are highly recommended. Please let us know if you come across any other interesting objects!

Dulce et Decorum Est

Here is a video of Mr Dant giving his thoughts on the poetry of Wilfred Owen and others during Miss D'Souza's class today, including some recitals in Latin! Many thanks to Mr Dant for his help and his agreement to appear on the blog. (It takes a moment to load up but stick with it!)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Who will be the next Labour leader?

The battle will now commence. There are 5 candidates running - the Miliband brothers (David and Ed), Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott. Abbott will be the outsider in the contest, only just securing enough backers to be in the competition after John McDonnell pulled out, and being the 'Old Labour' candidate, in her 50s, black and female! The result will be announced on 25th September at the Labour Party Conference. Who do you think will win? And who do you want to win? Here is information about each one which might help you decide

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

History Pin

This interesting site blends old photographs with Google Street View, to provide context to historical events, such as this picture of cyclists during the 1926 General Strike in the City of London. People are invited to download their own old photographs to create an interactive local "personal" history site, so start rummaging through your grandparents attic!

The site is created by "We are what we do" - which aims to encourage people to carry out simple ideas to benefit each other, such as spending more time with someone from a different generation. If you find any good ideas here worth sharing, let us know - there is a whole section devoted to schools, for example!

PS: Here are further comments from History Today.

Codebreakers in WWII

Bletchley Park's documents are to be digitised and put online. The site where WWII's code and cipher school were based has a long-term project to make the documents available to the public. See the story on the BBC and the Times.
A group of Year 8 Maths and History pupils visited the site yesterday and had a fantastic time touring the Park where about 10,000 people were eventually based but that remained top secret both during the war and for three decades afterwards. We were able to use the German Enigma machine that encrypted and decrypted German messages and saw the first digitised computer called Colossus which took up a large room!
Another cross-curricular link with the History Department was made by Year 9 who visited Jersey over half-term to go to Gerald Durrell's Wildlife Conservation Trust. While on the island, they visited the Jersey War Tunnels Museum which also displays an Enigma machine. Jersey, and the other Channel Islands, had a very different experience of the War to the rest of the UK as they were invaded and occupied by the Germans. See the War Tunnels site here for more information.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Select committee change

New parliamentary reforms brought in at the end of the last parliament have meant that select committee chairmen are to be elected by the House of Commons rather than chosen by the party whips. This could result in more power for the legislature against the executive and is obviously one of many constitutional reforms this blog will be talking about... See Peter Riddell's comment in the Times plus the accompanying article looking at who is in the running for the chairmanship of the Treasury Select Committee.