Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Home Office History Test

The Home Office have updated their “Life in the UK” test for migrants wishing to settle in this country with a greater emphasis on British History.
Here are 10 sample questions  from the new test, which they believe will help migrants to integrate more successfully into the country by having a better understanding of British history and culture. Key figures that people will be expected to know about include The Home Office says key figures will feature in their questions, including:
  • Writers such as William Shakespeare and Robert Burns 
  • Scientists Isaac Newton and Alexander Fleming
  • Engineers and industrialists such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Richard Arkwright
  • Politicians including Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee
Do you agree with these choices, and is history crucial to understanding the British better? Please let us know.
PS: Here is a further test from the Huffington Post and David Cameron's interview with David Letterman where he had to answer similar questions...

PPS: Here is the Guardian's view on the new test...

Hitler's Rise to Power

Today is the 80th Anniversary of Hitler's appointment of Chancellor of Germany in 1933. President Hindenburg finally agreed to do so to resolve Germany's political and economic deadlock. It of course marked the beginning of the process which led to Hitler becoming absolute dictator and dismantling the democratic Weimar Republic. The photos above show Hitler acknowledging the crowd on that day and being photographed with his cabinet (Fellow Nazi Herman Göring is on the left of Hitler, and Vice Chancellor von Papen is on his right)

A series of events will take place across Germany to mark the anniversary, and Chancellor Angela Merkel will give a speech to open the "Road to Dictatorship" exhibition at the former SS Headquarters in Berlin. You can read more about what happened on 30 January 1933 here at the History Place website which is also quite handy for its coverage of American History. More GCSE focused work on Hitler's rise to power can be seen here (Spartacus) and here (John D Clare).

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Obama's Inaugural Address

Here is the full text of President Obama's Inaugural Address which he gave yesterday. It is well worth reading, and makes plenty of allusions to the United States' history as well as to the challenges ahead. One of its most well-quoted phrases was:

"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall"

This not only makes a reference to the Declaration of Independence but also to three important moments in America's social history:

Seneca Falls, New York, was the location of a pioneering convention on women's rights in 1848, arguing in particular for women's right to vote which was eventually granted nationally by the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Selma, Alabama was the starting point for a series of marches in 1965 demanding Civil Rights and fair treatment of black voters in the state. The violent repression of the marches and the speeches of Martin Luther King (Coincedentally, yesterday was Martin Luther King day in the USA) directly led to President Johnson presenting the Voting Rights Bill to Congress with these words...

Even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause, too, because it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.

The Stonewall Riots were a series of demonstrations by New York's gay community that took place outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969. They were angered by America's repressive laws against homosexuality and in particular hostile treatment by the police, whose attempted raid on the Inn had led to the riots. The demonstations brought gay rights to wider public attention and in particular led to the Gay Pride movement which grew out of an event to mark the anniversary of the riots. Obama's address was the first time the word "gay" had been used in this particular context.

There is plenty of comment on his speech. Here is Gary Yonge from the Guardian's verdict. Please let us know if you find any reactions that are particularly interesting.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Should the USA use drones?

An interesting article here from the Guardian on the use of drones after one of Obama's former security advisers criticised their use.  Another article on the same issue here from the Washington Post.  What do you think?   Why do you think Obama is finding them so useful?  Does he need to be 'reined in' over their use by Congress? Or do you think they should be banned?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Happy New Year

Hope everyone has had a fantastic Christmas break and a very good 2013 so far.
Below are some interesting articles to get you thinking about some issues this year.
First of all, the gun control issue in the USA is due to be a big feature of Obama's political year as he tries to persuade Republicans to pass some sort of gun control legislation.  Here is a Jonathan Freedland article from the Guardian about why it is so difficult to achieve in the USA.
Another key issue so far this year has been the public outcry about the treatement of women in India after a female student was gang-raped and murdered on a bus in Delhi.  Shocking new information is revealed daily about the problems there from female infanticide and abortion to now in this BBC article the trafficking of women that results from a shortage of women.  Feminism Society recently held a session on this worrying situation.
Lastly, this is an article about the latest film about to come out about the killing of Osama Bin Laden by Kathryn Bigelow, the first female director to win an Oscar.  Naomi Wolf criticises it for 'peddling the lie that CIA detentions led to Bin Laden's killing' and compares her with the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, who you might remember from GCSE History.  A nice combination of History and Politics!  Now the US Senate Intelligence Committee has asked to see the information that the film producers received about the use of torture, BBC article attached.  Please comment if you see the film and tell us what you think (it is classified as a 15 certificated film remember).