Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Original Badman: Caligula

Being the stereo-typical teenager I am, a relaxing holiday is all very well and good, but I may as well be living in a third-world country without the telly. Without the telly, there is very little to stop my world descending into the pits of madness, as I loose all remnants of civilization and become reminiscent of Jack in 'Lord of the Flies'. Yesterday evening, I was made aware of the beginning of the fall into savagery  slowly taking place, by the zeal with which I devoured the barbecued pork I had had for dinner, and so decided it was time to top up on my good old telly fix. Bored, I picked up the remote, settled myself in the corner of the caravan, dropped the spear I had made (the promise of telly already reversing the process), and settled on a programme: Caligula. I recognized the name vaguely from the 'Horrible Histories' books that I had read in primary school, remembering that the reason good old Caligula had stuck in my memory was that he was certifiably nuts, and (as you've probably noticed), I've always had a bit of a thing for the crazy ones. So it was with interest that I settled down, preparing for an hour of good old Roman history.

The first surprise, probably, came from the presenter herself: Mary Beard. Now, I'm not quite sure who is responsible for this reprehensible and, frankly, criminal idea, but somebody had clearly told Mary that she needed to be slightly more 'down with the kids'. Dear god, the horror. I first realized that something was so very wrong, when she told us that Caligula ''had a bit of a hangover'', when (steel yourself), ''he was jumped by a posse''. Nope, you didn't hear wrong: Caligula, jumped, with a hangover, by a posse. Not a cohort, or an assembly. A posse. From the first sentence of this documentary, it was obviously meant to become apparent that Beard had gone street. Like, she's chatting some proper slang to the yoof about history and ting, aight? Don't go messing with Caligula cos he will mess you up big time bruva. 

Or maybe the hungover posse-jumping was just Beards way of leading up to the first big secret: Caligula isn't really Caligula's real name. Confused? Me too. Apparently, Caligula's Mum had decided he was to be like an army mascot, and so dressed him up in a little soldiers uniform, right down to the shoes, or caliga. You see where I'm going here... Caligula, was in fact a nickname, and translates as 'Little Boots', or as the new street-wise Mary tells us, 'Diddums'. According to her, he would have told people to call him by his real name: Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, and been horrified to think that people knew him as 'Emperor Diddums'. But then again, his full name is a bit difficult for the yoof to get their teeth around.  

Then we move on, to the crib of emperor Tiberius, the previous Emperor of Rome, where Caligula is taught about the art of being an emperor: the skills of terror and largess.  Mary tells us that Tiberius, Caligula's uncle, 'chucked' his enemies off a cliff face into the sea below, and that young Caligula would have been taught not to show emotions, even when his mother and brothers had been killed.  

I'm not going to tell you the tales of Caligula's madness and cruelty, because I feel that it's been done to death by pretty much everybody. And it wasn't in the programme. Instead, I'm going to dispel a few of the rumors, my eyes having been opened by my main girl, Mary Beard. For example, there is no official record that Caligula actually did make his horse Incitatus a consul, and Mary tells us that the idea was nothing more than 'a bit of banter', something he had joked about in order to play around with his human consuls. We are also told that the tales of incest between him and his sister are never verified, so sorry if you were expecting Caligula to be slightly more dramatically deranged.

Anyway, you don't have to commit incest and make your horse a consul to come across as 'a sandwich short of a picnic'. You could always tell the British public that Caligula was a bit hungover when he got jumped by a posse. Innit Bruv. 

Friday, 26 July 2013

Events That Changed The World

Well, I think it's fair to say that I am, officially 'On Holiday'. A holiday complete with no proper chairs, a caravan that I've found out does not have space for a teenager, an adult, and a baby; and a ridiculously loud family in the pitch next to mine that don't think there's an issue with speaking to the two dogs. Take it from me and everyone else unfortunate enough to be pitched near them; it is definitely an issue. Yep, all the signs point to a good old fashioned British  holiday - just add rain. 

Now, you're probably wondering why exactly i'm babbling on seemingly incessantly about my holiday, which doesn't seem at all historical or political, though it may get criminal if the family next door don't turn off their C.D player, which blares out 'Aga-doo' 24/7. But the point is, when i'm on holiday and the Television Ariel has been left next to the caravan definitely not working by any stretch of the imagination, I read. Not small-time, few pages a day reading. Oh no. Proper, book-a-day reading. I don't read, I Read. And if I'm going to Read, then I probably need some books. So I set off yesterday with my purse decidedly lighter and my bag decidedly heavier with the weight of a whole library. The Kingmakers Daughter has been read and finished, and I have now started on 'Dominion', by C.J Samson. 

I won't bore you with the story line,but basically Dominion follows an England where Churchill did not become Prime Minister, but rather Halifax, who continued his policy of appeasement with Hitler instead of challenging him. It's a very good read, and I'd recommend it 100%  , but it really got me thinking on other decisions in history, other changes, that changed the landscape of the country. Protests that were not succumbed to; such as the protests of the miners in the 1980's, or the protests of the farmers against the industrial revolution. Or possibly other appointments as Prime Ministers; Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, and of course, Winston Churchill. 

The fact is, there are some points in history that really did change the world, and if one of them did not take place, or one battle wasn't won, we'd be living in a very different environment. If, for example, the industrial revolution hadn't taken place, none of the things that we accept as normal today would exist, and the North would be a different land altogether. Or if the world and his wife hadn't formed alliances, the First World War, arguably, wouldn't have happened at all, and would have been confined to a small area, not calling for the loss of life, the treaty of Versailles, or arguably the Second World War. If those wars hadn't taken place, perhaps the E.U wouldn't have been formed, or perhaps our culture wouldn't have formed the way it has. I could go on, the list is endless, but I think there's a possibility it may become boring. 

Now, this article (I would have hoped you noticed) doesn't stress one particular event ; it doesn't even follow a specific train of thought, but does (I hope) provide food for thought when looking at seemingly small events that happen now. We've all heard of the 'Butterfly Theory', and although I don't subscribe to it on such a level, I do believe that what happens today will shape the political and economic climate in years to come. 
So, I'm off for another cup of tea and the next few pages of my book, but never fear! I will of course, write soon with more delightful twaddle for you to read!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Summer Reading 2013

NOTE: This has been adapted and updated from a previously published article and gives you a few ideas to get started on what books to read if you are considering history at university.

For people with UCAS and university interviews on their mind, Summer is a good time to find inspiration by reading some history books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Future King is Born!

The Duchess of Cambridge after announcing her pregnancy
As, hopefully, you will know, Katherine the Duchess of Cambridge has finally given birth. Before I get on with my usual annoying waffle and side comments aimed at pretty much everybody, I think it's only fair that you know the facts. Nevertheless, I am honestly very excited by this news, and I was told it by the best possible person - my fantastic Nan. Anyway. Facts: The baby boy was born at 4.24pm and weighed 8lbs 6oz. Right, important bit over, now for my ridiculously enthusiastic nonsense.

It's the moment the majority of the country has been waiting for... Kate to finally pop the future monarch out to greet us, and by the size of her pre-pregnancy stomach, I wouldn't have been surprised if we had found the lost tribes of Israel up there as well. The debates on whether the baby would be a boy or a girl can finally end , but have given way to debates on potential names, the bets placed on the birth weight of baby Windsor have now been cashed, with the money re-placed on bets on certain aspects of the child's appearance, and royalists all over the country can break open the wine they've been saving since the marriage of Kate and Wills. Perhaps you're not one of these people, and honestly are slightly too hot and tired to care that 'some woman somewhere has popped one out', as a woman on the bus very eloquently put it. Perhaps you're one of these people who honestly don't see what exactly the royal family do for us as a country, and so who cares who the baby is? And if I'm honest I can see your point.

But look at the counter-argument: for years the country has relied on the monarchy as the figurehead for the whole of Britain, as something that simply underpins what it means to be British. They bring in ridiculous amounts of money in tourism, and were the original Kardashians: everybody wanted to know what happened in their lives. Or maybe this new King-in-waiting signifies the years to come for you, and will become a very poignant symbol of the inevitable changes the country will experience throughout his reign. Who knows?

Overall, most people will agree that the birth of a royal baby is News. Not 'news' with a lowercase 'n', but News. And who knows, maybe at some point down the line we'll get a day off school because of it?
 So, just a short one today, but I reckoned it would be a pretty bad show if no-one on the H.P blog bothered to write about the pretty important news of a royal baby, and someone's gotta do it!
Until next time, (when there will be a proper article)

PS: Here are some more baby articles of interest:

What does the future hold for the baby prince?
What is an "average baby"?
10 curious facts on the royal birth
How royal births have been announced in the past

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Kingmakers Daughter

Well. Here I am again. Now, I know that many of you will have jumped for joy when my pre-Tudor and Tudor articles dried up, assuming that maybe I was free of the seven-year obsessive phase, and I haven't entirely reverted. Because if you put what I like to call a 'politicians spin' on this article, then it's really an article about a book, and not my usual pre-1800's article at all. The fact that the book is about the Tudors is negligible, and as I'm sure Nick Clegg would agree, a tiny fact like that is barely worth telling anybody...

Those of you who actually bother to read the title of posts on this blog may have a slight clue as to what book I'm about to rave about to you, and for those of you who can't be bothered to read, I'll spell it out: the book that I have been reading lately is The Kingmaker's Daughter. The Kingmaker's Daughter. Just in case you are having trouble getting the message as your brain has given out this close to the summer holidays : The. Kingmaker's. Daughter.

Right, now that's been sorted and everyone's on a level playing field, I'll get on with the actual article bit, which may contain slight traces of my favorite historical period. Sorry. Now, the reason for this relapse is not surprising. My Nan. Who decided to lend me a book that she really liked, knowing that we have similar tastes (so there's two people as crazy as me around). Now, I won't lie to you and tell you that I've torn my way through the book and finished it quicker than the cast of 'The Only Way is Essex' finishes a can of spray-tan, but I will tell you that I'm 1/4 through the book, and I'm already hooked. In fact, the only break I've had from reading 'The Kingmaker's Daughter' since 4:30, is writing this article about 'The Kingmaker's Daughter'.

The book follows Anne Neville through her life, taking off the silver-lined spectacles that we often view that life of nobility with, and showing us the harsh reality of England in the 1400's. Anne's Father is the famous Earl of Warwick, who was known for his ability to put whoever he wanted on the throne of England, but the book follows a period in which this ability seemed to have failed him. As well as showing the dramatic and tumultuous life of the Earl of Warwick himself- from 'Kingmaker' to outlaw, the book highlights the unpredictability of life in England, and the fragility of alliances. Reading the book, it is difficult to imagine a life where your sworn enemy one day can very quickly become your King, and you are fully expected to be loyal to him until the day you die. Or in fact until the day that he's knocked off the throne and you hate him again. England, in the 1400's was a place constantly at war, with everyone and their aunt claiming leadership, and many of them having a chance at leading the country. (Then again, Ed Milliband is the leader of the Labour Party, so not everything changes!)

Anyways, I'm very tired so I'm gonna stop writing now and probably eat some jelly... thanks for sticking with this article for so long and I'll probably update you on the story of Little Miss Neville.

PS from Mr C: Have you been watching The White Queen? Please let us know your opinions on it, good or bad. You can read more about Elizabeth Woodville here and there is still time to watch Philippa Gregory's programmes on what "really" took place. You may also find this 45 minute podcast from Radio 4 on the Wars of the Roses of interest.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Man on Moon

Who was the second person to walk on the Moon? I suspect the majority of you are now wracking your brains to find the answer, but don’t bother, because in all due respect you won’t find it. No one ever remembers the second man, because life is about ‘coming first and winning the race’. So who was the first person to walk on the moon? Now hopefully the majority of you remember a certain American astronaut Neil Armstrong, but I am sure that only a minority will know that on this day in 1969- Neil Armstrong printed his firstfootsteps on the moon, as well as in the pages of history.

Approximately 250,000 miles away from the comforts of Planet Earth, Armstrong utters the words of history to a billion people listening at home: ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. These billion people were probably thinking at that moment: ‘Who is this guy and what is he doing sending us messages from Planet Cheese? Furthermore, he plants his foot on the cheesy surface, and makes history in that one step. So where did it all start?

Interestingly, Armstrong served in the Korean War and on finishing college; he joined the institute that would later become known as the famous NASA. He partook in many missions such as Gemini, Apollo 7, Apollo 11 and many others. His infatuation with space began at the realistic age of 16, and he even earned his student pilot’s license at this age. After gaining experience at NASA, he was launched into mission like a rocket. Since placing his foot on the moon, Armstrong was decorated by seventeen countries.

Armstrong became the star kid of NASA, and a worldwide name which to this date has not been forgotten.

PS from Mr Coy: The second person to walk on the moon was Buzz Aldrin, but perhaps the man who really deserves Nonsuch HP's respect is Michael Collins, who flew all the way to the moon in Apollo 11 but stayed in the command module, never going down to the surface.           

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Tudor Book Blog

If you are looking for some summer reading, you may find the Tudor Book Blog of interest. It has plenty of reviews of the latest Tudor novels, and has links to other places of Tudor interest on the internet. There are also plenty of reading ideas on their Pinterest page.

How to be a Powerful Woman

Radio 4's "Woman's Hour" has released a range of interviews from influential women such as Tanni Grey Thompson, Tracy Emin and Alexandra Shulman on how to be successful in their working life. Nonsuch students may find their advice useful! You can find out more at their "Power List" website here.

Monday, 15 July 2013

A Very Royal Announcement


                     I think it's fair to make the assumption that if you have internet access, you probably haven't spent the last few years crouched in a cave with your fingers in your ears, which means it's also fair to assume that you aware that the royal baby is due to pop out any moment now. Now, if you're anything like me, you halfheartedly watched Kate walk up the aisle in 'that dress', watched William and Kate say their 'I do's' and then wandered outside to the nearest street party to eat a little cupcake with ball bearings on top. You probably heard that Kate was expecting on the news, and joined in with the boy-girl debate from the sidelines, not really caring, but just needing a change of subject for conversation from the usual debates of who is the best-looking on Made in Chelsea. So it came as a shock to me when I found myself wondering how the birth of baby Cambridge would be announced, but if i'm honest, I was worried that I wouldn't know and would open myself up to ridicule on announcing 'I wonder when the baby will be born', three months after the birth. 

 So true to form, I decided that a little bit of research was in order, and I looked up how previous royal sprogs had been announced, and how that was going change with the overuse of the good old internet. Originally, the rules were set in stone on how to announce the birth, and when Edward VII was born to Queen Victoria in 1841, "This great and important news was immediately made known to the Town, by the firing of the Park and Tower guns."', as is so eloquently reported in the Gazette published that evening. But even before the Gazette had been published, word had spread,  as politicians were spotted pulling up at the palace gates, and it was this policy that almost acted as our good old internet- it let people know before they were meant to. This practice had been in place since a little mishap since the birth of King James' son in 1688, when somehow the rumor spread that the baby had been stillborn and another child had been smuggled in in a bedpan... funny people, the Stuarts. However, this method was thrown succinctly out of the window faster than my laptop when it isn't working, as King George VI decided it was archaic, and so the birth of Prince Charles was not officially witnessed by politicians (so lets not rule out the 'bedpan-baby' idea of previous years'. 
 Not all traditions die out, though and the publication in the good old gazette still continues, as well as the sign posted on the gates of Buckingham palace for all of you royalists who love to sit outside the palace and gaze dreamily at the gates. 
Although certain parts of tradition seem pointless now, some are still strictly adhered to, such as the official family photo, but we can be sure that news of the birth will spread throughout the internet like nits in a primary school. 
 So, hopefully you're a tiny bit more excited to see how this baby will be announced, and the boy-girl debate has lost its appeal after the statement declaring that whatever the gender, the baby will become the new monarch.  I suppose it's just a long wait for us now until Kate pops out the long-awaited sprog, and we can go back to our normal lives, although the part that has caught my interest may not be answered straight away- what will it be called? I doubt Chardonnay, Princess, or Rooney are on the list of potential names, but we will just have to wait and see. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Korean War Anniversary

A parade and thanksgiving service have taken place today to mark the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Korean War. The war began on 25 June 1950 when communist North Korea invaded South Korea. A United Nations force was established to protect the South, and over 100,000 British troops served within this, alongside troops from the USA, Canada, India and several other countries. It is sometimes referred to as the "Forgotten War" as it took place soon after the Second World War and was somewhat overshadowed by conflicts such as the Vietnam War which took place afterwards.Veterans recall having no idea where Korea was when they were posted there, and when they got there having to endure extremes of temperature, long periods of boredom, and also some very fierce fighting, especially after the Chinese army joined the North Korean side. After fierce fighting an armistice was called on 27 July 1953, although technically the war has never ended. Veterans who have returned to South Korea are often warmly welcomed by citizens grateful that their country was saved from disaster and has become a vibrant and successful democracy, in some contrast to the repressive regime that continues to rule in the north.

You can find more information about the war here in this BBC article, and watch a slideshow of key sounds and images here. There is also absolutely masses of information on the war here.

PS: The image above was taken in Haengju, Korea in 1951 and is from the US National Archives.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Mauritian Petition

8 Saturn have been writing petitions in their History lessons, and have come up with a range of suggestions - these included..

  • compulsory Cantonese lessons
  • iPads for everyone in school
  • ban photo-shopping in magazines
  • Children's Olympics
  • ban salad
  • longer school holidays
  • stop badger culling
  • more rights for children
  • tougher laws against bullying

One of the more detailed petitions came from RM whose family are from Mauritius. She was keen to write in more detail about Mauritian politics for the blog and her article is below.

My petition is a little different because my mother is in politics for Mauritius and is in cahoots with Clovis Aziz- they are both joint leaders of the “Rassemblement pour la Liberte et la Democratie” which in English means “The rally for freedom and democracy”.  Clovis Aziz is the son of one of the ex-prime ministers in Mauritius. Rassemblement pour la Liberte et la Democratie are a new political party in Mauritius and they are planning to make many changes to Mauritius.

Clovis Aziz says: ‘The point of politics is not to become a millionaire, it’s to work and help our country. Most prime Ministers don’t actually care, all they want is to fill up their pockets with money. In Mauritius many parties are very wrong. The opposition of Rassemblement pour la Liberte et la democratie, have favouritism and only care about the people in their party and not about helping everyone else. They mix religion and politics- which is disrespectful and unnecessary. Also the constitution is a problem. We all were born on the island of Mauritius. We are all Creole. But why is religion everything to us? Why does religion separate our country? Thankfully our Mauritian passports just say “Mauritius”, no religion involved. It’s a small thing that unites our people together. We should all just keep our religion to ourselves, as the prime minister is a Hindu and he helps just the Hindu’s- Why not the Christians? Why not the Muslims? In Mauritius we have a caste system. Vaish, Babujee, Rajput, and Ravived. Vaish are the people who have a higher status in society and who have plenty of money and these are the people who the prime minister will help, and Ravived are the ones who are lower in society and not that rich. I want to change this, I am from a Vaish family but I want to help the less-fortunate, the other religions, because apart from all these differences we are still the same- we are all Mauritian. In 1971 we were a French Colony, in 1918, we became part of the British colony. However 50 years later, in 1968 we got independence. This is why Britain can’t do anything to help Mauritius. We are divided countries, and not very civil to each other either. This is why me and Rassemblement pour la Liberte et la democratie are trying to win. We want to help and make Mauritius a more equal country. We don’t care about the money, all we want is what’s best for our country. And remember, “Don’t wait for what the country will do for you- do it for the country”.’

I have also spoken to French director called Eric Baloo. He said the dictator is what is wrong with Mauritius and he also said: politics is everything. He is right. To change the dictator, we as Mauritians should unite together and protest because he is ruining our country. We all need to sort this out and Rassemblement pour la Liberte et la democratie, is the answer.

In my opinion I strongly agree with what Rassemblement pour la Liberte et la democratie want to do and I really hope they win the elections because they will make Mauritius a better country.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Good Old NHS...


Now, I seem to have finally broken the 'Tudor Trend', and looked into the world outside of the Tudors. I have been wanting to do this for some time, but those Tudors kept sucking me back in to the abyss of a family so odd it would put some of the Jeremy Kyle regulars to shame. However, today, I ventured out from the abyss, quite by accident. As every teenager does, I decided that there was absolutely no better way to spend my sunny Sunday morning than stepping in to the familiar, if very expensive, comfort of Waterstones. It was while I was browsing through a section of novels on good old Winston Churchill, deciding on which one I was going to pretend I would buy in order to sit down and read it for a good few hours, that I stumbled across the 'Politics and Current Affairs' section. I have always been interested in Politics, but felt that I know far too little of the 'backdrop' to British Politics to contribute in any way to a discussion (no matter how opinionated I am), but for some reason today I decided not to be put off by the privately-educated politicians, and instead began to browse for a book on one of my favourite political issues: Thatcherism. However, the shelves were stacked with 'pro-thatcher' books, and I'm simply tired of reading the exact same opinion in different words, while knowing that there is a strong case for the opposing argument. Downhearted, I skimmed the other titles and realized just how many books there were on the NHS. Don't get me wrong, I always knew that the social security that we experience in Britain causes a great  deal of political debates on the extent it should stretch to, but I didn't quite realize how important it was. Allow me to explain...

In a period where good old Dave is having to make a ridiculous amount of cuts in order to just about keep the nation on its feet, lots of areas of the public sector are coming under scrutiny. Love them or hate them, the bigwigs up at Number 10 are having to make a multitude of choices that I don't envy them for. Deciding where to make cuts from must be hard, and certain sectors have been 'ring fenced', meaning that it's budget it supposed to keep pace with inflation. One such sector is the NHS, although they are being instructed on how to spend the money, meaning that things like A & E still seem largely affected by the cuts. Calls for reform in the NHS are widespread, especially as this fall in standards in the past years ironically follow Cameron's promises to keep the it strong. To the public, it simply looks as if the government has failed to deliver yet again, and this is where Ed Miliband benefits slightly from the impact the Conservatives have had on the health sector- it has been, for many years, a priority of Labour to keep the N.H.S strong.

'If we lose it we wont get it back', a Labour poster proclaims, 'Fight for it. It's priceless.' And seemingly, that is what Labour really does intend to do, as the posters continue 'The A & E crises prove you can't trust David Cameron with the NHS'. The party spouts facts from its twitter page about how David Cameron had failed the NHS, and therefore how he has failed the general 'working man' that Labour supposedly represents.

And I suppose that is the big link between the NHS and and general politics. Not the money that the government must shell out to keep it running, but the people that are affected by both things. People have got the idea that Politics is just for politicians, and nothing to do with them and how they live their life, but the 'NHS Crises' as Labour has branded it, has proved just the opposite: whatever they do at Number 10, we will be affected in some way.

So there we are. An article that wasn't related to my precious Tudors. A very well done to me, I think, for kicking the habit. As usual, I hope my article wasn't overly boring for you, and that you perhaps may have learnt something from it. If not, sorry about that, and I'll try harder next time.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Crocodile Tears

A bog standard definition of ‘crocodile tears’ is ‘fake tears’. But where did these ‘fake tears’ actually derive from? The answer to everything: good, old History!

In case you didn’t know, the saying actually originates from the medieval belief that crocodiles shed tears in sadness while they slaughtered and ate their prey. (A bit like when Henry VIII ordered for his wives to be killed- because if you shed tears, that makes a murder perfectly acceptable!) The myth dates back to the 14th century, from the then widely popular and famous novel: ‘The Travels of Sir John Mandeville’. The book accounts a chivalrous knight’s adventures throughout Asia. (You can download it for free here!)

The book encompasses a description of crocodiles: “These serpents slay men, eat them crying.’ Mandeville’s recount of ‘the weeping reptiles’ later placed itself in Mr Shakespeare’s works- such as Othello and Anthony and Cleopatra , and since has become an idiom as early as the 16th century. The phrase, ‘crocodile tears’ is even used today in everyday English language. In fact, Shakespeare has been responsible for a lot of other modern day sayings we hear still every day! And that is the story of ‘crocodile tears’ in a nutshell - fascinating!

PS: You can find out more about "medieval crocodiles" as shown in the picture above, here      


Thursday, 4 July 2013

Elizabeth- The first and only successful Tudor woman?

Now, as the more observant of you may have realized, I only tend to post around once a week, so today is a little bit of an exception. As much as I'd love to be able to tell you that I just couldn't wait to write another post, and the idea were just bursting out of my under-performing brain, i'm afraid it just isn't true. Truth is, I haven't got my glasses, so watching television (or in fact anything) is about as easy as David Cameron convincing the public that 'we're all in this together'. So, as every teenager does when confronted with the horrors of no television, I started having a good old browse through 'BBC History'. As you do. I wish I could explain why, but I was inexplicably drawn to an article about good old queen Beth, and before you know it, it's too late and I'm thinking. Thinking (unfortunately for you) leads to writing. So here we are. You incredibly lucky people.

What was it you were thinking? I hear you cry desperately. Well. The article proclaimed, quite forcefully that Elizabeth I was the best thing to happen to Tudor England, the only Tudor worth taking any note of, and the first woman monarch to seem relatively successful. Do a little of that dangerous thinking, however, and you realize that being 'the most successful Tudor woman' is not really all too difficult. It's like being crowned 'the smartest Kardashian': frankly, it's not worth a lot. I mean, actually think about the competition. You have the delightful Bloody Mary, who earned a name for herself by having a bit of a thing against protestants, taking it too far, and killing a fair few. Then there's the often-forgotten 'Nine-day Queen' - Lady Jane Grey, who was obviously so fantastic she lasted a whole nine days before being given the sack and then unceremoniously executed. And then, of course, Mary Queen of Scots. The great thinker of the lot, who actually managed to make so many bad decisions that she found herself rather out of favour with  pretty much everyone, and managed to pave herself a nice little path to the chopping block. So yeah, in that respect, Elizabeth; who didn't kill loads of protestants, made relatively average decisions, and lasted more than nine days, was better. Anyone would be. Successful as Queen? Maybe...

The days of her reign are documented as 'The Golden Age'- a time of decadence and indulgence where every Tom, Dick, and Harry loved to Queen with all their heart, and culture flourished with people such as William Shakespeare. However, it's at times like these that the belief that History is written by the victors comes through. After actually researching Elizabethan times, it turns out that life for the average bloke on the street wasn't all roses. In fact, under Elizabeth, the poor became poorer and books and media was censored widely. There were many plots to knock old Beth off her perch, but the plotters were found and many were horrifically tortured in order to gain leads to other threats on her life.

Although she was clever, quick-witted, ruthless, and all those other wonderful things required to be Queen, she was also very vain and made sure that all portraits of her were changed to make her seem more beautiful. She was also very indecisive, and often buried herself in other matters when faced with decisions, like the 'oh-so-trivial' decision of whether or not to execute Mary Queen of Scots.

Now, don't get me wrong. You may well have you're own shiny idea of Elizabeth, and I don't want to destroy that, but it just shows... History is often written by the victors, so maybe next time you should look at the flip side.

PS from Mr Coy: The image above came from a web article titled "The world's most iconic women" - it also included Murasaki Shikibu, Mary Seacole, Harriet Tubman and Aung San Suu Kyi. What do you think about these choices?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Emily Davison Assembly

Here are some of the resources which were used to research today's assembly on Emily Davison.

UPDATE: If you would like to read the whole text of the assembly, please click below...

Nonsuch is 75

During the recent celebrations of Nonsuch's 75th Anniversary, this powerpoint was shown which includes some fascinating images from the school's early years, plus a few from more recently! Please let us know if you spot anyone familiar.

Brian Landers

Brian Landers will be speaking today in Room 106 at 1.15 about his book, "Empires Apart". Everyone is welcome. You can read more about Brian's book here at his website and read a review here.