The Historian, Vol. 2, No. 4
Volume 2, Number 4 May 2013
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Table of Contents
Social Reform: ‘1964 and all that’
Effect of Russian Cultural Change In the 19th century The Islamic Conquests of the 7th and 8th Centuries Margaret of Anjou in Popular Culture
Arthur der Weduwen Andrew Eckert
Contributors (order of appearance) Michael Doyle
Cameron Ho Andrew Eckert
Katherine Emery Arthur der Weduwen
Emily Kirov Catherine Thornhill
The Evolution of British Isolationism: 1688-1763
UN Peace-keeping in the Congo
Lydia Murtezaoglu Sophie Noke Emily Vine
Cornish Rebellions in the Tudor era Page 33 The Angry Young Men Exhibition
The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
The Fate of Edward II
The RAMMbassador Scheme
Dale James Conor Byrne
Cover Design Lydia Murtezaoglu
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Contributorsâ€™ Information Degrees, Interests, and Contact Arthur der Weduwen is a Second Year History and International Relations student from Amsterdam. He has been editor of The Historian since March 2012. He has previously written two articles for The Historian; a re-interpretation of the Glorious Revolution (Vol. 2, No. 2), and a discussion of the decline of serfdom in the Netherlands, with Michael Doyle (Vol. 2, No. 3). His main research interests are Early Modern political and economic history, focusing on Anglo-Dutch relations in particular. Email: email@example.com Andrew Eckert is a First Year History Student taking Theology modules next year. He has been editor of The Historian since March 2013. This is also his first time contributing to the journal. His main research interests include the fall of Rome, the history of Christianity, the city of Jerusalem, and the interaction between East and West in the Medieval period. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Catherine Thornhill is a Second Year History student studying at the Cornwall Campus near Falmouth. This is her first time contributing to The Historian. Her research interests are quite broad, encompassing Revolutionary history, Cornish history, Celtic identity, Freemasons, Latin American Liberation, and the History of Science. Email: email@example.com Michael Doyle is a First Year History and International Relations student. He has twice written for the Historian; on the importance of History as a discipline (Vol. 2, No. 2), and on the decline of serfdom, with Arthur der Weduwen (Vol. 2, No. 3). His historical interests span a wide range of epochs, but he prefers the late Medieval/Early Modern period. His research project for next year will focus on the War of 1812 and the subsequent impact it had on US foreign policy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Dale James is a First Year History student. This is his first time writing for The Historian. He has considerable interest in colonial and imperial history due to his long-time stay in New Zealand. In addition, he enjoys classical history and the mythology that has originated from that period of history. Email: email@example.com Katherine Emery is a Second Year History student with interest in the political developments and figures of the Wars of the Roses, particularly the role women played behind the scenes. Further interests of her include the role of Medieval Saint cults in wider European society, and the role of those deemed 'heretics' in Medieval and Early Modern societies. She has previously written for The Historian on the murder of the Princes in the Tower (Vol. 3, No. 3). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Lydia Murtezaoglu is a Second Year History student and Co-President of the History Society. She is interested in eighteenth century British history, particularly the social and cultural repercussions of 3
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popular politics. She is involved in a variety of history-related volunteering projects in Exeter with organisations including the Bill Douglas Centre, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, and Tuckers Hall. She has reviewed her experiences of 'public history' in this, and previous editions of The Historian. Email: email@example.com Emily Kirov is reading an MA in War and Society. Her research focuses on the history of humanitarianism, specifically during the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War (1967-70). This is her first time contributing to The Historian. She is generally interested in post-colonial transitions in Africa and changing Western responses to conflicts there. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Sophie Noke is a Second Year History student. This is her first time contributing to The Historian. Her research interests vary quite significantly â€“ but she mainly enjoys the social, cultural and religious history of Early Modern England. Her main research interest, and one which she wishes to pursue in her Third Year dissertation, is the history of mental illness in the twentieth century and in particular changes in social attitudes, portrayals and perceptions of it. Email: email@example.com Emily Vine is a Second Year History student and a volunteer at the Bill Douglas Centre. This is her first time contributing to the journal. She is interested in both Early Modern and Modern social and medical History, particularly in how ordinary people understood and coped with disease. Sheâ€™s hoping to research perceptions of mental illness and ideas of possession in the seventeenth century for her dissertation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Conor Byrne is a First Year History student. He has twice written for The Historian; one article on Anne Boleyn and her reputation throughout the ages (Vol. 2, No. 2), and another on Katherine Howard and the importance of gender history (Vol. 2, No. 3). His main research interest is the period circa. 1400-1600, with focus on approaches in gender, cultural, and social history. Email: email@example.com Cameron Ho is in his first year studying French and Middle Eastern Studies with Chinese. This is his first time contributing to the journal. His main research interests are; Culture and National Identity, Political Economy, Finance (equities), and Emerging Economies (especially in the Middle East and East Asia). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Editors’ Note Arthur der Weduwen & Andrew Eckert Dear reader, We are delighted to present yet another edition of The Historian, the History Society’s very own journal written by students for students. This is the fourth and final publication of the academic year and we have had the pleasure of once again compiling a variety of contributions from students, which have come from a wide range of disciplines and years, and creating this volume for you. At the beginning of the academic year we planned to publish three issues, but due to a persistent increase in demand and circulation, we decided that we wanted to expand to four issues per year. We received a large number of excellent contributions for this issue, and we are delighted that so many of you are showing interest in The Historian and taking the opportunity to express your passion for your interests. We would like to announce that the next issue of the journal will be published in Fresher’s Week of next academic year, and we invite you to contact us regarding ideas for articles (especially module reviews, which we would love to read and publish). The expansion of the journal continues at a great pace. We have acquired a magazine stand, thanks to the gracious funding of the Alumni Society, which will have a permanent place in the Amory building. In addition, we are also in the process of expanding the staff of The Historian to accommodate the growing number of articles that are submitted for each issue of the journal. We are creating an editorial board, which will be initially comprised of three members. For more information of the duties required and to express your interest in becoming a member of the editorial board, please contact the editors. This issue covers a wide range of topics. It opens with Michael Doyle’s discussion of the Labour Party’s social reform of the 1960s and 70s. Next, Cameron Ho offers a radical interpretation of cultural change in Russia throughout the nineteenth century, arguing that this was the main cause of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917. Then, Andrew Eckert explains the reasons for the rapid expansion of Islam, followed by Katherine Emery’s analysis of the popular portrayal of Margaret of Anjou throughout history. Subsequently, Arthur der Weduwen discusses the evolution of British isolationism between 1688 and 1763, highlighting the necessity for continental allies during the rise of Britain as global hegemon. Then, Emily Kirov offers a critique of UN involvement in the DRC, which is followed by Catherine Thornhill’s analysis of the Cornish rebellions of the Tudor era. Next, Lydia Murtezaoglu, Sophie Noke, and Emily Vine present a description of their exhibition at the Bill Douglas Centre regarding ‘Angry Young Men’ of the 1950s. Afterwards, Dale James explores the failure of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, drawing comparisons with the contemporary struggle, and Conor Byrne charts the different interpretations regarding the fate of Edward II. Finally, Lydia Murtezaoglu describes her historical adventures as an ambassador for the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) in Exeter, discovering the dangers of the Victorian man-trap. We hope that the articles in this issue will enable you to broaden your critical thought and thereby help you formulate your own historical philosophy – and that you enjoy reading them, of course. Hopefully you might be persuaded to write an article yourself, or maybe even contact some of the contributors regarding their work. If you would like to contact the editors, regarding contributions or joining the editorial board, you can do so at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org: we look forward to hearing from you. Lastly, we would like to thank you for your continued interest and time. Have a historical summer break! 5
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‘1964 and All That’ Progressive Reform in Social Policy under the Labour Governments 19641970 By Michael Doyle There are two general elections which are seen as watersheds in twentieth century British politics: The election of Clement Attlee as prime minister in 19451 and the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, as both fundamentally changed the economic orientation of Britain. In this essay, I will argue that the 1964 election was also a watershed election. The Labour government’s period of office from 1964-1970 is best remembered for the economic turbulence it experienced, punctuated with sterling crises which culminated in a humiliating devaluation of the pound in November 1967.2 In contrast, I will argue that the Labour government during this period was one of the great reforming governments in the 20th century. Through a programme of social reform in education, gender and race relations, Britain underwent a radical change in social norms which has shaped society right up to the present day. Britain was no longer organised along the lines of self-restraint and Victorian values, and it became a more self-expressive and racially diverse country. Progressive legislation on homosexuality and issues related to women made it onto the statute book. Furthermore, the Labour government’s policies in higher education opened up new opportunities for women in the labour market. The Race Relations Acts of 1965 and 1968 were the foundation on which greater tolerance and the
gradual erosion of racial bigotry were built on and which have made Britain a more diverse country. British society up to the late fifties and early sixties was a society built on Victorian values that stemmed from evangelicalism and non-conformity.3 Women during this period had little freedom and were expected to follow a domestic vocation which consisted of childrearing and motherhood.4 Racial prejudice was based on ethnic/genetic superiority which enabled and justified British imperial dominance meant that British society was largely an intolerant place for newly arrived immigrants.5 Yet the late fifties also saw an increase in affluence and consumerism. This increased economic prosperity forced the Labour party to change its electoral strategy. It could no longer solely appeal to its traditional working class voter base which was eroding due to the rise in living standards.6 It needed to reach out to the burgeoning middle class, yet rather than appeal to this group of voters with an economic message it promoted an agenda of social equality and personal freedom. Anthony Crosland was an intellectual and one of the brightest thinkers in the Labour Party in the 1950s, and one of the leading proponents of a socially progressive agenda. Crosland’s thesis translated into practical policy was the reform of the restrictive laws on
A. Marwick, British Society Since 1945 (London, 1982), p. 141 4 D. Sandbrook, White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties (London, 2006), p. 689 5 Ibid. p. 664 6 M. Donnelly, Sixties Britain (Harlow, 2005), p. 71
As Discussed in Vol. 2, No. 3 of the Historian, see ‘The General Election of 1945’ by William Griffiths, pp. 36-38 2 A. Thorpe, A History of the Labour Party (Basingstoke, 1997), p. 161
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homosexuality, divorce and women’s equality.7 Crosland’s approach to social policy was bold and fresh and marked a departure from Labour’s traditional adherence to workingclass moralism and Fabian Puritanism. Another senior Labour figure, Roy Jenkins, wrote a short book in 1959 called The Labour Case.8 One of the chapters, ‘Is Britain Civilised?’ explicitly repudiates the Fabian Puritanism that underpinned Labour’s approach to social policy. Jenkins wrote: ‘there is the need, independently of the state, to create a climate of opinion which is favourable to gaiety, tolerance and beauty, and unfavourable to puritanical restriction, to petty-minded disapproval, to hypocrisy, and to a dreary, ugly pattern of life.’9 In his book, Jenkins makes very clear the direction of travel a future Labour government would take in social policy should someone of his ilk become the Home Secretary. ‘With the right man in the post, the government would be well on the way to building the civilised society.’10 When Jenkins was appointed the Home Secretary in December 1965,11 he had the chance to put his philosophy into practice, and by the end of the decade his progressive agenda had come to fruition. The Labour governments introduced progressive reforms which greatly benefitted women. The Divorce Reform Act, whilst controversial, did give women more freedom in their lives. The Act was proposed by the Lord Chancellor Gerald Gardiner who put the measure to the Cabinet.12 Alec Jones, a Labour member of the House of Commons would
propose a private members bill and Cabinet would grant Parliamentary time for the bill to be debated. The Lord Chancellor would then support the private member bill in the House of Lords.13 The Divorce Act ended the nonsensical priori stipulation that proof of some ‘matrimonial offence’ was the only way of granting a divorce, a stipulation not fit for Post-WWII Britain.14 Furthermore, it ended the emphasis on guilt and fault which was overwhelmingly attributed to women. Abortion was another area of social policy in which women were granted greater freedom in their lives. The Liberal MP David Steel proposed a private members bill which would reform
abortion laws, which received overwhelming public support, in addition to the majority of the Cabinet and the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).15 The expansion of higher education during this period, also greatly benefitted women who had until the 1960s traditionally been denied access to higher education.16 The Open University opened up access to higher education which had thus far eluded certain social groups. Women were now given a ladder which allowed them to become much more socially mobile and enter professions which had not been previously
R. Coopey, S. Fielding, and N. Tiratsoo (eds.), The Wilson Governments 1964-1970 (London, 1993), p. 138 8 Sandbrook, White Heat, p. 336 9 R. Jenkins, The Labour Case (Harmondsworth, 1959), p. 135 10 Ibid. p. 337 11 Thorpe, History of the Labour Party, p. 159 12 Parliamentary Paper (PP) 1967, CAB/129/133 Lord Chancellor’s Memorandum on Divorce Reform
Parliamentary Paper (PP) 1969, CAB/128/43 Cabinet Conclusions 14 Sandbrook, White Heat, p. 697 15 C. Ponting, Breach of Promise: Labour in Power 1964-1970 (London, 1989), p. 266 16 P. Dorey, The Labour Governments 1964-1970 (Abingdon, 2006), p. 280
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open to them. It is one of the greatest achievements of any post-war Labour government and its lasting effects have ensued to the present day. In August 1954, the Wolfenden Committee was established to consider altering the laws regarding sexual acts between homosexuals. The Wolfenden Report was incorporated into Croslandâ€™s thesis on social reform.17 The 1964 and 1966 elections brought an influx of more middle-class, university educated MPs into the PLP and this meant that the composition of the PLP became more socially liberal.18 A Labour backbencher, Leo Abse, introduced the Sexual Offences Bill to the House of Commons; however, it needed the Government to provide time for it to have a chance of reaching the statute book.19 Roy Jenkins and Richard Crossman, the leader of the House, agreed to grant parliamentary time for the bill to be debated, after which Jenkins then persuaded the Cabinet to support the decision on parliamentary time.20 The majority of the PLP supported the passage of the 1967 Sexual Offences act. The opposition to the bill was based on two very different positions: one was based on the supposed immorality of homosexuality and the other was the potential disintegration of society.21 George Brown, the Foreign Secretary, opposed the bill on the basis of the latter position and made hyperbolic comparisons with the fall of Rome.22 Much has been made of the friction between the younger and elder members of the PLP on homosexual reform.23 However, the younger members were more in touch with the social changes in contemporary Britain which saw her beginning
to break away from the Victorian emphasis on conformity and rigid control over social behaviour.24 The passing of a truly progressive reform allowed homosexuals to conduct their private lives as they chose without the spectre of police raids and prosecutions lurking in the background. This meant Britain was becoming a more civilised place for citizens whom had up to than felt marginalised and persecuted. The other area in which the Labour government achieved progressive reform was in race. In the 1950s, questions were beginning to be asked about how to deal with racial discrimination, as post-war black immigration had instigated competition with the white population in the housing and labour markets.25
Anthony Crosland In response to this competition, a colour bar was put in place in the labour and housing markets, leaving the black community frustrated at this exclusion from equal participation from British society.26 Responding to the debate on race relations, the Labour Party began looking at practical legislative proposals to combat racial discrimination.27 Given that its traditional
Ibid. p. 346 Ibid. 19 Ibid. p. 348 20 Ibid. p. 349 21 Sandbrook, White Heat, p. 497 22 Ibid. 23 Coopey, Fielding and Tiratsoo (eds.), Wilson Governments, p. 140 18
Marwick, British Society, p. 152 J. Solomos, Race and Racism in Britain, 2nd edition, (Basingstoke, 1993), p. 82 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid. 25
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working class supporters were the most vehement opponents of black immigration, Labour had to tread cautiously in this area. There was a principled and pragmatic reasoning behind Labour’s position on race relations. The principled element was one of preventing social disorder and outlawing discrimination. The pragmatic element consisted of depoliticising race and mollifying Labour MPs who were critical of the party’s stance on immigration.28 The 1965 Race Relations Act has been criticised by advocates of greater equality for not being effective in curbing racial inequality and discrimination.29 MPs on the left of the Labour party deemed the legislation as toothless and not going far enough in decriminalising discrimination.30 Though the Act was not sufficient, it nevertheless put in to place an institutional framework which was an important first step in curbing racial bigotry. Furthermore, Labour’s precarious majority between 1964 and 1966, meant that it would possibly have not had enough votes to pass a tougher bill. With a parliamentary majority of 97, Labour was able to propose a much tougher piece of legislation in 1968. Having caved in to populist pressure on immigration and passing the draconian 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act, the 1968 Race Relations Act was a progressive counterbalance.31 The Act would eliminate all types of racial discrimination and give the Race Relations Board a wider remit which included the power to deal with complaints of racism.32 Critics of both Race Relations Acts point to the limitations of their intent and impact.33 Yet, this is not a fair criticism, for one has to
remember the context in which both acts were passed. The highly charged racial tension meant that progress had to be evolutionary, and not revolutionary. Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech inflamed racial tension between the white and black communities as the 1968 Act was going through Parliament, and his words resonated with a sizeable portion of the white populace.34 The two Acts laid important foundations for progress in reducing racial bigotry. The Labour governments were bold and principled in beginning to redress the unacceptable social exclusion of minority communities, and in that respect, the legislation was a success.
Roy Jenkins Labour’s social reform agenda has been criticised as incoherent, piecemeal, and leading to a ‘permissive society’.35 Though the legislation on homosexuality and divorce were private member bills and not government legislative proposals; matters of conscience are very rarely legislated for by the government of the day. Moreover, social issues naturally divide political parties. For example, Leo Abse,
Dorey, Labour Governments, p. 317 Solomos, Race and Racism, p. 81 30 Dorey, Labour Governments, p. 321 31 Donnelly, Sixties Britain, p. 167 32 Solomos, Race and Racism, p. 84 33 Ibid. p. 85 29
Sandbrook, White Heat, p. 682 Ibid. p. 341
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the Labour member who put forward the bill on homosexuality voted against the legalisation of abortion.36 It is undoubtedly true that the Crosland/Jenkins approach on social issues did not make it into both the 1964 election manifesto and the 1966 manifesto. Those manifestos were primarily about technological modernisation, rather than social 37 modernisation. Moreover, social issues were not high on the electorateâ€™s list of priorities and given Labourâ€™s internal division on social issues, it is understandable why the social reform agenda did not make it into either manifesto. When Roy Jenkins became Home Secretary, the vision he had set out of a civilised Britain in 1959 became the agenda of his new department.38 The private member bills were proposed by Labour members of Parliament, and there was a sizeable element in the PLP who believed in the intellectual case for progressive social reform outlined by Anthony Crosland and Roy Jenkins. So the extent of the dispute within in the Labour party is exaggerated and is used by opponents of the reform agenda to detract from the achievement of building a more civilised society. In conclusion, the Labour governments of 1964-1970 transformed British society. They swept away the laws which repressed homosexuals, gave greater freedom to women, and began the process of integrating ethnic minorities into British life. Self-expression supplanted self-restraint and outdated Victorian ideals were replaced by more humane and tolerable norms. The reforms of the 1960s still shape our society today. The Labour governments in the period 1964-1970 radically changed the social orientation of this country and it should therefore be regarded as a great
transformative government in the mould of the Atlee and Thatcher governments.
Coopey, Fielding, and Tiratsoo (eds.), Wilson Governments, p. 140 37 Ibid. p. 338 38 R. Jenkins, Life at the Centre (London, 1991), p. 180
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Identity Re-forged: A radical interpretation of Russian cultural change in the nineteenth century and its effects on the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 By Cameron Ho As Jeff Chang radically proposed, ‘Cultural change always precedes political change. Put another way, political change is... a manifestation of cultural shifts that have already occurred... Culture can create the moment for politics to move forward’.39 This phenomenon can be observed in the Russian Revolution of 1905. It was an uprising that marked the culmination of a century of profound cultural change that reflected and projected political and economic factors.
As a by-product of the former - Peter’s drastic ‘Europeanisation’ - Russians lost their sense of identity. ‘Forced to become Europeans’, they ‘had become so alienated from the old Russia’ and had for ‘so long forgotten how to speak and act in a Russian way’ that they eventually ‘struggled to define themselves as ‘Russians’ by the turn of the nineteenth century.’41 Arguably even more tragic was the fact that at the time there was no specific Russian definition for ‘nation’ or ‘nationality’. As Peter Pletnev, a renowned nineteenth-century literary critic and professor of Russian literature at St. Petersburg University, put it: ‘The idea of nationality is the major characteristic that contemporaries demand from literary works ... [however,] one does not know exactly what it means.’42 From this emerged an insurmountable domestic drive to recreate the Russian identity. The goal was to make Russia a distinct state – and not simply another European country. Such an endeavour was spearheaded by two groups – the Slavophiles and the Decembrists. The former groupwere the followers of the slavophile school of thought – the belief that the Russian civilisation, consisting of predominantly Slavic peoples, was unique and superior to the West. The slavophiles saw Russia’s ‘westward swing as a threat to the
Overview: Regardless of whether or not ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness’, the eighteenth century was, for England, a time of great change. This was also the case in France, which by the end of the century saw the shift from the centuriesembedded philosophy of ‘l’état, c’est moi’ to the new ideals of ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’. However, Russia still found itself in the backwater. Peter the Great attempted to address this disparity during his reign, forcing Russia to ‘conform to European ways in the eighteenth century’.40 He brought sweeping reforms to both the government and the church, all in the name of Westernisation and modernisation. At the same time, however, his ‘Great Reforms’ also strengthened Russia’s most traditional and time-tested institutions: the monarchy and the feudal system.
Ibid. p. xxx Cynthia Hyla Whittaker, ‘Official Nationality’, in Encyclopedia of Russian History, ed. James R. Millar (New York, 2004), pp. 1405-1407
Jeff Chang, Film movement - panel discussion (2011) 40 Orlando Figes, Natasha’s dance: a cultural history of Russia (New York, 2002), p. xxix
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church, the peasant and village community, and other Russian institutions’.43 Meanwhile, one key event preoccupied almost every Russian’s mind at the time: the Patriotic War of 1812. This struggle, when viewed in light of the second component of Peter’s reforms – the strengthening of the feudal system and class structure – precipitated the rise of a second group of ideologues who were equally as concerned as the slavophiles with regard to the Russian national identity. The Decembrists, named after their December revolt against the Tsar in 1825, were Russian officers who had undergone an awakening. On the battlefields at the western frontier of their empire, the officers who had been well accustomed to their place of stature above the serfs in the feudal system, found themselves in charge of a surprisingly loyal and patriotic peasant force. They shockingly noted ‘the patriotic spirit of the common folk’44 and how, according to the poet Fedor Glinka, the serfs were ‘ready to defend their motherland with scythes.’45 Fighting Napoleon’s invading armies in the villages and fields of the peasants, the officers were forced to bond with and depend on their men. Equally, the peasant soldiers thought highly of their commanders. The life of one such commander, Paul Semenov, was saved when an icon his soldiers had given him to wear around his neck stopped a French bullet. The development of such a rapport between serf and officer radically changed the way these military aristocrats viewed the people they had been taught to regard as ‘little more than human beasts devoid of higher virtues and sensibilities.’46 As such, at the end of the war
the officers perceived the world from a completely different viewpoint. One that was far more in touch with reality and open to challenging tradition. One that sought to recreate the Russian national identity for all Russians, including the serfs. In order to do this, both the slavophiles and the Decembrists turned to literature, art, and music as media through which they could re-forge the Russian identity. Literature: “Paul”, cried the Countess from behind the screen, “send me some new novel, only pray don’t let it be one of the present day style.” “What do you mean, grandmother?” “That is, a novel, in which the hero strangles neither his father nor his mother, and in which there are no drowned bodies. I have a great horror of drowned persons.” “There are no such novels nowadays.”47 The above dialogue is from Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades, a short story which captures the rapidly changing face of Russian literature in the nineteenth century, a time in which Romanticism was cast aside in favour of the realist movement. Immediately, the themes of the novels, which Pushkin alludes to in The Queen of Spades, is much more serious and focused on deeply rooted social and political matters. While one may say that parricide hardly constitutes a more serious theme of national importance, the main difference in the styles is the overarching shift away from idealism and fantasy and towards a more critical, verisimilar approach that sought to deal with social conditions. The Countess’s plight is, ironically, of ‘her own’ making, for she, as a member of the
Christopher Williams, ‘Slavophiles’, in Encyclopedia of Russian History, ed. James R. Millar (New York, 2004), pp. 1405-1407 44 Figes, Natasha’s Dance, p. 74 45 Ibid. 46 Ibid. p. 75
Thomas Seltzer, Best Russian Short Stories. (New York, 1917). Kindle Edition
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aristocracy, is part of a group that supported strict government censorship of the press. Such restrictions meant that political views could not be expressed directly through essays, meaning that Russian authors were forced to conceal their messages through fictional satires or allegories. As such, unfortunately for the Countess, the field of Russian fiction was flooded by a new wave of zealous realist literature penned by equally zealous wordsmiths. Yet when dealing with nineteenthcentury Russian literature, one must reconsider his definition of ‘wordsmith’ or ‘novelist’, for a significant amount of Russian literature, without the benefit of hindsight, would have hardly appeared to be the work of a true ‘novelist’ by Western standards. The new style of writing can be described as ‘economical’ or ‘sparing’ at best, in contrast to the previously elegant prose of the romantic era. Sergei Semyonov had barely mastered the basic mechanics of writing when he wrote his first story. And yet these works proved to be immensely popular. The reason can be found in the popular demand for the new realist theme: above all else, a successful writer had to possess an intimate knowledge of contemporary social conditions, and had to be able to convey such a message in a truthful manner. As the American translator Thomas Seltzer put it: ‘Before the supreme function of literature, the Russian writer stands awed and humbled. He knows he cannot cover up poverty of thought, poverty of spirit and lack of sincerity by rhetorical tricks or verbal cleverness.’48 In comparison, Charles Dickens wrote of the poor with ‘remoteness, perhaps, even, a bit of caricature.’49 As such, so long as the Russian author was able to convey his message accurately, the simplest language 48 49
would suffice, for it was not the words, but rather the broader meaning, that mattered. Visual Art: Prior to the nineteenth century, Russian painters followed their European counterparts by being staunchly Romantic. The peasant was almost always sentimentalised, shown looking plump and healthy, and wearing a satisfied, even joyful countenance. Semen Fedorovich Shchedrin’s oil painting, Landscape in the Surroundings of Petersburg, is a typical example of the idealised depiction of the peasant in pre-nineteenth century Russian art.
A peasant and her daughter are seen standing next to the river looking calm and relaxed, their expressions revealing no signs of the pressures and stresses of peasant life. Outside of Russia’s borders, English painters John Constable and Joseph Turner could be said to have been the epitome of Romantic idealism. Turner’s painting, Chichester Canal, with its vividly depicted sunset over the tranquil, glassy river, is the embodiment of such sentimentality.
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Looking back in Russia during its new era of cultural awakening, Ilya Repin’s, Barge Haulers on the Volga is also host to a vibrant scene centred around a calm river. Like in Chichester Canal, a tall ship drifts idly in the background; the wind is calm, the sky clear, save for a few streaks of thin, almost unnoticeable clouds. Central to Repin’s piece, however, is the suffering portrayed at the forefront of the scene. The viewer is immediately confronted with the barge haulers themselves, on the verge of collapse. They then notice the cloth bands connecting their bodies to the barge, which have since ridden up so close to their neck that it appears as if they’re almost being strangled. Then comes the biggest shock - the small ‘barge’ that the viewer had assumed was out of view, tucked away behind the group, is actually the massive tall ship towering ominously in the background. Such is nineteenth century Russian realism; subtle at first glance, shocking at second and third. The realist movement’s ‘call to arms’ came in nineteenth-century philosopher Nikolai Chernïshevsky’s treatise, The Aesthetic Relations of Art to Reality, which posits that a work of art must be an objective rendering of the reality.50 Within years of its publication, realism had, by and large, erased any romantic notions from Russian painters’ minds. Instead, their new realist paintings became a form of critical social commentary that, above all else, served to expose the tragic condition of the serf.
Yet the paintings were not social commentary in the traditional sense. Unlike in literature, where an author’s political agenda was advanced rather conspicuously, the Russian visual artist expressed his political message by way of being a facilitator, rather than a lobbyist. Instead of providing the viewer with a subjective paradigm through which to view the plight of the peasant, the piece of art instead served merely as a window through which the viewer could see the situation objectively and then form their own conclusions. Of course, most of these paintings were unmistakably critical in nature. The crucial difference is the fact that the artists did not accentuate these critical elements. One could argue that they did not need to, and that portraying the status quo was, in and of itself, effective enough. Such technique is seen, perhaps most famously, in Repin’s The Barge Haulers on the Volga. Yet Grigory Myasoedov’s oil painting The Zemstvo Dines is one of the best examples when it comes to illustrating the tension in politics, for it subtly addresses the socioeconomic disparities within the zemstvo, the new municipal governments. The work shows the unequal status of the members of the zemstvo board by showing a handful of peasants consuming bread and onions. Above, through the window, a servant can be seen polishing the silverware in preparation for the noble zemstvo members’ dinner. The setting itself is one of the reasons why Myasoedov’s work is realist. A more fanatical artist seeking to critique the aristocrats would have created a more exaggerated, taunting scene – showing the nobleman feasting jovially at the same time as the peasants are consuming their meagre bread,
Francis Maes, A History of Russian music: from Kamarinskaya to Babi Yar. (Berkeley, 2002), p. 3
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for example. Yet Myasoedov shows restraint, preferring instead to maintain a calm, placid atmosphere. This fact shows how the nineteenth-century Russian artist was no radical extremist. Instead, he was merely a citizen trying to explore and define his nation through painting.
Russian to compose an opera, A Life for the Tsar, which, while incorporating traditional Russian themes, sounds, and folk songs, received wide acclaim. However, ‘Glinka did not invent the Russian style’ – he simply ‘made Russian music competitive’ and respectable vis-à-vis Western tradition.51 Subsequently, Tchaikovsky took centre stage in the Russian musical scene. His most famous opera was Eugene Onegin. Based on Pushkin’s novel, Eugene Onegin was a drastic break from the norm. While the plot itself was standard – an aristocratic love story – musically, Tchaikovsky goes to great lengths to tone down the opera’s Italian components and make the piece belong to a distinctly Russian school. Most notably, there was not a single love duet, a standard feature in all Italian operas up to that time. Thus, while many of nineteenth-century Russia’s most famous operatic compositions still featured traditional plots, composers flew in the face of convention when it came to the technical aspects of the music. It is through these means that they were able to both create a piece sounding distinctly Russian and cater to an audience that still had an ear for European influenced opera.
Opera: There is no better way of illustrating the ties between different cultural spheres than by examining the link between Russian literature and the world of opera. Three of Tchaikovsky’s five operas were based on Pushkin’s works. Ironically, Pushkin himself was a lover of Italian opera. But he was by no means a ‘traitor’ to the nationalist cause. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Russian composers faced a dilemma. They had the choice of either promoting the Russian identity, or of winning the recognition and approval of European (and even some Russian) critics. This is because the courts and opera houses of both Europe and Russia were still deeply rooted in the works of Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt. Hitherto, Russian music was still highly unpopular, in part due to its radically different, generally unpleasant, and dissonant sound. Therefore, Pushkin’s preference for Italian opera is completely understandable. It was against this backdrop that Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka emerged as the first
Conclusion: In nineteenth-century Russia, culture moulded public sentiment. Culture became the foundation of political change that would emerge in the early twentieth century. At that point, true power rested in the hands of the artists, not the Tsar. Alexei Suvorin, publisher of the pro-monarchist newspaper Novoye Vremya (New Times) wrote in his diary on the 29th of May, 1901:
Richard Taruskin, Defining Russia musically: historical and hermeneutical essays. (Princeton, 1997), p. 42
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“We have two Tsars: Nicholas II and Leo Tolstoy. Which is stronger? Nicholas II can’t do anything with Tolstoy, he can’t shake his throne, while Tolstoy is undoubtedly shaking the throne of Nicholas and his dynasty... Just let anyone try to hurt Tolstoy. The whole world will raise a hue and cry, and our administration will turn tail and run.”52
the re-forged Russian identity to galvanise public sentiment and empower them to express their disillusion with the Tsarist regime at the beginning of the twentieth century. The wave of cultural change that occurred in the nineteenth century served as a rallying point for the Russian people. They rediscovered their identity, their values, and their beliefs. Thus, after almost a century of cultural change, armed with a new identity, Russians were propelled into a new century which would characterised for its political upheaval.
In the end, Tolstoy and his fellow writers, artists and musicians indirectly engineered the Russian revolutions. After years of dissatisfaction, the people rose up against the Tsar in 1905. Then, still dissatisfied, they rose up to overthrow him completely in 1917. Individual revolutions have been seen in numerous cases throughout history, but the existence of two revolutions within twelve years of each other demonstrate the ability of 52
Solomon Volkov, The magical chorus: a history of Russian culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn. (New York, 2009), p. 6
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The Islamic Conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries How can one explain their range and speed? By Andrew Eckert The rise of Islam is considered to be one of the most significant events in world history. Historians agree that the Islamic conquest brought fundamental changes to the geopolitical, social and cultural foundation of Europe, North Africa and Central Asia. However, the speed with which the Islamic Empire rose is perhaps the most incredible aspect of the history of the religion. Prior to the seventh century Islam and Arabian influence was contained within the Arabian Peninsula and no unitary authority existed between the Arab tribes, however, by the end of the eighth century the effects of Islamic power were felt from the Atlantic to Indonesia. The remarkable speed with which this empire expanded is a subject of great discourse amongst historians today and a variety of explanations exist. First and foremost we must acknowledge the view of traditional Islamic historians who claim that the successful expansion of the Islamic Empire was achieved as a result of ‘religious zeal and selfless exertion’ of Muslims and the will of Allah.53 Whilst this view demands respect, there are other, and perhaps more widely recognised, explanations for the success of the Islamic conquest. This paper will discuss several of these recognised explanations given by historians: the role played by the people of the conquered provinces, the mobility and capability of the Arab armies, the weaknesses of the surrounding states and the impact of Arab motivations on the speed and range of the Islamic conquest. The role of armies in any military conquest cannot be overlooked. The success of
the Arab armies was the result of cohesion and cunning tactics rather than physical numbers or superior equipment. By making the armies small, fewer than one thousand men usually, the Arab forces possessed greater cohesion than their Roman and Persian opponents.54 However, Arab armies did not have technological superiority over their enemies as their weapons were often acquired in battle and, having no official uniform, their armour consisted of what could be found or afforded.55 Despite their technological inferiority the Arabian use of horses and camels in and around the desert gave them both essential mobility56 and endurance in the desert.57 The successful utilisation of desert terrain gave the Arab armies a significant advantage over their opponents, particularly in the Middle East and Northern Africa. A supporting example of this would be the Arab victory over the Romans at the Battle of Yarmuk in 636: Khalid’s troops were concealed by a dust storm which gave them the element of surprise and victory in the battle, which ultimately gave the Arabs control of Syria. The Arabs were provided with a similar advantage against the Persians at Qadisiya in 637 which enabled them to gain control over Iraq.58 The Arabs’ mobility and ability to effectively transport troops and 54
Arthur Goldshmidt Jr. and Lawrence Davidson, A Concise History of the Middle East (Boulder, 2013), p. 46 55 Hugh Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In (London, 2007), p. 58 56 Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (London, 1992), p. 23 57 Goldshmidt Jr. and Davidson, A Concise History of the Middle East, p. 46 58 Ibid.
Efraim Karsh, Islamic Imperialism (London, 2007), p. 23
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supplies in the desert, as well as utilise the terrain to outsmart and trap their enemies, was responsible for many of their decisive victories which enabled them to rapidly conquer vast swathes of territory. The speed of Arab expansion and the success of Arab armies can also be explained
Kennedy suggests that if the Muslims had attempted conquest of Syria and Palestine in the late sixth century they would almost certainly been unsuccessful.61 This example reveals how other conflicts had weakened the surrounding empires and states to such an extent that their conquest was achievable for a
by the weaknesses of their opponents. For example, the Persian and Byzantine empires had been engaged in decades of war which had significantly weakened both armies.59 During the course of the conflict the Byzantine Empire lost many of its Greek-speaking elites and this resulted in the loss of the coherent imperial rule and administration that had given the empire its strength.60 The consequence of this was that by the time that the Arab armies set their sights on Syria and Palestine they were weak states in disarray having only been reclaimed by the Byzantine Empire in 630.
small army with superior tactics. Nevertheless, the power and strength of the Persian and Byzantines Empires cannot be underestimated as, although weakened, they were still formidable enemies. Only by 641, after several years of conflict, did the Persian Empire fall and the Arabs gain control of Syria, Egypt, and Palestine. The weakness of these states partly explains the speed of the Islamic conquest, but we must also consider that countries such as Syria and Palestine were in close proximity to the native Arab states and so were probably familiar territory and terrain to the invaders. These are significant factors which would have contributed to their successful and rapid
Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History (London, 2001), p. 25 60 Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests, p. 70
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conquest. The range of the Islamic conquest can perhaps be explained as a predictable development after the expanding Islamic Empire filled the power vacuum left by two considerable empires. However, the Islamic conquest did face heavy resistance in the Iberian Peninsula and Eastern North Africa. The term ‘conquest’ suggests that Islamic expansion was total and successful; however, there is considerable evidence to suggest that despite conquering Spain, Arab control was far from absolute and the invaders faced resistance for many decades after the initial seizure of power. In fact, complete military and administrative control in Spain was established almost a century after the initial Arab occupation. However, even into the ninth century pockets of Christian resistance to Arab rule existed.62 Conversely, many Berbers in North Africa, despite initially resisting Arab rule, aided their conquest and colonisation of the Iberian Peninsula before turning their attentions to the Southern Sahara and again bringing large swathes of that territory under the control of the Islamic Empire.63 Similarly, in Syria the alienation of the common populace by the Greek-Orthodox establishment resulted in Syrians supporting the invaders.64 There are comparable examples in Egypt and other discontented peoples of the Persian Empire who welcomed the Arabs and Islam because they brought stability and structure to replace chaos. Furthermore, the new imperial order was more tolerant of other religious practices and also reduced the cost of living by reducing taxes.65 Such inducements were common across the Islamic Empire and
they served not only to spread the Islamic religion but also to reinforce Arab control in the conquered states. Perhaps this encourages us to rethink the negative connotations that are associated with conquest and possibly view it as simply another means by which society is enriched by the transference or synthesis of culture. The attraction to Arab rule, motivated by both fear and bribery, reduced resistance to Arab conquest and therefore increased the speed with which states could be conquered.
Furthermore, by incorporating the armies of conquered nations, the armies of the Islamic Empire became increasingly formidable. Finally, the initial motivation for Arab expansion much be taken into account. The ‘Wars of the Ridda’, which can be seen as the foundation of the Islamic Empire, began after Muhammad’s death and served to unify the Arab tribes under the authority of Abu Bakr.66 The sizable army created as a result of this successful, forced unification gave Bakr the momentum required to move against the Byzantine and Persian Empires.67 The Arab leadership used the Islamic conquest to unite
Roger Collins, The Arab Conquest of Spain 710-797 (Oxford, 1989), p. 95 63 Bernard Lewis, The Middle East: 2000 Years of History from the Rise of Christianity to the Present Day (London, 2000), p. 55 64 Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History, p. 26 65 Ibid. p. 56
Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples, p. 23 Ibid.
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the Arab tribes against a common enemy and fulfil Muhammad’s mission to eradicate internal conflict with in the Umma (the Islamic community).68 This suggests that the speed and range of the Islamic conquest was due to their unity and the successful direction of Arab aggression towards a common enemy. Whilst some of the Arab leadership were motivated by religious zeal significant portions of the army was composed of Christian tribes which had defected from Byzantine rule and had no such motivation.69 Furthermore, many tribal Arabs were motivated by the economic strife in Arabia and saw conquest as an opportunity to seek wealth and riches.70 The motivations of Muslims and other groups within the Arab armies were clearly different. However, regardless of their incentives, they were courageous fighters and highly motivated. The unity and motivation within the armies significantly contributed to the success of the Islamic conquest. It is possible that if the tribes had remained divided the Islamic conquest would not have occurred or perhaps even failed, which might have prevented the spread of Islam. Consequently, the socio-political dynamic of Europe, North Africa and Central Asia would be remarkably different today. To conclude, this paper has shown that there are four key factors which contribute to an explanation of the range and speed of the Islamic conquest. The lack of resistance in many states enabled the Arabs to seize power rapidly. Furthermore, the support given by the people of conquered states not only enabled the Arabs to establish a secure government, but also to continue expanding into neighbouring territories. Whilst this increased the speed of Islamic expansion to an extent it does not
entirely explain how the invaders conquered individual states so rapidly. The ability of the Arab armies to overcome their enemies and continue the conquest further afield can be partially attributed to their high level of motivation. However, as we have seen, the conquest of the Byzantine and Persian Empires would not have been possible if they have not been weakened by previous conflicts. The structural weaknesses of these empires and of the surrounding states enabled the Arabs, with their superior knowledge and utilisation of familiar terrain, to quickly gain control of new territory and fill the power vacuum left as a result of the downfall of the Byzantine and Persian empires. Although each of the factors discussed contribute to an explanation of the range and speed of the Islamic conquest it was the Arabs’ ability to win decisive victories and take advantage of their enemies’ weakness which made the expansion so remarkably rapid.
Wilfred Madelung, The Succession to Muhammed A Study of the early Caliphate (Cambridge, 2004), p. 39 69 Goldshmidt Jr. and Davidson, A Concise History of the Middle East, p. 46 70 Ibid. p. 47
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A “Tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide” Margaret of Anjou in popular culture throughout history By Katherine Emery In an age when women were denied any form of political or personal power, one woman leaps from the pages of medieval English history. Margaret of Anjou (1430-1485) comes to us from the perspective of male chroniclers, writers and playwrights through the lens of patriarchy and propaganda. From this perspective, she is an affront to nature, forever categorised as a ‘she-wolf’ who subverted the natural order by taking control from her weak and ineffectual husband. Consequently, her life has become a moralistic story on how women should not behave, and from Shakespeare to Philippa Gregory, she has entered the public consciousness as a “bad” queen whose ‘hands are red with the blood of her…enemies’.71 In this article, I examine the transformation of Margaret in popular culture from her death to the present day in lieu of various ideals of femininity. The first depiction of a blood-soaked Margaret in popular culture is from Shakespeare. He coined the term ‘She-wolf of France’,72 and this brief phrase is an embodiment of why he vilified her: she is both female and French, both of which in Tudor English society was an impediment to holding power. The significance of Shakespeare’s works make this Margaret the pre-eminent portrayal across the centuries, and it has influenced ideas of Margaret’s to subsequent generations. Shakespeare’s negativity about Margaret’s French heritage comes from
endemic anti-French feeling that stemmed from the Hundred Years War,73 and her poor leadership is also attributed to this. York, Margaret’s chief political opponent, even describes her as the ‘She-wolf of France, but worse than wolves of France,’74 which implicitly links her French background to treachery. However, French background is not entirely connected to bad queenship in all of Shakespeare’s plays. The best comparison is Margaret’s predecessor Catherine of Valois, whose courtship is depicted in Henry V. Unlike Margaret; Catherine is portrayed as being the embodiment of femininity, even being described as ‘an angel’.75 This French femininity is totally absent from Shakespeare’s portrayal of Margaret, but while Catherine’s French background is incidental to the plot, Margaret’s is an important character motivation. Therefore, female French heritage was not always a negative quality in Shakespeare’s historical queens, and it is clear that xenophobia is not the main reason for Shakespeare’s portrayal. Instead, Margaret’s gender is the chief reason for her poor queenship in Shakespeare, and he uses this to make points about not only femininity, but female rulership. Lee has argued that Henry and Margaret’s relationship across the history of plays is a message about the ills of subverting the gendered social order; Margaret’s dominant position within the marriage leads to the ruin and destruction of
Michael Hicks, The Wars of the Roses: 1455-1485 (Oxford, 2003), p. 10 74 Shakespeare, Henry VI Part III, Cambridge Edition (Cambridge, 2002), Act I, Scene IV 75 Ibid. Act V, Scene II
Jock Haswell, The Ardent Queen: Margaret of Anjou and the Lancastrian Heritage (London, 1976), p. 15 72 William Shakespeare, Henry VI Part III, Penguin Edition (London, 2007), Act I, Scene IV
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the country and the House of Lancaster.76 While Margaret is depicted as a ‘tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide’,77 her husband is seen as a ‘timorous wretch’,78 and both Margaret’s strength and Henry’s weakness are seen as the causes of the Wars of the Roses. Yet, Margaret is still ascribed most of the blame as she is depicted as going against the natural feminine disposition; when York describes Margaret he states ‘Women are soft, mild, pitiful and flexible;/ Thou stern, indurate, flinty, rough and remorseless,’79 seemingly creating a dichotomy between Margaret and
exchange for invented moments that highlight her ruthlessness. A prime example of this takes place in Henry VI, Part III, during the Battle of Wakefield. Margaret has York’s twelve-yearold son Rutland killed, captures York, taunts him about Rutland’s death, places a paper crown on his head and finally stabs him. While this is an effective dramatic device to show both Margaret’s bloodthirstiness and masculinity, it is entirely fictitious, as Margaret was in Scotland at this time and this encounter could never plausibly have taken place. It is instances like this that Shakespeare uses throughout his Wars of the Roses plays to portray Margaret as bloodthirsty, and uses this characteristic as a contrast to her femininity. In later historical plays Margaret is portrayed as a bitter and scorned mother, most clearly in Richard III when she is brought back to play the role of the ‘avenging fury’80 who dramatically prophesies the downfall of the House of York. In truth, by this point in time Margaret was in France, and therefore this appearance is yet another critique of feminine power. She is seen as bitter and unforgiving, two traits that were deemed wholly inappropriate for women and possibly linked to classical ideas of female soothsayers, she becomes a bitter and sterile prophetess who foretells the destruction of the House of York. Lee has argued that these aspects of Margaret’s character were utilised by Shakespeare to critique female rulership and these serve as a contrast to the positive female rule of Elizabeth I.81 Therefore, Shakespeare’s interpretation is not just about feminine ideals but correct female rule. Although Shakespeare’s interpretation of Margaret has formed the chief perspective of her, there have been other attempts to introduce a different Margaret into popular culture such
ideal medieval femininity. To emphasise Margaret’s lack of feminine virtues Shakespeare highlights Margaret’s bloodthirstiness. While many primary sources from the Wars of the Roses account for Margaret’s warlike character, Shakespeare disregards historical accuracy in 76
Patricia-Anne Lee, ‘Reflections of Power: Margaret of Anjou and the Dark Side of Queenship’, Renaissance Quarterly 39 (Summer, 1986), p. 217 77 Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part III, Act I, Scene IV 78 Ibid. Act I, Scene I 79 Ibid. Act I, Scene IV
Lee, ‘Reflections of Power’, p. 217 Ibid. p. 217
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as Giacomo Meyerbeer’s 1820 opera Margherita d’Anjou. Meyerbeer sets his story in Scotland during Margaret’s exile in the 1460s. Strangely, it is comedic, and sees Margaret attempting to regain the throne while conducting an affair with the Duke of Lavarenne. It was based on a mélodramehistorique written by Guilbert de Pixérécourt in 1810. The play was a success, and the opera was adapted soon after and performed in Paris during the 1820s, and was perhaps performed in London in 1828,82 and the opera made Meyerbeer famous along with his portrayal of Margaret.83 This opera was a light-hearted take on Margaret’s life, and the plotline was entirely fictitious, but it still ascribed to many preconceptions about Margaret from both Shakespeare and earlier rumours surrounding her. The Margaret portrayed in this opera is a noble and tragic heroine,84 and she has several arias designed to highlight her tragic state. Conversely, she is also portrayed as a rousing militaristic leader in the Sinfonia Militare. These qualities are the same that are shown in Shakespeare’s representation, but where Shakespeare’s Margaret is bloodthirsty and tyrannical, Meyerbeer’s Margaret is resigned and heroic.85 However, this representation of Margaret is not fully positive. She is presented as a widow engaged in an affair with the married Lavarenne, a situation that would have been considered contemptible in nineteenth century society. Although this
affair is purely fictitious, it channels into rumours about Margaret during her lifetime. At the time of the birth, Henry VI was in a mental stupor as his instability caused someone to ‘vindictively’ spread a rumour that the boy’s father was the king’s cousin, Margaret’s paramour, Edmund Beaufort.86 This perceived unfaithfulness is depicted in the opera, and Lavarenne’s wife, Isaura, is presented as being far more worthy of her husband’s love than Margaret. Therefore, while Meyerbeer’s Margaret is a long way off the ‘wrangling woman’ depicted by Shakespeare, she is still ascribed qualities such as her unfaithfulness that would have been incompatible with nineteenth century attitudes about women.87 Thus, Meyerbeer is not commenting on medieval politics, but the role of the widow in nineteenth-century society. While Meyerbeer offered a popular, light-hearted depiction of Margaret to Parisian opera-goers, by the mid-twentieth century this view of Margaret had been largely forgotten due to the work of the Nazi propagandists, who had purged Meyerbeer’s music from the operatic canon due to the composer’s Jewish background.88 Yet, the ideas presented in his opera, especially those about Margaret being a strong and compassionate mother, may have taken hold, particularly in France, Margaret’s homeland, where she always had a more sympathetic reception. However, Meyerbeer’s interpretation did little to change the perception of Margaret in Anglophone popular culture, and Shakespeare’s Margaret would stay in the popular imagination until at least the 1840s. The idea of the ‘she-wolf’ presented by Shakespeare and the ‘other woman’ drawn by
Allen Buchler, ‘Opera: Highland Fling Margherita d’Anjou at the RFH, 2nd November 2002, produced by Opera Rara’, Meyerbeer Critics Archives, http://www.meyerbeer.com/Margh_critics.htm#er 83 Mark Everist, ‘Giacomo Meyerbeer, the Théâtre Royal de l’Odéon, and Music Drama in Restoration Paris’, 19th-Century Music 17 (Autumn, 1993), p. 134 84 Robert Ignatius Letellier, “Introduction” in Richard Arsenty and Robert Ignatius Letellier (eds.) Giacomo Meyerbeer: The Complete Libretti in Eleven Volumes, p. xvii 85 Ibid. p. xvii
Alison Weir, Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses (London, 1995), p. 177 87 Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part III, Act I, Scene I 88 Michael Meyer, ‘The Nazi Musicologist as Myth Maker in the Third Reich’, Journal of Contemporary History 10 (October, 1975), p. 657
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Meyerbeer is next challenged in the 1840s by an author wanting to appropriate the figure of Margaret for her own politics. Agnes Strickland was a Victorian poet, novelist and historian greatly influenced by the historical novelist Sir Walter Scott,89 and wrote her book Lives of the Queens of England between 1840 and 1849. Strickland’s book was a bestseller at the time and possibly helped shaped the image of Margaret as a passionate mother that is still a defining feature of her character in popular culture. Strickland’s Lives uses Margaret in a very different way than Shakespeare or Meyerbeer, as she saw Margaret as a moralising tale about domesticity. Burstein argues that the queens were ‘personified as hearthside friends’90 and were used as instructions of moral behaviour. Strickland’s Margaret is merely an expression of this ideal of Victorian domestic women, and all Margaret’s actions are interpreted as being for the good of her husband and her son. Strickland’s Margaret is devoid of ambition, and her attempts to get herself made regent for her husband in the early stages of the Wars of the Roses are seen as the machinations of others, namely Somerset.91 Her primary interests are not war and statecraft, but wholly domesticated hobbies, most notably art.92 Furthermore, Strickland describes her as being ‘wrapped up in her baby’ and ‘so worried on account of her husband’s condition’93 to set the scene for Margaret’s later actions, which she ascribes to familial love. Strickland even
attempts to distance Margaret from the brutality usually accorded to her, instead portraying her as a calculating politician rather than a bloodthirsty fighter as Margaret ‘did not play the Amazon herself’.94 This portrayal allows Margaret to adhere to Victorian ideas of femininity, namely devotion to the family and passivity. But unlike Shakespeare and Meyerbeer, it is clear that Strickland empathised with her subject and clearly laments her defeat at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.95 Thus, Strickland’s depiction of Margaret was built on Margaret’s family life,
which is used to excuse Margaret’s “unfeminine” actions in the later stages of the Wars. This did not overturn the cultural predominance of Shakespeare’s “She-wolf”, yet it emphasised Margaret’s maternal motivations for the first time. The ideas of previous depictions of Margaret in cultural works have continued to permeate the popular consciousness: Margaret as the illegitimate queen, the adulterer, the “avenging harpy” and the passionate mother have all reappeared in modern historical fiction. Novelist Philippa Gregory reiterates
Miriam Elizabeth Burstein, ‘“The Reduced Pretentions of the Historic Muse”: Agnes Strickland and the Commerce of Women’s History’, The Journal of Narrative Technique 28 (Autumn 1998), p. 222 90 Ibid. p. 224 91 Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, From the Norman Conquest; with Anecdotes of their Courts, a New Edition (New York, 1853), p. 291 92 Ibid. p. 295 93 Ibid. p. 298
Ibid. p. 307 Ibid.
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Shakespeare’s brutal portrayal and Strickland’s idea about the passionate mother. Margaret is repeatedly portrayed as the ‘Bad Queen’96 and Gregory perpetuates Shakespearean ideas about Margaret’s character; she is condescending,97 an adulteress,98 bloodthirsty and ruthless99 and ‘ferocious’.100 Furthermore, Gregory supports the idea that Margaret was an innately evil character, and opinions the Wars of the Roses left her ‘free to be anything she likes’ and ‘free to be wicked’.101 Others, such as Anne O’Brien, goes further and exaggerate Shakespearean depictions of Margaret to further vilify Margaret; she extends the idea that Margaret was “unnatural” and implies and incestuous relationship between Margaret and her son, Edward of Lancaster.102 The vision of Margaret in popular culture has always fluctuated to present the ideals of femininity across the centuries, but Margaret is always a “bad” woman, whether her motivations are viewed sympathetically or not. Rumours of her violence in relation to the Yorkists and the Commons, her unwillingness to concede her son’s claims after exile and her domination of her weak and ineffectual husband have all contributed to the Shakespearean myth that continues to be utilised in portrayals of Margaret. The lack of understanding of Margaret’s difficult position as both a political player and a woman has resulted in this villainisation, while her male contemporaries are let off lightly in comparison. Furthermore, as a result of her loss
of the Wars and her son, there were no inheritors of Margaret’s to be able to champion her cause, leaving her vulnerable to the historical record.
Philippa Gregory, The White Queen (London, 2009) p. 186 97 Philippa Gregory, The Red Queen (London, 2010), pp. 15-6 98 Philippa Gregory, The Lady of the Rivers (London, 2011), pp. 289-290 99 Ibid. pp. 458-459 100 Philippa Gregory, The Kingmaker’s Daughter (London, 2012), p. 99 101 Philippa Gregory, The Lady of the Rivers, pp. 458459 102 Anne O’Brien, The Virgin Widow (London, 2010)
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From ‘European Responsibilities’ to ‘Splendid Isolation’: The Development of British Isolationism, 1688-1763 By Arthur der Weduwen Great Britain has always had a ‘special relationship’ with the European continent, primarily due to its geographical isolation. Debate regarding its position in Europe has likewise always been lively. Today, political debate regarding the nature of Britain within Europe comes to the fore once again – in the form of the current EU-membership referendum suggested by David Cameron. However, this is not a new phenomenon: Britain’s relationship with the continent is one of up and downs. Whilst influence has always been mutually exercised, there are clear periods of lesser continental interaction and commitment in the history of Britain. Perhaps the most (in)famous of these periods is that of “splendid isolation”103 of the greater part of the nineteenth century. This article explores the path to this ‘splendid’ occurrence, starting at the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and ending in 1763, portraying the political factors that propelled Britain from relatively minor status to world power, changing her continental attitudes along the way. It will be shown that the path to isolationism was one of intensive political commitment to the European continent, driven by the need for allies and the maintenance of a balance of power. Lastly, this article will furthermore portray that the British Isles and the European continent stand to gain more from their relationship if they continue to remain closely committed. I will not attempt to suggest a coherent policy for British EU membership in this article – my knowledge, time, and competency are far too limited – but all in all, I hope to show that history is an
active force that not only enables us to look back, but also forward. In 1688, England104 had to balance her position carefully within the international system. Domestic turbulence, rising debt, unsuccessful wars, and religious radicalism disturbed the fortunes of the country, as they had done for the greater part of the seventeenth-century. England’s trade was threatened by the rise of France, but Louis XIV was a willing ally with England in her continental conquests (as demonstrated by the Third Anglo-Dutch War of 1672-4), albeit as the junior partner in the alliance. Between 1674 and 1688, under Charles II and his brother James II, England kept herself out of any alliances and conflict, whilst tensions on the continent increased. The abrupt conquest of England by the Dutch Stadtholder Prince William III changed the outlook significantly. “It brought to this island a Dutchman whose knowledge of continental politics and experience of continental diplomacy surpassed by far that of any English king since the Middle Ages, and whose whole commitment to the Revolution stemmed in the first place from his determination that Britain should no longer evade her European responsibilities.”105 104
For it was not yet Britain: this article will refer to Britain on any matters concerning post-1707 Union, otherwise it will be referred to as England. 105 Geoffrey Holmes, ‘Introduction: Post-revolution Britain and the Historian’, in Geoffrey Holmes (ed.) Britain After the Glorious Revolution: 1689-1714 (London 1969), pp. 18-19
Jeremy Black, A New History of England (Stroud, 2000), p. 5
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King, towing the title of Elector of Hannover in his wake. The Whigs were restored to power, and remained there: from 1721 till 1745, Robert Walpole served as the first Lord of the Treasury, dominating politics, enjoying the personal favour of both George I and II. Under his rule, Britain maintained the close continental stance it had enjoyed under William, as the protection of Hannover and the maintenance of a balance of power against the Spanish Bourbons were vital to British monarchic and economic interests. This period also saw Britain ally with France, hitherto her mortal enemy, in the Anglo-French alliance (1716-1731), to counter the alliance of Habsburg Austria and Bourbon Spain, and the emergence of Prussia and Russia as major powers. Although her position was far from stable, Britain managed to dance safely in the ‘Stately Quadrille’108 and was successful in both the War of the Austrian Succession (173948) and the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), allying with different powers109 to ensure maximum territorial and economic gain. The Glorious Revolution and the Hanoverian responsibility had forced Britain into the heart of European politics, but this shift had been largely positive: Britain had won herself an empire, and was the most powerful European nation by 1763. As Black states: “Britain’s eventual global success was dependent on victory in Europe”;110 something which was
These ‘responsibilities’ can be singled out as joining the Dutch-led coalition against Bourbon France in the Nine Years War (16881697) and the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713). To thwart the hegemonic ambitions of France, a steady financial, military, and economic commitment to Continental affairs was necessary. France could not only be fought from the safety of London, but had to also be engaged in the fields of the Low Countries, the shores of the Mediterranean, the forests of America, and the isles of the Caribbean. Furthermore, William brought with him a talented group of Dutch courtiers, merchants, and bankers who in part were responsible for a shift in global trade and wealth from Amsterdam to London. From 1688 onwards, London became the commercial capital of Europe, replacing the Dutch Amsterdam as the entrepôt of the world. Furthermore, these wars enabled Britain to consolidate her overseas possessions and establish herself as a major power, and by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) she was one of the few powers that had emerged from the wars with considerable gains. Continental engagement had paid off, and although British government debt increased, its credit was strong, and global trade expanded. William died in 1702 and was succeeded by his sisterin-law Anne. Under the latter years of Anne’s reign, the Tories, who shared none of the Whig enthusiasm for continental involvement,106 had come to power and reversed the foreign policy sharply, arguing that the European wars had damaged the country’s economy, and that Britain had no business in European affairs.107 This policy reversal did not last long, as with Anne’s death in 1714, George I acceded as
The term popularly used to denote the diplomatic situation in Europe of the first half of the 18th century, in which most countries continually switched alliance in order to maintain a profitable balance of power against other nations. The quadrille was a popular dance in the 18th century in which partners continually swapped. 109 She allied with Austria, Russia, Saxony, and the United Provinces in the War of the Austrian Succession, and with Prussia, Portugal (from 1761), Brunswick, and Hessen-Kassel in the Seven Years’ War. 110 Jeremy Black, Continental Commitment: Britain, Hanover, and interventionism, 1714-1793 (New York, 2005), p. 10
The Whigs had been in power since the Glorious Revolution. 107 This was the same argument that was to hold precedence in the nineteenth-century.
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only achieved through strategic, and sometimes ruthless diplomatic moves to secure allies on the continent. However, before 1763, cracks had begun to appear in Britain’s continental link, which were to be decisive factors leading to ‘splendid isolation’. Criticism of continental involvement took hold from the brief Tory period of the 1710s, and whilst it was relatively suppressed under the succeeding Whig regime, resentment of continental affairs was always present.111 Works such as Jonathan Swift’s The Conduct of the Allies (1713) highlighted the resentment and difficulties of continental alliances. Financial subsidies, economic concessions, and alliances with weaker powers were generally the main points of concern for politicians, satirists, writers, and others engaging in affairs of the day. From this criticism a new policy, advocated by the brief Tory regime, emerged: the so-called ‘BlueWater Policy’. This involved several actions; engage enemy colonies overseas, defend the British Isles using the Royal Navy, blockade the enemy fleet in Europe, and abstain from fighting on the continent. The use of a ‘BlueWater’ policy was thus meant to increase economic prosperity through the conquest of colonies (and harming the enemy’s trade), whilst keeping expenditure low through minimal land engagement. It also did not create a need for continental assistance or foreign subsidies. Economic prosperity was chosen over continental commitment. This was further made possible by the ascension of George III in 1760. Unlike his grandfather and great-grandfather, the new monarch did not have a strong link with Hanover. He spoke fluent English, and was keen to present himself more as an Englishman than a Hanoverian. He did not take up the role
as Elector of Hanover until 1785, and allowed British policy to focus on domestic and imperial matters rather than continental issues.112 Therefore, the period between 1763 and the start of the Revolutionary wars in France in 1792 was one of relative diplomatic isolation for Britain. She fought the American Revolutionary War alone, against France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic, and the result is well-known. It was not until the fears of a continent dominated by Republican radicalism, and then Napoleon’s ambitions, that Britain was forced to once again seek a strong continental commitment to secure its future. Her European responsibilities were re-ignited. The war against France was not over until 1815, which marked the end of the ‘Second Hundred Years War’, which had started with the Glorious Revolution. Nonetheless, the foundations of nineteenth-century isolationism, which had been laid in the earlier parts of the eighteenth century as discussed, took a firm hold of British foreign policy after the defeat of Napoleon. Britain, for a while, had become the hegemon of a quietened Europe: its Empire spanned the world, its manufacturing expanded, and its navy patrolled the oceans. Amidst this wealth and power, Britain had no need for strong continental allies – and consequently less diplomatic interest in Europe. Furthermore, economic interest also declined, as the economic markets growing in America and India caused a shift away from the more traditional markets of the Mediterranean and the heartland of Europe. Whilst isolation was only relative to previous centuries of involvement, the knowledge of Pax Britannica perhaps also aided the constructing of the socio-political concept of “splendid isolation”.
Jeremy Black, Convergence or Divergence? Britain and the Continent (London, 1994), p. 156
Ibid. p. 158
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In conclusion, it would seem that Britain was able to expand between 1688 and 1763 by capitalising on her continental commitments and connections. Foreign alliances, financial subsidies, military deployment, and cultural and economic ties allowed her to develop into a major power. This is not to say that a concern for the political and economic affairs of the European continent was the main factor in the rise of the British Empire. The Industrial Revolution, the
remained true for much of the eighteenth century also. In contrast, for the greater part of the nineteenth century, that time of â€œsplendid isolationâ€?, Britain was the hegemon of the world. As dictator of the Pax Britannica, it had no need for allies.113 Today, the situation is markedly different to the times of both of these examples; the loss of Empire, globalisation, the (momentary?) triumph of liberalism, the age of media and speculation, the war on Terror, and an ever-shifting cultural base are all but a few characteristics of a new age. However, regardless of these changes in the international system and indeed the world, the concept of the balance of power still holds precedent. And just as in 1688, Britain today is at a position from which it may decline, or at which it will stay â€“ and who knows, perhaps even rise. If Britain is to achieve one of the latter two, membership to a body of close political, social, and economic allies may be essential. While history cannot, and should not, be used to pinpointedly guide national policy, it should be assessed for close correlations, in order to abstain from rash decisions motivated by contemporary desires and hopes.
development of a highly consumer-focused society, colonial expansion, and a powerful navy were all vital to the particular development of Great Britain. Nonetheless, strong continental ties seemed to have aided Britain in her rise to a Pax Britannica. Correlating this with present-day developments, it might provide a policyguiding example, strengthening the claim that Britain would be better off as a member of the EU, closely tied to the continent. The reader, if they have had the determination to stick with me till this point, may wonder: what makes the period of 1688-1763 a better example to use than nineteenth-century isolationism, as argued in this article? The answer lies in the contextual differences of the two historical periods. Around 1688, England was a minor power in the European political theatre. Continental allies were vital to support her in military and economic ventures, and this
As stated before, it is not to say that the nineteenth century was one done in complete diplomatic isolation, but in proportion to previous centuries, Britain had far less focus for continental affairs for what was then the greatest power in the world.
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Peace-keeping or Peace-making? The neo-colonial traditions of the UN in the Congo By Emily Kirov The Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced decades of tumultuous violence and instability. The United Nations has been a key actor operating in the region in the name of peace-keeping, but perhaps the current mission MONUSCO reflects a neo-colonialist tradition, characterised by ‘peace-making’ as opposed to simply ‘peace-keeping’. The UN’s peacekeeping mission has been accused of corruption, failing to protect citizens, excessive use of violence, and political partiality. In some ways, one could justifiably refer to these missions as neo-colonialist, as Kwame Nkrumah stated, denoting ‘the use of economic and political means to extend influence over a new state’.114 Although the UN’s success in the region is evident and their presence has arguably had a much more positive impact than other organisations could have achieved, its failures and criticisms will be assessed here, in order to address this neo-colonist accusation. It is always useful for historians to look at previous events in order to understand current processes. In this instance, the Congo Crisis that occurred immediately after independence, from 1960 to 1964, can reveal intriguing patterns of comparison with modern-day criticisms. Since 1960, the Congo has experienced a period of UN peace-keeping missions aiming to stabilise a much divided country. The Congo Crisis encouraged extensive foreign political and military involvement as the power struggle played out, leading to two secessionist attempts
with Cold War-era rivalries and overall anarchy and violence. The United Nations swiftly launched a peace-keeping mission, ONUC, which was soon considered to be an instrument for imperialism. The UN has certainly progressed significantly since this period, but elements of neo-colonial comparisons have emerged. Four key areas will explain this accusation of the UN as neocolonialist in the Congo. Political inclinations: It has become largely agreed that the UN peace-keeping forces became an avenue to promote US foreign policy during the Congo Crisis.115 Many argued that the UN could never have been neutral because they were funded by the USA, and also because of particular accusations of their technique of preventative diplomacy when negotiating a peace between the four rival governments.116 The UN found itself at the centre of an internal and foreign political conflict over the Katanga secessionist state in the south, involving itself in the US-Belgian conflict over support for its leader, Tshombe. This highly politicised atmosphere led the UN 115
See David Renton et al, The Congo, Plunder and Resistance, (Zed Books, 2007), p.98 and David N. Gibbs, ‘The United Nations, International Peacekeeping and the Question of 'Impartiality': Revisiting the Congo Operation of 1960’, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Sep, 2000), pp. 359-382 and Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, The Congo: from Leopold to Kabila, A People’s History, (Zed Books, 2002) 116 David N. Gibbs, ‘Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations, and the Congo Crisis of 1960-1: A Reinterpretation’, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Mar, 1993), pp. 163-174 and Paul Diehl, ‘Peacekeeping Operations and the Quest for Peace’, Political Science Quarterly, Vol.103, No.3 (1988), pp. 485-507
Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism, (London, 1965) in Ebere Nwaubani, ‘Eisenhower, Nkrumah and the Congo Crisis’ Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 36, No. 4 (Oct, 2001), pp. 599-622
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1960s.119 This implies that financial, consumerist interests were behind international intervention, characterising it as an enforcement of a solution rather than neutral peace-keeping. For example, Prime Minister Lumumba, who was eventually assassinated, arguably fell out of favour primarily due to his aim to create an economically independent Congo.120 This would have damaged foreign mining companies’ plans to claim their stake in the country’s natural resources. Perhaps the UN Secretary-General in 1960 was affected by these external pressures to protect foreign industrial opportunities, influencing UN decision-making. Furthermore, The SecretaryGeneral’s own family ties to a rival mining company are often linked to his personal motivations for action in the mineral-rich Katangan state.121 One could also link this to the concept of giving development aid as part of ‘civilising missions’ in struggling countries. This could be interpreted as neo-colonial interference, upholding patterns of fiscal authority still in place since colonial rule.122 It is only because of the UN’s status as a global neutral force that such actions are legitimised and assumed ‘peaceful’, despite their own political and economic interests.
mission to forcibly remove the Belgian troops and disarm Katangan forces directly, thus fulfilling US interests.117 Further hypocrisies included the failure of the UN to intervene to save the Soviet-supported Prime Minister Lumumba during his torture and death.118 Evidently, it became a Cold War-proxy rivalry, despite very contrasting African notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’ politics acting within the region. One can see elements of such political leanings in current UN peace-keeping missions, despite having developed an arguably more multi-polar structure since the 1960s. This can result in influencing the course of a conflict to align with super-power rather than local interests. Perhaps then, it is no wonder that modern-day Congolese are wary of the UN, viewing them as another American army, as was conceivable during the 1960s. Economic Control: The current UN mission stands accused of exercising financial control in the Congo. By ensuring that money from natural resources does not go towards the financing of rebel groups, the UN mission actually enables more mineral trade with US investors. This, in turn, directly allows further US economic authority in the Congo. ‘Legal’ mines are those that trade with the western world, whilst ‘illegal mines’ are those that smuggle out resources through East Africa, into Asia – hence this accusation of neocolonialism. Once again, the historical background of the region reveals that this form of control is an indirect continuation of the DRC’s ‘dependency syndrome’ from the
Levels of Violence: Crocker’s terming of the UN missions as ‘muscular peace-keeping’ perfectly epitomises how such seemingly peaceful operations are often violent, both 119
Go Funai and Catherine Morris,‘Disaster in the DRC: Responding to the Humanitarian Crisis in North Kivu’, United States Institute for Peace, (Dec, 2008), accessed via www.usip.org/publications/ on 17/05/2013 120 David Renton et al, The Congo, Plunder and Resistance (Zed Books, 2007), p. 98 121 David N. Gibbs, ‘Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations, and the Congo Crisis of 1960-1: A Reinterpretation’, pp. 163-174 122 Jean-Philippe Peemans, ‘Imperial Hangovers: Belgium - The Economics of Decolonization’, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 15, No. 2 (1980), pp. 257-286
David N. Gibbs, ‘Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations, and the Congo Crisis of 1960-1: A Reinterpretation’, pp. 163-174. 118 David N. Gibbs, ‘The United Nations, International Peacekeeping and the Question of 'Impartiality': Revisiting the Congo Operation of 1960’, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Sep, 2000), pp. 359-382
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during the 1960s crisis, and to some extent in contemporary times.123 It was evidently the violent intervention in the secessionist states which shifted the UN from a ‘peace-keeping’ to ‘peace-making’ mission. The military disarming of the Katangan armed forces came to symbolise the UN’s global and political interests rather than neutral humanitarianism. One wonders, should the UN peace-keeper even be armed at all? Wearing the iconic blue beret in battle zones has legitimised their use of
weakened state structures and made the region vulnerable and open to external intervention. This continued during Mobutu’s military rule in 1971-1997, then known as Zaire and is certainly still visible in current day DRC. Therefore by employing violence towards rebels as well as a refugees and civilians, the UN peace-keeping missions have enforced their own intrusive version of a peaceful solution. Such forceful, colonial-style approaches unwittingly associate the UN with
firearms, but this could be feigning their neutrality. How can one conceptualise peacekeeping when we consider their need to fire onto civilians in order to maintain wider defence? One should note here the pre-existing conditions of violence in the Congo. The country suffered under a particularly brutal colonial rule. In the past, law and order had again been violently enforced, employing colonial tactics of security and control.124 Perhaps this habitual descent into violence has
neo-colonialism, even despite their successes in the Congo today. Duties and Rights: One wonders then, how far should foreign players intervene in what starts out as national conflicts? When visiting the Congo during this crisis, Che Guevara claimed that the world had a duty to avenge colonial ‘crime’ against the Congo.125 It raises the question of whether peace-keepers have this right to override the sovereign right to be free from external interference, as was offered at
Chester A. Crocker in J.L. Hirsch and R.B. Oakley, Somalia and Operation Restore Hope, (Washington D.C., 1995) p. x 124 See Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, Congo from Leopold to Kabila, (2002)
David Renton et al, The Congo, Plunder and Resistance, (Zed Books, 2007), p.106
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independence.126 On the other hand, many have defended the right of the Congolese to ask for foreign assistance during these crises as part of their self-determination. If we deconstruct the purpose of the ‘civilising mission’ as one of enforcing western ideals of peace, democracy and economic arrangements, one can see how it is not so far from the aims of UN peacekeeping missions. It could certainly be the UN’s use of western concepts of Human Rights rather than more localised African ‘communal rights’ that have justified the sending in of peace-keeping troops.127 Finally, current conflicts throughout Africa especially have often featured the same characters, such as rebels versus struggling governments, or corrupt governments versus ‘the people’. However, considering the role of external influence, clearly the creators of these characters and categories are the foreign powers themselves. Because the UN has taken on a duty to protect, it has the power to classify who is a ‘rebel’ in an area. This immediately shifts the conflict from local to global as it involves foreign interests and demands for a specific outcome to the conflict, whether ‘peaceful’ or not.
‘enforcing’, one can better understand the nature behind internal biases and external pressures acting upon the UN, both since the 1960s and in recent missions. The question remains whether a force as influential as the UN can ever be neutral when it involves itself in the conflict so closely and so politically. Although the work and achievements of the UN has significantly improved over the last fifty years, many problems facing the UN today in the DRC have clear historical antecedents in the 1960-64 Congo Crisis. This could certainly be due to the level of neocolonial approaches adopted and maintained since that time. Ultimately, these questions depend upon our own definitions of peace, neutrality, and rights, although one can confidently concur that these missions have moved far away from simply peace-keeping.
In conclusion, it would seem that neocolonial patterns have continued to influence how the how United Nations missions in the Congo function today, characterising their operations as a controlling ‘peace-making’ rather than a neutral ‘peace-keeping’. Moments of stability have only occasionally interrupted an era of violence, questioning the level of peace these missions have achieved. By describing these operations as ‘making’ or 126
David N. Gibbs, ‘The United Nations, International Peacekeeping and the Question of 'Impartiality': Revisiting the Congo Operation of 1960’, pp. 359-382 127 Assefaw Bariagaber, United Nations Peace Missions in Africa, Transformations and Determinants, Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 38, No. 6 (Jul, 2008), pp. 830-849
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Tudor Rebellions or Cornish Anti-Colonialism? An analysis of the rebellions that shook Tudor Cornwall By Catherine Thornhill In the Tudor period the Cornish were the protagonists for dramatic crises during the reigns of Kings Henry VII and his grandson Edward VI. Twice they marched on the walled and strategically important city of Exeter, and once they took their fight to the outskirts of London. The historiography of these events fits roughly into two groups, what Bernard Deacon has called the ‘Kernowcentrics’ and the ‘Kernowsceptics’;128 those who see the risings as the Cornish people taking a last stand against intruding English colonialism, and those who see them as part of a wave of Tudor rebellions taking place in many of the English counties. This debate is important in the wider practice of Cornish Studies as this is the turning point for the Cornish people. After this point the decline of the Cornish language increased and at the end of the early modern period Cornwall had arguably been relegated to “another English county”; a far cry from the distinct land of Corineus.129 These are the ‘violent episodes which today, as for centuries before, stand at the very heart of the debate over Cornwall’s early modern history’.130 A discussion of the events and some primary sources here is followed by a look at
the historiographical debate and some conclusions. In summarising the events, many of the minutiae details which could turn our understanding from ‘Kernowsceptic’ to ‘Kernowcentric’ or vice-versa are lost, but it is hoped that the source analysis alongside it will make up for some of this. The year 1496 saw new regulations on tin mining which coincided with a slump in the mining industry and economic hardship across Cornwall.131 The changes were refused, provoking King Henry to suspend the Cornish Stannary privileges which had traditionally ‘protected the miners’ livelihoods’.132 At the same time taxes were sharply raised to pay for the war in Scotland. Cornwall immediately erupted; quickly they found leaders in the form of Michael An Gof, a blacksmith from St. Keverne in the west of Cornwall, and Thomas Flamank, a lawyer from Bodmin. They saw the tax as unfair but their king as just, if he could only be ridded of his counsel then he would reverse these harsh changes.133 In May 1497 some 15,000 men marched to London,134 passing through the country picking up disgruntled subjects along the way – including a new leader, Lord John Audley, an impoverished nobleman from Somerset. Arriving at Blackheath, they stood their ground against the force King Henry had assembled to fight the Scots.
Deacon, B. Cornwall: A Concise History (Cardiff, 2007), p. 1 129 The Medieval Legend of the origins of Britain tells the story of the Trojan King Brutus and his ally Corineus who controlled the island becoming the namesakes of Britain and Cornwall. This makes Cornwall older than England, Wales and Scotland which became nations when Brutus died and his kingdom was shared between his three sons. Found in Stoyle, M. West Britons: Cornish Identities and the Early Modern British State (Exeter, 2002), p. 13 130 Stoyle, M. ‘Re-Discovering Difference: The Recent Historiography of Early Modern Cornwall’ in Payton, P. Cornish Studies Sixteen (Exeter, 2002), p. 105
Payton, P. ‘“a… concealed envy against the English”: A note on the Aftermath of the 1497 Rebellions in Cornwall’ in Payton, P. (ed.) Cornish Studies 1 (Exeter, 1993), p. 4 132 Stoyle, M. West Britons (Exeter, 2002), p. 21 133 Rowse, A. L. Tudor Cornwall: Portrait of a Society (Redruth, 1941), p. 122 134 Fletcher, A. and MacCulloch, D. Tudor Rebellions: Revised 5th Edition (Harlow, 2008), p. 22
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The Cornish were scattered, An Gof and Flamank were hanged, drawn, and quartered while the noble Lord Audley was beheaded. The punishment for the rest of the rebels was a further hike in taxes. In one source, the Pardon of Aleyn Trevyns and Son, written five days after the battle, we get an insight into the mass pardons which occurred at the time. King Henry, appointed ‘by the grace of God’,135 used pardons as a way of asserting his authority and paradoxically his benevolence. In the act of ‘thair rebellion [their affects] were forfeited unto us’,136 and he alone has the authority to return them. It is the perfect expression of Tudor control. The King
quietened by these events. At the end of 1497 we see a last expression of resistance from the pretender Perkin Warbeck and the Cornish people, neither of whom were fighting for the others’ cause. Warbeck was the second pretender to the throne with whom Henry had to contend. After the An Gof rebellion the Cornish returned. Warbeck was proclaimed King Richard IV at Bodmin in September 1497. From there they marched to take Exeter, hoping to find support and supplies. After only three days Warbeck decided to march to Taunton having faced an Exeter fully in support of the King.138 There, terrified by the prospect of an actual battle with Henry who was advancing fast from London, Warbeck fled, leaving his men behind. Once again Henry spared almost all the men their lives (a few ringleaders were executed), but in keeping with his penuriousness he imposed harsh fines on them. In 1508 he finally returned their Stannary rights with the Charter of Pardon (which cost a further £1,000). Henry VII’s trouble with Cornwall was over, and he was much richer for it, by 1507 alone he had ‘extracted £14,000 in fines’.139 Fifteen years later, in ‘the year of salvation 1523’ Polydore Vergil wrote Anglica Historia,140 Henry’s approved history of the British Isles. He describes the Cornish at intervals as the ‘cowardly throng’,141 ‘wretched Cornishmen’,142 and ‘dregs’.143 Added to this he describes An Gof and Flamank as ‘very
antagonises them with an inference that what they fought for was not a nation but a ‘countie’,137 and only through his kindness and understanding he has come to forgive them for their foolishness, in this context it is near impossible for them to disagree. Unlike reactions from English rebels to similar punishments, the Cornish were not
Laity, P. ‘The Cornish Risings of 1497’ in Parker S. (ed.) Cornwall Marched On! Kerskerdh Kernow 500 (Truro, 1998), pp.7-8 139 Deacon, B. Cornwall: A Concise History (University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2007), p. 68 140 Vergil, Polydore Anglica Historia 1555 Translated by Sutton, D.J. (Birmingham, 2005) from http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/polverg/ (last accessed: 01.02.2013) 141 Ibid. Chapter 23, pt. 35 142 Ibid. pt. 34 143 Ibid. pt. 35
Henry VII Pardon of AleynTrevyns and Son after 1497 An Gof Rebellion, (Shene, 22nd June, 1498) from http://www.manuscripts.co.uk/stock/22844.HTM (last accessed: 01/02/2013) 136 Henry VII Pardon of AleynTrevyns and Son after 1497 An Gof Rebellion, (Shene, 22nd June, 1498) 137 Ibid.
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rascally leaders’144 who were ‘possessed of a certain craving for glory’.145 The narrative we are getting from Vergil is of the naïve Cornish being led to certain destruction in an immoral rebellion by fame seeking radicals. This again legitimises the actions of the King and belittles the actions of the rebels to an outlet of anger at taxation. Unfortunately little is known about the reaction to Anglica Historia on its publication and so we cannot know what effect this had on the way that the rebellion was viewed at the time. As a result we can only garner from this source what Henry VII and Henry VIII through Polydore Vergil wanted to portray. There are different interpretations regarding Cornwall in the reign of Henry VIII, but his sixteenth century religious revolution did not ignite rebellious Cornwall. When Edward VI took to the throne in 1547 with his uncle, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, head of a radically protestant regency council, changes began to happen which would cause another rebellion. In 1549 the Act of Uniformity was passed and the English Book of Common Prayer was issued to every church in the land. This intrusion was the immediate cause of the rebellion, which also erupted across the Tamar in Devon. In June of 1549 simultaneous risings began in Sampford Courtenay in Devon, and Bodmin in Cornwall. Following the footsteps of Warbeck and their grandfathers the men marched to Exeter. By the 2nd of July a group of two thousand lay in wait outside Exeter, camping for six weeks whilst their numbers swelled to between six and ten thousand.146 From Exeter they petitioned the King with their demands. Of the sixteen demands from ‘the Articles of us the Commoners of
Devonshyre and Cornwall in divers Campes by East and West of Excettor’,147 ten deal with religious issues. These range from the return of the ‘syxe articles’,148 to the ‘Sacrament of Baptisme’ being performed ‘at all tymes aswel in the wekedaye as on the holy day’,149 leading to Wood’s analysis that this rebellion was part of a swathe of religious rebellions happening at the time.150 Another of this group is Kett’s rebellion which although in a different form also ‘implied a critique of the Henrician reformation’.151 The only men mentioned, ‘Humfreye Arundell, and Henry Braye’ were both from Bodmin and the head of the Cornish part of the rebel force. This implies the demands were Cornish in nature. Indeed, the Cornish have one demand entirely to themselves and the original draft asked ‘for the bible to be translated into Cornish’.152 On the 28th of July the rebels lost some three-hundred men against Lord Russell at Fenny Bridge. On the 4th of August there was a fierce battle against the newly replenished Government army (Lord Grey having finally arrived) and the rebels were sent fleeing to the far corners of the West Country. Angry, bitter and desperate they regrouped at Sampford Courtenay for one last stand. In total ‘about 4,000 West Country folk are said to have died at the hands of the royal army’.153 Somerset was not as forgiving as Henry ‘in 1549… the 147
‘Transcript of the Demands of the Western Rebels’, 1549 from Lambeth Palace Library copy with the addition of the sixteenth article and extra phrases from the copy on Corpus Christi College, Oxford’ in Fletcher, A. and MacCulloch, D. in Tudor Rebellions: Revised 5th Edition, p. 151 148 Ibid. item 2 149 Ibid. item 6 150 Wood, A. Riot, Rebellion and Popular Politics in Early Modern England (Palgrave, London, 2002), p. 54 151 Ibid. p. 60 152 Hayden, C. ‘1549 - The Rebels Shout Back’ in Payton, P. (ed.) Cornish Studies 16 (Exeter, 2008), p. 207 153 Fletcher, A. and MacCulloch D. Tudor Rebellions: Revised 5th Edition, p. 60
Ibid. pt. 34 Ibid. pt. 35 146 Stoyle, M. ‘Re-discovering Difference’ in Payton, P. Cornish Studies 10 (Exeter, 2002), p. 108 145
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Tudor state was determined to crush all resistance’.154 All those involved, especially the many priests, were sentenced to be hanged, with more fines for the commoners. Somerset wanted to scare the Cornish into submission, a technique he used across the kingdom and one which was successful. Up until recently the predominant historiographical conception has been one of Cornish rebellion fitting into a grander narrative of Tudor rebellion. The rebellions of 1497 are shown as having similar themes to the
had multiple causes raising it above the Westerners ‘one religious complaint’. Roger Manning writing about MidTudor Rebellions as a collective perfectly outlines the general view taken by academics up until recently. He says that rebellions can be split into two sections (in this hundred year time span), the first group protests corruption and taxation and is exemplified by ‘Jack Cade’s rebellion of 1450 or the Cornish rising of 1497’.156 He then goes on to describe the only other type of rebellion, those which
Yorkshire rising of 1489 – even in the most recent edition of Fletcher and MacCulloch’s Tudor Rebellions they nestle alongside each other under the heading ‘Taxation and Rebellion’.155 While the rebellions of 1548-9 are shown in correlation with Kett’s rebellion in Norfolk, often spoken about in the same breath, and more startling, as an aside note to the “more superior” East Anglian revolt which
expressed ‘social conflict’ and a defence of ‘regional culture’, seen in ‘the main centres of revolt in Norfolk, Cornwall and 157 Devonshire’. Although Deacon would describe this as a ‘Kernowsceptic’ narrative there is no mention of Kernow at all, Cornwall’s rebellion is part of a list, lacking any distinct national identity.
Payton, P. Cornwall – A History (Fowey, 2004), p. 124 155 Fletcher, A. and MacCulloch, D. Tudor Rebellions, pp. 19-21
Manning, R. B. ‘Violence and Social Conflict in MidTudor Rebellions’ in Journal of British Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Chicago, 1977), p. 19 157 Ibid. p. 20
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the English,167 which resulted in the ‘resentment of the conquered people’.168 This argument is developed only further by Barrett Beer who talks of ‘Cornwall’s sense of political and cultural oppression’,169 Lisa McLain who believes that its isolation created a unique cultural and religious environment,170 and Cheryl Hayden whose own Cornish roots create in her a deep-seated conviction ‘that the Tudor Monarchs were well aware of the ethnically driven tension inherent in their relationship with the Cornish’.171 All combine effectively to show these rebellions in the light of a Cornish struggle against English absorption in the Tudor period. These works are relatively new in the understanding of the Tudor Cornish rebellions (appearing mainly over the last two decades) and add a valuable side to the debate. They also tend to be more overtly ideologically Kernowcentric while older texts such as that of Halliday appear more occupied with bringing Cornwall to centre-stage than writing a Kernowcentric history of English submersion. This also brings to light the fact that most Kernowsceptic texts are not aware of their stance, but rather they don’t register Cornish identity as a valid reason for rebellion. As well as these two distinct lines of argument there is the hybrid which Bernard Deacon has taken. For him it is not a discussion of ‘Celtic country’ or ‘English county’, but both at the same time. In no other
The core text exemplifying a ‘Kernowsceptic’ response to the 1549 rising is The Western Rebellion of 1549 by Frances Rose-Troup which pins the rebellion on Cornwall’s distance from London, something which also caused the Pilgrimage of Grace in Yorkshire.158 The main reason given for the rebellion though is religion, as Cornwall and Devon’s religious conservatism drove the rebels to risk everything. This can also be seen in the works of Jennifer Loach,159 Andy Wood,160 John Chynoweth,161 J.D.P. Cooper,162 and Robert Whiting.163 Of works which we could label as ‘Kernowcentric’, Bernard Deacon says ‘the most significant’ comes in the ‘grand narrative’ of Philip Payton’s The Making of Modern Cornwall,164 which sets out the story of the rebellions as the natural ‘Cornish reaction to the centralising tendencies of the Tudor State’.165 The same can be seen in Stoyle, who talks of the prayer-book rebellion in terms of the ‘desire to protect traditional ‘Cornishness’ from what they perceived as English cultural aggression’.166 Both F.E. Haliday and A.L. Rowse describe the ‘conquest’ of Cornwall by
Rose-Troup, F. The Western Rebellion of 1549: An account of the insurrections in Devonshire and Cornwall against religious innovations in the reign of Edward VI (Michigan, 1913), p. 70 159 Loach, J. Protector Somerset: A Reassessment (Bangor, 1994) 160 Wood, A. Riot, Rebellion and Popular Politics in Early Modern England (Palgrave, London, 2002), pp. 54-59 161 Chynoweth, J. Tudor Cornwall (Gloucestershire, 2002) 162 Cooper, J.D.P. Propaganda and the Tudor State: Political Culture in the West Country (Oxford, 2003) 163 Whiting, R. ‘“For the health of my soul”: prayers for the dead in the Tudor south-west, in Southern History Five, 1983, pp. 68-94 164 Deacon, B. Cornwall: A Concise History (University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2007), p. 1 165 Payton, P. ‘“a… concealed envy against the English”’ in Payton, P. (ed.) Cornish Studies 1 (Exeter, 1993), p. 4 166 Stoyle, M. ‘Re-Discovering Difference’ in Payton, P. Cornish Studies Sixteen (Exeter, 2002), p. 109
Haliday, F. E. A History of Cornwall: The Essential Guide to Cornwall past and present (York, 2001), p. 182 168 Rowse, A.L Tudor Cornwall (Redruth, 1941), p. 275 169 Beer, B. Rebellion and Riot: Popular disturbances in England during the reign of Edward VI (Ohio, 1982), p. 42 170 McLain, L. Lest We Be Damned: Practical Innovation and Lived Experience Among Catholics in Protestant England, 1559-1642 (New York, 2004), chapter 6. 171 Hayden, C. ‘1549 - The Rebels Shout Back’ in Payton, P. (ed.) Cornish Studies 16 (Exeter, 2008), p. 219
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part of ‘England’ does this happen.172 The dichotomy of an English county with a Celtic national history is interesting, and could explain the differing roles of the common people and the gentry in these rebellions as well as the differing values of those from east and west Cornwall. Deacon is not alone; though many align themselves in their introductions they usually display elements of this concept – even if done so subconsciously. This is particularly important in the ‘Kernowsceptic’ camp as they display more of this duality than the ‘Kernowcentrics’ who appear more secure in their final analysis. There is a dichotomy in the history of Early Modern Cornwall. The language, the tin mining and the stannaries embody the unique historical identity of this county/country. The rest of Cornwall’s distinct identity is inferred, for example in the use of the phrase ‘Cornishmen’ better equated with ‘Englishmen’ than ‘inhabitants of 173 Yorkshire’. These risings have many similarities with those of other times, it is not only for the sake of convenience that the midTudor crisis exists as a concept, nor that Fletcher and MacCulloch sit the Yorkshire and Cornish risings side by side under the heading ‘Taxation and Rebellion’, but there is something to be said in the fact that all Tudor rebellions have some similarities, including those on the continent and the fact that they rose up against religious changes and taxation does not get rid of the regional differences in their marching. In general, people hate unfair taxation and undue intrusion on their daily lives by government, but just because this is clear in these rebellions does not indicate that
the case for a distinct Cornish identity should be ignored. It is through looking at primary sources which challenge the previously dominant historiography surrounding these rebellions that we get the idea that Tudor Cornish rebellions were distinct from their English counterparts and with further in-depth analysis of primary sources more of this could be seen.
Deacon, B. Cornwall: A Concise History (University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2007), p. 2 173 Vergil, Polydore Anglica Historia 1555 Translated by Sutton, D.J. (Birmingham, 2005), Chapter 23, pt. 34 from http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/polverg/ (last accessed: 01.02.2013)
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‘Young Angry Men’ The new exhibition at the Bill Douglas Centre By Sophie Noke, Emily Vine, and Lydia Murtezaoglu Second Year History students studying the Gender and Citizenship course curated a temporary exhibition in the Bill Douglas Centre on ‘Angry Young Men’ – the movement that spanned both literature and cinema in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Second Year Gender and Citizenship module lends itself well to using resources in the Bill Douglas Centre, and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in curating exhibitions. We recently put together an exhibition on British New Wave cinema, with the help of Museum curator Dr. Phil Wickham. Many of the resources available touched on themes of the course, such as sexuality, aspirational lifestyles, and popular culture. After initial research, the group met to discuss possible approaches to our exhibition and titles for our display case. As last year’s group had focused upon female film stars (they looked at women and consumerism in the 1920s), we decided to concentrate upon the depiction of masculinity, and gave our display the snappy title ‘Angry Young Men.’ Dr. Wickham suggested we started by researching the subject in general, as well as the significant films of the genre and its leading stars. This research was particularly interesting, as it gave an insight into the earlier works and lives of actors who to our generation had always seemed old, such as Richard Harris, who we always knew as kind, mild-mannered Professor Dumbledore. There were a number of items which we’d already looked at in seminars based in the BDC, so we selected those which were relevant to our subject of masculinity and continued searching the catalogue for more. We selected
items from the archive on the basis of their relevance to the topic and visual appeal, and tried to utilise material which focused on some of the leading male actors of the genre, such as postcards of Laurence Harvey, Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. We also used fiction tie-ins of films such as ‘Look Back in Anger,’ ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, and cinema publicity material to demonstrate the wide-ranging cultural impact of these films. Our personal favourite items were the Daily Cinema cover depicting a still from ‘Room at the Top’, and the James Dean lobby cards, showing stills from ‘Rebel without a Cause.’ The bold red-pink colour and risqué nature of the image on the Daily Cinema cover makes it one of the most eye catching items: it gives an insight into how radical these films would have been at the time. The stills from ‘Rebel without a cause,’ although not directly linked to British New Wave cinema, work well in showing alternative contemporary depictions of disaffected youth in cinema and the influence of American popular culture on Britain. The immediacy of the threat of violence in these images and the use of vibrant colours is striking against the predominantly monochrome background. 40
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war society are highlighted through the film’s rough, urban and claustrophobic setting, which helps to highlight the difficult reality of life for the under privileged classes. These genres of films have been considered to encompass the theme of ‘kitchen-sink’ realism in which typical ‘gritty’ relationship dramas might take place in the confines of a small urban house or in a local pub, the legacy of which can be seen in twenty first century soap operas such as Coronation Street and East Enders, which in turn explore similar themes within similar environments. The ‘Angry Young Men’ exhibition, curated by Emily Vine, Sophie Noke, Virginia Walsh, Asha Horsby, and Lydia Murtezaoglu
The social and cultural background of the British New Wave and the ‘Angry Young Man’ are culturally constructed through the issue of ‘class’. Many of the characters we see in films might be considered to be a reflection of the writers who conceived of and invented the characters through their plays and novels; such as Alan Silitoe, Stan Barstow and John Osborne. During the 1950s and 1960s, the label became associated with young workingclass or lower-middle class writers who were cynical about traditional British society and its obvious class distinctions, and we see this concept illustrated through various characters in films of the British New Wave. In films such as Look Back in Anger (1959), the issue of class is certainly prevalent: the ‘anti-hero’ Jimmy Porter (played by Richard Burton) is a quintessential example of an intelligent young individual whose opportunities were restricted due to his ‘lower’ social class. He demonstrates his angst towards society through lashing out at those around him, and through his turbulent relationship with his wife, Alison, who comes from a wealthier middle-class family which Porter loathes. Although Porter has a university degree, he demonstrates the complexity of his character by choosing to work in the local market instead of aspiring to a well-paid job that might have been on offer to him. This has been said to demonstrate his hostility towards authority and the growing conservatism and class distinctions of 1950s Britain, although he feels unable to fight for his grievances or push for change. More widely, the struggles of post-
offers a valuable visual starting point for those interested in 1950s and 1960s British cultural history and British New Wave cinema. It is located on Floor -1 of the Research Commons outside the downstairs exhibition space of the Bill Douglas Centre. For those interested in the Bill Douglas Centre or British New Wave visit the website, http://www.exeter.ac.uk/bdc/, or the insightful blog http://billdouglascentre.wordpress.com/.
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The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan â€œThe Hopeless Military Adventureâ€? By Dale James Writing a reflective piece on Afghanistan is no easy task, it is a contentious and controversial subject made only more so by almost weekly reports of mounting troop casualties. However, because it is such a prominent current event with deep seated historical roots it requires some probing and analysing. Empires and armies throughout history have tried and failed time and again to successfully conquer and retain control of Afghanistan. Macedonia failed, Genghis Khan and the Mongols failed, the Mughals failed, the British Empire failed twice, the Soviet Union failed, and now it seems as though the latest coalition of nations is doomed to the same fate. What is it about Afghanistan that makes it so notoriously hard to subdue? In order to go about addressing this question it is important to put Afghanistan in its proper context and to disregard any and all preconceptions one may have for the nation. In the eyes of an economic historian Afghanistan is a nation stuck in a time warp; firmly rooted in the medieval system of subsistence farming.174 The population of Afghanistan is overwhelmingly rural and is incredibly fragmented as a result. Despite efforts of some of its leaders throughout the ages Afghanistan is still dominated by a pre-industrial society. Industrialisation has historically brought together disparate ethnic groups and differing social classes to forge a collective industrial working class and establish a sense of uniformity. As a direct consequence of subsistence Afghanistan is gripped by a constant state of feudalism and tribalism
making it very difficult for modernization to take a foothold. However, this is not to say that the Afghan clans and tribes are incapable of working towards a common cause. Fiercely independent as they are they have historically united under one banner to repel any foreign invader seeking to impose its way of life upon them.175 Afghans have had considerable practice doing so because they have a rich history of being both invaded and occupied by a vast array of empires and cultures. Many great powers throughout history have shown their presence in Afghanistan, starting from the Persian Empire (6th and 5th century BC) through the Macedonian Empire (4th century BC), the Muslim Arabs (7th century AD), the Islamic Turks (10th century AD), the Mongolian Empire (13th century AD), the Mughal Empire (17th century AD) the British and Russian Empires (19th and 20th century AD), the Soviet Union (1980), and finally NATO (2001). The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is the most contemporary and provides interesting parallels with the current occupation of the country by western forces, and this article will therefore focus mainly on the Soviet invasion, portraying the difficulties and challenges posed by Afghanistan and the Afghans to foreign invaders.
P. R. Blood, Afghanistan: A Country Study (Montana, 2004), p. 7
M. McCauley, Afghanistan and Central Asia: A Modern History, p. 2
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When Macedonia invaded Afghanistan in 330 BC Alexander the Great intended to use the country as a staging point for his empire to expand into India. However, Alexander’s armies came under relentless guerrilla attacks by the native Afghan tribes and were forced out of the country in less than two years. The British Empire was at its zenith between the 19th and 20th centuries, its colonies spanned the globe and its military power was immense.
Russia would take the initiative Britain invaded Afghanistan with the purpose of occupying it and potentially transforming it into a colony. During their first stay in Afghanistan the British attempted to integrate elements of Western culture into Afghan society with disastrous results. Efforts to introduce Christianity, greater infrastructure, and universal education were met with stout resistance which eventually turned into outright
However, in Asia it found itself in competition with the Russian Empire. Britain sought to create a ‘buffer state’ between India and Russia, seeing unoccupied Afghanistan as a potential launch pad for a Russian attack against the British Raj in India. Afghanistan found itself between these two powerful and rapidly expanding Empires. Then-ruler Abdur Rahman Khan (1830 – 1901) ruefully admitted that, at this time, his country was “like a grain of wheat in a flour mill waiting to be ground down by two millstones.”176 Fearing that
rebellion. The magnitude of the insurgency reached such a level that British forces were, like the many others before then, forced out of the country when it became apparent that waging a continued war against a resilient guerrilla army was not worth the price of admission. However, Britain was still not content with leaving Afghanistan be so it invaded the country once again during the same century with renewed impetus. Britain appeared to have learned from its previous mistakes and significantly toned down the scale of its
Ibid. p. 5
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cultural imperialism. Determined to avert another uprising the British ‘propped up’ the rule of Amānullāh Khān (1892 – 1960), a Western educated Afghan emir who sought to ‘modernize’ his kingdom – using his international education and cultural experience as a basis for his policies. In a way this system was somewhat effective, of integrating cultural change in such a resilient society. This regime remained reasonably stable until the era of the Cold War, which is when a particularly violent (even by Afghan standards) and welldocumented chapter in Afghan history began. Russia, a nation that once vied for possession of Afghanistan with the British Empire during its own Imperial era, now found itself in the country again. Fully aware that its empire was in decline in the wake of the Second World War Britain began withdrawing the support it had previously been supplying to Amānullāh Khān, forcing the Afghan emir to turn to the Soviet Union for assistance.177 Although the Soviets had reached out to and subsequently had their hand batted away by Amānullāh Khān in the 1920s when they sought to spread the word of Lenin they now found themselves with the upper hand: Khān was now reliant on them. Unsurprisingly the aid provided by the Soviets had come with a price: the proliferation and support of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). In 1978 the PDPA, with help from the Afghan army, seized power from thenpresident Mohammed Daoud Khan in what is known as the Saur Revolution. From this point on the Soviets essentially governed Afghanistan by using the PDPA as a proxygovernment, using leaders such as Nur Mohammad Taraki and Abdul Qadir Dagarwal to conceal their presence.178 Now that the
Soviets had put their foot in the door in Afghanistan they sought to transform Afghan society into a society based on Communist/Marxist ideals. The ethnic dimension in Afghanistan was so embedded that Marxism was unable to influence it.179The problem about the measures intended to bring about cultural change was that, like every single measure brought about by the various foreign nations before them, they took no account at all of Islam and the embedded complexities of Afghan society that stemmed directly from it. Muslim traditions, way of life, social attitudes and law were far removed from the Russian legal system. Islamic law, the Sharia, expressly prohibited foreign influence. Like the British before them the Soviets neglected to notice the growing dissent and disillusionment brewing amongst Afghan civilians unhappy with this enforced culture change. Eventually this dissent evolved into an insurgency against the PDPA. The insurgency took on the name of ‘The Mujahideen’, which literally means “Those who struggle for Allah”. As the rate and ferocity of the Mujahideen attacks intensified, thanks in large to financial and covert military aid from the United States, Israel, and Pakistan, the PDPA government was forced to travel to Moscow to request military support so it could solidify its regime and fight the Mujahideen. The Soviets were understandably hesitant in committing to any sort of military endeavour because they feared they would be viewed as foreign aggressors and invoke Jihad upon 180 themselves. Eventually the choice to commit military support for the PDPA was made by Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev who, who sent the 40th Army into Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. Brezhnev’s hand was 179
McCauley, Afghanistan and Central Asia: A Modern History, p. 15 180 T. Barfield, Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (Princeton, 2012), p. 253
Ibid. p. 12 178 A. Arnold, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion in Perspective (New York, 1985), pp. 68-85
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forced to intervene following a month of exceptionally violent attacks against PDPA institutions and its figureheads. The result, as expected by the Soviets, was that the Mujahideen declared Jihad on the USSR. By invading Afghanistan the Soviets had turned what had been an on-going, inter-clan conflict into a collective Jihad against one foreign infidel. Upon arriving in Afghanistan the strategy that the Soviets hoped to adopt was a simple one and one which echoes strongly with what coalition forces are attempting in vain to this
an unfamiliar obstacle. It was able to bring massive firepower to bear but the Mujahideen simply left the area under attack only to return later and resume guerrilla warfare. The Soviets had found themselves locked into the very situation they had wanted to avoid: if they continued to fight against the Mujahideen, a seemingly invincible and invisible force, they would continue to lose men, money, and influence at an escalating rate. If they decided to concede defeat and withdraw from Afghanistan altogether the loss would be spun by
day. The plan was to occupy centres of population and key sites to provide firepower and logistic support for the Afghan Army as the latter deployed into the countryside to deal with the insurgency. At the same time, they would train and equip the Afghan Army, so that, hopefully after a few months, it could be left to control the country itself. The Red Army itself had been trained for conventional, largescale, fast-moving operations against China or across the central European plain and therefore found the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan
Western governments as evidence that communism had been defeated. The matter was made more complicated through growing international pressure from the United Nations who urged the Soviets to cease their operations in the country. The battle raged on until May 15th, 1988 when Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, facing increasing pressure from both Russian citizens and his own reform-minded party members, ordered the withdrawal of Soviet forces from the country. It is from Gorbachev 45
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and members of his retinue that we gain a fascinating insight into the mood prevalent in Russia during this time. Gorbachev says little in his memoirs about what he calls ‘The Hopeless Military Adventure’, other than to remark: ‘If one recalls how many lives that war cost us, how many young people were crippled for life, and the loss and sufferings of the Afghan people, one can understand the explosion of hope that came from the promise to end this conflict that had brought shame on our nation’.181 Andrei Sakharov, speaking in 1988, said that ‘The war in Afghanistan was in itself criminal, a criminal adventure taken on, undertaken by who knows who, and who knows bears the responsibility for this enormous crime of our Motherland. This crime cost the lives of about a million Afghans; a war of destruction was waged against an entire people… And that is what lies on us as a terrible sin, a terrible reproach.’182 The defeat of the Red Army in Afghanistan was a factor in the dissolution of Soviet communism, because it led to hitherto unsuspected public protests (similar to the American Vietnam War protests) in the Soviet Union. The Mujahideen took power in Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal and the first three years of their rule, if it could be called that, was characterized by the total inability of its leaders to agree amongst themselves on any lasting political settlement and their readiness to fight one another at the slightest provocation, or without provocation at all. Eventually, in-fighting within the country led to the rule of the Taliban. It is ironic that by supporting the Mujahideen in fighting the Soviets, and thereafter failing to support the country after the conflict, the USA can be said
to have indirectly aided the rise of Islamist militancy in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has never been desired by imperial nations for any measure of material wealth but rather because it has been an attractive staging point for other Middle Eastern operations for the many empires that have occupied it. During their stays in the country imperial nations and modern governments attempted, as they did with numerous other ‘undeveloped’ nations, to modernize those that they deemed below themselves and attempted to align others with their own societal models – none of which were never or ever will be even remotely compatible with Afghanistan and its people. Sharia Law, and Islam by an extension, vehemently prohibits international interference in Islamic countries, something that every single would-be invader has constantly neglected to realize. The fiercely independent nature of the Afghan people has contributed time and again throughout history to the rejection of both the capitalist and communist models of development – as historical examples have demonstrated. Afghans will simply not tolerate foreigners dictating to them how they should work and live, and failure to acknowledge this sentiment is almost guaranteed to have a catastrophic result. How does Afghanistan join the twentyfirst century, if it even wants to? It should be abundantly clear from this essay that no Western nation holds the answer. If change is implemented it must be implemented by Afghans, and be tailored for Afghans, and must be done carefully instead of forcefully.
M. Ewans, Afghanistan: A Short History of its People and Politics (New York, 2003), p. 236 182 Ibid. p. 237
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The Fate of Edward II: Murder or Survival? By Conor Byrne Edward II’s reputation is abysmal; arguably only Henry VI and Richard III have better claims to being England’s worst monarch. Acceding to the throne in 1307 aged twentythree, the son of the magnificent Edward I, Edward’s reign was characterised by political instabilities, factional rivalries and bloody feuds, brought about largely by the king’s inability to successfully control his courtiers. At the heart of the matter was Edward’s notorious relationships with male favourites, firstly the controversial Piers Gaveston and later with the two Despensers, prominent courtiers during Edward’s reign (both named Hugh). This article will consider a variety of contemporary evidence and historians’ arguments pertaining to what happened to Edward II following his abdication in highly controversial circumstances. It is erroneous to talk of Edward II as a homosexual in the modern sense of the word. Thus the claims that ‘the conclusion is inescapable that Edward did fall in love with Piers... and that this love had homosexual connotations’, and Edward ‘had quickly come to terms with his sexual orientation’183, and that he was ‘flaunting his homosexuality’, as Weir has written in her otherwise compelling book Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England (2005), are anachronistic, since notions of homosexuality in its modern usage developed only in the nineteenth century. Nonetheless, contemporary chroniclers castigated Edward for this relationship, indicating that many did believe that there were sinister connotations – Robert of Reading, for
instance, accused Edward of desiring ‘wicked and forbidden sex’ while the Chronicle of Meaux went further, suggesting that the king ‘particularly delighted in the vice of sodomy’.184 Whatever the true nature of Edward’s relationship with Piers, it caused resentment and anger among the nobles; strained relations between the monarch and the barons were an increasingly central feature of English political life in the medieval period. His young queen, Isabella, became increasingly neglected at court, and consequently powerful courtiers, such as Henry of Lancaster, rallied to her support. This conflict worsened with the rise of the two Despensers in the 1320s, leading Isabella to return to her native France with her notorious lover Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, rally a force, invade England, and subsequently seize the crown in her son Edward’s name. Following the brutal executions of the Despensers in 1326-7 as part of Isabella’s vengeance, the king himself, supposedly, was murdered at his residence at Berkeley Castle on 21 September. This occurred (if it did at all) in context of several escape attempts made by the king and his devoted supporters, leading Isabella’s supporters to decide that enough was enough and, as long as he lived, Edward would continue to remain a figurehead for treasonable insurrections and restoration plots. In late June a party of conspirators led by a Dominican friar, Stephen Dunheved, had managed to free the king from his castle, and on 7 September another plot to rescue Edward was uncovered.185 According to the chronicler
A. Weir, Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England (2005), pp. 19-20
Ibid. p. 20 Ibid. pp. 272-8
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Geoffrey Baker, writing in the late fourteenth century and hostile to the queen: ‘Isabella was angered that [Edward’s] life, which had become most hateful to her, should be so prolonged. She asked advice of the Bishop of Hereford, pretending that she had had a dreadful dream, from which she feared, if it was true, that her husband would be at some time restored to his former dignity, and would condemn her as a traitress, to be burned or given into perpetual slavery. The Bishop of Hereford feared greatly for himself, just as Isabella did, conscious that, if this should come to pass, he was guilty of treason’. Whether or not Baker’s claims were actually true, it is certain that the Queen was in a very dangerous situation. Not only had she invaded and usurped the throne from her lawful husband and consequently replace him with his son, but she was also threatened by political insurrection and increasing hostility to her tyrannous rule alongside Mortimer. While Edward had been exceedingly unpopular among his subjects, and his queen had received widespread sympathy due to his mistreatment of her, it was entirely possible that views could change, and that revived support for Edward might jeopardise Isabella’s rule. Baker goes on to suggest that letters were written and sent to the king’s keepers at Berkeley Castle, promising that the death of Edward would cause ‘no great displeasure, whether it were natural or violent’, and writes how Bishop Hereford sent the gaolers a Latin message that could be interpreted in two ways because of the omission of a comma; one of which was fatal to the king: Edwardum occidere nolite, timere bonum est (Kill not Edward, it is good to fear the deed); or Edwardum occidere nolite timere, bonum est (Fear not to kill Edward, it is a good deed). However, Baker’s story has been entirely disputed, largely because Hereford was at the
time in Avignon, and it has been suggested that he plagiarised the tale from the works of the chronicler Matthew Paris. Other chroniclers noted, conversely, that the king was killed on 21 September. The contemporary Annales Paulini, probably written in 1328, notes that ‘King Edward died at Berkeley Castle, where he was held prisoner’, while Adam Murimuth opined that the king had been murdered on Mortimer’s orders, to ensure his own safety. Many people will be aware of the sensational claims that Edward was murdered in a horrendous manner – through a red-hot poker being inserted through his anus, as a gruesome and sadomasochistic portrayal of his love of sodomy.186 One version of The Brut chronicle, written in the 1330s, reports that the
Berkeley Castle King’s gaolers ‘went quietly into his [Edward’s] chamber and laid a large table on his stomach, and with other men’s help pressed him down’. Waking up, the king struggled to escape, leading his tormentors to insert ‘a long horn into his fundament as deep as they might, and took a spit of burning copper, and put it through the horn into his body, and oft-times rolled therewith his bowels, and so they killed their lord, and nothing was perceived’. The Historia Aurea, dating from approximately 1346, agreed, writing that Edward ‘was killed 186
For what follows, see Weir, pp. 278-282
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by the introduction of a hot iron through the middle of a horn inserted into his bottom’. The monk of Chester, Ranulph Higden, confirmed this: Edward was ‘ignominiously slain with a red-hot rod piercing his anus’. Geoffrey Baker, noted for his sensational stories, suggested that the king’s gaolers Maltravers, Gurney and Ockle attempted firstly to kill Edward by natural causes (including depriving him of light and sleep, starving, and suffocating him), before again attempting to suffocate him with cushions. They then, supposedly, laid ‘a great table’ across his stomach, lifted his legs, took a horn and inserted it as far as possible into his rectum, before thrusting up it ‘a plumber’s soldering iron, heated red hot’, driving it through ‘the privy parts of the bowel, and thus they burnt his innards and vital organs’. Yet many historians now do not believe that Edward was truly killed in this painful way – the greatest flaw in the story is that despite being horrifically painful this would not kill a person in such a short space of time. Most now see it as later propaganda directed against Isabella and Mortimer, who became increasingly hated within England for their tyranny. In fact, some believe that Edward was never murdered at all. In 1877, a French archivist published the text of a copy of an undated letter said to be written from a papal notary, Manuele de Fieschi, to Edward III, relating how the young king’s father had ‘escaped’ from Berkeley Castle and had travelled via Ireland, France and Germany to Lombardy. However, historians at the time, including William Stubbs and Thomas Frederick Tout, disbelieved this.187 Weir, for one, believes strongly in the letter’s authenticity, and suggests in her book that Edward travelled through Europe, eventually
dying as a hermit only in around 1341. Both Ian Mortimer and Paul Doherty, concur, believing that the king was never murdered at Berkeley on the orders of Isabella. Mortimer argues that Roger and Isabella wanted to keep Edward alive, in fact, in order to control his son, and suggests that Fieschi’s narrative can be substantiated from record sources.188 Doherty, however, disputes this, and remains ‘distinctly unimpressed by the document’, suggesting that not only is it inaccurate and ambiguous, but concludes that ‘Fieschi concocted the yarn’ as a means of pressuring Edward III to reward him further by granting him offices in the English Church.189 News of Edward II’s ‘death’ on 21 September reached his son, the king, in Lincoln, and a public announcement was made following the break-up of Parliament on 29 September. The funeral took place on 20 December, where the corpse was interred at Gloucester Cathedral. Yet, as has been noted, ‘the corpse could have been anybody’s; before leaving the castle, it had been completely covered in waxed cloth and encased within two coffins... the king’s body was exhibited “superficially”’.190 Furthermore, no-one actually saw the corpse, and could thus be certain that it was Edward II. Since Berkeley and Maltravers were never charged with the king’s death, this suggests that the charges brought against the king’s father’s jailer were fictitious in order to support his sentence against Roger Mortimer (who was executed in 1330). In view of this, one has gone so far to write that ‘...one can no longer support the traditional narrative of Edward’s death... there is no longer any justification for dismissing the Fieschi letter as a forgery, or the accounts of
Nigel Saul, ‘The Death of Edward II’, History Today (2003) 189 Ibid. 190 Mortimer, ‘A red-hot poker?’
Ian Mortimer, ‘A red-hot poker? It was just a red herring’, Times Higher Education (11 April 2003)
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being ‘about to have delivered the person of that worshipful knight Sir Edward, sometime king of England, your brother, and to help him that he should have been king again and govern his people as he was wont [to do] before’. Yet this does not say anything about when Kent was supposedly attempting to aid Edward in recovering his crown – did it mean fairly recently, or in 1327 when his son became king? This does not, therefore, mean that Edward survived later than 1327 – the charge could have been relating to events three years back. William Melton, however, reported to Simon Swanland in around 1330 that he had received ‘certain news’ that Edward II remained alive, and asked him to supply materials to assist William de Clif in bringing about the king’s rescue. Mortimer further stresses that this body of evidence was recorded by highly placed political observers, including the earl of Kent and the archbishop of York. The greatest evidence to support Mortimer’s theory seems to be that Kent was indicted in 1330 for trying to release a supposedly dead man from prison. Kent’s confession strengthens this, suggesting that many believed that the former king remained alive. Some historians, therefore, now believe that Edward II never died at all in Berkeley Castle in September 1327, and provide compelling evidence that he may have survived for quite a while longer. What is certain is that the gruesome red-hot poker story can be dismissed as nothing more than a myth. Mortimer has intriguingly suggested that this was vicious propaganda designed to vilify the king as a homosexual who enjoyed playing the passive role in homosexual sexual relations. However, the claims that Edward II and his son, by now king, enjoyed a ‘reunion’ in 1339 and that Edward II ‘knew he did not have long to live and wanted to see his son one last time’
William the Welshman as the antics of an imposter.’191 Yet even Mortimer notes that there is substantial evidence indicating that Edward was murdered on that night at Berkeley Castle.192 The accounts of Edward II’s keepers, published in the nineteenth century, support this; as do the accounts of his funeral; and the wardrobe accounts of the 1330s and 1340s which prove that the royal family continued to commemorate Edward’s death. But Mortimer doubts Lord Berkeley’s letters relating to the
king’s death, while it was announced at Lincoln to Edward’s son that the king had died of a grief-induced illness. However, if the king had really died of a grief-induced illness, then ‘none of the accusations against Lord Berkeley in 1330 would have been necessary’.193 Furthermore, other evidence indicates that Edward may not have been murdered. In 1330, the accusation, trial and judgement of the earl of Kent specified that the earl was guilty of 191
Ibid. Ian Mortimer, ‘A note on the deaths of Edward II’, http://www.ianmortimer.com/EdwardII/death.htm, (last accessed 18 April 2013) 193 Ibid. 192
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are nothing more than speculation.194 While it is possible that ‘Edward III had every reason to keep his father’s continuing existence a secret: he did not want him to be the focus of any plots for his restoration... he did not want to lose
although Mortimer has highlighted the inadequate nature of evidence, it seems probable that Edward did die in 1327 at Berkeley, because many chroniclers wrote that he had, and court documents support this. The theory that Edward II survived seems almost too sensational to be true.
face after having Mortimer publicly convicted of Edward’s murder in Parliament; nor would he have wanted to rake up old scandals that could harm his mother’,195 it is certain that we will never know for sure what really happened to Edward II. All that can be discerned is that he was a fiercely unpopular king, perhaps the most unpopular king in English history (although Richard III has a strong claim too), and he was widely believed to be effeminate, corrupt, cruel, and a lover of sodomy. It seems apparent that there is a slight chance that Edward II may have survived after all. Yet it is certain that the letter written by Fieschi is extremely problematic for historians as a source, and it is definitely possible that it was written with an ulterior motive, perhaps to bully or manipulate Edward III into granting the writer more favours and power within England. On a balance of probabilities, 194 195
Weir, p. 363 Ibid.
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Victorian Man-traps: RAMMbassador Day at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum By Lydia MurtezaogluThe term RAMMbassador will be an unfamiliar to most but it refers to the group of students who volunteered at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum from the beginning of the academic year. Students came from a multitude of disciplines, from the typical historians, both BA and MA, to English and even Biology. Each student was briefed to select an artefact which attracted their interest from the permanent exhibits in RAMM, research it, write and record a talk on it, and then deliver the talk to the public on 2nd March 2013. They were encouraged to express their own interpretation of the objects to deliver original information to the audience. The result was a series of wellresearched and thought-provoking talks covering the breadths of history. They highlighted what is most exciting about the RAMM as a museum of collecting which features unusual artefacts from across time and space. Objects discussed included a Victorian corset, a hand axe, a desk watch, a roof angel, an Egyptian coffin, the Exeter puzzle jug, a boundary cross, an Ancient Greek helmet, an Italian Fan, a 1920s Egyptian bracelet, and lastly the object I selected, an eighteenth century man-trap. The talks are all available on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gADDqzv5K Mw&list=UUuou5jDMcCgZZYHhsEJMkbg
Dartmoor to protect land from poachers. It impressed me because it is entirely incongruous with the gentile dresses of Georgian England that surround it, and its barbarity contrasts public perceptions of the period. Man-traps were commonly used in Britain to catch poachers and to protect houses from burglary up until 1827 when they were made illegal. In today’s world it seems shocking that something so violent and inhumane would be allowed for popular use to protect land and property as recently as the nineteenth century. The trap would be anchored to the floor to prevent a poacher from being able to move it once caught. It would be sprung, loaded with the teeth pulled apart and held there, leaving the foot blade at an angle in the centre of the teeth. Once stepped on, the teeth would snap shut. This
would break the occupant’s leg, and on a trap with teeth like this it is likely that the bone would also be penetrated. Clearly designed to cause suffering and not merely capture their victims it is interesting to look at the motives behind their use, and indeed what made their use acceptable within society. We have all heard the expression ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’, and this was never seen as more true than in the Georgian period. Georgian households went to great lengths to protect their houses from intruders, with numerous locks and bolts, shutters, and in some cases, servants even slept by the front door
With such a breadth of objects to choose from it was an overwhelming task to select just one. However, I was researching my Doing History project at the time on the eighteenth century so I purposefully sought an artefact from the same era. I chose the man-trap because it was obscure and I doubted many people would know much, if anything, about it. A man-trap is literally a trap to catch men: the one in RAMM originates from around 1750 and was used on 52
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to allow them to alert the family if a burglar was trying to force entry. We can see from newspaper evidence that man traps were indeed perceived as everyday items that any man of wealth may possess. In February 1801 in the ‘Advertisements and Notices’ section of Jackson’s Oxford Journal a man-trap is listed on an auction list alongside ‘blankets’ and a ‘quantity of books’ as part of deceased Simon Oatridge’s inventory. From other notices at the time it would appear that this was part of a wider pattern and that man-traps were certainly desirable.196 Later man-traps were kept to be used as spectacles of interest and awe, suggesting how quickly they moved between the everyday to the horrific. And yet their use in Nina Bawden’s Children’s story ‘The Peppermint Pig’, written in 1975 but set at the turn of the century, suggests that man-traps of varying kinds were still in the public consciousness and recognised as what they were, as opposed to the reception they receive today. The protagonist Poll demonstrates this when she is scared of poachers, walking through the wood; ‘She thought man-traps! There was an old man-trap hanging outside Nero’s junk shop in Station Street, a hideous contraption with cruel teeth and a notice above it Nero’s little nipper, Aunt Harriet said it was just an old curiosity and man-traps were illegal now, how could she be sure that there was not one left in this wood, abandoned and rusty but savagely dangerous still?’197 This highlights that public memory persisted when the reality had phased out, and quickly became a torture construction belonging to a bygone age. To conclude, man-traps offer an interesting and alternative insight into the attitudes of a society which today is remembered for its high society and problem with gin. Today we see traps such as this as barbaric and
inhumane, but although the methods for protecting our property now are different, so is the technology available to us. CCTV is everywhere, electric fences border our fields and alarms protect everything from your house to your car. Man-traps in Britain may be a thing of the past but we are still just as on guard to protect our castles. If you have not already I urge you to visit RAMM and look-up the objects researched by the RAMMbassadors
Advertisements & Notices, Jackson's Oxford Journal (Oxford), Feb. 1801 197 Nina Bawden, The Peppermint Pig (London, 2001), p.143
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Published on Jun 3, 2013