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Friendship, betrayal

and Kim Philby

Louis XIV meets


the King of Siam

Roman Britains
Industrial Revolution
May 2014
Vol 64 Issue 5

Nehru

The last days


of Indias first
prime minister

Publisher Andy Patterson


Editor Paul Lay
Deputy Editor Charlotte Crow
Picture Editor Sheila Corr
Reviews Editor Philippa Joseph
Publishing & Editorial Assistant Nick Liptrot
Art Director Gary Cook
Website Manager Dean Nicholas
Subscriptions Manager Cheryl Deflorimonte
Subscriptions Assistant Ava Bushell
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EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD


Dr Simon Adams University of Strathclyde
Dr John Adamson Peterhouse, Cambridge
Professor Richard Bessel University of York
Professor Jeremy Black University of Exeter
Lord Briggs Formerly Chancellor
of the Open University
Professor Paul Dukes University of Aberdeen
Professor David Ellwood
University of Bologna
Professor Martin Evans University of Sussex
Juliet Gardiner Historian and author
Gordon Marsden MP for Blackpool South
Dr Roger Mettam Queen Mary,
University of London
Professor Geoffrey Parker
Ohio State University
Professor Paul Preston
London School of Economics
Professor M.C. Ricklefs
The Australian National University
Professor Nigel Saul Royal Holloway,
University of London
Dr David Starkey
Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge
Professor T.P. Wiseman University of Exeter
Professor Chris Wrigley
University of Nottingham
@All written material, unless otherwise stated,
is the copyright of History Today
Total Average Net Circulation
19,551 Jan-Dec 2013

2 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

FROM THE EDITOR


THE SERIES OF cultural events that go under the name 14-18 NOW, promoted by
the Department of Media, Culture and Sport and planned for the centenary of the
outbreak of the First World War, has taken a turn for the bizarre. On March 27th
it was announced that people in Britain will be called upon to switch off all but
one light at 10pm on August 4th, to mark 100 years since Britain declared war on
Germany. The proposal is inspired, if thats the word, by the comment of the foreign
secretary at the time, Sir Edward Grey: The lamps are going out all over Europe;
we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime and has been met with contempt. A
remarkably stupid gimmick, said the military historian Gary Sheffield, who thought
it more in keeping with the spirit of Mr Hodges, the meddlesome ARP warden in the
comedy series Dads Army, not least because many people and most children will
already have their lights out. The culture secretary Maria Miller has yet to tell us if we
will be allowed to put them back on in our lifetime.
14-18 NOW has other brilliant ideas up its sleeve, including an arts project based
on dazzle paint, the method of camouflage used on the ships of the Royal Navy,
whose success was patchy (excuse the pun) at best. An appropriate metaphor,
therefore, says the historian Jonathan Boff, for the whole 14-18 NOW programme:
little forethought; superficially striking; more liable to confuse than enlighten; and
unlikely to have any useful impact.
The prize for the most perilously anachronistic of the projects goes to Letter to an
Unknown Soldier. Beginning in June, members of the public will be invited to write
to the soldier epitomised in Charles Sargeant Jaggers statue that stands on Platform
One of Paddington Station. As always, celebrities have been invited to kick things off.
No such gathering is complete without an offering from the actor/comedian Stephen
Fry, who takes on the guise of a conscientious objector for his epistle:
For eternity your image will stand for unquestioning courage. I will die proud of you and
ashamed of myself. And that is in spite of me being right.
Apart from the issues it raises about the status of conscientious objectors in the
Great War, the tone of Frys letter is at some remove from the tone of restraint and
hesitancy that typifies the correspondence of the men who fought. I live in hope that
one day we will start thinking of Them rather than Us.

Paul Lay

HistoryMatters

Great Britain Eric Hobsbawm Hitler and Churchill Clontarf 1014

Britishness:
a Scottish
Invention

It was Scots who were the


most vocal advocates of a
vibrant, imperial, Protestant
Great Britain.
Ian Bradley
CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT from the
arguments of the No campaign in the
current pre-Referendum debate over
Scottish independence has been any
appeal to a shared sense of Britishness.
This is perhaps hardly surprising given
that recently released data from the
2011 census reveals that two thirds of
Scotlands inhabitants see themselves
as Scottish only and fewer than 20 per
cent as Scottish and British.
This marked decline in British identity, which is shared to a lesser extent
by the population of the rest of the
United Kingdom, signals the obsolescence of what was a largely Scottish
invention, hammered out in the aftermath of the 16th-century Reformation
and the 1707 Act of Union.
Scottish enthusiasm for the
concept of Britishness is evident in the
work of one of the first modern historians of Britain, John Major, who taught
at the universities of Glasgow and St
Andrews and deeply influenced the
first generation of Scottish Reformers,
not least John Knox. Major styled
himself a Scottish Briton and his 1521
History of Greater Britain was a passionate call for the union of Britannia.
Most Scottish Protestants supported
union with England to form a new
strongly Protestant nation, which
would resist the might and tyranny of
the major Catholic powers in Europe,
Spain and France. Several, like Andrew
Melville, the founder of the Presbyterian church settlement, styled them-

the civic values of ancient


Rome, the covenant theology
of Old Testament Israel and
the ideals of commonwealth
and nation forged by the
Protestant reformers. For
him, a united Britannia, at
once stronger and more varied
than its component parts,
would lead a Europe of small
independent states against
Iberian imperialism and papal
pretension. In order to foster
closer community ties and
shared identity in the new
United Kingdom, he advocated intermarriage, planting
English colonies in Lochaber
and the Western Isles to
promote ethnic intermingling
and levying steep fines on
those who continued to describe themselves as Scottish
or English. He also proposed a
The Union of
single parliament for the new
England and
United Kingdom, with regionScotland, Peter
al assemblies in London, York,
Paul Rubens,
Lancaster and Edinburgh,
c.1633.
drawing at least a fifth of their
members from the country on
the other side of the old border.
The 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment further encouraged enthusiasm for Britishness north of the
border, with Alexander Wedderburn
and his fellow contributors to the Edinburgh Review coining the term North
Britain to describe their country. This
selves Scotto-Britons and advocated
espousal of Britishness by enlightened
the full political union of England and
Scots in no sense diminished their
Scotland following the Union of the
sense of Scottishness. Rather their
Crowns in 1603 by James VI and I.
display of what later became known
A good example of the enthusiasm
as hybrid or hyphenated identity
and expectations that the 1603 Union of
expressed their conviction that it was
the Crowns created among the Scottish
as part of Britain that Scotland had its
reformers can be found in the tract De
best chance of thriving and improving.
Unione Insulae Britannicae, written in
In his 1992 book Devolving English
1605 by David Hume, a leading PresLiterature Robert Crawford has argued
byterian scholar in post-Reformation
that the whole academic discipline of
Scotland. He argued for the full union
English literature was essentially an
of England and Scotland, drawing in18th-century Scottish invention as
spiration in almost equal measure from

A united Britannia, at once


stronger and more varied than its
component parts, would lead
a Europe of independent states

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 3

HISTORYMATTERS

Scottish writing entered its British


phase, which was to reach its apogee in
the work of Walter Scott.
The best known product of this
British phase of Scottish literature
was the song Rule Britannia, written
in 1740 for a masque about Alfred the
Great by James Thomson, a son of the
Manse who hailed from Ednam in the
Borders and studied arts and divinity
at Edinburgh University. Thomson,
who initially thought of following his
father as a Church of Scotland minister
but chose rather to pursue a literary
career in London, wrote numerous
poems promoting Britain as a cultural

The best known


product of this
British phase of
Scottish literature
was the song Rule
Britannia
and ethnic amalgam embodying the
principles of diversity in unity. Like
many 18th-century Scots who took up
the idea of Britishness, he did so partly
to make clear that Britain included
more than England. Sending an early
draft of his poem, Summer: A Panegyric on Britain to a fellow Scottish
poet, he observed: The English are
a little vain in themselves, and their
country. Britannia too includes our
native country, Scotland. The opening
line of what is often taken to be the
first British novel, Tobias Smolletts
Roderick Random (1748) I was born
in the northern part of this United
Kingdom provides a further example
of dual Scottish-British identity.
Two towering Scots of the 20th
century, both sons of the Manse deeply
imbued with the muscular Christian
values of Presbyterianism, made a
significant and enduring contribution
to the notion of Britishness. John
Buchan, whose hyphenated identity
was expressed in the fact that his
favourite landscapes were the Scottish
Borders and the Cotswolds, created in
his famous shockers a quintessentially British genre of adventure stories.
John Reith almost single-handedly
constructed one of the great modern
4 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

institutional embodiments of Britishness, the BBC. His determination


to invest royal and national occasions
with quasi-religious significance
earned him the sobriquet Gold Microphone Pursuivant. He also made
sure that the BBC expressed Britain to
itself and to the world in all its variety
by establishing separate services for
Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and
the English regions, which both opted
out of the national UK output and also
contributed to it their own distinctive
accents and cultures.
The reasons for the decline of a
sense of British identity among Scots
over the last 50 years or so include
the ending of the British Empire, out
of which they had done so well, the
economic woes consequent on the
collapse of traditional industries like
coal mining and ship building and the
erosion of Protestant identity. Ironically, that part of the United Kingdom
which was once the most consciously
British is now the least so. Yet occasionally this old attachment re-surfaces, as when the most recent Scottish
prime minister, Gordon Brown, championed Britishness and sought to stem
what seems an unstoppable tide in
terms of narrower and more exclusive
identities across the United Kingdom.
Ian Bradley is Reader in Church History at the
University of St Andrews and author of Believing in
Britain: The Spiritual Identity of Britishness
(I.B. Tauris 2008).
Alternative Histories by Rob Murray

At Arms,
At Easel

Churchill and Hitler painted


scenes of the Western Front
while in remarkably close
proximity to one another.
Nigel Jones
CHURCHILL AND HITLER did not have
much in common, but they shared one
interest: both were amateur painters,
who took their brushes, sketchpads,
pencilsand paintboxes into the trenches
of the Western Front.
Churchills paintings had colours
liberally applied, while Hitlers style was
classical and his aversion to modern art
would come to fruition when his Nazi
regime confiscated, sold or destroyed
works of degenerate art and either
banned the artists who created them
from practising their craft even when,
like Emil Nolde, they were Nazis or
drove them into exile. Churchill also
shared Hitlers aversIon to modernism,
telling his painter friend Alfred Munnings
that if he ever saw Picasso in Piccadilly
he would kick him up the arse.
Hitlers early ambition was to
become an artist, but having twice been
turned down by the Vienna Academy of
Fine Arts, in 1907 and 1908, he eked out
an existence painting postcards of city
scenes, which he either hawked around
cafes or sold through middle men. By
1914 Hitler had drifted to Munich, where
he joined a Bavarian reserve infantry
regiment on the outbreak of war.
Churchills introduction to art came
much later in life. As Home Secretary
and First Lord of the Admiralty he was a
key minister in the prewar Asquith administration. However in May 1915, aged
40, he fell like Lucifer after the Gallipoli
campaign, which he had extravagantly
backed, and was demoted to Chancellor
of the Duchy of Lancaster.
A month later, a frustrated Churchill
was prowling the garden of his Surrey
country home, Hoe Farm, when he
came upon his sister-in-law, Lady
Gwendoline Goonie Churchill, painting
a watercolour. Although according to
his youngest daughter, Mary Soames,

HISTORYMATTERS

Above: Adolf
Hitlers Shelter in
Fournes, 1915.
Left: Winston
Churchills Plug
Street, 1916.

Churchill had never set foot inside a


gallery, he was intrigued. He joined
Goonie at the easel, soon tired of pallid
watercolours and graduated to oils.
Churchill opened an account with
the art shop Robinsons in Londons
Long Acre. American-born Hazel Lavery,
wife of the Irish portraitist John Lavery,
was summoned to give Churchill his
first formal art lesson, advising him
to attack the canvas with the same
vigour he brought to politics: Splash
into the turpentines, wallop into the
blue and white ...
Always subject to depression,
Churchill told the poet and diplomat
Wilfrid Scawen Blunt: There is more
blood than paint upon these hands.
Indeed Blunt believed that had it not
been for painting, Churchill might
have gone mad.
In November 1915 Churchill resigned
from government, feeling he could best
assuage his guilt over Gallipoli by serving
as a soldier. He was promised command
of a brigade by his friend Field Marshal
Sir John French, but agreed to learn the
ropes of trench warfare first, attaching

himself to the Grenadier Guards.


When Churchill arrived at the
front, Hitler was billeted in the
French village of Fournes-enWeppes near Fromelles. He had
already had a vicious blooding
in the First Battle of Ypres, after
which he was promoted to
corporal, decorated with the Iron
Cross and served as a regimental
runner.
The first six months of 1916
was a period of relative quiet
and Hitler took advantage of
the lull to paint and draw (he
was nicknamed the artist by his
comrades), though his earliest
surviving war picture is from December
1914, of the ruined church of St Nicholas
in Messines (now Mesen), where he was
quartered in the crypt.
Just ten miles away was Ploegsteert
(known as Plug Street to the British),
which had seen bitter fighting. On
January 5th, 1916 (Temporary) Lieutenant-Colonel Winston Churchill arrived as
commander of the 6th Battalion, Royal
Scots Fusiliers. He and Hitler would
never be in such close proximity again.
In December Churchills ally Sir John
French had been removed as commander of the BEF to make way for
Sir Douglas Haig. Asquith reneged on
Frenchs promise to give Churchill a
brigade. Churchill had irritated Asquith in
Cabinet by his ceaseless bombardment
of ideas for running the war more energetically and the prime minister vetoed
his former colleagues promotion.
Churchill was dismayed anticipating his promotion he had already
ordered a brigadier-generals uniform
but he played the good soldier. He took
up his command with good grace and
quickly won round the initially sceptical
officers from a battalion that had seen
major losses during the battle of Loos.
Meanwhile Corporal Hitler continued reading and sketching, aloof from
his comrades. He refused to join in his
mess mates drinking, still less their
visits to the bars and brothels of nearby
Lille. Though Hitler took the tram from
Fournes to Lille with the rest, unless
there was a theatre show or concert
to see, he mooched alone around the
citys streets, or sat on benches with his

sketchbook, drawing buildings.


Churchills battalion held a 1,000yard wide section of the front before
Ploegsteert. Its HQ was located in
Laurence farm, an already partially
ruined domain 500 yards behind
the front line; it is depicted in one of
Churchills paintings. Another, Plug
Street, shows the village itself under
shellfire, with cotton-wool puffs of
explosions in the sky. Unlike Hitlers strictly representational work,
Churchills style bears the influence of
Impressionism.
Though described as being as
visible and voluble as a baby elephant,
Churchill somehow survived unscathed, but during the three months
he held command his battalion saw
15 men killed and 123 wounded, a
casualty rate of 20 per cent.
Churchills military career ended
in May 1916. Satisfied that he had
done his duty and atoned for Gallipoli,
Churchill was granted permission to
return to England. He resumed his
political career and by the end of the
war was a minister once more. Hitler
was not so fortunate. Wounded in the
thigh by shrapnel on the Somme, after
recovering he returned to his regiment
to take part in the battles of Arras
and Passchendaele in 1917. Gassed at
the end of the war, he heard of the
Armistice while still in hospital and
resolved then and there or so he
later claimed to enter politics.
That decision also ended Hitlers
artistic career. Churchill continued
to paint with characteristic energy,
producing an output of over 500
pictures, chiefly landscapes, right up to
and through the Second World War.
Many can be viewed by the public
at his Kent country home, Chartwell.
Hitlers work occasionally surfaces at
auction houses but, because of the
artists notoriety, are often withdrawn
from sale. When sales do go ahead,
they fetch high prices, far in excess of
their artistic merit.
The two war leaders opinions of
each others artistic endeavours was
never recorded.

Nigel Jones is author of Peace and War: Britain


in 1914 (Head of Zeus, 2014).
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 5

HISTORYMATTERS

History After
Hobsbawm
Since the completion of the
Marxist historians trilogy in
1987, history has changed,
but in what ways?
Jan Rger
HISTORY AFTER HOBSBAWM, a major
international conference taking place in
Senate House, London, from April 29th
to May 1st, 2014, will bring together
some of the most influential historians
from across the world to discuss the
current state of their discipline. The
event draws inspiration from the capacious legacy of the late Eric Hobsbawm,
who taught at Birkbeck, University of
London for most of his life. Many of
the topics that he wrote about are
still of crucial relevance today, including the rise of capitalism, nationalism
and imperialism. But how should we
go forward in our understanding of
the past? The conference will seek to
address this question.
One of the many issues that will be
discussed by speakers including Mark
Mazower (Columbia), Catherine Hall
(UCL), Rana Mitter (Oxford), Antoinette
Burton (Illinois) and Maya Jasanoff
(Harvard) is the relationship between
British, European and world history. For
Hobsbawm there was never a question
that British history had to be understood in a European as much as a global
context. He explained this succinctly in
an essay entitled The Curious History
of Europe, which was first published in
1996. Europe, he wrote, was a shifting,
divisible and flexible concept, not a
clearly defined territory or homogenous
political entity. The historians task was
to explore Europes diversity and
Britain as part of that patchwork of different European pasts. In Hobsbawms
writing this task went hand in hand
with an understanding of imperialism
and globalisation, both of which defined
the 19th century. It was impossible
to sever European history from world
history. Britains past had to be understood in both contexts.
This insistence on the link between
European and world history came long
6 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

before the global turn in historiography. In his trilogy on the 19th century
(The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848; The Age
of Capital, 1848-1875; The Age of Empire,
1875-1914), published between 1962 and
1987, Hobsbawm offered a narrative that
continuously interweaved British, European and global pasts. Apart from the
sheer craftsmanship of his writing, what
made the trilogy work so well was that it
was based on the belief in an underlying
structure that explained the 19th century.
As he put it in the preface to The Age of
Revolution, his approach was to trace the
transformation of the world between
1789 and 1848 insofar as it was due to
what is here called the dual revolutions
the French Revolution of 1789 and the
contemporaneous (British) Industrial
Revolution. Any part of the world that
was touched in a lasting fashion by these
two developments was to be covered;
any part not affected by the dual

Central aspects of Hobsbawms


interpretation have since been
profoundly challenged, not least
the underlying Marxist model

revolutions was not to be included. If


the books focus was primarily European it was so because in this period
the world or at least a large part of
it was transformed from a European, or rather a Franco-British, base.
It was this focus on socioeconomic change which gave coherence to Hobsbawms trilogy, rather
than an overarching geographical or
political definition. At the same time it
allowed him to integrate Britain into
his survey. The United Kingdom was
a key factor in the socio-economic
transformation called the Industrial
Revolution and a pioneer of European imperialism. How could it not be
at the heart of a narrative aimed at
explaining how Europe had changed,
allowing it to turn outwards in the
19th century and take on a temporarily
global role?
Two central aspects of this interpretation have since been profoundly
challenged. First, the underlying
Marxist model which functioned as
the trilogys interpretative backbone:
the belief in the process of revolutionary transformations as the key to
an understanding of the 19th century.
Second, the Eurocentric perspective that dominated in Hobsbawms
explanation of the period. How to
write a history of the modern world in
which Europe is neither at the centre
nor just a province, how to construct
a narrative which takes account of the
many varied intersections between
Britain, Europe and the world, as well
as the undetermined character of the
19th century, remain key questions for
modern historians. They are questions that will be hotly debated at the
History After Hobsbawm conference.

Jan Rger is Reader in Modern History at


Birkbeck, University of London.

Eric Hobsbawm
by Mark Boxer.

To find out more about the History


After Hobsbawm conference go to:
www.bbk.ac.uk/historyafterhobsbawm.
To encourage the next generation of
historians, Birkbeck has set up a fund
for student scholarships. If you would
like to know more, or would like to
make a contribution, visit: www.bbk.
ac.uk/alumni/supporting-birkbeck/
eric-hobsbawm-scholarships

Battle of Clontarf
by Hugh Frazer,
1826. This painting
has returned to
Ireland in time for
Clontarf 2014.

Commemorating Clontarf

One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles in Irish


history took place a thousand years ago this month.
Ray Cavanaugh
CLONTARF IS NOW an affluent
suburb north of Dublin, but a thousand years ago it was the setting for
an unprecedented event in Irelands
history. Good Friday 1014 saw the
Battle of Clontarf, an all-day affair of
infernal carnage, where longstanding
animosities climaxed in a spectacular
deluge of bloodshed.
To commemorate the anniversary,
the Clontarf community is hosting
a slew of diverse events that range
from historical society lectures to a
rugby match between Clontarf and
the Barbarians FC. According to the
website, www.clontarf.ie, there will
also be an interactive history display
where visitors can see if they are
mighty enough to wear the armour
and carry the weapons of the 1014
combatants. There are walking tours
that explore the old Viking Dublin as
well as Brian Boru Millennium Celebration tours that take visitors to the
very site where, by most accounts, the
old leader was slain.
Dublin City Council will hold a
Battle of Clontarf Festival on Easter
Weekend (April 19th and 20th) at
St Annes Park in Clontarf. This free
festival will include many exhibitions
as well as sword and archery sessions

for participants of all ages. Each day


will culminate in a 45-minute re-enactment of the battle, featuring hundreds
of would-be warriors including ones
on horseback appearing in an event
billed as the biggest living history battle
re-enactment ever held in Ireland.
It will be interesting to see the
degree to which the Vikings are
portrayed as the main enemy, as they
often were in contemporary annals.
On the other hand, modern historians
tend to stress the Celt-on-Celt violence
between high-king Brian Boru, ruler of
Munster, and the rebel king of Leinster,
Melmrda mac Murchada.
One possible reason for the annals
emphasis on the Viking enemy was
religious. Though some Vikings had
converted to Christianity, many remained heathen, which meant that the
chroniclers tended to view the Battle
of Clontarf as a triumph for Christianity
in Ireland. Another reason for stressing
Viking hostility was that the annals
were composed by monks, whose
monasteries were the primary targets
of Viking pillage. Clontarf 1014 was
painted as such a nationalistic struggle
for Ireland that it became the medieval
equivalent of the Easter Rising of 1916,
according to Sen Duffy, author of the
recently published Brian Boru and the
Battle of Clontarf (Gill and Macmillan),

not least because of the fact that it


took place on Good Friday, with all its
associations of Christian martyrdom.
Adding to the drama of Clontarf
was the fact that Brian Boru died
during the battle (though he was
almost certainly not an active combatant). Even Norse writers waxed
lyrical over him: Brjnn fell ok helt
velli (Brian fell and was victorious).
His victory and martyr-like death
made him a national hero, celebrated
for having trumped the Vikings in
this struggle for Irelands destiny. The
narrative of Brian Borus life and death
sounded compelling, so the poets and
chroniclers went with it and it is the
harp of Brian Boru that became and
remains Irelands national symbol.
There has long been disagreement
over how Brian Boru died. Some said
that he was killed in hand-to-hand
combat. This is unlikely, though, as
he was at least in his mid-60s by the
time of Clontarf. The more probable
account (and the one to which Brian
Borus biographer Duffy subscribes) is
that the old king was killed in his tent,
where he sat waiting for the battles
end, when he was discovered by a
fleeing Viking mercenary.
This assailant has been identified
as Brodir, a commander of the Vikings
on the Isle of Man. He was unable to
savour the assassination for long, as
he was reportedly tracked down and
slaughtered by the days end. Interestingly, Brodir had a brother named
Ospak, who actually fought on Brian
Borus side. It is uncertain if Ospak
was, like his brother, a mercenary; he
sacrificed much in the battle, as he
was not only injured but he also suffered the loss of two sons. In this last
respect he shared something with the
fallen Brian Boru, one of whose sons
also died at Clontarf.
A thousand years later, this onetime venue of wrath and fury is now
a site of commemoration and for
some prayer. The anniversary day of
April 23rd will feature an ecumenical
service to commemorate the lives cut
short on both sides.

Ray Cavanaugh is a historian of medieval


Ireland.
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 7

MonthsPast

MAY

By Richard Cavendish

MAY 27th, 1564

John Calvin
dies in Geneva
One of the most significant figures in
Christian history was born in 1509 in
France, at Noyon in the Picardy area, as
Jehan or Jean Cauvin. His later opponents would contemptuously label his
followers Picard or later still Calvinist,
which was originally a term of abuse.
His father, a lawyer, intended him for
the priesthood and sent him to the
University of Paris when he was 14, but
he decided not to be a priest. In his
student days he was drawn to the rising
tide of ideas that would soon be labelled
Protestantism, which believed that
the Roman Catholic Church had fallen
prey to materialism and superstition
and called for a return to the original
Christianity of the earliest centuries. He
would later write that God subdued and
brought my mind to a teachable frame,
which was more hardened in such
matters than might have been expected
from one at my early period of life.
Calvin became so identified with
reformism that he could not safely stay
in France. In 1535 he arrived in Basel in
the Swiss Confederation, where in 1536
he published the first edition, in Latin, of
his Institutes of the Christian Religion, later
known simply as the Institutes. Purporting to teach almost the whole sum of
godliness, it attracted the attention of
other Protestant enthusiasts. He published revised editions of it for the rest of
his life and it would make him famous.
Leaving Basel in 1536 for Strasbourg
in Germany, Calvin went by way of
Geneva, an independent city just outside
Switzerland, which had attracted
reformist refugees from France and
Italy. One of them, a Frenchman called
Guillaume Farel, persuaded Calvin to
stay and help to establish Protestantism
there. Farel and Calvin were too inflexible for the Geneva city council, which in
1538 ordered them to leave. They went
to Strasbourg, where in 1540 Calvin
married a widow called Idelette de Bure.
8 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Gone to God:
John Calvin in
a 16th-century
French portrait.

Her death only nine years later would be


a dreadful blow to him.
By 1541 Calvins reputation had grown
to the point where the Geneva council
asked him back to put the chaotic
religious situation there in order, which
he did. He believed that the Protestant
Church should be run by pastors and
teachers to care for and guide the laity,
elders to help the pastors maintain
discipline and deacons to run charitable
work. Citizens who refused to accept
Calvinism were expelled from the city or,
in extreme cases, executed as heretics.
On the surface at least, Calvin was a
forbidding and joyless figure. Although
he believed that the very few human
beings who would attain salvation
would gain it, and were predestined
to gain it, through the grace of God,
not through leading a good moral life,
he took an uncompromisingly austere
moral line and sternly disapproved of
sexual misbehaviour, drunkenness, ribald
songs, swearing, gambling and dancing.
As Diarmaid MacCulloch put it in his

study of the Reformation, although


Calvin enjoyed playing the equivalent of
shove hapenny and an occasional game
of quoits, he was not inclined to conviviality He did, however, relish getting his
own way, which he identified with doing
the will of God.
Doing the will of God kept Calvin
working desperately hard. He preached
hundreds of sermons and conducted
innumerable baptisms and weddings.
He maintained a vigorous correspondence with religious and political leaders
all over Europe, as well as writing
widely circulated commentaries on the
scriptures, including much of the Old
Testament and every book in the New
Testament except Revelation. In 1559 he
founded the Geneva Academy, where
students were trained for the ministry, which the Scottish reformer John
Knox called the most perfect school of
Christ seen on earth since the days of
the Apostles. Protestant immigrants,
meanwhile, nourished new industries
and businesses and Geneva prospered.
Its printing industry was a success for
the citys economy, as well as an efficient
Calvinist propaganda machine.
The burden of so much work put
a growing strain on Calvins health. In
1558 he came down with quartan fever,
or malaria, but laboured on to complete
a hugely enlarged and, as he intended, definitive edition of his Institutes to
leave to posterity. Michael Mullett in his
biography of Calvin quotes an admiring
contemporary, Theodore Beza, who
described him in 1563 as exhausted by
labour and broken down by suffering.
He had lung trouble, gout and excruciating pain in his kidneys and bladder.
Calvin was 54 when the end came
the following year and the council
recorded that he had gone to God. He
was buried with little ceremony in, it
is thought, the Cimetire des Rois. The
grave was left unmarked, though in the
19th century a stone was placed on the
one traditionally identified as the last
resting place of the man Beza called the
greatest light there was in this world for
the direction of the church of God.

MAY 23rd, 1814

First performance of
Beethovens Fidelio
Ludwig van Beethovens only opera
went through a troubled evolution,
which he once said would earn him a
martyrs crown. In 1803 the composer,
then in his thirties, was commissioned
by Emanuel Schikaneder, who ran the
recently opened Theater an der Wien
in Vienna, to write an opera set in
ancient Rome and called Vestas Feuer
(The Vestal Flame). Beethoven made
little progress with Schikaneders

O what a joy: the


poster for the
premiere of Fidelio
at Viennas Krtnertortheater.

libretto, which he found uninspiring.


He said it could have been created by
the Viennese apple-women.
Financial problems forced
Schikaneder to sell the theatre in
1804, which cancelled Beethovens
contract. The composer now fell in
love with Countess Josephine Deym, a
widow to whom he wrote passionate
letters and told her you have conquered me. Their relationship ended
in 1807, but meanwhile the new
Theater an der Wien management
had renewed his opera commission
and he had written a different work
with a libretto adapted from one by
the French playwright, JeanNicolas Bouilly, which had been
used for French operas earlier.
Set in Spain in the late 18th
century and called Lonore, ou Lamour
conjugal, it was about the heroism
and devoted love of Leonore, who
disguises herself as a young man
called Fidelio to rescue her husband
Florestan. He is being slowly starved
to death in solitary confinement in
a dungeon by an evil official called
Pizarro. Beethovens version was
called Leonora at first, hence the
Leonora overtures, and later Fidelio.
The composers passion for Josephine,

his longing for conjugal love and the


solitary dungeon of his worsening
deafness may have helped to inspire
him, but when the work was performed in 1805 it was a flop and was
dropped after just three performances. Beethoven revised it and shortened it from three acts to two, but it
achieved only two performances in
1806 and the composer fell out with
the theatre director. It would not be
seen in public for another eight years.
In 1814 the Viennese court theatre
suggested reviving the opera and
Beethoven agreed, provided it was
revised. A drastically altered libretto was written by Georg Joseph
Treitschke, who Beethoven thanked
for salvaging a stranded ship. He
wrote some magnificent new music
for what was now definitely Fidelio,
including a new overture. The final
version was successfully presented
at the Krtnertortheater and a gala
evening in September was organised
for the crowned heads and leading
political figures attending the Congress of Vienna to reorganise Europe
after Napoleons abdication. With its
appropriate central theme of liberation from tyranny, Fidelio has been
part of the repertoire ever since.

Birth of a superhero: the Detective


Comics edition
featuring
Batmans first
appearance.

explanation supplied by Finger, he was


driven by seeing his parents murdered
by a street thug when he was a child.
Batman was instantly popular and
sales zoomed still higher when his
young sidekick Robin was introduced
by Finger in 1940. There were female
Robins later on. Many other writers and
artists were employed on Batman tales
over the years and he starred in films,
on television and in video games. Recent
suggestions that the early Batman
was gay have been fiercely disputed.
From the 1950s Superman and Batman
worked together in some stories.
The rogues gallery of villains Batman
worsted included the Joker, the Riddler
and Catwoman, by whom in one tale he
had a son. In the hugely profitable 1989
Batman film, the Joker was so brilliantly
played by Jack Nicholson that he stole
the limelight from Batman himself.
Finger died in 1974, Kane in 1998.
Together they created a US cultural
phenomenon, who long outlived them.

MAY 1st, 1939

Batman makes
his debut
The Caped Crusader made his entrance
on the US comic book scene in the
monthly Detective Comics. His creator
was Bob Kane, an artist and writer
aiming to find a new hero to rival
Superman, who had appeared the previous year. Kane did sketches of a character with wings like those of a bat and
showed them to a comic book writer
called Bill Finger. The two men, both
in their mid-twenties, collaborated on
the Batman stories, though it was Kane
who got all the credit and most of the
money, to Fingers eventual resentment.
In his ordinary human persona the
character they invented was a rich, idle
playboy called Bruce Wayne. Finger
coined the name from Robert the Bruce
and Mad Anthony Wayne, an 18thcentury American general in the revolu-

tionary war against the British. He lived


quietly in Gotham City (which was New
York City), while as Batman he used his
genius-level intelligence, supreme physical abilities and indomitable will to wage
a ruthless war against criminals. In an

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 9

A TALE OF TWO HORACES

Horace to Horace
Caroline Chapman delves into a wide-ranging and prolific correspondence, spanning half of
the 18th century, between two men who spent just a year in the same country: the British court
diplomat to Florence, Horace Mann, and the historian and patron of the arts, Horace Walpole.

N 1740 Horace Mann was appointed as Britains representative at the court of Tuscany and took up residence
at Casa Manetti in Florence. Lacking two of the principal
requisites for employment as a diplomat in the 18th
century wealth and nobility his post was almost certainly due to his familys connection with Sir Robert Walpole,
Britains first prime minister. Armed instead with charm,
innate courtesy and a meticulous attention to detail, Mann
(c.1706-86) proved himself to be a natural diplomat.
One of his first visitors was Sir Roberts son Horace
Walpole (1717-97), who was making his Grand Tour accompanied by the poet Thomas Gray. During the 12 months that
Walpole stayed at Casa Manetti, he and Mann found they
shared a remarkable similarity in their views and outlook.
They were both refined and effeminate, delighted in scandal
and gossip and laughed at the same jokes, although Walpoles sense of the ridiculous was in a class of its own.
Though the two Horaces were never to meet again, since
Mann would spend the rest of his life in Italy, the friendship
formed during those months not only survived separation
but initiated a correspondence that was to last until Manns
death 46 years later. This sequence of letters nearly 1,800
10 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Above left: British


gentlemen at Sir
Horace Manns
home in Florence
by Thomas Patch
c.1763-65, with
Mann in blue. The
paintings on the
wall are of fireworks on the Arno
and a portrait of
Mann.
Above right:
Horace Walpole
painted c.1741
by Rosalba
Giovanna Carriera.

of them fill seven of the 42 volumes in the Yale edition


of Walpoles correspondence, edited by Wilmarth Lewis.
We now come to the great Andean range of the Walpolian
continent, writes Lewis in his introduction. For sweep and
variety and the procession of great events it is unrivalled
among Walpoles correspondences.
Walpole had been a great success with Manns Italian
friends. They had been charmed by his wit and conversational brilliance and eager to rub shoulders with the son of
the most powerful man in Britain. He was feted by even the
grandest of the Florentine nobility, who were renowned
for their exclusivity and reluctance to entertain foreigners.
Their liaisons and intrigues became one of the main topics
of Manns letters.
There is no doubt that Manns letters are not a patch
on Walpoles. They were dismissed by one critic as being
absolutely unreadable. But it is hardly fair to compare
the letters of a busy diplomat, obliged to compose lengthy
dispatches and maintain a large official correspondence,
with a man who Lewis believed had brought the art of
letter-writing to the highest point it has reached in our
language. Horace Mann wrote from an urgent need

Manns letter to Walpole of March 11th, 1742: How extremely kind and obliging you are to write to me at a time that I know you must be so
hurried as not to have one moments peace. If I could avoid being miserable without your letters I would insist on your not writing at all.
Write me but three lines to say you are well, and that all goes well and I shall be happy.
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 11

A TALE OF TWO HORACES


to communicate with a dear friend. Walpole wrote partly
for the same reason, but also as a means of recording the
history of his own times for the benefit of posterity. To this
end, Mann was required periodically to return Walpoles
letters to England. They were then transcribed into six folio
books, the originals presumably later destroyed, as they
have never been found.

W
Right: Sir Horace
Mann, painted
by John Astley in
Florence, c.1751,
and given by
Mann to Horace
Walpole for
Strawberry Hill a
year later.
Below: Bernardo
Bellottos painting
of the Arno in
Florence with the
Ponte Vecchio,
c.1745.

ITH HIS EYE SO FIRMLY fixed on posterity,


did Walpole continue the correspondence
with Mann purely as a means of obtaining
an accurate picture of events in southern
Europe? Lewis certainly thought so. Robert Wyndham
Ketton-Cremer, one of Walpoles 20th-century biographers, believed that Walpole chose his correspondents with
care, so that each particular branch of his activities and
interests ... should be regularly depicted, and that should
a correspondent fail for some reason another was found to
take his place to ensure there was no break in the record.
Even if Mann was selected as one piece of Walpoles
great historical jigsaw, there is sufficient evidence throughout the letters to show that Walpole was deeply attached to
him. In 1758 he ends a letter: Adieu! my dear child shall
we never meet? Are we always to love one another at the
discretion of a sheet of paper?
Of the depth of Horace Manns feelings for Walpole
there is no question: on the night before Walpole finally

The night before Walpole left Florence,


Mann wrote: One thing alone makes
me really happy, which is that I am
sure you love me and are convinced of
my most sincere and tender affection
for you
12 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

left Florence in spring 1741, Mann wrote:


I am more miserable than I wish you to
conceive ... One thing alone makes me
really happy, which is that I am sure you
love me and are convinced of my most
sincere and tender affection for you.
Their friendship was the single most important element in his life. He had friends
in Florence, both English and Italian, and
was a gracious host to the endless stream
of Grand Tourists who passed through the
city, but few of these friendships survived
the tests of time and distance.
If there was any calculation in Manns
attachment to Walpole it was limited to
his need to be on good terms with the
son of his patron (this motive naturally
ceased with Sir Roberts death in March
1745) and, in the 1760s, to his reliance on
Walpole to use his influence to speed up
both his long-awaited promotion and his
investment with the Order of the Bath, an honour that had
been promised to him on several occasions but had never
materialised. Walpoles pleading on Manns behalf displayed
the devotion of a true friend.
Walpole also proved his friendship whenever Mann had
difficulties with members of his family who consistently
failed either to communicate with him or to carry out
his simplest requests. Walpole often had to step into the
breach, either to chivvy or to conciliate. But with Galfridus, Manns much loved twin brother, there was no need
for such intervention, as he and Walpole had developed a
friendship independent of Horace. During Gals protracted
last illness, it was Walpole who kept Mann informed of

every stage in his decline and who shared his profound grief
when Gal died in 1756.
In 1773 it was Walpole who needed help when the
eccentricities of his nephew George, 3rd Earl of Orford,
turned to madness. Walpole tried to persuade Georges
widowed mother, Lady Orford then living in Florence to
return to England to deal with matters. But she refused and
it was left to Walpole to attempt to salvage something out
of the ruin of Georges affairs. But he was unable to save
Houghton, the great house in Norfolk so lovingly created by
his father, or to prevent the magnificent art collection from
being sold to Catherine the Great. (Several of the paintings
had come from Italy, their acquisition facilitated by Mann.)
Walpole was badly shaken by the whole business, seeing it
as further evidence of the shipwreck of his family. In letter
after letter he poured out his feelings to Mann.
In the early months of their correspondence the two
Horaces addressed each other either as My dear child or
My dearest child. It was almost certainly Mann who initiated this form of address. He was 34 when they met and he
must have regarded the 23-year-old who arrived at his door
as little more than a precocious youth. The freedom with
which they expressed their emotions and their frequent
avowals of friendship may give the impression that they
had been lovers during the months they had spent together
at Florence. But in the 18th century it was not only women
who gave free reign to their emotions; men, too, were
allowed to feel and to commit those feelings to paper.
However there is one letter from Mann that could
indicate that he had wished for a more intimate relationship. It was written in response to a distressed letter from
Walpole, who had arrived in England to find the government in crisis and his fathers long reign as prime minister
about to end in humiliation and acrimony. The sentiments

expressed by Mann in his reply appear to be built on his assumption that, should the government fall, Walpole would
return to Italy:
My chief reason I solemnly declare to wish it [Sir Roberts
defeat], is that we may be quiet and happy here together far
from the insults of saucy ungrateful people. In such melancholy
circumstances what a satisfaction would it be to a heart that
overflows with love and gratitude (as I assure you my eyes
at present do with tears) to have it in his power to enjoy the
only satisfaction it would have left I say no more. You must
certainly understand me; you have an heart too tender yourself
not to excuse the want of utterance on such an occasion.

A satire on the
duel in 1743
between Horace
Walpoles uncle,
also Horace,
younger brother
and political
collaborator of
Robert Walpole,
on the right, and
William Chetwynd. Walpole
described the
scene in a letter
to Mann of March
14th, 1743: Dont
you delight in this
duel? I expect to
see it daubed up
by some circuit
painter on the
ceiling of the salon
at Woolterton.

This is startling stuff but, significantly, Manns heartfelt


wish elicited no response from Walpole. Nor did he ever
mention it again.

HE THREE WEEKS that letters took to make the


journey between Florence and London occasionally led to repercussions. In spring 1745 Mann was
still expressing his hopes that Walpoles father
would recover from his illness, when Sir Robert was already
in his grave. I wish I had received your letters on his death,
Walpole replied, for it is most shocking to have all the
thoughts opened again upon such a subject. It is the great
disadvantage of a distant correspondence. And, when Mann
once apologised for some of his letters arriving in batches,
Walpole replied: I am angry at your thinking that I can
dislike to receive two or three of your letters at once. Do
you take me for a child, and imagine, that though I like one
plum tart, two may make me sick?
There were also occasional signs of the correspondence
flagging. These came not from Mann, for whom contact with
his friend and with all he represented was essential

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 13

to his wellbeing, but from Walpole. Lack of news was the


usual cause. One letter ends: Adieu! I have scribbled, and
blotted and made nothing out, and in short, have nothing to
say, so goodnight!
Sometimes Walpole was in a cross mood when he sat
down to write and he made no attempt to hide it.
If my share in our correspondence was all considered, I could
willingly break it off; it is wearisome to pursue the thread of
folly for so many years, and with the same personages on the
scene. Patriotism, prostitution, power, patriotism again one
ought to be new to it all, to see it in an amusing light but I
recollect that you wish to hear it, and I submit to run through a
recapitulation of what moves little more than my contempt!

UT GIVEN A GOOD SCANDAL or a


political crisis and he instantly revived
and wrote reams, several letters
running to a dozen pages of his giltedged writing paper. The War of the Austrian
Succession, the Jacobite Rising in Scotland and
the other conflicts that erupted during the
course of their correspondence generated long
screeds, Mann fulfilling his role as Walpoles
informant on affairs in southern Europe in
wearisome detail.
Walpoles close acquaintance with Florentine society proved a rich seam of gossip for
many of Manns letters: I know you love to
hear the most minute circumstances about
your Florentine friends, he wrote in 1741. One
such circumstance concerned a lady whose
new lover, General Braitwitz, was an old friend
of Mann. The general, Horace recounted,
had insisted on her not following the odious
practice of the Italian ladies to wear breeches,
such impediments to joy. This she objected to
on account of the cold her lower parts might
be exposed to, but he soon removed this
objection by presenting her with an under-petticoat made of fine beaver, lined with a scarlet
shag, and richly laced with gold, which, and
the motion her blood is put into, she finds equivalent to the
best velvet breeches.
Walpole countered with details of matches, dispatches
and scandals among the English aristocracy, although his
tales lack the elements of farce so present in Manns anecdotes about his Florentine friends. One of Manns letters
contains an account of a frightful new fashion brought to
Florence by a famous opera singer; a broken engagement;
two duels; the cost of keeping a mistress; and the deathbed
scene of a certain general. Of the latter, Mann wrote: The
priests soon got about him and banished the two pictures
[of his mistresses] from his bedside to make room for those
of saints of both sexes.
AS THE TWO MEN GREW OLDER, and their memories of
the people concerned grew dim, such stories diminished.
Walpole once admitted that he had no news because living
as I do among people, who, from your long absence, you
cannot know, I should talk Hebrew to mention them to
you. But, as the number of Grand Tourists increased during
the century, a pattern developed whereby Walpole wrote to

14 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Walpoles letter to Mann of


June 12th, 1753, beginning
Now you shall walk into the
house ... has become one of the
most quoted of all his letters
describing Strawberry Hill.
I like to be there better than I
have liked anywhere ...

warn Mann of the arrival of lord this or earl that and, some
months later, Mann would reply with news of their arrival
and what he had thought of them.
Their health was another recurrent theme. We learn far
more than we might wish to know about Horace Manns
haemorrhoids and wince at the detailed descriptions of
the operations he underwent to relieve them. His blinding
headaches, from which he suffered all his life, haunt the
correspondence, as do his periodic fevers and weak nerves.
With age, gout a malady suffered by many men in the
18th century increasingly featured in their letters, each
of them insisting they had found the ultimate cure. One of
Walpoles remedies was to eat three pears every night for
supper. Mann thought pears at that hour must surely be
improper and instead sat with his feet in cold water. But
Walpoles discovery of bootikins soft boots of flannel
covered with oiled silk transcended all other cures. He
tried, unsuccessfully, to convert Mann to their use, even
sending him a pair with instructions on how they should be
applied. Walpole was to remain a convinced bootikinist,

A TALE OF TWO HORACES

Left: A transciption in Walpoles


own hand of a
letter he sent to
Mann on June
12th, 1753. The
letter decribes the
location of Strawberry Hill exactly
as it is depicted
in a painting by
Johann Heinrich
Muntz (opposite
left) of 1755-79.
Right: Mann
bought this small
bust of Caligula
and sent it to
Walpole, who
displayed it in
a glass case at
Strawberry Hill.

although once, when gout had confined him to bed for 22


weeks, he was driven to taking Sir Walter Raleighs cordial,
a devastating mixture of hartshorn combined with vipers
flesh with their hearts and livers. His subsequent letters
make no mention of the result.

CCASIONALLY the correspondence throws up


some fact that startles the modern reader, such
as Manns observation that although the better
sort of people had embraced the newly discovered inoculation against smallpox, the poor saw the disease
as a way of easing them of the burden of their children,
whom they cannot maintain ... and they make no mystery
of owning it. While this comment whisks the reader
straight back to the 18th century, some of Horaces views
could have been expressed today. Walpoles account of his
house being wilfully damaged during a break-in and of
riots in London in 1771 in support of John Wilkes horrified
Mann, who was convinced that England was descending
into chaos. He blamed the ill-regulated police for their

inability to control the mob and reflected sadly what a


piteous light all this puts our nation in abroad.
Such weighty concerns are off-set by frivolous anecdotes, for example, Walpoles about a man who dropped
dead outside Whites club. He was carried inside, whereupon everyone immediately made bets whether he was
dead or not and, when they were going to bleed him, the
wagerers for his death interposed, and said it would affect
the fairness of the bet.
At times, the letters convey an extraordinary sense of
immediacy. Nothing was ever so vexatious!, Walpole once
exclaimed. I have just written you a long letter of three
sides, and laid it upon the hearth to dry, while I stepped into
[the] next room to fetch some sealing wax; a coal has fallen
on it, and I find it all in flames. And in the middle of one
letter Mann suddenly cried: Jesus! A large green-house that
was near finished in the garden is this instant fallen down.
Walpoles intimate knowledge of Casa Manetti enabled
him to visualise such incidents, but Mann was handicapped
by having no mental picture of either Walpoles house
in London or of Strawberry Hill, the Twickenham villa
Walpole purchased in 1747. Walpole had once confessed
that he did not favour the country just because it bears
turnips well, or because you may gallop over it without
meeting a tree. He now revelled in beautifying his acres
and cultivating his garden. From this point on his letters
to Mann are suffused with his love for the place and
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 15

A TALE OF TWO HORACES


his endless pleasure in transforming it into a little Gothic
castle. His letter to Mann of June 12th, 1753, which begins
Now you shall walk into the house..., has become one of
the most quoted of all his letters describing Strawberry
Hill. I like to be there, he told Mann, better than I have
liked being anywhere since I came to England. I sigh after
Florence ... I can truly say that I never was happy but at
Florence, a sentiment which must have been profoundly gratifying to Mann. But he was not
altogether excluded from what had
become the passion of Walpoles life.
He was able to contribute to the villa by
seeking out objects with which to adorn
it. And he had the satisfaction of knowing
that several of the presents he had given
Walpole found a home there.
The first of these was a portrait of
Bianca Cappello, mistress and later wife
of Francesco I, Grand Duke of Tuscany,
which Walpole had admired when he had
seen it in Florence. Walpole expressed
his astonishment that there is a man in
this world who, despite the pressure of
business and being overrun by cubs and
cubbacionis (as he called Grand Tourists),
should not only remember that he had
coveted the picture after 12 years had
elapsed, but whips it on board a ship, and
sends it to his friend. Twenty years later
it remained a source of pleasure: I am
writing to you in the bow-window, of my
delicious round tower with your Bianca
Cappello over against me, and the setting
sun behind me, throwing its golden rays
all around ...

N 1767 MANN SENT WALPOLE a small bronze head of


the Roman emperor Caligula, one of the earliest finds
during the excavation at Herculaneum. Mann had bought
it from a great antiquarian who always carried it about
in his pocket. Walpole was enchanted by it, declaring that
it was the finest little bust that ever my eyes beheld. I
gaze on it from morning to night. When Walpole received
yet another gift from Mann he expressed his gratitude in
mock-angry terms: Upon my honour I will pack my house
at Strawberry Hill and send it to you, if you send me any
more presents. Why, it is full of them, and belongs more
to you than to me. Have you no mercy? Some five months
later he was in nostalgic mood: It is cruel to me never to see
you here what an addition would it be to the tranquility I
have had the sense to give myself.
In December 1775 Manns last surviving brother died.
Initially there were doubts as to whether the family estate
in Kent had been left to him. Walpole at once offered to
contest the will on his friends behalf, should it prove necessary. Then, displaying a surprising obtuseness by presuming
that Mann would move to England, he continues:
I flatter myself this thought delights you as much as it does me.
I own it was the moment I always looked to. It was my comfort
against the melancholy idea of our never meeting again. You
must come to your country and, I trust, to your estate.
16 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Galfridus Mann
by John Astley,
in a companion
portrait to the
one of his brother
that hung with it
in the refectory at
Strawberry Hill.

Manns reply listed his reasons why leaving Florence was


out of the question: his advanced age (he was nearly 70),
the long journey, the climate and the high cost of living.
What should I ever do in the great town of London,
without employment or pursuit of any kind, and without
health and strength to partake of the fatiguing amusements of it? Clearly, the prospect of trying to start his
life afresh in his native country appalled him. It would be
imprudent, he wrote, to quit such an
employment as this which I now enjoy
with tranquility suitable to my age.
Walpole was deeply hurt by Manns
letter: You have chilled me so thoroughly
by the coldness of your answer, and by
the dislike you express to England, that I
shall certainly press you no more to come.
I thought at least it would have cost you
a struggle. Manns reply demonstrated
that it had indeed been a struggle: his
brothers death had not been unexpected
and he had had full time to make all my
reflections upon it, and it was then that
the conflict in my mind was great indeed.
A month later Walpole was resigned:
Your return might have opened a warm
channel of affection, which above 30
years could not freeze; but I am sure you
know my steadiness too well, to suspect
me of cooling to you, because we are both
grown too old to meet again.
This episode had upset them both, but
their correspondence soon resumed its
usual steady course, though ruffled now
by the drip of bad news from America, as
Britain fought to retain its colonies. Occasionally an anniversary is marked: I shall ever remember, Horace mused in
January 1780, the year 1739 as the happiest of my life, as it
procured me the greatest consolation I have ever since had,
in your most inestimable friendship. And from Walpole: A
correspondence of near half a century is, I suppose, not to
be paralleled in the annals of the Post Office!
Horace Manns last letter to Horace Walpole, written in
a trembling hand on September 5th, 1786, ends: Adieu my
dear Sir, I am quite exhausted. He died nine weeks later.
Caroline Chapman is the author of Elizabeth and Georgiana: The Duke of
Devonshire and his Two Duchesses (John Murray, 2002).

FURTHER READING

From the Archive

The Gossip as
Historian

Ian Christie balances


the skill and wit of
Horace Walpole as
a writer against his
shortcomings as a
historian.
www.historytoday.
com/archive

Sir Harold Acton, Three Extraordinary Ambassadors


(Thames and Hudson, 1983).
Horace Walpole, The Letters of Horace Walpole
(BiblioLife, 2008).
Timothy Mowl, Horace Walpole: The Great Outsider
(Faber & Faber, 2010).
J. Doran, (ed.), Mann and Manners at the Court of Florence
(Richard Bentley & Sons, 2 vols, 1876).
I. Giberne Sieveking, The Memoir of Sir Horace Mann
(Kegan Paul, 1912).

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 17

| SPY DIARIES

An Intimate
Betrayal
A brilliant intelligence officer at MI5, Guy Liddells
reputation was damaged forever by one great failure:
his deception by the Cambridge spies. Ben Macintyre
describes the slow dawning of treachery described in
the final volume of Liddells remarkable diaries.

Guy Liddell, photograped


in 1938, and his diaries.

18 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

BETWEEN 1939 AND 1953 Guy Liddell,


MI5s director of counter-espionage, kept a
diary. Almost every working day he would
dictate an entry, often several pages long,
to his secretary Margot Huggins, who
would then type it up and lock it in the
personal safe of MI5s director general.
The diary was so secret it had its own code
name: Wallflowers.
This diary is probably the single most
important British intelligence document of
the 20th century. It describes in meticulous detail the daily workings of MI5
(the Security Service), MI6 (the Secret
Intelligence Service) and other parts of the
Whitehall intelligence machine: the turf
battles, the personalities, anecdotes, successes and failures. It also tells an extraordinary story of treachery and betrayal.
Liddell, a First World War veteran and
holder of the Military Cross, was intelligent, sensitive, witty and quite lonely. His
marriage to an eccentric aristocrat, Calypso
Baring, fell dramatically apart when she
ran off with her half-brother to California,
taking their four children with her. From
then on Liddell lived alone in a flat off
Sloane Street and seems to have found it
therapeutic to unload his thoughts into
his journal. Like all the best diarists, he
confides in himself.
Liddell was part of the wartime circle of
hard-drinking, highly educated, faintly bohemian intelligence officers that gathered
frequently at the home of Tommy Harris, a
wealthy half-Spanish art dealer who would
gain fame as the MI5 case officer for Juan
Pujol, the double agent codenamed Garbo.
Harris and his wife Hilda were generous
hosts and their Chelsea home, with its
large wine cellar, became an open house for
spies during the war.
Kim Philby of MI6 was a regular at the
Harris salon: Youd drop in to see who was
around, Philby remembered, to enjoy the
company of fellow intelligence officers in
an atmosphere of haute cuisine and grand vin. Another
regular guest was Guy Burgess, a friend of Philby from
Cambridge, who had been recruited into MI6 before
the war, flamboyant in his homosexuality, faintly
malodorous and wildly unpredictable. Here, too, came
their friend Anthony Blunt, a Cambridge art scholar and
another homosexual.
Harriss evening soires offered a retreat where intelligence officers could relax, drink and gossip together. Members of the secret services, forbidden to speak
of their work to their wives and families, bonded in this
strange, elite world. It was an organisation in which a
large proportion of ones colleagues, male and female,
were personal friends, wrote Nicholas Elliott, Kim

Philby made a particular point of cultivating


Liddell, one of the few intelligence officers he
regarded as an intellectual equal. He would murmur
his thoughts as if groping his way towards the facts
of a case, his face creased in a comfortable, innocent smile, wrote Philby. But behind the faade of
laziness, his subtle and refIective mind played over
a storehouse of photographic memories. Philby
admired Liddells professionalism and feared it.
But in truth Philby had nothing to fear from Liddell,
who suspected nothing.
In 1946 Philby was appointed MI6 station chief
in Turkey. Guy Liddell was profoundly sorry to see
him go. Kim gave a large farewell party, he recorded
in his diary, which consisted mostly of representatives of our office, SIS [MI6] and the
Americans. He is off to Turkey.
When Guy Burgess was reprimanded for loose and irresponsible talk (he
had got blind drunk in Tangiers), Liddell
stood firm in his defence. Hilariously, he
insisted: Guy Burgess was not the sort
of person who would deliberately pass
confidential information to unauthorised
parties there was no doubt that drink
loosened his tongue.
The first hint of the coming storm
appears in Liddells diary in April 1951, when he referred to a case of a Soviet agent that we had been
looking for who leaked from the British Embassy in
1944 or 1945 there are two people who might fit
the bill; one [is] Donald Maclean, a friend of both
Burgess and Philby, who was also a Soviet spy. The
net was closing.

Philbys closest friend. A sort of convivial camaraderie


prevailed, rather like a club, in which we all called each
other by our first names, and saw a lot of one another
outside the office.
Professional and social lives merged. Philbys job as
head of the Iberian section of MI6s counter-intelligence
unit brought him into regular contact with Liddell; in
1941 Liddell took on Blunt as his personal assistant.
Liddell was entirely unaware that another, even
more secret group existed within the club. Kim Philby,
Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt were all Soviet spies,
who had been recruited by the NKVD, Stalins intelligence service, fresh from Cambridge in the 1930s.
Their Soviet intelligence codenames were, respectively,
Stanley, Orphan and Tony.
A slow, grim realisation
The first two volumes of Liddells diaries, edited
by Nigel West, were published in 2005. The final
volume, covering the period 1945 to 1953, the
years in which the great Soviet spy scandal began
to unravel, was declassified in October 2012 and
can now be read at the National Archives (KV
4/466-475). It is an astonishing and, in parts,
oddly moving document, charting Liddells reactions to the mounting evidence of his friends
treachery, from bland confidence, through
apprehension, to open suspicion.
The fissures of doubt gradually spread across Liddells diary, as he slowly came to the grim realisation
that some of his closest friends, men he trusted utterly,
had deceived and betrayed him. Liddells friendship
with the Cambridge spies wrecked his career, unfairly
tarnishing the reputation of an exceptional intelligence
officer. The scandal is usually seen as an institutional
and political calamity but, as Liddells diary shows, for
some it was also a personal and private disaster, a most
intimate betrayal.
References to Philby, Burgess and Blunt pepper the
early parts of the diary. By 1941 Philby was playing a
crucial role in MI6 and Liddell was impressed. Any
successes are entirely due to the efforts of Kim Philby,
he wrote of MI6s counter-espionage efforts in Portugal
in 1943. They dined and lunched together. Liddell could
be scathing about MI5s sister service, but he has only
praise for Philby. Kim Philby is trying to get things
sorted out
Blunt, meanwhile, had been promoted from assisting Liddell to a role at the very centre of MI5, working
on German counter-espionage, running a surveillance
unit and intercepting the diplomatic bags of neutral
countries. Liddells wartime diaries contain more than
50 references to Blunt, usually referred to informally
as Anthony. Burgess, meanwhile, joined the Foreign
Office while secretly working for MI5. He and Liddell
often went to the music hall together.
While rising through the ranks of British intelligence, all three spies were passing secrets to Moscow in
an astonishing torrent. Blunt alone passed over a staggering total of 1,771 documents to his Soviet controller.

Philby admired Liddells


professionalism and
feared it. But in truth
Philby had nothing to
fear from Liddell, who
suspected nothing

From the Archive

Kim Philby:
Living a Lie

Almost everything written


about and by Kim Philby is
wrong, claims Boris Volodarsky.
www.historytoday/archive

Sudden departure
A month later, tipped off by Philby, Burgess and
Maclean fled to Moscow. Liddell was thunderstruck
at their sudden disappearance. In view of the past
association between Burgess and Maclean it
seems pretty clear that the pair of them have gone
off. Quite where or why they had vanished was as
yet a mystery: We naturally felt that either the
motive was blackmail or that there had been some
sort of espionage. These seem to be the only two
reasons that could possibly account for so sudden
a departure. Liddell resisted the idea that Burgess
might be behind the Iron Curtain: It seemed to me
unlikely that a man of Burgesss intelligence could
imagine that he had any future in Russia.
As MI5 put the pieces together, the finger of
suspicion began to point at Philby. He knew about
the investigation into Maclean, while Burgess
had been living in his Washington flat until a few
weeks before his disappearance. Yet Liddell refused
to believe that Philby or Blunt could have been
implicated: There is no doubt that Kim Philby is
thoroughly disgusted with Burgesss behaviour,
wrote Liddell after Philby contacted him to express
horror at his friends defection.
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 19

| SPY DIARIES
On May 31st, 1951 Liddell wrote: I dined with Anthony
Blunt ... I feel certain that Blunt was never a conscious
collaborator with Burgess in any activities that he may
have conducted on behalf of the Comintern. Yet Liddells
certainty about the innocence of his friends was beginning to waver. On that very day Philby was interrogated
by Dick White of the MI5 counter-intelligence branch.
He told Liddell that Philbys answers were not wholly
convincing.
Despite Whites suspicions, Liddell maintained contact
with Philby: Kim is extremely worried, he wrote. He
began to imagine ways in which Philby might have tipped
off Burgess accidentally: Personally I think it not unlikely
that the papers relating to Maclean might have been on
Kims desk and that Burgess strolled into the room while
Kim was not there.
This was clutching at straws. In November 1951 Philby
was interrogated by Helenus Buster Milmo, a harddriving barrister working for MI5. Liddell listened in
and was shocked. Philbys attitude throughout was
quite extraordinary; he certainly
did not behave like an innocent
person He never made any violent
protestation of innocence, nor did he
make any attempt to prove his case.
There was not enough evidence to
prosecute, but Milmo concluded
that Philby was, and had been for
years, a Soviet agent.
Still Liddell found it hard to
believe that Burgess and Maclean,
let alone Philby and Blunt, might be
spies. He desperately did not want
to believe, but the evidence against
Philby was mounting. While all the
points against him are capable of another explanation
their cumulative effect is certainly impressive, wrote
Liddell.
And, if Philby was guilty, what of the other friends
they shared? What of his good friend Anthony Blunt, who
was interrogated by MI5 in 1952 but admitted nothing?
While I believe that Blunt dabbled in Communism,
wrote Liddell, I still think it unlikely that he ever became
a member.
And what of Tommy Harris, whose home had been
the scene of so many well-oiled get-togethers? Suspicion
began to creep through the intelligence establishment,
as its senior figures eyed one another and wondered. Guy
Liddell clung to the hope that it might all turn out to be
a ghastly mistake and that Philby and Blunt would be
cleared of suspicion.
Wrong conclusion
Eventually Philby was told that he would have to resign
from MI6 and be paid off with a lump sum. Liddell
discussed the Philby imbroglio with Sir Stewart Menzies,
C, the chief of MI6. C seemed to have reached the
conclusion that Kim was innocent, wrote Liddell. I said
that I had come to the conclusion that the only thing to
do in cases of this kind, where one knew an individual
fairly intimately, was to sink ones personal view and
20 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Kim Philby (standing) at the 1955


press conference
during which he
denied he was the
third man.

allow those concerned to get on with the job, purely on


the basis of ascertainment of facts. Otherwise one was
liable to get misled.
Between 1951 and 1956 Philby was left in limbo: many
in MI5 were convinced of his guilt; many in MI6, equally
certain of his innocence. Liddell was caught somewhere in
the middle.
One evening in 1953 Liddell went to a dinner party
hosted by Tommy Harris and discovered that Philby had
been invited, too. He greeted his old friend Philby in the
normal way, although both knew the situation could
hardly have been stranger.
Harris himself was now under suspicion. Like Philby,
his telephone was being bugged and Liddell knew it. The
dinner guests all tried to pretend that the party was no different from the many that had preceded it. Philby seemed
somewhat worried, Liddell wrote in his diary, and left
early. They would never meet again.
Guy Liddell had hoped and expected to become head of
MI5, but he was closely associated with too many suspected spies for the top job and rumours
were already circulating to the effect
that he, too, might be a double agent.
An MI6 report hinted that Liddell
himself could be a gay Soviet spy,
pointing out that he had parted
from his wife, had a faintly homosexual air about him and, during
the war, had been a close friend of
Burgess, Philby and Blunt.
Dick White was appointed Director General of MI5. Bitterly disappointed, Liddell resigned and took a
job as head of security at the Atomic
Energy Authority. The diary abruptly
ends in May 1953. He died three years later.
Liddell did not live long enough to see the guilt of his
friends established beyond doubt. Philby fled to Moscow
in 1963; that same year, Blunt struck an immunity deal
with MI5 in return for a confession. He was finally unmasked in 1979.
Liddells friendships with the three spies continued to
haunt his reputation long after his death. In 1989 he was
identified, quite unfairly, as the fifth man.
Liddell was not a Soviet mole. His diary is proof that
he was incapable of disloyalty to his country. He was a brilliant intelligence officer, whose many successes have been
cruelly obscured by one great failure. The Cambridge spies
fooled everybody, but no one more comprehensively, or
more destructively, than Guy Liddell.
Perhaps he was nave, but anyone who has ever been
deceived must feel for Liddell. For his is a most human
story played out, day by day, in the pages of his journal:
a spy-hunter who could not see the spies around him; a
gentleman-spy who could not bring himself to believe a
gentleman could be a spy; a man trained to distrust, who
trusted too much.

Ben Macintyre writes for The Times and is the author of A Spy Among
Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal (Bloomsbury, 2014).

NEHRU
Nehru shares a platform
with his defence minister
V.K. Krishna Menon in
Bombay during the election
campaign, early 1962.

Death of a
Democrat

Jawaharlal Nehru died 50 years ago this month.


Gyanesh Kudaisya describes the final years of Indias founding
prime minister, a period marked by major challenges at home as
well as abroad in the aftermath of the 1962 war with China.

N DECEMBER 17TH AND 18TH, 1961, on Nehrus orders,


Indian troops marched into Goa, an area of about 1,500
square miles on the countrys western coast, to liberate
it from the Portuguese, who had ruled the territory since
1510. In a brisk operation over 30,000 Indian troops
overran this last colonial enclave, overwhelming and capturing about
3,500 Portuguese soldiers. Condemnation was swift, both from critics
at home and abroad. C. Rajagopalachari, one of the countrys most respected elder statesmen, said that India had totally lost the moral power
to raise her voice against militarism. Others pointed out that the
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 21

NEHRU
military adventure in Goa was a ploy to divert the nations attention
from the increasing Chinese border incursions (since 1959 the Chinese
had occupied over 12,000 square miles of formerly Indian territory).
Further afield, the action was deeply deplored by Britain, the US,
Canada, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, West Germany and other
countries. Nehru was denounced as a hypocrite who preached nonviolence and disarmament to the world, yet practised the use of force
at home. A UN Security Council resolution against India was almost
voted in favour, but for a veto by the Soviet Union.

UST A FEW WEEKS EARLIER, on November


14th, 1961, Nehru had celebrated his 72nd
birthday with customary fervour. A miracle of
health in the words of someone who worked
closely with him, Nehru practised yoga regularly, including the headstand. He typically worked
a 16-hour day, seven days a week and received about
500 letters and 100 telegrams a day. He travelled
widely and wrote and delivered around 25 speeches
a month. Then in his 15th year as premier, he held
several positions, including Cabinet portfolios of
external affairs and atomic energy and chairmanship of the planning commission, exercising unrivalled political authority.
In the election campaign that took place immediately after the invasion Nehru was able to
strike a patriotic chord, capitalising on restoring
Goa to the Motherland. His ruling Congress party
was re-elected in 361 out of 494 parliamentary
seats and was back in power for a third successive
term. Yet, in spite of the criticism, no one could
foresee that the triumphant note sounded over Goa
also marked the countdown to the end of Nehrus
leadership. The military conflict with China that
broke out in full force in October 1962 would be
momentous for India, bringing about extraordinary tribulations for Nehru. In its aftermath came
growing tensions with Pakistan, political unrest
in the Kashmir valley and domestic criticism and
challenges to his political authority.
In November 1961, just before the Goa campaign, in response to stinging criticism in parliament, Nehru and his defence minister, V.K.
Krishna Menon, had taken steps to reclaim from
the Chinese some territory by setting up forward
posts. Arguably, this much debated forward policy
inflamed the situation. In August 1962 Nehru informed parliament that Indian soldiers had re-occupied around 4,000 sq km of some 19,000 sq km
of territory that the Chinese had taken. The prospect of war loomed. Later the cabinet secretary,
S.S. Khera, recalled: Suspicion, distrust, a mood
of general sullenness, seemed to lie like an incubus
upon everything and haunted everyone in the
defence ministry from Krishna Menon downwards
during the critical period before the crisis of 1962.
In the spring of 1962 Nehru suffered his first
serious illness, due to a kidney affliction known as
pyelonephritis. He recovered quickly but his body
acquired a slight stoop and he was forced by doctors
to cut down his long working days. In September
he attended the Commonwealth prime ministers
22 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

conference in London, even as he knew that border tensions with China


were getting out of hand.
Yet, when the Chinese strike came on October 19th and 20th, the
Indian leadership called it an unprovoked and sudden offensive, a Himalayan Pearl Harbor. While the Chinese advance was swift and dramatic,
beginning with the assault on Namka Chu in Ladakh and the occupation of Tawang in the north-east, the Indian response revealed an utter
lack of planning and a failure of leadership. As the Chinese overran
the Himalayan frontier, precipitating a
full-scale confrontation, the Indian army
suffered a virtual rout in both Ladakh and
the north-east sectors. In the course of the
conflict the Indian casualty figure reached
7,000, with nearly 1,400 dead. A month
later, on November 21st, a unilateral ceasefire was called by the Chinese; by then they
had wrestled over 23,200 sq km of territory
from India, retaining 4,000 sq km in the
Ladakh region.
Indian counter-defence was catastrophic. Over 3,000 ill-equipped, ill-rationed

Party stalwarts
closed ranks to force
the prime ministers
hand. They told Nehru
bluntly it is Menon
today. Tomorrow will
be your turn

and unacclimatised soldiers were mobilised, with only about 400 of


them issued with adequate winter clothing. Gurkha and Rajput units
had been made to march in biting cold to Namka Chu in Ladakh with
just cotton uniforms, canvas shoes and one blanket per man. Unaccustomed to the altitude and the terrain, the Indians faced over 10,000
well-provisioned Chinese soldiers. Raj Thapar, a member of the army
chief Lieutenant General P.M. Thapars household, later recalled: The
picture in my mind ... was of an ill-equipped army, of generals running
around barefoot, trying to sort out matters but not succeeding, a sort
of bedlam.
Reports circulated about deep divisions within the military top brass.
General Thapar had advocated caution, but was overruled by Menon,
whose protg, Lieutenant General B.M. Kaul, was made corps commander. Within days of the crisis Kaul, unable to withstand the high-altitude battlefront, was stricken with pleurisy and evacuated to his
sickbed in Delhi, from where he continued to direct military operations.
War led to a declaration of national emergency. Images of poorly
armed and ill-shod Indian soldiers fighting desperately across the snowcapped frontier captured the popular imagination. The nation enveloped
itself in patriotic sentimentalism. Citizens rallies and defence fund
collection drives were organised across the country. In the spirit of
national unity, criticism was initially muted, but the conduct of the
Indian operation badly damaged Nehrus standing. The perception was
widespread that the government had bungled badly. Even President
Radhakrishnan, after a visit to the front, publicly acknowledged the
governments credulity and negligence.
As the blame game began, heads started to roll. The army chief and
the chief of staff were both fired. Although Nehru maintained a stoic
silence, he could not continue to ignore demands for Menons resignation. On October 31st he responded with a half-measure by taking
charge of defence himself, but allowed Menon to continue in the cabinet
as minister for defence production. Menon did not help matters by declaring: Nothing is changed. Im still a member of cabinet and I am still
sitting in the defence ministry. While Menon took most of the blame
for the appalling state of the nations defences and his idiosyncratic
handling of the generals, critics attributed Indias defeat to Nehrus
altruistic external policy of non-alignment and his failure to take a
realistic stance towards China. Congress party stalwarts closed ranks to
force the prime ministers hand. They told Nehru bluntly: It is Menon
today. Tomorrow will be your turn.

T
Left: Krishna Menon at a UN debate, late 1961.
Top: Nehru with Averell Harriman and J.K. Galbraith after meeting to
discuss US military aid over border clashes with China, November 1962.
Above: Elizabeth II with Commonwealth ministers at Buckingham
Palace in September 1962. Nehru is seated second from the left.

HE HIMALAYAN WAR was a dramatic turning point for


Nehrus leadership. The premier made a desperate plea
for military help to the US president John F. Kennedy and
the British prime minister Harold Macmillan. He also approached the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to use his
influence to restrain the Chinese. Throughout much of the war the two
great powers, the US and the Soviet Union, were caught up in a deadly
game of brinksmanship over the Cuban Missile Crisis. The American
envoy in New Delhi, J.K. Galbraith, however, managed to persuade the
Kennedy administration to dispatch help. By the first week of November over 60 plane loads of ammunition had been flown to India. The
British response was more circumspect. However, by late November
high-powered US and British delegations were in New Delhi, led by US
Under Secretary of State Averell Harriman and British Commonwealth
Secretary Duncan Sandys. The Chinese ceasefire on November 21st came
as a relief, but the greater challenge of defending the long Himalayan
frontier remained. Although India and the Soviet Union had signed a
deal in August 1962 for MiG-21 fighter planes, these never materialised
during the hostilities, leading to speculation that the Soviets would not
permit the use of their weapons against another Communist country. A
peace conference of African and Asian leaders in Colombo, convened
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 23

An American plane airlifts supplies


and Indian troops near Leh in the
Himalayas, 1963.
Below: Mules carrying ammunition
over a mountain pass during the
Sino-Indian conflict, November 1962.

by the Ceylonese premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike, only revealed division


among the non-aligned nations and failed to produce tangible results.
Nehru was upset that US and British offers of military help came
with strings attached. India was now forced to accept outside mediation
and to open a dialogue with Pakistan over the highly contentious issue
of Kashmir. Both the US and UK governments had used the Himalayan
crisis to put pressure on India to make concessions to Pakistan and to
settle the Kashmir issue. Nehrus carefully nurtured policy of non-alignment suffered a setback and Indias stature on the global stage, which
he had worked so hard to build, diminished.

N APRIL 1963 THE CONGRESS PARTY lost three critical parliamentary by-elections. The political undercurrents now came out into
the open. Some of Nehrus most trenchant critics from across the
opposition the elder politician J.B. Kripalani, the socialist firebrand
Ram Manohar Lohia and the suave right-wing Swatantra party leader
Minoo Masani returned to parliament to pour scorn on an ageing
and disillusioned prime minister. In parliaments monsoon session
Kripalani moved a motion of no confidence, the first such challenge
to his leadership Nehru had faced since 1947. Although defeated, the
motion was deeply symbolic of the shifting political dissatisfaction
with the government.
Anxious stirrings within the Congress party reflected the mood.
Over 80 members of its national committee petitioned for a special
session to discuss the slide in the partys political fortunes. Held on
August 9th and 10th, 1963, the special Congress began innocuously
with the party delegates deliberating ways to revive the organisation.
Behind the scenes, though, a far-reaching purge was being conceived
by the party chiefs to refurbish its image and to reinforce Nehrus

24 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

NEHRU
standing. The session triggered a political earthquake, the largest reshuffle, both in government and party, in Indias political history. Known
as the Kamaraj Plan after its author K. Kamaraj Nadar, the influential
chief minister of Madras, it called upon Congress leaders holding ministerial office at the centre and in the states to relinquish their positions
and devote themselves to organisational work to revive and strengthen
the party. A game of musical chairs was played out over who would stay
in office and who would be forced to quit. Nehru, working closely with
Kamaraj, pondered the political chess board. Finally, after two weeks of
suspense, over half of the central Cabinet and the chief ministers of six
states were made to take the path of renunciation. Those eliminated
from cabinet posts included the Bombay MP S.K. Patil and Morarji Desai,
whose personality and ideology Nehru found distasteful. He was also

Behind the scenes a far-reaching purge


was being conceived by the Congress
party chiefs to refurbish its image and
to reinforce Nehrus standing

able to get rid of Bakshi Gulam Mohammad, the controversial chief minister of Kashmir. It appeared that Nehru, the consummate politician,
had succeeded in regaining his authority over party and government.
However, the Congress party heavyweights realised that they had to
face up to the inevitable question: After Nehru Who? The party had
to survive, take care of its electoral interests and move on in uncertain
times. Some of these men, including Kamaraj, met quietly in October
1963 in the temple town of Tirupati in southern India to form what
came to be known as the Syndicate, an informal leadership collective
to manage the question of political succession.
THE OUTBREAK OF WAR WITH CHINA brought another hopelessly
tangled issue to Nehrus urgent attention, that of Kashmir. During the
1962 war Pakistans president, Ayub Khan, had protested
vehemently against US and British military aid to India,
declaring that it may enlarge and prolong the conflict
and warning that the arms might be used against Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute. To assuage Pakistani
fears, Averell Harriman and Duncan Sandys travelled to
Rawalpindi soon after visiting New Delhi. The outcome
of their visit was a joint statement by Nehru and Ayub
Khan issued on November 29th, 1962 agreeing to renew
efforts to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Nehrus hands
were tied due to the circumstances but in private he
strongly resented this interference in what he considered was a bilateral dispute.
Talks began between the Indian minister Swaran
Singh and the Pakistani foreign minister Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto. However, in January 1963, even as discussions
were underway, Pakistan announced a provisional
agreement under which it ceded over 10,000 sq kms of
territory in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir to China territory over which India made claims. New Delhi saw this
gesture as adding insult to injury. Held over six prolonged
rounds between December 1962 and May 1963, the talks
proved unproductive and only hardened attitudes on
both sides. American and British diplomatic efforts now
turned to getting Nehru and Ayub Khan to accept third
party international mediation to solve the Kashmir deadlock, a proposal that went against the grain of Nehrus
creed of non-alignment.

Nehru in Parliament House, New Delhi,


on his way to address members about
Indian reverses in the war with China,
November 1962.

EANWHILE, IN KASHMIR from where


Nehrus ancestors came and a region with
which he identified strongly the political
crisis deepened. Resentment against the unpopular regime of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, who had
replaced the charismatic Sheikh Abdullah as chief minister, was rife, even though Bakshi had resigned under
the Kamaraj Plan and one of his cronies had succeeded
him. People regarded the detention of Abdullah, imprisoned for 11 years without trial, as being part of a political
vendetta. To aggravate the situation, on December 26th,
1963 a crisis arose due to the mysterious theft of a relic of
the Prophet Muhammad from the shrine of Hazratbal in
Srinagar. The relic, a three-inch strand of the Prophets
hair kept in a silver-capped glass phial, had been brought
to Srinagar by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th
century. Violent disorder broke out as thousands of Kashmiri Muslims took to the streets to express their distress
and Nehru had to make a radio broadcast to calm the
situation. Although the relic was returned surreptitiously
to the shrine on January 2nd, 1964, rumours circulated
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 25

NEHRU

From the Archive

Gandhi and
Nehru:
Frustrated
Visionaries

Judith Brown assesses


the coupling of sage and
politician that achieved
much but not all for
Hindu aspirations.
www.historytoday.
com/archive

Above: Nehrus cremation made world news.


Right: Sheikh Abdullah with Nehru soon after
Abdullahs release from prison, spring 1964.
Opposite page: Crowds at Nehrus funeral in
New Delhi on May 28th, 1964.

that it was not authentic and popular protests continued for several
weeks. Mass demonstrations also occurred across cities in Pakistan at
Karachi, Rawalpindi, Dhaka and Lahore against this Indian conspiracy.
On January 30th Nehru sent Lal Bahadur Shastri, his trusted Congress
party lieutenant and political troubleshooter, to Srinagar to deal with
the crisis. Shastri ordered that Islamic clerics examine the relic. On
February 2nd, in scenes of high drama, the clerics pronounced it to be
genuine. A public exhibition followed and anger thereafter subsided.
Nonetheless the Hazratbal incident had far-reaching consequences.
Sectarian violence broke out in the Khulna and Jessore districts of East
Pakistan. Thousands of displaced Hindu families fleeing the rioting
took refuge in the Indian State of West Bengal. In retaliation, violence
against Muslim minorities was reported from the Indian cities of Calcutta, Jamshedpur and Rourkela. Nehru dreaded the vicious cycle of
Hindu-Muslim violence, with its inevitable displacement of people
from their homes. He had lived through the horrors of Partition. To his
distress it had begun once again.
Although he was now seriously unwell, Nehru knew that a turnaround was needed in Kashmir. In April 1964 Sheikh Abdullah was released from prison. After a ten-day triumphant procession across the
Kashmir valley, Abdullah addressed an ecstatic crowd of over 250,000
people at a rally in Srinagar, where he strongly reaffirmed the right of
Kashmiri people to self-determination. He then visited New Delhi,
staying as Nehrus guest in his house. It appeared that a major initiative
was underway to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem centred
around Abdullah. The Kashmiri leader held wide-ranging talks with
Nehru and several important figures. He also received an invitation from
Ayub Khan to visit Pakistan, which Nehru encouraged him to accept.
Through these turbulent months, Nehru kept his nerve. Even in the
gloomiest moments of the war he did not seek scapegoats. Neither did
26 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Nehru always believed the question


of succession should be decided by
party and people after he was gone
he conceal his grief for the loss of Indian soldiers. In January 1963 he is
said to have been moved to tears before more than 50,000 people when
the singer Lata Mangeshkar performed the patriotic Hindi elegy Aye
Mere Watan Ke Logon! (Oh The People of My Country!). During this
time he continued to seek the counsel of President Radhakrishnan and
of close Cabinet colleagues such as Shastri, T.T. Krishnamachari and Y.B.
Chavan, who took over the defence portfolio from Menon.

N JANUARY 7TH, 1964 Nehru suffered a mild stroke


at Bhubaneswar in eastern India, where he had gone
to attend the annual session of the Congress party. He
recovered after a few days and returned to the capital
but his left limbs were affected. Recalling those days
Harivanshrai Bachchan, Hindi poet and a friend of Nehrus daughter,
Indira Gandhi, wrote: When Induji [Indira] brought Panditji [Nehru]
home from Bhubaneshwar, I went to visit him early one morning, and
found her walking with him hand-in-hand in the Teen Murti garden.
The paralysis had affected the left side of Panditjis body; the lawn was
still wet with dew, and while Panditjis right footprints were distinct
and separate, a long continuous trail in the damp grass indicated the
dragging of his left foot. It was a most pathetic sight.
Arrangements were now made to lighten Nehrus responsibilities.
Lal Bahadur Shastri was appointed to the Cabinet as minister without

portfolio. Shastri was to look after Nehrus work relating to foreign


affairs, planning and atomic energy, besides handling all important
matters requiring the prime ministers attention. Nehru soon recovered
and from March onwards resumed attending parliament. In May he
travelled to the India-Nepal border to meet the king of Nepal and then
to Bombay for a Congress party meeting. At the same time Abdullah
arrived in Rawalpindi, where he met Pakistani leaders.
ON THE MORNING OF MAY 27TH after returning in apparently good
health from a few days holiday at Dehra Dun, Nehru suffered a sudden
heart attack. He died later that afternoon. The following day his funeral
procession started from Teen Murti House, as an estimated three million
people lined the route. Nehru was cremated on the bank of the River
Jamuna, about 300 yards from where Gandhis funeral pyre had been
in 1948. Those present included the British prime minister Sir Alec
Douglas-Home, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, the US Secretary
of State Dean Rusk and the Soviet vice-premier Alexei Kosygin.
Among the mourners was a tearful Sheikh Abdullah, who, on learning of Nehrus death, had cancelled his tour of the Pakistani-held Azad
Kashmir and rushed back to Delhi. Twelve days of national mourning
were observed, culminating in the immersion of a portion of Nehrus
ashes at the confluence of the holy rivers, the Yamuna and the Ganges,
at Allahabad, his birthplace. In a will made in 1954 Nehru had requested
that the major portion of my ashes be carried high up into the air in
an aeroplane and scattered from that height over the fields where the
peasants of India toil, so that they might mingle with the dust and soil
of India and become an indistinguishable part of India.
Deeply respectful of the norms and processes of a young democracy, Nehru always believed that the question of succession should be
decided by the party and the people after he was gone. The political

transition that followed his death was remarkably smooth. With the
support of the Syndicate, Lal Bahadur Shastri was unanimously elected
Nehrus successor. In his inaugural address Shastri emphasised continuity: There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands
at the crossroads of history and must choose which way to go. But for
us there need be no difficulty or hesitation, no looking to right or left.
Our way is straight and clear the building up of a socialist democracy
at home with freedom and prosperity for all and friendship with all
nations. However Shastri also inherited many of the challenges of the
Nehru era, including building up defence capabilities, political unrest
in Kashmir and worsening relations with Pakistan, which erupted in
full-scale war in September 1965. Shastris unexpected death in January
1966 brought about yet another political succession. This propelled to
the fore Nehrus daughter Indira Gandhi the beginning of a political
dynasty, of which Nehru would have strongly disapproved for a democratic country such as India.
Gyanesh Kudaisya teaches Contemporary South Asian History at the National University
of Singapore.

FURTHER READING
Judith M. Brown, Nehru: A Political Life (Yale University Press, 2005).
Ramachandra Guha, India After Gandhi (Macmillan, 2007).
Sarvepalli Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography, vol 3 (Jonathan
Cape, 1984).
Walter Crocker, Nehru: A Contemporarys Estimate (Random House
Inida, 2008).
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 27

COMMENT

MakingHistory
Without dexterity and imagination historians are in danger of overlooking the telling details that
complete the bigger picture, argues Mathew Lyons.

Through the cracks of oblivion


ONE OF THE criticisms levelled at
education secretary Michael Goves
revision of the history curriculum was
that it would reduce lessons to little
more than the recitation and memorialising of facts, to what Sir Philip
Sidney called the bare was of history.
The simpler a statement of fact is, the
more it deceives us of its certainty,
especially so when facts are strung
together like prayer beads to form
a providential narrative of national
greatness, as Goves vision did.
English literary history, bound up
as it is with ideas about both national
greatness and transcendent artistic
expression, seems particularly fertile
ground for romantic, ahistorical assumptions and nowhere more so than
in discussion of Shakespeares theatre
and the emergence of purposebuilt playhouses in London out of
the itinerant performing culture
that had preceded them. Even that
word preceded is problematic. While
perfectly true in itself, it implies a
Whiggish progression, an evolution
that, in Shakespeares time at least,
was far from evident. The purposebuilt theatres existed as part of the
economy of the touring players and,
in fact, would not have been financially viable without them. It was
the Globe and its rivals in London
that were the anomalies: theatre, as
Shakespeare would have understood
it, was a mobile art and, as such, a
lucrative one.
The late Barbara D. Palmer, medieval and renaissance drama scholar,
constructed a narrative out of the
tangled Clifford family accounts at
Londesborough in Yorkshires East
Riding for Shrovetide 1598 that perfectly exemplifies the complexity and
sophistication of this neglected convergence of commerce and culture. At
some point previously the family had
engaged Lord Derbys players to entertain them and their guests over the
30 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

week. The troupe, perhaps 15-strong,


arrived on the Saturday and began its
schedule of performances. So far, so
commonplace. What is eye-opening
is the apparent fact that a second
troupe arrived at the house on the
Monday afternoon, also claiming to be
Lord Derbys players. After what one
must assume was a certain amount of
heated debate, they were sent away
again, but not without payment.
Evidently, a performing economy
which could support a fake playing

History, no less than society,


deals uneasily with fluidity
and indeterminacy and with
mobility in general
troupe alongside its authentic namesake was by no means a poor one.
Nor could it have been as hazardous
or haphazard a business proposition
as literary scholars are still inclined
to think. The common presumption
remains that touring was what players
did when they couldnt perform in
London, that it was a necessity, not
a choice. Hence Ian Donaldson in

Travelling players,
from the Album
Amicorum by
Moyses Walens,
Cologne, 1605-15.

his superb recent biography of Ben


Jonson, writes, as many others have
before him: All of the major theatrical companies travelled regularly,
especially at times when plague
forced the closure of the London playhouses. But this presumption is based
more on the idea that a theatrical base
in the capital is the sine qua non of
artistic life that is, on the intensely
metropolitan parochialism of our
elites than it is on what data still
survives.
History, no less than society, deals
uneasily with fluidity and indeterminacy and with mobility in general.
We think in social strata. We think in
fixed polities: the court, the City, the
church. Goves reductive bare was
approach is a simplification of a clich;
but it is an intellectual silo not so very
different in kind from those we all
tend to work in. The truth is that our
conceptual Elizabethan England is
more centralised and London-centric
than the reality ever was.
The itinerant performing culture
of early modern England is mostly
lost; its energy derived from preReformation ideas of festival and
performance, its currency was aural,
its trade experiential. But given that,
there is perhaps a case for saying that
it provides an excellent metaphor
for the quiddity of history, for those
essential protean contradictory
truths we try to construct from what
scant data remains scattered through
archives and libraries.
Each individual fact tells us little,
but handled with sufficient delicacy,
dexterity and imagination they can be
shaped to force the merest of cracks
in an oblivion that will, in time,
entomb us all. For me, that is the
strongest argument for the study of
history there is.
Mathew Lyons is author of The Favourite: Ralegh
and His Queen (Constable & Robinson, 2011).

InFocus

The Vendme Column, 1871

28 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

NE OF THE ENTRANCES to the Place Vendme at


the heart of fashionable Paris has a highly professional sandbag breastwork across it, complete with
embrasures for two pieces of artillery. Behind it,
the centrepiece of the Place, the Column of the Grande Arme,
looks as though it already has attached the cables that will
shortly be used to topple it. France, or at least its capital, is in
the grip of civil war. It has only recently lost a humiliating war
with Germany. It ended, after a long siege, with the surrender of Paris on January 27th, 1871. But the terms inflicted on
France the loss of Lorraine and Alsace the victory parade of
30,000 German troops along the Champs Elyses and finally
the removal of the new French Republics right-wing National
Assembly from Paris out to Versailles are too much for the
citys lower orders, proud of their revolutionary record stretching back through 1848 and 1830 to 1789. By mid-March the
regular troops have all withdrawn to Versailles and Paris is in
the hands of the Commune, the worlds first socialist regime.
Both sides were guilty of arbitrary executions and open
warfare between the Versaillais and the Commune forces,
which included many members of the Garde Nationale, began
on April 11th. Gestures always play an important part in French
public life and the destruction of the Vendme Column was
soon being suggested. Modelled on Trajans Column in Rome,
construction began following Napoleons victory at Austerlitz
at the end of 1805 and the 425 bronze bas-relief panels spiral-

By the time Communard


resistance ended, the uprising
had cost 20,000 lives, more
than the Terror in 1793
ling up it were made from captured cannon. The statue on its
top was of Napoleon in classical dress. Gustave Courbet, the
great realist painter and homme sauvage, had always paraded
his solidarity with the workers. President of the Communes
Art Commission, he called the column a monument devoid
of all artistic value, tending to perpetuate the ideas of war and
conquest of the past imperial dynasty, which are reproved by
a republican nations sentiment. It was pulled down on May
16th to the sound of the Marseillaise. The forces of order from
Versailles were let into the city by anti-communards on May
22nd and the pace of atrocities on both sides then accelerated
horribly through la Semaine sanglante, as well as the burning of
buildings including the Htel de Ville and the Tuileries Palace.
By the time Communard resistance ended, the uprising had
cost 20,000 lives, more than the Terror in 1793.
Courbet was given a six-month prison sentence and a fine
in September, but the Republic was not finished with him as
a scapegoat. In 1873 it was proposed to re-erect the column
(the bronze panels had survived) at a cost of 323,000 francs,
which Courbet was to pay off in instalments of 10,000 francs
a year. Instead he escaped to Switzerland, where he died in
1877, killed either by this persecution and exile or by drink.
Whatever its cause, his death was perhaps as well for his
posthumous artistic reputation. He had become increasingly
sought-after by the mid 1860s, selling 150,000 francs worth
of pictures after the Salon of 1866, which did much damage to
his anti-bourgeois image; more seriously, contemporaries like
Monet and Zola also detected a falling off in his art.

ROGER HUDSON

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 29

FRENCH FOLLIES IN SIAM

Members of the
1684 Siamese
mission with their
translator, Abott
Artus de Lionne.
An early 18thcentury French
painting by
Jacques Vigoureux
-Duplessis.

Louis XIV and


the King of Siam
A foothold in Siam offered new trading opportunities for France in the late 17th
century, as well as a chance to spread the Catholic faith. Peter Murrell describes
French efforts via a series of embassies between the two countries.

RENCH INVOLVEMENT IN SIAM in the 17th century was an


extraordinary episode in the history of that countrys foreign
affairs. It began in the nave and arrogant belief that people in
a faraway land, with a religion much older than that of France,
could be converted to the Catholic faith and it ended in military humiliation when French forces were drawn into a succession crisis at the
Siamese court. In the key years from 1685 to 1688 three great embassies
were exchanged, two French and one Siamese, lending an air of exotic
charm and ceremonial splendour to what was in reality the flimsiest of
relationships based on mutual misunderstanding. Two absolute monarchs, Louis XIV and King Narai, inundated each other with gifts and
declared bonds of eternal friendship across a cultural chasm.

A cast of colourful characters peopled this unlikely drama. Intrigue


was all-pervasive and at the centre of the web was the Greek adventurer,
Constantine Phaulkon, who had risen from obscurity to become the
favourite of the Siamese king and his chief minister in all but name.
Events would have unfolded very differently without his presence.
The French were latecomers to European involvement in Siam. First
to arrive were the Portuguese who, by a treaty of 1516, were granted the
right to establish godowns (warehouses) at the capital, Ayutthaya, and
at several coastal towns. They were also allowed to practise and preach
their religion freely. By the late-16th century the Dutch and English
were challenging the Portuguese hegemony in Asiatic waters. The formation of East India Companies in Holland and England highlighted
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 31

32 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

FRENCH FOLLIES IN SIAM


the concern for trade above all else. Both countries set up godowns in
monarch on October 18th 1673, a date which marked the start of dipAyutthaya, the Dutch in 1608 and the English in 1612, but it was the
lomatic exchanges between France, the Vatican and Siam.
Dutch, more adaptable to Siamese ways, who prospered in the long run.
French trading activities in the region were sporadic and unsuccessNARAI, WHO HAD ASCENDED THE THRONE IN 1656, was a calm,
ful and it was in a missionary capacity that they arrived in earnest. The
affable person with an intellectual curiosity about the world beyond
Socit des Missions trangres de Paris (MEP), established in 1659 with
his own shores. He always had foreigners in influential positions at
the blessing of Louis XIV, arose out of the missionary work of the Jesuit
court (initially Persians, who had assisted him in coming to power)
Alexandre de Rhodes (1591-1660) in Tonkin. In the 15th century the
and he seems to have had a correspondingly low opinion of his own
papacy had granted Portugal the whole of Asia as a field for its missionary
countrymen, whom he treated as harshly as any of his predecessors. His
activity, but the rapid decline of Portugal and the rise of Protestantism
relationship with his Buddhist clergy was strained at times, due to his
caused the French to intensify their own missionary endeavours. Pope
perceived lack of enthusiasm. He listened intently to explanations of
Alexander VII tried to avoid Portuguese objections to French missionChristianity but took the tolerant Siamese view that God (using Chrisaries working in regions that they considered to be theirs exclusively by
tian terminology) was pleased, rather than insulted, by the diversity
reviving lapsed Middle Eastern sees and the system of vicars-apostolic
of approaches to Him. Given his role as bodhisattva and chakravartin,
the ruler through whom the Wheel of the Dharma turns,
to give the bishops jurisdiction in wider areas.
Left: contemporary French map
In 1660 Lambert de La Motte, Bishop
there was not the slightest chance of his conversion, which
of the kingdom of Siam showing
of Bryte (Beirut) and vicar-apostolic for
he knew the Christians desired, but he was not averse to
Chaumonts route of 1685-86.
Cochin-China (Vietnam) and parts of China,
making occasional ambiguous statements to keep them
Below: arrival of the French embassy
left France accompanied by two MEP priests.
interested.
in Ayutthaya by barge, watercolour
After an arduous journey, they arrived in AyutThe king of Siam was fascinated to hear about Louis
from a Jesuit account of 1688.
thaya in 1662. Although Cochin-China was his
goal, La Motte quickly realised that, as a hub
of cosmopolitan trade and with its religious
tolerance, Ayutthaya would make a perfect
location for a native seminary. Narai was welcoming and in due course gave the MEP a plot
of land and building materials for a church to
be erected to the south of the city.

HE UPHILL STRUGGLE that lay


ahead in Siam was suggested in a
book of the missionaries travels by
one of the three, Jacques de Bourges,
published in 1666. Having found a few positive
words to say about the beauty of the temples
and austerity of the monks, he states that the
Siamese are so tolerant because they think of
paradise as a place that can be approached by
many routes, some shorter, some more difficult and all to be honoured. Far from finding
anything admirable in this view, de Bourges
considers it to be proof of the indifference and
stupidity of the Siamese. He concludes that
the Siamese do not easily accept that they
be disabused of their superstitions, and when
they notice that you seek to raise scruples
about what they believe in, they no longer
wish to listen to you. De Bourges account
shows little understanding of the core beliefs
of Buddhism. Like many of the missionaries of all orders who were to
serve in Siam, he was an intelligent, well-intentioned man who was a
prisoner of his own dogmatic views.
In order to advance its plans and to silence the complaints of other
missionary orders, the MEP knew that it would require papal consent
for its jurisdiction in Siam. Franois Pallu, Bishop of Heliopolis and
vicar-apostolic for Tonkin, who had arrived in 1664, was dispatched
to Rome to acquire it. Clement IX duly gave consent and granted the
vicars-apostolic much fuller powers than before. Pallu was not to return
to Ayutthaya until 1673; among his other documents he brought a letter
in Latin from the pope and one in French from Louis XIV, both for Narai,
thanking him for his favourable reception of the MEP. In a dazzling
ceremony at the royal palace, these were presented to the delighted

If Narais thoughts had started to turn to an


alliance with France, it was because of a desire
for protection in this world, not the next
XIV, especially his military exploits against the Dutch. The latter had
a deserved predatory reputation in the East Indies. A recent dispute,
which had led to Dutch ships selectively blockading the Chao Phraya
river through which most of Ayutthayas trade had to pass, had only
ended when Narai had made considerable commercial and diplomatic concessions in a treaty of 1664. He felt that he had lost face. If his
thoughts had started to turn to an alliance with France, it was because
of a desire for protection in this world, not the next.
In 1674 Louis Laneau, a man with a saintly reputation, was consecrated as Bishop of Metellopolis and installed as vicar-apostolic of
Siam at the same time. The king, overflowing with goodwill for the
MEP, decided that Laneau should have a cathedral and allocated extra
land for the purpose. He even let it be known that he was prepared
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 33

FRENCH FOLLIES IN SIAM

HIS SUCCESS brought Phaulkon to the attention of the king,


who was charmed from their first meeting. Lively and engaging, in spite of his fiery temper, the Greek spoke well on a wide
range of topics. Narai was spending more and more time with
him and showing his favour with lavish gifts and the granting of new
powers. Phaulkon, aware of the jealousy that his rapid rise was producing among the mandarins at court, quickly saw the need to share the
kings enthusiasm for the French, who might prove useful allies for his
own purposes. To this end, in May 1682, he converted to the Catholic
faith under Jesuit direction (having been an Anglican when in English
employ) and soon after married a pretty 16-year-old girl, half-Portuguese
and half-Japanese, from a devout Catholic family.
By late 1683, when Narai heard of the likely fate of his embassy,
Phaulkon was firmly ensconced at court. He had been offered the position of Phra Klang but preferred to exercise his power informally
(fooling no one). He had no trouble in maintaining the kings pro-French
disposition and proposed a much reduced delegation to seek ways of
deepening the friendship between the two monarchs. Two mandarins
were chosen at ministerial level and two MEP priests accompanied
them. Their ship left in January 1684, arriving in France in September.

Above: the Chevalier de Chaumont forcing King Narai to stoop to


receive a letter from Louis XIV, as Phaulkon urges him to lift it higher.
A contemporary French print.

to offer the French a port. To the other foreigners in Ayutthaya it was


all becoming very worrying, as if the MEP were merely the first stage
of a complete French takeover. A French trading company, established
as the Compagnie des Indes Orientales (CIO) in 1664, reopened the
French godown in Ayutthaya in 1680 under especially favourable trading
terms more cause for concern.

ARAI HAD WANTED to send an embassy to France since the


audience of October 18th, 1673. He had been prevented from
doing so by war in Europe. In December 1680 it was finally able
to sail. There were three Siamese ambassadors, accompanied
by an MEP priest. They took with them royal letters for the pope and
Louis XIV, 50 bales of gifts and two baby elephants. Their ship never
arrived, however, and probably sank in a storm off the coast of Madagascar around the end of 1681, leaving no trace.
It was while Narai was awaiting news of his embassy that an event
occurred with great significance for the rest of his reign: he met Constantine Phaulkon. Highly controversial at the time and since, Phaulkon
was born in 1647 on the Greek island of Cephalonia to a part-Venetian
mother and a father who may have been a tavern keeper. Unhappy at
home and yearning for adventure, he joined a passing English ship as
a cabin boy at the age of 12. From 1670 he made several trips to Asia
on East India Company vessels and then spent time as a clerk at the
English godown in Bantam, Java. He probably arrived in Siam in 1678
and joined forces with trading interlopers loosely attached to the East
India Company. He engaged in high-risk, high-profit ventures with
them, was shipwrecked twice and put back on his feet twice. He was
clever, bold and resourceful; to many of the traders he dealt with he
was also greedy and unscrupulous. A talented linguist with a command
not only of English and the two lingua francas of Asia, Portuguese and
Malay, he also spoke Siamese (and soon its specialised court language).
At some point he was introduced to the Phra Klang (the Siamese minister responsible for foreign affairs and trade) and distinguished himself
on a commercial mission to Persia, which made a much bigger return
for the king than when the Persians had been in charge.
34 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

FROM THE START IT WAS OBVIOUS that the envoys were unsuited to
their task. Probably suffering from culture shock, they were sullen and
uncooperative and did not make a good impression. One of the MEP
priests, Bnigne Vachet, made the most dramatic contribution to the
mission, informing Louis XIV and his Jesuit confessor, Father de La
Chaize, that he thought the Siamese king might be close to conversion.
It was possibly Phaulkon who had dropped this outrageous hint to him.
Louis XIV liked the idea of a project so redounding to his own glory
and a full diplomatic mission was decided upon. It was to be led by the
Chevalier de Chaumont, a pious man conscious of his own dignity. His
deputy was the well-connected Abb de Choisy, who had dabbled in
transvestism and a libertine lifestyle until a close brush with death had
put him on the road to religious devotion. His Siamese memoirs are by
far the most lively and entertaining of the many produced.
Six Jesuit priests skilled in mathematics and astronomy were also to
make the trip. Narai was known to be interested in these subjects and
it was natural to take advantage of this to further the evangelisation of
Siam. That Jesuit influence would be greatly increased in the process, at
the expense of the MEP, was a matter of no small satisfaction behind
the scenes at the French court.
LOiseau, the ship transporting the embassy, was filled with a great

The ruins of Phaulkons house at Lopburi. Sited about 200 yards from
King Narais palace, it included a church.
Opposite page: Delegates of Louis XIV on a 17th-century gold painted
lacquer door at the Suan Pakkad Palace, Bangkok, originally from
Ayutthaya.

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 35

FRENCH FOLLIES IN SIAM


The Siamese embassy received at Versailles in
September 1686, from an almanac of 1687.

volume of baggage, gifts and purchases ordered by


Narai himself. It departed in March 1685. As the
voyage proceeded, several masses were said each
day, litanies recited and voices raised in uplifting
songs of praise. What the sailors thought of it all
was hinted at in a diary entry by Choisy: There is
much zeal among the preachers, and considerable
docility among the listeners.

N SIAM Laneau soon brought the ambassadors


down to earth regarding the conversion of the
king, pointing out that the work of preparation
was not yet complete. The main aim of the mission
was therefore nullified before it had even started.
The ambassadors were taken on gilded barges to
the capital, observing exotic scenery as they went.
Riverside bamboo fences with overhanging greenery screened them from anything deemed ugly to
behold. At their rest houses in Ayutthaya they were
shown splendid hospitality by Phaulkon, who confirmed that the king was not yet ready to convert.
Much time was spent discussing protocol for the
forthcoming audience, always a tricky matter when
Europeans were involved. The king graciously made
some concessions.
The day chosen for the audience by royal astrologers was October 18th, the 12th anniversary of
the first. Amid a great cacophony of noise, a large
fleet of golden, naga-headed barges escorted the
ambassadors to the royal palace, the letter from
Louis XIV raised on a pedestal in its own barge.
Phaulkon greeted them mounted on an elephant.
The ambassadors were carried in chairs on raised
platforms through courtyards filled with soldiers,
cavalry and ornately-clad war elephants to the audience chamber. Inside Chaumont advanced between
the prostrate mandarins and acknowledged with
doffed hat and formal bows the king seated high
above in his own chamber. Phaulkon, also prostrate,
translated Chaumonts address, deftly omitting references to Christian conversion.
When it was time to present the letter, Chaumont was supposed to lift it on its gilded dish so that the king could
the town of Bangkok, strategically placed at the mouth of the Chao
take it while seated, but, not having realised the height at which the
Phraya river, on condition that soldiers and engineers were sent. The
kings chair was placed, he considered it undignified to do so and held it
ambassadors did not feel competent to agree to such a proposal, so
only at shoulder level. Phaulkon frantically urged him to lift it higher,
Phaulkon quietly suggested something similar to one of the six Jesuits
but he was unmoved. Amused, the king stood up, bent down from his
accompanying the embassy. His name was Guy Tachard. In awe of
chamber and reached for the letter. The moment, later immortalised in
Phaulkon and willing to scheme, Tachard readily agreed to take secret
orders back to the French court.
a Parisian print, came to be seen as the most memorable of the embassy:
a hollow victory for French protocol in the absence
Narai wished to send another embassy, this time with amof anything of substance.
bassadors worthy of the honour. He selected three mandarins
From the Archive
There was much sightseeing. The ambassadors
with much diplomatic experience between them. Chief of
Louis XIVs
were taken to Lopburi (known as Louvo) about
these was a clever and able man called Okphra Wisut Sunthon,
Mission to Siam
50 kilometres north of Ayutthaya, which Narai
better known as Kosa Pan. Two ships were required for the
During the second half of the
17th century, writes Robert
had developed into a second capital, preferring its
return journey since there were now 300 bales of presents
Bruce, France hoped to dominate
cooler climate. He had a palace there and Phaulkon
in addition to the royal letter for Louis XIV written on a thin
Siam and convert its sovereign
sheet of gold. Phaulkon saw off the ambassadors, French and
a smaller one close by. After another more informal
to the Christian faith.
Siamese, in December 1685 after a final secret meeting with
audience, Phaulkon suggested to the ambassadors
www.historytoday.com/archive
Tachard, now the most important man on board.
that the king might be agreeable to granting France
36 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Below: Portrait of Louis XIV, pastel by Charles Le Brun.


Bottom: watercolour of Narai at the window, with
Phaulkon and some Jesuits watching an eclipse of the
sun from the royal palace, Lopburi, April 1688.

HE SHIPS REACHED THE PORT of Brest in June 1686 (where


the main street of the old town is still known as the rue de
Siam). The three ambassadors, Kosa Pan in particular, were a
success, friendly, engaged and willing to flatter. They travelled
widely, drawing big crowds. Scribes were kept on hand to take copious
notes (even to the extent of describing, on occasion, the number of trees
they had seen), so that Narai would have a full record of the trip to absorb
at his leisure. Kosa Pan was considered a great wit in society. When asked
if he liked the way French women dressed, he said it would be better
if they dressed in the manner of his country. Asked what that was, he
replied: They are half-naked. For a while a fashion developed in France
for things Siamese. Courtiers, however, were snootily unimpressed by
the quality of many of the Siamese gifts brought by the embassy.
The audience with Louis XIV was a magnificent occasion, the royal
family present in force amid all the pomp and splendour of the court.
Everyone was charmed by the performance of the ambassadors. Meanwhile, the main business of the embassy was being conducted in private
between Fr Tachard and the Marquis de Seignelay, Secretary of State
for the Navy with responsibility for Siam. It is not certain whether
Tachard followed instructions from Phaulkon or exceeded them, but a
decision was taken by France to send 600 soldiers, who were to occupy
and fortify the towns of Bangkok and Mergui (the latter facing the Bay
of Bengal and well-placed for the Indian trade), by force if necessary.
This represented a dramatic escalation of anything that had gone before
and meant that the French now had colonial expansion firmly in mind.
Simon de La Loubre, a clever, irascible man with minor diplomatic
experience, and Claude Cberet, a director of the CIO, were named as
envoys extraordinary for the mission. It was hoped that by not giving
them full ambassadorial rank the flow of embassies and, especially,
the torrent of gifts could be curbed. Fifteen more Jesuits, including
Tachard, were to accompany the mission; the saving of souls had not
been overlooked in the rush to military involvement. In March 1687 a
squadron of five ships set sail for Siam.
Tachard, bearing secret instructions from the French government,
considered himself the leader of the mission and treated the envoys
with disdain during the voyage. On arrival his hyperactivity and huddled
consultations with Phaulkon left the envoys in no doubt that they were

A decision was taken to occupy Bangkok and Mergui, by force if necessary.


This represented a dramatic escalation of anything that had gone before
and meant the French now had colonial expansion firmly in mind
surplus to requirements. They were accorded a royal audience in Ayutthaya as grand as that of Chaumonts embassy, were taken round the
usual sights and also signed a trade agreement. But they were going
through the motions.
Phaulkon had persuaded the king to cede Mergui and Bangkok. He
now lured the reluctant envoys into signing a treaty that gave him considerable personal control over the troops at Bangkok. For a while he
may have felt himself to be almost invincible. He had received from
the envoys the Order of St Michael, Frances highest honour, and other
tokens of appreciation. There were reports that his arrogance at this
time was insufferable.
The two envoys left Siam separately around the end of the year. La
Loubre, who had come to hate Phaulkon, returned on the same ship as
Tachard, whom he despised perhaps even more. He immersed himself
in work on an excellent study of all aspects of Siamese life, Du Royaume
de Siam, published in 1691. Tachard was accompanied by three young
mandarins who were to have audiences at the French court and Rome.
But events were soon to overtake them.
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 37

FRENCH FOLLIES IN SIAM


Never robust, Narais health began to deteriorate rapidly in early
1688. It became apparent that a succession crisis was looming (royal successions were rarely smooth and peaceful affairs in Siam). The king had
no son, only a daughter, who had no legal right to the throne. Neither of
his two half-brothers, harshly treated by Narai, was considered suitable
and his adopted son, Phra Pi, came from humble stock and was therefore
unlikely to command much support. In this situation an ambitious
courtier could stake his own claim.
Natives attacking French
Okphra Petracha was the kings
ships on the River Tavoy in
foster brother and, like Narai, in his 1688, watercolour from
mid-50s. He was superintendent of eyewitness Jesuit account.
the elephant corps, a prestigious post.
Petracha was popular with the people
because of his austere and restrained
lifestyle. He had no love of foreigners
and was able to harness to his own advantage the widespread unrest after
the French takeover of Bangkok, as
well as the general fear that the Buddhist religion was under threat. With
his son, Okluang Sorasak, he began to
raise troops in the provinces.

HAULKON KNEW of Petrachas activities. He had several


opportunities to flee to safety
and even the king advised him
to do so. But he maintained that his
loyalty was to Narai and that he could
not leave. This may have been true or
perhaps Phaulkons boundless ambition led him to hope that he could be
the power behind the throne, if the
succession went favourably. When he
was certain that he had proof of Petrachas plotting, he summoned the commander of the Bangkok fort, a
gullible and greedy man called General Desfarges, to Lopburi. Phaulkon
told him to bring to Lopburi 80 of his best soldiers and some officers
in order to arrest Petracha. Desfarges said that he would be honoured
to do so but, having reached Ayutthaya with his troops, he allowed
himself to be swayed by rumours from Frenchmen hostile to Phaulkon
that the king was dead and that rebel Siamese troops were waiting to
ambush him on the way to Lopburi (Phaulkon had specifically warned
him against such rumours). A scout who was sent ahead to check found
everything to be peaceful along the route and in Lopburi itself but, believing that this might just mean that the ambush was well-concealed,
Desfarges refused to change his mind and returned to Bangkok. The
debate continues as to whether he was right or wrong to do so; certainly
most contemporary accounts held him culpable.
Phaulkon felt that he was lost at this point. He continued to devise
stratagems to thwart Petracha, but the latter outmanoeuvred him and
on May 18th launched his coup dtat, taking over the palace where
the king lay sick. Phaulkon, with three French officers, went to the
palace in a last bid to alter the course of events, but was disarmed and
imprisoned. The Greek was tortured over the next two weeks and, once
Petracha felt confident that the French had abandoned Phaulkon, he
was taken by night to a secluded spot and beheaded. It was said that
he bore his torments with Christian fortitude. His dismembered body
was thrown into a shallow ditch and by morning scavenging dogs had
apparently devoured all but a few bones.
Petracha quickly consolidated his position, killing off Phra Pi and the
kings half-brothers. Narai himself, a prisoner in his own palace, died on
38 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

July 10th, possibly helped on his way by poison. Petracha had himself
crowned king in Ayutthaya in August and shortly after married Narais
daughter to legitimise his reign.
From June onwards there existed a state of war between the French
and Siamese. The French were driven in disarray from Mergui and the
Bangkok fort was besieged. A truce was finally arranged by which the
Siamese were to supply two vessels and provisions so that the French
might depart. They were to leave three hostages as security for the
return of the vessels. Before this could happen a shameful episode occurred in which Phaulkons wife, who had suffered greatly since his
death, arrived at the fort seeking sanctuary. Against the views of the
whole garrison, Desfarges had her returned to the Siamese, in all likelihood
because he had jewellery belonging
to her which he did not wish to hand
over. She was subsequently made a
slave in the royal kitchens. When the
two vessels were ready to leave on November 13th, 1688, two of the hostages
hurried aboard, contrary to the terms
of the truce, leaving the third, Laneau,
to face the full fury of the Siamese. His
cruel imprisonment did not end until
1691. Many other priests and Frenchmen were also badly treated during
that time.
Once Petracha had the country to
himself he renewed a trade agreement
with the Dutch, in recognition of their
discreet assistance during the crisis, but
he turned much more to Asiatic trading
partners in the years to come. The MEP
was allowed to remain, hemmed in
with restrictions. Ayutthaya became a
quieter and less cosmopolitan place. It
was not until the mid-19th century that Siam was to show a sustained
interest in the West once more.
As for the French, the ship returning Desfarges to France sank at
sea, thereby sparing him a court martial and the rope. Once news of
the Siamese debacle had filtered through, any thoughts of a retaliatory
expedition were shelved due to the renewal of war in Europe. Over
time people preferred quietly to forget the whole business. As Michael
Smithies, a prominent scholar of the period, puts it: The French were
entirely out of their depth in Siam, riven with factions, grasping, and
there under false pretences. The only lasting benefit was all the books
on Siam that appeared for a while, providing a far more detailed record
of the country at that time than would otherwise exist.
Peter Murrell has a PhD in History from the University of Wales and now lives in Thailand.

FURTHER READING
Dirk van der Cruysse, Siam and the West 1500-1700 (Silkworm,
2002).
E.W. Hutchinson, 1688 Revolution in Siam (Hong Kong University
Press 1968, reprinted White Lotus, 2002).
Michael Smithies, Aspects of the Embassy to Siam 1685 (Silkworm,
1997); Witnesses to a Revolution: Siam 1688 (Siam Society, 2004).
Michael Smithies, Seventeenth-Century Siamese Explorations (Siam
Society, 2012).

ASQUITH

Asquith bids farewell


to General Joffre of
France after their
meeting at British
army headquarters
in 1915.

Asquith
A Prime
Minister
at War

As a peacetime premier Herbert Asquith


was held in high regard, but the First World
War undid his reputation. That is an unfair
judgment, argues Roland Quinault.

HE POLITICIANS INVOLVED in the First World


War have received a bad press, blamed both for
failing to avert the conflict and for the ineffective conduct of it. In the British case much of the
criticism has been directed at the Liberal prime minister,
Herbert Asquith (1852-1928). His peacetime premiership
from 1908 to 1914 has been favourably assessed, though
not his performance from the start of the war until his
resignation in December 1916. He has been criticised as a
lethargic, often intoxicated and somewhat disinterested
war premier, who lacked the dynamism and determination
to win, exhibited by his successor David Lloyd George.
Winston Churchill, a minister under both leaders, claimed
that Lloyd George had all the qualities required in wartime
that Asquith lacked. Churchill had personal reasons for
reaching that verdict but it has been widely shared. Even
Asquiths sympathetic biographer Roy Jenkins observed
that Lloyd George thought that he was a better war leader
than Asquith and that was half the battle.
George Cassar, in a study published in 1994, concluded
that history has dealt too harshly with Asquith as a wartime leader, but the negative view has re-emerged. In 2008
Andrew Adonis condemned Asquith for, inter alia, sleepwalking into world war, a charge repeated by Christopher
Clark in The Sleepwalkers (2012). Max Hastings, in another
recent work, Catastrophe, has described Asquith as a tired
old man with neither the skills nor the inclination to exercise control of military operations, concluding that Asquith
was no more appropriate as a war premier than was Neville
Chamberlain in 1940.
Asquiths own literary efforts did not greatly enhance
his reputation as a war leader. His account of the origins
of the conflict, The Genesis of the War, published in 1923,
was a dry chronicle, which lacked the anecdotal detail that
enlivened the war memoirs of Churchill and Lloyd George.
By contrast, the publication in 1982 of Asquiths letters
to Venetia Stanley his epistolary love affair with a much
younger woman from 1912 to May 1915 illuminated the
passionate side of his private life. The correspondence also
revealed that Asquith continued to engage during the war
in his favourite peacetime recreations, such as golf, bridge
and weekends in the country. He wrote to Venetia while
the Cabinet was in session and divulged to her confidential
information relating to the war.
Like all other British premiers between Wellington and
Churchill, Asquith had no experience of either combat
or military service. He was, however, better prepared to
conduct a war than most of his predecessors. He had a
long-standing interest in defence and on his appointment
as prime minister in 1908 he declared that national security must always hold the first place in the thoughts and
in the plans of those who are responsible for the government of any country. He was a close friend of Richard

Like all other British premiers


between Wellington and
Churchill, Asquith had no
experience of either combat or
military service
40 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Herbert Henry Asquith by


Andre Cluysenaar, 1919.

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 41

ASQUITH
Haldane, who, as War Secretary, created both the British
Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the Territorial Army.
During the Moroccan Crisis of 1911 Asquith sanctioned
Lloyd Georges Guildhall speech, which warned Germany
not to risk British enmity. The premier responded to the
crisis by putting two ex-Tories with military experience in
charge of the armed services. He made Churchill First Lord
of the Admiralty to ensure that the Royal Navy was ready
for war with Germany and able to transport the BEF to the
Continent. He also put J.E.B. Seeley in charge of the War
Office, though he resigned in April 1914 after the Curragh
Mutiny in Ireland. Asquith then made himself secretary
of state for war, gaining direct experience of army matters
several months before the start of the conflict.

S PREMIER, Asquith was ex officio chairman of


the recently established Committee of Imperial
Defence (CID), composed of politicians and
military men, and he played an active role in its
various committees. By 1914 it had examined most aspects
of a possible war with Germany: the naval position, the
threat of invasion, the possibility of a blockade, trade,
transport and imperial defence. In particular, the War
Book, which set out the procedures required in the event
of hostilities, had recently been revised. After the outbreak
of war Asquith told MPs that everything had been foreseen
and provided for in advance, except
the necessity for a major increase in
the regular forces.
The emergence of a pan-European
crisis in the summer of 1914 did not
entirely surprise Asquith, who had a
fixed belief that the Expected rarely
happens. Although the government
was preoccupied with the Irish crisis,
he was quick to appreciate the gravity
of the situation on the Continent.
After the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia
in late July he wrote: We are within
measurable or imaginable distance of a
real Armageddon, which would dwarf
the Ulster & Nationalist Volunteers to
their true proportion. A few days later
he observed: Of course we want to
keep out of it but the worst thing we
could do would be to announce to the
world at the present moment that in
no circumstances would we intervene.
During the diplomatic phase of the European crisis
Asquith was careful to keep in step with Sir Edward Grey,
the foreign secretary, but when it appeared that Britain
could not avoid the conflict, the premier steered the nation,
step by step, towards military engagement. On August 2nd
he approved the mobilisation of the fleet and the following
day, as secretary for war, he ordered the mobilisation of the
army. On August 4th the British ultimatum to Germany,
not to violate the neutrality of Belgium, was delivered and
expired that evening. On August 6th the Cabinet agreed
to despatch the BEF to the Continent in response to the
Belgian appeal for assistance. Asquith stepped down from
the War Office, which he transferred to Lord Kitchener.
Asquith was under no illusion that the war would soon
be over. He told Venetia Stanley that the conflict was the
42 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Right: Venetia
Stanley in 1915,
from the Tatler.

Crowds gather
around Asquiths
car in Whitehall
soon after war is
declared, August
4th, 1914.

biggest thing we are ever likely to see. At no stage did he


succumb to war hysteria or seek to turn the situation to his
own political advantage. After being followed to his front
door by a cheering crowd he commented: I have never been
a popular character with the man in the street and in all
this dark and dangerous business it gives me scant pleasure.
Asquiths decision to go to war was an affirmation, not
a betrayal, of his lifelong liberalism. Britain was fighting to
fulfil its obligation to protect Belgium and to vindicate the
principle that small nationalities are not to be crushed
by the arbitrary will of a strong and overmastering Power.
In both those respects Asquith consciously followed in the
footsteps of Gladstone, who in 1870 had warned France and
Prussia not to violate Belgian neutrality. At Midlothian in
1879 Gladstone had declared: The same sacredness defends
the narrow limits of Belgium, as attaches to the extended

frontiers of Russia, or Germany, or France. By focusing on


Belgium, rather than on any obligation to France, Asquith
limited dissension within the government; only two minor
Cabinet members, John Burns and John Morley, resigned.
The focus on Belgium, a Roman Catholic country,
appealed to the Irish Nationalists, on whom the government depended for its majority. Asquith further pleased the
Nationalists by insisting that the Home Rule Bill should be
placed on the statute book, despite Tory opposition. He pacified the Unionist Tories by suspending its implementation
until the end of the war.
Max Hastings has condemned Asquith for committing
an absurdly small army to the Continent. Certainly the BEF
as first despatched was tiny by comparison with the continental conscript armies. It was, however, the best-equipped
army Britain had ever sent abroad, designed not to be a
stand-alone force but to act on the wing of the much larger
French army. In any case the BEF was only the advance
guard of a much larger force. Within a month 200,000

A satire on the
problems facing
Asquith and his
Liberal government, Truth
magazine,
December 1913.

Irish recruiting numbers exceeded those in Britain during


the early months.
Asquith described Kitcheners appointment to the War
Office as a hazardous experiment but the best in the times.
Certainly Kitcheners popularity with the public facilitated
the raising of a huge volunteer army. In the early part of
the war, Asquith saw Kitchener every day, which helped
to ensure that there was no serious division between the
military and the government, as had recently occurred
over Ireland. But Kitcheners appointment blurred the
relationship between the military and the government and
his relations with General Sir John French, the commander-in-chief of the BEF, were difficult.
Christopher Clark has claimed that Asquith didnt
sufficiently feel the pain that the conflict would generate.
Asquith was not one to make a public display of his emotions but he made his horror of war evident both in private
and in public. In September 1914 he declared:
War is at all times a hideous thing; at the best an evil to be
chosen in preference to worse evils and at the worst little
better than letting loose a hell upon earth but in the modern
days, with the gigantic scale of the opposing armies and the
scientific developments of the instruments of destruction, war
has become an infinitely more devastating thing than it ever
was before.
By the end of 1914 his four adult sons by his first wife,
Helen, who died of typhoid in 1891, had all enlisted and
they chose to stay with their regiments in the field rather
than take safe staff posts. In 1915 and 1916 Asquith made a
number of visits to the Western Front, where his accurate
command of the language enabled him to converse with the
monoglot French generals. The British soldiers that he met
on the front told him that they believed in the justice of the
cause and were determined to win.
Asquith generally left military strategy and tactics to the
professionals, with whom he did not always agree. He dismissed the idea that a German invasion of Britain was possible but the generals kept many troops at home to deter such
an attack in the first year of the
war. Asquith, moreover, believed
that one must take a lot of risks
in war and he shared Churchills
enthusiasm for bold, imaginative
action against the enemy: early
in the war he favoured an attack
by seaplanes on Cuxhaven and the Zeppelin sheds at the
mouth of the Kiel Canal. He initially opposed an assault on
the Dardanelles and the Gallipoli peninsula, but Churchill
persuaded him that the chance of cutting Turkey in half and
winning over the Balkan peninsula was worthwhile. He described the operation as far the most interesting moment
up to now in the war. Even so, he continued to regard the
Western Front as the main theatre of conflict.
Asquiths involvement with the war went beyond prime
ministerial supervision. In 1914 he briefly took charge at
the Admiralty while Churchill was in Antwerp and in 1915
he ran the War Office again when Kitchener visited Gallipoli and Italy. He also managed the Foreign Office while Grey
was ill and in 1915 he even offered to combine the premiership with the chancellorship. Despite his workload Asquith
still found time to relax, spending weekends in the

Asquiths involvement went beyond prime ministerial


supervision. In 1914 he briefly took charge at the
Admiralty and in 1915 he ran the War Office
reservists had been called up and 439,000 men had joined
the army as volunteers. By the end of the year a million men
had enlisted. In addition, two regular divisions from India
and volunteers from the Dominions, notably the Australia
and New Zealand Army Corps, were prepared for service in
the European theatre. Asquith accurately predicted that the
longer the war lasted the greater would be the contribution
of the Empire to securing victory.
Asquith took what he called a special and direct
interest in recruiting, making speeches throughout the
United Kingdom. At Edinburgh he reminded his audience
of Gladstones stance in 1870. At Cardiff he appealed to the
Welsh by promising that the new military forces would
retain distinctive local identities. At Dublin his defence
of the rights of small nations went down well with the
Nationalist audience, who even sang God Save the King.

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 43

ASQUITH
country, where he combined business with pleasure. From
December 1914 he regularly stayed at Walmer Castle, Kent,
lent to him by Lord Beauchamp, the Lord Warden of the
Cinque Ports. Its location, close to Dover and to Kitcheners
country home, Broome Park, made it an ideal venue for
private conclaves with the top brass. It had been the official
residence of both Pitt and Wellington, while Gladstone had
stayed there during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.
Asquiths decision to form an all-party coalition government in May 1915 enabled him to defuse Tory criticism, raised by both Jacky Fishers resignation from the
Admiralty over Gallipoli and the shell shortage. He had
recognised that much our weakest point is deficiency in
guns and ammunition. To remedy the situation he created
a munitions committee of the Cabinet, to speed up the
supply of war materials, under the chairmanship of Lloyd
George, who became minister of munitions in the new
coalition. Eight Conservatives joined the Cabinet, though
only Balfour was given a key post, at the Admiralty. The
pact with the Conservatives enabled the government to
postpone the General Election due in 1915 and thus preserved the preponderant position of the Liberals and their
allies in Parliament. Arthur Henderson, the Labour leader,
also joined the Cabinet, which helped to secure trade union
support for war production.

Asquith juggles the ambitions of his


two great rivals, Churchill and Lloyd
George, Punch, December 1909.

IPLOMATIC CONSIDERATIONS also prompted


Asquith to coalesce with the Conservatives. He believed that a show of political unity was required
to secure the accession of Italy to the Allies. Although he considered Italy a most voracious, slippery and
perfidious Power, he thought that its support was worth
buying. In April 1915, while in temporary charge at the
Foreign Office, he speeded up negotiations. They led to the
secret Treaty of London, whereby Italy agreed to join the
Allies in return for promises of territorial gains. A month
later Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary.
Despite growing public criticism of Kitchener, the
premier was reluctant to replace him because he was a
symbol of the nations will to victory. But while Asquith
was in temporary charge of the War Office he made important changes. The War Council was reduced in size, William
Robertson was appointed Chief of the Imperial General
Staff and Douglas Haig made commander-in-chief of the
BEF. Some powers were transferred from the War Office to
the Ministry of Munitions.
As leader of the coalition, Asquith skilfully pursued policies that appealed to a broad section of opinion. Although
he had never been opposed on principle to compulsory
military service, he appreciated the strength of Liberal,
Labour and Irish Nationalist hostility to conscription. The
enactment of compulsory service, early in 1916, owed much
to his personal influence over the Liberal party. Although
Churchill and Lloyd George considered the measure too
little too late, a lack of manpower was not the major
weakness of the British army in 1916. The Somme offensive
showed that neither a huge army nor a large stock of shells
could guarantee military success.
The 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin did not take Asquith
entirely by surprise. In October 1914 he had been informed
that Irish Americans were planning to join up with Nationalists in a pro-German rising. Asquith commented: It sounds
like a mad enterprise but it will require watching. He was

44 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Asquith leaves Richmond Barracks,


Dublin after visiting the men and
lads from the country arrested after
the Easter Rising, Illustrated War
News, May 1916.

also aware that his friend Augustine Birrell, the longserving Irish chief secretary, needed replacing but he kept
him on at the request of John Redmond, the Nationalist
leader. Redmond declined to join the Coalition, whereas
Edward Carson, the leader of the Irish Unionists, became attorney general. Even so, Ireland was excluded from the 1916
Conscription Act in deference to Nationalist opinion.
The Easter Rising of 1916 led the government abruptly
to end its softly-softly Irish policy. The interception of a
German arms ship and the capture of Roger Casement
when he landed from a German submarine on the Kerry
coast led to the belief that the rising was, in Asquiths
words, a German campaign. The draconian Defence of the Realm Act was
invoked and martial law proclaimed in
Dublin. The leaders of the rising were
tried in secret by courts-martial and then
executed. Nationalist opinion, initially
hostile to the rising, was inflamed by the
executions and the mass internment of
suspected Republicans. Asquith appreciated the gravity of the situation and went
to Ireland for a week to see the situation
himself. He visited not only Dublin but
also Cork and Belfast, unprecedented by
a serving British prime minister. He recommended the release of many internees
and concluded that Home Rule needed
to be introduced in order to undermine
support for Sinn Fein. Lloyd George was
charged with the task of trying to reach
a settlement but the negotiations failed,
largely due to Conservative intransigence.
Asquith refused to consider more coercive
tactics, because he thought that it was
impossible to impose Home Rule by force,
on Unionist Ulster. The events of 1916
weakened the Nationalist-Liberal alliance,
but it stayed in place while Asquith remained premier.

seriously undermined his attention to the war.


Asquith remained supreme because he wasnt supine
but continued to have a firm grasp of the military and
political situation. Consequently the burden on him of
both administration and responsibility was immense. In
July 1916 he wrote to a friend: I am (as usual) encompassed
by a cloud of worries, anxieties, problems and the rest.
Two months later his eldest son, Raymond, who had forged
a brilliant career at Oxford and the bar, was killed while
serving with the Grenadier Guards on the Somme. It was a
loss that time did not heal but it strengthened his fathers
resolve to win the war.

RONICALLY, IT WAS Asquiths determination personally to conduct the war that


led to his resignation. Late in 1916 Lloyd
George, supported by the Conservative
leaders, Bonar Law and Carson, demanded
reform of the War Council and the exclusion
of the premier from its ranks. Asquith agreed
to reduce the size of the body and to make
Lloyd George its chairman provided that he,
as premier, retained supreme and effective
control of war policy. He was supported by
Henderson, who declared that Asquith was
the indispensable man to lead us to the end
of this war and lead us successfully. But when
leading Conservatives, echoing the demands
of the press baron Lord Northcliffe, insisted
on a new director for the war effort, Asquith
resigned because I could not go on without
dishonour or impotence or both, and nothing
could have been worse for the country and
the war. Lloyd George formed a coalition
government in which the Tories were a majority. Though Asquith refused to serve under
Lloyd George, he supported his successors
war policy and he continued to oppose any
compromise peace with Germany.
Asquiths reputation as an unsuitable
war leader is unfair. Despite having been
premier for six increasingly arduous years up
to 1914, he showed remarkable resilience and
capacity for work during the war. That was
evident in his practice of taking over other
key offices when the need arose. Bonar Law
believed that Asquith might have remained
premier throughout the conflict had it not
been for the incompetence of Kitchener. But Law also
told Asquith early in 1916 that in war it is necessary not
only to be active but to seem active. Asquiths reluctance
to advertise his own contribution to the war or to court
the press damaged his reputation with the public. He was
more successful at the parliamentary level, for he secured
the passage of war measures with little opposition and he
kept the Liberal Party united and loyal. He would have won
a vote of confidence in the House of Commons, if he had
called for one in December 1916. The disintegration of the
Liberal partys alliances with Labour and the Irish Nationalists only became apparent after his resignation.
Asquiths relations with the military remained good.
Though sometimes critical of Kitchener or the British
commanders in France, he was careful not to offend their

Asquiths eldest son,


Raymond, who had
forged a brilliant career
at Oxford and the bar,
was killed while serving
with the Grenadier
Guards at the Somme

DISSATISFACTION WITH ASQUITHS


leadership grew in Britain in 1916. High
food prices, occasioned by a labour shortage, bad weather and U-boat sinkings,
increased support for a negotiated peace
in some industrial districts. Some Liberals,
as well as Tories, voiced dissatisfaction
but there was no conspiracy to remove him. Lloyd George
complained that the premier was not conducting the war
with sufficient vigour but he showed little desire to replace
him. Andrew Bonar Law, the Conservative leader, denied
that Asquith was vacillating about war policy and pointed
out that the military considered him the best politician on
the War Council. George V, who was regularly briefed by his
prime minister, also assured Asquith of his confidence in
him. A meeting of Liberal MPs announced that his continuance as premier was a national necessity. Consequently
Churchill, now out of office and disgruntled, wrote in July
1916: Asquith reigns supine, sodden and supreme. The
premiers fondness for alcohol shared by Churchill gave
rise to various nicknames, such as Old Squiffo and Boozle,
yet there is no substantial evidence that alcohol or lethargy

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 45

ASQUITH
self-esteem perhaps too much so. But he had to work with
the generals as he found them and he knew that there was
no easy way of winning the war. His oversight of the war impressed Maurice Hankey, secretary of the CID and the War
Council, who dedicated his war memoir to three supreme
commanders: Balfour who created the CID, Asquith who
developed it both in peace and war and Lloyd George.
Nevertheless Asquiths reputation as a war leader has
suffered by comparison with that of Lloyd George. The
formers tenure was marked by military failures and
stalemate, the latters was crowned by eventual victory.
Yet such a simplistic contrast is misleading. When Asquith
left office the war was far from won but some of the seeds
of victory were already present. On the Western Front the
Allies had numerical ascendancy and the toll on German
manpower had been great. Thanks largely to British efforts,
the Allies enjoyed a dominant position
both at sea and outside Europe.

Asquith examines
an early bomber
on the Western
Front, 1915.

LOYD GEORGE, LIKE ASQUITH,


accepted the advice of the
military on almost all major
strategic questions and recognised, albeit belatedly, the primacy of
the Western Front. The Passchendaele
offensive in October 1917 was almost
as expensive and as limited in its gains
as the Somme had been. It was only
from August 1918 that the tide of war
turned. By then the US was beginning
to play a significant role; they had been
neutral during Asquiths premiership.
Lloyd Georges dynamism was not
always well directed. His insistence
that conscription should be applied
to Ireland provoked more nationalist
animosity than that generated by the
suppression of the Easter Rising. His
failure to maintain troop levels on the Western Front in the
spring of 1918 gave rise to the Maurice debate in Parliament, when Asquith and his followers called for a committee of enquiry. The motion was defeated but those who had
voted for the enquiry were denied endorsement by Lloyd
George at the 1918 General Election. It was Lloyd George,
not Asquith, who was responsible for the division and disintegration of the Liberal Party. Lloyd Georges private life in
wartime echoed that of Asquith. He, too, had a relationship
with a much younger woman his secretary Frances Stevenson and he frequently spent weekends at his country
home at Walton Heath, where he regularly played golf.
Asquiths war premiership also stands comparison
with that of Chamberlain and Churchill during the Second
World War. Chamberlain was premier only during the
eight months of the phoney war, whereas Asquith was
prime minister for 28 months during which time there
was continuous conflict on the Western Front. The first 28
months of Churchills war premiership were also marked
by a signal lack of military success. Churchill, moreover,
also shared Asquiths partiality for alcohol and country
house weekends. During the Blitz, for example, Churchill
usually spent three nights a week either at Chequers or at
Ditchley Park, where war talk was mixed with recreation,
notably film shows.

46 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Kitchener,
in charge of
recruitment,
tells Asquith and
Churchill that
things are not as
bad as they look.
Cartoon from the
German magazine
Simplicissimus,
May 1915.

Asquiths leadership left a clear imprint on the course


of the war. By making Belgium the casus belli he united the
nation. His prompt despatch of the BEF to the Continent
helped to prevent the Germans breaking through on
the Western Front and winning the war in the opening
months. He then ensured the creation of a mass volunteer
army, later supplemented by partial conscription. Throughout the conflict Asquith was committed to the total defeat
of Germany and to securing what he called adequate reparation for the past and adequate security for the future.
His contribution deserves far greater recognition than it
has received.
Roland Quinault is the author of British Prime Ministers and Democracy:
From Disraeli to Blair (Bloomsbury Academic, 2012).

From the Archive

The Genesis
of the
Western Front

John Terraine on how the


Allied Powers became
committed to fighting on
the Western Front.
www.historytoday.
com/archive

FURTHER READING
Michael Brock, Eleanor Brock (eds.), H.H. Asquith:
Letters to Venetia Stanley (Oxford University Press, 1982).
George Cassar, Asquith as War Leader (Hambledon, 1994).
Roy Jenkins, Asquith (Macmillan, 1986).
Chris Wrigley, Arthur Henderson (University of Wales,
1990).

| CHRISTCHURCH

A City of
Dreams
Since two earthquakes destroyed the cathedral and
much of central Christchurch in September 2010 and
February 2011, the city is slowly recovering.
Jenifer Roberts recalls the citys first settlers.

A view of Christchurch
from Columbo Street,
c.1870.

THE CONSTRUCTION OF CHRISTCHURCH began with


the erection of a few wooden houses and grew over the
decades into the most English of ex-colonial cities. By
the time of the earthquake of February 22nd, 2011 it
was the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand,
with a population of around 377,000.
Christchurch began in 1848 as a gleam in the eyes of
two men: Edward Gibbon Wakefield (who had formed
the New Zealand Company, giving birth to settlements
at Wellington, Nelson and New Plymouth) and John
Robert Godley (who had acted as poor law commissioner for County Leitrim during the early years of
the Irish potato famine). Together they formed the
Canterbury Association, with the aim of establishing a

Church of England settlement in the South Island


of New Zealand. The scheme, intended to relieve
unemployment and poverty in England, attracted
a number of heavyweight supporters: bishops and
archbishops, Members of Parliament, aristocrats and
landed gentry.
Godley sailed for New Zealand in December
1849 to act as resident agent for the Association. On
September 1st, 1850 the first emigrants, known as
the Canterbury Pilgrims, were blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in St Pauls Cathedral. Three
days later, four ships, with almost 800 passengers
on board, left Gravesend for New Zealand, arriving
in Lyttelton harbour (the port for the future city of
Christchurch) in December.
Preparations had been underway in Lyttelton
for 15 months and the little town boasted several
houses, an immigration barracks, two hotels (no
more than small grogshops), three commercial
stores and a few warehouses. Godley and his wife
Charlotte lived in the only two-storey building, a
gabled wooden house with a deep verandah. It was,
according to Charlotte, tolerably furnished but
rather short of chairs.
Behind Lyttelton, the Port Hills (the rim of an
extinct volcano) rose steeply above the harbour to
a height of some 1,500 feet. Patches of low bush
grew in the folds of the hills and a track, almost as
steep as the roof of a house, wound its way to the
top and down the other side. As the settlers built
cabins and shelters, roofing them with bundles of
toetoe (a native shrub) and fern, the slopes came
alive with huts and other temporary dwellings. The
men enjoyed themselves who can ever forget that
delightful and exciting time wrote one but some
of the women were less enthusiastic: It is only colonists who have any idea what rough is. It is ill-suited
for any but the young, strong and active. I could
make you cry with a recital of the various shifts and
difficulties that colonists have to encounter.
Hundreds of men, women and children toiled to
the top of the Port Hills carrying bundles of luggage
and with pots and pans strung around their necks.
Having reached the summit, they scrambled down
the other side through a wilderness of tussock
grass, then walked five miles over swampy ground,
often wading knee deep in the marsh, to the site of
Christchurch, the future city on the plains.
During the next few weeks, the embryo city
sprouted with habitations of every variety: tents,
houses of reeds, grass, sods, lath and plaster, boards,
mud, and dry clay and some consisting of sheets
and blankets hung on poles. There were food shops
and stores and the streets were busy with bullock
drays, horses and innumerable dogs of every conceivable breed.
During the first year of the settlement 19 ships
carrying 3,000 immigrants arrived in Lyttelton
harbour. Until the New Zealand Constitution Act
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 47

| CHRISTCHURCH
(1852) came into force, Godley was in charge, answerable to the Canterbury Association in London.
The Act provided for local self-government in New
Zealand, with the creation of six provinces, each
governed by an elected provincial council headed
by a superintendent. At the same time the Association resolved to cease operations, to
delegate its assets and responsibilities to the newly-formed province of
Canterbury.
Symbol of the city
The settlers hoped that Godley
would stand for election as first
superintendent of Canterbury but
he declined, announcing his return
to England in December 1852. The
people here are so anxious for me to
stay, he wrote, that it is not without
some hesitation and remorse that I
refuse FitzGerald will, I hope, be
the successful candidate.
James Edward FitzGerald had
acted as emigration agent for the Association in London. He sailed on the
first emigrant ship to arrive in Canterbury and was the first Pilgrim
ashore. He edited the founder
newspaper (the Lyttelton Times),
publishing the launch edition just 26
days after his arrival in the settlement. Ten years later he founded the
Press, a newspaper still in print today.
FitzGerald also negotiated with
George Gilbert Scott on the design of
Christchurch Cathedral, a building
which became the symbol of the city
and which is now in ruins following
the earthquake.
FitzGerald was elected first
superintendent in July 1853,
topping the poll with a significant
majority. His supporters gathered
in the Mitre Hotel and, according to
Henry Sewell, a lawyer, over some
detestable punch and some very good
wine, showed their delight at his
success with plenty of toasting and
speechifying. FitzGerald gave a more
detailed account, explaining that
his supporters were drunk for three
days, drinking 76 bottles of Madeira in one night.
He found an empty building on the edge of town
and, in a wonderfully short space of time, had it
converted into a council chamber. The walls were
papered, the floors carpeted and galleries added for
the public and the press. He bought red-cushioned
chairs and built a dais for the Speaker, on which
stood a respectable dignified chair such as one sees
in Masonic halls. In front of the dais was a plain

An early 20th-century
poster advertising the
delights of the South Island.

table covered with papers, with the English statutes


ranged impressively in front so as to give a legislative look to the place.
He described his council chamber as a most
elegant apartment. Others disagreed. The interior,
wrote one of his colleagues, had been disguised
neatly enough but in a flimsy way,
the seats were of iron hardness and
the building itself was shabby in the
extreme a low desolate looking
wooden tenement, all by itself in a
potato garden approached over
an open trackless common barely
passable in dry weather, and miserable in wet.
Elections for the provincial
council were held in September 1853
and the first meeting took place two
weeks later. FitzGerald insisted that
proceedings of council be conducted
with extreme dignity and decorum,
that meetings should follow the
protocol of the House of Commons in
London, a policy that led to confusion among council members with no
experience of parliamentary protocol.
During the next decade the superintendent and provincial council
created a fully-functioning society,
passing legislation for everything
required to create and administer
a new province: land regulations,
financial and legal matters, labour
supply and immigration, education, roads, bridges, scab in sheep.
Christchurch grew into a small Victorian city. Godley would not know
it at all, wrote FitzGerald in January
1864. Miles of straight streets are
formed and metalled, with houses
filling them up and every trace of the
old country disappeared houses
two or three storeys high. Cabs on
stands and water-carts watering the
streets A nice little theatre with
Shakespeare plays. A new town hall
building which will hold 700 or 800
people It is all like a dream to me.
The city grew and prospered
during the next 147 years until it
was ruined in the earthquake of 2011.
Other statues toppled off their pedestals Godley
fell face down in Cathedral Square but FitzGerald
still stands, his gaze directed down Cashel Street,
where he and his family lived above the presses of
his newspaper. Today he surveys a shattered city.
Soon he will see it rise again.

FitzGerald insisted that


proceedings of the new
provincial council be conducted
with extreme dignity and
decorum, following the protocol
of the House of Commons

48 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Jenifer Roberts is the author of Fitz: The Colonial Adventures of


James Edward FitzGerald (Otago University Press, May 2014).

ROMAN INDUSTRY

The gravestone
of a Roman
cutler with a
relief of a shop
selling knives and
sickles, second
century ad.

Britains First
Industrial Revolution

While the advances in technology and manufacturing that took place in Britain during
the 18th and 19th centuries have entered the mainstream of history, few know about
the industrialisation carried out during the Roman occupation, says Simon Elliott.

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 49

HE PHRASE Industrial Revolution plays such a


central role in the narrative of British history that
few historians have asked whether the British Isles
experienced anything similar prior to its advent in
the 18th century. It seems, however, that Britain did experience a form of industrial revolution, from the later first
century through to the the end of the fourth, the period
of the Roman occupation. During this time, parts of the
British Isles, especially in the south and the east, developed
a wide variety of industries, which, like those of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, were large
in scale, were marked by engineering innovation and involved complex manufacturing processes. These industries
became incorporated into a sophisticated international
economic system, supported by an advanced maritime and
land-based transport infrastructure. This revolution played
a major role in shaping the nature of society throughout
the period of the Roman occupation.
While there is no question that the economy of the
Roman Empire as a whole remained overwhelmingly
agrarian, industry played an important role, a fact still
evident today in the high levels of pollutants that remain
from Roman industrial activity (such as lead and copper
emissions), which can be traced in the Greenland ice cores.
Using ice-core copper pollution as an example, it appears
that the only other major period of substantial industrial
output anywhere in the world between the Roman Empire
and the modern Industrial Revolution occured during the
11th century, in Sung dynasty China. The scale of industry
that developed in Britain during the Roman occupation
was certainly revolutionary compared with what had
existed before, during the later Iron Age. It was also extraordinary in comparison with what came later.

50 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

The Blackstone
Edge Roman road
in the Pennines,
part of the Roman
imperial transport
infrastructure.

THE ECONOMY OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE featured largescale state-controlled mining (metalla) and quarrying enterprises, as well as manufactories producing a wide variety of
products, including: weapons of uniform quality and size;
fine Samian ware pottery; textiles; milling and other food
production enterprises, not least the ubiquitous garum fish
sauce, beloved throughout the Empire. Such a suite of industries also became a major feature of the British experience
of Romanitas. Examples include the huge iron producing
enterprises (initially in the Weald of Sussex, Surrey and
Kent and later in the Forest of Dean and the East Midlands);
industrial-scale quarrying to serve the urbanisation and
later fortification of Britain (a demand fulfilled by a thriving
construction sector); tile and brick production; mining of
all kinds; a huge number of pottery kilns; mosaic and glass
production; salt production; and, possibly, the manufacture of garum. Meanwhile the production of quern stones
flourished, along with the milling industry to which it was
central, while Britain was also home to a thriving textile
industry. The latter was highly regarded throughout the
empire for two textile products: a form of the birrus hooded
cloak and a fine quality tapetia rug.
A coin-minting industry also developed, revealing of the
political and economic progress made in the province during
the occupation. There were more coins minted and circulated in Britain during the occupation than ever before. The
principal official mint was in London, where coins were produced between ad 286-324 and 383-388. Of the 29 major
mints from across the empire represented in the British
Portable Antiquities Scheme database, the 2,987 coins made
in London represent the fifth largest category, an impressive
statistic as it is surpassed only by the output of the major
urban centres of Rome itself, Trier, Arles and Lyon.

ROMAN INDUSTRY
To look at a specific regional example of Roman industrialisation in Britain, the south-east featured a range of enterprises, largely based on the extractive industries. These sat
broadly within three economic zones of activity. The first
was around the river valleys of the Darent, a tributary of
the Thames, and (principally) the Medway, both of which
were within the economic sphere of London. A second was
in a zone running down the east Kent coast from Dover to
Lympne (in the economic sphere of Canterbury and the imperial gateway at Richborough). The third was in the Weald
of Kent, Sussex and Surrey.
While the Darent Valley was notable for the large villa
estates constructed for Roman Londons political and
economic elites, the luxurious villas constructed along
the Medway valley belonged in the main to those who
managed a vast and flourishing industrial landscape based
around extensive ragstone quarries above the tidal reach at
Allington. This industry was facilitated by a complex river
infrastructure in the form of locks and weirs, which made
the Medway navigable to the ships and barges that carried
the enormous quantities of ragstone into the Thames
Estuary and beyond.
From there the ragstone was shipped around the southeast, as far afield as Colchester (where it was used in the
construction of the towns Claudian temple and the gates
of the Circus) and Bradwell (later a Saxon shore fort) to the
north, London to the west and Richborough (where it was
used in the monumental arch and its superseding Saxon
shore fort) to the east. The scale of this industrial activity
has led scholars to consider the possibility that the Roman
state was directly involved, at least during the earlier years
of the occupation. The excavation in the early 1960s of the
14 metre-long merchant ship Blackfriars 1 has shed light on
this process. This vessel, dated to the early second century,
was found by Blackfriars Bridge on the western edge of
Right: Part of a
haul of 50,000
coins from the
third century ad
found at Frome
in Somerset, 800
of which were
minted in London
during the rule
of the usurper
Carausius, who
ruled Britain
between ad 286
and 293.
Below: Remains of
a Wealden Roman
ironworks.

the City of London, just where the River Fleet would have
entered the Thames. Crucially, it foundered while carrying
26 tonnes of Kentish ragstone from the Medway valley
quarries, still in its hold when it was discovered some 1,800
years later.

HILE THERE IS EVIDENCE that other


materials were quarried in the Medway
valley during the occupation for example,
the sand and chalk for which the industry is
better known in the modern era it is the ragstone quarrying which has left its unmistakable mark to this day on
the Roman south-east. Ragstone is a grey-green, sandy and
glauconitic limestone found within the Hythe Beds of the
Lower Greensand geological formation near Folkestone.
It was highly valued by the Romans for its durability and
the comparative ease with which it could be worked and
is a common feature of many of the regions buildings and
monuments. A primary example is the late second-century
Roman land walls of London, over three kilometres long,
whose fine quality facing blocks are still visible in surviving sections, such as those near Tower Hill underground
station. This enterprise alone is a remarkable example
of the demand for the material, with modern estimates
indicating that over one million squared and dressed
ragstone blocks would have been required for the inner and
outer facing, together with a rubble ragstone core, which
was then set with mortar. A similar vessel to Blackfriars 1
would have needed to have made around 1,750 voyages of
56km each way to transport the 45,000 tonnes of ragstone
required for such a massive building programme.
The quarries needed to supply this monumental demand
were of a matching scale. While ragstone outcrops are
found in the Hythe Beds, the finest quality material lies
within the outcrops in the upper Medway valley and these
were heavily exploited during the occupation. There are
four likely sites for the quarries: at Allington (actually on
the tidal reach), Boughton Monchelsea to the south of
modern Maidstone, Dean Street (also south of Maidstone
and, at 2.5km long, one of the largest man-made features
of occupied Britain) and finally at Teston, slightly further
upriver. Each of these sites had direct access either to the
Medway itself or, in the case of Boughton Monchelsea, to
a major tributary, the Loose Stream, notable for its mills.
The luxury villas of the associated elite were located in
Maidstone, East Farleigh, Barming and Teston, all within
easy reach of the quarries. A Roman road ran from the Dean
Street quarry to the Roman ford at Barming and to a nearby
villa at East Farleigh.
EAST WEAR BAY, AT FOLKESTONE, was well known for
its quern stone industry, which manufactured high quality
Greensand querns from the outcropping in the local cliffs.
The success of the industry is evident from the widespread
export of the querns made there, examples being found as
far afield as Hunsbury in Northamptonshire and possibly in
northern France. This particular Greensand was noted for
its strength, a quality critical to the quern stones grinding
power and resistance to wear. It also allowed industrial-sized millstones to be manufactured, for use at high-volume regional water mills, such as that on the River Stour
at Ickham, Kent. The archaeological record suggests that
the quern stone industry in Folkestone preceded the
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 51

arrival of the Romans, with evidence


of its origins in the later Iron Age.
However it is clear that the beginning
of the occupation marked a dramatic
increase in the scale of such activities
and in the ability to transport the
manufactured goods to new markets,
a hallmark, too, of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Meanwhile other building stone was
quarried locally, as the region began
its path to Roman urbanisation and
fortification. Tufa (volcanic rock),
was quarried extensively in the valley
of the River Dour above Folkestone.
Blocks of the material are found in
the walls of the forts of the Classis
Britannica, the Roman fleet based in
Britain, and also in later Saxon shore
forts at Dover and Lympne, the pharos
at Dover, settlement buildings in the
same town and in the large villa at
East Wear Bay. Chalk was also quarried extensively, as was flint. Again,
both were used as building materials,
while a large ragstone quarry has been
located above the Saxon shore fort at
Lympne, which supplied the stone for
its construction.

Left: Central
roundel of
Bacchus from a
first or second
century Roman
mosaic pavement,
City of London.

URTHER WEST the Weald


reveals the extensive industrial landscape renowned for
iron manufacturing during
the occupation. This industry, too,
had its origins in the later Iron Age,
at sites such as Garden Hill in East
Sussex. However it is with the arrival
of the Romans that large-scale activity
began, especially near the coast of
the eastern Weald. Intensive sites such as Beauport Park,
Footlands and Oaklands Park began processing huge
quantities of locally mined iron ore to produce high quality
iron, which was exported around the region and abroad
from ports such as Bodiam on the River Rother and Castle
Croft on the River Wallers Haven. These major sites were
also linked to the Medway valley by the Roman Road that
travelled north from Beauport Park, past Footlands and
Oaklands Park, through modern Maidstone and then on to
Roman Rochester.
Using a direct process method, which combined smelting and forging in one procedure, some of the furnaces
used during the occupation were larger than any in use
again until the coming of the Industrial Revolution proper.
Recent estimates indicate that during the 200 years when
the Romano-British Wealden iron industry was at its
height, based on the current estimate of 100,000 tonnes
of slag in the region, the industry produced up to 30,000
tonnes of iron at 113 known sites. The four largest sites
produced 44 per cent of the total of this waste volume and
were thus by far the largest contributors to overall iron
production. The Beauport Park site produced 210 tonnes of
52 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Above: Ragstone
facing from the
surviving section
of the Roman
wall near Tower
Hill underground
station.
Above right:
Ceramic roof tile
from the second
century found at
Holt, Clwyd and
bearing the boar
emblem of the
20th Legion.

iron annually from the first to the third centuries ad.


There was an extensive brick and tile manufacturing
industry in the Weald, which made use of the fine quality
clays abundant in the region. The industry is heavily associated with the tiles stamped CLBR, indicating a building belonging to the Classis Britannica, which are found
across the region and have been discovered as far afield as
Boulogne. The Grey Wealden shale quarried to make finely
cut tiles is regularly found within the boundaries of what
was Roman London in the form of Opus Sectile tiled floors,
a style of illustrative, mosaic-like decoration.
Patterns common to all three of these significant industries are discernible. Kentish ragstone is known to have
been used in the first Roman forum in London, built during
the ad 50s. It is also found in the Claudian temple in Colchester, constructed sometime before the Boudiccan revolt
of ad 43. Meanwhile at least nine of the iron-making sites
in the Weald were fully operational by the end of the first
century ad, indicating the early beginnings of industry.
Although iron manufacturing existed to a limited extent
in the Weald before the occupation, there was certainly no
ragstone quarrying taking place. It, therefore, seems likely

ROMAN INDUSTRY
that the Romans had some knowledge before their official
arrival of the available resources in the south-east and of
their potential for industrial-scale exploitation.

HERE IS A CLEAR chronological distinction


between the period of large-scale industry typical
of the middle of the third century and the more
localised activity which marks the period immediately before the end of the Roman occupation. The use
of Kentish ragstone on a grand scale declined during the
third century (the later river wall and bastions of London
are made of recycled material from public buildings and
mausolea rather than the fine ragstone of the earlier land
wall). Meanwhile, iron manufacturing in the Weald had also
ceased by this time. The Classis Britannica in its earlier, largescale phase, acting on the authority of the Procurator (the
official in charge of a provinces financial affairs), had facilitated the opening up of industrial activity on a large scale,
with the emphasis on making the new province pay its way.
Across the empire the regional merchant navies had a strong
association with the extractive industries (including the
Classis Germanica on the River Rhine) and this was certainly
the case in the Weald, where many of the larger iron manufacturing sites that have been excavated feature considerable numbers of local CLBR-stamped tiles. The Classis Britannica played a similarly crucial role with the Medway valleys
ragstone quarrying industry, given the need to manage
what was a vast business enterprise, including the maritime
transport necessary to carry the stone and the building and
management of the river infrastructure required. Even the
quern industry at East Wear Bay has a Classis Britannica link,
evidenced by the plentiful CLBR-stamped tiles found locally
(including at the Folkestone villa).
But the Classis Britannica disappears from history in
the middle of the third century, its last reference being
in an epigraphic testament to one Saturninus, ex-captain
in the fleet, dated to no later than ad 249. It is at this
time that major changes take place in the three zones, for
example, the decline of industrial-scale ragstone quarrying and iron manufacturing described above, as well as in
settlement patterns. It is in this context that industrial
activity becomes much more localised. This transformation
is paralleled by other changes in Britain, for example, in
settlement patterns. It is a matter of debate whether such
changes from large-scale state-run activity and associated
settlement to localism was regionally specific or simply a
symptom of the maturing imperial project during a century
when huge changes were taking place amid the crisis of the
third century, which culminated in the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire in the
late third and early fourth centuries, ending in 313 with the
Edict of Milan, passed by Constantine and Licinius.
There were clearly differences between the arrival of
industry into Britain during the occupation and the ascendency of industry over agriculture during the Industrial
Revolution of the 18th century. Britains census of 1851
shows that over half of the economically active population
were for the first time employed in industry (determined
as manufacturing, mining and construction). One simply
cannot say that the Classical economy was dominated by
industry, because it was not, though it did play an important role. In that regard, three questions arise: was there a

Third century
glass bottle found
at Faversham,
Kent, bearing the
makers mark
Felix Fecit.

pronounced increase in the scale of industry in Britain with


the advent of the occupation? Was there a pronounced
increase in the level of engineering innovation at the same
time? Could one describe some of the industry as manufacturing? The answer to all three questions is yes. The
increase in scale of the industries, such as quarrying and
iron manufacturing, was enormous. Further, consider the
impact that the 18th-century Industrial Revolution had on
the economy and on society and ask if this was replicated
earlier, during the Roman occupation. While long-range
trading networks have been a feature of human economic
activity since the Neolithic period or earlier, nothing had
existed in Britain before the Roman occupation to compare
with the international economy within which it suddenly
found itself. Society in Britain dramatically changed with
the advent of the occupation and manpower-intensive
industries such as quarrying and iron manufacturing had
a major social impact in the regions where they were
prominent. Both the Britain of the Roman occupation and
that of the Industrial Revolution
experienced substantial population growth. In the Roman period
this peaked at up to four million,
an increase from no higher than
two million in the later Iron Age.
There is evidence that parts of the
country experienced a population
crash towards the end of the Iron
Age, indicating that pre-Roman
population levels were not sustainable. The rapid population growth
that followed the occupation is
evident in the new towns and
cities, the civitas capitals, municipa, coloniae and small towns replacing the far fewer oppida (defensive
settlements) which had existed
before. While Roman population
growth can seem insignificant
compared with that associated
with the later Industrial Revolution, it is important to acknowledge the scale and rate of change in comparison with
what had existed before. For all these reasons one can argue
that the arrival of the Romans in Britain marked the onset
of an Industrial Revolution which would not be replicated
nor surpassed until the 18th century.
Simon Elliott has embarked on a study of Kent during the Roman occupation,
with a particular focus on the extractive industries.

From the Archive


Roman Britain:
Ruling Britannia

Archaeologist
Miles Russell
describes discoveries
which overturn
accepted views about
the Roman invasion of
Britain.
www.historytoday.
com/archive

FURTHER READING
Jeremy Hodgkinson, The Wealden Iron Industry (The
History Press, 2008).
David Mattingly, An Imperial Possession: Britain in the
Roman Empire (Penguin, 2007).
Barrie Trinder, Britains Industrial Revolution (Carnegie
Publishing, 2013).
Sam Moorhead, A History of Roman Coinage in Britain
(Greenlight Publishing, 2014).
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 53

REVIEWS

Klaus Dodds explores Antarctica Cathy Bergin on Holocaust remembrance


Maria Luddy admires an eyewitness account of the Easter Rising

Plug-In City, Typical


Section by Peter
Cook Archigram
1964

SIGNPOSTS

Constructing Modernism

Andrew Higgott surveys the contested legacy of modern architecture in


Britain from the first machine age to the dawn of the digital.
YEARS AGO there was a general
consensus on the history of
modern architecture, based on
the idea that the combination of
engineering advances and
avant garde modern art had
produced an inevitable and necessary new architecture, which
Nikolaus Pevsner called the true
style of our century. It was the
subject of a particularly partisan
historiographical tradition that
gave the roles of heroes and
villains to the historical char56 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

acters within the architecture


of the early 20th century. In
this formulation, true modern
architecture was inevitably the
expression of the spirit of the age
and seen as the manifestation of
social progress: the historians
role was to uncover and explain
that zeitgeist and provide the
basis for a sound contemporary
practice in architecture.
Modernisms history in
Britain forms a singular story:
it was initially seen as a foreign

import and the old guard architect Reginald Blomfield warned


in his Modernismus (1934) of an
alien invasion. The most significant early modern architects,
such as Erich Mendelsohn and
Berthold Lubetkin, were indeed
refugees from continental
Europe; their advocates in critical
and historical writing included
Pevsner, arriving in 1933 from
Gttingen, who was to become
the dominant historian in the
mid-20th century. Alongside his

Pioneers of the Modern Movement


(1936) and later published histories, J.M. Richards 1940 Penguin
book Introduction to Modern
Architecture was a popular and
long-lasting expression of this
progressive position.
As modern architecture
became widely adopted in the
postwar years, the consensus
shifted, as did the realisation
that this account of the history
of modernism was far too narrow
and exclusive, that modern architecture would be better served
by a pluralist history of overlapping intentions and trends
and that modernism, let alone
the modern movement, was an
increasingly questionable term.
The pioneer here was Reyner
Banham, with his Theory and
Design in the First Machine Age
(1960): both he and the equally
iconoclastic Colin Rowe, known
for an acclaimed series of journal
articles and subsequently for
Collage City (1978), signify the
emergence of a more complex
and intellectually substantial
history. A reactionary shift
was later to take place with an
anti-modernist polemic spearheaded by David Watkin, whose
Architecture and Morality (1977)
repudiated Pevsners historical
shortcomings. It was a group
around him, satirically described
as young fogeys, that led to
the celebration of the entirely
un-modernist 20th-century
architect Edwin Lutyens, with
books such as those by Roderick
Gradidge (1981) and a major Arts
Council exhibition.
Banhams book made a clear
distinction between theory and

building, with an emphasis on


the former: contrasting with
earlier histories, illustrations of
buildings are incidental to his
argument. He stressed that architects practice inevitably emerges
from ideas, seeing architecture
primarily as a cultural endeavour,
and emphasised, for example,
the work of the Italian Futurists,
who built nothing. The architectural group Archigram was to
burst on to the British architectural scene in the 1960s and be
celebrated for the radical projects
in their self-published magazine.
Their ideas influenced much
that was built later, particularly
the development of so-called
High-Tech architecture; this
work by Norman Foster, Richard
Rogers and others represents a
remarkable shift as with it came
international attention on the
British production of modern
architecture. My own Mediating

Modernism was
seen as the the
spirit of the age and
the manifestation
of social progress
Modernism (2007) aims to trace
the development of new architectural ideas in influential books
and journals in Britain, a history
distinct from the story of what
buildings happen to be built.
As part of a broadening of the
subjects of historical research,
postwar British architects such
as Ern Goldfinger and Denys
Lasdun have become the subject
of serious study, while something
of an academic industry has
developed on the work of Alison
and Peter Smithson, of which
the anthology edited by Max
Risselada (2011) should be cited.
But the outstanding monograph
on the work of a modern British
architect remains that on Lubetkin by the architect John Allan
(1992), extremely thorough in its
research as well as having something new to say on the nature of
its subjects architecture.
The Twentieth Century
Society has long been an energetic campaigning body concerned

with the preservation of modern


architecture in Britain. It has
done much to effect a shift in
attitudes and its publications
include a series of original and
scholarly studies in an annual
journal. Alan Powers, its longtime chair, has published prolifically on British 20th-century
architecture, notably Britain:
Modern Architectures in History
(2007).
Academia aside, modern architecture has been a more than
usually contentious subject in
Britain and has often preoccupied
those with interests not usually
historical or aesthetic. Its widely
perceived failure is a particularly
British story, unfamiliar in, say,
Holland or Brazil. This has been
associated in particular with
the failings of much modern
housing, but as long ago as 1994,
Glendinnings and Muthesiuss
book Tower Block presented a
calmly argued and extensively
researched study of the history of
its social housing. Their aim was
to rescue the history of the tower
block from its contemporary
image of urban degradation and
it suggested that politicians (not
architects) were the driving force
behind these vast programmes
of urban renewal. More recent
historians have produced studies
of the wider processes of postwar
architecture: books by Nicholas
Bullock (2002) and John R. Gold
(1997 and 2007) illuminate the
complexities of its history.
Currently, and perhaps
unexpectedly, those born after
this postwar era are fascinated
by what is now seen as a heroic
period of architecture. The
uncompromising modernist
buildings engaging with a social
brief and often mis-named Brutalist, which an older generation
has hated with passion, have now
become admired and are also the
subjects of study. This latest shift
may seem to be a surprising turn
of events, but then again the
Victorian Ruskin despised Gower
Streets Georgian terraces, while
modernist historians in their
turn loathed St Pancras Station,
each believing that they were, in
absolute terms, bad architecture.

The Making of the


Modern British Home

The Suburban Semi & Family


Life Between the Wars
Peter Scott
Oxford University Press 270pp 65

Concretopia

A Journey Around the


Rebuilding of Postwar Britain
John Grindrod
Old Street Publishing 474pp 25

THESE TWO BOOKS, while


dissimilar in most ways, are united
by their interest in mass building
projects that transformed the look
and character of British society and
have since become part of popular
mythology. Peter Scotts The Making
of the Modern British Home examines
the building of millions of suburban
semi-detached houses in interwar
Britain, while John Grindrods
Concretopia explores the postwar
reconstruction of Britain in the
shape of new towns, motorways,
high-rise blocks and shopping

www.historytoday.com/app

Andrew Higgott

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 57

REVIEWS
centres, using the modernist
materials of concrete, glass and
steel. Both books usefully challenge
received wisdoms about these two
historical moments.
One of the main insights of
Scotts book is that, contrary to
popular belief, the migration to
semi-detached suburbia between
the wars was not confined to the
middle classes. Many skilled and
semi-skilled workers also bought
these houses, taking advantage
of liberalised mortgage terms, the
de-skilling of building trades and
reduced housebuilding costs, which
allowed speculative developers to
provide homes at unprecedentedly
low prices.
As one might expect of a professor of business history, Scott is
skilled at collating and interpreting
statistics, but he does not overlook
the human side, drawing on many
first-person accounts of people
who moved to the suburbs during
the 1920s and 1930s, culled from
archives held in places such as
local records offices, the Imperial
War Museum and the Museum of
London.
As well as investigating the
building of these houses, Scott
examines the changing lifestyles
produced by mass suburbanisation,
such as an emphasis on smaller,
more socially restrained families and on household durables,
that were exhibited in the estate
show houses and advertised in
the brochures. Scott devotes a
chapter to the subject of gardening.
Since the topsoil was often buried
under builders rubble and sub-soil
excavated for the houses foundation, new suburban home-owners
had to work hard to make their
gardens grow anything, which is
why potatoes were a common
first crop; they broke up the soil
and brought stones to the surface.
One house-builder provided privet
hedges, new home-owners being
issued with leaflets on how to
look after them, while others held
best-kept garden competitions.
The building of the suburban semis
is a familiar story, but Scott tells it
with panache and plenty of new
research and insights.
Grindrods Concretopia is a
personal book because the author
grew up in New Addington,
58 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

described here as an inner-city


housing estate abandoned in the
country outside Croydon. Challenging the accepted narrative that
postwar modernist architecture is
now our most visible articulation
of a failed social experiment, his
book is addressed to the millions
of people like me in Britain, who
dont recognise the village green,
country cottage or Georgian square
as the epitome of our nation, but
whose identities have instead been
moulded by concrete monstrosities
or bad planning or rather, the
postwar optimism that sought to
build a better future.
The book becomes a series
of journeys to the places most
transformed by postwar reconstruction, such as the new towns
of Cumbernauld and Milton Keynes,
the rebuilt city centres of Plymouth
and Coventry and the system-built
housing estates of Sheffield,

Both books have


an elegiac quality,
looking back on
collectively-minded
projects that
sought to change
peoples lives for
the better
Newcastle and Glasgow. It has a
chronological spine, starting with
the 1940s prefabs that made up
Catfords Excalibur Estate, many
built by POWs, and ending with
the Barbican and the National
Theatre, which Grindrod argues
were a last push to create exciting
and experimental public spaces,
before responsibility for these kinds
of projects shifted decisively away
from public into private hands. The
most valuable aspect of the book is
Grindrods account of his conversations with the residents, some now
in their 90s, who first encountered
these spaces.
Since Grindrods previous
book was a humorous one about
television, I was expecting something wry or light-hearted from
Concretopia, along the lines of the
Crap Towns franchise. In fact, he
has written a thoughtful, scholarly,

generous-minded and often touching book. What emerges from it is


a more complicated picture than
the popular idea of our postwar
concrete landscape currently allows,
one that takes in the optimism and
public-spiritedness that greeted
these public spaces when they were
created, while acknowledging that
many (but by no means all) of them
are now unloved and uncared for.
Grindrods book is a timely one,
as Urban Splashs redevelopment
of Sheffields Park Hill flats and
the decision to award Preston Bus
station a Grade II listing, preventing its planned demolition by the
city council, invite reappraisal of
this postwar landscape. There is
a quietly political tone to Concretopia, written in a contemporary
climate in which, as Grindrod
puts it, we have moved from the
postwar nationalisation of land to
build everything from new towns
to motorways, into an era where
almost everything we think of as
public space is actually private land.
In our era of austerity and stalled
housebuilding, both books have
an elegiac quality, looking back on
confident and collectively-minded
projects that sought to change
peoples lives for the better.
Joe Moran

The Lawn Road Flats


Spies, Writers and Artists
David Burke
The Boydell Press 271pp 25

DAVID BURKE, the historian who


wrote the immaculately entitled
The Spy Who Came in From the
Co-op: Melita Norwood and the
Ending of Cold War Espionage, has
turned his attention to the
occupants of a 1930s Bauhaus-

inspired building in North


London. Among the occupants
of the Isokon building on Lawn
Road were Arnold Deutsch, the
controller of the Cambridge Five
who spied for the Soviet Union,
and a starry list of BBC producers, novelists and academics.

Occupants of the
Bauhaus-inspired
building included
Arnold Deutsch,
the controller of the
Cambridge Five,
and a starry list
of BBC producers,
novelists and
academics
What Burke captures in this collective biography is a fascinating
insight into a generation whose
commitment to modernism
was expressed as much through
their experiments in communal
living at the Isokon as it was
through their political activities
and their art.
What an extraordinary
collection of people were drawn
to the two bedroom, one bath
flats, built with the materials
characteristic of [the] time
steel, concrete and glass within
the last acre of unspoiled
wilderness in Belsize Park. Rent
included cleaning, a laundry
service, shoe shining and hot
meals in accommodation designed for young professionals
of modest means who wanted
to dispense with tiresome
domestic troubles. Although
the Isokon had its critics, with
one in Hampstead dismissing its
concrete exterior as soulless,
colourless and repulsive, it
attracted a coterie of devoted
residents.
Among the Isokons most
famous residents was the crime
novelist Agatha Christie, who
lived there with her husband
Max Mallowan from 1941 to
1948. When Max volunteered for
the RAF Directorate in Cairo in
1942, Christie wrote prodigiously

to keep her loneliness at bay. It


was here that she produced her
only spy novel, N or M?, which
revealed the authors extensive knowledge about wartime
British intelligence and Fifth
Column activity. This proved
ironic, given that many of Christies closest neighbours were
much later revealed to have
been Soviet spies.
According to Burke, there is
a revealing passage in Christies
spy novel that suggests she
may have been well acquainted with the Kuczynski family,
German-Jewish refugees of an
independent Marxist kind who
were staying in the flats. In
fact, resident Jurgen Kuczynski
and his sister Ursula, aka Ruth
Beurton, played a crucial role in
securing Britains atomic secrets
from the physicist Klaus Fuchs
and passing them onto the
Soviets. By Burkes count there
were no fewer than 32 agents or
sub-agents connected to Soviet
espionage associated with the
Lawn Road Flats.
The story is bookended with
the intelligence agent Charles
Fenn, who took up residence in
the early 1950s and is credited
with recruiting the Vietnamese
leader Ho Chi Minh into a US intelligence network. He was the
last of the gifted spies to occupy
the Lawn Road Flats, says Burke,
before they were sold to the
New Statesman in 1968 and then
to Camden Council four years
later. They are currently owned
by the Notting Hill Housing
Group.
The Lawn Road Flats exemplified modernism, writes
Burke, and was unquestionably
the architecture of progressives
who were committed to a new
system that had, at great cost,
given ordinary people affordable
food and transport, education
and a health service. Although
the connective tissue that ties
together the lives of these
fascinating individuals with
the building itself is somewhat
tenuous in this account, it is a
lively and vivid chronicle of a
generation shaped by war, political upheaval and idealism.
Julie Wheelwright

ONLINE
.

Virtual Rome

www.reading.ac.uk/classics/research/
Virtual-Rome.asp
STUDENTS OF ANCIENT ROME as well as the
many tourists visiting the Eternal City will
benefit from a detailed new digital model,
Virtual Rome, that has just won the Guardians
Teaching Excellence Award in Higher Education.
Virtual Rome shows the entire city as it appeared
around ad 315.
I began creating models of individual
monuments from the Roman world to use in
my teaching at Reading University. Based on
my experience of lecturing on ancient Roman
cities and leading several groups of students and
tourists round ancient sites including Rome, I
found that a vivid, 3D, colour reconstruction is a
tremendously valuable supplement to the black
and white ground plans often found in guidebooks. Student feedback was very positive, so
with my universitys support I set out to make
the entire city this way it has taken about five
years to achieve.
Each building in the model is based on as
much evidence as possible, from archaeological
digs, ancient literary testimony, inscriptions,
and the Forma Urbis a fascinating marble
map of Rome, erected by Romes emperors in
the early third century ad, that survives today
in over a thousand fragments. Piecing this
evidence together and using the latest software
including SketchUp and Cinema 4D, I created 3D
visualisations of Romes buildings and assembled them into a master model of the whole
city, complete with terrain, roads and several
thousand trees, including plenty of Romes
iconic umbrella pines. The model can be viewed
from any direction, or used to make fly-through
animations.
As direct evidence for many of ancient
Romes residential and commercial districts
has been lost, a degree of imaginative
reconstruction has been necessary. Showing
just the well-known, well-documented monu-

ments in isolation is not really enough; to get a


sense of Rome as a living, sprawling, busy city of
over a million inhabitants matching what we
know from ancient sources it was necessary
to give some suggestion of the miles of ordinary
streets filling the citys hills and valleys, up to
and beyond the Aurelian wall circuit. Bits and
pieces of this landscape survive well and I have
incorporated a 3D model of every placed fragment of the Forma Urbis and various residential
and commercial buildings known from excavation. Elsewhere I have used what we know of
the citys road network and comparison to other
ancient cities like Ostia to fill in the gaps.
Virtual Rome is, I believe, a vivid, colourful
evocation of the city that allows viewers to see
how buildings appeared and how they related
to one another, although this is an architectural model, not a cinematic Gladiator-style
recreation so there are no people in it and not
enough dirt and mess to match the sometimes
squalid realities of life in an ancient city. For
now, I am more interested in presenting the
physical shape and form of the city, without
getting too far into vignettes of daily life. But it
is always possible to add extra layers containing
new detail of that sort, or to adapt what I have
in new ways. Last year, for example, the Discovery Channel used the model to illustrate its
documentary Strip the City: Rome, with dramatic
flyovers and fly-throughs helping to bring the
citys scale to life.
Reaction to Virtual Rome has been positive

Virtual Rome is a vivid

evocation of the city that


allows viewers to see how
buildings looked and related
to one another in ad 315
and encouraging. Professor Christopher Smith,
Director of the British School at Rome, says:
[This] exemplary computer modelling has given
us new ways of imagining and visualising Rome.
Matthew Nicholls has a deep knowledge of the
city and this will help us others to understand
this remarkable example of urban planning and
design, which remains fascinating to this day.
For now, a selection of images from the
model can be seen on my website. A detailed
visual guide to the city for students and tourists,
copiously illustrated with images drawn from
the digital model, will be published next year by
Cambridge University Press, in paper and ebook
formats.
Matthew Nicholls

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 59

REVIEWS

Four Emperors and an


Architect
How Robert Adam
Rediscovered the Tetrarchy
Alicia Salter
Lexicon Publishing 180pp 20

VISITORS TO VENICE sometimes


notice a little porphyry statue
outside San Marco four warriors
in flat-topped helmets who are
embracing each other. Guide books
tell them they depict the tetrarchs,
the four men who jointly governed
the Roman Empire in ad 300.
Most people have heard of Robert
Adam, the Scottish architect whose
work brought about a revolution in
British taste in architecture, interior
design and furniture during the last
quarter of the 18th century. Fewer,
though, are aware of the link
between the tetrarchy and Adam.
This unusual book explains the
connection.
Finding the Empire too large
to rule properly, in 285 Diocletian
divided his authority, governing the
east from Nicomedia in Asia Minor,
with a co-emperor governing the
west from Milan. In 293 two lesser
rulers were appointed in addition, at
Triers in the Rhineland and Sirmium
in Serbia. The system collapsed
in 313, but ensured the division
into Eastern and Western Roman
Empires. By then Diocletian was
dead, having retired to what is now
Split in Croatia, where he spent his
last years in a vast and beautiful
palace on the Adriatic coast.
Born in 1728, while on a Grand
Tour of several years (when he
studied under, among others, Piranesi) Adam heard of the ruins
at Venetian Spalatro (modern
Split), which he succeeded in
visiting, accompanied by two
draughtsmen, despite the hostility
60 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

of the Venetians, who thought


he was a spy. Although he had to
leave in a hurry, he was able to
complete enough drawings for
his truly monumental Ruins of the
Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at
Spalatro in Dalmatia. Published in
1764, this was immensely successful, even Edmund Gibbon calling
it a magnificent work. It inspired
the Adam Style, which made the
authors name as an architect and
an interior decorator, resulting in
houses such as Kedleston, Syon
and Saltram, as well as the (long
demolished) Adelphi Terrace in
London.
Alicia Salter has ingeniously
drawn together two very different
themes and interwoven them,
bringing both to life with surprising
success. On the one hand, she
describes the personalities of the
tetrarchs, their careers and military
campaigns and also their palaces
Diocletians palace being particularly well done. On the other,
she tells the story of Robert Adams
Grand Tour, culminating with his
daring expedition to Split, and
then investigates its influence on
British architecture. The handsome
illustrations are particularly
well chosen.
Desmond Seward

Antarctica
A Biography
David Day

Oxford University Press, 64pp 25

DAVID DAY has written a proverbial door stop of a book, deftly


mapping how and where human
encounter was shaped by exploratory, commercial and scientific routes across the Southern
Ocean and polar continent.

Arguably, this book is best


suited to those broadly familiar
with the human geographies
and histories of the far south,
particularly the period of exploration and discovery in the post
Captain Cook era of the last 200
years or so. As the worlds only
continental space without an
indigenous human population,
Antarctica continues to complicate our understandings of what
it is to be human.
Day shows how discovery,
exploration, commerce and
science interacted with one
another. Commercial agendas
informed much 18th- and 19thcentury activity, including largescale pursuits such as sealing
and whaling, ensuring that this
southerly region was connected
to wider flows and networks
of global society. This remote
and poorly mapped space was
being enrolled into the world
economy, and later a world of
competing nation states and
their imperial agendas, including
Britain.
Day has useful things to say
about the contested politics
of sovereignty in the early
20th century onwards, which
meant that the explorers and
scientists, acting as sovereign
agents of their respective states,
undertook mapping, naming,
flag-waving, acts of possession
and proclamation and base construction in Antarctica.
By the 1950s the Antarctic
was a geopolitically contested
space. Science and scientists
were key accomplices in this
sovereignty game. Antarctica
had a claimants club Argentina, Australia, Chile, France,
Norway, New Zealand and the
United Kingdom. For three countries, though, as former British
diplomat Bill Hunter Christie
recognised, there was an additional problem: their claims
overlapped in the geographically
proximate and commercially
attractive Antarctic Peninsula
region. Argentina, Chile and
Britain remain locked in a geopolitical struggle to this day, involving the Falkland Islands and
wider South Atlantic region. The
United States and Russia reserve

the right to make a claim in the


future and every other country
rejects the claimants club.
Rightly, Day devotes a great
deal of attention to the more
contemporary geopolitics and
history of Antarctica. Events
such as the International
Geophysical Year (1957-58) are
addressed because this period of
scientific cooperation provided
the pretext for the Antarctic
Treaty of 1959. Day is right to
stress that scientific cooperation
and geopolitical competition
made for awkward bedfellows.
However, without the spectre of
possible conflict over the ownership of the Antarctic, a co-operative treaty might not have
been possible. The terms of the
treaty are straightforward but
important; all signatories agree
to work together and in doing
so defer their rival positions on
sovereignty.

The only
continental
space without
an indigenous
population,
Antarctica
complicates our
understanding
of what it means
to be human
Polar aficionados will notice
a few errors along the way and,
arguably, Days view on Scotts
final expedition is rather too
critical. But to focus on these
things is to miss the point of this
book. Day is trying to bring to
a wider audience a point that I
passionately share; Antarctica
has never been a pole apart and
there is much to be concerned
with in the here and now as
well as the future; ocean
acidification, living resource exploitation, mineral prospecting,
further sovereignty claiming,
and ongoing anxieties about
climate change and ice cap
stability.
Klaus Dodds

The Rise of Gay


Rights and the Fall of
the British Empire
Liberal Resistance and the
Bloomsbury Group
David A.J. Richards
Cambridge University Press 282pp 20

WHAT A vital subject pertinent; necessary; well-conceived!


Yet pause, reader. What is this
book? Do not let its title, or its
authors eminence as Professor
of Law at NYU, or the esteem
of its publisher, deceive you. Do
not imagine that the covers por-

traits imply more than passing


interest in Bloomsbury.
For this monograph is arguably among the most misconceived and incoherent studies
ever published in the field of gay
history. The author does not
so much address the subjects
clearly announced in the books
title, he lays them waste. Despite
the reiteration of his chosen
remit on the copyright page
gay rights, gay rights Great
Britain, patriarchy, democracy
The Rise of Gay Rights and the
Fall of the British Empire adopts
something substantially below
sophomoric style to consider
Richards interests, which appear
repeatedly and progressively
bound by the 50 states.
His arguments occasionally
stray beyond the national American context. They reference John
Locke, Gilgamesh and the Oresteia
in an opening chapter. Certain
British writers surface later,
briefly: Orwell, Osborne, Hollinghurst. Still, the overall impression
is of an American seminar group

predicating a tutorial approach


that is entirely constrained
by that enemy of intellectual
enquiry: the pursuit solely of
what is relevant to its (US)
students. The index cannot lie:
there are 35 pages on American
resistance movements; barely 10
on Woolf, most prominent of the
chosen Bloomsburyists.

Arguably
among the most
misconceived and
incoherent studies
ever published in
the field of gay
history
Instead, references revolve
overwhelmingly around facets
of US history. From thirdrate Nietzschean Ayn Rand to
hologram-as-President Ronald
Reagan; from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Roe vs. Wade. Margaret Thatcher gets a walk-on role,

but as a kind of latter-day Ayn


Rand, who aligned her politics
... with that of Ronald Reagan.
And Woolf was the English Willa
Cather? Repeatedly we are
encouraged to consult another
of Richards ten works on this
topic (any topic but this topic,
actually).
But perhaps Bloomsbury had
this coming? After all, critics have
fastened onto the class-bound
constraints of Woolf; the manipulation of evidence wrought by
Strachey; the supposed special
pleading or traces of misogyny
within Forsters liberalism. At
least Forster, late in life, paid his
dues to a certain land, blessed
with the oldest written constitution in the world, by visiting it.
Woolf paid the New World
little attention, though tactfully
presumably bearing in mind her
extensive American readership
she did review its writers extensively. In 1938 she responded
to the question posed by Hearsts
International and Cosmopolitan
magazines, What interests you

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 61

REVIEWS
most in this cosmopolitan world
of today? quite categorically:
America, WHICH I HAVE NEVER
SEEN, Interests Me Most in This
Cosmopolitan World of Today.
Richards would surely have
approved.
He seems chiefly concerned
with hoary anecdotes: what the
Bloomsbury set did, not what it
wrote. Excepting the odd reference to Mrs Dalloway or A Passage
to India, their accommodation of
liberal politics sexual and otherwise in their works is neglected.
This is indefensible, since several
literary scholars have done much
lately to tease out the complex
intersections in the interwar
period between post-colonial thinking and socio-political
self-positioning including on
sexuality and the law. Yet of their
work there is no mention. Once
J.R. Ackerleys Indian memoir
Hindoo Holiday was classed as a
novel, I realised, moreover, that
this slight work had, perhaps,
also not been edited.
Richard Canning

62 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Dublin Burning

The Easter Rising from


Behind the Barricades
W.J. Brennan-Whitmore
Gill & Macmillan 162pp 19.99

THE CENTENARY of the 1916


Easter Rising is just around the
corner and already a significant
number of publications about the
event have appeared. Organised
by a small group of Republicans
(led, among others, by Patrick
Henry Pearce or Pdraig Anra Mac
Piarais), the rebels intention was

to thwart the political settlement


of Home Rule, which was to
be implemented after the First
World War, and through their
blood sacrifice secure Irelands
complete independence from
Britain. The Rising began on the
Easter Monday, with the rebels
occupying central locations, such
as the General Post Office in
Sackville Street (now OConnell
Street) in Dublin. There were
minor outbreaks of violence
around the country. The Rising
lasted for six days, with the centre
of Dublin being almost completely
destroyed. The Rising, though
a military failure, was a pivotal
moment that accelerated the
fight for Irish independence and
changed the political landscape
in Ireland.
This memoir by W.J. BrennanWhitmore (1886-1977) is an
important primary source for this
event, as he was the only senior
participant of the Rising to leave a
memoir. Born in County Wexford,
Whitmore-Brennan became a
journalist, having spent some time

in the British army. He served in


India in the medical corps and
attained the rank of sergeant
by the time he left the service in
1907. The memoir is well written,
exciting and insightful about the
events of Easter Week. It is an
important source for trying to
understand the outlook of those
who fought in this historic event.
Whitmore-Brennan was not
a central figure in the Rising but
was closely associated with that
group who organised the event.
He provides pen portraits of the
participants of the Rising, admiring Patrick Pearces idealism, if not
his military acumen. He found De
Valera to be dour and unfriendly,
and though not originally taken
by Michael Collins, he later served
on his intelligence staff during
the War of Independence and the
two became good friends. Being a
conservative Catholic, he did not
get on with the socialist James
Connolly.
Brennan-Whitmore had been
active in the Irish Volunteers in
his native county. His military

knowledge led to him being


coopted onto the Volunteer
general staff just before the Rising
and he fought in Dublin. It is
clear from the memoir that
he had reservations about the
preparations made for the Rising
and advocated guerilla war in
the countryside rather than a
blood sacrifice in Dublin. Given
his background there are a
number of comments about the
military tactics of the rebels and
the British army. After the Rising
he was imprisoned in Frongoch
in North Wales, where he was
elected camp commandant.
His memoir paints a vivid and
evocative picture of the events
of Easter Week. In the first few
hours of the Rising we see the
incredulous yet curious public
standing around occupied posts

As a first-hand
account of events
during the Easter
Week of 1916 in
Dublin, BrennanWhitmores
memoir has no
equal
trying to figure out what was
really going on. There are looters,
residents who refuse to move
out of their dwellings because
they have nowhere else to go
and there is the publican who
offers the contents of his pub for
the cause. He notes the idealism
and heroism of his garrison, the
deadly danger of snipers and machine-gun posts and shelling. The
physical toll on the soldiers was
huge and many were exhausted. Scenes of destruction were
evident all around and at one
stage he writes: I stood on the
rooftops in the gathering gloom.
Dublin burning! What a sight!
Gruesome, awe-inspiring.
First published in 1996, it is
good to see this memoir back in
print. As a first-hand account of
events during the Easter Week
of 1916 in Dublin, Brennan-Whitmores memoir has no equal.
Maria Luddy

EXHIBITION
The overall effect, now as then, is disorienWhy Do Fools Fall in Love by Frankie Lymon
tating and the work is taut with the ambiguities
and the Teenagers echoes through the vast
that would plague the reception of pop artists
expanse of Tate Moderns current retrospective
over the decades, as the tomorrow that 1956
of recently deceased British pop-art pioneer
promised became our collective past. Does this
Richard Hamilton. The sugar-coated, doo-wop
gleeful engagement with the stuff and matter of
track rings out from a jukebox installed as part
popular material and visual culture celebrate or
of a recreation of Hamiltons career-defining excriticise its cultural moment? Does Hamiltons
hibition (with John Voelcker and John McHale),
work of this period welcome or caution against
This is Tomorrow, originally installed in 1956 at
the blurring of the line between high and low
the Whitechapel Gallery. It is around the work
art, between the individual and the massin this room that the exhibition, like Hamiltons
produced, between the bright and shiny and
career, pivots. Collage, installation, photograthe fuzzy and dull? As the exhibition leads its
phy, painting (both abstract and figurative),
viewers through Hamiltons life, these questions
photo-manipulation and sculpture are all inbecome even less clear: is Hommage Chrysler
cluded. Grand themes are tackled, including the
Corp. (1958), a gorgeously abstracted painting of
relationship between art and science, the power
a brand new car, smooth, slick and perfectly proof propaganda, the Israel-Palestine conflict,
portioned, participating in or cautioning against
commodity fetishism and the duplicity of the
gazing on these mass produced machines, as if
digital in contemporary artistic practice, now
their bodies were made of
staples of many a modern
flesh and not aluminium?
history curriculum.
Is the grotesque, surreal
Lymons hit and others on
The Critic Laughs (1968),
the playlist leak into every
a sculptural combination
room, the barely audible
of an electric toothbut ever-present swing
brush fused with a set
of vocal pop harmony
of dentures, warning of
providing the thin thread
the dangers of advancing
that ties Hamiltons dispatechnology or mocking
rate, eclectic, innovative
those conservative critics,
but often difficult work
for whom the past is
into something approachalways warm and safe, and
ing a coherent whole.
the present (let alone the
This is Tomorrow
future) is always fraught,
caused a multi-coloured
dangerous and terrifying?
sensation in the grey,
The Tates curators are not
austere landscape of
Richard Hamilton
didactic in giving answers
1950s London and Why
to these questions, but
Do Fools Fall in Love so
Tate Modern, London
the sheer quantity and
evocative of the optimisFebruary 13th-May 26th, 2014
range of work on display
tic postwar American
means the show, like Hamiltons career, is often
consumer culture that on hearing it one cant
difficult to coalesce into a sensible whole.
help but conjure celluloid-hazed mental images
In the later rooms Hamiltons work is much
of soda shops, diners and drive-thrus was a hit,
clearer in its anger, its politics and its philosofresh from the sun-kissed streets of Hollyphies: Tony Blair is depicted like a cowboy from
wood. To find it playing in an art gallery as the
soundtrack to a room that included an enormous a Western; brightly coloured maps of the West
Bank show the extent of Israeli occupation since
fun-house festooned with collage murals of
Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando and Forbidden
partition; interiors rot and peel and visibly decay.
Planets Robbie the Robot, as well as mountains
As the soda-fuelled tones of the 1950s begin
of food and drink, would undoubtedly have
to evaporate among images of war, the show
thrilled gallery-goers in a Britain only two years
does rise to a conclusion: the distant hum of the
out of rationing.
teenagers becomes evocative of an optimistic
On the wall hangs Hamiltons famous, Just
tomorrow never realised.
what is it that makes todays homes so different,
so appealing? (1956) (shown above), a sardonic
Why does my heart skip a crazy beat?
reflection of televisions, telephones, domestic
For I know it will reach defeat,
appliances, motor cars, movies and muscles told
Tell me why?
through the re-use of pop cultures greatest and
Why do fools fall in love?
most powerful artefacts advertising.
Matt Lodder
MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 63

REVIEWS

The Great Kanto


Earthquake and the
Chimera of National
Reconstruction in Japan
J. Charles Schencking

Columbia University Press 374pp 34.50

JUST BEFORE lunchtime on September 1st, 1923 the Great Kanto


earthquake subjected Tokyo,
Yokohama and surrounding
areas to almost five minutes
of shaking, with an energy
release equivalent to some 400
Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs,
followed by a tsunami 11 metres
in height. Soon, small fires
merged to form a firestorm. By
the morning of September 3rd at
least 140,000 people were dead
about 40,000 of them incinerated in one enclosed space and
two thirds of the capital Tokyo,
four fifths of Yokohama, were
ashes. Yet by 1930 Tokyo had
officially been rebuilt, essentially
as it was before the earthquake.
This cataclysm, its aftermath
and the entrenched arguments
among Japanese politicians,
bureaucrats, business people and
other elites over the citys
reconstruction, are the subject
of a significant and well-illustrated new study by Charles
Schencking, a historian at the
University of Hong Kong. His is
the first book, either in English or
Japanese, to cover this territory.
Although others have
written about the earthquake,
Schencking includes some
unfamiliar details. For example,
a correspondent from an Osaka
newspaper, flying over Tokyos
ruins in an open-cockpit army
reconnaissance plane, observed
that, even at a height of 1,000
metres, the disagreeable and
64 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

unmistakable odour of death


overpowered the smell of engine
exhaust, causing both the pilot
and the reporter to wretch,
the author notes. But there are
some surprising omissions, given
the books length. It barely mentions the earthquake-related
fiction of the Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata, says nothing
about the eyewitness testimony
of his well-known contemporary Ryunosuke Akutagawa and
totally neglects the haunting
memoir of the great film director
Akira Kurosawa, who was 13 at
the time of the earthquake and
later recalled: Through it I
learnt not only of the extraordinary powers of nature, but of
extraordinary things that lie in
human hearts.
Schenckings forte is the
contested period of reconstruction, 1923-30. Some, such as the
home minister of the imperial
government, a former mayor of
Tokyo, saw the destruction as
a blessing in disguise, a chance
to clear away Tokyos slums and

This signified a street-by-street


negotiation with residents, who
had to sacrifice up to 10 per cent
of their private land without
government compensation,
in the interests of bettering
the city, largely by eliminating
its narrow alleys in favour of
modern roads with pavements.
Local feelings were often
outraged in the process and
sometimes required religious
intervention, as when a sacred
tree had to be cut down. One
official noted: it was a wonderful time for Shinto priests to gain
quick riches.
The earthquakes international dimension receives relatively little attention. Schencking also does not touch on the
more fascinating question of
whether the destruction of
Tokyo in 1923 might have been
a key factor in propelling Japan
towards authoritarianism and
war in the 1930s.
Andrew Robinson

The earthquake
subjected Tokyo to
the equivalent of
400 Hiroshimasized atomic bombs
remodel the city on a European-style grid as a capital worthy
of a great power. Others, such
as the finance minister, were in
no doubt that such a grandiose
plan would cost far more than
the nation could ever afford. Yet
others, representing impoverished rural regions, resented
the idea of massive spending on
the capital and forced a further
reduction in the budget. The
residents of the burnt-out districts were mostly in favour of
rebuilding exactly what they had
lost and began doing so within
days of the disaster.
In late 1923 the home and
finance ministers clashed in
cabinet and the former lost,
dying a broken man in 1929.
The reconstruction budget was
spent chiefly on roads, canals,
bridges and land readjustment.

Commemorating
the Holocaust

The Dilemmas of
Remembrance in France
and Italy
Rebecca Clifford
Oxford University Press 291pp 65

THIS CLEAR-HEADED study


of Holocaust commemoration
in France and Italy provides a
welcome reflection on the very
categories of memory and trauma
that have dominated the study of
Holocaust representation. Rebecca
Cliffords insistence on examining
the political, cultural and social
motivations for particular forms
of remembrance in France and

Italy enables a richly layered work


that interrogates the function of
commemoration in national myth
making. By firmly placing the ColdWar forgetting of the Holocaust
outside of narratives of trauma and
within the realm of postwar political imperatives, the book creates
an important space for examining
the function of commemoration in
the context of the contemporary
moment. Holocaust commemoration events in France and Italy are
explored as a way of questioning
the legitimising function of Resistance narratives during the Cold
War and their breaking apart in the
1990s. Moreover, those narratives
of resistance and occupation that
worked to sever any connection between French and Italian
wartime activities and postwar
national identity are placed within
a framework which reads them not
alongside but dialectically related
to Holocaust memorialisation. The
ambition and execution of such a
project is not only laudable but also
largely successful in this book.
One theme predominates in
this study, that of silence. Yet Clifford subtly distinguishes between
the different types of silence that
attend Holocaust memorialisation
in the early postwar period. In
France the silence imposed upon
Jewish victims, whose specific
experiences were effectively erased
in the rival Gaullist and Communist
narratives of wartime Resistance,
is not of the same nature as the
silence which is often attributed to the traumatised victims of
Nazism. As Clifford points out,
many survivors wanted to speak of
their experience, thus the silence
is located in the reluctance to
listen. Then there is the silence of
the state in relation to the crimes
of the Vichy regime and the high
level of French autonomy in the
creation and implementation of
the anti-Jewish policies of the
occupation era. In Italy the brava
gente (good people) myth cast
Fascism as essentially un-Italian.
Clifford points to the almost total
silence of the Italian state in relation to all deportees who returned
to Italy after 1945. In the cause
of forging a narrative of wartime
resistance, the existence of victims
was resolutely unhelpful. Again

rival national and Communist narratives of resistance, in which the


unwitting Italian population rose
up against both Nazis and Fascists,
effectively silenced camp survivors,
and cast Italians as the rescuers of
Jews during the war.
While the book draws attention
to how official narratives were
contested, particularly in the 1960s,
it is the post-Cold War 1990s that
Clifford names as the key moment
in which the dominance of Resistance memory begins to unravel.
The 50th anniversary of the war
opened up spaces to contest
the dominant narratives within
a changing post-Communist
Europe. The creation of Holocaust
Memorial Day in France in 1993 is
presented as the culmination of a
variety of concerns about Frances
place within contemporary Europe,

Holocaust
commemoration
in France and Italy
is explored as a
way of questioning
the legitimising
function of
Resistance
narratives
not least in the light of the rise
of the far right and the battle for
French identity. Italys complex negotiations with its Fascist past also
impacted on its particular form of
Holocaust commemoration, as did
contemporary political anxieties.
In both cases Cliffords stress is on
the civil groups that allows for a
complex rendering of the politics of
commemoration and of the role of
Holocaust memorialisation in the
forging of a collective identity for
the nation. As Clifford states: We
would do well to consider, as we
examine the origins and institution
of these official commemorations,
the extent to which they were and
are really about the Holocaust at
all. The book is an extremely well
rendered narrative of the deeply
complex relationship between
past and present in remembering
Europes genocide.
Cathy Bergin

John Biffen
Semi-Detached

Biteback Publishing 468pp 30

AS A BACKBENCH Tory MP John


Biffen was one of the very few
disciples of Enoch Powell. On
immigration, free market economics and Europe he followed
his mentors lead and rebelled
against the policies of the Heath
government. When Heath fell,
however, he rejoiced in the
leadership of Margaret Thatcher
and once prime minister she
returned the compliment by
appointing him to three Cabinet
posts in succession. From 1979
to 1987, when she gave him the
sack, Biffen was a pillar of the
Thatcher regime or so it appeared. Even at the time it was
evident that his political style
contrasted sharply with hers,
but his motives and character
were something of a mystery. An
amiable, courteous and civilised
man, regarded on both sides of
the House as a lovely chap, he
was reticent and shy to a point
at which even his friends found
him hard to fathom.
Fortunately his wife Sarah
persuaded him to write an autobiography during his last years.
To this she has added substantial
extracts from the diary he kept
from 1968 to 1990. This enjoyable, informative and sometimes
very funny memoir offers many
insights into a very private man.
Brought up on a Somerset farm,
he was a bookish only child
whose intellect won him scholarships to grammar school and
Cambridge. His Conservatism
was inherited from his parents
and a remote rural community
inhabited by generations of his

forebears. Never much attracted


by social or economic theory,
he based his politics on personal experience and the study of
history, the most empirical of
subjects. As he freely admits, he
was an insular character who
disliked foreign food and was
always glad to return home
from a ministerial trip overseas. His sense of Englishness
encompassed broad sympathies.
Somerset, along with National
Service and a spell on a factory
shop floor in Birmingham, gave
him a more down-to-earth understanding of working people,
and a greater respect for them,
than many of his fellow Tories.
Like Thatcher and Heath,
Biffen climbed the steep slope
from a modest provincial
background to the summits of
power. It was an arduous ascent
that tested his self-confidence
to the limit, triggering severe
bouts of depression about which
he writes with confessional
relief. Without regular medication he would never have been
able to hold office, but alarming episodes recurred which
could not have been overcome
without considerable reserves
of courage. He was loyal to Mrs
Thatcher but conscious of her
shortcomings and increasingly
disenchanted with her faith
in continuous social revolution. The key to Biffen was his
admiration for Stanley Baldwin,
the Conservative leader whose
distaste for extremism and
conciliatory approach to Labour,
dominated the interwar years.
The more the Thatcher regime
took on the character of an
ideological crusade, the less
Biffen approved. Eventually he
spoke his mind once too often,
declaring in favour of a balanced
ticket, in which Mrs Thatcher
would share the leadership with
a more moderate figure. From
the moment he was denounced
by her press secretary, Bernard
Ingham, as semi-detached, he
was destined for the axe. It was
the fate of an old-fashioned
conservative, overtaken by
the relentless advance of free
market economics.
Paul Addison

CONTRIBUTORS
Paul Addisons most recent
book is No Turning Back:
the Peacetime Revolutions
of Postwar Britain (Oxford
University Press, 2010)
Cathy Bergin is a senior
lecturer in humanities at the
University of Brighton and
teaches Holocaust Memory
on the Cultural History,
Memory and Identity MA.
Richard Cannings most
recent publication is an
edition of Ronald Firbanks
Vainglory (Penguin Classics,
2012).
Klaus Dodds is co-editor of
Polar Geopolitics (Edward Elgar
Publishing, 2014).
Andrew Higgott has
lectured at the Architectural
Association, University of East
London, and Royal College
of Art.
Matt Lodder is a lecturer at
the University of Essex. His
book, Tattoo: An Art History,
will be published in 2014.
Maria Luddy is Professor of
Modern Irish History at the
University of Warwick.
Matthew Nicholls is
Associate Professor in
Classics at the University of
Reading and the developer of
Virtual Rome.
Joe Morans latest book is
Armchair Nation: An Intimate
History of Britain in Front of the
TV (Profile, 2013).
Andrew Robinson is the
author of Earthquake: Nature
and Culture (Reaktion, 2012).
Desmond Sewards Richard
III: Englands Black Legend will
appear in a Folio Society
edition in 2014.
Julie Wheelwright is the
programme director of
the MA creative writing in
narrative non-fiction at City
University and is author
of Esther: The Remarkable
Story of Esther Wheelwright
(HarperCollins Canada, 2011).

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 65

HAVE YOUR SAY

Letters
No Comparison
Clare Makepeace covered a lot of
ground in her article about the
long fight by Far East prisoners
of war to gain compensation for
their brutal treatment at the
hands of the Japanese (Compensating the Railway Men,
April 2014). But I was surprised
that she made no mention of the
fact that in November 2000 the
British government announced
that a single ex-gratia payment
of 10,000 was to be made to
each of the surviving members
of British forces held prisoner by
the Japanese during the Second
World War. The payment was
extended to include the widows
of former POWs and also to surviving British civilians who were
interned by the Japanese.
Of course by 2000 many
of the Far East POWs who had
survived the war were dead,
including my father, who was an
army chaplain and spent three
and half years in Changi Prison
and working on the infamous
Burma/Siam railway. However
my mother duly received a
payment of 10,000.
Interestingly J.G. Ballard
(author of the best-selling book
Empire of the Sun, based on his
experience of being interned
in a camp near Shanghai) was
very surprised to learn that
he, too, was eligible for the
10,000 payment. He queried
the thinking behind the scheme
on the grounds that most of the
interned civilians never suffered
anything like the horrors
endured by the military POWs
forced to work on the railway.
David Cordingly
Brighton, Sussex

Hungarian Inaccuracy
I read Nora Berends article
(Magyar Myth Makers) in the
History Matters section of the
March issue with great interest in
Budapest, just four weeks before
the April 6th general election
66 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Email p.lay@historytoday.com
Post to History Today, 25 Bedford Avenue,
London, WC1B 3AT

when, according to all opinion


polls, the coalition forming the
present authoritarian government will probably be re-elected
for another four years.
I fully agree with Berend: that
the interpretation of historical
events of the past hundred years
matters so much in Hungary
and that the election campaign
is focusing on historical events
and behaviour of past political
leaders, rather than election
programmes. I do not know
whether it is welcome news for
historians or not, but one positive
outcome of this debate is that the
erection of the infamous monument to the German invasion
on Liberty Square, opposite the
Soviet Heroes monument and
in front of the US Embassy, has
been postponed. Apologists for
Kadar and Horthy are competing
for mandates in the 2014 general
election. Isnt it time to move on
to the 21st century? As long as
Hungary is unable to close the
debate on the 20th century, it is
condemned to lag behind the rest
of Europe.
Nevertheless, there is a
small inaccuracy in Berends
article. The secret ballot was
introduced and not abolished
under Horthy; in 1925 in the
cities and countrywide in 1938.
Free multi-party elections were
abolished in 1949 and reintroduced only in 1990.
Denes Bulkai
via email

Horthy Enigma
I read Nora Berends article
about Hungary and the legacy of
Admiral Horthy with interest. I
was also intrigued to note that
she lectures in a much earlier
period in Hungarian history.
Horthy is a controversial figure,
but I feel viewing him in the
light of modern thought is rather
harsh. Reading his memoirs he
was clearly a man who valued
courage and honour and who

presided over a country which


had lost the vast majority of its
land (he compared it to the US
having to cede southern states
to Mexico and northern states to
Canada). To the east there was
Stalin, to the north Hitler, to the
south Mussolini and to the west
the dubious democracies, which
had let down fledgling democracies in Spain and Czechoslovakia.
To say he was between a rock and
a hard place is a gross understatement. As a former servant of the
Habsburg emperor he naturally
looked to Germany as his ally. He
was old fashioned and wanted to
guide Hungary like an admiral of
a ship. He is recorded as having
the strength to challenge his
ally Hitler and some historians
also record that he despised the
Hungarian equivalent of the
Nazis and that he resisted some
requests to hand over Hungarian Jews. He was not a fan of
democracy but neither was he a
dictator in the sense that Stalin
and others were.
I will continue to follow with
interest the many documents
and articles written about this
enigmatic man.
Andrew Hough
Bembridge, Isle of Wight

I Dont Believe It
The material condition of the
masses is the only thing that
matters.
This announcement, made in
1980 by Maurice Larkin, a professor of history at Edinburgh University, encapsulates the neglect
since the 1960s of aristocratic
culture in early modern Europe.
Nicholas Henshalls source
for this remark, quoted in his
article The Age of the Elites
(November 2013), must be John
Hardman in the introduction to
the book French Politics 17741789 (Longman, 1995). When
my husband Maurice Larkin
heard this, he explained that it
wasnt true:

Connect with us on Twitter


twitter.com/historytoday

I didnt say it. Indeed I couldnt


have said it because I dont
believe it.
Enid Larkin
via email

The Wrong Bromley


Patricia Faras article A Social
Laboratory (February 2014)
was a fascinating survey of the
effects of the First World War on
the world of science and women
scientists in particular. There
is, however, one small error in
placing the gin distillery, taken
over by Chaim Weizmann for
the production of acetone, in
the south London borough of
Bromley. It was, in fact, at Three
Mills in Bromley-by-Bow, now
part of the east London Borough
of Newham. Full details of the
extraordinary history of Three
Mills can be found in my book
East Ham and West Ham Past
(Historical Publications, 2004).
Dr Jim Lewis
Grantham, Lincolnshire

Change of Plan
I do not agree with Chris Turneys assertion that there was a
conspiracy of silence regarding
a shortage of supplies in the
depots of Scotts last expedition
(Captain Scotts Secret, February). The official diary clearly
states that on March 10th, 1912
Scott found the Mount Hooper
depot to have a shortage on our
allowance all round. The article
also makes no reference to the
loss of fuel through evaporation,
which had occurred on earlier
expeditions, or to the fact that by
taking five men to the Pole Scott
forced Teddy Evans party to take
food for only three men when
provisions had been prepared for
four. It has been suggested that
this change of plan made mistakes more likely and inadvertently caused the shortage.
Patrick Adams
Cambridge

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68 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

Coming Next Month


Remembering
Rwanda

In 1994 the tiny African


country of Rwanda was
torn apart by state-sponsored ethnic violence in
which nearly a million
people were killed in just
100 days. Dean White
reflects on the escalating
tensions between the
minority Tutsi and the
majority Hutu peoples that led ultimately to genocide. He traces the
roots of the rift between the two tribes to the arrival of the first Europeans, a century earlier, in 1894.

Shelley in Ireland

In February 1812 the 19-year-old poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, together


with his teenage wife Harriet and sister-in-law Eliza, arrived in Dublin.
The trio had already immersed themselves in the study of Irish history
and politics, leading Harriet to assert: I am Irish, I claim kindred with
them; I have done with the English, I have witnessed too much of John
Bull and I am ashamed of him. Believing that the Irish peasantry have
been too long brutalised by vice and ignorance, it was Shelleys intention to galvanise the ordinary people of Dublin into rising up against
their oppressors. Eleanor Fitzsimons recounts the activities of the
young radical in Ireland, concluding that, while the visit was to have
a lasting impact on Shelley, for his part the poet made little political
impression on the Irish.

Night Riders of Black Patch Country

Marchs Prize Crossword

In 1900 a tobacco farmer from the south-western Kentucky area


known as the Black Patch could expect to raise six to eight cents for
a pound of cured leaf. Four years later the price had fallen to two or
three cents, thanks to the monopolising tactics of one man, James
Buchanan Duke. As local farmers increasingly faced destitution, creating a knock-on effect on the banks and local businesses on whose
custom they depended, a covert posse of vigilantes self-styled the
Night Riders began to take matters into their own hands.

Plus Months Past, Making History, Signposts, Reviews, In Focus, From the
Archive, Pastimes and much more.

The June issue of History Today will be on sale throughout the UK


on May 22nd. Ask your newsagent to reserve you a copy.

PICTURE ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The winner for March is Georgia Hill, London W6.

EDITORS LETTER: 2 Getty Images/Popperfoto. HISTORY MATTERS: 3 Bridgeman Art Library/Minneapolis


Institute of Arts; 5 top AKG Images; 5 bottom Reproduced with permission of Anthea Morton-Saner on behalf of
Churchill Heritage Ltd Churchill Heritage Ltd; 6 2014 Birkbeck MSC/Dominic Mifsud; 7 Kildare Partners, Dublin.
MONTHS PAST: 8 Bridgeman/Societe de lHistoire du Protestantisme francais, Paris; 9 top Lebrecht Music & Arts.
HORACE TO HORACE: 10 left Bridgeman/Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection; 10 right Bridgeman/
Private collection; 11 & 12 top Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University; 12 bottom Bridgeman/
Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge; 13 British Museum; 14, 15 & 16 Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library,
Yale University. AN INTIMATE BETRAYAL: 18 Corbis/Bettmann & National Archives, Kew; 20 Getty/Popperfoto.
NEHRUS LAST YEARS: 21 Magnum Photos/Marilyn Silverstone; 22 & 23 top Getty/Time Life; 23 bottom Getty/
Hulton Archive; 24 top Getty/National Geographic/Wilbur E. Garnett; 24 bottom, 25 & 26 left Getty/Time Life/
Larry Burrows; 26 right Getty/Time Life/Baldev; 27 Magnum Photos/Marc Riboud. IN FOCUS: 28-29 Getty/Hulton.
MAKING HISTORY: 30 Bridgeman/British Library Ms Add 18991 f.11. LOUIS XIV & THE KING OF SIAM: 31 RMNGrand Palais/Agence Bulloz; 32 Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris; 33 Bridgeman/Bibliotheque Nationale,
Paris; 34 top HT Archive; 34 bottom courtesy of the author; 35 AKG/Gilles Mermet; 36 Bibliotheque Nationale,
Paris; 37 top Bridgeman/Louvre, Paris; 37 bottom & 38 Bridgeman/Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. ASQUITH:
40 Mary Evans Picture Library/ILN; 41 National Portrait Gallery, London; 42 Mary Evans Picture Library/ILN; 43
Wellcome Images; 44 top HT Archive; 44 bottom Bridgeman/Stapleton Collection; 45 Mary Evans Picture Library/
ILN; 46 top Mary Evans Picture Library/Pump Park Photography; 46 bottom Mary Evans Picture Library. A CITY
OF DREAMS: 47 Getty/Hulton; 48 Bridgeman/Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. BRITAINS FIRST
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: 49 Bridgeman/Museo della Civilta Romana, Rome; 50 Alamy/David Speight; 51
bottom J.S.Hodgkinson; 52 bottom left courtesy of the author; 52 top, bottom right & 53 British Museum. REVIEWS:
56 Peter Cook Archigram 1964, image supplied by the Archigram Archives 2014; 65 Private Collection The estate
of Richard Hamilton. COMING NEXT MONTH: 69 Press Association Images/AP/Jean-Marc Bouju. PASTIMES: 70-71
Library of Congress. We have made every effort to contact all copyright holders but if in any case we have been
unsuccessful, please get in touch with us directly.

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 69

Pastimes
Amusement & Enlightenment

The Quiz

3 What was the name commonly


given to exiled political opponents
of Mussolinis Fascist regime?
4 Which Argentinian president,
who came to power in 1916,
maintained the countrys neutrality
in the First World War?
5 Who, in 1884, coined the phrase
Industrial Revolution?
6 Which US soldier, who became
the 12th president in 1849, won a
major victory at Buena Vista in the
Mexican War of 1846-48?

7 Who was born Princess Sophia


Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst in Stettin
in 1729?
8 Which German cartographer
was responsible for naming the
continent of America after the
explorer Amerigo Vespucci?
70 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

10 The Sack of Baghdad, which


resulted in the death of the last
Abbasid Caliph, al-Mustassim, and
lasted for seven days in 1258, was
carried out by the Mongol armies
of which grandson of Genghis
Khan?
11 What is the name given to the

descendants of early Arab settlers


in the coastal towns of south India?
12 Iskandar, who became the
Timurid ruler of Persia in 1412, was
named after which all-conquering
hero of the classical world?

ANSWERS

2 Which financier was appointed


by Woodrow Wilson to head the
US War Industries Board in 1918?

9 Who founded the British


National Socialist Party in 1937,
fled to Germany just before the
outbreak of the Second World War
and was tried and executed for
treason in London in 1946?

1. Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86).


2. Bernard Mannes Baruch
(1870-1965).
3. Fuorosciti.
4. Hiplito Yrigoyen (1852-1933).
5. Arnold Toynbee (1852-83).
6. Zachary Taylor (1784-1850).
7. Catherine the Great (1729-96).
8. Martin Waldseemller
(c.1470-1520).
9. William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw
(1906-46).
10. Hulagu Khan (1218-65) .
11. Mapillas.
12. Alexander the Great (356-323 bc).

1 Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of


Essex, married clandestinely the
widow of which poet, courtier and
soldier in 1590?

Prize Crossword
ACROSS
8 City of Basse-Normandie, captured
by the English in 1346 and 1417 (4)
9 Jesse ___ (1913-80), US athlete;
quadruple gold medalist at the 1936
Olympics (5)
10 Robert, John and James ___,
18th-century architects of Edinburgh
(4)
11 ___ Of The King, poem cycle by
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) (6)
12 Johanna ___ (1889-1944),
anti-Nazi, beheaded in Berlin (8)
13 Swiss city, site of major international conferences in 1932 and 1949 (8)
15 Nelsons or Trajans, perhaps (6)
17 Franz ___ (1913-95), Vienna-born
coach of the athletes Bannister,
Chataway and Brasher (7)
19 City of ancient Syria, absorbed into
the Arab caliphate in ad 637 (7)
22 Ancient country south-east of the
Black Sea, flourishing in the ninth and
eighth centuries bc (6)
24 Norfolk market-town, home, in
folklore, to a legendary pedlar (8)
26 Australian state known until 1856
as Van Diemens Land (8)
28 Name taken by Nicholas Breakspear on becoming pope in 1154 (6)
30 ___ of the Punjab, byname of
Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) (4)
31 Early history of China, written
around 85 bc by Sima Qian (5)
32 The oldest chartered municipality
in Austria (4)

Nikola Tesla
(1856-1943)

DOWN
1 William ___ (1573-1645),
Archbishop of Canterbury and adviser
to Charles I (4)
2 Symbolic personification of US (5,3)
3 Ernest ___ (1867-1900), English
poet, novelist and short story writer (6)
4 August ___ (1840-1916), German
linguist, author of an 1871 Handbook of
the Old Bulgarian Language (7)
5 Shard of pottery used in certain
voting processes of ancient Athens (8)
6 Andy ___ (1928-87), US artist (6)
7 Take away that fools bauble, the
___ Oliver Cromwell, 1653 (4)
14 John Jacob ___ (1763-1848),
German-born fur trader (5)
16 Yemeni port and coffee-trading
centre, founded in the 14th century (5)
18 Essex island owned largely by the
Ministry of Defence since 1915 (8)
20 The ___, 1925 novel of the Troubles
by Liam OFlaherty (8)
21 Mistress of Pericles (7)
23 Short name for the sixth book of
the New Testament (6)
25 Visigoth ruler responsible for the
sack of Rome in ad 410 (6)
27 Capital of Samoa since 1959 (4)
29 Second daughter of James II;
Queen of Great Britain 1702-14 (4)

The winner of this


months prize
crossword will
receive a copy of
Ben Macintyres new
book, A Spy Among
Friends: Kim Philby
and the Great Betrayal
(Bloomsbury).

Entries to:
Crossword,
History Today,
25 Bedford Avenue,
London WC1B 3AT
by May 31st, 2014 or
www.historytoday.
com/crossword

Six degrees of Separation


Nikola Tesla

got the inspiration for the


induction motor while reciting
Faust, a work written by ...

the great conductor, who


was booked on, but missed,
the final voyage in 1915 of
the Lusitania, as did ...

Johann Wolfgang
von Goethe
(1749-1832)

Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon


(1863-1935)

who as Lucile designed


costumes for ...

whose interest in the active


ingredients in coffee led him to
hire the young research chemist ...

Billie Burke
(1884-1970)

Friedlieb Runge
(1795-1867)
the discoverer of caffeine, who died
on March 25th, 1867, the birthday of ...

Arturo Toscanini
(1867-1957)

By Justin Pollard

who played the Good Witch in the


Wizard of Oz, sometime resident of
Shoreham village, New York, home
to the Wardenclyffe tower, an early
wireless transmitter designed by ...

MAY 2014 HISTORY TODAY 71

BATTLE OF AMIENS

FromtheArchive
Nick Lloyd revisits John Terraines article on the decisive Allied victory at Amiens in 1918 and asks
why this remarkable military achievement is not as well known as the first day of the Somme.

The Imperial Triumph of Amiens


FOR THE historian John Terraine,
who fought a long and lonely battle to
rescue the reputation of Field Marshal
Sir Douglas Haig commonly caricatured as a butcher and bungler the
Battle of Amiens was his vindication.
In his article for History Today, written
in 1958, Terraine revisited the scene
of the infamous black day of the
German army on August 8th, 1918. As
Terraine reminds us, this battle was a
far cry from the barren, bloody results
of the first day on the Somme, July 1st,
1916, when the British army suffered its worst day. According to
Terraine, Amiens was a triumph
of planning and method of
co-ordination and cunning; of
the valour and efficiency of the
British artillery and tanks; and
of the courage, initiative and
dash of the infantry.
Much of what Terraine
wrote still stands. Amiens
was a decisive moment, kicking off
Marshal Ferdinand Fochs series of
movements that would end with the
German government appealing for
peace negotiations on October 3rd (an
essential prelude to the Armistice on
November 11th). Amiens was a perfect
demonstration of not only how
effective British and Commonwealth
forces had become by 1918 developing an embryonic blitzkrieg but also
how the German army had no answer
to this kind of combined, all-arms
approach to warfare.
Purists will be offended by Terraines failure to explain the role of
the French army at Amiens (which
extended the attack to the south), but
more intriguing is the sidelining of
Sir Arthur Curries Canadian Corps.
Indeed, Terraines focus on generals
Rawlinson and Monash (although
not incorrect in itself) seems to miss
how important the Canadians were to
the battle; it would be true to say that
they made the Battle of Amiens. Their
four divisions in line, deployed in the
72 HISTORY TODAY MAY 2014

centre along the Amiens-Roye Road,


formed the spearhead of the assault.
At the end of the day they had driven
eight miles into the position of the
German Second Army.
Notwithstanding these quibbles,
Terraines article, with its focus on
training and planning and the coordination of firepower and manoeuvre,
prefigures much of the debates that
would take place in the 1990s and
beyond about the nature of change
and development in the British

Terraines article
prefigures much of
the debate that would
take place in the 1990s
and beyond
Expeditionary Force (the learning
curve). While the military effort of
the white dominions Australia,
New Zealand and Canada has been
widely praised (with Canadians being
justifiably proud of their tag as the
shock army of the British Empire),
the humble British Tommy has often
been left behind. Since Terraine wrote
his article, however, much work has
been done to rectify this imbalance.
In contrast to Terraine, who relied
mainly on published, secondary
sources, a generation of historians
have mined the archival record and
written detailed studies of many
aspects of this story: anything from
corps command to individual battles;
the development of artillery tactics to
logistics, as well as forensic examinations of individual formations, from
battalions to divisions. This corpus
of knowledge has helped to bring out
the complexity of the learning curve,
while helping historians to understand the variety of responses to the
Western Front from across the army.

It has also helped to move the focus


away from Haig (and other senior
commanders) onto how the army as
a whole adapted to the series of challenges it faced between 1914 and 1918.
Nevertheless, Terraines mission
to move the conventional wisdom
of the war on from July 1st, 1916
remains to be fulfilled. The explosion
of interest in the centenary in recent
months offers an opportunity to
revisit this, but there are concerns
that the commemoration will still be
dominated by ideas of futility and sacrifice, not victory. Indeed, in January
2013 the President of the Western
Front Association, Professor Peter
Simkins, called upon the government
to include Amiens in its commemorations. He argued that to accord
Amiens, a victory, the same status as
the first day on the Somme, a defeat,
would be a significant step in the right
direction. The current official programme is as bizarre as marking the
centenary of the Second World War by
commemorating the Fall of France but
not D-Day. Whether Amiens will ever
become as widely recognised as the
Somme remains to be seen.
Nick Lloyd is author of Hundred Days: The End of
the Great War (Viking, 2013).

VOLUME 8 ISSUE 8 Aug 1958


Read the original piece
at historytoday.com/fta