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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Maude Allan and the Dance of the Seven Veils

In 1906 Maud Allan inspired by Salomé, a play written by Oscar Wilde, created Vision of Salomé. Her Dance of the Seven Veils created great controversy. In 1908 Allan took her production of Vision of Salomé to England. According to James Hayward, the author of Myths and Legends of the First World War (2002): "Allan had performed her dance with great success in London in 1908, its popular success due in large part to her voluptuous figure and revealing costume."

During the tour Allan was banned from appearing in Manchester: On 8th June 1908 the New York Times reported: "Miss Maud Allan, the barefooted and otherwise scantily clad dancer, in whose favor a very profitable boom has been worked up in London, and whose manager is anxious to give New Yorkers a chance of witnessing her Salome and other dances, has been warned off the stage in Manchester, which is the most important theatrical city in England outside of the capital."

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

PowerPoint Lessons and Activities

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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

David Frost and Richard Nixon

I watched the Watergate section of the Richard Nixon interview he gave to David Frost in 1977. With his legal training, Nixon did a reasonable job but he found it impossible to convincing rebuke the claim that he was involved in the cover-up. As I watched him twist and turn I wondered why he agreed to give an interview that clearly showed he had been involved in illegal activity that should have meant that he ended up in prison.

To introduce the Frost-Nixon debate, Frost was interviewed by Joan Bakewell. She asked the obvious question: “Why did Nixon agree to do the interview?” Frost replied that Nixon needed the money. Frost was involved in competing with several other news broadcasters. Nixon was trying to get an agreement for an interview that did not involve a discussion of Watergate. Under these terms, the most he was offered was $400,000. Frost offered $600,000 (over $2 million in today’s money) and a 20 percent share of any profits, if he was willing to discuss Watergate. Nixon agreed because he considered Frost a lightweight interviewer who would not know enough about the case.

This was a miscalculation. Frost had been a brilliant student at Cambridge University, who had a deep interest in politics. He also recruited James Reston, Jr. and Bob Zelnick to evaluate the Watergate minutiae prior to the interview.

The interviews began on March 23, 1977 and lasted 12 days. Frost lured Nixon into a false sense of security by interviewing Nixon for 24 hours without mentioning Watergate. In these sessions he gave him an easy time and allowed Nixon to boast about his contribution to world peace. However, in the final six hour session, his questioning revealed details of a previously unknown conversation between Nixon and Charles Colson. This clearly unsettled Nixon and Frost was able to go in for the kill.

The episode on Watergate, broadcast on 4th May, 1977, was watched by 45 million people. A Gallup poll conducted after the interview showed that 69 percent of the public thought that Nixon was still trying to cover up, 72 percent still thought he was guilty of obstruction of justice, and 75 percent thought he deserved no further role in public life.

Frost was asked by Bakewell why he had been willing to take such a dangerous risk by talking on television about Watergate. Frost, once again returned to the subject of money. Frost had been told by Nixon’s chief of staff and confidant, Jack Brennan, that Nixon feared that some of the people who had gone to prison over Watergate, would sue him when they were released. Frost added that this surprisingly did not happen. Of course, it didn’t. Nixon needed the money to stop them from talking. It was not only the burglars who needed “hush money”.

By the way, during the interview he admitted that the break-in might have been botched on purpose. He added that he suspected that the CIA had been behind the operation.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Bobby Moore's First Game

On 16th September, 1957, Malcolm Allison was taken ill after a game against Sheffield United. Doctors discovered he was suffering from tuberculosis and he had to have a lung removed. Noel Cantwell became the new captain. That season West Ham United won the Second Division championship. The authors of The Essential History of West Ham United point out that Allison was the main reason the club had won promotion: "A footballing visionary who in six short years would revolutionise the club's archaic regime and transform training, coaching techniques and tactics to secure promotion to the first division in 1958".

Allison returned to the club and played several games for the reserves but with only one lung he struggled with his fitness. West Ham had an injury crisis for its home game against Manchester United on 8th September 1958. Malcolm Pyke, Bill Lansdowne and Andy Nelson were all injured. The manager, Ted Fenton asked Noel Cantwell who he should select for the game. Cantwell told Brian Belton, the author of Days of Iron: The Story of West Ham United in the Fifties (1999): "The game against Manchester United was on a Monday night. Fenton called me into the office asking who should play left-half, Allison or Moore. He didn't really want the burden of the decision."

Cantwell added in another interview for the book, Moore than a Legend (1997): "Malcolm came out of hospital and trained while Bobby was cruising along in the reserves. Malcolm was ready for the United game but the vacancy was for a left-half. Malcolm was more of a stopper and it needed someone more mobile. When Ted asked me who to pick, it was a hard decision. The sorcerer or his apprentice?" Cantwell eventually selected Moore over Allison.

Bobby Moore later talked about this decision to Jeff Powell for this book, Bobby Moore: The Life and Times of a Sporting Hero (1997): "The Allison connection could only be dredged up from the bottom of a long, long glass. Even then, Moore probed gingerly at the memory". Eventually Moore told him: " After three or four matches they were top of the First Division, due to play Manchester United on the Monday night, and they had run out of left halves. Billy Lansdowne, Andy Nelson, all of them were unfit. It's got to be me or Malcolm. I'd been a professional for two and a half months and Malcolm had taught me everything I knew. For all the money in the world I wanted to play. For all the money in the world I wanted Malcolm to play because he'd worked like a bastard for this one game in the First Division."

Moore added: "It somehow had to be that when I walked into the dressing room and found out I was playing, Malcolm was the first person I saw. I was embarrassed to look at him. He said Well done. I hope you do well. I knew he meant it but I knew how he felt. For a moment I wanted to push the shirt at him and say Go on, Malcolm. It's yours. Have your game. I can't stop you. Go on, Malcolm. My time will come. But he walked out and I thought maybe my time wouldn't come again. Maybe this would be my only chance. I thought: you've got to be lucky to get the chance, and when the chance comes you've got to be good enough to take it. I went out and played the way Malcolm had always told me to play."

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Francis Drake and the History of California

In 1577, a group of investors that included Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, Christopher Hatton, John Wynter and John Hawkins, decided to support a plan for Francis Drake to take a fleet into the Pacific and raid Spanish settlements there. Two years later, Drake's The Golden Hinde was leaking badly and needed to be careened. On 17th June 1579 Drake landed in a bay on the the coast of California. According to Drake's biographer, Harry Kelsey: "Sixteenth-century accounts and maps can be interpreted to show that he stopped anywhere between the southern tip of Baja California and latitude 48° N."

Most historians believe that Drake had stopped in a bay on the Point Reyes peninsula (now known as Drake's Bay). Drake has been reported as saying: "By God's Will we hath been sent into this fair and good bay. Let us all, with one consent, both high and low, magnify and praise our most gracious and merciful God for his infinite and unspeakable goodness toward us. By God's faith hath we endured such great storms and such hardships as we have seen in these uncharted seas. To be delivered here of His safekeeping, I protest we are not worthy of such mercy."

A local group of Miwok brought him a present of a bunch of feathers and tobacco leaves in a basket. John Sugden, the author of Sir Francis Drake (1990) has argued: "It appeared to the English that the Indians regarded them as gods; they were impervious to English attempts to explain who they were, but at least they remained friendly, and when they had received clothing and other gifts the natives returned happily and noisily to their village."

On 26th June a large group of Miwok arrived at Drake's camp. The chief, wearing a head-dress and a skin cape, was followed by painted warriors, each one of whom bore a gift. At the rear of the cavalcade were women and children. A man holding a sceptre of black wood and wearing a chain of clam shells, stepped forward and made a thirty minute speech. While this was going on the women indulged in a strange ritual of self-mutilation that included scratching their faces until the blood flowed. Robert F. Heizer has argued in Elizabethan California (1974) that self-mutilation is associated with mourning and that the Miwok probably thought the British sailors were spirits returning from the dead. However, Drake took the view that they were proclaiming him king of the Miwok tribe.

Drake now claimed the land for Queen Elizabeth. He named it Nova Albion "in respect of the white banks and cliffs, which lie towards the sea". Apparently, the cliffs of Point Reyes reminded Drake of the coast at Dover. Drake had a post set up with a plate bearing his name and the date of arriving in California.

When the The Golden Hinde left on 23rd July, the Miwok exhibited great distress and ran to the hill-tops to keep the ship in sight for as long as possible. Drake later wrote that during his time in California, "not withstanding it was the height of summer, we were continually visited with nipping cold, neither could we at any time within a fourteen day period find the air so clear as to be able to take height the sun or stars."

History of California

Hugh Crow and Slavery

Hugh Crow worked on several ships as a carpenter. He admitted "I had at this time several offers to go as second mate to the coast of Africa, but like many others I had not overcome the prejudice I entertained against the trade." However, he eventually accepted work as a sailor on the slave-ship, The Elizabeth, owned by John Dawson.

The ship arrived at Annamaboe in December, 1790. Crow later recalled: "We came to anchor at Annamaboe in December, 1790, after a passage of seven weeks. We lay there about three weeks without transacting any trade, the king of that part of the coast having died some time before, in consequence of which all business was suspended. According to a barbarous custom of the country on occasion of the decease of a prince twenty-three of his wives were put to death while we remained; and many no doubt had met with a similar fate before our arrival."

The Elizabeth then went onto Lagos where they took on slaves. These were then sold in Benin: "We proceeded to a place called Lagos, with negroes, and thence to Benin. We traded between both places for several months, so that I acquired a considerable knowledge, as a pilot, of that part of the coast. I was much pleased with the gentle manners of the natives of Benin, who are truly a fine tractable race of people."

James Irving and Slavery

James Irving travelled to Jamaica under William Wilson on the slave-ship, Vulture in November 1782. It has been argued by Suzanne Schwarz: "Assuming that Irving was paid £4 wages a month, together with the value of two privilege slaves and one shilling head money for each of the 592 slaves delivered alive to the West Indies, it is likely that Irving earned approximately £140 from this voyage. This is consistent with the average voyage earnings of slave-ship surgeons in the late eighteenth century, which were typically between £100 and £150."

After his marriage to Mary Tunstall in Liverpool on 2nd July 1785, Irving was then recruited by Quayle Fargher, the captain of Jane. In May 1786 he sailed to Tobago. He wrote to his wife that "our black cattle are intolerably noisy and I'm almost melted in the midst of five or six hundred of them." David Richardson has argued: "Irving's insensitvity suggests that, even at a time when moral outrage in Britain at the enslavement of Africans was spreading, participation in the slave trade was still capable of promoting racism and blinding otherwise apparently quite caring individuals to the appalling suffering that they were helping to inflict on others."

Monday, 25 April 2011

Samuel Romilly and Social Reform

Samuel Romilly entered the House of Commons as MP for Queenborough. When Lord Grenville was invited by the king to form a new Whig administration he invited Romilly to became his solicitor-general.

As solicitor-general Romilly advocated reform of the criminal law, especially in the areas of corporal punishment and capital punishment. He also criticised the policy of flogging in the military. Romilly also opposed transporting criminals to penal colonies or confining them in prison ships or common gaols. He led the campaign to restrict the death penalty. In 1808 he obtained the repeal of the law which had made pickpocketing a capital offence. However, most of his colleagues did not share his liberal views and was unsuccessful in persuading them to pass very much legislation. For example, Romilly twice introduced bills to abolish capital punishment for theft to the value of at least 40s. from a house or ship on a river, and on each occasion they were lost or defeated. Similar attempts to reduce the punishment for shoplifting goods of a minimum value of 5s. also ended in failure.

Samuel Romilly played an important role in the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act (1807). Romilly felt it to be "the most glorious event, and the happiest for mankind, that has ever taken place since human affairs have been recorded."

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Sierra Leone Company

In 1786 Jonas Hanway established the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor. This was an attempt to help black people living in London who had been victims of the slave trade. Simon Schama has argued in Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and Empire (2005) that the harsh winter of 1785-86 was one of the factors that encouraged Hanway to do something for the significant number of Africans living in poverty: "In the East End and Rotherhithe: tattered bundles of human misery, huddled in doorways, shoeless, sometimes shirtless even in the bitter cold or else covered with filthy rags."

Granville Sharp came up with the idea that this black community should be allowed to to start a colony of free slaves in Sierra Leone. The country was chosen largely on the strength of evidence from the explorer, Mungo Park and a encouraging report from the botanist, Henry Smeathman, who had recently spent three years in the area. The British government supported Sharp's plan and agreed to give £12 per African towards the cost of transport. Sharp contributed more than £1,700 to the venture. Several supporters of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade invested money into what became known as the Sierra Leone Company. This included William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Samuel Whitbread, William Smith and Henry Thornton.

Monday, 4 April 2011

James Zwerg and the Freedom Riders

Transport segregation continued in some parts of the United States, so in 1961, a civil rights group, the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) began to organize Freedom Rides. After three days of training in non-violent techniques, black and white volunteers sat next to each other as they traveled through the Deep South. James Farmer, national director of CORE, and thirteen volunteers left Washington on 4th May, 1961, for Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. The group were split between two buses. They traveled in integrated seating and visited "white only" restaurants. When they reached Anniston on 14th May the Freedom Riders were attacked by men armed with clubs, bricks, iron pipes and knives. One of the buses was fire-bombed and the mob held the doors shut, intent on burning the riders to death. James Peck later explained what happened: "When the Greyhound bus pulled into Anniston, it was immediately surrounded by an angry mob armed with iron bars. They set about the vehicle, denting the sides, breaking windows, and slashing tires. Finally, the police arrived and the bus managed to depart. But the mob pursued in cars. Within minutes, the pursuing mob was hitting the bus with iron bars. The rear window was broken and a bomb was hurled inside. All the passengers managed to escape before the bus burst into flames and was totally destroyed. Policemen, who had been standing by, belatedly came on the scene. A couple of them fired into the air. The mob dispersed and the injured were taken to a local hospital." The surviving bus traveled to Birmingham, Alabama. A meeting of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee decided to send reinforcements. This included Zwerg, John Lewis, and eleven others including two white women. The volunteers realized their mission was extremely dangerous. James Zwerg later recalled: "I called my mother and I explained to her what I was going to be doing. My mother's comment was that this would kill my father - and he had a heart condition - and she basically hung up on me. That was very hard because these were the two people who taught me to love and when I was trying to live love, they didn't understand. Now that I'm a parent and a grandparent I can understand where they were coming from a bit more. I wrote them a letter to be mailed if I died. We had a little time to pack a suitcase and then we met to go down to the bus."

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Cudbert Thornhill and the Russian Revolution

Cudbert Thornhill returned to Petrograd during the Russian Revolution. According to one source Thornhill was "the hero of many exciting adventures in Petrograd during the revolution". He was forced to go into hiding but by January 1918, he was back in the capital reporting that the new Red Army was being formed from munitions workers because they were considered to be more intelligent than peasants.

Michael Smith, the author of Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010) argued that during the Russian Civil War: "Thornhill had been setting up agent networks across the north between Murmansk and the White Sea port of Kem to warn the British of any Bolshevik advances.... Thornhill was allocated as the force's chief intelligence officer, and a number of MI1c officers worked with him."

Paul Dukes and Mansfield Cumming

In the summer of 1918 Paul Dukes was recalled to London for a meeting with Colonel Frederick Browning. In his book, Red Dusk and the Morrow: Adventures and Investigations in Soviet Russia (1922) Dukes reported that Browning explained: "You doubtless wonder that no explanation has been given to you as to why you should return to England. Well, I have to inform you, confidentially, that it has been proposed to offer you a somewhat responsible post in the Secret Intelligence Service. We have reason to believe that Russia will not long continue to be open to foreigners. We wish someone to remain there to keep us informed of the march of events."

Dukes was then taken to see Mansfield Cumming, the head of MI6. "This extraordinary man was short of stature, thick-set with grey hair half covering a well-rounded head. His mouth was stern and an eagle eye, full of vivacity, glanced - or glared as the case may be - piercingly through a gold-rimmed monocle. At first encounter, he appeared very severe. His manner of speech was abrupt. Yet the stern countenance could melt into the kindliest of smiles, and the softened eyes and lips revealed a heart that was big and generous."

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Alexander Falconbridge

Alexander Falconbridge was a surgeon on board a slave ship. As his biographer, Christopher Fyfe, has pointed out, this was "a potentially lucrative employment since surgeons received, as well as their salary, 1s. a head per slave landed, and the chance of eventually becoming a ship's captain". Over the next seven years he worked on four different ships that sailed along the west coast of Africa and to the Caribbean. At first he was a supporter of the slave trade: "Previous to my being in this employ I entertained a belief, as many others have done, that the kings and principal men bred Negroes for sale as we do cattle."

Falconbridge later recalled: "When the negroes whom the black traders have to dispose of are shown to the European purchasers, they first examine them relative to age. They then minutely inspect their persons, and inquire into their state of health; if they are afflicted with any infirmity, or are deformed, or have bad eyes or teeth; if they are lame, or weak in the joints, or distorted in the back, or of a slender make, or are narrow in the chest; in short, if they have been afflicted in any manner so as to render them incapable of such labour they are rejected. The traders frequently beat those negroes which are objected to by the captains. Instances have happened that the traders, when any of their negroes have been objected to have instantly beheaded them in the sight of the captain."

Falconbridge became increasing critical of the slave trade. In 1787 he left it in disgust and went back to working as a pupil with a Bristol doctor. Soon afterwards he met Thomas Clarkson, who along with Granville Sharp, had established the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Clarkson was given the responsibility of collecting information to support the abolition of the slave trade. Falconbridge was willing to testify publicly about the way slaves were treated. He accompanied Clarkson to Liverpool where he acted as his bodyguard. Clarkson later called him "an athletic and resolute-looking man".

Monday, 28 February 2011

John Burns: The First Working-Class Cabinet Minister

John Burns, the sixteenth child of Alexander Burns, a Scottish fitter, and Barbara Smith, was born in Lambeth on 20th October, 1858. His father deserted his mother and his mother took in washing and the family moved to a basement dwelling in Battersea. John attended St Mary's National School but left when he was ten and after a series of short-term jobs was apprenticed as an engineer at Mowlems, a major London contractor.

In 1879 Burns joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and found employment with the United Africa Company. Horrified by the way the Africans were treated, Burns became convinced that only socialism would remove the inequalities between races and classes. He returned to England in 1881 and soon afterwards formed the Battersea branch of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF). One of the first people to join was another young engineer, Tom Mann.

Burns developed a reputation as an outstanding public speaker. One member of the SDF described him as "a sort of giant gramophone". According to his biographer, Kenneth D. Brown: "The language Burns used at this time was often cited later as evidence of his revolutionary aspirations, but he was sometimes tempted into excesses because he so revelled in his ability to inspire adulation in a crowd, and many of his words were subsequently taken out of context. Fundamentally, he never wavered in his conviction that social change was the priority, the method of achieving it a secondary consideration. Even before his imprisonment he had shown signs of disenchantment with the SDF's chronic internecine bickering and its desire to engage in class warfare in the House of Commons, rather than seeking some tangible benefits for ordinary people."

Burns was elected to the executive council of the Social Democratic Federation. Some members of the Social Democratic Federation disapproved of the dictorial style of the SDF leader, Henry M. Hyndman. In December 1884 William Morris and Eleanor Marx left to form a new group called the Socialist League. Burns remained in the SDF and in the 1885 General Election was their unsuccessful candidate in Nottingham West. However, his 598 votes dwarfed the total of 59 cast for the two SDF candidates in other constituencies.

The Social Democratic Federation organised a meeting for 13th February, 1887 in Trafalgar Square to protest against the policies of the Conservative Government headed by the Marquess of Salisbury. Sir Charles Warren, the head of the Metropolitan Police wrote to Herbert Matthews, the Home Secretary: "We have in the last month been in greater danger from the disorganized attacks on property by the rough and criminal elements than we have been in London for many years past. The language used by speakers at the various meetings has been more frank and open in recommending the poorer classes to help themselves from the wealth of the affluent." As a result of this letter, the government decided to ban the meeting and the police were given the orders to stop the marchers entering Trafalgar Square.

Henry Hamilton Fyfe was one of the special constables on duty that day: "When the unemployed dockers marched on Trafalgar Square, where meetings were then forbidden, I enrolled myself as a special constable to defend the classes against the masses. The dockers striking for their sixpence an hour were for me the great unwashed of music-hall and pantomime songs. Wearing an armlet and wielding a baton, I paraded and patrolled and felt proud of myself."

The SDF decided to continue with their planned meeting with John Burns, Henry M. Hyndman and Robert Cunninghame Graham being the three main speakers. Edward Carpenter explained what happened next: "The three leading members of the SDF - Hyndman, Burns and Cunninghame Graham - agreed to march up arm-in-arm and force their way if possible into the charmed circle. Somehow Hyndman was lost in the crowd on the way to the battle, but Graham and Burns pushed their way through, challenged the forces of Law and Order, came to blows, and were duly mauled by the police, arrested, and locked up. I was in the Square at the time.

The crowd was a most good-humoured, easy going, smiling crowd; but presently it was transformed. A regiment of mounted police came cantering up. The order had gone forth that we were to be kept moving. To keep a crowd moving is I believe a technical term for the process of riding roughshod in all directions, scattering, frightening and batoning the people."

Burns and Robert Cunninghame Graham were put on trial for their involvement in the demonstration that became known as Bloody Sunday. One of the witnesses at the trial was Edward Carpenter: "I was asked to give evidence in favour of the defendants, and gladly consented - though I had not much to say, except to testify to the peaceable character of the crowd and the high-handed action of the police. In cross-examination I was asked whether I had not seen any rioting; and when I replied in a very pointed way 'Not on the part of the people!' a large smile went round the Court, and I was not plied with any more questions. Cunninghame Graham and Burns were both found guilty and sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment.

Burns was now a well-known labour leader and in the elections for the newly created London County Council, he was elected to represent Battersea. Burns worked very closely with John Benn and together they managed to get a motion passed that stated that in future all Council work should only be awarded to those contractors who agreed to observe trade union standards on wages and working conditions.

In June 1889 he left the Social Democratic Federation after a disagreement with the party's leader, H. Hyndman. Like his friend, Tom Mann, Burns was now convinced that socialism would be achieved through trade union activity rather than by parliamentary elections.

When the London Dock Strike started in August 1889, Ben Tillett asked John Burns to help win the dispute. Burns, a passionate orator, helped to rally the dockers when they were considering the possibility of returning to work. He was also involved in raising money and gaining support from other trade unionists. During the dispute Burns emerged with Ben Tillett and Tom Mann as one of the three main leaders of the strike.

The employers hoped to starve the dockers back to work but other trade union activists such as Will Thorne, Eleanor Marx, James Keir Hardie and Henry Hyde Champion, gave valuable support to the 10,000 men now out on strike. Organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Labour Church raised money for the strikers and their families. Trade Unions in Australia sent over £30,000 to help the dockers to continue the struggle. After five weeks the employers accepted defeat and granted all the dockers' main demands.

Kenneth D. Brown has argued: "While he negotiated skilfully with intractable employers and organized picket lines tirelessly, Burns's major contribution was his oratory which sustained the strikers... The long-drawn-out stoppage and its successful outcome made Burns an internationally known figure. Everywhere his support was coveted to boost the ensuing surge of trade union organization and in 1890 he was elected to the parliamentary committee of the TUC. Burns's moderation in conducting the dock strike earned it considerable sympathy from the wider public and did much to dispel the militant reputation he had acquired in 1886 and 1887."

Henry Snell pointed out: "John Burns was one of the Social Democratic Federation's best speakers. He was then about twenty-five years of age, and in the full strength of his manhood. His power as a popular street-corner orator was probably unequalled in that generation. He had a voice of unusual range, a big chest capacity; and he possessed great physical and nervous vitality. His method of attracting a crowd was, immediately he rose to speak, and for one or two minutes only, to open all the stops of his organ-like voice. The crowd once secured, his vocal energy was modified, but his vitality and masterful diction held his audience against all competitors." Tom Mann added: "He had a splendid voice and a very effective and business-like way of putting a case. He looked well on a platform. He always wore a serge suit, a white shirt, a black tie, and a bowler hat. Surprisingly fluent, with a voice that could fill every part of the largest hall or theatre, and, if the wind were favourable, could reach a twenty-thousand audience in the parks, etc."

However, Beatrice Webb was not impressed with John Burns: "Jealously and suspicion of rather a mean kind is John Burns's burning sin. A man of splendid physique, fine strong intelligence, human sympathy, practical capacity, he is unfitted for a really great position by his utter inability to be a constant for a loyal comrade. He stands absolutely alone. He is intensely jealous of other Labour men, acutely suspicious of all middle-class sympathizers, while his hatred of Keir Hardie reaches about the dimensions of mania. All said and done, it is pitiful to see this splendid man a prey to egotism of the most sordid kind."

In the 1892 General Election John Burns was elected to represent Battersea in the House of Commons. Burns now joined the other socialist who won a seat in the election, James Keir Hardie. Whereas Burns was willing to work closely with the Liberal Party, Hardie argued for the formation of a new working class political party. Burns attended the meeting in 1900 that established the Labour Representation Committee, the forerunner of the Labour Party, but refused to join and continued to align himself to the Liberal Party.

Burns knew that the Liberal Party might win the next election whereas the Labour Party would take a long time before it was in a position to form a government. When the Liberal Party won the 1906 General Election, the new Prime Minister, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, offered John Burns the post of President of the Local Government Board.

Burns, the first member of the working-class to become a government minister, disappointed the labour movement with his period in office. Burns was responsible for only one important piece of legislation, the Housing and Town Planning Act of 1909, during his time in government. Burns, who was now earning £5,000 a year, was bitterly attacked in the House of Commons by old comrades such as Fred Jowett, when he argued for no outdoor relief to be given to the poor. Burns was reminded how he had been a strong critic of the Poor Law and the workhouse system when he had been a member of the Social Democratic Federation.

Kenneth D. Brown has pointed out: "It has been generally concluded that Burns's eight years at the Local Government Board were barren. Behind this judgement lies the view, originally propagated by Beatrice Webb, that Burns's civil servants played on his personal vanity, flattering him into becoming an ineffective and reactionary minister. Burns's vanity is not in doubt: when Campbell-Bannerman offered him the Local Government Board, Burns is alleged to have replied that the prime minister had never done a more popular thing. But Mrs Webb's views were heavily influenced by the fact that Burns was the rock on which her ambitious plans for restructuring the poor law foundered. He had long believed that poverty and its related problems were the combined outcome of individual failure and an inadequate social environment. This was reinforced by a strong streak of puritanism which expressed itself in his opposition to smoking, drinking, and gambling."

Burns was retained in the cabinet when Herbert Asquith replaced Henry Campbell-Bannerman as prime minister in 1908. Supporters of Burns point out that he did have his successes. For example, he piloted through the House of Commons the 1910 Census Bill that sought to obtain more information about both family structure and urban conditions in order for the government to develop policies to tackle problems such as infant mortality and slum housing. By 1913 his administrative reforms had resulted in a more effective deployment of medical staff in the infirmaries.

Burns gradually began to question the growth in the Welfare State. He told a conference in August 1913, that the government and charity organisations should not "supersede the mother, and they should not by over-attention sterilise her initiative and capacity to do what every mother should be able to do for herself." Beatrice Webb was furious with this approach to poverty: "Burns is a monstrosity, an enormous personal vanity feeding on the deference and flattery yielded to patronage and power. He talks incessantly, and never listens to anyone except the officials to whom he must listen in order to accomplish the routine work of of his office. Hence he is completely in their hands and is becoming the most hidebound of departmental chiefs." Fred Jowett argued that he had clearly gone over to the other side.

In 1914 Burns was appointed as President of the Board of Trade. However, soon afterwards, the British government decided to declare war on Germany. Burns was opposed to Britain becoming involved in a European conflict and along with John Morley and Charles Trevelyan, resigned from the government. Burns stated: "Why four great powers should fight over Serbia no fellow can understand. This I know, there is one fellow who will have nothing to do with such a criminal folly, the effects of which will be appalling to the welter of nations who will be involved. It must be averted by all the means in our power. Apart from the merits of the case it is my especial duty to dissociate myself, and the principles I hold and the trusteeship for the working classes I carry from such a universal crime as the contemplated war will be. My duty is clear and at all costs will be done."

Kenneth D. Brown has argued: "This was the effective end of Burns's political career although he did not leave the House of Commons until 1918. There was no obvious political home for him in post-war Britain. He had forfeited the support of the Asquithian Liberals through his anti-war stance and he would not consider supporting Lloyd George, for whom he had a deep antipathy. But neither could Burns, despite a few fanciful entries in his diary, contemplate a return as a Labour candidate, for his stewardship of the Local Government Board, particularly his handling of unemployment and the Poplar poor-law inquiry, had closed that particular door."

In 1919 Andrew Carnegie left Burns an annuity of £1,000. Burns spent the rest of his life on his hobbies: the history of London, book collecting and cricket. He wrote: "Books are a real solace, friendships are good but action is better than all for the moment and for some time great events have been denied me and forward action may not come my way.

John Burns died of heart failure and senile arteriosclerosis at the Bolingbroke Hospital in Wandsworth on 24 January 1943, and was buried in St Mary's Churchyard in Battersea.

Political Consciousness and the American Dream

In a survey carried out in 2008 in the US by Pew Research, 91% of those interviewed claimed they were middle-class. In sociological terms, only 45% of people in the US are members of the middle class with 54% being members of the working-class or under-class. Less than 1% of the US population is considered to be members of the upper-class.

In a study in 2005 only 2% of Americans described themselves as “rich”, 31% thought it very likely or somewhat likely they would “ever be rich”. The latest official statistics show that just 1% of Americans own 42.7% of all financial worth. The next 19% own 50.3%. In other words, the bottom 80% own only 7% of all financial worth.

There appears to be a difference between people’s perceptions of reality and the facts of the situation. It seems that the US population has bought into the myth of the “American Dream”. It shows the power of the mass media to develop a false political consciousness. It also explains why the US electorate votes mainly for two political parties that support the status quo.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Corruption in the Metropolitan Police

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) have insisted on the publication of private meetings between senior police officers and leading figures in Rupert Murdoch's organisation during the phone-hacking investigation.

A month after the arrest of News of the World's Clive Goodman, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Paul Stephenson, had a private dinner with the newspaper's deputy editor Neil Wallis. This took place at the time when Assistant Commissioner, Andy Hayman, the lead investigator in the case, decided not to interview any NoW employee other than Goodman, despite evidence that several journalists at the newspaper were involved in phone-hacking. After he retired, Hayman went onto work for Murdoch.

Since the investigation began Paul Stephenson had a series of dinners with Murdoch's chief executives. These continued after Stephenson was appointed as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

In July 2009, Assistant Commissioner John Yates, was asked to reopen the investigation, following revelations in the Guardian about the case. Later that month Yates and Stephenson had a private dinner with Rebekah Brooks, former editor of the NoW and the Sun and now a senior executive with News Corporation.

In November, 2009, Yates had a private dinner with the NoW's new editor, Colin Myler and the crime editor, Lucy Panton. Soon afterwards, despite several new revelations in various newspapers, including the New York Times, Yayes decided to close the inquiry.

Commissioner Stephenson continued to have regular dinners with senior executives at News Corporation. The last of these took place in June, 2010. Two months later, despite the best efforts of Stephenson and Yates to cover up the story, it was announced that a new investigation into phone hacking was to take place. This time it was to be led by Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick. Because of the court-rulings quoted above, this time I think the investigation will probably lead to further arrests. This should include the arrests of Stephenson, Hayman and Yates for the perversion of justice - but unfortunately, such is the power of Metropolitan Police, this will not happen.

I wonder what would have happened if it was discovered that senior members of the Metropolitan Police were having private dinners with criminals they were investigating? Or maybe they do that as well.

Friday, 18 February 2011

The Death of Edward Brittain

In November 1917 Edward Brittain and the 11th Sherwood Foresters were posted to the Italian Front in the Alps above Vicenza, following the humiliating rout of the Italian Army at Caporetto. On 15th November 1917, he wrote to Vera: "We marched through the city yesterday - it is old, picturesque and rather sleepy with narrow streets and pungent smells; we have been accorded a most hearty reception all the way and have been presented with anything from bottles of so-called phiz, to manifestos issued by mayors of towns; flowers and postcards were the most frequent tributes."

On 15th June, 1918, the Austrian Army launched a surprise attack with a heavy bombardment of the British front-line along the bottom of the San Sisto Ridge. Edward led his men in a counter-offensive and had regained the lost positions, but soon afterwards, he was shot through the head by a sniper and had died instantaneously. He was buried with four other officers in the small cemetery at Granezza.

Alan Bishop, the author of Letters From a Lost Generation (1998), points out that his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hudson, had ordered an investigation into Brittain's homosexuality: "Shortly before the action in which he was killed, Edward had been faced with an enquiry and, in all probability, a court martial when his battalion came out of the line, because of his involvement with men in his company. It remains a possibility that, faced with the disgrace of a court martial, Edward went into battle deliberately seeking to be killed."

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Death of Victor Richardson

Victor Richardson was badly wounded during an attack at Arras on 9th April 1917. It was later reported that he "was leading his platoon was hit in the arm but took his coat off had the wound bandaged and went on; it was at the 2nd German line that he got the bullet through his head and the Colonel himself gave him morphia because he was in pain." His commanding officer wrote to his parents: "You have good reason to be proud of him... he did his best and it was a good best too. I have sent his name in for the Military Cross and I have no doubt that he will get it."

Vera Brittain wrote to her mother, Edith Brittain: "There really does not seem much point in writing anything until I hear further news of Victor, for I cannot think of anything else... I knew he was destined for some great action, even as I knew beforehand about Edward, for only about a week ago I had a most pathetic letter from him - a virtual farewell. It is dreadful to be so far away and all among strangers.... Poor Edward! What a bad time the Three Musketeers have had!"

Richardson was sent back to London where he received specialist treatment at a hospital in Chelsea. His friend, Edward Brittain, visited him in hospital, and then wrote to his sister, Vera, about his condition: "It is not known yet whether Victor will die or not, but his left eye was removed in France and the specialist who saw him thinks it is almost certain that the sight of the right eye has gone too... The bullet - probably from a machine-gun - went in just behind the left eye and went very slightly upwards but not I'm afraid enough to clear the right eye; the bullet is not yet out though very close to the right edge of the temple; it is expected that it will work through of its own accord... We are told that he may remain in his present condition for a week. I don't think he will die suddenly but of course the brain must be injured and it depends upon how bad the injury is. I am inclined to think it would be better that he should die; I would far rather die myself than lose all that we have most dearly loved, but I think we hardly bargained for this. Sight is really a more precious gift than life."

Vera Brittain decided to return home after the death of Geoffrey Thurlow and the serious injuries suffered by Victor. She told her brother: "As soon as the cable came saying that Geoffrey was killed, only a few hours after the one saying that Victor was hopelessly blind, I knew I must come home. It will be easier to explain when I see you, also - perhaps - to consult you about something I can't possibly discuss in a letter. Anyone could take my place here, but I know that nobody else could take the place that I could fill just now at home."

Edward Brittain went to visit Victor and on 7th May he told his sister: "He was told last Wednesday that he will probably never see again, but he is marvellously cheerful.... He is perfectly sensible in every way and I don't think there is the very least doubt that he will live. He said that the last few days had been rather bitter. He hasn't given up hope himself about his sight."

Vera arrived in London on 28th May 1917. The next ten days she spent at Victor's bedside. As Alan Bishop points out: "His mental faculties appeared to be in no way impaired. On 8 June, however, there was a sudden change in his condition. In the middle of the night he experienced a miniature explosion in the head, and subsequently became very distressed and disoriented. By the time his family reached the hospital Victor had become delirious."

Victor Richardson died of a cerebral abscess on 9th June, 1917 and is buried in Hove. He was awarded the Military Cross posthumously.

The Death of Geoffrey Thurlow

Geoffrey Thurlow was killed in action at Monchy-le-Preux on 23rd April 1917. Three days later, Captain J. W. Daniel, wrote to Edward Brittain, about Thurlow's death: "The hun had got us held up and the leading battalions of the Brigade had failed to get their objective. The battalion came up in close support through a very heavy barrage, but managed to get into the trench - of which the Boshe still held a part... I sent a message to Geoffrey to push along the trench and find out if possible what was happening on the right. the trench was in a bad condition and rather congested, so he got out on the top. Unfortunately the Boche snipers were very active and he was soon hit through the lungs. Everything was done to make him as comfortable as possible, but he died lying on a stretcher about fifteen minutes later."

Monday, 7 February 2011

Oswald Rayner

Oswald Rayner studied modern languages at Oriel College (1907-1910) and during this period he met Felix Yusupov who was at University College. According to Richard Cullen "their friendship lasted a lifetime... one is drawn to conclude, given Yusupov's homosexual/bisexual tendencies, that he and Rayner may well have at sometime been sexually involved".

In 1910 Rayner was called to the Bar and became a barrister in the Inner Temple. On 15th December 1915 he was commissioned into the British Army and sent to the British Secret Intelligence Service in Petrograd, where he served under Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Hoare. Other members of the unit included John Scale and Stephen Alley. Hoare became friendly with Vladimir Purishkevich and in November 1916 he was told about the plot to "liquidate" Grigory Rasputin. Hoare later recalled that Purishkevich's tone "was so casual that I thought his words were symptomatic of what everyone was thinking and saying rather than the expression of a definitely thought-out plan."

Grigory Rasputin was assassinated on 29th December, 1916. Soon afterwards Prince Felix Yusupov, Vladimir Purishkevich, the leader of the monarchists in the Duma, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment, confessed to being involved in the killing.
Samuel Hoare reacted angrily when Tsar Nicholas II suggested to the British ambassador, George Buchanan, that Rayner, was involved in the plot to kill Rasputin. Hoare described the story as "incredible to the point of childishness".

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sir Roger Casement

In July 1914 Sir Roger Casement traveled to United States in order to raise support for the IVF. Basil Thomson received information on Casement from Reginald Hall, the director of Naval Intelligence Division of the Royal Navy (NID). Hall was in charge of the code-breaking department Room 40 had discovered the plans hatched in the United States between German diplomats and Irish Republicans.

On the outbreak of the First World War Casement traveled to Berlin. According to the author of Casement: The Flawed Hero (1984): "When the First World War broke out in August he resolved to travel to Germany via Norway in order to urge on the Germans the 'grand idea’ of forming an ‘Irish brigade’ consisting of Irish prisoners of war to fight for Ireland and for Germany". His attempts to persuade Irish prisoners to enlist in his brigade met with a poor response. Private Joseph Mahony, who was in Limburg Prisoner of War Camp, later recalled: "In February 1915 Sir Roger Casement made us a speech asking us to join an Irish Brigade, that this was 'our chance of striking a blow for our country'. He was booed out of the camp... After that further efforts were made to induce us to join by cutting off our rations, the bread ration was cut in half for about two months."

On 4th April 1916, Casement was told that a German submarine would be provided to take him to the west coast of Ireland, where he would rendezvous with a ship carrying arms. The Aud, carrying the weapons, set out from Lübeck on 9th April with instructions to land the arms at Tralee Bay. Unfortunately for Casement, Reginald Hall, the director of Naval Intelligence Division of the Royal Navy (NID), had discovered details of this plan. On 12th April Casement set out in a German U-boat, but because of an error in navigation, Casement failed to arrive at the proposed rendezvous with the ship carrying the weapons. Casement and his two companions, Robert Monteith and David Julian Bailey, embarked in a dinghy and landed on Banna Strand in the small hours of 21st April. Basil Thomson, using information supplied by NID, arranged for the arrest of the three men in Rathoneen.

As Noel Rutherford points out: "Casement's diaries were retrieved from his luggage, and they revealed in graphic detail his secret homosexual life. Thomson had the most incriminating pages photographed and gave them to the American ambassador, who circulated them widely." Later, Victor Grayson claimed that Arthur Maundy Gregory had planting the diaries in Casement's lodgings.

Reginald Hall and Basil Thomson took control of the interrogation of Casement. Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) has argued: "Casement claimed that during the interrogation at Scotland Yard he asked to be allowed to appeal publicly for the Easter Rising in Ireland to be called off in order to 'stop useless bloodshed'. His interrogators refused, possibly in the hope that the Rising would go ahead and force the government to crush what they saw as a German conspiracy with Irish nationalists."

According to Casement, he was told by Hall, "It is better that a cankering sore like this should be cut out.'' This story is supported by Inspector Edward Parker, who was present during the interrogation: "Casement begged to he allowed to communicate with the leaders to try and stop the rising but he was nor allowed. On Easter Sunday at Scotland Yard he implored again to be allowed to communicate or send a message. But they refused, saying, it's a festering sore, it's much better it should come to a head."

The trial of Roger Casement began on 26 June with Frederick Smith leading for the crown. But as David George Boyce points out: "The most controversial aspect of the trial took place outside the courts. Casement's diaries, detailing his homosexual activities, were now in the hands of the British police and intelligence officers shortly after Casement's interrogation at Scotland Yard on 23 April. There are several versions about precisely when and how the diaries were discovered, but they seem to have come to light when Casement's London lodgings were searched following his arrest. By the first weeks of May they were beginning to be used surreptitiously against him. They were shown to British and American press representatives on about 3 May and excerpts were soon widely circulated in London clubs and the House of Commons. This could not have been done without at least an expectation that those higher up would approve, though Smith opposed any use of the diaries to discredit Casement's reputation, as did Sir Edward Grey. The cabinet however made no attempt to stop these activities, the purpose of which was not to ensure that Casement would be hanged - that was inevitable - but that he should be hanged in disgrace, both political and moral."

On 29th June 1916 Casement was found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. On 30th June he was stripped of his knighthood and on 24th July an appeal was rejected. A campaign for a reprieve was supported by leading political and literary figures, including W. B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, John Galsworthy, and Arthur Conan Doyle, but the British public, primarily concerned by the large loss of life on the Western Front, were unmoved by this campaign.
Roger Casement was executed at Pentonville Prison on 3rd August, 1916. John Ellis, his executioner, called him "the bravest man it ever fell to my unhappy lot to execute".

Monday, 10 January 2011

Jessie Stephen and Bermondsey

In 1917 Jessie Stephen became the Independent Labour Party organizer for Bermondsey. She worked very closely with Alfred Salter. The anti-war stance of Salter resulted in a loss of support for this left-wing member of the party. Salter wrote: "For a while it seemed as if the whole fabric of our organisation so laboriously built up in the past years, was doomed to go under."

Jessie had developed a good reputation for effective campaigning and Mary Macarthur recruited her to work for the National Federation of Women Workers. In December 1918 Jessie became secretary of its domestic workers' section. The following year she was appointed vice-chair of the catering trade for the new Ministry of Reconstruction. In 1919 she was elected to Bermondsey Borough Council.

Under the leadership of Ada Salter, London's first woman Mayor. As a socialist she declined to wear Mayoral robes or the chain of office. With a Labour majority on the council, Ada could now push on with her plans to improve the look of Bermondsey. A Borough Gardens Superintendent was employed and ordered to plant elms, populars, planes and acacias in the streets of Bermondsey. Later he added birch, ash, yew and wild cherry.

Jessie Stephen also became involved in the campaign to improve public health in Bermondsey. Special films were prepared and were shown to large crowds in the open air and pamphlets were distributed throughout the borough. A systematic house-to-house inspection was conducted to seek out conditions dangerous to health. Premises where food was sold were constantly examined and samples of foods were taken away for analysis.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Aldous Huxley

Leonard Woolf first met Aldous Huxley at Garsington Manor. He later commented: "The Oxford generations of the nineteen tens and nineteen twenties produced a remarkable constellation of stars of the first magnitude and I much enjoyed seeing them twinkle in the Garsington garden. There for the first time I saw the young Aldous Huxley folding his long, grasshopper legs into a deckchair and listened entranced to a conversation which is unlike that of any other person that I have talked with. I could never grow tired of listening to the curious erudition, intense speculative curiosity, deep intelligence which, directed by a gentle wit and charming character, made conversation an art."

Saturday, 1 January 2011

D. H. Lawrence and Ethel Mannin

There is no doubt that people's opinions change dramatically over time. No more is this true is on the subject of sex. In the first volume of her autobiography, Confessions and Impressions (1930), the 29 year old Ethel Mannin praised D.H. Lawrence banned book, Lady Chatterley's Lover, as "one of the truest and most beautiful and moving books the age has produced, there will be no more taking truth's name in vain, for truth will no longer be regarded as an indecency, and men and women will live and work and love and beget each other in the sun and wind and rain, cleanly and decently and simply as the animals do... who do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, nor make one sick discussing their duty to God, nor are demented with the mania of owning things."

However, in her book, Young in the Twenties, published when she was aged 71, Mannin described Lady Chatterley's Lover as "a very silly book". I first read the book when I was 17. I also felt it was a very silly book. However, knowing what I do now, I think that Mannin was right to praise the book when she was a young woman. In the context of the 1920s, Lawrence's book was indeed a brave attempt to deal with a taboo subject in mainstream literature.