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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Battle of Minden: the Great British Art of Bumbling Through


1759 was the Annus Mirablis ("Miracle Year") of the British Empire, with impressive military victories in all theatres of war—India, North America, Europe, and the open seas—against the power of France. The events of that year decided the course of the Seven Years War, as well as the history of the next 300 years, ensuring that the World would be dominated by Anglophone powers.

On August 1st, one of the key battles of that year took place in Northern Germany. An Anglo-German army (British, Hanoverians, Hessians, and a few Prussians) defeated a Franco-Saxon army, with the key part being played by six British regiments. Because of their remarkable exploits on that day, these regiments (or their successors) are still known as the "The Minden Regiments."

Monday, 31 July 2017

The Top Five Most Memorable Roman Emperors in Film


Sword and sandal epics have long been a staple of the movie business. Rome, with its air of decadence and brutality, is a subject of endless fascination for filmmakers, playing fast and loose with historical truth. Among the most fascinating figures in any Roman epic is the emperor, usually but not always depicted as an incarnation of supreme power and total licence, often with endearing personal quirks. Here is a list of five of the most memorable of the emperors from cinematic history and the actors who portrayed them—in reverse order.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Battle of Hwangsanbeol and the Sacrificial Heroics of Korean Unification


The 7th century was a "foundational" time in the political history of the Korean people. At its start the Korean peninsula was divided into several states, but at its end it was more or less united, certainly more united than it is now.

The key driver of this unification was the rise of the state of Silla and the key event was the Battle of Hwangsanbeol which took place today (July 9th) in 660 AD.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Discovery of Prince Edward Island and the Backwater of Canadian History

"Then 480 years later we plan to legalize weed, gay marriage, and sex with animals..."

The chief characteristic of Canadian history is how underwhelming and indeed twee it is. Although it has its occasional moments, there are few of the Earth-shaking events and titanic figures of the kind that define other countries' histories. This should not be surprising as the country derives its name from a casual Indian word for "village" (kanata) and has chosen to symbolize itself with a flag based on a dead leaf.

Canada is the work of steady, low-profile individuals making calm, rational decisions to exploit hitherto unexploited resources, and keeping conflict to a minimum, not hard to do in a land that is still considered "big and empty." It is a country where the spirit of history has traipsed with light, moccasined feet and gently dipped its paddle, rather than marched with heavy steel-capped boots to the sound of drums.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Indian Mutiny as a Loss and Revival of Imperial Spirit

Miss Wheeler defending herself at the Massacre of Cawnpore.
You can look far and wide for the causes of the Indian Mutiny, which started today in 1857 at the garrison town of Meerut, around 40 miles North East of Delhi.

The most famous cause usually given is the use of pig and cow grease as waterproofing on paper gunpowder cartridges (measured amounts of gunpowder) that the Indian Sepoy troops were then required to open with their teeth, offending their delicate Muslim or Hindu sensibilities. Many other causes are also mentioned, including economic, social, and military ones – such as changes to the terms of military service that required Indian troops to serve overseas. A review of all of these could get quite boring.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Odd Odyssey of the Dead Duce

The trials and tribulations of Mussolini's body


When Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on the 30th of April, the direct cause was the military collapse of Germany and the victory of the Red Army, but the event that emotionally triggered it was the death two days previously of Hitler’s main ally, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Hitler simply did not want to live in a world without Mussolini.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Copenhagen, the Fulcrum of Napoleon's Downfall


216 years ago today (2nd of April), the First Battle of Copenhagen was fought as part of the great struggle against Revolutionary France, a war that filled the period 1792-1815. The follow-up battle was fought six and a half years later. Both battles involved large British forces pitted against Danish defenders on sea and land. The first involved Lord Nelson, the second the future Duke of Wellington. 

The fact that two big battles between the same contestants occurred at the same point within a historically short span of time is not insignificant. It underlines the fact that Copenhagen was of vital importance to Britain's wider strategy.