Month: July 2015

600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt coming soon – 25 October 2015!

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In this year of big British related historic anniversaries (Magna Carta & Battle of Waterloo) we have another one on the horizon! How did an outnumbered army suffering from serious illnesses overwhelm a mighty French army? How important was the longbow and the strategies adopted by Henry V – how important was he as an individual in the fate of the battle?

25th October 2015 – 600th anniversary of Agincourt! As we approach this anniversary, you can read great articles and follow the route which King Henry V of England took during the campaign at http://www.agincourt600.com/

Source: Peter Hoskins – Can we follow Henry’s route today? http://www.agincourt600.com/can-we-follow-henrys-route-today/

arques_la_bataille
By Peter Hoskins

The short answer is yes we can.

We are fortunate that there are many contemporary reports of the campaign. There are some differences between these accounts, but by and large the main axis of advance of Henry’s army from his landing near modern Le Havre through Harfleur, on to the battlefield and then to Calais is well established. Much has, of course, changed over the centuries. Henry landed on the Normandy coast near what is now known as Sainte-Adresse, now part of the agglomeration of Le Havre near the mouth of the Seine. In 1415 Sainte-Adresse was a small village and the main port in the area was Harfleur, about 8km inland on the Seine. Le Havre did not exist and the land between the Sainte-Adresse and Harfleur was open country with a few scattered settlements. Harfleur has long since given way to Le Havre as the main port, and Henry’s route to Harfleur today is through the sprawling modern town. However, the sites of the siege camps used by Henry on Monte Lecomte and the Duke of Clarence on Mont Cabert are on undeveloped land above Harfleur, and the priory of Graville where Henry stayed on his first night ashore can still be seen. Harfleur itself still has much to show of its medieval heritage.Henry27s Itinerary02

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Beyond Harfleur some places on Henry’s itinerary have grown in importance, while others are now little more than names on the map. Nevertheless, much of the countryside remains relatively sparsley populated, and it is easy to visualise the country as it would have been seen by the men in Henry’s army, with villages marked by their churches visible from long distances across the open countryside. Along the route many buildings, including vestiges of town defences, castles and churches survive from the period. An example of a town with substantial elements of surviving town defences is Montivilliers, only 5km north of Harfleur. Perhaps the finest example of surviving military architecture is the magnificent castle of Arques-la-Bataille. Henry drew up his army in view of this castle and the garrison responded by firing guns. However, Henry did not wish to squander resources and time assaulting such fortresses, and Henry negotiated a safe passage and victuals in return for sparing the adjacent town and the surrounding area from burning and looting. A fine example of the rich ecclesiastic heritage along the route is the priory church of Notre-Dame built in 1130 in Airaines, through which Henry passed in his search for a crossing of the Somme.

The route from modern Le Havre to Calais via the battlefield covers a little over 500km, a comfortable tour of a few days by car, a week or so by bike or around four weeks on foot. Of course, there is no need to follow the whole route to gain a flavour of the campaign itinerary. However, retracing even part of the itinerary of Henry’s army, particularly on foot, is a useful aid to understanding the challenges faced by Henry and his commanders in moving a large army, encumbered by wagons and with many men on foot, across northern France on roads of poor quality with the search for food a constant challenge. In particular, the approach on foot from the valley of the Ternoise up onto the higher ground near Maisoncelle and Agincourt as the area of the battlefield comes into view is striking. One can almost feel how many of the men in Henry’s army would have, perhaps for the first time, now been aware of the challenge awaiting them as the larger French army gathered ahead of them, blocking the road to Calais.

Discussion of Henry’s itinerary can be found in Agincourt, a New History, by Anne Curry, (Stroud, 2005), paperback edition 2006. The sources of the itinerary are in The Battle of Agincourt, Sources and Interpretations, Anne Curry, 2nd Edn (Woodbridge, 2009). Detailed information for tourist’s wishing to follow the itinerary of Henry V in 1415 can be found in Agincourt 1415: A Tourist’s Guide to the Campaign (See below).

Peter Hoskins is, with Anne Curry, the author of Agincourt 1415: A Tourist’s Guide to the Campaign (Pen & Sword 2015), http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Agincourt-1415-Paperback/p/7902.

Photographs taken by Peter Hoskins: top image is of the castle at Arques la Bataille, bottom left image is of Graville Priory, bottom right image is of the twelfth century Church of Notre-Dame in Airaines

The map was drawn by Scott Hall, ©Peter Hoskins. Photographs ©Peter Hoskins.

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‘Big Brother is watching you’ – East German life under Stasi surveillance in the GDR

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Watch this excellent TED talk on living under arguably the most effective surveillance orientated secret police in the Eastern bloc. Did you know that 20% of all East Germans were informers in the Cold War period?

USA 1917-29 Revision: Race relations in USA before WW2

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The status of black Americans (BBC ‘Bitesize’ History)

After the end of the American Civil War in 1865, legislation was passed to end slavery. For the first time since their transportation to the nation, black Americans were legally free. Further legislation followed soon after to make it illegal for people to be denied the vote or discriminated against because of the colour of their skin.

Despite these good intentions, black Americans still faced hostility, bigotry and persecution.

Most whites believed that blacks were inferior in every way. Politically, socially, and economically, black Americans were second-class citizens. They had to be kept in their place. For most white Americans, the question of equal rights for black Americans simply did not arise. The ‘negro’ was inferior – that was just the way things were.

Segregation in the South

Although migration to the North and the West began soon after the Civil War ended, the great majority of black Americans still lived in the Southern states where white superiority was enforced and where the slavery culture was still warmly remembered and embraced.

In many of these states discrimination was not just commonplace – it was legal. States such as Alabama introduced a series of laws to keep the races separated and the black population under control. These measures were nicknamed the ‘Jim Crow’ laws, after a fictional character in the popular minstrel shows that made fun of black people. These laws enforced the strict segregation of the races and rigidly maintained the inferior status of black citizens. Typical laws included:

  • Public transport waiting rooms were strictly segregated.
  • Places open to the public such as shops, hotels, cinemas, theatres and libraries had to provide separate rooms and facilities for the different races.
  • Education. Legally, black children could be educated in separate schools, so long as the schooling was of an equal educational standard. In reality, schools for black Americans were far from equal, and the quality of education provided was inferior. In 1896, the Supreme Court upheld that this policy was legal and fair.
  • In most of the Southern states, inter-marriage between blacks and whites was illegal.
  • In employment, blacks received lower pay than whites and they were restricted to work of lower status, such as janitors, cleaners, and porters.
  • Southern towns were strictly segregated into black and white residential areas.

Violence and intimidation

It was virtually impossible for black Americans to challenge segregation in the South. To do so ran the risk of serious violence at the hands of white racists, particularly the Ku Klux Klan.

To unite native-born white Americans in the preservation of American institutions, and the supremacy of white race.

From a KKK newsletter

In the years after World War I, there had been a major revival in the strength of the Ku Klux Klan, the most well known of the racist organisations. By the mid-1920s, the Klan had over 100,000 members across the South and had begun to extend its influence into Northern and Western states. Its campaigns of hate and violence intensified and Klan violence, beatings, burnings, brandings, attacks with acid and lynching increased rapidly.

  • In 1919, 70 black Americans were lynched, 10 of them former soldiers.
  • A major race riot was sparked in Chicago, when a black youth accidentally entered a ‘whites only’ beach. Race hatred was not simply confined to the South.
  • In 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a serious race riot took place and 25 blacks and 9 whites were killed.

The result of this was inevitable. Blacks were intimidated and terrified by these frightening levels of violence, and were afraid to challenge white racism.

As the political power of the Klan grew, Southern politicians often depended on its support, and were reluctant to challenge its power. The Klan even held a huge demonstration in the centre of Washington – the seat of American Government.

Why didn’t the Government do something?

Throughout the nation and especially in the Southern states there were millions of black Americans. The USA was a democracy. So why didn’t black citizens vote for change or petition the Government to intervene and defend them? Why didn’t the Government step in regardless?

The Southern states were very effective at limiting the political power of the black populations in their boundaries by making it difficult for them to register as voters. Quite often they demanded residential or educational qualifications that had to be met before black people were eligible to vote.

In addition, the Klan would intimidate blacks attempting to register as voters. Even though they formed the majority of the population in the states of Mississippi and Louisiana, they were not able to develop any effective political power of their own.

Also, in the 1920s the federal government was not particularly powerful or active. The general policy during the 1920s was to intervene as little as possible in the affairs of the individual states, which were largely left to get on with running things in their own way. The Republican administrations of the 1920s turned a blind eye towards racism and segregation in the South.

In the 1930s there was a major change in policy with the Roosevelt administrations. Under President Roosevelt the federal government intervened very actively indeed to attempt to deal with the social and economic problems of the Depression.

However, Roosevelt was a Democrat and so were most of the political leaders of the South. Roosevelt needed their support at elections so, although he was sympathetic to the problems facing black Americans, Roosevelt did not attempt to challenge segregation.

Political movements for black Americans

At this time there were some attempts by black Americans to work to try to improve their status in American society. However, there was no single, united movement or leader. Black political movements remained relatively weak and divided and were incapable of mounting an effective challenge to racism and segregation.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

The first leader of the NAACP was W.E.B. Du Bois, who campaigned actively to improve the conditions of black Americans. Working strictly within the law, Du Bois and the NAACP drew attention to the difficulties facing black Americans in many areas, such as housing, education, jobs and voting rights. However, the NAACP’s campaigns had little success in bringing about real change.

Universal Negro Improvement Association

The UNIA was led by Marcus Garvey who delivered scathing criticisms of white racism and urged black Americans to assert themselves and their own identity. At one point Garvey urged black Americans to return to Africa. Garvey was convicted of fraud and deported from the USA in 1925.

Results

Recognition of the injustices faced by black Americans during this period was almost as hard to come by as changes to the legislation.

The first significant laws to be passed to try and address the inequality of black Americans came in 1941 – some 76 years after slavery had been abolished. President Roosevelt established the Fair employment Practises Committee (F.E.P.C.)

American involvement in World War II from 1942 until 1945 focused attention away from the plight of the black population as Americans, both black and white, became involved in the war effort.

The fight for equality and an end to discrimination would continue afresh after the war ended.

Film: ‘The birth of a nation’ (DW Griffiths 1915)

Documentary on USA & Birth of a Nation

Lynching in USA

Mitsubishi apologises for using American POWS during WW2

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http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/mitsubishi-apologises-for-using-us-prisoners-of-war-in-japanese-mines-10400925.html

Better late than never! You would be stunned at the names of successful global corporations who used Nazi-Axis pows and other prisoners to work like ‘slaves’ during WW2? These businesses were treated very lightly by the victorious allies at the end of the war. Did you know that it was the British military who restored and got the VW complex in Wolfsberg working again at the end of the war!

Queen & Nazi salute

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Should the Royal Family restrospectively apologise for Nazi salutes?

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/18/queen-nazi-salute-video-royal-home-movie-

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Take a look at @GroupNHMG’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/GroupNHMG/status/620580109465071616?s=09

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Take a look at @NarrativeEye’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/NarrativeEye/status/620517902245076992?s=09