Archive for the 'Europe' Category

Singing Sephardim

June 28 2015

[Sephardic Jews] developed under the Ottoman régime a quite different êthos from the Jewish êthos as we know it in the West, because the treatment which they received at the ʿOsmanlis’ hands was quite different from the treatment which Jews have customarily received at the hands of Westerners.

The psychological effect of four centuries of the [comparatively benign] Ottoman régime upon the descendants in the Near East of these Sephardi refugees from Castile was once brought home to the writer of this Study by an incident which came under his personal observation.

One day in August 1921, some eight years and more after Salonica, with its Sephardi population of eighty thousand souls, had passed by conquest out of Ottoman jurisdiction into Greek, I found myself travelling by train from Salonica to Vodena in the same carriage with three Sephardi school-teachers going on a holiday and one Greek officer going to rejoin his regiment. The holiday-makers – two girls and a man – were in high spirits, and they gave vent to their mood by breaking into song. They sang in French: the “culture language” in which the modern Near Eastern Jew has found the necessary supplement to his hereditary Castilian vernacular. After they had been singing for some time, the Greek lieutenant broke his own silence. “Won’t you sing in Greek for a change?” he said. “This country is part of Greece now, and you are Greek citizens.” But his intervention had no effect. “We prefer French” the Jews answered, politely but firmly, and fell to singing lustily in French again, while the Greek lieutenant subsided. There was one person in the carriage, however, who was even more surprised at the Jewish teachers’ reply to the Greek officer than the Greek himself, and that was the Frankish spectator. Seldom, he reflected, would a Jew have shown such spirit in such circumstances in France or England or America. The incident bore witness to the relative humanity with which the Jews in the Ottoman Empire had been treated by the ʿOsmanlis; and it also had a wider and more interesting significance. It was evidence that the Jewish êthos was not something ineradicably implanted by Race or something indelibly ingrained by Religion but was a psychic variable which was apt to vary in response to variations in Gentile behaviour in different times and places.

The Jews were singing in a lingua franca, French, not in a ghetto language, and they were not showing a ghetto mentality. Such cheerful defiance in the presence of a member of the dominant culture, and a soldier, would not have been thus demonstrated in Russia or Austria – but really not in France, England or America?

Would the point have been made even more strongly if they had been singing in Turkish or Greek or would that have come from mere cultural dilution? Would they have shown even more confidence if they had been singing in the “hereditary Castilian vernacular”, ie Judaeo-Spanish, ie Ladino? Ladino was spoken by Sephardic minorities in the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. Most speakers are now in Israel.

It is not to be confused with another Romance language, Ladin, which is spoken in parts of northern Italy and is related to Friulian and the Swiss Romansh.

The Jews of Salonika were happier in the multi-ethnic Turkish Empire (before the arrival of the Young Turks) than under the Greeks (1912-41). 98% of them died in the Holocaust. Much of the Jewish Quarter had been destroyed in the fire (probably accidental) of 1917.

See Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950, Harper Collins, 2004.

Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki.

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934

The Turkish spy

June 24 2015

Twice on [his] antiquarian tour [of Italy and Greece in 1911-12], the Oxford don-elect was arrested as a Turkish spy, first on the evening of the 16th November, 1911 on the last lap of a day’s march from Terracina to Formia, by an Italian carabiniere [Footnote: On this occasion, the suspect was able to clear himself by showing a card with “Balliol College, Oxford” engraved on it. “Ah! Collegio! Dunque non siete Turco”, reasoned the intelligent Italian security officer, and straightway left the left the suspicious-looking traveller in peace. Forty years later, in A.D. 1952, the carabiniere would, of course, no longer have been justified in acting on an a priori assumption that “Turk” and “college” were incompatible ideas.]

The Italians had every reason to be spy-conscious: their war with the Ottoman Empire, which gave them Libya and the Dodecanese (Rhodes), had begun at almost the exact moment Toynbee arrived in Italy. It ended soon after his return from Greece. (They held both colonies until the Second World War. The Dodecanese were returned not to Turkey but to Greece.)

and then again, on the 21st July, 1912, by a Greek military patrol. [Footnote: On this second occasion, he was arrested on the reasonable charge that he had walked across the perilously vulnerable railway viaduct over the gorge of the River Asopus at Elefterokhóri, where the sole railway running from Athens to the Graeco-Turkish frontier leaped across a chasm to come to earth again along the eastern flank of the citadel of Trachis. This charge was supported by the less convincing argument that the trespasser must be a foreign military spy because he was wearing insignia in the shape of a military water-bottle that was not of the pattern affected by the Greek Army.]

The Balkan Wars began a few weeks after his return to England.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

From the latifundia to Eni

June 23 2015

Apropos Byron’s Childe Harold (last post), I asked my friend Giovanni Caselli whether the Romans would have recognised the Italian landscapes of 1818. He generously replied with this broad-brush agrarian history of Tuscany, Umbria and the Marches and has allowed me to quote him. The same patterns are not necessarily found in northern Italy, Latium or the south. 1818 was a good time.

“The latifundia of Roman times collapsed during the war between the Goths and Byzantines. The large estates of the Late Empire, with great fields of wheat, vineyards, and olive groves with flocks grazing under the trees became a wilderness (5th-6th centuries CE).

“During the Longobard and Frankish period this wilderness was reclaimed with the [primitive feudal] courts system (7th-9th centuries). Patches of cultivated land appeared in clearings of the Mediterranean bush and oak wood forests.

“These cultivated clearings expanded during the castles period (10th-12th centuries), interspaced by larger clearings used for grazing.

“In the 12th-14th centuries the city bourgeoisie destroyed the power of the earls, who had demanded tolls for the transit of goods, and took over the production of wine, wheat and olive oil, with a crop-sharing system [payment of a share of the crop as rent]. Central Italy became dotted with hill-towns and scattered houses with mixed agriculture, and the mountains, largely deforested by charcoal burning, were used for grazing. The bourgeoisie employed the former slaves of the earls as farmers, giving them a better deal with contracts, enough land, and autonomy. They also bought slaves from the Crimea and the khanates of the Tartars. These introduced tools and implements of their own and also an ‘oriental’ method of growing vines. Women slaves introduced the use of pasta in Italy, being house servants and concubines. Each vine grew supported by the branches of a maple, shaped as a chandelier, each at a distance of eight to ten yards one from another.

“The Black Death caused a collapse of the countryside. By the start of the 15th century the towns and scattered farmhouses were gradually restored and reoccupied. Again the landscape was planted with mixed crops and trees. Sheep rearing was enormously increased with laws and regulations for summer and winter pastures and droves connecting them. Siena grew wealthy with this transit of sheep and by renting grazing areas to flocks along the Tuscan coast. The wool trade made cities like Florence rich.

“This mixed agricultural landscape collapsed again in the course of the 17th century, with another great plague, and this lasted till the shabby landscape that was seen by Tobias Smollett in 1766.

“Then, province by province, the country was restored to its ancient orderly farming system by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, especially Peter Leopold of Augsburg [who became the Emperor Leopold II], a genius neglected by biographers. Tuscan farmhouses were specially designed by an appointed architect, new ways of farming and drainage of the country were perfected, and the Grand Tour travellers saw this Tuscany. Napoleon said, upon conquering Tuscany, that it was vastly more civilised than any French Department. No hovels, but great houses and competent healthy, proud farmers were seen working with their great white cows in the fields of North-Central Italy. Cities grew wealthy with a farming economy. Tuscany abolished the death penalty in the 1830s and many taxes. It drastically curbed the power of the church to the minimum for survival. Tuscany had Protestant leanings.

“With the unification of Italy, Tuscany became a Mediterranean country and ceased to be progressive and functional. In 1982 a law made the crop sharing system illegal. Farming collapsed for this reason, founded on political ideology, and climate change made matters worse. Marx had called the peasants conservative and obtuse. There were songs proclaiming ‘I won’t marry a peasant, I want a factory labourer and to have a good life’. Farmers could no longer find a wife. They all wanted to be employed by FIAT. If not by FIAT, they would prefer to become road sweepers rather than remain on the land. They lost both culture and wisdom, becoming indiscriminate consumers and never created a workers’ ‘culture’, like for example in England or in other European countries. The workers never wanted a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ either, contrary to what the ‘intellectuals’ proposed to them. They wanted to cease to be a proletariat and become petty bourgeois, imitating the life-style of their factory masters. Instead of a big villa, they would seek a small one. Rather than a big car, they would be happy with a 500. Instead of skiing in Cortina they would go skiing in the Apennines. And so forth. Plainly, Thorstein Veblen was right and Marx wrong in the interpretation of what the masses wanted.

“Now the landscape is reverting to the state it was in in the Baroque period, with sections of entire regions devoted to intensive agriculture and intensive industry, the rest an abandoned wilderness. Where the Italians speak about ‘National Parks’, these are mere wastelands. The people live in a bubble, they have no idea of what is done in other countries. Like the savage, they think in terms of themselves being the right people and the rest ‘barbarians’. Italy lives in this illusion, and the Mafia and corruption have a really good time. Should anyone object to this description, I shall take him by the neck and drag him to see reality. Organic agriculture is practiced only by a small number of heroes, fighting against ENI, the firm that produces masses of weed killers, fertilisers and other poisons that have killed every insect species, including bees, and made farming products inedible by people gifted with a sense of taste, smell and eyesight, who can see the disaster around them.”

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Giovanni Caselli is an Italian historian, archaeologist, illustrator and expert on pilgrim ways. Emilio Sereni’s History of the Italian Agricultural Landscape is too theoretical for his taste: like Toynbee, he prefers to understand a landscape by walking in it.

I have already posted a piece by him about the Appian way between Rome and the Alban Hills and one about the impoverishment, or rather creation, of the Italian language since unification.

Botros, Tuscany in the fall

Fall in Tuscany, copyright, used with kind permission of F Botros at fbotros.com

Salonika 1912

June 12 2015

The writer of this Study vividly remembers how the continental character of Macedonia impressed itself upon him at the first view. He first visited Macedonia in the summer of 1912, at the end of a visit to the Kingdom of Greece within the frontiers as they then stood. Since the standard-gauge railway which now links Athens with Salonica had not been completed at that date, he travelled from the Peiraeus to Salonica by sea. He had been looking forward with interest to observing the political aspect of the passage from territory under Greek to territory under Turkish rule; but, as the steamer entered Salonica harbour, his eye was caught, not by the Turkish flag flying above the custom house, but by Austrian and German railway-wagons standing along the quay, on rails which ran without a break from Salonica to Vienna and from Vienna to Berlin. He then realized in a flash that this economic solidarity with Central Europe was the distinctive and fundamental characteristic of Macedonia, and that the political connexion with Turkey-in-Asia, though picturesque, was accidental and superficial.

These were the last days of the Ottoman suzerainty in Salonika which had begun in 1430. The First Balkan War broke out on October 8. On November 8, the feast day of Salonika’s patron saint, Demetrius, the Greek army accepted the surrender of the Ottoman garrison.

The Bulgarian army arrived a day later. Tahsin Pasha, the governor, said to them: “I have only one Salonika, which I have surrendered”.

The rail connection to central Europe had been built some years before the connection to Constantinople.

The Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, at the end of the Balkan Wars, divided Macedonia between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, with Greece getting the lion’s share; a small section went to Albania. The Serbian part ended (from 1946) as a separate constituent republic of Yugoslavia and is now an independent country.

Toynbee also visited the Athos Peninsula in 1912. On his way home to England in August, he either visited Durrës (Durazzo) or saw the Turkish flag over it from his ship. After a short period of occupation by Serbia it would become part of Albania in 1913.

The Great Fire of Thessaloniki of 1917, unlike the Great Fire of Smyrna of 1922, seems to have been accidental.

Summary of the Balkan Wars (old post).

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

Mystery in Siam, and other unlucky kings

June 5 2015

Peter, Ananda and Faisal.

Yugoslavia: Ex-King Peter, 1945

Mystery in Siam, 1946

The exonym Siam became official under King Mongkut (reigned 1851-68). On June 23 1939 it was changed to Thailand. From 1945 to May 11 1949 it was Siam again. Then it reverted to Thailand.

Iraq Bombshell, 1958

Dogs, Hoops and Running Boys

May 31 2015

… gave life to the foreground in engravings from, say, 1750 to 1830 – and suggest a title for a book of light social history. They come into nursery rhyme illustrations as well.

The Foundling Hospital, Bloomsbury in a print published in January 1753 or earlier:

Foundling Hospital, 1753

St James’s Square, 1752 (Chatham House, Duke of York Street and St James’s, Piccadilly in background; boy and hoop centre foreground; possibly clearer colour version here):

St James's Square, 1752

A painting of the 1825 Decembrist revolt in the Senate Square, St Petersburg by Vasily Timm has the running boy, but in these circumstances no dogs or hoops (he is similar to a running figure on a print of Bow Church and Cheapside in 1750, Getty images):

Timm, Decembist Revolt, 1825

This of the Tower of London, c 1810, has a hoop and ambling boy, but no dog.

One of the new lodges, Hyde Park, 1828, with hoop and dogs; dandies lounge at the rails:

New lodge, Hyde Park, 1828

St Giles-in-the-Fields, c 1820 (the figure may not be a boy, but we have seen him in the Foundling Hospital, Bow Church and Russian images):

St Giles-in-the-Fields, c 1820

There are several Thomas Bewick wood engravings of boys with hoops, and an oil painting by John Opie.

It seems that boys did no more than roll the hoop.

Mozart’s emperor

May 29 2015

In 1780 Maria Theresa was succeeded by her son Joseph II.

She was the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Francis died in 1765. Maria Theresa went into perpetual mourning.

Joseph succeeded Francis as Emperor and lived until 1790. His successor was Leopold II.

His mother continued to rule the Hapsburg lands of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia jointly with her son, as, after the War of the Austrian Succession, she had done with her husband. (Another of her children, Marie Antoinette, married Louis XVI.) Joseph’s war against feudal privileges began at her death.

Joseph was a devoted disciple of the French philosophers, and he attempted to carry out uncompromisingly in backward Austria that transformation of society which was accomplished a few years later in such partial measure in progressive France. The actual achievements of the French Revolution were none the less stupendous, however short they fell of their aim, and they were only made possible by the spiritual response of the Nation to the philosophers’ gospel. Joseph undertook the mission of the “philosopher-king,” and attempted by means of “Strong Government” to wrench unenlightened populations out of their cherished traditions and convert them forcibly by the accomplished fact. Neglecting all local differences of language, religion, and custom, he proceeded to refashion his dominions on a pedantically uniform plan.

Joseph’s crusade was a disastrous failure. Reform was checkmated by revolt, and he was killed by ten years of unrelieved disappointments. Yet his short reign has determined the course of the Monarchy’s internal history ever since.

He contrived to range Nationality and Enlightenment in opposite camps. His dogmatic disregard for national feeling awakened it into frantic life, and it arrayed itself for the battle not in the “Rights of Man” (of which it had never heard), but in the familiar harness of mediæval vested interests. The centres of nationalistic resistance were the provincial “estates,” bodies representative not of peoples but of castes. They were dominated by the nobility and the Church, so that nationalism in the Hapsburg Empire started with a strong feudal and clerical bias, which has left permanent effects. The movement has remained legalistic instead of becoming philosophic. It looks to the past rather than to the future, and has fallen a willing victim to the malady of “historical sentiment.”

Joseph’s death in 1790 concluded the first bout in the contest between enlightened despotism and nationalistic reaction, but the factors of success and failure were too evenly divided between the two forces to allow a speedy decision. The struggle continued intermittently till the revolutionary year of 1848 brought it to a head.

Maron, Joseph II

Anton von Maron, Joseph II (1741-90), Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Bohemia, in the uniform of a field marshal of Austria, wearing the Order of the Golden Fleece, the Military Order of Maria-Theresa and a plaque of the Order of St Stephen of Hungary, Château de Versailles

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

Reverberations from the Morea

May 17 2015

Metternich had taken alarm at the outbreak of the Greek insurrection against Ottoman rule in 1821. Clear-sighted as he was according to his own lights, he had divined at once that this repudiation of the Ottoman Pādishāh’s authority by a handful of his Orthodox Christian subjects in the remote Morea was a menace to the authority of the Austrian Kaiser because the Greeks were claiming Western sympathy and assistance for their cause in the name of the Western principle of Nationality. Metternich represented to the Holy Alliance [whose other members were Russia and Prussia] insistently, though without success, that if their own principle of Legitimacy was to be maintained intact, the Greek insurgents must be boycotted as outlaws and Sultan Mahmūd be supported, in maintaining his dynastic rights, as one of the Lord’s Anointed. From the Legitimist standpoint, Metternich’s attitude on this occasion was entirely justified by the event. For the triumphant success of the Greek insurgents – a success which they owed to the friendly intervention of France, Great Britain, and Russia as much as to their own exertions – was an event of far more than local importance. The erection of a sovereign independent national Greek State in 1829-31 made it inevitable that every people in South-Eastern Europe should insist upon attaining its own national independence and national unity sooner or later; and thus the Greek insurrection of 1821 incidentally preordained the erection of Jugoslavia and Greater Rumania in 1918-20 [greater at the expense of Hungary]. Truly, Metternich’s senses had not deceived him when he heard the death-knell of the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy in those reverberations from the clash of arms in the Morea which fell upon his ears in Vienna.

A hundred years of imperial dissolution: 1821-1920.

Metternich, the last survivor of 1815, died a month to the day before the armistice in the Italian War of 1859.

It is difficult to imagine Beethoven and Metternich living in the same city. They never met, though a film even worse than Amadeus suggests that they did.

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934

Fear the wolves

May 16 2015

Petits moutons, gagnez la plaine
Fuyez les bois, crainte les loups;
Je n’ai pu me garder moi-même,
Comment vous garderai-je tous?

Chanson Bocagère

On title page of the Survey of International Affairs for the year of the reoccupation of the Rhineland, the annexation of Abyssinia (the event which showed the impotence of the League of Nations), and the start of the Spanish Civil War. Did Toynbee (or his researchers) find this “woodland song” in the memoir Le petit-maître philosophe: ou voyages et avantures de Genu Soalhat, chevalier de Mainvilliers, dans les principales cours de l’Europe (1750)? It appears thus there. The English translation of Mainvilliers uses a different rhyming scheme:

“Gain, ye Lambs, the flow’ry Plain
Fly the Woods, or you’ll be slain,
Fear the Wolves, who long for Food
And pant to revel in your Blood;
I myself can hardly keep,
How should I then save my Sheep?”

Survey of International Affairs, 1936, OUP, Under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1937

VE Day

May 9 2015

London and Paris. YouTube credits:

Courtesy Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 18SFP9490, 9491

Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 18 SFP 9261

Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 18 SFP 9155.

Beethoven added by whomever.

Churchill, Unconditional Surrender speech, May 8 1945 (in full here):

Gargano and Compostela

April 29 2015

… and the heart of Robert the Bruce

In taking up arms under the impulse of this homesickness for their pristine holy land, the Crusaders not only made for Christendom’s oldest and most sacred pilgrimage-resort as their ultimate objective; they also set themselves intermediate goals to draw their flagging feet forward along the intervening stages of their long war-path by throwing out, en route, new pilgrimage-resorts in advanced posts just beyond an expanding Western Christendom’s previous borders. Norman pilgrimages to the shrine of Saint Michael the Archangel on Monte Gargano, in the Apulian dominions of the East Roman Empire, were reconnaissances that became preludes to a Norman conquest of the bridgeheads of Orthodox Christendom and Dār-al-Islām in Southern Italy and Sicily, and French pilgrimages to the shrine of Saint James the Apostle at Compostela, in a Galician no-man’s-land between a Western Christian fastness in Asturia and the former domain of a dissolving Andalusian Umayyad Caliphate, provided successive new drafts of military manpower for the progressive conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by the joint efforts of Cispyrenean and Transpyrenean Frankish aggressors.

The perilous exposure of the shrine at Compostela on the fringe of a Medieval Western Christendom’s dār-al-harb [he uses a different style from the other Dār] had the same effect in spurring the Crusaders into making superhuman exertions as the desperate deed of a Scottish knight who, on an Andalusian battlefield where he had broken his pilgrimage in order to fight under a Castilian banner, turned the fortunes of a day which had been going against the Franks by flinging into the midst of the all-but-victorious Muslims a silver casket containing Robert the Bruce’s heart, and rushing forward after it to conquer or die for the sake of rescuing a treasure, entrusted to his safekeeping, which he had thus deliberately thrown into jeopardy as a last resort for calling out his own supreme reserves of vigour and valour. [Footnote: The tale is told by the writer’s mother, Edith Toynbee, in True Stories from Scottish History (London 1896, Griffith Farran Browne), pp. 90-91.] This incident was an omen; for the mission which the Bruce on his death-bed had charged his companion in arms, James Douglas, to fulfil had been to carry his heart to Jerusalem in order to bury it there in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; the attainment of this Palestinian objective was sacrificed for the sake of a Frankish victory on Andalusian ground which was won by Douglas at the cost of the martial pilgrim’s own life; and this personal story repeated itself on an oecumenical scale. While the last of the Crusaders’ bridgeheads on the coast of Syria was lost within less than two hundred years of the Frankish invaders’ first descent upon Palestine [Jerusalem 1099 to Acre 1291], their conquests in the Iberian Peninsula, Southern Italy, and Sicily under the auspices of the far-flung shrines at Compostela and Gargano were the two abiding gains of territory that were made by Western Christendom in the Crusades at Dār-al-Islām’s and Orthodox Christendom’s expense.

Douglas died at the siege of Teba. His body and the casket containing the embalmed heart were found on the field. They were both conveyed back to Scotland by Sir William Keith of Galston. Bruce had been buried in Dunfermline Abbey. Douglas’s remains were interred at St Bride’s church in Douglas, Lanarkshire; Bruce’s heart in Melrose Abbey.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 19.32.15

Sir James Douglas Taking Bruce’s Heart to the Holy Land Is Diverted to Fight the Moors near Granada, what Victorian source?

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

Christopher Bayly

April 26 2015

Highly original – so he appears: I have only read part of Forgotten Wars – historian of India, and then of the world, from about 1770 into the twentieth century. He seems to have been as revered in India as Raymond Carr was in Spain.

Telegraph

Guardian.

Books:

The Local Roots of Indian Politics: Allahabad, 1880-1920 (1975)

Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770-1870 (1983)

Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World 1780-1830 (1989)

An Indian trilogy:

Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870 (1996)

Origins of Nationality in South Asia: Patriotism and Ethical Government in the Making of Modern India (1998)

Recovering Liberties: Indian Thought in the Age of Liberalism and Empire (2011)

The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (2004)

Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945 (2005)

Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia (2007), the last two with Timothy Harper

Cover below shows a portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (male), with a bust of Guillaume Thomas François Raynal in the background.

Note the suggestion of the tapering penis favoured by many classical and classically-influenced artists, which is at the same time, here, I suppose, a piece of racial stereotyping. Girodet was a pupil of David.

Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World

Bayly, Forgotten Wars

Interview by Alan Macfarlane, July 24 2014:

Gallipoli

April 25 2015

The first victory of the Ottoman Empire was a defeat of the Byzantine army near Nicomedia, at Bapheus, in 1302. The defeat of British imperial and French forces on the Gallipoli peninsula, April 25 1915 to January 9 1916, was almost the last.

Gallipoli was also a landmark in the career of a Turkish general, Kustafa Kemal Atatürk. It was a dress rehearsal for the struggle to come.

It disgraced Churchill, who had ordered the naval attack.

During the Irish War of Independence balladeers sang “Twas better to die ’neath an Irish sky than in Suvla or Sedd el Bahr”.

Gallipoli helped to forge national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand, both newly independent and fighting their first war. Today is Anzac Day and the centenary of the start of the campaign.

The first Jewish fighting force – with a Jewish emblem and flag – since the defeat of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in AD 136 fought in Gallipoli. So, in a small way, this was a dress rehearsal for the wars of Zion.

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The peninsula forms the northern or western bank of the Dardanelles, the strait that provided a sea route to the Russian Empire. Russia’s allies Britain and France launched a naval attack followed by a landing, intending to secure it and then capture Constantinople. The naval attack was repelled and after eight months’ fighting the land campaign was abandoned and the invasion force withdrawn to Egypt.

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was formed in Egypt in 1915 and commanded by General William Birdwood. It was disbanded in 1916. Later formations.

What has been happening in Palestine during the War? Dr. Trietsch informs us that the Ottoman Government has been proceeding with the “naturalisation” of the Palestinian Jews, and that the “local execution of this measure has not been effected without disturbances […].” [My bracket, not AJT’s.] One significant consequence was the appearance in Egypt of Palestinian refugees, who raised a Zion mule corps there and fought through the Gallipoli campaign.

The Zion Mule Corps was formed in March 1915. It was the precursor of the Jewish Legion (1917-21), the unofficial name for the 38th to 42nd Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, which fought against the Ottoman Empire. Jacob Epstein served in the 38th.

Casualties at Gallipoli:

Ottoman Empire (Turks, Arabs, others): 109,042 wounded and missing, 57,084 killed

Britain: 52,230 wounded, 21,255 killed

Australia: 19,441 wounded, 8,709 killed

France: 17,000 wounded, 10,000 killed (estimates), including an unknown number of Senegalese

New Zealand: 4,752 wounded, 2,721 killed

India: 3,421 wounded, 1,358 killed

Newfoundland: 93 wounded, 49 killed

Germans: a few fought with the Turks

The numbers vary greatly from one source to another. Allied numbers here are via airminded.org, which gives its source as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australia. It doesn’t say whether wounded includes missing. Ottoman numbers via greatwar.nl. Most sources give only the Allies. Have the Ottoman totals ever been broken down?

Anzac parade, London, date not shown:

Turkey, A Past and a Future, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917

Berlin ’45

April 24 2015

German ack-ack (anti-aircraft fire) audible during a performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto: Walter Gieseking, Grosses Berliner Rundfunk Orchester, Artur Rother. Saal No 1, Haus des Rundfunks (Reichsender Berlin), Berlin, January 23 1945.

This was the very day on which Russian troops crossed the Oder, and the day of the execution of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke.

You hear it at around 13:30 and 16:50 in the first movement and perhaps earlier. I am not sure that there is anything in the later movements. Can you also hear bombs? More below.

The date is given here and here. I believe it is correct. Other sources, including this, and the YouTube poster, give it as September or October 1944.

The performance was, we are told, a rehearsal and never broadcast. It is said to be the only complete wartime recording of any classical work in stereo.

Who was doing the bombing? Both dates were after the main raids of 1943-44. The USAAF had often bombed by day, the RAF by night. Was that the case here and do we know the time of day of the recording?

Is there a chance that this was directed at the Red Air Force as the Russians approached?

Related post: Bernstein, Barenboim, Ceauşescu.

“El Carr”

April 23 2015

Raymond Carr obituaries:

Guardian

Telegraph.

“Just as ‘le Cobb’ (Professor Richard) and ‘il Mack Smith’ (Mr Denis) enjoyed an extraordinary fame in the countries (France and Italy respectively) which they made their subjects, so ‘el Carr’ became little short of a national hero in Spain.” (Telegraph, my links)

Carr, Spain

The leper’s squint

April 20 2015

In 1920 the work of Peter the Great and his successors was almost undone. Reval [Tallinn] and Riga had ceased to be Russian ports, and the Russian coastline on the Baltic was as narrow as it had been in 1703, when the Russian apostle of Westernization had founded St. Petersburg. Through such a “leper’s squint” a great society could hardly communicate with its peers, and in 1920 Russia had abandoned the endeavour. Her Marxist Government had evacuated the depopulated capital of the Westernized Czardom and had retreated to the Kremlin of Byzantine Moscow.

The World after the Peace Conference, Being an Epilogue to the “History of the Peace Conference of Paris” and a Prologue to the “Survey of International Affairs, 1920-1923”, OUP, Issued under the auspices of the British Institute of International Affairs, 1925

Le printemps

April 16 2015

Millet, Le printemps

Millet, Le printemps, 1868-73, Musée d’Orsay

Clausen, The Apple Tree

Clausen, The Apple Tree, 1940, private collection

Spring

April 15 2015

If frisking lambs have ever been described in music, it’s from 3:24 to 3:39 here:

This is Milhaud’s Concertino de printemps for violin and chamber orchestra, opus 135, 1934. A year of poor health. It isn’t Groupe des Six superficiality, but a little masterpiece of French pastoralism. The violin “is […] like a butterfly among flowers that finally disappears in a ray of sunlight” (Paul Collaer).

Milhaud recorded it three times as conductor. The first time with Yvonne Astruc, the dedicatee, and an unnamed orchestra in 1935, the second time with Louis Kaufman and the Orchestre national de la Radiodiffusion française in 1949, the third time with Szymon Goldberg and the Ensemble des Solistes des Concerts Lamoureux in 1958. This is the Kaufman. You can hear the Astruc here and the Goldberg here.

Milhaud wrote many pieces with spring in the title. Aside from the concertino:

Le printemps, violin and piano, opus 18, 1914. I linked to an old recording of this here. It found its way, in orchestral garb, into his incidental music for chorus and orchestra for Claudel’s Protée, opus 17, 1913-19, or at least into the symphonic suite made from it (opus 57, 1919, which in a way is his Sacre du printemps).

Printemps, piano, Book I, opus 25, 1915-19. The first of two cahiers of short pieces. They are rarely performed or recorded. The best recording is with Christian Ivaldi on the fine old EMI record of music by Milhaud for one, two and four pianos.

The third string quartet, opus 32, 1916 is subtitled En souvenir du printemps 1914 (post here). It was written in memory of his friend from his youth in Provence Léo Latil, who died on the front in 1915. “We never wearied of walking along between the fields of wheat, blue-green in spring, bordered with almond trees in bloom, dwarf oaks, and pines, through exquisite landscapes, some of which, like the Château de l’Horloge, evoked historical memories: according to Chateaubriand, it was in this solid, roomy farmhouse that Napoleon spent the night on his return from Elba. Sometimes we went as far as Malvalat, the Latils’ estate near Granettes, a village that took its name from the painter Granet, who lived there […].” (Notes sans musique)

Symphonie de chambre no 1, Le printemps, opus 43, 1917. This is the first of six very short, radically un-teutonic, chamber symphonies which Milhaud composed between 1917 and 1923.

Printemps, piano, Book II, opus 66, 1919-20

Jeux de printemps, orchestra, opus 243, 1944; also a ballet. This has never, as far as I know, been recorded.

Printemps lointain, voice and piano, words by Francis Jammes (post here), opus 253, 1945. I don’t know this either.

There’s a Chanson du printemps in Chansons de Madame Bovary, opus 128d, 1933. There may be more individual songs. There are many spring-like movements in his symphonic and chamber works.

In the early ’50s, he gave way to the temptation to compose three more concertini to create a Quatre saisons:

Concertino d’automne for two pianos and eight instruments, opus 309, 1951

Concertino dété for viola and chamber orchestra, opus 311, 1951

Concertino dhiver for trombone and string orchestra, opus 327, 1953.

If they had been as good as the first, this Four Seasons would be as popular as Vivaldi’s. The Concertino de printemps shows what a marvellous composer Milhaud could be. The others have their moments, but show him on more workaday form. Trombonists like the last one.

Milhaud, Kaufman

I remember buying this LP in FNAC in Paris circa 1983.

Underwater dreams

April 14 2015

“1906

“Call me Captain Sirius. [Melville.] My creator’s name is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, better known as the author of the world-famous Sherlock Holmes novels, which offer a strictly scientific account of criminology. But almost as a sideline he attempted to warn his insular England of a danger in the offing when, eight years after our first seaworthy submarine was launched, he published a brief book which he called Danger! and Other Stories [text here], which came out in German translation during the war, in 1916, under the title The Submarine War, or How Captain Sirius Did England In, and was reprinted here seventeen times before the war was over, but now unfortunately seems to have fallen into oblivion.

“Thanks to this prophetic little book I, in the person of Captain Sirius, succeeded in convincing the King of Norland, the Reich’s ally, of the daring yet perfectly rational possibility of using a mere eight submarines – which was all we had – to cut England off from her supplies and literally starve her to death. Our [the Norlanders’] submarines were called the Alpha, the Beta, the Gamma, the Theta, the Delta, the Epsilon, the Iota, and the Kappa. Unfortunately, the last was lost in the Irish Sea during our otherwise successful mission. I was the captain of the Iota and commanded the entire flotilla. We scored our first successes at the mouth of the Thames near Sheerness: aiming my torpedoes amidships, I sank in quick succession the Adela, laden with mutton from New Zealand, the Oriental Company’s Moldavia, and the Cusco, the latter two laden with grain. After further successes along the Channel coast and all the way to the Irish Sea, involving the whole flotilla either in squadrons or one by one, prices – first in London, then throughout the island – began to rise: a fivepenny loaf of bread soon cost a shilling and a half. By systematically blocking all major ports of entry we drove already exorbitant prices higher and unleashed a countrywide famine. The starving populace protested against the government with acts of violence. It stormed the Empire’s sanctuary, the Stock Exchange. Anyone belonging to the upper classes and able to afford it fled to Ireland, where there were still at least potatoes to be had. In the end proud Albion was forced to conclude a humiliating peace with Norland.

“The second part of the book consists of statements by naval officers and other experts, all of whom confirmed Sir Arthur’s warning of the submarine menace. One of them, a retired vice admiral, advised England to build storehouses for grain, like Joseph in Egypt, and to protect homegrown agricultural products by means of tariffs. There were urgent pleas to abandon England’s dogmatic insular mentality and finally get down to building the tunnel to France. Another vice admiral suggested that trading vessels be allowed to ply the seas only in convoys and that swiftly moving dirigibles be specially equipped to hunt out submarines. Intelligent proposals all, their worth alas, having been corroborated during the course of the war. I could wax particularly eloquent on the subject of the depth- or water-bombs.

“My creator, Sir Arthur, unfortunately forgot to report that while a young lieutenant in Kiel I was present as the crane lowered the first seaworthy submarine into the water – all hush-hush, top secret – at the Germania Shipworks on 4 August 1906. Before that I had been second officer on a torpedo ship, but I volunteered to test our new underwater weapon in its early stages. As a member of the crew I was in the U-1 when it was lowered thirty meters under water and made it to the open sea on its own steam. I should point out, however, that Krupp, using the design of a Spanish engineer, had even earlier built a thirteen-meter craft that went five-and-a-half knots under water. This Forelle aroused even the Kaiser’s interest. Prince Heinrich himself went down in it once. Regrettably, the Reich’s Naval Office obstructed the Forelle’s expeditious development. There were, moreover, difficulties with the gasoline engine. But when the U-1 was put into commission in Eckernförde a year behind schedule, nothing could stop it, even though the Forelle and our thirty-nine-meter ship, the Kambala, which came equipped with three torpedoes, were later sold to Russia. [Is a submarine a ship?] I was unfortunately detailed to attend the ceremony at which they were handed over. Orthodox priests, dispatched specially from Petersburg, anointed the vessels with holy water fore and aft. Following a lengthy overland journey they were launched in Vladivostok – too late to use them against Japan.

“Still, my dream came true. Much as he shows an instinct for sleuthing in his books, Sir Arthur could never have suspected how many German youths – like me – had dreamed of the speedy descent, the wandering eye of the periscope, the bobbing tanker just waiting to be torpedoed, the command of ‘Fire!,’ the many and much acclaimed hits, the intimate camaraderie, and the pennants waving on the triumphant return home. And not even I, who have been involved from the start and have entered literature along the way, not even I could have suspected that tens of thousands of our lads would never emerge from their underwater dream.

“Thanks to Sir Arthur’s warning, our repeated attempts to bring England to her knees unfortunately came to naught. All those deaths. But only Captain Sirius was condemned to survive every descent.”

___

The 1906 chapter (which doesn’t have that name) of Günter Grass’s My Century (Mein Jahrhundert) (1999). A German identifies himself with an enemy of England imagined by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Extract deemed fair use as shorter than an Amazon preview and from near the front of the book: please inform me if it infringes copyright and I will remove it.

The translation by Michael Henry Heim is idiomatically uncertain and not up to the many voices Grass adopts in the hundred vignettes which make up this quasi-novel. I think this is part of the reason many felt this late Grassian tour-de-force did not work. Perhaps it doesn’t work in German. I enjoyed it. I posted the 1900 chapter here.

I’m not sure how Danger! and Other Stories could have been published in Germany in 1916 if it only appeared in England, published by John Murray, in 1918. The title story was written, according to Doyle, about eighteen months before the outbreak of the war and, according to Wikipedia, was published in the Strand Magazine in July 1914. It might have appeared in Germany in 1916 on its own or in another collection.

The Royal Navy had launched its first submarine in 1901. The experience of the crews must have been terrible, but “tens of thousands” of German casualties seems wrong. Here is a list of all the German U-boats. Allegedly 329 served. If the average crew was as high as fifty and two-thirds were killed, that does not get us close.

Before Germany had launched its U-boat, Britain, in the same year, had launched HMS Dreadnought. German and English artists, scholars and scientists, instigated by Count Harry Kessler, and including my great-grandfather, wrote to The Times to express their concern about the deteriorating relationship between the two countries. Their letter was published on January 12.

U-1

After suffering damage from a collision while on a training exercise in 1919, U-1 was sold to the Germaniawerft foundation at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, where it was restored and can be still seen. 

Invasion literature (Wikipedia).

Aspects of Grass

April 13 2015

Grass and Danzig (in German):

Film by Andrzej Klamt commissioned by the Deutsches Polen-Institut for poleninderschule.de with the support of the Sanddorf Stiftung Regensburg.

Grass and Israel:

Deutsche Welle.

Grass on Europe’s policy towards refugees (in German):

Interview by Pointer-Redaktionsleiterin Heike Kevenhörster am 26.11.2014.

Facebook is shit (with subtitles):

Interview by Marc-Christoph Wagner for Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2013.

The full Louisiana Channel interview (with subtitles):

Drawings:

No gallery mentioned.

When did I learn the music of Traviata?

April 8 2015

I’ve seen it perhaps twice in my life and never consciously listened to it except to discover that I know every note. Others, I believe, have had the same experience.

Callas, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, 1952, with Giuseppe Di Stefano, Mugnai conducting:

Callas, La Scala, Milan, 1955 or ’56, with Giuseppe Di Stefano, Giulini conducting:

Callas, Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, Lisbon, 1958, with Alfredo Kraus, Ghione conducting (the best according to some):

There are others.

Callas’s voice declined very early. Her best days were over long before she was forty.

In 1853 the symphony was dead, chamber music in a post-Schumann, pre-Brahms twilight, and religious music at a low ebb. Opera carried the torch. Excuse the mixed metaphors.

Boulez at 90 continued

March 28 2015

The clips (here, here, here, here) that were shown before the works performed by the Cleveland Orchestra (now, for better or worse, under Franz Welser-Möst) at their concert for Boulez on January 15 show somebody very different from an arrogant iconoclast. The programme was his own Twelve Notations (for piano); Berg, Three Excerpts from Wozzeck; Debussy, Jeux; Boulez, Notations I, VII, IV, III, II (orchestral version).

An equivalent at the Barbican on April 23 with the LSO under Peter Eötvös will have Boulez’s Livre pour cordes and Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna and, between them, the seminal (but otherwise overrated?) The Rite of Spring.

Bob Shingleton on Rituel, and Boulez’s relationship with the BBC SO, whose chief conductor he was from 1971 to ’75. Their celebration at the Barbican, on March 21 under Thierry Fischer, had Pli selon pli and Notations.

Boulez’s lack of interest in Brahms, a composer, presumably, with plenty of “structure” and “necessity” (even if he came from the conservative side of the nineteenth century), is puzzling.

One would like to know Boulez’s views on some non-musical matters, or does he exist solely in music?

George Benjamin has a fine tribute in the Guardian.

Rituel, performers not stated:

Dérive I

March 27 2015

Sylvain Blassel and Atelier XXème du Chapelle du conservatoire de Rennes, concert donné aux Champs Libres à Rennes le 7 décembre 2011. You can also hear Boulez doing this with the Ensemble Intercontemporain. This is for six players. It is a short work from 1984, about six minutes: the rest here is a concert lecture. It is Boulez at his most accessible. Dérive II, for eleven instruments, 1988, 2002, 2006, really is this length: it began short, but is now longer.

Boulez at 90

March 26 2015

BBC Radio 3’s Music Matters, which aired last Saturday, on Pierre Boulez, who is ninety today, is here and here for another twenty-odd days at least. It’s hosted by Petroc Trelawney, despised as a broadcaster by a giant of musical blogging, Bob Shingleton, but not, perhaps, quite as bad as all that all the time. With him are Paul Driver, music critic of the Sunday Times, and Morag Grant, a Fellow of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg in Bonn, who are another matter.

This is discussion, and a mining of the warm and inscrutable Boulez’s words on the BBC over five decades. Why is the z pronounced in Boulez? Doesn’t it suggest something Spanish?

I wish Paul Driver wrote more outside Murdoch-land. He has only published one book, an unclassifiable assemblage of his own meditations on Manchester called Manchester Pieces. He’s a Mancunian, like the late Michael Kennedy.

Boulez’s list, aired in early 2000 on a New York radio station, of the ten most important pieces of music in the twentieth century is engaging.

I used to assume that his works were all short, like Webern’s. They aren’t. Then I thought that they were merely intellectual. They are, of course, not.

Boulez does walk into concert halls. He does dress formally. He does bow. He does conduct. He does accept applause.

Le marteau sans maître, words by René Char, directed by Bruno Maderna in 1961:

Pierre Boulez

___

I was taken in by the hoax in 2006 about Boulez’s recording of Vaughan Williams 4 and 6 on DG. For days, before I realised, the word “wow” was floating around in my head. There was even a review, which made it sound rather like Karajan’s recordings of English music. I can’t remember where the joke started. Driver, at least, can be as engaged with the Britten whom Boulez so much despises as with Boulez.

Boulez, VW

Christian brigands

March 20 2015

The Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, at the end of the Balkan Wars, divided the Macedonian region between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, with Greece getting the lion’s share; a small section went to Albania. The Serbian part ended (from 1946) as a separate constituent republic of Yugoslavia and is now an independent country.

In Macedonia, where the social peripeteia accompanying a transfer of sovereignty from the Ottoman Empire to the Kingdom of Greece had taken place ninety-one years later than in Laconia [with which he has just been concerned], the writer once had the good fortune to obtain a vivid sidelight on it from a living beneficiary. Waiting for an omnibus at Sorovich on the 4th September, 1921, he fell into conversation with a bystander who turned out to be a Slovene, born in Klagenfurt, Carinthia, who had emigrated as a boy to the United States, had come to Macedonia as a chauffeur for the American Red Cross, and was now driving a tractor in the service of three Greek brothers who were joint owners of a large estate in the neighbourhood of Sorovich, besides owning a whole block of houses just across the road from the railway station. Like the property itself, the present owners’ up-to-date Western method of farming was a legacy from their father, who had died only four months since. In answer to a question about his enterprising deceased employer’s antecedents, the Slovene mechanic volunteered: “Well, he hadn’t owned this property for very long. Before ‘the war’ [meaning the Balkan Wars of A.D. 1912-13] [Toynbee’s bracket], when the Turks owned the land, he was just one of those ‘Christians’ – what is the English word for them? … O, now I remember it: ‘brigands’ – up in the mountains. But, when the Greek Army marched in, the Turks cleared out and the brigands came down from the mountains and seized the land. So that is how my employer got his property, and how I got my job.”

There was a tradition in ancient anti-Christian polemic of referring to Christ himself as a brigand.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

Lee Kuan Yew and the nation-builders

March 19 2015

Lee Kuan Yew is the last great living twentieth-century nation builder, if he is alive.

Who were the others? What defines them? They have to have created a nation where none before existed – and yet one can’t leave out Mandela.

They must have done it through a personal struggle. They must have a certain stature. Their achievement must be solid. One can’t leave out Herzl, although he died forty-four years before the birth of Israel.

At one level, Lee was a reluctant builder. He did not, at least as it appears, wish to leave the Malaysian Federation in 1965.

Norway, Finland, Iceland, the Baltic states, Poland, Belarus, Moldova, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the central Asian “stans”, Mongolia were, before the twentieth century, merged or submerged nations, but when they became independent did not have famous fathers, unless you count Piłsudski. They already, in a sense, existed, especially Poland. But, then, so did the Czech nation. (One can’t exactly call Haakon VII a nation-builder, even if he was a father-figure.)

Ukraine is a half-formed nation. Why am I implying less formed than the other Ruthenia, Belarus? At any rate, no builders.

Hungary achieved nationhood in the nineteenth century. Masaryk was a nation-builder even though the nation he founded was later divided into two.

The Philippines’ founders did their work before, not after, American colonisation. Aung San died before Burmese independence, and his legacy is unclear. So are Ho Chi Minh’s and Sihanouk’s. Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia had once contained powerful states. Burma is the most ethnically fragmented. Thailand was never colonised, so the question of nation-building does not arise.

The Republic of China was declared in 1912, but Taiwan became its last stronghold long after Sun’s death. Sun was the father of a nation that, as a geographical entity, doesn’t even recognise itself, and as a wider entity is China – not a new nation.

So I include him uneasily – or do we believe in the permanence of Taiwan? I can’t leave out Sukarno even if I want to.

Not everyone who led a colony into independence qualifies. In fact, not a single leader from the main years of decolonisation is in my list. I can’t bring myself to include Bourguiba, for example. Or, in a short list, Nkrumah or Kenyatta or Nyerere or Kaunda. Is that because black African countries are, or were, not nations, but tribal or ethnic hegemonies and coalitions? But so are others. So is Burma. So was nineteenth-century Hungary.

Mahathir is a smaller figure than Lee. He did not become prime minister until 1981.

In theory Singapore is a coalition of three ethnic groups, like its one-time role-model Switzerland.

Here is my list, in chronological order of the nation’s birth or the builder’s accession to power if later:

Sun Yat-sen 1912

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk 1918

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 1923

Ibn Saud 1932

Sukarno 1945

Mahatma Gandhi 1947

Muhammad Ali Jinnah 1947

Theodor Herzl 1948

Lee Kuan Yew 1965

Nelson Mandela 1994

Lee’s funeral or public memorial will be as big as Mandela’s and deservedly. [Postscript: I was wrong on that.] You don’t need to have loved someone to feel grief.

The Blairs will be there, collecting cards.

IMG_9663

1946, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

Picture source: Lee Kuan Yew, Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going via mustsharenews.com

Mirabeau’s warning

March 18 2015

In A.D. 1790 the French National Assembly was warned by the prophetic voice of Mirabeau that a representative parliamentary body was likely to prove more bellicose than a monarch.

[Footnote: “Je vous demande à vous-mêmes: sera-t-on mieux assuré de n’avoir que des guerres justes, équitables, si l’on délègue exclusivement à une assemblée de 700 personnes l’exercice du droit de faire la guerre? Avez-vous prévu jusqu’où les mouvemens [sic] passionnés, jusqu’où l’exaltation du courage et d’une fausse dignité pourroient porter et justifier l’imprudence …? Pendant qu’un des membres proposera de délibérer, on demandera la guerre à grands cris; vous verrez autour de vous une armée de citoyens. Vous ne serez pas trompés par des ministres; ne le serez-vous jamais par vous-mêmes? … Voyez les peuples libres, c’est par des guerres plus ambitieuses, plus barbares qu’ils se sont toujours distingués. Voyez les assemblées politiques; c’est toujours sous le charme de la passion qu’elles ont décrété la guerre” (Mirabeau in the French National Assembly on the 20th May, 1790).

In this matter the statesman Mirabeau showed a clearer vision than the philosopher Volney, whose eighteenth-century complacency on the subject of War was apparently still unshaken in 1791 [he woke up later], to judge by the following passage of Les Ruines, which was published in that year:

“Si les guerres sont devenues plus vastes dans leurs masses, elles ont été moins meurtrières dans leurs details; si les peuples y ont porté moins de personnalité, moins d’énergie, leur lutte a été moins sanguinaire, moins acharnée. Ils ont été moins libres, mais moins turbulents, plus amollis, mais plus pacifiques.” […]]

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

Azov and Baltic

March 13 2015

Having realized Russia’s need to acquire a seaboard, Peter began, in A.D. 1695-6, with the relatively easy conquest of Azov from the Turks. It is significant that, after his return from the Western tour of A.D. 1697-8, he addressed himself to the far more formidable task of conquering the Baltic Provinces from the Swedes, and persevered in this arduous enterprise for twenty years (A.D. 1700-21) until he finally achieved his aim. He had come to the conclusion that a seaboard on the Baltic was worth acquiring at any price because it would open the door for direct intercourse between Russia and the West. […] On the other hand, the conquest of Azov was not worth following up, because the further passage from this port to the open sea was blocked by the Ottoman Government’s control of the Straits of Kertch and of the Bosphorus and of the Dardanelles. And even if the Russian ships had been able to run the gauntlet of these three successive “Symplegades”, they would have merely found themselves at large in the Eastern Mediterranean – a sea which, in Peter’s day, before the opening of the short-cut from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, was a sluggish backwater, remote from the principal ocean-highways of the World.

Towards the end of the fifteenth century, Moscow (Ivan III) overcame the Golden Horde, and the Crimean khans (1449-1783), minor successors of the Horde, came under Ottoman protection. Russia did not conquer the Crimean Khanate (“Little Tartary”) until the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-74.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

Toynbee and Indiana Jones at Versailles

March 12 2015

The image links to the full Indiana Jones episode of which I showed a clip here.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 02.08.05

Background and context are in the old post. Toynbee’s big scene starts at 5:00. His other main appearances are at 26:00 and 33:00. Later the scene shifts to Princeton.

Mistakes and unconvincing portrayals aside (Lawrence is the worst, Gertrude Bell a close second), it doesn’t do such a bad job of bringing history to life. Vignettes of Arabs, Vietnamese, Germans. Woodrow Wilson is shown as comically out of his depth. Indiana is touching, trying to be nice to the Germans.

Toynbee is rather convincing. He never said that those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it, but he had a sharper political mind when he was young than when he was old.

The unchanging West

February 27 2015

… or, A boy from Baghdad

Let us […] construct the intellectual history of a fictitious Baghdadi boy, who has been born since the arrival of the British at Baghdad in 1917 and whose father has determined to give him a thoroughly Western scientific education in order to fit him for making his way in the Westernized East of to-morrow. The father begins by giving the boy some direct insight into Western scientific methods by showing him Western scientists at work in his own country. He takes him to see the archaeological excavations at Ur. Let us assume that the boy is as intelligent as his father, and that this visit arouses in him a general interest in modern Western Archaeology, ranging over the whole field as far as it has been explored by Western scholars. Among other things, the life of the lake-dwellers in the Alps in the “Eneolithic Age” [which we would now call Early Bronze Age] is sure to appeal to the Baghdadi boy for the same reasons which invest the conditions of life on the North Arabian Steppe with a special interest for Western readers of the Book of Genesis. The boy’s interest in the lake-dwellers will broaden out into a study of all aspects of their life, including the manner in which they adapted themselves to the imperious conditions of the local terrain and climate in keeping their cattle. He will follow the ancient lacustrine herdsmen as they drive their cattle up from the lake-side to ever higher upland pastures with the advance of spring and then gradually down again from alp to alp to the water’s edge with the retreat of summer. This study will become his hobby; and when the time comes for him to visit Europe, he will make a bee-line first for Switzerland. There, herded by some tourist agency into Alpine hotels, he will observe, with astonishment and delight, that the pastoral life with which he is familiar from the books about the ancient lake-dwellers which his father gave him to read at home is being lived, apparently unchanged, by the Swiss herdsmen of to-day. With what extraordinary persistence social phenomena perpetuate themselves in this strange and romantic Western World! How different from ʿIraq, where the disinterred vestiges of Ur and Babylon and Nineveh proclaim to any Baghdadi who sets eyes on them that, in his country, Life is a flux and history a synonym for change. And now this Baghdadi has discovered “the Unchanging West”. What a tale to tell to his countrymen when he goes home again!

Of course our intelligent young man from Baghdad would not have rushed into this ludicrously erroneous generalization if the romance of the Alpine pastures had not absorbed his attention to the extent of preventing him from studying with equal thoroughness the histories of those sites on Western soil that are now occupied by the cities of Zurich and Lausanne – not to speak of Paris and London and Berlin and New York and Chicago. If he had studied these likewise, he could not conceivably have imagined that the West was “unchanging” by comparison with Iraq (immense though the changes in ʿIraq have been, on every plane of social life, over the span of five or six thousand years within which we happen to know something about the country’s history). He has been misled by a failure to realize that he has been making a generalization about half the World on the strength of local conditions in a small area with a peculiar character of its own. While the Alps impose upon all human beings in all ages who have the hardihood to be their inhabitants as rigid and as unvarying a way of life as is imposed by the North Arabian Steppe, it is likewise true that the Alps are as small a fraction of the Western World as the North Arabian Steppe is of the East. An extravaganza? Yet quid rides? For mutato nomine de te fabula narratur, [footnote: Horace: Satires, i (i), ll. 69-70.] you Western traveller, whoever you may have been, who first brought home to us the catchword of “the Unchanging East”.

Toynbee was saying this kind of thing before Edward Said, who presumably mocked the phrase. Was its inventor a Scottish Canadian writer named Robert Barr (founder of The Idler) in a book with that name published in 1900?

[Footnote: It may be objected that even an ingenuous and unobservant Oriental traveller who visited the Alps to-day with a picture in his mind of the local conditions of life in the “Eneolithic Age” could not really fail to notice, side by side with many points of correspondence, at least as many and as remarkable evidences of change. It can only be replied that Western travellers have contrived to ignore similar evidences on the North Arabian Steppe, where the conditions portrayed in the Book of Genesis have been changed profoundly, since that portrait was drawn, by at least two far-reaching innovations: the introduction of the horse and the introduction of fire-arms (not to speak of dry farming and motor-cars, which are both still too recent introductions to have had time to produce their full effects).]

The unchanging East (last post but one).

A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934

Peter’s war

February 26 2015

Peter’s declaration of war upon the Byzantine social tradition was delivered in his celebrated gesture of shaving, with his own hand, the beards of the grandees who came to congratulate him on his return from the West in A.D. 1698. A ukase of the 4th January, 1700, made the wearing of Western dress compulsory by a certain date “for the glory and beauty of the State and the improvement of the Army”. This was confirmed in a second ukase of the 20th March, and detailed instructions were issued in 1701. Compare Mehmed ʿAli’s imposition of Western uniforms upon his troops, and Mustafā Kemāl’s imposition of Western dress upon the entire male civil population. [Entire?] (The compulsory change of dress which was carried through by Peter in Russia was confined to the upper class, and the obligation to shave might be bought off by the payment of a beard-tax.) Peter, however, was not content with imposing Western dress. He arranged for the compilation of elaborate manuals of Western fine manners; and in the houses of the nobility in the new capital, Petersburg, “receptions” à la française were organized by the Police.

Were bourgeois manners and behaviour in Tsarist Russia harder than in western Europe to distinguish from aristocratic?

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

Vesuvius ’44

February 25 2015

I’m not big on disaster movies, but this Pathé newsreel, complete with Finlandia, is quite something; the movie shown after it must have seemed dull. Thanks to Adrian Murdoch for the link.

The ’44 eruption is described by Norman Lewis in Naples ’44.

Wikipedia, edited:

“Mount Vesuvius has erupted many times. The famous eruption in AD 79 was preceded by numerous others in prehistory, including at least three significantly larger ones, the best known being the Avellino eruption around 1800 BC which engulfed several Bronze Age settlements. Since AD 79, the volcano has also erupted repeatedly, in 172, 203, 222, possibly 303, 379, 472, 512, 536, 685, 787, around 860, around 900, 968, 991, 999, 1006, 1037, 1049, around 1073, 1139, 1150, and there may have been eruptions in 1270, 1347, and 1500. The volcano erupted again in 1631, six times in the 18th century, eight times in the 19th century (notably in 1872), and in 1906, 1929, and 1944. There has been no eruption since 1944, and none of the post-79 eruptions was as large or destructive as the Pompeian one.

“The eruptions vary greatly in severity but are characterized by explosive outbursts of the kind dubbed Plinian after Pliny the Younger, a Roman writer who published a detailed description of the AD 79 eruption, in which his uncle, Pliny the Elder, died. On occasion, eruptions from Vesuvius have been so large that the whole of southern Europe has been blanketed by ash; in 472 and 1631, Vesuvian ash fell on Constantinople, over 1,200 kilometres away. A few times since 1944, landslides in the crater have raised clouds of ash dust, raising false alarms of an eruption.”

There is no Malta

February 23 2015

Geography was […] a science of which the statesmen and admirals of the Ottoman Empire remained abysmally ignorant. There is a legend of an Ottoman admiral who was sent out with orders to capture Malta and who returned to Constantinople, after cruising round the Mediterranean for many weeks, to report “Malta yoq” […].

In contrast, one supposes, with the Arab statesmen and admirals who had preceded them. Interpolation in a footnote: no source stated.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

The national idea

February 22 2015

It was a symbolic incident when, in 1798, the armada of the French Republic One and Indivisible, on its way to the conquest and conciliation of an enfeebled Egypt, extinguished the rule of the Hospitallers’ Order in its final refuge, the island of Malta.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

Hiroshima, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hamburg

February 20 2015

The order of Second World War bombing raids by the number of immediate fatalities is Hiroshima, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hamburg. More people were killed in the March 1945 Tokyo raid than by the atomic bomb in Nagasaki.

And why is Dresden discussed more often than Hamburg?

… A discovery and a question from the post before last.

Church of the Cross

February 19 2015

Not even firebombing obliterates a city. Tokyo is still Tokyo. A European city can’t be rebuilt so easily, but Dresden is impressive, with something momentous about it, seen from the Elbe. Bells of the Church of the Cross:

Old town:

There are no bells in Islam, but church bells are part of western music.

Cage and Stockhausen must have known that. Unsurprisingly, some of the most beautiful are in Germany. Is allowing the sound of church bells but not the call to prayer in a European city discrimination against Islam? If something affects (is heard by) a whole population, don’t the preferences of the majority rule, when in other cases minority rights would rule? Sounds are all-pervasive, sights are not.

Bombing Dresden

February 18 2015

Was the firebombing of Dresden by the British and Americans the worst thing done before Hiroshima? The British had the larger role.

RAF Bomber Command (1936-68) was led by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris from February 22 1942 to September 15 1945. Churchill wrote, after the main raids on Dresden: 

“It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so called ‘area-bombing’ of German cities should be reviewed from the point of view of our own interests. If we come into control of an entirely ruined land, there will be a great shortage of accommodation for ourselves and our allies. … We must see to it that our attacks do no more harm to ourselves in the long run than they do to the enemy’s war effort.”

He seems to have had moral doubts as well, but did not press his intervention.

In 1963, the holocaust-denier David Irving published The Destruction of DresdenThe Queen Mother, on the other hand, who lived for the rest of her days on a reputation gained by a visit to the blitzed East End, admired “Bomber Harris”.

According to onlinemilitaryeducation.org, the ten most destructive campaigns were as follows. The periods in question are of different lengths. In one case, the raids were conducted by Germans. In the other cases by the Americans and/or British. In descending order of total deaths by city (not by raid):

1.  Tokyo, November 1944-August 1945, 100,000 plus killed

USAAF. (Minor raid in April 1942.) Raid of March 9-10 1945 is considered the single most destructive conventional bombing raid in history. 

2.  Hamburg, September 1939-April 1945, 42,600 killed

RAF and USAAF. Most severe raid ever on a European city came from a combined force during the last week of July 1943. The British conducted the night raids, the Americans the day raids.

3.  Dresden, October 1944-April 1945, 25,000 killed

RAF and USAAF. Most destructive raid came from a combined force (RAF majority) February 13-15 1945.

4.  Berlin, 1940-45, 20,000-50,000 killed

RAF and USAAF. 363 raids.

5.  London, September 1940-May 1941, 20,000 killed

The Blitz.

6.  Swinoujscie, March 12 1945, 5,000-23,000 killed

USAAF. Raid on Polish city and port.

7.  Pforzheim, April 1944-March 1945, 21,200 killed

RAF and USAAF. Main raid RAF February 23 1945.

8.  Darmstadt, September 1943-February 1945, 12,300 killed

RAF. Main raid September 11-12 1944.

9.  Kassel, February 1942-March 1945, 10,000 killed

RAF and USAAF. Main raid RAF October 22-23 1943.

10.  Osaka, March-August 1945, 10,000 killed

USAAF. Main raid March 13-14 1945.

So the order is Hiroshima, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hamburg. More people were killed in the March 1945 Tokyo raid than by the atomic bomb in Nagasaki.

And why is Dresden discussed more often than Hamburg? Because Irving wrote a book?

The Germans area-bombed or firebombed parts of London and Coventry in 1940. Bomber Command was authorised before the Blitz, on May 15 1940, to attack German targets east of the Rhine. It began area-bombing Germany in early 1942. This was supposed to undermine the morale of the civilian population and in particular of industrial workers. Factories were no longer the main targets.

The Americans had a policy of precision bombing in Europe and yet firebombed Japan. But on a few occasions, particularly towards the end of the war, they firebombed cities in Germany such as Dresden and Berlin in support of the British. That caused disquiet in the American ranks and was never the general policy as it was in Japan. The double standard was surely racist.

Victor Gregg was born in London in 1919, joined the army in 1937 and served with the Rifle Brigade in India and Palestine and in the Western Desert. He was taken prisoner at the Arnhem and was awaiting execution in Dresden when the raids happened. He is alive and outspoken on the bombing:

Old posts:

Aerial bombing

Bombing Japan

Lie in the dark and listen.

Semitic outliers

February 17 2015

Which Semitic language is written now in Latin script?

Answer: Maltese.

Which Semitic language is written now in a script that is not Hebrew, not Arabic and not Latin?

Answer: Amharic (Ethiopian). Main example.

Bitter Lake

February 16 2015

Adam Curtis’s extraordinary documentary is here on the BBC website. It was produced for iPlayer because of the “rigid formats and schedules of network television”. In other words, it was deemed too long or demanding. Here on YouTube.

The jury is out for me on this: I need to watch it more carefully. An introduction on Curtis’s blog is here. Extract (edited):

“Journalism – that used to tell a grand, unfurling narrative – now […] just relays disjointed and often wildly contradictory fragments of information. Events come and go like waves of a fever. We […] live in a state of continual delirium, constantly waiting for the next news event to loom out of the fog – and then disappear again, unexplained. And the formats – in news and documentaries – have become so rigid and repetitive that the audiences never really look at them. In the face of this people retreat from journalism and politics. They turn away into their own worlds, and the stories they and their friends tell each other. I think this is wrong, sad, and bad for democracy – because it means the politicians become more and more unaccountable.

“I have made a film that tries to respond to this in two ways. It tells a big story about why the stories we are told today have stopped making sense. But it is also an experiment in a new way of reporting the world. To do this I’ve used techniques that you wouldn’t normally associate with TV journalism. My aim is to make something more emotional and involving […].

“The film is called Bitter Lake. […] It tells a big historical narrative that interweaves America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It shows how politicians in the west lost confidence – and began to simplify the stories they told. It explains why this happened – because they increasingly gave their power away to other forces, above all global finance.

“But there is one other country at the centre of the film. Afghanistan. This is because Afghanistan is the place that has repeatedly confronted politicians, as their power declines, with the terrible truth – that they cannot understand what is going on any longer. Let alone control it. The film shows in detail how all the foreigners who went to Afghanistan created an almost totally fictional version of the country in their minds. They couldn’t see the complex reality that was in front of them – because the stories they had been told about the world had become so simplified that they lacked the perceptual apparatus to see reality any longer. And this blindness led to a terrible disaster – support for a blatantly undemocratic government, wholesale financial corruption and thousands of needless deaths. A horrific scandal that we, […] here in Britain, seem hardly aware of. And even if we are – it is dismissed as being just too complex to understand.

“I have got hold of the unedited rushes of almost everything the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan. It is thousands of hours – some of it is very dull, but large parts of it are extraordinary. Shots that record amazing moments, but also others that are touching, funny and sometimes very odd. These complicated, fragmentary and emotional images evoke the chaos of real experience. And out of them I have tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan.”

His statements about politicians may explain why they all (certainly in Britain, except for Farage) wear such puzzled expressions on their faces now. They are no longer sure what to say to us.

The Bitter Lake is a saltwater lake through which the Suez Canal flows. On Valentine’s Day 1945, after Yalta, President Roosevelt met King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia on board a warship there. A remarkable photograph was taken, which I saw consciously for the first time last year in the King Abdulaziz Memorial Hall in Riyad. The kneeling figure is the ambassador to the Kingdom, William Eddy. It’s hardly less historically important than the Yalta photograph.

Charlie Beckett presented a programme on our bad news diet (Good News Is No News) on BBC Radio 4 recently (producer Simon Hollis), asking, intelligently, what sort of reality modern journalism is presenting. It plays into Curtis’s points. Listen here. (BBC iPlayer Radio must be the worst-designed site on the web.)

Great Bitter Lake

Picture: fdrlibrary.tumblr.com

Magna Carta

February 16 2015

Melvyn Bragg’s radio specials are usually better than In Our Time, his regular slot. He recently did a series on Magna Carta (BBC Radio 4, producer Thomas Morris). Links below.

JC Holt, the modern historian of Magna Carta, the charter of rights obtained from King John by his barons on a meadow by the Thames in Surrey eight hundred years ago this June 15, died last year, and is not in the programme. Telegraph obituary. He also wrote about Robin Hood.

Magna Carta was, in its time, neither unique nor successful. But it had an afterlife.

“Among other things, [Holt] highlighted the fact that many of the broad concepts, such as judgment by peers and protection against arbitrary disseisin (seizure of property) were hot topics all over Europe in the 13th century. Similar charters were issued in Germany, Sicily and France in the 13th and early 14th centuries. Only one thing set England’s Magna Carta apart from the rest: its survival.” (Telegraph)

I went to a talk by Holt early in my first term at Oxford. He was then teaching at the University of Reading and would go on to the Professorship of Medieval History at Cambridge. It was a moment of disillusionment. I don’t know what, in my naïveté, I had expected. Did I think dons would be giants? Did I expect some kind of Jowett? He seemed like a civil servant. Which was no way to think of Holt.

Bragg’s episodes:

1. The Road to Magna Carta

With David Carpenter, Professor of Medieval History, King’s College London; Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History, University of East Anglia; Cressida Williams, Cathedral and City Archivist, Canterbury Cathedral; Louise Wilkinson, Professor of Medieval History, Canterbury Christ Church University.

2. Runnymede, 1215

With David Carpenter, Professor of Medieval History, King’s College London; Claire Breay, Curator, British Library Magna Carta exhibition; Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History, University of East Anglia.

“Melvyn Bragg visits Canterbury, seat of Archbishop Stephen Langton, one of the key figures in the peace negotiations.”

3. The Aftermath of Runnymede

With Louise Wilkinson, Professor of Medieval History, Canterbury Christ Church University; Cressida Williams, Cathedral and City Archivist, Canterbury Cathedral; David Carpenter, Professor of Medieval History, King’s College London; Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History, University of East Anglia; Claire Breay, Curator, British Library Magna Carta exhibition.

“Within a few weeks the agreement had failed, and both sides disavowed it. How did a failed peace treaty turn into the best known legal document in the English-speaking world? Melvyn Bragg looks at the complex politics of thirteenth-century England and discovers how John’s Great Charter was revived and reinvented over the course of the next hundred years.”

4. The Legacy of Magna Carta

With Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History, University of East Anglia; Daniel Hannan, writer and MEP, South East England; Justin Champion, Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas, Royal Holloway, University of London; Kathleen Burk, Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History, University College, London.

“How Magna Carta became a cause célèbre during the English Civil War and later exerted a crucial influence on American constitutional thought. 800 years after it was sealed, Magna Carta remains a document of global importance.”

Magna Carta

1969 edition of Holt, Magna Carta, CUP, 1965

Peter Partner

February 16 2015

Guardian obituary. “Historian of medieval Rome and the Middle East who attacked the simplistic contrasts drawn between the west and Islam.”

I haven’t read him, but enjoyed his opponent Walter Ullmann’s drily formidable The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages, A Study in the Ideological Relation of Clerical to Lay Power in my sixth form.

Le bon général ordinaire and le grand chef

January 31 2015

Montgomery of Alamein interviewed by Bernard Levin, January 24 1966, I suppose BBC. Levin has a piece about him in the first volume, Taking Sides, Jonathan Cape, 1979, of his collected journalism.

Monty must already have been working on A History of Warfare, Collins, 1968, where we’ll find examples, missing here – except that Caesar was ordinaire. And who is the inaudible grand chef? Marlborough, who never lost a battle? Even Monty lost at Arnhem. Eisenhower was presumably a grand chef with whom Montgomery disagreed, or was he a mere général ordinaire?

The head of the research team for that book, Alan Howarth, was my favourite history teacher at school. Which is the excuse for this post. He was directly responsible for the abridgement, A Concise History of Warfare, Collins, 1972.