Oct
30
2014
0

On this day

1957

The government confirms that the House of Lords will admit women

On this day in 1957 it was announced that one of the most exclusive all-male clubs would open its doors to women. The government’s reforms to the House of Lords would also see the creation of life peers, payment of expenses to peers and balancing new creations between the political parties.

Given the ferocity with which the Lords had fought off previous attempts to introduce women, it was perhaps surprising that cheers greeted the announcement. Lord Home said admitting women would simply be recognizing the place they had commanded for themselves as a right in modern society.

House of Lords, albumen print showing the Lords Chamber of the Palace of Westminster in London, England; photograph taken from the gallery on the north side of the chamber By Francis Godolphin Osbourne Stuart (ca. 1843 – 1923) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Demonstrating that there was still some way to go in terms of equality of treatment, he also raised a laugh when he added: “Taking women into parliamentary embrace is, after all, only an extension of the normal privileges of a peer.”

Baroness Swanborough took her oath to become the first female member of the House of Lords on 21 October 1958. This time last year, women made up 176 (or 22.8%) out of the 771 eligible members of the House of Lords.

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Oct
29
2014
0

On this day

1929

Black Tuesday on Wall Street as the stock exchange crashes 

Up until 29 October 1929, prices on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) seemed set to go in one direction – up. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had, in the previous five years, quadrupled. America boomed and the twenties roared whilst champagne corks popped.

Then the market crashed. Billions of dollars was wiped off the value of shares and thousands of investors lost everything. This juddering reversal at the heart of the financial crisis was bad enough, but it heralded far worse for the USA and the rest of the world.

Crowd gathering on Wall Street after the stock market crash of October 1929 By Freelancer Journalist [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Wall Street Crash, as those manic days in October came to be known, started America’s painful slide into the Great Depression. By 1932, stocks on the NYSE were worth barely a fifth of what they had been at the peak of the boom. Millions were unemployed and poverty ravished town and country alike. In Europe, the crisis toppled the fragile democracies of the interwar period and ushered in an even darker period as the world edged towards war.

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Oct
28
2014
0

On this day

1664

The Royal Marines are formed 

On this day 350 years ago today, the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot (also known as the Admiral’s Regiment) were established. The regiment would become world famous as the Royal Marines, with George III bestowing this designation in 1802.

Royal Marines Monument This monument on The Mall, depicting a marine protecting a fallen comrade, commemorates the Royal Marines in the Boer War and the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 in China. Behind stands Admiralty Arch by Stephen McKay [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In its 350 year long history, the Royal Marines have taken part in more battles on land and sea around the world than any other branch of the British Armed Forces. With such extensive battle honours, the Corps represent them by depicting the globe in their crest. Two battles are picked out for specific reference – the word ‘Gibraltar’ and a laurel wreath representing the Battle of Belle Island.

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Oct
27
2014
0

On this day

1904

The New York Subway opened for the first time to the general public

At a little after 2 pm on Thursday 27 October 1904, George McClellan, the Mayor of New York City, took the steering wheel for the inaugural ride of the Subway.

Postcard image of the IRT subway station built below City Hall in New York, New York By Illustrated Post Card and Novelty Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Five hours later, the general public got its chance to ride the Subway and roughly 100,000 New Yorkers rode the line in its first evening of operation. In the beginning, the service was limited to Manhattan but would extend to three other boroughs over the next 11 years (the Bronx in 1905, Brooklyn in 1908 and Queens in 1915 – the Subway does not run on Staten Island).

The service proved and instant and enduring hit, so much so that 110 years later the system carries 5.5 million passengers on a typical weekday with over 1.7 billion passenger journeys in a year (roughly 40% more than the London Underground).

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Oct
26
2014
0

On this day

1951

Winston Churchill wins his first general election

After a gap of more than six years, Winston Churchill was returned to Number 10 after winning his first general election. At 76, Churchill becomes the second oldest prime minister in history after William Gladstone (who was 83 when he formed his last government).

Portrait of Winston Churchill (and not, as it turned out, the Duke of London) By British Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Turnout was 82.6% (compared with the post-war nadir of 59.4% in 2001), and produced a majority of just 8 for the Conservative Party.

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Oct
25
2014
0

On this day

1976

The National Theatre is officially opened in London

On 25 October 1976, HM Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the National Theatre on London’s Southbank. This came an astonishing 25 years after she laid the foundation stone for the site next to the Royal Festival Hall.

Funding difficulties ensured that building did not start until 1969, but even with this late start, the complex was scheduled to open in 1973.

National Theatre, South Bank Centre Jonathan FeBland [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The National Theatre complex comprises three theatres, of which two (the Olivier and the Lyttleton) were open to the public at the time of the official ceremony and the third (the Cottlesloe) would open the following year.

Large crowds turned out to be entertained by bands, fanfares, a carnival and fireworks – all set against a typically English backdrop of pouring rain.

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |
Oct
24
2014
0

A slice of Turkey

The Paris Peace Conference was tasked with setting the peace terms for the Central Powers after their defeat in the First World War. The Treaty of Versailles dealt with the principal belligerent, Germany. It was, however, accompanied by four less well known treaties dealing with the other countries. The Treaty of Sèvres was drawn up to deal with the Ottoman Empire but, by the time it came to be signed, the Sick Man of Europe was dying.

Guns on front lines across Europe and around the world fell silent following the series of armistices in October and November 1918. In the Middle East, the fighting ending with the signing of the Mudros armistice by the Ottoman Empire on 30 October 1918.

Council of Four at the WWI Paris peace conference, May 27, 1919 (candid photo) (L - R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britian) Premier Vittorio Orlando, Italy, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson By Edward N. Jackson (US Army Signal Corps) (U.S. Signal Corps photo) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Whilst truces were agreed, the powers were many months away from deciding on the peace terms. In the meantime, other sounds would fill the silence left by the cessation of war.

Continue Reading…

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Written by IDC in: History | Tags: , ,
Oct
18
2014
0

Unleashing the suffocating cloud

The Second Battle of Ypres (1915) is the conventional starting point for the terrible chemical warfare that would characterize the middle years of conflict on the Western Front. It was indeed the first battle in which poisonous gas attacks played a part in the western theatre. But it was not the first time chemical weapons were used in the war. That dubious distinction goes to the Battle of Bolomov, a skirmish between the Germans and Russians.

“I have to confess that I felt rather proud,

of the simple device of my suffocating cloud.

The Prospero of poisons, the Faustus of the front,

bringing mental magic to modern armament.”

Tony Harrison, Square Rounds (1992)

The English poet, Tony Harrison, puts these words into the mouth of the German Nobel Prize winning chemist Fritz Haber. His ‘suffocating cloud’ was indeed a ‘mental magic’, unsettling, dense billows of thick smoke spreading across First World War battlefields bringing a tortured, suffocating death to any unfortunate soldiers in its path.

British 55th (West Lancashire) Division troops blinded by tear gas await treatment at an Advanced Dressing Station near Bethune during the Battle of Estaires, 10 April 1918, part of the German offensive in Flanders By Thomas Keith Aitken (Second Lieutenant) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Poisonous gas attacks became one of the infamous cruelties of the First World War. Exposure to chlorine and mustard gas caused a painful, lingering death or permanent and debilitating respiratory damage. But the escalation to poison gas attacks was gradual. Before, both French and German forces experimented with less lethal chemical attacks.

Continue Reading…

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Written by IDC in: History | Tags:
Oct
10
2014
0

Achtung, achtung!

In George Orwell’s 1984, the complete dominance of the dystopian dictatorship is reinforced by the unavoidable presence of telescreens.  Ubiquitous and without an off button, they ensured that Big Brother was not only watching you, but speaking to you at all times. Nazi Germany investigated the possibility of a radio equivalent, which, if implemented, would have taken the Third Reich even closer to mirroring the fictional account it partially inspired.

The Nazi regime was acutely aware of the importance of radio to maintain and consolidate its grip on power. Powerful speeches over the airwaves had brought Hitler to prominence and secured his election successes. Once in power, the radio was central to the Reich’s propaganda mission.

Title screen for the experimental and short-lived Deutscher Fernseh-Rundfunk (German Television Broadcasting)

Joseph Goebbels’ Reichs Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda) had one problem to overcome – how could they ensure every German could hear the radio’s message?

Continue Reading…

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Written by IDC in: History | Tags: , ,
Jun
10
2014
0

On this day

1986

The Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union enters into a new phase with the launch of the Russian space station Mir. With the failure of the 1970s American space station Skylab, the Soviet space programme seemed to outpace its US rival.

Mir, meaning both peace, world and village in Russian (a lexical insight into the rural Russian mindset), was  intended to provide a base for a permanently manned complex orbiting the Earth.

According to the BBC report, Mir remained in space until 23 March 2001, when it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere over Fiji. The remains of the 135-tonne craft fell into the South Pacific Ocean.

Space Station Mir on 24 September 1996 by By NASA (http://archive.org/details/STS074-716-021) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Written by IDC in: In This Week |

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