Almost History archives

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

Charles de Gaulle’s embarrassing tête-a-tête

  At the start of the Second World War, Philippe Pétain was one of France’s most revered military heroes. By the end of the conflict, he was widely reviled as traitor to the nation. The Lion of Verdun’s reputation was destroyed when he agreed to collaborate with the […]

Ticket to Vokzal

Why is the word for a main railway station in Russian named after the unprepossessing London area of Vauxhall? . The Russian word for a main train station is Vokzal (воксал). Say it out loud – does it remind you of anything? Say it in a suitably English […]

A stimulating proposition

Quantitative easing is a new name for an old concept – governments taking a role in stimulating flagging or flat-lining economies.   Old fashioned economic stimulus has a new name for the twenty-first century. Concepts such as Keynesianism, state intervention and pump priming have been replaced by quantitative easing. According to […]

Malmesbury – the first capital of England?

Where was the first capital city of England? London? Westminster? Winchester? All would be decent guesses but, according to a BBC 4 documentary, they would be wrong. Could the accolade go to the decidedly less well known Malmesbury? I was dozily watching the first programme in the BBC […]

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I have sinned

Did a British Army officer communicate a victory in a pivotal battle in India by transmitting a single Latin word? In the frontier thrusting early years of the nineteenth century, the British Army attracted some of the boldest, bravest, most eccentric and unorthodox officers ever to grace the field. […]

Albert Göring – the good brother

The Göring family name is indelibly associated with Hermann Göring (1893 – 1945). Hermann was one of the leading lights of the National Socialist movement, and, until the regime was consumed and destroyed in the reaping hubris of Allied military advances, held some of the highest offices of […]

The Trafalgar Square Tank Bank

One of the most successful appeals for money to support the British war effort was inspired by the tank. Seen as a wonder weapon that could shorten the war, the cumbersome and ungainly vehicles became popular icons and were ultimately used not only to promote War Bonds, but […]

Death from the skies

It is a scene from the darkest days of the Blitz. A squadron of German planes flies over the East End and the City releasing a deadly stream of bombs on the people below. A school in Poplar is blown up and more than 162 people in total […]

This is not a test

At 9:33 a.m. on 14 September 1954, a Soviet Tu-4 bomber dropped a 40,000-ton atomic weapon from a height of 25,000 feet just north of Totskoye in the steppes of the southern Urals. In the early years of the Cold War, the testing of nuclear weapons was not […]

The sack of Louvain

In 1914, German soldiers sacked the Belgian city of Louvain. Its population was expelled and some were carried off in freight trains to camps in Germany. Its library, together with its priceless collection of rare manuscripts and early printed books, was deliberately burnt. . A cowed and defeated […]

The people behind the menu – 3

If you are powerful, celebrated or heroic you may be remembered by having things named after you. Schools, airports, roads, squares and public buildings are all dedicated to politicians, royalty, celebrities and heroic figures from a nation’s past. One way to be immortalised is to have a popular […]

The dying nations of the world

In 1898, the British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury gave a speech  on foreign relations. The core message seemed simple enough; weak states become weaker whilst strong states become stronger. But, in the dying days of the European peace, it was a remarkably prescient, perhaps even self-fulfilling prophecy. . […]

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The people behind the menu – 2

If you are powerful, celebrated or heroic you may be remembered by having things named after you. Schools, airports, roads, squares and public buildings are all dedicated to politicians, royalty, celebrities and heroic figures from a nation’s past. One way to be immortalised is to have a popular […]

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The people behind the menu – 1

If you are powerful, celebrated or heroic you may be remembered by having things named after you. Schools, airports, roads, squares and public buildings are all dedicated to politicians, royalty, celebrities and heroic figures from a nation’s past. One way to be immortalised is to have a popular […]

The State of California or the Province of New Albion?

California is one of the most iconic of America’s 50 states. Its film industry has shaped world culture and ensured that one of the most enduring images of America is the golden sands and rolling waves of its Pacific coastline. But what if America had been thwarted in […]

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China’s colonial escape

At the end of the nineteenth century, it looked likely that the age of imperialism would reach its apogee with the carve up of China. The world’s most populous and once most powerful state faced colonial rule, as Western powers considered ‘carving the Chinese melon’ following their ‘scramble […]

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Why does Hawaii’s flag include the Union Flag?

Each of the states of the United States of America has its own flag. Many are nothing more than drab depictions of the state seal against a navy blue background. Some are a little more adventurous, such as Maryland’s heraldry-inspired riot of colour and shapes. But one sticks […]

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Why did Italy join the Allies in 1915?

On 23 May 1915, Italy declared war on its former ally, Austria-Hungary. The Triple Alliance was reduced to an alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary and Europe no longer seemed quite as finely balanced into two opposing camps as it had at the outbreak of war. But why did […]

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Royal Bastards

What connect David Cameron, the 12th Duke of Grafton and Diana, Princess of Wales? They are all descendants of royal bastards, the illegitimate children of kings from across the centuries. Their illegitimacy barred them from succession to the Crown, but family ties ensured they would be granted titles, […]

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Deporting Dixie to Brazil

After the defeat of the Confederacy, thousands of Americans decided to emigrate to Brazil. They dreamed of building a new slave-owning society in a country almost as large as continental America with plenty of undeveloped land. Ironically, their presence would highlight slavery as an issue and lead to […]

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