Articles


Sovereign debt default was a lot more common when it was literally sovereigns defaulting. Kings liked money. They didn’t like paying it back. So, quite often, they didn’t. In the richest economies, default has become rare. One of the reasons the Greek financial crisis is dominating headlines and moving markets around the world is the rarity of a rich country failing to pay back the IMF. […]

Which European country tops the sovereign default league table?


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On 12 May 1937, Westminster Abbey rang with shouts acclaiming the new King-Emperor. In 1936, Britain had prepared for the coronation. Much of this effort was wasted when Edward VIII abdicated on 10 December 1936. Everyone had been getting ready for the coronation that never was.  The Coronation of a new King-Emperor promised a bonanza for British manufacturers. Factories that had been quiet during the darkest days of […]

The coronation that never was


Adolf Hitler Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-13774 / Unknown Heinrich Hoffmann / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
By 1935, the Nazi Party had consolidated its grip on the Third Reich. The Enabling Act and November 1933’s election made Hitler the supreme power in Germany. The Night of the Long Knives saw the party bear its murderous teeth to opposition but the regime’s brutality had been established from the outset; Dachau was founded immediately following Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. So it was a very […]

Fuck off, mein Führer!



The Cenotaph on Whitehall in London is designated as the United Kingdom’s primary war memorial. It commemorates the end of World War One.
In 1919, London hosted a Victory Parade that marked a unique moment of national rejoicing, mourning and catharsis. The Parade, also known as the London Peace Parade, saw returning troops march through packed streets in the capital. The city’s iconic monuments were momentarily joined by a series of temporary structures erected to mark the march. One of these, a plain but elegant wood and plaster cenotaph […]

How shall we remember them?


Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria Carl Pietzner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 1
As the world tumbled into the chasm of conflict in the early years of the twentieth century, one European country carried a light for tolerance, federalism, peace and prosperity. The United States of Greater Austria had been forged from an amalgam of nationalities, linguistic and ethnic groups. Nationalistic conflict, partisan politics, ethnic tensions and division were replaced with co-operation and federalism. The Empire of Austria had […]

The United States of Greater Austria


Russia’s Tsars typically surrounded themselves with the opulence they felt befitted their status as the autocratic rulers of the world’s largest country. Their palaces were sumptuous and vast, ornate gilded statements of power and wealth. But not every occupant of the throne was as enamoured with what had developed as the imperial style. The last Tsar, Nicholas II, had tastes that to many seemed downright bourgeois. […]

A thoroughly middle-class emperor



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 […]

A slice of Turkey


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, […]

Unleashing the suffocating cloud


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 […]

Achtung, achtung!



  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 Nazi invaders. The transformation was so complete that it would shock anyone who knew him in the First […]

Charles de Gaulle’s embarrassing tête-a-tête


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 accent, and it sounds like Vauxhall. Is this a coincidence, or is there an etymological connection between this […]

Ticket to Vokzal


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 Bob McTeer, quantitative easing is “different from traditional monetary policy only in its magnitude and pre-announcement of amount […]

A stimulating proposition



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 4 documentary series ‘Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings’ late last night when the presenter, Dr Janina […]

Malmesbury – the first capital of England?


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. Looming large over them all was General Sir Charles James Napier, Commander-in-Chief in India and Governor of Bombay […]

I have sinned


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 state in Nazi Germany. . The Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal at […]

Albert Göring – the good brother



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 as kiosks to sell them from. A watercolour by Sir William Orpen illustrates clearly why the tank initially […]

The Trafalgar Square Tank Bank


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 are killed. But this is not a story from the Second World War; it is a chapter from […]

Death from the skies


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 unusual – there would be 8 others in that year and over 200 in the same decade. What […]

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