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 […]

A thoroughly middle-class emperor

Prominent nationalists at the Sivas congress. Left to right: Muzaffer Kılıç, Rauf (Orbay), Bekir Sami (Kunduh), Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), Ruşen Eşref (Ünaydın), Cemil Cahit (Toydemir), Cevat Abbas (Gürer) See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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 […]

A slice of Turkey

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
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 […]

Unleashing the suffocating cloud

Ganz Deutschland hört den Führer mit dem Volksempfänger - All of Germany hears the Fuhrer on the People's Sender - propaganda poster c. 1933
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 […]

Achtung, achtung!

Maréchal Pétain’s journey from war hero to traitor was so complete that it surprised those who had not kept abreast of developments. The result was a rather surprising encounter between Charles de Gaulle and General Pershing. General John J. Pershing was the great commander of the American forces in World […]

An unfortunate 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 […]

Ticket to Vokzal

Quantitative easing - 1920s style. Fire up the printing press!
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, […]

A stimulating proposition

Tomb of King Athelstan in Malmesbury Abbey
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 […]

Malmesbury – the first capital of England?

A view of Karoonjhar Mountains
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 […]

I have sinned