Today is an age of acute environmental and ecological awareness; animal species are prized and valued with much being done to preserve their often dwindling numbers. A number of regional and national delicacies, once revered and consumed by millions of hungry eaters, are now but mere footnotes in forgotten recipe books of old, removed in the hope of conserving overeaten creatures. Turtle soup, likewise, has been removed from dinner tables across the United States, save a few establishments in the Pittsburgh region. This once popular dish formed the backbone of several presidential inaugurations, catered for hundreds on the first transcontinental railways and helped to establish the flushing post-revolutionary country. Its relative disappearance from American menus has prompted many an interest into how and why certain dishes are lost to history.
A ship of the Royal Navy, HMS Lutine has had a tumultuous history. Seized from the French in 1793, she rallied against the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte in the siege of Toulon and was finally lost at sea in 1799, carrying with her £1,200,000 in gold bullion and coin (£81,176,969 by 2007 indexes); only 10% of which has been successfully salvaged. Her total loss was of such consequence to the London insurance market that her bell still stands in the rostrum of the Underwriting Room of the Lloyd’s Building, witness to the magnitude of financial risk at stake. HMS Lutine is a testament to the Lloyd’s of London market reputation which in over 300 years of turbulent history and more than 200 years since her total loss, still continues to pay all valid claims, no matter the sum.
John Rosenberger, "Hide From Love!"Secret Hearts #139 (October 1969)
In today’s society, gender inequality is still an ever present source of contention and has yet to be remedied fully and utterly. With the advent of the ‘New Woman’ in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the role of women in society has always been a particular point of fascination, for both contemporaries and historians alike. The image of the doting and flirtatious secretary can be seen, therefore, as emblematic of the working woman for more than a century. Her sexualised role in the male dominated office setting left her vulnerable in her place of work to perverted scrutiny, abject ridicule and physical harassment.
On 24 July 1916, Captain Charles Fryatt was executed by the German armed forces in the Belgian city of Bruges for his attempt of sinking a German submarine by ramming. The nature of his execution sent a shock wave throughout international political circles, many in the British government becoming outraged that a man should be condemned for exercising his right to resist an opposing aggressor. Germany had justified its military tribunal on the proviso that Fryatt was an illegal combatant, a franc-tireur, reintroducing a Franco-Prussian war concept, which could prosecute anyone that conspired to perverse the ‘established’ rules of war.
Across the years, marketing departments and advertising agencies have always tried to formulate ever more varied and outlandish strategies for maximum effect in the marketplace. Unscrupulous, annoying and weird some may be, but none quite so unique as the campaign launched by the Mosler Safe Company in the aftermath of the Second World War. Only one year after the apocalyptic event of 6 August 1945, Mosler stepped up its campaign for their premium, apparently unbreakable vault products, citing the nuclear fallout of Hiroshima in its product placement strategy. Mosler safes found in the Teikoku Bank were, according to the bank manager, “stronger than the atomic bomb.” This was an unparalleled testimony to be sure, certainly not one to be left under utilised by Mosler marketers – particularly at the beginning of the ‘Atomic Age’.
On a recent trip to München, Germany, I took the opportunity to visit the place synonymous with cruelty and human degradation, a place which has come to define the crimes of National Socialism. The concentration camp of Dachau was the first instrument of terror used by the Nazis and was the only camp to remain operational up to the very end of the Second World War, murdering more than 31,000 people and brutalising many thousands more. Its history and its significance in modern day democratic societies are of the utmost importance therefore. How then did it seem appropriate, opening a McDonald’s restaurant barely a mile away from the camp and adjacent to the S-Bahn station? Offering customers the option of ‘supersizing’ can only have been a catastrophic oversight considering the thousands that suffered and starved over half a century ago.
It has been more than forty years since man first walked on the moon. In less than ten years, NASA hopes to repeat the mission and deploy astronauts on the lunar surface once more. The risks today are no less substantial than they were in July 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first landed. Although technology has improved, there is still the ever present danger of being stranded on the moon, cut off from civilisation and rescue. In 1969, contingencies were made in response to this possible situation. On 20 July 1969, in the event of such an appalling tragedy, the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, would himself address the nation and broadcast an epitaph in congratulation. Although the speech was never used, the document serves as a fascinating reminder of the ever present danger posed on those wishing to explore the astrological limits of our world and the frightening possibilities to befall those that dare to try.
The challenge for many institutions, centres of education and historians alike has been one of trying to produce material that is both enlightening and engaging enough to suit the general public. Smartphone technology and multimedia applications have allowed for the dissemination of material en masse, making it both informative and fun to connect with. Contrary to its existing theological and evangelical material, the Vatican has made an unprecedented effort to produce a smartphone app which explores the trail of Giordano Bruno and his subsequent execution by burning at the stake more than four hundred years ago. Utilising augmented reality, the Lux In Arcana app allows users to observe the statue of Giordano in a way never seen before. Witness Giordano’s execution on your smartphone as his effigy bursts into a digitally rendered inferno.
Today marks the end of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay which has travelled throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, journeying from Olympia, Greece itself. Lighting of the Olympic Torch marks the official inauguration of the London 2012 Games and signals the beginning of the XXX Olympiad. Given its presence in the modern Olympic Games, the torch relay has somewhat surprising origins. It is difficult to imagine that the symbolic gesture of peace, travelling throughout the corners of the world, actually began in 1936 with the XI Olympiad, hosted by the city of Berlin under the national socialist dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.
During the Great Depression, American society was both economically and politically apathetic. It was a time of great dissatisfaction in the United States of America, the loss of financial potency too difficult to handle. Two individuals who sought to disrupt and profit from the social malaise came to the fore and captured the American imagination. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow rose to national acclaim in their two year crime spree, thievery, armed robbery and murder being amongst their many crimes. Almost eighty years on, an auction offering the pistols recovered from their bullet ridden bodies on 23 May 1934, following their dramatic shoot-out, has been announced, rekindling the public fascination of these two most infamous criminals. What is unique from any other gun auction is the fact that the lots on offer were personally, even intimately, connected with the pair; Bonnie’s ‘squat gun’, found taped to her inside thigh, is estimated to sell for more than $200,000 alone.
The impression of Napoleon Bonaparte to many, both today and in the past, is one of imperturbable confidence and resolve. His First French Empire lasted from 1804 to 1815, conquered most of Europe and governed over 44 million people at its peak in 1812. It is difficult to imagine, therefore, the sweet, romantic and desperate undertones of the exemplary military and political tactician who would be sworn in as the first Emperor of France. The discovery of numerous notes, memorandums and love letters has revealed the vulnerable and very human nature behind the notorious tyrant.
Since the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, conjecture and imagination have plagued the historiography. No other regime in history has inspired such virulent and ever escalating myths than the twelve year National Socialist dictatorship and the Third Reich. Romanticism, fanaticism and sheer occultism have taken effect in spawning numerous conspiracy theories and dystopian rhetoric. One of the more outlandish theories is the myth concerning Neuschwabenland, the ‘secret’ Nazi Antarctic colony.
In today’s society, the issue of copyright is an ever present deterrent and source of condemnation for many would-be disseminators of online and offline content. The recent high profile court cases of Napster, Limewire and Kim Dotcom/Megaupload Ltd., demonstrate the severity of copyright infringement and the repercussions upon those that attempt it. One particularly infamous case occurred in the 1970s, involving one group of aspiring counter-culturists and the epitome of mass-consumerism and purity, vying with one another for freedom of expression and their own artistic rights. In 1971, Mickey Mouse became an unexpected battleground in a legal conflict waged between the Air Pirates comic artists and the might of the Walt Disney Company.
In the concluding months of World War Two, on 5 February 1945, one of the more bizarre and audacious Allied propagandistic operations began functioning. A German train carrying cargo, including a consignment of mail bags destined for the Austrian town of Linz, was derailed following an aerial strafing attack by Allied fighter planes. Following the bombardment, a sortie of Allied bombers dropped an unusual payload; eight mail bags, each containing 800 letters, sealed, stamped and ready for delivery, unbeknownst to the German authorities and the Deutsche Reichspost (German postal service) that subsequently delivered them. Operation Cornflakes and das Futsches Frühstück [ruined [sic] breakfast] had begun.
In Oakington, just outside of Cambridge, a collection of unearthed animal bones in a human grave has aroused a lot of interest. The grave was discovered as part of a larger fifth century cemetery, the burials of men and their typical grave goods being the norm. Realising the grave contained both a human and quadrupedal skeleton, archaeologists were excited to discover what they thought was another horse burial (coupled with the two others also discovered at the site). Their astonishment peaked upon realising that the skeleton was female, indeed all 31 of horse burials found in the UK have belonged to men. What really astounded them, however, was that rather than another equine burial this was the first European ritualised burial of a person and a common domestic cow.
Earlier this month, archaeologists revealed that they had discovered evidence hinting at a possible vampire destruction reminiscent of Van Helsing, as popularised in Bram Stoker’s gothic tale, Dracula. The two skeletal remains were unearthed in the Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Sozopol, both had been subjected to impalement after death. It has been suggested that the iron rod and ploughshare used to pin the individuals down was a preventative measure, designed to halt the dead from rising up and thirsting upon blood in their undead state.
After more than eighty years after the succession of Adolf Hitler in 1933, it is hard to imagine that anyone at the time could have imagined, let alone predicted, the horrors of a National Socialist Germany. Critics there were, opponents there were still many, but for one man to provide a point by point summative warning, that is what it most surprising when reading in the twenty-first century. In the March 1932 edition of The Atlantic, Nicolas Fairweather wrote a stirring indictment concerning the head of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. His ten point assessment of Hitler makes for fascinating reading, not only because it was so alarmist but that it was also incredibly accurate.
In 1922, Roy Anderson, the man who knew “more about China than the Chinese,” envisioned a nation purported to be the greatest and most peaceful of democratic countries; the United States of China (中华合众国; 中華合衆國). First devised in the early 1920s by Chen Jiongming, this new United States of China could be modeled on the United States of America itself. By taking a federalist approach, Jiongming believed that a united China could rise, bringing about economic and political stability. Anderson took this notion further, prophesising that “[t]he Chinese have a fine spirit of democracy, and the possibilities of the incorporation of that spirit into human institutions are almost beyond comprehension.”
On this day, 51 years ago, in pronounced celebration and frivolity, Sierra Leone officially announced its independence from British colonial rule. It is a time of great celebration for all Sierra Leoneans, cramming the streets of the Capital, Waterloo, Leicester and all along the beaches of the Freetown Peninsula. Since the cessation of hostilities in 2002, commentators are optimistic about the future of this West African nation. Following his government’s successful intervention during the civil war in the 1990s, Tony Blair congratulated the country on its efforts to restore parliamentary elections, reconcile peace and demilitarisation and its burgeoning economic growth. Indeed, yesterday’s successful conviction of Charles Taylor, the former head of Liberia, for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Hague at the UN Special Court has given many Sierra Leoneans a particular cause for celebration. What has not been highlighted, however, are the concerns of social stagnation, of the unresolved tensions following the war that still act as a canker in this troubled state. A fragmented youth community and an inability to foster cohesion has put these steps towards progression into serious doubt; Di rod geht plehnti galohp [Krio], the road has a lot of bumps. Still.
In reaction to the growing fears of Communism and the outward spread and consolidation of territory with the USSR, a number of accusatory and alarmist publications were written, denouncing the ‘Red Terror’ and its anti-capitalist sentiments as ‘un-American’. In 1947, the Catechetical Guild Educational Society responded with its publication of Is This Tomorrow: America Under Communism, a propagandistic comic strip concerned with detailing the approaching threat of Communism and the soviet onslaught against the United States of America.