History from early 19th century America... Vice President Aaron Burr killed a Founding Father in a duel in a state where duels were illegal. The Vice President was not convicted. Then, he was accused of plotting a scheme to create a new territory on the American continent, resulting in a treason trial. Casey Titus explains.

An illustration of the duel between American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and then US Vice President Aaron Burr in July 1804.

An illustration of the duel between American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and then US Vice President Aaron Burr in July 1804.

US Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804. Following that, Burr’s reputation was tarnished permanently. He had lost his chance of becoming president. Dueling was outlawed in the state of New York, the sentence for the conviction being execution. New Jersey had laws against dueling but with less severe consequences. Following Hamilton’s death from Burr’s bullet, Burr was charged with multiple crimes, including murder in both the states of New York and New Jersey - but was never tried.

Reputation ruined and guilt-ridden, Burr fled to South Carolina before returning to Philadelphia and then to Washington to complete his term as Vice President. After completing his term in 1805, Burr was drowning heavily in debt and with no future on the east coast due to his destroyed political career, Burr ventured to what was known at the time as the Western Frontier, the regions west of the Alleghany Mountains and along the Ohio River Valley that eventually reached the acquired lands in the Louisiana Purchase. He contacted the British diplomat Anthony Merry, who was living in Philadelphia at the time, and offered him his services in any efforts by Great Britain to take control over the western regions of the United States. Merry, out of his resentment for the United States, told his Foreign Ministry that while Burr was disreputably reckless, his ambition and spirit of vengeance would prove useful to the British government. Therefore, Merry became an avid advocate of Burr’s schemes.


Burr’s schemes in the west

Today, historians debate about what Burr’s exact aims in this expedition were due to the obvious secrecy on Burr’s part and lack of firm evidence against him. One of Burr’s suspected schemes was to organize a revolution in the West, obtain the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys, and structure them into a separate republic. Another scheme was to establish a republic bordering the United States by seizing Spanish possessions in the Southwest or persuade secession of western states from the Union. Perhaps both were true. Burr viewed war with Spain as inevitable and conspired with General James Wilkinson to establish an independent “Empire of the West” on a Napoleonic model by invading and annexing Mexico to add to their empire with New Orleans as the capital.

To gain further support for his schemes, Burr contacted two people. The first was a lifelong friend, General James Wilkinson, who served as aide to then Colonel Benedict Arnold during the Quebec expedition. Wilkinson was the governor of the Louisiana Territory and had already established a history of shady scheming himself such as being involved in a plot to replace George Washington as Commander-in-Chief with General Horatio Gates. The other co-schemer was Harman Blennerhasset, an Irish immigrant who lived luxuriously on an island in the Ohio River near Parkersburg, West Virginia.


An independent Louisiana?

Burr contacted Merry once again and informed him that Louisiana was ready to secede from the United States followed by the rest of the western frontier. For this to happen, Burr requested that Britain provide a $500,000 loan, assure his protection, and dispatch a British naval squadron to the mouth of the Mississippi River. In exchange, Great Britain would receive Louisiana, a former territory of Britain’s enemy, France. Merry gave Burr $1,500, but no response was received from London. The possibility of Burr’s scheme succeeding reduced when Minister Pitt died and was succeeded by Charles James Fox, a lifelong friend of the United States. Fox described the Merry-Burr discussions as “indiscreet, dangerous, and damnable,” before ordering Merry to England on June 1, 1806.

In 1806, Blennerhasset provided Burr funding for the outfitting of a small fleet while Burr’s personal vessel consisted of necessary commodities. Burr’s expedition down the Ohio River Valley consisted of eighty men made up of frontiersmen, filibusters, adventurers, and planters (among others) carrying basic firearms for hunting.

Upon his arrival in New Orleans, Burr was zealously welcomed by the city because his plan to colonize or conquer Spanish territory appealed to many people.


When Washington heard…

Burr’s collusion with Wilkinson turned out to be a poor and catastrophic choice on his part. As rumors of Burr’s plans reached Washington, the political establishment suspected treason in Burr’s plans. Wilkinson was stationed on the Sabine River on the Spanish border with the United States when he caught word of Washington’s suspicions and decided to turn on Burr to avoid being charged with treason himself.

On November 25, 1806, President Thomas Jefferson received a dispatch from Wilkinson that warned of Burr’s threatening plans. Jefferson ordered not only Burr’s arrest and apprehension near Nachez, Mississippi while Burr was attempting to flee into Spanish territory, but anyone who conspired to attack Spanish territory. After charges were brought against Burr in the Mississippi Territory, Burr escaped into the wilderness but was recaptured on February 19, 1807 and taken back to Virginia to stand trial.

Burr’s trial could very well be considered the “Trial of the Century” in the United States as it contained a notable set of key participants:

Aaron Burr (Founding Father, Vice President, Alexander Hamilton’s murderer) – the defendant

John Marshall (Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the most significant justice in U.S. History) – the trial judge

Thomas Jefferson (Founding Father, author of the Declaration of Independence, President of the United States) – force behind the prosecution

Edmund Randolph and Luther Martin (both delegates to the Constitutional Convention, among the most prominent men of the day) – defense attorney

Charles Lee (former Attorney General) – prosecutor

William Wirt (future presidential candidate) – prosecutor


The trial

On March 26, 1807, Burr arrived in Richmond, Virginia at the Eagle Hotel, lodging with a guard. Two months later, Burr was tried for treason in front of U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall. Jefferson prepared an account of Burr’s criminal activities for Congress and wanted to present it to the court. However, Marshall requested that the President instead make an appearance. Interestingly, the President refused which consequently established a precedent for future presidents. Marshall was not on good terms with President Jefferson and thus, found Burr not guilty, citing that Burr committed no overt act of treason. Although free of the charges brought against him, what little was left of Burr’s political career and reputation was permanently destroyed. He died in New York City in 1836. Wilkinson was successful in averting indictment by the Richmond, Virginia grand jury that investigated Burr. Two years before the trial, Wilkinson was appointed governor of the Louisiana Territory by Jefferson. Despite Wilkinson walking free, the governor neglected his duties which resulted in an angry populace rioting against his mismanagement to the extent that troops were deployed to calm the situation.

Though reappointed by Jefferson, Wilkinson’s administration was openly corrupt to the point of President Monroe ordering him court-martialed in 1811. Once again, he was found not guilty and he returned to his career of scheming, once again attempting to swindle the Spanish by traveling to Mexico City to seek a Texas land grant. While the grant was secured, he died in 1825 before the grant’s provisions were fulfilled. Thomas Jefferson died a year later on Independence Day. The sitting president, John Adams’ son, John Quincy, called it “visible and palpable remarks of Divine Favor.”


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AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

While examining the past will not allow us to exactly predict the future, we can identify patterns whose parts could prove useful in understanding contemporary affairs. By considering a key cause of World War I, the War of 1866/Austro-Prussian War, we may be able to see similar patterns in present events and forecast how they could shape the future.

Here, Lieutenant Colonel Sean H. Kuester tells us about Germany and the War of 1866, and contrasts this with Russian actions over the last decade.

The Battle of Koniggratz in the War of 1866/Austro-Prussian War.

The Battle of Koniggratz in the War of 1866/Austro-Prussian War.

"We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let's face it, is mostly the history of stupidity." 

-Stephen Hawking


Stephen Hawking may be right.  Nevertheless, in an effort to change the would be historical trajectory he describes, let’s take a stab at the past to craft a better future.  For the next year, we will remain in the centennial window of World War I (WWI); one of the greatest man-made catastrophes in history.  As such, it’s appropriate to refresh ourselves on how this momentous upheaval came to pass with a view toward understanding goings on in our own time.

There is quite a bit more to WWI’s causes than the standard fare of rigid mobilization schedules and Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination.  While these explanations capture immediate catalytic events, they neglect less visible yet more significant (in their predictive value) underlying causes.  It is in these underlying causes where the true extrapolative lessons lie and where modern strategists may seek insights for contemporary happenings.  One of the underlying causes occurred 71 years prior; the second war of German unification, also known as the War of 1866.  This seven week clash was in its own time, and remains today, replete with both strategic and tactical portents.

However, rather than being viewed as a singular incident it is better regarded as one of several successive gales in a gathering storm of national intent.  This interconnectedness of events as indicators is a salient lesson.  Given the conflict’s brevity and the fact that it occurred in the wake of the political upheavals of the 1848 European liberalist revolutions, most leaders failed to see the more profound implications of this war.  As a result, one of the foundations for WWI was quietly laid.

Waged between Prussia and Austria over the territory of Schleswig-Holstein, which Prussia and Austria won from Denmark in 1864, this short decisive war resulted in the Prussian state securing hegemony over the German speaking peoples of Europe.  Perhaps more importantly, however, the struggle dampened liberalizing effects born out of the revolutions of 1848, namely broad popular support for more representative style governments.  This dampening effect was combined with Prussian influence gained through battlefield preeminence and breathed fresh life into autocratic rule which would manifest itself ultimately in the visage of Germany’s powerful Kaiser.  The temporal extension of this autocratic system allowed an inordinate amount of power to be placed in the hands of a very aggressive and ambitious few.  While the Prussian victory in 1866 did not represent a tectonic shift in the continental balance of power it did indicate one of the first strategic tremors in the second half of the 19th century in Europe.

Prussia would further unify the German peoples by defeating France in 1870-1871, placing itself at increased variance with the great European powers.  Through degrees, which Europe saw but did not directly contest, Prussia consolidated the myriad German speaking states, subdued its weaker neighbors, appeased larger states and in time carved out an empire that challenged the continental order. Viewed in this light, the War of 1866 was the first major point of departure from German disunity to unity. 


Lessons for today?

Are we witnessing manifestations akin to the above scenario today?  The case of a resurgent Russia is instructive.  In 2008 Russia tested the world’s tolerance for her application of force to protect her so called privileged zone of influence when she invaded Georgia.  The world complained, even elevating their outrage to “serious concern,” but did little else. Perhaps the world was not prepared to imagine that only 16 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia could pull this off.    

Western democracies bogged down in Afghanistan seemed disinclined to affix themselves to another conflict and confirmed their assumed passivity regarding a major force on force challenge on the continent; especially one so far East.  Like the War of 1866, the Russian invasion of Georgia was a whirlwind, lasting only 5 days.  Ending as quickly as it started allowed nations to surreptitiously go back to those affairs occupying them before.  Russia had nimbly reasserted herself on Europe’s political stage.  The aftermath is comparable to the relative calm that enfolded Europe after 1866.  This calm in both cases was, of course, a phony edifice concealing loftier designs.

Six years later Russia annexed Crimea and the world complained again.  NATO complained loudly.  However, three years on Russia still controls the Crimea and has flexed her might in the Middle East as well.  She, like late 19th century Germany, seems single-minded in steadily gathering her strength to become a global force.



What next for Russia?

Just as the War of 1866 was not the first nor last act of national intent to achieve Germanic unity, we must ask ourselves, where will Russia cast her gaze next?  The West seems to remain fixated on the stalemate in the Ukraine and Crimea and equally as frustrated with Russia’s involvement in Syria.  In spite of Russia’s clear successes in these areas will the west clumsily glower in those directions? With so much NATO effort on the Alliance’s eastern periphery, will Russia truly attempt to expand “Gray Zone” warfare into the Baltics or deeper into the Ukraine?  Or, might Russia pursue something less obvious and less interesting for the West? 

Perhaps an attempt to consolidate her authority in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is the next increment of expansion; Putin commemorated the Russian-Georgia War by visiting Abkhazia this year.  This is clear diplomatic signaling that this region is in Russia’s sphere of influence.  Or perhaps Russia will attempt something still less predictable such as working to tilt Moldova in her direction.  Moldova has parliamentary elections in 2018, and has been a traditional geopolitical halfway point between East and West.  Or possibly Russia will be content expanding her influence east into the Central Asian Republics (CAR) where she can both grow her prestige, increase economic opportunity, and avoid substantial NATO interference while simultaneously frustrating NATO efforts in Afghanistan.

The point is this: much like 19th century Germany, 21st century Russia possesses a long range national vision that certainly has stages and designs western strategists can discern.  The Georgian War, the annexation of the Crimea, and Russia’s enthusiasm in Syria are not random acts of opportunity, just as the War of 1866 was not uncalculated opportunism.  Russia’s next move will be no less premeditated.


21st century railways

Inclining back to the War of 1866 with a view toward a phenomenon that resided below the strategic echelon, another observation may serve to reframe current events.  One major feature of the War of 1866 was the growing ability to concentrate troops by rail to achieve mass at a point of one’s own choosing.  In Arden Bucholz’s book, Moltke and the German Wars, 1864-1871, he concludes that rail usage was one component of a technological revolution in military affairs.  What then is the significance of rail today?

The key factor of rail in 1866 was that it provided a means to rapidly concentrate that era’s defeat mechanism (land power) where it needed to be before the adversary could counter it. The object for modern strategists, however, is to uncover the 21st century’s comparable means that can deliver this era’s defeat mechanism. 

One modern equivalent of this ability to concentrate a defeat mechanism may be found by splicing two rapidly evolving concepts: the swarm attack and cyber warfare.  The potency of cyber warfare is self-evident and on the rise; its working definition is now generally well enough understood too.  A useful initial definition of a swarm attack is provided by Sean J. A. Edwards in his 2004 RAND dissertation, Swarming occurs when several units conduct a convergent attack on a target from multiple axes.” Swarm attacks are generally viewed as being physical attacks, but that interpretation is now incomplete, outmoded and likely on the cusp of shifting.

The railway of the 21st century may be the internet with the coin of the realm being digitized information and operations (think banking data and air traffic control systems) and the ability to message or influence (think online news, social media and email servers).  So how do swarm attack and cyber warfare conjoin together as a defeat mechanism?  Imagine a scenario where distributed cyber operatives (hackers) use the internet to deliver malware.  Envision further that instead of attacking one sector such as happened in 2015 against the Ukrainian power grid, cyber operatives simultaneously attack multiple sub-systems of a larger more complex system.

What if operatives, for example, instantaneously targeted the health system, telecom industry, natural gas sector and electrical grid?  In fact, such a scenario already played out – this year.  The attack began in Europe and spread to over 100 countries.  The motive in this ransomware attack appeared to be the accumulation of bitcoin.  Imagine though, if the motive had been more sinister, with broader and a longer duration impact being the objective.

Digitally delivered defeat mechanisms can be designed to achieve something akin to what the US Army’s Doctrine Reference Publication 3-0, Operations, calls disintegration which is “…to disrupt the enemy’s command and control system, degrading its ability to conduct operations while leading to a rapid collapse of the enemy’s capabilities or will to fight…specifically targeting…command structure and communications systems.” While it is difficult to imagine a state being “defeated” in the classical sense by a cyber-attack it is easy to conceive use of the internet “railway” to “collapse” a state or institutions’ critical capabilities or as part of a broader campaign or preliminary strike.


The War of 1866 in retrospective

“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times.  This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions and thus they necessarily have the same results.”  Machiavelli may have been no less jaded than Stephen Hawking regarding the record of mankind’s past.  He did, however, see merit in studying the past.  This work subscribes to Machiavelli’s outlook that clues to the future can indeed be found in the past if strategists ask the right questions and use their imagination.   Historical patterns often repeat themselves.  World War I was not the result of spontaneous combustion. The fuel for this fire was gathered and plainly stacked for all to see over the course of half a century.

The War of 1866 was a primary underlying cause for WWI even though it occurred seven decades previous.  While it did alter the strategic landscape in its overall result, as a single event it did not make WWI inevitable.  Conversely, if viewed as one rung on a larger German ladder of national purpose and aligned with earlier and subsequent events, the case for a European showdown is strong.   Embedded within the conflicts’ day to day operations innovations such as rail transport gave a marked advantage to the state visionary enough to exploit it.

Comparing and contrasting the War of 1866 and other events that contributed to WWI with the case of today’s resurgent Russia is educational.  Considering how modern technology might be leveraged by a state like Russia is equally educational.  Strategists must constantly engage in these types of academic exercises in the pursuit of “why.”  As Phillip A. Crowl concluded in The Strategist’s Short Catechism: Six Questions Without Answers the future cannot be exactly predicted by studying the past; yet, as Crowl goes on to say, “…the study of history will help us to ask the right questions so that we can define the problem – whatever it is.”


What did you think of this article? How are events of the last decade comparable to events before World War One?


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Benjamin Franklin remains one of the most known of the United States’ Founding Fathers. But, before he became a key figure in the American Revolution and Revolutionary War, he spent much of his time in London, United Kingdom. And not too many years ago it came to light that there were human remains in the house where he lived - from around the time he lived there. Casey Titus explains.

A portrait of Benjamin Franklin from 1767. Portrait by David Martin.

A portrait of Benjamin Franklin from 1767. Portrait by David Martin.

From 1757 to 1775, Benjamin Franklin often resided in an elegant, four-story house at 36 Craven Street in London, United Kingdom. Fast forward 228 years later to 1998 when construction on the historic home began as part of a remodeling project to transform the building into a museum to honor Franklin’s legacy.

Approximately a month into the remodeling, Jim Field, a construction worker was working in the basement of the Franklin home when he came across a gruesome discovery – a thighbone sticking out from the dirt floor. A coroner was called in and confirmed that the bone was in fact, human. The police were also called and further investigation uncovered 1,200 pieces of human bone along with a turtle and other animals. In total, there were ten bodies. Six of those bodies were children. Forensic investigation dated the bodies to be more than 200 years old, roughly the time renowned Founding Father Benjamin Franklin resided in this London home.

As a renowned revolutionary against one of the world’s greatest empires and a powerful freemason – the Grand Master of Masons of Pennsylvania - dark secrets can easily be attributed to the face of
the United States’ $100 bill.

Further forensic investigation of the human remains revealed that some of the bones had been sawed into – they had scalpel marks, while skulls had been drilled into. However, the bones with these clean-cut marks also disclosed no signs of healing. Therefore, the dismemberment of the bodies had occurred after death.


Just who did it?

The key piece of evidence of who committed the dismemberment was the mercury in the turtle bones. All of the human and animal remains were linked not to Benjamin Franklin, but a close friend of his by the name of William Hewson. Hewson was an anatomist and the father of hematology. One of his most renowned experiments included injecting a deceased turtle with mercury while recording the element’s travel through the lymphatic system. As a result, Hewson was the first to recognize that animals and humans share a similar lymphatic system.

At the time, conducting autopsies on anyone other than an executed criminal was illegal due to religious fears that a body not fully intact would fail to journey into the next chapter after death. The attempts of anatomists and scientists like Hewson to perform this kind of medical practice had to be performed in secret, and they often resorted to buying deceased bodies from body snatchers and grave robbers.

Benjamin Franklin himself was a scientist and interested in human anatomy. As a result, researchers and an organization called the Friends of Benjamin Franklin found some evidence that Franklin allowed his friend Hewson to conduct secret and illegal autopsies in his London home’s basement. Bodies could be smuggled from graveyards. Then, rather than sneaking the bodies out and disposing of the bodies elsewhere, they buried them in the house to avoid the risk of getting caught and prosecuted for dissection and grave robbing.


Franklin & Hewson – What came next?

There is no evidence to suggest that Franklin was involved in the dissections himself though. In 1774, one year before the United States’ most recognized Founding Father left England and returned to the colonies, Hewson’s passionate pursuit of scientific inquiry would cost him his life, accidentally slicing himself while dissecting a corpse and dying of an infection.

Benjamin Franklin was instrumental in the independence and creation of one of the world’s first modern republics, with the help of his inventive writings. He was also a polymath curious about the world around him would go to many lengths for the sake of knowledge, even harboring illegal anatomical experiments in his basement.


What do you think of the article? Did Franklin allow these experiments in his home while in London?

Russia had followed a different path to much of Western Europe for centuries. However, in the 1690s, Tsar Peter I of Russia wanted to learn more about the region and its navies. This led him to mount the Grand Embassy to Western Europe, in particular England. While there he would learn a lot – and one day that learning would help bring him to greatness. Brenden Woldman explains.

Peter the Great in Holland during the Grand Embassy. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, 1910.

Peter the Great in Holland during the Grand Embassy. Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, 1910.

Like many young Russian students, twenty-five year old Peter Mikhailov left the confines of his homeland in 1697 to “both learn and experience” the culture and technological advances of Western Europe.[1] However, Peter’s joining of “The Grand Embassy” was one of intrigue and mystery for one major reason. “Peter Mikhailov” was nothing more than the alias of Russian Tsar Peter I. Peter, a man who appreciated the European ethos, wanted this incognito trip to bring back not only practical knowledge of Western Europe but also obtain ideas to turn Russia into a modern European nation.

The undercover aspect of his trip was quickly exposed, as the young Tsar was famously one of the tallest men in Europe, standing around six feet, ten inches. The physical reputation of Peter coincided with his social reputation, as Peter, who was known as a rambunctious “merrymaker”, left any place he visited in good spirits through a copious amount of alcohol consumption and partying. Nevertheless, the majority of the European populace did not notice that the leader of the Russian Empire was walking the streets of Europe as a commoner. These adventures led Peter to the Dutch Republic where he learned the art of merchantry and classical ship building while his ventures in Sweden led to the hiring of naval personnel and the sending of ambassadors to Russia.[2] Though the Grand Embassy was considered a success, one of the most important relationships was forged 10 years prior in 1687, when Russian ambassadors were treated coldly by the French government during a treaty signing.[3] After this treatment, Peter had a personal vendetta against the French, which led to an unlikely but resilient bond between Tsar Peter I of Russia and King William III of England.


Peter in England

William of Orange, the King of England since 1688 and the Dutch stadtholder, was a lifelong cynic toward the French. Once hearing of Peter’s hatred of the French (and his want to reopen economic relations with the Russians), the Prince of Orange was overjoyed to allow Peter to sail from the Dutch Republic and across the English Channel. With this most welcome invitation, Peter set sail and landed in England on January 10, 1698.

Peter’s love of Western culture only advanced during his time in England. His admiration of both England and the West was nothing new, as the young Tsar would send the sons of Russian noblemen to acquire a European education.[4] Peter was no different. During his time in England, Peter was given private tours of English historical and economic sites such as the Royal Society and the Tower of London to view the Royal Mint.[5] The young Tsar also viewed the English military Arsenal, as well as learning about English culture through artistic excursions in places such as Oxford, London, and Windsor.[6] In the realm of science, Peter visited the Royal Observatory at Greenwich due to his interest in using the stars for navigation.[7] However, Peter was shocked with the social and economic relations throughout England.

For the Tsar, England was home of a flourishing merchantry, a free press, an open government, and a cosmopolitan ambiance, which were all things Peter wanted to strive for in his own empire.[8] Hearing open debate among the people upon his visit to the English Parliament left the Tsar feeling elated, stating, “It is good to hear subjects speaking truthfully and openly to their King. This is what we must learn from the English”.[9] Yet, with all of the Tsar’s interests in Westernization, it was in fact one particular aspect of English culture that brought Peter there: the Royal Navy.


Learning about the Royal Navy

Peter left Holland having learned much about the art of shipbuilding but believed that the Dutch had no original theories about naval construction, unlike the English.[10] The young Tsar’s obsession with shipbuilding stemmed from the simple fact that Russia established a national navy in 1696, only two years prior. Needless to say, Peter needed advice on how to build a navy. King William III sent and subsequently gave Peter the Royal Transport, a ship used to carry prestigious guests from Holland to England and one of the most modern ships in the world.[11] This gift became a key example for Russian engineers to build up-to-date ships.

When Peter arrived in England, he moved into writer John Evelyn’s home in Deptford, south-east of London. The reason for Peter moving to a small house in Deptford was that it was close to the dockyards of King’s Wharf, where Peter regularly visited and studied the ships that were being built.[12] Moreover, the Tsar would repeatedly sketch the ships at the Deptford dockyards whilst also studying the “blueprints” of English naval architecture. However, the Russian Emperor did not spend his entire time studying English ships at King’s Wharf. To hone in on naval tactics for military conflict, Peter traveled to Portsmouth.

At Portsmouth, Peter reviewed the English warships, diligently noting the number and caliber of the guns on the ships while also studying mock naval battles tactics, logistics, and strategies, all of which the English specially arranged for the young Tsar just off the Isle of Wight.[13] With the new information about Western culture, naval architecture, and tactics learned in England, Tsar Peter I would return back to Russia and implement them in an attempt to make Russia a modern, European country.


What did Peter the Great take back to Russia?

Peter’s time in England came to an end on April 22, 1698. The immediate reaction by the English government of Peter after he left was one that supported the Russian stereotypes of the time. For the English, Peter was unintelligent, backwards, and frequently drunk. Even on his travels Peter’s party lifestyle could not subside, as he would regularly write about how he “stayed at home and made merry” to such a magnitude that John Evelyn made the British government pay compensation for three hundred and fifty pounds to cover the damage made by Peter’s “merrymaking”.[14] However, though the English may have thought Peter had learned nothing, the Tsar took his newfound knowledge and advanced Russia in profound ways.

The open policies and social relations between the government and the people in England highly influenced Peter in his later years when he implemented his highly influential Table of Ranks. Furthermore, English and Western culture helped shape the young Russian nobility for generations to come - throughout the eighteenth century and beyond. However, the knowledge of shipbuilding that Peter brought back to Russia helped change the country. When Peter returned to Russia, the Tsar established a large shipbuilding program in the Baltic Sea which, by his death in 1725, had 28,000 men enlisted in a Navy of nearly 50 large ships and over 800 smaller vessels.[15] It is also important to note that in Peter’s greatest fight, the Great Northern War against Sweden, the newly established Russian Navy was a key component to the Russian victory in the war. For Peter, the Grand Embassy and his travels in England were more than a mere adventure for a young ruler. They were instrumental in making Peter I into Peter the Great.


What do you think of the article? How important was Peter the Great’s time in England for his later successes? Let us know below.


[1] V. O. Kli︠u︡chevskiĭ, Peter the Great (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), 24.

[2] Lindsey A. J. Hughes, Russia in the age of Peter the Great (Hew Haven Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000), 23-24.

[3] Hughes, Russia in the age of Peter the Great, 25.

[4] Kli︠u︡chevskiĭ, Peter the Great, 29.

[5] "Peter the Great," Royal Museums Greenwich | UNESCO World Heritage Site In London, July 21, 2016, http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/peter-great.

[6] Hughes, Russia in the age of Peter the Great, 25.

[7] "Peter the Great," Royal Museums Greenwich | UNESCO World Heritage Site In London, July 21, 2016, http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/peter-great.

[8] Hughes, Russia in the age of Peter the Great, 23.

[9] Kli︠u︡chevskiĭ, Peter the Great, 28.

[10] Ibid., 29.

[11] "Peter the Great," Royal Museums Greenwich | UNESCO World Heritage Site In London, July 21, 2016, http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/peter-great.

[12] Ibid.,

[13] Kli︠u︡chevskiĭ, Peter the Great, 28.

[14] Ibid., 29.

[15] "Peter the Great," Royal Museums Greenwich | UNESCO World Heritage Site In London, July 21, 2016, http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/peter-great.


As of November 2017, the United States of America had 45 presidents - well technically 44 people as Grover Cleveland was president twice - but there have been 45 presidencies since 1789. But have you ever thought about who ‘ran’ the United States before George Washington took office in 1789? The US called for Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Doing the math, there were 13 years between the Declaration of Independence and George Washington’s term as president, although the early ‘presidents’ began even earlier… Jennifer Johnson explains.

A portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797.

A portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797.


The Start of a New Nation

For many American colonists, declaring Independence from Great Britain was a surprise. Due to treason laws, the men who became known as the Founding Fathers, met in secret while determining how they would fight for independence from the Mother Country. And they knew that once independence was declared, it would be a fight to the finish. Therefore, there was a lot that transpired after the Declaration of Independence, namely the American Revolutionary War. However, even with the US at war with Great Britain, someone still needed to oversee the newly formed United States. So, who could that be? Step forward, the President of the Continental Congress.

Before we get too far into who the presidents before George Washington were, it is important to note that the Presidents of the Continental Congress and the Presidents of the USA ended up with different responsibilities. One reason for this is America, at war with Britain, was not truly independent until the 1780s. Even during the different presidencies of the Continental Congress, responsibilities changed. And one of the biggest differences was the term in office. There were many presidents for short periods before George Washington. The Continental Presidents could stay in office until they resigned or Congress felt a new president was necessary - at least before the Articles of Confederation were agreed.


The Early Continental Presidents

Peyton Randolph is known as the first President of the Continental Congress, or Continental President.  He was given this title in September 1774 when everyone in Congress voted for him to be so. However, in October 1774, Henry Middleton became the second Continental President for about a week, after which Peyton Randolph took over again, this time for a little under a month due to poor health.  Once Randolph resigned a second-time due to his health and headed back to Virginia to be with his family, one of the most famous Founding Fathers took over, John Hancock. Hancock stayed on as president until October 1777. John Hancock did not even step down as Continental President when Peyton Randolph came back for a period of time, though many felt Hancock should have in order to let Randolph assume his responsibilities. Unfortunately, all this debate ended when Peyton Randolph passed away suddenly of a stroke in October 1775. This means that John Hancock was the first President of the Continental Congress to preside under the US after the Revolutionary War broke out and after independence was declared. Henry Laurens was the fifth Continental President and served from the time Hancock stepped down until December 1778. Laurens was succeeded by John Jay, who served until September 28, 1779.  The seventh Continental Congress President was Samuel Huntington, who served from the date John Jay stepped down until a couple months after the Articles of Confederation were ratified in 1781. 


Continental Presidents Under the Articles of Confederation

Once the Articles of Confederation were ratified by all of America’s 13 states, the responsibilities of the Presidents of the Continental Congress began to extend. Thomas McKean was the first Continental President to hold his full term under the Articles of Confederation, lasting from July 1781 to November of that year. John Hanson was the ninth and lasted a year in office, from November 5, 1781 to November 4, 1782.  Then it was the turn of Elias Boudinot from New Jersey, who was in place until November 3, 1783. The eleventh Continental President was Thomas Mifflin, who served as president until June 1784. Unfortunately for Mifflin, he had a tough short term as Continental President as General George Washington resigned in December 1783 and then Mifflin had the challenge of trying to get enough delegates from the states so Congress could ratify the Treaty of Paris. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia was the twelfth and resided in office from November 30, 1784 to November 4, 1785.  The thirteenth was once again John Hancock, who filled the position from November 1785 to June 1786. After Hancock’s second term as Continental President, Nathaniel Gorham took over from June 6, 1786 until November of that same year. The last two Continental Presidents were Arthur St. Clair, who was in office from February to November 1787, and Cyrus Griffin who was president until November 1788.


George Washington becomes President

The famous first President, and truly first president with the title and responsibilities of the President of the USA, took office in 1789 and served two terms as president, until 1797. As the majority of Americans know, George Washington is one of the most famous and heavily researched of all the United States’ presidents. However, Washington was in many ways not truly the first president of United States of America as an independent country. 


Let us know what you think of the article below…


"Continental Presidents." Continental Presidents ***. Accessed October 5, 2017. https://www.landofthebrave.info/continental-presidents.htm.

History.com Staff. "John Hancock." History.com. 2009. Accessed October 8, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/john-hancock.

"Peyton Randolph: The forgotten revolutionary president." National Constitution Center – constitutioncenter.org. Accessed October 5, 2017. https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/peyton-randolph-the-forgotten-revolutionary-president.

"President of the Continental Congress." Wikipedia. October 07, 2017. Accessed October 14, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President_of_the_Continental_Congress.

"Thomas Mifflin." Wikipedia. October 06, 2017. Accessed October 14, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mifflin.

People hum in the shower or in the car, but what about singing in your office? Just imagine the operatic exchanges you could have with your boss.

Bob, I need that sales report by Mon-day

“It’ll be on your desk by fi-ve” you sing back, silently wondering where in the office libretto it names you as lead vocal for sales reports.

Can’t quite picture it? Well maybe no operatic exchanges ever took place in business, but company funded music used to actually be a thing.

Nicol Valentin explains.

Frank B. Gilbreth, a leading proponent of singing at work.

Frank B. Gilbreth, a leading proponent of singing at work.

Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

Singing during work comes naturally to most people. From the earliest times music has been a way to keep workers movements synchronized, reduce boredom, and increase productivity.  Railway workers sang to keep track laying coordinated, Scottish women sang while fulling cloth, and African slaves sang in the field. Even America’s Yankee doodle began as a Dutch harvest song. With the noise of industrialization, however, singing voices never made it past the door.

Scientific management became a mantra for businesses after its popularization by Fredrick Taylor in 1909. Every movement of a worker was accounted for under Taylor’s system, which was good for the employer, but not necessarily the employee. How to increase productivity was the question in everyone’s mind, including Frank Gilbreth’s. Productivity would improve if the workers were given a break. A little music might help, Frank told people, but the idea wasn’t taking off. It took the First World War to really get the idea going. Companies were looking for ways to get the maximum efficiency from their workers. Thrown into the mix was the Council of National Defense. Composed of mostly industry and labor leaders, the council was relied upon by President Woodrow Wilson to divide resources between the civilian and military worlds. With a vested interest in boosting productivity and limiting fatigue, rest periods, which could include singing, were coming into vogue.


It Doesn’t Take a Genius

All that scientific mumbo jumbo just to figure out what department stores had known since the 1800s. John Wannamaker, for example, had an organ placed in his Philadelphia department store in 1876. Wannamaker liked his employees to start and end the day with a little ditty or two. Filene Department store in Boston likewise opened its doors early. Employees spent the time singing and dancing down the aisles. Such a joyous start made for more pleasant and efficient sales people who kept a spring in their step throughout the day.

Of course, music was also used as a means of bringing in customers. Nevertheless, the part it played in lifting the morale of the worker was real. Besides Wannamaker’s and Filene’s, Chicago’s Marshall Field, New York’s Macy’s and pretty much every other large department store sponsored a band, chorus, or orchestra. Wanamaker was by far the most ambitious of the bunch. He purchased an organ to use for the stores morning sing alongs and had a total of ten different ensembles in order to accommodate different talents and tastes.

Now, maybe if you know what society was like 100 years ago you’re thinking: it’s nice for a bunch of women to get together and sing that fluffy, frilly stuff. But hard working, sweat producing, dirt incrusted men—never!

Well, think again, mon ami.


Men, Sweat, and Music

In January 1915, American Iron and Steel devoted its newsletter to music in the workplace. Why? Well according to the Bulletin, men were often unsatisfied. Not because of low wages—that would be silly—but because of boredom. Still, they needed some way to keep the men involved in wholesome activities after hours. Once again, music came to the rescue.

“Volumes. . . could be written on the moral and intellectual influence of good music,” according to Charles Hook, superintendent of the American Rolling Mill Company in Ohio. For that reason, the company had a minstrel chorus and a glee club among other things. Hook extolled the virtues of singing saying the camaraderie made the co-workers more like brothers, creating a positive effect on the workers’ health and happiness.

American Rolling Mill wasn’t the only one to incorporate music into the lives of their workers. Many mining companies had bands, orchestras and Glee clubs. Bethlehem steel had a pretty sweet band hall that they boasted was: “Probably the handsomest and most completely equipped building of its kind in the United States.”


Kum-ba-yahing with the Company

Music during work hours was a psychological tool to help increase production. The introduction of a musical diversion relieved the monotony of repetitive work and had an uplifting effect on a weary worker.  Scovill Manufacturing Company in Waterbury, Connecticut is one example. The company had been suffering from high turnover and a large number of accidents. After a two-year investigation begun in 1917 the company introduced singing periods. And yes, it did start among the women. It took time for some of the men to accept that singing wouldn’t diminish their manhood. Once they did, however, it was the grandest fifteen to twenty minutes of their day. Men would bring their instruments to practice after work for the next day’s sing along, while the singers took time to learn their parts in harmony. They liked it so much that when the management tried to replace the singing with lectures the workers listened respectfully, then asked to sing anyway.


It Ain’t Over ‘till it’s Over

Properly selected music would stimulate any class of workers to greater action,” said the self-help author Napoleon Hill - and companies agreed. IBM, Ford Motor Company, Union Pacific, National Cash Register, Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation, Dodge Brothers; all had some type of music program for their employees. Many even expanded the programs to include musical education for family members. The golden age of company supported music didn’t last though. With Wanamaker’s death in 1922, and the Great Depression of the 1930s, people were singing less. Schools began to take on the role of musical education more, helping to make family programs redundant. Money too became an issue. With the economic problems of the Great Depression, money was often shifted from employee programs to national advertising.

Company orchestras and singing groups enjoyed periodical revivals, especially during the period of the Second World War. Using public address systems, many companies could now pipe music into their workers, giving them a little lift with relative ease.  Things may have waned, but what was old has the habit of becoming new again. Some companies are once again realizing the benefits of office music rooms and company choirs. So, while your ability to sing falsetto may not be discussed at your next job interview, a little practice can’t hurt.


Share your knowledge of singing at work – whether from history or personal, modern experiences – below…


Singing at work: Italian Immigrants and Music in the Epoch of WWI Fernando Fasce for Italian Americana Vol 27, No.2 (Summer 2009)  

Sing, Play, Dance! Music and Music Education in Industry by Tuohey, Therese Volk, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, October 2021

Rest Periods for Industrial Workers, Research report #19, January 1919, National Industrial Conference Board

Commerce and Poetry Hand in Hand: Music in American Department Stores, Linda L. Tyler Journal of the American Musicological Society Vol. 45 #1 Spring, 1992

Monthly Bulletin of the American Iron and Steel Institute, Vol. III 1915, New York

Beckett, W., & Fairley, L. (1944). Music in Industry: A Bibliography. Notes, 1(4), 14-20.



We get lots of requests to write articles on the site as well as requests for writing tips from would-be writers and students. So, following yesterday’s piece on biographical essays, today we’re sharing an article on history essays… What does it take to compose a great essay in History? Today we’ll look into three key prerequisites of a paper worth the top grade.

Writing in History... A Lady Writing by Johannes Vermeer, 1660s.

Writing in History... A Lady Writing by Johannes Vermeer, 1660s.

How to Prepare a Stellar History Essay – 3 Key Steps

Have you ever been in a courtroom, or seen on television, a situation where a witness pledges an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? The same rule works in the case of History essays. When writing about the question or topic of your paper, seek to operate with relevant evidence, proven facts and solid data. Do this and the foundation of a great essay will be in place.

What is more, there are 3 key elements to a strong historical essay on top of doing this research and using it well.


Number 1 - Plan your essay through first

Many students and essay writers make one and the same mistake – they rush into drafting content right after background data has been read. But what a smart student does is prepare an outline for their ‘manuscript’ that seeks to closely answer the topic or question of the essay.

·       “Explain Why” – Having to dwell upon a certain historical event, you’ll have to organize data in a way to explain why this or that happened. Analytical skill is important with this type of essay

·       “Discuss a Quote” – Giving a student a quote by a renowned historical figure and asking them to elaborate on its meaning and content is a quite common History assignment. What’s key here is keeping your answer focused and supporting it with as many meaningful arguments and sources as word limits allow you to

·       “Access and Evaluate” – This is perhaps the most difficult type of History essay. It asks you to carry out a deep analysis of a certain event or a historical figure’s activity. Giving your personal evaluation might sound easy, but that’s only when your judgment is based on thorough study of the historical period/person and is backed up by strong sources

·       “Compare and Contrast” – For most students, comparing and contrasting two historical figures or two historical events sounds interesting and even entertaining, but often you will need to research both people/events thoroughly (which can lead to double the research!) and think even more carefully about how you will plan your essay


Number 2 - Mind your judgment

Logic and analysis are key to making your essay a success. Logical and analytical skills are important to History writing, which makes it quite a challenge for some students who are aiming for a really high grade. Indeed, History is a subject that often requires a higher than average ability to analyze complex information and establish cause-and-effect relationships.

So, what’s the problem here? Many people make haphazard conclusions based on their analysis. If you have written your essay in a hurry, or, for example, do not properly understand the events in question and what led to them, you may not be able to join all of the information together leading to errors in your analysis.

In a History essay, it is imperative to think through the subject and not write down the first conclusion that comes to your mind. Some people recommend that you ‘sleep on it’ - meaning let your mind process the sources you have read and allow yourself enough time to form judgments.

But when deadlines are pressing, some students seek History essay help, because they can’t quiet see how a topic links together and answer the essay question well enough. But if you are aiming for a high grade, causes and effects of historical events must be understood and studied thoroughly.


Number 3 - Be critical towards yourself

A truly excellent History essay usually has engaging content, is well-thought through, and easy to read, with credible information that is well sourced. So, what else can you do to produce such an essay? Proofreading is the answer. Many students prepare the first draft, read it a couple of times and then hand it in. Such an approach might work for an average essay, but for somebody who wants to make a real impact with their essay, such an approach is flawed.

You should expect to heavily revise and edit your first and (depending on the context) second draft. Except if you are an amazing talent, there is likely to be significant room for improvement after the first draft, but after a number of revisions, and ideally review from others, the final draft will be worthy of being shown to your professor or evaluator. Don’t worry about to criticizing and fundamentally changing your early drafts as they are there to be improved.

On a final note, don’t be offended when somebody who reviews your essay or your professor provides feedback and points out weak spots in your text, suggesting where the essay could be improved. Consider it another opportunity to improve and turn in an even better paper, rather than their attempt to annoy you. Don’t take someone else’s criticism personally; turn it into an opportunity to improve.


This article was produced in conjunction with Do My Essays.


Now, tell us below: What have your history essay writing experiences been like?

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post

We get lots of requests to write articles on the site as well as requests for writing tips from would-be writers and students. So over the next few days we’ll be sharing two articles on history writing. First up, it’s how to write a biographical essay… As surprising as may be, many people, especially students, struggle with writing a biographical essay. This guide shares insights on how to write a great biographical essay.

Writing in History... Man Writing a Letter by Gabriel Metsu, 1660s.

Writing in History... Man Writing a Letter by Gabriel Metsu, 1660s.

Biographical Essay Writing Masterclass: Make Sure Your Narrative is Top Class

Biography is like History – a chronological list of events (but in somebody’s life). With there being 4 essential types of essays (persuasive, descriptive, expository and narrative), students often find writing narratives the most difficult. And since a biographical essay is often narrative writing in nature, we’d like to share best practices that show you how to write a great essay or ace an assignment fast. Indeed, if you’re a student taking History classes, you’ll find these tips most useful.


Groundwork goes first

Writing a biography essay is a wonderful opportunity to delve into someone’s life. A renowned actor, politician, writer, inventor, sports star – depending on the topic, you can pick one of a great many figures, with a peculiar, captivating life history and career achievements. 

Your key goal is to trace the roots of who a person was, how they became the person we know them to be, what challenges they had to go through, and what their contributions were to the world. Taken together, thinking about these questions will allow you to pick your subject.

Decided who you’ll write an essay about? Great, time to do your research. As a rule, prominent figures already have tomes of biographies written about them, so your goal may be to fit lots of available information into the framework of a 2000-word essay. In addition, reading interviews and including interesting extracts from them will serve you well.

Just as you finish gathering background data and peculiar pieces of information, don’t rush ahead writing your introduction yet. One of the essentials of delivering a quality essay is drawing up an outline. Think though the structure of your paper and outline the sections and subsections, possibly down to each 150-200 words. Make sure you have a good writing plan at hand to keep all the ideas and draft components in check.  


Introduction, main body, conclusion

In terms of overall structure, a biographical essay is no different to any other type of essay. A standard 7-to-10-paragraph essay with an introduction, main body and conclusion is what we’re looking for.

Introduction: The main goal of the introduction is to grab the reader’s attention and give a smooth transition to the main body of your text. Here are 3 effective methods to “hook” a reader right from the start:

·       Cite a captivating quote or saying by the figure you’re writing about to show how outstanding and notable the persona is/was

·       Offer a short, preferably comic or entertaining short story about the person to set the right mood for the essay to develop further

·       Give an example of an iconic achievement the person attained to firmly grab the reader’s attention


Main body: You have 5-to-8 paragraphs to highlight the milestones in a person’s life and present your essay in an interesting way. For example, if you’re discussing a writer, you might choose to describe one of their most prominent books of the author as well as time periods that preceded and followed the publishing.

If you are writing about a sports star, you might want to select three of the person’s most famous games and some interesting events that took place behind the scenes as you tell their story. Or, if it’s an actor, you can discuss the history of how the person harnessed their talent and became somebody through key events in their life.

Conclusion: It is normally a good idea to discuss the contribution the protagonist of your essay made in their field of expertise, modern culture, history, etc. Has a person left any legacy? Are there any biographical blind spots that require more detailed studying? What were they most remembered for when they died or what are they most well known for today?


Finally… 5 tips for writing a biography essay which always pay off

·       Deliver a consistent story – Narrative essay writing is all about making your story both informative and entertaining. Include proven facts, people, places and events that are relevant to the biography of the person you’re writing about

·       Know your purpose – There will be a reason why you’ve chosen this particular figure. Why are you, for example, writing an essay about a 1950s film star and why should the reader be interested? These questions must be obvious from the essay

·       You need a great introduction – Write a clear and interesting introduction and support it with facts, original sources, and quotes throughout the essay

·       Stick to the chronological order – History is usually a set of events depicted in a chronological order. While it is possible to jump back and forth with your essay, for most people, especially students, writing in a chronological order usually works best

·       Check your background data – Make sure all the dates, names, places, events and figures are correct, and keep Wikipedia information/references to a minimum, as such references can sometimes be less than accurate. All told, rely on proven data and checked facts, supplemented by an interesting writing style


This article was produced in conjunction with UK Essay Now. If you’re looking for more advanced tips on how to write a biographical essay, visit professional academia resources and expert writing-focused blogs, which share in-depth writing tips suitable for students who’d like to improve their History and biographical writing still further.


Now, let us know your writing experiences below!

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post

The city of Manchester, England has countless statues that many people walk past, completely oblivious of the rich history behind them. From Richard Cobden to Abraham Lincoln, this article will tell the brief history of a selection of statues and why Manchester has decided to honor them by placing their statues in the center of the city. Su-Sam Tham explains.


John Bright (1811 – 1889)

John Bright statue in Manchester, England.

John Bright statue in Manchester, England.

John Bright was a British Radical and Liberal statesman. He was born in Rochdale, England to a highly successful cotton manufacturer and was educated at Quaker schools in Lancashire and Yorkshire, where his interest in politics grew and he became committed to political and religious equality and human rights. Bright was a remarkable orator and was also seen as one of the most influential politicians of his time, serving as an MP for Manchester, Birmingham and Durham. He is best known for founding the Anti-Corn Law League with Richard Cobden, which aimed to abolish the Corn Laws. These laws imposed tariffs on imported grain to protect English farmers from cheap foreign imports and were successfully repealed in 1846. He was also a keen supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the Union during the American Civil War, though many in Britain showed considerable sympathy for the Confederacy. He supported the boycott of southern cotton despite his own family’s mills relying on it, as he believed slavery was morally wrong and instead advocated for cotton cultivation by free labor in countries such as India.

To acknowledge his successful campaigning for the abolition of the Corn Laws, which had adversely affected Lancashire’s cotton trade as they relied on raw imports and exports for finished goods, Manchester commissioned two public statues in his honor; one inside Manchester town hall and the other in Albert Square facing the town hall, sculpted by Albert Bruce-Joy.

Interesting Fact: Bright is credited for coining the phrases ‘to flog a dead horse’ and ‘mother of parliaments’.


Richard Cobden (1804 – 1865)

Richard Cobden statue in Manchester, England.

Richard Cobden statue in Manchester, England.

Like Bright, Richard Cobden was a Radical and Liberal statesman, born in Sussex and raised in Yorkshire, where he received little formal schooling and became a cloth clerk at 15. He then started his own business selling calico prints and subsequently moved to Manchester, where his political career flourished as he was elected as the MP for Stockport. During this time, he campaigned against the Opium Wars and Crimean War, preferring to advocate for peace, resulting in him and Bright, the MP for Manchester, losing their seats in the 1857 election. However, the public forgave both for their anti-war stance as Cobden was later elected as the Rochdale MP and Bright as the Birmingham MP. As well as forming the Anti-Corn Law League, he was also known for the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty, which reduced or removed most tariff between Britain and France and was thus seen as a key stepping stone to free trade, a policy that Cobden advocated throughout his life.    

Cobden’s role in the abolition of the Corn Laws and association with other free trade campaigns led to Manchester erecting public monuments in his honor. His statue was created by sculptor Marshall Wood in 1865 and stands in St Ann’s Square.

Interesting Fact: Cobden was extremely well travelled having visited France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Egypt, Greece and Russia. An impressive feat considering he primarily travelled by coach and horse. 


William Gladstone (1809 – 1898)

William Gladstone statue in Manchester, England.

William Gladstone statue in Manchester, England.

William Gladstone was born in Liverpool to Sir John Gladstone, a merchant and MP. He was educated at Eton and Oxford before being elected to parliament in 1832 as the Tory MP for Newark and he held several posts in Sir Robert Peel’s cabinet, such as Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1867, he became the Liberal Party leader and the 3rd Liberal Prime Minister in 1868, a position he held on four separate occasions. During his 12 years in office, his government set up a national elementary education program, extended the vote to a greater number of men and introduced secret ballots at elections. His reputation as a wise and respected leader, who championed social, economic and political reform, has seen him frequently ranked as one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers, recently coming third in the Daily Telegraph’s 2016 ranking of the top 10 greatest Prime Ministers.

The statue was erected in Albert Square in 1901 at the Mancunian architect William Roberts’ request. Roberts admired Gladstone and in his legacy, left £4,500 to build a statue of him for Manchester where Gladstone had visited and gave speeches on several occasions and he had even unsuccessfully run for Manchester MP as a Conservative candidate. Sculpted by Mario Raggi, the statue depicts Gladstone speaking in the House of Commons during the 1893 debate on the Irish Home Rule.

Interesting Fact: Gladstone was Britain’s oldest serving Prime Minister, winning his fourth election at age 82 and resigning at age 84.


Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) 

Abraham Lincoln statue in Manchester, England.

Abraham Lincoln statue in Manchester, England.

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most well-known and highly regarded Presidents of the USA, celebrated for preserving the Union during the American Civil War and for abolishing slavery in the USA. Born in a log cabin in 1809, Lincoln initially trained as a lawyer before entering the political arena by serving several terms in the Illinois state legislature and one in the House of Representative. In 1860, Lincoln won the Presidential election, becoming the 16th US President and 1st Republican President, inadvertently sparking a secession crisis in the South and ultimately the Civil War. During the war, Lincoln blockaded southern ports and some saw this as the cause of the Lancashire Cotton Famine, though the blockades were not entirely successful. Despite this, Manchester and Lancashire, areas heavily affected by the Cotton Famine, decided to support Lincoln and the Union by boycotting raw cotton picked by slaves. This meant many workers in the cotton industry lost their job, but their sacrifice was not unnoticed by Lincoln, who wrote a letter to the ‘working-men of Manchester’ to show his gratitude.       

The bronze statue of Lincoln, sculpted by George Grey Barnard, was commissioned by Charles Phelps Taft, the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio and son of the former US President, William Taft. Originally meant to stand outside the Houses of Parliament in London, the statue was deemed unworthy for parliament as Lincoln was depicted wearing ‘normal’ clothes, rather than presidential attire and with his hand on his stomach, thus becoming known as the ‘stomach ache statue’. Instead, London received a different more statesmanlike statue and their loss became Manchester’s gain in 1919. The statue currently stands in Lincoln Square and the pedestal is inscribed with extracts of Lincoln’s letter to ‘the working-men of Manchester’, though ‘men’ has been changed to ‘people’ as Lincoln’s gendered address was seen as too sexist by Manchester council.

Interesting Fact: Lincoln obtained a patent in 1849 for a device designed to lift riverboats over sandbars or obstructions in the river and is therefore the only US President to hold a patent.


Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901)

Queen Victoria statue in Manchester, England.

Queen Victoria statue in Manchester, England.

In 1817, the death of Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the future King George IV and only legitimate grandchild of the reigning King George III, caused a succession crisis in Britain. This made George III’s sons realize that it was essential for one of them to provide an heir, so the following year, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and had their only child Alexandrina Victoria. From the beginning, Victoria was raised to be Queen and thus had a difficult upbringing. Her father had died before she was a year old, so she was raised by her mother under the ‘Kensington System’ resulting in a somewhat solitary childhood as her education and company were strictly regulated by her mother who isolated her from the rest of her family. Even King William IV, Victoria’s uncle, was denied access to her causing him to vow that he would survive until her 18th birthday to prevent her mother from becoming reagent. William was successful, as he died just 26 days after she turned 18 and so Victoria ascended to the throne as the sole ruler of Great Britain. Queen Victoria’s 63 year and 216 day reign had many significant successes as the first Wimbledon Championship was held in 1877, the first practical telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, the British Empire reached its peak, and she was even crowned Empress of India.   

The sculptor Edward Onslow Ford was commissioned to create the statue of Victoria for Manchester, which she agreed to sit for, in commemoration of her diamond jubilee. Unfortunately, the statue was only completed and placed in Piccadilly Gardens in 1901 after her death. It was also originally intended for the tribute to be a marble statue, but this later changed to bronze after the Queen expressed concern about marble weathering poorly in Manchester’s smoky atmosphere. The statue is particularly significant because out of the 17 statues in Manchester city center, it is the only one to depict a woman and monarch.

Interesting Fact: Queen Victoria survived 8 assassination attempts with 2 attempts made by John Francis.


James Watt (1736 – 1819)

James Watt statue in Manchester, England.

James Watt statue in Manchester, England.

James Watt was a Scottish mechanical engineer and inventor born in Greenock. He was home-schooled by his mother, before attending the local grammar school where he excelled in engineering and mathematics. After leaving school, he moved to London and trained as an instrument maker, quickly surpassing the other apprentices as he completed his training in just a year, despite training normally taking up to 7 years. This allowed Watt to return to Glasgow and start a small shop making and repairing scientific instruments and it was while working there that the Newcomen engine was brought to his attention. He was given a model of the engine to repair and found it to be inefficient, so he began experimenting with steam to try and improve the engine, which he managed to do by designing a separate condensing chamber for the engine. Further improvements resulted in Watt’s engine being up to 5 times more powerful and over 50% more efficient than the original Newcomen engine. Watt’s engine gave way to highly efficient factories, mills and mines that produced 3 times more mechanical work for every ton of coal brought, meaning the owners earned more money and thus the prosperous economy of the Industrial Revolution was driven by Watt’s developments. His achievements were recognized in many ways - most significantly, the watt was named in his honor.

Manchester owes its titles as the world’s first manufacturing city and ‘Cottonopolis’ to Watt, so it is no surprise that the city commissioned William Theed to produce a bronze copy of Chantrey’s marble statue of Watt, that stood in Westminster Abbey, for Manchester. The statue was erected in 1857 and now sits in Piccadilly Gardens.

Interesting Fact: To explain how powerful his steam engines were in a relatively easy and relatable way, Watt decided to compare them to the power of horses, which were at the time the dominating mode of transportation and thus horsepower, a unit of power, was invented.


I hope that after reading this article you will be inspired to visit Manchester to see the statues for yourself and in the future, you will take time to explore the history of other fascinating statues that you may never have truly noticed.


Let us know what you think of the article below…


All pictures are taken by and provided with the permission of Su-Sam Tham. They may only be reproduced wit Su-Sam’s permission.

The British miners’ strike of 1984/5 is generally considered a heavy defeat for the miners, their communities, and the trade union movement as a whole. To a certain extent, that assumption has merit. But one outcome that is less well known is the role the strike played in contributing to bettering the lives of homosexuals in Britain. In a decade when vast homophobia was expected and accepted, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) drove a couple of minibuses and a camper van from London to Dulais, a small mining town in South Wales, to present their donations in an attempt to aid the miners’ efforts. The events that followed provide us with an important lesson about the importance of empathy, tolerance, and togetherness in facing common enemies.

Here, Jon Hill tells us a story about solidarity.

A miners' strike rally in London, UK in 1984. Source: Miners' strike really, 1984 via Nick from Bristol, UK. Available here.

A miners' strike rally in London, UK in 1984. Source: Miners' strike really, 1984 via Nick from Bristol, UK. Available here.

Roots of Oppression

Firstly, it is perhaps important to refer to the ways in which miners and homosexuals were oppressed in Britain at the time. The strike began in March 1984, in response to Ian Macgregor’s plans to close twenty pits, leading to a projected loss of 20,000 jobs. Margaret Thatcher had previously claimed, ‘the industry cost the taxpayer thirteen billion pounds’ and called for the worst economically performing pits to close. The areas targeted were considered overly reliant on mining. The mining community in South Wales had not been the worst hit, but employment in the coalfields had nevertheless fallen from 108,000 in 1948 to 20,347 in 1984.

Mistreatment by the police was a shared experience between gay people and miners. Amongst other places, picketing miners were subjected to police brutality at Easington in August 1984. Thatcher claimed that the police were ‘upholding the law’ and stated; ‘I find it totally and utterly false to cast a slur on the police for the superb way they have handled this dispute.’ An LGSM member described how ‘a lot of mining communities have found out what police harassment is for the first time, which gay people have known about for years’. Such views were also reciprocated by members of the mining community. Sian James described feeling that ‘we were next in line after lesbians and gays…you cannot sympathise with an oppressed group until you’ve actually been a member of one’.


An Unlikely Union

In the face of such adversity, coordinator Mark Ashton encapsulated the aim of LGSM; ‘It is illogical to say: ‘I’m gay and I’m into defending the gay community but I don’t care about anything else.’

Donovan travelled to Paddington on September 6, 1984 to collect a cheque of 500 pounds from LGSM, mostly collected from poorly paid young people who hankered for a different Britain. Donovan subsequently invited members to Dulais. Tensions were high when the mining community received news of the impending arrival, yet the experiences were generally positive for both sides.

London magazine City Limits described how LGSM members visiting Dulais were welcomed into the miners’ homes for the weekend; whole families discussed gay rights and sexuality ‘over the tea-table’. Prior to the arrival of LGSM, one member of the Dulais group admitted that they were ‘expecting a bunch of weirdos’. Another woman commented that ‘It’s had to take the strike for us to get friendlier with lesbian and gay men’. Such apprehension was mutual; a correspondent of Capital Gay claimed that the mining communities ‘encapsulate all the sexist, patriarchal and anti-gay views which threaten us’. However, experiences reported by LGSM visitors challenged such views. Ashton recalled being overwhelmed with the open-mindedness of the miners; ‘I had this semi-antagonistic attitude towards the organised labour movement, trade unions, macho bully boys, and it just opens your eyes to the attitudes that they had, and the strike up to that stage had kindled in people.’

Members of LGSM returned to Dulais on February 15, 1985 and held sponsored bike rides from London to Dulais during Easter 1985. These continuing visits maintained feelings of solidarity and laid the ground work for the appearance of Blaenant Lodge, a group of approximately 80 miners and sympathisers from South Wales who marched with LGSM at Gay Pride in London in July 1985. Writing to Blaenant Lodge following the march, Jackson enthused; ‘Your presence on Saturday stood out like granite pillars of our mutual trust, solidarity, and hope for the future.’ The words of the NUM’s note, sent to the fringe meeting of gays and lesbians at the 1984 Labour Conference, sum up the sentiments from the other side: ‘Support civil liberties...Our struggle is yours.’

The presentation of a resolution to the British Labour Party Annual Conference that year which committed the Labour Party to gay rights was made. The passing of gay rights resolutions showed that there was a place in the Labour movement for homosexuals. The growing acceptance of gay issues in the Labour movement would play a role in the passing of progressive legislation by following Labour governments on the age of consent, civil partnerships, and the repeal of Section 28 in November 2003.

By the time that the group was wound up in July 1986, LGSM had gathered approximately 22,000 pounds for the mining community at Dulais, collected through street collections, jumble sales and events such as the ‘Pits and Perverts’ gig, named after a derogatory slogan used by The Sun newspaper.


The Importance of Solidarity

Notions of community over class were reinforced by an opinion piece written by LGSM for City Limits. They claimed that; ‘Our support for the strike arises not purely from the fact that we are gay, but because we are members of the same class’. Ashton made a similar point in a separate interview where he argued for the need to ‘organise with my own kind of people. That’s not necessarily lesbians and gay men – that’s working class people’.

The Gay Liberation Foundation marched with the Trade Union Council against Edward Heath in 1971. This kind of cross over support was continued by organisations like LGSM in the 1980s. This idea is summarised by Lucy Robinson, who argues that examples set by LGSM ‘meant that gender and sexuality had fed into a cross-class comradery even if the strike had failed.’


A Brighter Future

In a recent correspondence of mine with LGSM member Jonathan Blake, Blake emphasised the importance of changing attitudes that have occurred since minority movements such as LGSM were formed. Besides referring to the NUM’s contribution to Labour’s inclusion of gay rights in their manifesto in 1985, Blake noted the significance of the movement, and specifically the film Pride, ‘in inspiring youth folk’. This feeling seemed to take effect in South Wales as early as the summer of 1985, when students from University College Cardiff held the city’s first Gay Pride march. The march provided visible evidence of a change in Welsh attitudes towards sexual minorities. The South Wales Echo declared the Welsh capital ‘a place where you can be glad to be gay.’

From the outset of the campaign, Ashton and Jackson emphasised the need for minorities to refrain from hiding, and encouraged gay people and miners to embrace their label. During the meeting with Donovan in October 1984, Jackson said ‘We call ourselves LGSM to emphasise our label - I hope this can encourage people in places like Dulais to say ‘I’m gay and I’m proud’. This self-awareness partly reflected a belief in the importance of the organisation concerning sexual history, but also fitted into wider processes of the 1980s. There was an increasing appreciation arising of migrant histories, signalled by the first Black History Month in 1987. Whilst it cannot be suggested that this was a consequence of the movement, it can be interpreted that minority movements like LGSM contributed to maintaining alternative histories.


Reason for Celebration

Whilst LGSM and the miners ultimately failed in their immediate aims to prevent collieries closing and overthrow the Thatcher government, the legacy that remains is worth salvaging. Whilst gay activists had worn badges for other campaigns, like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Troops Out and Rock Against Racism, this time the gesture was reciprocated. A pamphlet published by the Labour Campaign for homosexual rights in 2006 noted support for the miners ‘including hundreds of lesbians and gay men working through support groups’ and added; ‘the already deepening union backing for lesbian and gay equality has been reinforced by the experience of the miners’ strike.’ Ideas of solidarity were emphasised by Mary Joannou, who suggested that ‘it strongly conveys what solidarity can feel like to those who have been taught, by the legacy of Thatcherism, that all that matters is the individual.’ Mark Steel summed up the legacy well; ‘Defeat did not mean that we’d be better off if it never happened. Apart from anything else, it did so much to bring together disparate groups in British society, justified when a miners’ brass band was chosen to lead a Gay Pride march.’ Steel was right; with courage, dedication, and solidarity, LGSM serve as a reminder that a minority can inspire a majority.


What do you think of the arguments in this article? Let us know below…


Audio recording of meeting between some members of LGSM and Dulais miners (16/9/84).

‘All Out! Dancing in Dulais’, dir. by Jeff Cole (1986).

Daryl Leeworthy, ‘For our common cause: Sexuality and left politics in South Wales, 1967-85’, Contemporary British History, (2015), 260-280).

Diarmaid Kelliher; ‘Solidarity and Sexuality: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, 1984-85’, History Workshop, (2014), 240-262.

Edward Townsend, ‘Thatcher ‘no surrender’ message on miners.’ Times (London), 18 October 1984: 1.

Julian Haviland, Anthony Bevins, and Richard Evans. ‘Thatcher endorses police conduct in miners' dispute.’ Times (London), 10 Apr. 1984: 1.

Mary Joannou, ‘The Miners’ Strike and Me: A Very Personal Response to Pride’, Contemporary British History, (2016), 107-113.

Personal correspondence with Jonathan Blake (10/03/2017).

Todd, Selina, The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class (London: John Murray Publishers, 2014).