Highly evocative and worryingly effective, Nazi propaganda targeted its viewers in a very specific way. By targeting the viewer’s emotions, Goebbels and his underlings turned many of the German populace into a nation of followers in the National Socialist agenda from when the Nazis took power in 1933. Emotions were key to the entire apparatus, from hate of the ‘other’ to joy of the German rebirth. Maddison Nichol explains the troubling Nazi propaganda machine.

 Adolf Hitler speaking in 1933. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1987-0703-506 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0, available  here .

Adolf Hitler speaking in 1933. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1987-0703-506 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0, available here.

It was in Mein Kampf, that now infamous political manifesto of the National Socialists, that Hitler wrote:

Particularly the broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech. And all great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of the word hurled among the masses; they are not the lemonade-like outpourings of literary aesthetics and drawing room heroes.[1]


 To simplify, Mein Kampf would never create a populace of believers. Nonetheless, Nazi propagandists worked tirelessly to create new forms of propaganda to evoke that emotional response from the viewer and realign the German masses with the ideals of the Nazis.



Films were an important way to move the people in line with the ideology of the Nazis. Two films used two very different emotions to try to create a populace of believers in the Nazi cause, or at least a populace willing to follow Hitler. The first was the Triumph of the Wills.

The opening of Triumph of the Wills is a black screen with a small caption of text. It reads: “On 5 September 1934, 20 years after the outbreak of the World War, 16 years after the beginning of German suffering, 19 months after the beginning of the German rebirth, Adolf Hitler flew once again to Nuremberg to review the columns of faithful followers.”[2] By prefacing the film in this light, German citizens watching the film were reminded of their once dire situation, now being improved by Hitler. The film then launches into a scene with throngs of eager people waving, smiling, and cheering as their Führer drives past them, waving as he goes.

The people here are seen as being overjoyed by the arrival of Hitler because of the supposed improvements he had made since taking power in 1933. By showing the enthusiasm of the Germans in Nuremburg to a wider audience in Germany, Triumph of the Wills succeeded in creating an emotional response from the viewers. For the first time since the outbreak of WWI, the German people were led to be proud of their nation and their leader. Hitler was reviving Germany from its ill state under the Weimar Republic and the people could see it. That was the point of the film, to show an overjoyed populace where previously there was only uncertainty.

Alternatively, at the other end of the spectrum of emotions, hate films were conceived to rile up the German people against the ‘other’ that was supposed to be poisoning pure German blood. Jew Süss was such a film. The film briefly documents the fall of an honorable German duke in the Middle Ages by listening to a Jewish advisor. By tricking the duke into heavily taxing his people, Süss created an environment ripe for uprisings and revolt. The film goes on to show more vile sides to Süss and the other Jews who enter the city, depicted as a horde of dirty, unsavoury vagabonds marching into a pristine German city. The depiction of the Jews in Jew Süss is in line with previous Nazi anti-Semitism to drive the point home to the viewers that Jews were the creatures depicted in the film. Ultimately, the film ends with the downfall of the duke, and the Jews are exiled from the city.

Jew Süss was seen as being successful in creating an atmosphere of hatred towards the Jews and it was shown to the SS at times before a mission against Jews.[3] That’s a startling thought. The film was shown to everyone who had access to a cinema, including youth, especially youth. The central idea here is that the once honorable German duke was tricked by an evil Jewish man to betray his loving people. In Nazi propaganda, Jews were depicted as doing just that, twisting the righteous and corrupting them. [4] Through Jew Süss and other similar films, the Nazis encouraged anti-Semitism in the German populace.[5]

Nazi films used emotion just like modern films do, but in a politically charged way. By evoking emotions like hatred and pride, Nazi propaganda films wanted to create a population of believers motivated by National Socialism and loyalty to Hitler. To an extent, they succeeded, but by 1945 many Germans despised Hitler and the Nazis for the horrors of war they brought upon the German people.



Historian Felicity Rash quoted Hitler by saying that spoken word is better to replace one’s hatred with your own.[6] This was an important feature of Nazi propaganda as speeches and oration were given as frequently as possible. Cheap radios were manufactured so all Germans could tune into a speech given by Hitler or a member of the Nazis. We’ve all heard people speak in such a way that moves us into action, be it at a protest or listening to an inspirational speech like Charlie Chaplin’s famous The Dictator speech. Oration, when used well, moves people into action.

Hitler was infamously good at it. His speeches moved much of a nation to rally behind him and work towards his version of a brighter future. In a speech, Hitler once said:

“When someone says, ‘You’re a dreamer’, I can only answer ‘You idiot…. If I weren’t a dreamer, where would we be today? I’ve always believed in Germany. You said I was a dreamer. I’ve always believed in the rise of the Reich. You said I was a fool. I’ve always believed in our return to power. You said I was mad. I’ve always believed in an end to poverty! You said that was utopian! Who was right? You or me?! I was right!’”[7]


Unfortunately, people ate this stuff up. According to Goebbels, the task of propaganda was to mobilize the mind and spirit of the people for National Socialism.[8] By using oration powerfully and constantly, the people were mobilized to support Hitler and the Nazis. All of this was done through emotion. By reading the above quote we can see some semblance of an emotional response, but by listening to it you can feel it. Reading doesn’t really have the same effect as listening to someone passionately proclaiming it from balconies and from stages.

In the end, to create an emotional response from the viewer, you need to show them an emotional reaction yourself. Nazi propaganda was skilled at that, more so than most propaganda in WW2. By evoking emotions from the viewers, Nazism went from a radical fringe party to the radical ruling party of an industrial powerhouse in the middle of Europe. People flocked to the cinemas to see the latest propaganda film and the rallies. They listened to their leader speak on the radio in a highly provocative manner just to evoke an emotional response from the masses.

Emotion was key to Nazi propaganda because Hitler did not seek acquiescence or even acceptance from the German masses. He craved a nation of believers in the Nazi cause. Only through emotion would that happen. By showing people the supposed improvements since 1933 both politically and economically, people felt joy and pride. By harping on slogans and oration, people rallied behind Hitler. It was only at the beginning of the end of the German war effort that propaganda became less effective.

But that’s a whole other story.


What do you think of this article? Let us know below.


[1] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Manheim, (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1971), 107.

[2] Leni Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will, directed by Leni Riefenstahl, YouTube, Germany: (Universum Film AG,

1935), Viewed on YouTube, 12/04/2018.

[3] Eric Rentschler, The Ministry of Illusion, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), 150.

[4] Andreas Musolff, Metaphor, Nation and the Holocaust: The Concept of the Body Politic, (New York, Routledge, 2010), 37.

[5] Ibid, 43.

[6] Felicity Rash, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2006), 47.

[7] Der Souverän, “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer [ENG Sub], published December 2016, YouTube video, 2:35.

[8] David Welch, “Nazi Propaganda and the Volksgemeinschaft: Constructing a People’s Community”, Journal of Contemporary History 39, No. 2 (April 2004), 217.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

The life of women in Tudor society was scrupulously controlled – from the way they dressed, their education and what they did in their spare time. Even under the two female rulers of the Tudor era, not much changed, but perhaps Queen Elizabeth I of England’s reign (1558-1603) can be assessed as the birth of the first British feminist icon. Kaiya Rai explains.


 The  Ermine Portrait  of Elizabeth I of England.

The Ermine Portrait of Elizabeth I of England.


Though very few boys received proper formal education, virtually no girls did either. Those who were poor learnt skills from their mothers and grandmothers, and girls from rich families received an education in things such as managing a household, needlework and meal preparation. Moreover, domestic skills were essential for a woman in her future married life, as one contemporary writer commented that a woman who could not cook had essentially broken her marriage vows - “she may love and obey, but she cannot serve and keep him with that true duty which is ever expected.”

At the beginning of the 16th century it became more common for girls to attend schools alongside their male peers, and by the 1560s even the very poorest girls underwent some form of education. Most of this education, however, was dominated by Christian dogma and doctrinal teaching, such as William Barber’s school in London, who taught ‘further learning’ of the Bible. Since the Bible was used by the Church and the patriarchs in society to justify the inferiority of women, this almost added to their lack of independence, no matter the fact that they were being educated. The exceptions in education began emerging during the Reformation, when humanists, such as Thomas More, actively sought to give their daughters an excellent education. Humanists paved the way for the Enlightenment era of the 17th and 18th century, as they believed in self-understanding of the Bible, and drawing conclusions for oneself as opposed to passively listening to and believing everything the Church taught. Thus, their emergence in the education stage of Tudor England was of a similar nature - to try and reform stereotypical attitudes towards knowledge.


Marriage and patriarchy

There was no legal age for a woman to be married and so for many families, it was a matter of urgency to try and find a husband for their daughters, who would have no choice in the matter. Many believed that if a girl passed the age of 14 unmarried, she would become a burden to the family as it was an extra mouth to feed with no extra income, and many first met their spouse on the wedding day, much like Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII did. For some, such as Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the Earl of Surrey, marriage was an opportunity to further her social position. Most women were expected to enter service before they were married, and for upper-class women this would usually be with a woman of higher social standing who would also aide her in finding a husband, and for lower-class women, the agreement of a year’s service in exchange for wages and housing was usual. Others entered into the more abstruse institution of prostitution, where disease was rife and was the cause of many premature deaths. However, this was still seen as dishonorable, though it was common, as is evident in the case of Mother Bowden’s brothel which was declared ‘immoral’ by the parish officials in 1567. Furthermore, women were taught that God had commanded them to be obedient to men, whether that be father or husband, and so the patriarchy in a woman’s life in Tudor England was constantly upheld and strengthened by all sources of power.

Since they had been told from childhood that they were inferior, women subsequently acted in an inferior manner. The Reformation actually did little to thwart this, despite the more modern tendencies and attitudes of the humanists, as is evident in the beliefs of Protestant leader John Knox, who wrote “women in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man.” The law gave men full rights over their wives, to the extent that they could have their wife burned at the stake for adultery, and that if a man beat his wife, it was justified on the grounds that she must have done something to provoke him, by not being a ‘good’ wife. Another important aspect of a woman’s married life was childbirth; they were expected to produce sons to carry on the family line, and this was true for royalty and peasants alike. However, childbirth was dangerous, and resulted in many deaths during it, or even after the baby was born, as puerperal fever and post-birth infections were common. One job of the ‘midwife’ was even to make arrangements for the baby in case the mother should die, indicating just how often women did die during childbirth.


Tudor women under Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I did not ever get married, and to this day retains the somewhat misleading title of ‘the Virgin Queen.’ She was the most powerful woman of her time, and refused to relinquish or share that power, when women were considered property, and so perhaps it could be seen that she was a feminist in some sense. She was strong, intelligent and refused to be constrained by a political marriage. This is apparent in her hidden relationship with Robert Dudley, who she could never marry because of his status, but yet still refused to marry another who she did not love. She once stated “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King, and a King of England, too,” thus again indicating just how brusquely independent she was determined to be.

There is speculation among historians as to why Elizabeth I never got married, such as a psychological explanation owing to what happened to her mother and stepmother in marriage (they were beheaded). Perhaps she saw the damage of what Mary’s marriage to Philip II did to the country, and to Mary’s heart, or perhaps she held a fear of childbirth as two of her stepmothers, Jane Seymour and Catherine Parr had died just after childbirth. It is clear that her love for Robert Dudley did play some importance, and her constant appearance of an available woman to foreign ambassadors meant that she could enter marriage negotiations and use them to her advantage by influencing other countries and playing them off against one another.

Despite the fierce independence of Elizabeth, she did not do much to actually improve the lives of women in society, and so perhaps cannot be a ‘feminist,’ as we see them. As Carrick asserted that “she was the monarch and [felt she’d been] appointed by God…. that set her apart from the rest of humanity.” However, we must also place her in context, and Carrick also recognises this, by stating, “The idea of women’s rights…just wouldn’t occur to her yet and yet as an individual she was that; she lived that. She was brilliant at sport and horse riding, really active, a massive intellect.”

Therefore, whilst women in the Elizabethan era had primarily similar lives to those living under the reign of the previous Tudor monarchs, the roots of feminine individuality can clearly be seen in the era, and so perhaps helped to set up a platform which would aid the suffrage movement many centuries later.


What do you think of the life of women in Tudor England? Is Elizabeth I the first British feminist? Let us know below.

While there has yet to be a female president, first ladies have been important in shaping many presidencies and their policies. In the start of a new series, Kate Murphy Schaefer goes back to the late 18th century and considers the importance of Abigail Adams to America and Founding Father John Adams.

 A painting of Abigail Adams by Gilbert Stuart.

A painting of Abigail Adams by Gilbert Stuart.

With the recent passing of former first lady Barbara Bush, Americans are once again allowed to indulge in a favorite pastime: memorializing and waxing rhapsodic about their most public citizens. This is second only to the most popular pastime: ridiculing those same citizens for what they did and did not do. Presidents are elected; to some degree they understand and accept the level of scrutiny they will be under for the rest of their lives. First ladies are, as Barbara Bush’s daughter-in-law Laura said, “elected by one man,” but have to live under the same microscope as their husbands.[1]

A first lady must be “a showman and a salesman, a clotheshorse and a publicity sounding board, with a good heart, and a real interest in the folks,” explained Lady Bird Johnson.[2] If any of those traits seem contradictory, that is the point. There are no set guidelines outlining a first lady’s role and duties, but Americans expect them to conform to expectations that change quickly and often. Within this White-House-shaped cage, they are judged for what they wore, said, and did, and also for what they did not wear, say, or do.

Still, first ladies are privileged because their words and actions are considered important enough to include in the historical record. For most of American history, women were expected to be silent observers as men shaped the world in which they lived. Their stories were beneath notice, and therefore ignored and forgotten. America’s earliest first ladies were considered important because they were connected to important men. Abigail Smith Adams, wife of President John Adams, provides an excellent example.


The Political “Pest”

Born in 1744, Abigail Smith was raised in a family that was politically aware and active. Her maternal grandfather, John Quincy, held several positions in the Massachusetts government and encouraged his daughter and granddaughters to keep abreast of what was going on in the world outside the home. She was not formally educated, but her correspondence demonstrates she was extremely well-read and had an agile, searching mind. “In an age when women were content to take a backseat to their husbands and keep their mouths shut,” wrote historian Cormac O’Brien, “Abigail gave free rein to her extraordinary intellect.”[3]

Abigail was most outspoken in her correspondence with husband John. When Adams left for Philadelphia for the Continental Congress in 1776, he left a very curious wife at home. Abigail “pestered the politicians for news” and asked her husband for updates in lengthy letters. “(T)ell me if you may where your Fleet are gone? What sort of Defence Virginia can make against our common Enemy? Whether it is situated as to make an able Defence?” she asked in a letter dated March 31, 1776.[4] She was a stalwart defender of the Revolution and her husband, and was emboldened by her husband’s respect for her views. One of her most famous letters encouraged her husband to “remember the ladies” in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.


“Remember the Ladies”

                  “(I)n the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men could be tyrants if they could.”[5]


In three sentences, Adams set forth the radical idea that protection under the law also applied to women. Use of the word tyrant was deliberate and effective, recalling John Locke’s warning that “wherever law ends, tyranny begins.”[6] She intimated American men were no better than the British if they did not include the needs and opinions of women in the nation they created. She went so far as to predict women would “foment a Rebelion (sic)” if the new government did not grant them a voice, prompting John’s reply, “(a)s to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh.”[7]

The female rebellion did not come to pass, but the Adams’ correspondence laid bare a distressing truth about the American experiment. Revolution created a new nation, but not a new society. Race, class, and gender narrowed the founders’ definition of who was entitled to the rights of life, liberty, and property. They overthrew the British colonial “tyrants” and took up the mantle themselves. “I have sometimes been ready to think that the Passion for Liberty cannot be Eaqually (sic) Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs,” wrote Abigail.[8] These liberal views were exceptionally progressive during her time. It can be argued they were progressive two hundred years later as women campaigned for equal protection under the law with the Equal Rights Amendment.

Her opinions on women’s rights kept private, it was Abigail’s vocal support of her husband, that “tireless promoter of liberty and…abrasive pain in the ass,” that most influenced popular opinion of the first lady.[9] As Adams and Thomas Jefferson squared off in the 1790s, Abigail was often caught in the crossfire. Her perceived influence on the President was exaggerated and therefore useful to political adversaries. They had no problem remembering the lady, calling her “Mrs. President” behind her back and arguing behind closed doors that she had “queenly aspirations.”[10]


“My pen runs riot”

By 1797, Abigail well understood her position’s lack of privacy. “My pen runs riot. I forget that it must grow cautious and prudent. I fear I shall make a dull business when such restrictions are laid upon it.”[11] Her fear was unfounded as she most certainly did not find being first lady a “dull business.” She expressed relief to finally leave the public eye when her husband left office. She never fully left the limelight, however. The first lady became “first mother” upon the election of her son President John Quincy Adams, namesake of the grandfather who had inspired her so many years before.

Abigail Adams spoke at a time women were supposed to be silent, and was politically aware when women were supposed to look no further than home and hearth. Her mind and opinions were extraordinary, so we are lucky her words were preserved. We should not forget that she was included in the historical record because of her connection to a powerful man. Though Abigail was far from ornamental in life, historians rendered her so after death. As historians continue studying the founding of our nation, they must work to “remember the ladies,” understanding the roles women played could be both hidden and important. For every woman recorded in the history books, the names and contributions of thousands more were lost. Would including women’s stories fundamentally alter our historical understanding of the American Revolution and the Early Republic? Probably not. But remembering the ladies would add new life to a history too long seen as cut and dried.


What do you think of the article? Let us know below.


[1] Laura Bush quoted in Kate Anderson Bower, First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies (New York: Harper Collins, 2017), 7.

[2] Lady Bird Johnson quoted in Ibid, 4.

[3] Cormac O’Brien, Secret Lives of the First Ladies (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2005), 18.

[4] “Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March - 5 April 1776,” Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, Massachusetts Historical Society, https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/doc?id=L17760331aa.

[5] Ibid.

[6] John Locke, “Chapter XVIII: Of Tyranny,” Two Treatises of Government, Book II, section 202.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] O’Brien, 21.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 29 January 1797,” Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, Massachusetts Historical Society, https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/doc?id=L17970129aa.

Sources Cited

Bower, Kate Anderson. First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies. New York: Harper Collins, 2017.

“Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March - 5 April 1776,” Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, Massachusetts Historical Society, https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/doc?id=L17760331aa.

“Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 29 January 1797,” Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, Massachusetts Historical Society, https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/doc?id=L17970129aa.

Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government. (1689).

O’Brien, Cormac. Secret Lives of the First Ladies. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2005.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

Alfred Crosby, one of the most influential historians of the 20th century, passed away on March 14, 2018. An environmental historian, he documented new perspectives on colonialism and imperialism through ecological approaches to history. One of his most lasting influences is a new perspective on the Columbian Exchange. Here, Christopher DeCou gives a brief outline of the Columbian Exchange and why it is so influential to our understanding of world history today.

 A depiction of Christopher Columbus encountering the Arawak people on the island of Hispaniola in December 1492.

A depiction of Christopher Columbus encountering the Arawak people on the island of Hispaniola in December 1492.

What is the Columbian Exchange?

The textbook definition of the Columbian Exchange is the “biological and demographic exchange of the Old and New Worlds products and peoples.” Let’s unpack that definition a bit more to see why it is so innovative.

Crosby did not coin the term Columbian Exchange, for it was in use well into the 19th century. Just one example is the now famous Chicago World’s Fair of 1892 as the centennial celebration for Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. The World’s Fair made numerous references to the ways that Europeans and Indigenous peoples interacted and exchanged materials. American History textbooks also included the Columbian Exchange in teaching as an important moment in early American history. However, in all these cases, the type of exchange that was described was surface level interaction and cultural. In other words, historians were more interested in thinking about how Columbus and later Europeans “civilized” the Americas with the printing press, philosophy, art, etc. while the indigenous peoples gave White Europeans tacos.

Crosby turned that focus on its head. Rather than thinking about ideas, he gave priority and agency to the environment. This requires a radical shift in thinking, an ecological compared to an ideological view.

First consider demography, the study of populations and their changes. In the 1960s, historians were interested in trying to quantify population dynamics and attempted to reconstruct historical interactions through statistical methods. One of the interesting questions vexing American historians, broadly defined, was the number of the people present in pre-Columbian North and South America and how disease decimated those populations, and consequently how did these changes impact social changes. Historical texts from the Spanish gave a variety of anecdotal evidence, but surveys and estimates on indigenous population were scanty. Historians had known for years that Columbus and his men had smallpox on board and brought this to the Taino people; but Crosby provided estimates based on new archaeological research and traced the story of disease throughout the Caribbean and Mesoamerica to the rest of the Americas. In other words, Crosby focused on disease as his historical agent. By making disease the focus of his study, he illustrated how disease demolished indigenous populations, sometimes killing more than 90% of certain populations. These population dynamics created labor supply demands with European indentured servants and also African slaves.

Another example of this biological perspective was the introduction of various plant and animal species into new environments. While Europeans introduced Old World diseases into the New World, the New World offered numerous types of plants that flourished in new environments. For instance, the tomato was discovered in Cuzco and brought back to Spain because of Pizarro. The new plant had a fantastical history in Europe, before it became a staple of the European diet. The New World strawberries followed an even more dramatic path. The strawberry was an Old World food, but by the 15th and 16th centuries a variety of diseases had impacted production of the fruit. When explorers found a similar plant in South America, they grafted New World strawberries to those of the Old Word and created hybrid plants that they found were resistant to the diseases affecting Old World strawberries. These new plants allowed for an agricultural revolution to shape the European continent.

Furthermore, New World goods traveled even further than Europe. Contact across the Atlantic and Pacific connected New World plants with Africa and Asia. For instance, manioc was quickly picked up by West African farmers and soon spread throughout the continent to become the most widely cultivated crop in Africa. While India and Indonesia had reputations since antiquity about their spices, the New World chili spread throughout the rest of East Asia and became one of the most important food items. Maize had a similar global impact.

One could give even more examples, such as the reintegration of horses into the New World and its impact on indigenous economies, the introduction of cattle and its impact on desertification, but the point remains. As Crosby tried to illustrate, the Columbian Exchange is more than a cultural affair. It is a way to see biological and demographic changes and their social impacts.


Why is the Columbian Exchange important?

Although these biological influences and their global interactions were important, Crosby’s legacy is far more ideological. One of the comments I made above was that Crosby wanted people to shift their perspective. Truthfully, most of the biological stories were already known beforehand. The history of the tomato was always a light-hearted example in the story about “evil Catholic Spain” and “freedom fighting Britain.” So, what is the real significance here?

We have to step back for a second and see that history at its most basic is how we narrate stories of the past. And until Crosby (and the other critics that contributed to this shift), most mainstream historians focused on a civilizational approach to history. The story of America was framed in European terms. It is easy to mock 19th century versions of history for their view of European superiority and their omissions; but, even in the 20th and 21st centuries, as historians have tried to incorporate more regions and parts of the world to tell more global or world histories, they can still fall prey to this worldview. In some ways, while the details might be more comprehensive, the story is really the same. The ultimate cause for social change was European demands and European exploration. This is still a story of European progress and European success.

If we take Crosby seriously, then what he is really criticizing in his book is not just historical narrative and the “facts” of history but who is the focus of history. For Crosby then, the Columbian Exchange is a story about the environment. People are certainly actors, but they are constrained by factors of the environment. In this way, population changes, food sources and food scarcity, disease – all of these environmental forces are just as important to that story. Moreover, if we allow the environment to become central to the perspective of the past, then suddenly we are able to create a new kind of global history that links geography in new ways. No longer is this just a European story, but suddenly we can see that North and South America were just as important as Africa and Asia in creating history. When we shift our focus to say disease, suddenly the boundaries and geographies that might have seemed important before must also change and reveal new ways of seeing and imagining the past.



Today, the Columbian Exchange is considered a standard portion of any history survey course; but, we often forget that the biological and demographic focus that Crosby integrated in his work is far more revolutionary. Crosby was calling on historians and teachers to change their worldview and discover a new way of seeing the past that moves beyond Euro-centric visions of the past and calls people to action.


What do you think of this article and Crosby’s perspective? Let us know below.

The Battle of Paducah took place in March 1864 in Paducah, Kentucky – on the Ohio River. Here, David Pyle explains what happened during this American Civil War battle.

 Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States during the US Civil War.

Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States during the US Civil War.

March of 1864, forces commanded by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest had set out from Columbus, Mississippi with the objective of recruiting more fighters, obtaining needed supplies and harassing the enemy. The General had 3,000 men under his command as he made the trip, cutting through Western Kentucky.

Tensely waiting action on the Union side were some 665 blue coats under the command of Colonel Stephen G. Hicks. The soldiers had many reasons for nervousness, one being Forrest’s nearing army and another being stationed in the unsympathetic city of Paducah, Kentucky, which would just have soon seen the fort burned to the ground.

Making the Union forces even more unpopular with the locals was the First Kentucky Heavy Artillery Colored unit being stationed there. Backing up the Union troops were two gunboats on the Ohio River.

Among Forrest’s troops were soldiers from Paducah. They were quite familiar with the city. The Confederate general set up his headquarters in Mayfield, Kentucky 25 miles from Paducah on March 25, 1864. One of these men was Col. Albert P. Thompson; he and some others were assigned by Forrest to launch a raid on Paducah, taking what the Confederates needed and spreading alarm and confusion.

Colonel Thompson and a force of 1,800 troops quickly moved to Paducah. Thompson’s regiment was first to reach Paducah’s outer picket lines where they took several Union sentinels prisoner. One guard who refused to surrender was killed in an exchange of gunfire.


To engage in the open?

The Confederate troops continued on into Paducah capturing pickets as they advanced. About 3 p.m. Thompson’s forces reached 15th and Broadway in Paducah; from their mounts they watched as Union soldiers marched into Fort Anderson. Several Confederates voiced a desire to engage the opposition while they were out in the open, but were reminded that the raid’s purpose was to capture medical supplies and munitions and not for prisoners. All they could do was watch as Union forces secured themselves in the fort.

Still, the desire to storm the fort was strong in the Paducah natives who served the Confederate cause. An assault upon Fort Anderson was most inevitable.

General Forrest ordered a flag of truce be sent to Fort Anderson’s commander, Col. Hicks. Forrest decided the men from Paducah should be the ones to deliver the message. The troops had started forward, Company D in the lead, but they were overtaken by a courier with a change in orders that all but six should return. D Company’s Captain selected the first six men in his charge to deliver the message.

Forrest’s message read, “Colonel: Having a force amply sufficient to carry your works and reduce the place, and in order to avoid the unnecessary effusion of blood, I demand the surrender of the fort and troops, with all public property. If you surrender you shall be treated as prisoners of war, but if I have to storm your works, you may expect no quarter.”

While the message was being delivered, members of the Third and Seventh Kentucky regiments took their positions; the Eighth regiment ransacked the commissary stores.

Hick’s considered Forrest’s demand for surrender and replied, “Sir, I have this moment received yours of this instant, in which you demand the unconditional surrender of forces under my command. I can answer that I have been placed here by the government to defend this post, and in this as well as all other orders from my superiors, I feel it to be my duty as an honorable officer to obey. I must, therefore, respectfully decline surrendering as you may require.”

As the refusal was being delivered, the gunboats Peosta and Paw Paw began shelling the city. Many shells went over the Confederates’ heads, but the gunboat commanders lowered the guns and flying gravel picked up by cannonballs mingled with the hurling shells. The fire forced the withdrawal of General Abraham Buford’s regiment from the river’s edge.

Union gunboats ranged their fire up Paducah’s streets to clear it of cavalry. Three-inch shells pierced an old Maple tree in the city.

After three assaults against Fort Anderson Gen. Forrest issued a ceasefire order. Col. A.P. Thompson and his staff gathered near an officer. Thompson sat upon his horse talking with the men not too many blocks from his Paducah home.


Falling back

It was now nighttime in Paducah, and the Confederates were 500 feet from the fort, under fire from the gunboats.

Capt. D.E. Meyers was given the job of delivering messages to the Confederate colonels ordering them to fall back to the protection of some nearby houses. As he neared Thompson, a shell fired from a gunboat cannon struck the colonel, who fell from his horse. The injured horse bolted and ran half a block before falling dead.

The horse was buried where it had fallen, but Col. Thompson’s mangled body would lay till morning.

After Col. Thompson’s fall, Col. Ed Crossland assumed command. While ordering the men to fall back, he was hit by rifle fire, which wounded him in the right thigh. Sharpshooters swarmed down the street; nine succeeded in reaching a home.

The nine, including J.V. Greif, exchanged fire with the defenders of Fort Anderson from a distance of 100 feet.

 “Our Guns were never idle,” Greif was reported as having said. “Until the enemy succeeded in bringing to bear on our position a gun from another part of the fort.”

Greif was knocked down when a cannonball passed through the house, and an object smacked his jaw. The order came to evacuate from the house. Greif managed to recover and fled with his comrades.

Greif’s jaw stung so much from the object that he thought he might have been wounded. To Greif’s relief a fellow soldier assured him there was no injury.

 “There was a boy named Ewell Hord at my left side,” Greif recalled. “He asked me to load his weapon, I told him to load it himself, I was busy.” Grief added the boy said he couldn’t as his arm had been wounded, so Greif told him, “Go to the rear you fool, what better luck do you want? It gets you out of all this.”

Hord went off to the rear in tears.

Col. Crossland’s men entered a building that overlooked the fort. From the second floor his men opened fire on the fort and fire was returned, as one of the men in the window was killed by a solid shot to the chest.

As the Confederates withdrew they were fired upon and shelled. One cavalryman was holding several horses when he was struck in the hip by enemy fire. He would die a few days later.



In all the Union had 14 men killed and 46 wounded; on the Confederate side 11 were killed and 39 wounded.

Forrest reported to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, “I drove the enemy to their boats and fortifications. We captured clothing, several hundred horses and clothes; we burned a steamer, the dock and all the cotton on the landing. We could have held on longer, but withdrew because of smallpox in the area.”

At 11 p.m. the Confederates withdrew from Paducah to a farm about six miles from Paducah.

The next day Col. Hicks ordered the 60 homes in Paducah burned. Word had gotten to him that the Confederates were planning another attack.

 “We were attacked by an overwhelming force,” Hicks reported. “We repulsed the enemy and beat them back all day. I saw I would be attacked again and the better to protect myself against sharpshooters, I issued the order to burn the home.”

On the 26th the battle of Paducah came to its conclusion. Forrest sent to Hicks an offer to exchange prisoners. Col. Hicks responded he had no power to do so, but if he could he would be most glad to. The Confederates then withdrew.


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The Suez Crisis of 1956 was a watershed moment in the history of the post-colonial world. The effects of the ill-fated military plan devised in secret between the forces of the United Kingdom, France and Israel, to invade and retake the Suez Canal following an invasion by Egyptian forces, would be felt much further than merely on Egyptian soil. Indeed, it is often cited as the event which ended European - and more accurately British - hegemony in international relations. From the Suez Crisis onwards, the United States would almost invariably take the lead in conducting large-scale military operations across the world.

However, the effect that the Crisis had within Egypt itself is less well documented. Here, Conor Keegan gives a brief explanation of the measures taken by Nasser immediately post-1956 to remove the mutamassirun community, with a specific focus on the effects of these policies on the Jewish population of Egypt.

 General Nasser (center of picture with hand in the air), Alexandria, Egypt, 1954.

General Nasser (center of picture with hand in the air), Alexandria, Egypt, 1954.

The Mutamassirun

The Suez Crisis, aside from producing an understandable rise in support for President Gamal Abdel Nasser and his regime, had devastating effects for persons living within Egypt who had become ‘egyptianized’ i.e. those who were not Egyptian citizens; or those whose ancestry was not wholly Egyptian, but had attained Egyptian citizenship through various legal statutes.

These people were collectively known as the mutamassirun, and, in the immediate post-colonial period in Egypt (from 1922 onwards) they owned a large share of capital and operated a large number of businesses in Egypt. They were also acknowledged to have made significant contributions to Egyptian cultural, religious and linguistic diversity in the past. Although measures to expel members of the mutamassirun were already underway before the Suez Crisis came to a head, the Crisis is widely seen as giving Nasser the necessary impetus and legitimacy to proceed to make it extremely difficult for ‘egyptianized’ persons to remain in Egypt.

It was a natural step for Nasser to seek to blame the Suez Crisis on the mutamassirun population. After all, Nasser had risen to power on an avowedly pan-Arab, anti-colonial message. As Britain had directly ruled Egypt from the late nineteenth century until 1922, and France had previously invaded under Napoleon in 1798, the mutamassirun were easy targets for blame post-Crisis Egypt, as many were of British or French nationality or extraction. There was also a sizeable population of Jews living in Egypt around the turn of the twentieth century. As the pre-Crisis period coincided with an increasingly confident and assertive Zionist movement, leading up to the creation of Israel in 1948, which led to great discomfort across Arab states, the Crisis only provided Nasser with a further reason to expel large numbers of the Egyptian Jewish population in its aftermath.


Impact on the Jewish Population

For the Jews specifically (including those Jews who also happened to be British or French citizens), Nasser’s policy of removal post-1956 was carried out in two ways: expulsion and ‘voluntary’ emigration. With regard to expulsion, the Egyptian government was able to make the number of Jews removed from Egypt seem much lower than the actual number by statistical sleight of hand: the estimate that at least 500 Egyptian and stateless Jews were expelled from Egypt by November 1956 does not include the expulsion of those Jews that were French or British citizens, nor does it include any member of a family who was not deemed by the Egyptian authorities to have been the ‘head of a family’, but who nonetheless had to leave Egypt along with the head of their family.

Furthermore, the Egyptian authorities used more informal (and ‘voluntary’) methods to expel Jews, which proved to be effective. These measures included widespread intimidation, economic coercion and ‘voluntary’ declarations made by those Jews who were Egyptian citizens renouncing their citizenship. When these methods are included, it is estimated that by the end of June 1957 between 23,000 and 25,000 of Egypt’s 45,000 Jews had left the country.


Making Citizenship Harder to Obtain

In additional to expulsions, the Egyptian government also actively set about depriving the mutamassirun in general of citizenship in the aftermath of the Crisis. In November 1956, Egyptian citizenship law was amended so that only persons who were resident on the territory of Egypt on January 1, 1900, and who had maintained their residence in Egypt from that date to the coming into force of the amendment on November 22, 1956, were entitled to Egyptian citizenship. Therefore, by virtue of this provision, it was a relatively uncomplicated task for the Egyptian government to retroactively deprive the mutamassirun in general of Egyptian citizenship. This policy was only made easier for the Egyptian government to enforce due to the fact that most mutamassirun did not possess official papers of any kind which proved their continuous residence in Egypt between the relevant dates.

The amended law was even clearer when it came to providing for Jewish citizens of Egypt: the amendment clearly provides that citizenship should not be given to ‘Zionists’. Therefore, while the attempt to make uncertain the position of the general mutamassirun population after 1956 was arguably camouflaged by somewhat confusing references to continuous residence in Egypt between two specific dates, the provisions of the legislation left no room for doubt that the Jewish population was prioritized by Nasser’s government when it came to identifying groups from whom they would seek to withdraw rights and privileges.

Therefore, it can be seen that President Nasser and his government used various legal, procedural, formal and informal measures to effectively expel and exclude the mutamassirun from Egyptian society, territory and nationality. While measures excluding this much-maligned group were not unusual in the broad expanse of Egyptian history, the measures enacted after the Suez Crisis of 1956 were more intense and more in the vein of ostracization (as opposed to discrimination) than any previous measures. Therefore, even though the Suez Crisis had far-reaching and important effects across the world, the Crisis also had drastic consequences for ‘egyptianized’ foreigners in Egypt, and most acutely affected the Jewish population.


What do you think of this article? Let us know your thoughts below…


Gorman, Anthony, Historians, State and Politics in Twentieth Century Egypt: Contesting the Nation 2003 Routledge Curzon

Harper, Paul, The Suez Crisis 1986 Wayland

Kazamias, Alexander, ‘The Purge of the Greeks from Nasserite Egypt’ 2009 Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora 35(2) 13-34

Laskier, Michael M, ‘Egyptian Jewry under the Nasser Regime 1956-70’ 1995 Middle Eastern Studies 31(3) 573-619

William Walker, the man of destiny from the American South, was a very curious mid-nineteenth century adventurer. He launched various schemes in Mexico and Central America – and was even President of Nicaragua. Curtis H. Stratton explains (Twitter: @Curtis_Stratton).

 A portrait of William Walker by George Drury.

A portrait of William Walker by George Drury.

On September 12, 1860, the American-born President of Nicaragua died at the hands of a firing squad. This “gray-eyed man of destiny,” known as William Walker, had conquered the country with sixty men.

For, in the 1850s, bold military expeditions were undertaken by people without government sponsorship - expeditions, which were inherently based on conquest. These men-of-fortune were known as “filibusters.” The most successful, and most disastrously-fated, of these filibusters was a Tennessee native, William Walker. Of slight stature and thin-of-hair, the wildly-ambitious attorney seemed the least-likely to be a conqueror.

Yet, he was to be a conqueror not just once, but twice, and all as a private citizen.


Humble Beginnings

Born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1824, the young Walker showed intellectual promise from an early age. At fourteen, he graduated with honors from the University of Nashville. Though he received a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania at nineteen, Walker first made a name for himself as an attorney in New Orleans.

In New Orleans, Walker experienced his first successes and first tastes of failure. He founded a newspaper after practicing law for some time. His fiancée died of cholera in 1849, when he was but twenty-five. This did not quell the young man’s ambitions, as the United States was full of sentiment surrounding Manifest Destiny - the fervent belief that the United States was destined to settle both North American coasts. This popular conviction showed itself in the Annexation of Texas and the push for further control in the Oregon Territory.

As a Southern man, this ideal was deeply-held by Walker, and, as his ties to New Orleans faded, he decided to “Go West, young man.” The allure of the California Gold Rush drew Walker to San Francisco, where his personal legend grew following a duel with an infamous gunslinger, William Hicks Graham.


The Republic of Sonora

In 1853, Walker made a trip to Guaymas, in the Mexican province of Sonora. There, he petitioned the Mexican government to allow him to create a colony to act as a buffer zone between Native American raiders and American territory. Mexico declined his offer, and Walker returned to San Francisco.  

Despite the setback, Walker moved forward with his concept of the “Republic of Sonora.” With a recruitment office established and offers of land within the silver-rich Sonora, Walker was able to find recruits for his expedition, as well as the money necessary to undertake it. War veterans, destitute miners, and other adventuring men joined Walker in his quest to create a new country.

Sailing from San Francisco to La Paz, in Baja, Walker’s small army of roughly fifty men seized the city, imprisoned the Mexican governor, and declared the “Republic of Lower California,” with sights still on the neighboring Sonora. Walker made himself President of this new republic, and the laws of his last home-state, Louisiana, were applied, which made slavery legal.

The capture of La Paz made Walker infinitely popular in San Francisco, and he was reinforced with two hundred Mexicans and two hundred Americans from San Francisco, all of whom were drawn to the allure of land and a role in the new republic.  

Though the Mexican government could not rally an army to dislodge Walker from La Paz, the small force they did send managed to send Walker into retreat to Ensenada, further up the Baja Peninsula.  From there, Walker renamed the republic the Republic of Sonora, consisting of Baja and Sonora.

In a stroke of misfortune, the ship carrying Walker’s supplies left, and his recently-enlarged army soon began to desert.  With few options remaining for the fledgling republic, Walker decided to attack the city of Sonora proper, in hopes of securing a victory and bolstering his army and finances once more.  However, the desertions left him with but thirty-five men, and he crossed the border into American territory, in lieu of capture by the Mexican government.

As filibustering was illegal, he and his men were arrested by the U.S. Army.  He was given a trial in San Francisco, where the attorney-by-trade argued his way to an acquittal from a sympathetic jury. Having come close to victory in the Sonora Expedition, Walker returned to practicing law, his thirst for adventure not-yet-satisfied.


The Conquest of Nicaragua

In Nicaragua, thousands of miles south of San Francisco, the exploits of William Walker had reached the warring country. A civil war gripped Nicaragua, with two rival factions vying for control over the Central American country. The liberal Leonese were losing the war to the conservative Granadans.

Having heard of Walker’s expedition in Mexico, the Leonese wanted Walker to assist them in their efforts. Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad baron from New York, had expressed interest in creating a canal through Nicaragua to connect the Caribbean with the Pacific. Walker, like many Americans, thus saw Nicaragua as an economic jackpot, having noted it was a country “for which nature has done much and man little.”

Walker agreed to help the Leonese in their conflict, and, on May 4, 1855, he set sail from San Francisco for Nicaragua with a force of sixty men. Landing at San Juan del Sur on June 16, Walker’s volunteers were greeted by two hundred Leonese troops.  

Walker marched his newly-formed army through the Nicaraguan jungle to the Granadan stronghold of Rivas. The Battle of Rivas was a defeat for Walker’s army, but, following a regrouping, he and his men attacked the major city of Granada, taking the Granadans by surprise. The city was firmly his by October 1855, and he declared himself President of Nicaragua. His government was formally-recognized by President Polk in May 1856, giving President Walker international legitimacy.

However, Walker made many enemies through his conquest. By revoking Vanderbilt’s shipping rights in Nicaragua, legalizing slavery, and making English the official language, he provided fodder for a coalition led by the Costa Ricans to oust him from power in early 1857.


Home and Back

Walker safely returned to the United States following the collapse of his rule, where he was a popular figure in the South. While he made plans to recapture Nicaragua, he wrote a book and practiced law once more. After the better part of a year back in the States, Walker recruited some of his old followers and left from Mobile, Alabama in November 1857. Landing in Nicaragua, he was soon arrested by the U.S. Navy and taken back to the United States.

After another trial for violation of United States’ neutrality laws, he was again acquitted by a sympathetic jury in 1858. He remained in the United States until 1860, where he sailed from New Orleans to Honduras. The British Navy caught wind of his landing in Honduras. As the British held colonies in Central America, they abhorred the idea of Walker continuing his filibustering schemes.  

Thus, the British captured Walker before handing him over to the Honduran government, which ordered his death via firing squad on September 12, 1860. His last words were a request for clemency for his men, and the thirty-six-year-old “gray-eyed man of destiny” was killed, ending his dreams of conquest for good.


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The Great Leap Forward took place some 60 years ago in Chairman Mao’s communist China and led to the greatest famine in human history. Here, Stepan Hobza discusses why the Great Leap Forward took place and how Chairman Mao can be viewed today.

 Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong.

Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong.

Had any Western tourist gone to China 60 years ago, they would certainly have been surprised. They could have wondered if a horrible mistake had taken place and they had actually arrived in England taking part in a Monty Python sketch.

At the beginning of 1958 hundreds of thousands of citizens of the People’s Republic of China flooded the streets with drums and trumpets in their hands. Yet they were not celebrating. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the sky. Now and then, a shot was fired into a treetop… The sole purpose of this strange behaviour would seem surprising to us: the Chinese simply went out to kill sparrows. The poor birds had fallen into disgrace with the Communist Party of China since they “harmed the crops”, and were probably lucky enough not to be labelled as imperialistic agents. The sequel is emblematic of Mao’s Absurdistan. After annihilating two billion sparrows, an excessive reproduction of insects followed. These vermin now really set about harming the crops and in order to kill them off, China had to import millions of sparrows from the Soviet Union.

This escapade was by no means a one-off eccentricity, rather one of the many components of a wider motion called The Great Leap Forward. This glorious operation was supposed to mean, “three years of hard work”, after which “ten thousand years of happiness” would follow. In fact, what followed was the greatest famine in human history. While in the West “Chinese cuisine” was becoming popular, the actual people of China were happy to obtain a bowl of rice. In one of thousands of starving villages “a teenage orphan kill[ed] and [ate] her four-year-old brother“ and “the last remaining resident, a woman in her 60s, [went] insane. Others [were] tortured, beaten or buried alive for declaring realistic harvests.“

The official account of the Chinese government acknowledges 15 million victims. In the 1990s, when the topic was more thoroughly explored for the first time, historians assumed that the real number could very well be twice as big. However, while it may seem unbelievable, a new and very well researched book concerning the topic, Frank Dikötter‘s Mao’s Great Famine speaks about “at least 45 million“ dead people. By way of contrast, this number is almost twice as big as the toll of all military casualties in WWII. You may as well imagine that a whole modern-day Ukraine would perish in the course of four years - because that’s exactly what happened in China from 1958 to 1962.


The reasons for the tragedy

The question could not be more obvious: Why? As happens to be the rule concerning huge catastrophes, a combination of factors rather than a single one was to blame for the outcome. A major geopolitical shift of global scale stood at the beginning. After the death of Stalin a new set of Soviet leaders vied for power in the Kremlin. Though the biggest chances were attributed to Georgy Malenkov – in fact, not so feckless and compliant as depicted in Armando Ianucci’s recent farce film The Death of Stalin –, Nikita Khrushchev finally prevailed. Yet, unlike the Soviet apparatchiks, Mao didn’t trust him. When they met in 1957 he was absolutely sure that the First Secretary would sacrifice anyone in order to reconcile with the USA. China was alone. Characteristically, Mao didn’t recoil from this new and awe-inspiring prospect. He already felt like an ideological leader of the socialist bloc, anyway. What could he learn from those “grandsons of the Revolution” who held sway in Moscow? With a single Great Leap Forward China would jump over the Soviets and pair its spiritual supremacy with an economic one.  

In Chinese Communists’ minds the ultimate goal of the socialist world – Communism as such – was within arm’s reach. It would suffice to mobilize the masses. In order to achieve this, the Party established mammoth-like communes. Many fanaticized farmers were guided to believe that an economic paradise was descending upon the Earth. Before entering the communes, they killed off their cattle and held carnivorous orgies. Needless to say how dearly they would appreciate the meat later, when they would have not even rice or bread. After their last happy days they finally set out for a journey to giant dams, the Red Flag Canal or other – true or failed – masterpieces of water management. Their working conditions were naturally horrific. An even bigger problem, though, was that since they left, there was – what a wonder – no one to plough their fields. However, this fact didn’t stop provincial officials from reporting massive harvest increases to Beijing. Thus starving cities demanded even bigger supplies from the country which didn’t have enough to feed its peasants. The circle of death soon closed. Nothing could have described the situation better than the words in which Zhou Enlai (contrary to widespread habit to quote this as Mao’s motto) summed up the Chairman’s convictions: All under heaven is in chaos, the situation is excellent.


Mao in perspective

Few countries have ever changed as rapidly and profoundly as China has since 1960s. Although little has been revised in the official doctrine, the Trotskyist idea of permanent revolution seems ludicrous under the shades of hundreds of skyscrapers owned by trillions of dollars’ worth’ Chinese banks. Nevertheless, the white-collared communists keep addressing each other “comrade” and humming Pioneer songs. Chairman Mao is still considered a demigod-like hero and the myth surrounding his exploits is sacrosanct. Unfortunately, this lack of self-reflection is not a uniquely Chinese problem. With the People’s Republic possessing every thinkable potential to become a superpower, it is rather disturbing that the Great Famine of 1958-62, one of the biggest and most consequential crimes in human history, is still redubbed Three Years of Natural Disasters in Chinese vocabulary. Now, since Xi Jinping recently declared himself de facto dictator for life, the chances for change have grown even smaller, if not plummeted to zero.


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AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

The Jacobite Risings were a stormy period from the late 17th century to the first half of the 18th century in Britain. They involved many plots and battles between those who wanted Britain to remain ruled by Protestants and those who wanted the Stuart Catholics to return to the British throne. Here, in the last of the series, Jamil Bakhtawar follows from his introduction (here) and article on the risings of 1715 (here), to explain how a later generation of Stuarts started the Jacobite Rising of 1745.

 Painting of Bonnie Prince Charlie by William Mosman.

Painting of Bonnie Prince Charlie by William Mosman.

For a generation after the ‘Fifteen’, the Act of Union was not seriously threatened. Jacobitism seldom rallied the forces which had been controlled so inefficiently previously. As the material benefits of the Union were seen, those in the Scottish Lowlands were tempted to follow a different path from the separatists; whilst, the Stuart cause found support chiefly among the Scottish clans.

The Jacobite dream of ruling Great Britain flared up again under the leadership of the Old Pretender’s son, Charles. Known as ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, the young Stuart began plotting an invasion of Great Britain in 1743. In his eyes, the time was ripe for rebellion. England had recently become embroiled in vast global conflicts; British forces were deployed in Europe while colonists took up arms in faraway places like North America, the Caribbean, and the Indian subcontinent. With all of Great Britain’s concerns overseas, the Bonnie Prince reasoned, they would never expect an uprising at home.


The Bonnie Prince

Prince Charles Edward Stuart won the heart of the Scottish Highlanders by wearing their dress and marching at the head of the second division, as strong and unwearied as the best among them. He brought with him his unassailable belief for restoring a Stuart back on the throne. His care for his followers tended much to endear him to them, and his followers adorned him with the graces of a king. Charles cultivated long-distance relations in the Scottish Highlands and amongst England’s Catholic nobility. Guaranteed by Charles that he would be compensated if the risings failed, Chief of the Clan Cameron committed his people to the cause. This led to the support of a few key western clans being crucial to the rising. Without them, the Jacobite standard could never have been raised: with them, the '45 unfolded.


The Sieges of ‘45

The Young Pretender rallied to his standard 10,000 Scotsmen, mostly Highlanders, and captured Edinburgh, thus securing a supply of arms. The rebellion had remarkable initial success. Many Hanoverian troops had been withdrawn to fight the regime's wars abroad, and only a handful remained to defend Scotland. This, plus the general reluctance of the population to martyr themselves for George II (the Protestant heir apparent), allowed Charles to occupy Edinburgh virtually unopposed.

Consequently, after a decisive victory over government forces at Prestonpans, the Jacobite Army invaded England by the western route through Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lanarkshire. Charles besieged Carlisle in mid-November and later entered the city with 5,000 infantry and 500 cavalry troops. After gathering all the ammunition, arms and horses from Carlisle, the Jacobites continued south thereby laying siege to Manchester. Morale inside the Jacobite ranks swelled, and the British throne seemed within their grasp.

All told, Charles made a spectacular advance into England, getting as far as Derby. When he reached Derby (only one hundred and twenty-seven miles from London) he found himself threatened by three armies, from the south, north, and east respectively. King George II (the son of George I) recalled his brother, the Duke of Cumberland, from the front lines in France to quell the rebellion. With ample men and resources, the Duke pursued the Jacobite invaders and Charles’ forces were greatly diminished by desertion. On December 6, threatened by superior forces, the Jacobites retreated to Scotland.

As the pursuit continued, the Duke of Cumberland and his army landed in Edinburgh in January 1746 and marched on the Jacobites. An already exhausted Jacobite Army was forced to retreat into the Highlands towards Inverness. However, the clansmen did not give up their cause; they awaited reinforcements and kept on their plan to seat Charles Edward Stuart on the throne of Britain.


The Battle of Culloden - 1746

Ignoring advice to launch a guerrilla campaign, Charles chose to stage a defensive action and confront his enemy at the Drummossie Moor, near Inverness. He also ignored warnings that the rough marshy ground may favor the larger Government forces. And so, on a rain soaked morning the Government Army struck camp and headed towards the moorland around Culloden and Drummossie to take up their positions.

Over the first half-hour of the battle, Cumberland’s artillery battered the Jacobite lines, first with round shot and then grapeshot. Finally, Charles issued the orders his Highlanders had been waiting for to charge the enemy.

The Jacobites were heavily armed with muskets and formed into conventional regiments. They were drilled according to French conventions and some British Army practice. They possessed numerous artillery pieces and fired more rounds per man than the British. Even so, they had no more than 200 mounted men; the British had almost four times as many. Once the Jacobite frontline failed to break the British front at more than one point, their reinforcements were readily disrupted by British cavalry and dragoons on the wings.

The Jacobite Army comprised about 5,000, barely a third its maximum strength in the earlier rising of 1745-46 and several thousand fewer than the British. It demonstrated impressive courage and persistence in fighting Culloden, despite being outnumbered. Culloden was difficult for the Jacobites to win, but this manpower shortage – combined with a lack of cavalry – was what made it possible for the British dragoon blades to cut down the Jacobite musketeers. Hence, the Highlanders finally broke and fled; the entire battle had lasted less than hour.

Charles’ decision to fight on the most unsuitable terrain possible for a Highland charge had enabled the Hanoverian artillery to cut the Jacobite army to pieces. Indeed, Culloden was a devastating defeat. Several thousand men, some of whom had not been present at the battle, gathered at Ruthven 30 miles south to continue the fight. But a lack of supplies and a failure of leadership from Charles put an end to any thought of a final stand.

 The Battle of Culloden by David Morier.

The Battle of Culloden by David Morier.

The Jacobite Army at Culloden

The Jacobite army at Culloden was organized along regimental lines, with the regiments named after their commanders. They were drilled using a mixture of French and British tactics and possessed a large amount of artillery. The battle of Culloden had to be fought because the Jacobite Army needed to protect Inverness, its last major supply depot. As it was, supplies were low and Charles’ army was too large and conventionally organized to fight a guerilla war. Nor was it a ‘clan-like' army; many of its units were from the Scottish Highlands, as well as Irish and Scottish soldiers in the French service, and some English volunteers.

Indeed, at Culloden some of the most effective units were non-Highland ones.


The End of the Jacobite Cause

Ironically, the government repression after Culloden was as unnecessary as it was brutal. Many former Jacobites were only too willing to seek terms with the State.

Within a relatively short time a large number of them were to be found serving the Hanoverians in a military capacity abroad. Jacobitism had been exposed by the '45 as no longer militarily viable. With the exception of a few half-hearted plots, it continued withering away.

The defeat of the Jacobites had led to the rolling out of a new British government policy: the attempted extinction of Stuart support in the Highlands via the systematic dismantling of the ancient social and military culture of the Highland clans. The wearing of Highland garb, particularly tartan plaid, was banned and the semi-feudal bond of military service coupled with the power of the chiefs over their clans was removed.

Understandably the British government wanted to stamp out any potential of another rebellion occurring. However, the uncompromisingly ruthless and often violent manner in which this was achieved - including the destruction of property and livelihood, executions and transportation - swiftly turned the joy at the rebellion’s termination into sympathy for the rebels and, soon after, disaffection towards the government. The Duke of Cumberland’s enthusiastic leadership in this process won him the soubriquet ‘The Butcher.’ Thus, the pacification of the Highlands and the channeling of Highland military prowess into the British Army largely removed any potential for a future uprising in the area.

Culloden was seen as the final battle in an Anglo-Scottish conflict. It was the precursor to the Highlands becoming the last part of Scotland to be fully incorporated into Great Britain and, most importantly, the British Army. This helped underline the sense of Jacobites as aliens: Gaelic-speaking Catholics in an English-speaking Protestant country.

Culloden was, of course, the true end of a long civil war, as was the Anglo-Irish war of 1919-21 or the American War of Independence. Every national struggle divides its nation, and the Jacobite uprisings were a fight not only for the restoration of a Catholic monarchy but also for an independent Scottish nation. 


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With the ever greater use of computers, phones, and other technologies, students are paying less and less attention to textbooks, paper charts, and extended presentation based materials. As such, it should come as no surprise that educators and instructors have got the message that they should incorporate technology into their materials to captivate students, to keep their attention, and to allow them to discover their talents and skills.

So here’s a widely acclaimed solution to increase engagement in history.

 How the class room used to be...

How the class room used to be...

Create a Classroom Website

Perhaps you have often admired other teachers who use a website to impart knowledge and teach history – making things interesting and learning effective. The good news is that websites are now accessible and ever easier to create.

As well as uploading presentations, you can also use websites for other purposes, such as general announcements, to show materials for upcoming classes, to upload images and notes of class progress, and to connect to important resources on the Internet through hyperlinks. The uses can be as many as you want.

Some teachers say that it has become quite hard to make modern day students interested in history. But, with a website at your disposal, you will be able to communicate the significance of all aspects of the past using computer technology and website design software.

Here are some other tips:

  • You can use websites to add links to the primary and secondary sources of historical analysis you have discussed in class
  • You can add pictures of relevant historians and history related events to awaken more interest
  • For a more fun filled history experience and to increase the engagement of your students, incorporate interactive media such as videos, music, maps, texts, and non-textual description such as charts and photographs
  • Provide appropriate access to your website and the Internet in the classroom


How to create a classroom website

You can easily find a number of websites that offer you website building options, but few specifically tailored to offer a complete classroom website builder option. Some of the most popular for instructors and educators are Weebly, WordPress, Ning, and Blackboard. Some of them offer users step-by-step instructions for building a website, so it makes it easier for you to go through the process and your website can be ready and running in less than 30 minutes!

But even if you have already found a platform for your future classroom website, what else is there you should think about?

Well, you need to choose your site and domain name. Then you need to choose a template for your website – all of the platforms have a great number of templates so you can choose the one that suits you the most. The best part about the template and design of your website is that you can always choose to change it if you feel like it.


Domain and title

The domain name has to be bought if you do not want the platform name as part of the URL of your site, so it is recommended that you buy one to give your site a more personalized touch.



Elements are what help you drag your information into the site. Some website building platforms also offer a huge, free database of pictures for you to use if you have little time to look for images on the Internet.



Your header comes next, the font and color of which you can always change according to your taste and the selected design and template of the website.


Publish it!

After you have done the above steps, your site is ready to be published.

After publishing, you can keep adding more and more pages, new layouts and blogs to your site. A website is a whole new world in itself and should consist of all the information you can possibly give to your audience.

Unlike a blog that can become rather claustrophobic when you have too much information to share, a website offers you unlimited capacity and options to drag and drop as much and as many types of information as you want. You just have to broaden your horizons of technology use and your website will be more than complete.


One final tip…

A lot of sites also allow you to make your website interactive by adding fun quizzes, forms and documents so that students do not feel like the communication is only one sided. Therefore, always remember that the more interactive and fun your site is, the more engaged your students will be.


What tips do you have about increasing engagement in history in the classroom? Let us know below.