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.

Forty years ago, on March 16, 1978, a tragic airplane crash claimed 73 lives, including a number of elite Polish cyclists. Shrouded in Cold War secrecy, the crash remains unexplained to this day.

Written by Matthew Stefanski. Matthew interviewed Dr. Leszek Sibilski, a member of the Polish Olympic Cycling Team at the time, to write the article.

 Leszek Sibilski (center) with Marek Kolasa (left) and  Krzysztof Otocki (right). Sprint, Youth Spartakus Games in Lodz, Summer 1977. Kolasa and Otocki perished in the crash.

Leszek Sibilski (center) with Marek Kolasa (left) and  Krzysztof Otocki (right). Sprint, Youth Spartakus Games in Lodz, Summer 1977. Kolasa and Otocki perished in the crash.

When tragedy strikes the sporting community, it tends to captivate the world’s attention. Athletes who are competing and striving for victory one day, can simply be gone the next, as was the case in the Manchester United Munich Air Disaster or the luging accident during the Vancouver Olympics. Perhaps it is because the competitiveness and passion of sports is thought to safeguard athletes from worldly vices that these tragedies seem so unfair. Whatever their cause, society can oft only respond with grief expressed in a need to commemorate and remember the victims long after their untimely passing. 

Unfortunately even in sports, tragedies can fade. March 16 this year marks the 40th anniversary of an airplane catastrophe which claimed the flower of Polish cycling. Shrouded in Cold War secrecy, it remains unexplained to this day; forgotten by all but those closest to the victims.


Training in Bulgaria

“Bulgaria was the cradle of spring trainings for the Polish cycling team. In Poland March was very tricky. We needed to build mileage on our bikes and to do so we needed dry roads and sunshine” explains Dr. Leszek Sibilski, professor of sociology at Montgomery College in Maryland.

In 1978 Sibilski was a member of the Polish Olympic Cycling Team. That March, as they often did, the team traveled to Bulgaria for spring training as they prepared for the coming season and worked towards qualify for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. The team was composed of short and medium distance cyclists, some 20 athletes in all. They were young, passionate and the best cyclists Poland had. 

The training in Bulgaria progressed as any other, with the mild Balkan weather melting away the cyclist’s winter blues.

On March 16, the team split. The medium-distance athletes continued to train in Bulgaria, while the six short-distance sprinters, who were on a different training regime, prepared to depart for Warsaw aboard a Balkan Bulgarian Airlines flight.


The crash and its aftermath

The Tu-134 aircraft with 73 passengers and crew aboard departed Sofia but never reached its cruising altitude. Less than ten minutes after takeoff, due to still undetermined reasons, the airplane crashed near the village of Gabare, 80 miles from Sofia. There were no survivors. 

The crash site was quickly cordoned off by the Bulgarian military and a cloak of secrecy and unanswered questions descended over the area.

As word of what happened spread, the Polish cyclists who had remained in Bulgaria quickly traveled to the site only to be turned away by military personnel. Few answers were forthcoming, and little more would be learned over time. 

The incident was briefly covered by the Polish press, which then was still subject to Communist censorship, but overall the cyclists were quickly forgotten. The funerals were private, and no public commemorations were organized. “The topic was avoided, it was painful, inconvenient, and became easy to forget,” explains Sibilski. 

Following a superficial investigation the official cause of the crash was described as electrical circuit malfunction, but theories quickly began to circulate. Was the aircraft shot down by the Bulgarian armed forces, some wondered, or did the crash have anything to do with the secret military base located near Gabare? The year, however, was 1978 and both Poland and Bulgaria were behind the Iron Curtain. With an atmosphere not conducive to prodding questions, the theories went unanswered. 

So, just like that, with the victims buried and crash site cleared, the incident creeped out of public consciousness. 

“At a certain age, you begin to reflect and analyze your life. You look back on your mistakes and your successes. I consider this catastrophe the most defining moment of my life” asserts Professor Sibilski, “This incident haunts me. I am very lucky that I was not aboard that plane, and I want to pay it back.”

Professor Sibilski points out that education saved his life. Had he attended the spring training in Bulgaria, he would most certainly have been aboard that fateful plane together with the other sprinters. As was the case, his university schedule did not allow for him to take part in this particular training, so he remained instead in Poland to attend classes. 

“I lost five of my very close friends, my teammates, and no one is doing anything to find out what happened.” No one - that is - except Sibilski. 

 Photo 2 caption: Leszek Sibilski (first), Marek Kolasa (second), Spartakus Youth Games in Lodz, 1977, Sprint final,

Photo 2 caption: Leszek Sibilski (first), Marek Kolasa (second), Spartakus Youth Games in Lodz, 1977, Sprint final,

Trying to resolve the mystery

A recent self-described empty nester, Sibilski has long suppressed if not the memory than certainly the emotions of this painful chapter in his life. But recently, as he approaches 60, reflections on his life have led him to confront those memories, and to commemorate his lost teammates. 

Two years ago, following an impromptu mini-reunion of former Polish cyclists during the 2015 UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, VA, Sibilski initiated an action that would result in the first official public commemoration of the five lost cyclists. In November 2016 a plaque was unveiled at the entrance to the velodrome in Pruszków, near Warsaw, Poland. 

It reads “The living owe it to those who can no longer speak to tell their story. In memory of: Marek Kolasa, Krzysztof Otocki, Witold Stachowiak, Tadeusz Wlodarczyk and Jacek Zdaniuk, the cyclists of the Polish National Team who died on March 16, 1978 in unsolved circumstances in a plane crash near Gabare, Bulgaria.”

Sibilski thought that this action would be the end of it. But, as he now explains, when he watched the unveiling ceremony and the moving reactions from the victim’s family members, something within him continued to stir. 

“Questions. Unanswered questions. So much is still unknown,” demurred Professor Sibilski when I spoke with him ahead of the fortieth anniversary.

Professor Sibilski is working with interest researchers in Poland and Bulgaria to study the declassified Communist archives for clues that could finally remove the cloak of silence that had descended over that fateful crash. “We are so close. The answers are surely in the archives. It’s time to shake people up; to give them an opportunity to find answers, perhaps I can be that spark to make something happen.”


Let us know your thoughts below.


Matthew Stefanski serves as the press advisor at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington, DC. The views presented here are strictly his own.

The photographs in this article are from Dr. Leszek Sibilski’s private collection and are used in this article with permission.

King Henry VIII is one of the most legendary kings of England - for many of the wrong reasons. He gained a fearsome reputation among his subjects. Nevertheless, his break with the Papacy in Rome established the Church of England and began the English Reformation - which ultimately helped lead to the foundation of the United States. His two daughters would gain unforgettable legacies during their respective reigns as well. Yet, little is known about the male heir Henry had sacrificed three wives and national stability for. In his unfortunately short reign and life, King Edward VI of England still managed to stamp his own mark on history before being overshadowed quickly by his two half-sisters.

Casey Titus explains.

 King Edward VI of England as a child.

King Edward VI of England as a child.

1.     Edward was King Henry’s only legitimate son

Henry VIII was famously known to have had six wives, two divorced, two executed, one died in childhood, and the last that outlived him. Along with six wives came innumerable mistresses. His first wife, Katherine of Aragon, bore him five stillborn children and one surviving daughter, Mary I. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, miscarried two sons and birthed one living daughter, Elizabeth I. His third wife, Jane Seymour, gave birth to one surviving son, Edward VI. Henry acknowledged one illegitimate child, Henry Fitzroy, the son of his mistress Elizabeth Blount, and granted him a dukedom. At least six others are suspected of being his illegitimate children, including Catherine and Henry Carey, the children of Anne’s sister, Mary Boleyn.

2.     Edward grew up coddled and educated

From the age of six, Edward was educated in philosophy, theology, the sciences, French, Spanish, and Italian. He was even said to have a high intelligence and a firm understanding of monetary affairs. Visitors spoiled Edward with toys and luxuries that included his own troupe of musicians. Both of Edward’s sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, doted on their younger brother. Edward wrote to Mary in 1546 that he “love(d) her most,” and Elizabeth had gifted him a shirt of her own working. Henry demanded his son’s household be strictly secured and cleaned, as little Edward was “this whole realm’s most precious jewel.”

3.     Prince Edward was betrothed as a young boy

In July 1543, Henry VIII signed the Treaty of Greenwich with the Scots which would not only unite the two kingdoms but the betrothal between six-year old Edward and seven-month old Mary, Queen of Scots. In a turn of events, the Scots renounced the treaty six months later to renew their alliance with France. Henry was furious and ordered Prince Edward’s uncle, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, to attack Scotland in possible the most brutal military assault launched by England against the Scots. This war, known as “The Rough Wooing”, would continue into Edward’s reign.

4.     Edward ascended to the English throne at just nine years old

King Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547 and was laid to rest beside Edward’s mother, Queen Jane Seymour, at his request, possibly for the sole reason of having bore him the son he desperately desired. Since Edward was still young at the time Henry passed away, he arranged a council of regency that would rule on Edward’s behalf. This was overridden by Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, who took power and named himself protector. Nine-year-old Edward VI was crowned at Westminster Abbey on February 20, 1547 the first English Protestant King. At his coronation service, Thomas Cramner, a leader of the English Reformation, even referred to Edward as a “second Josiah” and would urge him to propel the reformation of the Church of England as the focus of young Edward’s reign.

5.     Edward had quite the busy 6-year reign

An English Prayer Book was published in 1549 with an Act of Uniformity to ensure it was used across the country. Peasants in the West Country rebelled against the Book. Simultaneously, Kett’s Rebellion from Norfolk responded to the enclosure of land, concentrating on economic and social injustices. In addition, the French declared war on England. Kett’s Rebellion was suppressed by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. Dudley would unexpectedly use this victory to engineer the downfall of Edward’s uncle, Edward Seymour. The 14-year-old Henry wrote of his uncle’s execution plainly and coldly: “The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill between eight and nine o’clock in the morning.” By this time, Edward was writing on subjects such as military campaigns and currency reform and was being briefed by advisors selected by him. He was beginning to resemble his father; when his Lord Chancellor refused to accept a document signed by King Edward because it had been countersigned by his advisors, Edward reacted forcefully: “It should be a great impediment for me to send to all my council and I should seem to be in bondage,” he wrote. Like Henry, Edward VI believed the king was free to use his powers any way he felt was necessary.

In 1553, Edward was rapidly dying from a lung infection, most likely tuberculosis, and composed a “Devise” for royal succession. The “Devise” was the most puzzling document of Edward’s reign, a trick of the elusive and shrewd boy-king.

Edward compelled the judicial and political establishments of his kingdom to sign the “Devise” while ignoring the lawful, legitimate claims of Mary (first) and then Elizabeth (second) to the throne. Edward recognized them both as illegitimate, especially Mary for her Catholic faith and her threat to dismantle Protestant efforts in England.


Edward named his first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, as his successor.

In Conclusion…

On July 6, 1553, Edward whispered his last prayer and died at the age of 15 at Greenwich Palace at 8PM. His last words were: “I am faint; Lord have mercy upon me, and take my spirit.” He was buried in Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey on August 8, 1553 with reformed rites performed by Thomas Cramner. Lady Jane Grey would only be queen for nine days before Mary took the throne with overwhelming popular support.

Many historians have judged the legacy of King Edward VI. One school of thought stamps him as weak and sickly, never likely to survive to manhood. Another is Edward being a puppet, manipulated by powerful revolutionaries around him. The third remembers Edward as a brilliant intellectual and ruler. Less commonly known is that Edward was Protestant England’s hero in their fight against the Pope and the Catholic Church.

What do you think of Edward VI of England? Let us know below.

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, Jamil Bakhtawar follows from his introduction (here) and explains the risings of 1715.

 George I with his family. Painting by James Thornhill.

George I with his family. Painting by James Thornhill.

Across the Channel in France, James II’s son and heir apparent, James III (the Old Pretender) was not pleased to hear about King George I of Hanover’s ascension. The Old Pretender was certainly not alone in his discontent; many Scottish Highlanders, English Catholics, and noble families devoted to the Stuart cause were unhappy to see a foreigner ruling over Great Britain.

The premature death of Queen Anne in her late forties (on August 1, 1714) disappointed the vague hopes of James III. The English Tories feared moving for a Roman Catholic claimant, and preferred to assume that a Hanoverian dynasty would immediately collapse. James III countered George I's accession with no more effective measure than a proclamation; on August 29, 1714, he asserted his hereditary right.



When George I began his reign by unceremoniously setting his face against the Tories and dismissing the Earl of Mar, he supplied the Jacobites with a leader. This was not a backward rural people rising for archaic notions of loyalty to the king over the water; rather, there was strong support for the Jacobite cause in the trading burghs of north-east Scotland, as well as in the Highlands. Historian Bruce Lenman characterized the backbone of the risings as 'Patriotic Scots and Disgruntled Britons'. The Union was, thus, in impending danger.

In September 1715 the Jacobite leader, Earl of Mar, raised the Stuart standard at Braemar Castle. Just eight days later, he captured Perth and gathered an army of over 10,000 men, drawn mostly from the Episcopalians of north-east Scotland and from the Highlands.


The Battle of Sheriffmuir

Jacobite sentiment and hatred of the Union had been the real forces behind Scotland’s support for James III. The Earl of Mar raised James III’s standard in the north of Scotland, where he met with a group of Highland chiefs on the pretext of a great hunt. The government was, however, reluctant to start a revolt. Prompt and vigorous action on Mar's part might have given him an advantage and made the insurrection exceedingly formidable. But ‘Bobbing John’, as he was nicknamed, was incapable of promptitude or vigor. While he sat still and did little, the Duke of Argyll, a soldier and statesman of considerable distinction, was dispatched to Scotland to suppress the insurrection. On November 13, 1715 the armies of Argyll and Mar met and fought at Sheriffmuir. The battle was characteristic in its futility.

Both the left wings broke and ran; some ran without any reason, and on the whole the Jacobites ran most effectively. To have called the fight a victory for either party would have been absurd; some five or six hundred appear to have fallen on either side. But the practical result was that when the running was over, Mar retreated and Argyll did not. The advancing of the insurgents had stopped, and all the heart that had been in the rebellion was taken out. When Mar had raised the standard of James in the North, the English Jacobites ought to have risen simultaneously.


The Battle of Preston

Insurrection in the Scottish Highlands was a much simpler matter than in England, where there were no solid Jacobite districts and the government troops could move with comparative ease. The news of the Scottish rising was immediately followed by the arrest of half-a-dozen English Jacobites. In the north of England, however, several Jacobite squires collected together under the leadership of the Earl of Derwentwater and Sir Thomas Forster, who was a General. Over the border, Lord Kenmure, along with Lords Nithsdale, Carnwath and Wintoun declared for James III, were joined by Brigadier MacIntosh with a few Highlanders from Mar's force.

These two companies united at Kelso. But the Englishmen would not march north to help Mar against Argyll, and the Highlanders would not march south to strike at the small government force commanded by General Carpenter. While they tried to make up their minds on a plan, government troops were assembling. The English insurgents were determined to invade Lancashire, while the Highlanders had returned home. The rest, some fifteen hundred strong, marched through Cumberland southwards collecting miscellaneous recruits along the way until they got to Preston in November 1715 where they were attacked by Carpenter and Wills. If led intelligently, they should have been able to rout the government troops, but after having repulsed an attack their commanders were bluffed into surrendering. 

Thus, the rising in England collapsed. In Scotland, it dragged on a little longer. James himself arrived on the scene with the idea that his presence would give heart to his followers. But the former king suffered from an inveterate melancholy which would have dampened the enthusiasm. Argyll was in no hurry to strike home, but the Jacobites had lost the power of striking at all. Their forces diminished day by day, James in despair withdrew from the country, and the once threatening Jacobite conflagration guttered dolefully out.


Aftermath of the Risings

The risings of1715 were like no other Jacobite rising since Killiecrankie: they had not started from abroad. It was also the only occasion when a sizeable rebellion also broke out in England - in heavily Catholic and financially broke Lancashire.

Most of the Jacobite leaders fled to France and some were retained. Of the prisoners taken at Preston, some who had been army officers were shot, some were condemned to be beheaded and several of the leading commoners were hanged. Some succeeded in breaking prison and only Kenmure, Derwentwater, and twenty-six commoners were actually put to death.

In not a few families, one or two sons had been allowed to join the risings to demonstrate the family's loyalty to the Stuarts, while the head of the house had remained at home to demonstrate its loyalty to the Hanoverian Succession. The nation at large sat still in scarcely disturbed apathy. The supreme question of the day was settled by two or three thousand regular troops, a mob of fox-hunters, a few broken adventurers, and some Highland clansmen, most of whom cared more about clan feuds than the genuine issues that were at stake. A few forfeitures, the construction of some military roads in the Highlands, and an ineffective measure of disarmament were the principal outcome of the Fifteen.

The uprisings of 1715 are widely considered to be the Jacobite uprisings that should have worked. They had a large amount of support, across both Scotland and England, but failed largely because of poor management and organization. The uprising, seen in this light, was the climax of a struggle for Scotland’s national and political identity.  Both sides had their part to play. In the Hanoverian corner, never forgetting the pounding they had taken between 1660 and the Glorious Revolution, these new defenders of George I were revealed as increasingly urgent, coherent and aggressive, unprepared for a counter-insurgency that would impose their own settlement on the Scottish nation. Nevertheless, the matter remained unsettled after a lengthy stalemate, and the Jacobites soon began advancing towards more rebellions and battles. To them the dye had been cast after the ascension of George I; now the plan had to be to overthrow George I.


If you missed it, part 1 in the series is here and you can read on to part 3 here.

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

When the term “Epicurean” is brought up in today’s world, it is mostly associated with hedonism and gorging oneself with copious amounts of food and drink. However, the philosopher on whom that phrase is based, Epicurus of Samos, evokes a far different image among religious Christians and Jews. They see him as an atheist, a man who denied the existence of God in favor of sin. Such a perception has persisted for thousands of years, having been propagated by theologians, priests, and academics in Jewish and Christian intellectual circles. This characterization has existed for so long that even the Hebrew word for “heretic” is apikoros. However, is this claim really true? Was Epicurus of Samos an atheist? The answer, it turns out, is much more surprising and interesting than one would think.

Seth Eislund explains.

 Epicurus as depicted in the  Nuremberg Chronicle  (a late 15th-century book.

Epicurus as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle (a late 15th-century book.

The Three Basics of Epicurean Philosophy: Empiricism, Materialism, Atomism

Epicurus was born on the Athenian island-colony of Samos in 341 BCE. Both of his parents were born in Athens and he began studying philosophy at an early age under the Platonist thinker Pamphilus. Epicurus later served in the Athenian military from the ages of 18 to 20. Once Epicurus had completed his service, he settled in Athens between 307 and 306 BCE and founded his philosophical school there.1

Epicurus espoused a philosophy based on materialism and empiricism that was heavily influenced by the Greek thinkers Leucippus and Democritus. These two 5th-century BCE philosophers were the founders of atomic theory, which states that all matter is made up of tiny, indivisible particles, including gods and the human soul.2 Epicurus wholeheartedly believed in atomism, stating that nothing existed but atoms and the void, and originated due to random chance and the laws of nature.3 Therefore, like most scientists and atheists today, Epicurus held an empirical, evidence-based worldview. He believed that “sensations, together with the perception of pleasure and pain [were] the only infallible ways of determining reality.”4 However, does Epicurus’ empiricism, materialism and atomism make him an atheist? Not necessarily.


The Avoidance of Pain, the Pursuit of Pleasure, and the Formation of Ideas

To Epicurus, the ultimate good was to avoid pain and seek pleasure. He believed that fear of death and punishment (especially divine punishment) was the cause of humanity’s suffering.5 Therefore, he argued that if people lived without fear and without desire, they would be able to reach the ultimate goal: pleasure. Epicurus saw religion as a source of fear that should be banished from people's’ minds if they were to live peaceful lives.6 This meant that people should not put their faith in gods, nor expect them to intervene in human affairs, as such beliefs would inevitably lead to anxiety and unhappiness. Epicurus believed that human beings should rely upon physics and the sciences instead of religion. This would remove the fear of death and gods from a person’s mind.7 Epicurus claimed that physics offers a consistent, reassuring explanation of how the world works, while deities, whom he called “heavenly spies,”8 inspire fear in the hearts of god-fearing men. However, Epicurus never denied that the Greek gods existed. In fact, he defended their existence, stating that since they appeared in the dreams and visions of humans, and that so many cultures believed in gods, they must exist. However, Epicurus believed that gods lived in ataraxia, a state of tranquility in the heavens, and therefore did not intervene in human affairs.9 This meant that humans must rely on the sciences, on what they could empirically see, rather than transcendent, divine intervention that would never come.

According to historian David Konstan, Epicurus held that human beings perceive any entity or sensation, including the Greek pantheon, via “thin films emitted by objects that enter the appropriate sense organ.”10 Epicurus believed that some of these films were so minuscule that they were able to penetrate the human body and enter a person’s mind. According to Epicurus, this process forms our dreams, a vehicle through which people can interact with deities, and influences our ideas, beliefs, and even the conscious choices we make.11 Epicurus reasoned that the only way humans could use their imaginations was through their absorption of the films floating about in the air. Such absorption, he argued, would enable people to see entities beyond the mortal realm. Since the gods lived in a realm beyond human existence, Epicurus believed that human beings could see them through the film they emitted.


Judeo-Christian Interpretations of Epicureanism and Conclusion

Epicurus’ philosophy was not based on atheism, but rather on a deistic worldview. Deism posits that gods exist, but do not involve themselves with worldly affairs. By denying the presence of deities in human life, Epicurus wasn’t arguing for an atheistic worldview, but trying to remove the fear of gods, death, and pain that humans experienced.12

Unfortunately, ancient Christian and Jewish thinkers mistook Epicurus’ deism for an utter rejection of God and relentlessly attacked his philosophy. Tertullian, a Christian writer who lived in the 3rd century CE, called Epicureanism “frigid conceit.”13 Saint Augustine of Hippo exclaimed that Epicurus was a “pig” and a supporter of “depravity and gluttony.”14 The Mishnah, Judaism’s written record of the Oral Torah, proclaims: “All Israel has a share in the world to come. As Isaiah said: ‘All of your people who are righteous will merit eternity and inherit the land.’ And these are the people who do not merit the world to come: the ones who deny the resurrection of the dead, and those who deny the Torah is from the heavens, and Epicureans.”15 Thus, inaccurate and intolerant Christian and Jewish interpretations of Epicureanism greatly influenced the commonly-held belief that it is a philosophy of heresy and evil. Philodemus, an Epicurean philosopher who lived in the 1st century BCE, gives us a more accurate depiction of Epicurus’ worldview. He states that Epicureanism is “unfearing of God, unsuspecting of death, the good easily obtained, suffering to be borne patiently.”16 Epicurus was no evil man, nor was he a heretic. He wanted humans to be free of fear, live bravely and kindly, and help themselves, as well as others, to feel true bliss.


What do you think about Epicurus? Let us know below…


1 "Epicureanism,", October 28, 2016, accessed November 15, 2017,

2 Adam Lee, "Epicurus' World," Daylight Atheism, May 29, 2009, accessed November 19, 2017,

3 Ibid.

4 David Konstan, "Epicurus," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, January 10, 2005, accessed November 15, 2017,

5 Ibid.

6 "Epicureanism,", October 28, 2016, accessed November 15, 2017,

7 Georgios Papadogeorgos, Prominent Greeks of Antiquity: Their Lives and Work (Athena: Ed. M. Toubis, 2013), 70.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 David Konstan, "Epicurus," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, January 10, 2005, accessed November 15, 2017,

11 Ibid.

12 Barry Loewer, Stephen Law, and Julian Baggini, 30-Second Philosophies: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Philosophies, Each Explained in Half a Minute (New York: Metro Books, 2009), 106.

13Adam Lee, "Epicurus' World," Daylight Atheism, May 29, 2009, accessed November 19, 2017,

14 Robert Hanrott, "Epicureanism after Epicurus – The influence of Epicurus on Western thought," Epicurus Blog, 2017, accessed November 19, 2017,

15 Ibid.

16 Georgios Papadogeorgos, Prominent Greeks of Antiquity: Their Lives and Work (Athena: Ed. M. Toubis, 2013), 71.



-- "Epicureanism." October 28, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2017.


Hanrott, Robert. "Epicureanism after Epicurus – The influence of Epicurus on Western

thought." Epicurus Blog. 2017. Accessed November 19, 2017.


Konstan, David. "Epicurus." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. January 10, 2005.

Accessed November 15, 2017.


 Lee, Adam. "Epicurus' World." Daylight Atheism. May 29, 2009. Accessed November

19, 2017.


Loewer, Barry, Stephen Law, and Julian Baggini. 30-Second Philosophies: The 50 Most

Thought-provoking Philosophies, Each Explained in Half a Minute. New York: Metro Books, 2009.


Papadogeorgos, Georgios. Prominent Greeks of Antiquity: Their Lives and Work. Athena:

Ed. M. Toubis, 2013.



About the Author

Seth Eislund is a currently a senior at Stuart Hall High School in San Francisco, California. He has always been interested in history, especially religious history and Jewish history. He blogs at, and has a passion for writing short stories and poetry.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post

War history centers on some of human history’s most renowned and respected generals, those who commanded domineering and revolutionary armies: Alexander the Great, George S. Patton, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, and George Washington to name a few. Legendary generals are marked by their extraordinary military strategy, ferocity, bravery, and of course, commanding presence. However, a trait in one commanding general stands out and separates him from others.

Casey Titus explains.

 George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette at Valley Forge. By John Ward Dunsmore, 1907.

George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette at Valley Forge. By John Ward Dunsmore, 1907.

Continental Army Commander

Historians have frequently observed Washington’s dedication to American Independence which Washington admirably referred to as “our glorious cause.” He accepted the title as commander of the Continental Army without pay. Washington was one of the richest men in Virginia, if not the colonies. Had he wanted to, Washington would certainly have had the means to remain in the comfort and security at his home of Mount Vernon or toured the country Washington fought for during his service in the French and Indian War – Great Britain.

His leadership proved brilliant, especially in 1777-78 at Valley Forge during a bitterly cold winter. Of the 11,000 soldiers stationed at Valley Forge, hundreds would perish from disease. General Washington endured alongside his men. American military historian Edward G. Lengel describes his leadership during this “sacrificial” as he took “great care in seeing that his soldiers were well housed.”

While his leadership skills were exceptional, his military strategy was not. Alexander the Great is famous worldwide for his monumental empire, as he was never defeated in battle, and as he overpowered King Darius of Persia through deception. The Continental Army suffered more losses than victories under General Washington. However, the source of his triumph was his ability to rally supporters around “our glorious cause” through reminding them of their patriotic contributions. Washington understood the need to explain the “why” aspect of the fight for independence before addressing the “what” or “how” aspect. Washington was convinced, but not boastful.

David McCullough, author of John Adams, wrote that General Washington listened to the advice of his war council and messengers that reported to him which he used to avoid more catastrophic mistakes, proving that Washington continued to look after the lives and wellbeing of his men.
As a leader, Washington accomplished one of the most tremendous feats an under-trained and under-resourced ragtag militia could muster against a worldwide empire.


Political Office

On September 3, 1783, Great Britain formally acknowledged the independence of the United States with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, bringing the prolonged eight years of war to an end. At the moment of this monumental victory, Washington was at the peak of his power, a time at which most conquering generals in past human history would have appointed themselves as dictators. For example, not too many years after 1783, Napoleon Bonaparte led successful campaigns during France’s revolutionary wars and rendered himself emperor after the French monarchy was overthrown.

When the war ended, King George III asked his envoys about Washington’s activities. He was told Washington retired from public life, back at his home of Mount Vernon. George III couldn’t believe it; he leaned back in his chair and said, “If this be true, then George Washington must be the greatest Man in the world.”

After five years of comfort as a Virginian farmer, Washington once again recognized the need of the people for a leader to guide the nation in its infancy. The veteran general would serve his country as the first president of the United States from 1789-1797. He dressed in civilian clothes despite being encouraged to wear his military uniform as he felt it would resemble a military dictatorship – at the time much of Europe was, or was soon to be, under such rulers. He rebuked the title of “His Majesty,” simply preferring to be called “Mr. President.” Only serving two terms in office, Washington recognized that position was more impactful than his name and he would set an example for future presidents. In his farewell address, Washington utilized his language to humanize himself as a reminder that he is flawed and vulnerable like everyone else, yet devoted to building a nation future generations could thrive in.

At the end of his presidency, Washington told his friends and colleagues, “Gentlemen, if you wish to speak to me again, it will be under my own Fig and Vine.”


What do you think of George Washington? Let us know below.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post

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, Jamil Bakhtawar explains the origins of the risings.

 Government forces at the 1689 Battle of Dunkeld.

Government forces at the 1689 Battle of Dunkeld.

The word ‘Jacobite’ stems from Jacobus, the Latin version of James. The Jacobites were a group in the late 17th and 18th centuries, who believed that the Catholic James VII of Scotland (James II of England) and his Stuart descendants should be restored to the throne of Scotland and England. The political importance of the Jacobite movement extended from 1688 until at least the 1750s.


The internal strife

The mid seventeenth century had seen the British Isles engulfed in a series of internal conflicts called the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Religion was a significant factor with both Scottish and English factions’ strong resistance towards Catholicism. The wars ended with Oliver Cromwell taking charge, but Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660. When he died without a legitimate heir, he was followed by his Catholic brother James II.

The king’s initial promises to defend the existing government in church and state reassured many of those worried by his personal faith. James was well off financially, with significant tax revenue. The manipulation of borough charters in the last years of Charles II’s reign ensured that James’ first parliament was dominated by loyal Tories. Initial support for the king ebbed away as it became clear that he wished to secure not only freedom of worship for Catholics, but also the removal of the Test Acts so that Catholics could occupy public office. James also started to establish some laws and regulations that were lenient towards Catholicism. The test case of Godden vs. Hales (1686) established James’ right to suspend the provisions of the Test Acts, thereby allowing the king to appoint a number of Catholic peers to his Privy Council. In April 1687, James issued a declaration of indulgence that suspended penal laws against Catholics and granted toleration to some Protestant dissenters.

These measures were met with immense opposition. The Protestants began questioning James’ legitimacy to hold the Crown and feared a Catholic takeover.


Rebellion and revolution

Two factors moved James II’s opponents to urge William, the Prince of Orange (the Stadtholder in the Dutch Republic), to intervene militarily. Firstly, after years of trying, James’ Catholic second wife finally became pregnant. The birth of a healthy male heir, James Edward Stuart (the Old Pretender), on 10 June 1688, dashed hopes that the Crown would soon pass to James’ protestant daughter Mary. Secondly, William’s co-conspirators believed that the parliament James planned to summon in the autumn would repeal the Test Acts.

Faced with a potential enduring Catholic dynasty, in 1688 many senior English magnates invited William of Orange to invade and overthrow the Catholic King. William landed with his army on November 5, 1688 at Brixham, southwest England which started a popular uprising against the king. The widely unpopular James was then deposed by the Protestant-leaning parliament in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and forced into exile. William and his wife Mary (the Protestant daughter of James II) jointly assumed the throne and put Britain back into Protestant rule.

Whilst Protestant England embraced the new monarchy, the reaction in Scotland was mixed. Although Scotland supported King William, amongst both Protestant and Catholic circles there was reluctance to displace the Stuart dynasty which had ruled Scotland for over 300 years.


The Jacobites and their rebellions

John Graham, the Viscount of Dundee, was a strong supporter of James II. In 1689 he defied Parliament, marched out of Edinburgh with his followers, and began gathering Jacobites to rebel against the Protestant Crown. From mid-April 1689 until the summer, Graham was gathering clansmen. By summer James was in Ireland, promising reinforcements to John Graham; but all that arrived was a troop of three hundred poorly armed and badly disciplined Irish men. Graham felt that if his Highlanders were to be kept together at all, a blow must be struck. He found his opportunity at the pass of Killiecrankie on July 27, 1689. The Highlanders burst upon the regular soldiers with one irresistible charge and scattered them in a total rout; but a bullet killed the Viscount as he was dashing forward at the head of the small troop of the Jacobite cavalry. The victory itself was complete, but the Viscount’s fall made it entirely useless. At the Battle of Dunkeld in August 1689, the Jacobites were defeated by government forces and the military danger in Scotland was effectively at an end. Even if Graham hadn’t been slain, he couldn’t have done anything more than maintaining a state of alarm and unrest, unless he had received stronger reinforcements.

In 1696 the revival of Jacobite hopes was signaled by an assassination plot. The French, who were at war with Britain, suddenly saw an advantage to be gained from an alliance with the Jacobites. They would land the new Jacobite heir, James III 'The Old Pretender', in his ancestral kingdom and start a rebellion. For the French it was an excellent opportunity to invade Protestant England and as for the Jacobites, they could put Britain back under Stuart rule and defeat all opposition.  A legitimate Jacobite design was formed for an invasion of England by French troops. The young Duke of Berwick, an illegitimate son of James, was sent over secretly to agree measures with the English Jacobites. The plot fell through because the French required an English Jacobite rising as a preliminary step to the actual invasion. However, it then emerges that there was an unauthorized plan for the assassination of King William when hunting at Richmond. This was the plan of one of the Jacobite agents, Sir George Barclay. Some of the conspirators were arrested while William carefully abstained from pushing inquiries. Only those who were palpably connected with the plan of assassination were punished; the mere fact that many suspected persons were allowed to go free caused them to be viewed with suspicion by their fellow conspirators. After the detection of the plot, neither a rising nor an invasion was possible.

It is evident that ever since the removal of King James in the Glorious Revolution, there were various devious plots and plans devised by the former King and his supporters in order to restore Catholicism back to the British thrown. However, those plans, and battles became tiring and it seemed as if the supporters of Protestantism were on the winning side.


The Jacobite recognition

On William of Orange’s death in 1702, Anne succeeded him. The passing of the Acts of Union by both the English and Scottish Parliaments led to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain on May 1, 1707. The Parliament of the United Kingdom met for the first time in October 1707.

Tensions were high in places following the 1707 Union, which was not fully supported across the country. To make matters worse, George I became King of Britain in 1714. He was a German from Hanover who could not speak English and managed to alienate many people, hence making some people more willing to try to return a Stuart to the throne.

The Earl of Mar had initially been an enthusiastic supporter of George I, but after being publicly snubbed by the new King, Mar decided to back a different horse. In March of 1715 James III ‘the Old Pretender’ petitioned the Pope for money and military aid for a Jacobite uprising to capitalize on this tension. The plan was for two Jacobite uprisings to happen in England. Once the British Army had rushed north to deal with a diversionary uprising, the main uprising in the south of England would start. However, matters soon got complicated. In August, the Earl of Mar returned to his estate in Scotland after failing to convince King George that he was not a Jacobite sympathizer. There he held a council of war with leading Jacobites apparently unaware of James’ plans. On September 6, Mar and other local Jacobites raised the standard at Braemar and caught everyone by surprise. The timing of Mars’ rising was fatal to James’ plans. It pulled parts of the British Army north before the planned diversionary rising. Mars’ Jacobites took Inverness, attempted to take Edinburgh and then headed south to catch up with English Jacobites in northern England. All the action had led to the Jacobites in southwest England being arrested by the government which effectively halted the plans for a main rising in the south.

The Jacobite cause was down but certainly wasn’t eliminated. By 1715, Jacobite actions were steadily becoming stronger, but it would be many decades until they reached their peak. 


Part 2 is available here and part 3 here.

Now, let us know what you think below.

The Georgian era stretched over a century (1714-1830) of Britain’s history, and as such, it has left behind reminders of the time in the shape of buildings, artwork, and literature that are still popular today. The literary works of this era were often a commentary on Georgian society; however, they could not show all aspects of life in this period, and the same can be said for popular television adaptations today. This article looks at Jane Austen’s television conversions and gives some context to the plot lines, especially the plot lines regarding women. Kate Wainwright explains.

 Lady Catherine and Elizabeth from the novel  Pride & Prejudice . Image from the 1895 edition of the novel.

Lady Catherine and Elizabeth from the novel Pride & Prejudice. Image from the 1895 edition of the novel.

Part 1: Context

When thinking of the Georgian era, it is hard not to think of the architecture that still stands throughout Britain today – its neoclassical elements and sash windows. This period introduced the iconic townhouses, as well as a variety of civic buildings such as town and concert halls. The four Georges that reigned throughout this period, ruled over Jacobite rebellions intent on restoring the Stuart monarchy, the decline of autocracy which resulted in the Napoleonic wars and the loss of the American colonies, and the dissatisfied working class that was suffering from increasingly low-waged, manufacturing jobs and the fear of being replaced by machinery.

The Luddites were formed in response to the Industrial Revolution, the development of the manufacturing process changing from predominantly handmade, to machine produced. The revolution separated the social classes further, as it allowed the middle and upper classes to enjoy success due to the advancements in manufacturing, but those that were in the working class and below suffered greatly. Many found that their jobs had become more dangerous because of the new machinery - wages generally remained low. Those workers that had been replaced by machines moved to more urban areas to find work resulting in congested and unhygienic living conditions that were prone to disease – specifically cholera epidemics which would rampage through London’s ‘slums’ with abandon, before John Snow’s work in the 1850s. The Industrial Revolution meant that more factory-produced goods were being distributed which, unlike the lower classes, resulted in the middle and upper classes relishing in improved living standards and consumerism for a lower price. 

This period also boasted other advances in technology, such as the development of the steam engine and the introduction of the canal system to transport materials and goods to and from factories. The eighteenth century also excelled in and is famed for, its social activities, such as the theatre and ballet which was accompanied by purpose-built structures. The founding of the Royal Academy in 1768 encouraged artistry to develop and come to be admired. The art of writing also flourished during this time, allowing poets to explore Romanticism: this movement also spread to novelists that were now able to work with more exciting and mysterious storylines. The Georgian era was a time of great change and upheaval with wars and uprisings, and a revolution that changed the way Britain produced goods, affecting the entire population. This period was a perfect climate for the growth of art and creativity which can be seen in the enormous outpouring of paintings, literature and era-defining architecture that gives an insight into the people and issues of this era. Writer Jane Austen’s works were part of this defining movement. Born in 1775, Austen’s life mirrored that of the heroines in her novels. She was part of a close-knit family and had a romance with a man, Tom Lefroy, thought to be too wealthy and high up for someone of Jane’s social standing, being the daughter of a clergyman. Taking inspiration from her own life, Austen wrote and published her first four works anonymously, and her last two, Mansfield Park and Persuasion under her own name after she had died.


Part 2: Marriage

As her narratives revolve largely around the middle class and single young women, marriage plays a huge role in all of Austen’s novels. In Georgian Britain, as in the TV adaptations, a woman of a certain class remaining single for too long was seen as unfortunate and would affect her chances of marrying the longer it took. We can clearly see this reflected in the 1996 adaptation of Emma in the character of Miss Bates – kind but often silly, and viewed by the other characters with a kind of mocking pity. But there was also the matter of finance to consider, which the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (1995) portrayed well with the emphatic and easily panicked Mrs. Bennett. She constantly reminds her daughters that if they did not marry, they could be left penniless as their welfare would be left entirely up to their father’s nearest male relative, Mr. Collins. This storyline highlights perfectly the male-dominated society that Georgian women had to negotiate within. Although there were cases in which women could have their own fortune and property, this was only attainable if they were or had been married. Both adaptations for Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility portray this through Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs. Ferris, both grand and well-off widowed women. During this period, upon marriage husbands could arrange a settlement for their wives to live off. However, if a wife became a widow, quite often she would be reduced to poverty had a second allowance not been arranged at the husband’s discretion before his death or at the discretion of his male heir. The Dashwood family in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility illustrated this aspect of Georgian law: they had to rely on the kindness of their half-brother, John Dashwood, which did not amount to very much money in their case.

Often, married couples of this period were brought together because of a variety of scandals, for example, an accidental pregnancy. During this time, local parishes were charged with financially supporting single mothers, but with the passing of the 1733 Bastardy Act, single women were persuaded to declare the father of the baby. The two would then be pressured into marriage; in some cases, the parish would pay the man to go through with it. This particular topic was not touched upon in Austen’s converted works, but the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice did show an aspect of this when George Wickham sullied Lydia Bennett’s name and would only marry her after assuring he received a significant amount of money for doing so. This story line also highlights the 1753 Marriage Act that was intended to stop couples marrying without parental consent, therefore making inter-class marriage harder. However, some couples ran away to another country or to Gretna Green just over the border in Scotland, where parental consent wasn’t needed over the age of twelve years old for girls and fourteen years old for boys. It was the promise of an elopement that Wickham used to get Lydia to go with him, knowing all the while that he would not go through with it without the money. The 1995 version depicted their wedding in a more realistic way than it did her sisters’ wedding, as during this period wedding ceremonies were small and private, usually only including family and a few close friends and nearly always in the morning followed by a wedding breakfast. Thus, Jane and Lizzie Bennett’s double wedding portrayed in this adaptation was quite overcrowded compared to weddings of the time. The same can be said for the 1996 version of Emma.


Part 3: Class

Understanding the class system in Georgian Britain from watching television adaptations of Austen’s works is quite difficult, as the adaptations really concentrate on the middle class and above, which of course could be due to Austen’s target audience being these classes. That being said, the adaptations do highlight the inherent snobbery of Georgian society very well. Take for example the ITV adaptation of Persuasion (2007) in which Anne Elliot was pressured against marrying Fredrick Wentworth, a sailor in the British navy who was considered an unsuitable match for Anne given her father’s distaste for the navy, due to its tendency to raise men from lower classes to distinction through naval victories. This idea that there were disreputable men in the navy underlines the fact that men were often handed over to the navy by the public authorities instead of a jail sentence. Due to its massive size at this point, it was even common for men to be plied with alcohol and tricked into joining the navy; colloquially this was known as the ‘press-gang’. Furthermore, although the Georgian British Navy was incredibly strong, boasting naval victories over the French, a man was more respected among the landed gentry if he was born into his money and status, rather than working his way up. With the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution, members of the middle class were rising and gaining prominence without inheriting their land and money. Thus, the snobbery shown by Sir Walter Elliot was not uncommon among members of the elite. This is shown again in Emma and her character’s thin tolerance of Miss Bates, being a poor spinster who lives with her mother. Emma is often praised for her charity towards the Bates family when she bestows her company upon them, often bringing food. This aligns with the growth of charity and philanthropy in the Georgian period. With the development of workhouses – ostensibly an institution designed to care for the poor – and encouragement from the Church, generosity towards the poor was quite common but could be proven to be superficial. Mansfield Park (2007) displays this attitude of tolerance and charity, with the wealthy Bertram family taking in their poor relative, Fanny Price. Her mother could no longer afford to keep her as she had married a poor sailor – yet another reference to the dim view that the upper classes held on those who crewed the navy. Although this act was charitable, Fanny was always reminded that she was from a poor family and should be grateful that the Bertrams had allowed her to live with them. In a way, the charity they gave only confirmed the class difference, a charity kept the classes in their respective spheres. It highlighted the fact that the upper class was providing, out of the goodness of their hearts, and the lower classes were dependent on and should be thankful for them.


Part 4: Skimming the Surface

Period dramas are an enjoyable way to get a feel for a time but understandably they only skim the facts and don’t delve into specific details. Jane Austen’s televised works wonderfully portray the novels they are based on but only show a light, audience-friendly version of the era in which they are set. The adaptations show a wishful idea of marriage as all the main characters manage to marry for love; however, due to certain laws and financial situations, many women were faced with loveless marriages, something which is explored in secondary plots within the narratives. Equally, although the Dashwood family survived virtually unscathed after their father died and they had to rely on his heir for money, many women were ruined and had to resort to other means, including the workhouse, to survive. The class division was a lot larger than represented in these adaptations, and unfortunately, it was a lot harder to marry across classes than is suggested in the television versions. So, although television adaptations do well in representing the Georgian wardrobe, research is advised for a more thorough knowledge of the time.


What do you think of television adaptions based on Georgian Era books? Let us know below.


Nicholas Rodgers, The Press Gang: Naval Impressment and its opponents in Georgian Britain (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2008)