Many Ulster Scots had been in America for generations at the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1776. Here, Eric K. Barnes (see more here) describes the background to the Ulster Scots’ role in the American Revolutionary War and what they did during key battles.

The death of British Major Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of Kings Mountain in October 1780. The Ulster Scots played a key role in this battle. Engraving by Charles Henry Jeens and painting originally by Alonzo Chappel.

The death of British Major Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of Kings Mountain in October 1780. The Ulster Scots played a key role in this battle. Engraving by Charles Henry Jeens and painting originally by Alonzo Chappel.

They came in droves, as if the floodgates had opened on some Scots Irish dam across the sea. With their recent inclusion into the United Kingdom, they sought freedom and land in the British colonies as new British subjects. They disembarked at New York, Philadelphia, Wilmington and Charleston. They pooled money and families together and set out on the Great Wagon Road in their Conestoga wagons. Different from the planters of the Pee Dee and Coastal regions, they preferred the Piedmont and Mountains of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Men of force and iron were needed in this wild unsettled region that was a buffer between the Native Americans upstate and the gentry of the sandy regions. The wilderness filled up with families of hardy stock, willing to forge a living in the outer territory of the new land.  

When the French and Indian War broke out in 1756, the British treated these stout immigrants with the same disdain that their grandparents and parents had been treated in Scotland and Ireland… Not as equals, but as second-class citizens. All the while they were expected to die for the mother country in preservation of the empire. And they beat back the French and the Indians and forced their capitulation in the name of the Crown, but they did not win their full measure of citizenship.


The Situation by 1776

By 1776 generations of Ulster Scots had lived free and without encumbrances from the Empire’s seat, with it being so far away. Petitions to government for redress against grievances were met with either unrighteous force or general apathy, and never timely. The Empire had stretched beyond the limits of the infrastructure of its government. New Bern, Charleston and Williamsburg were a long way from the Holston river valley or the Yadkin, Broad and Catawba rivers in Virginia and the Carolinas. This distance only added to the bad experiences of the governed concerning the government. 

And grievance upon grievance mounted year after year until an enlightened leadership made a stand against the tyranny. Across the colonies the conversations turned to common rights and common ideas of government…self-government. And though it was based on a natural law known in the breasts of every free man, they were radical in terms of sitting governments in world history. The Ulster Scots had learned to live and flourish on their own in terms of self-government with the moral compass of these natural laws. They, as a people, understood the building blocks of a civil society and recognized when a form of government was not working and had become tyrannical.  These, after-all, were the literate, pious and independent children of the great Scottish Enlightenment.

And all the remonstrations still could have been for naught, and these men and women of the empire would have stayed willingly as faithful subjects, had the King and his generals acted rightfully. Instead, the British came with threats to hang the leaders of the Ulster Scots and lay waste to their towns with fire and sword unless they came and took an oath to this King who was so far away. This same King that bribed the Cherokee to wage war on the settlements from Spartanburg to Nolichucky. The King’s men burned houses, arrested clergy, and confiscated livestock without due payment. British Officers enlisted the local thieves as soldiers and gave them authority to legally ply their formerly illegal trade. Chaos was fomented by the very government that wanted their allegiance.


The Ulster Scots in the American Revolution

So, they came in droves.  Not by the tens or the dozens, but by the hundreds each time they were called in from the fields for service. They chose to live life on their own terms and fight back. 

At Fort Thicketty, in upstate South Carolina, they rode with Colonel Isaac Shelby and their mere presence forced a capitulation without a shot being fired. At Musgrove Mill in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, they combined forces and routed the British with ease. At Kings Mountain, near the North and South Carolina State line, they combined forces again with independent commands, and went on to surround and obliterate one third of the standing British Army in the Carolinas. And at Cowpens they helped the Continental army win the day and decimate still more of Cornwallis’ standing army, thereby starting the chain of events that ended the war and established a new nation.

We can still walk where the intrepid heroes once raised rifle and saber in defense of Liberty. On the trails and roads of old we can stroll under the canopies of the white oak and tulip poplar while our ankles brush by the green ferns along the way. Squirrel and fox, deer and owl, all co-exist on these sacred grounds. The whispers of the wind are all that is left of those awful conflicts, save the man-made markers and graves that dot the anointed landscape. Thankfully we are fortunate to be able to reflect upon these noble deeds of men and women who may have been poor in terms of wealth but were rich in their determination to live free.  

Freedom Reigns!

Protected now from the conquest of civilization’s steady roll, 

where man made monuments stand with the beauty of nature’s soul.  

envision yourself amid the battle cries and smoke while charging into the fray…


you do so under the umbrella of liberty won on that hallowed day. 


Let us know what you think of the article below.

Contributing author, Eric K. Barnes, is a retired Detective Sergeant who enjoys walking in the footsteps of heroes and proclaiming “Freedom” along the way. Find out more here:


The Winning of the West, Theodore Roosevelt

Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution in the Carolinas and Georgia, Benson J. Lossing

King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain, October 7th, 1780, and the Events Which Led to It,Lyman C. Draper and Anthony Allaire

History of the Upper Country of S.C., John H. Logan

Before They Were Heroes at King’s Mountain, Randell Jones

Parker’s Guide to the Revolutionary War in South Carolina, John C. Parker Jr.


This article originally appeared on Eric’s site here.

The Falklands War took place between Britain and Argentina in 1982. The Falklands are a British territory, about 500 kilometers off the coast of Argentina, that Argentina invaded in April 1982. The British had to quickly launch an operation to re-claim the islands. And part of this operation was Operation Black Buck – the longest bombing run in history. Dean Smith explains.

A Vulcan XM607, which carried out the first Operation Black Buck raid. Source: Jebediah Springfield, available  here .

A Vulcan XM607, which carried out the first Operation Black Buck raid. Source: Jebediah Springfield, available here.

War in the South Atlantic

On April the second 1982, the Argentine military under the direction of President Leopoldo Galtieri invaded the British Falkland Islands. The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, promised a swift and decisive response. As a result, on April 5th, a Naval Taskforce left Britain on route to Ascension Island, from where it would carry out the second route of its journey to retake the Falklands from Argentine control. 

At the same time, the British Royal Air Force’s Avro Vulcan bomber was due to be retired that year. However, the Falklands conflict gave the ageing nuclear bomber a stay of execution and pushed it into combat service. The Vulcan was not only used in anger for the first time in April 1982, but it also took part in what was the longest successful bombing run in history: a round flight of almost 13,000 kilometers, between Ascension Island and the Falklands (Blackman, 2014). 

During the planning stages of the assault on Argentine held locations on the Falklands, much attention was paid to how to achieve air superiority over the islands (Hasting, 2013). The British Air Force would be comprised primarily of Royal Navy Sea Harriers, operating from aircraft carriers such as the British Flagship HMS Hermes (Ward 1993). 

From the airfield outside Port Stanley, Argentine fighters could be deployed to intercept Royal Navy aircraft. As had been well demonstrated during the Battle of Britain in World War Two, an assault on an island stronghold by air is advantageous to the Air Force of the defending side (Holland, 2010). As a result, much effort was put into attempting to disable the Argentine controlled airfield near Port Stanley. 


Technical Difficulties

A solution was devised using the Avro Vulcan bomber, performing extreme distance bombing runs from Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island to Port Stanley on the Falklands.

However, there were multiple problems with this idea. The distance between Ascension Island and the Falklands was approximately 6,300 kilometers, with the maximum effective range of the Vulcan being a mere 4,171 km. Due primarily to the plans to decommission the Vulcan that year, the aircraft had no operational air-to-air refueling capabilities, and hadn’t for quite some time (White, 2012). Around the clock engineering work was required to fix the issue and install the appropriate internal refueling system, and to convert the aircrafts’ bomb bay from its current nuclear configuration, back to a conventional weapons model (Tuxford, 2016). 

With all of these modifications in place, plans were set up to support the Vulcan with a staggering eleven victor tankers to provide air-to-air refueling throughout its marathon journey to the Falklands. The goal of the mission was to drop conventional weapons on the airfield at Port Stanley, with the intention of rendering them inoperable to Argentine forces.


V-Force in Flight

At 10:30 PM on April, 30 1982, the first two Vulcan bombers fired up their engines, followed closely by a third reserve bomber, and set out for their assault on Port Stanley. Within 4 minutes of departure the lead Vulcan, XM598, flown by Squadron Leader John Reeve, experienced a major technical problem - the cabin refused to pressurize. After a valiant attempt by Reeve and his crew to jury-rig a solution, the Vulcan was forced to turn back. 

The second Vulcan bomber, XM607, commanded by Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers now took the lead. Withers’ bomber took on fuel five more times before reaching the Falklands. However, an electrical storm interfered with the last refueling stop, an issue that almost jeopardized the entire operation. As the commander of the Vulcan, it fell to Withers to decide how the operation should proceed. He was quoted as saying:

“We’re short on fuel, but we’ve come this far, I’m not turning back now.”(White, 2012)


At the distance of 470 kilometers from its target, XM607 began its descent that would take it below the level of the Argentine radar system. When passing the eighty-kilometer mark from Port Stanley, Withers pulled the aircraft into a steep climb, taking the Vulcan 3,000 meters into the air in order to avoid Argentine anti-aircraft fire. 

This action brought XM607 well into the scope of the Argentine radar system. However, the radar operators never called it in, believing the Vulcan to be a friendly aircraft, due in no small part to the fact the British fleet was still thousands of miles away (Blackman, 2014).

At an altitude of 3,000-meters, and travelling at an average speed of 650km/h, the target airfield off of Port Stanley was not an easy target. At approximately 3 kilometers out from the target, the Vulcan released its payload. 

After the payload was released, Withers turned the Vulcan around and began the race back to Ascension Island before their fuel reserves ran out. There was no time to confirm the time, every second they were in the air, their fuel reserved depleted even further. Fortunately, the return trip was without incident and the aircraft touched down on at Wideawake Airfield after a record breaking 16-hour mission that covered almost 13,000 kilometers.  

The mission was a success, Withers’ crew had carried out the longest bombing run in history and struck their target, half a world away. The success of the operation produced incentive for further raids using the same plan. As a result, Withers’ initial flight became the first of seven Black Buck raids.


Successive Operations

The following seven operations were based around the successful plan of Black Buck 1. But, after losing the element of surprise, as well as the requirement to hit varied targets, none of the following operations had quite the same effect as the first (March, 2006). 

Black Buck 2 followed a plan nearly identical to the first one. However, the need to avoid Argentine anti-aircraft fire led to a higher deployment altitude of about 5,000-meters and the bombing run missed the runway completely.

Black Bucks 3 and 4 were called off due to adverse weather conditions and a refueling malfunction respectively. Black Buck 5 was intended to destroy Argentine radar installations using two Shrike Missiles, but this proved ineffective as the first missile only caused minor damage and the second missed completely. 

Black Buck 6 was intended to carry out a similar task to Black Buck 5 and was more successful. Even so, this mission is notable due to technical difficulties forcing the crew to land in Brazil, prompting their detention by the Brazilian government, which led to an international incident and a negotiation for the return of the crew (White, 2012).

The final raid, Black Buck 7 was flown on the June, 12th by XM607, again captained by Withers. This mission was intended to attack Argentine troop positions around the runway near Port Stanley, due primarily to the end of the war being in sight and the RAF desiring to use the Port Stanley runway after hostilities had ceased. Due to a misalignment, all of the bombs missed their targets. This was ultimately irrelevant as Argentina surrendered two days later (Hastings, 2016). 


Operation Summary

Table sourced from Polmar (2004).

Table sourced from Polmar (2004).

The Effectiveness of Black Buck

There has been considerable debate about the effectiveness of the operation. Some critics have described the contribution of the bombing runs as “minimal” (Ward, 1993). Although Mirage fighters were pulled back to Argentina following the raids, Argentine C-130s continued to use the runway at Port Stanley until the end of the war (White, 2012 Blackman, 2016). 

The idea that the raids caused considerable fear of an attack on the mainland has been dismissed as “propaganda” by formal royal navy commander Nigel “Sharkey” Ward. In his 1993 work Sea Harrier over the Falklands, Sharkey states:

“The Mirage IIIs were redrawn from Southern Argentina to Buenos Aires to add to the defences there following the Vulcan raids on the islands. Apparently, the logic behind this statement was that if the Vulcan could hit Port Stanley, that Buenos Aires was well within range as well and was vulnerable to similar attacks. I never went along with that baloney. A lone Vulcan or two running into attack Buenos Aires without fighter support would have been shot to hell in quick time.”


In terms of the technical success of Operation Black Buck, there is considerable doubt as to the extent that the bombing raids actually made any significant impact on Argentine operations. 

A United States Marine Corps study concluded that:

“The most critical judgment of the use of the Vulcan centers on the argument that their use was "...largely to prove [the air force] had some role to play and not to help the battle in the least." This illustrates the practice of armed services to actively seek a "piece of the action" when a conflict arises, even if their capabilities or mission are not compatible with the circumstances of the conflict. Using Black Buck as an example shows the effects of this practice can be trivial and the results not worth the effort involved.” (DeHoust, 1984)


Operation Black Buck was clearly one of the most ambitious combat operations in military aviation history. The skill of the RAF engineers and the bravery of the pilots and aircrew are made clear in the accounts of those who participated in the operation. Though the effectiveness of the operation is questionable at best, the success of such a complex and technically demanding operation means that Black Buck is rightly regarded as one of the Royal Air Force’s finest moments.


What do you think of Operation Black Buck? Let us know below.


Blackman, T. (2014). Vulcan Boys. London: Grub Street, pp.151-171.

DeHoust, W. (1984). [online] Global Security. Available at: h [Accessed 20 Aug. 2018].

Hastings, M. (2013). The Battle for the Falklands. [London]: Pan.

Holland, J. (2010). The Battle of Britain. London: bantam Press, pp.85-96.

March, P. (2006). The Vulcan Story. 2nd ed. Chalford: Sutton Publishing, pp.64-72.

Polmar, N, and Bell, D. 2004. One Hundred Years of World Military Aircraft. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.

Tuxford, B. (2016). Contact!: A Victor Tanker Captain's Experiences in the RAF, Before, During and After the Falklands Conflict. 1st ed. London: Grub Street Publishing, pp.122-149.

Ward, Sharkey. (1993). Sea Harrier Over the Falklands. Havertown: Pen and Sword, pp.7-12.

White, R. (2012). Vulcan 607. London: Bantam, pp.154-167.

The US Civil War (1861-1865) changed America in many ways. With many men fighting in the war, one such change was the role of women in society. Here, Kaiya Rai considers the role of women in the Confederate States, including a look at feminine ideals at the time, Belle Boyd, and Mary Chestnut.

Mary Chestnut, author a well-known civil war diary.

Mary Chestnut, author a well-known civil war diary.

Women’s lives in the Confederacy were dramatically changed right from the breakout of war in April 1861. The very notion of womanhood underwent a transformation, as men were called up to fight in the army, and women from the upper-class were forced to look after slaves, women from the middle-class were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge, and women of the lower-class and widows gained social standing as a result. The idea of women having to takeover on the home front during a war is not a new one, but in the case of the American Civil War, this was an entirely new concept. Furthermore, women held no previous social standing. There was no growing suffrage movement as there was in World War One (WWI), it was the first time such an event had occurred, in contrast to World War Two (when many remembered WWI), and women from the upper reaches of society, did not generally have significant difficulties in their lives.

Much of the information gained about women in the Confederacy, and their changing identities, has come from the diaries that the majority of upper-class women wrote in. They provided a new way of self-discovery, as such writing required self-description as a result of self-understanding. Even when women began writing letters to officers, and even Jefferson Davis, it meant claiming a public voice, and so was incompatible with their definition and understanding of themselves as ‘women’.


Feminine ideals

The fragility of feminine ideals existing in the antebellum period appears to have served the women well, as it seems that ‘feminine weakness served as the foundation of female strength’ (Drew Gilpin Faust, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War) in this case. Many women did what they could to play their part in the war, albeit covertly sometimes, as it wasn’t seen as being ‘feminine.’ Belle Boyd shooting the Union soldier entering her house is a key example of this; escaping punishment by claiming feminine fragility and fear was fundamental to the patriarchal nature of war. The hoop skirts that many upper-class women wore were used to hide jewelry, as they had no fear of being searched as women. This lack of threat is displayed in a Union soldier’s comment that ‘if she was a man I would whip her.’ The Nancy Hart regiment in La Grange, Georgia displayed a similar idea. When a Union regiment approached the town, the women-only regiment refused to back down, invited the soldiers in for tea and thus evaded the capture of the town! Elite women, in particular, hated the occupation of Confederate towns by Union soldiers, and were noted to have stepped in gutters to avoid passing Union soldiers on the pavement, and even wore thick veils to avoid eye contact with the officers! Students at a girl’s school in Georgia were recorded as emptying their chamber pots out of the windows onto soldiers’ heads, and Flag Officer Farragut was also subjected to this, in New Orleans. This hatred of the officers fuelled many women into action; despite their view of femininity, many wanted to play their part in forming a new nation and playing patriotic games against the country they believed had oppressed their ideals for so long.

However, their feminine helplessness has also been seen, to a large extent, to have been perpetrated by the women themselves. One of the first requirements for women in the Confederacy was as nurses and teachers, seen as traditionally female roles today, ironically! Yet, upon this call for help, many were writing to their husbands asking them to be forbidden to go. One woman even started addressing letters to her husband as ‘dear papa’ and ending them from your ‘daughter.’ Here, it seems that the patriarchy, whilst perhaps initiated by men, seems to have been upheld and continued by women. As McCurry noted that “no one, apparently, believed in women’s non-partisanship as fervently as the women themselves.” The need for protection was a big issue when men were called up to fight, and many made it a condition of them joining the war effort; they would do so, if the state could offer support for their families. 


Belle Boyd’s Role as a Spy

Belle Boyd, also known as ‘the Siren of the Shenandoah,’ was one woman who played a particularly noteworthy role for the Confederacy. A die-hard secessionist, she spied for the Confederacy during the Civil War and was able to use her role as an upper class ‘lady’ to cover her actions, and claim ignorance when needed. When she and her mother denied entry to some Union officers wanting to raise a Union flag over their house, and when one assaulted her mother as a result, Belle shot and killed the soldier, and became infamous as a result. Despite being a spy for the majority of the Civil War, the usefulness of her intelligence work is not nearly as significant as the symbolism of her doing the work itself. She informed General Jackson of the Union intentions to set fire to the bridges in Front Royal (Virginia) as they retreated, and also reported on Union action in the Shenandoah - these are considered by most as the only outcomes of her intelligence work to have had major effect. However, the uncertainty of women’s roles, especially upper-class women’s roles during the Civil War was hugely compounded by Boyd’s actions, and perhaps it can be argued that she represented an icon for the helpless Confederate woman. Their femininity was, to an extent, reliant on the view that women were husbands’ wives, not individuals in their own right. Boyd used this fragile need for women to her advantage, and many stories of her outrageous flirtations circled among Union and confederate officers alike. These, however, played an important role as Boyd identified in one diary entry, "I am indebted for some very remarkable effusions, some withered flowers, and last, but not least, for a great deal of very important information.” The notion of womanhood as dependency on a man, and the objection, to some part, of women, that men perpetrated by bringing flowers and ‘remarkable effusion,’ actually allowed Boyd to gain all the information she needed to effectively spy on the Union for her cause.

Belle Boyd, a Confederate civil war spy.

Belle Boyd, a Confederate civil war spy.

Mary Chestnut as the more common female experience

Mary Chestnut conversely played the role of the conventional, helpless Confederate woman abandoned by her husband, but she held real devastation in this, and truly felt lost. Many women in the Confederacy had similar experiences to Chestnut, as they were left with a plantation and possibly hundreds of slaves to manage. There was also the constant fear of servile insurrection, aggravated by abolitionist John Brown’s raid in 1859 in which he wanted to start an armed slave revolt. Chestnut was the embodiment of women’s beliefs that, as Faust identifies, the feeling of ‘a new sense of God’s distance and disengagement combined with a distrust of the men on whom they had so long relied,’ and as such, the necessity of war that forced Confederate women to behave in new ways, became the driving force behind the changing of their identities. The lives of the confederate women, not having undergone the innovations of society that were occurring in the north, had been so focused on marriage and child-bearing, with their identities so tied up with visions of themselves as wives and mothers, that when war overturned these norms, it meant that their fundamental self-definition was altered. Moreover, their emotional relations and experiences were so fixed on privacies of heterosexual love that the countless examples of female homosexuality recorded in diaries, were not seen as anything other than close female friendship, probably in part because the identity of a woman was so ingrained as part of a larger patriarchal sphere.

Related to this is the renewed view of the identities of widows during the war. As a result of huge casualties, with 260,000 Confederate deaths at the end of the war, many women became widows, and this notion became romanticized as they were seen as having ‘loved and suffered’. Widows were seen as the settlers of ‘the rejuvenating club’ of women who became self-confident in themselves and eligible for a state pension of $30 per year, on certain conditions. This brought with it a sense of independence for many women, as they no longer had the choice of relying on a husband, and now owned money themselves, an opportunity which most would not have previously had. Widows therefore became essential for women all over the Confederacy, in questioning the very nature of being a woman, because women actively seeking romance redefined marriage conventions. The stereotype of the faithful, heartbroken wife, and therefore the assessment that women only lived for their husbands, was deconstructed, as they showed that they would continue to live their life even without a husband. To court and remarry was to assert a claim to happiness, preceding the self-abnegation and altruism expected from a woman.


To conclude

It can be seen that, as Faust argues, necessity may have been the ‘mother of invention’ for women in the Confederacy during the Civil War, as the romantic notions of war and patriotism had been replaced with a selfishness due to a need to survive. The women themselves could have also been the ‘mothers of invention’ themselves, though, and the women’s property law of 1860, embodied a new ‘vision of masculine irresponsibility’ (Lebsock), perhaps consequential of the new gender ideology introduced as a result of the Civil War.


What do you think about the role of women in the Confederacy during the US Civil War?

On April 12, 1555, Joanna of Castile (1479-1555), the last surviving child of Catholic monarchs Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, died at the age of 75, well past the life expectancy of the time. She had been Queen of Castile for more than 50 years. However, over 45 of those years were spent in isolated imprisonment for her alleged mental insanity. Who was this hidden queen and what led to her demise? Casey Titus (following her article on Good Queen Anne here) explains.

Joanna of Castille, c. 1496

Joanna of Castille, c. 1496


Born in the city of Toledo, the capital of the Kingdom of Castile, on November 6, 1479 Joanna was the third child and second daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon of the royal House of Trastamara. Her parents’ marriage, along with the conquest of Granada in 1492, united and formed Spain as we know it today. Joanna was described as physically beautiful with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and auburn hair, like that of her mother, Isabella, and sister, Catherine.

Joanna proved to be a clever and diligent student who received a substantial education for the time. Her academic education consisted of canon and civil law, genealogy and heraldry, grammar, history, languages, mathematics, philosophy, reading, spelling, and writing. In addition to French and Latin, Joanna excelled in the major Iberian Romance languages (Castilian, Catalan, and Galaico-Portuguese).

Despite Joanna reputedly being the brightest of Isabella and Ferdinand’s children, she was a sullen and bashful child whose aloofness was mistaken for royal dignity. Stories also circulate over Joanna’s religious skepticism which was interpreted as an early sign of her creeping insanity. Her parents were exceptionally renowned for their faith, completing the 1492 Reconquista that ordered the conversion or exile of their Muslim and Jewish subjects and establishing the Spanish Inquisition in 1478 to maintain Catholic orthodoxy. According to the letters of the gentleman of Ferdinand’s bedchamber, Joanna was subjected to a torture method called “La cuerda,” in which she was suspended from a rope with weights attached to her feet. Queen Isabella even declared during the Spanish Inquisition that she would rather have her country be depopulated than become rampant with heresy. Isabella ensured that any rumors of her daughter’s hostility to Catholicism would be silenced.



As powerful and formidable monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella would make certain all five of their surviving children would marry well and further Spanish interests. They planned marital alliances with other nations against France, the traditional rival of Aragon.

Juan, Prince of Asturias (1478 – 1497), their only son, would unite Spain by inheriting the crowns of both Aragon and Castile. All four daughters would become Queens with Joanna perhaps even becoming an Empress. The eldest daughter, Isabella, would marry the king of Portugal. Their third daughter, Maria, would marry the James IV of Scotland. Their youngest and possibly most well-known Catalina would marry Arthur, Prince of Wales, and son of King Henry VII of England. Juan would marry Margaret of Habsburg, daughter of the future Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, and Joanna would marry Margaret’s brother and Maximilian’s heir, Philip, Duke of Burgundy. Burgundy, whose capital at Dijon possessed splendid wealth and luxury, during this time had territories consisting of territory in modern Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

It would have been the perfect plan that would wield immense power and influence across Europe had it not been struck with disaster that sealed Joanna’s fate forever. In 1496 at the age of sixteen, Joanna was betrothed to Philip “The Handsome” of Austria and disembarked in August of that year with a fleet of approximately 22,000 people to the Low Countries. After one dangerous month at sea with three ships sunk, Joanna finally docked at her new home having suffered seasickness and a terrible cold. For various reasons, Philip did not meet his bride; his sister Margaret welcomed Joanna. However, when they finally met it was lust at first sight to the point that he insisted the Church give its blessing to the marriage immediately so it could be consummated that night. The cleric was hardly finished before the couple vanished to their bedroom. The next day a church wedding officially completed the union. It was a successful marriage with Joanna giving birth to six children between 1498 and 1507.

Joanna of Castille with her husband Philip.

Joanna of Castille with her husband Philip.


In October of 1497, Joanna’s only brother Juan died suddenly. His pregnant widow Margaret gave birth to a stillborn daughter two months later, shattering all hopes of the male Trastamara lineage being saved through Ferdinand and Isabella’s only son. His death was followed shortly by his sister - and next heiress to the Castilian throne - Isabella, after giving birth to a son in August 1498 who was named Miguel. Baby Miguel was now child heir to the thrones of Portugal, Castile, and Aragon. Miguel died on July 19, 1500, shortly before his second birthday. Had he lived he would have united the three crowns of the Iberian Peninsula. Joanna was now heir to her parents. 

That same year Joanna gave birth to her second child and first son named after Charles the Bold, Philip’s maternal grandfather. With the death of Miguel, not only did Joanna and Philip become Isabella’s and Ferdinand’s heirs but meant that Charles would inherit the thrones of Castile, Aragon, and the duchy of Burgundy as well as the Habsburg realms in central Europe. The marital tactics of the Catholic monarchs backfired as it was never their intention that the Habsburgs should acquire Spain into their realm nor make their daughter the new heiress in which she would traditionally be a co-ruler.

The pressure on Joanna was now multiplied as she was made heiress in 1502 and given the title of Princess of Asturias. That same year, Joanna suffered a mental breakdown and Philip would repeatedly desert her as punishment for heated arguments. After one explosive quarrel, Philip rode off to his homeland of Flanders. Joanna wanted desperately to accompany him but her mother forbade it and had her locked up in the Castle La Mota at Medina del Campo. She spent days wandering and babbling, refusing sleep or food. As a married woman of her era, she would be expected to put her husband’s interests and realm first before that of her parents, even as their heir. She was already having difficulties adjusting to the cultural environment of Burgundy and the Low Countries. The Burgundians resented the Spaniards and neglected Joanna to the best of their ability. Her husband was on friendly terms with the King of France and did not involve himself with the anti-French policies of his in-laws. 

Perhaps the most severe and heartbreaking stress she suffered was her husband’s rampant infidelity. He indulged in feasting, drinking, and taking mistresses. In an era where women were expected to turn a blind eye to their husband’s philandering ways, Joanna instead flew into jealous rages, shocking both her husband and the court. Not being one for confrontation, Philip would punish his wife after quarrelling by avoiding her chambers for days. Joanna would then wander and sob the whole night, bumping against her bedroom walls. After discovering one of Philip’s mistresses who was “an exceedingly handsome noblewoman, with whom he was passionately in love…” Joanna confronted the woman and cut her hair short. Despite her attempts to win her husband back, which included changing her hair and clothing styles as well as utilizing love potions, their relationship grew destructive to the point where the impatient Philip ordered Joanna’s treasurer to keep a detailed diary of her actions. This was then sent to her parents which further humiliated Joanna and distressed her mother, Isabella.



However, Isabella severely disliked and distrusted Phillip and the influence he wielded over her vulnerable daughter, so she ensured that her will would allow Joanna to rule Castile with her husband, Ferdinand, as regent until her heir reached twenty years of age. Ferdinand refused to accept this, and when Isabella died in November 1504, a power struggle ensued between Philip and Ferdinand with Joanna as an in-between pawn. Both men minted coins in the name of themselves alongside Joanna as well as attempting to persuade the delicate twenty-five year old woman to hand the government to them. Her father even asked his officials to read to the Cortes notes of the Spanish treasurer in Flanders that put her instability on public display. After a brief visit to the English Court and Joanna’s sister, Catherine of Aragon, Philip and Ferdinand used a mediator to negotiate an arrangement for the government of Castile without consulting Joanna. After her furious reactions, the men schemed to have Joanna declared incompetent to rule, passing control to Philip.  

In September 1506, Philip fell seriously ill. A pregnant Joanna hardly left her husband’s side. Within six days, Philip the Handsome died at the age of 28. Despite the unkind treatment he gave Joanna throughout their ten-year marriage, Joanna refused to depart from her husband’s corpse for a disturbingly long time. On the way to Granada where Philip was to be buried, Joanna was rumored to have opened her husband’s casket to kiss and embrace him. She insisted they travel at night so that women would not be tempted by him. During the day they would rest in monasteries, deliberately avoiding nunneries. 

In January 1507, Joanna went into labor, refusing the help of midwives, and gave birth alone to a daughter, Catalina, the last remnant of her beloved Philip. With his rival for power now deceased, King Ferdinand II dismissed his daughter’s loyal supporters and ordered Joanna to be confined within the Royal Convent of Santa Clara in Tordesillas. After Ferdinand’s death, Joanna’s eldest son Charles became Charles V of Spain. After 11 years of imprisonment, with no knowledge of her father’s death or her son’s accession, Joanna was released briefly and visited by Charles after twenty years of separation. It is unknown what they discussed, but Charles refused to release her from her imprisonment and forbade her any visitors. 

Joanna’s youngest child Catalina remained at Tordesillas with her mother for sixteen years. Sadly, in 1525, Catalina was stolen way in the night and married off to King Juan III of Portugal. Joanna sank further into despair over the loss of her last child. Joanna survived her husband by 49 years, dying on April 12th, 1555, Good Friday, at the age of 75. Joanna was laid to rest beside her husband and across from her parents in Granada’s La Capilla Real.


Was Joanna truly mad or a political pawn to the men in her family? 

Joanna’s maternal grandmother, Isabella of Portugal, allegedly suffered from mental illness as well and was sent to a convent. Joanna’s grandson Carlos and great-granddaughter Maria of Austria, Duchess of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, also reportedly went mad. Historians have speculated that Joanna may have suffered from a wide range of mental illness, from depression to schizophrenia to even postpartum depression. However, her increasingly erratic behavior was reported following the deaths of her siblings, nephew, mother, and her husband. Both Philip the Handsome and Charles V had a lot to gain from Joanna being declared incompetent to rule.


Do you think Joanna of Castile was truly ‘mad’ - or was she a political pawn?


“Biography of Juana the Mad of Castile (1479-1555).” Biography of Philip V of Spain (1683-1746),

Bos, Joan. “Biography of Juana the Mad of Castile (1479-1555).” Biography of Philip V of Spain (1683-1746),

Chua, Paolo. “The Tragic Story of the Mad Queen of Castile Who Slept Next to Her Husband's Corpse.”, Town&Country Philippines, 28 Apr. 2018,

Forcen, Fernando Espi. “The Tragic Story of Joanna the Mad.”, 8 Dec. 2015,

Moniek. “Queens Regnant: Joanna of Castile - The Mad Queen.” History of Royal Women, 16 Aug. 2018,

Morris, Tracy S. “I Am Not Making This Up: Joan the Mad of Castile's Epic Farewell Tour « Tracy S. Morris.” Tracy S Morris, 19 Dec. 2016,

Ridgway, Claire. “The Madness of Juana of Castile.” The Tudor Society, 2 Mar. 2017,

General Juan Peron was twice President of Argentina (1946-55 and 1973-74) and his legacy, through the Peronist movement, remains strong in Argentina to this day. Here, Frank Beyer considers the importance of President Peron’s terms as President of Argentina, and how he lost power in 1955.

President Juan Peron during his 1946 inauguration.

President Juan Peron during his 1946 inauguration.

Coup d’état 

General Perón waited eighteen years to become president of Argentina again after being deposed by a coup d’étatin 1955. That’s an incredible length of time between mandates for an elected leader. Alan Garcia of Peru came close to this with sixteen years between presidencies and Mahathir Bin Mohamad, the ninety-three year old Prime Minister of Malaysia, had fourteen years out before resuming office in May 2018.

On September 19, 1955 destroyers off the coast of Mar del Plata, the second biggest port city in Argentina, aimed their guns at petrol storage tanks in the port. After firing sixty-eight shells and destroying nine out of the eleven tanks, they bombarded other strategic targets held by troops loyal to Perón’s government, such as the anti-aircraft artillery school. The citizens of Mar del Plata had been warned before this attack, so there were no civilian casualties. With the navy in full rebellion and some sections of the army wavering in their support, President Juan Domingo Perón resigned - probably with the intention of resuming office when things calmed down. 

Perón’s decision to step down was a wise one; he still had a lot of the army on his side and may have been able to win the fight but it would have caused grievous loses. In a failed coup attempt earlier in the year, planes had bombed Plaza de Mayo in the middle of the capital, Buenos Aires, and killed more than three hundred civilians. 

Argentina had been prone to coups since the overthrow of democratically elected President Yrigoyen in 1930. Already there’d been several attempts against Perón since he became president. There would be many coups after his fall, military toppling civilians governments and generals toppling generals, the last one in 1981.

When Perón came to power in 1946, Argentina was rich from exporting foodstuffs throughout World War II. Perón, first as Secretary of Labor and then President, shared some of this wealth with the workers, putting up wages, providing healthcare and introducing paid vacations. The oligarchy of landowning families had traditionally monopolized wealth in Argentina. Would free market policies have led to higher wages for workers in this time of surplus or just greater profits for the oligarchs and merchants? By 1955, however, the surplus was long gone and the economy was in turmoil.

The worst thing Perón did according to the international community was to suppress freedom of expression. He shut down the major newspaper La Prensa relatively early in his tenure when this kind of censorship seemed unnecessary because he was still very popular.

General Juan Peron in uniform, drinking coffee.

General Juan Peron in uniform, drinking coffee.


One of the many reasons for the coup of September 1955 was the deal Perón had done with Standard Oil of California. Perón was an economic nationalist: he wanted to Argentina to industrialize and be economically self-sufficient and so he was against foreign investment. This stance came from Argentina having been exploited since its inception as a sovereign nation by the British and the local oligarchy. However, Argentina’s own oil company, YPF (Yacimientos Petrolíferos Federales) did not have the capability to increase oil production significantly and Argentina was importing more and more oil as demand grew. So, in early 1955, Perón made a deal with Standard Oil, allowing it to start extracting and producing oil in Patagonia and then selling it to YPF at an agreed upon price. Once YPF’s (i.e. Argentina’s) demands were met Standard Oil could export the oil and share the profits with YPF.[1]

This deal showed the pragmatic side of Perón, the one not too hung up on ideology. Extreme elements in the army and navy were against this move though, sighting article forty of the (Peronist) constitution of 1949, which said oil reserves were an inalienable part of public property.


Second Coming

Jesus, to this point, has been smart enough not to attempt a second coming. He knows things are so out of control that he wouldn't be able to solve them - and that his YouTube channel would have too much competition. Perón was not so humble and came back from exile to be elected President in 1973 - but his movement had split into too many different factions. Peronism had become something different - many of his followers were now from leftist revolutionary youth groups. Perón was never really a leftist and now he was an old man looking for reform not revolution. To paraphrase Perón view of things:

Theliberal capitalist system of the 19th and 20th century has advanced us through science and technology more than in the ten centuries previous. But this has been done through the effort of the people and now a guy in the middle of the forest has a radio - he knows about his own sacrifice and can't accept it. We need a new system and one that compensates the people...


This comes from one of Peron’s sit downs with journalists on his return from exile in 1973 that were much better, for me, than his emotional speeches to the masses gathered in Plaza de Mayo pre 1955. Listening to him talk is a pleasure, the ultimate Argentine leader or caudillo, although old he is strong of voice and gesture, verbally dexterous and also somehow lonely and distant. He had the right idea - reform not revolution, but implementing a new system? Nigh on impossible. Peron died in 1974, his second wife Isabella took over as President, and Argentina entered into a period of ever increasing turmoil. 


What do you think of General Juan Peron? Let us know below.

[1]Robert Crasweller: Perón and the Enigmas of Argentina, New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1987


Adolf’s Hitler’s Nazis are one of the most terrible movements in history - but to what extent did they achieve what they wanted in their homeland? Here, Seth Eislund follows up from his first article for the site here, and considers whether the Nazis achieved what they wanted politically, economically, and socially within Germany itself.

Adolf Hitler addressing the German Parliament in May 1941. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-808-1238-05 / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Available  here

Adolf Hitler addressing the German Parliament in May 1941. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-808-1238-05 / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Available here

From his election as chancellor on January 30, 1933, until his suicide on April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler ruled over Germany and transformed the country into a fascist, authoritarian state. Hitler’s Nazi Party imposed its nationalistic, militaristic, racist, and anti-Semitic ideology on all levels of German society, with the hope of establishing the Aryan race as master of the world. More specifically, the Nazi government imposed its views and policies on the political, economic, and social spheres of Germany, vying to establish complete control over the lives of the German people. While the Nazi regime succeeded in eliminating political opposition and quelled political dissent, it was only partially successful economically and socially. The Nazi government's economic program, the Four-Year Plan, failed to achieve its long-term goals. Furthermore, Hitler failed to obtain complete social dominance over his citizens because he couldn't fully control their religious beliefs.


The Nazi Party's Political Ascendancy

The Nazi Party succeeded in achieving total political control over Germany, as it established itself as the only legal political party in the country and ruthlessly eliminated its opponents. On July 14, 1933, the Nazis passed the Law against the Founding of New Parties, which declared the Nazi Party to be the only valid political party in Germany.[i]All other political parties were banned. As a result, this law effectively established Germany as an authoritarian single-party state, nullifying any form of political opposition. A year later, the Nazis continued their political domination of Germany by carrying out the Night of the Long Knives, which purged the Sturmabteilung (also known as the SA), the Nazi Party’s former paramilitary organization. SA leader Ernst Röhm and approximately 85 members were assassinated because the Nazis feared that the SA was a threat to the army and the state, according to historian Richard J. Evans.[ii]With his opposition in and outside of the Party eliminated, Hitler could rule Germany unopposed. Thus, the Nazis were successful in cementing complete political control over Germany, using both legal and extrajudicial methods to achieve their aims.


The Nazi Regime and Economic Success

While the Nazi regime established total political control over Germany, it was only moderately successful in achieving its economic goals. On October 18, 1936, Hermann Göring, one of the highest-ranking members of the Nazi Party, initiated the Four-Year Plan in order to reform Germany’s industrial and military production.[iii]The Nazis aimed to make Germany a self-sufficient nation, capable of producing the materials necessary for later wars and expansion. While Nazi Germany did see a rise in economic activity, employment, and the creation of munitions and explosives, the Four-Year Plan caused the production of consumer goods to suffer. With a greater focus on military production, resources were directed away from consumer goods, and Germany’s economy became weakened in the long-term.[iv]Additionally, historian Richard Overy claims that Nazi Germany was unable to establish a strong war economy, which ultimately led to its defeat in 1945.[v]Furthermore, historians Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham state that Germany was still reliant on the resources of other countries for the production of its raw materials by 1939.[vi]Therefore, while Germany was partially successful in stimulating industrial and military production, its failure to permanently establish a robust, self-sufficient economy in the military and civilian sectors ultimately led to the Nazi regime’s downfall.


The Nazi Regime and Social Control

In addition to its mixed economic success, the Nazi regime’s social goal of replacing religious devotion with devotion to Nazism was only partially realized. According to historian Richard Weikart, Adolf Hitler believed that religion had no role to play in German political and ideological life and instead wanted all Germans to believe in the Nazi Party’s ideology.[vii]The Nazi regime was successful in turning the attitudes of children in the Hitler Youth and the League of German Maidens against Catholicism and Protestantism. Historian Richard Bonney states that children in these programs broke up church youth groups and spied on Bible studies classes.[viii]While the Nazis succeeded in influencing anti-religious sentiment among children, they knew that purging religion completely from German society would be unwise. Weikart posits that while Hitler despised Christianity and organized religion in private, he dared not eliminate Catholicism and Protestantism in Germany, as doing so would turn the majority of the German people, who were Christian, against him.[ix]Thus, the Nazis were only moderately successful in achieving social control over the German people, as they required the support of religious Germans to stay in power.



Throughout its 12-year reign, the Nazi authoritarian regime attempted to achieve total control over the political, economic, and social aspects of German society with varying success. The Nazi Party was very successful in obtaining complete political control over Germany, as it legally declared itself to be the only legitimate party in the country and murdered those who opposed it. However, the Nazis only saw moderate success in controlling the economic and social spheres of Germany. While Hermann Göring’s Four-Year Plan did augment Germany’s production of industrial and military-related materials, it ultimately weakened the German economy and left the nation vulnerable to defeat in World War II. Additionally, the Nazis found some success in wielding social control over the German people by instilling anti-religious sentiment in German youth., but they didn’t eradicate religion in Germany because doing so would have resulted in a massive loss of popular support. Regardless of its economic and social shortcomings, though, the Nazi regime still held enough control over German society to incite the world’s deadliest conflict, commit a genocide that killed 11 million people, and change the course of history. Only through studying regimes such as Nazi Germany can one realize the dangers of authoritarianism, and how such systems cause horrific destruction and despair.


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

You can read Seth’s previous article for the site, on Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, here.

[i]United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "Law against the Founding of New Parties," United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed  August 29, 2018,

[ii]Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich in Power(New York: Penguin Press, 2010), 39-40.

[iii]Adam Tooze and Jamie Martin, The Cambridge History of the Second World War, ed. Michael Geyer, vol. 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 35.

[iv]"Nazi Economic, Social and Racial Policy," BBC News, November 13, 2017, accessed August 29, 2018,

[v]Brian Gray et al., Oxford IB Diploma Programme: Authoritarian States Course Companion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 210-228.


[vii]Richard Weikart, Hitler's Religion: The Twisted Beliefs that Drove the Third Reich (Washington, D.C.: Regnery History, 2016), 89-95.

[viii]Richard Bonney, Confronting the Nazi War on Christianity: The Kulturkampf Newsletters, 1936-1939, 139.

[ix]Weikart, Hitler's Religion, 89.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

Politicians have a history of using fear to gain votes and win elections. Here, Jonathan Hennika (his site here), follows on from his first article on Scared America (here) and considers recent events in the US in the context of 19th century America. He explains how Chinese immigration to America, particularly to California, led to hostility and the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which would significantly reduce Chinese immigration.

A sketch on the ship  Alaska , bound for San Francisco, with many Chinese people aboard. Sketch from  Harper’s Weekly  in 1876. Available  here .

A sketch on the ship Alaska, bound for San Francisco, with many Chinese people aboard. Sketch from Harper’s Weekly in 1876. Available here.

Something unexpected happened as an outcome of the Watergate Scandal: Americans realized their leaders were merely human. When transcripts from the Oval Office tape recording system utilized by Nixon became available, the populace was shocked to hear their President say to his Chief of Staff: “You know, it's a funny thing. Every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. Whatthe Christ isthe matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it is because most of them are psychiatrists.”[i]

President Donald Trump has further demystified and possibly demoralized the Office of the President. In an Oval Office meeting with Congressional leaders, discussing protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and some African nations, the President asked, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"[ii]

Immediately upon taking office in January 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order[1]banning immigration from certain Middle East countries. The purpose of the Order was laid out in the first paragraph:

The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States.  Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from adequately scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.  And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admittedto the United States.[iii]


According to a Fact Sheet issued by the State Department, “For the next 90 days, nearly all travelers, except U.S. citizens, traveling on passports from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen will be temporarily suspended from entry to the United States.”[iv]

Despite many legal challenges and additional Executive Orders issued by President Trump, some form of this travel ban remains in effect. Numerous raids by the aptly acronymic ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) have stormed businesses and stalked illegal immigrants at non-immigration related court hearings. No one is safe from deportation, including military veterans. 

These actions are just part and parcel of the American experience. Nor is this the first timethat our leaders enacted laws barring the immigrant population from becoming part of the American Narrative.  



`They are coming to take our jobs,’ is an oft-repeated refrain when speaking of any significant numbers of want-to-be immigrants. From the Irish of the 1850s to the Latinos of the 1980s, and somewhere in between, there is the Chinese.  The 47thUnited States Congress has the ignominious distinction of being the first to codify discrimination based upon national origin.  The signature piece of legislation: The Immigration Act of 1882, historically referred to as the Chinese Exclusion Act.

In similar fashion to the Know Nothing Party, decades later in California,there was a political party with nativist roots. Founded in 1877, the California Workingman’s Party took control of the state legislature in 1878. In their session in Sacramento, they rewrote the State’s Constitution, disenfranchising the Chinese. In an address that same year, Denis Kearney, founder of the CWP, declared, the Chinese “are imported by companies, controlled as serfs, worked like slaves, and at last go back to China with all their earnings. They are in every place; theyseem to have no sex. Boys work, girls work; it is all aliketo them.” Kearney used inflammatory rhetoric, stating that “we shall arm” and “we are men, and propose to live like men in this free land, without the contamination of slave labor, or die like men, if need be, in asserting the rights of our race, our country, and our families.[v]

The Chinese first began emigrating to the western coast of the American continent after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1849. In the decade of the 1850s, over 40,000 Chinese immigrants entered the United States. In the next decade,that number increased to close to 65,000.[vi]A majority of that population settled in California. 


The Chinese Exclusion Act

When discussing the motivation of any group of immigrants, there are two factors: pull and push. Pull factors are the concepts, ideas,ormonetary reward for moving to a new nation. In this example, the California Gold Rush was the first pull factor for the Chinese. An additional pull factor was the plentiful jobs working on the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. By the early 1860s, in response to the rise of the Chinese immigrants, the State of California enacted legislation heavily taxing these cheap "coolie" laborers, the "Anti-Coolie” tax. 

 Push factors, on the other hand, are intolerable conditions in the native homeland of the immigrant group. The potato famine of the 1840s drove many Irish and Germans away from their ancestral homes. In the 1850s China was engulfed in the Taipei Rebellion, a quasi-religious Civil War that raged from 1850 until 1864. There are estimates that 20 to 30 million Chinese lost their lives during the Rebellion, not counting those that died due to disease and famine in the aftermath. The Taipei Rebellion served as a significant push factor in the Chinese immigration to the United States. 

Political pressure mounted on Congress to act on the immigration issue. California continued to place prohibitions on Chinese immigration, but it was not enough, a national solution was required.  On August 3, 1882, President Chester Arthur signed the Immigration Act into law. In bowing to the California pressure groups and the national labor movement, the Chinese Exclusion Act barred any additional skilled or unskilled labor from entering the country. There were exceptions for professional Chinese immigrants such as doctors and lawyers though. The Immigration Act of 1882 was modified in 1888 by the Scott Act, which stated any Chinese in the United States who returned toChina were no longer permitted re-entry intothe United States. Set to expire in 1892, Congress enacted the Geary Act, re-authorizing the Immigration Act of 1882, for ten years. In 1902 the Geary Act was renewed but did not set an expiration date. 


Judicial Discretion: Chae Chan Ping v United States, 130 US 581 (1889)

The judicial branch must make any test of law enacted by the legislative branch, in accordance withthe wishes of the Founders when they created the conceptual idea of a separation of powers. In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court declared the Chinese Exclusion Act constitutional.  The Plaintiffin the case was Chae Chan Ping, who challenged the validity of the Chinese Exclusion Act on the ground it violated the Treaty of Wangxia. Signed in 1844, the Treaty of Wangxia was the American equivalent of the Anglo-Chinese Treaty of Nanjing, which ended the First Opium War in China. The relevant section of the treaty guaranteed unlimited entry of Chinese to America. Writing for the majority, Justice Horace Grey stated, “The power of the government to exclude foreigners from the country whenever, in its judgment, the public interests require such exclusion, has been asserted in repeated instances, and never denied by the executive or legislative departments.” The justice questioned the legal standing of the Plaintiff. Concluding that “If there be any just ground of complaint on the part of China, it must be madeto the political department of our government, which is alone competent to act upon the subject.” [vii]

An analogy: The majority of the Supreme Court told Mr. Chae, “Sorry, sir, that’s not my department, let me see if I can find someone for you.” The Legislative Branch passed a law based upon the "threat" represented by the incoming Chinese. The Executive Branch, in all its 19thCentury feckless glory, signed the Bill into Law. The Judicial Branch, eight white men (Stephen J. Field, Joseph P. Bradley, John Harlan, Horace Gray, Samuel Blatchford, Melvin Fuller, David Brewer, Henry Brown, andLucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II), ratified the law.  The Chinese Exclusion Act finally ended in 1943, when the United States and China became wartime allies.


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

You can read more of Jonathan’s work at Portable

[1]An Executive Order is a rule or order issued by the President to the Executive Branch, bypassing the legislative branch, and having the full force and effect of law. 


[ii]Josh Dawsey.  “Trump Derides Protections for Immigrants From ‘Shithole’ Countries.” The Washington Post(January 2018)

[iii]President Trump. “Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” (2017)

[iv]Homeland Security. “Fact Sheet: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry to the United States.” (January 29, 2017)

[v]Dennis Kearney, President, and H. L. Knight, Secretary, “Appeal from California. The

Chinese Invasion. Workingmen’s Address,” Indianapolis Times, (28 February 1878).

[vi]Immigration to the United States, “History of Immigration, 1783-1891,”

[vii]CHAE CHAN PING v. the UNITED STATES 130 U.S. 581(9 S.Ct. 623, 32 L.Ed. 1068)

Legendary American Civil War-era nurse Clara Barton was extraordinary in many ways. Not only was she an important nurse in the US Civil War, she also played a key role in bringing the Red Cross to America. Here, Matt Goolsby follows his first ‘nurses in war’ article on Cornelia Hancock (available here) and tells us about the life of Clara Barton.

An engraving of Clara Barton from 1867. Engraving by John Sartain.

An engraving of Clara Barton from 1867. Engraving by John Sartain.

Humble Beginnings

The United States was a very agrarian based nation in the early part of the 19th century. Travel and communication were typically slow and arduous.

By the time of the Civil War, the northeast region of the U.S. was experiencing the growing pains of the Industrial Revolution that had started in England in the 1700s. Railroad lines were expanding at an exponential rate as the demand for goods transversed the entire region of the rapidly growing country.

Communication was also becoming a transcontinental medium to rapidly transmit information from one region to another through the use of telegraph lines. Newspapers began publishing stories next day instead of relying on couriers delivering accounts that took days if not weeks to send and receive.

One would assume that the rapidly expanding use of technology and industry would have affected how the medical profession cared for the sick, wounded, and dying soldiers who were the casualties of the Civil War during this time. In reality, it exposed the glaring weaknesses and woeful practices utilized in treatment that spawned a desire for improvement of those who were most vulnerable. Against this backdrop, a formidable leader and role model emerged.

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas Day, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts to Captain Stephen Barton and his wife Sarah Stone. She was the youngest of five children: Dorothy - 17, Stephen - 15, David - 13, and Sally – 10 at the time.

Coming from very unpretentious beginnings, Clara as she was fondly known by, was a timid and shy child. Her elder brother David spent much time with Clara riding horses and enjoying the outdoors which helped to relieve some of the timidity she first felt.

The Barton home where Clara was born still exists to this day in its original location and is a museum to her life and testament to the simple yet solid foundations her family was known for.

The Barton family, whose beginnings can be traced back to 11thcentury England in the Domesday book, otherwise known as: ‘A great survey’ commissioned by William the Conqueror, shows that the family was awarded land due to their loyalty to king and country.

The Barton family in America first appears in 1640 in Salem, Massachusetts after Edward Barton emigrated from England as one of the early colonists. After several moves throughout New England, the Barton family finally settled in North Oxford, Massachusetts and took up daily living with their Universalist religious background.

Of particular note are the facts that Clara’s family established the first Universalist church in Oxford and ordained its first Pastor: Hosea Ballou who is considered one of the fathers of American Universalism. As described in the story of Clara’s life by Percy H. Elper: “Yet her father and mother, however liberal in their creed, never relaxed from the deepest habits of all that was best in Pilgrim and Puritan. No matter how snowy, no matter how the winds hurtled over the hilltops — the Barton family not only drove five miles to church every Sunday, but maintained, during the other six days of the week, the deeper fundamentals of conscience and honor peculiar to their forefathers' faith.”


Foundational Nurse Training

In 1832 Clara and her family experienced a significant medical crisis that helped form her future nursing skills and made clear the talent she innately possessed.

Her brother David was severely injured while working on a barn-raising when one of the boards he was standing on at the peak collapsed under him. He fell to the ground sustaining a severe head injury that laid him up in bed for nearly two years. 

Clara, perhaps from the closeness she felt to her brother while riding horseback in the woods, spent the entire recovery time caring for David. She also was the one who applied the prescribed treatments of the time for him that consisted of: Leeches, setons (stitches to relieve infection), counter-irritating blisters, and blood-letting to relieve his fever. She is quoted as saying: “For two years I only left his bedside for one half day. I almost forgot that there was an outside to the house.”

After David had finally recovered from his injuries, (when the new treatment of steam baths came into use), Clara had to sequester herself for recovery time from the care she had provided. At the tender age of 11, it was a portent of things to come.


Civil War Service

After spending 18 years teaching and then another 5 years living and working in Washington D.C. for the U.S. Department of the Interior and Patent Office, Clara saw firsthand what many of the men who were involved in the Civil War would experience through its long, arduous journey.

In April of 1861, the Massachusetts 6thregiment heeded the call of Abraham Lincoln for 75,000 troops and proceeded to make its way down to the nation’s capital. On their way they passed through Baltimore, Maryland where a crowd of 10,000 opponents of the beginning conflict assaulted them. This left four dead and 30 wounded.

They fought their way through the crowd and arrived in Washington the following day: April 16, 1861. Clara witnessed the regiment as they arrived by train and was there to greet them. 

This was the first time she had worked as a ‘Volunteer Nurse’ and experienced what would become her life’s mission to apply healing to those wounded in conflict. In her own words she testifies: "Among the soldiers, I recognized my own early associates. We bound their wounds, and fed them." There were many from Worcester, Massachusetts including Sergeant J. Stewart Brown and Joseph M. Dyson who she knew by name.

As the war progressed, Clara became acutely aware of the need for frontline care for the wounded and dying. Her desire to care for them put her in mortal danger numerous times. She writes of her time with the soldiers at Antietam in September of 1862: "We were in a slight hollow and all shell which did not break our guns in front, came directly among or over us, bursting above our heads or burying themselves in the hills beyond. A man lying upon the ground asked for a drink, I stopped to give it, and having raised him with my right hand, was holding him. Just at this moment a bullet sped its free and easy way between us, tearing a hole in my sleeve and found its way into his body. He fell back dead. There was no more to be done for him and I left him to his rest. I have never mended that hole in my sleeve. I wonder if a soldier ever does mend a bullet hole in his coat?”

These experiences as gleaned from her writings, demonstrate the conviction of purpose and character that she had developed since her time caring for her brother’s injuries.

There are several key traits of Clara’s personality that are apparent in both her writings and of those who knew her.

The first is that she was never interested in money, only in solving humanities ill fortunes. This is best described later as she would later become the founder of the American Red Cross and would petition the U.S. Government to have its purpose expanded as a humanitarian relief organization for natural disasters as well as their charter to aid the wounded, sick, and dying in war. 

The second trait that also is very apparent is her love for her fellow man and the ability to rise to the occasion when events merit it. I’m reminded fondly of Mother Teresa and her ministering to the poor, sick, and weak ‘untouchables’ of India who she cared for during most of her adult life.

Towards the end of the war Clara was recognized for her gallant service by being named the Superintendent of the Department of Nurses under Surgeon McCormack who was Chief Director of the Army of the James stationed at City Point, Virginia.

As was always the case with Clara, she never settled for comfort in the ‘safe’ zones, but wanted to be attending to the infirm on the frontlines. 

Her oldest brother Stephen would also become a victim of the war and perhaps one of her greatest motivations to fulfill her duty as a nurse.

Stephen Barton had been mistakenly identified as a Confederate by the Union due to his living in North Carolina and had been neglected for a long period until Clara got word of him being hospitalized in Washington D.C. By this time, his health had deteriorated beyond hope.

Not long before he passed away in 1865, she wrote of hearing one of his final, moving prayers: "Oh God, whose children we all are, look down with thine eye of justice and mercy upon this terrible conflict, and weaken the wrong, and strengthen the right till this unequal contest close. Oh God, save my country. Bless Abraham and his armies.” She also painted a vivid portrait of what the conditions of where he passed were: "And there under the guns of Richmond, amid the groans of the dying, in the shadows of the smoky rafters of an old negro hut, by the rude chimney where the dusky form of the bondsman had crouched for years, and on the ground, trodden hard by the foot of the slave, I knelt beside that rough couch of boards, and, to the patriot prayer that rose above, sobbed 'Amen.'”


American Red Cross Founder

For four years following the Civil War, Clara Barton helped find those men who were missing in action from the official records of the war’s dead. While still living in Washington D.C., she ran the Office of Missing Soldiers to identify those who were killed or missing in action to try to relieve the suffering of family and friends.

During this time, she met and befriended Susan B. Anthony as well as Frederick Douglas. These relationships would leave a lasting impression on her as she championed women’s suffrage and civil rights for the rest of her life.

The years of Civil War work for others had taken their toll on Clara. After seeing her doctor and following his orders to get rest and recuperation from her many travails, she decided to visit Europe in 1869. Her first visit was to Liverpool, England and then on to Paris. Her final stop was to be where her life’s calling was forever changed.

Arriving in Geneva, Switzerland for the end of her vacation period, she was visited by the president and members of the “International Committee for the Relief of the Wounded in the War”, which would later become the International Committee of the Red Cross. Since Clara had such an outstanding reputation even with the international community, she was asked why America didn’t honor the recently signed ‘Geneva Convention’ and why after such a conflict as theirs, they wouldn’t be interested in it? Her answer was simple: “I listened in silent wonder to all this recital, and when I did reply it was to say that I had never heard of the Convention of Geneva nor of the treaty, and was sure that as a country America did not know she had declined.”

Not long after she had arrived in Geneva, the Franco-Prussian war broke out. Clara was able to see first-hand how the Red Cross in Europe was operating and how it contrasted with her experiences in the Civil War: "As I journeyed on and saw the work of these Red Cross societies in the field, accomplishing in four months under their systematic organization what we failed to accomplish in four years without it — no mistakes, no needless suffering, no starving, no lack of care, no waste, no confusion, but order, plenty, cleanliness and comfort wherever that little flag made its way — a whole continent marshaled under the banner of the Red Cross — as I saw all this, and joined and worked in it, you will not wonder that I said to myself 'if I live to return to my country I will try to make my people understand the Red Cross and that treaty.' But I did more than resolve, I promised other nations I would do it, and other reasons pressed me to remember my promise.”

One is struck with the irony of Clara’s timing in situations where war breaks out. It seems that she was called for just a time as these.

In early 1871 the Franco-Prussian war ended, but the battles continued throughout both Germany and France until the late summer of the same year. Clara stayed through this entire time ministering to the sick, treating the wounded, establishing clothiers who would fashion garments for the poorest, and soliciting funds from aristocratic donors who included Grand Duchess Louise of Baden, Kingdom of Prussia. Her willingness to befriend any class of person is another testament to her savviness and skill.

By 1874 Clara was worn out from her time in Europe and lack of recuperation. She was no stranger to loss having found out that her sister Sally had died before she could see her one final time in Worcester. Her only remaining relative in her family circle was her brother David whom she had nursed back to health as a child.

She spent several more years convalescing and writing friends, family, and officials of her intentions to establish the American Red Cross. With great perseverance, she was finally successful in 1881 with President James Garfield’s administration and it was established. An assassin’s bullet struck down the President and delayed the formal establishment of the association while the nation mourned for 80 days. 

Finally, in 1882, the Red Cross was formally established with ratification by Congress and the signing of the Geneva Convention by President Chester Arthur. Its role had expanded from not just treating the wounded and dying from war, but also those who experienced natural disasters.

At a convention of the International Red Cross in Geneva during 1882, the President of the International organization gave Clara the credit for the new American branch: "Its whole history is associated with a name already known to you — that of Miss Clara Barton; without the energy and perseverance of this remarkable woman, we should not for a long time have had the pleasure of seeing the Red Cross received into the United States."

Clara would serve as the President of the American Red Cross until June, 1904. Her tasks of running the organization along with doing fieldwork are unheard of in this day and age. 

As the years went by, Clara would write her autobiography titled: ‘The Story of My Childhood’. But the Clara Barton that I read about was gleaned from the book titled: ‘The Life of Clara Barton’, by Percy Elper who was the only authorized biographer of her life by the family. He used her unpublished war diaries, letters, eyewitness accounts, and conversations to write a truly compelling picture of this unique lady. 

Clara died in her home in 1912 at the age of 90. Her stature and legacy on American society have had a tremendous impact on so many people. We have much to learn from her compassionate and caring nature for those in need.


What do you think of Clara Barton? Let us know below.


Percy H. Epler, “The Life of Clara Barton”, The Macmillan Company, New York, July 1915.

 “Evolution of the Railroad”,

“Nursing History – Clara Barton”,

“Biography of Mother Teresa”,

“The Domesday Book”,

“Clara Barton – Library of Congress”,

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

Mass shootings are sadly all too common in modern-day America, but they did not happen much at all a century ago. Here, Chuck Lyons recounts the sad story of the first indiscriminate mass shooting in US history. It took place in Winfield, Kansas in 1903 and the perpetrator was Gilbert Twigg.

A panorama of Winfield, Kansas from around 1910.

A panorama of Winfield, Kansas from around 1910.

Early in the evening of August 13, 1903, thirty-six-year-old Gilbert Twigg parked his wagon in an alley near the corner of Main Street and Ninth Avenue in Winfield, Kansas. A large crowd had gathered there for an outdoor music concert. Wearing a buckskin hunting jacket, he walked to Ninth and Main. The band was taking a break and the crowd milled around talking. About a block from the bandstand, Twinge dropped to one knee, shouted “I’m going to shoot you all,” and opened fire with a shotgun. 

When he was done, nine people including Twigg himself, were dead. 

Gilbert Twigg had become the first indiscriminate mass killer in US history. He had acted without apparent motive and had killed whomever was handy. It was something the country had never seen before and would not see again for almost fifty years. Like many of today’s serial shooters he had served in the Armed Forces and had bought his guns legally. He also left a manifesto of 650 words of rationalization that explained little. 

“You should let this be a lesson to you in the future,” he wrote near its end.


Army veteran

Twigg had been born in Flintstone, Maryland in 1867 or 1868 and around 1888 had followed his uncle Argel to Kansas. There Twigg got a job as a miller and was said by people who knew him to be ambitious, intelligent, agreeable, and passably handsome, with “searing ice-blue eyes.” In those early days in Winfield, he worked, ran with a crowd of other young people, and courted a local woman, Jessie Hamilton, eventually proposing marriage and being accepted. But a short while after she accepted his proposal, for reasons that have never been clear, Hamilton changed her mind and broke off the engagement.

Her decision twisted something inside Twigg. 

“Those were the happiest days in my life,” he would write to a friend, Chance Wells, in 1902, “and it would have been much better for me if I had gotten married and settled down as you have done. I have no doubt but that you are very happy, while I am not.”

In 1896, two years after the thwarted love affair, Twigg enlisted in the army. He served two hitches and at one point was promoted because of his marksmanship. He saw action fighting in the Philippines where he also became involved in some sort of dispute with an officer and a doctor, Lt. Myron C. Bowdish and Contract Surgeon O. W. Woods, the details of which were never made public. But whatever had happened continued to haunt Twigg. He was mustered out of the army in California as a sergeant with an “excellent” service record and lived briefly in Montana working as a miller before returning to Winfield in 1903.

But things had changed, and Twigg was winding tighter.

In Winfield, he was unable to get his old job back or find any other employment probably because of his deteriorating mental condition. He was also reported to have lost his job in Montana “under murky circumstances.” He spent his days lolling around Winfield parks or sequestered in his boardinghouse room muttering about the people in Montana and Kansas who he thought had mistreated him and were plotting against him. 


Crazy Twigg

Local boys began calling him “Crazy Twigg.” 

Finally, on August 1, 1903, the twisting spring broke, and Twigg walked into the Winfield & Miller hardware store and bought a shotgun, an inexpensive .32 pistol, and more than 100 rounds of ammunition. He spent the next several days brushing up on the marksmanship he had learned in the Army. By August 13, he was ready. He piled his guns and ammunition into a tin express wagon and pulled it into the alley behind Ninth Avenue. Taking his shotgun, he began to walk to the Ninth and Main.

Along the way, The Winfield Chroniclelater reported, he ran into a group of local boys and allegedly told them he had some “tall shooting to do” and told them to get out of the area.

“I have no desire to hurt you,” the paper quoted him as saying.

At Ninth Avenue, he stopped in front of the Milligan Shoe Store, in sight of the bandstand and about a block away from it, and began firing. The band, Canton’s Dozen, a military band, was resting on the stage looking over sheet music. Twigg’s first shot grazed a horse that bolted and his second passed through the shoulder of the band’s drummer, Re Oliver, and shattered Clyde Wagoner's horn. Havoc erupted as Twigg kept firing into the crowd. Three men were hit as they exited onto the street from the stairway leading to the Odd Fellows Hall next door to Milligan’s. A group of three women were hit, and a 15-year-old boy. Bodies littered the street in growing pools of blood as Twigg continued firing on the scattering crowd. Some were running holding wounded arms or limping on shattered legs. Others were down in the street and moaning alongside the buildings.

Twigg had chosen the one evening of the week when the most people congregated, and “he chose the spot from which to fire with the skill of a general,” The Chroniclewrote. “He dropped on one knee at each fire, then retreated backward, while reloading, then dropped on his knee again and fired. These are the skirmish line tactics of the army and give a level `body line' to the volley. The employment of the tactics is due the terrible execution of his volleys. He remembered his training and `shot low.'”

Twigg worked his way back to the alley and his wagon. His last two shots were fired as he leaned around the corner. He then grabbed his .32 pistol from the wagon and turned it on himself. The whole incident had lasted less than ten minutes. Eight people, plus Twigg, died either immediately or shortly after the attack. More than two-dozen others had been wounded.

A rumor has persisted in Winfield for decades that Twigg did not shoot himself but was in fact killed by Winfield policeman George Nicholas, Winfield’s first and at that time only black policeman. “That rumor cast Nichols as a ready-made hero who ended the town’s most incomprehensible nightmare,” one historian wrote, “but [the town] was forced to deny his role because it was considered too dangerous for a black man to kill a white man, even justifiably.” 

For the rest of his life, Nicholas continued to deny he had shot Twigg.


The manifesto

The morning after the shooting, local police searched Twigg’s room and found a letter blaming unspecified individuals and the world at large for his troubles. 

"I would like to say to those who have interested themselves so much in my welfare (that seems to be the public in general),” he had written, “that I do not and most likely never will know the real cause of being treated in the manner in which I have been treated…You know you have `doped' me until I was forced to give up about a $100 a month position. You know that youdrove me from place to place and forced me to give up a neat little sum of my hard earned money to railroad companies, money that I went through the danger of war and diseases… You also know that you watched my mail and after finding out my friends and correspondents, you told them some kind of a story about me that caused everyone of them to drop me and turn me down cold.”

Was the cause of this persecution, he wondered, “my girl affaire here some eight or nine years ago? “ 

He also wrote that he regretted that “I did not settle this thing with Lieutenant Myron C. Bowdish and Contract surgeon O. W. Woods while I was a patient…in The Philippines. Then I could have gotten what was due me, and this thing would have been over long ago.”

The Winfield Chroniclewas surprisingly sympathetic to the man who had shot up its town and killed eight of its residents.

“Poor Twigg was not responsible for his insane acts. His disordered mind led him to the conclusion that the whole world was against him and he came back to the home of his boyhood to wreak vengeance and end it all,” it wrote on August 14, 1903.

There would not be another such attack in the United States until 1949, forty-six years later, when Howard Unruh wandered through his Camden, N.J., neighborhood killing twelve people. But by 2017, attacks such as Twigg’s were occurring with frightening regularly—and killing far more than the eight people Twigg had killed. 

“You should let this be a lesson to you in the future,” Twigg wrote in his manifesto, and he had indeed left a lesson for future generations.

But it was one we would be better off without.

Please share any comments or thoughts below.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a non-aggression pact signed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on August 23, 1939, a week before the start of World War II that would allow these two powers to invade Poland. Here is an introduction to the Pact and an overview of its consequences for World War Two.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop shake hands after agreement on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Source: Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H27337 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, available  here .

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop shake hands after agreement on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Source: Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H27337 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, available here.

The Pact

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed between Nazi Germany’s foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Soviet Union’s foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov in Moscow on August 23, 1939.

With the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union committed themselves to not attack each other, and to not support or assist states that were an enemy of the other. The Pact was supposed to last for ten years. The treaty also led to economic and commercial benefits, most notably in a separate 1940 agreement.

The exact details of the treaty were known only by the leadership of both governments - and they were not revealed to the public; however, much later it was found out that the treaty had some secret clauses. Eastern Europe was to be divided into zones of German and Soviet influence, leaving Poland divided between the two powers, and with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania recognized by Germany as areas of Soviet interest.

Under the terms of the Pact, if Germany attacked Poland, the Soviet Union would not provide support to the government in Warsaw. Furthermore, if the consequence of Germany invading Poland was a war with the Western Powers (in particular France and Great Britain), the Soviet Union would not enter the conflict, thus preventing the opening of a second front for Germany. 


The consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact 

The conclusion of the pact meant that Germany would be able to pursue its expansionist objectives in Poland. Adolf Hitler wanted the German state to grow and he wanted “living space” (or lebensraumin German) for the German people in Eastern Europe. In order to obtain this, Hitler had been busy creating a dispute with Poland, just as he had done with Czechoslovakia previously. With Poland, the dispute was regarding Danzig, a largely German-speaking city that was a free state and that became independent of Germany as a consequence of the post-World War I Treaty of Versailles, along with parts of Poland where people spoke primarily German. Hitler wanted these territories to become part of Germany. Indeed, Adolf Hitler used these disputes as a pretext to invade Poland. 

This meant that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact enabled Hitler to invade Poland without Stalin’s interference and allowed for the start of World War II. On September 1, 1939, the Germany army invaded Poland, and on September, 17 1939, with the Polish Army greatly weakened, the Soviet Union attacked the eastern part of Poland. Even before the Soviet invasion, the Western Powers of Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.

A further consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was that the Soviets did not join the fight against Germany from 1939, which may have prolonged the Second World War until 1945. Without the Pact, the war could have ended sooner – although that is far from certain as the Soviet Army may not have been able to defend the Soviet Union effectively against the Germans in 1939 as it was able to in 1941.


German advantages

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact gave Germany some tremendous strategic advantages, as it allowed the country to focus its attack on Britain and France. Hitler did not need to split his forces between the eastern and western fronts; where as during World War One, Germany had to split its forces on two fronts, which may have cost them victory. In 1939, this was not the case, as the German army could fully focus on the west. Thanks to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the German army launched a large-scale attack solely on Western Europe. Within in less than a year of the outbreak of the war, countries including Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France were invaded by the Germans. 

By mid-1940, Stalin may have started to question his decision to cooperate with Hitler, since Hitler had become the master of Europe. Nonetheless, Stalin kept observing the Pact’s terms due to the seeming strength of the German war machine and the need to further strengthen the Soviet Army.

On June 22, 1941, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact came to an end when Germany launched a massive invasion of the Soviet Union, known as Operation Barbarossa. While this was not totally unexpected by Stalin and the Soviet leadership, they were still not fully prepared for a large-scale German assault at that time. So, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact enabled Adolf Hitler to invade France, leave Britain largely isolated in Europe, and allow him to concentrate his efforts on defeating the Soviet Union. 

Even though at first Stalin thought that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was beneficial, as he was able to secure his western borders against attack and gain territory in Eastern Europe, Stalin empowered Germany to dominate Western Europe and later invade the territories of the Soviet Union. In the end, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact made the USSR vulnerable, which resulted in great human and industrial loss to the Soviet Union over the period 1941-45.


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