Thursday 31 January 2019

The Wisdom Of Lenin

In the history of the 20th Century, among Russia's major figures are Stalin and Lenin who both visited London in the first decade of the 20th Century and met there. This has attracted interest, but as they were both mobile revolutionaries keeping clear of the forces of law and order the archive material is scant.

There is information on these visits and a debate about their purpose and what happened. For example in the case of Lenin, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, founders of the LSE, London School of Economics in 1895, were admirers of his theorising based on his studies of Karl Marx. They were also central to what became The Labour Party later.

One thought is that as the lectures were open whether either Lenin or Stalin turned up to mix with the students of the time. Also, who else might be around. Picking up on one aspect of this in 1907 Lenin is said to have visited Stalin at 77 Jubilee Street in Whitechapel. The street was largely working class typical for the period.

In 1901 the Census has this address as yet to be built, but in 1911 it has five families, probably Jewish fleeing the pogroms of Tsar Nicholas II. Of the 26 names the parents were of Russian origin but the children, with one exception were born in London. In the general area there were other families of this background.

In the early 1900's Lenin was at several addresses including Tavistock Place. It is intriguing that these were upmarket if you look at who else was there. For example, in 1901 there is Alexandre Genee, Ballet Master at Covent Garden, a leading figure in European ballet at the time.

There is also an Italian Professor of the Violin, a Covent Garden tenor etc. If Lenin was at Covent Garden in a standing place at the back of the stalls then I have stood where Lenin stood. If he could run to a seat in the gallery then it may well be sat, especially if he was one of the then front row gang.

Come 1917 when it all happened in Russia, one of the first nationalisations was the theatres and concert halls and during the eras of Lenin and Stalin the state had a firm grip as to what went on there. Culture you got and at low prices. But so much of left wing politics is theatrical, the congresses, conferences, demonstrations, mass meetings, the film archives are full of them with speakers waving their arms about urging The People forward to revolution.

Among the neighbours at his addresses one surname that appears is familiar. It is a Wisdom whose 1915 born son was Norman Wisdom, the famous mid 20th Century comedian of film whose work is highly regarded in Albania.

Could I interest the LSE in a thesis about Lenin being the cheeky cheerful cockney chappie of political philosophy?

Wednesday 30 January 2019

An Extra Splash Of Water

The debate on climate change and just what where and how will it all take place goes on. The difficulty is that the technicalities, the theorising and differences of opinion leave most of us well behind despite any urgency.

The complications are many and this article from Science Daily from Columbia University does not make easy reading, although short. A key issue it suggests is hydrology and in particular levels of soil moisture. We know water is critical to life on earth, especially our own. This takes the idea a step further.

But what matters is that the article suggests this is not a long term matter, it is short term and we can expect change to be more rapid and extensive than previously thought.

Monday 28 January 2019

Another Wet Day

In May 1917 under the heading of "Water Water Nowhere" I posted an item on the subject of fresh water supplies and our vulnerability in the UK to possible shortages. Now it is suddenly occurring to some thinking people that the growth of population, wealth and the economy implies increased demand for many things, including water.

To the astonishment of many, fresh water cannot be created on the web or for that matter by simply spending money. It might be done by filtering and treating sea water, but that is not cheap needs substantial energy inputs and requires extensive investment and industrial plant to do it.

In the UK happy in the past with all those wet centuries delivering from the sky the water we need, we do not understand that we can and do have shortages as in the past. But the future is looking grim.

All that extra population doing wonders for the economy cannot be sustained with a lot of extra water, in England in London and the South East particularly. At present there is no sign of any real policy or action from government and time is beginning to run out.

A couple of long hot summers could leave us all very thirsty, smelly and out of pocket because of the cost of imported supplies.

This is the 2017 post:

Just along the road a man has had an external car wash fitting put on the front of his garage. Retired without a job to do he has made his car the centre of his universe. So it is washed after almost every outing. He must use in a month on his car etc. the same amount of water as a village in one of the drier parts of the world.

In 1976 in the UK there was a serious drought; a long dry spell followed by a hot period when temperatures were high. During our holidays we went to the South of France to cool down. It was a sweaty ride up the A1 home. On return our lawn was a scanty brown, but some neighbours had managed a green and pleasant land despite pleas and restrictions.

One rose at after midnight to get in an hour or so to water his lawn secretly but oblivious to the fact that the sounding of swishing water in the quiet was all too obvious, let alone the hedges dripping with water as dawn broke and the bright fresh shine of morning.

There was at first a panic, then a blame game and a cry for something to be done. When the rain returned it was soon forgotten. Since then we are into our tenth General Election, in all the promises and made and policies declared I do not recall much if anything at all to do with water supplies.

There was vague talk about desalination plants, but these were expensive and needed energy. More to the point they had to be somewhere on the coastlines and nowhere wanted them. The greenies threw mega wobbles at the very idea.

The population is now rather greater and more properties have been built and more cars and vehicles are on the roads etc. The call is for us to increase population rapidly, put up millions more properties and all of us to enjoy the benefits of an advanced society.

One of these is "free" or cheap water in unlimited supply. It is just assumed and is a powerful incentive for many from the hotter places where it is not cheap or indeed easy to access. We are arguing about climate and about energy policy. But water supply has been low on the agenda, if there at all.

The few of us that look across the millennia at climate and weather patterns and their effects on food supply, population and economic matters will be aware that the last century has been but a brief blink of time. What happens next we can only guess and hope. What we in the UK have been doing with water policies is simply hoping.

We could use our imaginations. A high pressure here, a low pressure there, a few marginal shifts in winds and changes in temperatures and there you go. The Atlantic Isles becomes a dry desert region that can support limited life who can survive. The politicians, financiers and techies have fled leaving a population that depends on the nearest well for its supply of the most vital commodity.

Go to Youtube and put in "There's a hole in my bucket" for the children's nursery rhyme that is probably an accurate summary of our present policy for water supply and management.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Could You Spare A Euro?

HM has suggested to her Prime Minister and government, apparently, to get their act together over Europe. Well, she would, being Saxe Coburg Gotha Hannoverian married to what one of his former ship mates of my acquaintance referred to as Greek born persons whose legitimacy was in question.

My question, being historical, is which and what Europe? My personal Europe near 70 years ago had a Germany divided up into areas of occupation. It worked quite well, we had much less trouble then.

Then they all went week at the knees and allowed a Federal Republic to emerge. Worse, still, at the same time the bright idea that this lot could be contained was to create a unity of economic states.

It will not last as none of the versions of the Europe of the past has lasted. Mostly, it was massive bloodshed involved in the changes, this time we are trying to do it by straightforward corruption, bribery and theft.

But I should not complain. According to the science I am basically Saxon in origin. We had a nice set up going in the Atlantic Isles until the Vikings arrived, see the picture above. This at the time was the Scandinavian option.

As ever, their main economic policy was to redistribute income and wealth.

Friday 25 January 2019

The Robert Burns Options

In the life story of Robert Burns there are "what if's" one being that the information that his poems were about to be published reached him when he was about to be off to Greenock to go to Jamaica as a Plantation Overseer. Also, did someone tell him what was involved?

There were other chances of life. To go to London would be difficult for a stray Scot, so what might have been better? Bengal was possible given who he knew and the connections could have offered a post in the East India Company. He may have been a Writer in accounts with an outside chance of becoming rich, or a soldier of fortune or might he have ridden with Skinner's Horse?

This history describes the Scots major role in the East India Company and the creation of The Raj. It begins in French but scrolling down to the English takes you to a long history and it is the section entitled "Scottish Commercialism In India And South East Asia" 1770-1833" that is relevant.

There is another "what if" and that is if he had survived and lived rather longer. At the end of the century there was trouble in Ireland, a rebellion in 1798-9 and among the regiments deployed there were the Fencibles, local militias from Scotland. The Argyllshire's went to Wicklow, where some stayed on when granted land.

But what if the call to arms might have been earlier? He would have made a brave and resolute officer of the 26th Regiment of Foot, The Cameronians, somehow or other having been able to buy his commission, and saving Canada from the rebels of America. But there was also the trick of buying a commission and going off strength on half pay. The problem there was the price of a commission.

On the other hand Scotland had a high proportion of people able to read reflected in the many good newspapers and journals on offer. What if an editor thought he might be a useful addition to the team as a critic or as a commentator on political matters?

Some Scottish Songs might give an insight to his thinking. There is poetry in the music and for Burns music in the poetry.

Thursday 24 January 2019

Painting And The Past

Jane, Jane and more Jane Austen, this time surprisingly in The Guardian who are usually not interested in the upper classes of the past.

This picture of a young girl is the subject and is said to be of a young Jane. There were probably many like this at the time so what matters is the actual history and provenance of the work.

I personally like to think that it might be if only because it is so different to the idea of Jane becoming common at the present time.

We forget that her father was criticised by many for taking the trouble to educate his daughters on the grounds that this might impede their marriage potential.

But what did impede them was his lack of wealth to provide the portions, that is the money, needed at that level of society.

Money did matter, so some things do not change.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Music For The Ears

Recently, a good deal of time has been spent not on what is happening at the present but on the longer past. Having access to the local press of previous centuries because of its nature and coverage is as good, if not better than the archives of certain major dailies of the present.

So, one begins to look for this or that, finds something but then has a look at other columns and pages. All sorts of information is there and raises many interesting questions. One striking feature of the past is the scope and nature of the music that people engaged with which leads to who was doing what?

One item found was the picture above from the Manchester Evening News, the first performance of what became the Halle Orchestra. It gives the full programme and it is at the Free Trade Hall in January 1858. But I wonder, who was there?

In 1974 I was at the Free Trade Hall, but all I had to listen to was the Secretary of State for Education singing for her supper. As it was a Mrs. Margaret Thatcher I have wondered since that was it her trips to the Free Trade Hall that inspired her economic policies?

Perhaps This Chorus at three minutes long was all it would need and it  would have been one of the selections of "Il Trovatore".

Because she did go banging on.

Sunday 20 January 2019

Tree Time

It is a commonplace that a lot of trouble is caused by managers making the wrong choices on the basis of inadequate or poor information. There is nothing new about this.

Below is an extract from the author Evelyn Waugh's papers relating to the Second World War when he trained with the Commando's.

It was not a happy period for him and even more unhappy for some of the commandos with him.


Evelyn Waugh writes to his wife Laura, 31 May 1942;

No. 3 Commando was very anxious to be chums with Lord Glasgow, so they offered to blow up an old tree stump for him and he was very grateful and he said don't spoil the plantation of young trees near it because that is the apple of my eye and they said no of course not we can blow a tree down so it falls on a sixpence and Lord Glasgow said goodness how clever and he asked them all for luncheon for the great explosion.

So Col. Durnford-Slater DSO said to his subaltern, “have you put enough explosive in the tree”.

“Yes sir, 75lb.”
“Is that enough?” 
“Yes sir I worked it out by mathematics it is exactly right.” 
“Well better put a bit more.”
“Very good sir.”

And when Col. D Slater DSO had had his port he sent for the subaltern and said, “Subaltern better put a bit more explosive in that tree. I don't want to disappoint Lord Glasgow.”

“Very good sir.”

Then they all went out to see the explosion and Col. DS DSO said you will see that tree fall flat at just that angle where it will hurt no young trees and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever.

So soon they lit the fuse and waited for the explosion and presently the tree, instead of falling quietly sideways, rose 50 feet into the air taking with it 1/2 acre of soil and the whole of the young plantation.

And the subaltern said “Sir, I made a mistake, it should have been 7 1/2 lb, not 75.”

Lord Glasgow was so upset he walked in dead silence back to his castle and when they came to the turn of the drive in sight of his castle what should they find but that every pane of glass in the building was broken.

So Lord Glasgow gave a little cry and ran to hide his emotion in the lavatory and there when he pulled the plug the entire ceiling, loosened by the explosion, fell on his head.


Wikipedia has an article on the Lt. Colonel in question, John Durnford Slater. The picture above is of Kelburn Castle near Largs in Ayrshire, once family seat of the Earl's of Glasgow.

I knew some former commandos, and have often wondered whether they were there. It would have appealed to their sense of humour, I think, as well as mine.

Thursday 17 January 2019

Independence And Europe

This is a long one after a time of short posts. It is based on a 2009 one dealing not only with the Europe question, but putting it into the context of the wider history and implications. This means whether the UK can exist as it has done and our place in the world. Essentially, our politicians and leaders do not know what they are talking about and do not know where they are going.

What does “Independence” mean for the United Kingdom? One theory is that in 1941-1942 when the money ran out was the date it was lost. Also we had been brought to the brink of being unable to feed our population by war. It meant that as the City of London had arrogated itself to be the financial ruler of the world, when it began to falter and weaken, it then became its prisoner.

When Westminster ruled a fifth of the surface area of the world and claimed to rule the seas, the impossible task of maintaining firstly the fact, and then after 1918, the fiction, led the political elite into a series of submissions and obligations, culminating in the accession to the European Community and Brussels in 1973.

Westminster now has less control over many of the affairs of the UK than did the former County and County Borough Councils of long ago. How much real choice will the ordinary English people of today, who are not the same as those of the 18th Century, or even the early 20th Century, have in the matter? Will we soon have an English Parliament or a Parliament in which the procedures allow a specifically English sphere of influence and decision?

If the UK ends and it is free of Scotland, something I suspect desired by the great majority of ordinary English people, then the Six Counties of Ulster may well attach itself to its Scottish homeland. In England we forget that Antrim can be seen from Scotland. Wales may want to go its own way as well. What does the idea of “independence” entail across the key sectors of the economy and the polity of England?

Firstly, will England retain the pound sterling and manage its own monetary system according to its defined needs? If it adopts the Euro then it is not independent, nor is it if it takes on another currency. Also, it is not if the pound shadows or is obliged to be a dependent variable of another currency.

By definition, if it remains within the European Union, then whatever it might call itself, it is not “independent”, especially under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty. It might have a system of modified independence, but this depends on the volume and nature of the legislation and regulation emanating from Brussels. If there is a lot, and its impact is substantial, then England is only a province. Forget any claptrap about being at the heart of Europe. We will not and cannot be.

Would England be able to provide for the bulk of the food needed by its population, and indeed to survive any world wide food crisis? The more dependent it is on food imports, the more limited its effective independence is likely to be and reliant on those territories from where the food is supplied. What about fuel and power? Same again, these are basic utilities, the more under foreign supply or ownership the less any independence can be.

Could England revive and reinstate its own consumer goods industries, or will it be reliant on certain limited sources, e.g. China? Then there are all those international agencies and obligations that the modern world has created. The more we take on, the less room for manoeuvre we have.

In turn, this leads to how an English government can deal with the global mega-corporations that control so many markets in every sort of product or service. We have seen the UK government bow the knee to almost any and every mega-corporation that comes it way, promising jobs and investment, that is so long as this favour or subsidy or given, or that. They take the money, and run when they like.

The great problem for England will be what to do about London. There is the City of London, so long as its activities are of central importance and so long as it remains a largely unregulated participator in the global monetary arena, the less England can do to stay away from the problems. Not least is how far other parts of the Atlantic Isles, including the ancient counties of England, can shake off the grasping hand of The City.

London has become a foreign city as many incomers become the majority of its population. These are not a single body, but are disparate. There are the questions of lines of communication. Just how far can England exert any control over the air and sea around it, or on the global communications systems now in place? I seriously doubt that our navy at present can protect our shores from any determined enemy, criminal gangs, or slave masters.

The gangs are here already, active and politically influential arising from their easy access to UK operated tax havens. In a world where communications are all, if you cannot control your own, you cannot control much is much detritus of the past, internal and external. The Crown dependencies of one kind and another scattered across the globe, many being tax havens, may not be wanted by an independent England wishing to be free of its past obligations, nor might they want to remain attached to it.

If we are being democratic, then they should be able to opt for either full independence or for which part of the former UK they regard as appropriate to their vision of their future. Given that one of the main planks of the recent movement for Scottish independence is Edinburgh as a major financial secrecy jurisdiction, with all that is entailed, it would be logical for the Scots to take them over.

One example of the internal rearrangements is those of surface links. At present the rail links to Wales are largely carried on costs that fall on England. Apart from the line to Cardiff and Swansea, the others could close. Also, inasmuch as the ferry links to Ireland largely benefit the Irish, any English subsidy could cease. As for Scotland, the projected multi billion high speed line, in English terms is a complete nonsense.

In defence policy, if England were to look to its own interests alone, then a great deal could go. There would certainly be a need for a navy, groupings of small, fast, vessels, located from Whitehaven and The Tyne to The Channel and the Western Approaches, packing a punch, and of a very different character, and the same applies to the air force.

The Army would lose some men, who would need replacing and would need to be reconfigured. If the past is any guide, if there are major differences in law, notably on drugs and alcohol, there would need to be effective military policing of the Border with high standards of control given the levels and nature of criminal activity already present in Scotland.

The Atlantic Isles once had a henge culture several thousand years ago. This was tribal in political organisation, but since became the playground of warring incomers and occasional invaders. Too many of these were violent exploitative slave societies, notably the Celts who supplied the Romans, and later others. Such parts might go their own ways according to the relatively recent boundary divisions.

The same considerations, inevitably, apply to them as well as to England. Here the so-called “independence” amounts to unshackling themselves from the remaining and residual corrupt and incompetent London power centre that is failing to deliver government or unity to anywhere in the Atlantic Isles. If members of the EU they will be no more “independent” than the Duchy of Luxembourg, and a lot less than Vermont in the USA.

What would it be like, an England defined in its own terms for the first time since the year 1015?

Wednesday 16 January 2019

High Society

There are academic journals and academic journals.

For those who are obliged to follow them there could be the opinion are more than enough. But sometimes, the question is will this be useful and might it actually do some good?

Here is a new one  from LSE Press which might or might not on the issues arising from the role of certain states whose economies are outside the law for the most part.

The illicit economies, a nice way of describing it, are those where a high proportion of the money flows etc. arise from drug trading and associated activities considered criminal in most places. It could be argued that the LSE is but a short bus ride from the financial hub of one of them.

Here in the UK we have no need to worry. The impending collapse of the Conservative Government over Europe means we may well have a Labour government who will simply nationalise the drugs trade in the name of the nation.

Who could sniff at that?

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Social Mobility And Immobility

On Sunday watching Everton v Bournemouth I was reminded that Everton was founded in 1878 when a new amusement, Association Football, was coming into fashion. By chance on the same day I was reading the Luton Times And Advertiser for 2nd May 1879 and the report of a society wedding attended by the great and good.

The bride, with a handsome portion, money that is, was the daughter of a local landowner, magistrate and Master of the Oakley Hunt. The first child of the marriage, a daughter, went on to marry a major landowner, magistrate, Master of the Brayton Hunt who became a Member of Parliament in the Conservative Party.

They were close to another of that kind, a William Middleton, nicknamed "Bay", Master of the Pytchley Hunt, who is famed with being close to Elizabeth, (Sisi), Empress of Austria, who turned up at the Grafton Hunt by Daventry with a dozen horses and hunted far and wide in England and Ireland. Bay was alleged to be the natural father of Clementine Hosier, later Churchill.

At that time a cousin of bride's was living close to the Everton ground, working as a watch maker, who died early leaving a penniless widow and child forced to return to her family of skilled workers and become more or less a household servant for the rest of her days. It is all about Social Mobility, as the sociologist said when he was knocked off his bike by a Rolls Royce.

It is fascinating that with a great deal of the local press of the past now available online instead of the weeks and months of travelling and searching, it is possible to see life in the provinces as it was seen to them and not just in the major London press or the prejudiced and limited sources of the academics and theorists of the past.

There are others matters, unmentioned in most history. One is the huge impact the invention and rapid application of wireless telegraph had in communications. I noted that the first indications in the UK that something had gone badly wrong in the British cavalry in the Crimea in late 1854 came from the Russian telegraphs and not from the government.

Quite suddenly there was an immediacy for contact and information sourcing which must have made a radical difference in many fields. One was that shipping intelligence was available saying where the ships had been, where they were and when and where they arrived.

What of the now? Could it be that with this vast store of information to be had on the click of a button we find out that much of what we are told about history and the theorizing of so many of our university and other historians has been based on flimsy and inadequate information and evidence?

It does make me wonder. We are said to have had a long depression in the agricultural industry in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Yet estimating the costs of all the Hunts and hunting and the extent when it was a "must" for the upper landowning classes could this must have impacted on the investment needed for the land. Especially, if you take the horse racing into account.

Instead of money going into improving the land and agricultural production we imported the added food we needed for a growing population while the land became a playground for the equestrian class.

In the media today the trade figures are not looking good and there is all the debate about austerity, budget balancing and the rest. While watching the football I learned that eleven players on the field for one team on Sunday had cost £252 million in fees let alone what they, and their agents were paid.

Sunday 13 January 2019

Piling Down Debt

In the 21st Century we are living in a world of debt and there is nothing in history to guide us because of its scale and nature. In the past there have many examples of large scale debts but nothing on the scale of the present.

Also, we live in a world when the theory is that all should have some kind of education. In the developed world there has been a major shift into education systems that entail study commonly into the early 20's. Which raises the question of how the nature of student debt embroils the older generation as well as the younger students.

When people become involved in credit and debt and it goes wrong then almost inevitably trouble occurs, family or no family. The fact that is might be family and therefore some sort of higher obligation could be assumed may only make it worse.

The potential complications are all bad. Imagine a family where the parents have assumed debt liability for one child only eventually when probate occurs any other children or family losing any possible inheritance. If this includes family who are carers this will add to the trouble.

We are already stumbling into a situation where a lot of younger people are looking at older generations who have done well out of the rampant inflation of the late 20th Century and the easy lending on property, never mind those who have gained decent pensions. 

They are looking at the level of the debts they incurred for study and perhaps being gulled into taking on extra consumer debt as part of the bad boom created by the older generation for their own benefit. On top of that many now have little financial future as the post boom squeeze continues and the jobs market goes sour.

John Mortimer, the late writer, began his career as a barrister specializing in probate and related cases. It was his view that when it came to wills and inheritance and family money this was the boundary where civilization ended and the survival of the fittest began.

There was a time when with my family we used to play the traditional game of “snap”. No more, since they realised I was playing with a pack of marked cards inherited from a thoughtful uncle.

How long will it be before peoples, states or even population groups decide they no long want to play the games of debt, or we have not realised that they are no longer playing according to the old rules?

Friday 11 January 2019

Who Is Your Friend?

There are things out there from the distant past that we can only wonder at, despair and search for any meaning. What do they tell us ordinary humans of the 21st Century? The Guardian today might tell us.

We have our own in the present world. It is located in a place of mystery and is distant from all of us.

We call it "Parliament" and the effigies are to be found in its deepest depths, The House Of Commons. Many of the members are associated with the LSE and the statue below "Equus" is to be found on the Plaza there.

Thursday 10 January 2019

Marching By The Left

Ten years ago an item was for sale online, said to be an etching made in 1910 of Lenin and Hitler playing chess together in a room. What worried me was the etching. This is skilled, expensive, and takes time and trouble. Anyone recording this event would have been more likely to make a quick sketch of one sort or another.

Also, there must have been many more interesting people in Vienna playing chess or talking together at the time. Hitler was an unsuccessful artist, just turned 20, and going nowhere. Lenin was just another middle aged political thinker and activist on the run from Tsarist Russia, ageing and seemingly with no real future.

The other tale about the travels of Adolf that had attention in the past is the one about his supposed visit to Liverpool between November 1912 and April 1913. Based on a suspect memoir by his sister-in-law, Bridget (born Dowling) known as Cissie, whose husband Alois Hitler; half brother of The Fuhrer, was working as a waiter in Liverpool at the time.

In the 1911 Census they are listed as Anton and Cissie, with their new born child William. The idea of a visit by Adolf became the plot of an imaginative and readable novel by Beryl Bainbridge that was turned into a TV drama. As ever the myth overtook the truth.

Detailed research in Vienna suggests that such a visit was never made, and that Bridget was making up an Irish whimsy later in life to help sell the copies of her life story. It is a great pity, at that time both my parents and their hordes of families were roaming the streets in which Alois and Bridget Hitler lived and worked.

In particular, the local RC Church was Our Lady's of Mount Carmel whose Elementary School headmaster was a grand uncle I once met. He had been a major figure in Liverpool's football circles and one of the founders of the Liverpool team.

I could have come up with all sorts of wild fantasies. A much better prospect for men who might have met and talked is a pairing that many would feel very unlikely. It is Lenin and Hook, one of the 13 men who won the Victoria Cross at Rorke’s Drift in 1879 when just over 100 men held off and defeated a Zulu Impi with a force of up to 4,500. They were certainly in the same place at the same time and for a year, and with interests in common.

In April 1902 Lenin, born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, was in London under the name of Jacob Richter, to avoid the attentions of the Paris agents of the Okhrana, the Tsarist Secret Police of Imperial Russia, and he stayed until May 1903. At the British Museum he was issued with ticket number A72453 to give him access to the Library with its vast resources of books, and he spent a great deal of time there researching and writing.

One minor speculation is where he preferred to sit, perhaps seats G7, H9, R7, R8, but the favourite is L13 because of its nearness to the reference shelves. Of the many attendants around, one would have stood out.

Alfred Henry Hook, who had dropped the Alfred early in life, known as Harry, was by then around 50, and perhaps already affected by the TB that was to end his life in 1905. He had been employed there since the 1880’s.

After earning his VC in 1879, and with permanent injuries he had bought out, and in 1881 was working as a groom to a General Practitioner in Monmouth named George Willis. Not long after he was employed at the British Museum as an attendant, and signed up additionally with the Royal Fusiliers, The London Regiment, 1st Volunteer Battalion as an instructor, rising to be Sergeant. The Volunteers were the predecessors of the Territorial Army, and often functioned as feeder units to the regular Army.

There are reasons for Lenin to check Hook out. One was that as a figure of authority he was more likely than most to be asked his opinion about this “Mr. Richter” if the Special Branch had been alerted by the Okhrana and were seeking information.

The logic would have been to test the possibility. Intellectually, however, would anyone with such an searching mind and intelligence of Lenin, miss the opportunity to have an occasional conversation with a man of this experience?

It would not have been difficult, because Hook was temperance, and as busy men both may well have used one of the cheap tea rooms in the vicinity before going on to meetings, as Lenin  would, or the Drill Hall, as Hook would. Even fifty years later, it was surprising who you could just bump into when going into a Bloomsbury tearoom for a quick cuppa and a sandwich.

Imagine, a foreigner with little income, but with a trained legal mind, high academic qualifications, and a great breadth of knowledge, asking plain reasonable questions to an older man to help him towards an understanding of this or that in the news in Britain. The end of the war in South Africa, a new Prime Minister, the crowning of the new King, the British in Somaliland and West Africa, the troubles of agriculture in the Atlantic Isles and more.

Hook was a countryman by birth, one of the many who joined the Army for employment and training. As for Empire, Hook had experienced the full reality of it at the end of his bayonet, and had been involved with many men since who had seen its further shores. He would have been able to make informed and incisive comments about the South African War of 1899-1902 and the business in Nigeria.

It is speculation, and no more, but what might Lenin have learned from Hook? Lenin at the time was interested in agrarian issues, colonialism, political structures, and the extent of financial interests. In military terms, it would have been organisation, discipline, tactics, the ability of a small well trained group with the motivation and leadership to withstand and overcome what was in theory a vastly superior force.

In 1914 the Old Contemptibles, the  small regular British army, stopped the might of the German Kaiser’s Imperial Army by its rifle skills, discipline, and bayonets. To understand Hook you need to forget the film “Zulu” and totally clear it from your mind. It is “Hollywood History”, not as bad or idiotic as most, but certainly with many adjustments to the facts and in particular the portrayal of personalities.

Hook of the film is a travesty, as are other characters, notably Dalton, but to a lesser extent Chard and Bromhead, both highly professional soldiers who at the end of the battle shared a bottle of beer found in a burned out wagon. Hook was a sober, capable man, probably with a West Country accent, literate and able to communicate well enough.

He would have been a good man to talk to. I believe he always remained a country man, because he returned to his home village, Churcham in Gloucestershire, to die. There is no statue to him anywhere; he has only a simple grave in a country churchyard.

If Lenin and Hook did meet and talk a time or two, it might have been this quality and a direct sense of purpose that may have impressed Lenin most of all.

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Merkel Moves In Mysterious Ways

For a few days now I have had an item on file about Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and her various views on Europe, what it is for and whom and all her little whys and wherefore.

Chancellor Merkel is from Mecklenburg Vorpommen, that is the northern part of the former East Germany and the long and complicated history of this patch of ground is too much for a short post. But she will not think of Europe as others might do.

The delay in posting has been because having access to the archives of newspapers of the past there have been other things, notably seeing what the provincial press etc. had to see about major events as opposed to officials, the London press and later historians.

One has been the First Opium War of 1839-1842, see Wikipedia where it was said in the Liverpool Mail of 14 March 1840 that Lord Auckland, Governor General of Bengal, had declared war on China in the name of the British Government. He had already gone to war in Afghanistan if only, quote, "there is much excitement among the natives on account of the conduct of the missionaries".

The Liverpool Mail of 4th November 1854 makes a passing mention that "The private telegraph, however, would seem to reiterate and confirm Russian reports of considerable loss among the English cavalry." It seems that HMG at the time wished to keep quiet about the charge of the Light Brigade.

My thought is that it is wrong to see Merkel as some kind of dictator or media crazed politician other figures come to mind. If anything might she be a monarchist at heart, a sovereign ruler of a great empire who is there to command and protect and all that?

Perhaps she has a hope for past glories. There are two persons featured in this, Wilhelm and Nicholas, take your choice.

But we mustn’t mention The War or what did the Romans ever do for us when bringing in Germans in their Legions and Auxiliaries?

Saturday 5 January 2019

The House Of Lords Yet Again

The blog, along with umpteen others has been saying for that the House of Lords is a bad business, a danger to the nation, an embarrassment to our Constitution and should have been either radically reformed or abolished a long time ago.

It would have been tempting to use a number of other words than Lords to try to make the point, but this would only detract from the seriousness of the situation.

It was bad enough in Mrs. Thatcher's time. But with Blair, Brown, Cameron and May using it as a make shift solution to a number of personal and personnel problems it has now gone beyond any sensible purpose.

I recall in the 1959 election being at a meeting of Labour M.P.'s who were there to discuss what to say to the voters about matters of policy for the future. They agreed that the Lords would have to go, but as the voters were more interested in other things to leave it out.

The Conservative M.P.'s in the area were in two minds, neither of which made any kind of sense and in any case meant keeping some kind of relic in place to commemorate a happier past before the pleb's got the vote.

What changes?