Today in History for 27th August 2018

Historical Events

1569 – Pope Pius names Cosimo I de Medici as grand duke of Tuscany
1665 – “Ye Bare and Ye Cubb” is the first play performed in North America in Acomac, Virginia
1884 – US Men’s National Tennis Championship, Newport R.I.: Richard Sears beats Howard Taylor 6-0, 1-6, 6-0, 6-2
1921 – J E Clair of Acme Packing Co of Green Bay granted an NFL franchise
1978 – Gerrie Knetemann becomes world cyclist champion
2013 – “Gravity”, directed and co-written by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney premieres at the Venice Film Festival

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Famous Birthdays

1666 – Ivan V, co-tsar of Russia (1682-89)
1839 – Emory Upton, Bvt Major General (Union Army), (d. 1881)
1886 – Rebecca Clarke, English classical composer and violist, born in Harrow, England (d. 1979)
1914 – Catherine Marshall, editor/writer
1918 – Lord Winstanley, physician/British MP (Labour)
1971 – Julian Cheung, Hong Kong actor and singer

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Famous Deaths

1667 – Adriaen Melar, Flemish engraver, buried at 33
1931 – Francis Marion Smith, American borax magnate (b. 1846)
1948 – Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez, composer, dies at 50
1967 – Henri-Georges Adam, French painter/cartoonist/sculptor, dies at 63
1969 – Ivy Compton-Burnett, English novelist (Manservant and Maidservant), dies at 85
2011 – Nico Minardos, Greek-American actor (The Twilight Zone, Twelve Hours to Kill), dies at 81

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The Anglo-Zanzibar War

The Anglo-Zanzibar War

Justin & Stephanie Pollard

The shortest war in history began (and ended) on 27 August 1896.

The Anglo-Zanzibar War has the dubious honour of being the shortest war in history, lasting around 38 minutes from the outbreak of hostilities.Following the sudden death of the Sultan of Zanzibar, the British consul found himself outflanked when the sultan’s nephew declared himself the new ruler. The consul reminded him that all new appointments were subject to approval from the British under the terms of a protection treaty. Instead of demurely backing down, Khalid bin Barghash barricaded himself in the palace with around 2,800 defenders.The British response was a typical piece of ‘gunboat diplomacy’. An ultimatum was sent to Khalid to resign, while three cruisers, two gunboats, 150 marines and sailors and 900 Zanzibari soldiers were mustered in the harbour.To their surprise, Khalid did not back down, but rather pulled up his artillery – consisting of a handful of Maxim guns, a Gatling gun, a 17th-century bronze cannon and two 12-pounder field guns – and aimed them at the British.In this apparent stalemate a message came at 8am on 27 August from the palace asking for a parley. The British refused unless the terms of the ultimatum were agreed to. Khalid replied that he did not believe the British would open fire. An hour and two minutes later they did, destroying Khalid’s artillery. In a separate action the Royal Navy attacked the Zanzibari navy, which consisted of His Highness’ Ship Glasgow, the royal yacht built for a previous sultan, which neither he nor his successors liked or used. It was sunk and its crew rescued. Its masts could be seen above the harbour waterline for the next 18 years.Firing ceased at 9.40 and Khalid surrendered. Of his supporters, 500 were killed or wounded. There was one British wounded casualty. Khalid fled to the German consulate and into exile. The British installed a new sultan by the afternoon.

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Today in History for 26th August 2018

Historical Events

1966 – Balt Orioles Roznovsky and B Powell are 4th to hit consecutive pinch HRs
1971 – NY Giant football team announces they’re leaving Bronx for NJ in 1975
1983 – Floods destroy most of the old town of Bilbao, Spain.
1986 – Rosa Mota wins Stuttgart female marathon (2:28:38)
2004 – Lindsay Tarpley and Mary Wambach score as the US beats Brazil 2-1, maintaining an undefeated record to win the women’s football gold medal at the Athens Olympics
2012 – A Legionella outbreak in Quebec City, Canada, kills 8 and infects 104

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Famous Birthdays

1894 – Sparky Adams, Baseball player (d. 1989)
1927 – Sam Massell, (Mayor-Atlanta)
1954 – Wally Murphy, American guitarist
1964 – Bobby Jurasin, CFL defensive end (Saskatchewan Roughriders)
1969 – Mike Gisler, NFL guard/center (NE Patriots)
1979 – Jamal Lewis, American football player

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Famous Deaths

1908 – Tony Pastor, American vaudeville performer (b. 1837)
1958 – Ralph Vaughan Williams, English composer (Hugh the Drover), dies at 85
1985 – Pieter “Piet” Jongeling, Dutch politician and author (GPV, Netherlands Daily), dies at 76
1986 – Ted Knight [Tadeusz Wladyslaw Konopka], American actor (Mary Tyler Moore, Too Close for Comfort), dies of colorectal cancer at 62
1989 – Irving Stone, American writer (Love is Eternal, Lust for Life), dies
1995 – Evelyn Wood, speed reading guru, dies at 86

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Today in History for 25th August 2018

Historical Events

1718 – Hundreds of French colonists arrive in Louisiana; New Orleans founded
1895 – 15th U.S. Men’s National Championship: Fred Hovey beats Robert Wrenn (6-3, 6-2, 6-4)
1941 – German troops conquer Nowgorod, Leningrad
1944 – France 2nd Tank division under General Leclerc reaches Notre Dame
1954 – Ivan Filin wins Berne marathon (2:25:26.6) (260m)
1990 – Li Hui Rong of China sets triple jump woman’s record (47’8½”)

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Famous Birthdays

1938 – Frederick Forsyth, British author (Day of the Jackal, Deceiver, Odessa File), born in Ashford, Kent, England
1954 – Marty Jourard, American keyboardist and vocalist (Motels-Only the Lonely), born in Atlanta, Georgia
1962 – Shahid Mahboob, Pakistani cricketer (batted in one Test for Pakistan 1989), born in Karachi, Pakistan
1965 – Cornelius Bennett, American NFL linebacker (Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills), born in Birmingham, Alabama
1969 – Catriona Matthew, golfer (1995 British Open-12th), born in Edinburgh, Scotland
1970 – Robert Horry, NBA forward (LA Lakers, Houston Rockets)

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Famous Deaths

1554 – Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, English great admiral, dies
1936 – Grogorij J Zinovjev, Russian revolutionary, dies
1976 – Perc Hornibrook, Australian cricketer (6 Tests 1928-30, 17 wickets), dies at 77
1991 – Don Nute, American actor, dies of AIDS at 56
2001 – Carl Brewer, Canadian ice hockey player (b. 1938)
2016 – Sonia Rykiel, French fashion designer, dies at 86

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Today in History for 24th August 2018

Historical Events

1690 – Job Charnock founds Calcutta India
1973 – John Adams and his bass drum become a right-field fixture in Cleveland Stadium
1978 – USSR performs underground nuclear test
1997 – Gordon Spence discovers 2^2976221 – 1 (36th known Mersenne prime)
2004 – Kenyan runners sweep the medals in the 3000m steeplechase at the Athens Olympics; Ezekiel Kemboi wins gold ahead of Brimin Kipruto and Paul Kipsiele Koech
2013 – 4 people are killed in a helicopter crash in the Shetland Islands

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Famous Birthdays

1899 – Johan Fabricius, Dutch novelist (Island of Demons), born in Bandung, Java, Indonesia (d. 1981)
1916 – Hal Smith, American actor (The Andy Griffith Show-Otis Campbell), born in Petoskey, Michigan (d. 1994)
1919 – Nils Viggo Bentzon, composer
1961 – Mark “Bedders” Bedfored, rock bassist (Madness), born in London, England
1983 – Christopher Parker, British actor (Eastenders), born in London
1986 – Arian Foster, American football running back (Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins), born in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Famous Deaths

1888 – Rudolph J E Clausius, German physicist (thermodynamics), dies
1973 – Billy Greene, American actor (Single Room Furnished, One Man’s Family), dies at 76
1994 – Wijnanda MC “Nan” Aberson, friend of Gerard Van de Reve Sr, dies at 82
1997 – Phillip Humphrey Vellacott, classicist, dies at 90
1998 – E G Marshall [Everett Eugene Grunz], American actor (12 Angry Men, The Defenders), dies of lung cancer at 88
1999 – Mary Jane Croft, American actress (The Lucy Show, Our Miss Brooks), dies of natural causes at 83

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Today in History for 23rd August 2018

Historical Events

1914 – Gen von Hausen executes 612 inhabitants of Dinant, Belgium
1938 – “You Can’t Take It With You” from the play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Jean Arthur premieres. Best Picture (1939)
1955 – Betty Jameson wins LPGA White Mountain Golf Open
1982 – Lebanese falangist leader Bechir Gemayel elected as president
2011 – 5.8 earthquake occurrs in Mineral, Virginia felt as far north as Ontario and as far south as Atlanta, Georgia
2013 – 26 people are killed and 55 are injured by a suicide bombing in Baghdad, Iraq

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Famous Birthdays

1843 – William Southam, Canadian newspaper publisher, born in Montreal, Canada (d. 1932)
1869 – James (Sunny Jim) Rolph, San Francisco mayor (1912-31), born in San Francisco, California (d. 1934)
1917 – Tex Williams, American country-western singer, born in Ramsey, Illinois (d. 1985)
1932 – Mark Russell, political satirist/pianist (Real People), born in Buffalo, New York
1933 – Pete Wilson, (Sen-R-CA, 1983-88/Gov-R-Ca 1991- )
1969 – Keith Tyson, English artist, born in Ulverston, United Kingdom

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Famous Deaths

634 – Aboe Bekr Abd Allah, [al-Siddik], friend/successor of Mohammed and Caliph, dies
1825 – Amos Bull, composer, dies at 81
1966 – Francis X Bushman, American silent film actor (Sabrina, Ben-Hur), dies at 83
1994 – Richard Jock Kinneir, graphic designer, dies at 77
2000 – John Anthony Kaiser, Roman Catholic priest (b. 1932)
2005 – Ninjalicious, Canadian author and urban explorer (b. 1973)

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Salazar: Portugal’s Great Dictator

Salazar: Portugal’s Great Dictator

Tom Gallagher

A contemporary of Hitler, Franco and Mussolini, Salazar is remembered by some of his compatriots as the greatest figure in the nation’s history. Why?

Fifty years have elapsed since the Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar left office. Unlike most of the authoritarian rulers who rose to power during the interwar years, Salazar departed peacefully, laid low by a stroke. When he died in 1970, he was granted a lavish state funeral.During the last quarter of the 20th century, Salazar’s Portugal had become a byword for repression and backwardness. His regime was finally toppled in a coup carried out in 1974, 48 years after the one that ushered him into power. Sections of the army had become radicalised by Portugal’s grim determination to retain its sprawling colonial empire, parts of which had risen in revolt. A democratic system came into being, Portugal joined the European Union in 1986, living standards rose and horizons broadened.It came as a shock, therefore, when, in 2007, viewers of the TV series Great Portuguese – having been asked to vote for the greatest figure in Portuguese history – chose Salazar. He received 41 per cent of the 159,245 votes cast, beating the nation’s more illustrious monarchs and even the great explorers of the age of discovery.The result was met with indignation, but it did not signify a rebirth of the far right; along with its Iberian neighbour Spain, Portugal is the only mainland Western European country where that current has failed to break through into mainstream politics. Instead, it was a recognition that, though antediluvian and reactionary, Salazar recovered a semblance of stability for a nation that endured anarchy during the early decades of the 20th century. Though he rarely travelled, he was more than a match for the leaders of both the Allied and Axis powers who tried to drag neutral Portugal into the Second World War and he gave an often overlooked country a stronger sense of identity.J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, admitted in 2017 that she based the contentious character Salazar Slytherin on the former dictator, which has, no doubt, further influenced popular memory of him. But Salazar retains a grudging respect among some Portuguese, especially in light of the patchy record of his democratic successors. The last decade has been marked by economic crisis; Portugal has been hit hard by the contraction of the Eurozone. The political class in Lisbon is widely seen as mediocre and self-seeking. State incapacity is reflected in the poor performance of the education system. Corruption scandals abound: José Sócrates, prime minister from 2005 to 2011, was charged with tax evasion, forgery and embezzlement in 2017.Rise to powerIt was much worse political disorder that paved Salazar’s pathway to power in the late 1920s. Portugal’s monarchy had been overthrown in 1910 and an anti-clerical republic installed. But the violence and financial instability that followed threw urban middle-class radicals onto the defensive. As most Portuguese tired of the venal and disorderly parliamentary regime, a conservative backlash gathered pace.Salazar was a 37-year-old economics professor at the University of Coimbra when the military took over in 1926. Born into a family of rural smallholders in the centre of Portugal, education had been his pathway to professional success, as it had been for many talented figures in rural southern Europe at this time. After a brief stint as the new regime’s finance minister, he took up the post again in 1928 and was given sweeping powers that earned him the reputation of a financial dictator. He stabilised the country’s finances without applying for a foreign loan and, as a result, some came to regard him as something of a miracle-worker, an image stressed in government propaganda as the military slowly retreated to the sidelines. From 1930 he became the regime’s leading figure and his authority was formalised in 1932 when he was appointed prime minister. He proclaimed an Estado Novo (New State) and in 1933 a new constitution was adopted. The republic was retained, but a Catholic, rural-tinged nationalism was at the heart of this new national revolution.Salazar was its custodian. He repressed supporters of the liberal republic and members of Portugal’s growing Communist Party. Middle-class opponents were removed from posts in academia, the military and the civil service, while Communist Party members were imprisoned on the Cape Verde islands, in a camp that remained open until 1954. He argued that such force was indispensable for his regime’s consolidation. He claimed, however, that his Estado Novo was not a copy or an extension of the major fascist dictatorships. There was to be a limited role for politics. A submissive populace was preferred to one in a state of permanent mobilisation. There was to be no party state. A restricted electorate, bans on opposition candidates standing and vote-rigging ensured that there were elections, but ones without choice.Historical anomalySalazar’s political movement was low-key. He preferred to exercise power behind the scenes, more of a mandarin than a messianic figure according to Eugenio d’Ors, a Spanish conservative intellectual of the Franco period. He ‘abominates the dramatic’, the British foreign secretary Austen Chamberlain wrote in the 1930s. Salazar avoided public displays and crowds and tried to project the image of a responsible intellectual working behind the scenes for the common good, an image that has to some extent endured. Salazar would claim that wielding power was a duty not a right, though he was clearly comfortable in the role of dictator. A friend, Fr Mateo Crawley-Boevey, a Catholic priest who was resident in Portugal when Salazar seized power, observed in 1928:He doesn’t mislead me. Because behind that cold exterior, there is an inexhaustible ambition. He is a volcano of ambitions.Salazar sought to ground a national popular culture in the conservative values of family, community and faith. His regime explicitly rejected the liberal and secular inheritance of the French Revolution, which had permeated Portuguese life, at least in the cities, during the previous century. While nationalism was at the core of Salazar’s regime, it did not insist upon the superior qualities of a particular people. Antisemitism was not a feature of his rule: persecuted Jews who fled to Portugal during the Second World War were not mistreated, nor was the country’s small Jewish community. Instead, nationalism was seen as a tool to keep intact a society long prone to factionalism, as well as justification for the retention of an empire many times the size of Portugal. Tradition took precedence over modernity and conservative catholic values permeated the education system, though Salazar did not repeal all the anti-clerical legislation of the republican era. The church was to know its place and a Concordat with Rome was reached in 1940 only after arduous negotiations. In a delicate balancing act, he brought together monarchists, moderate republicans and the military. Each of these pillars of the regime was convinced that only with him in charge could their privileges be guaranteed.Descent into extremismIn 1934, as war clouds gathered over Europe and its remaining democracies seemed defenceless, a book-length set of candid interviews with Salazar, conducted by his nimble propaganda chief Antonio Ferro, appeared. They portrayed Portugal’s new leader as a serious-minded technocrat who spoke with apparent candour about Europe’s descent into extremism and how Portugal had found its own path to recovery by balancing the budget and preventing parasitic, destructive political parties debauching national life. They were soon translated into numerous languages and attracted respectful notice in some European intellectual circles. Salazar’s form of government acquired the reputation of being a significant innovation rather than just another one-man Latin dictatorship.Portugal was depicted as a benign autocracy under an aristocracy of experts. Like Salazar, they were drawn mainly from the university world. His warnings about communism – ‘the grand heresy of our age’ as he put it in 1934 – struck a chord. That year, he declared:We must resist the impulse tending to the formation of what might be called the Totalitarian State. The state which would subordinate everything without exception to the idea of the nation or the race … which would put itself forward as an omnipotent being … would involve an absolutism worse than that which the liberal regimes succeeded to, for such a state would be essentially pagan, naturally incompatible with the temper of our Christian civilisation. At the time, Salazar was on the verge of dissolving a homegrown fascist movement, the National Syndicalists, who enjoyed a strong following among younger members of the urban middle classes; some estimates claim its membership numbered around 30,000. After forcing its leader, Francisco Rolão Preto, into exile, Salazar offered a warning about movements that roused the masses through a personality cult, yet he managed to draw former National Syndicalist activists into his own orbit by giving his Estado Novo para-fascist features, which were largely dropped after 1945.Aiding FrancoThe first of a number of serious challenges, at home and abroad, arrived with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. If Spain’s Republican government had defeated its fascist adversaries, it is difficult to see how the anti-communist regime next door in Portugal could have long survived. From the start, Salazar was resolved to do all in his power, short of military intervention, to aid Franco. The Spanish dictator’s military victory in 1939 initiated an alliance. The two strongmen respected one another, though they met only on a few occasions. The widespread distrust of Spain by its smaller neighbour may have led Salazar to conclude that it was better to keep his distance from his fellow dictator.Though his opposition to communism earned him a following in wider conservative circles, it was Salazar’s steely defence of Portuguese neutrality during the Second World War that earned him the grudging respect of foreign politicians and diplomats. In the 1930s his financial measures, diplomatic efforts and internal reforms had enabled Portugal to recover from a perilously weak position. Arguably, without his energy and single-mindedness the country would have had little chance of emerging from the world conflict intact. Its colonies were already being viewed as collateral in diplomatic exchanges of the 1930s between Britain and Germany. The splits in the political world between pro-Allied and pro-German factions could well have returned Portugal to the strife of the 1920s.Lisbon became a wartime hub of espionage and intrigue, but Salazar was determined that his small country would not become the plaything of ruthless warring powers. He frustrated Nazis in Berlin, who wanted Spain to enter the war on the Axis side, by encouraging Franco’s own inclination towards neutrality. He infuriated Churchill by selling to the Germans, until late into the war, a precious mineral, wolfram, which was used for the manufacture of heavy arms. Portugal’s gold reserves more than quadrupled during the conflict. The 383 tons of gold bullion stored away in the Bank of Portugal is the world’s second largest gold reserve in relation to a country’s gross domestic product. Many Portuguese, especially those distrustful of politics, see his defence of national interests in this perilous international conflict as a rare occasion when a national leader refused to bow to the will of the great powers.He negotiated with British politicians, such as Samuel Hoare and David Eccles, and later with the influential US diplomat George Kennan. In diaries and memoirs they wrote with respect and even admiration about his statecraft and devotion to the Portuguese national cause. By the end of the war, Salazar was more convinced than ever that, in a dangerous world, he was indispensable if his country was to be kept out of harm’s way.Founding memberPortugal had declined to join the anti-Comintern pact formed by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany (which Spain joined) and it was reluctant to join the United Nations, though it succumbed in 1955. Portugal was more keen to join NATO; it became one of its founder members in 1949. The emerging Cold War between the newly strengthened Soviet Union and the Atlantic democracies meant that the fervently anti-communist Salazar was more than willing to cooperate in Western defence initiatives. A large base ceded to the US on the mid-Atlantic islands of the Azores underscored Portugal’s usefulness to Washington.Salazar had his admirers among the Christian Democrat figures who helped to create what became the European Union after 1958, but by then his lustre had faded and his regime was seen as increasingly anachronistic. Democracy had recovered its dynamism and Portugal appeared a backwater. From 1959, even Franco was stimulating rapid economic growth by reducing state control of the economy and encouraging foreign investment. Spain became a global hub for mass tourism, which pushed the society in a liberal direction.Banning Coca-ColaSalazar had always been suspicious of the benefits of intensifying economic interaction, the term which has become known as globalisation. Coca-Cola, for example, was banned. Portugal’s geographical position on the fringes of Western Europe enabled Salazar, albeit with diminishing success, to shield the population from socio-economic changes and cultural shifts which were bound to raise expectations, even among a mainly rural population. Though Salazar emphasised his independence from special interest groups, it became increasingly clear that his economic policies favoured a range of dominant sectors in agriculture, commerce and industry. The wave of public works he had unveiled in the 1930s slackened during the second half of his rule, while his admirers rarely probed the continuation of Portugal’s poverty and low literacy rates. Having set limits on the actions of the state, loans were discouraged and investment was limited. Salazar himself died having little money and few possessions. In 1949, he had said: ‘I owe to Providence the grace to be poor … I am an independent man.’Salazar never worked out a coherent philosophy for this new age. He warned that an obsession with equality and increasing consumerism was creating a shallow culture in the West, in which important but less tangible human needs were being neglected, but his corporatist model for solving class conflict barely got off the ground. Increasingly, he relied on a narrow circle of confidants. Room for new talent only arose when the ageing leader faced a succession of crises. In 1958, the managed elections for the ceremonial presidency slipped out of his control. Humberto Delgado, a flamboyant general who had been a regime loyalist, opposed the official candidate. He gained support even in the conservative, church-minded north of Portugal. Forced into exile after winning over a quarter of the vote, he was later murdered by Salazar’s secret police after plotting to overthrow the regime.Yet the biggest crisis of Salazar’s premiership was the outbreak of fighting in Portugal’s African territories in 1961. A 13-year colonial war bled the country economically. A massive military force was bogged down in what was an unwinnable war.Ultimately, it was the US which posed the biggest external threat to the continuation of Salazar’s rule, with the Kennedy regime barely bothering to conceal its desire to see him ousted. US policy-makers feared that mineral-rich Angola would fall into communist hands, but a coup plot hatched by senior officers failed in 1961. Salazar’s diminishing energies were concentrated on defying the winds of change in Africa, but he was unable to withstand the forces of globalisation. Emigration increased throughout the 1960s as Portuguese voted with their feet for a better life, mainly in France or the Benelux countries.Anachronistic figureAged 79 in 1968, as the youth revolution swept across much of the Western world, Salazar was by now a thoroughly anachronistic figure. His political model, rooted in preserving a strong local sense of community and culture and centred on household, family and faith had failed to acquire permanence. Unable to develop an alternative to modern liberalism, it was no surprise when pent-up frustrations with Salazar’s rule burst out in a revolution that spent itself after 18 months in 1975.Conservatives elsewhere, often alarmed by the problems mounting under a liberal political state, may have some respect for Salazar, but the authoritarian character of the regime disqualifies his New State from being any kind of model for contemporary right-wingers, who believe electoral democracy is their chief bulwark against progressive uniformity. Salazar disdained the ballot box, yet the legitimacy of national elections has become central for many opposed to a global order dominated by transnational economic forces.Ironically, it is now often among progressives that key elements of Salazar’s autocratic worldview are to be found, amid increasing concerns about the volatility or ignorance of the masses and how they can easily be manipulated. These views have been vigorously expressed in the media following the election of Donald Trump as US president and the decision of a majority of British electors to vote to leave the EU, both in 2016. The case for election or referendum results being modified by judicial or bureaucratic interventions is heard increasingly. Experts qualified to manage complex problems are often seen as possessing the wisdom to restrain or override politicians chosen by unstable or fickle electorates.The emergence of a virtuous strongman would still appear to enjoy most appeal on the political right. The ‘aristocracy of experts’, however, which Salazar made the cornerstone of his regime, has revived as a political concept even among those political circles which the Portuguese autocrat spent his life opposing.Tom Gallagher is Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Bradford. He is writing a biography of Salazar.

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The Munich Crisis: Waiting for the End of the World

The Munich Crisis: Waiting for the End of the World

Julie V. Gottlieb

The wait for the outcome of the Munich Conference and the looming spectre of another war hung over Britain in 1938. Its impact was deeply felt.

After the annexation of Austria in March 1938, Hitler set his sights on the Sudetenland. This part of the newly formed Czechoslovakia had a majority German-speaking population. Hitler’s territorial ambitions threatened to propel Europe into another world war. Both the democracies and the dictatorships, as well as their respective populations, were materially and psychologically unprepared and ill-equipped for another total war. It was feared that this would be a war in which ‘the bomber will always get through’, making little distinction between civilian and soldier. The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain personified both the policy and the sensibility of appeasement, ready to make concessions to Germany to avoid war. In an act of personally courageous statesmanship, in the eyes of many, Chamberlain paid three visits to Hitler in a span of two weeks, the third on 29-30 September for the Four Powers Conference (Germany, Britain, Italy and France), where the Munich Agreement and the fate of Czechoslovakia was sealed. The Agreement, betraying and dismembering Czechoslovakia for the sake of what turned out to be only temporary peace, and Chamberlain’s triumphant return to London, when he declared his achievement as ‘peace for our time’, are some of the most memorable and memorably disconcerting moments in modern history.This is a familiar story most often told from the point of view of the great and ‘guilty’ men who acted in the unfolding drama. But what about the masses? The anxiety, relief and shame of what was immediately dubbed the Munich Crisis had a profound impact on every stratum of the population. These weeks, and especially the four days from 25 September, saw a population in hand-wringing, edge-of-their-seats suspense, waiting to hear if it would be peace or war.The Crisis received blanket coverage at the time and it has been the subject of intense debate and controversy among historians, politicians and scholars of international relations ever since. Insofar as the British public has been considered, it has been through the ways in which their leaders perceived the popular mood and sought to manufacture and manipulate it. However, the Munich Crisis had a profound effect on individuals and on the public collectively.Dramatic unfoldingThe emotionally transformative impact of the Munich Crisis was reinforced by the way it unfolded like a tragic-heroic drama, its theatricality and Shakespearian qualities scripted by the main protagonists themselves. Days after, on 2 October, Chamberlain wrote to his sister and confidant Hilda:For me, I confess that it seemed only too possible that all the prayers of all the peoples of the world including Germany herself might break against the fanatical obstinacy of one man. I daresay Annie [his wife] has told you or will tell you of the birth of the last desperate snatch at the last tuft of grass on the very verge of the precipice. That the news of the deliverance should come to me in the very act of closing my speech in the House was a piece of drama that no work of fiction ever surpassed. The events of the next 48 hours entail terrific physical and mental exertions.Following this moment of deliverance, as Chamberlain boarded the plane en route to Munich, he quoted Hotspur in Henry V: ‘Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.’ Chamberlain’s heart-racing experience of the Munich Conference was experienced, at one remove but no less intensely, by millions.While the dramatic unfolding of the Crisis was acted out by leading statesmen, almost everyone felt anxiety, tension and bewilderment followed either by cathartic relief or profound shame (or a confusing combination of the two). ‘That terrible waiting for a Yes or No, with nerves torn to shreds, was like those moments in July 1914 all over again,’ Stefan Zweig recalled. Although a Jewish writer in exile in London from his native Austria – which had been annexed by Hitler only months before – even Zweig was overcome with relief and admitted that ‘everyone who lived through those three days in England felt that they were wonderful while they lasted’. As the war veteran, classical scholar and crisis diarist F.L. Lucas put it: ‘The Crisis seems to have filled the world with nervous break-downs. Or perhaps the Crisis itself was only one more nervous break-down of a world driven by the killing pace of modern life and competition into ever acuter neurasthenia.’Indeed, because the September Crisis was all-consuming, in turn, the popular enthusiasm played its part in either emboldening or enervating the main protagonists. While Chamberlain took the scenes of public adulation and the flood of more than 20,000 ‘Crisis letters’ of thanks as validation of his actions, Hitler was infuriated by Chamberlain’s popularity, especially among subjects of the Third Reich. Similarly, Mussolini was unpleasantly surprised by the Italian people’s elation that war had been averted, these sentiments so completely at odds with the essential militarism of the Fascist creed. The French prime minister Edouard Daladier, on the other hand, although mobbed by adoring crowds when he returned to Paris from Munich, muttered ‘Ah les cons! S’ils savaient’ (Ah, the fools! If only they knew).The heavy panicHow did the people themselves experience the tense months that proved to be the last moments of a precarious peace? How did it feel to live through the Munich Crisis and, alternatively, how did it feel to want to die because of the oppressive ‘war fear’ and spiralling levels of private and public anxiety?The impact of the Munich Crisis did not discriminate between rich and poor, women and men, the powerful and the disenfranchised, the young and the old, or city folk, suburbanites and rural dwellers. Literary and confessional sources have preserved the physical and visceral reactions to the Crisis. In his Autumn Journal, the poet Louis MacNeice’s lines convey how talk of ‘Hodza, Henlein, Hitler’ caused ‘The heavy panic that cramps the lungs and presses/ The collar down the spine.’ In her memoir, Light of Common Day (1959), Diana Cooper, celebrated actress and wife of Duff Cooper, who resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty because of his opposition to the Munich Agreement, wrote of how the Crisis brought on severe mental disturbance: ‘My own condition was deteriorating fast. Fear did more harm to my physique than to my morale. Sleep was murdered for ever. My heart quaked, yet I must appear valiant. My hands shook, so work must be found to steady them. Always a pessimist, I could imagine nothing worse than what must happen perhaps tomorrow – war, death, London utterly demolished, frantic crowds stampeding, famine and disease …’[[{“fid”:”43466″,”view_mode”:”float_right”,”fields”:{“format”:”float_right”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Cover of the Daily Sketch, 29 September 1938.”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:”Cover of the Daily Sketch, 29 September 1938.”,”external_url”:””},”link_text”:null,”type”:”media”,”field_deltas”:{“1”:{“format”:”float_right”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Cover of the Daily Sketch, 29 September 1938.”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:”Cover of the Daily Sketch, 29 September 1938.”,”external_url”:””}},”attributes”:{“alt”:”Cover of the Daily Sketch, 29 September 1938.”,”title”:”Cover of the Daily Sketch, 29 September 1938.”,”class”:”media-element file-float-right”,”data-delta”:”1″}}]]As Cooper’s symptoms and her internalisation of the international emergency suggest, the weeks of the Munich Crisis and its aftermath were not only the last phase of an impossible peace. They were a war of nerves. The strategising, trickery and behaviour under pressure of politicians, diplomats and propaganda chiefs were likened to a hyper-intense waiting game, a high-stakes game of poker, in which they gambled with the fate of the peoples of Europe. This was a period of suspense and the exacerbation of nervous disorder and mental illness.Different sources, and ones not much referred to so far in appeasement scholarship, reveal the true state of the nation and of collective feeling. Press reporting of the crowd unwittingly preserved a history from below, although it was the new techniques of polling and social surveys that documented the popular response to international events. Only established in 1937, the British Institute of Public Opinion (BIPO) or British Gallup’s polls revealed the impact of political crisis on people’s lives. Also founded in 1937, Mass-Observation’s dedicated study of the Crisis was part of its innovative ‘anthropology of ourselves’ – social scientific surveying, which captured the response of working-class and local communities to the Munich Agreement.The psychological and emotional repercussions were also collected and analysed by a new branch of psychiatric and medical clinicians. These were medical psychologists influenced by Sigmund Freud, who had himself arrived in London as a refugee in June 1938. The British psychoanalyst Edward Glover studied the collective response to the Crisis and concluded: ‘The general populace … celebrated their temporary relief from anxiety in an almost hysterical outburst when Chamberlain returned with “peace in our time”.’ Glover argued that this was not necessarily an indication of widespread antiwar feeling, or of pacifism per se, but rather sudden relief from the anxiety of impending war.Accessories of appeasementIn addition, material culture – the stuff of history and the history of stuff – can be excavated profitably to unearth a social history of the Crisis. The production and consumption of so many objects related to the Munich Agreement confirm Chamberlain’s popularity and celebrity at home and abroad. Women, seen as representing a ‘peace bloc’ of the electorate and thus assumed to be instinctive appeasers, were even more swept up in the Chamberlain frenzy as conspicuous consumers of the accessories of appeasement.One eloquent example of the female support for appeasement is that of a particular Christmas card for 1938, as in most cases it would have been the lady of the house who carried out the ritual of dispatching season’s greetings. The card carried the motto ‘Peace on earth and goodwill to men’ and showed the photograph taken on 30 September of George VI and Queen Elizabeth with Mr and Mrs Chamberlain greeting the crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace – Chamberlain’s first stop after landing at Heston airport was Buckingham Palace. In fact, the staging of this display was unprecedented and controversial; in posing with the Chamberlains, the king was essentially providing a royal endorsement to the Munich Agreement. ‘Clever to bring in both Crown and Deity as Conservative election-agents,’ wrote F.L. Lucas.Women were also the target market for a wide range of gimmicky appeasement trinkets, ranging from Chamberlain dolls to ‘Chamberlain: The Man of Peace’ commemorative plates, cups and tankards, and umbrella-themed jewellery, fabric patterns, clocks, toys and confectionery.Mass-marketed masksThere were many objects, most material but one in particular ethereal, that seemed to encapsulate the Crisis. In the spring of 1939 readers of the Manchester Guardian were asked to select articles to be interred as memorials in Waterloo Bridge. The top three ‘topical’ items were, first, a gas mask or ‘a baby’s gas mask’, second, Mr Chamberlain’s umbrella and, third, a torn treaty.The first two have a number of things in common. Both the gas mask and the umbrella are functional and practical; they are both mechanical devices that serve to shield and to protect, defensive rather than aggressive. Both reinforce the narrative of the British war as a defensive war. The umbrella was the must-have accessory for women and a marker of status for men of a certain class and standing – and it served as protection from the foul British climate. The gas mask was the essential protection against a modern warfare that did not discriminate between soldier and civilian.Indeed, the premier’s umbrella was widely represented, refashioned and commodified, much sought-after and venerated. It rapidly became an object of curiosity, a figure of fun, as well as a lightning rod for derision. In a Freudian analysis, Glover diagnosed ‘the totemistic reactions to Mr Chamberlain’s umbrella’ during the Crisis. In the cartoons of anti-appeaser David Low, Chamberlain was never represented without his umbrella and Low even came to draw him as an umbrella. The national and international obsession with Chamberlain’s umbrella started in the summer of 1938 and to this day the architect of appeasement’s reputation is tightly wound up with his signature accessory.Macabre and ridiculousCertainly the gas mask figured just as prominently as a practical object and as a symbol of the Munich Crisis. It is material, real and tangible, but its purpose is as protection against an element that is unseen and ethereal (but can be smelled). As it happened, the government-issued civilian gas masks would never be used for their intended function. The much-anticipated and nightmarishly imagined gas war inflicted on the British Home Front never materialised.The gas mask very quickly became the reigning symbol of the Crisis and a shorthand for the civilian experience of war preparations. In fact, the first of the four climactic days of the Crisis, 25 September, was dubbed ‘Gas Mask Sunday’, the day most families collected this item of first-line Home-Front defence. The ritual of mother and children collecting their gas masks was poignantly described by the fictional Mrs Miniver (penned by Jan Struther) in The Times: ‘Finally, in another room, there were the masks themselves, stacked close, covering the floor like a growth of black fungus. They took what had been ordered for them – four medium size, two small – and filed out into the street.’ While her children respond with a mix of adventure-seeking and apprehension, Mrs Miniver herself sees both the macabre and the ridiculous in the gas masks.In September, 38 million gas masks were distributed to the civilian population. Although Germany had signed the 1925 Geneva Protocol promising that it would not employ poison gas, most people expected Hitler would use chemical weapons.The widespread terror about an aerial war was one of the main reasons that so many felt overwhelming relief at the Munich Agreement, even as it entailed the betrayal of the Czechs. One Mass-Observation respondent, M.E. Grant, described how: ‘Friday: Early morning. Peace declared, what a relief for everyone, and what a triumph for Mr Chamberlain and Herr Hitler … One school teacher told me that the children were very disappointed that there was no war, they were quite enjoying the excitement and were anxious to try out their gas masks.’ Already on 1 October 1938, one pro-Chamberlain journalist writing for the Aberdeen Press and Journal explained that what he would most remember about the morning after the night before was that ‘when I came down to breakfast yesterday morning, the family gas masks in the hall looked hopelessly out of date. They belonged to another world’.At first nearly everyone carried the masks in their distinctive cardboard boxes. On 6 September 1938, a survey of passers-by on Westminster Bridge showed that 71 per cent of men and 76 per cent of women had their masks with them. But on 9 November 1938, the figure had dropped to 24 per cent of men and 39 per cent of women. (By December 20,000 masks had been handed in to London Transport’s Lost Property Office.)Weapons of mass protectionOne more thing that the umbrella and gas mask had in common was that both were imaginatively repurposed and marketed. Necessity is truly the mother of invention and, at the Institute of Patentees exhibition in May 1939 there were many prototypes for wartime precautions on display. These included a folding gas-proof room, anti-gas perambulator, a combined respirator and gas-proof suit and an umbrella with a shooting-stick attachment that, said the Manchester Guardian, ‘may have interest for Mr Chamberlain when he next goes to Munich’.There was, however, more to these objects than the instances of popular acceptance of the gas mask and positive and playful associations between Chamberlain and his umbrella. Both gas mask and umbrella became weaponised and were used as objects of protest and to express dissent. A good example of this is when Sir John Anderson, then minister in charge of civil defence, addressed a National Service Rally in St Andrew’s Hall in Glasgow. Stormy scenes occurred outside the hall, with over 1,000 demonstrators carrying slogan-inscribed umbrellas, imitation air raid shelters and banners. One protester inside the hall threw a gas mask in front of the principal speaker, shouting: ‘We want real protection.’ Both umbrella and gas mask were deemed, and rightly so, inadequate protection against modern diplomacy and modern warfare. As early as 1934 Helena Swanwick, the feminist and pacifist journalist, had exposed the inadequacy of gas masks and the political purpose to which they were placed. In Frankenstein and His Monster: Aviation for World Service, Swanwick wrote:It is impossible to believe that any of the Governments which, like Germany, Poland, and Yugoslavia, are said to be organising distribution of gas-masks, holding gas-drills, construction of gas-proof shelters, can have any belief at all in the efficacy of such measures in face of a serious assault … Governments must be perfectly aware of the futility of all this gas-mask nonsense, and we are driven to the unpleasant conclusion that they want to work their peoples up to such a state of ‘nerves’ which will make them uncritically obedient to any alarmist summons.Swanwick’s warnings were indeed prophetic, as much in the subjective as in the collective sense. She committed suicide on 16 November 1939, this fatal decision reached because she could not bear to live through another world war.This, then, brings us to one of the most tragic appearances of gas masks, as they figured in cases of suicide. Already in the Penguin Special, Britain by Mass-Observation (1939), Harrisson and Madge, two of Mass-Observation’s founders, were trying to define what ‘crisis’ meant, its etymology, as well as its various psychological symptoms. The Crisis was a national one, but it also had private and personal ramifications and one of the saddest phenomena to encounter is a series of Crisis-triggered suicides. In countless reports of coroners’ proceedings, the war scare was identified as the cause of suicide, while another recurring presence was gas and gas masks.A people’s crisisSuicide by gas poisoning had been steadily on the increase over the preceding three decades and, as such, we should not be unduly surprised by its frequency, especially in the home and often by women who put an end to it all by putting their heads in the oven, in what was, after all, that not so liberating room of their own, the kitchen. The greater access to gas appliances, however, and the publicity surrounding cases of suicide by gas poisoning meant that this was coming to be the most employed suicide method by 1938.The international crisis was blamed for the suicide of a Suffolk horticulturist, Roger Notcutt, 36, of Woodbridge. The inquest revealed that, after helping to assemble gas masks at an Air Raid Precaution (ARP) centre, he called at home and then disappeared. He was later found by a search party, having shot himself. Notcutt’s role in assembling the gas masks set this personal tragedy in motion.In another case, after listening to Hitler’s speech in German on 26 September and then going to collect his gas mask straight after, William Neatham Rumbell, a 27-year-old sales clerk of St John’s Crescent, Brixton, cried out ‘Well, that means war,’ and gassed himself in his room. The coroner’s verdict was that the man was suffering from extreme anxiety neurosis brought to a head by recent events.The international crisis, worry about air raids and anxiety around the ‘kiddies’ gas masks’ was the explanation given for the suicide of Mrs Violet Dixon, aged 31, of Chelmsford. For this young mother the rumoured inadequacy of the gas mask to protect her children was the trigger, leading her to turn on the gas cooker to kill herself.In 1942 police were trying to identity a human skeleton found in Sidmouth Wood, in Richmond Park, London. The inquest found it had probably been there well over a year and that the circumstances suggested suicide. Found near the remains were a bowler hat, shoes, particles of a grey suit, four bottles containing a grey fluid and a civilian gas mask. The situation of the gas mask reminds us how it had become an essential personal item, as well as an item that embodied people’s worst fears.These suicides, triggered by the fear of war, are the most heartrending casualties of a war of nerves that preceded and precipitated the Second World War. It reminds us that, while the Munich Crisis was a crisis managed by politicians and magnified by the media, it was also internalised by the masses, not least by the most vulnerable in society. We are accustomed to approaching the Second World War from social and cultural perspectives and it is vital that these angles and insights are unmasked as we mark the 80th anniversary of what was clearly a ‘People’s Crisis’.Julie V. Gottlieb is Reader in Modern History at the University of Sheffield. She is the author of ‘Guilty Women’, Foreign Policy and Appeasement (Palgrave, 2015).

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Today in History for 22nd August 2018

Historical Events

1826 – Colonies under Jedediah Strong Smith move near Salt Lake Utah
1957 – Floyd Patterson KOs Pete Rademacher in 6 for heavyweight boxing title
1962 – USSR performs nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya USSR
1982 – Joanne Carner wins LPGA Chevrolet World Championship of Women’s Golf
1984 – Met pitcher Dwight Gooden becomes 11th rookie to strikeout 200
2004 – The rowing program at the Athens Olympics ends with the United States winning the men’s eights, and Romania taking the gold in the women’s eights

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Famous Birthdays

1827 – Edouard Silas, Dutch composer, born in Amsterdam (d. 1909)
1915 – James Hillier, Canadian-American inventor (co-created the electron microscope), born in Brantford, Canada (d. 2007)
1934 – John Chowning, American composer, born in Salem, New Jersey
1949 – Diana Nyad, American journalist and long-distance swimmer (1st to swim Bahamas to Fla-1979), born in NYC, New York
1967 – Yukiko Okada, Japanese idol singer, born in Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan (d. 1986)
1973 – Jennifer Makris, Miss USA-New Jersey (1997, top 10)

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Famous Deaths

1350 – Philip VI, of Valois, King of France (1328-50), dies at about 57
1807 – Maria, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, dies at 71
1910 – George Palmer, cricketer (17 Tests for Aust 1880-86, 78 wickets), dies
1933 – Adolf Loos, Austria architect (building of houses), dies at 62
1973 – Louise Huff, actress (Sea Waif, Caprice, Disraeli), dies at 77
1994 – Tom Quirke, journalist, dies at 42

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