This is a book on an area that has not received much modern attention (although just like buses, you wait for ages then two come along at once: in the last couple of months another work has appeared on this very topic - Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer. How depressing must that be to the writer of the second one....). It tells a good story though: the tale of how Charles I came to be tried and executed and how after the restoration of his son Charles II, tables were turned and the regicides became the hunted themselves.
Don Jordan and Michael Walsh have a background in documentary journalism rather than academic history and this perhaps contributes to the fact that the work is accessible and reads well. The background to the execution of Charles is dealt with briefly but clearly and the narrative of the trial and execution reads well. Where the book is most valuable is in describing the period of chaos, treachery and political wheeler-dealing that followed the death of Oliver Cromwell and the failure of his son Richard. Normally this receives limited focus as standard works (and exam courses) move swiftly to the Restoration of Charles II. Here though we see the full reaction to regime change. Fellow travellers of the Republic rush to change sides (in some cases becoming double-agents to help root out the Republicans who do not sway), and are quick to be visibly praising the restored monarchy and attacking the outgoing regime. Villain of the piece is portrayed to be General Monck, erstwhile General in the New Model Army, but then turncoat who changes sides and uses his forces to neutralise the Republican military and prepare the way for Charles II to return.
As part of the terms for his return, Charles II promises "Oblivion" a pardon to all but those who signed his father's death warrant. The new monarch however is shown as being far from charitable towards the surviving leaders of the Commonwealth and those (such as "Cornet Joyce" who originally took his father under arrest) he felt bore some part of the responsibility for the execution of the King. Vengeance is a better description than mercy as signatories of the document sentencing Charles I to death are arrested, tried with little real opportunity at defence, then (described in detail) hanged, castrated, disembowelled (still alive) and quartered. In an ironic echo of the Marian executions a century earlier, the dignity shown by those dying does much to uphold their cause - to the concern of Charles II.
The list of those excluded from pardon keeps growing, agents comb Europe (and less successfully the colonies in north America) assassinating, seeking rendition and extradition. It appears the town of Vevey in Swiss Bern was one of the few places to genuinely offer asylum and protect against Royalist agents. This is where Edmund Ludlow, whom many of the exiles hoped might lead the invasion to depose Charles II, managed to live safely until his death in 1692.
The King's Revenge shows clearly that the end of the Commonwealth did not only mean a restoration of monarchy. It also brought an end to a period when principle was a key determinant of policy. The men of principle were forced to hide or were extinguished. Those left behind in England and in politics were the survivors, those willing to bend to suit expediency. These politicians, rather than the restored monarchy were to set the tone for the future development of English and then British democracy. The "Good Old Cause" was well and truly buried.
A recent Guardian article has written reviews of various apps that could be of help to classroom teachers. Clearly the usefulness of each will depend on teaching style but the list is worth a look and includes:
QuickKey, a free app that enables your phone to scan quizzes, tests and surveys on paper and mark them. (Can it do source questions?)
Google Classroom which quickly makes a copy of a Google document for each of your students (ready for those source questions)
Class Dojo or TeachersAssistantPro both appear to provide alternatives for behaviour management, for when your charges tire of the sources.
The page has many more (not all applicable to History teaching) including a couple to pep up powerpoints. Finally, look at the Reader Comments......
First published in the 1990's before Beevor's series of very successful wartime histories this follows a similar pattern to the later works: a basic narrative supplemented consistently with contemporary accounts/ descriptions/ diary extracts.
The work falls into four sections, the first of which, Paris before, during and after liberation, I found the most useful. Beevor and his co-author provide a concise yet clear outline of the fall of France and the political in-fighting that followed, especially with the creation of Vichy France. The general reader should find this very helpful in understanding the attitudes and prejudices that divided postwar France as well as explaining its at time difficult response to the postwar USA and UK. The section on liberation and immediate aftermath deals clearly with the Epuration, or purging of collaborators as well as with the various shades of individuals able to evade the process.
Less successful are the other sections. The conflict between the French Communist Party and the supporters of the Republic (as well as the proto Gaullists) receives thorough treatment as does the (almost imperceptible) move towards closer ties with Germany. Schumann and Monnet are presented especially favourably as statesman of vision when most others were still fighting the battles of the past. De Gaulle's attempt to form a "bridge" between the USA/UK and the Soviet Union is also made clear. There is much reliance on the Duff Cooper diaries (unsurprisingly as the writer -and wife of Beevor) was the grand-daughter of Duff Cooper, UK ambassador in Paris, and whilst this provides witness descriptions it does slant the account of life in the post liberation capital towards those at the top of French society. There is very little supported account of how liberation and the postwar hardships impacted on the mass of the population.
A strong thread throughout is the impact of events on cultural life in Paris, and the relationships of the Parisian intellectuals with each other receives full treatment. Here is an explanation of why French intellectuals held such sway for left wing intellectuals across Europe until the early seventies – as well as clues as to how this may have been misguided. Unfortunately this could be better organised in the main body of the text. At times it seems De Beauvoir, Sartre, Camus, Picasso et al are included to provide some lighter relief from France's political travails.
Overall a worthwhile read, if not one of Beevor's best, largely for the first 100 or so pages on the politics of 1940-45 in the English language and the cultural history provided thereafter which reads like a whose who of France's thinking and scribbling classes of the time.
This weekend sees the last ceramic poppy being placed in the moat of the Tower of London to remember each of the 888,246 British and Commonwealth dead during World War 1. The impressive display has attracted huge attention - 4million people are expected to have visited before 12 November, when the installation will begin to be dismantled. Undoubtedly it is the size of the poppy field which has been most stunning. Seeing so many poppies does show the true magnitude of the British and Commonwealth dead.
These though were only a fraction of the total dead and to try and show this the Quakers have produced a mapshowing which parts of London would be covered with poppies if they included international deaths, civilian and military. Like the installation at the Tower, they used a rate of 50 poppies per square metre or 500,000 per hectare, each poppy representing one war death.
Their map shows which areas of London would be covered and shows them by area of combatant:
military and civilian figures for The Allies, 25 nations including Britain and France
Deaths for the opposing Central Powers, Germany, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria.
The poppies are spread on the ground between buildings, along roads, bridges and the banks of the Thames, reaching Buckingham Palace via Trafalgar Square and the Cenotaph. Sharp eyed map viewers will also find the modest recognition of conscientious objectors who died during the war.
Instead of red poppies they have used white poppies, the symbol of peace from the Peace Pledge Union worn by many as part of their Remembrance since 1918 . By clicking on each warring group in the key you can see which areas of London would be covered and also a photo montage of the white poppies as if they were actually in place on these streets. The image alongside shows the white poppies for the dead of the other Allied nations placed around the moat of the Tower with its red poppies.
Recent changes to the way chrome and internet explorer display websites has led to a few issues with the rendering of casahistoria. Text is a little smaller (but that probably makes for easier reading on mobile devices) but the size of ad boxes has grown larger in proportion to text (could this be a deliberate ploy....) so that in some cases they overran text beneath them.
Hopefully this has now been prevented by the new presentation of cafe posts at the top left of each page. These now come with thumbnails and should make them easier to read as well as click on! At the same time the posts continue to take a more streamlined form. News items will now appear in a single, updated post during the course of a month with each item having its own link.
This month has several interesting items that are free access:
The Origins of the Shroud of Turin Charles Freeman, surprised by the lack of research into one of the great unsolved mysteries, reveals for the first time his groundbreaking examination into the creation of the venerated object.
Inside the Theatre of Experience Historians and literary scholars should be encouraged to share their insights in order to paint a more complete picture of the past, argues Mathew Lyons.
Joan of Arc: New Visions or Old? Helen Castor asks if a medical diagnosis for Joan of Arc's 'visions', first proposed in History Today in 1958, neglects the role of religion, all pervasive in the enchanted world of the Middle Ages. Reviews