Thursday, September 27, 2012

UK in the Twentieth Century

England’s Angry Muslims,
Churchill, the Decline of Great Britain, and The Troubles…..
--a discussion about the UK in the Twentieth Century

            Once a month, a small group gathers in the Rockport Public Library, to rip into some piece of world history.
            William Tobin, history teacher at Cambridge Rindge & Latin, began the group ten years ago, and now, he’s pushed the fledgling history students out of the nest, to fly on their own.  He is now devoting his attention to the company he formed four years ago, W.T. Green Energy Consultants.
            This month, the topic is The United Kingdom in the Twentieth Century. 
            In the past few decades, many thousands of former subjects of the Queen have come “home” to England to work and live.  A whole world of Pakistanis came for jobs that paid much more than they could earn at home.  They rented and bought cheap real estate and formed ghettos.  They had their families join them, and they lived in tight-knit communities where they tried to re-create the society they came from.  The same mosques, the same language, the same dress style, particularly with the women.  They did not, or could not mix with the British population. 
            Jobs dried up.  They felt alienated and frustrated.  It took little to start the idea of Jihad among some. 
            Beverly Varrengia introduced  the subject of the growing population of Muslims in the U.K. with Melanie Phillips’ book Londonistan: How Britain Created a Terror State Within. 2006.
            How will Great Britain deal with a growing population of people who have little desire to become members of British society, who feel isolated and alienated, and in some cases have grown into a massive, seething cauldron of hate and trouble? 
            We may see the beginnings of the same situation in the United States, and certainly we have seen it in several other European countries. 
            The word “Multiculturalism”--- what does it mean?  Is there a general attitude amongst the majority of Britons of appeasement, denial, compliance? 
            Then, we turn our attention to Northern Ireland, and all those years of hateful conflict between the Loyalists, Protestants holding on to Great Britain for their lives, and the Catholic opposition
            Dick Varrengia reports on  Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland by David McKittrick and David McVea. New Amsterdam Books. 2002. 368 pp.
            “The Troubles” raged in Northern Ireland, and boiled over to Britain and Ireland during its nearly 30 years, from the late 1960s until nearly 2000.
            It is hard to imagine the white-hot hatred of those times.
            The tension between England’s Muslims occupies our thoughts—then we’ve shifted to the tension between Catholics and Protestants, who are all Irish.

            Rick Heuser is next to present his view of Britain in the 20th century with Our Times: The Age of Elizabeth II by A.N. Wilson.
            Now, we’ve faced the raging Muslims and the angry Northern Irish.  Now we have A.N. Wilson, an author of over 40 books, delving into the modern history of Great Britain. It’s not a pretty story, because Britain is in “unrelenting decline.”  
             Dominic Sandbrook, writing a review of Our Times in The Guardian in 2008 notes that Wilson gives “the biggest beating” of any politician to “Roy Jenkins, or 'Woy', as Wilson calls him. Since Jenkins is usually the hero of books like this, there is something unexpectedly and perversely refreshing about finding him traduced. When Woy first surfaces, Wilson draws attention to his 'Balliol bumptiousness' and 'claret-marinaded dinner-party manners' and mocks the 'pomposity of his aristocratic, high-table verbal mannerisms ... the ever-stirring right hand, sometimes to emphasise a debating point, sometimes to feel along a hostess's thigh'. But he is only warming up, for when Woy reappears as a founder of the SDP, he is 'puffed-up, pompous and vacuous'. He was, Wilson tells us, 'an incompetent Home Secretary and a disastrous Chancellor', his achievements dwarfed by those of Margaret Thatcher, a 'person of high intelligence'.”

            Which brings us to the last book, which I report:  Churchill, A Biography, by Roy Jenkins, 2001. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1002 pp.
            No one in the United Kingdom made more of an impact upon that country, indeed the British Empire, in the Twentieth Century than Winston Churchill.  
            In spite of A.N. Wilson, I found Roy Jenkins in a different light. Jenkins (1920-2003) was a career politician, entering Parliament in 1948 and staying connected with British government for 50 years.  His biography of Churchill, one of 18 books he wrote, is an excellent look at the long life of Winston Churchill (1874-1965).
            Churchill lived his life with a destiny for greatness.  He was a soldier, but unlike nearly any other.  He managed to position himself where he would experience danger, and then he managed to capture the exclusive rights to the story. Even when he was on the Queen’s list as a young soldier, (in India, Sudan and South Africa) he was mailing back thick dispatches to London newspapers.
            Roy Jenkins wrote this voluminous engorgement of parliamentary history in two and a half years, when he was in his eighties.  At every point one can sense Jenkins’ rather tart view of Churchill.  He gives Winston his due, as a statesman, elegant speaker and writer, but also as an almost mythical character,  who always, in the direst of times, manages to sit down to a well-laid table and enjoy a fine meal, with plenty of champagne, port, brandy and a good cigar.
            Churchill might have been one of those fine men we have seen all through British history, and that of the United States.  The man, born to a leading family, accustomed to wealth and station, attending the “right” schools, occupies reasonably impressive posts in government. 
            In America, Henry Cabot Lodge, Averill Harriman, Teddy Kennedy come to mind.
            However, Churchill, who tried his utmost time and again to elevate himself in British government, from his days as a “Flailing” First Lord of the Admiralty in World War I, became the right man at the right time after Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s disastrous handling of relations with Adolf Hitler put Britain at the brink.
            It is amazing how Jenkins, an excellent writer, can delve into tons of letters, diaries, official journals and other material to construct a colorful, extremely detailed picture of Winston’s life and his relations with those around him.  Churchill often whisks himself away to the south of France, or cadges a voyage in the Mediterranean aboard the yacht of a wealthy acquaintance, and while he is thus “resting”, churns out reams of manuscript for his next book or article.
            Churchill’s life style was legendary.  He stayed in bed until noontime, furiously dictating memos, letters, newspaper articles. Then his valet drew his bath and he lowered his fat, pink body into the tub.   After dressing, he would engage in the performance of luncheon, which routinely involved distinguished guests who would partake of Winston’s rich wit and wisdom.  There were always good food, wine and spirits, and cigars. 
            In the afternoon, if Parliament were sitting, he would attend, and perhaps deliver a speech.
            Then there would be dinner, another spread of elegant food, drink and people, usually with Winston as the principal figure.
            Jenkins’ account of Churchill’s leadership of Britain after he became Prime Minister in May, 1940 is particularly interesting.  Winston flew to France numerous times to try to give the French leaders (PM Paul Reynaud et al) encouragement to resist Hitler. At the same time, Churchill was trying his best to bring the United States into the fray, so once he promised the French that American intervention was nigh.  Jenkins called Churchill’s hopefulness of that “living in cloud-cuckoo land”.
            Churchill tried everything to get Roosevelt to commit to U.S. intervention.  Roosevelt sent Harry Hopkins to visit Churchill early in 1941, and Hopkins spent a month with him.  The two formed a fast friendship. Jenkins notes that Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s relationship was never that warm sort of friendship.
            Here’s this comment:
“…in joint wartime photographs, from Placentia to Yalta, Roosevelt always looked Churchill’s superior. He held his head higher, and his careless yet patrician civilian clothes suited him better than the fancy uniforms which Churchill was only too inclined to assume…..Roosevelt… often enhanced by a long cigarette holder at a jaunty angle. In the nicotine stakes this was a more elegant symbol than Churchill’s often spittle-sodden cigars.” p.663.
            Churchill came to lead Britain in its darkest hours at the start of the war with Hitler. He replaced Neville Chamberlain, a man who will forever by identified with weakness and appeasement.   Nazi bombers were pounding London and other British cities, and invasion by the Germans by air and sea seemed imminent.  Morale was low.  His leadership at the beginning was resisted, and unappreciated, but he persisted, and the British people came to see him as the figure leading them to victory.
            In 1946, after he was voted out of office and Clement Atlee became Prime Minister, the new United States President Harry Truman invited Churchill to come to Westminster College in Fulton, MO to speak.  This was the famed speech where he declared:

            “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

            In this speech, which was met with great animosity not only in the USSR, but in many parts of the U.S., Europe and the U.K., Churchill drew the shape of the Cold War that would dominate our lives for the next four decades.  It was primarily important for sounding the call for an alliance between the U.S. and the U.K. to oppose communism, and the beginning of the idea of a North Atlantic alliance.
            Churchill suffered a final stroke 12 January 1965 and died 24 January. His funeral was a grand affair, with his body lying in state in Westminster Hall for three days. This was the first time such an affair for a non-royal personage had taken place since the death of Gladstone in 1898.

            If you live near Rockport, we invite you to join us for History Book Club meetings.  Our next meeting is Wednesday, October 31 (Hallowe’en). The topic will be Russia in the 20th century.  Beverly Verrengia will chair the meeting.  Attendees can read about the time of Nicholas II, the Russian Revolution, the early years of Communist Russia and Lenin, Stalin and World War II, the Siege of Leningrad, the Cold War, the Collapse of the USSR, or any related topic.

    For its November 30 meeting the club will turn its attention to Germany in the 20th century, and that will include the start of the century, the Kaiser and the Great War, the Weimar Republic, the origin of the Nazi party and Hitler, World War II, Divided Germany after the war, the Berlin Blockade, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Reunification, or other such topics. Richard Verrengia will lead this meeting.

    The January, 2013 meeting will focus on China in the 20th century, from Sun-Yat-Sen to the Rape of Nanking, Chiang Kai-Shek and World War II, Mao Tse-Dung (Zedong) and the Cultural Revolution, and China after Mao.  Rick Heuser will chair this meeting.

The Personal Navigator offers these books for sale:

Journal of Countess Françoise Krasinska Great Grandmother of Victor Emmanuel, attributed to Klementyna Tanska Hoffman, translated from the Polish by Kasimir Dziekonska. 1896         Chicago, IL: A.C. McClurg and Company. 182 pp. 10 x 16 cm. Fascinating account of a young Polish noblewoman, from 1759 to 1761 as author relates her adventures as in a journal.  She begins, at age 16 in the Castle at Maleszow on New Year's Day.  She tells about her life, her visits to Warsaw, about the King, Augustus III, her sister Basia's forthcoming marriage, and apologizes for disparaging comments about the Staroste, whom she will marry.  Her own wedding is dreadful, conducted in strict secrecy before dawn, to the Duke of Courland.  The journal ends at that point.  The Countess lives a wandering life, in convents in Warsaw and Cracow, her fickle husband returns from time to time, but their marriage is kept secret, to spare the old king the shock. She finally joined him in Saxony, he clung to her and they lived happily.  They had one child, Marie Christine, who married the Duke of Savoy. They had two children, a girl who married the King of Lombardy-Venice and a son who became the father of Victor Emmanuel. Both the King and Queen of Italy are the great-great grandchildren of Françoise Krasinska (1895). With illustrations including portrait of the Countess at frontispiece.          Decorated maroon cloth on board, spine missing, thus poor. (8267). $22.00. Biography  

Lowell on the Merrimack, An Art Souvenir explaining 54 Albertype views of the principal Public Buildings, etc. of the City of Lowell, Mass. by Bigelow, Edwin S., Compiler and Publisher. 1892  Lowell, MA: Edwin S. Bigelow  54 plates. 25 x 17.5 cm.         Very attractive book of high-quality black-and-white photos including Memorial Library, Pawtucket Falls, Boston & Maine R.R. Station, Canal Walk from School Street, City Hall, St. Anne's Episcopal Church, Aiken Street Bridge, Entrance to Lakeview Park and Lake Mascuppic, Residence of Gen. Benj. F. Butler, Nesmith Street, Cricket Club House, Vesper Boat Club House, Court House on Labor Day, 1892, Monument Square and Statue of Victory, with strollers; more. Maroon cloth on board, gilt decoration, lightly mottled, interior binding slightly loose, yet very good. (8262) $40.00. Travel   

Temple Bar, vols. 94, 95. 96, 97, and 102

Temple Bar, with which is incorporated "Bentley's Miscellany", A London Magazine for Town and Country Readers, Vol. 97, January to April 1893        London, England: Richard Bentley & Son, New Burlington Street. 632 pp.            14 x 22 cm. "Diana Tempest" by Mary Cholmondeley; "Letters of a Man of Leisure" gives reader a taste of elegant prose from Edward Fitzgerald, friend of Tennyson and Thackeray. Amazing what a bright, well-educated man can do when he doesn't have to go to work each day. Bingham's Idea by E.L. Phillimore. "Sport in the Snow, or Bear-Hunting in Russia".  Writer hunts for bear near Lake Onega, shoots a splendid old male bear, 540 lbs. "The Campaign of Waterloo" by W. O'Connor Morris. "Frances Anne Kemble" by Henry James.   Half calf and marble boards, very faint rubbing, corners slightly bent,  very good.  (8261) $35.00. Literature
Temple Bar, with which is incorporated "Bentley's Miscellany", A London Magazine for Town and Country Readers, Vol. 95, May to August 1892 London, England: Richard Bentley & Son, New Burlington Street. 588 pp.         14 x 22 cm.  "A Concord On The Steppe" by Francis Prevost,a colorful account of life among the Russian peasants in the shadow of famine, 1891. "English Court Life in the Eighteenth Century" derived from the Letters and Journals of Lady Mary Coke, printed for private circulation in 1889. "The First and Last Days of the Broad Gauge", the rail system that began in 1838, but was superseded by narrow gauge in the 1870s."Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley"; "Wayfaring in the Rouergue" Edward Harrison Barker tells of his adventures in this southwestern part of France, tasting the cheese of Roquefort, visiting Millau, Moulin, St. Affrique; Part of "God's Fool" by Maarten Maartens.           Half calf and marble boards, very faint rubbing, book sales slip attached to rear free endpaper, very good.  (8263) $35.00. Literature    

Temple Bar, with which is incorporated "Bentley's Miscellany", A London Magazine for Town and Country Readers, Vol. 96, September to December 1892 London, England: Richard Bentley & Son, New Burlington Street. 588 pp.        14 x 22 cm.  Part of "God's Fool" by Maarten Maartens. "Old Memories Interviewed" by Mrs. Andrew Crosse, relating her adventures-- guest of Walter Savage Landor, jolly gossip about King Arthur at the Glastonbury archeaological meeting, tales of entomologists-- watching a bee drown a wasp; studying storks (one lady stork had a lover). "A Stroll Through a Great Cruikshank Preserve" by George Somes Layard.  This is an appreciation of George Cruikshank, the last link in the chain of great English satirists.  "Mr. Menelaws: A Long Vacation Study" a jolly narrative about a man who was a poor, blinking, aspiring piece of humanity, whose talent had mouldered, fungus-grown, and whose mind was warped. "Among the Aleuts" writer asks an Aleut why he has married his daughter, and he answers, "Why not? The seals do it." Life among the Aleuts, or Inoits. Food for children includes seals' eyes, lichen scooped out of a reindeer's stomach, and blood drawn from some living animal.              Half calf and marble boards, very faint rubbing, very good.  (8264)  $35.00. Literature      

Temple Bar, with which is incorporated "Bentley's Miscellany", A London Magazine for Town and Country Readers, Vol. 94, January to April 1892        London, England: Richard Bentley & Son, New Burlington Street . 20 pp.            14 x 22 cm. Start of  "God's Fool" by Maarten Maartens. "The Wedded Poets" by Mrs. Andrew Crosse,  drawing upon her rich exposure to the leading lights of English poetry. Catty comment from Wordsworth upon the marriage of Browning to Elizabeth Berrrett, Miss Mitford, the literary gossip and what she had to say about the Brownings, Sara Coleridge's comments on Mrs. Browning's poetry, and Mrs. Crosse's favorite subject, Landor. Much more about the Brownings.  Mrs. Crosse knew everyone in Nineteenth Century literary England. "An Aide-de-Camp of Massena" tells of the fascinating Memoirs of General Marbot, which throw a flood of light on the campaigns of Napoleon. Marbot was aide-de-camp of Augereau, Lannes and Massena. How they all quarrelled!  Rich collection of stories about Napoleon, Sainte Croix, more. "Wayfaring by the Tarn" by Edward Harrison Barker is another of his fascinating journeys in southwestern France. He relates the history of Ambialet, the religious conflict of the 12th and 13th centuries in this area northeast of Toulouse.  "Norway in Winter" by A. Amy Bulley.   Half calf and marble boards, very faint rubbing, old auction sticker on back cover, very good.  (8265) $35.00. Literature          

Temple Bar, with which is incorporated "Bentley's Miscellany", A London Magazine for Town and Country Readers, Vol. 102, May to August 1894        London, England: Richard Bentley & Son, New Burlington Street. 580 pp.            14 x 22 cm. "A French Ambassador at the Court of Catherine II" by Mrs. D'Arcy Collyer. Story of the embassy of M. le Comte de Ségur to St. Petersburg; "The unspeakable Turk" and Turkish-French-Russian foreign relations as Russia became a world power. France saw Turkey and Poland as the best safeguards to the rise in Russian power. Mrs. Collyer tells about how Catherine plagiarized freely the work of Montesquieu in his "Esprit des Lois", and in her heavy correspondence with Grimm, Voltaire, Diderot and others she explores the forefront of French thought when the court at Versailles suppressed innovation. "The Mills of God" by Egerton Castle. "Some Recollections of Yesterday" unearths a letter by Charles Dickens when he was 25 years old. Also about George Cruikshank, who had taken up teetotalism, and Wilkie Collins and Frances Anne Kemble. "Records of an All-round Man" by Mrs. Andrew Crosse about William White Cooper. There is no one that Mrs. Crosse doesn't know! Half calf and marble boards, very faint rubbing,  very good.  (8266) $35.00. Literature

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