Apr 012023

There has recently been some controversy regarding a certain football celebrity comparing current events – in particular the treatment of refugees looking to claim asylum – with the events in Germany in the 1930s. The first was just silly – suspending the celebrity for saying something that had nothing to do with his professional life.

The second is more serious and were objections from Jews comparing current events to the Holocaust. They certainly have a point – too many relatively trivial things get compared to the Holocaust. But in this case, they’re wrong.

First of all no mention was made of the Holocaust which strictly speaking began in 1942 with the enactment of the Final Solution (although many Jews were killed when Poland was invaded).

Secondly it specifically compared current events with events in 1930s Germany; not saying they are the same, but have certain similarities. Warning us that those who would daemonize certain groups – Socialist, Communists, Roma, and Jews in the case of 1930s Germany, Refugees (and Roma) in the case of the UK today – can become dangerous if ignored.

If the UK is sliding into fascism, warning about those signs indicating the slide is not only the responsible thing to do, but the thing every sensible person should be shouting about. And it is indeed the case.

And silencing such warnings with sensitivity about the Holocaust is very very wrong.

Tunnel of Arches
Feb 082023

Aeons (well perhaps not quite) an ancient Greek (not Ptolemy although he wrote it down on his map) rocked up on these misty islands and after overcoming the initial language barrier asked “Well, who are you”. “We’re the Prydain” replied his hosts.

And thus British Islands, overlooking the fact that Ireland was inhabited by a different branch of the Celts. Of course Ptolemy later used the names Hibernia and Albion, and an awful lot of wasted bits would be saved if those had stuck.

But for better or worse, it didn’t stick. But also it wasn’t the English who invented the term; it was widely used amongst geographers a thousand years before the Saxons invented England (to appease the Angles otherwise we’d be called Sexland).

But to those who like to gloss over 1,500 years of history, it can easily seem like a conspiracy to claim ownership by the English. Which tends to overlook that everyone has been trying to seize power over all the islands; and it was the Scottish who succeeded in the end.

But if we were to translate “British Islands” into modern English it would be “Celtic Islands”.

Entering The Great Hall

Dec 302022

Nazis were Nazis. But not infrequently online arguments will result in accusations along the lines of “Nazis were ${X} so ${X} are Nazis”. Which is incredibly shallow thinking of course. A Nazi could well be a stamp collector, but what made them a Nazi was membership of the NSDAP.

There are ‘interests’ that would be indicative of membership of the NSDAP – ‘racial purity’, anti-semiticsm, etc. but they are specific types of interests and something as innocuous as stamp collecting isn’t indivicative.

But concentrating on Socialism because Socialism appears in the name of the party.


The full name of the Nazis party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei[ (National Socialist German Workers’ Party). The “socialist” appears right there in the name of the party, so of course they were socialists.

Well, no. It isn’t quite that simple.

The first indication is that once the Nazis acquired power, they immediately started suppressing socialists of all varieties – the first imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp were Hitler’s political opponents. Including members of the SDP and KDP (see the list of those killed by the Nazis although not all of those killed were socialists).

There are those who will argue that socialists turn on each other. Certainly the authoritarian ones do have that tendency but not to the extreme that Nazis did. For example, members of the German SPD for forced to join the communist party in East Germany. Even Lenin’s Russia didn’t immediately suppress non-Bolsheviks (Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionary Party); they were finally suppressed after each was involved in separate uprisings.

The next indicator are economic policies. This is slightly harder to justify because some of the Nazi government spending during The Depression looks a bit like Keynesian but most of the government spending was very often aligned with Nazi military ambitions. Plus they were always very friendly with corporations and had abolished trade unions.

Finally, the Nazis were originally called Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (German Workers’ Party). After Hitler took over the party, it was renamed to Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei in a deliberate attempt to deceive working class voters. Hitler was initially opposed to the name, but he was persuaded to accept it

No serious historian is going to call the Nazis socialists and people who do usually turn out to be far-right idiots trying to demonise the left with quite possibly the silliest argument ever invented.

Peering At Each Other
Jun 022022

Captain Swing was a character that appeared in threatening letters during the Swing Riots. A series of riots across southern England numbering nearly 1,500 in number which in the end resulted in 19 executions (although nearly 250 had been sentenced to death). More people than were killed at the far more famous Peterloo Massacre, and who hasn’t heard of the infamous Luddites? Which went on longer and was perhaps more disruptive but less directly threatening to the land-owning ruling classes.

With the curious exception of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a casual student of history could be forgiven for thinking that the South of England didn’t suffer any labour unrest or discontent during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Yet the ancestors of those Tolpuddle Martyrs had been effectively tenant farmers who had been reduced to day labourers within two short generations. To compare the English enclosures with the Scottish Highland clearances is ridiculous, but there is one common thing behind them – greed. And there is one common result – suffering.

“The law locks up the man or woman

Who steals the goose from off the common,

But lets the greater felon loose

Who steals the common from the goose.”

(Part of 18th century poem by Anon.)

Sometimes those on the left are accused of the “politics of envy” … perhaps. But it seems to me that historically it is often the rich who are guilty of the politics of envy – envious of what the poor have because they think they can make “better” use of it (in other words make more money).

Lighting The Sea
Feb 232022

The date of 1066 is often presented to us as the end of Anglo-Saxon rule and the start of (Anglo-)Norman rule. Well that’s not wrong as such, but there is another way of looking at it. If you look at the kings both before and after The Conquest, there were more similarities than you would expect.

Harold Godwinson (the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England) was the son of Godwin who had been made the Earl of Wessex by Cnut the Great (a Dane) and Gytha Thorkelsdóttir a Danish noblewoman related by marriage to Cnut the Great. So he was more than a little Danish.

And if you look at his predecessor – Edward the Confessor, he himself was the daughter of Emma of Normandy who herself was descended from Danes with a French accent (i.e. the Normans). And Emma was a relative of the conqueror William.

So whilst it is quite right that 1066 was regarded as a significant date for the country with some very significant changes to law and language, in terms of the monarchs it wasn’t much of a change at all – they were pretty much all related to each other.

King Alfred Looking Down At The Runners