Archive for April 2015
Part Two: Trade and Travelling Saints
In the second, more peaceful half of the seventh century, East Anglian trade with the continent continued to prosper, and in the eighth century the minting of silver coins called sceattas began in the region. These coins have been found over a wide area of Frisia and north Germany while imported items of bronze, iron and pottery have been excavated from East Anglian sites. Ipswich became the leading port and industrial centre of the region. Kilns produced huge quantities of pottery which were distributed over wide areas of northern Europe. Dunwich became a thriving port and could afford to pay the king an annual rent of sixty thousand herrings. Economic depression did not follow political and military decline. It was also during this period that Norfolk and Suffolk began to emerge as distinct entities. There had always been differences between the Angles to the…
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I recently watched a video online which shows that, according to DNA testing, the English are only 5% English – genetically, that is. And they are far more similar to the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish than to people on the continent of Europe. So why, we might ask, don’t more of the people of the British Isles speak a Celtic language, Basque or Welsh, and how is it that it is a form of Mercian Saxon or ‘Midland English’ (not ‘East Anglian’, by the way), which dominates international communication?
These questions were very much on my mind this summer, not because of the Scottish referendum debate, but because, at last, I had the chance to visit the supposed burial grounds of one of the first great English kings. I had taught about the Sutton Hoo ship burial in much of my early career as a history teacher in…
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This week in the First World War, 19-25 April 1915
20 April: Batteries in action are not to hang (up) their washing in the vicinity of the guns. Routine orders.
22 April: Major battles: Second Ypres, 22 April – 25 May:
The Second Battle of Ypres is known for being the site of the first use of poison gas on the Western Front (it had been used by the Germans on the Eastern Front at Bulimov in January). The chlorine gas surprised the Allies despite earlier clues, such as captured German soldiers carrying gas masks. The greenish-yellow cloud caused panic in the lines – the French Algerian 45th Division fled. A four-mile-wide gap opened up into which the Germans advanced but they didn’t take advantage as insufficient reserves were available. An attack the next day also used gas but the Canadians who faced it were prepared – they had been told to douse handkerchiefs in urine to counteract its effects. By the end of the battle the Allies had lost 60,000 men in a defeat in which the the Germans sustained around half the Allied casualties. On the first day of the battle, 168 tons of chlorine gas were released. British General Horace Smith-Dorrien was sacked after he suggested a tactical withdrawal. The British withdrew days later.
This week in the Second World War, 19th – 25th April
19/20 April: Domokos Szent-Iványi, the former envoy to Moscow for the now exiled Regent Horthy, returned to Budapest from Debrecen. He stayed in the capital until his arrest in December 1946. He was hesitating as to whether to remain in Hungary or go abroad whensome decisive events took place:
The Hungarian Communist Party in 1945 was very much divided and a great part of the Left still belonged to the Social-Democratic Party. The Russians were making a great mistake in supporting those Party members who had been living in Moscow during the war, i.e. in relative peace and comfort. They were given the nickname “Caviar Boys”, which meant that such men, like Rákosi, Gerő, György Lukács, Jenő Varga, Zoltán Vas, etc., instead of risking their lives fighting the Gestapo and the Arrow-Cross (like János Kádár, Gyula Kállai, László Rajk, Antal Bán, Pál Demény, József Dudás, Aladár Weiszhaus, etc.) had been indulging in the finer things of life. Rákosi, was considered as Caviar Boy No. 1. and was very much disliked, but he enjoyed the support of the Russians. Later, however, opposition to him grew in the Party and soon names were circulating of individuals who could take on the leading positions in the Party. Among such names those of Rajk, Kádár, and Imre Nagy were, of course, the favourites…
Gyula Kodolányi and Nóra Szekér (eds.)(2013), Domokos Szent-Iványi: The Hungarian Independence Movement, 1939-45.
Meanwhile, outside the capital, the last Hungarian town had been liberated earlier in April, but the wildest hyperinflation in history raged everywhere. The last pengő banknote issued bore the denomination 100 quadrillion, and one unit of the new currency was equivalent to 400,000 quadrillion pengő by July 1946, and the dollar was equivalent to 4,600,000 pengő. Land reform, decreed by the Provisional Government without debate, on 17 March, was beginning to have far-reaching social, economic and political consequences. The aristocracy and the gentry lost their traditional means of subsistence and effectively disappeared. The age-old dream of the Hungarian peasant appeared to have come true, but the Smallholdrers’ Party were rightly concerned about the economic soundness of the plan. The average size of the plots allocated to the recipients was only seven acres, which meant an end to viable farms, which were between fifty and a hundred acres. Nevertheless, Imre Nagy, the Communist Party’s Minister of Agriculture in the coalition government became popularly acclaimed from this point on as the land distributor. In reality, the land reform, together with the drastic reduction of draught-stock, machinery and implements, added to the economic disarray and difficulties of supply faced by the country. Rations, especially in the cities, were at starvation levels. Urban workers were surviving on less than a thousand calories a day. These hardships and shortages were aggravated by an occupying force of 1.5 million Soviets, whom the Hungarians were supposed to supply with food, fuel, free transport and other services. After the Germans left, the Red Army removed industrial installations, art treasures, and all manner of movable public equipment and property during the last weeks of the war. The Provisional Government was powerless to resist this wholesale confiscation, since the western powers refused to recognise it until the Soviets agreed to the holding of free elections. These did not take place until 4 November
Thanksgiving for Resurrection Power:
Risen Lord, we thank you for the varied and vivid accounts given to us by those who actually talked with you and ate with you and touched you. We thank you for this visible, physical evidence of your power over death. And we thank you, too, for the invisible spiritual evidence which each of us can experience in our heart, which declares to us that Jesus Christ is still alive. May we, like the first disciples, be brave enough to tell what we have seen and heard so that everyone may enjoy the friendship which we have with you and which is our great blessing; for your dear name’s sake. Amen
‘Do not hold on to me….But go to my brothers and tell them…’
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The Incredulity of St Thomas by Caravaggio
John 20 vv 24-29:
One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the twin), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.
A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look a my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Do you believe because you…
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