ALONG THE WINDING LANES OF Bandra, a coastal suburb of Mumbai with a history of Catholicism, lime-washed crosses can be found near busy intersections. They are markers of a plague that ravaged the city more than a century ago when this metropolis was still known as Bombay. Mumbai was shaped by a catastrophe it has largely forgotten.
“The book that can never be written”. So Sharon Wright was told every time she proposed the idea of a biography of the Brontë sisters’ mother, Maria. The accepted view in Brontë scholarly circles has always been that Maria’s life was eclipsed by the genius of her children.
Isolation and social distancing have shaped our past and places in many different ways.
Historic buildings and places are reminders of how people have lived, coped, struggled and sometimes even changed the world.
Here are ten places which have witnessed moments of self-isolation…
‘Heimat’ in a Suitcase: Flight and Exile of the Herzberg Family
Today we would like to invite you to have a glimpse into the private rooms of Haus Herzberg. The photographs you see here are an extract from an album that contains images of the Herzberg family home in 22 Richard-Wagner-Straße, in the German town of Hanover. The pictures were taken in the 1930s, before the Herzbergs had to flee Germany to escape the Nazi Regime. The beautifully bound red leather album contains an array of photographs showing…
On the 12th of May 1820, Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Tuscany, the city she owes her name to. She was a national heroine in her lifetime already, elevated to near sainthood by some and bitterly criticised by others.
In the summer of 2015, Kindred Spirits, a sculpture by Alex Pentek was unveiled at Bailic Park in Midleton, County Cork, to commemorate the Choctaw Nation and their kindness to the Irish. The beautiful work comprises of an empty bowl made from nine giant stainless-steel eagle feathers. Gary Batton, present chief of the Choctaw Nation, attended the unveiling and declared: “These are great healing moments. A great moment for us to show our respect back to them as nation to nation. A chance to stand up and say, ‘A, Chata Sia.’ ‘Yes, I am Choctaw.’”
There’s been plenty of comparison between the coronavirus pandemic and its nineteenth-century equivalents. But as the coronavirus pandemic transforms life around the world, one outcome in the U.S. has been a rise in hate crimes against Asian American people…
At the end of the 19th century and during the first years of the 20th century there was considerable competition to demonstrate powered flight…
‘Today I thought we would take a look at some Georgian recipes for making perfume, most of them are still feasible to make at home today with some minor adjustments.
Perfume for gloves
Take one drachm of ambergris and sieve; add quarter of an ounce of flour-butter and mix together well. Rub the gloves over gently with fine cotton wool and press the perfume into them.
Source: Georgian Perfume
Today is the 199th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, an epochal event in the development of British democracy.
On August 16th, 1819, St Peter’s Fields, a large open space in the centre of Manchester, was the scene of an atrocity in which mounted soldiers attacked a crowd of over 60,000 peaceful suffrage protesters. Eighteen people, including four women and a child, died from sabre cuts and trampling, and nearly seven hundred more received grievous injuries – all in the name of political emancipation.
Peterloo occurred during a period of immense social tension and mass protests caused by political repression, economic depression and widespread poverty in aftermath of the Napoleonic wars. Fewer than one in fifty people had the vote, and hunger was widespread, with bad harvests, and the disastrous Corn Laws, making the people’s staple food barely affordable.
On the morning of August 16th, crowds began to congregate, coming in from the outlying districts of Manchester, and the surrounding towns; all conducting themselves, according to contemporary accounts, with dignity and discipline, the majority of them dressed in their Sunday best.
The main address was to be given by the inspirational speaker Henry “Orator” Hunt, from a hustings platform consisting of a large agricultural cart, and the Fields were filled with banners – REFORM, UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE, EQUAL REPRESENTATION and, ironically, LOVE. Many of the banner poles were topped with the red cap of liberty – a powerful symbol from revolutionary France (it was only 26 years since the Terror).
Watching the ever-increasing assembly from a window overlooking the Fields, a local magistrate who had been charged with keeping the peace became uneasy, and after a brief consultation, decided to have the crowd disperse by the officially sanctioned method of reading the Riot Act aloud. Above the hubbub preceding the event, the words could scarcely be heard; but that gave legal cover for what happened subsequently.
In neighbouring streets, an extensive military force had been assembled, in anticipation of disorder: unbelievably, there were six hundred mounted Hussars; two hundred infantrymen; an artillery unit with two six-pounder guns; four hundred men of the local Cheshire cavalry; and additionally, four hundred rapidly sworn-in special constables.
With all these troops held in reserve, the local Yeomanry, led by Captain Hugh Birley and Major Thomas Trafford, a paramilitary force drawn from the ranks of the local mill and shop owners, was given the task of moving and arresting the speakers. Many of them had been drinking while they waited, on an unusually warm summer day. On horseback, armed with sabres and clubs, many were familiar with, and had old scores to settle with, the leading protesters. (In one instance, on spotting a reporter from the radical “Manchester Observer”, a Yeomanry officer was heard to cry “There’s Saxton, damn him – run him through!”)
As the Yeomanry approached the hustings, people in the crowd linked arms to try and prevent the arrests. An order was given to advance regardless, and the first rank of the Yeomanry drew their swords, and proceeded to cut down banners and slash at protestors below them with their razor-edged swords.
The surge of panicked people trying to get out of the way was interpreted from a distance as the crowd attacking the Yeomanry, and the Hussars (experienced professional soldiers led by Lieutenant Colonel Guy L’Estrange) were ordered in. Their vanguard cut a swathe through the crowd from the far side of the Fields.
Despite this, there were unlikely heroes among the military. An unnamed cavalry officer attempted to strike up the swords of the Yeomanry, crying, “For shame, gentlemen: what are you about? The people cannot get away!”; while the Cheshire cavalry did not move forward. The Hussars, though, disciplined and relentless, rapidly cut through the crowd and joined up with the Yeomanry, in some cases striking down fleeing protesters.
In only a few minutes, by 2 pm, the carnage was over, leaving St Peter’s Fields piled with abandoned banners and the bodies of the dead and wounded – and the whole of Manchester reeling in shock. The term ‘Peterloo’ was rapidly coined, to mock the soldiers who had attacked unarmed civilians – contrasting their cowardice with the valour of troops at Waterloo, four years earlier.
On the orders of the magistrates, journalists who had been present at the event were arrested; others who went on to report the event were subsequently jailed. As a direct reaction to what he’d seen at St Peter’s Fields, the businessman John Edward Taylor went on to raise a subscription to set up the Manchester Guardian newspaper.
In the weeks that followed, most of the speakers and organizers of the rally were arraigned in court – a charge of High Treason only reluctantly being dropped by the prosecution after a public outcry. The Hussars, and the magistrates, by contrast, received a message of congratulation from the Prince Regent, and all the authorities policing the event were cleared of any wrongdoing by the subsequent official inquiry.
The indignant reaction to Peterloo was hugely influential in prompting a long-lived national debate about who should have the right to vote. After the Great Reform Act of 1832, the late 1830s saw the rise of the mass Chartist movement, with its Six Demands, which pressured governments for nearly twenty years. All those demands bar one (annual Parliaments) were later enacted, in the franchise reforms of 1867 and 1884, and successive Representation of the People Acts in the 20th Century.
Establishment historians place great value on the use of primary source evidence. This is described as ‘Narrative Fixation’ by the heterodox economist Edward Fullbrook  who cites Einstein’s famous aphorism:
‘Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use: It is the theory which decides what can be observed.’…
Parson’s Green in Fulham still has two green, open spaces in the heart of its residential area. Back in the eighteenth-century, Fulham was a pleasant rural village outside the bustle of London complete with farms and market gardens that supplied the capital with fruit and vegetables, and Parson’s Green was a hamlet within the manor of Fulham where…
An aside into Victorian business life is the fact that when a London solicitors sent a letter on April 27 1885, its headed paper quoted the firm’s telephone number. The number was 1095 and th…
IN THE BASEMENT OF LONDON’S British Library I was led into a small well-lit room, marking the end of a journey that began in the Ethiopian Highlands at the Addis Ababa home of a remarkable British historian.
In that home, over strong Ethiopian coffee and English biscuits, Richard Pankhurst, who dedicated his life to documenting Ethiopian history, told me the story of the…
Bembridge Ramshackle Cinema & Events presents Shrabani Basu in conversation with James Vaux. Historian & journalist Shrabani Basu is the author of ‘Victoria & Abdul’, upon which the feature film starring Dame Judi Dench & Eddie Izard is based, as well as ‘Spy Princess’, the story of Noor Inayat Khan, a descendant of an Indian prince who became a secret agent for SOE in World War II. She is also the author of ‘Curry’ The Story of the Nation’s Favourite Dish and ‘For King and Another Country’, Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914-18. The video recording of the conversation at Bembridge Village Hall, Isle of Wight on Sunday 8th April 2018 is produced by Christopher Offer.