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Posts Tagged ‘Historia’

DIALOG Internet och social media är inga förutsättningar för förolämpningar och halvsanningar i dialogen mellan politiker eller medborgare.

pub

Detta skriver Mark Hailwood, författare till Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England, i januarinumret av History Today.

Senaste valrörelsen i USA må ha varit unik vad gäller den negativa tonen mellan Donald Trump och Hillary Clinton men var knappast speciellt unik i ett längre historiskt perspektiv.

Hailwood, verksam vid universitetet i Exeter, skriver t.ex. så här om pubarna i 1600-talets England:

Political debate is eternally fractious. In what has been a politically tumultuous period it has become an increasingly common assertion that we are witnessing a rapid deterioration in the decorum of public and political debate.

[…]

It is self-evident, though, that digital technology is not a prerequisite for fractious interpersonal political exchanges. Division and hostility were, for example, rife in the face-to-face world of 17th-century political discussion.

[…]

The growth of political awareness and discussion in 17th-century England – what we now call ‘public opinion’ – has been associated with the rise of the coffeehouse from the 1650s onwards, a place where urbanites could go to read that emerging product, the newspaper, and to engage in caffeinated chatter over the state of the nation in a civilised and rational spirit. But long before the coffeehouse came onto the scene both town and country dwellers of all classes had used another site of liquid refreshment as a place to gather and debate politics: the pub.

Commonly known as the alehouse, the local pub had enjoyed a period of growing popularity in the century between 1550 and 1650, with numbers more than doubling from around 25,000 to 55,000 – or one alehouse for every 90 inhabitants of England. Almost every village would have had at least one such establishment and part of its appeal was the opportunity to engage your neighbours in political debate.

[…]

A difference of opinion was likely to descend into the trading of insults, blows, drinks thrown in the face – or even with being hauled before the authorities for a capital offence. The anonymity and physical distance provided by the computer screen are neither necessary nor sufficient for the development of bitter and fractious cultures of everyday political discussion to emerge in times of political turmoil.

Bild: “Woodcut of a tavern scene, English, 17th century”, History Today.

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british-statesman-winston-churchill-speaking-to-recruits-to-the-armed-forces-at-mansion-house-london-1939-photo-hulton-archive-getty-images

Lägg märke till texten längst ner i högra hörnet: By courtesy of The ”Daily Sketch”. En saligen insomnad tidning.

Foto: Hulton Archive-Getty Images. ”British statesman Winston Churchill speaking to recruits to the armed forces at Mansion House, London – 1939”.

 

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HISTORIA | Dagens politiker låter sig gärna intervjuas av journalister. Intervjuer har blivit ett medvetet sätt för partierna att få ut sitt budskap till allmänheten.

Winston Churchill, 1941 by Yousuf Karsh

Winston Churchill, 1941 by Yousuf Karsh

Därför medietränas politiker hårt för att klara en intervju och undvika journalisternas fällor. Samtidigt ingår intervjuteknik i journalistutbildningen.

Så har det inte alltid varit.

Förr intervjuades inte politiker speciellt ofta. Och eftersom de möttes med större respekt än idag behövde de inte heller förbereda sig lika minutiöst som idag. Skjutjärnsjouranistik är ett förhållandevis nytt fenomen.

Men en fördel med den gamla stilen var att politikern ofta hade möjlighet att formulera sina tankar kring komplexa problem.

Men trots detta är det inte från intervjuer vi fått vår bild av politikern Winston Churchill. När vi tänker på politisk kommunikation i förhållande till Churchill handlar det oftare om hans tal och retoriska förmåga.

Dessutom är det mer bilden av talaren än själva innehållet vi känner igen. (Hur många vet t.ex. att han talade om ”blood, toil, tears and sweat” och inte ”blood, sweat and tears”?)

Även ikonen Churchill – t.ex. hans bulldogsliknande framtoning – är tydligare för eftervärlden än hans politiska åsikter. Än idag står han som den stora symbolen för motståndet mot Adolf Hitler under andra världskriget.

Det är därför inte direkt den nyanserade politikern vi minns. Men läser man Kingsley Martins intervju med Churchill i New Statesman, åtta månader innan världskrigets utbrott, är det just den bild som framträder.

Han är både principfast och klartänkt. Han är en övertygad demokrat och långt ifrån den reaktionära konservativa politiker nidbild som så många revisionister har velat framhålla efter hans död.

Han talar initierat om de demokratiska och fascistiska staternas väsen. Och han är väl medveten om att de demokratiska rättigheterna riskerar urholkas om Storbritannien överreagerar för att skydda samhället mot i kampen mot ett totalitärt hot.

När han svarar på intervjufrågorna handlar det inte om några utslätade politiska ”talking-points” eller klyschor.

Kingsley Martin The country has learnt to associate you with the view that we must all get together as quickly as possible to rearm in defence of democracy. In view of the strength and character of the totalitarian states, is it possible to combine the reality of democratic freedom with efficient military organisation?

Mr Winston Churchill The essential aspects of democracy are the freedom of the individual, within the framework of laws passed by Parliament, to order his life as he pleases, and the uniform enforcement of tribunals independent of the executive. The laws are based on Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus, the Petition of Right and others. Without this foundation there can be no freedom or civilisation, anyone being at the mercy of officials and liable to be spied upon and betrayed even in his own home. As long as these rights are defended, the foundations of freedom are secure.

KM One point people are especially afraid of is that free criticism in Parliament and in the press may be sacrificed. The totalitarian states, it is said, are regimented, organised and unhampered, as the Prime Minister suggested the other day, by critics of the Government “who foul their own nest”.

WC Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.

KM Do you attribute the slowness in preparation of which you complain to any inherent defect in democratic institutions?

WC I am convinced that with adequate leadership, democracy can be a more efficient form of government than Fascism. In this country at any rate the people can readily be convinced that it is necessary to make sacrifices, and they will willingly undertake them if the situation is put clearly and fairly before them . . . It may be that greater efficiency in secret military preparations can be achieved in a country with autocratic institutions than by the democratic system. But this advantage is not necessarily great, and it is far outweighed by the strength of a democratic country in a long war. In an autocracy, when the pinch comes, the blame is thrown upon the leader and the system breaks up. In a democratic country the people feel that they are respon­sible, and if they believe in their cause will hold out much longer than the population of Dictator States . . .

[…]

KM People who are not necessarily pacifist are horrified at the idea that we may go into another war with the same kind of generals who were responsible for Passchendaele and other horrors in the last war. They say that they might be prepared to fight for democracy if they were democratically led; but that they are damned if they will be sacrificed again for the Camberley clique that was so horribly inefficient and wasteful in the last war. Do you think it is possible to democratise the army?

WC It is quite true, I know, that many people consider that the cadre of officers is selected from too narrow a class. I have always taken the view that merit should be rewarded by promotion in the army as in any other profession. I support this not only from the point of view of democratising the army, but mainly because I think it leads to efficiency such as no other system can achieve.

KM May I ask one more question of a more general character? Most of us feel that if there is a war it will be so destructive that the very substance of our civilisation, let alone our democracy, is likely to be destroyed. Clearly the great object is to prevent war. Is it possible in your view still to regard these military preparations, not as the acceptance of inevitable war, but merely as a necessary complement of a policy which may keep the peace?

WC I fear that failure to rearm Britain is bound to lead to war. Had we strengthened our defences earlier, the arms race need never have arisen. We should have come to a settlement with Germany while she was still disarmed. I think it is still possible, with a strong Britain and France, to preserve the peace of Europe.

KM Is it not true historically that an armaments race leads to war?

WC To say that an arms race always leads to war seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse. A government resolved to attain ends detrimental to its neighbours, which does not shrink from the possibility of war, makes preparations for war, its neighbours take defensive action, and you say an arms race is beginning. But this is the symptom of the intention of one government to challenge or destroy its neighbours, not the cause of the conflict. The pace is set by the potential aggressor, and, failing collective action by the rest of the world to resist him, the alternatives are an arms race or surrender. War is very terrible, but stirs a proud people. There have been periods in our history when we have given way for a long time, but a new and formidable mood arises . . .

Läs mer: En intervju med Churchill i The New York Herald den 2 februari 1915 när han var First Lord of the Admirality.

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IMAGE | Med monoton regelbundenhet dyker det upp artiklar och böcker som hävdar att det nu är dags att slå håll på ”myten” Winston Churchill.

New Statesman 9-15 January 2014

Alla dessa försök till historierevidering innehåller nästan alltid några gemensamma komponenter.

Författaren försöker t.ex. alltid antyda att ingen tidigare har gett den ”sanna” och ”oförfalskade” bilden av Churchill. Tydligen har sanningen om mannen, politikern och statsmannen alltför länge varit dold bakom den officiella bilden av Churchill – en bild som ingen vågar ifrågasätta.

Detta sätt att argumentera håller inte för en närmare granskning. Få politiker har nämligen varit lika kontroversiella som Churchill. Han var ifrågasatt under hela sin politiska karriär.

En annan ingrediens i dessa försök att förändra bilden av Churchill är att framhäva, inte bara hans politiska felberäkningar och misslyckanden, utan även att hans politiska åsikter inte längre ligger i linje med dagens etablerade konsensus.

Att studera Churchills politiska åsikter är naturligtvis historiskt intressant men ganska missvisande när man skall bedöma hans samlade insatser.

Med tanke på att Churchill var född 1874 (!) borde det inte förvåna någon att hans åsikter inte låg i linje med vad vi tycker idag. Det omvända skulle ha varit betydligt mer uppseendeväckande.

Churchill skulle knappast varit mer än en historisk kuriositet om hans åsikter hade överensstämt med dagens politikers.

Frågan är om han ens hade varit en identifierbar historisk person om han hade avviket alltför mycket från sin egen tid. Hade vi då ens kunnat finna några historiska spår av honom i dokument och arkiv? Sannolikt hade han aldrig blivit vare sig parlamentsledamot eller premiärminister om han haft åsikter som inte gjort honom valbar.

Många gånger liknar kritiken av Churchill vad man idag kallar ”virtue signalling” Poängen är att visa, d.v.s. signalera, vilken god människa man själv är. ”One of the crucial aspects of virtue signalling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous”, skriver mannen som myntade begreppet.

Ett exempel på detta är Simon Heffers artikel ”Why it’s time to debunk the myth of Churchill” i New Statesman. Rubriken säger allt. (I papperstidningen: ”The Churchill myth”.)

Ingenting av det som Heffer skriver om i artikeln är överhuvudtaget nytt för den som studerat ämnet. Alla exemplen beskrivs i de flesta historiska verk och politisk biografier om Churchill som publicerats under de senaste femtio åren.

He had an unfortunate knack of finding himself on the wrong side of too many arguments, over things that usually did not require the benefit of hindsight to be understood.

[…]

At the khaki election of 1900 he began his political career, as a Tory. He left for the Liberal Party in 1904 when the Tories, under the influence of Joseph Chamberlain, who had left the Liberals in protest against the Irish home rule bill, started to move towards protectionism. That was fair enough: but moving back to the Tories after the collapse of the coalition in 1922, when the Liberal Party had divided, imploded and been eclipsed by Labour, was widely regarded as an act of outrageous cynicism, not least by those whom he was rejoining. Churchill deployed his considerable wit to gloss over this episode – “Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat” – but a bad smell lingered in the Tory party for some time because of it.

[…]

Once the Conservatives were pushed out of office in 1929 he began his “wilderness years”, and adopted resistance to Indian self-government as one of his main causes. It was at this stage that he described Gandhi as “a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace . . . to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor”. Such rhetoric turned Baldwin against him and ensured he did not serve in the National Government that Baldwin formed with Ramsay MacDonald in 1931.

[…]

Despite a record of failure and misjudgement that in any other politician would offset even the most considerable achievements, Churchill in death has become largely untouchable by all, apart from those who are dismissed as mavericks and sectarians. The myth keeps us from an honest interpretation of our history in the first half of the 20th century. The false and romanticised picture we have of him, created by his reputation from 1940-45, is a huge obstacle to true understanding.

In one aspect of his life, when the man met the hour, he was as outstanding as anyone in British history has been. In all others he was just another politician on the make, firing out opinions at random in the hope that one, now and again, would hit the target. He had a bellicosity that in all circumstances other than 1940-45 could be intensely dangerous, and that had its downside even in the fight against Hitler.

But we would best understand his indisputable greatness, and our enduring debt to him, by realising how his achievements came in spite of, not because of, his parti­cular character. The myth is too much. It is more important than ever to examine the reality of his life and works, and to try to get him in a true perspective.

Tidskriftsomslag: New Statesman, 9-15 januari 2014.

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MEDIA | Hertigen av Wellington kommer alltid vara mer känd för sin seger vid Waterloo än tiden som (tvåfaldig) premiärminister.

Mr C of Dover

När Wellington besegrade Napoleon Bonaparte söndagen den 18 juni 1815 var lord Liverpool premiärminister.

I en recension i The Spectator skriver Nigel Jones om när nyheten om segern nådde London och regeringen via kurir.

News of the victory officially arrived in London with Wellington’s dispatch, brought hot-foot from the battlefield by a Major Percy with a couple of Bonaparte’s captured Imperial Eagle standards sticking out of his cab windows. (Unofficially, the first tidings probably arrived on a fast yacht chartered by the banker Nathan Rothschild, so that he could make another sort of killing off the back of the battle on the stock exchange.) After tracking down the prime minister, Lord Liverpool, at dinner, Percy was instantly promoted to Lieutenant Colonel by a delighted Prince Regent, before being allowed home to change the uniform he had worn for a week. As Percy undid his blood-stiffened sash, bits of a fellow officer’s brains, lodged in the garment, fell to the floor.

Läs mer: “The News from Waterloo: the Race to Tell Britain of Wellington’s Victory by Brian Cathcart, review: ‘a worthy addition’” och “Waterloo and the British Press”.

Bild: Den mystiske “Mr C of Dover” från Caledonian Mercury i Edinburgh (The British Newspaper Archive).

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Harold Macmillan efterträder Sir Anthony Eden som premiärminister. 1959 skulle Macmillan och The Conservative Party vinna sin tredje raka valseger.

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USA | Hur historien kommer att bedöma Barack Obama är skrivit i stjärnorna. Det hindrar dock inte att spekulationerna är i full gång.

New York January 12-25 2015

Precis som konkurrerande valkampanjer ägnar mycket tid åt att definiera både sig själv och motståndaren utspelas en ständig historisk värdering av makthavare.

Den stora skillnaden ligger i att historien har en tendens att komma med ständiga revideringar av makthavarna medan vad vi minns från en valkampanj mest hänger samman med valresultatet.

Tidskriften New York bad nyligen femtio historiker att komma med en första utvärdering av Obamas administration. New York sammanfattade deras svar så här:

Almost every respondent wrote that the fact of his being the first black president will loom large in the historical narrative — though they disagreed in interesting ways. Many predict that what will last is the symbolism of a nonwhite First Family; others, the antagonism Obama’s blackness provoked; still others, the way his racial self-consciousness constrained him. A few suggested that we will care a great deal less about his race generations from now — just as John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism hardly matters to current students of history. Across the board, Obamacare was recognized as a historic triumph (though one historian predicted that, with its market exchanges, it may in retrospect be seen as illiberal and mark the beginning of the privatization of public health care). A surprising number of respondents argued that his rescue of the economy will be judged more significant than is presently acknowledged, however lackluster the recovery has felt. There was more attention paid to China than ISIS (Obama’s foreign policy received the most divergent assessments), and considerable credit was given to the absence of a major war or terrorist attack, along with a more negative assessment of its price — the expansion of the security state, drones and all. The contributors tilted liberal — that’s academia, no surprise — but we made an effort to create at least a little balance with conservative historians. Their responses often echoed those from the far left: that a president elected on a promise to unite the country instead extended the power of his office in alarming, unprecedented ways.

Tidskriftsomslag: New York den 12-25 januari 2015.

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