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Posts Tagged ‘History Today’

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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VAL 2015 | I en intervju med BBC:s Andrew Marr lyckades David Cameron på ett mycket kraftfullt sätt förklara faran med SNP. När han fick tala till punkt vill säga.

Vad premiärministern sade var bland annat följande:

[T]his would be the first time in our history that a group of nationalists from one part of our country would be involved in altering the direction of the government of our country, and I think that is a frightening prospect, for people thinking in their own constituencies is that bypass going to be built, will my hospital get the money it needs? Frankly, this is a group of people that wouldn’t care about what happened in the rest of the country. The rest of the United Kingdom, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, wouldn’t get a look in and that’s the prospect that we face if we don’t get the majority Conservative government that is in our reach.

[…]

[T]here is a fundamental difference when you have a group of nationalists that want to be involved in the government of a country which they don’t want to belong to. So you have to ask yourself, if you’re a voter in England or Wales or in Northern Ireland, would these people care at all about what happens in my life and my constituency?

[…]

They have every right as members of Parliament, but they do have a fundamentally different approach to any other Member of parliament, which is they don’t believe in the Westminster Parliament, they don’t believe in the United Kingdom, they wouldn’t be coming to Westminster to help our country; they’re coming to Westminster to break up our country and what Ed Miliband needs to do is rule out any sort arrangement because otherwise you’re not only putting not only about the money…

Valet har utvecklats till det mest svårbedömda på många år. En anledning är att det inte längre bara handlar om de stora giganterna Conservative Party och Labour.

I år kommer även valresultatet för UKIP och SNP avgöra vem som som får bilda regering. Om det sedan dessutom måste till en ny koalitionsregering blir läget än mer komplicerat.

Nigel Farages möjligheter att locka väljare från de konservativa kan bli avgörande för om Cameron kommer att kunna få ihop nog med mandat för en majoritetsregering. En nästintill omöjlig uppgift även utan hotet från UKIP.

Samtidigt ser det ut som om separatistiska Scottish National Party skulle kunna utplåna Labour i Skottland.

Hur har det blivit så här? Tittar man historiskt har de två stora partierna bara sig själva att skylla sig själva.

I februarinumret av History Today skriver dess redaktör, Paul Lay, om hur partiet straffade ut sig i Skottland under Margaret Thatchers tid.

[F]or most Britons, the swinging sixties only got going in the 1979s and 1980s; Thatcherism was as much a democratization of the permissiveness and self-love of 1960s elites as it was an attempt to turn back the clocks. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that a more cautious, less individualistic Scotland turned its back on a Conservative party that appeared to want to conserve little.

När Labour inte längre behövde konkurrera med de konservativa i norr blev man lata och självbelåtna.

Fraser Nelson, chefredaktör The Spectator, skriver i Axess:

Först kom 1997 års konservativa kollaps i Skottland, som verkade vidarebefordra hegemonin till Labour. Efter tio år av vunna val utan kamp blev Labour lata. Partiapparaten började gynna sina egna pampar; före detta chaufförer och portföljbärare ärvde säkra mandat. När Donald Dewar, Skottlands före detta försteminister, avled ställde hans före detta kontorschef upp i hans ställe. Labour kunde ha letat efter framtida begåvningar: istället ville man ha lydiga jasägare som garanterat skulle rösta rätt.

I stora delar av Skottland vägde man hellre än räknade Labours röster – partiet brydde sig inte om att värva röster, eller registrera väljare, eller ta hand om lokala partiföreträdare. Skotska Labours strategi gick ut på att säga ”vi hatar de konservativa” – och det fungerade under 1990-talet. Budskapet började bli lite väl lätt att genomskåda under 00-talet. Efter 2010 har det fullkomligt förlorat sin dragningskraft: skottarna slutade att uppfatta konservatismen som ett enda ont. Att rösta på de konservativa ses numera som en harmlös perversion, ungefär som transvestism eller cricket. Att hata de konservativa räckte inte för att bära upp Labour. Men detta blev inte uppenbart förrän under valkampanjen inför folkomröstningen, då en stor del av skotska Labours väljare gick över till jasidan, lockade av det kraftfulla och effektiva budskapet från nationalisterna.

Dessa avhopp i parti och minut från skotska Labour till SNP:s famn är sannerligen egendomliga – separatisterna fantiserar fortfarande om att styra tillsammans med Labour i en koalition. Deras företrädare talar nu om ”chansen att återställa den allmänna hälso- och sjukvården i England till vad den en gång var” – med andra ord, en återställare av de marknadsinriktade reformerna under Tony Blairs år. Det är åtminstone teorin. Men den allians som SNP behöver nu är mellan Nicola Sturgeon, dess nya ledare, och David Cameron. Hon har uteslutit en koalition med de svekfulla konservativa, men ändå behöver hon honom mer än någon annan politiker i Storbritannien. Om hon får välja vem hon skulle installera i Downing Street i maj så skulle hon välja honom.

Så där har vi det. De två statsbärande partierna i Storbritannien har med en kombination av likgiltighet och självgodhet gjort sig mer eller mindre omöjliga i Skottland.

Inte konstigt att valet ser ut att bli en rysare.

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HISTORIA I ”Wag the Dog låter presidentens rådgivare allmänheten tro att USA inlett ett krig. Allt för att vinna väljarnas sympati inför ett presidentval.

History Today may 2014

Snäppet värre är att verkligen inleda ett krig. Och det finns exempel på att det har fungerat i verkligheten.

Det var nämligen vad det självständiga Indiens förste premiärminister gjorde på 1960-talet, precis lagom för att det skulle påverka väljarna i en valrörelse.

Jawaharlal Nehru kunde vinna en tredje mandatperiod för det styrande kongresspartiet efter att ha ridit på framgångarna av Indiens invasion av Goa.

Gyanesh Kudaisya, som undervisar i samtidshistoria vid National University of Singapore,  skriver i History Today:

On December 17th and 18th, 1961, on Nehru’s orders, Indian troops marched into Goa, an area of about 1,500 square miles on the country’s western coast, to ‘liberate’ it from the Portuguese, who had ruled the territory since 1510. In a brisk operation over 30,000 Indian troops overran this last colonial enclave, overwhelming and capturing about 3,500 Portuguese soldiers. Condemnation was swift, both from critics at home and abroad. C. Rajagopalachari, one of the country’s most respected elder statesmen, said that India had ‘totally lost the moral power to raise her voice against militarism’. Others pointed out that the military adventure in Goa was a ploy to divert the nation’s attention from the increasing Chinese border incursions (since 1959 the Chinese had occupied over 12,000 square miles of formerly Indian territory). Further afield, the action was ‘deeply deplored’ by Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, West Germany and other countries. Nehru was denounced as a hypocrite who preached non-violence and disarmament to the world, yet practised the use of force at home. A UN Security Council resolution against India was almost voted in favour, but for a veto by the Soviet Union.

[…]

In the election campaign that took place immediately after the invasion Nehru was able to strike a patriotic chord, capitalising on ‘restoring Goa to the Motherland’. His ruling Congress party was re-elected in 361 out of 494 parliamentary seats and was back in power for a third successive term. Yet, in spite of the criticism, no one could foresee that the triumphant note sounded over Goa also marked the countdown to the end of Nehru’s leadership. The military conflict with China that broke out in full force in October 1962 would be momentous for India, bringing about extraordinary tribulations for Nehru. In its aftermath came growing tensions with Pakistan, political unrest in the Kashmir valley and domestic criticism and challenges to his political authority.

Tidskriftsomslaget: History Today, maj 2014, vol 64, nr 5. (Fotot på framsidan är taget av den berömde fotografen Yousef Karsh. Karsh förevigade bl.a. Winston Churchill.)

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SJUKDOM | Det är ingen hemlighet att Winston Churchill led av återkommande perioder av depression. Han t.o.m. döpte dem till ”The Black Dog”.

History Today, februari 2013

Men Churchill är naturligtvis inte den enda personen i historien med någon form av psykisk ohälsa. Andra berömdheter är Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin och Abraham Lincoln.

Frågan är om det idag skulle vara möjligt för någon att bli vald till president eller regeringschef om han eller hon led av någon forma av psykisk ohälsa, oavsett hur lindrigt. 

Ett avslöjande skulle i USA genast sätta igång diskussioner om lämpligheten av att t.ex. ansvara för USA:s kärvapensystem.

Men som Jerome Carson och Elizabeth Wakely skriver i History Today är det inte bara elände:

[I]t may also be that, despite some hindrances and setbacks, the mental suffering experienced by Lincoln, Darwin, Nightingale and Churchill actually facilitated and contributed to many of their successes and achievements. Such a theory of a creative malady is well known in its application to those in the creative arts but less so for those in other disciplines and in public life. At the outset it is important to bear in mind the caveat expressed by the psychiatrist Anthony Storr: ‘In a subject in which so much is controversial, it behoves the psychiatrist and the historian to be modest in their claims to psychological understanding.’

In a conversation with his personal physician, Lord Moran, during the war years, Churchill commented:

Black depression settled on me … I didn’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train was passing through … I don’t like to stand by the edge of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything.

Lord Moran in turn informed Churchill:

The Black Dog business you get from your forebears. You have fought against it all your life … You always avoid anything that is depressing.

Rather like Lincoln, Churchill was also quite successful in battling his depression episodes. His coping strategies included cerebral and artistic pursuits, such as writing and painting, and more physical ones, such as bricklaying, along with over-indulgence in food, alcohol and cigars.

While there is little disagreement that Churchill suffered from depression, there is more dispute over whether he may have had bipolar disorder.

[…]

Resentment of authority and difficulty in dealing with hostility or animosity often leads depressives to seek out opponents in the external world and Hitler was the man upon whom Churchill could release his aggression. He had, too, an unwavering belief in his own invincibility and his own destiny:

This cannot be accident, it must be design. I was kept for this job.

This is perhaps a bipolar blurring of the line between fantasy and reality. As Lord Moran said:

It was the inner world of make-believe in which Winston found reality.

When Churchill told Lady Violet Bonham Carter, ‘We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow-worm’, he encapsulated self-abasement and self-glorification in a single phrase.

Seemingly never given to introspection, it may also be that Churchill’s own experience of depression enabled him to understand and sympathise with the deprivation and hardships the people suffered during the war years. His radio broadcasts to he nation certainly appear, on the whole, to have given hope and the will to endure. However Anthony Storr is convinced that it was manic aspects of Churchill’s mental illness that were critical to his success:

Had Churchill been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgement might well have concluded we were finished.

Bild: Tidskriftsomslaget är History Today, februari 2013. Fotot på Churchill är taget av den berömda fotografen Margaret Bourke-White.

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CLUBLAND | Under viktorianska tiden expolderade antalet medlemmsklubbar i London. År 1900 fanns det över 250 stycken olika herr (och dam) klubbar.

Reform Club, London

En äldre, distingerad gentleman, iförd slips och kostym, som sitter djupt nersjunken i en fåtölj och läser The Times är antagligen för många sinnebilden av en engelsk klubb.

Och bilden är inte helt osann. Men det cirkulerar också många anekdoter om excentriska medlemmar som befolkat dessa klubbar genom historien.

“Indeed, one miserly 19th-century member, Charles Agar, was so reluctant to leave the Carlton Club each evening that the night porter invariably had to search the building for him”,  skriver t.ex. Seth Alexander Thévoz som forskat om klubbarna under drottning Victorias tid.

Alla dessa klubbar sin egen högst personliga profil. Många var rent sociala sammanslutningar medan andra fokuserade på specifika intressen eller yrken.

Här fanns medlemsklubbar för t.ex. sport-, fiske- eller reseintresserade. Här fanns också klubbar för olika universitet, officerare eller personer som tjänstgjort i kolonierna. Och så fanns det naturligtvis politiska klubbar.

Thévoz skriver vidare i History Today:

[I]t was for their political rather than their social clout that the London clubs had the greatest impact. The 1832 Reform Act created several hundred thousand new electors, people who consciously defined themselves as middle class. Shunned by the traditional political and aristocratic citadels of Brooks’s and White’s, this group founded their own more ‘popular’ political establishments, led by the Conservative-supporting Carlton Club in 1832 and the Liberal-supporting Reform Club in 1836.

The Great Fire of 1834 destroyed the old Palace of Westminster and, although the new House of Commons chamber was completed by 1852, Parliament remained a noisy building site well into the 1860s. For the whipping and lobbying activities that are an essential part of any parliamentary democracy, MPs had nowhere to go except to their clubs. These afforded MPs cheap and convenient all-night dining in central London, in several cases with the doors timed to close an hour after Parliament ceased sitting.

While the political influence of elite clubs proved transient, they nonetheless played a critical role in the evolution of parties and politics. In the 1830s the Liberal whip Edward Ellice popularised the phrase ‘Club Government’, as the Carlton and Reform Clubs housed national offices for the Conservative and Liberal parties (complete with printing presses and facilities for franking mail), pre-dating the creation of central political organisations in the 1870s. Hansom cabs ferried MPs from Pall Mall to Parliament in an eight-minute round trip, as the clubs became a convenient place for whips to pick up scores of MPs before a vote.

Most clubs had strict caps on membership numbers, but in political clubs MPs were exempt from such limits, so could join in large enough numbers to exercise significant influence.

[…]

In its 19th century heyday the club not only stood as an innovative way of brokering social interactions, it also allowed MPs to meet the costs of sitting in Parliament without burdening the taxpayer.

Bild: Interiör från Reform Club som var en klubb för anhängare till liberalerna.

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HISTORIA: Under januari firar tidskriften History Today 60 år. Enligt Richard Cavendish, kolumnist på tidskriften, var det Winston Churchill som fick idén till namnet. Här ser vi omslaget till första nummret.

The magazine’s founder was Brendan Bracken, Conservative MP, resourceful publisher, charming gatecrasher and close ally of Winston Churchill. An excellent Minister of Information in 1941-45, he was detested by his civil servants, who cheered when he lost his seat in the 1945 general election, and is said to have inspired some aspects of Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984.

[…]

He discussed his idea for a new history magazine with ‘the Boss’, as he called Churchill, and the story goes that after a fierce session in the House of Commons they both retired to the smoking room, where Bracken told Churchill, ‘We have made history today’ and Churchill told him that was the ideal title for the magazine.

Läs mer: ”January 1951: The first issue of History Today” av Richard Cavendish i History Today, januari 2011

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