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The Bolsheviks Rise to Power

The Bolsheviks Rise to Power

The Bolsheviks were a political party who led the Russian Revolution. They led the revolution under the new name of the communist party and soon became the ruling party of the Soviet Union. They used a culmination of tactics in order to instigate a revolution, that they felt was required. Their programme was based around the notion of establishing a communist Russia, but also to evoke an international revolution to spread communist ideas and “overthrow imperialist governments”. The party was led by a communist philosopher known as Vladimir Lenin; he also became known as the mastermind behind the October Revolution in 1917


Figure 1: Lenin making a speech.

Figure 1: Lenin making a speech.

On the 24th of October 1917 Lenin made a speech titled ‘Call to Power’ to the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks; the speech heavily featured the reasons why he felt the revolution was needed and that it must started with deliberate speed. He started off by stating that he believed the situation in Russia (1917) was one that could “not be resolved by conferences or congresses”. This demonstrates that he did not believe that the current government in Russia was not competent enough to protect the interest of the Russian people and therefore needed to be replaced. He then went on to say that revolution was needed in the “interests of the starving” in order to provide “salvation from famine”. Such famines took place in the winters of 1916 and 1917. He felt that the distribution of the land was unequal and believed that the nationalization of the land was essential in order to solve the problem of starvation. Another factor that Lenin mentions in his speech is the problem of the Great War, which the vast majority of Russians desired an end to after suffering the loss of approximately 3 million lives. He suggests that a revolution is required in order for the peasants to receive “the offer of peace” as only a Bolshevik government would be strong enough to negotiate a peace treaty with the Germans. This would also help end the starvation problem, as food would no longer have to be sent soldiers on the front lines and therefore be used to feed workers and the peasantry.

Figure 2: Russian soldiers during WW1

Figure 2: Russian soldiers during WW1


In a series of letters that Lenin sent to the Bolshevik Central Committee he mentioned what the most effective tactics were and how they should be used to seize control. The Bolsheviks “had a majority in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ deputies of both capitals” and Lenin felt believed this position would help the Bolsheviks take power. This is because he felt that victory in the Metropolitan cities of Moscow and Petrograd would carry the peasants with the revolution thus boosting their support. He also believed that in order for the revolution to be successful there “must be an armed uprising in Petrograd and Moscow”. This is because he believed that “by taking power in both Moscow and in Petrograd… we shall win absolutely and unquestionably”. Petrograd and Moscow were so vital to the Bolsheviks plans because of their economic importance to the Russians and also because this was where the main hubs of power were located. In stark contrast to this he came up with another, less violent tactic that he suggested the Bolsheviks should use. This was to “accuse the other parties of procrastination” in order to present the Bolsheviks as a more viable and competent leader that would take the Soviet Union forward, in the hope of increasing their support.

Figure 3: The storming of the Winter Palace

Figure 3: The storming of the Winter Palace


The Bolshevik party came to power after their successful October revolution. For the Soviet Union this not only meant a change to how the country was run but also to how the country operated outside its own borders. One significant reform made by the Bolsheviks was the establishment of investigative committees on land distribution which were set up in order to ensure that the land was sparsely spread out among the population and not just the wealthy few, in hope that this would decrease the chance of a repeat famine. Another one of the main positive points of the Bolshevik party was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which ended Russia’s participation in World War I. This was a huge step for the Bolsheviks but mainly the Russian population who had suffered so much to fight for their country.

For many years the outbreak of Civil War in 1918 has somewhat tainted what can be regarded as a successful rise to power. However, through the use of a range of tactics such as: speeches, armed movements and various other methods (mentioned prior) the Bolsheviks were able to implement their philosophy and therefore their ascension to power can be viewed as majorly successful.

Class of the Titanic

If you were waking up on the 15th of April 1912, you may be excused for assuming that somebody was playing a belated April fool’s joke upon you. After all, the “unsinkable” ship managed to meet its demise in the unlikely form of an iceberg and descended into its watery grave in just a matter of hours. But not everyone on the ship experienced this in the same way, If you were a third class passenger your chances of survival were unlikely in comparison to the higher chances of the upper class. This was due to the very formation of the ship, with each of the decks descending in class order. Furthermore, if you were a male passenger, your chances were even slimmer due to the age old policy of ‘women and children’ first. The sinking of the Titanic was tainted by class hierarchy both in terms of division on the ship, and in terms of how it was reported by the media to the general public.
This basic lack of regard for the lower classes ran from the very formation of the Titanic right through to those who survived. Source 1 is evidence showing that the layout of the ship impeded the chance for third class survival. Third classes were situated lower down in the ship, with six flights of stairs to climb to the upper deck. It is accurate to assume that a third class passengers journey from the third class deck to the upper deck would take them longer and thus cost more lives. This can be supported with the shocking statistics in Source 3 and supports the notion that class division is apparent in the creation of the living quarters of the ship, and so affects the chances of the passenger’s survival aboard the ‘unsinkable ship.’

Source 1: A blueprint of the layout of the floors on the Titanic. On the left the only flight of stairs from the lower deck can be seen.

Source 1: A blueprint of the layout of the floors on the Titanic. On the left the only flight of stairs from the lower deck can be seen.

With this in mind, the Astor family, owners of the Waldorf Astoria hotels in New York, proved the suggestion of the link between the lower down the deck – the lower the class in society, consequently the less likely you were to survive. The wealthy Astor family, were staying on the ‘C’ deck in first class (the deck belonging to first class that was the furthest down.) Therefore, this suggests that the death of John Jacob Astor may have been due to the inability to get to the upper deck, and to get to one of the few lifeboats available. However, John Jacob Astor was one of the few deceased that received a personal mention in the papers, as well as his surviving wife receiving a column. This was not due to him being just a popular man, although he had received tremendous recognition from the Spanish-American War and being granted the status of colonel, he received this media attention due to his class and more importantly his wealth. This showing how although situated in first class, it can be assumed that Astor was still restricted in his efforts to escape due to the poor layout of the ship. And from Source 2 it can be seen that he risked his life, like many men, for the sake of women and children, proving that gender was a contributing factor to survival on the Titanic.

Figure 2 is front page of The Call. Note the headline ‘Wealthy Men Lost,’ just under the death toll.

Figure 2 is front page of The Call. Note the headline ‘Wealthy Men Lost,’ just under the death toll.

The wife of Mr Astor, Madeline, who was aboard the Titanic with her husband, did survive. Therefore, this, along with Source 3, shows the difference between the sexes surviving, suggests that although the chances of survival were thin for lower class, they were also slim for the males on board. As even a man of such high status, could not escape the peril of the sinking of the Titanic.

Figure 3 provides a visual representation of the mortality rates in regards to gender and class

Figure 3 provides a visual representation of the mortality rates in regards to gender and class

The Titanic will remain a haunting disaster. Yet, what seems the forgotten tragedy is the way in which class division had its place during and after the disaster. Yet for those who were male, as well as a part of the third class, had little chance of survival. Unfortunately, the importance of hierarchy and divisions amongst classes on board the Titanic can be seen as a microcosm of British society at this time. However, in the case of the Titanic it is evident that social class was a matter of life or death.

Turning the Tide of War: The Battle of Stalingrad

The Battle of Stalingrad is a prominent example of civilian disaster and involvement in a dark period of European history. Lasting five months, the majority of the civilian population did not leave their city, continuing their jobs and supporting the war in their way. This period of European history is well documented, therefore demonstrating the wide reaching influence of a heroic civilian population outside its own country. Why did these civilian acts of heroism create so much interest on a global scale?

Hitler’s ferocious invasion on Stalingrad forced civilians to be influential in the outcome of the battle. The participation of civilians can be partly based on desperation for the need of soldiers and partly due to Stalin forbidding the evacuation of civilians .[1] However, the German historian Lubbers states that ‘thousands of civilians fled from the battle’[2] thus creating a conflicted image of the role of civilians. The source below would provide evidence that despite the mass destruction, not all civilians did indeed evacuate despite the dire circumstances, thus suggesting that civilians were under the influence of discipline or held a sense of patriotism which kept them within the city. Contemporary newspaper reports provide evidence of collaboration between the Red Army and civilian forces in defending the city.[3] In this interpretation the role of civilians became increasingly militarised beyond a militia, enhancing their role in the battle of Stalingrad.



Although most civilians of Stalingrad were evacuated before the city was besieged, it would have been impossible to save them all. Any civilian survivors endured hell to stay alive. The death of innocent civilians was just one of the factors that spurred the Russian soldiers to fight so ferociously; snipers such as Vasily Zaytsev stated they often saw dead children hanging from trees in parks through their scopes[4]. The beach heads of the river Volga were littered with the mutilated bodies of women and children who had fallen victim to German artillery and air strikes[5]. The death and destruction left behind after the German occupation of the Soviet Union led to the merciless acts of the Red Army during the later occupation of Berlin. The events of Stalingrad greatly damaged the civilians and soldiers of both the Red Army and Wehrmacht, in extreme cases the harsh weather conditions and lack of food caused soldiers as well as civilians to resort to eating the dead [6]. The cannibalism, although not on a mass scale, represents the desperation and suffering implemented by the German advance. Hitler perceived the city as a priority as Stalingrad was Stalin’s city; the heart of communism. For the exact same reason Stalin perceived Stalingrad as a priority to hold on to, in order to save communism. The result was catastrophic.

Stalingrad’s civilian resistance was renowned globally as being one of the most courageous populations throughout the Second World War. While the loyalty of civilians towards Stalin, through either fear or love, can be called into question, their willingness to fight was unprecedented. The source below was written by typists in Britain and pits the civilian involvement at the same level as that of the soldiers.[7] This letter epitomises the civilian involvement in Stalingrad by recognising that the civilian’s involvement in the struggle was just as key to the defence of the city as the soldiers. Other international responses were more direct such as one hundred and fifty Canadian people volunteering for a winter clothes appeal for the homeless and orphans of Stalingrad[8]. The plight of the civilians within the battle rallied international response, whether it was a recognition of their effort such as in Britain, or a response of aid sent by Canada thus proving how civilian effort did not go unnoticed.

primary sources

In conclusion, the civilians of Stalingrad were instrumental in the defence of the city. Without such ferocious determination in defying Hitler and the support of their nation, then the population of Stalingrad would have been eradicated. This stand against a fascist regime led to international recognition and global support. Although suffering through great atrocities their resolve remained unchallenged and ultimately they prevailed.

[1] C.P. Chen, Battle of Stalingrad (Accessed 13/03/2014 13:03pm)

[2] G.C Lubbers, The 6th German Army and the civilian population of Stalingrad inVierteljahrshefte Fur Zeitgeschichte Vol.54, 2006, Abstract

[3] Unknown, Nazi’s Ram way into Outskirts of Stalingrad: Civilians join Big Battle for City, Chicago Daily Tribune, 17th September 1942 P.1


[5] Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), 09/25/1942, p. 1



[8] Unknown (Accessed 27/03/2014 13:05pm)

The Cuckoo Nest

The Cuckoo Nest

Treatments and Conditions in Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, New Zealand.

The Gothic-themed architecture of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum makes the ideal setting for the brutal and shocking violations of human nature which occurred within the constraining walls of the ‘so- called’ sanctuary.  It was built in the late nineteenth century located in an isolated and eerie spot in New Zealand which was surrounded by a wall of forestation blocking the mentally handicapped residents from the rest of society and stripping them of their basic human rights.


cuckoo nest

Figure 1 Nurses in front of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum 1890

The horrors which occurred included many nineteenth century procedures compromising of the infamous lobotomy operation which consisted of removing or cutting the frontal lobes of the brain. This was the treatment for those deemed psychologically unstable.  A famous example of this is the author and schizophrenic, Janet Frame, who was in fact a patient at Seacliff Lunatic Asylum. She narrowly escaped the cruel incapacitating practice that is lobotomy. Frame claimed, ‘It is little wonder that I value writing as a way of life when it actually saved my life.’[1] In this statement she is referring to the success of her work which won her a literary prize, cancelling the lobotomy in the process. Although Frame was fortunate enough to escape this, others were not so lucky. For instance, former President John F. Kennedy’s sister, Rosemary Kennedy underwent the cruel treatment in 1941 when she was only 23[2]. This left her incapacitated and unable to live a fulfilling life.

cuckoo nest 2

Figure 2 shows a lobotomy operation which Janet Frame managed to avoid [3]

Another gruesome procedure of the Seacliff hellish asylum was the mutilation of sexual organs and carrying out of non consensual castration. The case study of ‘Annemarie [Anon]’ demonstrates this vile treatment, the ‘unsexing’ operation, which included the removal of fallopian tubes, ovaries and clitoris. The belief was that if patients were ‘unsexed’ it would lead to an improvement in behaviour, and in Annemarie’s case she was discharged six months after her treatment apparently ‘improved’. According to, men had improved behaviour in the asylum because they were required to take part in manual labour outside, whereas women suffered more because they were not allowed to go outside and this could be seen as a reflection of the outside world ‘housewife’ role.[4]

Electroconvulsive therapy was commonly used in mental asylums across the world, including in the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on the famous author Ernest Hemmingway which resulted in intense changes of behaviour. Shortly after his operation Hemmingway took a gun and promptly shot himself in the head. Thus showing the depression and changes in personality it can lead to. Further evidence of changes in behaviour after treatments is the accidental lobotomy of Phineas Gage, a railway worker, who had a pole penetrate his skull while working. Friends and family was distraught to discover and commented on his change in behaviour and personality.

The asylum was notorious for not abiding to human rights, the treatment of patients could involve measures such as chaining, starvation, solitary confinement and even keeping them unclothed – both humiliating and unethical. In fact, the Seacliff Asylum became known after its confinement of patients lead to the loss of thirty seven lives. A building which was recently added to the gloomy towers of Seacliff caught fire in 1942 in a fatal accident. The safety procedures of the asylum were questioned when it was discovered that the thirty seven desperate women who died were locked inside the ward with no way of escaping.[5]

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Sir Frederick Truby King made efforts to improve the conditions of Seacliff mental hospital. During his time as Medical Superintendent at Seacliff ‘from 1899 to 1921’[6]; he introduced various reforms into the asylum in attempt to improve the health of patients. Reforms included better diets for patients, and discipline for staff and improvements in the grounds. Furthermore he attempted to alter the style of treatment by introducing smaller and open wards which paved the way for future developments known as the villa system.

To sum up, the Seacliff mental asylum was demolished around 1960. Hopefully this has given you an insight into the monstrosities that plagued the asylum. The asylum is now privately owned.  This blog shows we should be grateful for the advancements that have been made in this field.


[1]  The Times (London, England), Friday, January 30, 2004; pg. 46; Issue 67985.

[2] Looking Back on an Ice-Pick Lobotomy That He Says Didn’t Touch His Soul, McGRATH, CHARLES. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 16 Nov 2005: E1.



[5] Seacliff fire kills 37-


“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

Bosworth Field, 1485. A savage hoard of Lancastrian supporters left the field drenched in the dead king’s blood. The new king, Henry VII, then had the arduous task of justifying his right to the crown, and propaganda was key to this.

ImageBorn only three years prior to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses, Richard was a popular Yorkist figure, and much loved by his brother King Edward IV, who made Richard Lord Protector of the country and of his son Edward V, upon his death. It was this position of honour, the Tudors’ say, Richard abused by murdering the young Edward V in his own quest for power. So, was Richard a true, honourable king, murdered on the instruction of a usurper? Or a cruel, tyrannical man, typified by his hunched-back? Centuries of propaganda would have us believe the latter; however evidence suggests otherwise.

One of the initial pieces of Tudor propaganda was Thomas More’s The History of King Richard III, which adheres to the portrayal of Richard as ‘malicious, wrathful, envious, and …ever perverse.’[1] More did this by describing Richard as more of a monster than a divine king, and referring to him as ‘crooked-backed,’[2] thereby de-humanising him. This book set the precedence for further such portrayals of Richard, many of which are still seen today.

The stereotypical image of Richard III can be seen in Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Richard III, largely based on More’s book, in which Shakespeare conforms to the popular image of a deformed king. This would suggest that society was in favour of tarnishing the image and name of the King in order to justify, legitimise and impress the newly established Tudor dynasty. In the play, Shakespeare depicts Richard as being “deformed and unfinished” which suggests the un-kingly features not desired by society.[3] As aforementioned in the works of Thomas More, the propaganda of a murderous king is further supported by the writings of Shakespeare, as reference is made to the disappearance of the ‘rightful heirs,’ the famous princes in the tower. In the play Shakespeare refers to “plots, I have laid” putting forward the notion that Richard had significant involvement in the heinous crimes he was accused of; murder and regicide.[4] Due to the esteem of Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Richard III is often still presented, and thus continues to affect people’s opinion on Richard as a crippled tyrant.

ImageAlongside textual propaganda, there were also visual representations which shifted focus on attacking the personality of Richard III, as being no more than a malicious and weak king, to his appearance, as an attempt to further validate his negative stereotype. This stereotype can be seen in the above painting of Richard, produced between the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which alludes to the idea of Richard as deformed, insinuating his weakness and inability to reign. This is highlighted by several features of his body; the shoulders, hands and face. The painter has given Richard sloped shoulders, supporting More’s claim of Richard being ‘ill-featured of limbs.’[5] Additionally, the hands of the King are central to the painting, unusual for royal portraits of this time, also the artist has given Richard a withered and haggard face, his aged appearance implying fragility, showing the painting is an effect of Tudor propaganda.

In contrast to this portrayal, other sources suggest the opposite to these negative representations of Richard; however they have not had as much of an impact on popular opinion. For example, in the book published by Horace Walpole, Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III, he disproves many common perceptions of Richard as a tyrant. Showing Tudor propaganda did not have an effect on all, as this was the first major piece of work disproving Tudor claims. He suggests that the King’s crimes were justified, necessary or he was not involved at all. Walpole casts doubt over the Tudor portrayal of Richard, suggesting that many concerns over the King’s ability were simply hysteria. This piece of work proves that the image of Richard III and propaganda surrounding the King was relevant centuries later, as Walpole was writing about the King posthumously, and disproves many negative perceptions of the King, largely discrediting Tudor propaganda.

In conclusion, Tudor propaganda has had a great impact on the views of Richard III as many of the sources we studied offer a negative perception of the King as being deformed. The fact that many of these sources discrediting the King were produced in later centuries shows that the impact of Tudor propaganda was long lasting. Throughout general opinion Richard is still largely regarded by many as a hunchbacked tyrant, which ultimately shows the extensive impact of Tudor propaganda, specifically seen in the work of Shakespeare. Despite a minority of sources discrediting Tudor propaganda’s portrayal of Richard, its foundations still lie within our modern day society.


[1] Thomas More, The History of King Richard III, (c.1513), p.5

[2] Ibid. p.5

[3] [Date accessed 13/3/2014]

[4] Ibid. [date accessed 13/3/2014]

[5] Thomas More, The History of King Richard III, (c.1513), p.5

Image 1: J.R. Brown, c.1901
Image 2: A posthumous representation of Richard III produced during the Tudor dynasty.

The Bismarck: Sunk of Scuttled?

The sinking of the Bismarck in May 1941 was critical to the Battle of the Atlantic. This poignant event in Britain’s war for survival is one which sparked great debate ( We chose the Bismarck’s demise in order to shed further light on this controversial event. We did this in two ways, firstly through the analysis of primary sources consisting of newspaper articles, and memoirs of men who partook in the events. These were then contrasted with secondary sources such as; the 2002 documentary produced by James Cameron and the 1960 feature film Sink the Bismarck. The analysis of these sources has allowed us to assess the different views that have been expressed over the several decades and how these have changed with time.


British newspaper The Daily Mirror carrying a front page story of the sinking of the Bismarck.

The evidence compiled traced events from the sinking of HMS Hood, to the ensuing Pan-Atlantic chase and the Royal Naval aircraft assault, before the Bismarck was eventually sunk. One of our key sources was a British newspaper report of the sinking of the Bismarck. The report is arguably an extravagant piece of propaganda, used to bolster the morale of the British people when serious defeats were being suffered on all fronts. The report sees the sinking of the Bismarck as a great blow to the German war machine dealt by the Royal Navy, describing how she was surrounded and sunk, in turn avenging HMS Hood. The press did much to publicise the news, particularly since the sinking maintained British naval supremacy, and owing to the fact that the Bismarck was the pride of the German Kriegsmarine, and was proclaimed to be unsinkable.

The newspaper report we collected was not too dissimilar to the story being told during the 1960s with the film Sink the Bismarck, which starring Kenneth More, told of the events surrounding the sinking of the Bismarck and held the typical British view of the German battleship being sunk by the Royal Navy. This was particularly interesting as the war had been over for 15 years, and propaganda telling of great victories over the enemy was unncecessary, yet the film was made using British sources to tell of the sinking of the Bismarck.


Memoirs of Burkard Baron Von Mullenheim-Rechberg who was a crewman aboard the Bismarck.


Memoirs of British Swordfish pilot John Moffat who partook in the action to sink the Bismarck.

We contrasted the views of a German crewman aboard the Bismarck and a British Officer claiming to be the torpedo bomber pilot who damaged the rudder to the German battleship rendering it immobile allowing for the sunbsequent Royal Navy capture and sinking of her. Our post-analysis conclusion was that the account from the German sailor,Burkard Baron Von Mullenheim-Rechberg who was the Aft Fire Control Officer, (Pictured left) is a more reliable source regarding the events surrounding the sinking of the Bismarck as he was an officer aboard the German battleship. He was thus aware of most orders that were given around the ship, including the supposed order to scuttle. By contrast, the British pilot, John Moffat, merely relays his events of the torpedo attack before describing how on May 27 he flew at a distance from the Bismarck and the British fleet and watched the events unfold. He described how he watched the British battleships and crusiers pound the Bismarck before she finally sunk after HMS Dorsetshire fired a volley of torpedos. He was not aware of what was occuring aboard the Bismarck itself and only relayed an external viewpoint. The source from the British pilot (Pictured above right) written in the 2000s, shows the typical British view of the sinking.

Our research also led to us viewing a documentary produced by American the film director James Cameron who, using Remote Operating Vehicles, dived on the wreck of the Bismarck surveying the damage that the ship had received. The documentary looked at the respective German and British perspectives of the sinking, which were similar to those mentioned in our earlier sources, and helped to form the basis of our conclusion on the subject of whether or not the Bismarck was sunk or scuttled. Cameron’s documentary contained striking images of the wreck of the German battleship and took the viewer into the bowels of the ship. The visual evidence yielded by this documentary supports the claim that the Bismarck was scuttled as the outer armourbelt was undamaged, despite the British torpedo impacts and shelling. However, the inside compartments had been severely damaged as if an internal explosion, or a series of internal explosions, which caused sufficient damage. 


The wreck of the Bismarck as viewed by James Cameron and his expedition team.

We asked the question of whether or not the Bismarck was sunk or scuttled. We found that the evidence, particularly from newspapers and the testimony of the veterans who partook in the events are contradicting, but that visual forensic evidence does support what the German veterans have always maintained; that the Bismarck was scuttled. Arguably the Bismarck was always going to sink through the Royal Navy’s bombardment; however, the scuttling charges merely hastened the sinking. Therefore, we conclude that the Bismarck, despite the British claims, was most likely scuttled. With the sinking of the Bismarck, of her company of 2,065, only 116 men survived to become Prisoners of War.


Malcolm X and Black Nationalism

“The common enemy is the white man” (1)
“Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered ‘white’–but the ‘white’ attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.” (2)

The iconic character of Malcolm X also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , has been the subject of intense criticism and reverence amongst white and Afro American communities, from the early 1950s until his assassination in February 1965.The quotes above illustrate a significant transition in the beliefs and preaching of Malcolm X, beginning with The Nation of Islam (NOI) led by Elijah Muhammad (leader of a radical vein of Islamist thought in the 1950-60s) to an integrationist belief, emphasising the need for black people to become more politically active. The aim of this blog is to chart the reasons for Malcolm X’s transition of ideological values, whilst giving insight into Black Nationalism with a comparative approach to a key earlier figure: Marcus Garvey. We have looked to provide a sound basis of contextual insight in around the transition process, by using a variety of sources.

After looking at the expulsion of Malcolm X from the NOI in December 1963, we discovered the iconic ‘Ballot or Bullet’ speech (link to speech: (3) The speech encompasses the ideology of Malcolm X, Black Nationalism, and a need for a united and politically engaged Afro American community. The speech follows up the failure of Congress to enact the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, thus fittingly, discussing political oppression, economic exploitation, and social segregation experienced by the black community. Malcolm X describes this as a betrayal of the black race, and emphasises the importance of a potential Afro American swing vote. Additionally, the source demonstrates how Malcolm X looked to political resolutions, whilst still maintaining that violence can be used as a last resort if necessary. As Malcolm X reflects, the current nature of American politics, ‘it is left up to them (white Americans) to determine who’s going to sit in the White House and who’s going to be in the dog house’ . (4)

After having spent twelve years as a prominent minister in NOI under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X was banished from the NOI, after making some controversial comments about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. A period of turmoil and conflict followed his leaving of the NOI, which was signified by numerous death threats on Malcolm X, as well as his newly founded Muslim Mosque Inc.

Don Hogan Charles 1964 September issue - Ebony Magazine
Don Hogan Charles 1964 September issue – Ebony Magazine


The source we chose was originally published by photographer Don Hogan Charles, in Ebony Magazine, a magazine by Afro Americans for Afro Americans. The date in which the photo was published, is rather significant as it portrays the alert state he was in, due to many death-threats, and firebomb attempts. The carbine rifle in the photograph represents his commitment and readiness to protect his family and beliefs. According to passages in his autobiography, this was a period of tremendous strain and was partly contributing to his pilgrimage to Mecca in April 1964. After leaving the NOI, he embarked on a trip to Mecca to complete the famous religious pilgrimage known as the Hajj; it was on this journey that his separatist preaching of the ‘White man’ drastically altered.

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Malcolm X At JFK Caption: African-American Muslim minister and civil rights activist Malcolm X (1925 – 1965) arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, after a tour of the Middle East, 21st May 1964. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images) Date created: 21 May 1964


This photo of Malcolm X was taken upon his return from his Hajj, clearly portraying a reinvigorated, redefined, and smiling figure who seems assured in his beliefs of a change from extremism to integrationist ideology. “We were truly all the same (brothers)–because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behaviour, and the white from their attitude.” (5) His pilgrimage served as a critical reawakening for Malcolm X, as he experienced the possibility of men of all colours to coexist harmonically through faith.

Comparatively, we chose to look at the works of Marcus Garvey, an earlier Black Nationalist prominent in the 1920s, specifically looking at his speech ‘If You Believe the Negro Has a Soul’ delivered in 1921, as he was one of the founding fathers . In this speech Garvey emphasises the inevitability of racial antagonism and ‘the hopelessness’ of interracial coexistence. Additionally, Garvey cites his intentions of uniting over 400 million ‘Negroes’ into one solid body, memorably stating ‘Africa for Africans’. (6) Furthermore, Garvey correctly identified that disunity amongst Afro Americans was the key problem in the struggle for equality. However, Afro Americans were no closer to a state of unity during the time of Malcolm X’s prominence. Garvey’s teachings had an undeniably profound impact on Malcolm X as his father was an outspoken ‘Garveyite’.
To conclude finally we use Nelson Mandela’s reflections on the works of Malcolm X ,‘ As brother Malcolm said, we declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be given the rights of a human being, to be respected as a human being in this so duty, on this earth, in this day which we intended to bring into existence ”by any means necessary”.’(7)

– Black Nationalists


1)Malcolm X – Quotations.” Malcolm X – Quotations. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2014.

2)”Malcolm X – Documents Letter from Mecca.” Malcolm X – Documents Letter from Mecca. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.

3)Malcolm X. “‘Ballot or Bullet'” Michigan, Detroit. 12 Apr. 1964. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

4) Ibid

5)Malcolm X. “Letter from Mecca.” Apr. 1964. Malcolm X. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <;.

6)Tony Martin. Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Dover, MA, U.S.A.: Majority, 1986, p. 60.

7)Lily Rothman. “Watch: Nelson Mandela’s Sole Movie Performance.” Time 5 Dec. 2013: n. pag. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <;.

Martin, Tony. Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Dover, MA, U.S.A.: Majority, 1986. Print.

Rothman, Lily. “Watch: Nelson Mandela’s Sole Movie Performance.” Time 5 Dec. 2013: n. pag. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <;.

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X, Malcolm. “Letter from Mecca.” Letter. Apr. 1964. Malcolm X. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <;.

Grigori Rasputin: A Deadly Game of Cluedo

Grigori Rasputin, 'Mad Monk'

Grigori Rasputin, ‘Mad Monk’


Grigori Rasputin, found murdered on December 29th 1916, was reputed to have a great influence over the Tsar and his family, who ruled Russia. This made him an enemy to many groups of people who opposed change, or whom believed that Rasputin’s influence over the Tsar meant that he was gradually plotting treason against Russia. This has led to much speculation over who finally decided to kill him.

The most accepted version of Rasputin’s death states he was poisoned, shot and finally drowned in the River Neva by five or more dissatisfied aristocrats, led chiefly by Prince Youssoupoff. To better understand this theory it is useful to analyse the newspaper article concerning Prince Youssoupoff’s trial and alleged confession in 1934. The Chicago Daily Tribune, on March 1st 1934, states the prince insisted he planned to murder Rasputin ‘to save Russia’. He claims Rasputin admitted to being on German pay and was planning on seizing the Russian throne. Subsequently, this led to the prince and his accomplishes deciding they had to kill him. The prince allegedly fired the first shot, which wounded Rasputin, but did not kill him. Youssoupoff claims ‘the killing shot’ was fired by Vladimir Purishkevitch, duma leader and foe of the czar, who fired four shots towards Rasputin (two of them that hit). However, later in the trial when the prince is being asked if he kept beating the body after Rasputin was dead, the prince replied that he in fact did, but it might have been before he was completely dead, and that the beating might have been the final blow in the killing of Rasputin.

Prince Yousoupoff, prime suspect in the case of the murder of Rasputin

Prince Yousoupoff, prime suspect in the case of the murder of Rasputin

However, though widely accepted, this was never proved, and so the mystery remains. There is a continued question of grandeur in this mystery: if the murderer wasn’t Prince Yousoupoff, could it have been a group of Dukes? The Washington Post, on the 17th of October 1917, reported that Rasputin’s demise was brought about by a group of ‘Grand Dukes who saw their own influences of Czar destroyed’. Herman Bernstein, author of the article in question, uses evidence from witnesses and the crime scene itself to piece together his idea of what might have happened the night Rasputin was killed. His evidence presents the idea that ‘pretty women [were] used as bait to lure [the] monk to [an] early morning party, where trying to flee, he was twice shot and thrown alive into a hole in the ice covering the River Neva’, which in turn presents a new conspiracy theory. The group of Dukes, Bernstein reports, hoped for to forestall a revolt among the people of Russia and believed that murdering Rasputin (thus obliterating the ever-present distraction to the Tsar and Tsarina) would do this, setting Russia on the track towards a stable government once more. The article does however mention that Rasputin, ‘evil genius’, anticipated the attack upon arrival to the party and was mauled by Prince Yousoupoff’s dog as he attempted to escape those conspiring against him, which does link back to the earlier theory of Prince Yousoupoff being prime suspect. If he was in fact at the party, in wait for Rasputin, it can be reasoned that the Prince, as part of the Grand Duke scheme, was indeed a killer in whatever circumstance.

Interestingly, historians over the years have questioned Prince Yousoupoff’s version of events and until recently failed to engage any credible alternative theories. In 2004 The Telegraph reported “British spy fired the shot ‘that finished off Rasputin’”. The article stated that an investigation into his death concluded it was not dissatisfied Russian nobles who murdered Rasputin but Oswald Rayner, a member of the Secret Intelligence Bureau. Retired Scotland Yard commander, Richard Cullen who stated he was “99.9 per cent certain” came to this conclusion as a result of a new forensic analysis. But why would a British SIB want to kill a Russian monk? Rasputin was allegedly hoping to distinguish peace between Russia and Germany which according to Cullen would have seen 350,000 German troops free to fight on the Western Front. The article illustrated three main pieces of new evidence; firstly the post-mortem photographs of Rasputin which showed a third bullet wound at his forehead. Secondly, the bullet holes were all different sizes; demonstrating the bullets were fired from different guns (thus suggesting that all other version of events were fabricated). Cullen surmises that the third gunman was Oswald Rayner due to its close range and precise positioning of the fatal shot. And finally, a memo sent between Rayners superiors, John Scale and Stephen Alley, stated ‘our objective has clearly been achieved. Reaction to the demise of ‘Dark Forces’ [a codename for Rasputin] has been well received by all… Rayner is attending to loose ends and will no doubt brief you on your return.’ This could perhaps be an indication that Rayner was involved in the murder of Rasputin in 1916.

Oswald Rayner, British spy, who after the emergence of new evidence in 2004, is also accused of murdering Rasputin

Oswald Rayner, British spy, who after the emergence of new evidence in 2004, is also accused of murdering Rasputin

However, despite the efforts of many to close the book on Rasputin’s murder, the open case still remains almost a century later, with little solid evidence to be telling enough to find the true culprit. One thing we can be certain of, however, is that it was not Colonel Mustard in the cellar with a rope.

Colonel Mustard


Sources used: Chicago Tribune (last accessed via Nora, 30.03.2014), Blogspot, The Washington Post (last accessed via Nora, 30.03.2014), The Telegraph, Birmingham Post, Blogspot

The Bolsheviks – A Manipulation of History.

In 1917, Russia was in disarray. March had seen the Tsarist regime collapse. The Provisional Government took over. More liberal than the Tsarist government, they allowed some civil rights but failed to make the major reforms needed.  The Bolsheviks were able to capitalise on the chaos and problems within Russia, leading to a coup d’état in October that established themselves as the leaders of Russia. The events leading up to this revolution and those that followed were of international importance as they led to Russia’s removal from the still ongoing First World War and sparked the desire for worldwide socialism that caused the Cold War. In short, these events set the stage for international relations for the rest of the century and beyond.

Within a month of removing Russia from the First World War with the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, they were thrust into a civil war in which they would fight the poorly organised, but relatively popular Whites until 1921. Despite being costly and bloody, the war allowed the Bolsheviks to consolidate power in each locality in a logical and systematic way. From this point on, they set about presenting themselves, and the state of Russia in a way that benefited them. They did this by manipulating both history and the truth to their own ends. The public perception of the Bolsheviks was therefore State controlled, and dictated by the leading members of the Bolsheviks such as Lenin and Trotsky. They started by presenting the October Revolution as a violent and bloody conflict in which the Bolsheviks overcame the tyrannical regime of the Provisional Government. The film October! was commissioned by the Bolsheviks to show the events of the revolution in the way that they wanted. They also staged a reconstruction in 1920 for the same purpose. As the revolution had occurred over night, without forewarning, there were no photographers or journalists that were not affiliated to the Bolsheviks. As a result, the events dictated by the reconstruction and the film became fact as far as the Russian people were concerned.


The Storming of Winter Palace from October!

Manipulation of the masses started long before the October Revolution occurred. Upon his return to Russia on the 4th of April 1917, Lenin made his famous April Theses, setting out the plan for the Bolsheviks and coined the popular policy of ‘Peace, Bread and Land.’ This was the main demand during the July Days Uprising, an unorganised and spontaneous movement that developed after workers went on strike in St Petersburg. To attribute the phrase to the Bolsheviks, as they wanted people to, is not accurate. In truth, the policy, as well as the slogan, originated from the International Women’s Day Parade. Lenin, who was still in exile in Switzerland at the time, recognised the popular support for the demands. Peace called for the end of Russia’s involvement in the First World War, bread called for the end to the food shortages and land called for land reform for the peasants. Lenin took the policy and the slogan and incorporated it into the Bolshevik manifesto to manipulate the masses and earn their support. After the revolution however, the Bolsheviks made every effort to make it seem like it was their policy.


Be On Guard – Bolshevik Fear Propeganda Poster.

The Bolsheviks also manipulated the climate of fear within Russia. By making Russia seem susceptible to spies and traitors, they manipulated people into spying on their neighbours, reporting suspicious activity and legitimised the role of the secret police by making it seem necessary. They used posters to instil fear in society. This allowed them to arrest, kill and exile political enemies, starting with the Social Revolutionaries in 1921 after a failed attempt on Lenin’s life, without the need of explanation. It also reduced the risk of a counter-revolution as people did not know who to trust, and could not therefore unite against them. They manipulated the masses for support, and then manipulated the truth so that they could act against their political enemies without fear of opposition or revolution. The Bolsheviks also tried to portray their revolution and the changes that it brought as necessary, and in the best interest of the Russian people. They commissioned a painting, titled The Bolsheviks, in 1920 that showed a Bolshevik carrying the flag with the Russian public gathering underneath it. It was telling people to support them unconditionally.


The Bolsheviks, 1920.

The Bolshevik regime, now considered bloody and authoritarian, nevertheless held great support in 1917 prior to its coming to power. Whilst this can be attributed to their manipulation of the masses and propaganda techniques, the initial interests in Lenin and his attempt at power came from the discontent with the Provisional Government. A scene played throughout history is that of a government overthrown in favour of a radical system, because of the discontent of the people. The Russian people were used to one authoritarian leader, hence the suitability of Lenin over the Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks effectively manipulated both the people and history to their own ends.

Suffragettes: Support or Slander?

Figure 1- A poster presenting suffragettes as ugly and without morals, suggesting that women who support the campaigns were synonymous with prostitutes.

Figure 1- A poster presenting suffragettes as ugly and without morals, suggesting that women who support the campaigns were synonymous with prostitutes.

On July 2nd 1928 all women in Britain gained the right to vote. However, the struggle that led to this success began in the previous century. The Women’s Movement was an extremely controversial subject, with many supporters, but there were equally as many who were vehemently opposed.
There were two main groups of women who fought for suffrage, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The WSPU were more militant in their methods, leading to a certain amount of controversy towards the movement. Because of this, the NUWSS gained more support from the general public and parliament.
The women’s movement was widely publicised with both support and opposition appearing in the media. There is evidence for support of the cause, such as the suffragist Hyde Park rally in 1910 which demonstrates widespread popularity for the cause through the amount of people there. The video also begins with text reading “Law Abiding Suffragists”, which again shows support for the passive campaigning for suffrage, rather than violent methods. The opposition to violent methods of protest is demonstrated by the numerous newspaper articles from the 19th and 20th centuries which present the WSPU as dangerous and as promoters of crime. An article from The Times in 1913 released a warning to the public on the actions of the group, writing that they were promoting lawlessness. The article states that the activities of the WSPU involved damages to property and risk of life and limb. This, along with the seizure of the property of the group, shows a considerable degree of opposition to the campaign. On the other hand, it can be seen that the violent actions of the WSPU were not opposed by everyone as the MP George Lansbury was imprisoned in 1913 after making a speech at a WSPU rally in support of their campaign of arson attacks.
Not only do newspaper articles demonstrate a lack of support for women’s suffrage, there were many posters circulating that gave the impression of women who supported the cause as poor mothers and wives. Posters were aimed at men to deter them from supporting the cause and also from allowing their wives or daughters to become involved in the movement. This opposition was also carried into parliament and many MPs, such as William Cremer, spoke out against it. On the other hand, men such as John Stuart Mill and even MPs such as Keir Hardie supported the campaigns of the women’s movement. This suggests that not all males were opposed to women’s suffrage. Although groups opposed to the movement used posters to gain support for their beliefs, the women’s movement also used propaganda effectively. Posters calling for “votes for women” were widely circulated and increased knowledge and contributed to the advancement of the cause.
Posters were also used throughout World War One to encourage women across Britain to contribute to the effort by working in factories and on the land. This undoubtedly had a large impact on both the war and the movement, evident in the limited suffrage granted to women over thirty in 1918. As it is the centenary of WW1 this year, the acknowledgement of the contribution of women to the war effort is significant, and how this may have brought them the vote. The work of women in factories clearly showed that they could participate in the public sphere in areas such as work, while remaining respectable unlike the previous portrayal of them as unruly creatures. In addition, the WSPU’s move to stop further militant action from taking place and contributing to recruitment campaigns after the declaration of war in August, arguably gained them more support from parliament evident in the release of all suffragettes from prison.
Despite the success of the limited franchise given to women in 1918, this did not completely achieve the aims of the women’s organizations as only women over 30 could vote. Therefore it could be said that this shows continuing opposition to women’s suffrage at this time, calling into question the impact of women’s war work on the movement as it was not until a decade after the war all women over 21 received the vote. It can be said that the efforts of the anti-suffragette movement hindered the cause, but with the ultimate aim of gaining votes for women succeeding, these posters and stories become merely a chapter in women’s history.


Figure 2- A poster depicting the slovenly home of a suffragette.

Figure 2- A poster depicting the slovenly home of a suffragette.