Nathaniel Hodges, Plague Doctor: Saving Lives One Unicorn Horn at a Time?

plague

London 1665. A pandemic swept the city leaving death and despair in its wake. It was the “the disastrous mortal disease known as the Black Death” , a disease that left many professional medics of the era stumped. One such medic was Nathaniel Hodges, born on 14th September 1629. His interest in science was obvious from the beginning, and during his life he attended both Trinity College, Cambridge and later Oxford University. In 1672 he was admitted into the fellowship of the College of Physicians in 1672 as a result of his extensive research into plague treatment.

Hodges developed his ideas and theories on the Plague whilst it happened, as he resided in London throughout the disease’s lifespan. Hodge compiled his findings of the Plague into his detailed book LOIMOLOGIA or, a Historical Account of the Plague in London in 1665. Within this book he detailed the symptoms and possible cures and remedies for the ailment. Hodges stated that the main ways to identify whether or not one was afflicted with the Plague was by checking if they displayed:

“The Symptoms of the first Class are Horror, Vomiting, Delirium, Dizziness, Head-ach, and Stupefaction. Of the second, a Fever, Watching, Palpitation of the Heart, Bleeding at Nose, and a great Heat about the Precordia.” Quote from the LOIMOLGIA

Hodges also established theories on cures for the Black Death. Many of these ideas were quite ‘off the wall’; for example, he believed that by using the flesh of a rattle snake as a fire torch to treat patients he could cure the sick, and even thought that this method was relatively effective compared with the use of more conservative methods. Another rather bizarre option of treatment that Hodges formed was the use of powdered unicorn horn. He tested this theory out many times after buying a bag of said ‘unicorn horn’ from a travelling merchant. It is unsurprising that Hodges soon realised that this didn’t provide the results he hoped for and soon started to question the existence of such an animal. Other treatments that Hodges advocated, which were a little more mainstream, was the use of berries, nuts, flowers, wines and vinegars. This concurred with what many other doctors thought at the time who encouraged the use of Plague Water, which was a combination of many of the ingredients listed, as a valid and effective cure.

The bizarre ideas of doctors such as Hodge make it more difficult to trust in their prognosis, especially when coupled with the limited medical knowledge of the time. Simple mistakes could have even been made when diagnosing patients, and in reality, seemingly harmless illness could have actually been the Plague, or those diagnosed with Plague may not have been infected at all. We can see this when we look at a Bill of Mortality for a week in September 1665. This is because many of the disease listed here are also share the same symptoms as the Plague, such as ‘Feaver’, of which 309 people died. Therefore with the lack of detailed medical knowledge, misdiagnosis was commonplace at this time and meant that people could be receiving the wrong treatment.

graph 2

Percentage of deaths in each illness for a week in September 1665

This graph shows us that 90% of all deaths, which was 7,165 people, were from the Plague, reinforcing the point that physicians could not be fully trusted to effectively care for those on the brink of death, as even though they had cures that they all believed in, none of these had any effect as people were still dying in their thousands week by week.

To conclude, we must recognise that we can’t judge Hodges and his peers by modern day standards as we have now have a more detailed understanding of the world, health care and hygiene. We must also realise that even if a cure was developed it would be difficult to spread the news as communication was limited and it would have taken weeks, if not months for the cure to circulate the country. Therefore although Hodges used unorthodox methods, at the time of the Plague he was seen as a much respected physician for his work and determination to find a cure and still remains one of the most well respected writers on the medical and social effects of the disease.

Further sources:

Much of our general information about Nathaniel Hodges was taken from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

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Suffragettes in Britain and Abroad

We are “Source Busters”, and we have investigated the comparison between the British and international suffrage movements. We did this by researching a series of primary sources from Northumbria University’s online databases. These sources included newspaper articles, statistical data, and literature produced by both pro- and anti-suffrage writers. We were able to use this information to differentiate the more militant suffrage movements in the UK and Germany, with the more peaceful movement in New Zealand, or cases in which women’s suffrage was granted by a government for political reasons, such as the Soviet Union.

Penny Illustrated Paper headlines

Varying headlines in the Penny Illustrated Paper

We were able to find articles which showed a clear discrepancy between those writers who were for and against female suffrage, both in the UK and abroad. For example, we located a Penny Illustrated Paper article which critiqued the British suffrage movement as being a middle-class organisation dominated by “lady hooligans”[1]. In contrast, in a 1908 article from the same newspaper, the correspondent argues that the suffrage movement was inherently a positive thing, and that “no man should be ashamed to see his sister, aunt or mother in this parade”[2]. We found this interesting in that it illustrates the contrasting attitudes to female suffrage in contemporary society.

We used this as a basis to compare the UK suffrage movement with its German counterpart. We found an article from the Queanbeyan Age newspaper, in which a Berlin-based correspondent reports on the mood amongst German suffragettes in 1907. The article indicates that they had taken inspiration from the violent act of some British suffragettes, and planned to emulate them by storming the Reichstag building, the German parliament. The writer hints at the feeling of solidarity between the suffrage movements in different countries by drawing on the links between the German suffragettes and their “British sisters”[3].

Map of the world by female suffrage

Click to view full size

We constructed this map by making use of various statistics which were available in the public domain (click here for source). Our aim was to show when universal suffrage became recognised in every country in the world and in which era. From the data shown on the map, we can see that most European nations granted female suffrage before 1945. This could have been either as recognition of women’s work in the war effort during the First World War, such as the United Kingdom, which granted limited female suffrage in 1919 and full suffrage in 1928. Immediately after the First World War, we see that most of the nations which granted female suffrage are those which had undergone significant constitutional change, such as the new Weimar Republic in Germany (1919), the Russian Soviet Republic (1917), and new nations like Poland and Czechoslovakia, who were founded on a basis of liberal democratic principles and wished to showcase their acceptance of these principles.

This trend can also be noticed in other parts of the world, chiefly Africa. As nations were granted independence from their colonial rulers after the Second World War, they felt an obligation to indicate that they were accepting of the liberal democratic principles which they inherited. As such, we see many nations in Africa, south Asia and the Pacific granting full female suffrage immediately upon gaining independence. This trend covers almost the entire continent, from states like Ghana (1954) to new countries like South Sudan (2011).

It is also interesting to note which countries do not fit in with these global trends. The most significant such nation in the West is the United States (1960). Although women nominally gained equal suffrage in the US in 1920, suffrage didn’t become full and universal until 1960, since until that point, many non-white women were prevented from voting on racial grounds. Other nations in the West which do not fit this trend are Portugal (1976), which had previously been under a dictatorship, and Switzerland, which took until 1971 for every canton to approve female suffrage.

Some countries completely lack female suffrage, or otherwise have it in name only. Saudi Arabia, for example, does not permit women to vote (although plans to in 2015)[4]. Other Islamic states, like Qatar and the UAE, also lack female suffrage. This is largely for cultural and historic reasons, although pressure is on them to change. This also extends to dictatorships – for instance, although North Korean women legally gained equal suffrage in 1948, elections are nothing more than rubber-stamp procedures with one listed candidate[5].

To summarise, we can see several key trends in female suffrage, both worldwide and in comparison to Britain. These include the violent nature of suffragette movements in the West compared to the automatic granting of female suffrage with the independence of emerging states, from new Eastern European nations just after the First World War, to new African nations during the period of decolonisation. We can also see that, although a lot of progress has been made on the issue of women’s rights, some countries do not recognise it, or have systems so undemocratic that female suffrage is a moot issue.


[1] “The Suffragette Martyrs”, Penny Illustrated Paper (London), July 6, 1912; p. 11.

[2] “I March With The Suffragettes” Penny Illustrated Paper (London), June 20, 1908, p. 389.

[3] “German Suffragettes Will Raid The Reichstag” Queanbeyan Age (NSW, Australia), January 18, 1907, p. 3.

[4]Women in Saudi Arabia to vote and run in elections“, BBC News, September 25, 2011.

[5] “N Korea holds parliamentary poll“, BBC News, March 8, 2009.

Lord Armstrong

Lord William Armstrong, born in Newcastle upon Tyne, was ‘the inventor of modern artillery.’ ( The Times). He is widely renowned for his Elswick works upon the North Bank of the Tyne and it is fair to argue it was this that made him a national hero and certainly a local hero. We think he brought a lot to the North East and this is why we thought Lord William George Armstrong would be a very relevant topic for our blog. In this blog, you will find a brief insight into his life and works, with particular focus upon armaments. We chose William Armstrong to research further into as he was born locally, and we thought this could provide us with access to many more primary sources than if we chose to research a topic, say for example, in a foreign country. When finding sources for our topic we included numerous types in our analysis, including photographs, a contract list and a painting. Each of these different types of sources represented different elements of our research in to munitions created by William Armstrong.

Educated in Newcastle, Armstrong exhibited a keen interest in science and engineering from an early age. However, Armstrong’s father persuaded him to take articles, and he became a lawyer, training for 5 years in London before returning home and eventually becoming a partner in the firm of his father’s friend, Armorer Donkin. Armstrong maintained his interest in engineering and in 1846 was elected a fellow of the Royal Society for his work as an amateur scientist. For more information about the Royal Society please click here.

After the failure of his initial invention, a rotary engine, to gain sufficient interest, Armstrong turned to harnessing hydraulic power for use in cranes. Having completed a demonstration model on the Tyne, Armstrong secured exclusive rights to the building of such cranes along the dockside, and subsequently, in 1846, W.G.Armstrong & Co was born. The company enjoyed significant success in applying its technology to different devices, and from 20 to 30 men employed in 1847, there were 352 by 1852.

The Great Gun-Maker – The Life of Lord Armstrong by David Dougan. Published by Sandhill Predd Ltd.

The Great Gun-Maker – The Life of Lord Armstrong by David Dougan. Published by Sandhill Predd Ltd

With the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853, Armstrong saw an opportunity to move the firm into the lucrative armaments market. He designed a rifled, light field gun and successfully pitched it to the Secretary of War in 1858. His innovations would set the standard in artillery design for the next 100 years. By the late 1860s, Armstrong was supplying guns all over the world, including to both sides in the American Civil War. Armstrong also created large amounts of small arms, especially after the merger of W.G.Armstrong and Vickers Ltd. to form Vickers-Armstrongs Limited in 1927.

Picture1Since we included a graph in our previous work, we decided to change the format of the graph from a pie chart to a bar chart as we thought this would better display the data.

When it came to the second area of our project, we decided to evaluate the source that we thought could best subject to different analytical techniques.

Firstly we created a pie chart to represent the years and figures displayed in the contract list. We thought this was a good way to display the data as it was visually easier to take information from than the contract list itself. On second thoughts, we changed this to a bar chart, as we felt this would better illustrate the different trade levels of the years than a pie chart.

This source was found in Skennerton, I. (1997). Small Arms Identification Series No. 8: .303 Vickers Medium Machine Gun. Labrador, Australia: Ian D. Skennerton. ISBN-10: 0949749222

Based on Skennerton, I. (1997). Small Arms Identification Series No. 8: .303 Vickers Medium Machine Gun. Labrador, Australia

William Armstrong’s lifelong love affair with water – which gave rise to his great inventions in hydraulics and hydroelectricity – began when he was very young. One of his main aims was to divert the many watercourses to useful ends, so he lost no time in damming the nearby burns to create reservoirs, eventually five in all, from which water could be piped all over the estate. Crucially, the artificial lakes also provided heads of water that could be harnessed to drive hydraulic machinery and to experiment with hydroelectricity. A waterfall in Debdon Burn, a tributary of the Coquet, was the source of energy for Cragside’s first electricity, which would be controlled from a specially constructed power house. Armstrong’s work was recently explored by George Clarke in a recent episode of ‘The Restoration Man.’

For more information about the life and works of Lord William Armstrong please click here .

The early years of the NHS

THE FIRST NHS PATIENT

On 5 July 1948 Sylvia Diggory was admitted to hospital in Manchester to be treated for a liver condition. Undoubtedly this was a big event in her life, but it was an even greater event in British history. Sylvia, aged 13, was the first patient to be treated on the NHS, and she also got the honour to meet Secretary Aneurin Bevan himself.

Sylvia’s mother was quoted saying “It’s fantastic – it’s an incredible structure. When you really think about it there is no one else in the world who has anything to come up to it.” (click here for source) This was the exact reaction that Bevan was aiming for as he intended to use young Sylvia as a starting point to officially launch his vision of a new National Health Service for the British public.

However young Sylvia had no idea as to the momentousness  occasion that she was at the centre of. When asked if she understood the situation she replied “Aneurin Bevan asked me if I understood the significance of the occasion and told me it was a milestone in history — the most civilised step any country had ever taken and a day I would remember for the rest of my life.” (click here for source and read more here)

1948 AMENDMENT ACT

After the foundation of the NHS in 1948, improvements and discoveries within the service continued to benefit public health. However despite these public benefits, in the 1949 Amendment Act put an end to free prescriptions. The act concluded that prescriptions could no longer be provided free of charge. (click here for source)

Just months prior to the Act, Bevan was asked by Sir W. Wakefield why private paying patients were made to pay for drugs and medical and surgical appliances which regular patients got free and Bevan replied, suggesting that there is no extra cost for the extra drugs and appliances they receive; they simply pay for the privileges of being a private patient. (to read more on this debate click here)

Nonetheless this demonstrates some opposition to the availability of free prescriptions and the foundations to the passing of the 1949 Act.

The passing of this act was obviously opposed by the public but Bevan, the National Minister of Health made an effort to justify it when he stated “Where a doctor has given you a prescription that costs more than a shilling, the National Health Service will pay the cost above a shilling, but up to the shilling you will pay.”( click here for source) This demonstrates how the Health Service were still in fact working for the public and benefitting them economically, just to a lesser extent as they were previously. However, it was not until 1952 that the Act took effect.

After the foundation of the NHS in 1946, there was a large focus on the expenditure that the economy would incur as a result of it. In an attempt to reduce expenditure, the Guillebaud Committee was set up. Although the initial aim was to maintain the expenditure and not reduce it, spending did fall from 3.75% to 3.25%” (click here for details) of Gross National Product. At the time, the Minister of Health Dennis Vosper argued that a separate national health contribution should be made alongside the mandatory national insurance.

The difficulty facing new Prime ministers, such as Harold Macmillan in 1960, was whether making cuts to the NHS could be justified while the national insurance contribution was doubled by the national insurance act of 1957  (more details here) . The plans put in place seem to reflect the government planning on the long term expenditure and planning to increase public contributions, highlight that an expenditure on welfare could have economic benefits, as a healthier workforce means that it will be more productive, in turn providing more economic gain. Further down the line, there is still large focus on NHS spending, as Tony Blair committed to an increase in NHS funding in 2000, but there are still issues surrounding whether money is actually being put to good use within the service.

The Minister of Labour, Aneurin Bevan had always been opposed to the introduction of charges for dentures and spectacles. In his view, it was financially unnecessary and he believed that it was politically dangerous to the Labour Party as it would abandon their absolute policy of a free Health Service. In truth, with a budget of over £4,000 million, it should not have been difficult to find a sum of £13 million whilst not breaching this policy.

Bevan believed that the Chancellor Hugh Gaitskell could have found the saving which he believed only possible to obtain by introducing charges through over means. He saw these charges as a serious breach of socialist principles and saw no way he could vote in favour of the bill, and felt obliged to resign from the government.

Women in the Victorian Era

The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,

Pale and defeated, rise and go.

The great Jehovah is laid low,

Vanished his burning bush and rod—

Say, are we doomed to deeper woe?

Shall marriage go the way of God? [1]

Many female poets and writers went against social norms and the writer, Amy Levy, is a prime example.  During the Victorian era, women were subject to increasing social pressures to fit the mould of the ‘gentlewoman’, with the Angel in the House being the ideal that many were lead to aspire to. According to the Angel in the House was “expected to be devoted and submissive to her husband. The Angel was passive and powerless, meek and charming, self-sacrificing, pious, and above all – pure. The phrase ‘Angel in the House’ comes from the title of an immensely popular poem by Coventry Patmore, in which he holds his angel-wife up as a model for all women” (source). These expectations and the pressures they created caused many women to – more often than not –  buckle under such pressures; this lead to associations and connotations of insanity, depression and suicide in the female sex becoming more prevalent, with the ‘madwoman in the attic’ theory coming to the forefront. Gilbert and Gubar’s theory was not released or published until the 1970s, which in itself demonstrates how long it had taken for inequality amongst the sexes to even begin to be recognised as a problem. A prime example of the ‘madwoman in the attic’ theory is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, The Yellow Wallpaper. This specific piece work was, and continues to be vital, outlining the types of pressures women faced during the era in which it was written, despite the fact that Perkins Gilman was facing said strain on the other side of the Atlantic. According to Bennett and Royle, it is a “dramatic and powerfully ironic account of how a woman is repressed, confined and ultimately driven crazy, specifically by her husband, but more generally by the violence of patriarchy”[2].

Through their works, many female poets and writers expressed their discontent, and Amy Levy was no exception. The short and melancholy life of Amy Levy is illustrative of that of most talented literary writers of the Victorian era. Levy’s constant struggle with sexuality, religion and self-esteem lead to her unfortunate suicide in 1889 at the age of twenty-seven.  Although Levy was amongst the minority in regards to her suicide as a response to the pressures she faced, writers often depicted female characters as mentally unstable, with examples including Bertha Mason[3], Rossetti’s poems and the works of Mary Shelley and Jane Austen depicting the tight social pressures women of the era faced.

The character of Bertha Mason is a noted example of how Victorian female writers characterise their female agents to depict the pressures they themselves feel, and in the case of Amy Levy, their own concerns. Women were subject to a number of pressures with marital pressures at the forefront – an issue which which in Jane Eyre reached such an extent as to drive Bertha Mason, Mr. Rochester’s first wife to supposed insanity. Charlotte Bronte’s character is described in the following way:

What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing; and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face.[4]

Eliza JosolyneJane Eyre, like many novels at the time, provides a powerful account of how women can be driven to insanity through confinement and repression by ‘the violence of patriarchy’[5].  This was a common occurrence in this era, along with women being placed in madhouses for conditions such as postnatal depression, alcoholism and even infidelity.[6] Examples of these women include Eliza Josolyne[7] (pictured) who allegedly was driven to madness through overwork.

Ultimately, as a group we decided to use Amy Levy’s poetry and her internal struggles with the aforementioned pressures as the foundation to understanding the struggle that many women of the era had faced. Through this blog, we have attempted to cast a light on society’s expectations of the female sex with reference to literary theorists as well as examples from Victorian female writers, and, although our focus was on women in Britain, it is evident that these inequalities were in actual fact a global issue.


[1] Levy, A., “A Ballad of Religion and Marriage”.

[2] Bennett, A & Royle, N., An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (Harlow: Pearson, 2009), p.178.

[3] Bronte, C., Jane Eyre (New York: Norton &Co, 2001).

[4] Ibid., p. 250.

[5] Bennett, A & Royle, N., An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (Harlow: Pearson, 2009).

[6] Wallace, W., ‘Sent to the asylum’, Daily Mail [accessed 24th February 2013].

[7] Ibid.

1988: The Year the Berlin Wall really came down

Ideologically, of course…
The Berlin Wall was a physical representation of the ideological divide between the Communist East and the Capitalist West. Primarily, its construction was based upon political differences, yet it also led to the dividing of families in everyday life as well as putting an economic strain on businesses on both side of the wall. Berlin, before the erection of the wall was a unified and prosperous city. However, after its construction, the quality of lives on opposite sides could not have been more dissimilar. West Berlin transformed into a forward thinking and culturally vibrant city as demonstrated by growth in art, graffiti and free speech; whereas East Berlin was tightly controlled in almost every aspect of life, thus leading to a series of people defecting to the West.

The fall of the Berlin wall occurred on 9th November 1989, but the media coverage and opinion varied from country to country and persistently changed throughout 1988. The events that led up to the fall of the wall were widely reported on in global newspapers. The pace of the Wall’s demise is still widely queried today, therefore it is interesting to explore just how, in the course of a year, the swift destruction of the Berlin Wall was actually achieved.

The publication of an article within The Times newspaper shows just what public opinion towards the Berlin Wall was like in August 1988. The report comments on an earlier article published in the East German Communist newspaper, Neues Deutschland, on how they believed that the Barrier was a necessity because it ‘keeps peace’[1]. In reality, there was nothing about the division between East and West Berlin which could be categorised as ‘peaceful’ because many of the residents of East Berlin were going to the ultimate extreme, crossing a barrier guarded by armed soldiers, in the hope of escaping Soviet rule. Even East Germany’s economy was in a terrible state because of the “brain-drain to the west”[2]. The views expressed in the article appeared to be the general public opinion of the British towards the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union so it is no surprise that the article criticises the views of the East German Communist party because they were clearly on the same wave length as political leaders of the Soviet Union.

The divide between West and East was so great that it is difficult to see how, in just over a year, the Berlin Wall had been destroyed. Yet, it is true that this was in fact the case. Though, we must note this wouldn’t have been possible if the anger and hostility felt between the East and West was not replaced by a mutual cooperation; and it certainly wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for one man: Mikhael Gorbachev.

Whilst the East German Communist Party would always express loyalty to the Berlin Wall because of its political opinions, this did not mean that a new, progressive leader of the Soviet Union could come in and right the wrongs that had seen decades of uneasy relations between the East and West. Gorbachev’s active role as the Prime Minister and General Secretary of the Soviet Union and his desire for social reform is what kick-started talks which would send Germany on the right path to reunification.

Gorbachev “charmed the most anticommunist U.S. leader in modern history”[3] and helped transform the clashing opinions of the East and West in a matter of months. Gorbachev’s friendly cooperation with Ronald Reagan was of great significance.

The fact that the Soviet Union and America had shifted from mortal enemies, who had come so close to destroying the entire world in a nuclear war whilst in a bitter feud, to now featuring a two page feature on Gorbachev’s many achievements in an American newspaper!

Perhaps Gorbachev’s motives were based on an act of desperation. It was of common knowledge that East Germany and the Soviet Union were in financial and economic ruins. The residents of the Soviet Union were struggling to cope with lacking food supplies, whilst “East Germany was bleeding to death”.[4]  It is likely that the financial support that the USSR was guaranteed by the West would have influenced Gorbachev’s actions, however the desire for peaceful co-existence across the globe was just too tempting to pass up. It appears these small conditions were nothing compared to the great relief that would be felt when the wall finally fell.

Although the Berlin Wall was still standing physically, the separation between the two world powers on the basis of conflicting ideologies was collapsing and new stronger relations were forming.  The article in question featured in the Washington Post at the turn of the New Year. It would not be wrong to view its publication date as a poignant message: New Year, new attitudes, new change.


[1] “Barrier ‘keeps peace’.” Times, 13 August 1988.

[2]  John Hughes-Wilson, The Cold War: The Hidden Truth About How Close We Came to Nuclear Conflict, (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006), p. 168.

[3] Gorbachev: One Leader Can Make a Difference: Soviet History’s Course Changed in 1988, The Washington Post, (Washington, D.C), 31 Dec 1988

[4] John Hughes-Wilson, The Cold War: The Hidden Truth About How Close We Came to Nuclear Conflict, (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006), p. 168.

Bloody Sunday

And the battles just begun

There’s many lost but tell me who has won

The trench is dug within our hearts

And mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart

These poignant words from U2s song, Sunday Bloody Sunday, which has reference to the tragic events which took place around the streets of Bogside Londonderry, Northern Ireland. We were inspired by this song to find out who should hold responsibility for the devastation of the Bloody Sunday events. We looked into it in two ways, firstly by analysing primary  sources of first hand reports and articles; then compared these to secondary source material such as the 2010 Saville report to fully appreciate how the understanding of the event has change over the years and how the blame for it has somewhat shifted. The second way was to get data about the amount of casualties as well as what age and nationality those affected were in order to reveal who the people involved in the event were, were they the young hooligans that the original Widgery report suggested? Or just innocent Irish protesters caught in crossfire?

Our evidence showed how as the rally descended into chaos, rubber bullets and water cannons suddenly and tragically gave way to live ammunition. It was hinted that from the start lethal force was commissioned and approved by Cabinet or high Military officials towards any acts of aggression from the masses, but this was never confirmed, although they did place the blame upon the control of the Irish government. Our second piece of evidence highlighted the extent of the tragedy; at the end of the day thirteen men, most of them under the age of twenty-one, would be left dying in the street.Bloody Sunday Graph

What we wanted to do here was essentially see the specific groups that suffered, proving that it was the Irish that were victims, not the British.  The graph is based on statistics though so we could not really identify from it, whether it was the British who began to use excessive force or whether they were responding to violent protesters.  Our conclusions were greatly draws from the two secondary source government reports on the events that took place that day.  These sources were the original Widgery tribunal from 1972 and the more recent Saville report from 2010. By analysing extracts from the two we were able to find out how the British government had aimed to predict the protesters as violent, justifying the excessive force of the British troops in response.  Further use of secondary source data such as extracts from newspapers like this headline from the Guardian (left) printed Bloody Sunday Newspaper Headline7th

March 1972, which shows how the press did much to exacerbate the issue.  It is evident from our findings that the tabloid newspapers continued to jump on the bandwagon, following the release of the Widgery report, and release various somewhat controversial stories on the events with the vast majority of them portraying the Irish protesters as the villains.

However our research showed how the more recent Saville enquiry has since dispelled the findings of the Widgery report. When we looked into the Widgery report we found it to be incredibly bias in comparison to the Saville enquiry; the way that Parliament attempted to cover the British actions as fair and correct, in our opinion, was immoral and just showed further the mistakes made by the British in the event. The Saville enquiry on the other hand was a more fair representation of events and showed the true nature of Bloody Sunday. For us the Saville enquiry was useful to contrast to the Widgery report in showing the way that the British abused their power against the Irish protesters.

Bloody Sunday Barrier 14 Seasoned rioters and member of company c presentTwo striking photographs that we found showed images of the Irish protesters looking like they were rowdy and violent towards the British; of course these were taken from the British sides of the barriers and so were most likely intended to display a negative image of the Irish. Both photos do however back up the point that the Irish were completely unarmed, while all the British soldiers were armed to the teeth, we inferred that the Brits must have been instigators of the devastation due to this.Bloody Sunday Lined Up

We asked the questions were the Irish simply young hooligans or rather innocent bystanders caught in crossfire on Bloody Sunday? We found that the evidence said that there were of course young rioters out to vent their rage with violence, however they were unarmed and wrongly fired upon. Through the bias reports and the fair enquiries closer to our present we had to conclude that the British were to blame for the tragedy that was Bloody Sunday.

The Wall Street Crash of 1929

On 30 December 1929 the Chicago Daily Tribune reported the death of two men. The first was Wilfred E. Gerry, a 52 year old president of a pencil factory who had made large losses in the stock market crash. The second was Charles Graham, a 30 year old former army officer. Both men were found in their apartments and despite the fact that neither left a suicide note their deaths have been linked to the crash due to financial difficulties and, in the case of Graham, investment losses.[1] These tragic deaths, while not representative of the experience of all affected by the stock market crash, offer some insight in its far reaching consequences. They show the desperate effect the crash had on some individuals in the US. The social impact of the Wall Street Crash on ordinary Americans became apparent following this tragedy. Although the crash46611240_newspaper_getty512 was an economic event the social consequences of it were widespread, ranging from unemployment to a surge in suicide rates. Figures show that between 1929 and 1933 civilian unemployment in America rose from under 5% of the population to 25%, within the space of just 4 years.[2] The result of this huge rise in unemployment rates was increased social unrest and also a sense of political change.

A prelude to the Great Depression, the Wall Street Crash devastated the Dow Jones stock market index and caused significant panic among speculators, shareholders and the general US population. Public opinion was one of shock and anger at the mishandling of the Dow Jones, with blame being attached largely to the recklessness of speculators. The Wall Street Crash had a significant impact upon the purchasing power of the average consumer – an unwillingness to spend disposable income on luxury goods affected both US manufacturers and foreign companies who survived largely on exports to the US.

One peculiar political effect of the economic crisis we discovered was that many believed that the crash created a climate conducive to the strengthening of communism within the USA. It was feared that, for many, the crash had shown the failures of capitalism and in the post- stock market crash economic climate communist ideology would become far more appealing to the masses. An article which we found in the Daily Boston Globe in 1930 drew a link between the levels of unemployment and a rise in the support for Bolshevism. In the article the then Pope stated that the current economic climate was “a favourite period for the introduction and development of Bolshevism.”[3] This is evidence of how wide reaching the effects of the crisis and the concerns for its effects were. It shows it to be of international significance and the fact that it is the pope that is expressing these concerns shows that it is not an extremist view.

These economic impacts are well demonstrated through looking at the impact on Britain. By 20th March 1930 Britain was being forced to increase the import duty in India on cotton from 11% to 15% with 5% extra on non-British goods. This step was considered to be the only way of saving a local industry which was on the verge of bankruptcy from foreign competition.  A prospectus from a trading company requiring fresh capital stated that through overseas marketing America could remain industrially at 100%. This was seen as the opportunity for other countries to take care of their industries by raising their tariff walls.[4] The US manufacturing sector – in particular the automobile industry – managed to adapt and survive the Crash by exporting unwanted products to European markets.

Graphs detailing the average turnover rates of workers in certain US work sectors in early 1930

The wide reaching and international effects of the crisis are shown in an article we found, published October 1930 in the Chicago Daily Tribune, which displays the views of the American public on the impact of the crash[5].  The letters of complaint ranged from disillusionment with the decline in living standards that was being experienced in the aftermath of the crash to the wider impact of the crash on other nations who adopt a similar economic program. Robert W. Shoemaker explains that “In time their inability to consume all they produce will place them in our position.”[6]  This shows that the crash had a wide reaching impact on social standards and international economies across the world.


[1] Chicago Daily Tribune, 31 December 1929.

[2] Stein, Herbert and Murray Foss, An Illustrated Guide To The American Economy (AEI Press: Washington D.C., 1992), pp. 168-169

[3] Boston Daily Globe, 15 July 1930.

[4] The Times, 20 March, 1930.

[5] Chicago Daily Tribune, 15 October 1930.

[6] Chicago Daily Tribune, 15 October 1930.

The Treatment of Slaves

In Quentin Tarantino’s recent movie, Django Unchained the treatment of slaves is depicted vividly. Django is set in the southern states of America, where the slaslave populationve industry was at its most widespread. The protagonists travel across the south through Texas and Florida through plantations and slave camps across the Mississippi basin and it reveals a striking insight into the world of slavery in the Deep South. This map shows the concentration of slave populations across southern North America in 1858 – the populations are concentrated on the most fertile areas of America such as the Mississippi river basin.  This is because the slaves’ only purpose in life was to work the land and serve their owners. This was mainly in the production of cotton and other crops which could be sold. As a result the owners wouldn’t benefit in treating the slaves too badly as they would then not be able to work. However, despite Adam Smith expecting slavery to come to a rapid end after 1776 as there was no incentive for them to work, punishment was used as a method of coercion.

The severe punishments for seemingly insignificant infractions and the harshness of their work and living conditions has raised questions as to whether this was truly the lot of the slaves in southern American plantations in the 19th century or whether it was merely depicted thus to shock and excite the film’s audience.

Among the punishments depicted in the film are whipping, branding and days spent in the ‘hot box’, which were more often than not used as punishment whipping of slavesfor running away.  We have found evidence for whipping in numerous sources throughout the period. Whipping was used as a punishment for a range of misdemeanours such as refusing to work, ‘sassing’ slave masters or fighting with fellow slaves. The punishment was used amongst free men as well, it was a punishment doled out in court for such crimes as theft. Therefore, for slaves whipping was not unique but rather easier to incur amongst slaves and for less severe crimes. This picture shows the scars one such slave received from whipping.

Another punishment depicted in Django Unchained were metal devices fitted to the neck and limbs which made it impossible to lie down and sleep. These were used as punishment for a myriad of breaches of conduct and were an effective way to torture and punish slaves without actually diminishing their usefulness, as punishments like whipping risked infections and death of the slaves.

Slaves were also subjected to harsh treatment during their transportation. In the opening sequence of the film the slaves are slave transportforced to march, chained through the wilderness while their masters ride horses. We found evidence for the poor conditions slaves travelled in by looking at the plans for the slave ships which transported them across the Atlantic. These ships provided very limited space for the slaves whilst in transit and were far more reminiscent of a cargo ship than of a public method of transportation. However it must be taken into account that slaves were a valuable commodity and therefore they would have to be in a suitable condition to be able to work at the end.

The sale of slaves was often a heartless and degrading process in which their wellbeing was not brought into consideration. The slaves which were in better health would have been sold for a higher price and would have been in a higher demand. Slave traders would have gone to auction in order to sell and buy slaves for their plantation and were traded like possessions rather than treated like people.

This topic pertains to today’s society as it allows us to grasp a great understanding of the plights and struggles of slaves and how from this the African American culture and pride has developed. Films such as Django and series’ such as Roots depict certain elements of life in slavery, giving present day viewers an entertaining way to learn about historical events and the significance that this topic holds in present day society.

By Eilis, Catherine, Gemma, Peter, Marcel and Chloe.

Margaret Thatcher, Saviour of the North East?

Margaret Thatcher comes to Power

In this video Margret Thatcher is speaking at the Conservative party conference in Brighton (1980). She is not specifically referring to the North East but the area was recognised as one the worst affected along with Yorkshire and Humberside. With unemployment above 8% in the North East compared to the southeast and southwest unemployment rate fewer than 6% . The next 2 years of Thatcher’s government saw little improvement as unemployment rose to 16% by 1982 but by 1983 her policies were starting to come good making it possible for her to win the next two general elections by landslides. Many would argue poor opposition had a part to play. Thatcher’s popularity in North East still remained low despite attracting foreign business to open factories. For example in 1986 the car manufacture Nissan opened a factory in Sunderland creating jobs and it is still going today. Margret Thatcher will never be the most popular figure in the North East after she restructured industry but credit must be given for her proactive approach to decreasing unemployment.

Mine Closures

Staying true to the words she spoke in the previous source, during  her time in office she closed approximately twenty mines in Northumberland, County Durham and Tyne and Wear. The announcement of these closures as well as others across the country, and the subsequent loss of jobs, resulted in over half the country’s miners putting down their tools, walking out and going on strike. The North East was devastated by these closures with only 17 left open by the time the miners went on strike in 1984. These closures had a detrimental effect on Margaret Thatcher’s legacy in the North East of England due to the massive unemployment it caused, with approximately a loss of 20,000 jobs. Lists of the mines closed are available here and here.

Her Life in Film

As with most films, prior to their release newspapers and magazines are full of reviews, with critics making their own opinions and views on a particular film. With the release of ‘The Iron Lady,’ there was a lot more media speculation than usual. Margaret Thatcher still remains an emotive topic, specifically in the North East and this is evident through the backlash that the film received. The source below is an extract from a newspaper article from the Shields Gazette. It is an interview of the leader of South Tyneside Council, in it he outlines his anger and dislike for Thatcher. The article shows that there are those in the North East who are planning to boycott the film as a sign that they have not forgotten what happened here under Thatcher’s Government.  The example of the film is crucial when it comes to understanding Thatcher’s legacy as it reflects current opinions of the people. From this we learn that Thatcher left a legacy full of upset and despair.

‘South Tynesiders have lined up to say they plan to give the film a cold shoulder.

Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “I’m not interested in seeing a film about that woman.

“Although she was the first female PM, she did little or nothing for the women’s movement and did not appoint a single woman to the cabinet.“

Thatcher’s government de-industrialised the North East, to the extent we are still managing the consequences.

“We are still coping with the unemployment that followed the demolition of our shipyards and our colliery in South Shields.“

“Thatcher only held power because of the Falklands War and because the Labour Party at the time was terribly divided, leading to the creation of the SDP.”’

Source: Shield Gazette, 5th January 2012.

What was her real Legacy?

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Statistics from The Financial Times showing the amount of voters in the North and South who would vote conservative.

Furthermore it could be argued that Thatcher’s legacy is still haunting the North East in the 21st Century. An article written in the Financial Times claims that ‘There is a sense in some northern towns that David Cameron’s coalition is coming to finish what Mrs Thatcher began.’  The Financial Times argues, “They see through the thin veneer of compassionate Conservative because the ways the cuts are being implemented are hurting disproportionately the towns in the north.” Many Northerners see Cameron’s coalition as a continuance of Margaret’s Thatcher’s leadership and her policies.  This is also shown in the graph which states how many voters in the North and South would vote conservative. This however, only reflects one side of the story. Some would argue that it is too simplistic to view Thatcher’s legacy as a bad one. Yes she brought in hard-line policies but, she made enormously difficult financial decisions to rescue this country from another financial crisis.  Whilst it is easy to be subjective to the policies that Thatcher implemented in the 70s, it can be argued that her legacy and the things she stood up for were all for the greater good of Britain and the North East.

In conclusion, the sources used in our study have been extremely useful in helping to distinguish the impact that Margaret Thatcher has had on the North East. More modern sources such as the article discussing the film ‘The Iron Lady’ and how many people were planning on boycotting it shows that still to this day, Thatcher’s image and legacy among many people in the North East is still very negative. The video used showed the policies implemented by Thatcher during her years in power on unemployment. Thatcher’s firm stance on her policies offers ample evidence as to why her laws were generally disliked in the North East. All together, we thoroughly enjoyed learning about the legacy of Thatcher and how it had affected the perceptions of people in the North East about Thatcher, not only during her time in power, but also how it has traversed across decades to the modern day and allows the negative image to still linger to this day.