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. <;.

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

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.

Yo’ Ho’ Ho’ It’s a Pirates Life for Me!

If someone were to ask you about pirates, it would be reasonable to assume that the very word would conjure up images of Captain Hook or Long John Silver in the mind’s eye, invoking thoughts of petty crime coupled with adventurous joviality. However, has this always been the interpretation of pirates through the ages? This blog, authored by the swashbuckling Team Hancock, will explore the development of representations of pirates from the early 18th century through to the modern day, focussing on the foundations of pirate imagery whilst also presenting an alternative interpretation that acts of piracy and the character of the perpetrators may not be quite what we initially thought.

blackbeard pirate 2

Having explored the historical representations of pirates, we have discovered evidence that gives a clear indication of the roots and development of the generic imagery that is displayed in modern popular culture. Having found an early 18th century depiction of Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach, the infamous pirate whose name is synonymous with piratical adventure (or misadventure if you like!), the long lasting influence of the imagery is clear for all to see.

Here, we can compare and contrast the two representations of pirates, one a primary source from the 18th century depicting Captain Teach and the other, an image of the fictional character Captain Jack Sparrow from the widely renowned 21st century film series Pirates of the Caribbean. It is reasonable to assume that the modern representation of pirates has drawn heavy influence from the sources of the 18th century. There is more than a striking resemblance between the two images, with both Captain Teach and Captain Sparrow sporting long, militaristic overcoats encompassing utility belts carrying weaponry, both men having dreadlock hairstyles covered by tricorne hats and generally exuding a flamboyant, exotic and otherworldly image. Having assessed both images, it is reasonable to conclude that the visual portrayal of pirates in modern popular culture is a fair representation of how pirates have been depicted in the past by their contemporaries.
However, it is not just imagery that Team Hancock are concerned with. We aimed to establish whether the jovial, affable and likeable portrayal of pirates in films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Monty Python are accurate representations of the conduct of pirates in the 18th century or indeed the nature of their character.

pirate 3pirate 4pirate 5

Here, we located a source that documented in detail the piratical activities of Lord Archibald Hamilton. Now, if one was to watch or read any fictional representation of pirates in the modern age, I’m sure that the last thing that springs to mind would be a buccaneering adventurer of the seven seas having the title ‘Lord’ before his name. However, these articles published against Lord Hamilton tell of a high-ranking politician, a former Governor of the British colony of Jamaica no less, engaged in, organising and encouraging piratical activities off the coast of the Caribbean. If we go back to the clips of Captain Jack Sparrow and The Monty Python crew, there are certainly no signs of a political elite organising or participating in the adventures, only drunken sailors who you would probably assume to be from a lower social class than the Scottish Noble, Lord Hamilton.

However the process of being a pirate was no laughing matter. Having already explained the jolly and audacious nature of the modern day portrayal of pirates, it can be seen through the trial article, that serious acts such as murder and pillaging were treated with the utmost seriousness by the judicial authorities. Although the murder and theft were potentially isolated incidents, it is fair to assume that there is a strong correlation between the two crimes. Furthermore as can be seen from media at the time, piracy was an issue of severity so much so that punishments included imprisonment or death, for the crime was treated as treason; this factor was then communicated to the public via newspapers to serve as fair warning.

pirate 6

This clearly links to the idea, which was previously mentioned, that pirates were not simply loveable rogues who lived outside the boundaries of the law.

So, there we have it. The pirates that you see on your televisions and the outfits you see in fancy dress stores may actually be a reasonably accurate representation of the images you would have seen back in the 18th century had you been a shipmate on board Blackbeard’s vessel. However, it is worth bearing in mind when sitting down to watch Jonny Depp commandeer the Black Pearl that the perpetrators of piracy were not always the fun loving, rum swigging adventurers from the lowest of the social strata, and it is also worth bearing in mind that the things they got up to did not always have a happy ending.

1. ‘Captain Teach commonly call’d Black Beard’, Joseph Nicholls and James Basire, London, Olive Payne, Teach-commonly-call-d-Black, date accessed: 13.2.14
2. Image of Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series,
3. “Articles exhibited against Lord Archibald Hamilton, late governor of Jamaica: with sundry depositions and proofs relating to the same” (London: 1717)
4. ‘The Tryal of William Kidd’;
5. Post Boy (1695), (London, England), December 10, 1695 – December 12, 1695; Issue 93.

Putin and Stalin: A Return to Soviet Propaganda?

We have decided to investigate the types of propaganda used by Vladimir Putin and compare it to the use and types of propaganda in Soviet Russia used by Joseph Stalin. Both Putin and Stalin portray themselves as strong leaders and as a saviour to Russia from the west through the publication of posters and photographs depicting this, as well as the publication of articles directed against the west. Although Putin uses similar types of propaganda to Stalin such as photographs that depict him as a strong leader, he also has the benefit of modern technology. This allows the production of such videos as ‘One Like Putin’ ( ) which idolises Putin and promotes him both as desirable to women and as a role model to men.
The propaganda used in the modern day by Putin is strongly resonant of the Soviet propaganda used by Stalin. It is intended to highlight a strong, masculine image. This effort was mostly successful with regards to Stalin however; the effect is mainly the opposite for Putin in the modern day world. Within Russia this style of propaganda may still be considered impressive – the same cannot be said for Western impressions. Certain pieces of propaganda in particular have been mocked by the West. Perceptions of Putin are not positively affected by the image he presents of himself. Instead of looking like a strong leader he is, to the West, an object of satire.

Putin_Horse_jpg_w300h298Recent Russian propaganda has served to highlight the difference between Eastern and Western press. Released in an attempt to convey strength and power, the image of Putin riding a horse was mocked by western media and it could be suggested that because of propaganda stunts such as this he lost dignity. Previously compared to ‘Soviet – Style propaganda’ the admittedly staged image was taken on a trip to Siberia, with the Russian press invited to document the events of the visit. One of many images distributed through modern media, it is evident that Putin and his government are trying to display the leader of Russia in the best light possible, yet manages to achieve the opposite.


Stalin and Putin in their photographic propaganda both are attempting to portray the image of themselves asstalin leaders. Stalin is conveying an image of him being a protector, and the protector of the people of Russia whereas Putin is asserting an image of masculinity and strength. Putin’s attempt at propaganda has been compared to that of the Soviet style, as it focuses entirely on them and creates a heroic or even god-like image. Often referred to as a ‘cult of personality’, Soviet and Russian propaganda attempts to create an idealised image of these people. Stalin’s propaganda is hand drawn and therefore has nostalgic connotations. Putin’s, however, has been photographed and released online – this is the result of modern technology, as Putin is able to distribute these images more effectively and widely than Stalin would have been able to.

spacepictureWhilst Putin and Stalin differ in their approaches to propaganda, both attempt to compete with or criticise the Western world. For example, in defence of the ban on ‘homosexual propaganda’, Putin falsely states that homosexuality is still illegal in some states in America in order to present the United States as hypocritical in their condemnation of the ban. Similarly, the Soviet poster below was released during the ‘space race’ with the US, before America reached the moon, and sought to highlight the superiority of the USSR in its caption ‘Fatherland! […] Glory to the science, glory to the labour! Glory to the Soviet regime!’. In the aforementioned cases, Putin makes a more critical retaliation to the West whereas the poster from Stalin’s era seeks to show Soviet superiority rather than to highlight mutual shortcomings. However, Stalin himself also makes an, albeit less direct, ideological criticism of the West in his text ‘What do the Capitalists want’ in which he blames capitalist society for all of the problems Russia faced as a consequence of the First World War.

In summary, despite Putin’s benefit of modern technology the propaganda used by both Putin and Stalin is similar in the message that they are both trying to portray. Further evidence of this can be seen in Putin’s recent attempts to assert control over the Crimea. Putin’s actions can be compared to the expansionist ideology of the Soviet Union with Putin’s claim that ‘Russia cannot ignore calls for help in this matter and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with the international law.’ Irrespective of similarities of Soviet and modern Russian propaganda it is important to note that Putin’s actions have become more expansionist and imperialist, striking similarities with previous Soviet foreign policy. Recent events in Ukraine have provided the west with speculation of the rebuilding of the USSR- even commentators in the east have concurred. Yatsenyuk the president of Ukraine stated that “The biggest disaster of this century would be the restoration of the Soviet Union.” It appears that the modern leader of Russia is emulating his Soviet predecessor.

Scottish Independence: Och Aye! Or Och No?

Our team, the ‘Horrible’ Historians, (we’re nice really) have decided to attempt to discuss the current Scottish Referendum with reference to the Scottish Wars of Independence that took place in the 13th Century.
With the Scottish Referendum in September of this year becoming a hotly debated topic, the significance of the date is often forgotten. This post attempts to flesh out the debate of the Referendum but also harks back to a time where Independence from the English was fought literally in 1314 during the Battle of Bannockburn. This topic is important in reference to today with the impact of an Independent Scotland on the rest of the UK but also historically important as it approaches the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn this year, with the Referendum being voted on the 18th September 2014. We collected our sources from a number of different news sites such as BBC, the Times and the economist, because we all know how reliable the news can be (!) but this time surprisingly it did itself some justice. Our sources included a range of texts and rather humorous images from both sides of the perspective.


Wallace looking wistfully into the distance. He’s probably thinking about what he’s having for tea.

Our texts varied in terms of positivity and negativity, because nobody can make up their mind when it comes to history. This appeared to be very true in an article about the up-coming Scottish referendum some politicians such as Lord Robertson and Lord Lang voiced their opinion in terms of how Scotland is going to suffer without the super power England to help them! Of course not forgetting that England would become an even less significant power than what it is now. (This can also be up for debate of course!) Looking then at the actual battle in question, the Declaration of Arbroath undoubtedly the view of the Scottish and the chronicle of Walter Guisborough written from England’s perspective. Both of these texts highlighted how positive each country was and it was undoubtedly true that they held an incredible amount of bias, but then again what do you expect when each side wants to blow their own trumpet!
3Another source that our team looked at was an image that showed a map of Scotland, being renamed as ‘Skintland’ (slightly controversial we must admit!) This map was very negative towards Scotland, having cities named such as Edinborrow and Glasgone (so maybe Edinborrow is quite funny).This clearly makes fun of Scotland and makes the country seem as though it is reliant on England, after more research we found that Aberdeen is the oil capital of the Europe and the number of jobs created by the energy industry in Aberdeen is estimated at about half a million. So this made us wonder how reliant Scotland actually is on England and therefore the referendum might be more negative for England than Scotland! Scottish locals found this map very offensive (but who can blame them?) This won’t help keep Scotland in the union! Anyway, enough of being biased, another image we used was of William Wallace’s statue overlooking the historical town of Stirling.
This contrasts with the Skintland map as they still see themselves as a powerful nation. But cynical individuals may say that they are stuck in the past, with the map naming Stirling, ‘Stalling.’ (Again, quite funny). The map therefore created quite the stir but can be seen as humorous and witty, of course depending on where you are from.
The chronicler of Edward I, William of Guisborough writes during the battle of Stirling Bridge. He has an uncanny ability to remain positive about the battle, even though the battle spelt a huge loss for the English. Speaking of historical accuracy, nothing is more accurate than the 1995 film, Braveheart. (We’re being incredibly sarcastic here, just so you’re aware) Braveheart, similarly to the chronicles William of Guisborough is set during the Battle of Stirling B


Yeah we’re on to you, Gibson, that accent is fooling nobody!

ridge, although in Braveheart’s case, doesn’t actually contain a bridge.
To sum up then, it seems as though throughout history and even today the battle for Independence for the Scots is as fierce then as it is now (just without all those pitched battles and William Wallace to yell ‘


Freedom’) There also appears to be a lot of biased sources which makes it difficult to really get a clear picture of how the UK and Scotland will be different if there is a yes vote on the 18th September. Either way, the true effects of Independence will only actually be felt when the Referendum takes place.

Prohibition America

   Collecting the various sources has enabled us to gather a great deal of understanding of the prohibition era (1919-1933). During this period the production, sale and consumption of alcohol (for non-medical use) was outlawed throughout the whole of the United States under the 18th amendment of the US constitution. The act was a highly disputed policy which caused tension within all areas of the political and social spectrum. One of the main and perhaps ironic results of the act was that alcohol use actually increased, rather than decreased, as a result of the legislation. This is shown by the normalisation of crime and corruption highlighted in political cartoons of the time.
   The new law was taken seriously at the outset of the enactment of the bill by authorities, on both a state and federal level. For example, the first arrest was made only four minutes after the law was enforced, with the next arrest taking place just one minute later, both occurring inside the same café.[1] These events signified the importance of the Prohibition Act to the government in regard to their initial rigorous enforcement of the new law. Yet despite the initial enthusiasm with regards to enforcing the bill, the law rapidly reduced its pressure on criminal activity. During the 1920s, such initial eagerness and severity to impose punishment on illegal activities within the alcohol industries swiftly declined. It was no secret that a great proportion of the population was able to bypass this act and involve themselves with alcohol with little possibility of persecution.
A graph showing

Graph, ‘Alcohol prohibition was a failure’.

A graph showing the average consumption of pure alcohol per capita throughout the 1910s and 1920s reinforces the above idea of strict enforcement following the initial enactment of prohibition.[2] This sharp decline was contrasted by rates of alcohol consumption relapsing back to their pre-prohibition levels. This inevitably correlated with the rise in alcohol related crimes. People were evidently willing to break the law in regards to alcohol consumption, as a similar amount of people continued to consume alcohol, despite its illegality.


The normalisation

‘Business as Usual’, Chicago Tribune.

The normalisation of crime, lead to an increase in corruption on all levels in society. Although the law was taken seriously by the government from the outset, this did not last. Alcohol consumption was deeply embedded in American society, and thus the public was reluctant to surrender this leisure activity, regardless as to whether or not it was unconstitutional. Political cartoons at the time show how commonplace alcohol was- For example ‘business as usual’[3] shows the extent to which criminality was accepted and how acute citizens were to the presence of it. It also shows that many people benefited through this illegal activity. The business owner, depicted in the source, is receiving his ‘official’ income from revenues collected by a drugstore, yet it is undoubtedly made apparent that he is receiving income from the illegal sale of alcohol.

From the outset, prohibition was a controversial subject and the variation of views was substantial. On the one hand, the minority that supported the bill believed it would end drunkenness and anti-social behaviour, on the other, prohibition was seen as an infringement on individual liberty and an illegitimate extension of federal power. While both arguments received much media coverage exhibiting the divisions within society, the Prohibition Act did not reduce the amount of drunkenness and anti-social behaviour. President Franklin. D Roosevelt and anti-prohibitionists recognised this and subsequently repealed the act in 1933, ending the prohibition era within the United States.

   To conclude, prohibition failed to achieve its main goal of preventing the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol within the United States. Although initially successful, outlined in crime rates of the time, this did not last long. The United States of America did not experience a continuous decrease in alcohol related crime rates as was hoped amongst prohibitionists. The 1920s is known for an era of jazz, sleaze and liquor, which was arguably stimulated by prohibition. The strengthening of morality, which those who supported the Volstead Act had anticipated did not occur, ironically, the prohibition era embodied the opposite of what was desired. With its repeal in 1933 by President Roosevelt, it essentially displays that prohibition was a failure.

Perceptions on Vietnam – My Lai, Their Lie?

The Vietnam War represents a dark period in American History. Failures coupled with the negative perception that developed throughout the war in Vietnam stimulated the unrest that began to engulf the country. The ideals of the American people and their government drifted apart and the signs that the Vietnam War would become an unwanted feature of American history became distinctly apparent.

John Paul Filo, Kent State shooting, © 1970 Valley News-Dispatch, 1970/05/04

John Paul Filo, Kent State shooting, © 1970 Valley News-Dispatch, 1970/05/04

Perhaps the most eminent example of this domestic unrest being the Kent State University massacre in 1970, this emotive photograph of a young woman crying out in pain over a fellow student’s body represents the divide within American society. A peaceful student protest against the Vietnam War turned sour and resulted in the deaths of nine student protestors at the hands of US army.

The event ignited a mass wave of protests from within the national community, pleading to end the war in Vietnam. It showed how powerful the protests had become through the extent to which the government was now willing to extinguish those who demonstrated, suggesting that the government feared the widespread resilience shown through public campaigns. Public dismay was further publicised just five days after the Kent Sate shootings. The opposition contained over 100,000 people, who marched upon The White House, protesting in central Washington D.C to show their discontent from the unjustifiable acts committed at Kent State.

The Mai Lai massacre was also a huge turning point in regards to support for the war. On March 16 1968, when the United States forces stormed the village killing more than four hundred Vietnamese civilians in cold blood. The reports by American media included extremely violent and gruesome details, displaying thought provoking photographs swaying public opinion away from the war. Though the war had been scrutinised and questioned from its declaration by a minority of American citizens, it wasn’t until the report of My Lai in the latter end of 1969 that mass protest and campaigns swept the nation. The My Lai village was targeted by US troops because large numbers of their enemy, the Vietcong, were suspected to be based in the settlement, which was later shown to be untrue. At the time alternative Vietnamese reports such as Tran Van Duc’s account of the incident were largely ignored with the United States Military and media focusing instead on the accounts of United States soldiers serving at the time. Hugh Thompson, a US helicopter pilot, who witnessed the My Lai slaughtering, explained his growing disillusionment with the US Army’s actions. Thompson stated how during the My Lai massacre the villagers “marched into that ditch and murdered ”. During the incident Thompson demanded help from his fellow officers with rescuing the victims only to be told “we’re gonna get them out with a hand grenade. ” which demonstrated to the American public the cold nature of the troops in Vietnam. Thompsons contributed to the shifting of public opinion on the war and lowered the morale on the home front by revealing the atrocities committed by the US Army on helpless Vietnamese civilians.

The American public opinion towards the Vietnam War was largely dictated by the use of the media, their perception of the war was spoon-fed by small snapshots of brutality that led to widespread domestic unrest. Though initially this was not the case with the press siding with the US involvement, after numerous losses and casualties they began to shift sides when it became apparent Middle America was questioning the motives behind the war. Influential figures such as Walter Cronkite began to represent this growing desire for information regarding the war. His reporting style was conveyed it in a clear and critical manner which connected with the increasing anxiety of his nationwide television audience. Cronkite’s most seminal example of reporting during the war followed shortly after Tet offensive, on February 27 1968, as although the US military was heavily embarrassed by. It highlighted the prospect of America, the world’s leading political and economic superpower losing the war to a poverty stricken, underdeveloped Asian country. This upset American citizens who found this misleading as at this point had never seen America lose an international conflict.

This conveys how significant events resulted in the shifting of public opinion from a positive to negative perception regarding the Vietnam War. There is a tone of negativity that is ever present in the Cronkite media broadcast in 1968. The apparent appeasement of those opposed to the war however acted as a stimulus of the violent and widespread protests campaigning for a retreat from Vietnam. The Kent protests represented the deep unrest that consumed the population and highlighted the people’s determination to end American involvement in Vietnam and for good reason. Personal accounts such as Tran Van Duc’s experience of the My Lai Massacre, provides ample evidence as to why such strong opinions developed. The vivid portrayal of unjustified brutality is a firm reason as to why the Vietnam War encountered such widespread opposition from the American public and therefore left the American government with little ground to stand on.

A Fling with a King (The Abdication Crisis)


On 11th December 1936, King Edward VIII made the shocking announcement that he was to abdicate in order to marry his American divorcee lover, Wallis Simpson. The announcement came after months of pressurising the King not to continue his relationship with the American socialite who was well known for her infidelity and failed marriages. So why was this such a scandalous affair and what was the public’s reaction?

With the expectation of King Edward to fulfil his reign with a successful marriage to a suitable partner of royal or ‘appropriate’ blood, the 42 year old King at this point had no secure heir nor a stable relationship. The scandal that consequently erupted when Edward announced his wish to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson both shocked and worried the nation, especially in a time of unrest.  The general consensus in Britain for the support of the couple was not so favourable with many not thinking Edward would give up being King for the sake of an American socialite. The Church took a particularly strict stance against his decision, mostly due to Simpson being twice-divorced as it was deemed immoral and shameful.  In fact The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, C.G Lang, wrote a telegram to the BBC stating that Edward VIII was mentally ill and that ‘his obsession was due to a deranged mind.’ This telegram is insightful as it was private so therefore arguably more open and honest.


However, most newspapers in Britain at the time kept quiet and did not publicise the relationship until Edward’s decision was announced; even when they did mention Mrs Simpson they would take great care not to talk about Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson being together. Some cheaper newspapers seemed to support the marriage and his reign whereas the broadsheets that circulated in more upper-middle class sectors were disapproving, stating the ultimatum that he had to either abdicate or leave Mrs Simpson. This perhaps shows a divide in the opinions of the classes; the working classes were more supportive than the upper classes mainly due to the fact that their daily life did not involve the monarchy. To the working classes the monarchy remained more of a tradition than a ruling institute whereas the upper classes were adamant on preserving the monarchy and their traditional views. Also, it could also be argued that this is perhaps because the working classes believed Edward was a good King who often made public appearances and visits, but the upper classes did not appreciate Edward’s somewhat modern thinking towards marriage. It is worth noting that many of the working classes had more of an issue with her being divorced twice, due to the religious and moral aspect, more than her nationality.[1]


Public opinion of the pair’s relationship differed across the globe with Americans showing the most support. A Gallop poll carried out at the time showed 61% of the American public supported the marriage of Edward and Wallis.[2] This poll quantifies public opinion making it less subjective. However, the poll may not have reflected the view of all Americans and did not give any indication as to whether they supported Edward’s decision to abdicate the throne.  Americans heavily reported the relationship, even doing a spread in the popular LIFE magazine[3]. The magazine’s tone was condescending towards British newspapers’ attitudes and their determination not to mention Wallis Simpson in print. Both these sources demonstrate the American perspective, it is a country that has never had a monarchy and through Wallis Simpson being an American citizen, arguably it could be suggested that her nationality was a factor in the positive opinion the American public had about the royal relationship.

The reason the abdication crisis was so controversial and important in Britain was because Edward VIII was the only monarch in British history to abdicate the throne. He was also young and popular, so people expected him to reign for a long time, however in the end he chose love over power which was the most shocking of all. The crisis had a global impact and was big news around the World, especially in the USA, where people seemed more supportive and excited at the prospect of an American marrying into the British Royal Family. Wallis Simpson was disliked in Britain because she was seen as a social climbing adulterer, who was no more royal than those she would have reigned over. She was an American twice divorcee and in the eyes of the British law her first marriage was not officially over, as she had divorced him over emotional incompatibility and not for adultery. Therefore, the crisis was extremely important in British history and would go on to change the course of the monarchy, the effects of which are still being felt today.


[1] Juliet Gardiner, The Thirties: An Intimate History of Britain, (UK, Harper Collins, 2010)

[2] Timeline Of Polling History: Events That Shaped the United States, and the World,, Date accessed 11/03/2014

[3] LIFE Magazine , pp. 34-9.