The Bolsheviks Rise to Power

The Bolsheviks Rise to Power

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


Figure 1: Lenin making a speech.

Figure 1: Lenin making a speech.

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

Figure 2: Russian soldiers during WW1

Figure 2: Russian soldiers during WW1


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

Figure 3: The storming of the Winter Palace

Figure 3: The storming of the Winter Palace


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

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


The Cuckoo Nest

The Cuckoo Nest

Treatments and Conditions in Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, New Zealand.

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


cuckoo nest

Figure 1 Nurses in front of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum 1890

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

cuckoo nest 2

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



[5] Seacliff fire kills 37-


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

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.

A Bloody Disaster

The tragedy of Bloody Sunday occurred on Sunday the 30th January 1972. Thousands of members of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association began their march to “Free Derry Corner” in the Bogside area of Londonderry. As a group of protesters approached the British Army blockade, a riot broke out, which lead to the British soldiers from the First Battalion to open fire on the civilian protesters. The Bog side massacre, as it has been known locally, involved the ‘murder’ of 13 supposedly innocent protestors of the Civil Rights campaign. It has taken a whole generation to come to terms with the horrific massacre, and a ‘report’ to published by the British Government which explains  why certain actions were called into play, by both the British Army, and individuals who held supposedly dangerous Nationalistic views which led to violent tendencies.[1]

bloody sunday picture


Public opinion over the liability of Bloody Sunday has been split for the past 32 years. This opinion has been driven by the media, which helped shape judgement on numerous occasions. Decisions made back in the 1970’s by Parliament, Army and media have been called into question by the inflicted and curious. The last few decades has revealed certain aspects of Bloody Sunday, and in doing so, highlighted ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland’s distorted nature.

Evaluated from the earliest evidence, the events that occurred on that of the 30th of January 1972 was an eruption caused by the atmosphere between the Army and Irish Republican protesters. The Army, working on behalf of the British Government, had been sent to control another outbreak of rioting within this planned protest. The marches initial turnout was to be expected, but the decision to act upon the crowd with the use of gunfire was due to the paranoia that the march was attended by the IRA.

1    2

Left: A map of the Bogside region.
Right: A map detailing the locations of soldiers and the IRA present
The location for the events was key to the decision to use Army presence, the Bogside was a highly Catholic area, in which the IRA had been known to be operating. But as shown below by  the round up of the headlines that followed the shootings, public opinion began to change from sharing the blame of both sides engaging the bogside region in to a riot, to focusing on the several eyewitness accounts actually blamed the Army for opening fire first.3

Above: The Guardians 31 January 1972 headlines – coverage of a ‘illegal’ march which broke out with both the IRA and Paratroopers engaging in warfare
Below: The Guardians 2nd February 1972 headlines – expresses how many killed were shot in the back

Alongside the established newspapers who reported on the events in Bogside, campaigning entities across the United Kingdom were also becoming involved in the pursuit to educate people on these current affairs. The University of Ulster’s CAIN (Conflict and Politics in Northern Ireland) web service logs many of these self publications, amongst them a series of Anti-Internment leagues bulletins.


Above: The Anti-Internment News, Bulletin of the Anti-Internment League

It is the rather unique origins for a anti-internment bulletin, in which  this particular document stand out. Printed in the ‘Basement Flat’ of Holland Road in London, it shows that there was at least support for the release of nationalists who had been imprisoned by the Government unfairly. In addition to this, there also seems to be strong communication between the witnesses of the Bogside Massacre and the publication. What is obvious, is that these publications were not held questionable to that of the political spectrum, instead the bulletin circulated amongst regional parts in which were only consumed by the Citizen.
In addition this citizen support was encouraged by the notion of Civil Rights. The government was unable to hide its utter embarrassment therefore when the Army was to open fire amongst one of the largest demonstrations that London Derry had experienced. The true number of protesters is still disputed, although there were claims to be as many as 30,000 people in total.


Above: The demonstartion of London Derry on the 30th of January 1972

From the images that were taken before the Army opened fire, it hardly seems that any threat was apparent. Still the inquiries over the last 38 years have seen the restoring of a very difficult picture. The British Government dedicates time to inquire , and works closer with the old nationalists. However as time goes on sources become more sparse as eye witness accounts become blurred as this eye witness demonstrates – ‘I can no longer recall the order of fire or who fell first’ (Witness’s 027 1975 statement).
Statements regarding the Bloody Sunday

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


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.

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 .