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, http://jcb.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/detail/JCB~1~1~1785~2720004:Captain Teach-commonly-call-d-Black, date accessed: 13.2.14
2. Image of Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, http://www.hugbacker.com/wp-content/uploads/depp-sparrow.jpg
3. “Articles exhibited against Lord Archibald Hamilton, late governor of Jamaica: with sundry depositions and proofs relating to the same” (London: 1717)http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/lawlib/law0001/2010/20100017090414A/20100017090414A.pdf
4. ‘The Tryal of William Kidd’; http://www.loc.gov/law/help/piracy/piracy_trials.php
5. Post Boy (1695), (London, England), December 10, 1695 – December 12, 1695; Issue 93.

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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’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk_VszbZa_s ) 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.

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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

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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)

ABDICATION

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.

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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]

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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.

Wallis-simpson-wedding-dress-couple

[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, http://www.gallup.com/poll/9967/timeline-polling-history-events-shaped-united-states-world.aspx, Date accessed 11/03/2014

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

Effects of Media on Perceptions of the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War holds a significant place in American history, possibly because the war was arguably a failure, but also due to been the first war covered heavily by the media. The media coverage of this war differed to previous conflicts as it was actually portrayed in a negative light. Previous wars such as the Second World War and the Korean War had been covered by the media in America and the public had been informed of developments but there was always an element of propaganda within the news reels and newspapers. The war was always seen as a campaign for good against evil forces. The war in Vietnam was the first war to be televised and so for the first time the public could see what a real war was actually like. Combining this and the reports of various US defeats the war became the first American war that faced major opposition.

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As with many other nations, American wars prior to Vietnam were covered by the war in a heavily patriotic manner. Rather than media that reported on occurring events in the war, media instead was very much propaganda based which was used to assure the people at home that American troops and their war effort should be supported and was something of American pride. In the Vietnam war this somewhat changed, for the first time with the help of live pictures and broadcasting with television, war was portrayed in a negative light as images of failed missions, wounded soldiers, and even death was bringing doubt and worry to the homes of the American people. Not only that but the troops that once held total pride and respect in the minds of Americans were being shown to not be all that flawless and innocent in their ways, reports on troops burning vulnerable Vietnamese villages and images of napalm attacks used on defenceless civilians all reached homes across the US impacting Americas struggle with the ‘war at home’ as backlashes of anti-war protests and marches followed.

Vietnam is commonly labelled the first televised war and arguably this coverage stimulated the demise of the war on the internal home front. During the Vietnam War television became a popular commodity, with 93% of American homes owning a television by 1966 [1}, as a consequence, more people relied upon television rather than any other news source. The visual element of television allowed people to feel more involved with news and people trusted what they were fed by television broadcasts, hence why by 1972 48 per cent of people trusted television over other media forms if conflicting stories where depicted in different media sources. As a result of this popular media the television aired stories which would be more entertaining and captivate a wider audience, consequently this led to conflicts, mortality’s and dramatic scenes becoming the focus point of television news. However until 1967 the coverage was generally positive but by 1967, with no media censorship and 50 million regular viewers, the representation of Vietnam became very graphic images and demonstrations of the lack of US progress. Following the Tet offensive, coverage of Vietnam began to shift to predominantly negative stories and depicted more graphic scenes, including civilian casualties such as the My Lai massacre, and reference of soldier’s drug addiction and general disobedience. Such products of war on soldiers and civilian casualties were not uncommon through warfare; however these scenes had never before been shown so clearly and graphically to those on the home front. As a result those at home began to question American involvement in Vietnam and began turning against the war, rendering it a pointless, bloody mess that they need to withdraw from with some haste, all because television had graphically depicted the horrors that were occurring and shocked the entire nation to the core with shame and disgust.

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Having full time correspondents within Vietnam proved key in getting the message back home to the USA, the American presidency knew that support from the American people was needed in order for the war to be a domestic success. By the mid 1960’s television had finally overtaken radio as the main source of news for the public within the USA, therefore the influence the television held was emerging as hugely powerful.Journalists followed the army into combat and then projected their images back home allowing everyone to witness the brutal events of the Vietnam War; this turning point influenced all of America including political decisions, now the style of reporting had advanced like never before. Overall the truth, the devastation and the realisation of war contributed hugely in changing minds of the public, which ultimately assisted in ending the war.

1. David E Bonior; Timothy S Kolly; Steven M Champlin, The Vietnam veteran: a history of neglect (New York: Praeger ress, 1984)

Battle of Berlin

berlin-2
Throughout studying the topic of the Battle of Berlin, we have discovered that primary sources do not give a clear insight in to the aftermath of the battle. Instead, secondary sources have proved more significant in displaying the true extent to which destruction was caused in the Battle of Berlin. The true damage caused to Berlin and everyone involved isn’t limited to just Germans either, with many Soviets losing their lives as well. However, it is the extent of the damage caused to Berlin as a whole which is most striking about this final battle, and the deaths of most of the leading members of the Nazi party.

What can initially be seen in the aftermath of the Battle of Berlin is the brutal destruction caused by Soviet storm troops in what had been a city of 4,000,000. ‘Russian storm troops were crushing the SS remnants in the last hour of battle in the shell-torn waste of the Tiergarten.’ Abortion rates rocketed in the months after the battle; as suggested by Antill, Soviet troops began to rape the females of Berlin and are described by many secondary sources as “out of control.” Ancient landmarks and images of Hitler were either destroyed or defaced. Images of Stalin and red flags were planted in many parts of the city which can be seen from the many photographs taken during and after the battle. Primary sources, although very useful in the description of the mass destruction of the city, are very limited in the death toll and rape statistics. Nearly all writers at the time fail to address the insanity of Soviet troops and the brutal attacks forced upon women.
Something that is often ignored is the extent of the losses made by the Soviet Union in the Battle of Berlin. Referring to the graph, we can see that many armaments were lost, including thousands of tanks and artillery. The death and injury toll was also damaging, with approximately 80,000 dead, and a further 200,000 wounded or missing. These figures are huge considering the Soviets were on the winning side, and so the aftermath is striking showing that even when battles are won the losses can be have damaging effects on both sides. However, compared to Russian losses, the German losses were much more brutal. 22,000 civilians were killed due to effects directly related to the battle, and that is not even counting the deaths of soldiers. The deaths of German soldiers amounted to around 450,000, with hundreds of thousands more injured or sick. graph berlin

The extent of damage caused to Berlin cannot be underestimated. While the outskirts of the city were rapidly restored to functionality, the city centre remained ‘a picture of desolation’ with buildings destroyed and livelihoods in tatters. The city streets were littered with military equipment, including discarded SS uniforms, machine-gun belts and tommy guns. This is significant as it signals the end of the Third Reich and Hitler’s reign as Nazi dictator of Germany, perhaps not physically but symbolically (this being the last major battle of World War Two). There were bomb craters across the Frankfurterstrasse, and in department stores there were people raiding the food aisles, displaying the desperation of the public to gain enough food to survive in the midst of the devastation.

Cartoon depicting Hitler's death

Cartoon depicting Hitler’s death

<imgSenior members of the Nazi party were killed or committed suicide during or after the Battle of Berlin. Newspaper cartoons depict the death of Hitler, such as this one here, with the Grim Reaper taking Hitler presumably to ‘Hell’. This is significant as it signals the physical end to Hitler and the Nazi Party, perhaps a consequence directly of the Battle of Berlin; however it will have been a culmination of months of Allied pressure in reality. The fact that this fatal end to Hitler was published in a US newspaper shows the happiness in terms of success of not just the Battle of Berlin but the Nazi Party’s defeat.

Overall it is evident that the destruction caused in the Battle of Berlin was to be seen for decades to come. The Battle of Berlin effectively marked the end of World War 2 in Europe and having analysed the various sources we gained significant insight into the devastating effects that the battle left behind. The statistics we discovered relating to the battle were far more shocking than we could have imagined, the amount of deaths on both sides was unprecedented and the devastation caused by the bombings was far greater than we could have possibly expected. One thing which we were shocked to find out was the brutality of the Soviet soldiers following the end of the battle, the number of women raped by Russian soldiers was staggering and shows a darker side to the soviet soldiers compared to their usual perception as war heroes. The Battle of Berlin turned out to be a major event in European history as it brought to an end Hitler’s government and all the evil that Nazism brought with it.

1. John, Groth. U.S. Writer Tours Shattered Berlin. (The New York Times, 9th May 1945) p. 14
2. P.D. Antill, Berlin 1945, end of the Thousand Year Reich, Osprey Publishing, 2005, p. 85
3. Antony Beevor, Berlin: The Downfall, Viking-Penguin Books, 2002, p. 287,
4. New Life Stirring In Berlin’s Ruins, The New York Times, May 7 1945
5. Ibid

Rasputin Dissemination

The term ‘conspiracy’ is binary to the man Rasputin, it follows the subject of him around but mainly due to the mystery that surrounds it. It is still a hot topic to this day as new evidence is constantly being unearthed and the various conspiracy theories are either being disproved or expanded. This is the very reason why our group decided to research into this mystifying topic; no one truly knows the answer to who killed Rasputin but we feel almost a step closer every time a new piece of evidence is discovered.

 

 

Organised and Sadistic; Genocide under Pol Pot

Between 1975 and 1979 Pol Pot and his communist party, known as the Khmer Rouge, attempted to implement a communist utopia upon Cambodia. Pot’s regime is regarded as one of the ugliest the world has ever seen due to the starvation, disease and genocide that killed over 1.5 million Cambodian’s. Marxist ideas, which Pot had come across in Paris as a student, inspired him to join the underground communist party. Pot soon lost scholarship in Paris and returned to Cambodia in 1953 where he and quickly became the party leader. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge seized power off the Cambodian government and the persecution of the Cambodian people began. The Vietnamese invaded Cambodia after several boarder clashes in 1979 and helped exposed the atrocities. A Hollywood movie and the worlds press brought global attention to the Khmer Rouge’s war crimes, yet the support of America and other Asian allies aloud a guerilla war still to carry on. Pot died in 1997 under house arrested.
Pol Pot
(An Image of Pol Pot)
Genocide and Support
There are many aspects to the genocide under Pol Pit and the Khmer Rouge as it spread across the whole of Cambodia, however two Key Places are the S-21 prison and the Choeng Ek Killing fields. S-21 was a secondary school converted into prison outside Phnom Phen, the Capital of Cambodia. This facility held over 14,000 victims throughout the regime and was the place of torture and interrogation for many. Once no longer needed, Cambodian prisoners; men, women and children alike were taken to the Choeng Ek killing fields and executed before being buried within mass graves. Foreign prisoners however were not buried but burned until no bones remained, removing all evidence of their existence.
S-21Prison, Phnom Phen
(An Image of the S-21 Prison in Phenom Phen)
Followers of Pol Pot’s regime namely arise from a peasant background and were commonly of the younger generation, with many S-21 prison guards aging from 15 to 19 years old . The chain of command and support of the Khmer Rouge is also important to understand when looking at the genocide in Cambodia. The collection of ‘Upper Brothers’ were the leading three members of the genocide. All had to be approved by ‘Brother One’, Pol Pot, however all was not controlled by him. ‘Brother Dutch’ (Kang Kech Leu) was commandant of the S-21 prison, and with the assistance of Son Sen, the ‘Brother’ responsible for National Security and Defence, oversaw the torture and execution of all those convicted of illegal activities and treason.
Victumology
“The Communists practiced killing several million innocent people.” This quote from the memoirs of a Khmer Rouge survivor shows how virtually anyone could have been killed by the Khmer Rouge regime. For example, many people who were thought to be intellectuals were killed; often this could be for knowing a foreign language or simply wearing glasses. During the period that the Khmer Rouge was in power, 1975-1979, it is estimated that between one million and two million people were executed, with thousands more dying of starvation or overwork, with many people working for twelve hours a day on almost no food, “from 1976 to 1978 we didn’t have enough food to eat.”

The appalling nature of the Pol Pot regime and the consequential affect it had upon the Cambodian population cannot be overstated. The victims were systematically murdered, given numbers as opposed to names; these people were cattle going to slaughter. The Khmer Rouge that ended with the entrance of Vietnamese troops Into Cambodia on 8th January 1979[1], meaning Pol Pot was forced to retreat into Thailand with his fragmented and significantly weakened Khmer Rouge army and, for the next 17 years, continued to launch guerrilla attacks against the Cambodian government[2]. Pol Pot finally lost control over his Khmer Rouge army in April 1998, leading to his consequential arrest and supposed suicide at the age of 78. Pol Pot laid was a merciless dictator, from the S21 killing fields to the malnutrition and poor medical care endured by the Cambodian population as a result of his radical agrarian socialism. When reflecting on the life of Pol Pot one is forced to think of the overwhelming death and suffering endured by his people and the unwavering brutality of his regime.

 

[1] 1979: Vietnam Forces Khmer Rouge Retreat http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/8/newsid_2506000/2506533.stm Date Accessed: 04/03/14

[2] Pol Pot in Cambodia, http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/pol-pot.htm, Date Accessed: 25/03/14

 

Sources Used:

Dutch, Chief od S-21; http://www.killingfieldsmuseum.com/s21-victims.html Date Accessed 25/03/14

Genocide in Democratic Kampuchea; http://history1900s.about.com/od/people/a/Pol-Pot.htm Date Accessed: 25/03/14

Pol Pot: Life of a Tyrant; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/78988.stm Date Accessed 25/03/14

Pol Pot in Cambodia, http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/pol-pot.htm, Date Accessed: 25/03/14

Pol Pot’s Secret Prison; http://www.tuolsleng.com/history.php Date Accessed: 25/03/14

Prak, Sarom, “The Unfortunate Cambodia” in Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors, ed. By DePaul, Kim, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997)

The Khmer Rouge; http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1879785,00.html Date Accessed: 03/03/14

Yan, Arn, “My Mother’s Courage” in Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors

1979: Vietnam Forces Khmer Rouge Retreat; http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/8/newsid_2506000/2506533.stm Date Accessed: 03/03/14