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Posts Tagged ‘british’

British History in Lego

And now for some fun: James Pegrum has rendered his selection of key events in British history in the form of Lego vignettes. They’re fun, they’re growing in number, and you can see some in this report from Gizmodo

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The British Museum’s Gay History Guide

The British Museum has, and will continue to, come in for a lot of criticism from people who want parts of its collection sent off around the world, but now they’ve started an initiative that’s hard to fault. They’ve created a written and audio guide which discusses both the hidden and public story of homosexual life in the collection. Called ‘A Little Gay History’, it “explores artistic portrayals of what it means to be gay and the difficulties in finding records of same-sex desire.” (Quote from this BBC article.)

Notes on British WW1 Food

A curator at the British Royal Logistic Corps Museum has researched a new book on the feeding of their soldiers during World War 1. If you’re interested in the subject, you could just buy his ‘Feeding Tommy’ by Andrew Robertshaw, or take a first look at this Telegraph article

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Arctic Convoy Medals given by British Government

In a war full of tough jobs, the actions of the men who worked on the Arctic Convoys which took supplies from Britain into Russia were considered some of the toughest. However after the war, when medals were being issued, the men of the Arctic Convoys were overlooked because of the tensions with the Soviet Union (which had conquered Eastern Europe.) Now, almost seventy five years after the war began, the British government has issued the long delayed medals in the form of the Arctic Star, to survivors and relatives of the deceased.

British women voted 75 years before 1918 suffrage

A dozen hand-written sheets in a box of old solicitor’s records in Lichfield, a cathedral city in Staffordshire, England, bear surprising witness to women voting in a local election in 1843, 11 years after the Great Reform Act restricted the parliamentary franchise to “male persons,” 8 years after the Municipal Corporations Act forbade women from voting in town council elections, 26 years before the Municipal Franchise Act re-granted women taxpayers (later restricted to single women or widows) the vote in local council elections, and a full 75 years before the 1918 Representation of the People Act granted women over the age of 30 with qualifying property the right to vote in parliamentary elections and 85 years before women were given the same voting rights as men.

The pages come from a poll book, a list of voters, their domiciles, the value of their property, the number of votes they were allowed (the franchise was determined based on the payment of poor rates, a tax levied on the parish which was collected from heads of households who owned or rented property of qualifying value; the higher the rates, the more votes you got) and who they voted for. There was no secret ballot back then, and the voting lists were used much like survey responses, donor lists and possible voter lists are used by campaigns today.

The record was compiled because the solicitors were the agents for the Conservative party in Lichfield. The town was a highly marginal constituency in this period, so the party clearly wanted to keep tabs on the political temperature between parliamentary elections. The solicitor would have compiled the poll book from the ballot papers returned by the voters.

There are 30 women listed out of 175 voters, an impressive percentage that indicates an involved female electorate. One woman, Grace Brown, a widowed butcher with a large household, was allowed four votes, all of which went to the Conservative candidate.

They aren’t all wealthy widows, though. University of Warwick Professor Sarah Richardson has researched the women on the list and found that in the 1841 census, two of the women were listed as paupers, one as a live-in servant, one as a washerwoman, one the wife of a dyer, another the wife of a sawyer. The presence of penurious women on the poll lists is perhaps an even greater surprise than the presence of women at all.

This election was for the local office of Assistant Overseer of the Poor in the parish of St. Chad’s, and although the 1832 reforms sought to regularize and codify local practices, the deeply rooted traditions of common law and custom surrounding the franchise could not be obliterated by parliamentary legislation. Administrative officers in parish elections, town commissioner elections, workhouse guardian elections, were run as they had been run. That’s why the Lichfield poor tax standard was applied to this election rather than the Municipal Corporations Act.

Historians have always known that women could vote in these types of elections, but until there hasn’t been any concrete evidence that they actually did. The closest we’ve got are very occasional references, not all of them serious, in the contemporary press to women voting in local elections, but an official poll book for a parish election of a significant administrative officer is a whole other animal. It is direct evidence of an active female vote.

The office’s name may seem modest, but in terms of real impact on people’s lives it was of major importance. The Overseers of the Poor collected the poor tax, so not only was this official a powerful person who could determine with great degree of discretion who received relief benefits, who had to go to the workhouse, who paid what tax, but in Lichfield, he also determined who got to vote for him. A vote for the Assistant Overseer of the Poor was a vote for someone who made life-and-death decisions. The fact that this was an elected position is notable in and of itself; Overseers of the Poor were appointed by local magistrates or boards of guardians in many places.

Richardson thinks the paupers may have paid their rates using their benefits money, thus affording the vote, but technically being recipients of out relief barred them from the vote. If that is what happened, it’s a remarkable cycle: the Overseer determines who gets benefits and who gets the vote based on the rates they pay, the women pay the rates from relief money so they can vote for the Overseer. It’s also possible that there were some shenanigans underpinning the pauper votes. Their votes could have been bought, the rates paid by a third party who then commanded them to vote for a certain candidate.

Another possibility is that they weren’t paupers anymore, that between the 1841 census and the 1843 election, they managed to scrounge up a household and pay legitimate poor rates. It’s unlikely (there wasn’t a great deal of upward mobility in this society) but it’s not impossible. Sarah Payne, the servant on the list, for example, lived with an elderly lady in 1841. She died and either left her property to her servant, or in some other way Payne was adjudicated the property-holder for the purposes of the poll book.

This discovery opens a new perspective into the complex history of the franchise, and will hopefully spur historians to dig up primary sources instead of taking for granted that proscriptive legislation translated into practices as restrictive as the law wanted them to be.

You can hear more from Sarah Richardson and other historians’ reactions to the find in this BBC Radio program. It’s 20 minutes long and eminently listenable.


Book Review of The Nine Years’ War and the British Army, 1688-1697: The Operations in the Low Countries

Reblogged from International History:

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John Childs. The Nine Years’ War and the British Army, 1688-1697: The Operations in the Low Countries. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0-71903-461-9. Maps. Notes. Index. Pp. xii, 372.

The Nine Years’ War was a major conflict between Louis XIV of France and a European-wide coalition consisting of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Spain, Britain, and Savoy. 

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The Voices of British Soldiers

Folks might recognize Don Hagist’s name from the British Soldiers, American War blog. He digs out details about the enlisted men who were part of the British government’s effort to hold onto those thirteen rebellious North American colonies. His research can turn some faceless redcoats into individual people.

Often that task involves paging through muster rolls, pension grants, court-martial records, and other British military documents now stored at the National Archives at Kew. Unfortunately, there’s no British equivalent to the American pension application system, which (in lieu of systematic record-keeping during the war) required veterans to provide detailed narratives of their service. That means most British soldiers are preserved as names on a few documents without a line connecting those dots.

A few redcoats left detailed personal narratives. One of Don’s earlier books was an edition of Sgt. Roger Lamb’s postwar writing that collected all his first-hand military experiences in one volume. Don’s new book, British Soldiers, American War: Voices of the American Revolution, reprints nine shorter narratives of service in the king’s army (as well as the samples of the work of two military poets, including John Hawthorn). The narratives include the information taken down by the pension office, a letter written during the war to a potential patron, a convict’s dying words, and several published memoirs.

In each case, Don has checked and filled out the soldier’s own account with contemporaneous documentation, where available. Thus, the book includes the autobiographical “Dying Speech” of Pvt. Valentine Duckett, executed for desertion on Boston Common in 1774, and the record of his court-martial. Another court-martial fills out the story of Pvt. Thomas Watson, who survived to settle in Bolton, Massachusetts.

In some chapters Don describes other British soldiers whose careers parallel the main subject. For example, chapter 9, “The Aspiring Soldier,” is about William Burke of the 45th Regiment, who deserted to the Americans for more social and economic opportunity. That chapter also mentions Pvt. Thomas Machin of the 23rd, who did the same in July 1775 and eventually became Capt. Thomas Machin of the Continental Artillery. (I also discuss Machin in the big Washington study.)

You’ve probably spotted a significant pattern in these narratives: most of the memoirists ended up becoming American. Of the nine men profiled in the book, only two retired from the British army in good standing. Six deserted to the Americans or, in the case of Ebenezer Fox of Roxbury, deserted back to the Americans. Their recollections got published because in America those men became honored relics of our War for Independence.

British society simply wasn’t that eager to read the experiences of enlisted men. That may have been due to how societies don’t like to be reminded of wars they lose. But I think it reflects the aristocratic values of Georgian Britain. We see the pattern already right after the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The Massachusetts authorities published broadsides naming all the local men killed and wounded, regardless of rank. Gen. Thomas Gage sent home reports listing the officers killed but not the enlisted men. (Granted, that would have been a much longer list.) American culture valued ordinary individuals more.

Given the social stratification in Britain, it’s no surprise that several of these redcoats saw more opportunity on the other side of the conflict. One chapter of British Soldiers, American War documents how the army encouraged soldiers to learn to read and write, valuable skills in any large organization. But even an educated enlisted man was very unlikely to rise above sergeant.

As memoirists and as defectors, most of the men who left behind recollections for British Soldiers, American War were atypical. But of course all memoirists are atypical (at least until this era of self-publishing). And these men offer a rare peek into the daily lives of British recruits. Alongside Don’s research on recruitment patterns, demographic data, &c., the book is a top-notch source on the king’s soldiers during the Revolutionary War, “ordinary” men caught up in historical change.

British Soldiers, American War is handsomely designed (though, reflecting what Georgian artists were commissioned to paint, the cover art shows British officers instead of enlisted men). The profiles include images of some of their documentary sources. Eric H. Schnitzer’s drawings and detailed captions discuss the soldiers’ likely garments, which should increase the value of the book for reenactors. Thorough notes and index round out a fine volume.

British Columbia conference on Doctrine of Discovery

A conference entitled the International Seminar on the Doctrine of Discovery is being cohosted by the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council and Thompson Rivers University on September 20th and 21st in Kamlopps British Columbia.

The conference will address how the colonial doctrine of discovery continues to form the foundation of North American legal systems and how this concept has been used within legal and political cultures around the world to subjugate Indigenous law, governments, and sovereignty. Speakers include lawyers and academics, many of whom have presented on the doctrine of discovery before the United Nations. There will also be a number of local indigenous presenters who will connect the issue to the reality on the ground in British Columbia. Speakers include: Walter Echo-Hawk, Robert Miller, Louise Mandell, Jeannette Armstrong, Steve Newcomb, Ron Ignace, Tonya Gonnella Frichner, and Oren Lyons.

This event has been registered with the Law Society of BC and lawyers are eligible to receive 9.75 hours of CPD credit for both days. 

You can get more information and the registration on the conference web site: https://sites.google.com/site/dofdseminar/

Have a Quick British History Test

The British government is changing its citizenship test to include more questions on British history, and this has prompted the Guardian to post a quiz. It’s not the actual quiz people will take, but it’s been provided by a publishing company who provide citizenship study guides. There are fifteen questions given, you’ll need ten right to pass, and they don’t charge the £50 fee. I’m fully aware it’s a little bit of fun for me, but deadly serious to others.

Terrible Vandalism Figures for British Heritage

Two British universities, together with the Council for British Archaeology, have carried out a survey on the levels of vandalism and damage being caused to heritage sites on the island. The results are horrifying: 18.7% were physically damaged by ‘crime’, which equates to 70,000 buildings, while 8% of these suffered ‘substantial’ damage. Three in eight churches suffered, as did 22.7% of grade I or II listed buildings. Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, explained “Whilst heritage is not necessarily being targeted over other places, save perhaps for their valuable materials and artefacts, they are suffering a substantial rate of attrition from crime nonetheless. Damage done to a listed building or an archaeological site can often not be put right and centuries of history will be lost forever.” (Cited from the Daily Mail.)

Lost Darwin fossil slides found in British archive

Fossil wood Darwin collected on the Island of Chiloe, Chile in 1834University of London paleontologist Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang was looking through an old cabinet in the British Geological Survey archives for some carboniferous fossil-wood specimens. He opened a drawer labeled “unregistered fossil plants” and found hundreds of glass slides of thin, polished fossil plant sections. He fished out a slide and examined it with a flashlight, finding to his great shock the signature of one C. Darwin, Esq. That slide turned out to be a piece of fossilized wood Darwin had collected during his now-iconic voyage on the HMS Beagle in 1834.

The cabinet contained 314 slides of fossils collected by botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker, Darwin’s best friend who had helped him classify the specimens he had gathered in South America and the Galápagos Islands. Several other slides bear Darwin’s name, and experts think that some of the unlabeled specimens were also prepared by Darwin.

Fossil tree at Craigleith Quarry in Edinburgh, slide by William Nicol, 1831The collection also includes specimens collected by Hooker himself on his travels, pieces from the private cabinet of Reverend John Stevens Henslow, Darwin’s Cambridge mentor and Hooker’s father-in-law, and some very early rock sections made by pioneering geologist William Nicol in the late 1820s. Nicol first devised the technique of affixing a crystal or rock section to a slide then grinding it down until it was thin enough to view through a microscope just a few years earlier in 1815. Some of these slides are huge compared to their descendants today, six inches long and a tenth of an inch thick.

Cones of giant club mosses found in a coal measure by Hooker, 1846J.D. Hooker had first assembled the slide collection when he worked for the British Geological Survey from February 1846 to October 1847. At that time the Survey didn’t have a formal registration system for its specimens. One would be implemented in 1848 but by then Hooker was no longer in their employ or even in the country. He was traveling through India and the Himalayas, doubtless collecting more specimens, so was not available to help the BGS properly catalogue his own contributions to their archive. By the time he got back in 1851, the BGS was in the process of moving its collection to new offices.

In 1851, the “unregistered” fossils were moved to the Museum of Practical Geology in Piccadilly before being transferred to the South Kensington’s Geological Museum in 1935 and then to the British Geological Survey’s headquarters near Nottingham 50 years later, the university said.

The discovery was made in April, but it has taken “a long time” to figure out the provenance of the slides and photograph all of them, Falcon-Lang said.

A core of 33 important slides from the collection have been photographed and uploaded to the British Geological Survey’s website. More will follow until the entire collection is online.

If you’d like to know more about Darwin and Hooker’s work and friendship, the Darwin Correspondence Project has almost 1500 letters between Darwin and Hooker available online.


British Library puts 4 Million Pages of Old Newspaper Online

I’ve mentioned the British Library’s plans to digitise its entire collection of newspapers before, so I’m pleased to report that four million pages of print has now gone online. Searching is free, viewing a page will cost a little, but the material is from eighteenth and nineteenth century papers which includes local material such as the Manchester Evening News.

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British Library hit 500 Manuscripts Online

Since September 2010, the British Library has been digitising manuscripts and placing the results online. They have now uploaded their five hundredth item, and this blog post has a sample …

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Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to hear complaint of British Columbia First Nations

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) will hear a complaint brought by six First Nations that charges Canada with the uncompensated taking of their ancestral territory to benefit private forestry and development corporations on Vancouver Island.

The Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group (HTG), comprised of the Cowichan Tribes, Lake Cowichan First Nation, Halalt First Nation, Penelakut Tribe, Lyackson First Nation and the Stz’uminus First Nation, has accused Canada of violating the human rights of its 6,400 members by failing to recognize and protect their rights to property, culture and religion, as recognized under the OAS’ principal human rights instrument, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Canada has been a member of the OAS since 1989.

According to Robert Morales, Chief Negotiator for the HTG, Canada, despite repeated protests, continues to permit widespread clear-cutting, deforestation and environmentally destructive development activities throughout their ancestral territory by three major forestry development companies, TimberWest Forest Corporation, Hancock Timber Resource Group and Island Timberlands. The three corporations are the major successors in interest to Canada’s 1884 grant of over 237,000 hectares of Hul’qumi’num lands containing valuable timber, coal and other resources to the E&N railroad corporation. Today, those companies control nearly 190,000 hectares, roughly 2/3 of the HTG members’ ancestral territory. The HTG has submitted extensive evidence to the human rights body documenting the companies’ clear-cutting operations, which it claims go unregulated by the government, while causing the relentless destruction of the traditional way of life, culture, and religious practices of the HTG communities.

HTG’s human rights complaint charges that Canada refuses to negotiate over the return or replacement of these lands, and, under its land claims policy, will not discuss compensation at the treaty table. HTG also charges that Canada refuses to consult with HTG, as required under well-established principles of international human rights law, before allowing the forestry companies to permanently destroy their lands and resources, with no benefits provided to the HTG First Nations.

Read more at http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/OAS-Human-Rights-Commission-cnw-1494617318.html?x=0

1600 Folders of Documents Missing from British Archives?

According to this article from the Telegraph, which appears to be drawing on a freedom of information request, there are 1,600 folders of documents missing from Britain’s National Archives. Documents relating to Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Churchill and D-Day are all reported absent, many having not been seen since the early 1990s. Now, we’re probably not talking about theft here, as an Archives spokesmen said most of the papers are probably still in the Archives but on the wrong shelves or on loan somewhere.

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Details on this Year’s Festival of British Archaeology

This year’s Festival of British Archaeology is running from July 16th to 31st. It’s a chance to get to museums and digs for special events and indulge, or discover, a passion for archaeology. There are “events ranging from excavation open days and behind-the-scenes tours to family fun days, hands-on activities, guided walks, talks and finds identification workshops take place all over the UK during this special fortnight.” You can find more information on their website

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British Spanish Civil War Records Free for Short Period

The National Archives in Britain has placed material online relating to volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. While Britain stayed neutral, thousands of men and women travelled to Spain to fight and help, and the British secret services gathered information on them. These lists of volunteers, records and casualty lists are now available for free for a limited time. If you think you had a British relative involved, this is the place to start.


— Television Program Presents American, Canadian, British and Native Perspectives, Leading the Way of Bicentennial Activities, Airs October 10 —

WASHINGTON, D.C. and BUFFALO, NY — Nearly two centuries after it was fought, the two-and-a-half year conflict that forged the destiny of a continent comes to public television in a comprehensive film history.  “The War of 1812” airs on PBS stations nationwide on Monday, October 10, 2011 at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings).  From 1812 to 1815, Americans battled against the British, Canadian colonists, and Native warriors; the outcomes shaped the geography and the identity of North America.  This two-hour HD documentary uses stunning re-enactments, evocative animation, and the incisive commentary of key experts to reveal little-known sides of an important war — one that some only recognize for the “Star-Spangled Banner.”  The broadcast is accompanied by a companion book and website, as well as comprehensive bi-national educational resources.

Across the United States and Canada, communities are planning events to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812.  “We have proudly created ‘The War of 1812’ for both nations,” said Donald K. Boswell, president and CEO of WNED, the producing station of the program. Broadcasting from Buffalo, New York, WNED has significant viewership in Southern Ontario.  “This timely examination of a shared history allows us to celebrate our past together, and renew the bond of our present and future as national neighbors.  With this production, WNED also continues a tradition of showcasing cultural and historical treasures of our bi-national region to the PBS audience.”  WNED is one of fourteen public broadcasting stations that share a border with Canada, extending the national broadcast of “The War of 1812” throughout the United States into many Canadian communities.

“WETA is pleased to join WNED in bringing this important project to all viewers,” noted Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA, the flagship public broadcasting stations in the nation’s capital and a partner in the project.  “It is an excellent example of the intellectual integrity and cultural merit for which public broadcasting stands.”

The War of 1812 is a celebrated event by Canadians, forgotten by many Americans and British, and dealt a resounding blow to most of the Native nations involved.  The film is in many ways an examination of how the mythical versions of history are formed — how the glories of war become enshrined in memory, how failures are quickly forgotten, and how inconvenient truths are ignored forever, while we often change history to justify and celebrate our national cultures and heritage.

“The War of 1812” explores the events leading up to the conflict, the multifold causes of the war, and the questions that emerged about the way a new democracy should conduct war.  It was a surprisingly wide war.  Dozens of battles were fought on land in Canada and in the northern, western, southern and eastern parts of the United States — in the present-day states of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Maryland, Louisiana, and Alabama.  There were crucial naval battles on Lakes Erie and Champlain, and a wide-ranging maritime struggle with many episodes off Virginia, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, Cuba, Ireland, the Azores, the Canaries, British Guyana, and Brazil.  The U.S. proved surprisingly successful against the great British navy, but the War of 1812 also saw American armies surrender en masse and the American capital burned.

Great characters emerge in the film, including Tecumseh of the Shawnee nation, who attempted to form a confederation of Native nations, and died in battle; his adversary, William Henry Harrison, Governor of the Indiana Territory, whose debatable success at Tippecanoe, Indiana eventually helped him become President of the United States; James Madison, Father of the U.S. Constitution, a brilliant thinker and writer who was not a great President; and such storied Canadian figures as Canadian Governor-General George Prévost, who led the largest army ever to invade the Continental United States; Laura Secord, a Canadian woman who walked many miles to warn the British of an impending American attack; and Major General Isaac Brock, a brave and audacious British general who captured a large American army at Detroit without a fight.  The film also recounts dramatic human stories of ordinary citizens, the political alliances of the various Native Americans nations, and the African-American
slaves who reached for their freedom by fighting for the British.

“The War of 1812” recollects defining moments that are more familiar: the burning of Washington, D.C., and First Lady Dolley Madison’s rescue of a portrait of George Washington from the White House; Andrew Jackson’s total victory at the Battle of New Orleans; and the birth of the American national anthem, penned by Francis Scott Key during the Battle of Baltimore at Fort McHenry.  Yet “The War of 1812” pierces the heroic mythology that has grown up around the war to reveal a brutal, spiteful conflict dominated by fiascos and blunders.

The war shaped North America in the most literal way possible: had one or two battles or decisions gone a different way, a map of the continent today might look entirely different.  The U.S. could well have included parts of Canada — but was also on the verge of losing much of the Midwest.  The New England states, meanwhile, were poised on the brink of secession just months before a peace treaty was signed.  However, the U.S. and Canada ultimately each gained a sense of nationalism from the conflict, while the result tolled the end of Native American dreams of a separate nation.

Interviews with twenty-six leading authorities on the War of 1812 — American, British, Canadian and Native historians — present important accounts and research, including from the following individuals:

·       Donald R. Hickey, professor of history at Wayne State College, Wayne, Nebraska.~ He is the author of~Don’t Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812~and~The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict.

·       Peter Twist, the Canadian director of Military Heritage, a historical military uniform and arms supply company.~ He has served as consultant on numerous film and theater projects, and is an expert on the military history of the War of 1812.

·       Donald Fixico, a Shawnee Native American, is the Distinguished Foundation Professor of History at Arizona State University, and author of~Treaties with American Indians: An Encyclopedia of Rights, Conflicts and Sovereignty~and~Rethinking American Indian History.

·       Sir Christopher Gerald Prevost, great-great-great-grandson to George Prévost, Governor-in-Chief of British North America during the War of 1812.~ He is co-author of~The Incredible War of 1812: A Military History.~

A complete list of those interviewed is available in the project’s electronic press kit.

The film’s companion book, The War of 1812: A Guide to Battlefields and Historic Sites, by John Grant and Ray Jones, is illustrated with more than 120 color photographs and archival paintings.  Each chapter focuses on one of several distinct theaters of the war, allowing the reader to follow the course of events and their importance to the war as a whole.  Jones is the author of more than 40 books, including several highly successful companion books for PBS, among them Legendary Lighthouses.  Grant is the executive producer of “The War of 1812” and chief content officer for WNED Buffalo/Toronto; he has also produced for PBS “Window to the Sea”, “The Marines” and “Chautauqua: An American Narrative.”

The project is also accompanied by a rich bi-national education and outreach component.  It includes Educator’s Guides with lesson plans, activities, and a host of educational-based resources designed for the United States and Canada, classroom posters, and several instructional events.  Expansive educational resources will also be found on the full companion website to the television documentary at pbs.org.  The full site will launch in early September with features such as a battlefield map and guide, web-only video features, scholar essays, and links to key 1812 sites on both sides of the border.

For more information about “The War of 1812,” including details on how to purchase the DVD and companion book, visit www.pbs.org/war-of-1812.  An electronic press kit, including downloadable photos for promotional use, is available at pressroom.pbs.org.

“The War of 1812” is a production of WNED-TV, Buffalo/Toronto and Florentine Films/Hott Productions Inc.,~in association with WETA Washington, D.C.  The executive producers are John Grant and David Rotterman for WNED, and Dalton Delan and Karen Kenton for WETA.  Produced by Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey of Florentine Films/Hott Productions Inc.  Directed by Lawrence Hott.  Written by Ken Chowder.  Narrated by Joe Mantegna.  Principal Cinematography by Stephen McCarthy.  Production Design by Peter Twist.  “The War of 1812” has been made possible by a major grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom*.~ With funding provided by The Wilson Foundation, Warren and Barbara Goldring, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting: a private corporation funded by the American people, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations: Dedicated to strengthening America’s future through education, Phil Lind and The Annenberg Foundation.~ With additional support
from The Baird Foundation, the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and Jackman Foundation. *Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

WNED-TV is a leading producer of single-topic documentary programming for national broadcast on PBS including “Chautauqua: An American Narrative,” “Elbert Hubbard: An American Original,” “The Adirondacks,” “Niagara Falls,” “The Marines,” “Window to the Sea,” “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo” and “America’s Houses of Worship.”  Also in development are films on the Underground Railroad and the history of golf course architecture in America.  More information on WNED and its programs and services is available at www.wned.org.

WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television.~ WETA’s other productions and co-productions include “Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal,” the arts series “In Performance at the White House” and “The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize,” and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including the premiere this fall of “Prohibition.”  More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at www.weta.org.

Florentine Films/Hott Productions Inc. is the production company of Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey, who have worked together since 1978.  They are part of the Florentine Films group.  Hott and Garey have received an Emmy Award, two Academy Award nominations, five American Film Festival Blue Ribbons, fourteen CINE Golden Eagles, a George Foster Peabody Award, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, the Erik Barnouw Award.~~Their work has been shown on PBS and screened at dozens of major film festivals, including the New York Film Festival, Telluride, Mountainfilm, and Women in the Director’s Chair.~ More information is available at www.florentinefilms.org.

British Prime Minister: ‘We won’t send Elgin Marbles back’

A question in the British Houses of Parliament about Greece’s potential financial meltdown took on an historical air when it was finished by a call to return the Elgin / Parthenon Marbles back to Greece. The marbles had been bought by Lord Elgin from the region’s then owners, but the current Greek government would like them back. British Prime Minister David Cameron responded “I’m afraid I don’t agree … the short answer is that we’re not going to lose them.” (Cited from the Guardian) You can read more about the marbles here, and give your view here.

Sarah Palin on Paul Revere: Did Paul Revere Warn the British?

Americans love a good laugh. And picking on public figures is often a source of great laughs. Not surprisingly, when a public figure serves up a delicious gaffe, we are all too eager to pounce on it. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin provided such an opportunity for amusement when she said recently that Paul Revere “warned the British” and implied that he rang some bells as part of his warning. Here is a video excerpt of Palin’s gaffe…

First, let’s all agree that Palin’s off-the-cuff remarks demonstrated she had only a vague understanding of the events surrounding Boston in April of 1775. She had only a very shallow understanding of Paul Revere and what he did. Then again, this could be said of the vast majority of Americans today. It can also be said of the vast majority of American politicians today. I shudder to think how many of our elected officials (be they at the national or state level) would pass a basic American history test.

With that in mind, let’s get some perspective on this. All politicians say dumb things from time to time. Unfortunately, certain public figures have been branded in the media and, as a result, the public consciousness as especially dim-witted and their misstatements tend to get the most press. Sarah Palin is in this category. As is former Vice-President Dan Quayle and, to some extent, former President George W. Bush. (That all three of these individuals are Republicans should give the reader a hint as to the bias of the mainstream news media. Obviously, Fox News stands as a huge exception to that bias). In reality, virtually all public figures (Republicans and Democrats) have verbally blundered in the course of their time in the limelight. Here are three examples from Barack Obama….

  • “The reforms we seek would bring greater competition, choice, savings and inefficiencies to our health care system.” –President Obama at a Health Care Roundtable, Washington, D.C., July 20, 2009
  • “I’ve now been in 57 states — I think one left to go.” -Then Senator Barack Obama on the 2008 presidential campaign trail
  • “On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes — and I see many of them in the audience here today — our sense of patriotism is particularly strong.” -Then Senator Obama at a Memorial Day campaign stop in 2008
I don’t share that list to pick on Obama. My point is that Obama has largely escaped public ridicule for these gaffes. It’s hard to imagine the media being nearly as generous with Palin, had she made statements along these lines. So, let’s agree on two things…1) All public figures make gaffes, and 2) Certain public figures, such as Palin, get unfairly disproportionate news coverage for their gaffes.
That being said, Palin’s comments on Revere were indeed a blunder. And she has only compounded the mistake by trying to defend it…

Joel Miller, author of The Revolutionary Paul Revere, probably sums up this entire episode best by saying Palin “should have been humble and admitted she got the story wrong.” She truly has only herself to blame for the ridicule she is now receiving. Yet Miller’s assessment also holds the mirror up to our own culture. That we invest so much time and pleasure in the mistakes of others is not something for which we should be proud. According to Miller, it’s “unattractive” and “prideful” that we engage in such typical “high-vaulting and jumping down [the] throats” of those who make mistakes. Yet such is the culture we have become. And we have only ourselves to blame. And there aren’t many Paul Reveres out there today to warn us of the consequences coming down the road.

British Library buys email archive

There isn’t too much unusual in the news that the British Library has purchased a poet’s archive, but what’s interesting about their acquisition of Wendy Cope’s is that it includes 40,000 emails, their largest purchase of electronic material so far. If you’re as interested as I am in how we’re going to record e exchanges for future historians, give this article a look

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Archaeologists Write to British Government over Attack on Research

Forty professors of archaeology have written to the British government protesting about a ridiculous piece of legislation which forces all human remains uncovered at archaeological digs in England and Wales to be reburied within two years no matter what they are. Clearly, this risks leaving archaeologists without enough time to study the bones properly, and destroying them so no further research can be done. For instance, over fifty sets of bones thousands of years old were discovered at Stonehenge in 2008; under the new laws, Britain risks never finding out as much as they could about these groups as scientific techniques continue to evolve. We would literally just be stuck with what we could gather from the era they were uncovered.

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1767 — Letter II From a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies by John Dickinson

Editorial published in colonial newspapers


There is another late Act of Parliament, which appears to me to be unconstitutional and as destructive to the liberty of these colonies, as that mentioned in my last letter; that is, the Act for granting the duties on paper, glass, etc.

The Parliament unquestionably possesses a legal authority to regulate the trade of Great Britain and all her colonies. Such an authority is essential to the relation between a mother country and her colonies; and necessary for the common good of all. He, who considers these provinces as States distinct from the British Empire, has very slender notions of justice, or of their interests. We are but parts of a whole, and therefore there must exist a power somewhere to preside, and preserve the connexion due order. This power is lodged in the Parliament; and we are as much dependent on Great Britain as a perfectly free people can be on another.

I have looked over every statute relating to these colonies, from their first settlement to this time; and I find every one of them founded on this principle till the Stamp Act administration. All before are calculated to regulate trade and preserve or promote a mutually beneficial intercourse between the several constituent parts of the Empire; and though many of them imposed duties on trade, yet those duties were always imposed with design to restrain the commerce of one part, that was injurious to another, and thus to promote the general welfare. The raising a revenue thereby was never intended. Thus the king, by his judges in his courts of justice, imposes fines which all together amount to a very considerable sum and contribute to the support of government: but this is merely a consequence arising from restrictions that only meant to keep peace and prevent confusion; and surely a man would argue very loosely, who should conclude from hence that the king has a right to levy money in general upon his subjects. Never did the British Parliament, till the period above mentioned, think of imposing duties in America for the purpose of raising a revenue. Mr. Grenville first introduced this language, in the preamble to the 4 Geo. III, c. 15, which has these words: “And whereas it is just and necessary that a revenue be raised in Your Majesty’s said dominions in America, for defraying the expences of defending, protecting, and securing the same: We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, being desirous to make some provision in this present session of Parliament, towards raising the said revenue in America, have resolved to give and grant unto Your Majesty the several rates and duties herein after mentioned,” etc.

A few months after came the Stamp Act, which reciting this, proceeds in the same strange mode of expression, thus: “And whereas it is just and necessary that provision be made for raising a further revenue within Your Majesty’s dominions in America, towards defraying the said expences, we Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Great Britain, etc., give and grant,” etc., as before.

The last Act, granting duties upon paper, etc., carefully pursues these modern precedents. The preamble is, ” Whereas it is expedient that a revenue should be raised in Your Majesty’s dominions in America, for making a more certain and adequate provision for defraying the charge of the administration of justice, and the support of civil government in such provinces, where it shall be found necessary; and towards the further defraying the expences of defending, protecting, and securing the said dominions, we Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Great Britain, etc., give and grant,” etc., as before.

Here we may observe an authority expressly claimed and exerted to impose duties on these colonies; not for the regulation of trade; not for the preservation or promotion of a mutually beneficial intercourse between the several constituent parts of the Empire, heretofore the sole objects of parliamentary institutions; but for the single purpose of levying money upon us.

This I call an innovation; and a most dangerous innovation. It may perhaps be objected that Great Britain has a right to lay what duties she pleases upon her exports, and it makes no difference to us whether they are paid here or there. To this I answer: these colonies require many things for their use, which the laws of Great Britain prohibit them from getting anywhere but from her. Such are paper and glass. That we may legally be bound to pay any general duties on these commodities relative to the regulation of trade, is granted; but we being obliged by the laws to take from Great Britain any special duties imposed on their exportation to us only, with intention to raise a revenue from us only, are as much taxes upon us as those imposed by the Stamp Act.

What is the difference in substance and right whether the same sum is raised upon us by the rates mentioned in the Stamp Act, on the use of paper, or by these duties on the importation of it ? It is only the edition of a former book, shifting a sentence from the end to the beginning.

Suppose the duties were made payable in Great Britain.

It signifies nothing to us, whether they are to be paid here or there. Had the Stamp Act directed that all the paper should be landed at Florida, and the duties paid there before it was brought to the British colonies, would the Act have raised less money upon us, or have been less destructive of our rights? By no means: for as we were under a necessity of using the paper, we should have been under the necessity of paying the duties. Thus, in the present case, a like necessity will subject us, if this Act continues in force, to the payment of the duties now imposed.

Why was the Stamp Act then so pernicious to freedom? It did not enact, that every man in the colonies should buy a certain quantity of paper – No: It only directed that no instrument of writing should be valid in law if not made on stamped paper.

The makers of that Act knew full well that the confusions that would arise from the disuse of writings would compel the colonies to use the stamped paper, and therefore to pay the taxes imposed. For this reason the Stamp Act was said to be a law that would execute itself. For the very same reason, the last Act of Parliament, if it is granted to have any force here, will execute itself, and will be attended with the very same consequences to American liberty. Some persons perhaps may say that this Act lays us under no necessity to pay the duties imposed, because we may ourselves manufacture the articles on which they are laid; whereas by the Stamp Act no instrument of writing could be good, unless made on British paper, and that too stamped.

* * *

Great Britain has prohibited the manufacturing iron and steel in these colonies, without any objection being made to her right of doing it. The like right she must have to prohibit any other manufacture among us. Thus she is possessed of an undisputed precedent on that point. This authority, she will say, is founded on the original intention of settling these colonies; that is, that we should manufacture for them, and that they should supply her with materials. The equity of this policy, she will also say, has been universally acknowledged by the colonies, who never have made the least objections to statutes for that purpose; and will further appear by the mutual benefits flowing from this usage ever since the settlement of these colonies.

Our great advocate Mr. Pitt, in his speeches on the debate concerning the repeal of the Stamp Act, acknowledged that Great Britain could restrain our manufactures. His words are these: “This kingdom, the supreme governing and legislative power, has always bound the colonies by her regulations and restrictions in trade, in navigation, in manufactures – in everything, except that of taking their money out of their pockets, without their consent.” Again he says: “We may bind their trade, confine their manufactures, and exercise every power whatever, except that of taking their money out of their pockets, without their consent.”

Here then, my dear countrymen, ROUSE yourselves, and behold the ruin hanging over your heads. If you ONCE admit that Great Britain may lay duties upon her exportations to us, for the purpose of levying money on us only, she then will have nothing to do but to lay those duties on the articles which she prohibits us to manufacture – and the tragedy of American liberty is finished. We have been prohibited from procuring manufactures, in all cases, anywhere but from Great Britain (excepting linens, which we are permitted to import directly from Ireland). We have been prohibited in some cases from manufacturing for ourselves, and may be prohibited in others. We are therefore exactly in the situation of a city besieged, which is surrounded by the works of the besiegers in every part but one. If that is closed up, no step can be taken, but to surrender at discretion. If Great Britain can order us to come to her for necessaries we want, and can order us to pay what taxes she pleases before we take them away, or when we land them here, we are as abject slaves as France and Poland can show in wooden shoes and with uncombed hair.

Perhaps the nature of the necessities of dependent states, caused by the policy of a governing one, for her own benefit, may be elucidated by a fact mentioned in history. When the Carthaginians were possessed of the island of Sardinia, they made a decree, that the Sardinians should not raise corn, nor get it any other way than from the Carthaginians. Then, by imposing any duties they would upon it, they drained from the miserable Sardinians any sums they pleased; and whenever that oppressed people made the least movement to assert their liberty, their tyrants starved them to death or submission. This may be called the most perfect kind of political necessity.


British Surrender at Yorktown

On October 19, 1781, the British surrendered at Yorktown thereby ending the American Revolution. The roots of the war can be traced all the way back to the aftereffects of the French and Indian War (1754-1763). However, open warfare did not begin until 1775 with the battles at Lexington and Concord.

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