Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Horatio Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar

April 5, 2010






Winston Churchill was a Bolchevik

March 25, 2010


Or at least that’s what our American “Conservatives” would say of him. In effect, Salon’s Joe Conason reminds us of the important role Winston Churchill played in setting up the British National Health System (NHS):

Perhaps it is a forlorn hope that facts and history can make any impression on the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Chuck Grassley, or Bill Kristol, but let’s try anyway — because it is worth understanding that despite the low quality of our own so-called conservatives, there was once another kind.

Churchill was renowned as a politician who put country and civilization above party. The government he led during World War II was a broad coalition of the British parties, from his own Conservatives to the democratic socialists of Labor. Midway through the war, Churchill’s government asked Sir William Beveridge, a Liberal Party social reformer and economist to study systems of social insurance that could reduce poverty, disease, unemployment and illiteracy in Britain.

In 1942, Beveridge issued an far-reaching report that proposed a national health service to provide medical care to every man, woman and child, regardless of means — much as the coalition government had done during the medical emergency brought on by the German bombings of their cities, hospitals and clinics.

Although Churchill endorsed the idea of a national health system, his party lost the first post-war general election in 1945, partly because British voters didn’t trust the Tories to implement the Beveridge report. Instead a Labor government established universal care under the NHS in 1948.

Only three years later, the Tories returned to power with Churchill restored as prime minister. At that point, the NHS could still have been killed — and many members of the Tory party, not to mention the British Medical Association, were eager to do so.

But Churchill asked Claude Guillebaud, a Cambridge economist, to head a committee to study the performance and efficiency of the NHS. The Gillebaud committee found that the NHS was highly effective – and needed additional funding to insure that effectiveness would continue. There was no more talk of dismantling the very popular service, and instead the Tories under Churchill and his immediate successors allocated more money to build additional clinics and hospitals. Even Margaret Thatcher, the most ideological Tory prime minister of modern times, promised voters that “the NHS is safe in our hands.”

History’s Turning Points Episode 6: 1879 AD, The Zulus at War

February 21, 2010

Sixth of this six part series.

After diamonds were discovered at Kimberley and gold in the Transvaal, British colonization stepped up. Charged with stopping Zulu attacks, 5000 British soldiers invaded Zululand, setting camp at Isandalwana, they more than 1300 Brits died.

History’s Turning Points Episode 5: 1759 AD, The Battle For Canada

February 18, 2010

Fifth of this six part series.

In the first half of the 18th century, British and French interests in North America increasingly overlapped. British war minister William Pitt ordered an invasion up the St. Lawrence. Racing winter, British forces scaled the cliffs near Quebec City at night, with no retreat possible.

History’s Turning Points Episode 4: 1453 AD, The Siege of Constantinople

February 15, 2010

Forth of this six part series.

In 1204 crusaders sacked the city, then renamed Constantinople. For the next thousand years, the Byzantine Kings hid safely behind the massive walls of Constantinople. Then in 1453, with the Turkish Ottoman Empire encircling the city, Sultan Mehmet brought the newest technology of the 15th century, the cannon, and finally brought down the walls of the world’s most impregnable fortress.

History’s Turning Points Episode 3: 1347 AD, The Black Death

February 12, 2010

Third of this six part series.

When a plague-ridden ship landed in Venice in 1347, it was immediately put into quarantine…but no one could stop the rats from corning ashore. Within three years, a third of Western Europe’s population was dead. It was the greatest calamity in history.

History’s Turning Points Epusode 2: 480 BC, The Battle of Salamis

February 9, 2010

Second of this six part series.

At Salamis Bay, the Golden Age began when the Greeks expel the Persians, sinking 200 Persian ships while losing only 40 of their own. Themistocles not only was not rewarded for his victory, but was removed as Athen’s leader for being too arrogant.

History’s Turning Points Episode 1: 31 BC, The Battle of Actium

February 6, 2010

First of this six part series.

If the battle of Actium had been won by Cleopatra and Antony, there would have been no Roman Empire. Yet Octavius Caesar’s victory in 31 BC created an absolute dictatorship that sparked one-of the greatest imperial and cultural expansions the world has ever known.

Battlefield Britain Episode 8: Battle Of Britain

February 3, 2010

Eighth of this 8 part series.

Britain is a country that has been forged by centuries of warfare. Each episode charts one key battle which could have gone either way, and did much to shape the nation that Britain is today. Dynamic father-and-son team Peter and Dan Snow, together with historical renactors, give the soldiers perspective on what it must have been like to ride, march, fly and sail into battle. Episodes include: Boudicca’s Revolt, The Battle of Hastings, Battle for Wales, Spanish Armada, Battle of Naseby, Battle of the Boyne, Battle of Culloden, and the Battle of Britain.

Battlefield Britain Episode 7: Culloden

January 31, 2010

Seventh of this 8 part series.

Britain is a country that has been forged by centuries of warfare. Each episode charts one key battle which could have gone either way, and did much to shape the nation that Britain is today. Dynamic father-and-son team Peter and Dan Snow, together with historical renactors, give the soldiers perspective on what it must have been like to ride, march, fly and sail into battle. Episodes include: Boudicca’s Revolt, The Battle of Hastings, Battle for Wales, Spanish Armada, Battle of Naseby, Battle of the Boyne, Battle of Culloden, and the Battle of Britain.