BBC History March 2007

Good thing I finished this recently, since April just arrived!

Just a quick review of this issue, looking at some of the articles that I really enjoyed:

“Bomber Boys,” by Patrick Bishop, was fascinating – I had no idea that the bomber crews had got a rough ride after the war, but it does make sense (not that they should have, I mean, but the way it was done, or not done… does that itself make sense??). The sheer statistics of artillery and casualties and damage done, by and to both sides, was staggering. And the picture of Cologne in 1945 is … well. Devestating.

David Okuefuna looking at Albert Kahn and the photographers he patronised, in “Bringing Colour to a Pre-War World,” was brilliant. The pictures themselves are amazing, and the stories of the photographers just added poignancy to the stories of the subjects. I am a firm believer in the idea that knowing about the producer/author/artist can, indeed, add to your understanding of a piece of art – at least give it context, if not enrich it greatly.

I didn’t reliase that there was some ‘cash for peerages’ scandal surrounding Tony Blair. How interesting. The double-page spread looking at the precedents for that sort of thing was illuminating (bad, bad James I and Bill Gladstone!).

I loved the article about Mr Stanley. All I really knew about the man was his “Mr Livingstone, I presume?” – which he probably never actually said, surprise surprise. I had no idea he had been reviled as cruel and so on, although I am terribly surprised by that, either. And sometimes, I just love revisionist history.

Cannibals! And medicine! And Europeans! Never knew that powdered corpse had been used for medicinal purposes, But, with the idea of sympathetic magic – I mean, medicine – it’s no huge leap, I suppose.

I had never heard of the Hottentot Venus. Truly people did (do) weird and bizarre things when they thought (think) they were (are) superiod racially etc… I wonder if there is antything that ‘rational’, ‘moral’ beings do today that will be reviled in 200 years?

The booklet about the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade was brilliant – worth getting this issue just for it. The background to the law being passed, the stress of getting it passed, and the consequences… plus people reflecting on its ramifications, or lack thereof, and the legacy of slavery today, was riveting. I have to admit – and I apologise to Toyin Agbetu for this, and thank him for pointing it out – that I had been thoughtless of my terminology up to this point: it is very easy to keep referring to Africans who were enslaved as ‘slaves’, rather than ‘enslaved Africans’ – a small but, I think, vital difference.

And then there’s “‘I Defy Them All!'” – about 17th century women; particularly the Verney women. Illegit pregnancies, fiance-stealing, blackmail… they did the lot. I appreciated that at the end Adrian Tinniswood concedes that this may not have been the norm, since up to that point I wondered if that was what he was driving at… it is interesting to think about just how many, and how much, women at the time ‘broke the rules.’

Lots of reviews. Places to go, but too late since I won’t be going back for ever such a long time.

Good issue.

3 responses

  1. I’m glad I wasn’t the only weirdo whose first thought when reading of the cash for peerage thing was “hey, you stole that idea! James the first and fifth will whup yo’ ass!”

  2. I think you might have been, actually, since I was thinking about James the first and sixth…

    Oh, the brinkmanship! =]

  3. parry and thrust. Touché!

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