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Articles on this Page
- 05/14/13--02:00: _Is accuracy or stor...
- 05/15/13--03:28: _Famous Feats of Avi...
- 05/16/13--02:30: _An interview with t...
- 05/17/13--04:00: _The Friday Digest 1...
- 05/20/13--02:31: _Law & Disorder in M...
- 05/21/13--02:30: _The Chelsea Flower ...
- 05/22/13--02:55: _How it feels to win...
- 05/23/13--03:33: _Now to make 'The Fi...
- 05/24/13--07:00: _The Friday Digest 2...
- 05/27/13--02:00: _Telling the true st...
- 05/28/13--02:29: _Is there life after...
- 05/29/13--06:00: _One Dead Piglet- A ...
- 05/30/13--03:30: _The bloodiest bits ...
- 05/31/13--07:00: _The Friday Digest 3...
- 06/01/13--02:00: _The Extraordinary S...
- 06/02/13--02:15: _June 2nd 2013: A Hi...
- 06/05/13--02:30: _An Inspiring Perspe...
- 06/07/13--06:00: _The Friday Digest 0...
- 06/07/13--13:00: _House Histories: Or...
- 06/08/13--02:30: _I didn't know that ...
- 05/14/13--02:00: Is accuracy or story more important in historical fiction?
- 05/15/13--03:28: Famous Feats of Aviation
- 05/17/13--04:00: The Friday Digest 17/05/13
- 05/20/13--02:31: Law & Disorder in Manchester
- 05/21/13--02:30: The Chelsea Flower Show and the history of exhibitions
- 05/22/13--02:55: How it feels to win the Rugby Book of the Year...
- 05/23/13--03:33: Now to make 'The Final Whistle, the sports book of the year...
- 05/24/13--07:00: The Friday Digest 24/05/13
- 05/27/13--02:00: Telling the true story of Emily Wilding Davison
- 05/28/13--02:29: Is there life after Fergie?
- 05/29/13--06:00: One Dead Piglet- A short murder mystery story by Naomi Reynolds
- 05/30/13--03:30: The bloodiest bits of... Camden
- 05/31/13--07:00: The Friday Digest 31/05/13
- 06/01/13--02:00: The Extraordinary Story of Colchester Zoo
- 06/02/13--02:15: June 2nd 2013: A Historic Royal Spectacle Revisited
- 06/05/13--02:30: An Inspiring Perspective on Liverpool from the 1950s
- 06/07/13--06:00: The Friday Digest 07/06/13
- 06/07/13--13:00: House Histories: Orchard Court
- 06/08/13--02:30: I didn't know that about... Edinburgh
It’s quite likely when you read a work of fiction that the words have been inspired by some true event – whether historical or more recent. In an interview with the BBC last month, crime writer David Baldacci spoke about why he writes inaccuracies in to his fiction. ‘As a fiction writer,’ he said,’ I take very seriously my responsibility of not providing a blue-print for a psychopath.’
Historical fiction in particular is an ever-popular genre, as the excitement surrounding the upcoming release of Dan Brown’s new book Inferno, based on Dante’s classic, demonstrates. For many people, whether they read books or watch television shows like The Tudors, historical fiction can be an accessible introduction to challenging subjects from the past, acting as a catalyst for further interest. Does this then give authors a responsibility to be accurate when they borrow from history, just like Baldacci believes crime writers have a responsibility when they borrow from real-life crime?
It can be argued that, as authors are getting inspiration (and quite often whole stories) from history, they owe it to their readers to stay as close to real-life events as possible. This is especially true when authors are using recognisable characters, as Philippa Gregory does with Henry VIII and many other Tudor figures.
Speaking from experience, I found that reading Robert Harris’s Fatherland before my history A levels was a mistake! The relationship between the true characters and dates, and the fictional ones, was often close enough to cause confusion – I am sure that I would have embarrassed myself if I hadn’t double-checked my facts before the exam. It just shows how easy it is to fall in to the trap of interpreting artistic licence as fact.
Can we generalise and say that people who read or watch historical fiction want to be entertained, not educated? If readers wanted accuracy alone, they could study a textbook. But surely a good writer should be able to both educate and entertain? Being accurate, whilst not bogging the reader down in details, is a clear way of making history more exciting for non-scholars. This month, an article by James Burge looks at this dilemma in historical fiction, focusing on Dante and Dan Brown. In it, he discusses the classic historical novelist’s quandary: 'for credibility he or she needs to maintain a feeling of historical accuracy; but, to hold the audience and maintain the pace, the author is tempted to bend the facts.'
Dan Brown is a master of blending fiction with a smattering of facts to add credibility to his narrative, however Brown ultimately sees his work as fiction based on fact as he explained in an interview: ‘I am not the first person to tell the story of Mary Magdalene and the Grail, I am one in a long line of people who has offered up this alternative history. The Da Vinci code describes history as I have come to understand it through many years of travel, research, reading, interviews, exploration …’
The success of programmes like Mad Men show that details do matter, and that authenticity is important to audiences. Indeed, many of the accolades bestowed upon Mad Men focus on the realism of the sets and clothes. Mad Men’s costume designer Janie Bryant emphasises the importance they placed on the small details: ‘The period look is all about the foundations, all the actresses wear the girdles, they wear their bullet bras with their tips and padding and stockings and everything.’ (USA Today, 2007)
Whilst Bryant is focusing solely on the costumes here, the idea of realistic foundations, which then allow experimentation, is integral to the success of historical fiction as a whole. Facts clearly add credibility and weight to a story, and root it more firmly in a time or place for the enjoyment of the reader or viewer. However, an issue still remains: can the recording of history itself ever truly be accurate? Napoleon claimed that ‘history is a set of lies agreed upon’, and anyone who has studied history knows how difficult it can be to sift through the facts to get closer to the elusive ‘truth’. Does historical fiction merely serve to further muddy the waters of the historical record?
History is about sharing the stories of people and communities, and readers are interested in historical fiction looking at all walks of life, and those stories work best when a modern reader can make a connection to a character from the past. People are inherently curious and, as you can see from the diverse selection of our readers’ fantasy dinner party guests, we are all interested in getting to the heart of a story; we want to find out more about historical figures and their lives.
Inevitably, this insatiable curiosity about history and its giants has led to people writing stories that seek to add flesh to the bones of the historical record. Ideally these stories will be firmly rooted in fact, and will ensure that they spin a good yarn without deviating too far from the historical record.
For me, historical fiction is more enjoyable when it is both education and entertainment: authenticity within the narrative allows a story to be credible without sacrificing entertainment value- surely the best of both worlds?
Is the flow of a story or historical accuracy more important to you?
* Historical Novels- Over 5000 Historical Novels Listed by Time and Place
* Why history matters...
* An interview with Dan Brown about his research methods
The Scottish county of East Lothian is known for its scenic golf courses, historic castles and one of the biggest gannet colonies in the world at the Bass Rock. What’s less known is its place in aviation history. In the early hours of 2 July 1919 the biggest airship in Britain left its hangar at the airfield at East Fortune. The 643ft-long craft soon took off and headed west. After a journey of four and a half days that encountered poor weather and engine problems the dirigible landed in the USA. The R34 had completed the first east-to-west aerial crossing of the Atlantic. It touched down with approximately one hour’s fuel left.
Along the way two stowaways had been discovered, a kitten called Wopsie and a human called William Ballantyne – a crew member who had been removed to make room for an American observer but didn’t want to miss out. He was found over water, otherwise he would have been given a parachute and sent homewards. A parachute was used by one of the officers who jumped to help the American reception personnel who were unused to dealing with an airship of that size.
The crew were fêted by the people of New York, and met the American President Woodrow Wilson. After several days of being entertained and re-equipping the airship, it was time to return. The journey home encountered no major issues. The R34 was scrapped in 1921 following an accident. In the Museum of Flight that now stands on the East Fortune airfield site, the airship’s nose cone, in the shape of a heraldic crest, can be seen.
Dan Whiting is a father of four children, who runs a company in legal recruitment. He lives in Hertfordshire and is the Chairman of Southgate Adelaide CC.
Liam Kenna is a twenty-four-year-old Welshman from Hertfordshire who moved to London from Wales at 16, after leaving Swansea City and signing for Barnet. Liam has always been a massive cricket fan and played to a decent level from a young age. He continued to play cricket when he didn’t have football commitments and Southgate Adelaide FC is where he met Dan.
How did the Middle Stump start out, what inspired you to set it up?
We set up the Middle Stump on 23 March 2012 so we are just over a year old. Liam had a football blog going at the time, so I asked him how it works etc. and it just took off from there. We’ve since had over 180,000 hits and a book deal, and met some great people along the way. Interestingly with me being forty-two and Liam twenty-four, he tends to write the more serious articles. Both of us are mind numbingly juvenile though. It’s why we got on. We decided that if were to do it then we would stray from the norm and put a comedy slant on things. (Dan came up with the name)
Where did your love of cricket come from?
DAN: I’ve played since I was six years old. Just always loved the game. I am entering my 29th season with Southgate Adelaide.
LIAM: Growing up there was nothing else to do in the summer months when football and rugby had finished! I was lucky enough to get selected for the County at an early age and it gave me the drive to carry on and keep playing.
How do you and Liam know each other?
DAN: Liam and I met a few years back. He came down from Wales to play for Barnet FC and played cricket for us in the summer. He was very young, and very Welsh at the time!
LIAM: I went to Southgate Adelaide to try to get a couple of games in towards the end of the ’04 season after moving from Wales. A knock of a 70-odd debut in a Sunday friendly saw me straight into the 2s the following Saturday and Dan happened to be skipper – it was the start of a beautiful friendship. I’m known as the Son of Whiting at the Adelaide!
Do you play cricket yourself?
DAN: Yes, I play for Southgate Adelaide 2nd XI in the Herts League. I’m also the chairman of the club.
LIAM: I also play for Southgate Adelaide CC and have done for the last nine years apart from a season at Datchworth CC in 2010. Back in Wales I turned out for Dafen CC.
What is the most memorable interview you have done for the Middle Stump and why?
DAN: Graeme Fowler, Adam and Jack Shantry, Steve Kirby, David Nash, Rikki Clarke, Jack Brooks. All of them have been good in their own way – we have only done one bad one!
LIAM: Dan deals with most of the interviews but my favourite was Graeme Fowler. Dan was a massive fan of Foxy’s batting back in the ’20s or whenever it was and he was like a twelve-year-old girl while interviewing him!
Who is the book aimed at? Do you need cricketing knowledge or is it for everyone?
DAN/LIAM: Ideally cricket fans, but there will be some stuff for everyone in there.
What is your favourite form of cricket? One day, Twenty20, Test?
DAN: Test without a doubt, followed by a four-day county game. T20 is great for bringing in the crowds and getting kids interested, but give me a good old-fashioned five-dayer anytime.
LIAM: I love Test cricket. There’s something about grinding down the opponents, having a plan on how to get batsmen out and bowling as a pair. Same with batting, I find it fascinating watching an opener see off the new ball and build an innings. T20 is fun but after the tenth six it starts to get a bit tedious. It’s become all about who is the biggest, strongest and quickest as opposed to the best.
DAN: Middlesex. I’m a North London boy.We have forged links with quite a few counties via our writing and there are some good lads at Warwickshire, Somerset, Middlesex, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, and Yorkshire, it has to be said.
What was the best part of writing your book?
DAN: Being able to have a chance to speak with childhood heroes. The likes of Graeme Fowler I watched as a thirteen year old in the 1983 World Cup for England, and thirty years on I’m interviewing him for this! Writing was also quite therapeutic for me. It stopped me from going down the pub so often!
You are well-known within the cricket community, but have you ever come up against opposition from people you have interviewed ?
DAN: Not really opposition. We have had a few who have said they will do one and then when you try and pin them down to do it, they prove somewhat elusive! I was discussing this with someone the other day actually and cricketers are far more accessible than footballers, and tend to be better blokes in general. Everyone we have interviewed has been brilliant.
Best and worst matches?
DAN: The worst – quite possibly last Saturday. I dropped two catches and nicked one behind second ball whilst Liam got panned all around the park and troubled the scorers as much as I did. Thebest –Edgabston in 2005 Ashes takes some beating as does the 1999 World Cup semi final between Australia and South Africa.
Can you tell us about your favourite cricket experience(s)?
DAN: Scoring a hundred, getting promoted three times or winning. Any visit to Lord’s is up there too whilst watching. Any game from the 2005 Ashes would have to be mentioned too, except the first one that Australia won!
Most banterful moment of writing the blog and book?
DAN: Probably when we appeared on a commentary called Test Match Sofa and nearly got kicked off in the first half, an hour for getting close to the knuckle legally! As for the blog and book, well they are all banterful in their different ways. You’ll have to read them to find out!
* A Cricket Banter interview with Adam Whiting at The BizzNizz
The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts:
* On Tuesday 14 May, Dan Brown's latest novel Inferno was released. Now the first reviews are out but who will be most inconvenienced by the release? The title has been very high-profile; the translators were even locked in an underground bunker to avoid plot leaks, which was unsuprisingly a 'mentally exhausting experience'. For those of us living under a rock, Inferno is based on the first chapter of Dante's Divine Comedy which chronicles Dante's fictional descent into hell. The BBC has put together a 10 point tour of the underworld for those who are unfamiliar with Dante's most famous work.
* David Starkey has been causing controversy again after stating that it is 'ludicrous' to suggest that historical novelists have authority. When we asked our readers what they thought of Starkey's comments, it started a huge discussion over on Twitter with people weighing in on both sides of the argument. One of our authors even wrote a response to Starkey over on his blog.
This week we asked you whether accuracy or story is more important in historical fiction, but Starkey is questioning whether historical fiction is relevant at all. Do you think historical fiction is relevant to historians?
* Thursday 16 May marked the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters raid with a flypast at Derwent. Codenamed Operation Chastise, fifty-six of the men who took off on the mission did not return. Out of nineteen bombers, eight were shot down. Three men were captured and fifty-three were killed. The Telegraph has revisited how the Dambusters raid unfolded, hour by hour with the BBC retracing the daring journey. Whilst many at the time thought it was merely a propaganda exercise, the raid was actually much more effective than many people realised.
* Grammar and language is back in the news this week, with The Guardian outlining the grammar rules that everyone should follow and the BBC looking at bad grammar and the people who hate it. Design Taxi has collated the best illustrations of unusual and rarely spoken words whilst Salon looks at the modern history of swearing. (Warning, some very strong language is used in this article but it does make for fascinating reading.)
* Did the Egyptians stop building pyramids because they were too perfect?
* 10 May marked the 105th anniversary of Mother's Day (don't panic UK readers, this is the US holiday not Mothering Sunday!)
* A subterranean Victorian street in Keighley is set to reopen after being abandoned for 120 years. Much of the Victorian building work was still intact and builders also found original doors, signs and fittings rendering it very atmospheric.
Would you shop in the redeveloped arcade?
* How do you like your classic lit: in lingerie or a ballgown? Book covers play a huge role in the book selection process and the idea that a female author must be marketed as 'chick-lit' has been causing controversy. Katy Brand says chick-lit will survive - but urges readers not to count all female authors in. Author Maureen Johnson recently called for an end to gendered book covers with her Coverflip project, but asks after the initial wave of enthusiasm, what happens next?
* A Stirling teacher's first edition books have fetched a cool £226,000 at auction this week. The collection included first editions of classic works such as Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843), The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908) and Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. A first edition of F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was bought for £1,875.
* The highs and lows of modern life would be unthinkable without social media, but History Today argues that the Edwardian postcard, with it's brevity and speed, was a precursor to Twitter. Do you agree?
* This stunning video of London in 1927 is as if a postcard has been brought to life - it's amazing to see how much the capital has changed in less than a century!
* Even if you can't read the whole article, just knowing that John Le Carré has a poster that says 'Keep Calm and Le Carré On' is surely enough to get a smile?
* A pretty grim story to round off the week (don't read this if you are of a delicate disposition or about to eat lunch). The man who was killed by a mouse...
Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?
We tend to think of Manchester as the shock city of the Industrial Revolution, but its roots are much older. It was founded in A.D. 79, the same year that another Roman city, Pompeii, was buried beneath the lava of Vesuvius. A Roman fort was built on an area of higher land near the junction of the Rivers Irwell and Medlock and, from it, the soldiers of the Roman Empire tried to maintain law and order among the warring tribes of the region.
Law and order has been an issue for Manchester for much of its history. Republican views led to Manchester supporting Parliament in the Civil War, leading the Royalists to try to besiege the town. Although the townspeople were successful militarily, the disruption to trade caused by the war plunged the city into poverty. In both 1715 and 1745, the town was associated (more or less willingly) with the two Stuart pretenders to the throne (the younger being the famous Bonnie Prince Charlie). They used Manchester as a base as they made their way south, to overthrow the established order (and then back north, fleeing the wrath of their opponents).
In the eighteenth century, urban growth outstripped the town’s ability to feed itself. It led to a series of food riots which, on occasions, required the intervention of the armed forces to restore order. In 1819 it was the authorities that were responsible for the breakdown in order. A peaceful demonstration of thousands of working people at St Peters Fields (roughly on the site of the old Free Trade Hall) was turned into carnage as an ill-disciplined militia, fuelled by exaggerated rumours of unrest, rode into the crowd with swords drawn. The result was the infamous Peterloo massacre. It was still bitterly remembered a decade later, when Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington came to the city in 1830 to open the railway from Liverpool, and had to leave again, rather more quickly than he expected.
The nineteenth century saw industrial unrest on a huge scale, when the Plug Plot Riots of 1842 attempted to close down the region’s textile industries. Irish Republican Fenians fought a gun battle with police in the streets of the city in 1867 to free convicted compatriots; this was the start of over a century of sporadic Republican outrages in the city, which culminated in the giant car bomb of 1996 that destroyed large swathes of the city centre.
We have not even got on yet to Marxism, the most influential revolutionary movement of the twentieth century, or the violently militant Suffragettes, both of which movements can claim to have their origins in Manchester.
Law and order – just one strand from Manchester’s long and fascinating history.
Stuart Hylton is the author of the newly published The Little Book of Manchester
* The Little Book of Manchester by Stuart Hylton
* Manchester: From the Robert Banks Collection by James Stanhope-Brown
* Manchester Then & Now by Chris Makepeace
* South Manchester Remembered by Graham Pythian
* Irish Manchester Revisited by Alan Keegan & Danny Claffey
* The Manchester Book of Days by Ben McGarr
* Not A Guide To: Manchester by Ben McGarr
2013 marks the Centenary of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. This will undoubtedly be celebrated with gusto and panache, befitting such a prestigious and well-loved event in the horticulturalist’s calendar. However, many people may not realise that this will be the Society’s third Centenary celebration. The last one was celebrated in 2004; the same year as its Bicentenary, and the first was held in 1904.
It was in 1804 when the Royal Horticultural Society was founded above what is now Hatchards bookshop in Piccadilly. 100 years later it celebrated its Centenary by building and opening its own dedicated exhibition hall, library and new headquarters building on Vincent Square, Westminster. Opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexander on the 22nd July, in the company of a distinguished company of guests, the Royal Horticultural Hall very quickly became in demand from an extraordinarily wide number of non-horticultural and commercially beneficial clients.
The Society’s own weekly flower, fruit and vegetable shows were popular, of course, and many affiliated floral societies also began to hold their own shows there. However, from very early on and right through to the Hall’s Centenary in 2004, and beyond, it became clear that the greatest use of this well positioned facility in the heart of Westminster was from external exhibition and event organisers wanting to stage what became, in many instances, groundbreaking and landmark events. The dramatic social, religious, military, political and lifestyle changes that were taking place throughout this period were being played out and mirrored through these events in this Hall, and in the subsequent New Hall close by, opened in 1928 by Princess Mary.
The best examples of these were the Model Engineer and Schoolboys Own Exhibitions that drew millions of young and old alike from far and wide over a century from 1907 to witness the inventions of the day; the advent of wireless, telephony, television by John Logie Baird, and the first British Robot; the chance of seeing famous sports personalities; the early racing car drivers such as Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss with their cars, including the innovative Cooper brand; flying pioneers and their flying machines such as Sir Hiram Maxim and Amy Johnson and Sir Malcolm Campbell (the fastest man on water with his Bluebird machine) and the man who founded the Scout movement Lord Baden-Powell with his wife Lady Olave Baden-Powell who became Chief Guide for Britain in 1918. You could also make your own gramophone records and take them home with you in 1930 and when the space race began in earnest you could enter the “Space Machine” in the 1953 Exhibition.
These consumer events, in particular, played an important role in educating as well as entertaining the public when television and social media were non-existent. So it begs the question, “Do we still need exhibitions and events today?” The answer is a resounding yes. The Ideal Home Exhibition (that almost started in the RHS Halls) still exists after 105 years and is as popular as ever. Times have changed and technology has enabled us to harness this to our advantage. However, we all still need tactile interaction with each other and 3-dimensional products that we are interested in.
The need to communicate face-to-face is almost more important to us now than ever before, because of the faceless technology we have to face that is often flawed and deeply frustrating for many. Exhibitions, both trade and consumer, are thriving but they are becoming more niche and, with sophisticated electronic marketing, audiences that are relevant and interested in the exhibition or event concerned can be targeted more easily.
It is true that some venues and halls have fallen by the wayside, and Earl’s Court is about to become the most prominent of these. In their place, other venues more purpose-built and consumer friendly with wi-fi and other modern technology a standard feature, are taking their place.
Our primeval instinct to gather and meet; to interact and trade; be educated and entertained in market squares, halls and other places, as our forbears have done for centuries, is alive and well and I predict, will remain so for many generations to come to celebrate, perhaps different, but more centenaries.
'Sweet Peas, Suffragettes and Showmen: Events that Changed the World in RHS Halls' is available now.
Prize-day at school was never like this: no Terry Venables, Clare Balding or Darren Clarke in a room at Lord’s for a start. But the pre-match nerves building for weeks ahead of the 2013 British Sports Book Awards hatched into fully-fledged butterflies when my neighbour on Table 21, Adharanand Finn, won the first award for his ‘Running with the Kenyans’. Surely the hosts might seek an easier life with a simple name like Stephen Cooper?
The Rugby Book of the Year was announced just before half –time – a relief not to sit in the dressing room fretting about the second half. As the chairman spoke in praise of the shortlisted books, it dawned on me that mine had been left till last. Why? And, suddenly, there I am, receiving the engraved trophy from former England Rugby captain Lewis Moody and stammering a few unprepared words.
Then I’m whisked away to Sky TV’s camera interview, still failing to say something clever in the spotlight. Photographs follow: Lewis is charming, but annoyingly looks two inches taller than me, despite us officially being the same height.
A triumphant return to Lucky Table 21. The tweets come flooding in. How could they know? Too late now the witty banter I wished I’d had on the stage. But the book will do my speaking for me, and if my words help bring alive those fifteen men who died 100 years ago, then it’s been worthwhile.
Join our campaign to make 'The Final Whistle' The Times Sports Book of the Year by voting for the book here.
Paul Baillie-Lane is an editor at The History Press who attended the ceremony with Stephen last night.
The British Sports Books Awards was my first gig as an ambassador of The History Press at an award ceremony, and it would certainly be a memorable one. Flicking through the rugby nominations in the event magazine upon arrival, I found myself thinking that Stephen’s book was by far the best one on the shortlist, but that the power of monstrous marketing budgets and the pull of celebrity status would surely win through, no? Titles from noted sports personalities Steve Rider, Clare Balding and Darren Clarke, among myriad others, were backed by publishing giants and their substantial media clout, so an honourable mention for The Final Whistle and a tasty meal would represent a successful night. Stephen agreed.
Table 21 turned out to be a lucky omen as Adharanand Finn collected an award for Running with the Kenyans. Could lightning strike twice? As England international rugby player Lewis Moody mentioned each nominee, explaining the merit of each book but that, ultimately, they were not to be this year’s winner, it dawned on both of us that The Final Whistle had yet to be mentioned – not until it was uttered after the words ‘and the winner is …’
I could tell Stephen was thoroughly shocked, in the nicest possible way, and that he probably hadn’t prepared an acceptance speech of any great length. He picked up his award with a glowing smile and explained the process of how the book came about. He bowed out by saying that it was all about the fifteen players who never heard the final whistle – a fine sentiment.
Whisked off for Sky Sports interviews, photographs and handshakes, Stephen basked in the spotlight as I proceeded to hassle the event organiser to get hold of the photographs being taken. My smile was equally as wide.
I left the prestigious event with a 100 per cent win ratio and an immense pride at what Stephen Cooper and The History Press had achieved in the face of the stiffest competition. Now to win the Sports Book of the Year – game on!
What great news arrived in the office yesterday, we have won the Rugby Book of the Year with The Final Whistle by Stephen Cooper. I was very excited about this announcement, as a passionate rugby fan, of Gloucester, England and the Lions, I'll watch and go to any games I get the opportunity to go to. It doesn't really matter who is playing, as this game is such a great sport full of friendly fans and players all around the world.
It's great to see a book that isn't a autobiography win this prize. This book contains it all - history, passion, sadness of these great players and soldiers being taken before their time. These players have played for their country, the Barbarians and the Lions, plus the common tie of Rosslyn Park RFC. I think this weekend and coming months is a great time to remember these players and soldiers, with two headline games at Twickenham this weekend, the premiership final and then England v Barbarians, The Lions in Australia and the summer tours that our nations rugby teams will be on.
The 15 biographies of this book are a poignant reminder of all those that fight for our country. It's sad that these fifteen are not remembered by a memorial at the club, with the centenary of WWI coming up next year, these 15 players and soldiers will be remembered, along with all the other soldiers that fought for our countries.
If you are part of the rugby family - fan or player past or present this book is a great read and a reminder of what was given up for us. It would be amazing to see this wonderful book as The Times Sports Book of the Year. If you purchase a copy and have a read, I'm sure you won't be disappointed, remember to vote for this historic rugby story to win.
Join our campaign to make 'The Final Whistle' The Times Sports Book of the Year by voting for the book here.
The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts:
* One of the biggest challenges for local historians is the preservation of historic buildings and sites. It is 100 years since the British state began officially collecting historic buildings and sites and opening them up to the public. The acquisition of hundreds of places saw the creation of what was, in effect, an outdoor museum of national history.
* An archaeological excavation at Bahrain has unveiled more details about one of the oldest trading civilisations. The meticulous maintenance of the archaeological settlement marks a turning point in the way Bahraini specialists are dealing with the vast store of historical remains on the island.
* The discovery of a previously unknown church beneath Lincoln Castle has been described as a 'major find' by Beryl Lott, the historic environment manager for Lincolnshire County Council. It is believed that the church dates back to the Anglo-Saxon period, after the Romans left Britain but before the Norman invasion of 1066.
* A number of iconic London landmark signs were auctioned this week, allowing members of the public to get hold of Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and Hyde Park.
Which one would you choose?
* In Bournemouth this week, an anniversary memorial was unveiled to mark the 70th anniversary of a WWII air raid. Nearly 200 people, mostly Allied airmen staying at the Metropole Hotel, died in the Luftwaffe raid on 23 May 1943.
* A 'treasure chest' of pre-World War I glass negatives found in a barn on Lewis have been preserved by a historical society. The photographs were taken by Dr Norman Morrison, and document island life.
* Considering that the British Museum protects more than seven million objects, it is amazing that in the last three years just 53 objects were damaged.
*A facial reconstruction based on the skull of King Richard III is going on display in Leicester's Guildhall as the first stop of a nationwide tour. Hopefully they will decide where he will be reinterred soon too...
* An exhibition of art masterpieces which were lost to the UK for 234 years has opened at a stately home in Norfolk. The collection was originally owned by Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister, but was sold to Russia to pay off debts incurrred by his family home.
Hopefully none of the visitors to the exhibition will be struck down by Stendhal's Syndrome - a psychological reaction that can occur when a person is exposed to a very well known, very beautiful painting - which can lead to palpitations and dizziness. It's a sort of art Beatlemania.
Are there any painting that you think are too famous to see?
* Speaking of Beatlemania, the custom-made guitar played by both John Lennon and George Harrison was sold for $408,000 at auction this week. Harrison practised 'I Am The Walrus' on the guitar in 1967 while Lennon used it in a video for 'Hello, Goodbye' later that year.
Beatles biographer Hunter Davies has donated letters and lyrics by John Lennon to the British Library as part of a new tax relief scheme. The Cultural Gifts Scheme allows recipients to reduce their tax by 30% of the value of the object over five years. The handwritten lyrics to 'Strawberry Fields Forever' will sit next to the Magna Carta in the British Library's Treasures Gallery
* Is this the return of the cassette tape? The 1980s classic is gaining popularity again amongst Canadian music fans.
* The National Archives has made a number of secret documents available to the public this week, which revealed that King Edward VIII was bugged by the government at the height of the 1936 abdication crisis.
Other revelations include the news that Churchill and Stalin made 'merry' until the early hours during an official visit in 1942 and that the Allies discussed killing Rommel in the run-up to D-Day landings. Secret files also revealed details of plots to kill Hitler. I find things like this so fascinating and it is fantastic that they are available for public viewing.
* Photographer Sara Hannant has captured some of the English rituals which mark the changing seasons in a stunning set of images. I had no idea that these customs existed and it makes for interesting reading.
* Less people are using libraries despite the Arts Council England concluding that they should be 'at the hub of their communities'. Many are even getting rid of physical books and becoming paperless. If libraries aren't your thing, book clubs may appeal. BBC News looks at the book clubs that try to find the next bestsellers
* On Tuesday an auction of annotated first edition books took place in London. A really varied selection of authors were approached and some of the comments were fantastic. Rick Gekoski shares his notes on this ambitious project.
* 5 writing mysteries that nobody knows the answer to...
* The Guardian disucsses the importance of image for your key protagonists.
* Scientists have used plant samples collected in the nineteenth century to identify the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine
Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?
Maureen Howes and Penni Blythe-Jones share their reactions to seeing the finished copy of Emily Wilding Davison: A Suffragette's Family Album for the first time, upon its release.
Maureen: I spent 16 May in whirl of activity because I had not yet got a copy of my book. I decided that if the publisher's books had not arrived by 1.30 pm I would go into town and get a copy that Tim and Alice had said I could have from them as their thank you for me doing the signing at their shop.
I rang Ian Leech who I knew wanted to finally fit in a photo session with me and he agreed that it would be an ideal opportunity to do that at Applebys and that he would meet me there at 2-30.
As we walked towards the shop it was quite a thrill to see the posters on the shop window and copies of my book on display at last I felt it was reality. Something was happening for the local family to see for themselves and so they know that their contribution to Emily’s story is a reality and not still a pipe dream. It was now there in Applebys window for everyone to see.
I was thrilled to actually hold my book and I was dying to flip through it but I had to be polite and talk to everyone. When I arrived home, there was a note on the door mat saying a parcel had been left at with one of my neighbours so off I went and now I have the copies I have ordered.
The rest of the afternoon was spent snuggled up in a fleece reading my book and I was so emotional as it brought back so many memories and thoughts of how each step of the way we brought everyone together to tell their parents and grandparents' memories of Emily.
With The History Press’s fantastic support, we have pulled off a minor miracle after the first publisher said it couldn’t be done in time. We together had brought the real Emily into the 21st century in our very own unique way and I think that we have done her and her family proud. At last a more reasoned version of what was happening in Emily’s life has been published. I cannot thank Cate and her team enough and I hope we will have begun to make a difference to counter the hype and sensationalism that has been Emily’s legacy since her death and will in all probability come to the fore again elsewhere during the centenary weekend. We here in Northumberland have proved our point with our very original and personal version of a very brave lady.
When I went into my office and placed a copy of my book on the shelf alongside all the suffragette books are that I have used for my research it hit home that I had really done it and I did a little dance of joy. Well done History Press, we have started to make people ask questions. My book is going into the schools here and Emily would be so proud of her family and what we are doing here in her centenary year.
From now on there will be “No Surrender”, our Northern voices will be heard loud and clear.
Why did you take on this project?
Maureen: My answer is in the form of a question for you: how could any self-respecting genealogist say NO to such a wonderful challenge? Of course in 2002 when I was asked to take on the voluntary research for the 2003 tribute project I knew “The Suffragette” was buried near my home in St Mary’s Churchyard but my knowledge of Suffragism was minimal. Genealogy and researching the border parishes of Northern Britain were my forte and that was the key that opened doors that had been firmly closed for almost a century. Once I began to locate the present day family members and heard their stories and was privileged to see saw their archive material I was hooked and I knew that we had to find out the truth behind Morpeth’s secret suffrage history.
Penni: Sitting in the International Women's Day a few years ago as member of the Women’s Folk choir the speaker that year, the then Deputy Chief Exec of Northumberland County Council, Jill Dixon talking I was struck by how powerfully Emily had inspired my life.
The personal history of my grandmothers (and indeed my own life) has long had me powerfully committed to the importance women having a voice, their stories and lives being embraced as valid, real and equal. Because of how society at the time they were born the voices, stories and lives of both my grandmothers were lost. One was born in 1909, the other round about 1900 – so both were alive in Emily’s life.
Having been a member of the NCC Emily working Group for some time, offering, last June, to ‘help the centenary happen’ seemed a natural step. Little did I realise how Emily would take over – Emily Inspires! emerged!
How will this book impact Emily's legacy?
Penni: I believe Emily Inspires! and particularly Maureen Howes’ book is bringing new truths to live. Giving Emily back her voice, through the family who have carefully nurtured evidence, her stories, her history, through demonstrating her relevance today
So we clarify and transform the myths and misunderstandings about Emily - finally laying to bed the phrase ‘the woman who threw herself under the King’s Horse’. Replacing it with ‘the woman of joy, passion, artistry, courage and commitment – a true Daughter of Northumberland’
Her legacy helps our next generations, healing, honouring where women’s stories are lost, disregarded and women are ‘dealt with’ as being less than equal. I hope that by inspiring an equality that serves the human race, we will encourage women and men, to take their place and build better, more sustainable societies.
In Zach Helm’s 2007 children’s fantasy film, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Dustin Hoffman plays a 243 year-old owner of a magical toyshop. When he suddenly announces his retirement, the store grieves, loses its magic, the toys, furniture and even the bright red walls turning a charred gray in anticipation.
Latest reports from Old Trafford suggest Manchester United’s magical shrine hasn’t suffered the same fate but when I heard that Sir Alex Ferguson was leaving I did wonder! In the aftershock it seemed almost disrespectful to consider life after Fergie, our focus was gratitude to the great man. But life for United supporters goes on and in the shape of Moyes Boys (mmm… I think we need to work on that?).
I’ll put my cards on the table, I wanted Mourinho. He has the perfect CV and could fill Fergie’s shoes perfectly whilst worried Reds point to Moyes’ lack of trophies and Champions League experience. Yet Everton have punched above their weight for a decade given their financial constraints and credit goes to David Moyes for shrewd transfer dealings. My only concern is that football is littered with failed managers who did wonderful work with ‘smaller’ clubs only to spend foolishly when a big transfer chest was handed to them. Neighbours City have specialised in recruiting such managers for over 30 years now!
So let’s get a grip of ourselves and look at the positives. David Moyes is an excellent manager. His work ethic, drive, tactical nous and man management are all first rate. He knows the game inside out. At United we cherish our tradition of playing attractive, winning football. I feel Moyes will embrace the tradition. Rearing homegrown talent is another cornerstone of Old Trafford, Moyes will ensure the academy pipeline continues to produce pure gold. If that doesn’t convince the sceptics, then remember, Sir Alex Ferguson recommended David Moyes, would our beloved leader handover the keys to the kingdom lightly? No.
I’m old enough to remember the doomed Busby - McGuiness handover in 1969. On the surface, the similarities are disturbing but two differences stand out. Firstly, Moyes is very much his own man and learned his trade managing Preston and Everton over a fifteen year period. Secondly, Fergie’s legacy is a young successful team and an empire with all the pieces in place to deliver success. Busby was accused of interfering in team matters after he stepped down. Wilf McGuiness has scotched those claims saying that he should have consulted Sir Matt more than he did. I don’t believe David Moyes will make that mistake.
Moyes will do well, the walls of the Old Trafford will stay Red and Fergie Magorium will ensure the magic never dies.
In December 1989, United fanatic Pete Molyneux raised a banner calling for Alex Ferguson’s head, sparking the biggest protest in Old Trafford’s 100 years. For manager and supporter alike it was their darkest hour. Pete never gave up on his team and, thank God, Fergie stayed. Ta Ra Fergie! tells Pete’s story of his time following United at home and abroad since 1964, attending over 2,000 matches.
This is the story of United from a fan’s perspective covering Alex Ferguson’s reign. From the despair of relegation and the tortuous false-dawns of the 1980s to that elusive title win, the doubles, the treble and two more European Cups, his obsession with watching United brought countless thrills but it also had a darker side that led to heartache and tragedy.
* Manchester United's wins and losses under Sir Alex Ferguson
* 10 things not everyone knows about one of football's most iconic managers.
* Sir Alex's most famous relationship: Beckham and Ferguson
It was a bad start to the day for Philip Fields; he had solved the Winder Case. Sure, this had resulted in a hefty wad of notes in his wallet, and had prevented a man from escaping the hangman of justice, but now it meant his mind had no trick to work at.
In other words, he was bored.
He gave his mind a chance to wander as he absorbed the sounds of the busy street. The constant clatter of wheels on the paving served as a backdrop to the chattering pedestrians, and the occasional whinny of a cabby’s horse. The air was heavy with smog, but Philip inhaled deeply as he stepped out onto the pavement.
He nearly bumped into a woman hurrying along.
She smiled at him before turning away, a dark ringlet that had escaped her ribboned hat bobbing with her footsteps. He admired her retreating figure before she was lost in a crowd of long skirts, hats and shawls.
He sighed. He saw her nearly every day, at least once a week, and that was the longest conversation they’d had yet. He was hopeless.
Putting her from his thoughts, he crossed the road and began heading to the bookshop. However he was soon intercepted by a boy who was covered in the grime the working class seemed unable to be rid of.
“Let me guess,” Philip said. “An update on the Kensington robbery?”
“That’s old news,” said the boy, “whoever’s done that is long gone.” He smiled, which showed one his missing front teeth. “There’s a murder at Hollylake Lane, stabbed right through the eye. Oh, and one of Sir Lannard’s piglets has been killed.”
“Yes sir, the cook told me. He wanted to keep it secret – it’s a prize-winner.”
“Did they not take it with them?”
“No, that’s the horrid thing. They left all that food to waste in the dirt, just cut its throat and left it.”
“That makes an awful lot of sense.”
Philip tossed the boy a shilling and hailed the nearest cab. As he sat in the rattling cabin, he reminded himself of the case.
Martha Gridley, a servant at Kensington, was found surrounded by blood in her mistress’s bedroom on Tuesday morning. The jewellery from the room had been taken and the girl herself had been badly beaten. The police deduced it was with a blunt weapon, such as a rock or plank of wood – because burglars often have those to hand.
She had a letter-opener from the desk and a poker from the fireplace in her hands, which she had used to fight the burglar - hence the blood - before he overpowered her.
“Before it overpowered her,” Philip corrected himself. “I can’t assign it a gender.”
The doctor whose name, Philip chewed his pipe as he thought, is Jenkins was immediately summoned. Her sister, Sally, who worked at that house on Tuesdays and Thursday, very admirably refused to neglect her work in the situation, after an initial check on her sister of course. The doctor proclaimed Martha beaten, but not in need of any treatment other than bed-rest, and that was that.
Unfortunately the burglar was long gone, without leaving a single clue. Not even a footprint or some cigarette ash to work with. The police were hoping would turn up in hospital or a ditch, given its injuries, but they weren’t lucky as that.
And the valuables, mostly jewellery, hadn’t turned up either. The house had been searched, Martha too, and nothing.
It was all a bit hopeless. Until this dead piglet turned up.
The cab stopped behind a fine blue carriage that looked freshly painted. It was waiting outside a large red house that was decorated with white balconies and green shutters. The flowerbeds were bursting with tulips.
Philip raised his fist to knock on the polished door when it was opened for him.
A woman was about to step out. She had sunny yellow hair, was dressed in pale creams and blues and greeted Philip as if she was happy to see him, though they had never met before.
“Why hello,” Lady Boucher said. “How lovely to meet you. I’m just out really, could you come by tomorrow?”
“It’s only quick,” said Philip. “Jenkins sent me to check up on Miss Gridley.”
“But she’s at home. I do hope nothing’s wrong?” She seemed genuinely concerned.
“Oh nothing to worry yourself over. It’s just the business was so ghastly, we want to check her over. It could have been much worse, why to think you could have been hurt too!”
“Yes, I suppose the danger was right on my doorstep.”
“Well, and I know it sounds ridiculous, but it just doesn’t seem very important. Martha is going to be fine and the things that were stolen can easily be replaced. The one thing I cared about, my mother’s locket, was left - thank goodness! It’s silver but I guess they didn’t want it because it is a little battered.”
“I’m glad to hear it and, though I’m aware you’re probably running late due to my intrusion-“
“Oh of course, I was leaving!”
“-I really do need Martha’s home address.”
“I’m sure Wilson can help you, I’m sorry but I really must go.”
Philip watched the lady of the house dash into her carriage. He knew Wilson had heard her last sentence, he was the one holding open the door, and so was willing to wait until the man had fished out the information he needed. For some reason, butlers did not have a great like for him.
The next home Philip visited was decidedly different from the last. Crammed into a row of identical houses at the end of a dirty alleyway, it was grey and chipped, with some panes missing from the lone small window. It smelt horrid but, if he was honest, it was the smell of sickness and death that overpowered the decay of excrement.
It was a girl that greeted him, probably about nine. He couldn’t help but notice the large boots stood on the hearth.
“I’m looking for Martha Gridley,” he said. “I was sent by Mister Jenkins.”
“Out the way Sally, who is it?”
“He says he’s sent by Mister Jenkins.”
“And my orders were to ensure you got enough bed-rest,” said Philip, guessing the new girl’s identity from the bruises patterning her face.
Martha smiled bitterly. “There’s no time for bed-rest, far too much to do. Thank you.”
She made to shut him out so Philip quickly muttered.
“Like faking a robbery?”
“What did you say?”
Martha checked behind her and stepped outside, closing the door behind her.
“You know what I said. It was clever, the way you organised for your sister to be present to pass her the stolen goods before you could be examined too closely. And it must have taken some solid nerves to hit yourself against the fireplace like that, to make it look like you’d been beaten.”
“The burglar hit me.”
“The burglar that happened to leave a locket very sentimentally valuable to a lovely woman, and employer. I don’t believe that for a moment.”
Martha didn’t look like she believed it either.
“Why rob her in the first place though, if you’re not going to go all the way? I didn’t understand that before I came here, but now I do.” He thought about the boots, and the smell of the house. “Is it your father?”
“Then I won’t keep you.”
Philip touched his hat and left.
He walked through a pretty park in the area and sat heavily on the nearest bench.
The piglet had given it away; Martha needed its blood. The piglet was probably killed by her sister, who had Monday, Wednesday or Friday to carry out such a plan, maybe she even worked at the Lannard’s Household. The blood was an essential part of the plan, without it no number of bruises would make anyone believe her story. But it had made him wonder at the blood again, and how there were no footprints despite it being all around her. That could never happen in a genuine scuffle.
Philip leaned heavily on his cane. Another case solved. But now he was back to his original problems: boredom and women.
He looked up at the sky. He did have that murder to research, but it wasn’t late; in fact it was the perfect time for calling on a certain dark-haired lady with red lips. And he had just solved a case, a chance to look intelligent but not too intelligent.
“Cab!” he called. “To Hollylake Lane.”
He didn’t want the corpse to get cold.
Camden, the London Borough that stretches south from Highgate, Hampstead and Kilburn through Camden Town, Bloomsbury and Holborn has witnessed many bloody deeds, including headless Jacobites, resurrection men and horrible murders. Here Marianne Colloms and Dick Weindling have selected some of the most gruesome...
In a particularly dreadful case, Phoebe Hogg and her baby were murdered by her husband’s jealous mistress Mary Pearcey. She slit Phoebe’s throat before abandoning the body on a pile of rubble near Swiss Cottage and smothered poor little Tiggie, who was just eighteen months old. Pheobe and Tiggie were buried in the same coffin, the baby cradled in her mother’s arms. Mary Pearcy was hanged on 23 December 1890 and her brutal act earned her a place in Madame Tussaud’s ‘Chamber of Horrors’, standing by Tiggie’s bloodstained pram.
When the ice gave way on Regent’s Park Lake on a cold winter’s afternoon in January 1857, forty men and boys died, making this the worst ice accident in the UK’s history. They were plunged into the freezing water where their thick clothing and heavy skates dragged them down, succumbing to hypothermia before brave rescuers could reach them.
How many students at the London School of Economics in Holborn know that their building is on the site of the Enon Chapel? Here an unscrupulous clergyman crammed 12,000 bodies into its small vault. By 1845 the disused Chapel had become a dancing saloon, the new owners advertising ‘Dancing on the Dead’ to take full advantage of its macabre past.
One of the most famous murders ever recorded happened in 1910 when a body was found buried in the cellar of 39 Hilldrop Crescent, CamdenTown. Dr Crippen was hanged for the murder of his wife Cora, but protested his innocence to the end. He and his lover Ethel le Neve were caught in Quebec, through the use of the new transatlantic telegraph. In a recent twist to the story, researchers claimed DNA from the remains didn’t match that of Cora’s relatives and the body could even be male, not female. So, did they hang an innocent man?
These and many other gruesome stories are coved in Bloody British History: Camden, available from The History Press
The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts:
* The Tudor warship Mary Rose sank in 1545 whilst leading the attack against a French invasion fleet in the Solent. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and the ship was salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust. Now, the secrets of Henry VIII's flagship are being revealed to the public.
A purpose built museum, costing £35 million, will be opened to the public later today, reuniting some of the 19,000 artifacts with the sixteenth century hull of the ship. Faces of some of the crew have been recreated by forensic science experts using skulls found with the wreck in the hope that living relatives of the Mary Rose crew may be identified through DNA . Discover how the Mary Rose crew members were revealed after 500 years, and how a drowned sailor's appearance was recreated.
It is so strange to see the faces of the men who died so many years ago, it really brings history alive
* The news that a preserved Ice Age mammoth has been found with flowing blood has sparked a wave of interest in cloning and boosted calls to bring the extinct creatures back from the dead.
Do you think this is a good idea or would it end as badly as Jurassic Park?
* Sunday 2 June 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the Queen's Coronation and the Royal Mail have released a set of stamps to mark the occasion. The set includes a portrait commissioned by the Royal Mail which has met with derision from critics, with people claiming that it looks more like Margaret Thatcher.
Television in the 1950s was still a new phenomenon but how did the Coronation turn it into the first mass medium to rattle the radio's cage?
* I know a lot of you are Tudor history fans and this stunning Coronation Book for Queen Anne Boleyn makes for interesting reading. The Noble Tryumphaunt Coronacyon of Queene Anne- Wyfe unto the Noble Kynge Henry the VIII was printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1533 and has a description of the festivities. If you are interested in learning to be a Tudor, History Today has the article for you...
* In May 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay conquered the summit of Mt. Everest and their sons have followed in their footsteps, six decades after the first expedition to the peak. The modern experience of climbing Everest is quite different with the summit becoming congested with climbers in 'the world's highest traffic jam'.
Valery Rozov, an extreme sports star from Russia, successfuly completed the world's highest base jump - leaping off the north face of Mount Everest at a point that was 7,220m (23,680ft) above sea level.
* Is internet English debasing the language? Barely a week goes by without language and grammar being back in the news and this week is no exception. Simon Horobin, an English Professor at Oxford University, has asked for spelling and grammar pedants to relax but which side of the argument do you come down on?
* Internet users are helping to decode the mysteries of the Mayan script that has been secret for hundreds of years. Researchers began this task many years ago but online collaborators have sped up the process. Want to get involved? Head over to the Maya Decipherment blog...
* Books have an amazing ability to change people's lives and everyone has a favourite book (or five!) Waterstones have been gathering a collection of stories and The Books That Made Me shares the lives that have been changed by books.
* Where is happiness in twentieth-century fiction? It seems that food and feasting aid happiness, as do pigs (unless you live on Animal Farm of course)...
* Did Mussolini really get the trains running on time or was it just fascist propaganda?
* Cobblestones are part of the fabric of the historic heart of Rome and the uneven stones relect the history of the 'Eternal City'. They have a certain charm but whilst they are loved by tourists, residents are less than keen and many cobbles are being replaced by tarmac, but should they be preserved?
* The next History Press newsletter will be focusing on 'extraordinary women' but if you can't wait that long, the fascinating story of Margot Asquith: Britain's most colourful 'first lady' and the news that Amelia Earhart's plane has possibly been revealed should keep you going.
* The former South Korean 'comfort women' of the Japanese military brothels are living out their days in a 'living museum' that records and commemorates their suffering. Despite an apology from the Japenese government 20 years ago, these women still feel that they have never had a full and sincere apology for the shameful treatment that they received.
* An ettiqutte guide showing you how to make friends using the telephone...
* Did the Rite of Spring really spark a riot? You would expect the premiere of a ballet to be a more cultured affair but apparently on 29 May 1913, Stravinsky's Rite became a riot
* A long-lost dog tag has been returned to its owner, the NY WWII veteran who lost it in France, 69 years after it disappeared. This story gives absent-minded people like me hope, maybe some of the things I have lost over the years will turn up eventually too!
Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?
Colchester Zoo was established in 1963 by Zoologists Frank and Helena Farrah in the grounds of Stanway Hall Park. The site was around 25 acres in size and contained a small collection of animals ranging from lions to kangaroos. The purchase of the Stanway Hall Estate was the realisation of a lifetime’s ambition for the owners. Helena Farrah acted as the zoo curator during this period; she was the first female curator in Europe. Even in its early years the zoo had a clear conservation focus:
Stanway Hall offers me the opportunity of helping in the preservation of animals - Frank Farrah (May 1963)
In 1983 Colchester Zoo changed hands and was taken over by the present owners, Mr and Mrs Tropeano. It was run as a small family business, Colchester Zoo Ltd. Since this time, Colchester Zoo has been continually redeveloping to improve the facilities for both the animals and the visitors. It has been developed as a conservation centre and has expanded in size from the original site of 25 acres to almost 60 acres, following the purchase of neighbouring land. Colchester Zoo celebrates its fiftieth anniversary on 2 June 2013. The zoo will be holding a number of events to celebrate its birthday week, check their website for more information.
The zoos which have always been good, often don’t have much to of a story to tell. Bad zoos get closed down and forgotten. A place such as Colchester Zoo holds a unique fascination for us. In its fifty years it has swung from early triumph in the 1960s, to near-ruin in the 1980s and back to overwhelming success in the twenty-first century.
Colchester Zoo enjoyed popular acclaim in its earliest days thanks to the flamboyant personalities of its founders, Frank and Helena Farrar. In the 1960s, visitors would be able to meet Frank and Helena walking their cheetahs and leopards around the zoo on leashes. These cats, like many other Colchester Zoo animals, were film and television stars, regularly appearing in shows alongside icons such as John Wayne. Visitors would even find themselves able to reach through the bars and stroke the Farrars’ tame lions and bears.
The world has since changed and what was once thought acceptable is now illegal or considered morally wrong. The 1980s were a watershed for British zoology and saw a sea-change in the way Britain thinks about and runs its zoos. In that decade the country’s worst zoos were closed down altogether. Other zoos shut their gates for a time in order to transform themselves from top to bottom. What makes the story of Colchester Zoo such an intriguing one is that it remained open and fought its way head-first through this storm. In doing so, it turned its reputation from that of one of the worst zoos in Britain to one of the best in Europe.
Frank and Helena Farrar did little to ensure that their zoo kept up with the times once the 1960s had ended. It is likely that the zoo would have failed had not the Tropeano family bought the zoo in 1983 and set to work rebuilding the park. Some of the animals in those days were in poor health and most of the zoo was in need of renovation. Colchester Zoo thus passed through some difficult times in the 1980s, but emerged in the 1990s with a strong sense of purpose and a renewed ambition to match the achievements of the best zoos.
In the last twenty years, Colchester Zoo has made some great advances. These include breakthroughs in artificial insemination breeding in elephants and rhinos, assisting with improvements to zoos in Eastern Europe, the foundation of a charity called Action for the Wild and the creation of a large nature reserve in South Africa. The story of these first fifty years of Colchester Zoo presents a remarkable case of victory against the odds and we are fortunate to be in a position now to recognise the extent and meaning of that success.
S.C. KERSHAW is an independent writer who works voluntarily at Colchester Zoo. He received his doctorate from the University of Essex in 2010 for a thesis on the history and theory of opera and ballet. He lives in Wivenhoe, and is passionate about sharing the history of Colchester Zoo.
The Story of Colchester Zoo is a tale of struggle and heartbreak, but also of transformation and redemption, and is a fitting tribute to one of our great animal institutions as it reaches its fiftieth anniversary. Visit The History Press website and get a special fiftieth anniversary discount of 20% off the book plus free UK P&P by using offer code: HPZOO50TH
Only once before in English history has a Coronation been celebrated 60 years after the event, but on 2nd June this particular milestone will be marked again following the passing of an incredible six decades since Queen Elizabeth II first made her vows to her people in the solemn surroundings of Westminster Abbey.
Famously the first time television cameras had been allowed to document the event, the 1953 Coronation was to be a uniquely global event with literally millions around the world tuning in to witness the proceedings in a manner we take for granted but which 60 years ago was quite unprecedented.
For those who could afford to indulge themselves it was precisely the excuse they had been looking for to buy one of these new-fangled (and very expensive) television sets. Others who couldn’t crowded around sets displayed in shop windows, or piled into the living rooms of their more fortunate neighbours. But many more took to the streets, hundreds of thousands of them, braving the wind and rain in the hope of catching a glimpse of the young queen as she made her way to Westminster and then, later, returned to the Palace with her crown and regalia in place.
For locals and visitors alike it really was to be London’s Big Day, and just as the service itself was to be the first to be captured on television the scenes outside were among the first of any true state occasions to be documented in colour by scores of photographers – amateur and professional – who lined the streets along the processional route.
Until now many of their photographs have never seen the light of day, hidden away in archives and private collections, and often all but forgotten. They show some truly remarkable scenes, however. Thousands of servicemen and women from around the Commonwealth marched the route, scores of elegant carriages carried not just the Royal Family but also aristocrats and foreign heads of state to the Abbey, and everywhere the capital was decked out for a party with many well-known landmarks dressed for the occasion in gilt and colourful bunting.
With immense red, white and blue grandstands erected at significant points to ensure the best possible view, the pictures show a London which is at once familiar and strangely different. Together they provide a compelling snapshot of a moment when London found itself at the centre of the world, and for all the right reasons, and today I think provide something unique and very special for London lovers and royalists alike.
London's Big Day: The Coronation 60 Years On is available through The History Press today.
The wireless was playing Nat King Cole singing ‘Mona Lisa’, and on the 16th January 1950 the BBC’s first broadcast of ‘Listen with Mother’ was heard, as the women of the city were getting used to being back at home looking after the kids as the men returned to take over the jobs that the women had done in wartime. The remaining population of Liverpool after the Second World War numbered 981,000 scousers, and Liverpool ushered in the 1950‘s. The stark reality though, was that Liverpool was a city with a whole lot of work to do to rebuild its past. It was the most severely bombed city outside of London especially during the heavy bombardments of the May and June blitzes of 1941. More than 10,000 homes were destroyed and some 3, 875 people killed.
Liverpool in the 1950s will to take you back to that period in our history when despite what seemed like an impossible task, the people of Liverpool simply knuckled down and got on with it. But the focus of the book is not just on the centre of the city. Page by page we will take you on a journey through the Liverpool districts from Bootle to the Garston and show you exactly what life was like back then, courtesy of the photographers of the period. Showing you photographs taken by the City Engineers department recording the buildings left standing after the war, and showing some of the newer developments that were happening in the suburbs. Local photographer Johnny Lockhart was also out there with his camera taking photographs that would become an invaluable record for generations to come. The men and women of Liverpool City Police are also featured and we get an insight into just how the police force in Liverpool developed during the 50s. Coronation year was the best excuse for a party since the war, and as Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne scousers came out in droves to decorate the streets and celebrate with street parties. The shops were filled with memorabilia and in city centre the council were proud to join in, decorating public places and organising events.
Take this opportunity to have a nostalgic look at the city as it was, the people, the fashion the shops, the markets and the transport. With over 200 photographs, many previously unpublished, this is the story of, ‘Liverpool in the 1950s’.
Discover more on this fascinating subject at The History Press
The Friday Digest brings you the best of the week's history news gathered from the experts:
* If we were still part of one giant 'supercontinent', smuggling Timbuktu's ancient manuscripts to safety may have been slightly easier. When Islamist rebels started destroying 'idolatrous' texts earlier in the year it was feared that the manuscripts, which date back to the 16th century would be lost but many of the texts had already moved to safety in Bamako, the last government-controlled town in Mali. Luckily only a few hundred manuscripts are thought to have been destroyed.
* The salvage attempt to raise a unique World War II aircraft from the floor of the English Channel just off the Kent coast has been delayed due to high winds. The Dornier 17 aircraft is the last of its kind, and lies in 50 ft of water on the Goodwin Sands. Since the first announcement, the RAF Museum has raised an extra £100,000 to contribute to the bid.
* Museums play a huge role in preserving our history and heritage and The Independent argues that our museums must remain free at all costs. This idea of public national museums is still a relatively new one and it was on this day in 1753 when the British Museum became the first public national museum in the world. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum reflects on the impact that this extraordinary decision has had.
Why not spark a lifelong interest in history and visit a museum this weekend?
* The debate surrounding the history curriculum continues to rumble on with Simon Schama, the historian who advised the Government on the new national curriculum, urging teachers to reject the final syllabus and its“ridiculous shopping list” of subjects.
What are your thoughts on the chronological focus of the curriculum? Is it as restrictive as Schama is claiming?
* Inspiring children can be a difficult job but the appointment of Malorie Blackman as the Children's Laureate is a fantastic start. Her most famous work is her 'Noughts and Crosses' trilogy which remain some of my favourite books to this day.
* Sunday 2 June marked the 60th anniversary of the Queen's Coronation which the Queen marked by attending a service at Westminster Abbey. Stunning pictures of the service can be seen here and you can watch the original broadcast of the coronation service with commentary by Richard Dimbleby on iPlayer
* These images of iconic London sights, as seen from the skies, were taken by photographer Jason Hawkes, who regularly flies over the capital in an AS355 helicopter. The photographs give a fresh perspective on some of the world's most iconic views.
* The longer summer evenings give you a lot more time to relax, but the tempatation to have a snooze in the sunshine can be hard to resist. If you are looking for some summer reading, this list of 10 classics that won't put you to sleep is a good place to start but which books do you think are missing off the list?
* An interesting look at the spectacles factory that hasn't changed since 1932.
* This history is a little earlier than we would usually cover (!) but the discovery of a tiny Chinese Archicebus fossil, the oldest primate yet found is fascinating.
Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?
In late 2012 I was approached to assist in a new television programme for ITV highlighting house histories across the United Kingdom. The new five part series, ‘Britain’s Secret Homes’, will countdown 50 of the countries lesser known, but by no means less significant, houses and their stories. While assisting in compiling the final 50 houses for the programme, two of those chosen were first featured in my book, House Histories: The Secrets Behind Your Front Door. The first of the two houses from my book will appear in the first episode of Britain’s Secret Homes on 7th June. Orchard Court in Portman Square, London, was used by the French Section of Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive during World War Two.
Britain’s Secret Homes is presented by Michael Buerk and Bettany Hughes on ITV1 from Friday 7th June at 9-10pm and will be “...revealing the 50 remarkable stories behind the UK’s most secret, surprising and intriguing homes.”
From the exterior, Orchard Court in Portman Square appears to be like many other mansion blocks in central London; however, this simple inter-war building has a fascinating history associated with some of the most heroic men and women of the Second World War. The history of Orchard Court is a good illustration that every home has a story, no matter what the age of the house or what it looks like from the outside. Portman Square was first laid out for building in 1764 with houses designed by Robert Adam and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart. Grade I listed ‘Home House’ on the northern side of the square is one of the few original buildings to survive from this time, completed in 1777 by Robert Adam for the Countess of Home.
Most of the eighteenth-century buildings were swept away as part of building redevelopments in the 1920s and ’30s, including those on the eastern side, where Orchard Court now stands. It was designed by architectural firm Messrs Joseph and completed in 1929, with residents moving in during 1930. Orchard Court is listed as an ‘unlisted building of merit’, built with a brick facade and stone detailing, and giant classical columns and pilasters. The name ‘Orchard’ does not relate to any former apple orchard, but rather originates from Orchard Portman, a former country estate belonging to the Portman family, near Taunton in Somerset.
The 'F' section
The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was created by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1940, with the main objective of supporting resistance movements in enemy territory in Europe, including Italy, Poland, Norway and France. The flats within Orchard Court were used by the French or ‘F’ section (SOE head office was at 64 Baker Street). Here, new spies were recruited and later briefed before being taken into Occupied France. Sending women behind enemy lines and training them in espionage, including silent killing, was highly irregular at this time. One former spy, Noor Inayat Khan, said: ‘The time the agents spent at Orchard Court was a brief period of luxury before their gruelling, dangerous stints in the field.’
‘M’ & Miss Moneypenny
The ‘F’ Section was commanded by Maurice Buckmaster, who was assisted by Vera Atkins; these two ﬁgures are said to have been the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s ‘M’ and Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond stories. Vera Atkins was responsible for interviewing recruits, as well as organising their training, creating the cover stories for the spies. Atkins has been much praised for her extraordinary work in the SOE. During her time at Orchard Court she sent 470 agents into France, including 39 women, 118 of whom were never to return...
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and a city, steeped in history and world-renowned for its rich architectural heritage. With over 4,500 listed buildings, Edinburgh was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1995 thanks to the Old and New Town and is a popular tourist destination.
The Edinburgh World Heritage Trail podcasts make for fascinating listening whether you are sitting at home or exploring the city. Discover for yourself the fascinating history and stories behind many of the public spaces of the Old and New Towns by downloading the Heritage Trail and listening to the podcast for each location.
Author Geoff Holder has gathered together some of the most interesting facts about Edinburgh, why not share some of your favourite facts about 'Auld Reekie' in the comments below?
* The Royal Mile is 12% longer than a normal mile.
* There are no street names in Edinburgh beginning with the letter X.
* The ancient right of sanctuary around Holyrood Palace and Abbey has never been repealed, so theoretically a criminal could seek safety within the grounds.
* Edinburgh only became part of the nation of Scotland in the year 1020.
* Ronald Searle partly based his famously anarchic creation St Trinian’s on Edinburgh’s real-life St Trinnean’s School for Girls.
* The ‘biography’ of James Bond shows he was expelled from Edinburgh’s Fettes School.
* In 2010 British artist Antony Gormley installed six life-size figures in the Water of Leith. People quickly ‘pimped out’ the enigmatic sculptures with bikinis, woolly hats and underwear.
* In 1928 tug operators argued about who would guide the German battlecruiser Moltke to the scrapyard. Meanwhile the tow-rope broke, leaving 22,979 tons of upside-down armoured warship drifting out of control towards the Forth Bridge. Fortunately it sailed safely under the bridge, just missing the cantilever piers.
* Bylaws forbade early train drivers from grazing their horses while pulling trains.
* Trinity station had two booking windows. The second was reserved for the fisherwomen, whose fishscale-covered hands gave the woodwork (and everything else) an unshiftable patina of fish grease.
* In 1937 a fire killed hundreds of pigeons nesting in the vast glass canopy of Leith Central, littering the platforms and rails with smoke-asphyxiated birds.
* Passengers on the Queensferry Passage Ferry were charged 5d, the same fare as for a sheep or goat. Bulls cost four shillings, more than the fare for a small car.
* In 1941 Edinburgh’s buses introduced female conductors, who only worked on single-decker vehicles so their stockinged legs could not be ogled when going up the stairs of double-deckers.
* During a break in the Siege of Leith in 1560, French and English soldiers ate together on the beach. The English had beef, bacon, poultry, wine and beer, but the best the besieged French could manage was horse pie and roast rat.
* In 1679, during the Covenanting Wars, Edinburgh invented the concentration camp.
* During a siege of Edinburgh Castle in 1689, the defenders, hidden in deep shelters, asked the attackers for a pack of playing cards to help pass the time. The request was refused.
* Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, thought that Edinburgh was so delightful it would make a suitable summer capitol when Britain became part of Hitler’s empire.
* An inflatable Dalek lives in The Central Library. Dr Who’s enemy has illustrated various books and films, including Dalek Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Dalek with the Dragon Tattoo and The Good, the Bad and the Dalek.
* In 2011 some residents in Portobello thought an earthquake was shaking their houses - the vibrations were actually caused by the large vehicles shifting sand for a flood defence scheme.
* In 2008 urban foxes were seen fearlessly entering shops on Princes Street and the Royal Mile during daylight.
* Sir Nils Olav of Edinburgh Zoo is the only penguin in the world with a knighthood.
* Greyfriars Bobby was actually two dogs. When Bobby Mark I died in 1867, a substitute was brought in. The iconic statue, the subject of millions of tourist photographs, is of Greyfriars Bobby Mark II – the substitute dog.
'The Little Book of Edinburgh' by Geoff Holder is a funny, fast-paced, fact-packed compendium of the most unusual crimes and punishments, eccentric inhabitants, famous sons and daughters and literally hundreds of wacky facts.