Bonfire Night: Not so Much About Guy Fawkes

Featured Image: The dying flames of Winchester’s Bonfire

Bonfire Night has become so ingrained into British tradition it’s almost a national holiday, without the benefit of a day off work. Many cities and communities across the country have long-standing events to celebrate, by gathering around a very tall bonfire and watch a firework display. Our very own Winchester has one every Saturday closest to the famous date of the 5th of November. It draws huge crowds and people travel far to see these displays. No matter how cold, or even rainy, the night is these festivities always bring people together and the 6th of November always promises to be a cast-over day, with smoke still hanging in the air. This post isn’t interested in the origins of this celebration. We all know about Guy Fawkes and the failed gunpowder plot to blow up parliament, represented by firework displays across the country. We all know the bonfire has often been used to burn an effigy of Guy (and other figures across the years). But the bonfire also makes its mark in another way, and has links with the ritual of Samhain.

Samhain was a ritualistic Celtic festival to mark the end of the harvest, also marking the beginning of the colder months to come. Nowadays, when the end of October coincides with the clocks going back and longer nights, it also represents the nights beginning to draw in. Traditionally, this part of the year is one of new beginnings: the end of the harvest represents the end to summer and the longer nights causes a change to the lifestyles enjoyed during the warmer months.

Samhain was traditionally practised on the 31st October – 1st November. The 31st October is now commonly linked to Halloween and trick or treaters, and less so with honouring the dead and welcoming the darker half of the year. A bonfire was often lit at the Samhain, and used to cook food and bring people together. This was often the case too at bonfires on Bonfire Night celebrations. Although the Samhain affected many of today’s Halloween traditions (as discussed in previous blog posts), the ritual of lighting bonfires is not associated with this date, and instead has transferred itself to the 5th of November.

The bonfire itself is a centre piece for bringing communities together, gathering round a spectacle of a fire, sharing food and – today- watching fireworks. This has been a part of Celtic ritual not just at the Samhain but at the other end of the year – in welcoming the Spring. This festival, the Beltane, also focused on bonfires because of the community gathering it caused. Bonfires, whether it be for Celtic rituals transferred into modern-day interpretations, have always been a way of gathering communities in celebration. For most today bonfire night is not a celebration of Guy Fawkes failing to blow up parliament, but a chance to meet up whether as a community (like the Winchester Bonfire display) or with friends and family. The fireworks add to the spectacle, as groups come together to watch them.

While the Samhain welcomed in the closing nights and celebrated the fine line between the living and the dead, the Beltane celebrated life, the spring and emphasised fertility. It was a time of year for fairs and markets – May Day and tradition of Maypole dancing can be traced back to the Beltane. Both sides of the year in the Western hemisphere with its changeable seasons were and still are celebrated. At the Samhain, bonfires were used to cook food for the dead. On the Beltane, a piece of wood lit with the fire of the bonfire was taken by members of the community and kept alight to represent fertility. Both represented the beginnings of change in the year. A connection to ancestors and death in the winter, a promise for a new generation and growth in the summer. Colder weather and darker nights in the autumn; warmer and longer days in the spring. The changing seasons and amount of sunlight throughout the year have brought with it its rituals and practices that have lasted through to today, and Bonfire Night and its use of bonfires continues a tradition of welcoming the longer nights and community gathering.

Romania: A Fight for Territory in the First World War

At first reluctant to join in the fighting, Romania entered the First World War in 1916, uniting with the Allies against the Central Powers. In August 1916, Romania invaded Transylvania, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its backing on the side of the Allies can be attributed to their relationship with Russia and its belief that this would increase their chances of gaining territory. Something the Romanian Premier saw as essential to create Romanian unity.

The Battle of Transylvania (August – October 1916)

Being Romania’s first major wartime movement, this is possibly the most important and central to their part in the war, due to their reasoning behind it and the way it reshaped Romania by the end of the war. Its importance is partly in how it was used to negotiate Romania’s participation in the fighting. Having started off neutral, it claimed it would join the Allies if they recognised Transylvania was rightly a part of Romania. This was also the first time Romania made some territorial advances in the war, although this was short lived and in October they were pushed back to Brasov, a Transylvanian town close to Romania, therefore losing considerable gains in territory.

Battle of Turtacaia and Dobrich (September 1916).

The Battle of Turtacaia was the first offensive movement of the Central Powers against Romania, and a major loss for the latter. So its short lived victory over Transylvania was also blown over by the loss of Tutrakan by the Central Powers. The Romanians defending it were forced to surrender. Tutrakan, now in Bulgaria, was a Romanian fortress ideally situated due to its close proximity to the Danube. The loss of this territory was a major blow for Romania, and another incident which would shape their future landscape.

Where they had initially gained in territory from Austria-Hungary, they lost through being pushed back by the Central Powers from all sides. Its position as a country bordered only by Central Powers came back to haunt its decision to involve itself in the war. This was underlined when the Bulgaria’s field army took Dobrich, despite Romania outnumbering them. The battle lasted only two days and underlined Romania’s weakness as a military power.

The Battle of Bucharest

But Romania was not a completely weak component of the First World War. In fact, it was seen by the Central Powers and the Allies as an important country to consider. Seemingly one of their worst moments of the war would be the falling of the capital, Bucharest. But despite the Central Powers’ aims in defeating Romania and driving them out of the war, Romanian forces and civilians alike didn’t give up, and the Central Powers’ attempts to instil their own political agendas failed.

1917 and 1918

Things started to pick up for this minor Allied side in the summer of 1917 when they managed to hold back an attack against Austria-Hungary during the Second Battle of Oituz. This was an important victory, defeating one of the major Central Powers. However, an apparent determination to not leave the war was almost over by the end of 1917, and Romania ultimately signed an armistice. This was a consequence of the Russian Revolution, led by the Bolsheviks and Lenin, and also the difficulty in being surrounded completely by their enemies. Despite a very brief re-entering into the war (only one day before Germany signed their armistice on the 11th November 1918), this signalled the end of their part in the fighting of the First World War.

The Treaty of Versailles was kind to Romania, rewarding it with the territory it had entered the war for in the first place, the long desired Transylvania. It is still a part of Romania today, indicating the long-lasting impact of this post-war decision. The major Allied Powers who sat around a table in Versailles to decide Europe’s fate in 1919 had two major criteria for countries to be considered favourably in the Treaty. Firstly, that they were a significant part of the Allies’ victory and, secondly, the country should be a military power. Despite not really fitting these two major criteria, Romania’s pitch to the Allied powers was persuasive. They claimed they would be an essential component of helping the Allies move forward, as a buffer between them and the newly communist Russia. Romania managed to regain their territory lost to Bulgaria and massively extend their country as they were ‘given’ Transylvania.

Their part in the First World War cannot be ignored. Over 200,000 Romanian soldiers died during the war and their involvement reshaped the boundaries of the central European region. Perhaps this was achieved more so from their bid to the major Allied Powers who would create the Treaty of Versailles, but their involvement in the war put them in contention for these new territories. Furthermore, its proximity to Russia promised to be an important pawn to play in future of European diplomacy and war.

Below, the video shows how Romania’s boundaries developed during their participation in the war, and after.


The Scouse Way of Speaking: How Liverpool’s Accent Developed

Feature Image: Liverpool’s Skyline from New Brighton Beach

The Liverpool accent, most famously dubbed the ‘Scouse’ accent, is one of the most noticeable and varied speech patterns in England – and in the British Isles. But have Liverpudlians always talked like they have a blocked nose? Have they always spoken in a higher pitch towards the end of a sentence? Have they always finished sentences with the word ‘like’? This post looks at how the famous twang of Liverpudlians has developed over the years.

Is it an accent or a dialect?

First of all, it’s important to look at the distinction between accent and dialect, and which one the Liverpool way of speaking falls into. Andrew Hamer is a lecturer of English Language at the University of Liverpool and defines the two as such:

Dialect: “this includes the vocabulary you use, the grammar that you use and lots of local expressions as well. Dialects are defined socially – depending on your social background, and regionally – in terms of the area that you come from.”

Accent: ‘The sounds that people produce – it can involve the tunes that people use when they are speaking, and also the individual sounds of speech. So ‘accent’ is a more narrow term than dialect.’

Hamer defines the Liverpool speech as an accent, stating that although there are a number of deviations on slang and local expression., i’s the way it is spoken and sounds in how it really deviates, which is why it can be defined as an accent.

 Where does it come from?

It’s generally agreed the Liverpudlian accent was much the same or similar as other Lancashire accents up until the mid-nineteenth century and only really began to develop into its famous twang from then. In correlation with other events it’s easy to see why. In the 1840s and early 50s, the Irish Potato Famine had caused mass starvation across the country, and many emigrated to Liverpool to escape and start new lives. As many as 1.3 million Irish moved to Liverpool during the famine, and as early as 1851 one in five people in Liverpool were born in Ireland.

Irish migration, of course, has a long history in Liverpool. Its proximity to Ireland had led to this, but its development as a port really accelerated the movement towards the city. This huge shift, and through becoming a huge proportion of the population, had an impact on Liverpool, not only in making Liverpool the great port city it became, with their work on the docks, but also on the way the Lancastrian scousers spoke.

Liverpool’s Proximity to Wales

Welsh migration also had an impact on the city and its accent. Liverpool is very close to the border of North Wales and its connections made movement very easy. This movement came a little later than the Irish, towards the end of the nineteenth century. Around 80,000 Welsh-born people lived in North West England in 1892, with many concentrated in Liverpool. Historian Merfyn Jones notes that many Welsh migrants were forced to move due to economic collapse, mainly from the northern counties. A main driver, he underlines, was the collapse of large-scale copper mining in Anglesey, an island off North Wales. But Welsh influence had been there from much earlier, with a migration influx starting in 1760. By 1900, there were 90 Welsh-speaking chapels, churches and mission halls. Therefore, it was not just the Welsh accent influencing the city, but the language itself.

Has it changed?

Accents and dialects are continuously changing, whether due outside influences or personal choices. The influx of American influences in Britain has caused an Americanized way of speaking in younger generations, and also a heavy focus on the capital of the country and its own cockney slang has influenced speech patterns across the country. The Liverpool Museums website has underlined how the accent has been under constant development, and this can be seen with the shift in speech patterns since the mid-nineteenth century.

Overall, Liverpool’s distinctive accent can be compared in comparison with its neighbouring city and also a giant of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester. Only thirty miles away, Manchester’s immigration also included Irish and Welsh, but mostly relied on that on surrounding Lancashire areas, forming its own way of speaking into a Lancastrain dialect, whereas Liverpool’s can really only be described as Scouse.

Further Reading

Liverpool Museums, Accent and Expression

Merfyn Jones, Welsh Immigrants in the Cities of the North West of England. 1890-1930: Some Oral Testimony 

BBC, Local Dialects: Ask the Experts 

Exodus, Irish Migration into Liverpool in the Nineteenth Century 

Liverpool Welsh, A Brief History of the Liverpool Welsh 

This is America: Projecting Prosperity in the Cold War

From the late 1940s through the 1950s and into the 1960s, how the United States portrayed itself to the world was seen as an important aspect of fighting the Cold War. The ‘Cultural’ Cold War was seen as just as important, because it was necessary to show the U.S. as not only strong economically and militarily, but also to make the U.S. likable. There was anti-Americanism in the world, and not just in the Middle East and Latin America. It was also found in Japan and Western Europe, who often saw the U.S. as hypocritical. Portraying the U.S. in a certain way was not just about combating communism but strengthening ties between allies. President Eisenhower, who was President between 1953-1961, thought Trade Fairs used to showcase American Culture were the cheapest way of fighting the Cold War. They were the cheapest way of protecting national defence and strengthening ties with allies. Psychological warfare grew as the Cold War started in earnest, and it also became an underlined threat in security reports, with the National Security Council underlining the importance of the cultural side of the Cold War to American security in their report on the United States Information Agency (USIA), a program set up by Eisenhower in 1953 to portray American prosperity abroad, and also run by the State Department.

this is america
Portraying the American Way: a house in the suburbs, a young family, prosperity all built on free enterprise and innovation was the tone of many propaganda pieces. Taken from:

How did the US want to portray itself?

The U.S. wanted to portray its ideals in a way to remind people of why they were arming and spending so much on defence, to protect those ideals. It underlined ideals of social mobility, political freedom, cultural diversity and affluence while portraying the characteristics of American life as one rooted in democratic ideals and the ‘American way’ of productivity and innovation. Characteristics which were focused on often countered that of communist ideals, and focused on a similar sort of rhetoric. These characteristics included:

  1. Religion – Americans were religious, opposed to the ‘godless’ communism of the USSR
  2. Family – American families were nuclear and suburban, which was more socially and emotionally fulfilling and gave better chances to their children
  3. Property – Unlike Soviet people, Americans could own their own homes
  4. The U.S. was dedicated to peace and would not get involved for its own interest, unlike the Soviets who wanted to spread communism

Criticisms: What was it missing?

Tensions at home were often the criticism of Trade Fairs. The U.S. was criticised for its treatment of race. This was usually ignored from propaganda, and when it was mentioned it was to say it was something they were progressing on, or to underline it was a Southern problem not a U.S. one. Racial tensions got so bad in the U.S. that many African-Americans refused to be a part of their propaganda, such as Louis Armstrong. After the Little Rock Crisis in 1957, in which nine black students were prevented entry into Little Rock Central High School, he refused to be the face of black America and jazz in one of the U.S. tours.  Propaganda also ignored issues of poverty in the U.S. Although more affluent shown by its growing suburban life, 50 million people still lived below the poverty line.

A lot of the criticism of propaganda itself was the expense. It cost a lot of money to put together brochures and advertisements and send showcases on tour. Although there were criticisms of subversion of the State Department, these did not focus on subversion by the CIA but by communists, which fed on growing fears in the early fifties by McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Trade Fairs too did not necessarily fare well themselves, and in 1956 they proved no more popular than Soviet Fairs and did less well than the Chinese fairs. There were criticisms that there was no real sense of what American culture was. In Moscow in 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev claimed that the U.S. display felt like a Department Store instead of an exhibit of culture, showing off American Materialism. The message of capitalism was certainly getting through, but was democracy?

Moscow 1959

The Moscow 1959 exhibit is one of the most famous and important fairs in the U.S. cultural Cold War. Not only was it the first time the U.S. had the chance to reach Soviet people since the late 1940s, it was also part of a cultural exchange program between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In June 1959 the Soviet Union displayed their exhibit in New York, and the following month the U.S. exhibited theirs in Moscow. Walter Hixson underlines that this was a new way the Cold War was being fought, especially with Khrushchev’s visit to the U.S., and showed the changing relations between the two leading world powers.

the miracle kitchen
Nixon and Khrushchev look over America’s Miracle Kitchen. Innovative… or ‘simply gadgets’?

The Moscow exhibit portrayed all of American prosperity and advancement, of course continuing its trend with a section on the ‘People of Plenty’, illustrating how the American economic system benefited U.S. citizens through affluence and prosperity. It had also originally had a more self-critical section in which it discussed racial issues in the U.S. and how it could go forward. However, some Southerners reacted badly to this and it was pulled out. The rest of the displays focused on the theme of American prosperity, with ones on Disney, The Miracle Kitchen, and an IBM computer which could answer a series of questions, as well as a display of consumer goods, including Pepsi Cola, which even Khrushchev liked.

The most famous part of this exhibit is that of The Miracle Kitchen, for stimulating The Kitchen Debate between Vice President Nixon and Khrushchev. Although the debate centred around the kitchen and its modern gadgets, it was really one of differing ideologies and underlining the different principles of U.S. capitalism and Soviet communism. When Nixon said these were homes affordable for ordinary Americans, not just the rich, Khrushchev said all Soviet people have a home and don’t need to pay for one. When Khrushchev said the U.S. was a slave to technology, Nixon said it made home-life easier, opening up time for leisure. The New York Times criticised the debate for ignoring substantive issues and claimed it was more of a political stunt than anything, but it did increase Nixon’s popularity at the time and cement the Trade Fairs place in fighting the Cold War in public consciousness.

the kitchen debate
Nixon and Khrushchev discuss their differing positions, and their mutual dislike of Jazz at the 1959 Moscow Exhibit

The Leader of the Free World

Propaganda was used to portray U.S. strength and prestige and its position in the world. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Western Europe had relied on the U.S. for aid. Its image as the leader of the free world was an important one to hold up. It was not just about boosting the U.S.  image but that of capitalism’s. It is important to remember that not long before the 1950s had been the Great Depression, which for many was seen as the great failure of capitalism. Reinventing the system was also a part of this propaganda to describe the American economic system as ‘People’s Capitalism’. No longer just for the few, it proclaimed, but for the many. According to this, capitalism had gone through a peaceful and democratic revolution and was not like the capitalism of the 1920s and 1930s, which led to mass poverty, corruption and Depression. These were all major themes of U.S. propaganda in the Cold War.


We’ll Meet Again: The Breakdown of Family Relationships after World War Two

Featured Image taken from: Image shows Bridal Party leaving the Church, in South Wales in 1947.

When thinking of the World Wars and relationships, they are often thought of in two ways. The first, the strengthening of a bond after war because of what was nearly lost. The second, women widowed because her boyfriend, lover or husband never did come back. The generation of widows and spinsters after the First World War is a common phenomenon that comes up in conversation, and those who can remember the 1970s often mention the number of elderly women who were single, possibly because their husband or boyfriend had died in the war. However, for this piece, I wanted to look into something else. I wanted to counter the idea that those men who did come back, came back to strengthened relationships. In fact, it can be argued many came back different men, from the things they’d seen and done, to both wives who didn’t really understand and children they’d barely ever seen. This post will looking at marriage in general and the Second World War, which means both marriages and relationships that were established before the Second World War and those during the war. My interest here is on the effects on relationships post-war.

Divorce Rates

In their essay on World War Two and divorce in the US, Pavalko, Elder and Elder, Jr. underline that Veterans were more likely to divorce than non-Veterans. In the US, they claim, divorce rates soared to a new high, and it was usually attributed to the new, quick marriages during the war.However, there have been few studies to this field, and therefore not much discussion on what exactly caused these consequences for marriages and families. The graph below demonstrates the slight peak in divorce rates in the US, just after the end of the war. But why? Was it because the families could not cope with the return of often incapacitated men? Or was it because women had found a new freedom in the war, with industrial work, and didn’t want to give it up?


Returning Sweethearts and Unknown Fathers

The graph above also illustrates the rise in marriages, indicating many were celebrating their sweethearts returning home, but why then did divorce also peak? One reason could simply be, the man who returned home was unknown to the family of young children. Many young children who had grown up during the war, old enough to remember it but too young to remember their father who only had returned home sporadically if at all, arguably did not understand the new hierarchy created with his return. Considering the first few years are vital in forming relationships with parents, having an absent father would have affected the development of these relationships not only in the immediate aftermath of the war, but also in later life.

Of course, one factor is that of hasty marriages in wartime, and the subsequent breakdown of these. Returning sweethearts were sometimes just that, brief sweethearts whose moment in the sun had passed. However, for many, the issue was deeper than that. Unknown fathers were returning from war, but also were changed husbands. Much has been written on the shell shock of World War One, and the repercussions from that, especially concerning deserting and cowardice. However, this is as much an issue after the Second World War. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was not defined as a mental illness until the 1970s, with the diagnosis of Vietnam veterans. The issue before and during the Second World War (and of course, after) was that only weak-minded and hesitant men were affected by psychiatric problems caused by combat. Wilbur Scott, in his article, underlines that in the Second World War, it began to be documented that even men who had performed well in previous combats were affected by trauma and mental health issues. This illustrates a changing view – that mental health problems could affect anyone.

Misunderstanding Mental Health

It was an issue that went widely ignored, much like after the First World War. Even when there was some consensus amongst medical professionals that anyone could be affected, ‘weak-minded’ or not, there was still some dispute that it was a real medical issue. One US general, George Patton, notably stated that ‘I won’t have the hospitals cluttered up with these sons of bitches who haven’t got the guts to fight.’ This attitude, and the following lack of support for those coming back at the end of the war, resulted in the straining of relationships, with both their spouses and their children..

However, it was not only the men who suffered from mental illness. Harry Leslie Smith fought in the Second World War and met his wife, Friede, during his time-serving. She was from Germany, and had seen and dealt with some life-changing experiences. Her father had been a trade-unionist and therefore an enemy of the Nazi party, and she had seen her city of Hamburg firebombed in 1943, in which tens of thousands were killed. Because of this, after the war and her move to Britain with her new husband, she grew depressed, withdrawn and anxious. Smith claims these times were particularly trying, and difficult for them to understand and get through. Mental health is viewed poorly enough now, but in post-war Britain it was barely understood, let alone talked about. Memories of shell shock shadowed the previous war, but it was something the people trying to rebuild their lives couldn’t understand in the same way.

Smith underlines how the National Health Service (NHS) and its establishment were pivotal in their understanding of what Friede was going through. The doctor they saw treated Friede for depression and what is now known as PTSD.  Smith attributes the NHS into helping save his marriage, and his wife. However, this also makes it evident that the lack of knowledge surrounding these issues meant not everybody took advantage of the new free health service, nor did many people realise there was something wrong health-wise to help treat the issue. Smith himself states it was only when a friend recommended going to the GP did either he or his wife contemplate seeing a doctor for her problems. This illustrates how many marriages and relationships may have disintegrated due to this lack of understanding, and also lack of help and discussion concerning contemporary mental health issues.

The Man’s War vs The Woman’s War

When looking at marriages and relationships between men and women in the Second World War, it is important to underline the different experiences both have had. For some women in Britain, they had been a driving force in industry and gotten a taste of working life during the war, and afterwards were expected to go back to the home and to raise their families. This was something some women could not adjust to. In the same way, it was also difficult for men to adjust from fighting in a war – from having seen death, come near to death and having killed – to going back to day-to-day work life.

Although the image of wartime for women is often that of increased freedom to work, the case for many was unexpected single motherhood – and usually the raising of very young children. Married women who had had children in the years leading up to the war had not expected to be raising their children alone. This in itself, in 1940s Britain, was a difficult task and could have had an effect on familial relationships, not only with the children and their father, but with the woman struggling to see her husband in an equal role to hers as a parent, when she had been the only one caring for the children for so many years. This would have put a further strain on family dynamics.

This post has mainly been used to establish reasons why family relationships broke down after the Second World War. It is also important to consider that not all separations ended in divorce, due to their time-consuming nature and expense, especially amongst working-class families. Unfortunately, this post is lacking evidence and is mainly based on theories, but I thought it was an interesting topic to share theories on, and hopefully in the future more research will be done on this topic. Soon, like the First World War, this period will be out of living memory and now is really a good time to start asking these questions, and a good time to build up some new evidence.

Further Reading

History of PTSD: World War Two

Harry Leslie Smith: The NHS Changed Everything

Lewis, Jane, Women in Britain since 1945 (Oxford 1992).

Pavalko, E.K., Elder, G.H. & Elder, Jr., G.H., ‘World War II and Divorce: A Life-Course Perspective’, American Journal of Sociology, 95, 5 (1990), 1213-1234.

Scott, W.J., ‘PTSD in DSM-III: A Case in the Politics of Diagnosis and Disease’, Social Problems, 37, 3 (1990), 294-310.

Wilson, Elizabeth, Only Halfway to Paradise: Women in Postwar Britian: 1945-1968 (London 1980).

Maori Protests and the Treaty of Waitangi

History of the British Empire’s involvement and subsequent negative and detrimental impacts on indigenous people and societies of the lands they colonised in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is well-known. Those effects today are highly prevalent even in now developed and Westernised countries  of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with indigenous populations having faced depleting numbers, inequalities in welfare and health care and mistreatment from the government, and ongoing disputes concerning land rights. But focus has slid from the perspective of Maori people, and their history outside of New Zealand is largely ignored, and their movements and protests discussed very little.

In New Zealand, a major problem lies within the context of implementing treaty settlements via indigenous institutions. Issues of marginalisation help to fuel feelings of discontent and protests concerning their own land rights. Marilyn Lashley discusses how treaty settlements as reparative justice ‘provides neither adequate nor sufficient redress to most Maori individuals or households harmed by marginalization and the lingering legacy of dispossession.’  But where do these disputes concerning treaties originate from, and why is it felt that they are not doing enough to decrease the gap in inequality between the Maoris and Pākehā – the Maori term for New Zealanders of European descent? Lashley underlines the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi as a source of dispute. The treaty established New Zealand as a British colony, and was written in English and Maori. Lashley discusses that this inclusion of both languages has been a major cause of disagreement, as the texts differ greatly. Maori people understood that the treaty was one for power sharing between themselves and the British, and Maori people would be equal with the British in the cultural, economic, social and political life of New Zealand. From the English text, however, the Maori ceded ‘all the rights and powers of sovereignty over their respective territories’ to the British Crown. Therefore, instead of creating a united country of the European settlers and the Maori, the legacy was one of continued land disputes, wars over sovereignty, treaty rights and marginalisation.

In the 1974, the renaming of  Waitangi Day as New Zealand Day was seen as inappropriate by many protestors, who saw it as demeaned the Treaty of Waitangi. But issues had started earlier, by using the day as a national day of thanksgiving concerning issues detached from the treaty. Therefore, this caused a growing number of protests in the 1970s. In 1971 activist group Ngā Tamatoa organised the first protests at Waitangi on Waitangi Day. This would be followed by protests in 1973, in which members of Ngā Tamatoa wore black armbands, signifying the loss of Maori land. The Ngā Tamatoa were a group created by young Maoris who wished to draw attention to the loss of Maori land and indigenous rights, created in 1968. Throughout the 1970s, Maori people increasingly took part in protests concerning their marginalisation and land rights.

Government response to the protests has been arguably slow. In 1975, the Treaty of Waitangi Act ‘reasserted the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of New Zealand’ (Lashley, pp. 6). Although it went through readjustment ten years later, it still prevented the Maori tribunal from functioning as a legally binding institution.  Protests have thus continued against acts and instances in which the rights of the indigenous Maori population is negatively affected, although not as intense as protests in the 1970s. Lashley argues the most successful treaty settlements in bringing the Maori and the Pākehā  have been in language, preschools and biculturalism, using institutions like the Tainui Trust Board to provide community-based educational, social, and health services and employment. However, it is evident Britain’s colonial footprint has left its lasting mark on New Zealand’s Maori population and their voices are largely ignored in the main scope of discussion, which underlines the major reason for these protests in the last fifty years. Issues have transcended into the country’s current political situations. The Maori marae is an open space where people can gather for discussion. In 1998 then opposition leader Helen Clark was criticised for speaking on the marae when Maori women could not. Ongoing protests have meant politicians have often avoided attending Waitangi Day at Waitangi, showing the remaining passion amongst Maori people concerning their marginalisation and land rights.

Further Reading

Maori Protest Movements

Waitangi Day Protests

Lashley, M.E., ‘Implementing Treaty Settlements via Indigenous Institutions: Social Justice and Detribalization in New Zealand’, The Contemporary Pacific, 12,1 (2000), 1-55.

The History of the Little Cinder Girl

She’s been with most of us our whole lives, from watching a Disney adaptation, to the many variations Hollywood frequently churn out. And she’s been in the lives of people for a longer time still, from the French tale of little Cendrillon and the glass slipper and her pumpkin-turned-carriage, to the Brothers Grimm tale of lentils in the fire and ugly step-sisters chopping toes off to fit into a golden shoe. It’s, quite simply, a story which has lasted hundreds of years and hasn’t dulled in the minds of popular imagination. The story of the poor servant Cinderella, who finds her prince and reward in life after years of abuse, is a story that has lasted into the twenty-first century.

A common thing to hear concerning the Disney version of Cinderella is that it’s a much tamer, Disney-fied version of the ‘original’ Cinderella tale, which is actually a misconception. If comparing to the Brothers Grimm tale of Cinderella, where the shoe Cinderella leaves behind is full of blood and her step-sisters chop off their toes and heels, then yes. It is much more tame. However, the Grimm Brothers didn’t write the ‘original’ Cinderella, and although Charles Perrault didn’t either, his does pre-date the Grimm’s collection.

The version Disney based theirs on was one of the most popular versions of Cinderella, written in French by Perrault in 1697, called Cendrillon. In his version, the pumpkin, fairy-godmother and the glass slippers made their appearance. The Grimm brother’s Aschenputtel,  however, she wears gold slippers and her night at the ball is given to her, not by a fairy-godmother but a wishing tree growing on her mother’s grave and her step-sisters are not forgiven, but have their eyes pecked out by birds. But where do these stories come from?

The earliest known telling of Cinderella follows the story of Rhodopis – a hetaera in Ancient Greece. Her actual story is mentioned by Herodotus, who mentions she was a slave of Iadmon of Samos. In the story, told 500 years later, Rhodopis is bathing when an eagle snatches her sandal and flies it over the king, dropping it in his lap. Amazed by the strangeness of the occurrence and beauty of the sandal, he demands that the woman who owns it be found. When Rhodopis is found, she becomes his wife.

There’s something inspiring across the ages about a poor servant girl, abused and mistreated by family, achieving prosperity, through her kindness and good nature. It’s why it has lasted the years, been retold again and again in a number of variations – and why Disney itself has made two separate versions. Newer variations, like the 1998 Ever After, portray one step-sister as more concerned for Cinderella and nicer towards her. The 2015 Cinderella even gave some screen time, identity and motive to the Prince, although not the same motive as the Grimm’s prince, who decided to trap Aschenputtel on the steps to the palace which causes her to leave a shoe so he can find her.

Hetaira: Admired Women in Fifth-Century Athens

For my blog post this month, I’ve decided to try something a little different and go back to Fifth-Century Athens, with this time looking at the women known as Hetaira. These women were sexual companions to men, but were not simply prostitutes, as they were educated and influential companions to the men for whom they companioned and were admired in their own right.

Aspasia of Miletus was not a native citizen of Athens and could not therefore marry an Athenian citizen, which could be a large reason to why she became one of the Hetaira. She became the mistress to Pericles, a general who was arguably the most prominent and influential man in Greek politics. Not much is known about why she migrated to Athens, or her life after the death of Pericles. Although unable to marry an Athenian citizen, her life was possibly better for it, in terms of independence and prosperity. Unlike other women in Athenian society, Hetaira’s independent status meant they could be accepted in having educated discussions, could pay taxes and were admired for their artistic skills and intelligence.

This was actually why the Hetaira were so popular and revered. Athenian women were not supposed to be educated, sheltered for the means of assuring their status as good wives. Demosthenes, a Greek statesmen, once said that wives were ‘for the begetting of children and for the faithful guardianship of our homes’ while the Hetaira were ‘for pleasure’. Hetaira were often companions to meetings, parties and gatherings, as they could join in with particular debate and were arguably the only women in Athenian society men welcomed an opinion from. Wives therefore were unsuitable for such roles, as they were supposed to be uneducated in order to be good citizens and wives. Demosthenes’s statement is also interesting as he underlines the difference between the Hetaira and prostitutes of the time. Although, Hetaira were sexual companions as well as providers of intellectual stimulation, in his speech he underlines that prostitutes were for the ‘day to day needs of the body’. Therefore, although Hetaira were ‘for pleasure’, this must have been for more reasons than ‘the needs of the body’ because this was the reason he used to emphasise the difference between prostitutes and Hetaira.

However, not all aspects of the Hetaira were so well accepted and revered. Aspasia of Miletus was claimed to be Pericles’s great love, and the two lived together as though married and had a child together, Pericles the Younger. It was her outspoken nature that drew him to her, but this did make her unpopular in Athenian society. Her and Pericles were often subjected to rumours and attacks, especially accusations that she was – as an immigrant to Athens – influencing Pericles’s administration in ways that were threatening to Athens itself. This did not affect the influence of Aspasia completely, however, who was still admired in a large faction of Athenian society – Socrates, an influential Greek philosopher, held her in high esteem.

The existence of the Hetaira can say a lot about the role and position of other women in Athenian society, who were expected to not have opinions or have an education, in order to be good wives to keep a good household and raise children. Hetaira were arguably the freest women in Ancient Greece, able to take part in public life far more than other women in society and their influence can also say a lot about what Athenian men thought about ‘ordinary’ women in Athens. If anything can give an impression of what women’s place in Ancient Athenian society meant, the famous Greek playwright Menander once commented that “A man who teaches a woman to write should know that he is providing poison to an asp.”

The Great Gatsby: Class, Society and the American Dream

Possibly one of the most well-loved American novels, one of the most read and the most famous, Fitzgerald’s story of the booming ’20s in New York was the definition of a sleeper hit. Fitzgerald himself was long dead before he could see it appreciated and  its legacy is still being debated today. At its beginning, it seems like a celebration of the American Dream, but stick with the story a little longer and the paint starts to blister. Read over the beginning again and, beneath the surface of celebration, is also a deep criticism of American society in the 1920s. Due to its social commentary, the book feels incredibly like a warning prelude to the 1929 Wall Street Crash, which brought the decadence of the 20s to a bitter and detrimental end. However, Gatsby was published in 1925 and was very much a commentary of the time, yet strangely prophetic. Fitzgerald’s critique is of the “careless people” who “smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money”. His criticism of their self-indulged, over-the-top lives has stood the test of time, but what can it really tell us about class and society in 1920s America?

Set in 1922, The Great Gatsby follows the story of Nick Carraway, a veteran of World War I who has moved East in the search of a new life and, of course, the American Dream. This book has fascinated me from my first reading and one description of it I was given of it was that “it’s a book about rich people and their [unimportant] problems”. And this is exactly why this book, from a social commentary perspective, is so interesting. The U.S. experienced a very large economic boom in the 1920s, with expansion of business, innovation and – for those who could afford it – an increased standard of living. One big, decade long post-war celebration, which in reality left many poor and non-white citizens trailing behind. The need to fulfil the ‘American Dream’ – to achieve wealth and prosperity, no matter where you came from – was the aim of many, and the upper classes found themselves divided: those who had inherited wealth from a long line of ancestors, and those who’d found their new wealth through prosperous business ventures and stock market investments. In Fitzgerald’s novel, these two groups are distinctively divided: Daisy and Tom Buchanan are Old Money living in the village of East Egg; Nick and Gatsby and their New Money live over in the West Egg. It’s Fitzgerald’s metaphor for New Money’s incapability to live amongst the Old – the villages are both as extravagant, as affluent and as wealthy – they can look across the bay at one another. But for the West Egg inhabitants, East Egg is an allusive dream, in reach but unreachable.

However, another metaphor for the lack of opportunity – the real truth of the ‘American Dream’ – is underlined by Fitzgerald’s description of the Valley of Ashes, a dumping ground between the high-living, party-going upper classes of Long Island and the vibrant, blooming, economic centre of New York City. This dumping ground is, literally, what sits beside the rich and their pleasures, only passed through and given any attention because of necessity – the wasteland it has become means nothing to the upper classes who have bigger things to do and better places to be. Can the American Dream, Fitzgerald asks, be achieved by the people in the Valley of Ashes – can you really achieve the highest goals no matter what background you come from?

Fitzgerald wrote Gatsby in a time of change, a time when many were climbing social ladders. In reality, it was a time of eugenics and white supremacy. Race is an issue in his novel, and not just in the commentary of white rich people enjoying the riches of Black jazz music. Tom Buchanan acts as the voice of racism in Gatsby, which is evident from the very beginning of the novel when he claims, “it’s up to us [white people], who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control over things”. Tom embodies the ideals of white intellectual superiority and fears that other races take more control. Through this Fitzgerald suggests this was not an uncommon fear among upper-class white Americans. In one heated argument with Gatsby, Tom exclaims “Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.” At first, it could seem like another racist line from a very racist character, but it’s a point he’s trying to make – and a point he seems to be making against Gatsby. Theories of Gatsby’s race have been discussed, and arguments of him being a white-passing black man have been put forward. When Tom says this, Jordan Baker, a character known for being a liar, retorts, “We’re all white here.” Gatsby as a black man, in Fitzgerald’s world, would in all respects make complete sense. The Old Money of East Egg are not just suspicious of Gatsby because of suspicions he’s a bootlegger or because he was once poor and somehow climbed into the Upper Class, but because of doubts about his race. With Gatsby, Fitzgerald truly underlines the impossible nature of equality in opportunity. Gatsby is the definition of New Money and he fails in every effort: to marry the woman he loves, to be considered respectable by the Old Money, to have any one turn up to his funeral. The achievement of wealth and prosperity was not a sign  of its openness to all, Fitzgerald is saying, but a sign of ever-increasing inequality within even New York alone.

This book is about rich people and their “unimportant problems”, and those “unimportant problems” underline other issues of 1920s America that Fitzgerald puts alongside them. As the hundreds enjoy Gatsby’s raucous parties, the Valley of Ashes lies not so far away, left to be destitute. As the rich enjoy their bootlegged alcohol in a time of prohibition, they condemn Gatsby for making money from it – they condemn the bootleggers who are getting rich off crime, while simultaneously indulging in it. As Tom Buchanan rages on about how other races will try to control the white population, the other races live without any rights, while their music and culture is appropriated by the upper classes who can afford to. As Jay Gatsby stretches out and tries to reach across to East Egg – a society that will never accept him on any more than a surface level – he is killed, and that gives away precisely what Fitzgerald thought of the American Dream that dominated the 1920s: a dream which could only be half achieved and at the expense of others. Fitzgerald’s novel gives an incredibly interesting insight into 1920s American society and how it should not just be seen as a period of economic prosperity and parties.

Did Beliefs in Witches Really Decline in the Eighteenth Century?

Witch trials in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have become rather famous: they have become a part of popular culture and have been researched with interest due to, what some historians label, the  ‘witch craze’ that occurred during these particular centuries. Why was a belief in witchcraft and magic so strong? Why did so many people suspect and accuse others of witchcraft? Why did it last so long? Why did people admit to being witches? And, why, did this mass ‘witch craze’ end? All these questions have been studied and discussed in-depth and with major contention, but it is the last question I wish to focus on. With the dawn of the eighteenth century, there was a growth in the ideas of ‘progress’ and ‘Enlightenment’, culminating in the Act of 1736, which criminalised the accusation of witchcraft. It is often assumed and rarely discussed until recently that people across Europe merely stopped believing in witches, which seems unlikely considering the scale on which it had once been so strongly believed. Beliefs in witchcraft and folk magic did not disappear after the Act of 1736. Before it was in place, witchcraft was deemed a statutory offence, and afterwards was no longer a criminal act but ‘an offense against the country’s newly enlightened state’. This moved the fight away from evils of witchcraft to the evils of ignorance and superstition, and their influence on the uneducated masses. Although many of the educated elites no longer believed witches existed in their time, there were still lasting beliefs amongst the labouring classes, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, that magic was still prevalent. In this blog post, I will be looking at how these beliefs continued in eighteenth-century England and why there wasn’t such a strong decline in witchcraft during this time as has previously been assumed.

Beliefs in the Eighteenth Century

Up until the late twentieth century, it was generally agreed amongst historians that the Act of 1736 caused a decline in witch- and magic-beliefs, due to an increase in rational thought and enlightenment. It was generally accepted that after the witch-craze of the previous two centuries, the eighteenth century saw a major decline in these beliefs until they became only a memory. Keith Thomas’s Religion and the Decline of Magic was heralded as an innovative outlook into witchcraft through his uses of sociology and anthropology. He recognises the continuing beliefs in rural society after 1736, but otherwise largely ignored the period afterward, citing the decline of magic as a result of rational thought and enlightenment. However, his use of sociology and anthropology have provided new analyses into the study of popular beliefs and culture became a part of the historical study of magic, especially concerning viewing society from a bottom-up approach that discussed the labouring classes’ beliefs and role in the witch-craze. After all, most of our sources on beliefs and witches come from the literate and educated classes, which vastly ignores a large proportion of labouring and rural classes in the eighteenth century.

One of the leading historians at observing beliefs after 1736 has been Owen Davies, whose work on witchcraft, cunning-folk and magic has even spanned into twentieth-century beliefs. Arguing against earlier historians, Davies claims that for many, witches were a reality in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, just as in the early modern period. Davies gave a very different sense of the late period, with the development of the theory that beliefs in magic did not just survive after 1736, but evolved with society as well. This is demonstrated through explanations for beliefs in rural society and continuing discussion amongst elites. David Vincent agrees with this summation of evolving beliefs, referring to the early modern belief of a witch as old and poor, which remained a stereotype of those who were blamed for misfortunes into the late nineteenth century. This traditional view, therefore, that old, poor women were witches transcended into the enlightened and modern eras of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century society. Enlightenment did not eliminate beliefs of witchcraft in elite society, but the beliefs developed alongside the changes in society and due to pressures from the educated masses. Jonathan Barry has also researched the area of witchcraft beliefs post-1736, and he emphasises the importance to distinguish between ‘public’ and ‘private’ belief. His claim is that there must have been internalised struggles amongst the elite concerning new, enlightened ideas about magic, and personal beliefs would therefore have not been suitable for sharing in public. Davies agrees, claiming that the idea of rationalism and enlightenment misleadingly generalised the elite’s belief in witchcraft, explaining it was more of a subtle than suggested change. In fact, it is now argued that educated elites believed that magic and witches were prevalent in the past, but by the end of the seventeenth century no longer existed. This is demonstrated by increasing claims that the elite still discussed the existence of witchcraft in private, although it was publicly seen as superstitious. For example, in 1762, a contributor to the Gentlemen’s Magazine discussed a recent visit to a tavern, where there were ‘many gentlemen discoursing about several matters… disputing about the existence and nature of conjuring and witchcraft, which some affirmed and some denied’. It is from looking at sources such as these, after the Act of 1736, and at elite and lower society, that historians like Davies and Barry have been able to analyse and draw new conclusions and insights into what is known about popular magic beliefs in the long eighteenth century. This has been able to demonstrate their claim the history of witchcraft is not just about the past, but observing how the past is constantly being reinterpreted.

The History of the Labouring Classes

However, it could be claimed that the belief in magic did not necessarily reflect in belief in witches in society. Their counterparts, or those seen as the ‘white witches’ opposed to the maleficent ‘black witches’ of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, were arguably incredibly common in England, especially in rural society. Elites also began to see white witches as an object of amusement in the eighteenth century. Men and women known as cunning-folk, Davies argues, were individuals in society that stood out for possessing more knowledge than the people around them, often assumed to be acquired from a supernatural source. Historical studies on magic have previously ignored the existence and role of cunning-folk to a large extent, due to a preference over the study of witch-trials and of ‘high magic’ such as magicians and early science. Davies claims the study of cunning-folk owes a lot to the work of Keith Thomas and Alan Macfarlane, citing Thomas as the first historian to recognise fully the importance and significance of cunning-folk in early modern society. Davies claims there is an importance in the study of cunning-folk as it can aid learning about what is known concerning culture and society, which Vincent agrees with stating that whereas witchcraft could only survive in isolated neighbourhoods, cunning-folk flourished in large constituencies and were not only restricted to rural society.

Previous historians’ work on witchcraft before the 1970s, such as Hugh Trevor-Roper, had focused on the role authority had on the belief in magic. However, looking at witchcraft and magic from a bottom-up approach has allowed for research amongst members of society that were previously ignored. For instance, Davies comments on how the study of cunning-folk is assisted by looking at labouring classes in society, due to the fact that the opinions of elites did not necessarily reflect contemporary popular beliefs. He claims that it must be taken into account how those who viewed cunning-folk positively were usually those who were their satisfied customers, who were usually illiterate or, if educated, did not want to be seen as associated with cunning-folk. By only looking at the accounts and opinions of elites, who saw cunning-folk as negatively or wrote them off as merely feeding off superstition, the picture of popular beliefs is only a partial one, only focusing on one part of society. Therefore, what is known about cunning-folk is based mainly on this bottom-up approach. Although there is less source material available, Davies’s work has found that clients of cunning-folk differentiated them from witches and maleficent magic, but still viewed them with reservations as there was still a major belief that magic could be used for bad as well as good.

It is highly probable therefore that beliefs in witches still existed in England beyond the Act of 1736 as ideas of enlightenment and progress so prevalent in the elite and educated classes did not make its way down through to the labouring classes or the uneducated. As these beliefs were prevalent over such a long time and in the mainstream it would have been impossible for all beliefs to merely stop, even in elite society. Superstitions continued but were not believed in public amongst the elite and those same superstitions remained in rural, more isolated areas. Its popularity and the belief in magic is also reflected in the sales of almanacs used for fortune-telling, and chapbooks which told stories of famous (real or fictional) witches. The idea of magic and witches continued well into the nineteenth and even twentieth and twentieth centuries. Superstitions themselves have also evolved with the times, and beliefs in ghosts, the supernatural and paranormal and aliens are hugely prevalent in society even today. It is therefore important to remember that the way society’s view the world cannot be entirely controlled by laws and such ideas of progress and enlightened education.

Further Reading

Jonathan Barry, Witchcraft and Demonology in South-West England, 1640-1789 (Basingstoke, 2012).

Owen Davies, Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History (London, 2003).

Owen Davies, Witchcraft, Magic and Culture 1736-1951 (New York, 1999).

Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England (London, 1971).

David Vincent, Literacy and Popular Culture: England 1750-1914 (Cambridge, 1989).