Today I bring you an idea I borrowed from a history magazine I found at work (I am not sure if it was BBC history or History Extra, but it must have been one or the other). There were a few pages dedicated to armed conflicts with some pretty silly or bizarre names. Now their list was pretty extensive, and in no means I have time to cover that amount of stuff in here. So instead I had a look at some of the issues that I found more interesting, and tried to keep them varied in terms of geographical location as well as historical period. So here it goes to a collection of pretty random war names.
War of the Bucket: sometimes also referred to as the War of the Oaken Bucket; a bellicose dispute between Bologna and Modena. The year was 1325 and the area where the vast majority of the conflict actually develops, is in the district of Emilia. It all started with some troops from Modena pilfered a bucket from a well belonging to the Bologna city walls. And you would think: all that fuss for a blooming bucket?! Well my friends, in case you are not up to speed with the Italian politics of the period, this was obviously not just about the bucket, but about the fact that Modena and Bologna where on opposite sides of the power struggle between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope. Bologna, as a supporter of the Pope was part of the Guelfs, whilst Modena sided with the HRE and the Ghibellines. In short, the outcome of this not so silly war was a victory for Modena, despite the 30000 soldiers that Bologna sent to confront their enemy. And what happened to the bucket? In case you are interested, this is apparently still displayed at Modena’s city hall – just out of spite.
Football War: this was a relatively recent conflict between El Salvador and Honduras. It is often referred to as well as the Soccer War or the 100 Hours War due to its duration – whether that makes it qualify as a war or not… And it is all because of football; indeed. It started in 1969 during the world cup qualifier match for the 1970 FIFA competition between these two nations. And was this really about football? Well, just like with the bucket; not quite that simple I am afraid. Issues rise up regarding immigration due to disputed border and land ownership which affected the mix population of Hondurans and Salvadorans in the area, the latter being effectively kicked out of the country in 1967. So y the time the match comes up, people in Honduras were concerned there were Salvadorans crossing the border not just for the sake of the match, but to stay. A series of nationalistic riots pushed the military to get involved, to the point that the Honduran government was sincerely concerned there would be a trespassing on behalf of the Salvadoran army which eventually happened. For the over 100 hours that the conflict lasted, the number of casualties added up to around 3000 deaths, most of which were Honduran civilians.
The Flagstaff War: British v Maori. This is the conflict that in fact relates to Hone Heke’s rebellion. After a somewhat peaceful coexistence between the inhabitants of New Zealand and the newcomer British Empire, Heke instigated the war against their new friends due to many things, but I guess the straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that the British transferred their capital to Auckland from Okiato. This resulted in dramatic economic loses for Heke and his fellowmen. Thus, they decided to take their anger out on the British flag on Maiki Hill, which was chopped down repeatedly in 1844. This caused severe grievances as the British would keep on putting it back on the ground, and Heke and his people kept on cutting it down. The last time this stand-off was performed, it actually ended in violence with the death of one of the keepers of the flag. Leading to several battles; the entire conflict becoming a stalemate, which nonetheless has mostly been presented as a British victory as it meant grounds for reconciliation with Heke and the rest of the Maori communities…
Potato War/Plumfuss (1778-9). This was a conflict involving Austria against Prussia, with the special and additional mentions of Bavaria and Saxony. During the Bavarian War of Succession there was an attempt made by the alliance of Prussia and Saxony to stop the Hapsburg control over the region of Bavaria. As a result the fight entangles into a series of skirmishes. However, although the conflict was not so terrible there were thousands of death due to starvation as the result of the raiding and pillaging soldiers who spoilt the vast majority of the food supplies. So, yes, perhaps this one war and its funny name have a higher affiliation in terms of terminology than the others. And the reason for the variance between potato and plum? It is a German thing: the Prussians and Saxons referred to it as the Kartoffelkrieg (Kartoffel being potato, krieg: war), whilst the Austrians used the term zwetschgenrummel (zwetschgen – plum, rummel – hustle). So it really depends on which side of the war your stand with this one.
The events that led Victoria to the throne involved a love match, national mourning and a race for royal princes to procreate quickly, quietly and efficiently. The sons of George III had a race to provide him with a suitable grandchild to continue the house of Hanover and naturally the most pressure fell on his eldest, the future George IV. George, as the Prince of Wales, was capable of only one(legitimate) progeny who was a girl, the Princess Charlotte. His other children were illegitimate and unable to take the throne due to the succession laws of Britain that barred any product of immoral or illicit unions. Princess Charlotte had grown up as a pawn in the furore that rang above her head between her father, the king, and her mother Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Her parents were first cousins with Caroline’s mother being the sister of George III, George IV’s father and predecessor on the British throne. The engagement between George IV, then the Prince of Wales, and Caroline occurred in 1794 due to a natural solution to clear some of his ever-mounting debts. If he married someone appropriate to become his queen the parliament and treasury would agree to increase his yearly allowance. By the eighteenth century choosing a bride for a British monarch had become increasingly more difficult than acquiring a substantial dowry, good looks and fertile child bearing hips. Naturally these were still important but events in the seventeenth century further narrowed the marriage market. One of the key aspects of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 that over threw the Catholic sympathiser James II, in the favour of a Protestant monarch, meant that Catholicism was now barred from the throne. The last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, who died in 1714 without a male heir left a vacuum that needed to be filled. The new laws meant the chosen heir would be needing to be related to the Stuart dynasty, male, preferably one with ruling experience and most importantly Protestant. This left very few people to take the helm except the rulers of a small German principality. The eventual George I was ruler of Brunswick-Lüneburg and descended maternally from the Winter Queen Elizabeth Stuart, eldest daughter of James I of England. He believed in the appropriate faith and already had an heir and a spare to satisfy the English parliament. Thus, creating the Hanoverian house which Caroline was marrying into.
Before their wedding day the couple had never met and therefore embarked on a lifelong union on the 8th of April 1795. Caroline had endured a difficult journey from her home in Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Germany. Britain was currently at war with revolutionary France whom had allies that surrounded the small German duchy. However, Caroline was known for being high spirited and verbally effusive, and arrived in England in a flurry of ill-mannered and vulgarly transparent behaviour. The future king the Prince of Wales was evidently disappointed as he was expecting a siren of beauty gracious, and kind, and most importantly quiet and biddable. None of which would describe Caroline’s delight in gossip and flirty behaviour. It is said that Caroline was equally disappointed with the appearance of her husband to be, who was fat, argumentative and given completely to his mistress (or possibly wife) Maria Fitzherbert. Their union is said to have lasted the length of their first night together and in the morning traded insults through mediators. George believed her to be unhygienic and not a true virgin in the marriage bed and Caroline was appalled that she was to have one of his mistresses, Frances Villiers, serve as her Lady of the Bedchamber (hence in close quarters and in insufferable dislike). It was however sufficient to get Caroline pregnant immediately and therefore sparing George the need of visiting her bed frequently. Despite her openness and given to charming the many men who looked her direction Caroline earned a popular reputation with the people, even furthering George’s hatred of her due to the public being very fluent in their despair of him and his behaviour. The notion of a child occurring so soon cemented the public opinion that Caroline was good and needed their support. On the 7th January 1796, a healthy daughter was born and christened Charlotte after the current queen who was the wife to George III. Upon hearing the birth of his daughter, the Prince of Wales responded by rewriting his will thus leaving all his property to Maria Fitzherbert and to Caroline one shilling. If there was need for evidence of the animosity between the couple, the will would naturally serve quite easily. George was disappointed for not having a boy but his father the king George III was delighted to have a legitimate grandchild regardless of her sex.
Charlotte was to grow up in a very divided household. Her mother was portrayed as the ‘wronged woman’ due to having her letters read by George’s mistress for any evidence that would permit divorce, and her father was vilified in the press for continuing to live in luxury and preventing Caroline from visiting anywhere without his permission. By August 1797 Caroline had moved into her own establishment of Blackheath and lived as though a single privileged woman. Happily, for Caroline who was fond of her daughter, Charlotte summered with her governess on the Montague House estate and could visit her frequently. It became clear quickly that Charlotte was to be the only child between George and Caroline and both parents attempted to instil their opinions and demands upon the young child. Caroline wanted better treatment within the royal family for having provided an heir but other than being allowed to visit Charlotte, she had no say in the child’s upbringing. Therefore, the child was to be brought up entirely by governesses and decisions made by her father. Despite this Charlotte saw very little of her father and it was unbeknownst to him that Caroline made a point of taking her daughter for carriage rides in the park, much to the delight of the public who were sympathetic to them.
The Prince of Wales had every appearance as a dominant father figure who liked his own way. When Charlotte was eight he pushed her mother out of Blackheath to live in small Kensington Palace apartments and moved his daughter into Montague House itself to allow visits to his Carlton House residence. Charlotte is said to have been socialised very well with her own peers as she rattled around her home with no company except those who were paid to serve her. She also suffered her first loss as her governess Lady Elgin was forced to retire due to her age despite them being close friends. Her replacement was Lady de Clifford who was not adept at disciplining the child who had grown into what would termed as ‘tomboy’ today. Charlotte would delight in playing with boys and becoming accustomed to unlady-like pursuits, such a fighting and galloping horses through the house estates. By 1805 Charlotte had a full suite of tutors to educate her on the Protestant faith, government and various genteel activities, however she evidently only learnt what she thought necessary herself. Thus, she became fluent in some languages and proficient at the piano but virtually illiterate alongside.
Relations between her parents had deteriorated by the time Charlotte reached the age of ten. Her mother acting upon George’s orders and pretended to not see her each time they came across each other in the park, rendering the young child deeply upset. At the time Caroline was under investigation against having taken various lovers however the ‘delicate’ matter found nothing that would aid George in finally divorcing her. The end of the proceedings allowed Caroline to visit Charlotte again but disallowed contact between any of Caroline’s followers. As Charlotte grew into a teenager and her visits to court became more frequent she was described as uncouth and undignified. Her father placed the blame of her mother’s influence with this despite being immensely proud of her stellar equine pursuits. She grew up into a tall and buxom lady with a love of Austen, Mozart and candid discussion… with a fondness of allowing her under-drawers being seen without concern for the dignity of her rank. Charlotte loved to do whatever she was told not do. On the 6th February 1811, her father became the Regent of Britain and Charlotte, forbidden to attend, rode obviously up and down the ground floor windows attempting to catch a glimpse of the solemn ceremony. Charlotte and her father did have some similarities, they were both politically minded with leanings towards the Whigs. Although the Whigs did not enjoy much royal enthusiasm while George was regent, Charlotte made it obvious where her feelings lay by flirting across the opera hall to the Whig leader, the Earl Grey. It would seem since George as a child rebelled against the strict confines of his parents rule he would learnt to show some respect to a child ready to grow up and explore. He however placed even stricter decorum and allowance rules upon Charlotte which led to her disappointing him frequently. Charlotte did not have a proper allowance for a princess for clothing and was forced to leave shows or operas early and to observe them without being perceived from most of the audience. She was also made to live in Windsor Castle with her unmarried aunts who she believed to be stuffy and dull. With such boredom to contend with her eye fell upon men for entertainment. George FitzClarence, her cousin, was banished to Brighton to join his regiment early after behaving unseemly with the princess and Charles Hesse of the Duke of York’s household was allowed several clandestine meetings with Charlottes mother’s blessing before Hesse was commanded to Spain.
However, Charlotte was at the age where marriage would be looming fast and her father started negotiations in 1813 after the tide of the Napoleonic wars steered in prosperous favour of the British. The first candidate was William, Prince of Orange who would increase alliances and trade with Northwest Europe. The potential couple met at the Regent’s birthday party and all males were riotously drunk. Although having given no official word about what was intended Charlotte had heard suggestions through the grapevine and did not bother to hide her distaste at the prince. She was informed properly of the match through Doctor Henry Halford who found her displeased at the prospect and declared that she did not wish a future queen to marry a foreigner. True enough in English and European history there is enough evidence to both support and negate this belief. The Regent had managed to mishear his daughter’s intentions and thought she wished to marry the Duke of Gloucester instead. Vehemently speaking he argued with both Charlotte and the Duke before realising there were no improper actions taken or about to be undertook. This whole affair was being enjoyed by the public through the satirical papers and news press who continued to vilify the Regent and bless the princess. On the 12th of December, Charlotte had given George the impression she liked the Prince of Orange and started to proceed with marriage plans. These took several months as Charlotte refused point blank to leave Britain and visit the home country of the prince. Many historians believe Charlotte was being difficult after having been advised by the Earl Grey to play for time before deciding on her future husband. The diplomats were also slowing progress since neither crown had the wish to unite under one throne and therefore inheritance of William and Charlotte’s children needed to be divvied up as to whom would gain Britain or the Netherlands. Charlotte signed the marriage contract on the 10th of June despite rumours of her having fallen in love with one of a few Prussian princes. The whole agreement was however about to be thrown into disarray. Charlotte met Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld at a party held for the Russian cavalry. Leopold was invited to attend Charlotte for a meeting and he impressed her father by leaving a note stating he wished no improper feelings toward her. George did not think Leopold would become an issue and knew that he would be an impoverished man to consider courting Charlotte.
During this Caroline who maintained public support was against the match between Charlotte and the Prince of Orange and the press agreed. Charlotte to the magnificent displeasure of the Regent broke of the engagement when she discovered her own mother would not be welcome within her marital home. Wishing to avoid being closeted with the Queen spirited herself away in a Hackney cab to her mother’s household before ordering Whig politicians to attend and advise her. She returned to her father reluctantly the next day after the Duke of York stating he had the power to return her by force. Charlotte lived in forced isolation until the end of July 1814 when she was informed her mother had left to live on the continent, never to see her again. Charlotte could visit Weymouth and travel as a dignified princess should eventually reconciling properly with her father at Christmas. The Regent held high hopes that Charlotte would return to the Prince of Orange but by March 1815 she had fixed upon Leopold as a future spouse. Issues surrounded her decision since Leopold was fighting with his regiment against Napoleon although he was responding enthusiastically to Charlotte’s overtures through intermediaries. As the continent was unsettled the Regent refused Charlotte’s initial proposal of marriage to Leopold before eventually summoning the man to Britain in February 1816. Leopold impressed both Charlotte and her father and the marriage was allowed to take place on the 2nd of May 1816. Delighted to have an end to his daughter’s romances he gave Claremont House and a generous income to the couple to set up a proper house for the future King and Queen of England. Crowds lined the streets and celebrations continued in the public spaces. The only mishap was when the poor Leopold promised his worldly goods to Charlotte who giggled in response.
Marriage to Leopold proved to be a calming balm on Charlotte who became quiet, respectful and more ladylike. Despite an early miscarriage Charlotte fell pregnant in April 1817 and she was restful and happy for the duration. Naturally at the mercy of the press, gamblers had bets on the sex of the child and economists made prospect forecasts. Charlotte’s pregnancy progressed normally under the care of Sir Richard Croft and a medical team. However, when her contractions came on the 3rd of November an unsuspected shock would rock the country. Charlotte had difficulties and her labour spread over several days until the end of the 5th of November a large stillborn boy was born. Charlotte received the news of her child calmly and appeared to recover from her ordeal. Leopold however distressed from being at his wife’s side the whole time took and sleeping draught and slept. In the early hours of the 6th of November Charlotte was violently ill and succumbing to post-partum bleeding. Within an hour Princess Charlotte had died while Leopold slept in the next room.
The death of Charlotte was a major loss to the royal family, she was the Regent’s only heir and none of his brothers had heir’s either. The public reaction to the news was one of genuine remorse and deep mourning even down to the paupers and homeless carrying black bands in respect. The entire running of the country shut down for two weeks and all gambling dens closed on the day of her funeral out of respect. The Prince Regent was distraught and unable to attend his own child’s funeral while Caroline fainted at the news after hearing it through a passing courier. It is said that Leopold never fully recovered from the loss of his wife and refused to remarry until he became King of the Belgians in 1832. He married Louise-Marie of Orleans and had four children. The princess was buried in St George’s Chapel with her son at her feet under a magnificent structure with help funded by the public. What killed Charlotte was never fully explained and despite receiving no blame from the Prince Regent, Sir Richard Croft committed suicide for his role in Charlotte’s labour.
Charlotte’s death meant there were no legitimate grandchildren of George III. George IV did not provide any more children during his rule as Regent or as King meaning there was a race for his younger brothers to marry and procreate, fast. After George IV died, the next in line was George III’s next son William IV who had a fonder love of sailing and ships then women. Once again England was facing the prospect of choosing someone to rule when the Hanoverians ran out of male brothers. Light did appear at the end of the tunnel, once Prince Edward the Duke of Kent discovered Charlotte’s death while at home in Brussels he abandoned his long-term mistress and sought a wife immediately. He chose Dowager Princess Victoria of Leiningen, Leopold’s sister, and they married in 1818. Their child, Charlotte’s niece, was born Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent. Edward did not live long enough to become king after his elder brother William IV. This meant the throne passed to his daughter in 1837 who became Queen Victoria, one of Britain’s longest reigning monarchs. Despite the sons of George III being disappointed in not being able to provide him with a male grandchild, it almost seems natural after the death of Charlotte that the grandchild that follows him to the throne would be a queen. And one that placed a descendant in nearly all the remaining ruling houses of Europe.
Since before 3500 BC people have been putting defensive walls around their settlements. As I’m sure you all know, these pesky walls and fortifications can be a real pain when you want to get inside somewhere for whatever reason. Maybe you’re at war with the occupants, maybe they have something of yours, like some loot that should clearly belong to you, or perhaps you just happen to have an army and feel like attacking something. Whatever your reasons for laying siege, that’s your business, and I’m not here to judge. No, my purpose today is to let you know which siege tactics and weapons you should be using to get you through those walls and to whatever goal lay within. So whichever period of time in which you happen to be conducting your siege, take a look below at the closest example and you should find the best methods available to you.
New Kingdom Egypt (1550-1077 BC)
Starting as early as we can with any real substance, with the New Kingdom of Egypt. As an Egyptian in this period you could expect to be fighting various different enemies, such as the Canaanites or the Hittites. Many of the enemy held towns that you come across may be fortified, so you should be prepared for a siege. As you will see throughout later periods, it is often the case that you are better off attempting to out-wait the enemy within, just as they try to wait for you to give up and go away. This basic but effective approach can be more seriously applied by preventing any movement into or out of the walls, and thus cutting the enemy off from any new supplies or means of escape. This was done at the siege of Megiddo in the 15th century BC when Pharaoh Thutmose III had a moat and wooden palisade constructed around the city, essentially giving the attackers their own wall to sit behind and wait for the enemy to surrender, except with the important difference being that they had the rest of the outside world behind their walls, rather than a small limited space with ever dwindling supplies. The defenders eventually surrendered after several months and were spared.
If such a peaceful outcome doesn’t interest you so much, then there are other options that you have in this period. The Egyptians did use various constructions against fortifications, the most common and basic of which would have been large ladders to scale the walls in order to assault the defended positions atop. Usually an assault like this should be supported by archers, but keep an eye out for the large sails that your enemy may have flying above their walls, as these may render your arrows less effective against the occupants in the city. These tactics would have been used at the siege of Dapur in 1269 BC against the Hittite Empire during Ramesses II’s campaign to conquer Syria. As an attacker you should be able to defend your own troops from enemy arrow shot as well, as there are examples of mobile roofed structures and simple moving towers that you can use in an assault.
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-609 BC)
Moving forward in time as we go, we come to some other good examples of early siege warfare with the Neo-Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians, after years of war and conquest, had become a most powerful and successful empire, and had also learned a thing or two about how to conduct a siege in the process. During the reign of Ashurnasirpal II (883 to 859 B.C.) the battering ram was developed into something more sophisticated than a simple wooden log. These Assyrian rams were heavy, five meters long, and protected by a roof and turret in which archers were placed. The ram was suspended from the roof by ropes so it could swing freely. The ramming end was covered by a metal plate, shaped into a blade that was driven into the bricks of the wall effectively.
Once you have a few, or preferably many, of these rams in place on the enemy’s walls and gates, you should then look to combine them with methods of topping the walls during the assault, as the Assyrians had found that a multi-faceted approach is a good idea. As usual it is always the standard to assault the walls with ladders, but there are also other methods for getting higher, most notably the use of great earthen ramps. These would be a huge engineering effort to construct, but they could only have to be built part way up the wall, and from there you could bring a ram up the ramp to demolish the wall at this height where it is usually thinner. This method was proven successful at the siege of Lachish in 701 BC when Assyrian King Sennacherib fought to subjugate the rebelling Kingdom of Judah.
Classical and Hellenistic Greece (510-31 BC)
Moving onto Greece, the later part of the Classical, and then the Hellenistic period of Greece saw a height of military innovation, which in turn gives you plenty of options for how to assault a fortification. In earlier Ancient Greece, siege was never much of a consideration. War at this time was a part-time seasonal affair that would take place when the common farmers had time off between sowing and harvest. It only really becomes more common once professional armies are taken up by the Greek states, allowing for the time it takes to conduct a siege. It also helps that after around 450 BC the Greeks could take some ideas from their Persian enemies, leading to tactics such as surrounding cities, building ramps, and the use of battering rams, similar to what the Assyrians were using some centuries earlier. However, the Greeks did start to develop their own methods eventually.
At around 400 BC the Greek city of Syracuse in Sicily was in conflict with the Carthaginians. It was here that many Greek artisans and technicians were recruited to create new innovations of war. The first step was the gastrephetes meaning the ‘belly bow’ which was the first crossbow. From the basic mechanics of this weapon, it was possible to scale it up until it was too heavy to carry, and so was placed on a tripod and mounted on a swivel, with a winch to draw it. This was the first catapult (named katzapeltes, meaning ‘shield-piercer’) which was used at the siege of Motya in 197 BC to shoot as far as 300 yards at the Carthaginian fleet. Eventually this weapon was further developed into the oxybeles that used torsion by twisting sinew rather than the tension of a bow. In the following years the Greeks invented many variants of catapult, including lithobolos or ‘stone thrower’, and even a supposed repeating crossbow mechanism that shot bolts from a magazine called the polybolos. Various types and sizes of ballista were even used in the most famous example of a siege tower the Helepolis ‘the taker of cities’ which was used in the siege of Rhodes in 305-304 BC. This tower was supposedly over 40 meters tall and 20 meters wide and ran on 8 huge wheels. It had 3 walls to the front and sides which were all plated in iron to make it fireproof. It weighed 160 tons and had 2 or 3 ballistas on each of its several floors.
The Roman Empire (27 BC – 480 AD)
If you’re Greek or Roman, you’ll mostly be using the same sort of siege machines. Ever since the earlier Romans saw the power of Greek inventor Archimedes’ huge catapults, ship-lifting claws, and even sunlight death beams (apparently) in Syracuse (again) they clearly felt they should probably use some of these. They did make some improvements of their own to these weapons however, such as making them lighter and more manoeuvrable, or combining battering rams and boarding bridges into their siege towers. They also further developed on the torsion powered weapons of the Greeks, resulting in the Onager, which later became the standard use for the term ‘catapult’ which was a stone thrower with a vertical arm. These could be thrown in a great arc, and also use heavier projectiles, great for either going over, or smashing into a wall you wish wasn’t there.
Aside from the weapons, the tactics used by the Romans were similar to what is seen before, but executed well. They would surround cities and blockade ports effectively, and then set up their own fortified camps out of range of the enemy and in elevated positions for observation. This helped the Romans defend themselves should they be attacked by enemy reinforcements coming from elsewhere, something easily missed when you’re so focussed on the enemy within. In an assault they would construct ramps and use ladders as usual, but they would also use moving barricades and shields made of wood or wicker to defend themselves, as well as using their own shields in the famous testudo formation as they advanced.
The Medieval Period (up to the 15th Century)
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 480 AD there was very little in the way of siege weapon development. The following Migration Period saw many smaller groups settle and have less need for sieges. Later in the Early Medieval period and Viking Age, there are some examples of sieges, but most of these just use what knowledge is left from contact with the Romans, for example with the Franks, as well as the Byzantines, who would have had the best ability and knowledge during this time. More northern peoples such as the Vikings or Saxons, would have avoided large sieges and aimed more for raiding actions. The Vikings did besiege some large cities however, such as Paris in 845 and again in 885, where they are said to have used ballistae and catapults, although it is unlikely. The Vikings mostly used their advanced ships to their advantage, where attacking Paris was ideal, as it is on a river island. They also attacked London at the end of their era, where they used their ships again to pull down towers, and pulled roofs off of buildings to put over the ships as cover from arrows.
1066 is seen as the end of the Viking age, and shortly after this is when the Normans started to build many stone castles throughout England. During the 12th and 13th centuries, castles evolved into powerful fortresses capable of defying intensive assaults. At the same time, in order to combat strengthened castle defences, siegecraft developed. Sieges became far more common as the use of castles and fortified cities did too, and battles became rarer than in the past. The tried and true method of simply out-waiting the defenders still continues to be a solid choice in these cases, but then again, those defenders were probably expecting a siege and prepared for a long one too. So when it finally came to demolish those walls, something more powerful than a catapult of ballista was needed. The first weapon to be widely adopted was the mangonel. This weapon was essentially a larger swinging-arm catapult that was powered by the pulling force of a team of men. Shortly after this came the more famous trebuchet. This was a similar weapon that could be made very large, but was instead powered by a sophisticated counterweight mechanism. The trebuchet first appeared from the Byzantines, and was quickly adopted by the crusaders, which in turn spread its use throughout Europe. Although these weapons mostly launched stones of 50-100kg at a range around 300 meters, their main advantages over every other type of siege weapon before it was its accuracy and cycle rate, as there was no need for time consuming cranking or winding, but just resetting everything into place. Also, the key to bringing down a heavily fortified wall is to keep striking it in the same place, something a trebuchet could easily do after the first shot was correct. There were some huge trebuchets which supposedly launched stones of 800kg or even 1,500kg, but these would have been very difficult and incredibly slow to construct and use.
The Age of Gunpowder
If you really, truly want to knock down walls, then ignore everything I just said, and get a cannon. Cannons only became viable in the later medieval and renaissance periods, after years of experimentation since the 13th century. Once they stopped trying to use gunpowder to shoot ballista bolts, bundles of arrows, and stones and finally settled on the idea of the cannonball, the previously impregnable castles of Europe were rendered obsolete. The greatest advantage of cannons over other siege weapons is the ability to fire a heavier projectile, further and faster than previous weapons. They could also fire in a straight line, so that they could destroy the bases of high walls. Thus, old fashioned walls that are high and relatively thin were excellent targets, and over time easily demolished. In 1453, the great walls of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, were broken through in just six weeks by the 62 cannons of Mehmed II’s army. However, new fortifications, designed to withstand gunpowder weapons, were soon constructed throughout Europe. In the early 15th century, Italian architect Leon Battista Alberti theorized methods of building fortifications capable of withstanding the new guns. He proposed that walls be “built in uneven lines, like the teeth of a saw”. He proposed star shaped fortresses with low, thick walls. Fortresses built in this style throughout the 16th century did not become fully obsolete until the 19th century, and were still in use throughout World War I.
With everything thrown into an entirely new state of being by the ever increasing power and efficiency of cannons, and the fortifications to match them, the attackers would now need to prepare for the siege thoroughly. There has always been a need to encircle the enemy and defend your own lines from those within as well as reinforcements from without, but now that so much of your army would consist of vulnerable artillery positions, you would need to think harder about your own defences. So lines of trenches would now be built by the attackers, first starting out of range of the defending artillery, parallel to the walls, and then another line is dug towards the walls in a zig-zag to prevent those using it from being exposed, until finally the forward line would be dug from there in artillery range parallel to the wall again. You can then place your artillery in that forward position, and build other defences around it, and prepare for the long siege ahead. As has been the case forever, it is still in the 17th century mostly about waiting the enemy out, whether you are the attacker or defender. And now that sieges had become so prevalent, and so long, they had become very expensive, and a single siege could take up an entire campaign. Battles arose through clashes between besiegers and relieving armies, but the principle of war was now a slow, grinding victory by the greater economic power. The relatively rare attempts at forcing pitched battles were almost always expensive failures.
Eventually, in the 19th century, after hundreds of years of siege warfare settling into a rut, things started to change in a few ways. Advances in artillery made previously impregnable defences useless. For example, the walls of Vienna that had held off the Turks in the mid-17th century were no obstacle to Napoleon in the early 19th. This was starting to lead to a decline in sieges taking place, but when railways were introduced, they made it possible to move and supply of larger armies. It also reintroduced siege warfare, as armies seeking to use railway lines in enemy territory were forced to capture fortresses which blocked these lines. Furthermore, the apparent effectiveness of additional field defences along with improvements to firearms technology made it easier for the defenders again. This then led to the adoption of tactics that would make the defenders surrender by bombarding the civilian population within a fortress, rather than the defences.
By the 20th century, city walls had become ineffective to modern artillery, which could destroy them, or bypass them from miles away. This brings us to WW1, which introduced trench warfare on a mass scale, and essentially a form of siege as it progressed. During the war, many methods and tactics for assaulting enemy lines with special troops developed, but overall the war was dominated by artillery. By WW2 and subsequently, the form of siege was mostly in the form of large forces encircling and bombarding cities into submission before assault. However, the continuing development of armoured vehicles and aircraft meant that mobility was far more important than ever before, and the introduction of long range bombing, and eventually inter-continental missiles make it virtually impossible to defend a position indefinitely without the surrender of either side.
Original was posted on- 12/04/2015 by lauraljpotter
Original title- A Brief Overview of Indian Migration and Diaspora in Africa
The Indian diaspora in Africa has seen a number of fluctuating migrations in the last two centuries. The majority of Indians came to Africa as indentured servants to the British. The use of indentured servants became particularly popular in the nineteenth century after the abolition of slavery. , as the next form of cheapest labour. 32,000 Indians were brought to East Africa in 1896 to build the Ugandan railway. Once the railway was complete in 1901, after the deaths of 2500 labourers in the five years it took to construct, many settled in various countries of East Africa and had their families join them. The migrants settled into local communities and began to work in the middling professions of these communities such as shopkeepers, artisans and doctors. This mirrors their position racially in the race system of African countries under colonial rule from the British. Whites occupied the most privileged position within the system, with Indians along with other Asians considered inferior to their white oppressors. However they did generally occupy a more privileged position than the Africans whose countries they lived in. It has been suggested that this position was generally accepted due to the fact that Indians found themselves able to flourish commercially, something that would not be afforded to them back in India. The British adapted the Hindu caste system that was already in place in India since Ancient times and they continued to do so in the nineteenth century. The system was as follows; Brahmins (Priests) remained at the top of the caste system, Khsatriyas (Warriors) were next, Vaishyas (Merchants/Landowners) followed them, Shudras (Servants/labourers) were of a lower caste and lastly the Untouchables (those who killed cattle for a living/eating the flesh of cattle) were considered to be out of caste and subordinate to all. The Indian labourers that were employed to build the railway would have been a lower caste.
As well as Indians migrating to Kenya and Uganda, those countries are often studied when analysing the Indian diaspora, other Indians migrated to other surrounding countries such as; Tanzania and Mozambique. These Indian Diasporas have not been studied as much and in some cases until recently. As a result we have less information about them. However, with the limited information we have it is still informative nonetheless. We will start with Tanzania. As with Kenya and Uganda, many Indians settled in India, those who came were mainly from the Gujarat region and were traders. Many Indians who settled in Tanzania were mainly found in the large port city, Dar es Salaam and Stone Town, Zanzibar. Zanzibar in particular was home to many Parsis. Parsis were originally from Persia that migrated to Gujarat and Sindh (now in Pakistan) and practice the Zoroastrian faith. Many of them worked as merchants and for the colonial government as civil servants. The father of Freddie Mercury, Bomi Bulsara worked as a Cashier for the Colonial Office in Zanzibar and the family lived there. After decolonisation there was an anti-Indian sentiment in Tanzania and many left the country for the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Some went back to India and Pakistan. The situation was no different in Zanzibar. After the 1964 revelation, which was to destabilise the power the Arab/Asian ruling class many Africans were unhappy by this inequality and felt they were unfairly represented politically. As a result many of the Indian diaspora, namely Parsis fled to other areas in the Commonwealth with many settling in the UK.
The countries that have been covered so far were in the British Empire. There was a sizable Indian diaspora in Mozambique. Mozambique was not part of the British Empire but it was part of the Portuguese Empire in Africa. Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer noted how he spotted Hindu traders off the East coast of Africa. Many Indians took advantage of the trade route between East Africa and India for centuries. Some from the Vaishya caste settled in Mozambique during the nineteenth century. Muslim traders were also present in Mozambique and were involved in trade that included; ivory and selling cashew nuts that proved to be lucrative. Beforehand some traders were involved in the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade until it was outlawed. Some of the Indian Diaspora from South Africa continued to move up north towards Mozambique. Mozambique must have been considered a good place for the Indian diaspora and for their trade to prosper. So what went wrong?
Firstly, in the late nineteenth century there was an outbreak of plague in Mozambique and the Indian community was blamed for it. As a result, Indian migration to Mozambique as well as Asian migration in general was heavily restricted. This restriction was imposed from 1899 until 1907. However, it was still financially difficult for Indians who wanted to settle in Mozambique, the restriction was still in “force” in all but name.
Later on in the twentieth century, things took a worse turn for Indians in Mozambique after the Indian annexation of Goa in 1961. Prior to 1961, Goa was a Portuguese territory. The Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveria Salazar placed Indians in Mozambique in concentration camps and froze their bank accounts. The Portuguese claimed this was to protect them. However, another reason was that they had hoped for the Portuguese prisoners captured in Goa would be released. From the 1970s the decolonisation of Mozambique occurred. During this time many Indians left the country. Most of the Indians were of adherents of Ismailism, a branch of the Shia sect of Islam. However, unlike the Indian diaspora in other East African nations they were not forced out by those from inside the said countries they adopted as their new home. The Ismaili Indians were told to leave by an outside source, Aga Khan IV, an Imam. The case with East Africa being, they were told or made feel to leave from inside the country.
Not only did Indians migrate to East Africa, many had migrated to South Africa. Before the abolishment of slavery and arrival of the British, Dutch traders had acquired Indian slaves from the Mughal Empire and settled them in the Cape. The Mughal Empire ruled most of India apart from the southern tips. These Indian slaves were from Bengal, today the territory is in the Republic of India and Bangladesh during the 1600s. Interestingly enough they were never classed as ‘Indian’ or ‘Asian’ by Dutch Traders. They were called, ‘Cape Malay’ or ‘Cape Coloured’. However, there was no substantial rise in the Indian Diaspora until the British arrived at the Cape. Many Indians were transported to Natal Colony, today part of South Africa to work as indentured labourers, like what has been discussed previously in the post about Indians migrating to East Africa. They came to work on sugar, tea and cotton plantations that were introduced in Natal colony as the land was deemed appropriate for this type of cultivation to flourish. Again, due to a lack of indigenous labour, labour had to be imported from another Colonial hold, India. Over five decades c. 150,000 indentured labourers were imported from Tamil speaking areas, Hindi speaking areas and Telugu speaking areas. In terms of religion many of them identified as Hindu or Christian. There was a smaller Muslim population too. Colonial officials felt indentured labourers were a better choice than African workers because many of them were economically self-sufficient or that the British felt their working practices were not suitable for a growing economy based on a large supply and demand.
As with the Indian diaspora in East Africa some decided to remain in South Africa after their service. Many established themselves rather quickly in industry. These included; agriculture, the railways, fishing and clerks. Others established themselves as traders, but these Indian traders arrived after the indentured labourers. The main difference here was these traders paid for themselves in search of a new life in South Africa, whereas those in indentured labour could not afford this. Their payment was considered to be labour. These traders were mainly Muslim or Hindu Indians from the Gujarat region and Uttar Pradesh. In spite of large numbers settling in Durban, not all of these migrants settled there. Some migrants moved inland towards Johannesburg, establishing trading posts. Much to the dismay of white and even African tradesmen there was some conflict because there were more Indian tradesmen than white and African tradesmen.
Many Indian migrants faced discrimination in South Africa throughout the years, but unlike Uganda they were not forced to leave and unlike Kenya they didn’t feel as if they had to choose between British citizenship and Kenyan citizenship in Post-Colonial times. However, Indian South Africans were far from being free citizens in their new home. Indian migrants suffered from early discrimination in the colonies of; Natal, Cape Colony, Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Some colonies treated Indians more harshly than others. For example in the late 1800s in the Orange Free State, a Boer held territory, Indians were banned from living there. Generally Indians were restricted from certain areas and professions in the other states. For example in the Transvaal, Indians were banned from working in the mining industry and they were not allowed to walk on pavements. In Natal voting rights for Indians were restricted. Moreover, Mahatma Gandhi stated he received racial discrimination when he resided in the country as a Lawyer. In Cape Colony although racial discrimination occurred, it was not as bad in other colonies where they were banned entirely or that there voting rights were restricted. In actual fact Cape Colony proved to be the most lenient towards Indian migrants as they were allowed to vote, own property and prosper in trade.
During Apartheid, effective from 1948 until 1991 the population of South Africa was segregated according to the colour of their skin. People who were not considered to be white were racially discriminated. Indians living in South Africa at the time were not considered to be white, they were often classed as coloured and in some cases black. They suffered racial segregation just as much as the native population. Discrimination occurred in everyday life in South Africa. This included public facilities, employment opportunities, education and events.
The Indian diaspora is one of the largest in the world and although many have left African countries, some migrated back to Africa after the troubles of expulsion or discrimination. Today there are c. 40,000 people of Indian origin living in Mozambique, c.50,000 in Uganda, c.70,000 Tanzania, c.110,000 in Kenya and c.1,300,000 in South Africa.
Some of you may have been recently intrigued by the doings of the East India Company by the BBC series Taboo, starring Tom Hardy. You now probably have the idea that the East India Company was the true evil of modern capitalism. Well, you may not be wrong about that, but perhaps you are not entirely right. What you will sure know about is that as an organisation the EIC held a huge amount of power, sometimes even more than the crown itself, at least in terms of trade and the politics behind it. What I want to talk about today with you, our lovely and curious readers, is actually about what the EIC traded and what this was worth for them.
So, how did the East India Company come about? This was an organisation previously known as (behold the redonculous name) Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies – EIC much more catchy. This organisation was created by a royal charter in 31 December 1600 with the aim of taking control of the spice trade that England was missing out due to the heavy dealing of Spain and Portugal in the East Indies. What perhaps to Elizabethan contemporaries may have seen as the greatest ordeal actually became a very profitable enterprise, as the EIC gradually became a monopolistic corporation with an overwhelmingly firm grip over trade with the orient. Just so you get an idea of the scope of this institution, the EIC had their own ships, private armies and even their own coinage! When originally established in 1600 the EIC would have had £68373. By the end of the 19th century, around 280000 men would have been counted amongst their ranks. So, you know, just your average trader really…
So here is the analysis by location:
–Bombay: with the blue ‘house’, this was one of the headquarters for the EIC. It was transferred in 1668 by Charles II for the ludicrous amount of £10 of annual rent…
–Madras: (brown ‘house’). The fort of St. George built-in this site in 1644 would become the citadel that acted as the base for the EIC in this area – real handy.
–Calcutta:given the yellow star for a relatively obvious reason – this was the capital of the British territories of the zone until 1911.
–Bantam: appropriately marked as a shopping bag, this was the first factory the East India Companies created in the east, and one of their most important trading markets – their mall essentially. Slowly but surely, Bantam became a powerful site due to its economic drive.
Now all we need to know is where we are getting what and for which purpose. So let’s have a look at the ‘goods traded’ list (like you would in a game of Civilization V or VI depending how up to date you are…):
–Pepper: this came from the area of Sumatra and Java (our dark grey trapezoid). The EIC first expedition in search for this took place in 1601, so pretty high up in their list of priorities.
–Spices:these came from all over India, and they would have included things that perhaps we do not think about today such as cloves, nutmeg and mace. These items were important not just for food, but due to their medicinal properties. Furthermore, these essences will shortly be introduced in perfume production, which was at its peak in England during Tudor times.
–Indigo: commonly known as “blue gold”, this was a high value commodity in Europe because of the richness of the colour and the sheer difficulty and craftsmanship that was required to obtain it. This was a key resource to control in all of India. The EIC acquired the whole monopoly for the sale of this precious dye with great profit; perhaps its most important trading item!
–Saltpetre: this would be a known item for the Taboo watchers. Scientifically known as potassium nitrate, this was one of the key components in gun powder which, as you may know, was in high demand in Europe. The East India Company was a big player in the transport and acquisition of saltpetre that came from several areas comprised in the map above. We know that by 1682 the EIC was importing around 1500 tons of this stuff back into the West.
–Fabrics:we all know of the use and desire for things such as silk throughout history as a luxurious item. However, the use of these fabrics for the EIC was not just for the purpose of European markets. It seems that the Indian textiles were good items to trade with at the Bantam markets, to the point that by the mid 18th century, this constituted 60% of the sales by the EIC.
–Tea: this should not come as a surprise. We know that by 1699 the East India Company had solid arrangements for the trade of tea with China. In fact just 50 years later around 2150 tones of tea were traded each year from Canton (red trapezoid in our map) in exchange of silver.
–Porcelain: before establishing their connection with the area of Canton in the 18th century, this would have been acquired by the EIC in the markets of Bantam (you see now why they needed all those pieces of cloth huh?).
–Opium: and here comes the great evil of this economic enterprise. This became the go to resource for the trade with the China when the rest of British goods loss their value, particularly cloth and silver. Therefore, instead of the carts loads of silver transported over to Canton, illegal opium became the trading commodity in this area by the 19th century. Of course, this did not work very well: just in a matter of years the First Opium War (1839-1842) came knocking into the EIC’s door to let them know the price to pay.
In recent weeks the link between politics and theatre has come to the forefront of discussion, with arguments about politics role in the theatre. Whatever peoples’ thoughts are on politics’ place or appropriateness in theatre, it is simply undeniable that the two are inextricably linked and have been since theatre existed. This is not a simple link either; theatre and politics throughout history have been linked in a variety of ways, whether it be in the play itself, its patrons, its performers and writers or even the physical theatres themselves.
Western theatre is largely based on the theatre of the ancient Greeks. This is also where politics and theatre became intertwined. The venue for theatre and politic discussion during this period were the same; the amphitheatre. This, along with the emphasis placed on rhetoric as civic duty, meant the two often overlapped during this period. While there is no term in ancient Greek for satire, several of the earliest satirists wrote for Greek theatre, such as Aristophanes who was fiercely critical of Cleon, a general and politician, and Menander whose earliest surviving fragment of work was an attack on a politician.
English theatre until the Reformation was mostly restricted to religious plays such as mystery cycles and miracle plays. These plays became unacceptable after the Reformation and secular theatre began to flourish. Theatre companies, to play in public, were required to have a noble patron and many of the companies took their name from their patrons, such as the Lord Chamberlin’s men.
Theatre companies during this period had two audiences: the monarch and court; and the general public. Therefore plays had to straddle a line of appealing to the general public while not offending the court. Sometimes this failed, such as in A Game of Chess which was stopped after several performances for its thinly veiled allegory of the current monarchy.
Even plays that were not about the monarch or court could be dangerous. Shakespeare’s Richard II was paid to be performed shortly before the Essex Rebellion in 1601 by Essex’s supporters in hope that the play, which was deeply critical of Richard II, would encourage people to join the rebellion. Luckily for Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlin’s men they were not punished for their accidental involvement. However such incidents show that theatre was considered to be deeply political.
After the closure of theatres under the Puritan Interregnum rule of Oliver Cromwell, the ascension of Charles II led to a new flourishing age of theatre. Political plays found new popularity in theatres across the country, such as The Country Wife and The Roundheads. This was despite theatres requiring a royal patent and despite the fact that Charles II was known to frequent theatres unlike his predecessors.
The introduction of allowing women on stage was one of the most politically charged acts of the 17th century, directly challenging gender roles. Female actors attracted controversy on and off-stage: on stage the women portrayed characters far from what was considered ‘acceptable’; and off-stage many actresses who had come from lowly means found themselves thrust into the political spheres of court, and able to wield political power via their affairs with nobility or even the king himself.
The Licensing Act of 1737 had a huge impact on English theatre and was introduced because of the political fears of Prime Minster, Robert Walpole. Walpole feared that the popularity and presence of political satire and dissent on stage undermined him and his government. As a result the act allowed government censorship of the stage, which continued until 1968. The act was strengthened in 1848, making it compulsory for all plays to receive government approval before staging. This meant whole plays could be refused, although in most cases plays simply had certain passages censored. This included all plays, even performances of classical plays. This created a two tier theatre system with legitimate theatres who were licensed and those that were not.
With the power of the censor, plays especially in the 19th century began to focus more on social than political issues, which aligned more with the attitude of the government. When politics did enter the theatre, it was not uncommon for it to come after the scripts had been submitted to the censors. Pantomime became one of the most political genres of theatre. Writers such as George Bernard Shaw and J B Priestly courted controversy by inserting their own politics into plays.
At the dawn of the 20th century political groups began to form theatre groups, such as the Workers Theatre Movement and the Pioneer Players. In 1936, the Unity Theatre was formed with distinctly left wing productions, many of which directly challenged censorship.
After the Second World War, political theatre came into its own. Politically charged theatre first found its footing on the fringe theatres as until 1968, theatres were still censored. Plays such as The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter (who would go on to write a number of highly politically charged plays throughout the last half of the 20th century) and Oh, What a Lovely War!, pushed their political messages indirectly.
The lifting of censorship, along with the political atmosphere of the 1960s, allowed an explosion of direct political theatre. Plays such as Saved by Edward Bond, which had previously been severely censored, were allowed in their full political anger. Play writers were no longer restricted to political satire to criticise their government, their monologues could now directly call out those who did not live up to their expectations.
This has continued and expanded through into the 21st century, with even ‘family-friendly’ productions such as the musical Billy Elliot being adamantly anti-Thatcher. Today it seems unimaginable that in living memory that there was not a time where playwrights could not write clear criticism of the current political climate.
I’d lusted after Edinburgh from afar for absolutely ages, but it was only last week– after years of increasingly desperate planning– that I finally got the chance to visit the city of my dreams.
Getting off the Megabus was tricky. For one, I’d been sitting for a twelve hour coach journey and my joints were stubbornly refusing to work. But there was something else, something which made me pause at the automatic door, probably to the great annoyance of the coach driver. It was a deep-seated nervousness, combined with a sense of This is it! You’re actually here!
You see, after years of hoping and dreaming, the reality of it scared me. What if Edinburgh failed to live up to my ridiculously high expectations? What if, after all, it was simply the grey, ‘gloomy’ city my lecturer had described in a reply to my Sorry, won’t be in next week’s lecture, third year is too much and I’m running away to Scotland for a while email? (Of course the real, Actual Responsible Adult™ reason for visiting Edinburgh was to scope out the postgrad open day, but I’ll run away from that as well, while I can).
Photo courtesy of Wendy Li
Photo courtesy of Bryony Lumsdale
Eventually I did get off the coach and, in a bit of a daze, I wheeled both myself and my suitcase out of the station and on to North Saint Andrew Street. The first thing that hit me, straight away, was the temperature. It was freezing, but absurdly pleasant after sitting in a stuffy coach all night. In the east, the sun was rising above the distant Firth of Forth, and the sky was a gorgeous shade of purple, specked with deep oranges and strands of golden yellow which were reflected off the tall Georgian buildings nearby. My hair, caught up in the near-Arctic wind, whipped around me and, while I had barely slept all night, I felt exhilarated. I knew then– as cheesy as it may sound– that Edinburgh would not disappoint.
So we set off in search of Justin, our Airbnb host for the week, to collect keys and settle in before a long day of open day-ing and thinking of the future-ing. He was a little late and for a moment, huddled together against the cold on Nicholson Street, we wondered if Airbnb was possibly all a big scam. But Justin soon arrived, and was lovely. He gave us a quick tour of the flat –bathroom here, kitchen there, keys through the letter box when you leave – and then left us to recover from the journey and de-zombify ourselves for the day ahead.
Justin’s impossibly beautiful Airbnb flat, would 100% recommend. He even provided complementary bottles of Irn Bru and teacakes. An absolute angel.
Justin’s impossibly beautiful Airbnb flat, would 100% recommend. He even provided complementary bottles of Irn Bru and teacakes. An absolute angel.
The open day at The University of Edinburgh was brilliant. As the main reason for travelling 418.3 gruelling miles in a Megabus, I found it both useful and decidedly worth it. Still not 100% sure of the course itself though, I’m possibly leaning ever so slightly more towards another one at the moment, but it’s a shame because I fell completely head-over-heels for the university itself. Also, credit where credit’s due, the staff and open day helpers were excellent throughout the day, answering any questions we had and being very friendly.
Afterwards we all returned to Justin’s and had well-deserved naps, relishing at the prospect of sleeping in actual beds rather than a crowded moving vehicle. I slept deeply and dreamlessly and woke feeling refreshed, if still a little tired. We had dinner– a lovely meal of pasta and lentils courtesy of Wendy then left the house again for a haunted ghost walk of Edinburgh’s underground spaces with City of the Dead Tours.
Photo courtesy of Wendy Li
Photo courtesy of Bryony Lumsdale
It was raining buckets when we left the house, and positively chucking it down by the time we arrived at the meeting point along the Royal Mile. The drenched cobble stones and masonry were a glossy charcoal, like something out of a melodramatic Victorian murder mystery, glittering with the reflected reds and oranges of streetlights that could so easily have been gaslights. Just as I was thinking all that’s missing is Jack The Ripper, the tour guide appeared. He was draped in a thick black cloak, with a top hat perched on his head, and he called us over to the group with a thick Scots accent.
As he led the group to our underground destination deep in the Edinburgh vaults, he spoke about the history of the local area. It was embellished for effect, and there were certain bits that didn’t sound entirely historically accurate, but his words rang with a gritty realism. For the most part, he didn’t mention hauntings or ghostly goings on, but instead created a sense of horror through his descriptions of the conditions experienced by the very poorest of society.
He led us down ambling side-roads and winding cobbled streets, through historic red-light districts which were now lined with tourist shops and artisan bakeries, speaking all the while of the horrific overcrowding of the eighteenth century city, the dire mortality rates, and the failures of the state and the church in caring for the poor. When of course we finally did make it underground, he regaled us with ghost stories and descriptions of the South Bridge Entity which was said to dwell in the vaults. It was spooky, without a doubt, but I felt that the true horror of the night was resoundingly in his descriptions of the past.
As we emerged above ground again, the Old Town stretched out around us, appearing both ageless and ancient. It was all too easy to imagine the sights he had described, and the people who had suffered in this place. That was what haunted me most.
It soon started to rain heavily again and we were drenched trying to find our way home in the labyrinth of backstreets. Naturally, when Google Maps failed to work, we blamed the South Bridge Entity for making us lose our way.
Day Two: 17/11/16
Had a slight lie-in to recover from the knackering twelve-hour journey, and ended up leaving the house just after lunchtime. Our first port of call was the National Museum of Scotland, which I was embarrassingly keen to visit. It was a stunning building, both inside and out, which really did credit to the fascinating exhibits. The hands-on science and technology gallery was great fun, and we spent far too long playing with the interactive exhibits, making hot air balloons lift off and programming a robot to do our bidding. There was also a fair bit of snapchatting going on as we took in the culture which, to be fair, some exhibits seemed to directly cry out for.
As dedicated Outlanderfans, Bryony and I soon headed to the eighteenth century section, where we tried and failed to be dignified in our adoration of the era. Here, we were able to sit in a miniature thatched cottage, listen to traditional music of the period, squeeze into children’s dress-up clothes, and attempt to take in as much info as we possibly could. The exhibits on Culloden and the Jacobite risings in particular were beautifully comprehensive, and it was tricky to pull ourselves away from it all.
I’m basically Claire Fraser tbh
We could have happily sat in that thatched cottage reading about Bonnie Prince Charlie for hours, but it was getting late and we wanted to visit the Royal Mile before the shops shut. So we dragged ourselves away and exited via the (genuinely amazing) gift shop. It was then only a short walk before we found ourselves on one of Edinburgh’s most famous streets. The Royal Mile was lush and, to tell you the truth, I spent far too much money in its many tourist shops. I bought a gorgeously warm and cosy Edinburgh hoodie for myself, and presents for friends and family, as well as what felt like a few hundred postcards. Worth every penny, to be honest. Je ne regrette rien.
We were making our way back to the house when, purely by chance, we realised how close we were to Greyfriars Kirkyard. Of course, being the mature adults that we are, we were thrilled at the prospect of visiting one of Scotland’s most haunted locations after dark. It was nearly pitch-black and we walked around quickly, using the light from our phones to guide us, while attempting to avoid the group of people filming a Most Haunted style documentary in one corner of the cemetery. Eventually we began to feel unsettled and decided to leave.
Visiting Greyfriars Kirkyard
Ghost hunting in process
A rare sighting of the ghostly Gabrielle. Very spooky.
Day Three: 18/11/16
We woke up early in order to make it to the Glasgow University open day. Here, almost immediately upon arrival, I fell in love with the Glaswegian subway which was so refreshingly easy to use after years spent getting lost on the tube. The city had a buzz to it that’s difficult to describe, but it was artsy and ancient, energetic and fun. Glasgow doesn’t take itself seriously, which I really love about it.
The open day itself was perfect, and as of now I’m definitely planning to make an application. Everyone we encountered bent over backwards to help us and one man even walked us to the subway station in the pouring rain when we asked for directions. The city is undoubtedly deserving of its title as the world’s friendliest city.
After the open day, we had a quick look around the Hunterian Museum, then did a fair amount of tourist-ing, followed by a little bit of shopping where I was very tempted to buy quite a lot of gloves. Spotting the Duke of Wellington statue, cone and all, was a definite highlight of the trip. So too was dinner at Mono, a charming vegan restaurant/record shop in the city centre. I had a delicious to-fish and chips (battered tofu = Pure Heaven) followed by a chocolate avocado and walnut tart. Really wish there was a restaurant like this nearer to Winchester, because I could quite easily spend most of my life there.
Dinner at Mono
Admiring the Christmas decorations in Glasgow
Famous statue of the Duke of Wellington
As it was, I left Glasgow feeling sad that the day was over. I would have loved to spend more time in this brilliant city.
Day Four: 19/11/16
View from above…
… and view from below
We spent our fourth day storming Edinburgh castle. I was amazed by how much there was to see and do here, with many individual museums nestled within the castle’s keep. After a fascinating but freezing guided tour followed by the 1pm firing of the cannon, we had a chilly lunch in the tea rooms, huddled around Bryony’s teapot for warmth. We then headed to the National War Museum, where we spent well over an hour reading displays and being drawn into the history on offer. We even found a radiator in one room, which was a godsend.
Not to mention, it was also the perfect spot for the odd #MuseumSelfie which really is terribly good fun. In the words of curator Mar Dixon (@MarDixon), “I always feel so bad for those people who don’t get #MuseumSelfie or any fun in museums. I just want to hug them and tell them it’ll be ok.”
It was difficult to decide where to visit next, as we were completely spoilt for choice. Eventually though we settled on the Prisons of War which showcased the living conditions of POWs held there throughout the centuries. These men ranged from French sailors captured in 1758, shortly after the Seven Years’ War, to soldiers of the American War of Independence (1775-83), right up to inmates from wars with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France (1793-1815). The surrounding displays told tales of the prisoners, one of whom was a five-year old drummer boy, taken at Trafalgar (1805). Another, desperate to escape, hid in a dung cart, only to be killed on the rocks below as the contents were tipped over the castle wall. Four more succeeded in escaping in 1799, by lowering themselves down the rock on washing lines, while in the more audacious outbreak of 1811, 49 prisoners cut their way through the parapet wall, beside the battery. All but one escaped and the hole is still there today.
Next we sampled some lovely Bruadar whiskey in the Whiskey and Finest Food shop, then visited The Royal Palace, a principle royal residence from the eleventh century up until the early seventeenth. It was a fascinating building, with a grand history. Indeed, it was here that, on the 19th of June, 1566, Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to the future King James VI of Scotland and James I of England and Ireland. It was truly remarkable to think that the first king of England and Scotland, a man who would go on to shape both nations so dramatically, had been born in such an impossibly small room.
The next part of our visit to the castle was spent admiring the Scottish crown jewels, which are the oldest in the British Isles, created in Scotland and Italy during the reigns of James IV and James V. They were first used for the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in September, 1543. We saw the Stone of Destiny as well, also known as the Stone of Scone, which is traditionally thought to have once been part of an ancient royal bench-throne, and imbued with sacred powers. For centuries, Scottish kings were ceremoniously crowned atop the stone, tying the monarch to the land forevermore.
The Stone has an eventful history. In 1296, believing himself to have a God-given right of superiority over Scotland, Edward I forcibly removed the Scots’ royal regalia and holy relics, along with 65 chests containing the records of the kingdom. In short, he took all the objects of statehood, making sure that the Stone of Destiny was in his haul, it was removed from the abbey of Scone in August, 1296 and sent to Westminster Abbey. Here, it was enclosed in a new throne, the Coronation Chair, where it has been used ever since in the coronations of most monarchs of England and, from 1714, all the rulers of Great Britain.
However, on Christmas Day, 1950, four students from the University of Glasgow removed the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey and brought it back to Scotland. On the 11th of April, 1951, it turned up 500 miles away, at the high altar of Arbroath Abbey! Afterwards, it was once again taken to Westminster Abbey, but the actions of the students made people begin to ask Why wasn’t the stone in Scotland?
Finally, in 1996, the Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland on the 700th anniversary of its removal, under the proviso that it may be ‘borrowed’ for any future coronations at Westminster Abbey. It’s a truly remarkable object, and I could easily have spent all day reading about its history. There’s also a great film called The Stone of Destiny which tells the story of the four students who returned the Stone to Scotland. It’s a bit clichéd, and Charlie Cox’s Scottish accent is more than a little bit dreadful, but it’s a genuinely heart-warming tale, and I would really recommend it to anyone interested in the Stone’s history.
Finally, after a quick look around Saint Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest structure in Edinburgh (dating from 1130), and a moment of quiet reflection in The Scottish National War Memorial, it was time to leave Edinburgh Castle. Our visit was incredible, without a doubt 100% worth the admission fee. There was so much to see and do here, and exhibits to entertain people of all ages and historical inclinations. A really marvellous day out.
Photo credit to Wendy Li
Photo credit to Wendy Li
We walked along Princes Street on the way back to Justin’s house, recreating the opening scene of Trainspotting. Once again, the city was freezing but exhilarating, generating a genuine ‘Lust for Life’ in us all.
We got back to the house quite quickly, having finally learnt to navigate the tangled web of Edinburgh’s streets, and ordered delicious pizza from the incredible ‘Dough Pizza’. A truly ‘Perfect Day’.
Day Five: 20/11/16
Returned to Winchester today.
Annoyingly, the coach journey was delayed due to traffic and road closures, and ended up taking almost 15 hours altogether. A little bit hellish, but certainly not something that could detract from the overall experience of our trip.
Because, you see, it turned out that my expectations of Edinburgh weren’t ‘ridiculously high’ at all. This was something the city proved to me day after day, as I fell more deeply in love with it than I ever could have anticipated.
Another factor I couldn’t have anticipated is my new-found dependency on Irn Bru. Really have to thank Bryony, my enabler, for introducing me to that little habit. Definitely not something to regret though.
May have developed a slight Irn Bru dependency
Return coach journey
15 hour coach journey. Ouch.
Special thanks to my lovely companions Bryony (@bryonyjo31), Maddie (@maddiech_) and Wendy (@whitecinnamonsugar).
Just earlier on this week, my parents and I went to see a temporary exhibition in my home town in Spain, about Georges Méliès. The exhibition was organised by LaCaixa and is going around Spain (potentially elsewhere). I found it was nicely done, although we agreed all visits could probably do with a guide – there are explanation panels and info, but the information was still limited, although interesting a well presented. In that sense, displaywise, they get a good score from me, because it was done with taste and fitting with the topic to discuss Melies and early cinema (there were light games, lots of screens, the information on the panels was presented as if it was newspaper from the period). They also play one of his movies: A Trip to the Moon (1902). Another touch I really liked was how the exhibition mentioned that Melies story is the core of a recent modern movie which I personally love: Hugo. In this sense, the exhibition goes above and beyond in terms of contextualisation and ambiance. But what was my surprised when I arrived home and realised we had never shared the genius of this man with you…Of course, I couldn’t let it be. So please join me for a session of magic, fantasy, and utter most ingenuity.
Méliès was born in Paris in 1861. He was the son of Jean-Louis-Stanislas Méliès and Johannah-Catherine Schuering, who founded a shoe factory specialised in high-quality boots, where Méliès worked for a while before deciding to pursue his true dream: magic. He was thrilled by illusionism. Therefore, he bought the Robert Houding Theatre in Paris in 1888. Méliès had spent time in London, seeing the great prestidigitation acts and getting to know the field. He reformed the theatre and improved the illusions he could performed on stage, increasing the number of visitors through the door. He was a complete showman, although he spent most of his time working off stage: directing, producing. However, this will all change in 1895 when the Lumière brothers revealed the Cinématographe to members of the public. Méliès was there and he was determined to buy one, but they refused his offers. Frustrated, he decided he ought to obtain a projection device of a kind for his theatre so he turned to the other, perhaps less sophisticated options available, until on a trip to London he bought the Animatograph from Robert W. Paul. The theatre started showing films on a daily basis, and the curious mind that owned it begun tampering with his new machine to make it anew. Thus Méliès made his new purchase a filming camera, and he started experimenting.
Between 1896 and 1913 he directed over 500 films, following a similar pattern than the performances he used to produce: with magic tricks, illusions. They were full-on spectacles. He built his own filming studio in Montreuil, a building made out of glass to allow light in for film exposure. Little by little his films became more elaborate and more quirky. The Lumière brothers productions were characterised for the everyday life representations, but Méliès mind was full of colour, magic and surrealism. And this became crystal clear with his production of A Trip to the Moon, where he also stars as the main character: Professor Barbenfouillis. He took inspiration for this movie from novels written by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Suddenly, our protagonist became a key name in the field of science fiction. Méliès sold his film both in black and white, and in the hand-coloured version. His name became very popular not only in France and the rest of Europe, but also America, attracting the attention of other producers who started making illegal copies of his work, therefore he decided to open a branch of Star Films in New York, in an attempt to control the issue. Shortly afterwards, Méliès will show the world one of his most famous productions: The Impossible Voyage (1904). However one of his original American fraudsters, Thomas Edison, created in 1908 the Motion Picture Patents Company, therefore establishing control over the production of films both in the United States and Europe. And so, Mr Edison crafted his monopoly over the industry.
The following year Méliès stopped producing. He presided at meeting with the International Filmmakers Congress in Paris where him and many of his peers discussed their dissatisfaction with Edison’s policies. The agreements raised by the congress did not please him particularly, but he obliged and went back to making films. But these were not as successful anymore, and Méliès started having problem with Pathé. By 1914 the man was broke, and Pathé eventually took over his studios by 1923. Méliès disappeared from the public. He resumed his life with Jeanne d’Alcy, keeping a very low profile as a toy-fixer and salesman at a small booth at the station of Montparnasse. He could have spent his final years in that place going unnoticed, his work lost to the ages after he burnt a lot of his films. Yet fate had other plans for Méliès. Several French journalists started showing interest for early French cinema, and researched his work. He was eventually found at his booth and driven forward to receive the title of Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, medal which he received in 1931 by Louis Lumière himself. The Lumière brothers acknowledge that although they did invented the cinematograph, Méliès was, nonetheless, the pioneer of art of film making and the cinema. Unfortunately, this recognition he was given did not manage to improve his situation much, although he obtained a free rent apartment for the rest of his life. However, by late 1937 Méliès became really ill and his health would not recover. He died on the 21st of January 1938 of cancer. His final recognition, although posthumous, happened last year in 2015, when his name was entered in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.
Perhaps it is my innate romanticism, but I would like to think that his memory is kept by all of us members of the public, every time we smile or are startled by the magic of cinema. Every time someone thinks “just how do they do it”, and every moment someone thinks perhaps they can also fly to the moon.
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.
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.
Expression through movement has been a key part in ceremonial and celebratory events since man learned to walk. But the most beautiful and evocative of dance creations did not become what we would recognise today until the glittering Renaissance courts of fifteenth century Italy. Nobles used the basic steps and arm movements during weddings, masques and processions as a way to demonstrate politics, classical stories and biblical morality. Whole courts would participate in the dance designed to show off the ruler’s wealth through costume and the ability to know the latest dance crazes of late medieval Europe. Ballet itself spread northwards to France due to Catherine de Medici’s marriage to Henri II, then the Duke of Orleans, in 1533 who both sought to fund and patronise the growing athletic activity. Ballet continued to be a mixture of dance, poetry and music to envelope the audience in a concoction of movement, colour and noise in the hopes of impressing the resident foreign ambassadors of the French court.
Catherine de Medici’s patronisation of Ballet led it to becoming one of the art forms France remains infamous for today, hence why when learning ballet all of the steps retain their French name. Catherine never lost touch with her Italian native culture and encouraged dance masters from the city states to teach her children, including Cesare Negari who excelled at educating figure dancing – a series of dance patterns learned independently to the beat of eight per bar. The first full-scale choreographed piece Ballet Comique de la Reine was portrayed on October 15th 1581 for Catherine to celebrate the marriage of Marguerite of Lorraine’s marriage to Duc de Joyeuse. Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and choreographed by Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx, the ballet lasted five and a half hours and focused upon the enchantress Circe, while dancers appeared from all four sides of the great hall which was a first for any court ballet. French kings and queens developed a habit of appearing in the ballets themselves thus showing off their own prowess on the stage, and Henri III and his wife Louise of Lorraine were no different occupying roles in the Ballet Comique.
Ballet continued to be an important part of court festivities until the reign of the Le Roi-Soleil Louis XIV in the seventeenth century when the king began to standardised ballet into a discipline. Louis XIV was an avid dancer throughout his reign and performed in many choreographed pieces such as Ballet de la Nuit. His patronisation meant that ballet was lifted from noble amateurs to require professional training from the masters as dance academies began to develop from 1661. In 1681 ballet moved from the courts to the stage for the first time and became a popular pastime for royals and nobles to visit. By this time the ideology of the Opera-Ballet developed particularly enhanced by the French opera Le Triomphe de l’Amour which remains a popular show today. Up until this point ballet had always been incorporated into other art forms such as masques, weddings or poetry. However, Jean Georges Noverre in the eighteenth century believed that ballet could stand alone as a piece of artwork with just dance and emotive music to convey stories without words. Thence ballet d’action was born which meant the movement of the figures would convey the relationship between characters and carry the narrative themselves. Noverre’s work is considered the most important pre-cursor to the Romantic movement of the nineteenth century.
The Romantic movement influenced art, dance and music and some of the most famous ballets were designed and choreographed during this period. The movement focused upon the ideology of the supernatural with faeries and magic furthering influencing the Gothic movement in literature. Women were painted to seem fragile and passive creatures which were emulated in the ballets. It was during the romantic period that it became the norm for ballerinas to become skilled in pointe work – the act of dancing on your toes in special shoes – and tulle tutus became the staple image of a ballet dancer. The most famous ballets of this period were Giselle and La Sylphide which are the oldest surviving ballets with choreography that would be recognised today. Both include the dramatic death of a main character via supernatural means. Giselle focuses upon a girl who danced herself to death after experiencing heart-break which led to wraiths forcing the man who broke her heart to dance to his death. La Sylphide portrays a man falling for a type of faery, a sylph, who is then killed by witches in the arms of a real girl who loved him. I have seen an adaption of Giselle by the Bolshoi Ballet which was stunningly dramatic and I loved it. During the nineteenth century ballet spread world-wide becoming infamous in Russia, England, America and Japan. Russia is responsible for the most famous ballets of all time with Pepita and Ivanov’s The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. These three ballets represent classical ballet in its purest form due to the development of the classical technique – turned out from the hips, pointe work, high extensions and ultimately precision. Tutu’s got shorted in order to fully maximise the effect of the classical ballet while introducing the ability and movement for leaps and turns those rendered more difficult in older ballet costumes.
From the twentieth century onwards ballet metamorphosed and was challenged by a series of choreographers to include styles and movements derived or adjacent to classical ballet. Neo-Classical ballet was created by the founder of the New York City Ballet, the Russian George Balachine. Balachine created the ideology of the plotless ballet where dance was choreographed to music to reflect the music’s style but for no other purpose and no narrative. Experimentation with costume and dance meant that ballet was able to take on a more contemporary form representing the newer Art Deco styles in the 1920s and away from the Pre-Raphaelite-esque romance of the previous century. Oskar Schlemmer designed the ‘Bauhaus Ballet’ – Triadisches Ballett – where the figures were moulded into geometric colourful shapes to allow the dancers to transform into part of the scenery. Today both classical and contemporary ballet continues to be shown on stages world-wide and remains to be a fascinating and enduring concept. Thousands of little girls still seek to learn the complicated discipline either at amateur schools or professional training boarding schools. I did myself for eleven years during my childhood. Ballet continues to be one of the innovative art forms of modern-day society even with retaining old-fashioned values and movements.
There are plenty of books that highlight the history of ballet that would also go into more depth including:
Anderson, J., Ballet and Modern Dance: A Concise History, 1993.
Clark, M., and Crist, C., Ballet: An Illustrated History, 1992.
Homans, J., Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet, 2010.
Lee, C., Ballet in Western Culture: A History of its Origins and Evolution, 1992.
(Image: ‘Grand pas de Quatre’ from http://revistaelbosco.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/ballet-grand-pas-de-quatre-y-su-historia.html)