Posts Tagged ‘history’

A history of the world in funny puns

November 4th, 2015

big bang

dinosaurs

Ancient Egypt

noah's ark

Stonehenge

Socrates

Julius Caesar

Jesus

Vesuvius

hadrian's wall

King Arthur

Battle of Hastings

The Black Death

Gutenberg

Columbus

Renaissance

Spanish Armada

Gunpowder Plot

Great Fire of London

Acts of Union

Boston Tea Party

French revolution

Waterloo

Stephenson

the gold rush

Darwin

Abraham Lincoln

Marx

Vincent van Gogh

Olympics

Freud

Queen Victoria

Ford Model T

WW1

Russian Revolution

Wall Street Crash

WW2

Einstein

Cuban Missile Crisis

James Bond

Moon landings

Nixon

Mao

berlin wall

Dolly the Sheep

Google

Football

Harry Potter

Obama

YouTube


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Quiz: ten key battles in British history

October 24th, 2015

The battle of Agincourt between King Henry V and the French was a bloody war fought in northern France 600 years ago on October 25, 1415.

It still remains one of the best known English victories. Ahead of its 600th anniversary this Sunday, test your knowledge of ten key battles in British History.


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A history of the world in funny puns

August 21st, 2015

For many of us, it's a punderful life (pun: a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings) and to mark the UK Pun championships, we present a history of the world in puns. So here goes. Once a pun a time . . . it all started with THE BIG BANG, a theory which describes how the Universe began in a rapid expansion about 13.7 billion years ago. It is thought that all of space was created in this first moment. Expert and scientist Stephen Hawking (and who can put down his book about anti-gravity?) has even appeared in a cameo for American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Here are some space puns:  •  How does the Solar System hold up its trousers? With an asteroid belt • What kinds of music do planets sing? Neptunes • An astronaut broke the law of gravity and earned a suspended sentence • That was a poor joke about infinity – it didn't have an ending Gallery compiled by Martin Chilton Picture: Alamy

dinosaurs

Ancient Egypt

noah's ark

Stonehenge

Socrates

Julius Caesar

Jesus

Vesuvius

hadrian's wall

King Arthur

Battle of Hastings

The Black Death

Gutenberg

Columbus

Renaissance

Spanish Armada

Gunpowder Plot

Great Fire of London

Acts of Union

Boston Tea Party

French revolution

Waterloo

Stephenson

the gold rush

Darwin

Abraham Lincoln

Marx

Vincent van Gogh

Olympics

Freud

Queen Victoria

Ford Model T

WW1

Russian Revolution

Wall Street Crash

WW2

Einstein

Cuban Missile Crisis

James Bond

Moon landings

Nixon

Mao

berlin wall

Dolly the Sheep

Google

Football

Harry Potter

Obama

YouTube


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Heir to Japanese throne appeals for ‘correct’ Second World War history

February 23rd, 2015

Naruhito, the crown prince, used a press conference marking his 55th birthday on Monday to express opinions that would be considered mild elsewhere but are a rare example of Japan’s imperial family passing comment on the nation’s elected leaders.

“I myself did not experience the war, but it is important to look back on the past humbly and to correctly pass down tragic experiences and the history behind Japan to generations that have no direct knowledge of the war, at a time when memories of the war are about to fade”, the prince said.

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, has expressed his intention to rewrite the constitution before he steps down, with sections concerning Japan’s right to use its military the most likely to be altered.

The prince also pointed out that the world is marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war and expressed hopes that this year “will be an opportunity to take the preciousness of peace to heart and to renew our determination to pursue peace”.

“The imperial family very rarely wades into politics, but it is very hard to believe that this is not a planned and calculated comment that has been approved by the Imperial Household Agency,” Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at the Japan campus of Temple University, told The Telegraph.

“Clearly the agency believes Mr Abe has gone too far and that it will be bad for the nation if he continues to take the line that Japan did nothing wrong in the early decades of the last century”, he said.

“The agency will be particularly keen to avoid any new questions being raised about the imperial family’s role in and responsibility for Japan’s colonial occupations and the war”, he added.


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A history of the world in funny puns

February 12th, 2015

For many of us, it’s a punderful life (pun: a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings) and to mark the UK Pun championships, we present a history of the world in puns.

So here goes. Once a pun a time . . . it all started with THE BIG BANG, a theory which describes how the Universe began in a rapid expansion about 13.7 billion years ago. It is thought that all of space was created in this first moment. Expert and scientist Stephen Hawking (and who can put down his book about anti-gravity?) has even appeared in a cameo for American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Here are some space puns:

  How does the Solar System hold up its trousers? With an asteroid belt

 What kinds of music do planets sing? Neptunes

 An astronaut broke the law of gravity and earned a suspended sentence

 That was a poor joke about infinity – it didn’t have an ending

Gallery compiled by Martin Chilton

Picture: Alamy


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Antony Beevor: ‘I deserved to fail history. I was bolshie…’

October 20th, 2014

Surely even Putin wouldn’t be so reckless as to lock up one of Britain’s leading historians? His brow furrows. “Perhaps – but frankly, Russia is so unpredictable these days.”

Now is the moment to explain why Beevor thinks his success was down to good timing. In the chaos that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union, he was given unprecedented access to the Red Army archives. “They didn’t know how to handle a foreign historian. Didn’t know what was and wasn’t important.” By the time the Russians realised that keeping the archives open might not be such a great idea, it was too late. Beevor had the material he needed both for Stalingrad and his follow-up book, Berlin.

The Russians loved Stalingrad, hated Berlin. “The Russian ambassador here condemned me for lies, slander and blasphemy against the Red Army. Even one of the Russian professors who had helped me was so shocked by the Berlin book he accused me of spouting Goebbels’s propaganda. It was rather unsettling.”

The reason? Beevor’s revelation that as many as two million German women may have been raped by Red Army soldiers at the end of the war. “It was far worse than I had imagined. My translator had a typically dismissive Russian reaction at first, but then, when we came across documents that revealed that the Red Army had even raped their own women, the ones who had been sent to Germany for forced labour, she was shaken.”

I ask him what he thinks of the comparisons world leaders have been making lately between Putin and Hitler. Fair? Unfair? “Dangerous. You couldn’t insult a Russian more. There are some scary but superficial parallels — the German annexation of the Sudetenland and the echoes of Danzig, with the Russians wanting a corridor to Odessa.

“But Putin is not Hitler. Where there is a similarity is in the way you have a national resentment combined with a national self-centredness: Russians declaring that only their requirements are worth listening to.”

Not all of his research comes from archives. He also likes to interview eyewitnesses. I ask him what it felt like to meet German officers who had been in the Führerbunker at the end. “Shaking the hand that shook Hitler’s, you mean? It does get to you a little. The one I won’t forget is the young Panzer captain sent to try to change Hitler’s mind. Hitler pretended to take his side against the generals — he was brilliant on the psychology of weakness, which is why Chamberlain was such a pushover for him.”

Ah yes, as Duff Cooper, who resigned from the Cabinet over Munich in 1938, said of Chamberlain: he lacked the imagination to deal with Hitler. I invoke the name because Beevor’s wife is Cooper’s granddaughter. Given this, and the fact that Beevor’s father served with the SOE, was a career as a historian of the Second World War inevitable for him, a little unimaginative, even?

“Far from it. I was planning to stay in the Army all my life, but I ended up being posted to a training camp in Wales and was so bored there I wrote a novel. Thankfully, it was never published, but in my arrogance and naivety it made me think I could be a writer, even though I had failed my English and history A-levels.”

Our leading military historian failed history A-level? “I deserved to, because I was bolshie. Didn’t do any work. Terrible waste. My father, who had a double First from Oxford in Mods and Greats, was absolutely furious. The good thing is, it meant Nella and Adam [his son] never felt under any pressure academically, and as a consequence did well.”

Does he ever feel like an imposter when he is with other historians, because he went to Sandhurst instead of university? “No, I don’t feel vulnerable in that sense. But I would sometimes go to a conference and they would ask, ‘Do we address you as doctor or professor?’, and I would say, ‘Actually I’m neither, I’m Two A-levels Failed Beevor’. They were embarrassed.”

There is psychological texture here, then, it seems, as well as a pleasing line in self-deprecation. According to his daughter, indeed, Beevor has a great ability to laugh at himself. He also seems more vulnerable than his robust public image would allow. As a child he suffered from Perthes disease, which meant he was on crutches, and was bullied — and he only joined the 11th Hussars (better known as the Light Brigade) because he had a “physical inferiority complex”.

And he tells me he had a nervous breakdown after writing Berlin. “It was partly from the strain of the deadline, partly from the horror at the material. I couldn’t face doing another big battle book straight after, so I did one about Chekov’s niece instead.”

How his publishers must have fainted when he told them that… Luckily for them he is back “on brand” with his latest book, about two-thirds of which is devoted to the Eastern Front, which Beevor believes redresses the balance of previous histories of the Second World War. “Ninety per cent of all Wehrmacht losses were on the Eastern Front. As far as the Germans were concerned, we were a sideshow. But each country sees the war from its own perspective and memories.”

Montgomery’s ill-conceived battle of Arnhem, the 70th anniversary of which fell last month, seems to be a case in point. It is dealt with fairly briskly in Beevor’s book, yet it represents one of our greatest military disasters. Was it simply a matter of Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, pandering to Monty’s ego? “Well, Monty was desperate to get across the Rhine before the Americans, it’s true, because he felt Eisenhower would then have no option but to give him all the supplies and troops. That was his way of becoming land commander. Vanity played a large part in it.”

He thinks Monty — who, lest we forget, is still considered a national hero — behaved even more badly during the Ardennes campaign (the Battle of the Bulge), the subject of his next book. “Thanks to Monty, it became the biggest disaster in Anglo-American relations. The ill- feeling created by him continued for years afterwards, tragically so. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’m even wondering whether Monty was high-functioning Asperger’s. He had no way of understanding how other people reacted to him. It is sheer speculation on my part, and I am probably going to get hammered for saying it.”

But not, hopefully, a prison sentence — we British being rather thicker-skinned than those oversensitive Russians.

‘The Second World War’, by Antony Beevor (Phoenix), is available to order from Telegraph Books at £9.89 + £1.95 p&p. Call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk


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'Ideals are peaceful, history is violent' – that was Brad Pitt's ad lib

October 19th, 2014

In the latest in our series of interviews with leading film directors, the Telegraph’s Chief Film Critic Robbie Collin speaks to David Ayer, the man behind a raw and powerful new war drama, Fury.

Fury, which stars Brad Pitt as a Second World War tank commander, has been selected to close the London Film Festival on October 19. You can watch Pitt and his co-stars arriving on the red carpet with our exclusive live stream of the gala premiere from 6pm tonight.

Fury is on general release in UK cinemas from October 22


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D-Day facts: how the allied forces assembled the largest seaborne operation in history

June 3rd, 2014

It was the biggest seaborne invasion the world has ever seen – and behind it was a gargantuan feat of logistics.

Operation Overlord, the code name for the successful mission to push back the German forces occupying western Europe during World War Two, was set in motion with the Normandy beach landings on 6 June 1944. Known as D-Day, the landings marked a devisive moment in the course of a war that had raged since 1939.

The operation, which took 288 days of planning and lasted 85 days, involved 6,939 ships during the D-Day landings, which were manned by 195,700 naval personnel. Landing on the French coast were a total of 156,115 allied troops, including 73,000 from the US and 61,715 from Britain.

Alongside them marched 100,000 fictional soldiers of the First US Army Group – a fake force simulated by only 400 men with radios.

The ghost army was part of another numbers game: the extensive deception of Operation Bodyguard, a collaboration between Bletchley Park mathematicians and the erratic double agents of the British spy system.

The Germans were so thoroughly convinced that Normandy was only a feint that it took seven weeks for Hitler to finally release reinforcements.

But by that time the Allies had poured at least 900,000 men into the Normandy battlezone.

An estimated 10,000 men lost their lives on D-Day, however the operation was a critical turning point for the allied forces, as 11 months later Germany surrendered.


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Best war and history books of all time

May 4th, 2014

Edward Gibbon (1776-1789)

“History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortune of mankind,” Gibbons wrote in this classic history tracing the Roman Empire from the 1st Century BC to the 15th AD. Vast, learned, opinionated, and witty, it is an absolute epic.

A Farewell to Arms

Ernest Hemingway (1929)

Set in the Italian theatre during the FirstWorldWar, Hemingway’s short, powerful, semiautobiographical novel is guaranteed to make any grown man cry, but it is also a penetrating study of camaraderie in the face of danger and is, as you’d expect, beautifully written in telling sentences.

1066 and All That

W C Sellar and R J Yeatman (1930)

Subtitled “A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates” 1066… is a tongue in cheek send-up of the way history used to be taught, and may yet be again.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Erich Maria Remarque (1929)

“This book is neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure”: so begins the remarkable semiautobiographical, humane and poignant novel about Remarque’s experiences in the trenches and back in Germany after the war.

Legion of the Damned

Sven Hassel (1953)

Written in highly suspicious circumstances by a highly suspicious author (or perhaps his wife, or editor) this is the first in a series of novels that became cartoonish, yet for all that it packs immense power, describing the misadventures of a group of German soldiers on the Eastern Front.

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples

Winston Churchill (1956-1958)

A magisterial, if patchy, four-part history of Britain from Anglo-Saxon times to 1914, it was begun in 1937 but subsequently much delayed. Subjective, erratic, with a romantic view of the world, it is full of character and incident, and is beautifully written.

Sword of Honour Trilogy

Evelyn Waugh (1952-1961)

Loosely autobiographical, this three-part meandering, tragic-comic farce paints a convincingly chaotic picture of the British muddling their way to winning the war. It is beautifully world weary and cynical, as the hapless hero is buffeted by the forces of class, waste, spite, cowardice and inefficiency.

A History of the Crusades

Steven Runciman (1951-1954)

A classic three-part history of the crusades written with such elegance and dash, one might think he was making it all up. Historians have since frowned on his technique, and recent research has revealed some factual flaws, yet Runciman remains required reading.

The Making of the Middle Ages

R W Southern (1953)

Written while the author thought he had only a short time left to live, this concise and unadorned primer has become a classic introduction to how Europeans lived in the early middle ages

Catch-22

Joseph Heller (1961)

The blackest and yet funniest book ever written on any subject. The “hero” is a bomber pilot flying sorties over Italy where thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him, but it is not them he’s most frightened of: it’s his own side who seem determined to do the job themselves.

The Guns of August

Barbara W Tuchman (1962)

Tuchman was awarded the first of two Pulitzer Prizes for this superb analysis of how and why the European powers went to war in 1914, and what could have been done to stop them. Tuchman enlivens the complex issue to make the book as compulsive as any thriller.

Slaughterhouse-5

Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

A satire of more than just war, Slaughterhouse-5 mixes elements of science fiction with the novel’s central event: the bombing of Dresden in 1945. Vonnegut was there at the time, an American PoW, who survived the fire storm by sheltering in a slaughterhouse.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Dee Brown (1970)

Following the heartbreaking travails of the American Indians from their first contact with white settlers until the massacre atWounded Knee, Dee Brown’s book covers what was in effect their ethnic cleansing by the American Government.

The Face of Battle

John Keegan (1976)

The late John Keegan dissects the ordinary soldier’s experience in three key battles from English history: Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme and shows how, despite the technological changes, what is asked of a man in war remains fundamentally the same. An absolute classic of the genre.

Montaillou: Cathars and Catholics in a French Village 1294-1324

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (1978)

A ground-breaking micro-history of a small French village, researched from the records of a local inquisitor who went on to become Pope. Revelatory of the medieval mindset, as well as more general society.

A Bright Shining Lie

Neil Sheehan (1988)

The life and death of an American colonel who went to Vietnam in the 1960s, didn’t like what he saw – cowardice and incompetence, rather than a wrong war – and so went on to tell the world’s press about it. A fascinating study, not just of the war but of a man.

Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

Christopher R Browning (1992)

Browning uses records to show how an ordinary group of men became involved in the Final Solution and how just as easily humanity in general might be perverted to evil.

Longitude

Dava Sobel (1998)

Responsible for many copycat histories of previously overlooked trifles, Dava Sobel’s diminutive masterpiece describes 18th-century British clock maker John Harrison’s invention of a timepiece accurate enough to measure longitude at sea.

The Discovery of France

Graham Robb (2007)

A very different France to the one we think we know emerges from Graham Robb’s unconventional history: one that is impossibly rural, remote, and insular, where no two villages speak the same dialect and peasants hibernate through the winter. The shock is how recently this was the case.

Histories

Tacitus (100-110 AD)

The Good Soldier Svejk

Jaroslav Hašek (1923)

The Naked and the Dead

Norman Mailer (1948)

Dispatches

Michael Herr (1977)

Birdsong

Sebastian Faulks (1993)

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Louis de Bernières (1994)

Regeneration Trilogy

Pat Barker (1991-1995)

Europe: A history

Norman Davies (1996)

Guns, Germs and Steel

Jared Diamond (1997)

The Siege

Helen Dunmore (2001)

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bill Bryson (2003)

Hitler

Ian Kershaw (2008)

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War

Antony Beevor (1982)

Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire

David Cannadine (2001)

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution

Simon Schama (1989)

IN PICTURES: The most spectacular libraries in the world


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