Welcome to 'Lost in the Myths of History'

It often seems that many prominent people of the past are wronged by often-repeated descriptions, which in time are taken as truth. The same is also true of events, which are frequently presented in a particular way when there might be many alternative viewpoints. This blog is intended to present a different perspective on those who have often been lost in the myths of history.

Saturday 30 November 2013

To Mark the Start of Advent - Free Book

To celebrate the coming of Christmas and to thank all the kind people who have purchased my books and sent me lovely emails during 2013, for the next few days, I am creating a kind of Advent Calendar, with a different offer each day.

Tomorrow, Sunday 1st December, I am beginning with offering a FREE download to Kindle of my new book: Alice, The Enigma . If you have a Kindle, please feel free to help yourself to a copy!
(The offer applies only for one day so please don't forget to collect your copy!)

Please visit my blog Grand Duchess Elizabeth & Other Stories too, to see the next day's offer!

Sunday 24 February 2013

The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition

Like many other people, I grew up with the idea that the Spanish Inquisition was one of the most violent and aggressive religious groups that ever existed. Stories of tortures and cruelty abounded and it came as a surprise to see this BBC video (from the 1990s) and discover that, compared to the majority of Kings and governments of the era, the Spanish Inquisition was relatively tame! Unlike the maniacal puritans who were obsessed with persecuting witches, the Inquisitors viewed ancient rites as superstition or misguidedness and did not persecute those who adhered to those beliefs. Nor did the Inquisitors (by the standards of the time) employ so much torture - apparently 15 minutes was the  maximum time allowed for torture and no one could be tortured more than once.

Of course, such practices are still barbaric but, as this video puts the Spanish Inquisition in context, it appears extremely mild in comparison to, for example, Henery VIII's barbarism! Yet another myth of history...

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Some Very Happy News!

This isn’t lost in the myths of history, but on behalf of the bloggers here, congratulations
 to one of our contributors, Val, on the birth of her little girl, Alexandra!

It’s lovely to post some happy news and all good wishes go to Val and Jasen, and to Alexandra’s ‘big’ brother, Nicholas! (How lovely to have a Nicholas & Alexandra in one family!)

Sunday 4 November 2012

American Support for Germany

I just came across this interesting article about Kaiser Wilhelm sending a portrait to a convent in the United States in 1913.

Kaiser Wilhelm portrait

Many people believe that, from the start, the majority of Americans were opposed to the Germans in the First World War but that isn’t the case at all. Until early 1917, there was huge support for Germany and a lot of ill-feeling towards Britain particularly since many American cities were populated by German immigrants, who had contributed a great deal to society (by, for example, introducing kindergartens and other novel ideas). When the British blockade prevented arms or supplies from reaching the Central Powers, one German U-boat managed to reach America where it was received with great acclaim! People greeted the sailors as heroes and rushed to give them supplies to take back to Germany. Even the sinking of the Lusitania failed to dampen the Americans’ support for the Central Powers but suddenly, following Woodrow Wilson’s re-election in November 1916, the newspapers turned against Germany and began printing stories of atrocities in such a way as so persuade the American people to support America’s entry into the war ('he kept us out of the war'??). The entire episode seems very deliberately staged.

One of the most unpleasant aspects of this was the way in which all German patents taken out in America were seized. This included all the chemical and pharmaceutical patents, which were based on ideas which were far ahead of any other nation in the world. These ‘stolen’ patents were then sold off for next to nothing or given away freely to specific American companies the owners of which often had connections to members of the US government or bankers. This was basically theft of German intellectual property rights but it resulted in great success for many of the pharmaceutical companies which still operate internationally today.

I sincerely hope that the nuns of the St. Edith convent kept their portrait!

Tuesday 31 July 2012

After Tehran

As a follow-up to my last post, here is an interview with Marina Nemat, dealing with her second memoir, After Tehran, and her thoughts on the potential for regime change in her native Iran.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Marina Nemat

After watching interviews with Marina Nemat of Toronto, I was very moved and impressed to read her harrowing yet compassionate memoir, Prisoner of Tehran. She is a beautiful and poetic woman who writes of an idyllic childhood under the Shah followed by the shattering of her world during the Iranian Revolution. At sixteen, she relates, after criticizing the new regime in high school, she was arrested, tortured and sentenced to death, only to be reprieved at the last moment, but at a terrible personal price...

Her unusual perspective, as a Catholic Iranian of Russian extraction, makes the story especially interesting. It also lends ominous depth to her theme that revolutions often fail to deliver on their promises, since her family had already suffered from the bitter fruits of Bolshevism. As human rights advocates often approach matters from a more secular perspective, her emphasis on her faith is quite special. Her frank but sad admission of having betrayed her religious beliefs by officially becoming Muslim under duress is very honest, humble and poignant. She has stated in interviews that she grew up hearing of the lives of Christian saints and martyrs, and that it was awful to realize, under torture, that she would be willing to do anything, even sell her soul to the devil, in order to escape the pain and go free.

The same very human, relatable woman, claiming no extraordinary heroism, comes across in this book, although she seems heroic nevertheless. Her capacity to resist despair, her persistence in hoping and trusting in the mercy of Christ, and her generosity in loving and caring for others are wonderful. Her description of conceiving a child by her interrogator and rapist, who had forced her to marry him, and nonetheless being able to recognize the innocence of the child, is particularly touching. While I disagree with some of her radically pacifist statements, I appreciate her general point that it can be hard to judge people, even deadly enemies, since human beings are often such mixtures of good and evil.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Hypocrisy and Vanity

I think it was Henry Fielding in ‘Joseph Andrews’ who pointed out the difference between vanity and hypocrisy. Vanity, he said, involved a person doing good in order to be seen and praised; hypocrisy involved a person doing evil under the guise of good. The definitions came to mind as I began to discover more about the so-called American Red Cross mission to Russia in 1917.

Surprisingly, this ‘mission’ of 24 people comprised only 4 doctors and the rest were financiers, photographers and lawyers, and the mission leaders lived in the most expensive hotels, taking photographs and, no doubt, eyeing the resources of the country to which they had not had access under the Tsar.

In fact that mission, financed by J.P. Morgan (and probably donations from the sincere and well-meaning American people), had very little to do with the American Red Cross, which was actively working in a far more constructive way in various other countries. This mission, however, had a very different agenda – that of the Wall Street bankers and international financiers who had been involved in prolonging the war for financial gain, for access to the Russian oilfields and, of course, as part of their plan to dismantle all the autocracies of Europe.

Calling this the ‘American’ Red Cross Mission is as greater a misnomer as calling it a ‘Red Cross’ mission, since this had very little to do with the American people at all. It is interesting that until the end of 1916 and the beginning of 1917 most Americans were (naturally!!) eager to stay out of the war that was raging in Europe. Woodrow Wilson was re-elected on his campaign slogan, “He kept us out of the war...” Moreover, most of the newspapers favoured the Central Powers over the Entente Powers and were largely pro-German. A German submarine managed to evade the British blockade to make its way to America where it was greeted with great applause and amply supplied for its return journey. Suddenly, however, the press, owned by the same financier families, changed their tune, as did President Wilson, and Germany was now the enemy and Wilson came out with his statement about wanting to ‘make the world safe for democracy’. The excuse was Germany’s employment of unrestricted submarine warfare but the Kaiser had suspended this for a long time believing that Woodrow Wilson would put pressure on the British to stop their illegal blockage, which was leading to starvation for the people of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Woodrow Wilson refused to intervene but even when unrestricted submarine warfare was unleashed, the Germans allowed for the free passage of ships between Britain and America twice a week, and ordered U-boat captains to give plenty of warning to allow ships to be evacuated and passengers taken to safety before sinking them. A huge propaganda campaign began in America stating that the Kaiser wished to take over the world! Ironic, considering that Wilson’s real motive for dragging the American people into the war was to have a say in the peace negotiations which would involve the dismantling of empires (particularly Austria-Hungary), destroying all autocracies and imposing a new world order on just about everyone!

Germany was an autocracy but it was a very prosperous nation and had introduced Labour Laws, retirement pensions, sick pay and other benefits for workers long before anyone else did. What became of Wilson’s idea to ‘make democracy safe for everyone’? A grand imposing idea  that led to Hitler, Stalin and Trotsky (who, incidentally, had been driving round New York in a limousine before setting sail for Russia, and was released from captivity in Canada on the orders of Britain and America so that he could continue the revolution in Russia) and Lenin, who – great socialist that he was! – had been living in relative luxury in Switzerland before being funded by the financier Jacob Schiff and others, to cause such disruption in Russia.

Everything....everything we were taught about the First World War is a great myth and one that involves a good deal of hypocrisy! This is but the tip of the iceberg. I would go so far as to say that up until that time, it was the great crime ever committed against humanity, the greatest con in history and even to this day people believe the lie that it was an Imperial War led by kings and emperors.

What was it Fielding said about the difference between hypocrisy and vanity? 

(As a later added postscript....Here is a brilliant article: http://drchojnowski.blogspot.co.uk/2006/10/1917-democratic-jihad-and-popes-peace.html )

Saturday 7 April 2012

Sara Bard Field: Ahead of Her Time

Sara Bard Field was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to George Bard Field and Annie Jenkins (Stevens) Field in 1882. Her father was raised with a strict Baptist background, and her mother was of Quaker origin. The backgrounds of her parents greatly influenced her childhood and youth. Her father ran a very strict household with a loving wife and mother, who exercised more tolerance and care with her children. Sara experienced a conventional life of a middle class family, while living in Detroit, where they had moved after their time in Ohio.

When she was just 18, she married, Baptist minister, Albert Ehrgott, and accompanied him to his mission in Rangoon, Burma. Her experiences in Burma and India significantly widened her views on religion and social injustices. When they came back to the United States in 1903 (after the difficult birth of her first son) they were assigned to a church in Cleveland, Ohio where she started to work for social reform. After she started her work, her daughter, Katherine, was born in 1906.

During these times, Sara considered Christian Socialism to be a possible answer to the problems the world was facing. With her sister, Mary, she continued to work alongside American reformers. It’s no surprise that after her family moved to Portland, Oregon in 1910 that she joined in the struggle for women’s suffrage. She worked alongside Alice Paul, Emma Wold, Alva Belmont and many others. She worked as state organizer for the campaign that won suffrage in Oregon in 1912. At this point, she was doing a lot of work, which forced her to spend time apart from her family. She spent many summers traveling through her state speaking in towns to get the word out. She also made an auto journey across the country to petition President Wilson in 1915.

After these years of hard work, Sara decided to concentrate on her personal life and started to develop her own poetry. She produced two collections, and much of her poetry appeared in political and literary magazines. She socialized with John Steinbeck, Ansel Adams, Robinson Jeffers and many others. She was not without her own personal tragedies. She divorced in 1914 from her husband and formed a deep attachment to her new companion, Charles Erskine Scott Wood. She also dealt with the very heavy blow of the death of her son in 1918. It is fair to say, that the death of her son (with whom she shared a close relationship) affected her for the rest of her life - understandably, she found it very difficult to come to terms with this tragedy.

Sara and C.E.S. Wood (who went by "Erskine") began their lives together in San Francisco in 1918. Erskine also wrote poetry and branched out his works into social criticism essays. These two had a 35 year literary collaboration and their shared home in San Francisco became a meeting place for artists and writers in the Bay Area. When their moved to their new home “The Cats” at Poet's Canyon in Los Gatos, CA, their intellectual visitors followed. Sarah and Erskine were finally married in the later 30s (his first wife refused him a divorce) and spent their remaining years in Los Gatos. Erskine died in 1944, and in 1949 Sara was able to publish his Collected Poems. In 1955 Sara moved to Berkeley to be close to her daughter and her daughter’s family. In the early 60s she was able to record her oral history through the University of CA, Berkeley which tells the exciting story of her life. She speaks frankly, but poetically. Her views especially on social concerns and women’s issues certainly seemed ahead of her time. After such a full life, she died in Berkeley in 1974.

Sunday 1 April 2012

"The Butcher of Verdun" ?

It seems strange to speak of the The ‘Battle’ of Verdun, which took place between February and September 1916, since I think of battles as being won or lost in a day but this was one of the bloodiest and most horrific episodes in the whole of the senseless war of 1914-1918. The intention on the part of the Germans was to seize the fortress town of Verdun not only because it would allow them to break through the French lines and march on Paris, but also because the place, which was the last fort to hold out against the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian War, had a great symbolic significance to the French. Due to its strategic and symbolic importance, the place had been well-fortified in the years between 1871 and 1914 and was surrounded by a ring of other forts.

According to some reports, which are now being questioned by certain historians, the Germans had another motive in attacking the city. The Chief of Staff, Falkenhayn, is alleged to have claimed that his intention was to ‘bleed France white’. From the icy days of February, through to the sweltering heat of May, the German artillery unleashed a series of relentless bombardments the like of which had never been seen before. The resulting injuries are too horrific to begin to describe – one can only imagine the long-term effects on the soldiers of witnessing such horrors! – and the losses (on both sides) total over 700, 000.

The scale of the slaughter and the vileness of the whole campaign cannot be underestimated but, long after the war was over, one man was unjustly left to shoulder much of the blame. Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, eldest son and heir of Kaiser Wilhelm II, was the commanding officer of the Fifth Army, which played a major role at Verdun. Undoubtedly due to his high profile as the Kaiser’s son, the Crown Prince was portrayed on numerous Allied propaganda posters as the ‘monster of Verdun’ – illustrations showed him devouring women, children and babies, and laughing demonically at the carnage. The notion these posters invoked became a myth and, later, the Crown Prince was known as the ‘butcher of Verdun’ or the ‘laughing murderer of Verdun’.

 In reality, within a few weeks of the initial attack, the Crown Prince was disgusted by the slaughter and, concerned, too, for the welfare of his own men, he repeatedly wrote to the General High Command requesting an end to the campaign but his requests were ignored:

“Consequently, I soon did everything in my power to stop the attacks; and I repeatedly gave expression to my views and the deductions to be drawn from them. In this matter I stood somewhat opposed to my then Chief of Staff, General Schmidt von Knobelsdorf, and my representations were at first put aside; the orders ran, "Continue to attack." "

As early as November 1914, the Crown Prince had written (sincerely quite justifiably, I think): “Undoubtedly this is the most stupid, senseless and unnecessary war of modern times. It is a war not wanted by Germany, I can assure you, but it was forced on us...” , and, unsurprisingly , his memoirs, written in exile soon after the war, show his bitterness as the unjust allegations heaped upon him.

 “The laughing murderer of Verdun? So that’s what I am, is it? One might almost come to believe it is true after hearing the calumny so often. It cuts me to the quick because it concerns what I have saved as my last imperishable possession out of the war and out of the collapse. It touches my unsullied memories of my relations to the troops entrusted to me. It touches the conviction that those men and I understood and trusted each other, that we had a right to believe in one another because each had given his best and done his best.”

He goes on to recount various episodes which demonstrate his concern for his men and the rapport he had with them. 

So many atrocities were committed by all sides in the First World War, that it seems that it is simply because he was the son of the equally unjustly vilified Kaiser, that the Crown Prince was made the scapegoat for the particular horrors of Verdun. In truth, he was one of the few commanders who petitioned for an end to the slaughter and by 1916 he was actively trying to create a peace accord and bring that whole pointless war to an end. Verdun was butchery...but Crown Prince Wilhelm was not the butcher.