Saturday, 29 December 2012

The 30 Year Rule, Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War

The "thirty year rule" is the popular name given to a law in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and Australia that means that every year cabinet papers of the government are released thirty years after they were created. This year the papers brought Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War to light.

The Falklands War was a war between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falkland Islands in 1982. The Falkland Islands are 480 kilometres from Argentina in the southern Atlantic Ocean, and Argentina and the UK have been fighting over the Islands since the 1800s, after Argentina became independent of Spain.

The British kept the islands until Argentinean Special Forces invaded on April 2, 1982 and took control of the island. The United Nations Security Council asked Argentina to withdraw, and tried to end the crisis with diplomacy. After seven weeks, Argentina did not withdraw, so the UK sent their military to attack. After a short battle in the air and at sea, the British landed on May 21 and fought on land until Argentina's army surrendered on June 14. The British captured about 11,400 soldiers, and killed almost 750, there were 256 British deaths.

The war turned things around for the unpopular Thatcher, as people branded her as a hero. However the invasion of the Falkland Islands took her by surprise, newly released government papers have shown. Papers released under the 30-year rule show Mrs Thatcher was acutely worried about retaking the islands. One historian said the documents were among the "most powerful material" declassified in the last three decades.

In October 1982, a few months after the war ended, Mrs Thatcher gave evidence behind closed doors to the Falkland Islands Review Committee, chaired by Lord Franks. The transcript of that dramatic testimony has now been published for the first time. "I never, never expected the Argentines to invade the Falklands head-on. It was such a stupid thing to do, as events happened, such a stupid thing even to contemplate doing", Mrs Thatcher told the Franks Committee. She also told the committee: "That night no-one could tell me whether we could retake the Falklands - no-one. We did not know - we did not know."

The British foreign secretary at the time, Lord Carrington, also gave evidence to the Franks Committee, where he too held the view that Argentina was not going to invade the Falklands.

Lord Armstrong was Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet secretary at the time. He told the BBC: "If we had failed to recover the Falklands she would have had to go. If we had lost it she couldn't have won the next election. Her own political career, and that of her party, were on the line.

The decision to go to war was perhaps the defining moment in Thatcher's career, and it has roused a lot of interest from the public as papers on it are released. If you wish to learn more please head to

The Equal Pay Act of 1970

On this date 37 years ago the Equal Pay Act came into force. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 is an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament which banned any sexism between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of unemployment. It was passed by Parliament in the aftermath of the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike and came into force on 29 December 1975. The term pay includes wages, holidays, pension rights, company perks and bonuses. The legislation has been amended on a number of recent occasions to incorporate a simplified approach under European Union law that is common to all member states.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 was repealed in 2010, but its substantive provisions were reproduced in the Equality Act 2010.

It is interesting to think that only 37 years ago women were still having to fight for equal rights, much as they still are in some countries today.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

It's that time of the year again, where millions of people across the world get out their old Christmas decorations, set up that Christmas tree, eat mince pies and mulled wine and hope for snow.

Christmas means 'Feast day of Christ', and although it is a Christian holiday honouring the birth of Jesus, non-Christians celebrate it too as a cultural holiday. But how did Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25th? Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. However there was nothing Christian about Saturnalia, so Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.

Just as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with Saturnalia, worshippers of the Asheira cult were recruited by the Church because they sanctioned “Christmas Trees”. Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.

Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 CE on December 6th, and in the C.19th was named a saint. Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and created the New Testament. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas was given a female deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children's stockings with her gifts. The Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th, and that is how Santa Claus was invented.

Hopefully I will have a chance to blog in Dubai but if not I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


In two days time I am going on holiday to Dubai for a week, to escape cold miserable England and to spend my Christmas in the sun on a beautiful beach in in one of the world's most beautiful and interesting countries. Dubai has a colourful history, which I discovered on my first trip there, and in honour of my second visit I thought I would write a short blog about it.

The first human settlement in the Dubai was in approximately 3000 BC, when the area was inhabited by nomadic cattle herders. In the 3rd century AD, the Sassanid Empire took control until the 7th century, when Umayyad Calipahte took control and introduced Islam to the area. The area was sustained by fishing and pearl diving for a thousand years, with the first records of the town being made in 1799 when the Bani Yas clan established it as a dependency of Abu Dhabi. Dubai became a separate Sheikhdom in 1833, when the Al-Maktoum dynasty of the Bani Yas clan (initially from Abu Dhabi) took it over peacefully. The invention of artificial pearls in 1926 and the Great Depression in 1929 caused a collapse in the international pearl market, which resulted in Sheikh Saeed looking for an alternative source of income and Dubai becoming one of the leading re-export ports in the world. In 1966, oil was discovered in Dubai, which changed the country beyond recognition and led to Dubai becoming the vibrant, modern, business-centred city-state it is today.Once the first shipment of oil was made in 1969, the future of Dubai as an autonomous state was secured, and its ability to dictate policy in later years to the UAE was cemented.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Firearms in America

I was horrified yesterday when I heard the tragic news that in Connecticut a brutal shooting occurred leaving 20 children and 7 adults dead. The shooting at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School is the second deadliest shooting attack at a US school or university, second in place to an attack at Virginia Tech university in 2007, where a student killed 32 people and injured many more. This sparked my interest into why America is the only country in which it's citizens are still allowed to own firearms, I started doing some research and this is what I found;

The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment - "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." was passed. The American people wanted to ensure that it would not just be the government owning firearms.

Georgia passed a law banning handguns. The law was ruled unconstitutional and thrown out.

Several southern states adopt 'black codes', where, among other things, blacks are forbidden from owning firearms. 

The National Rifle Association (NRA) was organized around its primary goal of improving American civilians' marksmanship in preparation for war.

The Federal Firearms Act of 1938 placed the first limitations on selling ordinary firearms. Shops selling guns were required to obtain a Federal Firearms License, at an annual cost of $1, and to maintain records of the name and address of the people to whom firearms were sold. Gun sales to convicted criminals was forbidden.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed to regulate import of guns, and place specific limitations on the sale and ownership of guns.

The Armed Career Criminal Act (Public Law 99-570) increased penalties for possession of firearms by people not qualified to own them under the Gun Control Act of 1986.

The Crime Control Act of 1990 established 'gun-free zones', such as schools.

1998 - November 30
The Brady Act was made permanent, all gun dealers were now required to initiate a pre-sale criminal background check of all gun buyers through the newly created National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) computer system.

Therefore without changing the constitution, and facing major uproar from the public, it is very hard for the American government to change the laws allowing most people the right to own a gun. What do you think about this? Should gun licenses be available only to specific people or do you think most people have a right to own a firearm? Join the online debate at

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Barnet Museum

I have been volunteering at Barnet Museum for two years now. It is possibly one of the best ways to spend a few hours every Sunday as I get to expand my historical knowledge, give back to the local Barnet community, and most importantly, have fun!

Barnet Museum is a registered charity run entirely by volunteers. It was founded in 1938 and is a centre for local and family research. The museum contains over 50,000 artifacts many of which I have been helping to categorise over the past few weeks. There are many exhibitions in the museum, my favourite being 'Services, Hospital and Fire Service' (considering I am learning about the history of medicine this is very useful), the 'Home Front in Barnet during WWII' (again helpful to my GCSE studies), and 'Schooling in Barnet' and the 'Victorian Room', simply because I am fascinated by both of these.

The town's name comes from Barneto c.1070, Barnet 1197, La Barnette 1248, which all mean 'the land cleared by burning', from Old English bærnet, referring to the clearing of this once densely forested area in early times.

Barnet was the site of the Battle of Barnet in 1471 where Yorkist troops (led by King Edward IV) killed the rebellious Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Warwick's brother, John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu. Barnet Hill is also said to be the hill mentioned in the nursery rhyme "The Grand Old Duke of York".

Barnet is also the site of an ancient and well-known horse fair, which dates back to 1588 when Queen Elizabeth I granted a charter to the Lord of the Manor of Barnet to hold a twice yearly fair. The famous Barnet Market is now over 810 years old.

Chipping Barnet was part of Hertfordshire until the parish was abolished in 1965. In Saxon times Barnet was part of a huge wood called Southaw. In 1560 John de la Moote the abbot of St Albans built the St John Baptist Church, which is often referred to as 'Barnet Church'.

So, if you are ever in the neighbourhood, please drop in and have a look around this small, yet fascinating museum. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Royal News

Congratulations to Prince William and Kate on the announcement that they are expecting their first child. The news has sent the nation into a Royal-mania, such as after the Royal wedding and the Queen's diamond jubilee. To celebrate I have collaborated a list of things you might not know about the Royal Family:

  1. The Royal Family’s reign spans 37 generations and 1209 years.
  2. All of the monarchs are descendants of King Alfred the Great, who reigned in 871. This means their ancestors include Henry VIII (who created the Protestant Church and beheaded two of his 6 wives), and Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, under whose rule England prospered in the Golden Age.
  3. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, are distantly related. They both share the same great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria.
  4. The Royal family invented their own surname. Originally, the family went by the name of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but because of the name sounding too German meant it was dropped. Instead, the surname Windsor was adopted during WW1. Queen Elizabeth then decreed all her descendants would be called Mountbatten-Windsor, combining her husband’s original family name.
  5. Queen Elizabeth likes to be called “Your Majesty” or “Ma’am”, even by close friends.
  6. The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 means no member of the British Royal family is allowed to marry under the age of 25 without consent from the monarch.
  7. The Royal family disliked US President Jimmy Carter because he kissed the Queen Mother on the lips at their first meeting.
  8. The longest reign by any monarch has been Queen Victoria (1837 – 1901), who reigned for 63 years.
  9. Queen Elizabeth II served in the armed forces, and was the first female member of the family to do so.
  10. Princess Diana and her mother were born in same room of the same house.
  11. The Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, competed in the 1976 Olympics in equestrian.
  12. Prince Charles wife, Camilla, is the descendant of Alice Keppel, a former mistress of Charles’ great-great-grandfather, Edward VII. Incidentally, Camilla was Charles’ infamous mistress, which led to his divorce from Princess Diana.
  13. In 1936, Edward VII abdicated the thrown to marry a twice-divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson. He was succeeded by younger brother, and Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI.