Monday, 30 December 2013

1927 New Years Day, And A Quick Thank You

Dear readers, I would just like to quickly say I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and have a fantastic New Year.

Thank you all so much for continuing to read my blog, I hope 2014 will be a great year for every one of you and I will continue to do my best to make this blog interesting and informative for you all.

A quick look back to New Year's Day in 1927:

The long-gone New Year's Day tradition: White House open house,
where the president waited to shake hands (1927).

Thank you all,


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Virginia Woolf: A Room of One's Own

I have recently been reading A Room of One’s Own, Virgina Woolf for an essay I am currently writing on her. This is my first (but hopefully not last) Woolf book that I have read, because I love it. I have decided to do quick review from the beach in Dubai (yes, I am in Dubai again). 

The book was originally written as lectures Woolf was asked to give on the topic of “women and fiction.” She a large amount of the book discussing what that even means, describing her thought process as she considers how to write her speech. Woolf then begins her arguments: she discusses how women are limited by their roles in society; how can they write great novels that encompass all kinds of experiences, when they are confined mostly to their homes? Men are able to go into business and to travel the world; their freedom allows them to gain the experiences necessary to write novels of depth. Men also have the advantage of independence and leisure time. Women, however, can’t dedicate themselves to writing because they can’t be independent, and they don’t have the time or a quiet place to themselves in which to write.

Genius cannot shine through without experience behind it. Woolf imagines that Shakespeare had a sister who was equally gifted but never given the opportunity to use her talents. Whereas Sheakespeare married, had children, moved to London, got a job in a theatre, became an actor, met lots of interesting people and became famous, his sister (Woolf names her Judith) would have remained in the house. Although she was just as imaginative and adventurous as her brother, Judith would not have been to school; she would have learned how to darn socks and make stew. She would have been married off regardless of her feelings. Even if she had run off to London with the same gifts as her brother, she would never have gotten into the theatre; if she had tried, the manager might have suggested a cruder profession, and she would have ended up pregnant by an actor manager and then dead by suicide. Woolf argues that women need the same freedoms as men to be able to create art on the same level as theirs.

She argues that, under the circumstances women have historically been forced to write, their personal feelings, anger, and rage, have leaked into their work, marring the pure substance of the story. In order to serve only the story and not oneself, a woman must have the freedom to sit with an untroubled mind. She can’t sit down in a crowded sitting room, constantly interrupted, and have the story flow unimpeded from her pen. She must be able to sit down, financially secure and sure of peace and quiet, to be able to write her story clearly.

A Room of One’s Own is a feminist landmark and it is very interesting to read how a feminist thought a hundred years ago and how, surprisingly, it is still the same things people care about now.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Glorious Revolution

On December 19th 1688, the Glorious Revolution ended the reign of James II after he fled the country thanks to a successful invasion from William of Orange. James's unpopularity stemmed from his wish for the country to return to being Roman Catholic, whilst the English people (who still had painful memories of the English Civil War and Charles II's chaotic reign fresh in their minds), were unwilling to tolerate more years of uncertainty or the possibility of the country being pushed once more into military conflict.

The policies of James II had caused much discontent in both Whig and Tory parties. As a result, leading politicians took it upon themselves to send an ‘Invitation’ to William III inviting the Protestant William to take the throne of the country – along with his wife Mary who was the daughter of James II and granddaughter of Charles I.

William landed at Torbay in Devon in November 1688. James fled to France on December 23rd and in January 1689, William called a parliament which passed the necessary legislation that the Revolution required to be successful. The politicians behind the 1688 Revolution saw James II as being the one at fault for destabilising the constitution as it then stood. Led by Danby, they believed that they were merely taking society back to the time when the social status quo that they wanted existed and where the Protestant faith was guaranteed.

The December 1688 Bill of Rights declared that James had abdicated and that the Crown had legally passed to William and Mary and their heirs. However the political unity shown in the removal of James from the throne did not last long. There were those who viewed Mary alone as the legal heir to the throne as she was from Stuart blood – the daughter of James II and the granddaughter of Charles I. Despite the number of years that had passed, there were still those who held Charles in high regard as a monarch (though not as an individual). The strict legitimists wanted William named as a regent only.

William, a respected Protestant leader from Holland, would not accept this and stated bluntly that he would return to Holland unless he was given full regal powers. The prospect of a political vacuum was not welcomed by anyone.

There were some Whigs, though few in number, who believed that the people of the country should have the final say in who should be monarch.

The Bill of Rights forbade the monarch from being a Catholic and from marrying a Catholic. The Bill of Rights also had a major political bent to it that handed a great deal of power to Parliament. Some historians view it as the start of constitutional monarchy. Prerogative courts such as the Ecclesiastical Commission were banned; taxation raised through anything else other than Parliament was banned; a standing army raised without Parliament’s consent was banned; the prosecution of anyone petitioning the Crown was also banned. The Bill of Rights also stated that calls for a Parliament should be frequent and that there should be Parliamentary debates free from outside interference

The March 1689 Mutiny Act gave the monarch the legal means to maintain army discipline but Parliament had to support this every six months at a time – though this was later increased to a year. The Toleration Act (May 1689) did not introduce classic religious toleration but it did exempt Dissenters (except Catholics and Unitarians) from certain laws. To all intents the act allowed freedom of worship but not full citizenship as the Test and Corporation acts were still in force.

In December 1694, the Triennial Act ordered that no Parliament should exceed three years and that no dissolution of Parliament should be longer than three years. In December 1698, the Civil List was introduced. This provided the Crown with money to pay for its existence - as well as financing extraordinary expenditure such as wars. As war became more and more expensive as time progressed, the Crown came to rely more and more on Parliament for its financial survival.

In June 1701, the Act of Settlement was introduced. The Bill of Rights had ensured that Anne would be the rightful heir after William and Mary – along with her heirs. The Act of Settlement wanted to clarify what would happen if Anne left no heirs, as was the case. The act stated that the Sophia of Hanover and her heirs would succeed Anne. The House of Hanover was Protestant and the act ensured that the Protestant faith would continue after Anne died.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Picture of the Month

Embedded image permalink

The first camera ever built. Taken with the second camera ever built.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela

Nelson MandelaLast night (5th December at 8.50pm local time) Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as the country’s first black president, died aged 95. Mandela is an enduring icon of the struggle against racial oppression and a hero to millions. Mandela had not been seen in public since 2010, when South Africa hosted the soccer World Cup, but he remained a potent symbol of the struggle to end his country’s brutally codified system of racial domination, and of the power of peaceful resolution in even the most intractable conflicts.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of treason by the white minority government, only to forge a peaceful end to white rule by negotiating with his captors after his release in 1990. He led the African National Congress, a long a banned liberation movement, to a resounding electoral victory in 1994 - the first fully democratic election in the country’s history.

Mandela's death was announced close to midnight and a small crowd quickly gathered outside the house where he once lived in Soweto, on Vilekazi Street singing “Nelson Mandela, there is no one like you.”

Mr. Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999 and was succeeded by his secretary, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela spent his early retirement years focusing on charitable causes for children and later speaking out about AIDS, which has killed millions of Africans, including his son Makgatho, who died in 2005. Mandela retreated from public life in 2004 at the age of 85, largely withdrawing to his homes in the upscale Johannesburg suburb of Houghton and his ancestral village in the Eastern Cape, Qunu.

Mandela was not only an icon of freedom but also an extraordinary example of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. In 1964, in an address to the sabotage trial he said "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination."

Born in 1918, Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela was raised in the village of Mvezo in the Transkei in the Eastern Cape. He was one of 13 children from a family with close links to the royal house of the Thembu people. He was only nine when his father died of tuberculosis, and was soon sent from his home village to live as a ward of the Thembu royal house, where he would be groomed for a leadership role. This led to him being sent to a Methodist school, where he was given the name Nelson. He was a diligent student and in 1939 went to Fort Hare University, then a burgeoning centre of African nationalism. It was at Fort Hare that Mandela met the future ANC leader, Oliver Tambo, with whom he would establish the first black law practice in South Africa. Both were expelled from the university in 1940 for political activism.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s during a period of growing tumult in South Africa the ANC launched an armed struggle with Mr Mandela at its head as African nationalists allied with the South African Communist Party challenging the apartheid state. He was arrested and charged with treason in 1956. After a trial lasting five years, Mr Mandela was acquitted. But by this point the ANC had been banned and Oliver Tambo had gone into exile. Nelson Mandela went underground and embarked on a secret trip to seek help from other African nations emerging from colonial rule. He also visited London to meet Tambo. But soon after his return he was arrested and sentenced to five years in jail. Further charges led to a life sentence that would see him spend 27 years behind bars. These years in prison ended his marriage to Winnie Mandela and strained many of the relationships with some of his children.

A short time-line of Nelson Mandela's life: 

1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
1943 Joined African National Congress
1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped after a four-year trial
1962 Arrested, convicted of incitement and leaving country without a passport, sentenced to five years in prison
1964 Charged with sabotage, sentenced to life
1990 Freed from prison
1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
1994 Elected first black president
1999 Steps down as leader
2001 Diagnosed with prostate cancer
2004 Retires from public life
2005 Announces his son has died of an HIV/Aids-related illness

RIP Nelson Mandela. He was truly an inspiration to millions of people around the world.