Over our vacation I did find the time to finish off a book that I had been plugging through vacation to vacation … An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2000 Years Of Upper Class Idiots In Charge.
A few enlightening facts:
pg. 412 On the Boer War
Bart Simpson said that there were only three ‘good wars': the American Revolution, World War Two and the Star Wars trilogy. It is not surprising that the Boer War didn’t quite make it on to the list; it is not a conflict that provides moral certainties to those who are searching for a simple struggle between good and evil. One side was led by Britain’s General Kitchener, who used the opportunity to invent the concentration camp; on the other side were the Boers who later came up with apartheid. You feel that Nelson Mandela would have found it hard to take sides.
pg.422 On being bald
Male pattern baldness was no bar to the very top in the way it is in the current age of TV politics, or else we might have had to fight the Second World War without Winston Churchill.
Since the age of television no bald man has been elected Prime Minister, although John Smith would probably have broken the rule had he lived. Defeated contenders include Sir Alex Douglas-Home, Neil Kinnock, William Hague and Michael Howard – Ian Duncan Smith was dumped before he even had a chance to lose.
pg. 426 On women’s rights
Queen Victoria had written of this mad, wicked folly of ‘Women’s rights’ with all its attendant horrors and around 2,000 prominent women signed a women’s ‘Appeal against Women’s Suffrage’ published 1889. It is generally advocated that by focusing her mind on traditionally male pursuits, a woman’s biological ability to bear children might be adversely affected.
Britain was relatively early among Western democracies in granting votes to women: ahead of the United States (1920), France (1944) and Italy (1945). Swiss women didn’t get the vote until the 1970s and as for Saudi Arabia, well, don’t even ask.
pg. 444 On the odd pub hours
Convinced that alcohol consumption was affecting the production of munitions, the government introduced stricter licensing hours. Pubs would only open for a couple of hours at lunchtime and then close earlier at night in the hope that all factor workers handling high explosives might sleep in their beds rather than a gutter. This drastic step was brought in as an emergency measure just for the duration of the First World War. So when peace returned and you came out of the cinema at 11:01pm and fancied a drink and a chat about the film, you were permitted to do so after November 2005.
pg. 466 More women’s rights
Women’s suffrage has also been overwhelmingly accepted almost without debate in a free vote in the House of Commons. … However, just to annoy them, the men decided that women would not get the vote until they were thirty. Otherwise the men would have had to endure the terrible prospect of there being more women voters than men (due to war losses – more than 750K in Britain), and all the laws would have been about remembering to take things up the stairs instead of just walking straight past them.
pg. 464 A nice way to end WWI
In the latter months of 1918 more people around the world would die of an influenza epidemic than had been killed in the entire war. In Britain, 150,000 people died from so-called ‘Spanish Flu’.
pg. 503 What is a Reich?
Just in case you are wondering, the First Reich was the Holy Roman Empire from around 800 to 1806; the Second Reich was the Kaiser’s Empire declared after the Franc-Prussian war in 1871. They decided not to have another Reich after the Third one, the whole ‘Reich’ brand was a bit tainted by then.
pg. 507 I should have had this quote in the French War museum when the boys asked about the Maginot Line
The French had placed an enormous amount of confidence in the impenetrability of the ‘Maginot Line’ … The only tiny criticism that might be raised against it, and maybe this is just being picky, is that it stopped two hundred miles short of the coast. But surely no German army would be so cunning as to go round it; for when did Germany ever invade France via Belgium? Apart from the last time?
An amazing country.