Friday, 30 April 2010

Kaiser's warship still ferrying diamond smugglers on Lake Tanganyika

In 1913, on the eve of the First World War during the arms race between Britain and Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) commissioned the shipyard of Papenburg in Lower Saxony to secretly construct a warship that would be shipped and carried in pieces to the shores of Lake Tanganyika in order to help hold on to Germany’s East African colonies. The ship was christened the Graf Goetzen.

It fought in the First World War, was sunk, and was then brought back up and put into service. It has since been used to ferry traders, prostitutes, diamond smugglers, refugees, missionaries and soldiers to the towns along the coast of Lake Tanganyika.

As a child, Hermann-Josef Averdung, a councillor in Papenburg, had heard many stories about how his grandfather had helped to build the great warship. In March, he travelled to Tanzania in search for the ship now known as the Liemba. Averdung wishes to return the ship to Germany. The state-run Tanzanian company that owns the Liemba has suggested it would be willing to part with the vessel in exchange for a newer one.

Clemens Hoges reports in Der Spiegel.

In Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Cartoonists Professor W. A. Coupe suggests, on the basis of the popular cartoon of the period, that the Emperor's person was the object of sustained criticism which seemed to augur well for the future political development of Germany.

In Germany, Britain & the Coming of War Richard Wilkinson explains what went wrong in Anglo-German relations before the First World War.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Anglo-Saxon treasures published online

Anglo-Saxon treasures published online
Cambridge University announced, yesterday, the online publication of a collection of over 550 Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, held at the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College. The publication is the result of a collaborative four-year digitisation project between Corpus Christi College, where the documents were kept for centuries, Cambridge University Library and Stanford University in the United States. Between them, the College and University Library have digitised almost 200,000 separate pages. The manuscripts include the ninth-century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the earliest history written in English believed to have been commissioned by Alfred the Great, the sixth-century St Augustine Gospels, which may have been brought from Rome by St Augustine in 597 on his first mission to convert the English, and the Corpus Glossary, one of the earliest English-language dictionaries written in the first half of the ninth century. The dictionary includes definitions of over 2,000 words in Anglo-Saxon, including ones still recognisable today, such as herring and hazel.
For further information, read the press release on the website of the University of Cambridge.

Marilyn Monroe’s secrets revealed
Lizzy Davies reports in The Guardian on the upcoming publication of previously unseen extracts from Marilyn Monroe’s diary, which she kept as a teenager and until her death in 1962, aged 36. The diary was first bequeathed to her acting teacher Lee Strasberg, who then left the diary to his wife when he died in 1982. The volume is due to be published jointly by the Editions du Seuil in France and Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the United States in October.

Katyn massacre archives released
Yesterday, on the orders of President Medvedev, the Russian State Archive published online, for the first time, once-secret documents relating to the Katyn massacre. The archive’s website recorded almost 700,000 visits within hours of the release of the files. The documents had already been declassified in 1992 by the president at the time, Boris Yeltsin. The files relating to the investigations into the massacre in the 1990s remain secret, however. Tony Halpin reports in The Times.
The BBC also reports.

Memorial to Sheffield’s Women of Steel

Sheffield City Council met, yesterday, to discuss different options for a memorial, which is due to built in the city centre to honour the women who fought in the town’s steel industry during the Second World War.
The BBC reports.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The forgotten history lurking beneath the turquoise waters of the Andaman Islands

The forgotten history lurking beneath the turquoise waters of the Andaman Islands
‘Kali Pani: A Forgotten History’ was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 earlier this morning. In the programme Selma Chalabi recalls the forgotten history of the Andamans Penal Settlement, and its Cellular Jail, on the Andaman Islands for Indian political prisoners.
The islands were known to Indians as Kala Pani (literally ‘Black Water’ in Hindi), a place of isolation, torture and oppression. Chalabi’s grandfather, Noel Kennedy Paterson, was a member of the Indian Civil Service, in which he rose to Chief Commissioner of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, during the 1930s and 1940s. She investigated the history of the prison following her discovery of a series of tapes, which her grandfather recorded during his time as governor of the Andaman Islands.
Read the introductory article on the website of the BBC.
In The Andaman Islands Frances Stewart recalls the time when the Andaman Islands served as a penal colony for the British Empire.

Argentina’s last dictator sentenced to 25 years in prison
Yesterday, April 20th, Argentina’s last dictator, Reynaldo Bignone, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for kidnappings and torture during the country’s military regime.
Read the article written by the Associated Press published on the website of Fox News.
For further information, visit our Argentina Focus Page.

Unseen baby pictures of the Queen released today to mark her 84th birthday
The photographs were taken by Marcus Adams in December 1926 when Princess Elizabeth was seven months old. The photographs will go on display on Saturday in Windsor Castle as part of an exhibition of the work of the photographer Marcus Adams, who photographed four generations of the Royal family between 1926 and 1956.
The BBC reports.
Gordon Rayner also reports in The Telegraph.

Death of ‘the godmother of the civil rights movement’
Barack Obama referred to Dorothy Height as ‘the godmother of the civil rights movement’. She died yesterday, April 20th, aged 98. Height was active in the 1960s US civil rights movement. She participated in various historic marches alongside Martin Luther King Jr and was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years.
Richard Adams comments on his blog on the website of The Guardian. The blog post features a video of a public service announcement that she recorded for the US Census Bureau a few weeks ago.
Read the report in The Telegraph.

50th anniversary of the foundation of Brasilia
The Brazilian capital was officially inaugurated 50 years ago today. From 1763 to 1960, Rio de Janeiro had been the capital of Brazil. The idea of moving the capital to a more central geographical location was first suggested in 1891. Prior to that, from 1549 to 1763, the capital was situated in Salvador. There is an interesting video news report of the inauguration ceremony from the time on the website of the BBC.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Replica Stonehenge to be built as tourist attraction in Australia

Stonehenge replica in Australia
Mark Chipperfield reports in The Telegraph on the recent approval by the shire council in Esperance, 460 miles south-west of Perth, of plans to build a full-size replica of Stonehenge. It is hoped that the new attraction will generate tourist revenue for the small coastal community.
In Stonehenge: How Did The Stones Get There? Aubrey Burl explains how the myth of the stones transported from south Wales to Salisbury Plain arose and why it is wrong.

George Washington owes £195,000 for overdue library books
On October 5th, 1789, the first President of the United States George Washington (1732-1799) borrowed two books from the New York Society Library – ‘Law of Nations’, a dissertation on international affairs, and the twelfth volume of the ‘Commons Debates’, a 14-volume collection of debate transcripts from the House of Commons. However, the books were never returned. At today’s prices, adjusted for inflation, the president would face a fine of $300,000 (£195,000).
Rich Shapiro reports in the New York Daily News. Ed Pilkington also reports in The Guardian.
In George Washington's New Clothes Esmond Wright tells the story of George Washington’s Presidential inauguration.
In Aids to Independence Kenneth Baker charts Washington’s victory in the American War of Independence and explores the conflict through caricature and print.

The Forgotten History of Brighton’s Royal Pavilion
At the beginning of the First World War, Brighton’s Royal Pavilion was transformed into a hospital for troops of the Indian Corps wounded on the Western Front in France and Flanders. A new permanent exhibition recently opened at the Royal Pavilion which charts this forgotten chapter of Brighton’s wartime history. At the time, the hospital was heavily mediatised and served as a propaganda tool to recruit soldiers from the subcontinent. The building and its patients were extensively photographed and paintings and a short film were also produced. It is possible to view the collection of photographs from the time on the website of the museum.
Maev Kennedy reports in The Guardian.
A slideshow of images is available on the website of The Guardian.

Roman temple discovered in Nottinghamshire
A team from Southwell Community Archaeology Group excavated the Minster C of E School site between September 2008 and May last year. The results of the excavations have now been published and suggest that the site may have been an important place of worship in Roman Britain.
Read the article on the website of Nottinghamshire County Council.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Quiet death of a Nazi: the last interview with Martin Sandberger

Quiet death of a Nazi: the last interview with Martin Sandberger
On March 30th, 2010, Martin Sandberger died in a retirement home in Stuttgart, where he lived the last years of his life undisturbed and unknown to the public. During the Second World War, he was a member of the SS. He was notably the head of the ‘immigrant centre’ in Gdingen in Poland and was later heavily involved in the deportation of Jews in Strasbourg in France. He was arrested in 1945, convicted of mass murder and sentenced to death. However, in 1951, his sentence was reduced to life in prison. Seven years later, he was released and the thereafter disappeared.
Der Spiegel tracked him down and carried out one last, and in fact the only, interview with the Nazi officer. It was published yesterday in Der Spiegel Online.

Shakespeare’s 446th birthday
This weekend, Shakespeare’s Globe is organising a series of special events to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday and St George’s Day next Friday, April 23rd. Tomorrow, Saturday 17th April, the Globe continues its tradition of Mark Rylance’s Sonnet Walks. Twelve sonneteers will entertain walkers at various locations across London as they walk to Shakespeare’s Globe. On Sunday, the theatre will open its doors for a free Open Day during which visitors will be able to take part in various workshops and activities inspired by the Mayor of London's ‘Rhythm of London’ campaign to mark St George's Day. The culmination of the events this weekend will be the launch of Shakespeare’s Globe’s 2010 theatre season next Friday with production of Macbeth.

Political Mugs at the Museum of Brands
‘Political Mugs’ opened, yesterday, at the Museum of Brands. The exhibition explores political intrigue over the past 200 years as seen through souvenir mugs and jugs, and contemporary toys and tins. Political pottery became increasingly popular from the 1970s onwards. The Thatcher era in particular saw Maggie squeakers, note pads, toilet rolls and even slippers. The display notably features a gladiatorial play thing between Gladstone and Salisbury from 1885, the game of ‘Poll, or forming a cabinet’ from the election of 1906 and Churchill cigar-smoking manikins from the 1950s.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Twitter Archive: tweets become part of history

by Kathryn Hadley

Tweets become part of history
The Library of Congress announced, yesterday, its plans to archive digitally every public tweet ever posted on Twitter since Twitter’s inception in March 2006. Twitter processes over 50 million tweets… We will leave our readers to do the maths, but that it a very significant number of tweets!
Read the press release on the website of the Library of Congress.
Richard Adams also commented on his blog on The Guardian website.

Illustrated London News archive goes live
The archive of the Illustrated London News will be made available online for the first time today, April 15th. 250,000 pages and as many as three-quarters of a million illustrations, from the newspaper’s first publication on May 14th, 1842, to its last in 2003, have been digitally reproduced in colour by Cengage Learning. The archive will be initially available only to libraries and educational institutions.
Jemima Kiss reports in The Guardian. A slideshow of images from the archive is also available on the website of The Guardian.
For further information, visit the website of Cengage Learning.

Previously unheard Jacqueline Kennedy interviews made public
The Guardian reports that Caroline Kennedy has allowed tapes of seven previously unheard interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy to be released. The tapes were recorded in early 1964 in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination and have been sealed up ever since.
Transcripts of the interviews are due to be made into a book as part of a series of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration, which entered the White House in 1961.

Historical Memory in Poland
Yesterday, on the website of The Guardian Kris Kotarski told the story of his great-grandfather, Aleksander Wielebnowski, who was one of the victims of the 1940 Katyn massacre. He discusses the significance of the Katyn massacre in Poland’s collective memory and the importance of recent Russian gestures in the aftermath of the Smolensk tragedy.

The bridge that symbolises Germany’s post-war division
Der Spiegel reports on the auction, last weekend, of the historic Dömitz railway bridge over the Elbe River. Previously owned by Germany’s national rail company Deutsche Bahn, the bridge has been bought by a Dutch real estate firm.
The iron bridge, which is around 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) long, was built between 1870 and 1873 and used to be Germany's longest man-made structure. It was largely destroyed by an Allied bombing attack during the Second World War and the post-war division of Germany made repair work impossible. Whilst the former GDR tore down what remained of the bridge on the eastern side, part of the bridge still survives on the western side. It is hoped that the surviving structure will be preserved and that it will be developed as a tourist attraction.
There is also a slideshow of modern and historic images of the bridge on the website of Der Speigel.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Two Katyn Massacres

The Katyn massacre then and now
Timothy Garton Ash reflects on and compares in The Guardian the historical circumstances revealed by the original secret massacre of Polish officers in 1940 and the recent plane crash, which killed the Polish president on his way to mark the 70th anniversary of that crime. The markedly different reaction to the two events, both in Poland and on the international scene, is a ‘glimmer in Poland’s darkness’ and Putin’s reaction has been viewed as a sign of a rapprochement between the two countries.

14 Greco-Roman tombs from 3rd century BC discovered in Egypt
Egypt’s Culture Ministry announced yesterday, Monday April 12th, the recent discovery of 14 Greco-Roman tombs believed to date back to the third century BC in the Bahariya Oasis, 190 miles southwest of Cairo. The tombs were discovered during excavations for a planned youth centre. One of the tombs includes a female mummy adorned with jewellery and it is believed that the tombs may be part of a larger necropolis.
Read the article published on the Reuters website.

Discovery of ancient urban centre in Mexico
A team of archaeologists from Colorado State University has recently discovered the ruins of an ancient urban centre in the heart of the Purépecha Empire in the Lake Pátzcuaro Basin in the central Mexican state of Michoacán. It is believed that the settlement dates to between 1000 and 1520 AD and that the peak occupation of the site occurred just prior to the formation of the empire. To date, the team has only documented about one-fifth of the site. It is hoped that further research may provide clues about the formation of the Purépecha Empire.
For further information, read the press release on the website of Colorado State University.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Evidence of Soviet plans for WW3?

Soviet Plans for World War III
Matthias Schulz reports in Der Spiegel on the latest research into the purpose of a Communist-era bunker in Kossa in the state of Saxony in former East Germany. The secret fortress was completed in 1979 and may have been designed as a command post in the event of a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and Western Europe.

Leighton House Museum
Leighton House Museum in Holland Park reopened to the public last weekend following extensive restoration and refurbishment.
The home of the Victorian artist and collector, Lord Frederic Leighton (1830-1896), was built in three stages between 1865 and 1881 by the architect George Aitchison. Initially built as a modest red brick house, the studio on the first floor was then extended. The Arab Hall on the ground floor, which forms the centrepiece of the house, was later added to display Leighton's collection of over a thousand Islamic tiles, mostly brought back from Damascus.
Leighton is associated with the Aesthetic Movement which criticised the ugliness of Victorian Britain and sought beauty across the world and different historical periods.
The house reopens with ‘Closer to Home: Leighton’s Collection Returned’, a special exhibition which brings together Leighton’s own collection of paintings and includes loans from the National Gallery and Tate.
For further information visit

Bert Trautmann in The Observer
To mark the recent publication of Catrine Clay’s new biography Trautmann’s Journey, an interview with the former Nazi paratrooper who joined Manchester City in 1949 was published yesterday in The Observer.

David Starkey attacks attractive female historians
Read the article published on the website of the Mail Online.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Rowntree's social poverty archives

New home for Rowntree’s social poverty archives
Seebohm Rowntree published three detailed studies of poverty in York in 1899, 1936 and 1951. He also created a series of slides which he used during a series of lecture tours analysing ‘the cycle of poverty’ at the beginning of the 20th century. He developed theories about the persistence of poverty without social intervention which helped to shape the welfare state between the 1890s and 1950s. The slides were handed over to York University’s Borthwick Institute for Historical Research, yesterday, by Hugh Bayley, Labour MP for York.
Martin Wainwright reports in The Guardian.
It is possible to view some of the earliest Rowntrees’ television adverts on their website.

How and why did the Armenian genocide happen?
To mark the 95th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide this month, a documentary will be shown on Germany's ARD television network today. The documentary entitled ‘Aghet’ (Armenian for ‘Catastrophe’) brings the words of diplomats, engineers and missionaries to life to reveal what motivated the murderers and why Germany and other countries remained silent.
Der Spiegel reports.
In Rethinking the Armenian Genocide Donald Bloxham considers the complex historical background to the Armenian genocide focusing on the issue of great power involvement.

Incas were brutally murdered by Spanish conquerors
Bruce Bower reports in an article published on the website of Wired Science on the results of the latest studies of Inca skeletons discovered in a 500-year-old cemetery in Peru by a team led by anthropologist Melissa Murphy of the University of Wyoming in Laramie. It is believed that the individuals were killed with medieval weapons such as maces, clubs, steel lances or hammers.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Theodore Roosevelt: an affectionate family man

Theodore Roosevelt: an affectionate family man
CNN reported, yesterday, on the upcoming sale of a rare letter written by President Theodore Roosevelt to his youngest son, Quentin, who was six years old at the time. The letter is dated 1903 and was sent by Roosevelt during a trip to Yellowstone National Park. The letter is due to be auctioned by the Raab Collection and is expected to fetch $25,000 (£16,500). The existence of the letter was previously unknown until its recent discovery in the possession of a family friend of the Roosevelt family.
For further information visit the website of the Raab Collection.
In If You Go Down to the Woods Today... Mark Byrant describes the origins of the teddy bear in a political cartoon concerning Theodore Roosevelt published in the Washington Post in 1902.

Shakespearian cesspit
The Telegraph reports on the latest research by a team led by Birmingham Archaeology, which is excavating the ruins of New Place, William Shakespeare’s former residence in Stratford-upon-Avon. New Place was Shakespeare’s final home in which he died in 1616. 250 years ago, in 1759, it was demolished by then owner, Rev. Gastrell. However, it is believed that much of the original remains could lie buried beneath the ruins. Archaeologists currently excavating the site believe that they may have discovered remains of a rubbish dump or cesspit used by the playwright.
The aims of the current excavations are described in a press release on the website of Birmingham Archaeology.
At the end of March, Birmingham Archaeology launched ‘Dig For Shakespeare’, a project designed to give visitors a close-up view of the excavation work.
The latest updates are available on
Much controversy remains surrounding the true identity of the bard. In Who Was Shakespeare? William Rubinstein examines the controversy surrounding Shakespeare’s identity.
In The Head that Wears the Crown John Adler explores the changing interpretation of Shakespeare’s history plays on stage.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Katyn massacre 70 years on

70 years since the Katyn massacre
Russian and Polish Prime Ministers, Vladimir Putin and Donald Tusk, met, today, at the site of the execution of 20,000 Polish officers in Smolensk, Russia, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. It is the first time that Russia has marked the anniversary. Until 1990, when Gorbachev admitted Soviet responsibility, Russia blamed the massacre on Germany. Could this year’s unprecedented joint ceremony be a sign of improved relations between Russia and Poland?
The BBC reports.
Video footage of the ceremony is also available on the website of the BBC.

First edition of the works of St Augustine for sale
An annotated edition of St Augustine’s complete works edited by Erasmus is due to be auctioned by Sotheby’s in Paris on May 18th. The 10-volume edition was printed in Basle, Switzerland, between 1527 and 1529 and is meticulously annotated from 1532, two years after Henry’s VIII break with the Roman Catholic Church. The identity of the annotator is unknown and the majority of the annotations have not been studied academically. The volumes are estimated to fetch between €200,000 and €300,000 (£177,000-£266,000).
Mark Brown reports in The Guardian.

Global culture officials meet in Cairo to demand return of ancient treasures to their countries of origin
Representatives from 20 different countries are meeting in Cairo, today, to discuss how to recover ancient treasures which they claim have been stolen and displayed overseas. The two-day conference is organised by Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities headed by Zahi Hawass. Attendees include representatives from Peru, Greece, Italy and China. Greece, for example, demands that the Parthenon Marbles are given back by the British Museum; officials in Peru demand the return of Inca treasures from Yale University.
The BBC reports.

The first urban society in the Middle East
Science Daily reports on the latest research by a team of archaeologists from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute which has uncovered new evidence about a prehistoric society believed to be one of the world’s first urban civilizations in the ancient Middle East. The mound of Tell Zeidan in the Euphrates River Valley near Raqqa, Syria, has not been built upon or excavated for 6,000 years. However, recent excavations suggest that a society rich in trade, copper metallurgy and pottery production and one of the first to develop social classes according to power and wealth, existed on the site between 4,000 and 6,000 BC.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

50 Years of Senegalese independence

Controversial African Renaissance statue
Last Saturday, the Monument of African Renaissance was inaugurated in Dakar to mark the 50th anniversary of Senegalese independence, on April 4th 1960. The 49-metre-high monument is higher than the Statue of Liberty and cost £17 million. The cost and symbolism of the monument have been heavily criticised.
The BBC and The Guardian report.
For further reading, visit our History of Africa focus page.

Serbia apologises for Srebrenica massacre
Last Wednesday, March 31st, Serbia passed a resolution condemning the massacre in Srebrenica during the Bosnian war. There were 127 votes in favour of the resolution in the 250-member parliament.
Serbia hopes to join the European Union next year; however, the EU has made its membership contingent on improved cooperation with La Hague and efforts to find Serbian General Ratko Mladic, who is believed to be responsible for the massacre along with Karadzic.
But Serbia is still struggling to come to terms with its past. The resolution sparked considerable opposition. It was watered down and does not describe the massacre as ‘genocide’ as it has been labelled by the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
Der Spiegel reports.
The trial of the former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic began in August 2009. In Conflicting Truths: The Bosnian War Nick Hawton reflects on his time reporting in a region where history is still used to justify war.
In Remembering Srebrenica Suzanne Bardgett describes the setting up of the Srebrenica Memorial Room at the scene where the Bosnian genocide of July 1995 began to unfold.

Former SS member sentenced to life imprisonment
Heinrich Boere, aged 88, has been condemned to life imprisonment for the murder of three Dutch civilians in 1944. The sentence, passed a couple of weeks ago at the Aachen regional court, marked the end of one of the last war crime trials in Germany. Boere joined the SS in 1940 and in 1942 became part of the ‘Germanic SS in the Netherlands’, a special unit charged with breaking any signs of German resistance in the German-occupied Netherlands.
Der Spiegel reports.
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