Magazine article History Today


Magazine article History Today


Article excerpt

Peace & Propaganda

I read with some amusement the comments of Bruce Kent, propaganda maestro for the discredited CND (May 1999). The whole thrust of CND's argument was that peace could only be achieved by unilateral disarmament by the Nato powers, while leaving the Warsaw Pact arsenal intact.

Anyone who dared suggest that perhaps we should ask the USSR to stand down its weapons was painted as some kind of ultra right-wing warmonger.

In the end, disarmament was achieved, but only through resisting the unilateralist call and insisting on moves by both sides. Far from helping reduce nuclear weapons, CND hindered the cause of peace: the Soviets were only prepared to gather round the negotiating table when they realised that Western governments were not ready to obey the `peace' movement's call for one-sided arms reductions. Far from celebrating, Bruce Kent should hang his head in shame at how near his group came to bringing devastation on us.

Paul Wakeham Wordsley, West Midlands.

Edward II, Murder & Marlowe

Jeffrey Hamilton has provided a fascinating and scholarly insight into the probable relationship between Edward II and Piers Gaveston (June 1999). As someone who teaches forensic psychopathology I have always been interested in Edward's death. Marlowe in his play Edward II is not explicit about the exact details of the murder but leaves us to draw our own inferences from the presence of the `table', the `featherbed' and the `redhot spit'. It should be remembered that Marlowe had his own concerns about homosexuality at a time when both Church and State were highly repressive towards homosexuals.

Marlowe appears to have relied on Holinshed's Chronicles for the details of the murder. He refers to Edward's induced sensory deprivation and the subsequent attempts to poison him before resorting to the implements to `... keep him down and withall put into his fundament an horne, and through the same they thrust up into his bodie an hot spit, or (as others have), through the pipe of a trumpet or a plumber's instrument or iron made verie hot the which passing up into his entrails ... burnt the same, but so as no appearance of any wound or hurt outwardlie might be once perceived'.

Hamilton provides an example of the need to learn from both history and literature if one wishes to understand human behaviour and misbehaviour in context.

Professor Herschel Prins University of Loughborough

Dutch Courage

Can I refer you to the article published in the June 1999 issue of History Today, `The Dutch, the Germans and the Jews', by Jan Herman Brinks. As a historian of the Netherlands, I was somewhat surprised by its contents and its conclusions. While most of the material is factually accurate, the author uses a very unbalanced selection of material from which to draw his conclusions. There are some errors and highly generalised statements which would not stand close scrutiny. For example, the charge of collaboration made against Rotterdam's police chief L. Einthoven would be difficult to substantiate.

The author clearly has only limited knowledge on the subject. He uses the further reading list to promote his own work and then cites only the 1969 edition of Jacob Presser's work as additional material. It seems therefore that this piece has been used merely for self-promotion rather than as a genuine attempt to inform the public or further debate the subject.

Dr Bob Moore University of Sheffield

Quite Dreadful

A qualifying footnote needs to be added to John Charmley's interesting review of Guilty Men (June). Though the prevailing tone of the book may have been, as Mr Charmley says, `leftist', one of its three authors, Peter Howard, was decidedly not. Howard was briefly in Mosley's New Party. Throughout the thirties he wrote right-wing articles for the Beaverbrook newspapers. Shortly after the publication of Guilty Men he became involved with Moral Re-armament whose leader Frank Buchman had said he thanked heaven for Hitler. …

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