Archive for the ‘History’ Category


Word of the day: decimation

November 24th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

In current usage, the word decimation has come to mean something approaching annihilation achieved by one force against an opposing force. In fact, the term originally meant the death of ‘only’ one in ten of a group and was actually a punishment imposed by the Roman army on its own soldiers for an assumed lack […]

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Who would want to be Prime Minister of Lebanon?

November 5th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

It is disturbing news that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has resigned, saying in a televised broadcast from Saudi Arabia that he feared for his life. Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, was assassinated in 2005. In 2011, I visited Lebanon (having previously toured Syria). During the trip, I read a fascinating book called “Beware Of […]

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The centenary of the Balfour Declaration

November 3rd, 2017 by Roger Darlington

This week has marked the centenary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which led to the creation of Israel in 1948. The letter stated: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, […]

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In praise of the 10-part television series on “The Vietnam War”

November 1st, 2017 by Roger Darlington

Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched recordings of every episode of a new 10-part American television series titled simply “The Vietnam War”. The script was written by Geoffrey C. Ward and narrated by Peter Coyote with direction by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. In the USA, the series was broadcast by PBS while, here in the UK, […]

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This is a (very, very scary) story of which I previously knew nothing

October 28th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

“A senior officer of a Soviet submarine who averted the outbreak of nuclear conflict during the cold war is to be honoured with a new prize, 55 years to the day after his heroic actions averted global catastrophe. On 27 October 1962, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov was on board the Soviet submarine B-59 near Cuba when […]

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The Russian Revolution: the centenary

October 25th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the second – the decisive October – Russian Revolution, a massively important event in modern history. You can read my short review of a recent book on the revolution in the context of the period 1891-1991 here. If you’re really interested in the subject, you can […]

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What do you know about the Republic of Salo?

October 19th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

I’m currently reading a novel by Martin Cruz Smith titled “The Girl From Venice”. It is set in northern Italian at the end of the Second World War and some of the action takes place in Salo. The relevant Wikipedia page opens as follows: “The Italian Social Republic, informally known as the Republic of Salò, […]

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The great storm in south-east England in 1987

October 16th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

Thirty years ago today, a great storm unexpectedly hit the south-east of England (coincidentally a similar storm is hitting Ireland today and Scotland tomorrow). I’ve kept a daily diary since I was 13 (I’m now 69) and I’ve looked up what I wrote for Friday, 16 October 1987: “I was awakened about 4.30 am by […]

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A review of “The Experiment: Georgia’s Forgotten Revolution 1918-1921” by Eric Lee

October 4th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

So many events in history are said to be unknown or forgotten, or at least under-researched and/or under-appreciated, and for me at least this Georgian revolution was one of them. But no more, thanks to this well-researched and lucidly written book by Lee, an American now living in Britain who has wanted to write this […]

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The tragedy of the partition of India

August 6th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

Seventy years ago this month, the British rushed through the partition of India to create new two states: India and Pakistan (which is now Pakistan and Bangladesh). In the resultant ethnic violence and migration, perhaps a million people died and up to 15 million people were displaced. Why did this happen and where does partition […]

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