Friday, 27 February 2015

Ian Fleming - The Creator of James Bond

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Wernher von Braun - The V2 Rocket and Beyond

Walt Whitman and New Orleans

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The New York Times Complete World War II 1939-1945 - A Review by Steve Newman

For many the idea of a World War II correspondent will probably be that of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, and maybe John Steinbeck, or, in the UK Richard Dimbleby and Wynford Vaughan-Thomas. Many more will think of the photo journalist Robert Capa – a friend of all the above mentioned – whose own description, in his splendid 1947 book Slightly Out of Focus, of waiting to go ashore on D-Day gives us an idea of  the celebrity correspondent:

“At 2:00 a.m. the ship’s loudspeaker broke up our poker game. We placed our money in waterproof money belts and were brutally reminded that the Thing was imminent.

“ They fixed a gas mask, an inflatable lifebelt, a shovel, and some other gadgets around me, and I placed my very expensive Burberry raincoat over my arm. I was the most elegant invader of them all…”

Monday, 9 July 2012

Philip Henry - a 17th Century Nonconformist Priest - and Me

As an historian interested in the English Civil War I was fascinated when my niece sent me a family tree that links me with Philip Henry, a 17th century Nonconformist clergyman and diarist, who, if my maths are correct, is my great grandfather seven times removed.

Although generally considered English, Philip's lineage is strongly Welsh, with his grandfather, Henry Williams, a native of Brittons Ferry, Glamorganshire, and his grandmother, Eleanor Dymock, a member of the Flintshire Dymock clan, many of whom married into the aristocracy. Philip was the eldest son of John Henry (it was a common Welsh practice of the time for the son to take his father's Christian name as his surname), also born in Brittons Ferry, on July 10th 1590. By the time of Philip's birth in 1631, John Henry – having been in service to James, Duke of York, later James II - was now in permanent residence in London, where, on reaching maturity he became the Keeper of the King's Orchards in Whitehall. Soon after he married Magdalen Rochdale (the daughter of Henry Rochdale, a descendent of a noted Lancashire family) who was a “...virtuous, pious gentlewoman, and one that feared God above many.”

The Ancestry of Oliver Cromwell

To quote John Buchan's 1934 biography, Oliver Cromwell, “...stands in the first rank of greatness, as the apostle of liberty, the patron of all free communions, forgetting his attempts to found an established church and his staunch belief in a national discipline. Constitutionalists claim him as one of the pioneers of the parliamentary system, though he had little patience with government by debate, and played havoc with many parliaments. He has been hailed as a soldier-saint, in spite of notable blots on his scutcheon. He has been called a religious genius, but on his religion it is not easy to be dogmatic; like Bunyan's Much-afraid, when he went through the River none could understand what he said.”

Saturday, 23 June 2012

A Short Biography of Barbara Hepworth

Today Dame Barbara Hepworth and St Ives are inseparable, and there is absolutely no doubt that the Tate Gallery in St Ives could not have been built, or even the idea conceived, had she not decided to head for the town in 1939.
Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, on January 10th, 1903. Her father was a civil engineer (she took great inspiration from his work) and was one of four children. Jocelyn had a gift for mathematics - and its application in the world of art - and at the age of sixteen won a scholarship to the Leeds School of Art where one of her fellow pupils was sculptor Henry Moore. Such was Hepworth's enthusiasm she managed to fit the normal two year course into one, which, in 1921, won her a senior scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London.