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Subject: ‘Revolution’

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The Hungarian Uprising was put down by Russian tanks

Posted in Communism, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Invasions, Revolution on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This edited article about the Hungarian Uprising first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 597 published on 23 June 1973.

Hungarian Uprising,  picture, image, illustration
Soviet tanks and troops rolled into Budapest and the heroic but futile street fighting began by Graham Coton

Two young men climbed to the top of the massive metal statue and dragged up a heavy cable which they attached to its head. The crowd below roared its approval. Many hundreds of hands hauled on the rope but the statue did not budge. Then the three workers came with acetylene torches and began to cut into the statue’s knees. The crowd stood hushed as it began to topple. Then cheering broke out as Joseph Stalin pitched forward from his plinth and lay face-downwards in the square. The place was Budapest and the date the 23rd of October, 1956 – the Hungarian revolution had begun.

What had brought it about? Hungary had emerged from the war in moral and political confusion. She had officially been an ally of Germany but had bred a spirited resistance movement as well. In 1947 the communists seized power and eventually the country was governed by Matyas Rakosi. Rakosi reproduced in Hungary the tyranny which Stalin imposed on Russia and the country underwent a long period of privation and terror. The death of Stalin and his subsequent denunciation by the Russian leader, Krushchev, encouraged the Hungarians to overthrow Rakosi in July 1956. But there was little change under his successors. Nevertheless, the spirit of rebellion was abroad.

Students, dissatisfied with conditions in the universities, and factory workers, demanding high wages, joined forces; they were in turn joined by all those who resented the repressive system by which the country was governed. A series of strikes and rallies reached its climax in the destruction of the towering statue of Stalin which symbolised for the rebels the oppression and the exploitation which their country had suffered.

Their triumph swiftly turned to tragedy. The A.V.O., the Hungarian security police opened fire on the crowds and many were killed. But the police could not quell the defiant citizens for long, and more and more people flocked to demonstrate in the streets of Budapest.

Hungary turned for help to Russia. In the small hours of the following morning Russian tanks began to arrive in the city, but even they could not drive the people home. The Russian soldiers were, in fact, reluctant to attack the crowd at all; some wept when they saw the destruction which the A.V.O. meted out to its fellow-citizens.

The revolution gathered momentum and spread across the whole country. The government had to decide whether it should go on fighting the rebels or whether it should try to quieten them by giving in to their demands for a new leadership. In the end it decided on the latter course and Imre Nagy, a liberal politician who had been disgraced in the days of Stalin, was allowed to form a new government. Janos Kadar, who had also suffered under the Rakosi regime, joined the new government too.

Soon Nagy was able to announce that the Russians had withdrawn their troops from Budapest. But the withdrawal was really a clever piece of stage-management; as the tanks fell back, fresh Russian troops were moved towards eastern Hungary.

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An American traitor and a British spy met very different ends

Posted in America, Espionage, Famous Last Words, Historical articles, History, Revolution, War on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about the American Revolution first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 594 published on 2 June 1973.

 Death of Major Andre,  picture, image, illustration
The Unfortunate Death of Major Andre

Visitors to the battlefield of Saratoga in New York State, U.S.A., can see one monument so strange that it seems to make no sense.

The battle, fought in 1777 between the British under General Burgoyne and American regulars and militiamen, was a turning point in the American Revolution, for the defeat of the British helped bring France in on the side of the one-year-old United States and make their final victory certain.

The strange monument commemorates the soldier who did more than anyone else to bring about the American victory, but it does not name him! The inscription relates that he was the most brilliant American soldier and that he became a major-general after the battle. It has a cannon carved on it, also a wreath, a badge and a boot, and that is all.

Elsewhere in the state, on a hill overlooking the Hudson River, is a granite memorial erected by Americans to honour a man who could have lost the war for them, a British officer they hanged as a spy in front of a vast crowd who mourned for him. His name, John André, is engraved in the stone of his memorial.

The two monuments are linked, for the first commemorates the achievements of the most famous of all American traitors. Benedict Arnold, before he betrayed his country, and the second, the man who was his link with the British High Command. Treachery and scandal bind the two forever in history, one of whom died unlamented and disliked in London in 1801, the other on that hill overlooking the Hudson. More than half a century later, John Andre’s body found a final resting place in Westminster Abbey.

The American Revolution began in 1775 after relations between Britain and her 13 American colonies had reached breaking point over many issues especially the fact that the colonists were taxed without their being represented in the British Parliament. From the beginning, many of them stayed loyal to the Crown, so it was as much a civil war as a struggle for independence.

But one person whose loyalty to the American cause was certain was Benedict Arnold, or so everyone believed.

His exploits early in the war were fabulous. He was 34 when it broke out and soon became the most dashing of all American commanders, more so even than a far greater man, the American Commander-in-Chief, George Washington.

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Several pretenders claimed to be King Louis XVII of France

Posted in Historical articles, History, Revolution, Royalty on Monday, 17 March 2014

This edited article about Louis XVII first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 593 published on 26 May 1973.

Louis XVII in the Temple,  picture, image, illustration
Louis XVII in the Temple

The boy stood in the dank, filthy cell staring balefully at the three men, his eyes gaunt, his face parchment pale. With his overlong legs and his arms hanging ape-like from a stunted trunk, he looked deformed.

Mathieu, Recerchon and de la Meuse, the delegates from the Paris Committee of General Security, flinched slightly at the sight, but otherwise appeared unmoved. Stony-faced, they nodded to each other, then turned and left.

The heavy cell door clanged as it closed. The bolts rasped shut. The child whom the world believed to be Louis XVII, nine-year-old King of France, was alone once more inside the dungeons of the Temple.

This empty royal title came to the son of Louis XVI on 21st January, 1793, the day his father was guillotined by a resentful and rebellious people. Louis XVI died as plain “Louis Capet,” for in the orgy of violence, murder and revenge that marked the French Revolution, the monarchy was swept away, as well as the monarch.

However, though France had officially became a republic on 10th August, 1792, there remained those stubborn royalists who proclaimed as Louis XVI’s successor the young boy imprisoned in the Temple.

Equally naturally they plotted to rescue him, an event greatly feared by the revolutionary government in Paris.

On 3rd July, 1793, young Louis was forcibly parted from his mother, Queen Marie Antoinette, and flung into a solitary cell, where he was rigidly guarded day and night, and regularly visited by members of the Committee of General Security.

The visit of Mathieu, Recerchon and de la Meuse, on 19th December, 1794, was among the last the hapless prisoner received. His miserable “reign” ended less than six months later, on 8th June, 1795, when he died of chronic tuberculosis. Two days afterwards, he was given a lonely burial in the cemetery of Ste. Marguerite.

The atmosphere of secrecy in which the last months of his life had been spent quickly produced a profusion of rumours hinting that his rescue had succeeded despite the diligence of the Temple guards.

The idea remained no more than rumour for some 50 years, until 1846, when the young prisoner’s body was exhumed and examined by two leading doctors.

The results were both startling and puzzling.

The long-legged, short-bodied corpse was undoubtedly that of the boy seen by Mathieu and his companions, but it was not the body of King Louis XVII.

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Sun Yat Sen – the revolutionary the Manchus feared

Posted in Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution on Friday, 7 March 2014

This edited article about China first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 585 published on 31 March 1973.

Sun Yat Sen,  picture, image, illustration
Dr Sun Yet Sin was a Chinese revolutionary, first president and founding father of the Republic of China

“Look at the idol. Do not lower your eyes. No harm will come to you. The idol has no power over your lives – and those who say it has, lie to you!”

The onlookers gaped in awe at the speaker, a short, wiry pig-tailed Chinese, like themselves in physical appearance but evidently without any sense in his head. They gasped even more loudly as the little man strode briskly forward and, seizing one of the idol’s wooden fingers, snapped it off.

Dismayed, the onlookers prostrated themselves on the ground. Their idol, in the temple of the village of Choy Hung, had not been desecrated like this in a thousand years.

Those who had the strength to do so, fled from the temple into the village streets, covering their eyes as if to blot out the vision of the sacrilege. Mothers called their children to their skirts and bundled them indoors and out of sight. There the awed children were told to behave themselves, or Sun Yat Sen, the devil-man who attacked the gods themselves, would eat them for his supper.

Sun Yat Sen stood alone in the empty temple, then, angrily throwing the broken piece of the idol on to the floor, he stormed out. It was going to be harder than he had even imagined to awaken his countrymen from centuries of sleep – to convey to them somehow that they were alive in the nineteenth century.

The principal object of Sun Yat Sen’s resentment was the Manchu dynasty of Chinese emperors, which had ruled his country for more than 250 years. The Manchus had descended upon China from the north-east in 1644 and had quickly subjugated the country.

Of course, the Chinese were as bitter about this as all conquered peoples are, and the Manchus imposed a cruel and despotic form of government to quieten them. They ordered all the Chinese men, for instance, to grow their hair long enough to form a queue, or “pigtail,” which was to be plaited and left hanging over their shoulders. The idea of this was that if there was any civil disturbance the Chinese would be easily identifiable from the Manchus.

As the years passed, the pigtail custom came to be accepted and men even took pride in the length of their pigtails. But the Manchus tightened their grip on China, and the Chinese continued to live in servitude to their foreign masters.

Another object of Sun Yat Sen’s resentment was the great privileges the ruling dynasty gave to foreigners living in China. Those living in certain towns were not even subjected to Chinese law. Sun Yat Sen brooded heavily on such unfair happenings and decided that Manchu imperialism was at the root of China’s backwardness and that only a republic of the people would make the country speedily prosperous.

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Cromwell – the man who would not be King

Posted in Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution, Royalty on Friday, 7 March 2014

This edited article about Oliver Cromwell first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 585 published on 31 March 1973.

 Cromwell refusing the Crown,  picture, image, illustration
Oliver Cromwell refusing the Crown of England, 1657 by Thomas Maguire (after)

Oliver Cromwell was well aware, when he came back to London after fighting all his battles in the Civil War, that the crown of Britain was his just for the asking.

But did he want to be Britain’s king?

We shall never really know, for some people say that Cromwell privately schemed to get himself crowned, but never took the crown because he wasn’t sure of keeping it, while others say he scorned any desire to become king. Whatever was in his mind, Britain must have been very near to having a King Oliver the First!

For a long time Cromwell urged the feeble Rump Parliament to dissolve itself and call an election. One day, however, a messenger came to his house and told him about a debate being held in Parliament.

Cromwell hastened along to the House of Commons and found to his astonishment that far from disbanding itself, the Rump was discussing ways in which it could keep itself in office indefinitely!

Cromwell rose to speak. For a time his speech was calm. Then he became angry.

“I will put an end to this prating!” he burst out suddenly. “Heavens! It is not fit that you should sit here any longer! You shall now give place to better men. Call them in!”

At this command a body of musketeers entered the House and stood there by Cromwell with their muskets loaded.

Bitterly Cromwell went on: “How can you be a Parliament for God’s people? Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God – go!”

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The fate of British loyalists in the American Revolution

Posted in America, Historical articles, History, Revolution, War on Friday, 7 March 2014

This edited article about America first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 583 published on 17 March 1973.

David Thomson,  picture, image, illustration
David Thomson did not share in the general excitement as the ship neared Nova Scotia by Bill Lacey

They stood three-deep on the deck, craning their necks for the first sight of Port Roseway. David Thomson stayed apart. A dour Scot, he did not share their excitement. On the voyage his fellow passengers had chattered enthusiastically about the thrill of setting up a new community and hewing a new life from a new territory but David guessed that few of them knew the hardships which would face them; indeed, he guessed that many would not even survive the first winter. They called it a new start. He called it exile. And exile for what? For staying loyal to a losing side.

It was April 1783. The British colonies in America had grown in number and size since the foundation of Jamestown. They had revolted against Britain and their ragged armies had inflicted a series of humiliating defeats on the Redcoats under their proud generals, culminating in the British surrender at Yorktown in 1782.

Britain’s strict regulation of colonial trade and her ill-conceived attempts to make them contribute to the cost of their defence in the Seven Years’ War had antagonised the thirteen states. The war itself had brought about the defeat of the French in America and this had destroyed the final bond which had held them to Britain: they no longer needed British troops to protect them. Antagonism turned into armed conflict, the process accelerated by the British government’s inept handling of the situation.

But not all colonists rebelled. In each state there were parties of loyalists who, for varying reasons, refused to take up arms against the Crown or actively supported its forces. Some did not believe that the British could be beaten by ill-trained, ill-disciplined volunteer regiments. Others held offices from the British government or owed their wealth and influence to British favour. Many shared the rebels’ resentment at Britain’s treatment of the colonies but did not believe that the situation could or should be solved by armed revolt.

David Thomson was an active supporter of the British. He had left Dundee to settle in America in 1752 and 1775 found him in Philadelphia, a successful shipbuilder. At first he had tried to keep out of politics but anti-British associations were being set up in every state and he was told that he would have to declare which side he was on. David had promptly declared for the King and had gone to offer his services to the British forces.

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La Fayette fought for Washington before the French Revolution

Posted in Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution on Friday, 7 March 2014

This edited article about La Fayette first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 583 published on 17 March 1973.

La Fayette,  picture, image, illustration
La Fayette

“I wish to fight beside Washington, I want no pay and I will purchase a ship to take me to America.” These words from a 19-year-old Frenchman astonished the American envoys, who had arrived in France in 1776 to seek help for the rebel Congress. Among the French volunteers, who came forward La Fayette was unique. He was a Marquis, immensely rich, a Cavalier in the King’s Musketeers and a Captain in the Regiment de Noailles.

La Fayette was as good as his word. He did fight beside Washington, who was so taken by the young Frenchman he called him “my adopted son.” La Fayette modelled his life on Washington’s. He served with distinction, was wounded in the Battle of Brandywine and led an army in the Virginian campaign which virtually ended the War of Independence.

La Fayette’s political ideas were formed by the American Revolution where the issue was the clear-cut one of the birth of a new nation. It took him the rest of his life to discover they could not be transferred wholesale to feudal, tradition-bound France. When the French Revolution came, with all its confusion and intrigues, he threw himself into the struggle. Against his own republican views he defended King Louis XVI throughout, vainly hoping to make of him a constitutional monarch.

La Fayette had returned – “The Hero of the American Revolution” to a France that was bankrupt. By 1789 the national debt had reached four and a half billion livres. Then, by refusing any more loans, financiers and bankers of Europe gave in effect the signal for revolution. King Louis was forced to call for help from the only body resembling a Parliament, the “States-General” a body of three “houses,” Nobles, Clergy and Commoners. It had not met since 1614. The States-General of 1789 was soon dominated by the Commoners who elected La Fayette chairman and pronounced themselves a National Assembly.

The road to revolution was paved with gold. Mostly, the gold of the Duke of Orleans, the richest noble in France, a distant cousin of the King, who schemed to usurp the throne. At different times, the Queen, the King’s brother and even the King of Prussia, were pouring out money to stir up riots. Against a background of plots and counter-plots, La Fayette stood out as a simple, honest man trying to cut a way through a web of conspiracies.

Although there is some historical dispute about the matter, it has been put forward that Orleans’ first coup was the Storming of the Bastille, the symbol in Paris of the King’s power. The people of Paris, destitute because of the crisis, could be hired to serve anyone who wanted a riot – and could pay for it. Orleans could pay. This blow shook the nation. The City Council set up a “National Guard” of 12,000 men under La Fayette’s command.

Overnight La Fayette became the most powerful man in France, Chairman of the Assembly, Commander of the Paris National Guard with 20,000 armed Parisians to back them up and with National Guards being formed in every city. He could have seized power but he had been chosen because everyone knew he would not. Day after day, in person he dispersed the riots and he did it, not with guns, but by haranguing the mobs to support Liberty and Justice and not to disgrace him by massacring their victims.

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Louis XVI and his family almost escaped to Brussels

Posted in Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution, Royalty on Tuesday, 4 March 2014

This edited article about the French Revolution first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 577 published on 3 February 1973.

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The French Royal family make good their escape from Paris, by Gerry Embleton

The king had vanished! At exactly 7 o’clock on the morning of June 21, 1791, his valet found himself staring at an empty bed and, moments later, he rushed off to give the alarm. The queen and her two children had disappeared as well.

The electrifying news spread through the Tuileries Palace, which had become almost a royal prison, and soon it reached the Paris streets. Louis XVI had fled, along with his beautiful Austrian-born wife, Marie Antoinette, whom the people hated for her extravagance and lack of understanding of them.

The tocsin – the alarm bells that warned Parisians of important events – rang out, and people poured into the streets. Meanwhile, the king and queen, their two children, and a handful of friends, were heading, as they thought, for the frontier of France and safety.

The great French Revolution had started almost two years before and had not yet reached its bloody climax. Its many causes included hatred of an all-powerful monarchy (though not King Louis himself); the tremendous privileges of the nobility, including exemption from all taxes, which the poor had to pay; the overbearing power of the Church; the writing of reformers and thinkers; and national bankruptcy.

The very idea of revolution had been in the air for some years, partly because the French had supported the American Revolution with troops, even though the rulers of France oppressed their people far more than the rulers of Britain oppressed Americans. And, on top of everything else, Louis was kindly, but fatally weak to cope with a crisis, and his wife made things worse by identifying herself with the enemies of France abroad.

At first, after the destruction of the hated Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, 1789, the Revolution was mild. Even when, that October, a mob marched on the Palace of Versailles and forced Louis to move from the country to the Tuileries in Paris, and when the nobility and Church had been shorn of their powers, there seemed no reason that Louis should not retain his throne and be a king on the British model. But he not unnaturally hated the reforms that had been made, and Marie Antoinette made things worse by plotting with foreign powers and exiled French nobility to invade France and rescue them. The attempt to escape helped seal their doom.

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John Milton – the greatest English poet since Shakespeare

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Politics, Religion, Revolution on Monday, 3 March 2014

This edited article about John Milton first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 576 published on 27 January 1973.

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Christ's College, Cambridge, which Milton entered in 1625

The coach rumbled on endlessly through the afternoon sun and young John Milton scanned the horizon anxiously. It had been a long journey from Bread Street in London, a full day of travel that declined from being exciting to monotonous as the miles passed by. Now he wanted to catch sight of his destination and as they breasted a slight rise he suddenly exclaimed with joy.

The coachman grinned at him and pointed to the distant spires and towers which dominated the flat expanse of countryside, “Ay master,” he said. “That’s Cambridge, sure enough.” Half an hour later, the coach rolled to a stop amid a clatter of hooves, the barking of dogs and the scurry of children. John Milton climbed stiffly down and looked about him with satisfaction. He had come to this ancient city to go to University and, dusty as he was, he meant to find his College straight away. It was something he had waited and longed for until now, at the age of seventeen, he could realise his ambition at last.

As a schoolboy at St Paul’s school he had displayed an astonishing memory and an enormous appetite for learning. Indeed, he later said, “From the twelfth year of my age I scarce went to bed before midnight.” This night study proved disastrous to his eyesight but for the moment youthful enthusiasm was still strong and a whole new world of learning lay open before him. The work was hard; rising at five in the morning and lectures and exercises until seven. Then a quick plain breakfast and more work until early afternoon.

Then the undergraduates were free to take part in other diversions. The bear pits, where huge matched bears wrestled with each other, were always popular. So too, were boxing, fishing, swimming and riding, but John Milton chose fencing as his chief sport. He would spend an hour or so each day with the skilful master of the foils and the gymnasium would soon resound to the lithe footsteps and clash of blades as John became more expert in the art.

He was a rebellious youth with an independence of mind that shocked and annoyed his tutors. In 1625 it was usually sufficient for students to do as they were told, but John Milton became an outspoken critic of the University and at one stage he was suspended because of his views. Eventually he spent seven years at the University, taking his degree but refusing to enter the Church as most of his contemporaries did. It was an age when religious conflict was always present and John Milton was a Puritan at a time when it took some courage to keep to these beliefs.

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Washington crossed the Delaware to save the Revolution

Posted in America, Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Revolution, Rivers, War on Wednesday, 26 February 2014

This edited article about the American War of Independence first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 571 published on 23 December 1972.

Washington crossing the Delaware,  picture, image, illustration
Washington led his men across the Delaware on Christmas night by James E McConnell

The American army was on the run. It could only be a matter of time before its leader, George Washington, would be forced to surrender to the British, and that would be the end of the war. It seemed that the infant United States was destined to be strangled at birth.

American independence had been declared on July 4, 1776, five months before the present desperate crisis. Now the British, after suffering humiliating defeats against their rebellious Colonies, had gone over to the offensive. The rebels had been driven off Long Island and out of New York by British Redcoats, loyal Americans and hired German mercenaries from Hesse, the dreaded Hessians, who earned a grim reputation for their military ferocity.

Now Christmas was coming, and the main American army, ragged, starving and miserable, was down to less than 3,000 men. Many of them, being amateur soldiers, were due to go home at the end of the year, having served their time as volunteers.

By December 15, Washington was encamped on the south bank of the Delaware River with less than 1,000 fit men that he could trust. He had many enemies in Congress (the American Parliament), and the 13 Colonies kept squabbling amongst themselves when they should have been united and sending him aid. To make matters worse, he had no money left to pay his men, men he was now begging to stay on for another six weeks after their time had expired. He had decided to pay them out of his own pocket. The American Revolution had – from the Rebel point of view – reached its lowest ebb.

All the British commander, Sir William Howe, had to do was continue advancing and mop up the remaining American forces, but, as there were so few of them left, it hardly seemed worth it, so he put his troops into winter quarters. Howe enjoyed good living, and he was not anxious to destroy his enemies, just to show them who was master, then get them to give in. Like many Britons, his heart was not really in the war, which involved Britons fighting Americans who were Britons as well, but who objected to being ordered around by a British Parliament in which they were not represented.

On December 18, Washington wrote to his brother: “I think the game is pretty near up . . . You can form no idea of the perplexity of my situation.” But two days later, two of his generals arrived with more troops, and some Pennsylvania militia appeared, giving him a total of 7,600 men. True, in a fortnight his little army might dissolve, but its hard core of men to whom the words “Liberty” and “Freedom from Tyranny” really meant something, would stay because they shared his belief that something could be done.

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