Tag Archives: politics

Matteotti Crisis

The murder of Giacomo Matteotti: a crisis for the Italian Fascists?

Giacomo Matteotti, an Italian socialist politician, was kidnapped and then murdered by members of the Fascist party on 10th June 1924.

Matteotti had been a leading member of the Italian Socialist Party but, following divisions in the party, he co-founded the Unitary Socialist Party in 1922. Matteotti became an outspoken critic of Mussolini and the Fascists, and publicly criticised the new political organisation’s use of violence in a pamphlet published in 1921.
Three years later, in 1924, Matteotti published a book that was highly critical of the new government called The Fascisti Exposed: A Year of Fascist Domination.

On 30 May that year he made a particularly zealous speech in the Chamber of Deputies in which he criticised Mussolini and accused the Fascists of only winning the recent election due to their use of violence to intimidate the public.

Less than two weeks later, on June 10, Matteotti disappeared. His neighbours reported an unknown car’s registration plate to the police who quickly found the car with blood on the back seat. Although this didn’t directly link the car to Matteotti’s disappearance, Mussolini ordered the arrest of Amerigo Dumini and other members of his recently-created Ceka secret police.

Opposition deputies showed their opposition to the Fascists by moving from the Chamber in an event known as the Aventine secession. Matteotti’s body was later found following an extensive search, showing that he had been stabbed in the chest with a carpenter’s file.

Despite a significant loss of political support, and the suggestion that he was involved in ordering the murder, Mussolini successfully turned events to his advantage. A speech in January 1925 saw him begin the transition to dictatorship when he stated that he would bring stability to Italy, even if that meant using force.

Æthelstan: the first Anglo-Saxon ‘king of all Britain’

July 12th 927 is the closest we have to a foundation date for England, when all the kings of Britain met at Eamont Bridge, near Penrith in Cumbria, to swear an oath of peace under the overlordship of Æthelstan. Having previously been king of the Anglo-Saxons, Æthelstan’s key success in 927 was conquering Viking York which placed the kingdom of Northumbria under his control and secured the submission of the northern kings.

Æthelstan was the son of Edward the Elder, and grandson of Alfred the Great, and his ancestors had already carved large chunks from Viking lands as far north as the River Humber. As such they customarily referred to themselves as ‘king of the Saxons’ or ‘king of the Anglo-Saxons’. However, securing the submission of the other British kings meant that Æthelstan could go further. Coins minted soon after the 927 oath referred to him as rex totius Britanniae or ‘king of all Britain’.

Despite the oath, Æthelstan’s rule over the north of England was still fragile and in 937 he faced the combined forces of Scots, Vikings and Strathclyde Britons under the command of Olaf Guthfrithson, Constantine II, and Owen I respectively. An account of the ensuing Battle of Brunanburh was recorded in a contemporary poem of the same name and was preserved in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. A further 52 other sources mention the battle, although realistically we know little about what happened other than Æthelstan and his army were victorious. This victory secured Anglo-Saxon control, and effectively laid out the map of the British Isles as we know them today.

Holy Roman Emperor Louis the Pious

The Power of the Medieval Church

The murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral

On the 29th December 1170, Thomas Becket – the Archbishop of Canterbury – was murdered in front of the altar of Canterbury Cathedral. He had been appointed by Henry II to the most important religious position in England in 1162, but was slain after some of the king’s men interpreted one of their ruler’s angry outbursts as the desire to have Becket killed.

Thomas Becket was appointed Chancellor by Henry in 1155. In this job he proved himself to be a loyal member of the king’s court and so when Theobald, the existing Archbishop of Canterbury died, Henry saw his chance to dominate the church by appointing Becket to succeed him.

Having a loyal friend in the most senior religious position in England made sense to Henry. However, as Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket’s allegiance quickly switched to siding with the church. This frustrated Henry, who asked Becket to sign the Constitutions of Clarendon in 1164 to extend the king’s authority over the clergy. Becket refused, and shortly after being summoned to the king to explain his actions fled to France.

Becket returned in 1170 but, after excommunicating members of the clergy for supporting Henry, found himself the target of an angry outburst by the king – which almost certainly wasn’t  “Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” Whatever Henry did say, however, it was enough to encourage four knights to travel to Canterbury and kill him inside the Cathedral. It is said that the fatal blow split his skull. Becket was canonised by the Pope barely two years after the murder, and in 1174 the king himself walked barefoot to Canterbury in penance.

Overview of the accession and coronation of King John

On the 27th May 1199 King John was crowned at Westminster Abbey.  The previous king, his brother Richard, had died after being shot in the shoulder by a crossbow.  John ruled for seventeen years before contracting dysentery while in Kings Lynn, an illness from which he later died.  John’s reign saw him lose control of the Angevin Empire, lose the crown jewels in the mud of East Anglia, and lose significant monarchical power under the terms of the Magna Carta.

 

John’s claim to the throne wasn’t entirely clear-cut since Arthur, the son of John’s older brother Geoffrey, was another possible heir.  His claim was also supported by a large contingent of French nobles, and the French king Phillip II himself, who hoped to fragment the Angevin Empire.  This laid the foundations for John’s ongoing struggles in mainland Europe, which gradually eroded his control over the lands of the Angevin Empire.

The fact that John succeeded in his bid to be crowned was significant.  Medieval monarchs got their legal authority from their coronation, where they swore the coronation oath and were then anointed, girted, crowned, invested and enthroned. However, although the coronation gave the King the legal authority to rule the country, it was still based on him abiding by the coronation oath.  Rebellious barons argued that John failed to do this since, like his predecessors, he sometimes took executive decisions on the basis that the king was above the law.  This set in motion calls for a ‘law of the land’ that was to result in the Magna Carta.

1215 Magna Carta

Magna Carta

Battle of St Albans and the start of the Wars of the Roses

The 22nd May 1455 marked the start of the Wars of the Roses, when the First Battle of St Albans was fought between Richard, Duke of York, and King Henry VI.

The Wars of the Roses were fought between the Houses of Lancaster and York, both of whom had claims to the English throne.  Although the Lancastrians had ruled England since 1399, Henry VI had come to the throne in 1422 when he was just 9 months old.  England had therefore been ruled by regents for 15 years, during which time the monarchy was weakened.

The situation didn’t improve after Henry took full control of the country in 1437, since he experienced periods of mental illness that affected his behaviour and decisions.  Having experienced a long period of mental instability from August 1453, the “kingmaker” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, made Richard, Duke of York, protector of the realm.

When Henry recovered 18 months later, Richard was excluded from the royal court.  In response he led an army to London, but was met by the King’s forces 22 miles north of the city in St Albans.  After many hours of failed negotiations, Richard ordered his troops to attack.  The battle was fought in the streets, and lasted for less than an hour before the Lancastrians were outflanked, key Lancastrian nobles were killed, and Henry was taken prisoner.

Richard was declared Protector of England just a few months later, but the Wars of Roses raged for another three decades.

SOURCES:

http://www.warsoftheroses.com/stalbans1.cfm

http://www.historytoday.com/anthony-pollard/battle-st-albans-1455

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/516701/battles-of-Saint-Albans

Napoleon's domestic policy hexagons

Napoleon’s domestic policies – virtual hexagon activity using @classtools

This activity uses the excellent ‘virtual hexagons generator’ tool from www.classtools.net to give students a range of information about Napeoleon’s domestic policies. They can rearrange the hexagons to create a framework for an essay answer, colour-code them, and delete/add as required.

Access the full-screen interactive version at http://www.classtools.net/hexagon/201604-AFB5ZC

Reunification of East and West Germany

The reunification of East and West Germany

On the 3rd October 1990, Germany was reunified when the territory of the communist German Democratic Republic joined with the Federal Republic of Germany to create a single, united Germany.

Cracks had begun to show in East Germany’s communist regime from the middle of 1989, which eventually led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November that year. This encouraged the ongoing Peaceful Revolution in the East, which succeeded in bringing about free elections in March the following year.

The West German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, had already called for greater cooperation between West and East in November 1989. The election of the new East German parliament – known as the Volkskammer – in March 1990 ensured that both sides now had governments that had their eye on reunification. The GDR’s economy had already begun to collapse as the structures of communist control were removed, so the replacement of the East German mark with West Germany’s Deutsche Mark as the official currency of East Germany in June ensured a secure economic framework for political union.

By the end of August the Volkskammer had passed a resolution in favour of reunification, with the German Reunification Treaty signed at the end of August. This was approved by large majorities in the legislative chambers of each country on the 20th September, and at midnight on the 3rd October the black, red and gold flag of West Germany was raised above the Brandenburg Gate which until the fall of the Berlin Wall had been inaccessible to both sides.

Known as The Day of German Unity, the 3rd October is now a public holiday in Germany.

Hindenburg and Hitler as Chancellor

The Rise of Hitler 1929-1934 podcast

This revision podcast is relevant to both GCSE and IGCSE History students studying Nazi Germany. It is the second of two podcasts that present an explanation of the range of factors that contributed to the rise of Hitler. It goes into more detail than the briefer podcast that covers the entire 1919-1934 period. You could also download the Rise of Hitler Revision PowerPoint which complements the two podcasts.

The podcast is the second of two that explore how Hitler came to power. This episode covers the period from the Wall Street Crash to Hitler’s self-appointment of the Fuhrer of Germany in 1934. Specific attention is given to:

* The effects of the Great Depression on Germany
* The Presidential election campaign of 1932
* The appointment of Hitler as Chancellor in 1933
* The Reichstag Fire and the Enabling Act
* The Night of the Long Knives
* The death of President Hindenburg

The revision guide aims to give clear examples for each of these factors, and explains how you might approach a question on them in the exam.