Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Monday, 27 October 2014

Another hung Parliament?

Some reflections on the next election and the likelihood of another hung Parliament: Coalition politics

Friday, 17 October 2014

What happened to British decline?

This post on the Speri blog looks at what happened to British relative economic decline and the country's continuing economic problems, following the recent retirement conference for Andrew Gamble at Cambridge University: The decline debate

Monday, 8 September 2014

Scotland and Quebec

A long time ago I wrote a comparison between Scotland and Quebec with a Canadian colleague which was published as an article in Canada. There is an interesting parallel between the current referendum in Scotland and that in Quebec in 1995. An interesting blog post on the subject can be found here: Quebec and Scotland

Friday, 29 August 2014

Friday, 22 August 2014

Custard powder shortage causes concern in August 1914

Leamington residents were urged to keep calm in August 1914 but worries about a shortage of custard powder surfaced. A local vicar complained that governments only cared about voters.

'Keep calm – and don’t panic!’ was the advice the Courier gave to Leamington residents in an editorial following the outbreak of war in August 1914. But under the heading ‘Cool Heads’ the newspaper admitted, ‘Events are moving at such a pace that it is impossible to adequately realise what is taking place or to hazard an opinion on what will take place. Last week there was a cry to “Close the ranks”. Today, they are firmly closed. Last week there were two opposing civilian armies in Ireland ready to fly at each other’s throats. Today they are united to resist a common foe.’

There was a realisation that this could be a war unlike any preceding war. ‘Last week Germany was not actually at war with France and Russia. Today she is. Last week our King and Government were straining every effort to secure peace. These efforts have failed and today we find ourselves ranged on the side of France to protect her coasts from foreign attack and the protector of the independence of the smaller European states against the aggression of the might of Germany. We are now at the beginning of the great European war which has been the dread of thoughtful men for so long. We are engaged in a war, the greatest and the gravest the world has ever seen. If we are to emerge from it successfully, we shall do so by keeping our heads cool, and by a readiness to undergo with courage the sacrifices that will be required of us. What we shall have to endure lies in the lap of the future.’

Readers were reassured that there was a good food supply, although elsewhere in the paper it was reported that pig feed prices were already rising. There was a concern that the outbreak of war could lead to short time working or unemployment in the town. Readers were urged to go out and spend, particularly on men’s clothes, ladies’ dresses and bonnets, upholstery, house decoration and house cleaning.

Some concern had been expressed about a possible shortage of custard leading to panic buying. However, Bird’s custard placed a large advert in the Courier to reassure readers, headed ‘Household Economy in WAR time’. Readers were reminded ‘At so small a cost as Bird’s Custard, there are few dishes in our daily diet which provide so much real nourishment and body-building material. Bird’s Custard is not only a delectable dainty, but a genuine wholesome food. There is no shortage of Bird’s Custard. There is plenty for everyone. We are working hard to meet the exceptional demands of the Military and the Public.’

The Vicar of Lillington was not slow to blame football for the country’s plight. Given the small size of the British army relative to other nations, he said that ‘we should be ashamed of ourselves’. (Britain had, of course, concentrated its resources on the navy, seeing itself as a maritime power). ‘We had been watching our football matches – thousands of people looking on while 22 others kicked a piece of leather about. Governments, nowadays, only existed for voters, and most of those who watched the football matches and went to race meetings were voters.'

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Not everyone expected a short war in 1914

Not everyone in 1914 thought that the war would be over by Christmas. A retired soldier, Sir Charles Hunter, addressed a large audience in the Jephson Gardens in Leamington and told them that they would have to go back to the Napoleonic era to realise what this great war meant. Many people were saying that the Germans would be starved out within a few months and then the war would be over. However, he thought that a long war was in prospect, anything between six months and three years.

One immediate consequence of the outbreak of war was the dismantling of all the amateur radio stations in the town. The largest mast had been that of Mr Ryres in Northumberland Road, but it disappeared with all the others. He had been picking up messages from French and German military units, but there was a concern that such stations could be used for espionage by German agents and therefore had to be taken out of use.

Over in Nuneaton the outbreak of war had a disastrous effect on the Saturday open air market with half the stalls occupied and a big fall in attendance. Because of troop movements through Nuneaton Station, a number of normal services were curtailed. Recruiting for the colours was so brisk that two sergeants had to be deployed, but a number of men were declared unfit. Around 100 reservists were mobilised and the district expected to supply around 100 boy scouts. 122 horses were bought in the area by the War Office and sent to Birmingham.

And what about football? The initial view after war broke out in August 1914 was that football should continue as usual as it would give the public something to think about apart from the war. The secretary of the Football Association stated, ‘It was in the best interests of the country that the games should go on. As it was, a large number of football players have returned to the Army and Navy, and several thousands are now under arms with their Territorial regiments. The games will not only provide a pastime for the men who have not had military training and for whom the Government could not probably find profitable employment, but they will provide a pleasant competition for those who are not in a position to take up arms, and thus help to keep up as cheerful a tone as possible in the country.’ Football could also raise funds to help those suffering as a result of the war. Takings from practice matches in August should go to the relief funds.

The Football League took a similar view: ‘To sit in sorrow is to aggravate the nation’s sorrow. Any rational sport which can minimise grief, help the nation to bear its sorrow, and relieve the oppression and continuous strain and save the people at home from panic and undue depression is a great national asset which can render further service to the people. Our great winter game should pursue its usual course. Every player should train to be of national service, not least in national defence.’

The Warwickshire Yeomanry was kicking its heels in camp near Bury St. Edmunds. With little of interest in the district, few horses available and movement restricted, the men had been occupying themselves playing football.