Churchill, Roosevelt and the Atlantic Charter, 1941

In August 1941, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin Roosevelt met along with their top military and diplomatic advisors at Placentia Bay off the coast of Newfoundland. Their discussions shaped the western allied war aims and laid the foundations of a post war order based on the United Nations. American intervention in the war seemed increasingly likely following the introduction of lend-lease and the barely conceal naval war that was being waged between American warships and German U-Prince_of_Wales-5boats in the Atlantic. The meeting at Placentia Bay was not simply a love-in for the two leaders but a chance for Roosevelt to assess the terms on which America would come to Britain’s aid. In particular, the Americans were keen to know what
kind of post w
ar economic order would emerge and what the British Empire would look like after the war, as there was understandable reluctance across the American political classes to fight a war against Nazism merely for the preservation of British imperialism.

 

For more on the historic meeting and the Atlantic Charter watch the video below:

Hunger, Housing and Stalin’s First Five Year Plan

UnknownIn 1928 the Soviet economy experienced a moment of massive change. For four years, as power struggles between Stalin and the ‘troika’ of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev left Russia in a period of confused collective leadership, the biggest question had been one of economic direction. It was unclear how long Lenin’s New Economic Policy that had been introduced in the aftermath of the civil war and allowed a limited amount of free enterprise in Russia was meant to continue. Lenin, who died in 1924 after several strokes robbed him of speech did not make clear how long it should be, though he implied it might last many decades. Stalin decisively answered the question of when the NEP should come to an end by introducing the Five Year Plans, the massive state led industrialisation of Russia. It was inevitably the Russian people who would bear the economic and social burdens of the plans, which created a massive influx of labour from the countryside to the towns and cities. There was very little housing provision to begin with but overcrowding and shanty towns (Magnitogorsk was being built during this period and began life essentially as a tent city in the arctic north) defined the era for many Russians. Poverty and hunger became epidemic problems during the first plan, with only the civil war years to rival them in terms of hardship.

For more on Stalin’s first Five Year Plan see the video below:

America in 1945 – podcast and study notes

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At the end of the Second World War, the United States of America emerged as the wealthiest society in human history. The contrast from the 1930s was stark; Britain, France and Germany had emerged from the great depression between 1933 and 1934, whereas mass unemployment was still prevalent in America in 1939. New industries, massive government help in the guise of the GI Bill for returning servicemen and a youthful population that had been unique across the world in actually experiencing rising living standards during the war all created the conditions for an enormous post war boom. America’s competitors in Europe and Asia were either physically devastated or, like Britain, mired in debt. The fact that America also emerged as a creditor nation meant that the post war generation would be fortunate to benefit from decades of prosperity. Many who had lived through the depression did not see it that way and there were fears of a return to depression once the war had ended and government orders for armaments dried up. By 1948, when no downturn had occurred, a shift in public attitudes was recorded and consumer confidence lifted America into a consumer boom, buoyed by cheap oil and credit that eventually fell away into recession in the 1970s.

Listen to the podcast for more

Also get the study notes here:

America in 1945

The origins of the Gestapo: Study notes

This is a quick post for history students focusing on Nazi Germany. I’ve created some

Rudolf Diels
Rudolf Diels, the first head of the Gestapo, 1933.

notes to download on the origins of the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei), the Nazi Secret State Police. Secret political police forces in Germany existed before Hitler came to power and were amalgamated into the Gestapo, which fell under the auspices of the the SS by the mid 1930s. The Gestapo is a much mythologised institution, it was relatively small compared to the population it had to police and would not have been able to operate effectively without German citizens ready to denounce each other. You can download study notes by clicking on the link below:

Police State

You can also download a guide to developing arguments in your essays on this topic here:

Essay Structure

 

The First World War and Britain’s Liberal Government

In the three years before the First World War, the Liberal Government, which had swept to power on a platform of social reform in 1906, faced unprecedented challenges and unrest. Foreign commentators saw the problems of Ireland, trade union militancy and the suffrage movement and assumed Britain mightasquith-lloydgeorge well be sliding towards a civil war. The First World War gave the Liberals a stay of execution, but the machinations of Chancellor David Lloyd George against the weak and indecisive Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, combined with the pressures that conscription and the Defence of the Realm Act placed on the basic beliefs of Edwardian Liberals left the party in tatters by 1918. For more on this watch the video below:

Churchill and Greece

Throughout the Second World War, Winston Churchill favoured a ‘Mediterranean Strategy’, believing that the ‘soft underbelly’ of Hitler’s Europe was Italy, Greece and the Balkans. By 1945, as the German occupiers of Greece withdrew in the face of a possible Red Army invasion Winston Churchill prioritised a British occupation of Greece to ensure that there was no possibility of a communist takeover. He had agreed with Stalichurchilln that Greece would fall into a British sphere of influence when the two leaders met in Moscow in 1944. Stalin had little interest in Greece and was happy to keep to the agreement, knowing that dominating Poland was a far greater prize.

For the full story, watch the video below:

Nixon and Kissinger 1968-74

The Watergate Scandal is the first thing most people think of when Richard Nixon’s name is mentioned. Whilst this was the defining point of his presidency, the shadow it casts blots out other important aspects of the years from 1968 to nison-and-kissinger1974. Nixon’s very own Cardinal Wolsey, Henry Kissinger, came to exert an enormous amount of power in the White House. He was able to bypass the normal channels of American diplomacy and attempted, with immense violence across much of Asia, to dig the USA out of a series of foreign policy quagmires. The Cold War was in deadlock, America was bogged down in Vietnam and Kissinger had to deliver to his master a foreign policy triumph, even though Nixon was for the most part disinterested in the art of diplomacy.

For more on Nixon and Kissinger listen to the podcast here

Harry Truman in 1945

There had possibly been no president in American history as untested and unsure as Harry Truman. The death of Franklin D. Roosevelt came at a critical moment in the final stages of the Second World War and the emerging Cold War with the USSR. It also came as Roosevelt’s dream of a world organisation to regulate international affairs, the UN, was coming to fruition. TruUnknownman had virtually no experience in diplomacy, which Roosevelt himself had lived and breathed, but this didn’t mean that the new president had no understanding of how to deal with the USSR. His brusque, abrupt and uncompromising attitude was a welcome breath of fresh air to many in the White House who believed that the Soviets had been appeased  by Roosevelt for too long.

You can hear more about Harry Truman here

Stalinist Architecture

The October Revolution of 1917 was at once a break with the past, a new beginning and sovietsan end of history, three ideas encapsulated within the dialectic of Marxism and the Hegelian eschatology that Marx’s ideas were based upon. A revolution staged by a radical intelligentsia who claimed to have correctly interpreted the processes of history itself was unprecedented, and because of this it would present specific philosophical and aesthetic challenges to the revolution’s heirs who set about building a new society on the ruins of the old.
The revolution of October 1917 had been a based around what its practitioners believed was a scientific analysis of the laws of history. Lenin was focused in his 1902 treatise on revolution ‘What is to be done’, on where Russia stood in its historical development, where exactly in history she was. The conclusion that he reached was that Russia was mired in here own backward peasant past and that a historical ‘short cut’ was necessary to jolt her into the future[i]. This short cut would be the coup of October 1917 and the state built thereafter would construct socialism, thus ushering in the final phase of human existence, Communism.

Listen to the full podcast on Stalinist Architecture here

 

 

 

India in 1945

The First World War had pushed British rule in India close to collapse and had arguably made home rule or dominion status only a matter of time. During the Second World War the Quit India campaign manifested itself as open rebellion against Britain and the subsequent famine in Bengal discredited Churchill’s wartime government in the eyes of much of the population. By 1945 the pressures that Japan’s war against Britain’s Asian Empire had placed on the colonial rulers had made the end of empire an inevitability. Not only had the British failed to show their martial prowess against Japan, but the war had revolutionised Indian society, seen the development of a huge war industry and a powerful Indian army of over a million men had been primarily responsible for taking the fight to the Japanese. The consequences of this for British rule were catastrophic. Listen to the podcast here for more:

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