Monthly Archives: May 2016

The origins of Mao’s Cultural Revolution

UnknownIn 1966, Mao staged a return to public life and attempted to wrest back control of the Chinese Communist Party following the disaster of the Great Leap Forward. He had been a marginal figure for four years since 1962, and in the mean time more pragmatic and less ideological figures such as Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping had steered party policy. Mao would appeal directly to China’s youth, a generation who had grown up after the revolution. He would direct the energies of young people against the establishment within the party, denouncing them as ‘rightists’. This was partly the result of Mao’s belief in bringing about ideological purity through a state of permanent ongoing revolution, but in large part it was his finala bid for power following widespread criticism.

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The Nazi-Soviet Pact

In August 1939 the Nazi Soviet Pact shocked the world. Two dictators and sworn enemies, who were under no illusions about future conflict with each other signed a non aggression pact and trade deal. It contained a secret clause about the division and occupation of Poland, a state which neither viewed as legitimate and Stalin viewed as an existential threat. Here’s a short video on the agreement and its consequences.

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The 2016 exam advice special

Hi student listeners and readers, here’s a few thoughts on the exams you’ll be sitting over the next few weeks. It’s a short recording to help you think in a way that’s going to benefit you and hopefully leave you feeling less stressed and more focused.

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MacArthur and Japan

By 1946 General Douglas MacArthur was installed as America’s imperial viceroy in Tokyo, with more power over the Japanese than any US president before or since has had over the American people. His tenure in Japan led to a revolution in the practices of government and the development of a modern constitutional monarchy. He was careful not to threaten the position of Emperor Hirohito, despite clear evidence of his guilt in war crimes across Asia.

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The Fall of Budapest

The horrors of the fall of Berlin in April and May 1945 have been depicted in films and documentaries such as Oliver Hirschbeigel’s Downfall (2004).┬áThat Hitler spent his final days in a bunker and died by his own hand are facts th95nfpyat are widely understood and the mental image of a besieged and dying regime holding out ’til the end occupy a place in our darkest imaginings. The fate of Budapest in the same year is far less well known, but in many ways the two cities were in
timately connected in the horror of the war and the onslaught of the Red Army. Hitler ominously stated that Budapest, capital of his erstwhile ally Hungary, sould hold out and be devastated┬áby the Red Army in order to buy Berlin time to prepare for the Nazi Regime’s last stand. Here’s a recent video I’ve created on the fate of Budapest:

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Poland, Palestine and Zionism

Zeev_JabotinskyIn the middle of the 1930s the official policy towards the Jews in Poland began to change. The liberal approach to the large Jewish population pioneered by Josef Pilsudski, the father of the nation, died with him in May 1935. What came in its place was a plan to export Poland’s Jews to Palestine, then a British mandate in the Middle East. The development of Poland as a nation state from 1918 onwards led to growing demands for a racially homogenous society from Polish nationalists. Whilst the treatment of the Jews and plans for their future treatment were in no way as violent and savage as that meted out by the Nazis, pre war Poland was still an officially anti Semitic state. The curious feature of this policy was the degree of cooperation from Jewish revisionist zionists in Poland, namely Vladimir Jabotinsky (above) and Menachem Begin. The two men cooperated openly with the Polish Government who armed and trained the zionist guerrilla group Irgun and helped to arm the zionist youth movement Betar into a paramilitary organisation. All parties harboured fantasies of creating and ‘army of liberation’ for Palestine; there was a curious mixture within the Polish government of a desire to exclude and remove Jews (especially during the great depression, as it was believed they represented a surplus population that could be expelled), and an admiration and affinity.

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Hippies and Conservatives

Hi all, apologies for the lack of posting, it’s a busy time of year for a history teacher, but without further ado, here are two recent videos. The first is on the subject of Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee for the Presidential Election of 1964. Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson, who won by the biggest margin in US electoral history. However, the ideas Goldwater expounded, fiscal conservatism and a return to American ‘family values’ shaped the following decades in profound and lasting ways. The second video is on the American counter culture, a complex and shifting group of idealists, fellow travellers, revolutionaries, students and war protesters.

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