Posts Tagged ‘history’

The release of the Laurel and Hardy film biopic Stan & Ollie has brought the legendary comedy duo back into the public consciousness for a while.

And it reminded me that, among various things I’ve written for this site over the years but never posted, there was a piece on Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy that I had notes for. It was originally to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Laurel’s death; but it works just as well to put it here now.

Even if it’s mainly about Laurel and the last days of his life, you actually can’t write about Laurel without it being about Hardy: the pair were inseparable, both in public consciousness and, as it happened, even in life and death.

It is a remarkable sign of the longeivity potential in the medium of film, and a testatement to the talents of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, that we still talk about them even now.

We are soon coming up to 100 years since the pair starred in their first movie together. Most of the shorts considered their classics are 80 and 90 years old by now. When I developed my love of Laurel and Hardy as a kid in the eighties, they had both already been dead for around two decades and their prime era had begun before even my grandparents had been born. (more…)

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A recent announcement in the press says an ancient ring found in Bethlehem ‘belonged to the man who crucified Jesus’.

The man they refer to is actually the Prefect or Governor, Pontius Pilate – so, strictly speaking, not ‘the man crucified Jesus’, but the man who okayed the crucifixion.

The article also added the caveat ‘scientists believe’: as in ‘belonged to the man who crucified Jesus, scientists believe’.

I’m always a little wary of phrases like ‘scientists believe’: it’s a little vague. But maybe I’m getting too hung up on semantics.

In fact, even the idea that Pontius Pilate had Jesus crucified is disputed (there are entire books on that – which I might attempt to touch on again in another post): but that’s a diversion for some other time.

I usually publish a Christmas-related or Christmas-themed article here in the lead-in to Christmas: but I ran out of time this year to think of something good enough, so I’ve just gone with this. Not just the Pilate object, however, but a few other items of Gospel-related archaelogy that have recently cropped up. (more…)

100 years ago, the First World War was a devastating conflict in which many millions of people lost their lives and in which the political, social and even geographical state of the world was changed forever.
But, far from being the “war to end all wars”, the consequences of World War I are very much still relevant, still being felt today, particularly in regard to the Middle East.

The First World War was, after all, thought of as “the war to end all wars”, but within less than a generation of that apocalyptic conflict came the Second World War, the causes of which were directly traceable to World War I and specifically the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and the treatment of Germany.

World War II then was arguably just a continuation of World War I. And the Cold War that followed World War II was arguably still a result of World War I and the Russian Revolution: in theory, the Cold War continued until the end of the 1980s.

But it’s fascinating to note how much of today’s conflict is rooted also in the events of the First World War.

For example, the situation currently occurring in the Middle East is directly traceable to the events of World War I, albeit via a much longer period of time; the Balfour Declaration, the creation of the modern State of Israel in Palestine, the Sykes-Picot agreement, the creation of the Saudi Kingdom and its continuing influence on the region and on international politics, the Colonial carving up of Iraq, Syria and the Middle East – these, among other things, are all traced back to the events of World War I or its immediate aftermath.

Strictly speaking, of course, the war did end in 1918. But, if you factor in conflicts or scenarios originating in that war and still going on now, then you could argue that the war certainly wasn’t wrapped up with a tidy little bow in 1918.

The argument that World War I never really ended (or, at least, that we’re still living in its enormous shadow) was reinforced by, of all things, the advent of the so-called Islamic State group and the bloody chaos that ripped apart the heart of the Middle East in recent years – with ‘ISIS’ having literally talked about “the end of Sykes-Picot” as part of its ill-conceived ‘manifesto’. (more…)

john-hurt-iclaudius

Didn’t have enough time to properly, fully eulogise concerning the brilliant British film, stage and TV actor John Hurt, who passed away a few days ago after a struggle with pancreatic cancer.

There would be a lot to say about Hurt, whose rich, varied career included any number of memorable or stellar performances. But my own permanent sense of connection to Hurt’s on-screen legacy is a particular performance from his younger years.

While many would regard his portrayal of the Elephant Man as one of the great performances in cinema, John Hurt’s portrayal of the unhinged Emperor Caligula in the classic series I Claudius stands as one of the most compelling television performances there has ever been. (more…)

christians-middleeast

This year’s Christmas sermon was originally going to be like last year’s and focus on an element of the Nativity tradition; instead, given current events and the popular reaction to them, I decided to go with a different subject – specifically, Islam and Christianity.

There is now, perhaps inevitably, a growing trend in some sections of Western commentary to see things in terms of a Muslim/Christian divide; or the idea, more specifically, that Islam is a threat or enemy towards Christianity. To some extent, there is a sub-sect within Islam – a radical, extremist ideology – that probably could be described as a threat to Christian interests or ‘Christian values’; but that same sub-sect is also the same threat to mainstream Muslim communities and ‘values’ too – probably more so, in fact. (more…)

Letter from Fidel Castro to FDR, 1940, pgs 2&3 00968_2003_002

I’ve been fascinated by historic letters and correspondence for some time; and I wrote a post covering some of this a while ago.

Letters, particularly communications never meant for public consumption, provide a fascinating insight into significant historic or cultural events, times or figures. They also can help to humanise certain figures – both historic or contemporary – who might otherwise seem like remote, distant characters or one-dimensional archetypes. (more…)

romanmosaicsmasks

As it is that night of the year, I figured now was the time to have a bit of fun and talk about ghosts.

This is actually a long-time favorite subject area for me, as I was fascinated by ghosts, the supernatural and anomalous activity and para-science in general throughout childhood – largely because of a book I had a kid, which I utterly devoured over and over again; but also on account of a few anomalous experiences I had, which naturally rendered me partial towards the subject. (more…)

burningbloggerofbedlam-muammar-gaddafi

As a few days ago marked the fifth anniversary of the murder of Muammar Gaddafi, I decided to mark it with a more low-key, fun-ish look back at Libya’s former national figurehead.

A more serious piece on the life and character of one of the most controversial world figures of the 20th century will follow in a few days, which I’d been working on for some time but hadn’t been able to finish in time. (more…)

nefertiti

Queen Nefertiti has remained one of the most fascinating, elusive figures from the permanently enchanting world of Ancient Egypt.
Her final resting place has also eluded Egyptologists over the years, but it’s discovery would amount to one of the most important finds in history, probably even more so than Howard Carter’s discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922.

(more…)