The Full and Unexpurgated History of England* to the Best of My Knowledge (part three)

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Sadly, despite the huge advances made in technology, medicine and Reality TV over the last two centuries, the years covered by this final short (although, dare I say, authoritative) record is dominated by war.

1815 A.D. – The Battle of Waterloo.  Although not fought on British soil this battle marked a turning point in British history as its resolution marked the start of a prolonged period of peace in Europe.  Britain, Prussia and allies fought for the preservation of sovereign state power, whilst Napoleon sought to create a single European state, which just goes to prove that long-term view doesn’t always win the day.  It did, however, lead to the consolidation of The Holy Roman Empire (which was actually none of the above) into the increasingly hyper-nationalistic German Confederation – and we all know where that led.  Britain gained many overseas territories from France which became strategically important naval bases in the maintenance of its Empire – so, that’s good then – although the ultimate winners were Abba.  The defeat at Waterloo still rankles in France – although, if I’m honest, it’s pretty difficult to find anything that the French are not annoyed about.  In modern politics, France is renowned as the most well-balanced of all Euro-powers, having a chip on both shoulders.

1914 – 1918 A.D. – The Great War (World War One) was not actually a truly global war, but like its predecessors, The Seven Year’s War and the Napoleonic Wars, it did have global consequences.  It was the first truly industrialised ‘total war’ although almost all of the fighting took place in Europe between two groups of ill-trained young people who really didn’t want to be there.  It is commonly known as World War One because otherwise World War Two would find itself completely out on a limb.  The blindness of The League of Nations, formed in the aftermath of the war, to the rearmament of Germany in response to the punitive reparations imposed upon them contributed directly to the Second (actually first) World War in 1939.  In fact many leading historians claim that the whole period from 1914 to 1945 should be seen as a single conflict with just a pause in the middle to allow for the replenishment of cannon-fodder.

!939 – 1945 A.D. (British time)  The Second World War (known in America as World War II as it sounds better in films)  took place between two totalitarian, expansionist regimes and the rest of the world.  Ultimately Britain (with the help of its late super-sub USA) and Russia beat Nazi Germany in Europe and Robert Oppenheimer beat the Japanese.  Following the war, world peace was maintained by means of the Cold War and with repeated threats from all sides to blow the hole sodding shebang to pieces.  The modern world is now dominated by three military super-powers who are perpetually at odds and George Orwell is spinning in his grave.

1982 A.D. – The Falklands Conflict.  This was not actually declared a War by either side (UK and Argentina) as neither was sure that the insurance was up to date.  This conflict provided a shrivelled-up UK with its last opportunity to flex military muscle in order to preserve its sovereignty over a small group of islands which would almost certainly benefit from closer relationships with their geographical neighbours.  The Falklands was ceded to Britain in the aftermath of Waterloo and at the time of the War (there, I said it) was home to 1,800 people.  Some 900 people died in the fighting (including 5 civilians) the majority of them dying at sea.  Since this conflict, the UK has managed to fight other countries only in its capacity as America’s official lap-dog.

Since 1982, of course, the world has enjoyed an uninterrupted period of peace, love and understanding, whilst England, through political stability and financial prudence, has re-established itself as the dominant global power of the age.

N.B. I can only apologise if my interpretation of events is at odds with your own.  Loathe though I am to admit it, I do occasionally get things wrong.

*This is not The History of Britain because I have no desire to thoroughly piss off the people of three other nations.

I hope I will have my head in the right place to resume my normal blog next week. Thank you for sticking with it!

You can find part one here and part two here.

The Full and Unexpurgated History of England* to the Best of My Knowledge (part two)

Photo by Janko Ferlic on

The Magna Carta having cured all social issues and resolved all inequalities within our society, England ploughed on along the path of peace and tranquillity towards prosperity…

1346 A.D. – The Black Death.  Bubonic plague reduced the population of Europe by more than fifty percent and may have killed up to 200 million people worldwide replacing the price of turnips as the most discussed subject in the pub.  This plague should not be confused with the Great Plague of London (1665) which was actually exactly the same thing, but three hundred years later. 

1455 A.D – The War of the Roses.  A series of civil wars fought between two branches of the same family for the control of the country following a feud dating back to the death of Edward III over who got the candlesticks.  These wars lasted for thirty years and differed only from the kind of ructions that emanate from most family funerals in the number of deaths it precipitated and the pronounced paucity of mushroom vol au vents afterwards.

1605 A.D. – The Gunpowder Plot.  A failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament as a prelude to restoring a Catholic monarchy in the country which was led by Robert Catesby.  Guy Fawkes was just one of a number of conspirators, but he was the one who was unlucky enough to have been left in charge of the gunpowder and, subsequently, the one who has had fireworks stuffed up his arse on the fifth of November every year since.  The other plotters – those who survived a gun battle and a fire caused (ironically) by their own gunpowder – plus a couple who joined in the party posthumously (having been exhumed especially for the event)  were castrated, hung, drawn and quartered, but at least they don’t have to be reminded of it every bloody year.

1642 A.D. – The English Civil War: a series of battles between ‘Roundheads’ and ‘Cavaliers’ to determine the supremacy of parliament over monarch.  Oliver Cromwell led the Roundheads to victory and became Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland after beheading King Charles I.  He was a kind and benevolent leader and in no way a complete megalomaniac arse, so beloved by his happy and joyful subjects that as soon as they could, following his death in 1658, they opted to have the Monarchy restored, as it was a far less authoritarian option.  Charles II dissolved the Parliament at his earliest convenience and assumed total control of the kingdom until his death in 1685 by which time he had at least twelve illegitimate children from his many mistresses (including Nell Gwynne, Moll Flanders and Joan Collins) and a dopey-looking spaniel named after him.

1665 A.D – The Great Plague of London (one of many re-emergences of The Black Death) killed about twenty five percent of the city’s population and, like most of the bad things the capital has to offer, eventually spread out to the whole country.  Ships travelling into London from infected ports were forced into quarantine before being allowed to dock and the wealthier members of society (including Charles II and his entourage) fled the city.  Things did not seem quite so bad when only the poor were dying.  Eventually a cure was found when a negligent baker managed to burn down most of the city the following year.  The efficacy of this fiery cure is attested to in the second verse of the Plague Nursery Rhyme, ‘Ring-a-Roses’ which goes ‘Ashes on the water, Ashes on the sea, We all jump up with a one, two, three’ – although it now appears to have been ‘modernised’ to ‘Fishes in the water, Fishes in the sea’ in order to make no sense at all.

1707 A.D. – The Act of Union between England and Scotland was passed in both parliaments, leading to the formation of Great Britain.  The Union was so popular in Scotland that martial law had to be imposed and pub landlords began the long-held tradition of charging English Tourists extra for allowing them to put ice in the whisky.

N.B. I can only apologise if my interpretation of events is at odds with your own.  Loathe though I am to admit it, I do occasionally get things wrong.

*This is not The History of Britain because I have no desire to thoroughly piss off the people of three other nations.

You can find part one here and part three here.

The Full and Unexpurgated History of England* to the Best of My Knowledge (part one)

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A short note for regular readers: I had these three items ‘stacked up’, so now seems the right time to use them.  I think I should be back to ‘usual’ next week.

I have mentioned before, I am sure (I am not one for hiding my shame under a bushel) my complete negligence in attempting to get to grips with the rudimentary research required to tackle History at ‘A’ level and my subsequent abject failure to attain a standard that the examination board could even be bothered to grade.  I am not proud of this – there is little in my schooldays that I can be proud of – but it has prompted me to investigate just how far my historical knowledge (at least of my own country) does spread.  Curiously, I discover that it does cover quite a lot – albeit breathtakingly thinly…

500,000 B.C. – Boxgrove man stumbled into Sussex only to find that all the sunbeds had already been taken by Boxgrove German.

2,000 B.C. – In an attempt to make the game more media-friendly, a group of druid football fans invented a round pitch featuring 5 goals with a convenient slab in the centre on which to sacrifice the referee if he refused to overrule VAR.  Stonehenge (later known as the Plumbing4U Arena) was carefully orientated so that the sun was always in the opposition goalie’s eyes during the second half.

43 A.D. – The Roman’s conquered England (despite Julius Caesar having claimed to have done so in 55 B.C. – ‘I’m sorry J.C., but standing on the beach saying Veni, Vidi, Vici does not constitute conquest, even in Kent’) and introduced straight roads, coinage, apples and pears (much later adopted by Cockneys in order to get up to the first floor), regular bathing (much, much later adopted by Cockneys) extravagant hand gestures and swearing.  Most of England and Wales did not actually succumb to military take-over but merely adopted Roman habits and laws in exchange for toilet facilities.  This was not the way in Scotland where the natives – particularly the strange and heavily bearded women –  refused to stop deep-frying the pizza and fortifying the wine with Irn Bru, and eventually (122 A.D.) the Romans erected a huge wall that ran from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway to mark the northernmost extent of their empire and the southernmost reach of the bagpipes (although they did later expand further and built a new wall between the Firths of Forth and Clyde which was abandoned only eight years after completion when the Roman Empire retreated back to Hadrain’s Wall and both Celtic and Rangers claimed the victory).

1066 A.D. – The Norman Invasion and the defeat of the English King Harold by William, Duke of Normandy.  The Normans gave us castles, churches and monasteries, and a deep-seated distrust of all things French.  Harold was famously killed by an arrow through the eye, but contemporary accounts state that he was also attacked with swords as he lay dying – perhaps he asked for gravy with his snails.

1086 A.D. – The Domesday Book: an early Norman census that detailed all of the property pinched from the English by the French and provided a guide to how much tax could be raised from all of those who could not possibly afford it.

1215 A.D. – The Magna Carta: a royal charter of rights decreed by King John to a group of 25 barons who, it transpired, were twenty-five times as bad as a single king for most of the country’s population.  The charter listed a number of civil rights and the people who could trample on them.  Legal precedents were created, such as Habeus Corpus, and civil liberties were enshrined into English Law – although not so enshrined that 99% of the population would ever have the faintest idea about it.  The charter was modified and reissued in 1216,1217, 1225 and 1297 on each occasion signing away a little more of the monarch’s divine right in exchange for hard cash.  The Magna Carta also provided the blueprint for the American Constitution which is equally effective at protecting the poor and the disenfranchised.

N.B. I can only apologise if my interpretation of events is at odds with your own.  Loathe though I am to admit it, I do get things wrong. 

*This is not The History of Britain because I have no desire to thoroughly piss off the people of three other nations.

You can find part two here and part three here.