King Henry V and the French Throne

Henry’s remarkable success against the French in battle is well known, but it is not generally realised how close he came to uniting the kingdoms of England and France. His victories had given him control of two thirds of France, plus the guarantee of him succeeding to the French throne on the death of the mad King Charles. If Henry could have lived a few short weeks longer he would have achieved this grand ambition.

Those interested in Medieval history will know of Henry’s great victory at Agincourt (or Azincourt to give it its proper name), but this was not the end of his ambition in France.


The Mau Mau Uprising

In the early 1950s, many parts of Africa were looking to throw off the colonial rule of their European masters and seek independence.

In the British colony of Kenya, local Kikuyu tribesmen formed a resistance group, calling themselves the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA). Their unofficial name of Mau Mau, is believed to be an anagram of the Kikuyu word “Uma Uma” (Get Out! Get Out!).



The Battle of Crécy.  From a 15th Century illuminated manuscript of Jean Froissart's <em>Chronicles</em> Phillip had seriously underestimated the English king. He was to pay a bloody price on the 26th of August 1346, largely due to French pride and bad discipline.

In July 1346, King Edward of England mounted a major invasion of France, landing at Saint Vaast on the Cotentin Peninsula with a force between 10,000 and 15,000 men; first destroying the French ships in the harbour and then burning the town. Edward landed around midday and Froissart records that he tripped with his first step on the beach. This was regarded by some as a bad omen, but Edward was reported to have remarked “I look upon it as a sign that the land desires to have me”. His force marched through Normandy towards Flanders, pillaging as he went in a manner that became known as “chevauchée”, merely destroying rather than attempting to occupy captured land.


The Punic Wars: Kriegsschuldfrage and the Question of the Just War

Map Showing Rome and Carthage at the Beginning of the Second Punic War, 218 BC The Germans have a wonderful expression for culpability in war: Kriegsschuldfrage. Who is to blame for the initiation of war and its concomitant horrors? Related to this question is the determination of whether a war was justified or not. A “just war” is often regarded as one waged in self-defense, as when one nation repulses invasion by another, but the matter becomes slippery when pre-emptive aggression is labeled “just.” As for the notion of a “good” war, I would argue that war is never good, as it invariably produces carnage afflicting the innocent. In recent times some historians have referred to WWII as “the good war,” arguing that it was so because it countered the menace of Hitler, but history is never that simple. Even in that conflict, the “good” side committed horrendous crimes against humanity, such as the incineration of innocent civilians in the fire-bombing of Dresden, or in the holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the atom bomb. No, there is no “good war,” but a war may be “just,” and that matter often hinges on the determination of the Kriegsschuldfrage.


Death on the Washita

In an attempt to bring an end to years of fighting, the US government formed the Indian Peace Commission to investigate the grievances of the Plains Indians. The commission concluded that the fighting had been entirely preventable and that the US government and its representatives had failed to fulfil its legal obligations and to treat the Native Americans with honesty.

In October 1867, Major Elliot and tribal chiefs met at Medicine Lodge, a traditional Indian council site and on the 21st October, a treaty was signed with the Kiowa and Comanche tribes and later with the Kiowa-Apache. The third treaty was signed with the Cheyenne and Arapaho on the 28th.


Hannibal's Elephants: Myth and Reality

Hannibal Crossing the Rhone - Henri-Paul Motte (1894) Pachyderms are an inseparable part of the image of the great Carthaginian general, Hannibal Barca, although they took part in a lot fewer engagements than most people familiar with his story assume. But let us examine three incidents involving elephants in order to evaluate the accuracy of the classical sources.