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Posts from the ‘HIstory’ Category


#Dutch: Winner Libris History Prize 2018




  1. The Dutch literary-historical scholar gives us  an
  2. incredible true story of the Late Middle Ages
  3. knight (ridder) Jan van Brederode. (1370-1415)
  4. Lord of Brederode was the heir apparent of an
  5. important Dutch noble family
  6. a lay brother in a Carthusian monastery
  7. mercenary who died during the Battle of Agincourt.


Book Cover:  I was intrigued…what does it mean?

  1. Van Oostrom has chosen an image of the Wheel of Fortune.
  2. In the Middle Ages is was a
  3. symbol of the capricious nature of Fate.
  4. Jan van Brederode’s fate:  a childless marriage.
  5. It led him on a roller-coaster life that would have been
  6. so different if only there was an heir.
  7. Here is a beautiful image by Jean Mielot with 4 stages of life:
  8. Left : I shall reign
  9. Top: I reign
  10. Right: I have reigned
  11. Bottom: lowly figure…I am without a kingdom


Strong point: archival research

  1. Van Oostrom is NOT relying on secondary sources or
  2. dated translations of medieval narratives.
  3. Van Oostrom ‘gets his hands dirty’
  4. ….does the hard work visiting achives in
  5. The Netherlands but most importantly
  6. …going to libraries in other neighboring  lands.


Strong point:   scholarly rigour which led to a literary discovery!

  1. Van Oostrom has found the author
  2. …of the Van Hulthem manuscript.
  3. It is nicknamed the “Night Watch of Middle Dutch literature”.
  4. This document is of invaluable importance
  5. providing a new look at the Late Middle Ages.


Strong point: readable

  1. Van Oostorm is a renowned Dutch historical scholar
  2. ….but he also knows his audience.
  3. He wanted to present to the average reader
  4. an intelligent picture of the Late Middle Ages
  5. in The Netherlands (1350-1450).
  6. His text is lucid, instructive yet has a ‘modern whiff’ using
  7. many familiar language idioms
  8. …and even references to
  9. Google maps  an making a parallel
  10. between the Frisian Wars in on the periode 1399-1407
  11. and the  1967 Vietnam debacle.


Strong point: scope

  1. Van Oostrom draws on the chronicles of
  2. …Jan van Leiden (ca. 1480) but does not
  3. venture off into stories about
  4. …pageants, the Plague or Papal Schism.
  5. He keeps the focus on Jan van Brederode and his family.
  6. Van Oostrom brings history closer to the reader showing us
  7. …that people in the 21st C are so similar to those in the 14th C.
  8. We both struggle with debts, marriage (pressure to produce an heir)
  9. inheritance rights, family loyalty, a ‘Shylock’ of a father-in-law (Willem van Abcoude)!


Strong point: last chapters

  1. Just when I thought I had
  2. reached my ‘history’ saturation point
  3. Van Oostrum revives me with a heartfelt chapter 
  4. about the importance of  historical investigation.
  5. He refers to many fellow 21st C historians
  6. who have provided pieces to a larger puzzle
  7. that give us all new insights into the past.
  8. #Bravo, Frits van Oostrom!


#AWW 2018 The Enigmatic Mr. Deakin



  1. This is a  book about the history, politics and philosophy
  2. of Australian liberals.
  3. It is Australian politics leading up to Deakin Government
  4. and his years as Prime Minister 1903-1908.
  5. As a brilliant speaker Deakin became one of the kind of people
  6. who are very good at playing the political game.
  7. Judtih Brett has done almost the impossible
  8. …make a shy, studious, religious man seem interesting.
  9. Remember this is not a literary biography but a political biography.
  10. It’s going to be full of elections, and policy making.
  11. So if you are not really interested in this topic
  12. ….the book will be a tough read.


Last thoughts:

  1. It is not easy to write a political biography
  2. It is not easy to condense an entire life into the form of a book
  3. …an interesting book.
  4. You have to find the right balance between
  5. historical fact and emotion to give the subject a pulse.
  6. I felt only a regular missed heartbeat.
  7. The author did not punch me with enough
  8. little details that make the character relatable.
  9. It is difficult to read the book you are writing
  10. as if you were the reader…instead of a writer.
  11. Perhaps that may have improved this book.



#AWW 2018 Atomic Thunder (NF)


Who is  Elizabeth Tynan?

  1. Elizabeth Tynan is a science writer and academic
  2. at the James Cook University  in Queensland, Australia.
  3. She completed a PhD on aspects of British nuclear testing in Australia.


What is Atomic Thunder about?

  1. Britain wanted to join the nuclear club.
  2. Britain needed Australia’s geographic assets (testing ground)
  3. …and its distance from the British electorate.
  4. Britain conducted three atomic explosions at
  5. the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia
  6. …and nine at Maralinga and Emu.
  7. This book chronicles the scandals that ensued:
  8. 1950 Australian prime minister Robert Menzies
  9. agreed to atomic tests without informing his government
  10. the overall levels and distribution of radioactivity
  11. …that wreaked havoc on Indigenous communities
  12. …and turned the land into a radioactive wasteland
  13. the uncovering of the extensive secrecy around British testing
  14. This book is the most comprehensive account of the whole saga.
  15.  After the British departed they left an unholy mess behind.




Strong point:

  1. Mw Tynan shows in the last chapters
  2. the transformation Australia society has endured.
  3. What a difference a generation makes
  4. …layers of secrecy and inertia are lifted!
  5. Investigative journalists and media are not
  6. ….interested in comforting the powerful
  7. No more stonewalling….
  8. The people of Australia demand accountability!

Quote: pg 290

  • “Britain knew in the 1960’s that radioactivity at its former nucelar
  • test site in Australia was worse than first thought.
  • But it did not tell the Australians.

Quote: pg 300

  • Australia in the 1950s and early 1960s was essentially
  • ….an atomic banana republic
  • useful only for its resources…especially uranium and land.”
  • Chilling and selfish attitude of Britain
  • treating Australia as a lackey. Disgraceful


Last thoughts:

  1. The whole story is shocking but while I was reading
  2. chapter 9 Clean-ups and Cover-ups I  put my hands
  3. over my lips in absolute horror.
  4. Clean up crews were working 12-hr shifts scooping
  5. up topsoil that was liberally
  6. …dotted with plutonium-contaminated fragments.
  7. No-one says any thing about this to George Owen (British Army recruit).
  8. After 5 months working at Maralinga he is discharged.
  9. Soon after he notices strange growths on his hands.
  10. This is plutonium-239….
  11. 1 millionth of a gram may be sufficient to
  12. cause lung cancer if inhaled.
  13. How much dust did Owen inhale?
  14. Speechless….
  15. #MustRead
  16. PS…I read it in one day…could NOT put it own!






Spin #18: Means of Ascent LBJ




  1. Robert Caro is writing  The Years of Lyndon Johnson.
  2. Four volumes have been published and he is working on vol 5.
  3. As of 2017 400 pages were typed for this last book.
  4. Now Caro is moving to Vietnam to continue the writing process.
  5. I cannot emphasize enough
  6. …what a monumental historical document
  7. …Robert Caro is giving us.
  8. I read volume 1 The Path to Power…it was very good.
  9. All of the volumes are chunksters and the only way I can
  10. read them is using an audio version on my IPOD.
  11. I listen during my walks, while doing household chores,
  12. riding my bike to the grocery store….and 30 min before sleeping.
  13. LBJ and Nancy have become very close!



  1. Volume 2 is a blow-by-blow account of the drama
  2. concerning the back-round and outcome of the
  3. 1948 Senate seat of Texas election.
  4. Caro reveals  an exhaustive amount of
  5. …details only recently available to historians.
  6. There are long testimonies given in court by individuals who
  7. conspired with LBJ to STEAL the election!
  8. Needless to say.
  9. the Johnsons family is not fond of Robert Caro.
  10. This book was about LBJ  but it did spur me on
  11. …to learn more about the defeated candidate in the race:
  12. ‘Coke’ Stevens and the demcratic political boss
  13. that put LBJ in  the 1948 senate, The Duke of Duval
  14. …George Berham Parr
  15. #MeanerThanABarnyardDog


Last thoughts:

  1. Means of Ascent  paled in comparison to
  2. …the blockbuster volume 1  The Path to Power.
  3. A senatorial race in Texas 1948 may seem to be a turning point
  4. …in modern politics but is was just a ‘run-of-the-mill’
  5. type of  campaign in USA  even today!
  6. The only difference being the role of
  7. Twitter,  FB social media and the
  8. …phenomenon of ‘fake news’ websites!
  9. Backroom deals, bibes, intimidation even ballot-box stuffing
  10. …it is STILL going on.
  11. LBJ is just one of many  USA politicians that have entered office
  12. by these distinct patterns or methods of operation
  13. ……Modus Operandi.
  14. Oh, don’t forget there are also rich fathers who make sure
  15. their son is the first Catholic president in the White House.
  16. I recommend the book about
  17.   the MAN behind JFK
  18. The Patriarch by David Nasaw (2012).
  19. #EyeOpener



My notes:

August 3, 2018

Listened to introduction that lasted 1 hour 11 min on IPOD!
This book will look at 7 years 1941-1948. LBJ won a senate seat in election 1948…by just 87 votes. Why was this election a watershed moment? It was the end of ‘ol school politics’ ( handshaking, backslapping and the three B’s: beef steak, bourbon and blondes) and the start of the new school politics (media, TV, backroom deals of pressure and persuasion).

August 7, 2018

Ch 1-2 are a re-hash of the first book. You can jump into ch 3 and not miss a beat. LBJ is desperate to get into ‘the combat zone’ (…if Melbourne Australia is considered the front line…hmmm). It looks good on the political CV. Poor Lady Bird Johnson….husband treats her eith his Neanderthal habits. She gives him his due respect …he runs out the back door to his mistress Alice.


August 14, 2018

The more I learn about LBJ…the more i admire his wife Lady Bird Johnson
…for being able to endure her insensitive husband.


August 15, 2018

Frenetic politician….LBJ wants every minute to be used to convince the voter he must be their next senator 1948. The ‘windmill’ a Sikorsky heli was the newest tool he used to visit at least 10 small Teaxan towns on ‘the forks of the creek’ a day! This was the start of modern political campaigns!


August 16, 2018

Well, it’s official…LBJ did not buy his Texas senate election 1948…he stole it! Putting this man in high office…changed the course of history (Vietnam).
How many subsequent US elections have been stolen….I wonder.


Classic: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

War correspondent, W. Shirer




  1. The best description of this book
  2. …was written by H. Trevor-Roper
  3. a British historian at Oxford University
  4. who reviewed the book or the New York Times:
  5. Light on our century’s  darkest night
  6. the awful story of Hitler’s Germany is movingly told
  7. and masterfully studied.”
  8. I could not improve on this statement if I tried.
  9. What I can add are my thoughts while reading the book.
  10. This classic of non-fiction had been on my bookshelf for decades!.
  11. But the sheer size of the book intimated me…and I never read it.
  12. If I can give any advice
  13. …read this book because it is so insightful.
  14. The only way I managed to do
  15. was using the audio book.
  16. I set out with Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Göring  and  a cast of
  17. …characters on my morning walks.
  18. I let Shirer’s words drift into my mind hoping I would learn a
  19. little more about Hitler, his rise to power and his
  20. …dreams of a pure nation that would rule the world!
  21. I wrote down a few notes  after every walk.


Last thoughts:

  1. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich has become more than
  2. …just another work of history.
  3. It has acquired the reputation as the best-selling historical work
  4. ever written in modern times.
  5. It is based on captured  German secret documents.
  6. Don’t wait as long as I did to discover this book
  7. ….read it soon!
  8. Remember…
  9. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
  10. (George Santayana, philosopher )




May 20, 2018 – page 80
Beer Hall Putsch (8 Nov 1923) Hitler’s attempt to form a new government failed miserably. But Hiltler was not deterred…I’ll be back!

May 21, 2018 – page 117
Did you know?
It was obligatory (and politic) to present a copy of Mein Kampf to the bride and groom at their wedding?
Nearly every school child received a copy at graduation.
Now…that creates a boost in sales!

May 23, 2018 – page 150
Did you know?
Hitler’s great deep love was for his niece (1929). She was not to be seen with any man than himself. 1931 his niece decided ‘I’m done, going back to Vienna”. There was an argument between Hitler and the girl. The next morning she was found shot in her room.

May 24, 2018 – page 188
Election intrigues (1932) backroom politics, conspirators playing their last desperate hands, with so many details. This was an exhausting read (pg 150-188). I was glad when it all ended and on
Jan 30 1933…. Hitler was finally appointed as chancellor and in March 1933 Hitler would be named dictator. It’s all downhill from here!

May 25, 2018 – page 200
Did you know?
Göring suggests to Hitler that the Reichstag (parliament) be dissolved.
He didn’t mean that literally!
Oh, well ….it burnt to the ground….now
who did not get the memo?

May 26, 2018 – page 230
June 30-2 July 1934 Purge “The Night of the Long Knives”
Political executions of people who knew too much. Hitler’s power is now absolute. While this was going on Hitler was hosting a tea party on Sunday 01 July.

May 27, 2018 – page 279
Shirer mentions one of the most arrogant, icy and ruthless Nazis: Reinhard ‘Hangman’ Heydrich, chief of Security Police (SD) spying on everone! A great cross-read is HHhH by French author Laurent Binet (2010). The novel recounts Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of this Nazi leader in Prague during World War II. This will keep you glued to your summer beach chair!.

May 28, 2018 – page 300
Did you know?
Did The London Times play a dubious role in the disastrous appeasement of Hitler? Norman Ebbut chief correspondent for the paper in Berlin…his dispatches were much more revealing than other reporters. Much that he sent to London was NOT published! The Times editors read all his reports and knew what ‘really’ was going on in Nazi Germany!  Ebbut was expelled by the Nazis in August 1937. After only a month back in England, Norman Ebbutt suffered a severe stroke, thus effectively ending his career as a journalist. He was 43 years old.  A stroke at 43?  That is very young….or was Ebbut a “man who knew too much?”  MI6 …hmmmm?

May 29, 2018 – page 357
Did you know?
Hitler hated Vienna! (…such a beautiful city)
On the first day of Austrian invasion Hitler arrested
79.000 citizens of that town.
Austria is done an dusted…next stop Czechoslovakia!

June 6, 2018 – page 435
Goebbels is spreading fake news about Czechs attacking poor German citizens…March 1939 Czechoslovakia ceases to exist. With the newly empowered juggernaut of Hitler…next stop Poland!

June 8, 2018 – page 500
Did you know?
Hitler was as sly as a fox…never kept a promise and it was all about Make Germany Great Again….hmmm.
Adolf Hitler treated Danzig somewhat differently. During the Czechoslovakia annexation, Hitler was ready to use force. Danzig was the catalyst. Hitler intended to use it to provoke war with Poland…and it worked!

June 15, 2018 – page 520
Boris Johnson (UK) has predicted Vladimir Putin will revel in the World Cup in Russia this summer in the same way that Adolf Hitler did in the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936.
I will have leave Hitler in Poland…. and put this book on the ‘back-burner’ while I ‘revel’ in the World Cup Soccer Championship.

June 25, 2018 – page 555
Poor Poland….invaded by Hitler and knocked out of the World Cup 2018.
Lose-lose situation.

July 8, 2018 – page 625
Did you know?
Mussolini was so worried about the approaching chance of world war that he sent a TOP SECRET message on 31 Aug 1939
(the eve of the attack on Poland by Hitler on 01 Sept )
to the British?
He promised despite his support of Hitler…
Mussolini would not attack England or France.
Not only Hitler can double cross friends….so can Il Duce!

July 11, 2018 – page 675
Did you know ?…..what the best kept secret was in WW II?
Hitler’s plan to invade and conquer Denmark and Norway!
I did not know that!

July 22, 2018 – page 758
Calculated ruthlessness of the Germans after bombing Rotterdam on May 14th 1940 would not be forgotten by the Dutch.
You will have excuse me for NOT feeling sorry that the German ‘manschaft’ was knocked out of the World Cup Soccer Championship in the first round.

July 22, 2018 – page 600
Did you know?
Once the Germans realized that Churchill and the British would never agree to a peace in July 1940…they were stunned!
No one had imagined Germany may have to attack and conquer England!
Germans had no PLAN-B! This is a great book with so many interesting insights!

July 23, 2018 – page 826
Did you know? ….that Denmark and Norway were sleeping at the switch. If I saw 10 German destroyers cursing on the horizon I’d be suspicious. Not the Scandinavians….before it was too late.
Russia is NOT going to make that mistake. They were WARNED by Pres. Roosevelt 10 days before the Hitler’s invasion on 22 June 1941.

July 24, 2018 – page 903
December 1941 Hitler is at the zenith of his power…..after this day it’s all downhill.
At war with formidable opponents (UK-USA-FRANCE-RUSSIA and smaller key figures Poland, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway…who now start fighting back….be it only with The Resistance.

July 24, 2018 – page 950
Stalingrad en El Alamein (Desert Fox, Rommel)…..military disasters.
Speechless. Starting the last…200 pages of 1149!   NOTE: my father’s favorite general was Rommel. He  loved the movie The Desert Fox (1951) with James Mason. We watched it together in 1961 on TV ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ NBC! My mother’s favorite general was Patton! Mother never went to the movies….but made an exception to see George C. Scott dazzle in the movie.  If you have never seen this movie do try to find it on DVD….it is amazing! The movie won many Oscars (Best picture, Best Director, Best Writing)…and Best actor for G.C. Scott.  He famously refused to accept the award claiming that competition between actors was unfair.  George C. Scott  was a #ClassAct

July 26, 2018 – page 1100
February 1945 – it is evident the Hitler, his mission having failed to conquer the world, was ready to go down like Wotan at Valhalla ….taking his enemies and own people with him. I learn today about Operation Alsos…a fascinating scientific espionage story just waiting for me! US wants to know how close Nazi Germany was to getting the bomb.



The General vs. The President


Why did President Truman say ‘You’re fired”  to 5 star General MacArthur  in 1951?



The General:

  1. MacArthur lost all most of his support to enter presidential race 1952.
  2. He was questioned for 3 days in Washington after his dismissal
  3. as Commander of East Asian forces.
  4. He  spoke roughly 90.000 words almost enough to fill  a novel.
  5. What happened to the adoration he received upon his return to the US?
  6. Not many knew that Truman once called
  7. MacArthur the most dangerous man in America.
  8. Truman saw some Caesarism
  9. ….lurking behind the 5 stars on his general’s cap.


The President:

  1. Truman was not a product of  ‘elite America’.
  2. Truman did start courses toward a law degree and in business college
  3. ..but he never formally graduated or completed a degree.
  4. Truman was wiser than most politicians took him for.
  5. He never stopped learning.
  6. He read four or five newspapers each morning
  7. …so he would remain as well-informed as possible.
  8. I was impressed by his patience and ability to look at problems from a
  9. broad point of view.
  10. Not only what MacArthur’s high-jinks meant to Asia
  11. …but more importantly for Europe struggling to recover from WW II
  12. …struggling to stand up to Stalin’s totalitarian vision of Eastern Europe.



  1. Listening to the tensions and political decisions as a response
  2. to the invasion of North Korea into South Korea sends chills down my spine.
  3. Truman was pragmatic and not prone to erratic statements
  4. (no twitter in those days).
  5. North Korea  was trouble in 1950 and is still trouble in 2017
  6. I knew nothing about the details of the Korean War.
  7. Brands takes the reader from 25 June 1950
  8. …the invasion of South Korea by the North.
  9. …to  May 3 1951 – 21 June 1951
  10. The Senate Armed Forces and Foreign Relations Committees
  11. …began  7 weeks of hearings.
  12. They were investigating President Truman’s  removal of
  13. …MacArthur from his command on 11 April 1951.
  14. Reading this book  is addictive…learning more about Korean War.
  15. Post-Cold War research in Soviet Archives has revealed that the Korean War
  16. was begun by Kim Il-sung with the express permission of Stalin.
  17. #DidNotKnowThat
  18. Three times Truman wanted to fire his chief General in Korea
  19. …but he did not.
  20. In  early 1951 MacArthur crossed a ‘red line’ according to Washington.
  21. Truman’s reaction was disbelief and controlled fury.
  22. I knew nothing about the Korean War.
  23. This book was the best place to start!
  24. #MustRead  5 parts, 68 chapters, 416 pages
  25. #MustListen – audio book is excellent! (15 hrs 22min)


Last Thoughts:

  1. For all the  homage Truman  paid to straight talk…
  2. he also understood the value of silence.
  3. Truman would be a great role-model for the present administration.