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Responding to critiques of burlesque cheat sheet

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of burlesque. I think it’s a boring, overplayed example of what you might call neosexism or retro sexism — meaning that the “vintage” veneer and claims of “subversion,” “irony,” or postfeminism are meant to disguise the fact that it’s just the same old sexism that’s been going on for centuries. When it comes to burlesque, and, for that matter, anything that looks like sexism (see: pole-dancing classes, American Apparel ads, and “feminist pornography”) but is billed as not-sexist-because-women-like-it, the most useful tests to apply are these:

1) Are dudes doing it?

2) Are dudes trying to explain to you that it’s actually feminist?

If dudes aren’t doing it but are simultaneously trying to convince you that it’s liberating, empowering, or progressive, then there is a 99% chance of fuckery.

Having published the odd critique here and there, and, more generally, mushed burlesque in to the sexism-in-disguise category with the assumption that a phenomenon centered around women getting naked on stage doesn’t need all that detailed an explanation of the ways in which these performances still objectify women, even if these women are enthusiastically participating in their own objectification and the objectification of others; what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t actually matter what your critique is and how well you articulate it, because the burlesque community will respond to you in the same way every single time.

As such, I’ve compiled a helpful list of every single response you will definitely get, over and over again, every time you say anything marginally critical of burlesque. I’m not sure what the purpose of this list is except to encourage you to ignore these types of responses because there is not a single thing you can say or do to avoid them, as well as to point out the absolute unwillingness of burlesque defenders to engage in any self-reflection or critique of their fave hobby.

While the arguments can be generally summed up as: “But I like it,” I’ve provided you with more detailed responses as well. Enjoy!

1) You haven’t done enough “research”

I’ve been getting this same response for years. No matter how many burlesque shows I endure, I have never been to enough, so long as I continue to critique the phenomenon. I am told that, either, I have only seen “amateur” performances (and though I have watched plenty of awkward amateurs, I have also seen the professionals, who are equally as boring and objectified), or that I haven’t been to enough “alternative” shows.

What’s the rule here? How many burlesque performaces do we have to sit through before we are allowed to decide that, not only do we never want to sit through another burlesque performance again, but that we have good reason to avoid doing so in the future?

What this argument boils down to is that those who love burlesque refuse to believe that any other human being might not love the thing they love which, to boil it down even further, is to say: “As both the center of the universe and a petulant child, everyone must like what I like. If they don’t like what I like they are wrong and offend me by forcing me to think about the things I like and why I like them, which makes my head feel funny.”

2) You don’t understand

Similar to the “you haven’t done enough research” response, “you don’t understand” stems from an unwillingness to use (or lack of familiarity with using) one’s brain for the purposes of critical thinking. This response translates to: “You don’t agree with me/like the same things I like and I can’t come up with a logical response to your argument.”

“You clearly don’t understand burlesque” is kind of a hilarious response if you think about it, because burlesque really isn’t very complicated. What they really mean is: “You aren’t inside my head/bubble and I don’t care to acknowledge that which exists outside my head/bubble.” Again, it’s that problem of thinking about things when one doesn’t particularly like thinking about things issue.

3) Anything I do that makes ME feel good is feminist! (FUCK YEAH)

I don’t have much to say about this response. It can be easily addressed by repeating this handy mantra: “Just because you like it, doesn’t make it feminist.”

Which is not the same thing as saying you can’t like it. I like all sorts of things that aren’t feminist, despite the fact that I am a feminist. I just don’t pretend like my undereye concealer is some kind of radical movement. Patriarchy does not live in my undereye circles, nor will it go away if I appear less tired/sickly.

4) But there are women in the audience! Women erase sexism!

As we’ve learned from things like “feminist pornography” and pole dancing classes — just because women are doing things that are sexist or rooted in misogynist practices, doesn’t negate the sexism.

Women internalize the male gaze. You probably notice the way you look at women on the street — I do. When we watch things like film, television, and pornography, as well as when we look at ads, we are looking through a male lens. So we all learn to adopt the male gaze. When women’s bodies are objectified on screen or in American Apparel ads, we learn to see women as objects. We do this regardless of whether or not we are men.

The male gaze is still present even when there are women in the audience. Women go to strip clubs too — does that suddenly make strip clubs feminist? Does that mean the women performing at the strip club aren’t being objectified when women are looking?

This argument makes no sense but is brought up again and again with aplomb as though it’s never occurred to us before and will BLOW OUR MINDS into little tiny pieces.

You are welcome to spend an hour trying to explain the male gaze to these people, but at the end of the day I’m not sure they care. If they did they probably wouldn’t be doing burlesque in the first place.

5) Boylesque

Repeat after me: The exception does not make the rule.

You can reuse this argument in response to classics such as these:

–  but women abuse men too

–  but men are prostitutes too

–  but men post sexy selfies too

–  but men do strip shows too

–  but women take up too much space on the bus sometimes too

6) Different body types in burlesque = feminism

I appreciate the representation of bodies that aren’t skinny white ones. I really do. BUT women who are not skinny and white are objectified and sexualized too. I find it very odd that people think that, somehow, if you objectify bigger bodies or if you objectify women who aren’t white, this is somehow progressive.

7) If you don’t like burlesque then don’t go to burlesque shows

OK, deal. I promise to never intentionally go to a burlesque show ever again so long as you promise not to objectify women in order to sell your “art.” No deal? How about I don’t have to stare at ass while reading my local paper? Or how about every single lefty or feminist fundrasier ever doesn’t include a burlesque performance? Also no? Aw man. I feel like we’re going to have to keep talking about this then, eh?

8) You are turning me into an object by talking about the objectification of women

This is a tricky one. So, this is the same as telling people who point out racism that they are being racist. In talking about the objectification of women, we are not, in fact, turning anyone into an object. Pointing out that women’s bodies and body parts are treated as and viewed as things which exist to-be-looked-at doesn’t reinforce that phenomenon — rather it is critical of it.

In making this argument (that those who point out objectification are actually doing the objectifying), you are asking people to stop thinking and to stop speaking up about inequality. Which makes you a reinforcer of the status quo. Bad move!

9) I’m not being objectified because I choose to objectify myself

So, everyone makes choices. Sometimes and often those choices are limited by our place in society and the culture and systems that surround us. Choosing to prostitute oneself, for example, does not make prostitution a feminist industry. It also doesn’t mean that you are responsible for patriarchy or men’s sense of entitlement around access to women’s bodies; but simply inserting the word “choice” into a sentence doesn’t actually change the meaning or root of the action or situation. I “choose” to watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (and New Jersey!). Does that mean that I’m subverting patriarchy from my couch? Just as “choosing” to post sexy selfies on Instagram doesn’t amount to a feminist act simply because you’ve decided to objectify yourself. It doesn’t make you a terrible person either. Do you see what I’m getting at here? If not, please refer back to point number three.

10) You have to be on the inside to understand/form a valid critique

OK, so let me get this straight. In order to be critical of anything (and in order for that critique to be legit), you have to actually be the thing you are critiquing? Does this also mean that women who haven’t been abused or raped can’t be critical of abuse and rape? Does it mean white people can’t be critical of racism? Does it mean men can’t say anything negative about prostitution because they themselves aren’t prostitutes? Am I not allowed to say that fast food is bad for you unless I eat a bunch of fast food?

This is the dumbest argument ever. If we left critical conversations only to the people who were actually doing whatever we were being critical of then nobody would get to say anything about anything ever. Ex: “Capitalism sucks!” “SHUT UP, YOU AREN’T A CAPITALIST. YOU DON’T GET IT. YOU’RE NOT ON THE INSIDE.” See what I’m getting at? Stop this crap. It’s illogical and anti-intellectual.

11) You’re a prude and you hate boobs

I also hate sex, men, vaginas, penises and joy. Can we move on?

But seriously. I have little to no interest in engaging with this silliness because it’s an anti-feminist, cheap, meaningless trope. Accusing feminists of being man/sex-haters because they speak against the exploitation of women is what sexist, anti-feminist men do. If you want to participate in that sort of thing, again, why are we talking? We clearly have different goals in life — yours being to ensure equality and freedom is never a thing, and mine to work towards women having “human being” status some day.

As a general rule of thumb you will notice that if you ever bother writing anything remotely critical about burlesque (which I doubt you will because, honestly, does anyone really give two shits about burlesque anymore? I feel like a broken record at this point…), people who like burlesque only like burlesque. They don’t bother engaging with other topics yet suddenly develop a passionate interest in whatever they’ve decided feminism is once someone starts talking about the inherent sexism in taking off one’s clothes and shaking one’s boobs for an audience. Your response should be: If you have no real interest in the feminist movement or in liberating women from patriarchal oppression, why are we talking? And then don’t talk to them anymore unless you get masochistic pleasure from being screamed at by people who once took half a Women’s Studies 101 class and left as soon as they heard the word subjectivity.


The Protestant Reformation is up there with the French and Bolshevik Revolutions in terms of historical significance, but one of the most poorly understood.

There’s a rich historiographical tradition of describing the events of 1641-1649 as the ‘English Revolution’ or even the ‘Puritan revolution.’ Those are much commented on designations, and the latter would meet some skepticism, but there is no escaping that in this time a faction, primarily represented in the House of Commons, did take up arms against and overthrow the Stuart government. Conrad Russell, an eminent scholar, has written about how the breakdown in government functioning after the Bishop’s Wars that lead to war in England was a product of the constitutional problems facing a monarch trying to reign over the politically and religiously divided domains of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The obstinacy of Charles I and his insistence of his own absolute authority brought this basic problem, which had existed under James I and in a few aspects even during the Elizabethan religious settlement, to a boiling point and war with the Scottish Covenenters and English Parliament.

It wasn’t until the Second Civil War, in 1648, that the Parliamentary party seriously considers executing Charles I. They had always maintained the pretense that they were fighting against the King’s illegal actions or bad advisors and wanted him to continue to reign. But when his army was decisively defeated, and he was held in captivity, Charles I negotiated in entirely bad faith while organizing and fomenting another war. After this he was popularly known as ‘Charles Stuart, that man of blood’ (a Biblical phrase) and the fervor against him among religious radicals in Parliament’s army (which is edging towards military dictatorship) is so intense that the majority conciliation party in Parliament is forcibly ejected from government by the army during Pride’s Purge.

The English Revolution, or revolutions, was not just constitutional or political, but profoundly social and economic. These are the years of religious ‘enthusiasm’, or fanaticism, and of radical ideas like those of the Levelers, a faction in Parliaments army of common men arguing for manhood suffrage and radical democracy or the Diggers, a much talked about but less important protocommunist agrarian movement. Parliament’s revolution, and later the army’s, produce revolutions in the Church such as the abolition of Church courts (yes, in the 1630s the church could try you in their own legal system), abolished tithing and established a whole new system of religious governance, as well as selling off a bunch of the state Church’s assets, only a little of which was recovered after the Restoration (and some of that squandered by the restored Bishops, but that’s another story.)

So now we’ve had 2 big revolutions, and lest you underrate the importance of the Glorious Revolution because of its relative lack of violence consider the following: the Glorious Revolution produced a Whig ascendancy, exemplified by the prominent aristocratic progeny of the Immortal Seven, that conclusively put the landed classes, represented in Parliament, above the monarchy. The first decades of this order were to cement governance by ministers rather than the Crown.

Now this order prevails for some decades, but to end consideration of Revolution in England there would be a grave mistake. It is true that the Glorious Revolution produces a settlement that solves some previously persistent constitutional problems, but Britain does not then settle into a total slumber. Firstly, there is the Revolution in America, which as another poster pointed out was essentially British, considered as such at the time, and increasingly recognized to be so today. Too often forgotten though is the vibrancy of many of those same radical sentiments in Britain itself during the 1790s and Napoleonic wars and culminating in the Great Reform of Parliament in 1832.

The Restoration really is a product of agreement amongst the same Parliamentarians, gentry, and merchant interests that overthrew Charles I that monarchy, of whatever kind, is preferable to continued military dictatorship– throughout the 1650s these people had tried to impose limitations on Cromwell’s dictatorship by trying to get him to accept the crown and enter some kind of constitutional arrangement. His refusal to do so doomed the Protectorate, and Charles II was able to return on the condition of making those groups specific promises (told to him by General George Monck, instrumental in these events) in return for his Restoration. Charles II’s Indemnities and Oblivion Act comes to be known as ‘Indemnity for his [the monarchy’s] enemies and Oblivion for his friends.’

Charles II pursues a careful relationship with Parliament, skillfully using the goodwill he has built up and shying away from major crisis by building a coalition of Anglican/Tory gentry. He spends this capital on a pro-French foreign policy and a much larger revenue than his father ever enjoyed. When James II, his younger brother, succeeds the throne in 1685 there’s an immediate problem– he’s Catholic. Still, he has 2 Protestant daughters and no sons, and is relatively old, so that aforementioned party of established interests accepts him and offers him early support. But James I was personally unsuited to the throne–his brother Charles talked about his ‘heat’ and specifically predicted he’d last 4 years as king. In attempting to grow a standing army, under Catholic and specifically Irish officers, while offering religious toleration to Catholics he alienated the monarchy’s supporters. When James II has a son, threatening a Catholic succession, the Appeal to the Protestant Dutch monarchs is made.

James II still had support at that point, and probably could have resisted the Dutch invasion, but crucially he lost his head and chose to flee, allegedly throwing the Royal Seal in the Thames. He was hoping, at this point, for massive French intervention in his favor. His close relationship with Louis XIV can hardly be overstated– he grew up together with him and they shared political and religious views, in letters between the two James takes a submissive and worshipping tone similar to that of a younger brother. But because the French decline to intervene James II loses basically all of his support outside Scotland– how can the party that supported monarchy for its stability and predictability support a guy who creates a crisis then abandons the throne?

So now we’ve had 2 big revolutions, and lest you underrate the importance of the Glorious Revolution because of its relative lack of violence consider the following: the Glorious Revolution produced a Whig ascendancy, exemplified by the prominent aristocratic progeny of the Immortal Seven, that conclusively put the landed classes, represented in Parliament, above the monarchy. The first decades of this order were to cement governance by ministers rather than the Crown.

Now this order prevails for some decades, but to end consideration of Revolution in England there would be a grave mistake. It is true that the Glorious Revolution produces a settlement that solves some previously persistent constitutional problems, but Britain does not then settle into a total slumber. Firstly, there is the Revolution in America, which as another poster pointed out was essentially British, considered as such at the time, and increasingly recognized to be so today. Too often forgotten though is the vibrancy of many of those same radical sentiments in Britain itself during the 1790s and Napoleonic wars and culminating in the Great Reform of Parliament in 1832.

Radicals in Britain were definitely perceived to have dangerous revolutionary potential by the state and were suppressed accordingly. Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that the reason the British state was so effective in suppressing rebellion in these years was that it had so much experience doing so as a result of the earlier disorders and the recurrent Jacobite uprisings of the 18th century.

****I’ll add as an extension about the growth of Reformed theology in England. This covers the years between 1580-1638.

After the defeat of Protestantism in France’s religious wars England receives large numbers of Huguenot refugees. Tens of thousands of French Calvinists streaming in to England’s cities and large towns in modern Britain’s first influx of peaceful immigration. The refugees introduce Calvinist theology to England and there’s an explosion of dissenting/reforming Protestantism over the next decades. Who did Calvinism appeal to in England?

Calvinism appealed most to the ‘middle sort of people’ or ‘industrious people,’ reflected the concerns they had about society, and provided a vehicle for self-affirmation/class organization.

I want to break that down. By middle sort/industrious I’m talking about a group distinct from the modern concept of a middle class. These are gentry (non-noble landowners, usually with tenants); established artisans (who have workshops employing journeymen); tradespeople; and certain civil functionaries like lawyers/clergy. Lump in people who aspire to these positions as well, who imitate the Calvinism of their idols.

The social concerns that Calvinism addressed were these:

1) Continued widespread corruption in the Church. The English Reformation took the monasteries and their land away from the Catholic Church but did not, as Protestant ideologues like Luther wanted, give it to the poor. Instead the land was appropriated to enrich the nobility and their hangers on. Ecclesiastic courts are another major irritant for this group. They are accused, with some justice, of bringing cases for offenses like adultery primarily against these middle people. The fees, fines, and legal costs that these middling sort bring in create an incentive structure for the courts to prosecute them; the poor by definition cannot pay anything and the aristocracy is superior in practical authority.

2) A monarchy that seemed unaccountable and amoral. This is complex, but broadly speaking many Protestants found the Stuart monarchy to be actively impeding the Christian mission, for instance by allowing most entertainments on Sundays. James I was known for conspicuous consumption on a grand scale. Under the direction of literary great Ben Jonson James I staged masques that could cost thousands of pounds (a very great lord’s yearly income.) Charles I toned down court celebrations considerably but still managed to collect some of Europe’s finest art.

3) A highly hierarchical Church in which only the least Protestant clergy could advance. This ties into 2; the religious appointments and policies of the crown (Arminian, sacramentalist) were viewed as being too close to Catholicism and chosen to legitimize the sinfulness of society. These policies were promulgated and enforced by Archbishop Laud, who would soon meet a bad end at Puritan hands during the Civil War.

4) The ‘middling sort’ were a group who had attained success but were still in danger of penury. The doctrine of election corresponded to their precarious positions and inspired a self-confidence based on moral superiority to a dissolute aristocracy or hedonistic lower class.

5) Readers of the English language Bible are drawn to Protestantism. The King James Version increases English readership of the Bible significantly. Personal access to scriptural texts is in itself a revolution in approach that encourages further revolution. Bible readers become critical of official Church teachings and perform their own radical exegesis. Often this morphs into a kind of extreme biblioidolatry– a conviction that the official church is entirely untrustworthy and only personal/Spirit-assisted reading of the Bible can bring a person to true religion. This can lead to idiosyncratic readings by some individuals, but also new practices like Sabbath-keeping which was a major Puritan mania.

Class organization: Calvinist churches were organized on the principle of election. Councils of lay elders would be responsible for choosing preachers and maintaining church ‘discipline.’ These elders would usually be economically substantial community leaders. The group of morally and socially elite ‘elect’ leading a broader ‘unregenerate mass’ of people whose salvation was uncertain. Contrast this with the official Anglican church, where the priests are appointed by the monarchy and everyone below is lumped together indiscriminately. The middle sort don’t want to be considered to be the same as irreligious peasants.

I’ll add as an extension the thing I wrote a few months ago about the growth of Reformed theology in England. This covers the years between 1580-1638.

After the defeat of Protestantism in France’s religious wars England receives large numbers of Huguenot refugees. Tens of thousands of French Calvinists streaming in to England’s cities and large towns in modern Britain’s first influx of peaceful immigration. The refugees introduce Calvinist theology to England and there’s an explosion of dissenting/reforming Protestantism over the next decades. Who did Calvinism appeal to in England?

Calvinism appealed most to the ‘middle sort of people’ or ‘industrious people,’ reflected the concerns they had about society, and provided a vehicle for self-affirmation/class organization.

I want to break that down. By middle sort/industrious I’m talking about a group distinct from the modern concept of a middle class. These are gentry (non-noble landowners, usually with tenants); established artisans (who have workshops employing journeymen); tradespeople; and certain civil functionaries like lawyers/clergy. Lump in people who aspire to these positions as well, who imitate the Calvinism of their idols.

The social concerns that Calvinism addressed were these:

1) Continued widespread corruption in the Church. The English Reformation took the monasteries and their land away from the Catholic Church but did not, as Protestant ideologues like Luther wanted, give it to the poor. Instead the land was appropriated to enrich the nobility and their hangers on. Ecclesiastic courts are another major irritant for this group. They are accused, with some justice, of bringing cases for offenses like adultery primarily against these middle people. The fees, fines, and legal costs that these middling sort bring in create an incentive structure for the courts to prosecute them; the poor by definition cannot pay anything and the aristocracy is superior in practical authority.

2) A monarchy that seemed unaccountable and amoral. This is complex, but broadly speaking many Protestants found the Stuart monarchy to be actively impeding the Christian mission, for instance by allowing most entertainments on Sundays. James I was known for conspicuous consumption on a grand scale. Under the direction of literary great Ben Jonson James I staged masques that could cost thousands of pounds (a very great lord’s yearly income.) Charles I toned down court celebrations considerably but still managed to collect some of Europe’s finest art.

3) A highly hierarchical Church in which only the least Protestant clergy could advance. This ties into 2; the religious appointments and policies of the crown (Arminian, sacramentalist) were viewed as being too close to Catholicism and chosen to legitimize the sinfulness of society. These policies were promulgated and enforced by Archbishop Laud, who would soon meet a bad end at Puritan hands during the Civil War.

4) The ‘middling sort’ were a group who had attained success but were still in danger of penury. The doctrine of election corresponded to their precarious positions and inspired a self-confidence based on moral superiority to a dissolute aristocracy or hedonistic lower class.

5) Readers of the English language Bible are drawn to Protestantism. The King James Version increases English readership of the Bible significantly. Personal access to scriptural texts is in itself a revolution in approach that encourages further revolution. Bible readers become critical of official Church teachings and perform their own radical exegesis. Often this morphs into a kind of extreme biblioidolatry– a conviction that the official church is entirely untrustworthy and only personal/Spirit-assisted reading of the Bible can bring a person to true religion. This can lead to idiosyncratic readings by some individuals, but also new practices like Sabbath-keeping which was a major Puritan mania.

Class organization: Calvinist churches were organized on the principle of election. Councils of lay elders would be responsible for choosing preachers and maintaining church ‘discipline.’ These elders would usually be economically substantial community leaders. The group of morally and socially elite ‘elect’ leading a broader ‘unregenerate mass’ of people whose salvation was uncertain. Contrast this with the official Anglican church, where the priests are appointed by the monarchy and everyone below is lumped together indiscriminately. The middle sort don’t want to be considered to be the same as irreligious peasants.


Nazi occultism?

The key principle of any Nazi party actions is how everything they did was to support a strong ethnic state, and every institution was bent to serve that purpose.

The first thing I want to point out is why the Nazis would have given the time of day to anyone espousing occult beliefs. Nazi ideology was that ethnic Germans were the descendants of an Indian race called the Aryans, who in the past had left north out of India and conquered large swaths of territory (possibly all of Europe though I could find this claim made in explicit detail) with the strongest Aryans settling in Germany. Thus, while Germany was majority Christian, at least nominally, this was considered by Nazi leaders a deficit of the race. For example, Hitler called Christianity a “religion for slaves”. Thus for some Nazis neo-pagan and occultic beliefs were seen as ways to go back to the pre-christian glory of the germanic people. Although as a matter of pragmatism Hitler also considered this occultism “nonsense”. But for both religions Nazi ideologists created their own versions of it that bent their entire meaning towards the supremacy of the german people and their state. The neo-pagan movement that came out of this is called Wotanism, which still exists today among neo-nazis, though it is my understanding there are some neo-pagans that worship Wotan that are not related to neo-nazi groups either. You can even find discussions about this on reddit if you’re interested, but that is quite a digression from the question for now. I’ll talk about the new Christianity invented for this, Positive Christianity, and both of these are discussed a bit more in the third claim below.

A second point is that is often suggested that the Nazi use of the Swastika came from tracts published by the Theosophic Society, an international occult organization that was popular from the late 1800’s until the 1950’s (it technically exists today, but is virtually defunct). Not that the Theosophic society endorsed Nazism but Theosophy was the most popular form of esotericism in Germany and Austria in the first half of the 20th century and any cosmopolitan (i.e. the higher up) officials in the nazi party would have been familiar with it. This may have been the introduction of the popularity of the Swastika for the Nazis although it’s origins in Indian culture were well known to them, indeed the reason they adopted its use, in order to associate themselves with the Aryan race as discussed in the previous paragraph.

A third point is that occultism (worship of ancient germanic or norse gods) were influential to Nazism. This is not particularly true, Hitler called occultism “nonsense”, but some of Hitler’s inner circle, in particular Himmler but also Rudolf Hess and Alfred Rosenberg held these beliefs. On the other hand, Hitler saw Christianity as “indelibly Jewish in origin and character” and a “prototype of Bolshevism”, which “violated the law of natural selection”. As stated earlier Hitler personally and Nazi ideology in general was amoral and aimed to shape any institution including religion as much around Nazi ideology as possible. Hitler suppressed both Catholic and Protestant churches and replaced them with a state church (called the German Church) that taught a Nazi designed religion called “Positive Christianity”. “Positive Christianity” posited that Jesus was an Aryan fighting the Jews, that the Bible had been edited by Paul (the Apostle) to hide this fact, and that Jesus’ original message was one of combat and loyalty to one’s race. Hitler made The German Church the only legally sanctioned church in 1937 as he considered christianity proper to be a weakness, and a blight to the german state. He put neo-Pagan Alfred Rosenberg in as official Nazi ideologist. Just to be clear he has no intention of replacing Christianity with occultism though, his state church was largely considered a temporary transitional measure until religion could be extinguished altogether.

That’s about it for the extent of occultism in the Nazi regime proper. Neo-Nazis also largely follow either atheism, Positive Christianity-style churches or Neo-Pagan occultism.

 

More Info:

  • Hitler’s Table Talk which was a a transcribed series of monologues and conversations Hitler had at his headquaters from 1941 to 1944.
  • Hitler: A Study in Tyranny is a 1952 biography of the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. It was written by the British historian Sir Alan Bullock
  • Inside the Third Reich is a memoir written by Albert Speer, the Nazi Minister of Armaments from 1942 to 1945. Due to his position, Speer was able to describe the personalities of many Nazi officials, including Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, Martin Bormann and, of course, Adolf Hitler himself.
  • Goebbels Diaries, Joseph Goebbels, Propaganda Minister in Adolf Hitler’s government from 1933 to 1945, kept a diary from 1923 until shortly before his death by suicide in Berlin on 1 May 1945.

More information about the Foundation of Positive Christianity in Nazi Ideology and its implementation in the Third Reich can be found in:


Chemical Warfare in World War One

Most historians of the war argue that poison gas on the battlefield was a failure and usually measure its effectiveness based on its lethality. But Tim Cook argues in No Place to Run that this may be true in that gas was not a “war-winning weapon,” but historians should remember that gas was a much more “complicated and nuanced weapon.” It was far more effective at removing men from combat and leaving fear and unrest among its survivors. One soldier wrote that “it is a terrible and hateful sensation to be choked and suffocated and unable to get breath: a casualty from gun fire may be dying from his wounds, but they don’t give him the sensation that his life is being strangled out of him.” Thus, gas was effective for many reasons other than its lethality.

One, it was a weapon of fear. There was no escape from gas on the battlefield, there was no way to tell if you were actually out of range of the gas cloud, or it would be trapped in the buried earth of an artillery shell blast, or even spending a night in a respirator because a sentry mistook fog for a phosgene gas cloud. As Cook’s title notes, there was “no place to run.”

Two, gas was primarily a casualty-causing agent rather than a killer. Cook notes that in 1918 when the Germans were using mustard gas, British gas casualties rose to from 7.2% in 1917 to 15% of total casualties. Yet, at the same fatality rates from gas dropped from 3.4% in 1917 to 2.4% in 1918. Gas wounded soldiers required their comrades to bring them off the battlefield, clogging up supply lines, aid stations and weakening the manpower available to actually continue an offensive. Or, imagine heading to the frontlines while passing the lines of gurgling, choking men who would never die from their wounds but would never recover either. The fear of gas was a far more important weapon than the casualties inflicted.

Even gas casualties statistics are misleading. The British army reports somewhere between 1.1 and 1.3 million gas casualties in the war, of which 91,000 died. This is not as large a number as you might think. Mostly it looks as if gas warfare was ineffective. For example, if the Germans released 600 canisters of chlorine gas and only caused 50 British casualties, this would be seen as a failure. Yet that attack would force the entire line of British soldiers to wear respirators for the duration of the battle – drastically changing the nature of the engagement even without the statistics to prove success.

Both armies on the Western Front (dont know much about other theatres) quickly adapted to the reality of gas warfare. Soldiers were trained to put on masks and protective gear quickly and without thinking – even a few seconds could save you from decades of agony or death. Intensive gas training was increasingly a part of an effective unit’s ability to fight on the battlefields of the Western Front, as there was always the fear of gas in any battle by the last years of the war. Soldiers had to act without thinking – the second the whistle blew that gas was spotted, or when a gas shell landed 5 metres in front of you, you had to immediately adjust your gear or put on your mask, and then keep fighting. Any hesitation could be lethal. Total gas warfare, when both sides began using choking gas, tear gas, and gas that burned any skin it came in contact with, meant that armies had to be trained at many levels. Small things like Doctors removing contaminated fabric from the wounded to avoid gas burns had to be “learned” in medical services dealing with gas casualties. Still, total preparation did not stop gas casualties. Hiding gas shells in the midst of a high explosive artillery barrage could catch soldiers unaware, or gas stuck in shell holes, or gas mixing with the mud and water of the trenches. Days after an attack, a soldier might be discovered dead after digging a hole to rest in during the night, or severely burned as water shifted in the muddy landscape onto a soldier as he slept.

Cook’s work on gas warfare stands out as one of the few historical studies that belie the established narrative in the Canadian literature on the war. I am not sure how other nations’ historians have treated it. Unlike other Canadian historians of the First World War, such as Duguid and Nicholson, Cook’s writing on gas warfare provides depth to the history of the weapon as more than simply an immoral tool of war. He argued that the “gas environment” where a soldier had to fear a gas attack at any moment, or endure fighting within the gas cloud, had had dramatic consequences for all the soldiers of the war. Cooks attempts to re-imagine the entire soldier experience of the trenches as one equally marked by toxic gas as by artillery shells and machine gun bullets. The image of the war he describes presents an important but subtle difference from what other historians have written. It is an atrocious world where the brief moments of courage do little to overcome the unending horrors of gas warfare. It was “like water rotting wood,” Cook writes, “not often immediately deadly, but … constant, insidious, and demoralizing.” His picture has little in common with the image of the successful, deadly, and honourable Canadian soldier. By the end of the war during the Hundred Days, Cook argues that “the Canadian way of war was steeped in poison gas.” Consider that 1 in 4 American casualties were from gas warfare, which demonstrates how the lack of proper gas protocols in the unbloodied American army severely affected their fighting capability. Gas warfare was a reality of the Western Front, one to which armies had to adapt or perish. So while most historians, and popular memory, acknowledge the pervasiveness of gas warfare in the First World War, few address its totality and its effects on tactics and operations.

Gas warfare wasn’t technically banned until the 1925 Geneva Protocol, and even still chemical agents have been used since the First World War. The Italians used it against the Abyssinians in the 30s, Japan used it against the Chinese, there are unconfirmed reports that Egypt used it against Yemen in the 60s, the United States’ use of napalm in Vietnam, allegations of Soviet use in Afghanistan in the 80s, and of course Iraq using it against Iran also in the 80s. One of the biggest fears of the American Army as it entered Iraq in the First Gulf War was being confronted with chemical warfare.


What did a naval blockade look like in the age of sail?

There were two major roles for a blockading fleet during the Age of Sail (and even into later conflicts):

1) to keep enemy ships of war bottled up in a port

2) to prevent trade from flowing to or from a port, or a whole nation

The first of those examples is what many people think of when they think of a blockade, and it’s the most obvious job of a squadron, but the second is arguably as important for wars that stretch out over a long period of time.

If we were to imagine a modal blockade, we might want to look at the blockade of Brest starting in the Seven Years War, and specifically at the events of 1759, because that was a major French port that the British had to blockade in that war and in the wars of the French revolution and Napoleonic era.

A blockading fleet had to accomplish two goals: it had to watch the entries into a port to prevent ships from leaving (or entering) it, and it had to present enough of a threat to pose a credible threat to the ships that the enemy fleet could amass if it tried to break out of a port. The blockading fleet then had to be comprised of ships that were heavy enough to stand in the line of battle (in the British context, ships of 74 guns or larger) as well as smaller ships that were nimble enough to work in near the port but that could flee any credible threats the enemy could mount to attempt to beat them off (usually frigates). In most cases, then, the fleet would be divided between an inshore and an offshore squadron, with ships in between (frigates or smaller ships) to relay signals between the two fleets.

Because these ships were, after all, sailing ships, the duty of the fleet becomes more difficult because of the winds and current conditions that could be experienced in a particular area. Broadly speaking, winds that would allow for ships to leave a port would tend to blow the blockading fleet offshore, while winds that kept ships in a port would blow the blockading fleet onshore (which is one reason why clumsier ships would be kept offshore, so as not to be wrecked). Obviously, close attention to the weather and watching out for storms was a major responsibility of ships on the blockading fleet. Additionally, blockading fleets still used up the same amounts of victuals (food, water, etc.) and naval stores (sails, spars, cordage, tar, gunpowder and shot for practice, etc.) as a fleet under sail would, so plans for supplying the fleet were crucial. Most admirals attempted to keep enough ships on station so that one or two could always be rotating back to a friendly port to re-provision and bring out mail and news.

Looking specifically at Brest, the dangers and opportunities of blockade become clear. In the 1750s, the dockyards of Breast were on the Penfield river, which issues into a large, enclosed harbor. The harbor reaches the sea through a narrow channel, the Goulet, which runs nearly directly east and west through high ground. There are two anchorages outside the Goulet, Berthaume Bay and Camaret Bay, which are both further protected from the Atlantic with reefs, rocks and islands, and there are three passages to the ocean from those anchorages. The Iroise is to the west, and is scattered with rocks; the Four passage to the north leads to the Channel but it is narrow and beset with a very fast tide-race, and to the south is the Raz de Sein, a very narrow passage through a set of reefs with a rock right in the middle of the northern end of the passage.

The tides flow through those passages at varying rates: the Goulet at 3 knots (nautical miles per hour), the Four at 4.5 knots and the Raz du Sein at 7 knots. The distance from the Goulet to the Raz is 25 miles, so unless a fleet had very exact timing it is nearly impossible to make the trip from the ocean into the harbor or vice versa except with exact timing, which means that ships had to anchor in one of the bays (Berthaume or Camaret) to wait for a tidal change.

This both complicated and simplified the task for the British. There was no one point in the sea from which to watch all three passages except for close in to the Goulet, but there was also no high ground at the western end of the Goulet for watchers to see a blockade fleet further offshore. The winds in the region generally blow from the southwest, which means that it was possible for the French to enter the Goulet most of the year, but leaving required an easterly or northerly wind, which meant the French usually used the Raz de Sein more than the other channels both for entering and leaving.

The French also used the Raz because, in the days before latitude was easy to find, ships usually approached a port by finding a landfall at a line of longitude (an east-west parallel) then “running down” that line until they saw a landmark. For the French, the simplest landfall was to Belle Isle (southwest of the Goulet) and then bearing up on the port tack to Brest or the starboard tack to Rochefort or Bordeaux.

An armchair admiral, then, would assume the best place to put a blockading fleet was to the southwest of Brest, near Belle Isle. The problem with that, though, is that any westerly gale would give the British a lee shore to the east which they would have to escape by heading to the southeast, into the Bay of Biscay and away from home. The British fleet in fact had to be kept to the west or northwest of Ushant, so that in case of westerlies they could seek refuge in one of the Channel ports (usually Torbay in Devon). The unfortunate fact of that is that a fleet in that spot can’t keep track of the Raz, so the offshore fleet would have to be stationed there with an inshore squadron able to pass messages to the offshore fleet and sound an alarm if the French tried to break out.

This is exactly what British admiral Sir Edward Hawke did in 1759: the bulk of his fleet lay off the northwest of Ushant, with two small ships of the line under Augustus Hervey anchored off the Black Rocks at the Iroise watching the Goulet. His ships were often blown off station, but a westerly wind usually meant that the French were bottled up in port even as the British ships were blown off blockade.

The reason for keeping the French fleet in port was that the French, growing desperate at their losses in the Americas, had decided in 1758 upon an invasion of Britain. The invasion fleet was assembling in Vannes, in the southwest of France, while the battle fleet was at Brest (at the time, there were only sketchy land communications with Brest — it relied on coastal shipping for nearly everything, and an army couldn’t assemble there). The fleet would have to break out of Brest, sail to Vannes to pick up the transports, and then evade the British fleet to land troops somewhere in Britain, which was a tall order.

The French were increasingly desperate to break out of port as 1759 drew to a close, and when a westerly gale blew Hawke off station in November, the French acted. The same day that the storm died down and Hawke left Torbay, the French left Brest. They were blown far to the west before they could come about and head for Vannes, and had trouble with the fleet because many of its men were inexperienced at sea after being bottled up in port. They sailed for Quiberon Bay, where the transports waited, with the British fleet on their heels, and made it almost there before sighting the British fleet. The French gambled that the British would not follow them into Quiberon Bay, because the British lacked charts of the area, but Hawke attacked at once and the French fleet fled. The British caught up with the tail end of the French fleet just as the van was entering the bay, and at that point the wind backed and headed the French, as well as kicking up an extremely rough sea.

The battle was a disaster for the French; the Thesee sank attempting to open its lower gunports (the ship flooded) and the Superbe sank after two broadsides from Hawke’s flagship. One French ship was captured; three were trapped in the Vilaine river with their guns thrown overboard to lighten ship; and six were wrecked or sunk. Two British ships were also driven ashore and wrecked, but their crews were rescued.

Quiberon Bay is one of the more dramatic and unusual battles of the Age of Sail, but the British fleet would again blockade Brest during the Napoleonic period. The blockade, in fact, became so routine that the British would often fish inshore of the Goulet, or anchor in one of the bays to dry sails or practice shifting topsails or lowering boats, to the infinite annoyance of the French.

In one of my favorite stories, Sir Sidney Smith even sailed his frigate into the Goulet by night, “hailing French ships in his faultless French to ask for news, and returning without detection with the latest information.” (Rodger, Command of the Ocean pp. 433). Granted, that was in 1795 and not during a period of close blockade, but it does emphasize the Royal Navy’s attitude toward the French.


Why is Germany always portrayed as the prime evil in the war?

Why does Germany bear war guilt and given the title of the aggressor?

Let’s wheel the clock back to 1871 and get an overview from the beginning. Bismark, after cleverly tricking the French into declaring war would unite the German states with Prussia, Bavaria, Wurttemberg, and Saxony leading the charge into a single Germanic State. They would in the process of peace negotiations seize the French territories of Alsace-Lorraine and as the result of the war Napoleon III would be ousted and the Third Republic would be declared.

After this war and the 1866 war with Austria to seize other German lands, Germany would be declared and they would overnight rise into being a world power. By 1880 they would be the leading industrial power in Europe…and they would be completely surrounded by “great powers” — Britain in the seas to the North, France to the West, Austria-Hungary to the South, and Russia to the East. This is where we briefly mention Bismarkian politics or what is more aptly referenced as the “3/5th’s rule”. That is, Germany must always have alliance 3 out of the 5 “great powers” as to secure the risk from total encirclement. In 1879 they would create a defense treaty with Austria-Hungary w.r.t. the mutual threat of the Russian Empire. In 1887 Bismark would also secure a non-aggression treaty with said Russian Empire which would state both parties would remain neutral in each others respective conflicts unless the other was the aggressor.

This was precisely what Bismark wanted — he had completely secured his Southern and Easterly borders. With the addition of Italy to the group Germany would only have to worry about her French enemies to the West and a potential British threat in the North Sea. When Willhelm II ascended his fathers throne in 1888 he had big shoes to fill and felt the need to do it on his own with his own new troupe of advisers, thus sacking Bismark to retirement and taking up the reigns of diplomacy himself. When in 1890 Russia (rather persistently) tried to renew the treaty for a more permanent, more alliance sounding one Willhelm II would just as persistently refuse. The Russian Tsar, Alexander II, would (rightfully so) feel exposed and without any friends. The British hated Russia and vice versa because of the Crimean War and Central Asian colonial ambitions, Austria-Hungary was a natural enemy to them because of conflict in the Balkans, Germany was supporting Austria-Hungary and was giving him the cold shoulder, but France remained. And boy, France would take Russia in with open arms creating a formal alliance in 1892.


Now we can start discussing aggression. This is the formal state of affairs going into the 20th century: Germany and Austria-Hungary have a defensive pact with regards to Russia. France and Russia have a mutual defense treaty against Germany. The United Kingdom is allied to nobody formally but is unfriendly to the Russian Empire, neutral with the French Republic, and neutral with a leaning of cordial with the Germans.

Kaiser Willhelm and frankly the German people as a whole were incredibly insecure about their status in the world. They were less than 50 years old at this point and were bordered by nations which had been around for almost a thousand and at times can trace their history back even further. They had no great national history or prestige to work off of as a unified Germany. They also came into the game in 1871 — well after the 16th and 17th century colonial rushes. They had no colonies. Germany is a notably isolated region and as the industrial leader relied on foreign imports to keep its factories churning out goods but perhaps equally important is the concept of prestige.Wilhelm II embarked on a policy of “Weltmahct,” or world power. A common turn of phrase in Germany was “Weltmacht oder Niedergang,” world power or downfall. They legitimately believed, the Kaiser, the government, and the people themselves, that it was Germany’s time to be the world power. That the German people, through social darwinism, were the superior and they were to seize prestige, colony, and resources through aggression. Don’t conflate this with Nazism, it wasn’t by any means. However, the concept of social darwinism was a popular one in this time and would last well into the 20th century.

To get colonies and to secure colonies though, you need a navy. So Germany would start a rapid buildup of said navy. This had a twofold purpose — one of creating a colonial fleet to secure shipping lanes and seize lands through war and to secure an alliance with the British. By performing a rapid naval buildup and flexing German muscle, combined with a shared cultural heritage, he had hoped that Britain would see Germany as too strong too culturally similar to be an enemy and would fall right into Germany’s arms with an alliance. Does any of that make sense? No, because it doesn’t and it failed horrendously. Britain told Germany to stop building up such a massive navy (which was being created for the express intent of contesting British naval hegemony) and Germany repeatedly refused.

As the Germans continued to contest British naval hegemony into the 20th century, we get to our first major date! In 1904 the French and the British, already uneasy with the German buildup, would begin to create some of the first legitimate and lasting bonds of friendship in their entire history. It actually wasn’t initially made with any regard toward Germany but rather a mutual understanding between the two powers. France would recognize the U.K.’s control over Egypt and likewise the U.K. would recognize French hegemony of basically the rest of North Africa Westward from there, Algiers and Morocco namely. In a few years Britain would also begin to make nice with Russia by diplomatically solving the the disputes in central asia (ie: Persia primarily) permanently.

The French and Spanish would divvy up Morocco between them (with the French getting the majority, obviously) and Germany would respond in its second act of aggression — the May 1905 Moroccan Crisis. Kaiser Willhelm II would sail to Morocco just as these deals were being finalized and gave a keynote speech with the Sultan in front of a large crowd crying out for Moroccan independence from “foreign oppressors” and that Morocco should remain independent and free from influence. This was an attempt to undermine French legitimacy and drive a wedge between the British and French relationships by giving the Entente Cordiale a strenuous test w.r.t. the legitimacy of their agreement. It would have the exact opposite effect as you might already imagine. The French and British, already uneasy by the German build up, would be pressed closer than they would at any point in history. While it would be nothing formal, Britain began seriously considering Germany a threat at this point and would, more as an act of informal policy and general thinking than anything else, lean toward supporting France in a theoretical European conflict.

The third major event would be the coming of the famous Dreadnought — with one pictured here. The coming of the Dreadnought shook the naval world, so much so that every battleship in recent memory before it became known as “pre-Dreadnoughts.” They would completely and utterly outclass anything any other nation was fielding. Their range and their firepower and their new engines and armor was like a fencing sword facing up against a claymore. and it would “reset” the naval arms race between Britain, Germany, and the world as a whole. You see Britain’s policy was called the Two-Power Standard — that is, having as many ships as the next two highest powers combined. They were a naval nation and they had naval hegemony. This gave Germany its first real shot, as both were starting from a blank slate essentially, to create a fleet that could legitimately contest the British in the North Sea region. It should be noted that Dreadnought’s were not exactly long range fighters, which made them useless for colonial protections. They had one use, attacking the British fleet in the North and Baltic Seas. The Germans would begin an unprecedented buildup buildings dozens upon dozens of these ships and constantly making orders for more.

All these tensions would finally culminate in 1911 — the Second Moroccan Crisis. Oh those Germans were back for a vengeance and it would totally work this time. Right guys? The Moroccans would rebel against French rule and the French were going to send troops to protect its interests. Kaiser Willhelm, always the opportunist, would seize the situation by the proverbial horns and send a gunboat — the SMS Panther — to be backed up by the SMS Berlin shortly after to go “protect German trade interests.” Let’s call a spade a spade however, Germany sent war ships to go intervene in a conflict between France and a country which had, in the very conference Germany called for in 1905was determined to remain under French influence. Germany would also demand territorial concessions in sub-Saharan Africa from the French along with pulling out of Morocco entirely. Not only would Britain back up France again driving them closer, Austria-Hungary wouldn’t even give Germany diplomatic support — let alone military backing.

Germany had at this point completely abandoned Bismark’s strategy of balance: Constantly giving conciliatory gifts or speeches or letters to rival powers to calm their nerves and keep everyone friendly. Remaining content as not only a land power, but the land power of Europe. Not getting greedy about the idea of the superior German and German prestige. Germany was in a precarious position in the world and Willhelm II did everything in his power to do the worst possible options. France and Britain, who were formerly neutral at best were driven into the strongest friendship they’ve had in their 1000 year history. Britain, who in 1887 had no intent of getting involved in continental conflicts and was now drawing up plans for direct land intervention in Europe to assist the two powers and had an agreement with France to provide it naval support in the event of war with Germany. Even more astoundingly was how it drove Britain and Russia together. These were two nations who for all purposes wanted nothing to do with each other. Britain, fearing German control over the Baltic Sea (that one to the right of Sweden and bordering Russia and Germany) and a reciprocated fear from Russia would begin to fix former grievances. Britain and Russia would go from hating each other in 1900 to informal military support and friendship in 1912 because of Germany’s actions.

The last peg in Germany’s coffin of war guilt was their actions in between June 28th and July 28th 1914 — the July Crisis. This post is dragging on and this doesn’t require the most analysis so it goes like this: Austria-Hungary used the assassination of Franz-Ferdinand as a justification and premise for their long standing objective of annexing Serbia. They knew however this would definitively mean war with Russia, which means they need German permission before doing this. Germany would give them the infamous Blank Cheque — essentially telling the Austro-Hungarians to do whatever they want with Serbia and tacitly accepting war. Austria-Hungary would send Serbia, who to this day has absolutely no hard link to the assassins and by all accounts cut ties with the Black Hand well before the killing, an ultimatum. A list of concessions Serbia would have to agree to which amounted to essentially Serbia becoming a puppet state. Serbia would obviously decline. Russia would begin to mobilize, Germany would declare war.

Not only would Germany declare war, it was their strategic plan that sealed the deal of them being perceived as the aggressors. Fearing their ‘encirclement’ they wanted to strike at France with everything they had and knock them out immediately. Infamously it would be given 950 hours — 40 days, no more. To do this they couldn’t just go through the border and push the French back, they would need to crush the French with total encirclement. This meant attacking through neutral Belgium. This is a topic that goes into the “evil” discussion that I’ll talk about briefly but needless to say, Belgium had absolutely no ties to the French or Russians or Germans or anyone for that matter. They were sitting there by themselves and Germany saw them as a convenient stepping stone to knock the French out faster so they invaded this completely uninvolved power without provocation. This would be the primary accusation as to the claim of German aggression — someone who is merely defending against two fronts would not declare war and then immediately perform a massive offensive through an uninvolved neutral country for the express intent of encirclement and annihilation of the enemy army. That is aggression full stop.


The Zeppelin airship “Graf Zeppelin” flying over the Reichstag building in Berlin; October 1928

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In 1928 the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin became the first commercial passenger transatlantic flight service in the world.

LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin (Deutsches Luftschiff Zeppelin #127; Registration: D-LZ 127) was a German-built and -operated, passenger-carrying, hydrogen-filled, rigid airship which operated commercially from 1928 to 1937. It was named after the German pioneer of airships, Graf Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who was a Count in the German nobility.

The ‘Graf Zeppelin’ is considered the finest airship ever built. It flew more miles than any airship had done to that time or would in the future. Its first flight was on September 18, 1928. In August 1929, it circled the globe. Its flight began with a trip from Friedrichshaften, Germany, to Lakehurst, New Jersey, allowing William Randolph Hearst, who had financed the trip in exchange for exclusive rights to the story, to claim that the voyage began from American soil.

Piloted by Eckener, the craft stopped only at Tokyo, Japan, Los Angeles, California, and Lakehurst. The trip took 12 days—less time than the ocean trip from Tokyo to San Francisco.

During the 10 years the Graf Zeppelin flew, it made 590 flights including 144 ocean crossings. It flew more than one million miles (1,609,344 kilometers), visited the United States, the Arctic, the Middle East, and South America, and carried 13,110 passengers.

(Wikipedia)

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Dagen H -Sweden switches from left to right-hand traffic; Sept 3rd, 1967

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Dagen H (H day), today usually called “Högertrafikomläggningen” (“The right-hand traffic diversion”), was the day on 3 September 1967, in which the traffic in Sweden switched from driving on the left-hand side of the road to the right. The “H” stands for “Högertrafik”, the Swedish word for “right traffic”. It was by far the largest logistical event in Sweden’s history.

There were various major arguments for the change:

  • All of Sweden’s neighbours (including Norway and Finland, with which Sweden has land borders) drove on the right, with 5 million vehicles crossing those borders annually.
  • Approximately 90 percent of Swedes drove left-hand drive (LHD) vehicles. This led to many head-on collisions when passing on narrow two-lane highways, which were common in Sweden due to the fact that the country’s low population density and traffic levels made road-building expensive in per capita terms. City buses were among the very few vehicles that conformed to the normal opposite-steering wheel rule, being left-hand drive.

However, the change was widely unpopular; in a 1955 referendum, 83 percent voted to keep driving on the left. Nevertheless, on May 10, 1963, the Swedish Parliament (Riksdagen) approved the Prime Minister Tage Erlander‘s government proposal of an introduction of right hand traffic in 1967, as the number of cars on the road tripled from 500,000 to 1.5 million, and was expected to reach 2.8 million by 1975. A body known as Statens Högertrafikkommission (HTK) (“the state right-hand traffic commission”) was established to oversee the changeover. It also began implementing a four-year education programme, with the advice of psychologists.

The campaign included displaying the Dagen H logo on various commemorative items, including milk cartons and underwear. Swedish television held a contest for songs about the change; the winning entry was “Håll dig till höger, Svensson” (‘Keep to the right, Svensson‘) written by Expressen journalist by Peter Himmelstrand and performed by The Telstars.

As Dagen H neared, every intersection was equipped with an extra set of poles and traffic signals wrapped in black plastic. Workers roamed the streets early in the morning on Dagen H to remove the plastic. Similarly, a parallel set of lines were painted on the roads with white paint, then covered with black tape. Before Dagen H, Swedish roads had used yellow lines.

On Dagen H, Sunday, 3 September, all non-essential traffic was banned from the roads from 01:00 to 06:00. Any vehicles on the roads during that time had to follow special rules. All vehicles had to come to a complete stop at 04:50, then carefully change to the right-hand side of the road and stop again (to give others time to switch sides of the road and avoid a head on collision) before being allowed to proceed at 05:00. In Stockholm and Malmö, however, the ban was longer — from 10:00 on Saturday until 15:00 on Sunday — to allow work crews to reconfigure intersections. Certain other towns also saw an extended ban, from 15:00 on Saturday until 15:00 on Sunday.  

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The relatively smooth changeover saw a reduction in the number of accidents. On the day of the change, only 157 minor accidents were reported, of which only 32 involved personal injuries, with only a handful serious. On the Monday following Dagen H, there were 125 reported traffic accidents, compared to a range of 130 to 198 for previous Mondays, none of them fatal. Experts suggested that changing to driving on the right reduced accidents while overtaking, as people already drove left-hand drive vehicles, thereby having a better view of the road ahead; additionally, the change made a marked surge in perceived risk that exceeded the target level and thus was followed by very cautious behaviour that caused a major decrease in road fatalities. Indeed, fatal car-to-car and car-to-pedestrian accidents dropped sharply as a result, and the number of motor insurance claims went down by 40%.

These initial improvements did not last, however. The number of motor insurance claims returned to ‘normal’ over the next six weeks and, by 1969, the accident rates were back to the levels seen before the change.

(From: Wikipedia)


Unpacking Mona Lisa after the end of World War II; ca.1945

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In 3 days, 200 people packed 3600+ pieces of art, sculpture, and other valuables and transported them into the Loire Valley, where they were kept until the end of the war. (Source)

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Titanic collapsible lifeboat D approaching the rescue ship RMS Carpathia; April 15th 1912

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By the time Collapsible Boat D was launched at 2:05 a.m., there were still 1,500 people on board Titanic and only 47 seats in the lifeboat. Crew members formed a circle around the boat to ensure that only women and children could board. Two small boys were brought through the cordon by a man calling himself “Louis Hoffman”. His real name was Michel Navratil; he was a Slovak tailor who had kidnapped his sons from his estranged wife and was taking them to the United States. He did not board the lifeboat and died when the ship sank. The identity of the children, who became known as the “Titanic Orphans”, was a mystery for some time after the sinking and was only resolved when Navratil’s wife recognised them from photographs that had been circulated around the world. The older of the two boys, Michel Marcel Navratil, was the last living male survivor of the disaster. First Class passenger Edith Evans gave up her place in the lifeboat to Caroline Brown, who became the last passenger to enter a lifeboat from the davits. Evans became one of only four First Class women to perish in the disaster.

In the end, about 25 people were on board when it left the deck under the command of Quartermaster Arthur Bright. Two first class passengers, Hugh Woolner and Mauritz Håkan Björnström-Steffansson, jumped from A-Deck (which had started to flood) into the boat as it was being lowered, with Björnström-Stefansson landing upside down in the boat’s bow and Woolner landing half-out, before being pulled aboard by the occupants. Another first class passenger, Frederick Maxfield Hoyt, who had previously put his wife in the boat, jumped in the water immediately after, and was hauled aboard by Woolner and Björnström-Steffansson. The number of people on board later increased when about 10–12 survivors were transferred to collapsible D from another boat. Carpathia picked up those aboard collapsible D at 7:15 a.m.

(Source)

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Four-year-old Michael Finder of East Germany is tossed by his father into a net held by firemen across the border in West Berlin. The apartments were in East Berlin while their windows opened into West Berlin; October 7th, 1961

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Public execution of Roman Catholic Priests and other Polish Civilians in Bydgoszcz’s Old Market Square; September 9th, 1939

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(More Info)


Soviet tank rams into a building – Warsaw Pact invasion in Czechoslovakia; ca. 1968

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Colored photo of the cascades of Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, a landscape park in Kassel, Germany, and a future UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cascades are created from the 92,000 gallons of water flowing through the then 200-year-old hydro-pneumatic devices; ca. 1890 – 1905

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A woman and her dog both wear masks in London’s deadly smog; December 1952

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Inflating cow skins to use as boats for crossing the swift Himalayan River Sutlej, northern India; ca. 1903

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Stereoscopic photograph of inflated bullock skin boat, or dreas, at the side of the river Sutlej, in Himachal Pradesh, taken by James Ricalton in c. 1903, from The Underwood Travel Library: Stereoscopic Views of India. This image is described by Ricalton in ‘India Through the Stereoscope’ (1907): “I have crossed the river several times on these inflated bullock-skins…The drea-man, after inflating the skin as you see them doing here, places it on the water and places himself on his stomach athwart the skin with his feet in the water; he holds a short paddle in his hands. The intending passenger sits erect, astride the drea-man…You have observed how the skin for this purpose is taken from the animal in one piece and how all openings in the skin are closed except in one leg which is kept open for inflation…These drea-wallahs can drive the skins across the river during high floods when the best swimmer would be helpless in the powerful current.” One of a series of 100 photographs that were supposed to be viewed through a special binocular viewer, producing a 3D effect. The series was sold together with a book of descriptions and a map with precise locations to enable the ‘traveller’ to imagine that he was really ‘touring’ around India. Stereoscopic cameras, those with two lenses and the ability to take two photographs at the same time, were introduced in the mid 19th century and revolutionised photography. They cut down exposure time and thus allowed for some movement in the image without blurring as subjects were not required to sit for long periods to produce sharp results.

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The V-1 “Buzz Bomb” plunging toward central London; ca. 1945

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B-17G ‘Wee Willie’ shot down in a sortie over a marshalling yard in Stendal, Germany. Of the crew of 9 only the pilot survived; ca. April 8th, 1945

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Wee Willie was shot down just 31 days before the end of the Second World a in Europe, and was the second to last B-17 lost by the 91st Bomb Group before the end of the war. The crash was described as follows by an eyewitnesses:

“We were flying over the target at 20,500 feet [6,248 meters] altitude when I observed aircraft B-17G, 42-31333 to receive a direct flak hit approximately between the bomb bay and #2 engine. The aircraft immediately started into a vertical dive. The fuselage was on fire and when it had dropped approximately 5,000 feet [1,524 meters] the left wing fell off. It continued down and when the fuselage was about 3,000 feet [914.4 meters] from the ground it exploded and then exploded again when it hit the ground. I saw no crew member leave the aircraft or parachutes open.”

The pilot managed to escape and spend the rest of the war as POW.

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The wreck of the 1908 Wright Flyer that seriously injured Orville Wright and killed Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge, the first person to die as the result of an airplane accident; September 17th, 1908

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During flight trials to win a contract from the U.S. Army Signal Corps, pilot Orville Wright and passenger Lt. Thomas Selfridge crash in a Wright Flyer at Fort Myer, Virginia. Wright is injured, and Selfridge becomes the first passenger to die in an airplane accident.

After Wilbur and Orville Wright made their historic first-ever airplane flight Dec. 17, 1903, they spent the next few years largely in seclusion developing their new invention. By the end of 1905 their interest in aviation had changed from curiosity and the challenge of flying, to the business of how to turn aviation into an industry: They were looking for a business model.

Unfortunately their first attempts to attract the United States government to the idea of using airplanes were turned down. The military just didn’t see how the airplane could be used in any practical way.

For two-and-a-half years the Wright brothers did not fly. They continued to work on their airplane, but put more and more time into building the business. Eventually they were able to attract interest from both the French and British governments, but by 1907 they still did not have any firm contracts.

But the Wright brothers were awarded two contracts in 1908: one from the U.S. Army and the other from a French business. The Army contract was for a bid to fly a two-man “heavier-than-air” flying machine that would have to complete a series of trials over a measured course. In addition to the $25,000 (about $600,000 in today’s buying power) bid, the brothers would receive a $2,500 bonus for every mile per hour of speed faster than 40 mph. No supersonic stealth fighters just yet.

Because they had not flown since October 1905, the brothers returned to Kitty Hawk to test their new controls to be used on the Wright Flyer in the Army flight trials. Despite some difficulty getting used to the new controls, both brothers managed to get some practice flying in during the stay in North Carolina.

Wilbur was in France during the summer of 1908 demonstrating the new Wright Flyer to Europeans (video). Orville remained in the United States and on Sept. 3 made his first flight at Fort Myer, where the Army trials were set to begin.

The flight tests set out by the Army required the airplane to carry two people for a set duration, distance and speed. There was a committee of five officers to evaluate the Wright Flyer’s performance, including the 26-year-old Selfridge.

Selfridge was a member of the Aerial Experiment Association and had designed the group’s first powered airplane. The Red Wing first flew on March 12, 1908, but crashed and was destroyed on its second flight a few days later.

During the first two weeks of September Orville made 15 flights at Fort Myer. He set three world records Sept. 9, including a 62-minute flight and the first public passenger flight. By Sept. 12 Orville had flown more than 74 minutes in a single flight and carried Maj. George Squier for more than 9 minutes in one flight.

On Sept. 17 Orville was flying Selfridge on another of the test flights. Three or four minutes into the flight, a blade on one of the two wooden propellers split and caused the engine to shake violently. Orville shut down the engine but was unable to control the airplane.

The propeller had hit a bracing wire and pulled a rear rudder from the vertical position to a horizontal position. This caused the airplane to pitch nose-down, and it could not be countered by the pilot.

The Wright Flyer hit the ground hard, and both men were injured. Orville suffered a fractured leg and several broken ribs. Selfridge suffered a fractured skull and died in the hospital a few hours later.

Despite the crash, and the first passenger death in an airplane, the Army was significantly impressed with the Wright Flyer and allowed the brothers to complete the trials the following year. They were awarded the contract. Along with success in France, the Wright brothers were well on their way to establishing what would become one of the most successful aviation companies during the early days of flying.

Because of the crash, the first Army pilots were required to wear helmets similar to early football helmets in order to minimize the chance of a head injury like the one that killed Selfridge.

Though the early days of aviation continued to be full of danger, airplane travel today is statistically one of the safest modes of transportation based on passenger miles traveled. Between 1995 and 2000 there were about 3 deaths per 10 billion passenger miles flown.

(Source)


The Solvay Conference – perhaps the most intelligent picture ever taken; ca. 1927

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Back to front, left to right:

Back: Auguste Piccard, Émile Henriot, Paul Ehrenfest, Édouard Herzen, Théophile de Donder, Erwin Schrödinger, JE Verschaffelt, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Ralph Fowler, Léon Brillouin.

Middle: Peter Debye, Martin Knudsen, William Lawrence Bragg, Hendrik Anthony Kramers, Paul Dirac, Arthur Compton, Louis de Broglie, Max Born, Niels Bohr.

Front: Irving Langmuir, Max Planck, Marie Curie, Hendrik Lorentz, Albert Einstein, Paul Langevin, Charles-Eugène Guye, CTR Wilson, Owen Richardson.


The scientists on the picture:

• Auguste Piccard designed ships to explore the upper stratosphere and the deep seas (bathyscaphe, 1948).

• Emile Henriot detected the natural radioactivity of potassium and rubidium. He made ultracentrifuges possible and pioneered the electron microscope.

• Paul Ehrenfest remarked (in 1909) that Special Relativity makes the rim of a spinning disk shrink but not its diameter. This contradiction with Euclidean geometry inspired Einstein’s General Relativity. Ehrenfest was a great teacher and a pioneer of quantum theory.

• Edouard Herzen is one of only 7 people who participated in the two Solvay conferences of 1911 and 1927. He played a leading role in the development of physics and chemistry during the twentieth century.

• Théophile de Donder defined chemical affinity in terms of the change in the free enthalpy. He founded the thermodynamics of irreversible processes, which led his student Ilya Prigogine (1917-2006) to a Nobel prize.

• Erwin Schrödinger matched observed quantum behavior with the properties of a continuous nonrelativistic wave obeying the Schrödinger Equation. In 1935, he challenged the Copenhagen Interpretation, with the famous tale of Schrödinger’s cat. He shared the nobel prize with Dirac.

• Jules Emile Verschaffelt, the Flemish physicist, got his doctorate under Kamerlingh Onnes in 1899.

• Wolfgang Pauli formulated the exclusion principle which explains the entire table of elements. Pauli’s sharp tongue was legendary; he once said about a bad paper: “This isn’t right; this isn’t even wrong.”

• Werner Heisenberg replaced Bohr’s semi-classical orbits by a new quantum logic which became known as matrix mechanics (with the help of Born and Jordan). The relevant noncommutativity entails Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

• Sir Ralph Howard Fowler supervised 15 FRS and 3 Nobel laureates. In 1923, he introduced Dirac to quantum theory.

• Léon Nicolas Brillouin practically invented solid state physics (Brillouin zones) and helped develop the technology that became the computers we use today.

• Peter Debye pioneered the use of dipole moments for asymmetrical molecules and extended Einstein’s theory of specific heat to low temperatures by including low-energy phonons.

• Martin Knudsen revived Maxwell’s kinetic theory of gases, especially at low pressure: Knudsen flow, Knudsen number etc.

• William Lawrence Bragg was awarded the Nobel prize for physics jointly with his father Sir William Henry Bragg for their work on the analysis of the structure of crystals using X-ray diffraction.

• Hendrik Kramers was the first foreign scholar to seek out Niels Bohr. He became his assistant and helped develop what became known as Bohr’s Institute, where he worked on dispersion theory.

• Paul Dirac came up with the formalism on which quantum mechanics is now based. In 1928, he discovered a relativistic wave function for the electron which predicted the existence of antimatter, before it was actually observed.

• Arthur Holly Compton figured that X-rays collide with electrons as if they were relativistic particles, so their frequency shifts according to the angle of deflection (Compton scattering).

• Louis de Broglie discovered that any particle has wavelike properties, with a wavelength inversely proportional to its momentum (this helps justify Schrödinger’s equation).

• Max Born’s probabilistic interpretation of Schrödinger’s wave function ended determinism in physics but provided a firm ground for quantum theory.

• Irving Langmuir was an American chemist and physicist. His most noted publication was the famous 1919 article “The Arrangement of Electrons in Atoms and Molecules”.

• Max Planck originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. He proposed that exchanges of energy only occur in discrete lumps, which he dubbed quanta.

• Niels Bohr started the quantum revolution with a model where the orbital angular momentum of an electron only has discrete values. He spearheaded the Copenhagen Interpretation which holds that quantum phenomena are inherently probabilistic.

• Marie Curie was the first woman to earn a Nobel prize and the first person to earn two. In 1898, she isolated two new elements (polonium and radium) by tracking their ionizing radiation, using the electrometer of Jacques and Pierre Curie.

• Hendrik Lorentz discovered and gave theoretical explanation of the Zeeman effect. He also derived the transformation equations subsequently used by Albert Einstein to describe space and time.

• Albert Einstein developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics).He is best known in popular culture for his mass–energy equivalence formula (which has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation”). He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”.

• Paul Langevin developed Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation. He had a love affair with Marie Curie.

• Charles-Eugène Guye was a professor of Physics at the University of Geneva. For Guye, any phenomenon could only exist at certain observation scales.

• Charles Thomson Rees Wilson reproduced cloud formation in a box. Ultimately, in 1911, supersaturated dust-free ion-free air was seen to condense along the tracks of ionizing particles. The Wilson cloud chamber detector was born.

• Sir Owen Willans Richardson won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1928 for his work on thermionic emission, which led to Richardson’s Law.


Soldiers after the Battle of Dybbøl; ca. 1864

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The Battle of Dybbøl was the key battle of the Second Schleswig War and occurred on the morning of 18 April 1864 following a siege starting on 7 April.

On the morning of 18 April 1864 at Dybbøl, the Prussians moved into their positions at 2.00. At 10.00 the Prussian artillery bombardment stopped and the Prussians charged through shelling from the Rolf Krake which did not prove enough to halt them. Thirteen minutes after the charge, the Prussian infantry had already seized control of the first line of defence of the redoubts.

A total massacre of the retreating troops was avoided and the Prussian advance halted by a counter-attack by the 8th Brigade, until a Prussian attack threw them back; that attack advanced about 1 km and reached Dybbøl Mill. In that counter-attack the 8th Brigade lost about half their men, dead or wounded or captured. This let the remnants of 1st and 3rd Brigades escape to the pier opposite Sønderborg. At 13.30 the last resistance collapsed at the bridgehead in front of Sønderborg. After that there was an artillery duel across the Alssund.

During the battle around 3,600 Danes and 1,200 Prussians were either killed, wounded or disappeared. A Danish official army casualty list at the time said: 671 dead; 987 wounded, of whom 473 were captured; 3,131 unwounded captured and/or deserters; total casualties 4,789. The 2nd and 22nd Regiments lost the most. Also, the crew of the Danish naval ship Rolf Krake suffered one dead, 10 wounded.

The Battle of Dybbøl was the first battle monitored by delegates of the Red Cross: Louis Appia and Charles van de Velde. Following the battle, the Prussians used the fort area as a starting point to attack Als in June 1864.

While the battle of Dybbøl was a defeat for the Danes the activities of the Rolf Krake along with other Danish naval actions during the conflict served to highlight the naval weakness of Prussia. In an attempt to remedy this the Austro-Prussians dispatched a naval squadron to the Baltic which was intercepted by the Danish Navy at the Battle of Helgoland. A peace treaty was signed on 30 October 1864 that essentially turned the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein into an “Austro-Prussian condominium, under the joint sovereignty of the two states.” The German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, had taken one of the first steps toward launching the German Empire that would dominate Europe until World War I.

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French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne triggers the expression of ‘terror’ on a subject through electrical stimulation the mimetic muscles; ca. 1862

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Henri Giffard’s grand balloon before ascent, Tuileries, Paris; ca. 1878

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Superheater Tubes and Boiler Flues, C&O T-1 #3020 Boiler Explosion; May 12th, 1948

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Another angle:
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“Two crewmen died of burns when this Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad engine exploded at Chillicothe, Ohio, on May 12th. The explosion turned the flue pipes of the engine’s superheater unit in this twisted mass. A third crewman was injured.”

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