next meeting is at Irene's house on Wednesday January 16th 2013
We meet every six weeks or
so, usually on a Wednesday
evening, at one of our members' houses.
The topic is 'William
At our meetings one of our number gives a talk on a historical subject
of particular interest to him/her for about forty minutes, then we have
a discussion about what we have heard.
We currently have fourteen members but new recruits are always welcome.
It is not compulsory to give talks so don’t be put
thinking that you will have to perform.
At each meeting we decide on a speaker, subject
and venue for the following meeting.
The choice of topic is often not known until the meeting
actually takes place, as a group member will volunteer and then decide
what the subject matter will be.
meetings - 2011/12:
November Ford Madox Brown's painting
January Major General
February The Theft of the Mona Lisa
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
Diva and the Deadly Disease
August William Cobbett
September Release of the
November The Battle of
Report on January Meeting
The subject of the January meeting was General
Scovell was born in London in 1774, to a family of quite modest means.
His first occupation was as an engraver, but in 1794 he joined the
As his army career progressed he became the Duke of Wellington's chief
code breaker, for which he was renowned.
Schovell decoded the Great Paris Cipher, which was the equivalent at
that time of the Enigma Code in WWII.
To make the meeting even more interesting members of the
group were given some codes to decipher.
about Wellington's lucky break!
Report on February Meeting
Terry Browne presented a very interesting and informative
topic entitled The Theft of the Mona Lisa. The painting was
stolen from the Louvre in August 1911 by Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian
immigrant who had previously been employed at the Louvre. He kept
it hidden for two years, first in Paris and then in Italy.
Eventually Peruggia took it to an art dealer who reported it to the
police. He was tried in Italy and defended himself on the grounds
that he had wanted to repatriate the painting as it really belonged in
Italy. He was given a short custodial sentence of approximately
seven months and the painting was returned to the Louvre in 1913.
Report on March Meeting
This very interesting topic was presented by Liam Canavan
and provoked a great deal of group discussion.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion purports to document the
a late 19th century meeting of the Jewish leaders, discussing their
goal to global hegemony. This document was translated
into multiple languages and disseminated internationally.
Despite having been exposed as fraudulent years before, it was studied
in German schools after the Nazi Party came to power in 1933 and was
Hitler’s justification for initiating the holocaust.
Report on May Meeting
The History Group meeting on the 2nd May was given a very
interesting presentation by Michael Sparrow on John Ruskin, an unusual
and very influential person of the Victorian era. His interests
ranged through all the arts, to architecture, education and social
theories. Ruskin was a prolific non-fiction writer, including his
multi-volume work entitled 'Modern Artists'. He was a great
advocate of Victorian Gothic in preference to classical
architecture. His ideas had international approval and drew
praise from such renowned figures as Tolstoy, Proust and Ghandi.
Report on June Meeting
The Diva and the Deadly Disease,
by Marlene Brookes.
The diva in the presentation is the opera singer Adelina Patti
(1843-1919), born in Madrid of Italian
parents. Patti played her first leading role at the age of
sixteen and went on to have a very successful international singing
career and a somewhat scandalous private live. However, in 1878
Patti bought a castle, Craig-y-Nos, in Breconshire as a haven from her
busy professional life, employing many local people and became
something of a philanthropist in the local community.
The connection between Patti and the deadly disease (tuberculosis) came
after her death when the castle was sold to a Welsh Association for the
treatment of TB. In 1948 the newly formed NHS took over the
management of Craig-y-Nos, but by the 1960's it had become a
convalescent home for patients with chest diseases, rather than TB, due
to the decline of this disease, eventually closing in the 1980s: it is
now a hotel and conference centre.
Report on August Meeting
by Michael Sparrow.
William Cobbett (1763-1835) was described as 'a very powerful
of his time'. His main concern was the plight of the common man
and to ensure that injustices were put into the public domain, he
published the Political Register in 1800 and continued to do so until
his death in 1835. He had a very interesting and humorous style
of writing that appealed to all, even if they did not agree with his
sentiments. Cobbett had several criminal libel actions brought
against him, necessitating him to move to France, America and back to
England to escape the consequences, although between 1810-1812 he did
spend two years in Newgate prison. He also published a series
entitled Rural Rides drawing attention to the working conditions of the
farming communities. Cobbett's political writings were very
influential and encouraged others to improve the lot of the working man.
Report on September
Canavan presented a paper entitled 'The release of the slaves'.
The slaves were all those who had to toil on the farms and later in the
'dark satanic mills'. Liam outlined the progress of power from
human muscle power to animal to water to wind to fossil fuel. As
mechanisation became more efficient, and relatively, more cost
effective then the need for slaves decreased. It was
capitalisation that exterminated slavery. Manchester became the
world's first industrialised city but also had the first industrialised
slum---Angel Meadows. A look at history reveals that people
preferred to live and work in the city rather than on the land.
The latest example of this is China. Recently, an interveiw
with a Chinese couple, who a generation ago would have been living in
rural poverty were now watching, in their city house, their 52 inch TV
and owning a fancy car. They were living the 'American Dream'.
Report on October Meeting
T.E Lawrence is a very well known figure in our more recent
history, but he is known mostly for his
fame as Lawrence of Arabia. The presentation, whilst covering his
exploits in Arabia, also tried to explain what a complex character he
was and what his other achievements were after the First World War.
Report on November
The Battle of Cable Street took place on Sunday 4th October 1936
in Cable Street in the East End of London. It was a clash between
the Metropolitan Police, overseeing a march by the British Union of
Fascists led by Oswald Mosley; and anti-fascists, including local
Jewish, socialist, anarchist, Irish and communist groups. An
estimated 100,000 anti-fascist demonstrators turned out and were met by
6,000 police, who attempted to clear the road to permit the march of
2-3,000 fascists to proceed. After a series of running battles,
Mosley agreed to abandon the march to prevent bloodshed. The BUF
marchers were dispersed towards Hyde Park instead while the
anti-fascists rioted with police. The Battle of Cable Street was
a major factor leading to the passage of the Public Order Act 1936,
which required police consent for political marches and forbade the
wearing of political uniforms in public. This is widely
considered to be a significant factor in the BUF's political decline
prior to the Second World War.