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History Group 2013
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History Group

The next meeting is at Irene Bentley's house on 8th January 2014 at 7.30pm.
Michael Sparrow will talk about Edmund Burke.

We meet every six weeks or so, usually on a Wednesday evening, at one of our members' houses.
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 off coming by 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.

anyone who would like to do a one off presentation to the group on any historical event or person contact Pam Curley and a suitable date could be agreed.

Previous meetings:

January       Sir William Marshall
February     Gold
Shakespeare's World
A Brief History of the Class System
June            Medical Science and Eye Defects
Paradise Lost: Smyrna
October       Napoleon
The Nazi search for authenticity in history

Report on January Meeting
The subject of the meeting held on 16th January was Sir William Marshall.
Sir William Marshall (1147-1219) achieved considerable success on his own merits, not having been born in a Royal or privileged household.  He was a contemporary of Richard the Lionheart and was knighted at the age of 20.  He made a very financially beneficial marriage and by the time he was 42 was described as a 'great Baron'.  After the death of King Richard he became a supporter of King John and on John's death acted as Regent until Henry III was able to take over the ruling of the Kingdom.  On William's death he was buried as a Knight Templar.

Report on February Meeting
Here is the summary of the History Group meeting held on 20th February 2013:-
Liam gave a very interesting presentation on the history of gold, starting in 4,000BC, when the first reference to gold is made as being used in central Europe for decorative purposes.  In 1091BC the Chinese made square golden coins which were used as money and in 50BC the Romans began issuing gold coins.  Gold has been discovered on every continent in the world and most of the gold discovered in history is still in circulation today.  There is still 80% of the world's gold in the ground.
Report on April Meeting
Steve Reynold's presentation entitled 'Shakespeare's World' was very interesting.  It emphasised the fact that very little is actually known about his life beyond his literary output: 39 plays and 154 sonnets.  There are many years of his life about which nothing is known and of the portraits purported to be of Shakespeare, only the Chandos portrait is accepted as being genuine.  Another very interesting aspect relates to the number of words and phrases invented by him of which eight hundred are still in common use today, for example, penthouse, one fell swoop, play fast and loose, be in a pickle and budge an inch, to quote just a few.

Report on May Meeting
There were two major historical events which changed the class system.  The first was the Black Death, which wiped out nearly half of the population of Britain.  The dramatic fall in the workforce allowed the peasants, and women, to assert themselves.  The next major impact on the class system was the Industrial Revolution.  As the factory system spread, the gentry, who had supplied the initial capital, were replaced by professional managers who became the middle classes.  Britain now had an Upper class, a Middle class and a Working class.  There has been several attempts to classify the British social structure, none of which seem to work very well, as those in the History Group can testify when they tried to use the new BBC's British Class Calculator.  This topic provoked a great deal of discussion and was very interesting.

Report on June Meeting
The presentation by Mike Humphris told of the development of medical science's ability to rectify many eye defects, from the invention of glass, three thousand years BC to the first eye transplant in 2013.  It made the group consider what it might be like not to be able to see and realise how fortunate we are in the present time that most common eye defects can be corrected.  Spectacles had been invented as early as 1280AD, but it was not until the 17th century that they looked more like we know them today; a copy of a painting dated 1650 shows St. Jerome using spectacles.  Contact lenses were invented in 1887, but it was in the 20th century when that the greatest developments were made in correcting eye defects.
Report on the 21st August Meeting
Sue Clark gave a very interesting talk on the decline of Smyrna on the Agean coast of Anatolia in the Ottoman Empire, now known as Izmir. The province, with its port, was a very prosperous and multi racial world trading centre over many centuries.  The period covered was from 1908, when the Young Turks were coming to the fore, until 1923 when Kemal Ataturk came to power.  The climax of Smyrna's decline came in 1919 when it was invaded by Greece, supported by the victorious Allied Forces, to rid the area of the Turks.  However, the Turks, after some setbacks, drove the Greeks to retreat to the harbour at Smryna and set fire to the city thereby destroying it completely.  The consequences of this disaster was the forced mass migration of people to the east and west on ethnic or religious grounds.

Report on the 2nd October Meeting
This talk by
Marlene Brookes sought to dispel the myths surrounding Napoleon.  Was he really the caricature depicted in so many comedy sketches as "The Little Corporal" with the "Napoleon complex" who said, "Not tonight, Josephine!" after a supper of Chicken Marengo?
Napoleon was born to an aristocratic Italian family in Corsica, August 1769, and quickly rose to prominence after the Reign of Terror as a brilliant military commander who inspired devotion in his troops.  He won a series of  victories which led to the break-up of the Holy Roman Empire and shaped the history of Europe and the USA for the next two centuries.  At home, he initiated a number of reforms which spread to many other European nations, including freedom of religion for all faiths, reform of education, the establishment of a sewage system throughout France, metrification, the Code Civil.  As a revolutionary, he disappointed many of his supporters when he took the title of Emperor in 1804.  Despite his victories on land, he was unable to win any sea battles against the British Navy, which he had aspired to join as a young boy. 
His luck ran out when he marched on Moscow in 1812.  Despite being victorious in every battle, he was eventually beaten by the Russian winter and out of his army of nearly half a million, only 10,000 returned unscathed.  Despite further successes on the battlefield in Germany, he was defeated at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 and eventually exiled to Elba, where in his year there, he opened up iron mines and reformed agricultural practices before escaping and being received in triumph in Paris.  He next confronted his enemies at the Battle of Waterloo where he met his final defeat and was exiled to St. Helena where he died in 1821.
Report on the 13th November Meeting
THE NAZIS AND HISTORY.  In the early 1930s Hitler wanted to give the German people a history that would unite all Germany and acknowledge Hitler as the supreme leader.  He took the swastika from India where it is regarded as a holy symbol and made it the flag of the Nazis.  Himmler, head of the SS, attempted to obtain a Roman manuscript from an Italian count to prove that an Aryan race that defeated the Romans were the direct ancestors of the modern day Germans.  Himmler also instituted an organisation called the Ahnenerbe in which academics from all fields worked to prove that the Germans were the 'chosen' people.  However, all this proved futile, as we know the 1000 year Reich only lasted for a few years.
Pam Curley
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