Leadership amid the flames of the Great Fire of London

Charles II's leadership during the Great fire of London was the kind of performance that gives kings a good name

Leadership amid the flames of the Great Fire of LondonIn the early hours of Sept. 2, 1666, 350 years ago, the Great Fire of London ignited in a baker’s shop in a little street called Pudding Lane. It spread havoc over the next four days, laying waste to the old walled city at the centre of London. By the time the fire was extinguished,…

‘Radical Joe’ Chamberlain inspires new British PM

The new British prime minister is apparently an admirer of the Victorian-era urban reforming Radical Joe

‘Radical Joe’ Chamberlain inspires new British PMThink of the name Chamberlain and the person who springs to mind is the hapless Neville Chamberlain, the man who is – perhaps unfairly – remembered as the appeaser of Adolf Hitler. But he wasn’t the first Chamberlain to make his mark on British politics. A generation earlier, Neville’s father cast a long shadow. Joseph…

Fifty years ago, London was The Swinging City

From pop music to miniskirts to Academy Award-winning films, a cultural revolution was brewing in England – for a while

Fifty years ago, London was The Swinging CityYou have to hand it to the English. From Brexit to the latest Royal happenings, they seem to be permanently in the news. Fifty years ago, the story was all about an apparent revolution in popular culture. Although the vibe had been brewing for a while, Time magazine gave it the official North American imprimatur…

1940 Republican convention provided real political fireworks

Forget Donald Trump – Wendell Willkie was the man if you're seeking a presidential candidate who defied convention

1940 Republican convention provided real political fireworksThis year’s Republican convention is a keen disappointment for political junkies. History offers at least one such gathering that was more compelling. Just a few months ago, we hoped to experience that rare animal in American politics – a contested, multi-ballot convention with all the drama we’ve only read about in books. But Donald Trump has…

Donald Trump reminds me of John Connally

With one key difference: Barring a miracle, Trump will become the 2016 Republican nominee; Connally was up against Ronald Reagan

Donald Trump reminds me of John ConnallySomeone recently described Donald Trump as a modern version of Ronald Reagan, which is nonsense. However, there is another 20th century American politician with whom Trump has a significant number of things in common. Now largely forgotten, that man is John Connally. Connally (1917-1993) was perhaps most famous for being in the car with John…

U.S. vice presidency ‘isn’t worth a pitcher of warm p-ss’

To their dismay, some vice presidents came to realize how irrelevant the role really is

U.S. vice presidency ‘isn’t worth a pitcher of warm p-ss’John Nance Garner was a crusty Texan who served two terms (1933-1941) as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice president. And he was blunt, declaring that the vice presidency “isn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.” Indeed, biographer O.C. Fisher maintained that this formulation was a euphemism. Garner actually said that the vice presidency “isn’t worth a…

Will 2016 be an historical turning point?

Armies of disgruntled people are pushing back against an establishment that puts the interests of corporations ahead of citizens

Will 2016 be an historical turning point?Some years are more important than others. The most important are a culmination, turning points that herald the end of one era and the beginnings of another. The 410 AD sack of Rome by the Gothic forces of Alaric was the moment when the end of the Roman Empire became inevitable. Other dates in history…

Before Ali, there was Joe Louis

Where Ali was flamboyantly boastful, Louis was studiously modest and where Ali was outspokenly defiant, Louis was respectfully deferential

Before Ali, there was Joe LouisMuhammad Ali’s recent death brought to mind another famous 20th century black American boxer. In his own way and in his own time, Joe Louis was just as famous as Ali. And by some estimations, he was an even better fighter. Born Joseph Louis Barrow in 1914 rural Alabama, Louis moved with his family to…

Trump reignites old resentments in Mexico

170 years ago the U.S. first created resentment in Mexico by annexing territory roughly equivalent in size to western Europe

Trump reignites old resentments in MexicoRepublican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has ignited more than his share of controversies on the campaign trail. At least one lights a fire dangerously close to the foundation of a big chunk of the United States. A couple of weeks ago, an eye-catching photo was taken at an anti-Donald Trump demonstration in California. It featured…

Divvying up the Middle East after First World War

Beating-up on Britain’s Sir Mark Sykes and France’s Francois Georges-Picot for today's mess in the Middle East is just plain silly

Divvying up the Middle East after First World WarIt was 100 years ago this May that two diplomats – Britain’s Sir Mark Sykes and France’s Francois Georges-Picot – concluded a secret agreement dividing the (prospective) post-war Middle East into British and French spheres of influence. And by virtue of ignoring local demographic realities, their agreement has been blamed for many of the region’s…