History for the Rest of Us

Monkey Weapons in the Opium War

Monkey Weapons in the Opium War

May 9, 2014

During the Opium War, the Chinese were trying to destroy English ships by using fire-rafts. On their first attempt, fear of being within range of the British warships’ guns led the Chinese to ignite the rafts when they were still approximately three miles away from their targets. With so much advance notice, the British were able to take the ships in tow and beach them – although several sailors were badly burned. A second round of fire rafts was launched, again prematurely, and shortly afterward the Chinese irregulars in charge fled when they were attacked by boats that had be put out from the English warships. According to ‘The Opium War Through Chinese Eyes’ by The Arthur Waley Estate, ‘Someone suggested that fire-crackers should be tied to the backs of a number of monkeys, who would then be flung on board the English ships. The flames would spread rapidly in every direction and might with luck reach the powder-magazine, in which case the whole ship would blow up. Nineteen monkeys were bought, and at the time of the advance were brought in litters to the advanced base.’ The monkeys accompanied the retreating armies to Tz’u-ch’i when the Chinese attacks had failed. No one dared go near enough to the enemy ships to fling the monkeys on board, and so the plan was never executed. The monkeys were put in the charge of a Mr. Feng in the town on the heights behind Tz’u-ch’i. When the townspeople fled after the defeat of the remaining Chinese troops, there was no one to care for the monkeys and they eventually died of starvation in Mr. Feng’s...

The Threat of Nazi Germany

The Threat of Nazi Germany

Nov 19, 2012

On November 16, 1934 Winston Churchill delivered the following speech about the rising threat of Nazi Germany. Listen to the speech: The Threat of Nazi Germany Many people think that the best way to escape war is to dwell upon its horrors and to imprint them vividly upon the minds of the younger generation. They flaunt the grisly photographs before their eyes. They fill their ears with tales of carnage. They dilate upon the ineptitude of generals and admirals. They denounce the crime as insensate folly of human strife. Now, all this teaching ought to be very useful in preventing us from attacking or invading any other country, if anyone outside a madhouse wished to do so, but how would it help us if we were attacked or invaded ourselves? That is the question we have to ask. Would the invaders consent to visit Lord Beaverbrook’s exposition, or listen to the impassioned appeals of Mr. Lloyd George? Would they agree to meet that famous South African, General Smuts, and have their inferiority complex removed in friendly, reasonable debate? I doubt it. I have borne responsibility for the safety of this country in grievous times. I gravely doubt it. But even if they did, I am not so sure we should convince them, and persuade them to go back quietly home. They might say, it seems to me, “you are rich; we are poor. You seem well fed; we are hungry. You have been victorious; we have been defeated. You have valuable colonies; we have none. You have your navy; where is ours? You have had the past; let us have the future.” Above all, I fear they would say, “you are weak and we are strong.” After all, my friends, only a few hours away by air there dwells a nation of nearly seventy million of the most educated, industrious, scientific, disciplined people in the world, who are being taught from childhood to think of war as a glorious exercise and death in battle as the noblest fate for man. There is a nation which has abandoned all its liberties in order to augment its collective strength. There is a nation which, with all...

The Appeal of June 18 – Charles de Gaulle

The Appeal of June 18 – Charles de Gaulle

Oct 19, 2012

The following speech by General Charles de Gaulle, was an appeal to the French people to resist the German occupation. De Gaulle was the leader of the French Free Forces. He fled France for London on June 15, 1940 after Philippe Pétain, a World War I hero, signed an armistice with Nazi Germany. Winston Churchill gave de Gaulle permission to broadcast the speech three days later on BBC Radio. While the speech wasn’t widely heard in France, it is still considered to be one of the most important speeches in French History. The Appeal of June 18 “The leaders who, for many years, have been at the head of the French armies have formed a government. This government, alleging the defeat of our armies, has made contact with the enemy in order to stop the fighting. It is true, we were, we are, overwhelmed by the mechanical, ground and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it is the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans which are causing us to retreat. It was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans that surprised our leaders to the point of bringing them to where they are today. “But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No! “Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States. “This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today...

FDR – Fireside Chat – Pearl Harbor

FDR – Fireside Chat – Pearl Harbor

Sep 29, 2012

December 9, 1941. Listen to Fireside Chat: Fireside Chat FDR 1941-12-09 My Fellow Americans: The sudden criminal attacks perpetrated by the Japanese in the Pacific provide the climax of a decade of international immorality. Powerful and resourceful gangsters have banded together to make war upon the whole human race. Their challenge has now been flung at the United States of America. The Japanese have treacherously violated the long-standing peace between us. Many American soldiers and sailors have been killed by enemy action. American ships have been sunk; American airplanes have been destroyed. The Congress and the people of the United States have accepted that challenge. Together with other free peoples, we are now fighting to maintain our right to live among our world neighbors in freedom, in common decency, without fear of assault. I have prepared the full record of our past relations with Japan, and it will be submitted to the Congress. It begins with the visit of Commodore Perry to Japan eighty-eight years ago. It ends with the visit of two Japanese emissaries to the Secretary of State last Sunday, an hour after Japanese forces had loosed their bombs and machine guns against our flag, our forces and our citizens. I can say with utmost confidence that no Americans, today or a thousand years hence, need feel anything but pride in our patience and in our efforts through all the years toward achieving a peace in the Pacific which would be fair and honorable to every nation, large or small. And no honest person, today or a thousand years hence, will be able to suppress a sense of indignation and horror at the treachery committed by the military dictators of Japan, under the very shadow of the flag of peace borne by their special envoys in our midst. The course that Japan has followed for the past ten years in Asia has paralleled the course of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe and in Africa. Today, it has become far more than a parallel. It is actual collaboration so well calculated that all the continents of the world, and all the oceans, are now considered by the Axis strategists as one gigantic battlefield....

Disney’s The New Spirit

Disney’s The New Spirit

Sep 10, 2012

On January 23, 1942, Walt Disney Productions, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, released The New Spirit. This animated short featured Donald Duck and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. In the film, Donald reveals his annual income to be $2,501, for which he will owe $13 dollars in taxes. He sprints across the United States straight to Washington with his payment. Approximately 15 million U.S. citizens would become eligible to pay income tax for the first time due to the Revenue Act of 1942, and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. thought the film would help minimize resentment and encourage prompt payment. Apparently Mr. Morgenthau was right. Income taxes for 1942 were more prompt than they had ever been. Disney created a sequel to The New Spirit in 1943 titled The Spirit of ’43. Related Stories: Disney Campaign Ad Making a...

Disney’s The Making of a Nazi

Disney’s The Making of a Nazi

Sep 4, 2012

Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi first appeared in movie theaters on January 15, 1943. Walt Disney had entered into a contract with the United States government to create 32 animated shorts in an effort to educate the U.S. citizens at home and on the front as well. At the time, Disney was nearly bankrupt from Fantasia, and the contract was an opportunity to restore its financial footing. Unlike many of the Disney war films which featured Donald Duck, this film had a more serious tone demonstrating how the minds of Nazi Germany’s children were cultivated to hate others and to participate in the war effort. Themes of other Disney war films included taxes, the draft, War Bonds, etc. Click to watch the video: Related Stories: Disney Campaign Ad The New...