The collapse of the Berlin Wall twenty-five years ago this month prompted a diverse range of musical responses. While Mstislav Rostropovich celebrated the momentous event by giving a very personal, impromptu performance of Bach’s Cello Suites in front of the Wall two days after it had been breached, David Hasselhoff regaled Berliners from atop of what remained of the Wall on New Year’s Eve of 1989 with a glitter-studded rendition of his chart hit “Looking for Freedom.”
I emerged after a long day in the soundproofed cabins at the back of the reading room in the onetime Institute of Marxism-Leninism, which pieces of black sticky tape now proclaimed as the ‘Institute of the Labour Movement’. It was spring 1990 and I was in East Berlin, as one of the first western researchers into the German Democratic Republic.
Time passes quickly. As we track the progression of events hundred years ago on the Western Front, the dramas flash by. In the time it takes to answer an e-mail the anniversary of another battle has come and gone.
This season marks the silver anniversary of the wildfire revolutions that swept across Eastern Europe in the summer and autumn of 1989. The upheavals led to the liberation of Eastern Europe from Soviet control, the Reunification of Germany and the demise of the Soviet Union itself two years later. Its dizzying speed and domino effect caught everyone by surprise, be it the confused communist elites, veteran Kremlinologists and even the participants themselves.
In December 2013, Turkish authorities arrested the sons of several prominent cabinet ministers on bribery, embezzlement and smuggling charges. Investigators claimed that the men were contributing members in a conspiracy to illicitly trade Turkish gold for Iranian oil gas (an act which, among other things, violates the spirit of United Nations’ sanctions targeting Tehran). The scheme purportedly netted a vast fortune in proceeds in the form of dividends and bribes.
One hundred years ago today, far from the erupting battlefields of Europe, a small German force in the city of Tsingtau (Qingdao), Germany’s most important possession in China, was preparing for an impending siege. The small fishing village of Qingdao and the surrounding area had been reluctantly leased to the German Empire by the Chinese government for 99 years in 1898, and German colonists soon set about transforming this minor outpost into a vibrant city boasting many of the comforts of home, including the forerunner of the now-famous Tsingtao Brewery.
The fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council fell two years ago in October 2012. In December next year it will be the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Council. There is bound to be much discussion in the coming months of the meaning and significance of the Council, its failures, its successes, its misinterpretations, its distortion and exaggerations, its key seminal texts, its future developments.
In the Preface to volume 1 of The Consolidated Treaty Series, Clive Parry explained that his collection purported to make the historical treaties antedating the League of Nations Treaty Series available to the modern reader. By this, the date ad quem, 1919, of his work was made self-explanatory. To justify his choice of the date post quem, 1648, he succinctly stated that this was ‘classically regarded as the date of the foundation of the modern system of States’.
Today, 60 years ago, the visionary convention establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research — better known with its French acronym, CERN — entered into force, marking the beginning of an extraordinary scientific adventure that has profoundly changed science, technology, and society, and that is still far from over.
2014 marks not just the centenary of the start of World War I, and the 75th anniversary of World War II, but on 29 September it is 60 years since the establishment of CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research or, in its modern form, Particle Physics.
At first glance atheism and feminism are two sides of the same coin. After all, the most passionate criticism of patriarchy has come from religious (or formerly religious) female scholars. First-hand experience of male domination in such contexts has led many to translate their views into direct political activism. As a result, the fight for women’s rights has often been inseparable from the critique of organised religion.
Hadrian’s Wall has been in the news again recently for all the wrong reasons. Occasional wits have pondered on its significance in the Scottish Referendum, neglecting the fact that it has never marked the Anglo-Scottish border, and was certainly not constructed to keep the Scots out. Others have mistakenly insinuated that it is closed for business, following the widely reported demise of the Hadrian’s Wall Trust.
Saxo, who lived in the latter part of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, was probably a canon of Lund Cathedral (then Danish). He was secretary to Archbishop Abslon, who encouraged his gifted protégé to write a history of his own country to emulate those of other nations, such as Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
On 18 September 2014 Scots will vote on the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ Campaigners for independence and campaigners for the union agree that this is an historic referendum.
Much of the comment on the official photographic portrait of the Queen released in April this year to celebrate her 88th birthday focussed on her celebrity photographer, David Bailey, who seemed to have ‘infiltrated’ (his word) the bosom of the establishment. Less remarked on, but equally of note, is that the very informal pose that the queen adopted showed her smiling, and not only smiling but also showing her teeth.
Since the outbreak of the First World War just over one hundred years ago, the debate concerning the conflict’s causes has been shaped by political preoccupations as well as historical research. Wartime mobilization of societies required governments to explain the justice of their cause.