How Things Fell Apart, By Chinua Achebe - 'In an excerpt from his long-awaited memoir, the inventor of the post-colonial African novel in English discusses his origins as a writer and the seeds of revolt against the British Empire.'
I can say that my whole artistic career was probably sparked by this tension between the Christian religion of my parents, which we followed in our home, and the retreating, older religion of my ancestors, which fortunately for me was still active outside my home. I still had access to a number of relatives who had not converted to Christianity and were called heathens by the new converts. When my parents were not watching I would often sneak off in the evenings to visit some of these relatives.[more inside]
Robert F. Gallagher served in the United States Army's 815th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion (Third Army) in the European Theater during WWII. He has posted his memoir online: "Scratch One Messerschmitt," told from numerous photos he took during the war and the detailed notes he made shortly afterwards. [more inside]
Norman Centuries is a new podcast by Lars Brownworth, best known for his podcast series 12 Byzantine Rulers (previously). Norman Centuries, as the name suggests, recounts the history of the Normans, those literal vikings who gained Normandy and then England, Sicily, Malta, Antioch and, well, a whole heck of a lot of other places too. They were a conquering bunch. First two episodes are out with more to follow. [iTunes link]
The Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration has drawings of uniforms and regimental regalia from all over the world. Assembled by one of these great, eccentric collectors of the late 19th Century, Dr. H. J. Vinkhuijzen, a Dutch medical doctor who started out as an army physician and eventually rose to the position of official court physician to Prince Alexander of Netherlands. He pulled plates out of books, colored in black and white drawings and painted his own watercolor illustrations. His collection includes pictures of the soldiers of many different nations and eras, from military superpowers like the Roman Empire, France and Great Britain, to lesser known, but no less formidable forces, like Byzantium and Persia and even taking in such minnows as Luxembourg, Monaco and Montenegro. Due to Vinkhuijzen's unusual classification system it can be hard to find some of the more interesting images, such as pictures of Etruscan cavalry, Spanish military musicians and 1830's Belgian ambulance.
1956. France is losing Algeria. It’s lost Indochina. Sure, it’s culturally very productive, with Nouvelle Vague cinema at its height and existential philosophy gaining ground in the world at large. But to the nation of Napoléon and to one that preferred to emphasise the Résistance in its more recent history, that wasn't enough. What to do? Why, propose political union with Britain, of course.
90 years ago today, whistles blew around the river Somme in France as British troops prepared for an attack on German trenches. By the end of the day they had suffered 57,470 casualties. By the battle's end in November, there were over 600,000 Allied casualties, with perhaps the same number of German casualties. The Imperial War Museum has launched an online exhibition, where you can find out more about how the battle was planned, personal stories of those involved, and myths about the attack. Elsewhere you can find copies of Army reports on the first day, look at film of the attack, diaries and letters home from the troops, go on tours of the trenches, listen to contemporary songs and music inspired by the battle, and see some more modern responses.
Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail. Best known as the drummer for 1970s punk band The Damned, Rat Scabies grew up with a father interested in the mysteries of the French town of Rennes-le-Château, which may or may not contain the Holy Grail and in the enigmatic priest Berenger Sauniere. Conspiracy theories surrounding the town first popped up in the 1970s book Holy Blood, Holy Grail and gained a certain amount of infamy in recent years from The DaVinci Code. Upon striking up a friendship with his neighbor, journalist Christopher Dawes, Scabies discovered common interests in conspiracy theories and all things paranormal and a shared hatred of the DaVinci Code. Now the pair wrote a book about their alcohol-sodden quest for the Holy Grail that asks the question: What happens when an ex-punk rocker goes looking for the Holy Grail?
Images of medieval architecture. A great site put together by Alison Stones, Professor of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. There are two large gazetteers, one for Britain, and one for France. Besides photos, there are many plans, sketches and elevation drawings, which help to give an idea of the sheer scale of gothic cathedrals such as the cathedral of Saint-Étienne at Bourges (scroll down for the human figures at the bottom).
Jonah Goldberg on why the British are like dogs, and the French like cats.