Monthly Archives: September 2018

28th September, 2018. Nuclear Weapons (second unit in ‘History of not very nice things’)

This second unit for the WEA evening class ‘History of not very nice things’ highlighted two interesting lines of thought; that the physical processes at work in the centre of the Sun whereby hydrogen is converted to helium by continuous nuclear fusion is the very process that enables life in that heat and light produced are, as a result, transmitted through space to planet Earth, thus nuclear fusion/fission enable life while the ability of Man to harness this process makes possible the extinction of life.

The discovery of ways to ‘split the atom’ evolved from the speculation that atoms existed as the smallest unit of matter, this speculation started by John Dalton in the early 19th century. It was another Englishman Ernest Rutherford (actually born in New Zealand to immigrant parents from Essex but who worked most of his life in England) who experimented in the early 20th century in the possibility of ‘splitting the atom’, a discovery which led to the development of the nuclear bomb. Whereas Rutherford was acclaimed during his life for his advancement of the knowledge of physics, and indeed buried in Westminster Abbey near to the grave of Isaac Newton, Dalton’s last resting place in Manchester is now a playing field. Being a Quaker Dalton had had no access to a university education but did teach in a Dissenter’s College in Manchester while living a very Spartan bachelor life.

The history of U.S.A.’s Manhatten Project was then considered, this being the government’s response to Einstein’s fear that Germany might well otherwise be the first country to produce a nuclear bomb. British physicists worked in collaboration with the Project and in 1945 two atomic bombs were dropped on two Japanese cities (see above picture).

Today seven countries have ‘silos’ of nuclear warheads, others may soon follow, but seemingly the fear of nuclear war has declined. We did, of course, discuss opinions on the notions of nuclear deterrent and to what extent any nation could ‘win’ a nuclear war.

23rd September, 2018. Horror continued.

As stated in the last blog Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled ‘witch-finder general’ of the 1640s was one of the ‘horror episodes’ for the current evening class. Hopkins (1620-1647) was the fourth son of a puritan church minister from Essex. Between 1643 and 1647 (during the chaos of the First Civil War) he oversaw the ‘discovery’ and execution of over 300 women, charging the local parish vestry for his services. Occasional execution of witches had been no new thing over past centuries, and further were to follow Hopkin’s death, but the scale of the activity in the 1640s was unprecedented. Witches supposedly had a ‘devil’s mark’ somewhere on their body whereby their ‘familiars’ (basically pet animals) sucked blood so Hopkins employed ‘pickers’, women who searched the revealed skin of the hapless victims. Why choose this episode for the theme of horror? Apart from the fact that it represents a centuries-old notion that the female sex was  to be viewed with suspicion and caution, this fuelled by ignorance of female biology and reinforced by certain Biblical texts, it represents the horror of being an innocent victim of state-supported bigotry, to be devoid of recourse in law and to be subjected to an horrific death.

For another example of the horror of being a helpless victim child rape was chosen, the case study chosen being the childhood of Maya Angelou as told in her frank autobiography (although I have not been able to identify the exact text).

What of nightmares, exampling the power of the mind to construct story-lines which, although reflecting some episodes from memory, bring to the fore the fearful insecurities of life.

The image above is a 17th century print showing Hopkins entering the home of two witches who seem to be telling him about their ‘familiars’. An horrific image in many respects.

21st September, 2018. Horror

Despite what was stated in blog of 19th the regional branch of the W.E.A. are to allow the Barton class to continue despite the low number of students.

This was a new venture in that instead of the five-week course having a single theme each class had a separate theme under the general title of ‘History of not very nice things’ (with hindsight not a very good title!). The first topic was Horror, and this unit was presented last Monday evening, although it was not completed by he end of the session. The initial class exercise invited discussion and went well – e.g. students rank ordered words allied in meaning to ‘horror’ such as scary, terror etc. This led to an interesting consideration of how the definition of horror is, to an extent, to do with the physical evidence of experiencing horror e.g. ‘hairs on end’, ‘cold sweat’ and the biological reasons for these.

Then went on to two pictures portraying horror and their historical context Munch’s ‘Scream’ and Picasso’s ‘Guernica’.

Then onto some episodes in History – hangman W. Marwood, 1068 ‘Harrying of the North’, 1493 Princes in the Tower (sons of recently died Edward IV), the ‘Witch-finder General’ (this is the point we reached by the end of the session) and Maya Angelou’s autobiography.

Before this we had had a discussion as to whether the experience of horror was confined to the human animal or could be experienced across all, or most, sentient life-forms. So current issues re animal welfare were highlighted (see above picture – long-distance live farm animal transport).

The final bit of the session will home-in on nightmares.

One element in classes like this is to be interested to hear any personal experiences but not to demand them or present an expectation.

19th September, 2018. Highs and lows of being a History tutor.

As previously stated have been quite heavily involved in events programmed for Heritage Week in both Hull and Barton. As regards Barton nobody turned-up for either guided walk round Baysgarth Park whereas around a hundred turned-up for both guided visits to the medieval great hall at Tyrwhitt Hall. My talk about my housing book had a limited but interested number in audience this resulting in the sale of four books after the talk. As regards the two talks in Hull both were reasonably well attended and received, especially so at the Kardomah, both left me feeling well in myself.

Another objective which has consumed much of my time in the preparation is the new WEA course History of Not Very Nice Things for which the first session was last Monday evening. However, with only five students turning-up the course is unlikely to continue. This left me feeling unhappy in myself.

13th September, 2018. Forgot to mention ..

In the previous blog I forgot to mention the guided walk through Barton Cemetery yesterday evening which went ok, partly because the weather was so pleasant. Part of my article A Study of the Historical Context of Burial, Cremation and the Development of Civil Cemeteries (probably the worst title ever) (see Articles and Publications) in cludes a study of the history of Barton’s Cemetery. In preparing for this event I was reminded of notes that will be relevant to the ongoing study of Hull’s Parks and Cemeteries – sometimes its easy to forget stuff you have from past research.

13th September, 2018. Apology for the delay.

Have neglected the blog over last two weeks owing to pressure of other commitments (spb). The event at the great hall of Tyrwhitt Hall, Barton drew-in 95 persons so was very crowded but went off ok. To be repeated this coming Sunday 2pm but with fewer places available. Two talks in Hull, History of Hessle Common (south-west Hull) (see Articles and Publications) given at Hull History Centre and Evolution of the Humber Estuary at the Kardomah, Alfred Gelder St., Hull went ok. Kardomah is an interesting venue, relatively small but intimate with various types of seating and full opportunities for refreshments provided by staff. Incidentally the Evolution of the Humber presentation is one of many that I have that have been prepared as power-point presentations  but not, as yet, written-up as articles.

My guided walk through Baysgarth Park on Saturday will be at 11am the 2pm one having been cancelled. Following the Baysgarth Park event some of the authors in the Barton Book series will be giving a short talk on their publications at the Ropewalk.

Was very disappointed with Look North’s promotion of the Heritage weekends north and south of the Humber as no mention was made of the promotional booklets produced by Barton and Hull Civic Societies, these being where the information could be found.