Millicent Garrett Fawcett

Janet Copeland focuses on an important figure in the emancipation of British women.

Millicent Fawcett
Millicent Fawcett

Whoever thinks of the women’s suffrage movement thinks of the suffragettes, and whoever think of suffragettes thinks of Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters. Their story is indeed a fascinating, and highly controversial, one. But the Pankhurst and the suffragettes, who grabbed the political headlines with the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) before the First World War and seem to hold the historical headlines to this day, should not monopolise attention. There are many other figures worthy of study, and there is certainly one towering individual among the suffragists of whom students should know much more than they do – Millicent Fawcett. Indeed it is arguable that she was of greater importance than Mrs Pankhurst in the growth and ultimate success of the movement to obtain votes for women.  

Archbishop Scrope and Thomas Mowbray Executed

Richard Cavendish explains how Archbishop Scrope and Thomas Mowbray were executed on June 8th, 1405.

16th-century painting of Henry IVHenry Bolingbroke took the English throne from Richard II in 1399, with support from the Percy dynasty of Northumberland. He had himself crowned as Henry IV, but things did not go smoothly. The French regime refused to recognize him and the war against them and Owen Glendower in Wales added to the new King’s financial difficulties. His exactions aroused opposition and the Percys rose in rebellion in alliance with Glendower, to be defeated in battle outside Shrewsbury in 1403. Resentment simmered and two years later, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, rebelled again. He was joined by Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, who came from a leading northern family with close Percy connections. Along with Archbishop Arundel of Canterbury he had ostentatiously welcomed Henry Bolingbroke to the throne. Now he called on the citizens of York to rise against excessive taxation, maltreatment of the Church and the clergy, and corruption in the King’s household. Also drawn in was the nineteen-year-old Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Norfolk, apparently out of resentment at his treament after the banishment and death in exile of his father, the previous earl. 

King Alexander and Queen Draga of Serbia Assassinated

Richard Cavendish describes how King Alexander and Queen Draga of Serbia were assassinated during the night of June 10th/11th, 1903.

A thread through the murky labyrinth of Serbian nineteenth-century history is the feud between the country’s two leading families, the Obrenovich and Karageorgevich dynasties. Both were founded by leaders of the Serbian struggle for independence from the Turks and the original Karageorge (‘Black George’) was murdered in 1817 by his rival Milos Obrenovich, who had him killed with an axe and sent his head to the Sultan in Constantinople. During Serbia’s gradual emergence from the Ottoman empire, the two families alternated as rulers. In 1882 Milan Obrenovich, the reigning prince, declared himself King of Serbia, but found things so difficult that in 1889 he abdicated, leaving his twelve-year-old son Alexander to succeed him with a council of regency, while he betook himself abroad.

In 1893, aged sixteen, Alexander proclaimed himself of age and in the following year Milan returned. From then on he was the power behind his son’s throne until 1900, when Alexander asserted himself, and against his father’s wishes announced his intention to marry his mistress, Draga Mashin, a beautiful widow of doubtful reputation, ten years older than himself. The furious Milan resigned as commander-in-chief, the cabinet quit and the army was deeply affronted.

The Peace of Vereeniging

On May 31st, 1902, the Peace of Vereeniging was signed, ending the Second Boer War between Britain and the two Afrikaner republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

Boers in combat (1881)The Second Boer War between Britain and the two Afrikaner republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State lasted a little over two-and-a-half years from October 1899. The Boers were inevitably outmatched, but even in the last phase, from September 1900, the brilliant Boer guerrilla commanders Christiaan de Wet, Koos de la Rey and Jan Smuts harried British bases and disrupted British communications. The war was being lost all the same as the British commander-in-chief, Lord Kitchener, systematically destroyed Boer farms and packed their inhabitants – mainly the women and children – into concentration camps where epidemics of fever and measles carried off more than 20,000 of them.

Cannabis, the 'Homelie Herbe'

The medicinal history of cannabis in Britain.

Top of cannabis plant in vegetative growth stage
Top of cannabis plant in vegetative growth stage

From the middle of the seventeenth century to the end of the twentieth, medical herbalism has been increasingly subject to legislative restriction. This is not because plant medicine is ineffectual. Rather, the history of legislation reflects the degree and type of control which successive governments, and the professions they recognise and license, have seen fit to exercise over the bodies of British citizens.

A Patriot For Whom? Benedict Arnold and the Loyalists

'My country, right or wrong' – but which country? The dilemmas of allegiance posed for Americans by the outbreak of war between the colonies and the British Crown led a cross-section of that society into the loyalist camp, including (with an eye to the main chance) 'the most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army', as Esmond Wright describes.

In1776 no less than one in five of all North Americans (including almost all Canadians) stayed loyal to George III (and in so far as many of them refused to take an oath of allegiance to the new regime, when required to do so, state by state, they were traitors to that state, if not yet to the non-existent 'nation'). At least 19,000 Americans enlisted in the King's service; at one time or another, there were fifty-six Loyalist units or 'associations' organised, though very rarely at full strength (and with many repeat enlistments). At least twenty-one of these units took the field with an average strength of a few hundred men each. General Howe on landing at Staten Island, in July 1776, was swamped by the numbers of volunteers, and the King's American Regiment went on to play a major role in British military history. By 1780 the 'Provincial Line' had a strength of 10,000. Eighty thousand Loyalists emigrated in or by 1783, and over 5,000 as 'the American sufferers', filed claims with the British Government, for losses of land, homes and jobs. The exile of the Loyalists was more significant in the American story (twenty-four emigrés per 1,000 of the population) than was the migration of the emigrés from France in and after 1789 (five per 1,000).