Monday, 26 January 2015

The 1970s

A large part of my current research concerns the House of Representatives during the 1970s, particularly the 94th Congress. It was an interesting time on Capitol Hill, but of course what happened there reflected wider issues in society. I've been undertaking background reading as well as specific research into particular events and individuals. So it was exciting to hear that C-SPAN had recorded and broadcast an event at the American Historical Association, which took place earlier this month. It focused on the 1970s - and I spent yesterday evening watching the programme.

The broadcast can be viewed here - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The France Show

This annual event moves this year from Earls Court to Olympia. I'll be popping down to it, as I have for the last few years. While I have no intention (or the resources) to buy a property in France - there is much to see - that could take up all three days of the show.

I enjoy the various presentations - particularly the "Flavours of France" - where some excellent cooks share their experience and recipes. I ended up going for two days last year - and much of it was taken up with this. There is also lots of material on the French Language - both resources to buy and presentations to attend.

Then there is the "tourism" part - lots of stalls giving ideas for trips and holidays through out France.
Finally there is a section for buying French products - from food to other gifts. It was at the French show that I signed up for an offer to subscribe to the New York Times (which has been fantastic - both for current news - and archives (and as a researcher into US political history - that has proved a very valuable online resource).

In addition there are wine tastings - I'm planning on extending my knowledge of Bordeaux wines - and of course there is the Property Show.

For further information - press ICI

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Greek Elections

The Elections in Greece on Sunday could have a big impact on the future direction of the European Union, let alone the country itself.

The BBC has produced a guide to the main parties contesting the election - which is available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30913028

Background to the election - and its implications for the EU are discussed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30635821

Channel 4 recently broadcast an interview with Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza.

Saturday, 17 January 2015


I have little time for the view that politicians should bury their differences and "just sort things out." It ignores the reality that there are genuine differences in approach to solving problems - even over whether a matter is a problem or not. The whole idea of democratic institutions is that they are places for genuine differences to be talked through (Parliament - comes from the word "to talk"). Genuine disagreement lies at the very heart of democracy.

But that doesn't mean that there need be lack of civility - or even a "two tribes" approach. I'm now a "retired" politician - and have had many 'vigorous' debates with those I disagree with - but that doesn't mean I regard Tories or Republicans as "the enemy". The enemy are those who would destroy democracy and replace it with a system where those who take decisions are wholly unaccountable; who would deny me (and others) our hard fought for right to think & speak & live freely. I have good friends who are Tories and Republicans.

And so the increasing partisanship in Congress does distress me. Not only is it unnecessary - it puts the people we serve off politics.

I shall be buying the book that the following C-SPAN programme discusses

Monday, 12 January 2015

Commemoration of Hiroshima

This year will see the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the first nuclear bombs. The Department of History at Reading University have arranged an evening symposium in February to commemorate this terrible event - and to discuss the lessons and consequences.

"In 2011, the University of Reading received a remarkable and moving gift from the University of Hiroshima in Japan: a roof tile collected from the riverbed near the hypocentre of the atomic bomb attack of 6 August 2015. The gift was made in recognition of the fact that the University of Reading had sent books in response to an appeal by their Japanese counterparts in 1951, as part of a project to establish an international peace library. The University of Hiroshima also donated the original ten volumes Japanese manga series, now part of the University of Reading Special Collections. The tile and the volumes will be on display on the day of the event.

The atomic weapons that demolished Hiroshima not only had devastating effects on its population at the time of the bombings and throughout the lives of those who survived, but also began an arms race between the US and the Soviet Union that shaped the entire history of the Cold War. Was there a degree of rationality and reason behind the colossal build up? Did nuclear weapons cause the Cold War? Did they contribute to its escalation? Did they help to keep the Cold War cold? Was the nuclear arms race a product of Cold War tension rather than its cause?

At a time of global economic and political uncertainty and the emergent threat of international terrorism and nuclear proliferation, these are important questions that still need further investigation. The purpose of this symposium therefore is to explore new academic research on the history of nuclear weapons during the Cold War."