Footnotes of History

21 - Your business is our business – The dark side of The Age of Peel

An episode of Footnotes of History

By Tim Philpott - the podcast that sails confidently into the uncharted waters of the past, bringing back incredible treasures for its listeners. You'll wish you'd listened harder in school as we reveal the oft-forgotten history of the nineteenth century .
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M3 - Dan's Raid on St Nazaire & A German Love Story
On today’s tape: Dan managed to work his holiday story into the recording – he went to St. Nazaire on what he calls an “Inbetweeners Holiday” but with added history – notably from World War Two. It’s a daring story of bravery, tenacity and pocket battleships. On the flipside, I recall the numerous moments I’ve had with some people who seem to think “Austrians speak Austrian” and that’s just the way it is and always has been. Granted, the stereotype of their culture is a little different nowadays, but there are few heated moments in history when things could have turned out differently for the former heartland of the Hapsburgs. As always with these mini episodes, we’re diving deeper into the kind of topics that come up in our email dispatches. You can be a part of that secret society right here:
October 5, 2019
33 - The Scramble for Africa: New Imperialism and the Triggers for the Second Congress of Berlin 1884-5
In this episode, your indefatigable young hosts delve deep into what is really the pinnacle of European Imperialism – the so-called Scramble for Africa, its effects, timeline and the apparent game that European powers seemed to be playing as it advanced. Traditionally, Africa’s dangerous interior – including disease, dense and almost unnavigable river mouths and hostile populations made it almost impossible for Europeans to even consider “empiring” Africa in the ways that people usually anticipate. This is reflective a wider trend really. The risks are simply too great for a non-industrialised power to attempt any kind of subjugation. It’s only really since Britain and Europe started to pull sharply away in terms of technology, living standards and general economic resource that their armies were able to conquer anything like the territory we see in this episode. It’s a fascinating but also slightly unnerving period of colonisation and destruction that is important to properly understand if we are to avoid any kind of dodgy modern thinking on the subject. What’s on the tape: · Why the traditional “getting rich from the empire” ideas don’t make sense · How Belgium – a country barely born by 1850 – bought off an intrepid explorer and manoeuvred under the noses of the Powers to become one of the largest land-owning powers in the Congo and the provocateur of the “scramble for Africa” · Germany’s slightly pathetic reasons for calling the conference (it has to do with being a bit slow off the mark) · A hint at the real life events that precipitated Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad · How a Britain and France double-act tricked Egypt into handing over the newly-constructed Suez Canal and a taster of how dangerous it is to stir up rebellions you can’t control · Why Bismarck wasn’t as keen as you’d expect on empires · Our “revenge of the landlords” theory of the Long Depression that identifies the economic incentives behind the land grab and New Imperialism · How you can – from the results of the episode – see who would be the major players in WW1 · The devious (though potentially legitimate) pretences that some Powers used to legally capture African lands and colonise them We reckon we’ve got a pretty interesting and unusual take on the period so get your safari kit on and your headphones plugged in. Note: this is only part 1 of the Congress of Berlin (Africa) series – so subscribe to our email list to know exactly when the next episode will be out!
October 4, 2019
M2 - What TV Gets Wrong, Exhibit #382: Mosley and the Samurai
It’s not a big secret that TV shows based in history are sometimes a bit slapdash. Often it’s time pressures, it’s adaptation for drama or even just the taste of the producer. But in this episode, your Oracles of Truth kick around two previous Dispatches topics and get to grips with the “potential” truths that could be being told to you by your very own television RIGHT NOW! These first concern the Rugby World Cup – this year in Japan no less, whose history is as dark as it is mysterious and as misunderstood as it is celebrated. The second, equally dark topic, is that of British fascism and its infamous leader Sir Oswald Mosley, its origins and its surprisingly uncontentious way of running things at the time. As always, if you want to get your controversies brought to you on a silver platter, sign up to our email list on the homepage at!
September 22, 2019
32 - Terror in the North West Passage - Franklin's Perilous Expedition
Quick note: Don't forget to sail yourself over the for more daring exploits from the past. With that announcement out of the way, today's episode is equal parts grand, intrepid adventure and terrifying horror story. In 1845, things were looking pretty good exploration-wise. Humanity knew where most things were and maps were *almost* as we see them today. That’s barring a few wars here and there in Europe – but I’m talking about islands, continents and oceans here, not Bismarck for once. But there was one itch that kept nagging at the compulsive brains of the great and the good - and that was the Arctic. The theory was sound: Logically, from the spherical shape of the globe, there should be some kind of route from Europe that went due north west across the Atlantic, between the coasts of Greenland and Canada. Then you would head sharply west at Baffin Bay and travel “over” the seas off the northern coast of Canada before finally heading south again into the clear waters of the Pacific. From there it ought to be plain sailing to Japan, China and the rich trading zones of the Asian continent. Easier said than done thanks to the treacherous polar ice – its habit of melting and suddenly re-freezing at random had trapped many an explorer in its fatal grip. But the mission remained alluring for a few reasons: It would shorten the trade route to Asia significantly. Currently, ships had to sail all the way south around the Cape of Good Hope and then East. This was a long journey, but it was also dangerous – the seas were rough and - until much later - swarmed with pirates. The country that discovered and secured the route first would be at a significant advantage versus other nations. This was a time of grandiose nationalism and of variations on the “manifest destiny” – many nations considered it their destiny to dominate the world and the North West Passage would be a prestigious asset in the struggle. The man who found the safe route would be the Toast of the Empire for generations to come. In fact, he could readily expect to have the route named after him. There was also a slightly more mundane justification: the Royal Navy was a vast force that was – in the absence of war - sailing about with not a huge amount of purpose. So the stakes were high. Step forward Sir John Franklin. A veteran of polar exploration, eager to make his name and equipped with state-of-the-art ships, Franklin was tasked by the Royal Navy with the exploration of the last bit of the Arctic that was so far uncharted. What would he find? Well you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out!
September 2, 2019
M1 – Cricket as Propaganda
In this mini-sode, we discuss 2 of our latest email dispatches in more detail, getting to grips with: Do the maps from the nineteenth century inadvertently (or deliberately) reveal the mapmaker’s sentiments (especially as new nations are born in Europe!) The terror felt by one military man in England when Prussia absorbed Germany (he was so scared that he wrote a novel to wake everyone up to the danger!) The weirdly but oh-so-Victorian story of why The Ashes is called “The Ashes” Where cricket failed as a propaganda weapon in the British Empire (when it worked almost everywhere else!) Enjoy the episode – but don’t forget you can join us on our daring historical journey simply by lending us your email address at!
August 27, 2019
31 - The juiciest slices are already gone: the Great Powers cut the Balkans pie at the Congress of Berlin (Part 2)
In 1878, the Congress of Berlin assembled the Great Powers of Europe to call time on the out-of-control battle between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. In our previous episode, we pointed out that every Power brought its own food to the table - be it a desire to cry foul on Russia, to balance the tension between two major Emperors or even to exploit events to snatch bonus territories from elsewhere. In this episode, the drama continues as we present:  How Britain - assisted by a cast of collaborators - somehow managed to steal the biggest slice of the pie before the negotiations even started That the delegates of “Small Men” at the Congress (including, and especially Bismarck) were almost all clueless about what “The Balkans” were and blocked all efforts by Balkans reps to educate them How the European nations humiliated the Ottomans needlessly What secret scheme the Congress’ “project manager” devised to keep everyone happy during the long debates The extremely cheeky message sent from Greece (hiding behind France) designed to provoke the Ottomans Why Bismarck was in such a bad mood for almost all of it (more so than usual) and what he was drinking to keep himself sane How the Great Powers let Austria elbow itself into the Balkan settlement by the back door and leave it wide open for the 1914 catastrophe And much more if you click the play button, but the best thing to do to get your mitts on more FOH gold is to sign up to our bi-weekly Dispatches legions here before Bismarck flips his lid:
August 14, 2019
30 - Killing the Sick Man of Europe: The New Balkans Part I
In this episode, your daring hosts examine the tangled story of the Congress of Berlin.  In 1877, having spent the entire preceding century at each other’s throats, arch-rivals Russia and the Ottoman Empire went to war again. Russia considered itself the leader of the Slavs and the prosector of the Eastern invaders, looking to free the Holy Lands from Ottoman control.  The Ottomans were an ailing, fragile superstate, inheritors of the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem and now stretched thinly over South-Eastern Europe. Cracks had already begun to appear - in Greece, in Serbia and in several other places. In a very Russian fashion that some might recognise from other historical episodes, Russian-sponsored troops from Serbia and Bulgaria were encouraged to rise up and after much struggling, managed to defeat the Ottoman army in battle. This led to an overly ambitious Russian attempt to redraw the Balkans as it would like to see it, a dangerous move that provoked the ire of the watchful Great Powers.  In this episode, we set the scene as the South-Eastern rivals are hauled in front of a jury of their peers and betters and Russia is hauled across the coals for its troubles. In this episode: Why even the most powerful of the Great Powers were secretly desperate to avoid a war The mystery of “Greater Bulgaria” and why it terrified the Austrians How an exhausted Russia could still threaten the interests of five industrialised nations simultaneously  Why after 500 years, Christendom had “won back” Jerusalem… but didn’t want it How - in seeking peace - the Great Powers inadvertently sowed the seeds of the First World War So plug in your headphones and click the play button at the top of this page to listen to the episode right now! Alternatively, you can click subscribe button above to get the episodes immediately sent to your phone and you can listen on the go! If you’re still reading this then I’ll throw you a bone - for more FOH content and our exciting twice-weekly email series, subscribe at 
June 26, 2019
29 - How “blood and iron” sent one man mad enough to build castles in the sky
Short story long:  The one with the biggest army gets to make the rules regardless of whether they’re morally legitimate. This is essentially the story of German unification. Historians will argue that Bismarck was “clever” and that he “manoeuvred” politically etc. But realistically none of it could have been achieved without a massive Prussian army that first whipped Denmark, then crushed Austria and finally bulldozed France. D, A and F were all big players at the time. Bavaria, an ancient kingdom on the border with Switzerland and Austria was a large and wealthy state with a beautiful heritage and a very traditionalist Catholic culture, but it was never in the same league as the big players. Crucially, militarism was never a hobby for the Bavarians. So when it came to resisting Prussia, they didn’t stand a chance.  When the chips were down it took them nearly two weeks to mobilise their troops. By that time, their nearest allies were all defeated by the speedy Prussian war machine. Bavaria was reduced to a vassal state of the German Empire. If you listen in to this episode, you will discover: - The real life “Disney” castles that were one ruler’s desperate escape from a painful reality - Why one rebel province still marches out of step with Germany even now - The mysterious disappearance of Germany’s last “true” King Visit the shownotes pages at
June 9, 2019
28 - The dangerous "blind spot" in Britain's nineteenth century success story
Britain had a good nineteenth century. To know this, you really only have to compare it to other nations of Europe (and actually the world). The “Concert of Europe” – a loosely coordinated regime of quite punishing military repression, censorship and heavy taxes really did for most of the rest of Europe. Repression led to the cultural and nationalist outbreaks of 1848, which – while initially unsuccessful – eventually saw by 1870 the complete destruction of the 1815 post-Napoleonic settlement. In pursuing the opposite route, Britain actually took a secret path.  It dodged most of the challenges of aggressive revolutionary groups within society by industrialising its population out of the kind of poverty that was all too common on the continent. Of course when I say “pursued” I actually mean “allowed” – since there was no coordinated “industrialisation” government agenda per se – unlike in France or Germany.  So all well and good right? Well there was one area where the British regime bore more than a passing resemblance to the Concert of Europe and that was in Ireland.  What were the results of this “loophole” in domestic British politics and liberal philosophy? Well I’ll let you find out in the episode, where Dan and I use the recently released Black ’47 film as a drama prop to illustrate our point. But safe to say it really wasn’t pretty.    In this episode you’ll find: - The old system that doomed Ireland to starvation and that Britain never seemed to fix - Why a law passed during the wars against Napoleon magnified the suffering - The cultural “kink” the Irish had that prevented them from undergoing the same transformation process as the rest of the UK Click the link below to get the full episode:
May 26, 2019
27 - The First Russian Rockstar
He was a man who personified his country’s culture but also rose above it – fusing Russian influences with Western to create music pieces which remain some of the world’s favourites today. By the end of his life he was wildly rich, yet subject to such emotional trauma that some say he took his own life. If you want to know more about this epic tale of the first Russian Rockstar, click on and you will discover: The rockstar who personified Russia’s nineteenth century insecurity and schizophrenia – both politically and culturally The mystery benefactor who covered his escape from academia and enabled his work to shine The dark demise of and the conspiracy theories around both his life… and his death As always, thanks for listening – you an visit the website at and if you do enjoy our episodes, you really ought to leave us a positive review on your podcast platform – this will help more people to see and listen to all this good stuff!
March 24, 2019
26 - In Ophelia's Shadow: The Tragedy of Elizabeth Siddall
Back in 1848, a gang of rather pretentious young men with a sentimental disaffection for daily life started their own cultural revolution.  They were artists, poets and intellectuals of independent means, intent on shaping a new, idealised world of their own through their own creations. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were to some extent an early version of the 1960s cultural revolution.  Their artistic achievements have left a stunning legacy. Many would agree that works like Ophelia and the Lady of Shallot truly embody the modern perception of what art is supposed to be. But there is a darker side to this glorious success story. In many of their works is depicted a woman – a red-headed, pale and often fragile depiction of femininity that repeats across innumerable works by the Pre-Raphaelites. In this episode you’ll discover: - The powerful tragedy behind the world’s most famous red-haired muse  - The soaring artistic heights and the depraved troughs of the Pre-Raphaelites’ counter-cultural lifestyle - The poignant legacy of a female artist whose life was cut short all too soon Find more on our site: Join the FoH Legion:
March 10, 2019
25 - The Original Sugar Daddy: How Sir Henry Tate made life sweeter for everyone
Having overcome our slight distraction by showbiz and movies in the last few episodes, Dan and I return to form in this episode, dabbling classic Victorian industrial revolution material with a bit of art. Henry Tate was a towering individual whose humble beginnings would make him a cliche in any novel.  Cliches exist for a reason however and Tate represented in many ways the Victorian spirit - he was born poor, built his own commercial empire through serving his neighbours and - as a bonus of sorts - shared the wealth in the process. You can get the shownotes as usual at PLUS: you can try our new personality quiz at
February 17, 2019
24 - Demagogues and demonstrators: Peterloo on screen
Would you believe, this week it’s our SECOND episode about the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. Some people would probably have stopped at one. To tell you the truth, most people would probably have stopped at zero. But not us. Your courageous podcasters are back this week with our reviews of the film that recently hit screens in various niche locations across the country. In this episode, you’ll learn: • Why the director’s emphasis on personality was probably realistic • Why having the average citizen conversing about the big issues of the day was plausible • How the film delivered a masterstroke – an emotional killer blow at the end
November 21, 2018
23 - Famine & Fury on Film
See the show page at This time round Dan and I are discussing a controversial flick with its roots in the struggles between Britain and Ireland. Or I ought to say England and Ireland (since Ireland was at the time a formal part of Great Britain). Or I ought say some aspects of England and some of Ireland! No more disclaimers, we’re discussing the Black ’47 – a grim, violent film about the Irish famine of 1845. We’ve danced around the topic for a bit in some of our other episodes. In Episode 2 for instance, we pointed out that many of the New York populace drafted for the American Civil War were not long arrived from the Emerald Isle and many of them had taken flight around 1845 to escape a hellish existence. Obviously the film is set two years after the famine so it’s not as if things have got any better. A bit of everything in this episode though – with historical context at the fore. Hopefully it won’t ruin your tea!
October 10, 2018
22 - Peterloo: The hot take, 200 years on
Show notes: The release of a new film this very year means one particular event is undoubtedly going to be crowding the headlines of any right-thinking tabloid and broadsheet this autumn. This is of course the Peterloo Massacre. Its exact anniversary is August next year, but the film commemorating the event – directed by Mike Leigh of kitchen-sink-drama fame – is being polished for “The Can” as we speak. And we at FOH wanted to get our wild opinions out there before you all rush out to see it. The Peterloo Massacre of course - as you will all know – was a monstrous incident in which a demonstration in Manchester’s St. Peter’s Fields on 16 August 1819 was attacked by the army. Accident or otherwise, at least 15 were killed, with up to 400 injured. As you will find out in this episode –Mike Leigh captures a whole host of other issues that we are excited to see pan out on-screen. And it wouldn’t be Footnotes of History without being a bit contrarian!
September 6, 2018
21 - Your business is our business – The dark side of The Age of Peel
It’s a time when everyone alive remembered the French Revolution. To the British elites, it seemed conceivable that similar uprisings could still take place closer to home. Our second episode examines three flashpoints in this period. First, the establishment of the Metropolitan Police. This swept aside the ineffective parish police with a centralised force, loyal only to the Home Secretary. However, neighbourhoods were often far from happy with their streets now being patrolled by agents of the regime. Second, the re-introduction of “emergency” Income Tax. With budget deficits ballooning the budget needed to be brought back under control. Peel bore the criticism for invading people’s personal affairs. The last part is a look at the relationship with Ireland. Across the period, Ireland was an angry, discontented member of the UK family and perpetually susceptible to revolutionary rumour. If that doesn’t sound exciting then there really is no hope for you.
July 29, 2018
20 - Truth, Freedom & Prosperity: Robert Peel Part 1
Want the story of 1860s Europe? Whet your appetite at Shownotes at I don’t think there is a period of history that can’t be described as a period of change. But this one is significant. Change was in the air – including a radical reassessment of the role of the collective and the individual. And in many ways our episode this week covers some of this from the perspective of one man in particular – Robert Peel. Peel was a Tory and later invented the Conservative Party. Yet he nevertheless pioneered seismic changes to the state infrastructure. Under Peel’s steady hand, the government repaid its debts and laid the foundations for a sound financial system. It ended its blatant persecution of minority religions and it abstained from interference in society’s basic needs. Unlike many of his peers both then and now, Peel frequently sacrificed his immediate career and party for the choices he made.
July 19, 2018
19 - The Greatest Showman: MacGregor's South American Mania
Want more FOH? Visit Get the shownotes at In the 1820s, the capital markets of Britain surged on the ramping price of South American bonds. As the Spanish Empire was beaten back, new countries were popping up all over the map. Governments in Columbia, Venezuela and Bolivia all sent word to London for loans to start their new nations and suddenly boasting the prospects of a very healthy ROI. Among these nations was Poyais – freed from the yoke of Spain in the early 1810s and gifted by the Mosquito King to one Brigadier-General Sir Gregor MacGregor of the 57th Regiment of Foot and Knight of the Portuguese Order of Christ. MacGregor, the now “Cazique” of Poyais, arrived in Britain to consult on his nation’s prospects and to encourage emigration of pioneering individuals to its shores. Spoiler alert: almost nothing about Poyais was true - as MacGregor’s hapless confidants (both financial and colonial) found out to their cost.
June 30, 2018
18 - How to Launch an Art Movement
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes at In July of 1870, France - onetime cultural capital of the world - rather ill-advisedly went to war with Prussia, Europe's menacing new power. In the ensuing chaos, lives were turned upside-down... but what did this mean for art? The conflict erupted just as a gang of new kids had arrived on the block - The Impressionists. Their atmospheric take on everyday scenes and their quirky techniques outraged the old guard at the Salon. The established purpose of Art was to glorify and deify - anything from heroic battles to romanticised figures of France past. The Impressionists painted everything and anything and the Salon of the Second Empire rejected it almost automatically. So is it possible that an Emperor-toppling war, deadly siege and city rebellion may have done more to boost this new "Impressionism" than any other event?
June 17, 2018
17 - Sunrise: The Dawn of the Empire of Japan
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes at In the exciting climax to our mini series looking at imperialism in Eastern Asia, Japan is torn apart by a vicious civil war that pits the Shogunate against the Samurai. Tensions had built ever since the Americans had arrived and forced the Shogunate to submit to trade. In the capital Edo, the connections with Europe had led to the opening of trading posts, the establishment of churches and even Western-oriented schools where hip Japanese sent their children to learn about fashionable European culture. With western merchants prancing around Edo like it was their own New York, many samurai had simply had enough. The resulting war was by no means an accident – some clans had been planning their revenge since 1603. Regardless, in 1869, the new Empire of Japan was proclaimed from the new capital - Tokyo.
May 30, 2018
16 - He's Not The Messiah: The Taipeng Rebellion
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes at All Python references aside, the Taipeng Rebellion is probably one of the bloodiest events in the history of the world and is almost certainly the bloodiest of the nineteenth century. While the Opium Wars raged just off the corner of the Eastern hemisphere, a little-known peasant in the interior of the Chinese Empire was experiencing his first biblical visions. A short time later the supposed "Brother of Jesus Christ", Hong Xiuquan, marched at the head of a horde of self-titled demon slayers which had been convinced - one way or another - that they had been set the holy task of destroying the Qing dynasty of Imperial China. The period of the rebellion was one of Total War - which is a polite way of saying everybody and everything that got in the way would be killed. In this episode we'll look at the details of the rebellion and try to make some sense out of this semi-religious movement
May 22, 2018
15 - The Empire Strikes Back: The Second Opium War
Want more FOH? Visit Subscribe and get shownotes at We're back in the East for China's second run-in with the European powers.  What with the humiliation experienced by China at the hands of Britain a decade beforehand, it's not surprising that a second generation of Chinese were a bit more touchy about being pushed around. Their patience finally ran out when the confusing trading system led them to raid a British vessel - assuming it to be a pirate ship - and arresting the crew. In the usual proportionate manner, then-PM and serial subject of Footnotes of History interest, Viscount Palmerston, ordered an assault against Canton and the Taku forts, firing the first shots of the Second Opium War.  What with the Taipeng Rebellion kicking off on one side and trigger-happy Europeans on the other, it's hard to see how the Qing dynasty could find a way out of this one.
May 11, 2018
14 - The Siren Call of the West: The Donner Party
Want more FOH? Visit Subscribe for updates and find shownotes at Many factors  drove families to emigrate in nineteenth century America. Be it escaping debts, chasing fame and fortune,  dodging disease or even belief in a higher destiny, sometimes the pressure of those forces can be simply too great. And if someone claims he can make the journey a bit easier, then you have that extra incentive to get in your wagon and go. This episode tells the frankly horrifying story of a group of pioneers headed for the supposed paradise of the West Coast and California (then under Mexico's rule). Complacency, deceit and rank betrayal all have their parts to play in this stunning soap opera of the human spirit at the very edge. It's difficult to see how a journey could have gone any worse.
May 4, 2018
13 - Education is More Popular Than Ever
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes at: What is the state of education in Great Britain? Such was the question asked in 1859 by the Commission brought together by the Palmerston Government. Tasked with examining the impact of state subsidies for education in place since the 1830s Factory Acts, Newcastle's Commission actually made some astonishng discoveries that we will reveal in this episode. Not only was the relatively laissez-faire and voluntary school system of England and Wales keeping literacy rates on a par with compulsory systems such as Prussia's, it was actually outperforming some of them, assisted by an apparently ferocious and completely spontaneous demand for knowledge among the people of Britain. As always on Footnotes of History, prepare to have your mind blown!
April 30, 2018
12 - The War on Drugs #1: Britain & China Clash over Opium
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes at Staying with the Eastern theme, this episode takes our listeners a few hundred miles west and a few decades earlier of Episode 11, presenting them with scenes that may seem all too familiar. Drawn by an insatiable appetite for Chinese goods such as silk, porcelain and - most importantly - tea, British and European traders had been familiar with China for centuries. This was even despite constant friction with the rulers (e.g. the creation of the Canton trading system, where foreigners were allowed to enter and trade in only one port). However, the "trade deficit" - or loss of Britain's gold and other metal resources that were being exchanged for vast amounts of tea - caused concern in the 1830s. There was simply no appetite among Chinese traders for any of Britain's other goods, meaning - in the eyes of the government - that Britain was "losing" gold to China. That is, until opium came along.
April 30, 2018
11 - Making Sushi of the Shogunate - The Opening of Japan
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes at Today’s episode takes us eastwards during the turbulent 1850s as two nations - indeed civlisations - clash. During the mid Victorian period, newly industrialised powers steamed towards the Orient, drawn by a triumvirate of forces, including gold, the missionary’s salvation and the mystery of a society closed to the world for well over a hundred years. Traders had tried in vain to offer up goods for Japanese gold, but to no avail – the Tokugawa Shogunate (the de facto rulers) kept Japan firmly locked down. That is, until Perry arrived and effectively forced the Shogunate to sign a deal – one of many “deals” that the East would be subjected to by warlike western nations during the nineteenth century – a new style of imperialism that did not subjugate nations to rule them directly as in Africa and India – but rather to have their governments act as impotent middlemen to the real power.
April 29, 2018
10 - The Great Stink
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes at Here at Footnotes of History, we like to think we’re all about doing the dirty work of finding the historical details so that you don’t have to. At no point has that been more true than in this episode. As Tim points out in the episode, the historical radar pinged urgently when he heard a speech by a politician last year lauding the glorious success of the London sewer system. So the team just had to find out the other half of the story. The Great Stink was the apex of a crisis of nineteenth century London. The smell was one thing - but people were dying in their thousands from disease outbreaks across the city, waste was seeping up through the pavements and the very body of the great river Thames was a foul, dark treacle of industrial run-off, chemical waste and human sewage. So overwhelmed were London’s sewer systems that it really did need the complete overhaul and millions of pounds spent t
April 29, 2018
3 - The Creation of Frankenstein & The Vampyre_
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes at It was a dark and stormy night… ​​​​​​​Ok so you all saw that one coming as soon as you read the title, but how did five people swapping ghost stories in 1816 lead to the creation of two of the most enduring figures of literature: Frankenstein and the vampire? Join us as we look at what drew a clique of talented, in some cases tortured, geniuses (including Mary Shelley and Lord Byron) to the shores of Lake Geneva and examine the stories that came out of that meeting. Oh yeah, did we mention that 1816 is known as the Year without Summer? As we’re British we’ll also be talking about the weather a bit!
April 28, 2018
4 - Nelson's Shadow, Napoleon's Mirror - The Life and Times of Sidney Smith
Want more FOH? Visit Remembered by Napoleon as the man who made him miss his destiny, sneered at by his fellow officers for being a Swedish knight and disliked by Nelson because…well, he was also hungry for glory Sidney Smith’s exploits caused no end of stories in his own lifetime, but are forgotten now - perfect Footnotes of History fodder. Even Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey would have had trouble keeping up with Smith, but we’ll do our best as we guide you through daring raids on French ports, an escape from prison and a showdown with Napoleon in the Holy Land. Join us as we discuss one man’s remarkable career that took him from skirmishes off the coast of America to a forgotten war between Sweden and Russia before culminating on the fields of Waterloo.
April 28, 2018
2 - The New York City Draft Riots
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes at You've just crossed the Atlantic on a rickety ship, escaping near-starvation existence in your home country to arrive in a city of wonder. New York has it all - department stores, parks and most importantly of all, the promise of a living, even for the poorest in society. But now this new continent is at war with itself, theoretically over the most diabolical crime of all - human slavery. But is this correct? What else can you call conscription? What are the consequences when you take control of someone's life in order to pursue a war that they really have nothing to do with?
April 28, 2018
1 - The British Legions: The Birth of South America
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes can be found at What do you do if you're a veteran British soldier, just as your country emerges from nearly half a century of fighting? North America is lost, France is defeated and Europe is weary of war. But you've got to earn a crust somehow and South America, with all of that promise of gold, glory and legend is just too inviting to resist. And who likes the Spanish anyway?
April 28, 2018
6 - The Great Trek
Want more FOH? Visit Shownotes for this episode are at: It’s the journey that gave a country its foundational legend and shows just how tough life was in the 19th Century, but the Great Trek also meant death, destruction and horror for many of the people in its way. In this episode we’ll consider why tens of thousands of Boers decided to leave their homes and march into the interior of southern Africa. Were they driven by a desire to establish a new homeland? Were they angry about their treatment by their new British rulers or was it something else entirely that sparked an event that has been celebrated and criticised ever since?
April 27, 2018
8 - The Road From Serfdom
Want more FOH? Visit The show notes for this episode are at: If you think of people gaining their freedom in the 1860s your mind will probably go straight to the American Civil War and the end of slavery, but in the same decade over 20 million Russians became free for the first time in their lives when Alexander II issued his Emancipation Manifesto. ​​​​​​​ We’ll talk about how this, in many ways medieval, practice survived for so long when Western Europe was surging ahead into the Industrial Revolution and find out whether it was the Crimean War, Russian intellectuals, a stagnant economy or a combination of all three and more that brought about its end. But was this a new beginning for the lowest in Russian society or merely a false dawn?
April 26, 2018
5 - The Mother of All Free Trade Deals
Want more FOH? Visit Show notes for this episode can be found at How do you prevent a seemingly inevitable war? Well, peaceful cooperation is a start - free exchange of goods between nations is for the benefit of all. It create wealth for those involved, but that wealth also binds the two peoples together in mutual respect and interest (if not friendship!) - a prize that war and head-on rivalry can only destroy. This is not to say there were only winners from the new treaty. Certainly those individuals who viewed their interests as being the traditions of farming and other related industries saw their comfortable hegemony in the economy disrupted.
April 26, 2018
9 - Russian America
Want more FOH? Visit Do you need a bit of extra cash? Do you need to pay off some of your nobles to compensate them for freeing their serfs? Why not sell a piece of territory to the United States? That was what Tsar Alexander II did in March 1867. During a time of consistently high tensions with European powers such as France and Britain - who were industrialising at a terrific pace - Russia found itself cornered. Having lost a home game in the Crimea and with its Pacific territories in increasing danger of being surrounded by British colonies and indeed, American ones, it was probably time to jettison the dead weight. And if it could provoke a distracting war between old enemies Britain and the USA - both vying for domination in North America - the more's the better. Register for updates and see the show notes here:
April 13, 2018
7 - Smoke On The Water - The Industrial Revolution at Sea
Want more FOH? Visit Sail ruled the waves for well over a thousand years and its triumph in 1805 at Trafalgar has established its place forever in the public mind. But over the next three decades, the convergence of three amazing new inventions would slowly but surely displace sail from its perch at the apex of shipping technology. By 1860, the transformation was all but complete - man had claimed his independence from the tyranny of weather on the high seas. Register for updates and see the show notes here:
April 8, 2018
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