I’ve always been rather disappointed by 50-years-ago, 100-years-ago-type columns. They always seem to be compiled by someone who just doesn’t like history. Or just doesn’t get it and so can’t put it into context. Or, maybe, does get it but can’t put it into context because in point of fact that particular day’s edition didn’t have anything particularly poignant.
So, I’ve always tended to think of it as a pointless exercise. Until, that is, a bored few moments a few days ago when I thought it might be fun to look at the world of a century ago through the pages of the Times. Even if it was the silly season. A worthwhile exercise as it turned out.
In the silly season of 1910 there was none sillier than the Kaiser. Here he is inspecting the German colonies in Poland. The what!? Colonies. Sounds awfully like an early version of Lebensraum.
And here (warning: you may need to hit zoom to read it) he is appearing to proclaim the divine right of kings. In NINETEEN TEN FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE! Remind you of anything, like the Führerprinzip, for instance?
And here is a by-election in Germany in which the socialists defeat the anti-semites. Yes, that’s electable anti-semites. Long before Hitler got going.
Which makes me think you may not be able to see the seeds of the First World War in August 1910 but you can certainly see the seeds of the Second.
Found here. Look at that fourth bar. Yes, that’s the UK. The government owns a colossal amount of soon-to-be-worthless Treasuries presumably bought out of the proceeds from those gold sales. Brilliant.
The argument against deflation (if I’ve got it right) is that people will hold on to their money in the expectation of even lower prices in the future. In other words that if they wait long enough they will be able to buy more. What is the difference between this and having a positive real interest rate?
The other day I did something I haven’t done in 15 years. Yes, that’s right: I watched a play. The play in question was resting blogger, Peter Briffa’s Siren. It was staged at the Etcetera Theatre which sounds terribly grand until you realise that it’s based above a pub and sits about 40. And it’s run lasted 4 nights. Last night was… it’s last night. Last of four. So, that’s about 160 people who watched it. Which means I can say more or less what I like about it without much fear of contradiction.
I had thought it was going to be about a bank heist. Turned out it was about prostitution. Hey ho. And it was presented in flashback. Think of it as Memento meets Pretty Woman.
And, as you can probably guess from the setting it had a small cast. Two in fact.
Did I like it? Don’t know. However, I can say it was better than anything the BBC’s done in ten years. Perhaps, that’s damning it with faint praise. It was also better than any play I have seen in London since Amadeus in 1981. That’s probably also damning it with faint praise. Especially, since I haven’t seen a whole load of other plays in that time. But I was glad I went.
Peter reckons it’s more or less impossible for an otherwise normal 40-something to get a play put on in London. What with the setting it rather put me in mind of stories of Soviet Shakespearophiles having to put on Hamlet and Macbeth in private houses. Yes, in Soviet Russia Hamlet and Macbeth were banned. Apparently.
I was watching Roger Simon’s YouTube piece on Walter Duranty - the New York Times correspondent who covered up the Ukrainian famine in the 1930s. I thought: “Well, I wonder if the reporting in the (London) Times was any better?” And so I looked through some old editions online. And then I found a really interesting letter - one that uses Duranty’s very own words to make the point that - at very least - food was very scarce in Russia.
This is something I have found myself when writing about railways. One of the best writers around is Christian Wolmar who I am pretty sure is some sort of socialist. However, time and time again he would come up with the facts to support the libertarian argument.
By the way, in terms of reporting, although there are dark hints, the Times didn’t really come to terms with the fact that there had been a famine until a couple of years later. We have to bear in mind that it had no correspondents in the Soviet Union, all its reporting was done out of Riga in Latvia and its main source was official Soviet reports.