Archive for the ‘british history’ Category

The book I read to research this post was Canterbury by Marjorie Lyle whic is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. This book is around 120 pages so is a fair length. It is a history and tourist guide to Canterbury which is in Kent, England. It’s roots date back to the bronze age. Many artifacts have been found from that period particularly by the river area. When Saint Augustine arrived in Britain he landed at Canterbury. He became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. It is the most senior job in the Church of England outside royalty. The Queen is head of their church. By the time of the Doomsday Book it was a fairly big market town. I think probably cathedral town is a better description. The cathedral burnt down in 1067 but was later rebuilt. Saint Thomas Beckett who was also a martyr was Archbishop here. He fell out the king who in his temper order his execution and later regretted it. Phillip Marlowe the famous playwright from Tudor times was born here. For many centuries Canterbury was one of the most pilgrimages and still attracts many visitors. There is a famous book called The Canterbury Tales about a fictional pilgramage in the old days. I did enjoy this book and do recommend it. Many of the old buildings were demolished in the Reformation and were bombed in World War 2.

The book I read to research this post was Anglo Saxon Britain by Grant Allen which is a very good book that I bought from kindle. This book is about the intervening years between the Roman Occupation and the Norman Conquest of Britain. In this time various groups invaded Britain including the Angles and Saxon. It is known at around this time there were two types of people and one would die out, a type left over from prehistoric times with a long skull as the book puts it. Celts were mostly killed or enslaved by the invading groups. There was numerous incursions by the Vikings with many settling in the North and Midlands. Alfred would build a navy and fight the Vikings on almost equal terms. He was very much influenced by a trip to Rome as a child and he had a civilised outlook despite being king over a barbaric people. In many raids non-combatants weren’t killed but what might count as a combatant might be monks praying against them. Of course some of the invading tribes were among the most barbaric people that ever existed. Books around this time did start being written in what we would call Old English and Latin declined. If there was a bloody battle and the invaders lost a lot of men you could guarantee there would be a massacre afterwards. An example of this happened at Chester. This book is around 150 pages so is a reasonable length. I did enjoy reading it and especially with it being a free book I do recommend it.

The book I read to research this post was Citizen Sailors by Glyn Prysor which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. This book uses eyewitness accounts to describe life in the Royal Navy during World war 2. Britain had a huge Navy and Merchant Navy largely on account of having the British Empire. The pride of the German was the Bismark which was bigger and faster than anything in the Royal Navy. It was a huge coup when she was sunk. The best ship in the Royal Navy at that time was HMS Hood. At one stage the British tried to hunt U-Boats with little sonar coverage and they would have an aircraft carrier with support from several battleships in doing this. This was extremely risky and a prominent ship HMS Royal Oak was sunk in one of these operations resulting in a rethink and they realised in particular they needed sonar coverage. They also realised aircraft carriers were unsuited to this task and sitting targets. When HMS Royal Oak was sunk rather embarassingly the U-Boat got away. Many U-Boats after attacking convoys would use the Denmark Straits between Iceland and Greenland to make their escape. Much of the battles with U-Boats happened in the North Sea. Changing the subject one sailor observed that workers in Britain but sailors would be shot if they did the same. Many sailors also felt their efforts didn’t seem to matter to the Americans who when the war seemed to be running the show. There was resentment that different countries armed forces got different rates of pay even though they were doing more or less the same job. Sailors who were wounded particularly by shrapnel got a pension but if someone got a psychiatric illness like shellshock it was limited to just 3 years. This is a very interesting book that I do recommend. The book is also around 530 pages so is a decent length.


The book I read to research this post was Haunted Birmingham by Arthur Smith et al which is an excellent book that I bought from a car boot sale. This book is about ghosts and apparitions in and around Birmingham in Britain along with some local history. I was impressed how well researched and written it was. It is only around 95 pages so is quite short. Apparently there were riots in the 18th century and the old council house which then was a prominently stately got broken into and looted. The rioters got into the basement and started drinking the booze that was stored there but failed to notice the rest of the house had been set on fire and perished. Some of them still haunt it. Apparently at New Street Railway Station there is what appears to be a man that boards the train to Crewe which goes from Platform 4 before disappearing mid-journey. They found out there was a case where someone commited suicide by poisoning himself and boarding the train to Crewe and died on the journey. When they built the ICC or International Convention Center they knew there was a graveyard on part of the site and 500 bodies had to be moved elsewhere but they discovered an additional approx 500 bodies in a pit thought to be victims of the plague around 1300. These were unrecorded but that was quite common because of the sheer number who died of the bubonic plague at that time. In the 19th Century there was a case where a man’s girlfriend left him and he was besotted with her. He stalked her for several years begging her to come back to him to no avail. In the end one night he got drunk and saw her and her friend in the White Hart Inn and shot both of them. His girlfriend survived but her friend died. He was executed and it is said he still walks along part of the Bull Ring Shopping Centre looking for his lost love. This is a fascinating book that I thoroughly enjoyed and do recommend. Apparently they do a guided tour of Haunted Birmingham that tourists can go on which sounds fascinating.


The book I read to research this post was A Regional History Of The Railways Of Great Britain Volume 7 The West Midlands by Rex Christiansen which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. This book was published in 1991 and is part of a 15 volume series covering the different regions of Great Britain. This book is around 300 pages so is a fairly decent length. Even before the railways were built linking the West Midlands, Birmingham was Britain’s second city. It was called the city of a thousand trades. The Industrial Revolution when a way was found to make coke which subsequently to the development of blast furnaces and steel making started at Coalbrookdale which is near the present day town of Telford and not that far from Birmingham. For years probably the most important railway station in Birmingham was Curzon Street although even when it was opened it was way too small for the traffic it handled. It was later closed and New Street replaced it. There was also key stations at Snow Hill and Moor Street which especially with the later looked for a while they were going to close completely. Luckily in more recent years New Street hasn’t been able to handle all its traffic so some has had to be redirected to these stations and they are now modern and busy. Wolverhampton nearby has always occupied an important junction for roads and later canals. The first railway tried to bypass Wolverhampton with a railway station on the outskirts which is stupid. Of course there was a public outcry and things did get sorted out. ¬†They underestimated its importance. Wolverhampton was well known as one of the biggest towns in Britain prior to achieving city status in 2000. I did quite enjoy this book and do recommend it although I think it’s not the kind of book you are likely to see on sale.


The book I read to research this post was An History Of Birmingham 1783 by William Hutton which is a very good book that I downloaded for free from kindle. Clearly this book is out of copyright and I think is of particular interest to anyone who lives in the West Midlands. We know Birmingham is a very old settlement indeed even predating the Romans. Nobody knows how old exactly but we know it’s original name was Bromych and there still is a nearby town called West Bromich. The preffix Brom comes from broom or gorse which grows particularly well in this soil. The Wych part means descent and probably refers to the gentle sloping land at Digbeth nearby. Originally Birmingham covered 3,000 acres and Aston which is now a suburb covered 4 times the area and King’s Norton 8 times. Of course a lot of Birmingham’s growth has been that as it has got bigger it has swallowed up places that have then become suburbs. In 1778 there were 49,000 roughly in this market town which didn’t become a city until the beginning of the 20th Century. In Britain they declare places after a due process cities at the beginning of each century. In the 21st Century it was Inverness, Brighton and Wolverhampton. Anyway at this time Birmingham was a part of the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry. It was an extremity of Warwickshire with many places like Handsworth which for example was in Staffordshire but would become a suburb in time. Of course Birmingham was a key player in industrialization and the industrial revolution. The first factories were built here and James Watt who invented a working steam engine lived here. Even in 1783 there was an iron smelting works at Aston. This book is around 320 pages so is a decent length. I very much enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it.

The book I read to research this post was Stalker by John Stalker which is an excellent book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. This book is around 280 pages so is a decent length and was published in 1988. This book is mostly about the Stalker Inquiry when it was allegded there was a shoot to kill policy by the RUC in Northern Ireland of suspected terrorists that John Stalker a senior police officer in the Greater Manchester Constabulary was investigating. Since this enquiry the rules governing inquiries into the police have been improved. There were 3 allegded incidents where there appeared to have been suspected IRA members shot. In one incident the bullet they alleged had killed the driver of the car was still embedded in the car. In another incident they claimed men had gone through a checkpoint without stopping which was a fabrication. In Northern Ireland the police routinely carried guns and in any other country would have been regarded as soldiers. There role was very different to the police on mainland Britain. They also had very unique problems in doing their jobs not shared by the other constabularies. As an investigating officer Stalker was investigating in what was basically another country and had little legal powers as a police officer investigating. He couldn’t compel officers to c-operate. What should have been a 6 month inquiry took 2 years mainly through him being obstructed. He knew one of the shootings had been recorded on a surveillance tape that was motion and sounded activated and had a hell of a job getting access to the tape. Just as he was getting to the end of the enquiry he was suspended with spurious charges. It was probably people panicking at the possible outcome and Northern Ireland is a very volatile place. In one of the shootings they established the supposed IRA members had travelled into Eire and been followed by this special unit of the RUC. He also established there had been 2 RUC policemen blown up by a mine and 4 of the men who had been accused of planting the mine by an informant. There was no other evidence whatsover to support this and he suspected the informant was at the very least exaggerating to make himself more important. Somebody else took over the enquiry and Stalker did get his old job back but found the Chief Constable who was his immediate superior wasn’t keeping him informed what was going on so he resigned. He was left with a huge legal bill which it doesn’t say if that got sorted out or not. Stalker had a hugely stressful time but did become a bit of a celebrity and people he could comment honestly about police work. He did work with the television and newspapers. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.