Archive for the ‘US history’ Category

The book I read to research this post was Made In America by Bill Bryson which is an excellent book which I bought from a car boot sale. This book is an affectionate and quite witty look at the development of the English language and American culture & the history of the United States. Many people regard Eric the Red the viking of first discovering America and he did discover Greenland and Iceland with the former having a colony of 4,000 vikings for many years. One problem was in both places there were few if any trees and so they had no means of building or repairing ships. It’s interesting to note if you island hop from Northern Europe to America there is no more than 250 miles of open sea if done correctly. Also the southern tip of Greenland is further south than Oslo and you could grow a limited amount of crops there. When the Pilgrim Fathers went to America the poem about it was actually written by a Welsh lady many years later from a story that was on the newspaper her chips were wrapped in. They did not land at Plymouth Sound which is way above the high tide mark and are unlikely to have even noticed that piece of rock. In the 18th century so many Brits were going to America the government decided to curb it and from then on for some years it was mostly people from Wales, Scotland & Ireland known as Ulster. In fact most emigration was from places like France & Germany. When the Wright Brothers made the first flight in 1903 they weren’t particularly publicity seeking and many didn’t know about it. They weren’t that wealthy and had literally built the plane which in them days was known as a flying machine in their spare time as a hobby. No museum in America would display the plane because they were quite snobbish about it and for many years it was displayed on loan to the Science Museum in London. If we go back to the Pilgrim Fathers there language was very different to our own with for example them pronoucing the e at the end of words and often using an i with in words instead of an e. The word bit came from the Spanish word for bit. The word gringo came from the word greek as used in the phrase it’s all greek to me meaning a language you can’t understand. I really enjoyed this book especially some of the more outlandish ideas like people dining on the wings of planes and a mail order course in capturing renegade indians, the adverts of which are in the book.


The book I read to research this post was The American Civil War by John Keegan which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book must be one of the if not the definitive books on the American Civil War and I can’t praise it enough. It reads almost like a thriller and goes into almost every aspect of the war in great detail. Over a million people died in this war so in terms of casualties it is one of the worst wars ever on a par with the 2 world wars. The Union & the Confederacy where quite mismatched with the northern states having the lion’s share of resources and population. America was only starting to become industrialized but most of this had been in the north. In the south wealth was regarded as being measured by how many slaves and an able bodied male slave would sell for around a thousand dollars. The vast majority of people didn’t have many slaves and if they had plantations they tended to be quite small. Only the very elite had the kind of wealth portrayed in the film Gone With The Wind. One of the big factors in the war was the Confederacy taking a huge portion of land from Mexico which was actually a bigger country both in area and population wise but lost the war they fought. Another factor was their was a slave taken to one of the northern states where slavery was abolished and he went to court to try and get his freedom because he was still a slave. The court which was in the south tried to change the law to get the verdict they wanted which resulted in quite a backlash from the Union. Of course the last straw was the Confederacy proclaiming independence. This book which is a pretty big book depicts the war battle by battle. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it is a great book. John Keegan has written quite a lot of history books and I have read several and reviewed them. His books always seem to be really good.

The book I read to research this post was The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand which is an excellent book which I bought from Amazon. This book which won the Pulitzer Prize for best history book covers the period from the emancipation of slavery through the American Civil War through to the First World War. It covers quite a lot of schools of thought from that period and the title isn’t referring to a single group of intellectuals but quite a lot. Some of the arguments against the abolition of slavery included that they couldn’t sustain the American economy if they had to pay everyone a living wage, that the people who were employees rather than slaves would find their wages would fall as more people came onto the employment market and rather stupidly they argued that humans would become extinct because the children of mixed relationships would be sterile. Of course there was absolutely no evidence for the last reason. At the Battle of Antietam twice as Americans died as in all the other wars on American soil combined. At the beginning of the American Civil War the Union troops were badly organized and it looked unlikely they would beat the Confederates. Other schools of thought in this book include Spiritualism which started with the Fox sisters and became a religion in its own right and although it has been claimed the sisters were frauds Spiritualism is probably bigger than ever. It has been claimed for example the sisters cracked their knee joints to simulate tapping although the answers they gave were generally very accurate. Yet another school of thought is Darwinism which is more or less accepted as fact by modern society. The Origin Of The Species which Darwin wrote is still in print and I think is a free e-book on kindle.



The book I read to research this post was The Secret Service by Philip H Melanson Ph.D. which is an excellent book which I borrowed from the library. The Secret Service has its roots in the 19th Century & its original role was to apprehend currency forgers. This type of forgery was a major problem & between a 1/3 & a 1/2 of all the US money in circulation was forged. At this time the USA was recovering from the Civil War & there were literally hundreds of banks in every state producing there own currency. The result of this was most people didn’t recognise all the different types of currency & even a fair forgery was likely to be accepted in most shops & banks. This resulted in currency production being streamlined into one type of currency which is still used. Sometimes when there were lots of banks producing organised criminals would bribe the staff to print money for them. The Secret Service used quite heavy handed methods to deal with these forgers.

A while after that there was a man called Alan Pinkerton who started the Pinkerton Detective Agency which was the 1st successful private detective agency in America. Anyway he uncovered a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln & warned him to change his itinerary which saved his life on that occasion. Lincoln interviewed him & was very impressed so he made him the head of The Secret Service & his mandate was to protect the president.

When Edgar Hoover was president a man who was just a harmless trespasser got past the security & got into the dining room of The White House. Hoover wanted to know how this could have happened & discovered The Security Service & the White House Police didn’t have a single coordinator to manage both of them. As a result of this the White House Police became the Uniformed Branch of The Secret Service. A system which exists to this day.


The book I read to research this post was Seal Target Geronimo by Chuck Pfarrer which is an excellent book which I borrowed from the library. This books deals with the history of the SEALs but mostly deals with the assassination of Osama bin Laden but I’m mostly writing about the history of the SEALs.

For many years the US Navy denied the existence of the SEALs & many old timers still remember them days. It’s interesting to note although the author of this book is an exSEAL, no active member of the SEALs has ever done an interview. However some of their training exercises have been televised in the hope primarily of attracting new recruits. They are however a very secretive organisation. The SEALs were used to try & rescue the US embassy staff when the Iranians were held hostage. On that occasion the rescue failed primarily because 2 aircraft crashed into one another. They were also used in Beirut during the civil war.

The author of the book was a member of SEAL Unit 6 which is the same unit that stormed Osamas compound. They practised on a mock up prior to the operation. They found out Osama was there because he used the phone & they were able to match the voice prints. The SEALs are without doubt one of the best special forces in the world. They also send members with a particular aptitude on courses with other special forces like the SAS.

Coney Island

Posted: December 27, 2011 in coney island, new york, US history

The book I read to research this post was Coney Island by Professor Solomon which is an excellent book which I downloaded for free from

Half the book is about the history of coney island & the other half is about when he visits there.

Originally coney island was inhabitated by the carnesie native american tribe who didn’t live there but used to go there to collect clam shells. It became popular with americans when a linking bridge was constructed in the 19th century & then became really popular when it was linked to new york by rail. It was nicknamed sodom by the sea because of things like prostitution & gambling which went on there. John McKane was mayor & was a bit of a racketeer taking kickbacks from places like the gambling dens. He also rigged the local elections & was a law unto himself. When they finally indicted him they were able to clean the places image up a bit. Hot dogs & roller coasters originated there. Also when the incubator was invented none of the hospitals were interested so the inventor displayed premature babies in them & people paid to go in & see them. Over 7000 babies were rescued in this way until the hospitals took the invention seriously. Also the 1st amusement park was here. Two of the amusement parks got burnt down although 1 got rebuilt. Nowadays coney island is quite seedy & is part of brooklyn.