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Saturday, 28 June 2014

History in Focus: The Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on the day of their death
On this day, June 28th, one hundred years ago heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife Sophie were assassinated by a Yugoslav nationalist in Sarajevo. This event was the beginning of the First World War.

Background- In 1878 the Austrian-Hungarian empire took Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Ottoman Empire thanks to the Treaty of Berlin. From this date until 1908 this region was occupied by the empire until it annexed Bosnia. In 1903 however the Serbian King and Queen Alexander and Draga Obrenovic were assassinated in a coup to be replaced by Peter the First. King Peter was unlike King Alexander as he broke away from Austria and formed closer ties with Russia as well as having a nationalistic view so he decided to expand Serbia to reclaim its old territories including annexing Kosovo and Macedonia from the Ottomans. This made Serbia more powerful and caused Austria-Hungary to feel threatened as Serbia then started to claim Bosnia and Croatia who were in the Austrian Empire.

Why did Franz Ferdinand go to Sarajevo?- With rising conflict with Serbia, growing nationalism in Bosnia and even assassination attempts on Austro-Hungarian officials in Croatia and Bosnia, including one in 1910 on the Governor of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Bogdan Zerajic the Emperor got worried. In 1913 the Emperor got his son to look at army manoeuvres in the June of 1914. Sophie however insisted on accompanying him as she feared for his life which unfortunatly for her she was right.

Who was the assassin?- The man shown below was the assassin: Gavrilo Princip. Although he was not alone in the assassination attempt. Princip grew up in poverty and through this became a Serb nationalist in Bosnia as he believed that the Austro-Hungarian government weren't doing enough to help his people who many lived in poverty. He joined a group called the Black Hand which wanted to united all the Southern Slavic areas under a Greater Serbia. He came under the tutelage of Danilo Ilic along with fellow conspirators Trifko Grabez and Nedeljko Cabrinovic. When they found out that the Archduke was visiting they planned to strike armed with bombs, pistols and suicide pills on the 28th, on the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo where the Ottoman Sultan was assassinated by a Serb.

The assassination- On June 28th Ilic, Princip, Grabez, Cabrinovic and three others were ready. Ferdinand's motorcar was to pass over a bridge over the Miljacka River and Ilic positioned three conspirators in prime positions to assassinate Ferdinand. The first two failed to act but the third, Cabrinovic threw a bomb which missed and detonated under a second car wounding twenty. He then took his cyanide pill and jumped into the river but the pill had expired so he only vomited and the river was shallow being in the summer so he didn't drown. Despite the near assassination Ferdinand decided to continue with his journey but with a different route. However in one move that changed history the driver accidentally turned into the original route just where Princip was waiting. Princip fired and Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were killed. Ilic was hanged and the rest were imprisoned, except for one who fled to Montenegro.

How did this cause World War One- As the Black Hand was Serbia had made it clear that it wanted to unite with Bosnia and Herzegovina Austro-Hungary blamed Serbia. The Empire gave Serbia a set of demands or they would declare war and the German Empire agreed their ally Austria. However Serbia had made an alliance with France and Russia who agreed to back Serbia as they feared the growing military strength of Germany. The nations started to mobilise and on July 28th Austria and Germany delcared war on Serbia to which France and Russia declared war on Germany and Austria. Shortly after Britain entered the war after Germany enacted the Schlieffen Plan by invading Belgium and the Ottoman Empire entering the war on the side of the Central Powers. This was followed by four years of never ending bloodshed and the deaths of 8.5million soldiers.

Please leave any comments and any suggestions for future posts.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

What If: The Haitian Revolution had failed?

In 1791 the slaves of the French colony Saint Domingue rose up to cast of their chains of oppression led by Toussaint Louverture. It instantly inspired other slave revolts, established the second state to be independent from Europe in the Americas after the initial wave of colonialism/annexation and remains as a significant section of not only the French Revolution but also world history. What if though the Haitian revolution had failed in its aims of freedom?

First we have to look at why the revolution was a success. One was the widespread support from the slaves and Mulattoes who were treated as second class citizens because only one of their parents was white; normally the father who were rich land owners. The second was the leadership of Toussaint Louverture whose great strategy skills, good education and ability to win the support of Britain and Spain. If France was to defeat the revolutionaries two things would have to have happened: years prior to the revolution the Mulattoes to be given equal rights to the white populace. Although this is unlikely most of the French colonies were to a degree self ruling so if the governor of Haiti decided to gradually give rights to the Mulattoes prior to the Revolution the French government most likely would not have minded as they were free men and not slaves. With the Mulattoes being relatively wealthy they in real life provided much needed resources for the revolution so without it they were more weak. Secondly the leaders of the revolution like Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe just to name a few were all free men so if they were never given freedom for one reason or another the revolution would have a lot less capable leaders so as history has repeatedly shown armies with no capable leaders crumble.

Now the parameters of how the revolution could have been stopped by the French when the Haitian slaves do rise without support from Mulattoes and the lack of good strategists that also supplied a moral boost the French manage to invade Saint Domingue and crush the revolution. Most likely the new revolution leaders would be guillotined as they would be accused of being anti-revolutionary government which would increase the death toll of the Terror. As well as this a large majority of the slave populace would be executed for supporting the revolt so this would scare the now imprisoned slaves into not revolting again. With the revolution crushed there would temporarily be less slave revolts as it inspired slaves throughout the Caribbean, United States and European colonies because the slaves saw that a revolt could be successful but without Haiti setting the precedent no revolts would follow. In this timeline even the shape of the United States would be different. The loss of Haiti and the failure to retake it made the French plantations along the Mississippi unprofitable and so forced Napoleon to sell French possessions to the US in the Louisiana Purchase. With Haiti still under French control this was not a problem so France remained in modern US as well as solidifying France's impressive might over the Caribbean.

With France not selling their continental possessions the US would never make the Western expansion, Manifest Destiny would never exist and the expansion in Mexico's territories like California and Texas would never happen thanks to a French colony acting as a buffer zone. Suprisingly Native Americans would have benefited from this as the French were never interested in colonised already colonised land so would allow the Native Americans to live in relative peace although the Natives would have to answer to the laws set in Paris. Like in our timeline Napoleon will lose the Napoleonic Wars, (invading Russia is never a good idea), and by 1848 all the slaves in Haiti are freed and French America gains its independence. Haiti still remains a colony though and remains this way until 1963. Inspired by the Algerians and Viet Minh Haitian nationalists would start to rise against the French again with them making the 1791 revolters as their idols. De Gaulle would give them their independence as he did with Tunisia and Algeria after he establishes a settlement before violence escalates. However one of my most favourite people of all time, Toussaint Louverture would never be heard of by anyone.

Please comment and leave any suggestions of alternate history scenarios or events/people/ideas in history that you want me to discuss.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

History in Focus: D-Day

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day Landings that happened on June 6th 1944 and holds the distinction of being one of the final great acts against Nazi Germany.

What was it?- D-Day was the mass amphibious landings of up to 156,000 Allied troops from Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and resistance groups like the Free French in Normandy on the northern coast of France as apart of Operation Overlord to liberate France from Nazi occupation. The Allies were led by future President Dwight D. Eisenhower while the Germans were put under the control of Erwin Rommel who was charged by Hitler to build the 'Atlantic Wall' in France, fortifications to prevent an Allied invasion.

What happened?- Prior to the invasion Britain, America and the USSR started Operation Bodyguard which would intentionally mislead the Nazi high command about where and when the invasion would take place which proved to be successful and possibly saved many more lives. The invasion was meticulously planned, even taking into account tides optimum for landing amphibious vehicles and at 06:30 the invasion took place. The Normandy coast was split into five separate landing areas: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach. Casualties were massive at 12,000, 4414 of those being killed. However the Allies saw victory and managed to push their way into France.

Why was it so important?- This can be seen as the final nail in the coffin for the Nazis. The Allies were lucky that the Atlantic Wall had yet to be completed so the Normandy Landings ended any chance of the Nazis protecting their occupied territory. It also started the liberation of France. The landing parties soon met up with resistance groups and quickly started to expel the Axis from France bringing the much needed Western Front to the war. It made Hitler now have to fight a war on two fronts which spread the German military too thinly so allowed successive gains for the battle hardened Soviet forces and sowed seeds of rebellion among the German military which allowed for the 20th July Plot against the high command. It also gave a lasting legacy. We can safely say that all the brave men who fought and died on the beaches of Normandy were fighting to end oppression and tyranny, fighting to end a homicidal regime and bring back liberty. With the expulsion of the Nazis from Paris in August of the same year we can safely say that it was not in vain.

A side fact- The invasion could have happened in 1943 but Prime Minister Winston Churchill opposed it saying that the Mediterranean Strategy would work better as it would expose the 'soft underbelly of the Axis' however by Tehran he had changed his mind. When the landings took place he even wanted to accompany the troops he was that excited that France was being freed and the only reason that he didn't was that the King personally told him not to!

End note- The veterans and those who died in D-Day fought for something that we sometimes take for granted. On June 6th they fought for an idea that we are all grateful for in our hearts. For all of us I thank the veterans and those who are not with us for what they fought for. I'm sorry if I'm not neutral but my great grandfather was one of the many to fight in Normandy.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Review: Godzilla (2014)

I am a massive Godzilla fan so I apologise now if I compare this film to the original series constantly. Luckily for fans though this was a film that deserved to be called Godzilla unlike the 1998 Roland Emmerich version which disappointed all Godzilla fans. Gareth Edwards didn't have to try very hard to surpass the other film but he did show Western audiences who may not have been in contact with Godzilla that he is a force to be reckoned with.

The plot invloves two parasites that fed on the blood of Godzilla's species millions of years ago that can emitt EMPs growing to gigantic proportions thanks to exposure to radioactive material, which they eat. At the same time Godzilla rises from the sea to do battle with the parasites named MUTO while humanity is caught in the cross fire. Suprisingly the film had a very good plot that was thought out and actually gripped the audience (at least at the beginning and end) however there was a plot hole with how the military planned to destroy the three monsters, (which I won't say to avoid spoilers) and how they constantly don't listen to Ken Watanabe's character who is throughout acknowledged to be an expert on Godzilla. Also the pacing of the middle act is very sloppy and at times dull. This is mainly attributed to the director giving Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen largely underwritten parts and bad dialogue so they struggled to keep the middle act as gripping as the first one. I believe Gareth Edwards tried to copy what he did with Monsters which was entertaining throughout but had good dialogue and character development which if used in Godzilla would make the film much better.

Now the main aspect: Godzilla and the MUTO. First off this is Godzilla. No question. He is just like he is from the Heisei and Millenium series where he is both savior and destroyer at the same time. His introduction though was amazing. A tsunami followed by his raw power emerging from the dust to deliver his roar. Everytime in the film when he roared I was awe struck. He even has his atomic breath! MUTO however is not as impressive. The flying one is well designed but the other one isn't. When they both appeared I thought they resembled Orga from Godzilla 2000: Millenium but when I saw them closely they resembled more like the Cloverfield monster. James Rolfe on Cinemassacre made a good comment that the monsters in Godzilla, Cloverfield and Super 8 aren't very inspiring and that they should copy the creativeness of Japanese kaiju like Gigan and Biollante which I fully agree with. Despite this the fighting was amazing. I was glad to see Godzilla fighting another giant monster and the fights had a realistic edge which made them even more enjoyable.

Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston were easily the two best actors in the film. All the time on screen it was engaged and transfixed. However I am disappointed that they got little screen time, especially as how much both actors excelled over Olsen and Taylor-Johnson. I just hope in Age of Ultron both Olsen and Taylor-Johnson manage to get into the role with better dialogue. Going back to dialogue Watanabe's and Cranston's dialogues were the best by far. The first and last acts were amazing despite the poor middle. It had good pacing, dialogue and suspense but what could be improved was the second city destruction scene. The first scene is partially shown but still gripping as it leaves it to your imagination but the second time was vastly underwhelming, especially it was a city full of iconic places.

In conclusion Godzilla is a must see for both Godzilla fans and non-Godzilla fans. The flaws that I've talked about have just as many pros than cons, especially with the opening sequence making it up for the poorly paced middle. The MUTO are interesting albietly uninspired and I think I'm only being harsh on Olsen and Taylor-Johnson as they are out performed by Cranston and Watanabe. I cannot stress how much we needed this film to bring the King back from his ten year slumber and although it is not a good as the likes of the 1954 original, Mothra vs Godzilla or Final Wars it is at least as good as Godzilla Returns, vs Spacegodzilla and 2000. I've heard there are sequels in the works to which I hope there will be pushing the bar even higher and hopefully bringing other monsters to the Western audience including Mothra, Rodan and my personal favourite Ghidorah. A must see.


Also check out from a little reference to Mothra around the 40 minute mark.

Please leave your opinions below, (no spoilers though), and hope you enjoyed it.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

What If: The Axis won World War Two? Part 2

Last time we saw that by 1947 in an alternate reality the Axis powers had defeated the Allies except for the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The US would still remain rich and will fund both Indian revoltuionaries fighting the Japanese as well as European nations. In our reality Truman used the Marshall Plan to combat communism but in this one it is against Nazism. The USSR banned its puppets from accepting Marshall Aid so we can assume Hitler would do the same. It is likely that guerilla resistance will still be operating in Britain, France and Russia making life hell for the Nazis while the systematic purges and bookburnings take place. Hitler would make puppet states of the defeated nations of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain and Yugoslavia with loyal governments installed. For example the leader of the British Union of Fascists Oswald Mosely would be made Prime Minister and Edward VII would be remade King due to his Nazi sympathies so with a king loyal to Hitler the public would be more loyal to the Reich.

In 1949 to America's dismay the Nazis detonate the 'Keisar Bomb' which is their first nuclear bomb. The Nazis research into nuclear warheads was lacking but with the annexation of the USSR they would obtain bomb secrets and from the notes the Rosenburgs had given to the Russians about the US bomb so they had accidentally given the Nazis the bomb. An arms race would then develop between the US and Reich but with the Nazis rocket knowledge they would quickly send a man to space and in 1965 put a man on the moon. The US would then beat the Nazis to the next goal by placing a man on Mars before the end of the Space Race. At the same time the US would be funding anti-fascist groups throughout the world so the likes of Batista would not come to power. In our timeline Japan placed natives in govenor roles like in Indonesia so they would do the same in Vietnam with Ho Chi Minh as Govenor. This would be very bad for them as now Ho Chi Minh would have a massive voice to spread nationalism and his Viet Minh would revolt against the Japanese before gaining independence with fascist North Vietnam under Ngo Dinh Diem and the South under Ho Chi Minh.

The civil rights movement would be more well received in the US than our lifetime as the urge to differ themselves from the Reich the government would be more willing to give unions, African Americans, women and homosexuals more rights. HUAC would be aimed at fascists and Nazis instead of socialist and communists. Hitler had a very weak heart so in 1953 he would die of a heart attack to be replaced by Martin Bormann but Bormann was very unpopular with all the high command and would be ousted in a coup similarly to how Khrushchev was ousted but this time in 1955 to be replaced by Goebbels. An alternate Missile Crisis would take place but in Haiti with Paul Magloire seizing power. JFK instead is assassinated by a Nazi sympathiser instead of a Communist one but as the US doesn't get involved in the Vietnam War, (where the Nazis and Italians send troops to help Diem), LBJ's Great Society is a success and more right wing politicians like Nixon are not elected. Japan becomes the third power block then in the Cold War with them being angry about Goebbels more racist stance.

By 1991 the Third Reich would collapse. Already it was shrouded with controversy with US spy planes taking pictures of the camps and deportation camps. Slowly as well the crimes would come out like using prisoners as test subjects for weapons. This would end trade with them damaging the economy. The Nazi economy was based on war production and the Four Year Plan ruined the economy and forced Hitler into war so it is understandable that a similar thing would happen so the economy would start to crumble. In Italy, the Reich and their puppets people would start to protest with the increasing globalisation in the 1980s and groups like the Edelweiss Pirates would become popular again. Slowly Britain, France and other nations break away from the Nazis; Britain becoming a republic. The Reich and Italian Empires will collapse similarly to how the USSR did thus ending the Cold War.

Thanks for reading and please leave any comments. Also if you want to see any alternate histories please say and I'm going to do my first movie review soon so please feel free to post what film you want me to review in the future.