How Ireland stayed neutral in a world at war

Under the leader ship of Eamon de Valera and with a very small army, virtually no aerial capability and little naval service, Ireland was a sitting duck in the Second World War

How Ireland stayed neutral in a world at warAs we approach the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, it’s worth remembering that many of the countries caught up in it were unwilling participants. Rather than enlisting in a universal crusade against the evils of Nazi Germany, they wanted nothing more than to stay out of the conflict. For instance,…

Mussolini more a man of the left than of the right

Mussolini more a man of the left than of the rightWhen I was a university student, a history professor said the first kind words I’d ever heard about Benito Mussolini (1883-1945). The professor was, of course, referring to Mussolini’s early incarnation as a socialist. With this year marking the centenary of the fascist movement’s founding, it’s worth pondering the professor’s observation. In fact, one can…

Johnson shows he’s prepared to force Brexit endgame

That doesn't mean the new U.K. administration will succeed where its predecessor failed. Nor does it mean that leaving the EU is wise

Johnson shows he’s prepared to force Brexit endgameSomething interesting happened in the United Kingdom last week. More than three years after referendum voters opted to leave the European Union, a Leave government was finally installed. Prior to that, negotiations on a withdrawal agreement were in the hands of a government whose most powerful players had supported the Remain side in the referendum…

Wild Bunch showed True Grit in demythologizing the Old West

Fifty years ago, True Grit and The Wild Bunch opened in theatres. They were both westerns, but they were dramatically different in tone and intent

Wild Bunch showed True Grit in demythologizing the Old WestThe big stories from the summer of 1969 were Neil Armstrong’s moon walk and the counterculture music extravaganza at Woodstock, N.Y. But there were also two classic westerns. One was True Grit and the other was The Wild Bunch. In fact, they debuted within a week of each other. True Grit opened on June 11…

How Gene Tunney brought down a boxing legend and an era

He beat Jack Dempsey twice to become heavyweight champion – and his staid personal style foreshadowed the end of the Roaring ’20s

How Gene Tunney brought down a boxing legend and an eraLast week’s column argued that Jack Dempsey’s July 1919 winning of the world heavyweight boxing championship prefigured the celebrity-obsessed Roaring ’20s. If so, Gene Tunney’s dispatching of Dempsey in 1926 and again 1927 can be viewed as a harbinger of the decade’s end. To be sure, the party didn’t come to a shuddering halt until…

Jack Dempsey and the birth of the Roaring ’20s

The boxer was a prime example of the ascension of celebrity, perhaps rivalled only by baseball’s Babe Ruth

Jack Dempsey and the birth of the Roaring ’20sThe case can be made that the Roaring ’20s actually began 100 years ago this month. On July 4, 1919, Jack Dempsey won the world heavyweight boxing title from Jess Willard in Toledo, Ohio. Waged in a purpose-built outdoor arena with an ambient ringside temperature of around 100F (37C), the fight is considered one of…

The unsung heroes of Waterloo

The Longest Afternoon, by historian Brendan Simms, provides depth, nuance and new insight

The unsung heroes of WaterlooAlthough I considered myself reasonably well informed about the June 1815 Battle of Waterloo, the critical role of the King’s German Legion (KGL) and La Haye Sainte slipped below my radar. That’s been rectified by The Longest Afternoon, a slim volume from historian Brendan Simms. Simms, born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, is…

Believe it or not: There was once a plan for a Franco-British union

From the failed Franco-British Union during the Second World War to Brexit, some things are just meant to fail

Believe it or not: There was once a plan for a Franco-British unionIn these contentious Brexit days in the United Kingdom, it’s strange to remember that there was once a plan for a Franco-British Union. No, I’m not making that up. However short-lived, the plan was real. On June 16, 1940, the British cabinet approved a “declaration of indissoluble union” to this effect: “France and Great Britain…

A political party that ignores its base jeopardizes its future

Examples can be found around the world – including in Canada – and the scenario is being played out again in the U.K.

A political party that ignores its base jeopardizes its futureRunning for the United Kingdom Conservative leadership, Boris Johnson claims that his party faces “extinction” if it fails to deliver Brexit. Political rhetoric being what it is, this could be dismissed as self-interested hyperbole. But while Johnson may exaggerate, the threat he envisages isn’t conjured out of thin air. There’s ample evidence that many habitual…

Canada’s first political sex scandal was really a dud

Gerda Munsinger, allegedly a low-level Soviet spy, was sexually involved with at least one, and possibly two, cabinet ministers

Canada’s first political sex scandal was really a dudI’d been in Canada for just a few months when the Munsinger affair broke. In March 1966, John Diefenbaker – the former Progressive Conservative prime minister – was berating Liberal cabinet minister Lucien Cardin in the House of Commons on the subject of government laxity regarding security. Exasperated, Cardin struck back by raising the Munsinger…
1 2 3 5