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BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR – By Hannah
When first hearing Trafalgar the idea of the square right outside the National Museum comes to mind. Though this thought is not so far removed, the name originates from the naval battle fought at Cape Trafalgar, off the coast of Spain.
Admiral Lord Nelson led twenty-seven warships against a combined thirty-three from France and Spain. He was fighting Napoleon Bonaparte indirectly who intended to invade England and bring it under his reign. Bonaparte enlisted Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve to head the campaign and command the thirty-three ship fleet. Nelson caught Villeneuve by surprise on the Cape and tactfully began to take out the single-file line of ships Villeneuve had ordered by striking from the back with fifteen of the twenty-seven British warships. With this initial attack, the British were able to take out fourteen opposing ships leaving only nineteen left. After the single-file line had been struck, Nelson proceeded to attack to the center with his remaining twelve ships. After the fighting was over “of the 19 French and Spanish ships, 11 were captured or burnt, while 8 fled to leeward.” (BritishBattle.com “Battle of Trafalgar.”)
Though the British warships were victorious in the end the battle cost Nelson his life. In the midst of the fighting “A musket shot hit Nelson, knocking him to the deck and breaking his back.” (Histroy.com “Battle of Trafalgar.”) Later he would die along with a thousand five hundred of his crew yet no British ships were lost and the damage to the opposing warship was substantially greater with an estimate of fourteen to sixteen thousand casualties. Due to this victory by the British any hopes of invaded England that Bonaparte had were now destroyed.
Here is the strategy that Nelson had crafted. Due to the line the French-Spanish ships made, it made it easy for the British to swing around and attack from behind while the middle drove right through.
As stated previously, the coincidence of Trafalgar square and the battle sounding similar is for a specific reason. The square is named after the battle in 1805 though it was originally going to be named after King William IV. A statue was commissioned in 1843 of Admiral Lord Nelson that can still been seen at “169ft 3in (51.6m) high” (William “Top 10 Facts about Trafalgar.”) in the center of the square today.
THE BIG SMOKE – By Mitch
The Big Smoke or as some people call it, The Big Smog, occurred in London in December 5th 1952. It was a killer fog that covered London for five days. Citizens found it difficult to breathe for it killed thousands of residents. Once the fog first hit no one seemed to notice due to fogs being common in London. However, conditions deteriorated, the sky became dark and vision was reduced to only three feet in most parts of the city. Once the fog finally lifted on December 9th at least 4,000 people died and 150,000 had been hospitalized and the fog also killed thousands of animals. Due to research, the deaths were caused by emissions from coal burning. The fog was 30 miles wide and smelled like rotten eggs and it stopped all means of transportation, except for the Underground. Burglaries increased as criminals would vanish into the fog. Soccer games were cancelled however, Cambridge and Oxford carried on with their annual cross-country competition at Wimbledon. The fog would also creep inside as well. It covered exposed surfaces and movie theaters were closed due to customers not being able to see the screen. The death toll was so catastrophic, undertakers ran out of coffins and bouquets ran out of flowers. An estimate says that the great Smog had taken up to 12,000 lives.
THE BLITZ – By Nigel
We sit in our classrooms, offices etc… in our state of blissful contentment. We are startled by the sudden blare of alarms, we don’t run, we don’t panic, nor scream aloud. We hold our ears and role our eyes as we remember it is that time of month again. Today the sound of fire alarms and the like are typically nothing more than a general annoyance, an unwelcome disturbance to our day. There is yet a different alarm, one many of us have had the luxury of never having heard. The blaring alarm that streaks out across an entire city, the one that warns you to seek shelter: for an enemy flies overhead and bombs may soon fall from the sky seeking to destroy the very world around you. This was the reality of those living in London During World War II. They heard that very alarm on September 7th, 1940, a day that history will never forget. The day thousands of people called their last.
The open bombing of civilians during WW II was systemic. It served as a means to strike terror into the enemy and create an atmosphere of constant fear. People were left wondering, when will the next raid be? Will my family and I survive the next one? This state of fear was a powerful tool used during the war. Wars were no longer taking place on some distant battle field but rather amongst the peoples very homes. The physiological impact of these is apparent throughout the media of the time. The bombs on that day rained down for twelve hours, never before had the city of London experienced such an attack. This had a distract impact on the people of London and the mentality of England as a whole. The idea of the stoic Briton emerged, the who continued on his merry way as the sirens screamed out, unafraid of the any impending bombs. The Blitz inspired many changes in British culture and government. It was the catalyst for the creation of a homeland security office in Britain and the United States. It also created a society which begin to be more caring for its people. The Britain that emerged was one of social welfare and the idea that all Britain’s were in it together and should take care of each other.
BREXIT – By Kelly
On June 23, 2016, a referendum was held in the United Kingdom on their relation to the European Union. With a 51.9% majority, it was decided that the UK would no longer be a part of the EU, in a move now referred to as ‘Brexit,’ a shortened version of ‘Britain Exit’. On March 29, 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May activated Article 50 of the European Union, which is the process for any country which chooses to separate itself from the EU. Previously against Brexit, May has since been for the separation, choosing to listen to the majority of the population. In the time following the triggering Article 50, the government has become more complex, as May called for a general election and then lost the majority, causing what is called a ‘hung parliament,’ where no political party has the house majority. It is not known when more elections would be held, but the current government is not completely stable. Regardless, Brexit is still happening. The specifics of Brexit are important to understand, because it will affect every UK citizen, EU citizen living in the UK, as well as the rest of the world.
The UK will officially leave the EU on March 29, 2019 (two years after May triggered the departure, as per Article 50), even if no trade deals have been officiated. Currently, there is discussion between whether there will be a ‘hard Brexit’ or a ‘soft Brexit’. While neither has a strict definition, they are distinct. All members of the EU are members of the single market, making it easier for trade and movement of money and goods. However, this also requires each member to abide by encompassing EU laws, including the inability to create trade deals with other countries. Being a member of the single market also means countries must allow free movement with other EU countries. This allows people to move and work in other EU countries without a visa, which greatly increases immigration between countries. A hard Brexit would mean no negotiation on issues like free movement, completely leaving the single EU market and closing off many of the good trade deals that the UK has been a part of. A soft Brexit would mean remaining in the single market without being a member. This would keep the UK’s trade deals with other EU members while remaining outside of the EU’s laws and tariffs, but would also require them to still allow free movement. The specifics of Brexit are still very dependent on the deals that will be made between the UK and the EU in the next two years. If no trade deals are made, it is extremely likely a hard Brexit will be made regardless.
It is very interesting to look at the split between those who voted to ‘stay’ and ‘leave’ in the Brexit referendum. It is not unlike the split in the recent US election. Many citizens in the middle to lower class who live in the countryside voted for ‘leave’ because they do not get to see the benefits of a EU membership. They see immigration as the cause for Britain losing its history, believing that the UK’s membership is causing them to lose much of their power and agency. These feelings have always existed, but the increase of Middle Eastern refugees into Europe has sparked Brexit into action, becoming the final straw for those who feel this way. By being forced to follow EU laws, pro-Brexit citizens believe in their simple slogan of “Take Control.” This is very like blue-collar workers in the United States who are hoping to ‘take back’ the country from immigrants.
While the UK economy has not been impacted fully yet, there has already been an increase on the prices of foreign goods. Prices will likely only increase if the UK fails to reach a trade deal with the EU. Many big businesses were against leaving the EU, as it would become more difficult to move product and money across borders with their closest neighbors.
In a stunning turn of events, the UK states Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to stay in the EU, and have gone so far as to threaten leaving the UK if there is a hard Brexit. Scotland would become its own country once again, while Northern Ireland would join with the Republic of Ireland to stay. However, the true outcome will not beknown until decisions are made on the current British Prime Minister and Brexit deals. Many countries outside of the EU were against Brexit, including previous United States President Barack Obama. Current President Donald Trump has so far been supportive of Brexit, believing that the UK is doing well in attempting to leave the EU.
The next few years will keep the UK in the spotlight as Brexit talks continue. Pictured below is the first Brexit discussion between UK officials and the EU, as well as a map of the European Union as of 2014.
LONDON AND THE PLAGUE – By Kelly
A mini Ice Age in the 1300s lead to the development of a pandemic that killed most of Europe and would change the world forever. The name itself was inspired by fear that struck Europe each time it appeared over the next centuries. The bubonic plague, or the Black Death, spread west from the Black Sea through Sicily and onwards to take over the rest of the continent. A combination of symptoms and bacteria made this plague a terror, taking less than a week to kill those who were infected. The original plague first hit London in 1348, crossing the channel when it infected most of Europe. Spread by fleas, rats, and then by air after reaching the lungs, the plague would cause buboes (swelling boils), headaches, fevers, and vomiting before finally entering the bloodstream. The Black Death gravely impacted both the social and economic aspects of Europe, keeping population too low for fields to be worked and keeping prices high as people tried to survive. The plague would re-emerge every few years, effectively keeping Europe’s population low. However, in 1665, the plague hit London hardest, now called the Great Plague of 1665.
This outbreak of the plague was likely caused by the rest-rats and other contagions that carry the plague re-emerged in London and infected many of the citizens. In this outbreak, nearly 15% of London’s population died, with an estimate of over 100,000 deaths both in the city and the surrounding countryside. To deal with the amassing numbers of bodies, surviving citizens created “plague pits”. As graveyards quickly filled, the dead had to be separated and kept away from the living so as to avoid more infection. While those who could afford it left the city, those who remained helped with the creation of this pits. While the specific locations of most of the plague pits is unknown, Historic UK has constructed a map of the likely locations of many of the pits using many different sources, which can be found at http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/LondonPlaguePits/.
There is evidence that while plague pits were all used as mass graves, early plague pits are much more organized. Many of the bodies were even placed in coffins before being stacked underground to keep the infection away from the rest of the population. As the 1665 plague progressed into the next year, graves show much less respect for the corpses, typically piling bodies in a haphazard manner. It was not until the Great Fire of 1666 that this outbreak was essentially ended. While the human death toll was low, it certainly killed many of the rats and fleas carrying the virus, which many theorize helped stem the plague.
While the bubonic plague eventually stopped reoccurring in Europe, it still has a presence today, with local outbreaks in Madagascar since 2014. However, with modern medicine and hygiene regulations, it is extremely unlikely for the Black Death to re-emerge with the strength and terror that it once did.