As World War Two drew to an end, a number of prominent prisoners of the Germans were moved to South Tyrol in the Italian Alps. Among them were veterans of the Great Escape, two former European prime ministers and a handful of Irishmen who had served in the British army.
Pity the poor continental children who must grapple with Charles the Bald, Charles the Bold, Charles the Fat, Charles the Simple, Philip the Bold, Philip the Fair and a good dozen of Henrys. To all of this complexity, Winder is a perpetually good-humoured guide.
Actor, journalist, Fenian activist, historian, victim of police brutality, and, latterly, lawyer and lobbyist Gus Costello wrote with sympathy of the plight of African Americans in the ‘draft riots’ of 1863, a conflict featuring Irishmen on both sides, as police protectors and as members of the mob.
More women than you might think have seen fit over the centuries to wander out, in good thick skirts or other climate-appropriate attire in the most far-flung of places. Most of the rest of us have preferred to stay at home, cosy and safe, reading of the savage beasts and strange peoples they encountered.
The young Eric Hobsbawm was intoxicated by the ‘stern discipline’ the revolutionary organisation demanded of its adherents. ‘Ground yourself in Leninism,’ he admonished himself in his diary. The communist militant had to be ‘totally unscrupulous and outrageously flexible’.
Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin, two of the fathers of modern international law, spent significant time in what is now the Ukrainian city of Lviv. A cultured oasis of Habsburg culture before the First World War, the city would change hands eight times between 1914 and 1944.
The naval blockade of Germany during the First World War is a subject that is little treated today. Yet estimates of civilian deaths caused by it range from around 400,000 to more than three-quarters of a million. Not until there were German signatures on the Treaty of Versailles was it fully lifted.
Paris has always been a moveable feast. There are many people, Parisians and others, who think the city was destroyed long before Hitler ordered it to be burned in 1944 and others who think it has been repeatedly destroyed since, in the name of renovation, development, restoration.