Thursday, 13 October 2016

Breasts are very powerful things. Discuss.


What a great general paper question for undergraduate historians that would make.


Off the top of my head, I'd mention Lola Montez (whose bust measured 50 inches) and the Bavarian revolution of 1848. 


Lola Montez was a courtesan and dancer, famous for her 'spider dance', which involved her being forced to disrobe because of a spider that crawled into her dress. Lola Montez was her stage name. She was an Irishwoman of good family and her real name was Marie Gilbert. She was a liberal (by the standards of Germany at the time) and, in the year in which she was King Ludwig's mistress and had a lot of power in Bavaria, she made an enemy of the Jesuits and the Church. Her unpopularity led to her royal lover losing his throne.

Had her bust been smaller, as someone said of Cleopatra's nose...

I was meant to be a historian.

I know about her bust from a curious 19th century medical book that I once dipped into. She approached the author, a doctor, to see if she could have her breasts reduced in size.


Of course tastes in beauty change. I think a character in a Noel Coward play said that when you see photographs of women who are well attested to have made entire trainfuls of men spontaneously stand up to look you find that they look like men themselves. I fail to see from photographs why many women were considered famous beauties, including Marie of Romania, who modestly said  that she was not necessarily the most beautiful woman in Europe but she was certainly the most beautiful queen.

There are some unflattering pictures of Lola but this one explains why the King of Bavaria was captivated.


Image result for lola montez


A true conservative


"If there is a class war—and there is—it is important that it should be handled with subtlety and skill. ... it is not freedom that Conservatives want; what they want is the sort of freedom that will maintain existing inequalities or restore lost ones."Maurice Cowling, "The Present Position," Conservative Essays , Portillo ed., 1978.

I read Conservative Essays as a VIth Former with fascination and agreed with much of it but disliked a certain amount. This cumbrous sentence shocked me when I read it aged 18. I still don't believe in class war (though he was writing in the 1970s) but I do believe inequality and hierarchy are good and necessary things.

Maurice Cowling wrote in 1981 to the editors of the London Review of Books,

“Argument is not what it seems to me suitable to do with opinions. What one does with opinions—all one needs to do with them, having found that one has them—is to enjoy them, display them, use them, develop them, in order to cajole, press, bully, soothe, and sneer other people into sharing (or being affronted by) them. To argue them is, it seems to me, a very vulgar, debating-society sort of activity.”
How very much I wish I had gone to Peterhouse and been taught by him and by the great Edward Norman.

I am very certain that were he alive Cowling would be a strong supporter of Donald Trump.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Assuming Trump loses, what next for the American right?

Megyn Kelly, seen here worrying about how Donald Trump views women as sex objects.


I never liked Trump and I no longer think he will do. Many of Trump's ideas (perhaps we should call them attitudes) on the other hand I do like.

The real story of 2016 is the cultural revolution against internationalism in America and Europe. Assuming Trump loses (possibly in a landslide), he will have steered the Republicans in a new direction. Will he be the forerunner of a new politics and culture or simply make the GOP brand toxic?