Best of BBC History Magazine, May 2013

I’ve decided that as each issue of BBC History Magazine comes out, I will be writing a detailed review of my favourite pieces in the magazine. In this post, I’ll be discussing ‘How should history remember Margaret Thatcher?’, ‘The great misconceptions of World War Two’ and ‘Digging for Dinosaur Dung.’

How should history remember Margaret Thatcher?

This article was in the form of a double page spread, the left page dedicated to the argument of David Priestland, here taking the against, and the other page filled by Dominic Sandbrook, defending the baroness.

David Priestland, the author of Merchant, Soldier Sage: A New History of Power, (in which he recognises world history as a constant struggle between the three classes of Warrior Aristocrats, the Modern Capitalist Class, and The Intelligensia) uses his page to explain that yes, the economic changes that Thatcher brought were necassary in 1979, but that they could have been implemented in a manor which was less divisive and didn’t lead to such galloping inequality.

He suggests that we could have taken the root chosen by the European countries of Germany and Sweden, who, according to Priestland, ‘sought to create a social consensus behind a programme of gradual restructuring’.

He also goes on to explain how for all the fuss, Thatcherite policies didn’t even deliver on the growth rates for which they sacrificed all else. And he finishes by stating that the queen was wrong to attend the funeral of a ‘wager of civil war’.

Sandbrook however, says that: ‘Margaret Thatcher’s supreme achievement…was to blow away the stale winds of decline’. He mkes the point that the reforms she implemented were harsh, but that they resulted in a ‘more open, dynamic, entrepreneurial and colourful society than it had been in the 1970s’.

More of Dominic Sandbrook’s work.


The great misconceptions of World War Two

This was the front page piece, and it focused on debunking some commonly believes myths about the Second World War. Such as:

Germany boasted a highly mechanised fighting force

James Holland disagrees with this, saying that: ‘Over half the vehicles lost by Germans in the war suffered mechanical failure’. Also, ‘in 1939 there were 48 people per motor vehicle in Germany, compared to four people in the US’.

The Axis could have won the war

Joe Maiolo claims that he ‘can’t construct a scenario where the Axis could have won the Second World War’. He goes on to claim that Italy was a failed fascist state, merely an auxillary to Germany, and that the Japanese were ‘fighting their own war and had no interest in co-ordinating grand strategy.’

So you are left, he says, with Germany, which simply didn’t have the industrial might to compete with the Allies.


Digging for Dinosaur Dung

This rather odd article describes a mining boom in the 1850s in Cambridgeshire, centred around the excavation of fossilised Dinosaur faeces.

Apparently, the dung was so precious because of its ‘high phosphate content’, making it an ‘extremely effective fertiliser’.

He goes on to detail a soar in land prices due to the discovery, an exodus of farm workers down the mines, causing a wage hike for farm workers and a flood of Irish navvies into Cambridgeshire to replace the farm workers.



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