Dunkirk 1947: a forgotten Franco-British Treaty

On 4 March 1947 representatives of the British and French governments signed a treaty of mutual alliance against any future aggression from Germany. Coming a year after Winston Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain speech” in Fulton, Missouri, and a few days before President Truman’s declaration to the United States Congress outlining his Containment Doctrine, the Dunkirk Treaty now seems little more than a footnote in the broader story of the development of the Cold War. Given that Germany at this time was under military occupation and its industry largely in ruins, the hypothetical invasion and war envisaged in the treaty text seems quaint to the say the least.

But the Dunkirk Treaty merits closer scrutiny as it cuts across the narrative of a crudely bisected and bipolar Europe, and reminds us that France’s Foreign Policy at this time was shaped as much by its turbulent domestic politics, and by the memory of three wars with Germany, as by any future hypothetical conflict with the USSR.  It also helps us to understand the crucial roles played by individuals in Britain and France who strove to find common ground in a relationship that had suffered damage from the debacle of 1940 and the Petainist years, on-going imperial rivalries, and contrasting visions for East-West relations as well as for the future organisation of Europe.

A year earlier, at 6:25pm on 20 January 1946, Alfred Duff Cooper, British Ambassador in Paris since the liberation, had telegrammed the Foreign Office to report rumours of the resignation of Charles de Gaulle from the leadership of the Provisional Government.[1] The relationship between De Gaulle and his American and British wartime allies had long been fractured along several lines, including the future of France’s Levantine colonies, the question of Germany’s Western Boundaries, and the General’s belief that he could hold the balance between the Anglo-Saxon World and the USSR, thereby saving Europe from domination by either.[2]  Duff Cooper’s haste in communicating this news was due to a belief he shared with Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin that the General had represented an immovable obstacle to the conclusion of a long-overdue Franco-British treaty. But the removal of De Gaulle itself brought new uncertainties, due to the endless games of ministerial musical-chairs that came to characterize the Provisional Government (1944-6) and its successor, the Fourth Republic (1947-1958).[3]

Georges Bidault flanked on his left by Maurice Thorez and on his right by Felix Gouin

The most striking electoral feature of immediate post-war French politics was the success of the Communist Party, which appealed not only to working class disillusionment against the recent collaborationism in the bourgeoisie and the leaders of industry, but also to longer-term social tensions pre-dating the war, as well as to more recent preoccupations such as spiralling inflation. In the October 1945 legislative elections the Communists of Maurice Thorez became the single largest party, gaining 159 deputies from 26.2% of the vote, and seats in government alongside the centrist Mouvement Républicain Populaire (MRP) of Georges Bidault and the Socialists of Félix Gouin. While this coalition did achieve some significant social reforms, the threat of disintegration was never far away, in part due to bitter clashes over foreign policy.

In March 1946 Bidault glumly confided in Duff Cooper his fears that Britain saw France as “a lost country.”[4] The Gaullist vision of France emerging as an independent broker of relations between East and West had found expression in the Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Alliance that Bidault had signed with the USSR in Moscow in December 1944. However, France’s exclusion from the February 1945 Yalta Summit, and the post-war Anglo-American focus on the reconstruction and subsequent merger of their German occupational zones, entailed a harsh brake one these ambitions, for the time being at least.

Annexation of German territory remained a cherished goal in France, no less than it had been in the years immediately following the First World War.  The French Government’s demands were in part a re-hashing of what President Raymond Poincaré and Marshal Ferdinand Foch had demanded of President Wilson more than twenty five years earlier – an independent Rhineland, a Saarland protectorate and international control over the Ruhr coalfields.[5] While the Saarland was declared a French-controlled Protectorate in 1946 (and would remain so until 1957), with its own flag and currency, negotiations regarding the Ruhr would drag on until 1949, finally culminating in the declaration of an International High Authority – out of which Robert Schuman’s plan for a European Coal and Steel Community (one of the progenitors of the present E.U.) would emerge in 1950-1.[6] French ambitions for some form of quasi-autonomous Rhineland republic foundered against British and American determination for the new West German State to be an economically viable unit, with a territorial integrity that preserved the essentials of what had emerged during Bismarck’s wars of 1864-1871.

Amid France’s diplomatic disappointments of 1946, the possibility of a British military guarantee of French sovereignty was back on the agenda. Now better remembered for his marriage to the renowned society beauty Lady Diana Manners, and for his colourful private life, the strongly Francophile Duff Cooper was in fact a significant voice in support of a comprehensive French treaty encompassing trade and defence. During the years of the Churchill wartime government, Cooper’s arguments had gained little traction with Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, whose scepticism about exclusively European projects would remain a constant in his diplomatic outlook.[7]  Remaining in Paris under the Attlee government, in many respects Cooper had a better working relationship with Ernest Bevin than with his predecessor as Foreign Secretary.[8]

Cooper’s despatches to London across the year 1946 reveal his understanding of the linkage in French government thinking between a possible Franco-British mutual military guarantee, and the possibility of their acceptance of an International High Authority for the Ruhr. In early April 1946 Oliver Harvey (Deputy Under Secretary in the Foreign Office) joined Cooper in Paris to negotiate over the future of the Ruhr, and to initiate general treaty discussions. While Bidault firmly re-asserted French determination to secure the Ruhr, his position was undermined by a growing split within his coalition. Rejecting Bidault’s intransigence as too a high price to pay for the loss of a treaty with Britain, Félix Gouin and his Socialists walked out of the cabinet.[9]

Sensing an opportunity, Cooper and Harvey pushed to Bidault the idea of decoupling the Ruhr issue from the Anglo-French treaty. Although Bidault refused to fundamentally change his position, Ambassador Massigli was already in conversation with Cooper, exploring alternative models for how the Ruhr might fit in a new West German state, and its relationship to France and the rest of Europe. Furthermore, in his conversations with Massigli and Finance Minister Robert Schuman, Cooper had implanted a key idea. Seeking to calm their fears that French failure to detach the Ruhr would jeopardise relations with the USSR, Cooper argued than a Franco-British military alliance could be framed in terms of a precaution against a resurgence of German nationalism. This appealed particularly to Schuman, who had only just emerged from a “tense” Cabinet meeting that included the Deputy Prime Minister, the Stalinist Maurice Thorez.  Notwithstanding major gaps remaining between the two countries, on 9 April 1946 the existence of the preliminary Franco-British talks was made public (America and the USSR having been informed four days earlier).

In Whitehall, the imperative of blocking the rise of the French Communists was felt just as keenly. In a memorandum dated 24 March 1946, Horace Rumbold had reported an approach to Cooper by General Pierre Billotte, the Assistant Army Chief of Staff with close links to De Gaulle, requesting funds and noting that “the right wing people tell us once the Communists get into power nothing will get them out again, that we would then have the Soviet Union twenty miles from our doorstep and would be driven in our own interests to support a French resistance against the occupier.”[10] Rumbold’s memorandum quickly dismissed as fanciful the notion of British intervention in the event of a Communist take-over, but recognising the urgency of the situation he recommended immediate action, including the emergency provision of 10,000 tons of cooking fat as an interim measure to extricate Bidault’s government from a food shortages crisis, combined with maximum publicity for such assistance, and the downplaying of British opposition to the annexation of the Ruhr. The winter of 1945-1946 had seen severe food shortages across France, worse in many respects than in the years of occupation, and repeated calls were made to Britain for wheat and flour, most of which were declined due to even more pressing demands in the British occupational zone of Germany.[11]  Food became a significant propaganda tool as the USSR announced an offer of 500,000 tons of wheat to France (in return for payment in US dollars!) in April 1946.[12]

French industrial production in key categories, 1938 and 1946

For the remainder of 1946 the journey to an Anglo-French Treaty was beset with false-starts and breakdowns, exacerbated by a series of crises in India, Greece and the Middle East that absorbed the attention of Bevin.[13] Matters inside France remained as complicated as ever. A key consideration was the French electoral calendar, and on 31 May, two days before France went to the polls, Cooper communicated his fears to Harvey that De Gaulle’s ally, the information minister and novelist André Malraux might resort to violence to lever his master back into the presidency.[14] In the event, Bidault’s MRP gained seats at the expense of the Communists and the Socialists, and the three-party coalition soldiered on.

Franco-British meetings in September 1946 resolved many economic aspects of the arrangement, including export and import terms for specific products, and a rescheduling of France’s £100 million debt to Britain for final repayment by 1962. In mid-October 1946 Bidault met with Bevin and dusted off the Gaullist notion of a European third force but further progress was limited by the imminence of the French elections. Cooper’s view was that the respective commitments of Bidault to the Russians and Bevin to the Americans left little room for a reconfiguration of a grand strategy.[15]

The election of 10 November 1946, brought the Communists 182 seats from 28% of the vote, and made them once more the single largest party.[16] In the final months of transition to the new Fourth Republic, the new Prime Minister was Léon Blum, the veteran socialist and former Popular Front leader from the 1930s, who was also something of an Anglophile. Cooper now seized his moment, and on 26 December he secured a personal meeting Blum and pushed for completion of the treaty. On 1 January 1947, as France lay in the grip of a freezing winter, Blum wrote to Clement Attlee, broaching the possibility of a supply of 1-2 million tons of British coal per month as part of a broader accommodation.  Although Attlee’s response ducked the coal issue, Blum was invited to London on 13 January, and negotiations on specific treaty terms formally opened the following day.[17] This diplomatic push owed much to the initiative of two men – Cooper himself and the new Under Secretary of State at the Quai d’Orsay, Pierre-Olivier Lapie.

Over the following three months many of the obstacles that had hitherto obstructed progress seemed to dissolve or diminish in importance.  Negotiations continued under the premiership of Paul Ramadier, and French momentum was maintained by several factors, including the dire economic situation, and a series of pessimistic internal reports from its own General Staff, suggesting that the country had little capacity to defend itself alone, in the event of a European war. British Army reservations over any binding commitments were assuaged by the general phrasing of the promised terms of assistance; intelligence sharing would be limited, and obligations would not extend to the defence of overseas territories; and pre-existing commitments to the USA would be prioritised.[18]  Cooper had hoped for an expansive treaty that would herald a general Franco-British Entente but both governments were nervous at the anticipated Soviet reaction, and therefore the terms provisionally reached on 25 February were heavily derivative of both countries’ wartime alliances with the USSR.[19]

In the Cabinet on 27 February 1947 Attlee expressed concern that Britain could now be tied to backing a French military occupation of the Ruhr, or some other nationalist provocation, but Bevin reassured him that the United Nations Charter could still be invoked in such instances, and that no automatic military trigger was in place.[20] For France a crucial priority was getting the signatures of both governments on the Treaty prior to the Moscow Foreign Ministers’ summit on 10 March, as anything less than a fait accompli was feared as a possible invitation to Soviet meddling.[21]

The bleakness of Dunkirk in early March was magnified by the enduring devastation from the German siege of May 1940, and by the driving rain that welcomed Bevin, Cooper, Bidault and Massigli to the sub-prefecture – one of the few intact buildings. Bidault claimed that the venue had been his idea, to exorcise the memories of 1940, but Jean Chauvel, Secretary General at the Quai d’Orsay, credited the British with a location that in French eyes was associated more with a failed alliance than with the miracle of escape. Bidault and Bevin spoke not a word of each other’s language, and small talk was therefore impossible to fill the delay caused by the breakdown of the car delivering the treaty texts. Amid the gloom Chauvel noted the vision of Lady Diana Cooper, turned out in a suitably non-committal gris clair.[22]

The Dunkirk Treaty stands at an intersection between the on-off entente and mésentente of Anglo-French relations, and the vast and complex efforts to re-order the political, military and economic structures of post-war Europe.  It showed that Britain and France still had common ground, and recognised an element of mutual dependence at a time when their empires were faltering, and international relations were being increasingly shaped by superpower rivalry. In helping France to accommodate itself to a new West German state, and to accept a compromise on the future of the Ruhr industrial complex that represented the abandonment annexationist aims, Dunkirk contributed to preparing the ground for the economic and political structures that led to the Rome Treaty a decade later, and the E.E.C. While the conduct of Foreign Policy under Bevin has been characterised as privileging Anglo-American relations, Dunkirk showed that Foreign Office thinking was enthusiastic to repair the damage done in the years of De Gaulle’s predominance. The nimble footwork of a Francophile British Conservative ambassador in building bridges with a temporary Socialist French Government confirms the importance of personal chemistry and the contingencies of domestic political bouleversements as much as fixed strategies. Seventy years on from The Dunkirk Treaty, the human element in Franco-British diplomacy seems more important than ever as Britain plans its withdrawal from some of the supranational structures that had their origins in this period.

[1] NA: PRO FO 371/59956.

[2] S. Berstein, Histoire du Gaullisme (Perrin, 2002), p. 306.

[3] R. Gildea, France since 1945 (Oxford, 2002), p. 41.

[4] FO 371/59952 (55803).

[5] For a general discussion of French territorial aims, see A. S. Milward, The Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1945-1951 (California, 1984), pp. 128-9.

[6] The Origins and Development of European Integration, ed. P. M. R. Stirk and D. Weigall (Pinter, London, 1999), p. 63.

[7] FO 371/59952 (55803), Cooper to Bevin, 19 Mar. 1946, citing correspondence of 30 May 1944 and 11 Mar. 1945.

[8] P. M. H. Bell, France and Britain, 1940-1994: The Long Separation (Routledge, 2007), p. 75.

[9]  FO 371/59952 (55803), Cooper to Foreign Office, 5 Apr. 1946.

[10] NA: PRO FO 371/59953.

[11] Bell, France and Britain, 1940-1994, p. 75.

[12] FO 371/59953, Sir Orme Sargent to Bevin, 3 Apr. 1946.

[13] J. W. Young, Britain, France the Unity of Europe, 1945-1951 (Leicester, 1984), p. 44.

[14] FO 371/59953, Cooper to Harvey, 31 May 1946.

[15] FO 371/59954, Duff Cooper to the Foreign Office, 15 Oct. 1946.

[16] R. Kedward, La Vie en Bleu, France and the French Since 1900  (Penguin, 2005), p. 356

[17] E. du Reau, ‘Les origins et la portée du traité de Dunkerque vers une nouvelle “entente cordiale?” (4 Mars 1947) in Matériaux pour l’histoire de nos temps, no, 18, 1990. La mésentente cordiale: les relations franco-britanniques, 1945-1957, p. 24.

[18] Ibid., p. 25.

[19] Young, Britain, France the Unity of Europe, p. 49.

[20] NA: PRO CAB 195/5  C.M. 25 (47).

[21] Du Reau, ‘Les origins et la portée du traité de Dunkerque …’ 25.

[22] G. Bidault, D’une Résistance à l’autre (Les Presses du Siecle, 1965) p. 145; J. Chauvel, Commentaire: d’Alger à Berne, 1944-1952 (Fayard, 1972), p. 193.

The future of the Humanities in Secondary Education

International competitiveness, the demands of a high-skill, knowledge-based economy, and the global nature of technology-based industries, are all factors that have shaped the increasing prioritisation of STEM in UK government thinking in recent years. This trend has been sharpened by anxiety over international comparative data for pupil numeracy and scientific performance, resulting in significant policy and resourcing decisions, such as the establishment of Maths Hubs.

The prioritisation of STEM has also helped to inform the establishment of UTCs, and the setting up of centres that bridge and integrate knowledge between schools, colleges, universities and employers. STEM subjects have attracted specific bursaries for initial teacher training places, while subject knowledge enhancement provision is noticeably focused on these disciplines, reflecting the continuing challenges of recruiting and retaining suitably qualified graduates. Coding is now a feature of the curriculum in primary as well as secondary education, and the study of Artificial Intelligence will doubtless follow in due course. Schools are increasingly seeking to create new managerial and organisational carapaces to integrate coding, Engineering and computer-aided design with Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, while the most fortunate are investing in new physical plant and technology to realise the anticipated synergies of integration.

This much-needed investment in, and focus on, science education is to be wholly welcomed, but it does pose important questions for the equilibrium of the educational culture of our schools and, more fundamentally, the relative value we attach to the acquisition of particular sets of knowledge and skills. In particular, we need to understand the potential impact of an increasing STEM focus on those subjects that are essentially text and language based, what we might term the “broader” Humanities, including English and MFL.

Two fundamental questions need addressing: why do we need the Humanities; and what is their future? In recent years a key rationale for the study of the Humanities has been founded on the proposition of ‘transferable skills’. This argument has much to commend it, as annually many thousands of Humanities students successfully embark on a variety of career and further or higher education pathways. Students of the humanities bring aptitudes and capabilities that are particularly developed through the study of text and language-based subjects, notably by the framing of argument and debate, critical questioning, close reading, analysis, evaluation and judgement.

But to justify the Humanities principally against a yardstick of utility to particular occupational sectors and economic activities is a very incomplete proposition. To truly understand the importance of the Humanities we need to take a step back and frame our understanding in terms of the dynamic interrelationship between the component disciplines and subjects. The Humanities are at their most powerful when the constituent disciplines and subject areas are integrated to enable us to form a textured, layered and multi-dimensional understanding of human experiences. Studying the Humanities helps us to bridge the interior domains of emotion, spirit, faith, imagination and understanding, and the external domains of political and social organisation, economic activity, and associational life in all its varieties – religious, familial, cultural, sporting and intellectual.

In the opening minutes of his 1969 television series Civilisation, Kenneth Clark turned to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris with the words “What is civilisation? I don’t know. I can’t define it in abstract terms, yet I think I can recognise it when I see it.” It is through the study of the Humanities that we gain an understanding of civilisation – the endeavours of the human race to apply philosophy, culture, religion and structures of law and governance, as well as economic activity of all forms, to bring order to, and find meaning in, the shared experience of existence.

Inevitably, the Humanities will never command the same investment of resources and governmental attention as the Sciences. (The Sciences do of course need particular equipment and resources.) However, steps can and should be taken to ensure that the Humanities do not become marginalised in the future of secondary education. Action is required across two axes: the better integration of teaching and learning between subject areas within schools; and (as has been done for years in the sciences) the coordination of research and knowledge between groups of schools, universities and those vast treasuries of collective knowledge – our museums, libraries, archives and learned societies. We need Humanities Hubs as much as we need Maths Hubs.

The objective of de-siloing knowledge is not to dissolve individual academic disciplines (or indeed traditional timetables) with their distinct and valuable competencies and stores of knowledge, nor to sweep away established assessment systems, but rather to structure opportunities for cross-subject teaching and learning in as impactful a way as possible. In some respects this already happens (often unconsciously) in many schools – for example pupils in the same year studying the First World War in History, and the poetry that emerged from it in English.

But this is merely the beginning. What we really seek is an arcing effect in the mind of the student, when the mental spark leaps from the filament of their understanding of one subject, to that of the next. To achieve this we need more imaginative steps, to break down artificial barriers between humanities subjects by creating short courses, lecture series and online resources that explicitly integrate knowledge content. For example, Sixth Form students of subjects such as Philosophy, Economics, History or Politics should be accessing at least some material in a second language. The requirement of students taking the IB Diploma Programme to study a modern foreign language across both Years 12 and 13 brings considerable advantages here.

A more integrated approach to the Humanities would also present outstanding opportunities for professional collaboration, such as having two teachers from different subjects in the same classroom approaching a topic from different perspectives, or jointly moderating a pupil-led Harkness-style discussion on a common theme, or a teacher from a different subject delivering a whole-class or year-group lecture to another subject, e.g. an Economics lecture on the causes of the Great Depression for GCSE History students studying the crises of democracy of the early 1930s. The permutations of topics and themes is endless.

Many of these opportunities could be realised through collaboration between Heads of Department, but this could be facilitated more systematically by leadership decisions to create curriculum space – and allowing those subject leaders discretion and opportunities to shape collaborative projects. While cross-subject learning can be undertaken at any stage in schooling (and indeed seems to flourish in many primary schools) Sixth Form may be an advantageous environment for such projects, given the increased capacity for independent learning and potentially the greater availability of individual study time.

Due to the growing popularity of combined humanities/science and Liberal Arts degrees within the UK, students aspiring to such courses may increasingly demand exposure to such integrated subject combinations. Another structural way to facilitate integrated humanities study may also be through the creation of powerful Heads of Humanities Faculty roles, with a specific brief for enabling and coordination cross-subject learning. Tutor conversations, year-group talks and assemblies, especially at Sixth Form level, should include a poem or art work, or musical piece of the week.

A transformation in the Humanities cannot be achieved by schools acting individually, but will require a networked solution that combines both vertical integration across the secondary and tertiary tiers, and peer-to-peer school led alliances, of the type already seen in the Teaching School programme. Humanities Hubs could draw upon Britain’s extraordinary density of outstanding learned institutions – not only universities but also museums, libraries and subject institutions and professional bodies.

The increasing power of the digital humanities, especially through virtual reconstructive technologies, presents exciting opportunities to engage pupils in independent learning, as well as to remotely participate in master-classes and other teacher-led provision. The full breadth of the Humanities – including subjects such as Philosophy, Classics and Art History – could be made available to a far broader segment of the pupil population through imaginative and powerful uses of technology to counteract local shortages of expertise. Humanities Hubs could produce online content that could help to bridge the gap between Years 11-12, and also extension material for students in Years 12-13. Our most competitive-entry universities could build further on their existing outreach efforts to ensure that the Humanities do not become seen as ‘luxury’ disciplines for pupils from the best resourced schools.

Britain’s Museums, libraries, learned societies and professional bodies form a national intellectual treasury from whose riches we should draw more fully when delivering Humanities Education. I would like to see more samples from collections brought directly into schools for pupils to hold in their own hands. We also need Humanities equivalents to the perennially outstanding Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in subjects such as English literature, History, Art History and Philosophy. BBC Radio Four has blazed a trail with programmes such as Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time, and Neil Macgregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, but we need more of these, including material tailored to the smaller screens that are the preferred platforms for senior school pupils.

It would be tempting to argue that the as the study of Humanities in schools is not fundamentally broken, then it does not need fixing. The popularity of some of the Humanities in terms of Sixth Form subject choices, and continuation to degree level study, may make this call to action seem redundant. However it is only through imaginative and collaborative responses that we can ensure the continuing vitality of the Humanities within the constraints of the present educational funding environment, and in the context of significant investment in the STEM subjects.

The Humanities have much to learn from the STEM subjects in terms of clearly articulating where they fit in the bigger picture of the nation’s future, and in the marshalling and deployment of material and intellectual resources across the sectors and tiers.  Although my argument is particularly concerned here with the Humanities, there is no less of an imperative to build in collaboration with the Sciences through the study of eras such as the 17th Century Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.

The longer term dividend to be gained from a more integrated approach to the Humanities could be a higher quality of discourse and a greater respect for knowledge in our public sphere. The price to be paid for neglecting the Humanities could be a narrowed and diminished educational experience for future generations, and a society estranged from modes of thought and understanding which both complement and balance those derived from other, equally valuable, intellectual disciplines and frameworks.

The Jäger Report and Holocaust Education: a case study

The Holocaust in the “East” and in the “West”

On 1 December 1941, SS Standartenführer Karl Jäger, chief of the German Security Police in Nazi-occupied Lithuania, drafted for his superiors a nine page report detailing the activities of his unit, Einsatzkommando 3, comprising the mass-murder of the overwhelming majority of that country’s Jewish population, with operations extending into Byelorussia and Latvia.

The fourth of five original copies of this report survived the war, and was recovered by Soviet forces in Lithuania in 1944 following the withdrawal of the Germans. The report remained unknown to Western scholars until 1963, when it was made available by Soviet authorities to the West German war-crimes prosecuting authorities. Published in a 1988 German compilation of sources, and re-published in English as Klee et. al. Those Were the Days, The Holocaust as seen by Perpetrators and Bystanders (Hamish Hamilton, 1991), the report is also available in both languages in a full digital version, originally created by the Holocaust History Project and now preserved by phdn.org. Further details on the transmission and historical use of the report can be found on Holocaust Controversies.

The Jäger Report is at once both a highly valuable resource for Holocaust education, but also – due to its provenance and purpose – a challenging document which poses important questions for both student and educator. When teaching and learning the Holocaust (especially in the West) we are perhaps most familiar with those primary sources that come to us from the victims and survivors of those camps that lay in Poland and in or around the German Reich, and which have been preserved by a worldwide network of museums, educational charities and private individuals. In recent years the human link between the ageing generation of survivors and school and college-age students has been re-enforced by speaker programmes, and valuable opportunities for school pupils to visit sites of Nazi atrocity, principally the camps of Poland and Germany.

The understanding in schools of how and where the Holocaust happened, and the circumstances and contexts of mass murder, has perhaps inevitably been shaped by geography, geopolitics and also by representation in memoir, documentary and historical fiction and dramatization. The patterns of persecution of Jewish populations in Nazi-occupied Western Europe – from restrictions on daily life through to enforced registration, round-up and deportation, culminating in enslavement and murder – are well established in teaching and learning.

American and British veterans’ direct encounters with the Holocaust largely centred on the liberation of the German concentration and slave labour camps in April 1945, such as Dachau and Bergen-Belsen and their networks of satellite and sub-camps, and in the management of refugees in the post-war period. The best known account of the individual Jewish experience in Nazi occupied Europe remains Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.

In film and television the events of the Holocaust in Poland have received the most attention, whether in documentaries such as Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (1985) and Laurence Rees’s Auschwitz, The Nazis and the Final Solution (2005), and also in cinematic representations, such as Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993), Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002) and most recently in László Nemes’ Son of Saul (2016).

Geopolitical factors have also helped to shape the Western popular understanding of the Holocaust. The rapid deterioration in East-West relations following the end of the Second World War in Europe limited access to sites connected to the Holocaust on Soviet territory, and also to documentary evidence. Scenes of Holocaust atrocity in the states of the former Soviet Union were not easily accessible until the 1990s. In addition, the Communist authorities’ approach to commemoration had been to emphasize all civilian dead as having being Soviet citizens, often excluding references to Jews even at sites where they were the principal or sole victims of atrocity.

While many of the locations of atrocity in Germany, Poland and elsewhere in central Europe have become significant centres of memorialisation and remembrance, with hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, there is no such general cultural familiarity in the West with the locations of Nazi genocide on former Soviet territory, such as Babi Yar (Ukraine) or Ponary (Lithuania).

The distinct chronology of the Holocaust on former Soviet territory, and its exceptionally broad distribution, encompassing thousands of sites of incarceration, forced labour and mass killing, poses further challenges in terms of education and awareness. While very large numbers of Jews in occupied Soviet territory were concentrated in ghettoes, such as those at Wilna and Kaunas, before being transferred to killing sites, it is also the case that many others were murdered in a constellation of localised actions. Many of the Jews in occupied Soviet territory were murdered close to their homes – often within a 4-5 km radius, as Jäger himself noted in his report.

Of these smaller locations, many are only recorded, if at all, by local monuments, and others are perhaps already lost to living memory. Yad Vashem’s comprehensive list of sites of murder and suffering (including GPS coordinates) will help to mitigate the risk of their obliteration from memory, and yet the contours and phases of the Holocaust in the East remain poorly understood relative to events in Central and Western Europe. Only when we make more use of evidence relating to the Holocaust in the East in teaching and learning will this imbalance be rectified.

Using the Jäger Report to help us to understand the Holocaust in the East  

Between early July and late November 1941  Einsatzkommando 3 carried out the mass-murder of Lithuania’s Jews, which was part of a broader campaign of extermination across all Soviet and Soviet-annexed territory that came under German occupation. The deployment of these mobile killing squads, following the German Army into Soviet territory, was integral to the SS’s plans for the racial and political re-ordering of the East, to be achieved through the murder of Jews, Communists, Roma and any who opposed occupation.

The mass killings of Lithuanian Jews detailed in the Jäger Report were carried out at close range by firing squads, and took two main forms. In many instances the victims were held in ghettoes such as that at the Vilijampolė district of Kaunas, before being taken to central locations, such the historic Kaunas Forts (principally numbers IV, VII and IX), or from the Wilna locality to Ponary (Paneriai), which had been converted to sites of mass execution.  However, in other instances, especially in August and September 1941, the mobile killing squad (Rollkommando) of EK 3, led by Jäger’s deputy, the Baltic German Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann, itinerated between towns, killing the Jewish populations and others that had been concentrated from each locality.

The Jäger Report helps us to understand a number of dimensions of the Holocaust that we could not gain solely from the study of events in Western and Central Europe. The first of these relates to chronology. Studying the actions of the Einsatzgrüppen in Soviet territory, particularly in the months covered by the Jäger Report, highlights the sheer scale and intensity of murder by shooting that followed immediately in the wake of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. As Browning notes (Origins of the Final Solution, p. 244), by December 1941 between 500,000 – 800,000 Jews had been murdered on Soviet territory, to which total Jäger’s EK 3 contributed well in excess of 130,000 victims.

Other than those actions perpetrated by Lithuanian militias without direct German supervision, the great majority of the killings listed in Jäger’s report was carried out by the Rollkommando of 8-10 German security police supported by 60-80 Lithuanian volunteers. According to Jäger’s report, responsibilities were rotated, with around 20 at any one time involved in the shootings, and the remainder involved in guarding and escorting the victims. The rotation of responsibilities hints at the growing concerns within the SS leadership about the psychological effects on its police and security units of murdering by firing squad, which was one of the factors behind the increasing recourse to the use of gas, whether in mobile vans or, especially in Poland, through stationary facilities and extermination camps.

The Jäger Report illustrates not only a step-change in the scale and scope of mass-murder on Soviet and Soviet-annexed territory, but also the degree to which local commanders sought to improvise and take the initiative, often correctly assessing the direction of policy from Berlin, but also on occasions drawing criticism for overstepping the mark in terms of expanding the category of those to be killed. The growing scale and frequency with which Jewish women and children were killed in Lithuania from July and August 1941 enables us to the see “at ground level” the rapid shift from the mass murder of predominantly adult males to a genocidal campaign that encompassed entire families, and therefore entire communities, most likely at the instigation of Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, and other members of the higher SS leadership.

The murder of five transports of almost five thousand German and Austrian Jews in Kaunas Fort IX on 25 and 29 November 1941 shows the intersection of the fates of the German and Eastern Jews in the months before gassing facilities were widely operational. (Browning, Origins of the Final Solution, p. 376.) It was perhaps with an eye to the complexities of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws (and also to the possibility of being called to account) that Jäger described one of his victims as being a “Reich German who converted to the Jewish faith and attended rabbinical school.” The killing of a German woman married to a Jew is also noted at Mariampole on 1 September.  Browning observes (Origins of the Final Solution, pp. 305-6)  that Jäger’s murder of these German Jews who were scheduled for “resettlement” appears to have been undertaken on his own initiative, which illustrates how the scope and pace of the Holocaust was determined by local decisions as well as by directives from Berlin.  Similarly, the shooting of a Jewish American man and woman, at Kaunas Fort IX on 2 August 1941, seems unlikely to have been approved from above, especially given that the USA was still officially neutral, even at the time when Jäger wrote his report.

Examples of Jewish resistance can also be found in the report. As more than 2,000 Jewish men, women and children were being led away at Zagare on 2 October 1941 “a mutiny arose, which was immediately put down; 150 Jews were shot immediately…”  Other events described in the Report as Jewish acts of resistance were in fact provocations orchestrated by the Germans, such as that of 30 August 1941, in which a shooting incident attributed to the Jews was used to justify their expulsion from Wilna Old Town and their concentration in newly designated ghettoes. This accounts for the Sonderaktion (special action) undertaken by EK 3 on 2 September, in response to “German soldiers shot at by Jews” which resulted in 3,700 deaths. (For details see Chronicles of the Vilna Ghetto.)

The Jäger Report also helps us to understand the inter-agency conflicts that were an endemic feature of Nazi rule in Eastern Europe, often pitting the security police, with their brief for racial re-organisation through forced relocation and mass murder, against civil administrators, the army and armaments officials, who contested among themselves access to, and control of, Jewish labour in the ghettoes. Jäger finishes the statistical section of his report by noting that his intention to kill the 45,000 Lithuanian Jewish workers and their families that remained in the ghettoes at Schaulen, Kaunas and Wilna was thwarted, at least for the time being, by “strong protests on the part of the civil administration (the Reichskommissar) and the Wehrmacht.”

While the report is overwhelmingly concerned with accounting for the sequential annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry, it also offers broader insight into the racial and political priorities of the SS in the occupied Soviet Union, and of the Nazis’ attitudes to others who had no place in the new Ostland. The single largest category of non-Jewish victims was recorded as “Communists.” This presents some definitional problems, as within this category some of the victims are more narrowly defined as Politruk (Commissars) whose murder had been formally authorised by the Army High Command on 6 June 1941, and others as “NKVD agents”, while the identities of the great majority receive no further elaboration. This raises the question as to whether their targeting was, at least in part, due to pressure from the local nationalist (and fiercely Anti-Semitic and Anti-Communist) militias which had independently initiated the murder of the Jews before EK 3 had taken control, and on which the Germans were heavily reliant.

The mass murder of psychiatric patients is also noted on two occasions – an overt extension of the supposedly clandestine policy that was already underway within the boundaries of the Old Reich, a campaign in which techniques of killing by poison gas were also being refined. Compared to the “Aktion T4” programme inside Germany, which by this time had become a matter of growing public controversy, the murdering of entire psychiatric hospitals could be undertaken with brazen speed and force in the occupied territories.

Small numbers of Soviet POWs were also killed by EK 3 within the timeframe of the report, although this does not appear to have been a significant feature of this unit’s operations, assuming the accuracy of Jäger’s figures. The shooting of a Roma family on 22 August at Dünauburg reminds us that this community was also subject to extermination on racial grounds. Jäger’s report also includes examples of punitive and reprisal killings against non-Jews for specific activities – for example the mayor of Jonava who was shot at Ukmerge on 1 August for supposedly having ordered the burning of the village. The specific justifications that were given for individual killings in these categories is perhaps indicative of the Nazis’ concern to avoid alienating those Lithuanians sympathetic to the occupation.

The final one and a half sheets of Jäger’s report are dedicated to observations regarding the clearance of prisons (“which as far as hygiene was concerned, defied description”), which he deemed to be “one of Einsatzkommando 3’s most important duties.” According to Jäger, on average each town had over 600 prison inmates, many of whom he considered to be the innocent victim of false denunciations for Communist sympathies, such as teenage girls who had apparently applied to join the Communist Youth League “in order to gain work.” On the occasion of the inspection of Jonava prison, Jäger carried out a a very public division of the inmates into three categories: “criminals, Communist officials, Politruks and other riff-raff (Gesindel)” who were shot (in some cases following a whipping); those serving shorter sentences who appear to have continued their detention; and the “quite harmless” who were released after a public homily, translated simultaneously into Lithuanian and Russian, that included the line “If we were Bolsheviks we would have shot you but as we are Germans we are giving you back your freedom.”

Jäger’s narrative digression here offers us the German occupiers’ perspective on the bitter ethnic and political tensions that pervaded Lithuania in the convulsive months surrounding the Soviet withdrawal and the German invasion.  In June 1940, following the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the USSR had occupied the Baltic States, including Lithuania. The repression of Baltic nationalists by the soviet security forces led groups such as the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) to mobilise and radicalise Anti-Semitism into the Anti-Soviet cause, in anticipation of German “liberation.” The deliberate identification of the Jews with the Soviet invader and the repression of the NKVD, was not simply left to local sentiment, but was actively promoted by Kazys Skirpa, a politician in German exile since 1940, and intensified in the months leading up to the German invasion. (Browning, Origins of the Final Solution, p. 270.)  That Anti-Semitic groups – not only in Lithuania, but also across the western fringes of the Soviet Union – felt confident to begin mass killings in anticipation of the approach of German forces, and well before the Einsatzgrüppen could assert their control, helps to account for the speed and scale of the murders. (For further examples, see Klee et. al., Those Were the Days, p. 91 and passim.) Without the bitter mix of ethnic and political tensions in Lithuania in 1941, Jäger’s to ability harness active local support to kill in such large numbers would doubtless have been inhibited.

Jäger remained as Chief of Security Police in Lithuania until September 1943, after which he was redeployed to a similar role in the Sudetenland. Although Swiss by birth, he remained in West Germany after the War, and worked in agriculture near Heidelberg until his arrest in April 1959. He committed suicide in Hohenasperg prison on 22 June 1959, while awaiting trial, leaving a suicide note in which he denied responsibility for mass murder, diverting blame to the Lithuanians, and to Hamann,  who himself had committed suicide on 13 July 1945.

The murder of Jews in Lithuania continued until the German evacuation in 1944, and included further mass killings of children and adults, and deportations to camps such as that at Stutthof in German-occupied Danzig-West Prussia, where further killings occurred until the collapse of the Reich. EK 3 was, of course, far from being the only German unit involved in the Holocaust in Lithuania.

The structure of the Jäger Report

The Jäger Report is a nine sheet document, six of which are tabulations of killing activities, beginning with the date (usually a single day), the location, the composition of the victims (differentiating between male and female, and from August stating whether children were included) and then a total.

While the report does enable the reader to track the movements of EK 3’s killing squads, and to produce cumulative totals (which are given at the end and beginning of each sheet), it is not purely linear in its chronology, reflecting the shifting geographical priorities and focus of EK 3 at various points, and possibly the interpolation of figures that may not have originated directly from German personnel.

The report can be understood as having five sections:

The first section runs from 4 July 1941 on Sheet 1 to 29 November 1941 on Sheet 5, concentrating principally on killings in Kaunas, Mariampole, Panevezys and Rasainiai.  References to the killing of children begin to appear around 18th August.

This is followed by a record of killings of Jewish men, women and children in the Pogulanka forest at Dünauburg (Daugavpils in Lithuanian), where a ghetto was located in the old fortress citadel. The killings occurred between 13 July and 21 August but, unlike the first section, without daily totals.  Given that this series of shootings accounted for 9,585 victims, I have tabulated it separately even though the original document treats it as a continuation of the first section.  The killing of 573 “Active Communists” is also recorded in this total, but with no further elaboration.

The third section (bottom of Sheet 5 and Sheet 6) is focused on killings in and around Wilna beginning on 12 August and ending on 25 November.  The section begins with a summary of killings from 12 August to 1 September, but the remaining entries are all for separate dates.  The dated entries for the Wilna killings differ from those in the first section as they are almost exclusively concerned with the mass murder of Jewish men, women and children, averaging over 1,000 for each occasion.

The fourth section (Sheet 6) records the deployment of elements of EK 3 to Minsk between 28 September and 17 October 1941.  Killings at five locations are detailed, and totals are given for men, women and children, but no individual dates are given.

In Sheets 7 to 9 Jäger details the residual Jewish population held in ghettoes, and then reflects on the logistics of collection, transportation and murder.  His account ends with EK 3’s role in prison inspections, and particularly that of Jonava.

The statistics contained in the Jäger Report

Statistics from the Jaeger Report

The Jäger Report has been extensively quoted in Holocaust literature because of the richness of its data, including dates, locations, totals and the categorisation of victims, including women and children. However, there are instances where the Jäger Report’s details are less comprehensive, thereby diminishing its precision and clarity.

For example, on 26 and 27 November 1941, no sub-totals are provided for the nearly 3,000 men, women and children killed at Kaisadorys and Prienai. (In the table above I have created a category to take account of instances when the killings were reported in this manner.) The same applies to the entry for “mopping up” in Georgenburg (Yurburg), from 25 August to 6 September, where 412 men, women and children were killed.

Accurately totalling the killing of women and children is problematic in instances when the killings were not directly carried out by EK 3 personnel. The final entry in Jäger’s list is the addition of exactly 4,000 Jews killed in “pogroms and executions” prior to EK 3’s takeover in the locality. As this figure is undated and without any reference to any specific locations, its inclusion within Jäger’s total seems slightly anomalous. (In the table above I have treated this figure as referring to Jewish males, but uncertainty remains over the composition of this group of victims.)

The total of 137,346 deaths at the foot of the Jäger report is a widely quoted statistic that truthfully conveys the scale of the murders, but it is arithmetically problematic. There are several instances in the report where the component figures do not tally with the totals: the Alytus total for 13 August over-counts by one to 719; the Kaunas Fort IV total for 18 August over-counts by nine to 1812; the slightly confusing entry for the Dünauburg prison shootings on 22 August appears to under-count by 1 to 21; the entry for Wilna on 12 September under-counts by 100.

My conclusion in the table above counts the total for the report as being 137,439, of whom 135,383 were specifically recorded as being Jewish. (For an alternative adjusted figure of 137,437 see the Holocaust Controversies site.)

Using the Jäger Report in teaching and learning

“Is this everybody who died in the Holocaust on that day?”  This is a question that I was asked by a pupil when I first used the Report as a learning resource with my GCSE class.  Without giving them any contextual information about the document, I sliced up the killing records horizontally and tipped the strips of text out on to a large desk around which the class was arranged. I gave them little in the way of further instruction but they began to read to each other the now randomized details of killing and began to reassemble them date by date. I then guided them more closely by asking them to go online to identify the Lithuanian place names, none of which was familiar to them.  By gradually adding further information, and allowing the class to start drawing inferences from the material, we began to tentatively reconstruct the evidence in front of us.

To read, line by line, the destruction of the Jewish communities of Lithuania across the Autumn of 1941 is a sobering experience. It is (self-evidently) a document generated by mass murderers that reduced annihilated communities of men, women and children to rows and columns of statistics. How do we avoid perpetuating the objectification of the victims for whom Jäger’s neatly typed rows and columns are such a grotesquely unfitting memorial? The only two individual names that appear are those of Jäger himself, in the form of his signature, and of Joachim Hamann. When using the report in teaching and learning I am torn between the imperative of communicating the scale of the destruction, with the need to ‘restore’ – even at some token level – individual and familial identity.

Below you can find a plan for a lesson (or series of lessons) using both the Jäger Report and contextual evidence for Lithuanian Jewish life from the online collections of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).

Lesson Plan

Part 1:

Objective: Contextualising Jewish life in Lithuania before June 1941.

Task: Using the USHMM’s collection of photographs of Lithuanian Jewish life prior to 1941, create a visual display showing examples Jewish family, economic and associational life.   The Yaffa Eliach Collection is particularly compelling in its detailing of Jewish life in Esiskes (Eysisky in the Jäger Report). Several hundred other photographs exist showing Jewish life, just one example among many being the Kaplan family of Kaunas (Kovno).

Part 2:

Objective: Understanding the scale and pace of the destruction of the Jewish communities of Lithuania, and other victims, July – November 1941.

Task: Using the Statistics from the Jaeger Report, interrogate the data to show

-the cumulative statistics for the mass murders of Jews in Lithuania

-the shifting ratio of male/female and adult/child victims in the Jewish communities of Lithuania

-the relative scale of the killing operations in various locations

-victims other than the Jewish communities

Part 3:

Objective: to understand the importance of witness and memory

Task: using the recorded testimony of survivors of the Holocaust in Lithuania, in the collections of the USHMM, explain how a museum can help to preserve memories of the events detailed in the Jäger Report.

Suggested resources from the USHMM interviews:

Extended interview with Avraham Tory, especially parts 5 and 6.

Interview with Abraham Malnik

Interview with Nesse Galperin Godin

Interview with Dora Goldstein Roth

What questions would you ask in such an interview?



Sources used:

-C. R. Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy (Arrow edition, London, 2005).

-E. Klee., W. Dressen & V. Riess, Those were the Days, The Holocaust as seen by the perpetrators and bystanders (English language edition, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1991).

-The website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum



-The Jäger Report (unabridged text in German and English) from pdhn.org



-Holocaust Education Education & Archive Research Team



-Holocaust Controversies Blog



A Note on place names:

In this document I have used the place names in their Germanised forms as they appear in the report.

Wilna is also known as Vilnius and Vilna; Kaunas/Kauen as Kovno; and Dünauburg as Daugavpils.

Why the Humanities need more subject-based professional learning

The growth of knowledge-focused professional learning in Maths and the Sciences has been a notable and welcome feature of teacher education and development in recent years.

This STEM emphasis is hardly surprising given, among other factors, the significant difficulties experienced by many schools in recruiting and retaining teachers with the appropriate degree qualifications in these subject areas. Successive governments, employers and professional bodies have, rightly, worried about the impact that non-specialist Science and Maths teaching may have on national competitiveness in areas such as industry, research and the technology sector.

However, there is just as much need for teacher knowledge enhancement in the Arts and Humanities. In order to ensure that as many young people as possible have access to inspiring and textured teaching, there is an imperative to unlock the very best of Humanities subject knowledge to be found not only in universities, but also in the highest performing schools and colleges, of all types.
Whereas teacher knowledge enhancement in the Sciences can be dependent on facilities that may be costly to access or to commit to such purposes, in the Humanities there are perhaps fewer barriers to professionals accessing and sharing knowledge, especially given the ease and low cost of online forms of exchange.
There is surely an opportunity for the best resourced Humanities departments to share subject knowledge with professionals in other schools, where there may be lighter concentrations of specialism. (I am not, however, implying any crude or automatic relationship between absence of specialism and quality of teaching and learning, but merely noting that this may be an inhibitor, in some instances, to pupil progress in these contexts, particularly at sixth form.)
Teaching School alliances, and other partnerships and networks of varying types, working with universities, and the great libraries and museums, could be the mechanisms for  powerful exchanges of professional and subject knowledge in the humanities.
If, through local and regional collaboration, and the better networking of teacher knowledge, professionals can support each other in deepening their subject confidence, then perhaps more pupils from a wider variety of contexts will have a richer and more profound experience of learning, with a potential benefit of widened access to the most competitive humanities degrees courses.

Politics and presents in the age of Richard II

End of year gift-giving was a well-established practice in the middle ages, but was done at New Year rather than at Christmas. For the social and political elites, especially the higher nobility, gift-giving fulfilled several functions. It re-enforced ties of kinship and affinity; it asserted status; and cultivated and rewarded sympathetic behaviour in the invisible but nonetheless very real parallel political structure of private influence and patronage.

Some of the best records for late medieval gift-giving come from Henry of Lancaster, earl of Derby (and later King Henry IV) during two New Years, that of 1393-4 spent at Hertford Castle, and that of 1397-8, at least part of which was spent as a guest of the countess of Norfolk at Framlingham Castle. The records of Henry’s gift-giving are particularly well preserved, in part because he was able to draw upon the scribal bureaucracy of his father, the greatest nobleman of later medieval England, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster (1340-1399).

Although an adult (born 1367) and a very wealth nobleman in his own right, Henry’s obligations and expenses were more than the revenues generated by the estates he enjoyed through his wife, the heiress Mary Bohun, and therefore he relied for about a third of his income on a direct grant charged from the duchy of Lancaster lands at Tutbury (Staffordshire) and Bolingbroke (Lincolnshire), his birthplace.  John of Gaunt’s concern to keep an eye on his son’s expenditure may help to account for the quality and clarity of the record-keeping in the duchy of Lancaster records.

The gifts given by Earl Henry at Hertford Castle on New Year’s Day 1394 were made into the hands of trusted servants of the ultimate recipients, who in turn were doubtless bringing gifts from their masters.  These were no mere hired couriers, but go-betweens of some social status, who would have been familiar with the etiquette of the great households of fourteenth century England, and were trusted with the full panoply of their masters’ private and public business, in peace and war. Indeed, only one of these messengers was described as a ‘valet’ rather than an ‘esquire.’ The payment of a gift, averaging £1, to each of these messengers further confirmed the earl’s munificence and doubtless helped to spread tales of his ‘good lordship’ within broader society, as well as perhaps emphasising the imperative of safe delivery, were it needed. (Given that a gentleman of some standing might expect an annual retainer of around £6 from a wealthier lord, this confirms the extent of Earl Henry’s investment in his reputation.)  As well as being extravagantly paid, the messengers were well fed on oysters, mussels and sprats brought from London, and feted by six minstrels, who had been hired ‘for Christmas’ prudently early on the preceding 26 October.

Earl Henry’s familia and social milieu can be reconstructed from his gifts. King Richard II (Earl Henry’s cousin) was gifted ‘a jewel with a crown and twelve pearls’ valued at £9 10s 10d, equal to the entire annual landed income of many an esquire. The Queen received ‘a collar of four jewels with thirty five pearls’ and Eleanor Bohun, duchess of Gloucester (the Earl’s aunt by marriage and also the sister of his own wife, Mary) received a similar collar of ‘three sapphires and twenty-six pearls’. The earl’s mother-in-law, Joan Bohun, dowager countess of Hereford and Essex, received ‘a tablet in the fashion of a tabernacle with an image of the Virgin Mary’, while England’s other most powerful widow, the countess of Norfolk, received a gold jewel.

The pieces given by Earl Henry included bespoke commissions from London’s top goldsmiths.  Thomas Mowbray, Earl Marshal (the grandson of the countess of Norfolk mentioned above) received a gold tablet by William Lannan, while Katherine, the wife of Earl Henry’s chief steward, Sir Hugh Waterton, received a gold ring by Drew Barrentine, one of the wealthiest craftsmen and citizens of London.  Donna Sancha de Ayala, the Castilian wife of Sir Walter Blount, Chamberlain of the Household of the earl’s father John of Gaunt, received a ‘gold ring with a ruby’ by Thomasin Flory.  Perhaps Earl Henry’s most tactical gift was a ‘jewel in the shape of an eagle’ (a Lancastrian family symbol) to his father’s mistress (and soon to be his step-mother) Katherine Swynford.  Sir Thomas Erpingham, another devoted Lancastrian retainer, received a ‘gold tablet in the shape of a book.’  To ensure that the earl’s children (possibly including a six-year-old future Henry V) were properly dressed for the festive season, their governess Marie Hervey had been issued grants of cloth at the beginning of December.

Four years later Henry of Lancaster’s household met again for New Year, but in very different circumstances.  In the summer of 1397 Richard II had turned against opponents of his policies, most notably two great magnates who had resisted his policies in the 1380s, his uncle Thomas, duke of Gloucester, and the earl of Arundel. Gloucester was secretly smothered to death in Calais, while Arundel was tried for treason and beheaded.  Earl Henry was rewarded for his acquiescence in the deaths (Gloucester was his uncle, and Arundel the brother of his mother-in-law Joan Bohun) with the title duke of Hereford, while Thomas Mowbray was made duke of Norfolk, even though his grandmother Countess Margaret yet lived, retaining the Norfolk estates – and now elevated to the title of duchess in her own right.  It was at her seat of Framlingham Castle that Duke Henry appears to have celebrated at least some of the New Year of 1397-8.

The shape of Duke Henry’s family was now very different from four years previously. Mary Bohun had died in childbirth in June 1394, and Henry remained a widow. Constance of Castile, duchess of Lancaster, had died three months earlier, and Henry had gained a new stepmother, Katherine Swynford, who married John of Gaunt in 1396.  Richard II had lost his first Queen, Anne of Bohemia, also in 1394, but two years later married Isabella, the daughter of Charles VI of France.

Duke Henry’s gifts of 1 January 1398 help us to chart both his changing family matrix, and other transitions in the top ranks of society.  Richard II (whose birthday was 6 January) received as a gift ‘An image of St John the Baptist’, his patron saint to whom he was utterly devoted, while the new Queen, Isabella of France, still a child, received ‘a crown with gold and pearls’. Gold tablets were a particular feature of Henry’s gift-giving that New Year, as recipients of these included his father, his new step-mother, his older sister Elizabeth, countess of Huntingdon, as well as his host, the duchess of Norfolk, and her great grand-daughter, Elizabeth Mowbray, then aged about four years old.  Duke Henry’s own son, Thomas, later duke of Clarence, then aged around eleven, received a silver cup, worth £4 7s 6d.

As well as the expected gift-giving among his wider family circle, Duke Henry also rewarded the duchess of Norfolk’s household staff at Framlingham.  Coral paternosters (prayer beads) were distributed to the keeper of the duchess’s household, John Wylmer, and to her treasurer, John Selby. Paternosters in gold boxes were also given to the duchesses’ ladies-in-waiting – Isabella Bassingbourne, Margaret Winter, Alice Milkfield, Alice Allerton, Elizabeth Greenford, Elizabeth Benyfield, Margaret Bassingbourne and Milicent. When these items are added to the cost of an image given to the duchesses’ confessor, the total spent by Duke Henry on presents to her household staff totalled £7 4s 8d.

Overall, at New Year 1398, Duke Henry spent £112 2s 10d on gifts. Given that an earl might be expected to have an income of at least £600, this level of expenditure was extraordinary, and reveals how much of a priority it was for Duke Henry.  While Henry was a man with exceptional expectations of future inheritance from his father, other great noblemen and women dug similarly deeply into their cash reserves to project their status and re-enforce their networks of kinship and relationship.

The following two years were highly turbulent for Duke Henry, and for many of those who featured among the recipients of his largesse. In the summer of 1398 he quarrelled bitterly with Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, each alleging to Richard II bad faith against the other touching the events around the murder of the duke of Gloucester in the previous year. Richard II summoned both Henry and Thomas to trial by combat at Coventry on 16 September 1398, but at the moment of battle he stayed the proceedings, sentencing the former for ten years, the latter for life.

John of Gaunt died on 3 February 1399 while his son Duke Henry was exiled in Paris. The taking into crown hands of the vast Lancastrian inheritance, worth about £11,000 annually, was the stated reason for Henry’s decision to breach the terms of his exile and return to England, capitalising on Richard II’s absence on an expedition in Ireland.  Unlike another French exile, Henry Tudor, eighty-six years later, Henry of Lancaster did not have to fight a full-scale battle to unseat King Richard II, as his support dwindled and disintegrated in August 1399.

Henry of Lancaster, notwithstanding his earlier promises just to be claiming his paternal inheritance, seized the throne, becoming King Henry IV (reigned 1399-1413). Shortly after an attempt to free Richard orchestrated by his supporters in January 1400, the former king was probably murdered on Henry’s orders. Among those to perish at this was Henry’s brother-in-law, the earl of Huntingdon, husband of his sister Elizabeth, and half-brother to Richard II, and one of the leading actors in the botched attempt at his restoration. Huntingdon was reputedly killed at Pleshey Castle in January 1400 on the orders of Henry’s mother-in-law, the formidable Joan Bohun, in delayed vengeance for his support for Richard II’s execution of her own brother, the earl of Arundel, and his murder of her son-in-law, the duke of Gloucester, both in 1397.

Thomas Mowbray would never live to see the long-anticipated inheritance that in normal circumstances would have come to him following Duchess Margaret’s death on 24 March 1399, as he himself died still an exile in Venice, possibly having succumbed to the plague, on 22 September. Beautifully watermarked letters from the Venetian Ambassador Antonio Bembo, endorsed by Doge Michele Steno himself, pursuing debts of 750 ducats incurred by the duke in his final months, sit apparently unanswered among the letters received by Henry IV in 1404.

King Henry IV, although surviving repeated revolts and attempts on his life, had bitter relations within his Parliament over his spending and struggled to live within his means, a pattern well-established by his New Year gift-giving while a younger man.

The main sources for this article were the account roles of William Loveney, clerk to the Great Wardrobe of Henry of Lancaster for 1393-4 (NA PRO DL 28/1/4) and for 1397-8  (NA PRO DL 28/1/6). Reference was also made to DL 41/10/41/1 & 10, transcribed by K. B. McFarlane in his papers, and to BL Cotton Nero B. VII, 15 & 17.

To learn more about high value gifts in late medieval England, a great starting point is the online catalogue of King Richard II’s treasure list, created by Dr Jenny Stratford, which is available on http://www.history.ac.uk/richardII/roll.html

Dining into the EEC

While there is a rich historiography surrounding the formal negotiations for Britain’s entry into the the EEC, the role played by diplomatic hospitality has received comparatively less attention, and yet considerable resources were thrown into this, notably in the years 1968-1970. There is, of course, nothing new to diplomatic hospitality, as this has always been a key facet of the application of “soft power.”

The hospitality records of Christopher (later Lord) Soames for 1968-1972, while HM Ambassador to Paris, reveal the scale of this “campaign.” The drop-off in receptions for the year Sep 1971-1972 may perhaps be attributable to the agreement in principle reached with President Pompidou, during lunch meetings with Prime Minister Edward Heath at the Embassy on 21-22 May 1971, that France would not oppose British accession.

chart 9

The attendance list for Paris Embassy receptions reads like a Who’s Who of post-1945 France, excepting of course President Charles de Gaulle (d. 9 November 1970), whose absence is scarcely surprising given the bruising vetoes that he applied against the British membership applications in 1963 and 1967.

The spectrum of those who attended was, nonetheless, broad, including tough Gaullists such as Couve de Murville, who had opposed earlier British accession attempts. British hospitality reached into the inner workings of the French state, and groups of Prefects (lunch, 15 Feb 1970) and Deputies (lunch, 14 March 1972) were also welcomed.

Prominent recipients of hospitality included:

L=Lunch; D = Dinner

Alphand, Hervé: D 2 Dec 1969; L 19 Oct 1970

Beuve-Méry, Hubert [editor, Le Monde]: L 24 Mar 1969; drinks 30 Nov 1970

Chirac, Jacques: L 30 Nov 1971

Couve de Murville, Maurice: D 4 Mar 1970

Debré, Michel: L 20 Nov 1970; L 21 Apr 1971; L 28 Apr 1972

Faure, Edgar: drinks 8 Nov 1971

Mitterand, François: L 28 Jan 1969; L 22 Jul 1971

Monnet, Jean: L 2 Mar 1970; L 16 Sep 1970

Pompidou, Georges: L 22 May 1971

Schuman, Robert: L 21 Jan 1970; D 17 Apr 1970

Extension teaching and learning for Sixth Form History. What’s next ?

As the season for university applications approaches, the question of how to most effectively extend sixth form student learning becomes topical. Of course there is no generic answer for all subjects. In a quantitative/numerical based subject the progression between levels of difficulty and challenge can be more immediately evident to the student for many reasons, including the accessibility (or otherwise) of the exercise, and the fact that attainment can be measured against agreed criteria, such as whether a process or formula has been applied correctly.

For the student and teacher of the Humanities the development of an extension programme is, perhaps, a more complex task. For my own subject of History there appear to be three main approaches – each with its own merits and limitations. These are, of course, combinable and in no sense mutually exclusive.

1.Widening the circumference of the student’s engagement with the syllabus topics by encouraging reading of academic monographs and other specialist literature, rather than reliance on textbooks, or teacher-generated distillations.

The advantage of this approach is that student may already have a foundation of contextual knowledge that will offer a platform to gain a more advanced understanding. The student may encounter some fantastic writing, and gain an appreciation of the skill involved in constructing narrative (yes, narrative) argument and analysis. The limitation is, perhaps inevitably, that the student’s awareness of other historical topics is not broadened as much as if the reading were done for an off-syllabus topic.

2. Approaching the subject through its philosophical foundations and historiography.

There are essentially two sub-sets to this approach, which can of course be blended. One is via the rich literature in the “What is History ?” genre. Sir Rees Davies once lamented that when historians attain a certain degree of eminence, they stop writing History and start writing about each other.  This was a pardonable exaggeration, but a number of highly distinguished historians have forayed into this area, including Sir Geoffrey Elton, J. H. Hexter, and Sir Richard Evans, whose glorious historiographical street-brawl, In Defence of History, is a must-read. These books can be a great introduction to the debates about the nature and evolution of History as a discipline, but are at their most effective if they lead the student into reading at least some of the authors mentioned by the historiographer. Otherwise, the student can become like the medieval felon who recites a verse of scripture to claim benefit of clergy, without any understanding of what they have just said.

The other sub-set of this approach is to engage with texts that are particularly characteristic of an historical school or movement. A typical pathway is to engage with social and economic History, in part as a means of finding something that is an alternative to the political and military History that is so prevalent in the examined syllabus.  This can be an exceptionally rich and varied wing of History, and was predominant in the discipline from the 1950s to the 1970s. Although often susceptible to aridity (and sometimes derided for this with varying degrees of fairness by other historians) Social and Economic History can be a useful corrective to an “intentionalist” conception of History that overly privileges the actions of powerful men and women.

My suggestion here is for the teacher and student to look beyond the obvious ports of call. References in personal statements to Le Roy Ladurie’s use of primary sources, “against the grain” of their creator’s intentions, in his admittedly wonderful Montaillou, must have become somewhat tiresome for the longer-serving gatekeepers to the world’s most competitive History and liberal arts degree courses.

The hardier may venture into E. P. Thompson’s now neglected The Making of the English Working Class or set out on the vast and choppy waters of Fernand Braudel’s Mediterranean or dabble in Keith Thomas’s Religion and the Decline of Magic. The resurgence of biography since the 1980s and the enduring popularity of narrative history for periods such as the Tudors and 20th century dictatorships and wars, has rather resulted in these old masters being re-hung in the less visited corners of the historiographical gallery. There are, of course, more recent and accessible paths into this genre (in the broadest sense) – try for example Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and The Worms and Peter Linebaugh’s The London Hanged.

Both these sub-sets of approach No.2 can open the student’s eyes to a world of historical writing in which the conceptual and methodological principles are more overtly detectable than in, say, biography or military history (two genres which I am in no way denigrating). However, the challenge can come when the student needs to re-integrate their understanding of these approaches back into their own sense of what it is to study History. The risk is that the label of “Whig” or “Annalist” obscures all the other features of that historian’s spadework, craft, knowledge and imagination.

3. Guiding the student to a particular off-syllabus topic that is in a timespan or region that is not on the taught syllabus.

There is much to be said for this approach, as it requires the student to engage not only with different types of evidence, but sometimes with entirely different assumptions about polities, institutions, cultures, sex and race and modes of living, working, and thinking.  New vistas can be opened up, in areas such as non-European History, Medieval History, and the History of minorities and the excluded.  Such an approach relies fairly heavily on the teacher’s familiarity with the material (and their preparation and delivery time, no less) to guide the student through this unfamiliar landscape. The issue of resourcing is perhaps less prohibitive in an age when a bounty of free resources is instantly available from national libraries, archives, digitisation projects, universities and educational charities and programmes.  However, coordinating and arranging this material into a course of study can nonetheless be a major task.

Ideas for a new approach to History extension teaching

The student of History who has the good fortune to have a teacher who introduces then to any one of the above approaches will certainly benefit as this support will doubtless help them to think critically about History and expand and deepen their engagement with the subject.

However I think that extension work could do more to bridge both the gap between History and other subjects, and between how History is studied at school, and what academic historians do in universities.  I have three proposals below.

1.Studying History through the medium of a second language. Any student who wishes to study History should attempt to engage in some of form of text or writing in a second language – whether ancient or modern. Teachers of History and languages should collaborate to make this happen.

(I will return to this point again in the future.)

2.The use of digital technologies. History as a subject has lagged behind other disciplines in its adoption of reconstructive and immersive technologies. Just as GIS has already begun to revolutionise the teaching of Geography, it has that potential for History too. Even more recently, the University of St Andrews’ Smart History project has enabled the individual to walk through virtual streets reconstructed from historic maps. The potential for this is extraordinary, but is as yet in its infancy. Who interested in History would not want to walk the streets of Vermeer’s Delft, or of pre-1666 London, or of medieval Baghdad?

3. Archives, Libraries and Museums.  National, regional and town archives and museums are often neglected treasures for teaching and learning with vast collections of Historical documentation. We can use them to access so much History – whether charters from Norman barons gifting land to abbeys, or the records of Early Modern charities, or how communities developed and evolved through industrialisation and immigration. Every student applying for a History degree should spend a day with a collection of documents, and should produce some form of written response based on their reading of a pre-20th century hand-written document.

The pre-history of the Conservative Party’s European difficulties

As the Conservative Government negotiates the terms of Brexit with its E.U. partners, this article explores the early History of the Party’s internal dissent on Europe, and the personal and political fault-lines that emerged between pro-Europeans around Duncan Sandys and Harold Macmillan, and the more sceptical Empire-focused Anthony Eden and his supporters in the Conservative Party establishment and the Foreign Office

The Ministerial Statements of 28 November 1951 and the Conservatives’ European Debate, 1947-1957