Written by Henri Pirenne, Professor of Medieval and Belgian History at the University of Ghent, this book chronicles the history of Belgian democracy from medieval times to the seventeenth century. Pirenne was a renowned medievalist whose nationalist histories, as well as his arrest and internment during the German occupation, had led to him being revered as a local hero. His son was killed during the battle of Yser in 1914.
Belgium was central to Britain’s war aims. Germany’s invasion of Belgium had led Britain to enter the war, and atrocities committed by the Germans in Belgium became cornerstones of Britain’s argument that it was fighting a just war. British families housed thousands of Belgian refugees. This history of Belgian democracy was part of the propaganda war.
Although it was written in 1910, this 1915 translation asked ‘May the English-speaking public extend to [Belgium’s] early history a little of the sympathy which it is lavishing on their present misfortunes!’ The Manchester Guardian’s review hinted that Pirenne’s scholarship had been shoehorned into the question of ‘Belgian democracy’ when it was really about ‘city commonwealths in the towns of the Low Countries, of which the famous towns now in Belgian territory were only the most important’. The book is a lively and accessible study of Belgian political history. The author does not exaggerate the success of Belgian democracy and is keen to suggest its piecemeal progress and regular stumbles. Nevertheless, Belgium is shown to have provided some of the most potent instances of democratic governance in the medieval and early modern eras.
It is not a work of propaganda. Pirenne is interested in the conditions for the growth of democracy. He argues that the dominance of merchants in the thriving Belgian cities was fertile ground for a ‘democratic spirit’. This was continually under threat as one interest sought to dominate others – the Church, the Emperor, dominant traders, Calvinists, capitalists – and Pirenne does not argue that the democratic spirit was inherently Belgian. The German invasion was the greatest threat to this spirit, however, and this is why the book had been translated into English.
A. S. Peake, B. Bosanquet and F. Bonavia, Germany in the Nineteenth Century (second series) (1915)
This book summarised the achievements of German theology, philosophy and music in the nineteenth century. The introduction by the historian T. F. Tout explains that it was first published in 1912 in the hope that ‘appreciations by British scholars of the part played by Germany in the development of modern civilisation might serve to promote more friendly feelings between the two nations’. Given the outbreak of war, ‘the writers can no longer take the optimistic line which they so recently felt justified in assuming, yet they do not regret that, in their anxiety to take a favourable view of Germany’s attitude, they under-estimated the sinister influences which for the present have proved triumphant’. Tout is clear that the current Germany is one of ‘militant aggression, of violated faith, of cynical self-seeking and disregard of the honourable traditions of civilised warfare’, but that it is still useful to offer this scholarship and pay tribute to the more civilised traditions in Germany.
The chapters detail important features of German intellectual life. A. S. Peake, a theological scholar at the university, covered theology. The philosopher and social theorist Bernard Bosanquet described philosophy. Finally, F. Bonavia contributed a chapter on music. German cultural strengths are seen as biblical criticism, Idealist philosophy and the music of Beethoven, Wagner and others. Bonavia goes as far as to say that the ‘history of the musical development of the nineteenth century is in the main the history of German music’.
The Manchester Guardian agreed that ‘there has never been a time when it was more necessary to remember that the German military class is far from representing the best thought of the German people’. The Athenaeum doubted whether the achievements described in the book were as distinctly German as the authors suggested, citing non-German influences on Mozart, Schopenhauer and others. They were in agreement with the aims of the book, however, sincerely thanking the authors ‘for reminding us that there are great and good Germans and that, when peace is restored, we shall do well not to stand aloof from those who survive as if they were lepers’.
Ramsay Muir (ed.), The Making of British India, 1756–1858, described in a series of dispatches, treaties, statutes, and other documents, selected and edited with introductions and notes (1915)
This history by Muir is based on East India Company reports and letters. The East India Company had begun trading with India in the seventeenth century and, starting with Bengal, began to have increasing control over the fragmented country until it was formally superseded by the British Crown in 1858. Muir offers a picture of the enlightened British governance of India. While it is based on primary documents, it is certainly one-sided and offers no platform for Indian voices.
Prior to British control,
India was a mere chaos of warring principalities; dynasties rose and fell; the patient peasant endured the ravages and exactions of one plundering master after another; the waste and carnage of war never ceased; and everywhere Might was Right, and the arbitrary will of the strongest prevailed. At the end of the century, after one final convulsion, war had altogether ceased … in every town and village, judges and magistrates administered one fixed and unvarying law, without bribes and without favour, to all who appealed to have their rights protected or their wrongs redressed.
Muir claims that the move from trade to empire was ‘accidental’. He praises the greater control taken on by Warren Hastings – perhaps the ‘greatest Englishman who has ever laboured in India’ – in the 1770s, based on sound principles, including no power without responsibility, respect for Indian customs and peasants’ rights. He has particular respect for the ‘remarkable group of men, perhaps the ablest group whom the Anglo-Indian service has ever produced’ who reformed Indian institutions in the 1820s and 30s. While they sought to ‘make the best of Indian usages’, they also worked to give India ‘all that was best in Western civilisation’, including law, railways, irrigation ‘on a scale unknown’ before, and a modern civil service, as well as eradicating barbarous Indian customs such as sati (the burning alive of widows, which was much exaggerated and criticised by the British press).
According to Muir, it was the too-rapid introduction of such innovations by Dalhousie (the ‘maker of modern India’) that offended ‘Oriental conservatism’ and led to the Mutiny in 1857. This was nothing more than a blip and a misunderstanding in the story of British tutelage, however. This paternalistic and patronising view would be strongly criticised by Indian and Western scholars today, and indicates that Muir had an extremely rose-tinted view of British rule. Muir is glowing in praise of empire, suggesting that ‘The pax Britannica has been a yet more wonderful thing than the pax Romana.’ In his view, British governance of India had been an act of benevolence, not greed. In 1824 it was officially stated that ‘the gradual preparation of the Indian peoples for self-government ought to be the aim of those who had the direction of Indian affairs, a view which, at this date, none but men of British race could have entertained’. The Government of India Act of 1833 stipulated that no native of India should be ‘debarrred by race, colour, or religion from holding any office whatsoever under the British Raj’. Nevertheless, this progressive policy came with the caveat that Indians as a whole had to be ‘sufficiently enlightened’ for self-rule – something not achieved until 1947 (when the Second World War had exhausted British resources).
Writing in 1915, Muir was sanguine about the ‘gradual substitution for the idea of dominion of the idea of partnership in that great brotherhood of free civilised nations which make up the British Empire’. We should remember that India was a key supplier of troops for the war effort, a source of revenue for the British, and of employment for Muir, who had had a visiting lectureship at the University of Punjab (1913–14) before moving to Manchester. Germany had attempted to foment revolt among India’s hundreds of millions of Muslims, and Muir’s history was therefore doing an important job in justifying British rule.
1918–19: Massacre and Radicalism in British History
F. A. Bruton, The Story of Peterloo, written for the centenary August 16, 1919 (1919)
F. A. Bruton (ed.), Three Accounts of Peterloo by Eyewitnesses Bishop Stanley, Lord Hylton and John Benjamin Smith(1921)
James Hindle Hudson, Peterloo: a history of the massacre an the condition which preceded it … A story for working people to teach their children. Written for the Peterloo Centenary Committee, with a preface by J. Bruce Glasier (1918)
These three books followed in MUP’s strong tradition of local history. Bruton was a teacher at Manchester Grammar School and produced two scholarly accounts of the massacre. Hudson’s was a more overtly political account, subtitled ‘a story for working people to teach their children’, and written for the Peterloo Centenary Committee, which comprised an array of left-wing groups.
Peterloo was a seminal event in both the history of Manchester and the democratic movement in Britain, and the massacre is still commemorated today. A peaceful protest in favour of parliamentary reform attended by thousands was attacked by mounted Yeomen and hussars, leaving 15 dead and hundreds injured. The demonstrators at Peterloo were campaigning for wider suffrage and better representation for Manchester. The immediate result was a crackdown on free speech and assembly. Small improvements were gained in 1832, 1867 and 1884. In 1918, just before these books were published, property qualifications for voting were removed and some married women over 30 were allowed to vote for the first time. Manchester’s liberal and working-class movements played leading roles in these developments, and the city as a whole can be said to have been progressive throughout the nineteenth century.
The Peterloo massacre occurred against a backdrop of economic depression and political radicalism. Bruton quotes from a contemporary report sent to the Home Secretary, warning of ‘deep distresses of the manufacturing classes of this extensive population … when the people are oppressed with hunger we do not wonder at their giving ear to any doctrines which they are told will redress their grievances’. The working classes and significant portions of the middle classes could not vote at this time. Workers had no recourse during periods of economic depression or in response to ill-treatment by bosses. Hudson noted that ‘All organisation for the improvement of wages by collective bargaining or “direct action” was forbidden’ from the 1790s, though the ‘friendly societies’ were trades unions in all but name and had 1 million members. From these came the Peterloo protestors. The authorities, worried by the war with revolutionary France, cracked down on political disturbances.
Hudson was positive about this form of political expression. Leading up to Peterloo,
[t]he greatest propaganda effort was the monster demonstration. For months before each demonstration, the people prepared by drills and marches, holding regular communication with each other, though separated by miles and miles of open country. Nothing could damp their enthusiasm. For them the Pennine Chain no longer existed. Great bodies of men swarmed over Blackstone Edge and Saddleworth Moor for the purpose of attending a political demonstration, with an ardour that is not even to be imagined by the man who to-day turns nonchalantly out from his home to listen to a few words of a political speech in the next street. Large numbers of working men gained great facility as speakers. They thundered against the rotten parliament elected by the rotten boroughs.
As Bruton notes, the poet-leader Bamford instructed these drilling parties to be pacific: ‘we would disarm the bitterness of our political opponents by a display of cleanliness, sobriety, and decorum such as we never before had exhibited’. However, the protestors’ rough treatment of government spies meant that the authorities were soon ‘in a panic’. Bruton agrees with the authorities responsible for the massacre that there had been plotting by some of the reformers, in some cases ‘decidedly dangerous’. He places more emphasis on a general estrangement between employers and workers and a mutual enmity.
Bruton’s 1921 book is scholarly rather than celebratory. It sets out the accounts provided by three eyewitnesses alongside short commentaries on the men and their testimonies. Appendices show relics of the event, maps, pictures and notes on the casualty figures. The book is therefore a valuable resource for students of the massacre. The accounts, while not exciting, provide an immediacy and a sense of the period that bring the reader closer to the famous event. Bishop Stanley’s account serves to exonerate the demonstrators: ‘I saw no symptoms of riot or disturbance before the meeting; the impression on my mind was that the people were sullenly peaceful.’ John Benjamin Smith, the first chairman of the Anti-Corn Law League which campaigned against the tariffs on corn imports supported by landowners to raise the price of corn, agreed: ‘crowds of people in all directions, full of good humour, laughing and shouting and making fun’. Both concur in placing the blame on the inexperienced Yeomen.
Sir William G. H. Jolliffe (Lord Hylton) was a lieutenant in the 15th Hussars, who rode on the crowd. His account, given in 1845, describes the bad planning on the part of the magistrates, which meant that when the horsemen were supposed to advance at a walk, they were surrounded by the crowd and therefore caused chaos and panic. The hussars used the flats of their swords but ‘sometimes, as is almost inevitably the case when men are placed in such situations, the edge was used’. Jolliffe reckoned the wounds received by protesters were few considering the situation; ‘beyond all doubt, however, the far greater amount of injuries were from the pressure of the routed multitude’. He detailed the aggressive behaviour of some of the mob.
Bruton’s sympathies ultimately lie with the protesters, showing the continued strength of the liberal tradition in Manchester.
It all seems so unfair. They were inarticulate. They had come, with all the hilarity of a general holiday, to ask that they might have a Voice. They were met by the bungling of incompetent authorities, behind whom loomed the great, strong, repressive Government, saying: ‘I am God, and King, and Law,’ backed by a House of Commons that was hopelessly unrepresentative. Yet their blood, as has been well said, proved in the end to be the seed of some of our most cherished liberties.
Hudson’s book is more directly political. He is lyrical about Peterloo itself:
There is no time in the history of modern democracy so moving as that hot summer morning of August 16th, 1819, when every Lancashire town round Manchester sent its contingent of poverty dressed in its Sunday best to Peterloo. The people, mainly, were weavers, spinners and hatters. Their hearts beat high with hope, for they were sure the way to the new heaven and new earth would be free to all, if only the gates of parliament were open. Full of a peaceful intent, they brought their wives and children with them as a proof that they neither expected nor desired riot and disorder. Their enemies made the presence of those women and children, after they had cut them down, a reproach against the people. To most of them Manchester was quite unknown. In these days of trains and trams it is hard to conceive the impressiveness of their great enterprise.
With respect to the time of writing, Hudson asked: ‘to what extend is the ruthless repression of popular movements at the time of Peterloo likely to be again attempted? How far, at the conclusion of a great war, can the workers retain and increase whatever political freedom they possess?’ He detailed the under-appreciated work of female reform societies, which was again coming to prominence in the context of the suffragettes.
As Bruton writes, Peterloo prompted an ‘avalanche’ of tracts for and against the reformers. Continuity with contemporary Manchester politics was suggested by the work of the Manchester Guardian’s founding editor in reporting the massacre. These books show the importance of Manchester’s history, and the seriousness with which it was taken by residents of the city in 1921.
Mark Hovell, The Chartist Movement, by the late Mark Hovell. Edited and completed, with a memoir, by Professor T. F. Tout
Mark Hovell was a local working-class boy who had won a scholarship to Manchester Grammar School. Although he left at 12 to work as a pupil teacher at Moston Lane Municipal School, he later won a Hulme scholarship to attend Manchester University. At the age of 24 he became assistant lecturer, in charge of workers’ education classes in Colne, Ashton and Leigh. Although a ‘slim, quiet, unassuming and nervous young man’, he quickly won the confidence of his audience as ‘one who sympathised with the sorrows and sufferings of the people’. In 1914 Hovell joined the Officer Training Corps, before becoming a second lieutenant in the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters. Posted to the Somme, he died in 1916 at the age of 28 while trying to rescue one of his men from an explosion. Overcome by fumes, he fell down a mine shaft and died.
Hovell had written frequently to Professor T. F. Tout about his MA thesis from the frontline. Tout made sure the thesis was published and wrote a memoir of Hovell. Hovell’s main interest was British social history, particularly Chartism. Tout wrote that ‘much of the vividness and directness of his appeal was due to the fact that he was speaking on subjects which he himself was investigating at first hand’.
Before the war more friendly exchanges between Britain and the ‘other Germany’ of scholars and artists had been possible (as was emphasised by Peake, Bosanquet and Bonavia, as discussed above). Hovell had travelled to Germany to study social history (kulturgeschichte) under the innovative Professor Lamprecht. Even then German chauvinism was becoming apparent, however, and Tout notes that although stimulated intellectually, Hovell was unhappy at German militarism and ‘crass materialism’.
Tout also noted that when he began to work at the university, Hovell had to pay back the costs of his teacher training, as he was no longer teaching in schools. This, Tout said, put him in a similar position to an ‘indentured coolie’. Tout hoped for better funding for university lecturers and research and had hoped to set up an Institute of Historical Research in Manchester, before being pipped at the post by London University.
Summarising Hovell’s character, Tout wrote:
He had nothing of the bellicose or martial spirit; but he had a stern sense of obligation and a keen eye to realities. Like other contemporaries who had some experience in Germany, he fully realised the inevitableness [sic] of the struggle and knew that every man was bound to take his place in the grave and prolonged effort by which alone England could escape overwhelming disaster.
Yet Tout emphasised that the book was being published for its scholarly value, and not only for reasons of sentiment and commemoration.
Hovell contextualised Chartism in the long history of radical thought from the 1640s on. After Waterloo, such thought attracted working-class support. This radicalism aimed for natural rights as ends in themselves. After 1832, however, these had become means to the ‘social and economic regeneration of society’.
During the period 1815–40 industrialisation began in earnest. Large fluctuations in the economy occurred and new industrial systems meant the ‘social distance which separated employers and employed was widened as capital seemed to become more and more impersonal’. There was ‘hideous exploitation of women and children in mines and collieries as well as in other non-regulated industries. Working men might with reason feel that they were isolated, neglected, and exposed to the oppression of a social system which was not of their own making or choosing, but which, as they thought, was not beyond the control of their united power.’
The Chartist movement derived ideas from several sources, including the French Revolution. Its immediate ancestor was the London Working Men’s Association and Anti-Poor Law agitations. It was a nationwide movement with ‘ideas from London’, ‘organisation from Birmingham’ and ‘vehemence from Lancashire and Yorkshire’. The Charter was taken up with enthusiasm by working men’s clubs, especially after the poverty of 1838. Yet for all its force, there were splits in the ranks along class, regional and trade lines.
Although many see Chartism as one of the ‘lost causes of history’, Hovell shows how its principles have ‘gradually become parts of the British constitution’. Progress has been made and the ‘domination of the middle class, prepared for by the Act of 1832, is at least as much a matter of ancient history as the power of the landed aristocracy’. But while the political aims of the Chartists have mostly been realised, the vaguer ideas of ‘social regeneration’ behind Chartism have not. Indeed, Hovell argues that social Chartism was a protest and not a full vision. It contained a variety of views, from socialism to Jacobinism to individualism to a reactionary vision wherein ‘a nation of small farms, a contented peasantry, rooted to the soil, and capable by association of controlling its own destinies, was to replace the sordid industrialism of the factory system’. These diverse currents successfully made ‘common cause against some common and glaring evils’. Before Chartism it had been the ‘duty of the common man to obey his masters and be contented with his miserable lot’.
Hovell’s admiration for the Chartists is clear: ‘Every Chartist was fiercely independent and eager that the class for which he stood should work out its own salvation.’ It was the first modern movement to be controlled by working men and ‘its modest success taught elementary lessons of self-discipline and self-government that made the slow development of British democracy possible without danger to the national stability and well-being’. The current trend for state intervention, represented by national insurance, pensions and free school meals, is a ‘response on thoroughly Chartist lines for the improvement of social conditions by legislative means’. Chartism has also had an immense effect on Continental social democracy and has highlighted the importance of class war, now a prime mover of history.
1916: Art, Literature and War
Lawrence Haward, The Effect of War upon Art and Literature: A lecture delivered at the University of Manchester, February 28, 1916 (1916)
In this 1916 lecture, Haward probed the relationship between war and art in the hope of predicting what kind of art might be produced by the war going on in Europe. He used examples from Classical Greece to the present day to make his case. Haward was director of the Manchester Art Gallery and amassed a significant collection of war art directly from artists’ studios, such as the significant oil painting by Henry Lamb, Advanced Dressing Station on the Struma (1916) and Paul Nash’s Wounded, Passchendaele.
At the outset of his lecture he notes that the artist’s primary function is to ‘give expression to aesthetic emotion’, not to make moral or social comment. But artists are not separate from society. Indeed, the artist is sometimes a prophet, interpreter or spokesman: ‘His sensibilities being more acute, he catches the meaning of what [others] only dimly apprehend and gives precise and significant utterance to thoughts which they can only partially formulate or clothe in vague and halting phrases.’
Haward rejects Ruskin’s argument that war stimulates great art. For Haward, fighting and art are different types of expression, and not necessarily related. He goes further and suggests that art that explicitly seeks to portray war is often ‘stillborn’ and uninspired. Lady Butler and Eduard Dataille are given as examples of this stilted war art.
An existential war is more likely to affect the artist. Artists may seek to re-establish the ‘spiritual balance’ of a nation put off-kilter by war. For Haward, it is only poets who can express national feeling. Painters, sculptors and musicians are generally too personal to be able to produce art that matches the feelings of a nation. More generally, it is possible to produce good war art, and he praises Goya, Vereschagin, Zola, Tolstoi and Walt Whitman for turning their personal anti-war sentiments into meaningful works of art.
It was Haward’s opinion that the current war was more likely to prevent than cause masterpieces. He argues that as war is no longer a romantic adventure, as some had thought, it is now more likely to produce ‘anger and bitterness’ than ‘heroic emotions’. In consequence his audience should not expect to see any decent war art until it was possible to judge events ‘dispassionately’.
L. van der Essen, La bibliothèque de l’Université de Louvain / Henry Guppy, Steps Towards the Reconstitution of the Library of the University of Louvain (1915)
Louvain library was destroyed by the German invasion of Belgium in 1914. The John Rylands library sought to ‘give some practical expression of their deep feelings of sympathy with the authorities of the University of Louvain, in the irreparable loss which they have suffered, through the barbarous destruction of the University buildings and the famous library’. The library offered a gift of books, and a catalogue of these was published along with a record of the donors.
Leon van der Essen, a history professor at the University of Louvain, offered a short history of the library. It was founded in 1425 and grew through various legacies over the years. Although it was not known for certain how many books there were before the library was destroyed, it was certainly more than 230,000. The library’s catalogue was old and uncatalogued books were being found all the time, which made their loss all the more tragic. The library was particularly good on religious reformers and politico-religious pamphlets and had more than 350 incunables. It had good Jesuit and Jansenist collections, some recently found political pamphlets from the period of the Thirty Years War and unique examples of eighteenth-century polemical literature. There were more than 950 manuscripts including twelfth-century post-Carolingian examples, lives of saints, psalters, books of hours, liturgical manuals from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, magnificent illuminations and miniatures. The university archives were housed there, as well as cabinets of curiosities, maps from Mercator, signatures of famous visitors like Victor Hugo and portraits of Erasmus and others. ‘On 26 August 1914, in a few hours, the German soldiers brutally destroyed these treasures, which were not simply the patrimony of Louvain or Belgium, but of the civilised world.’
Van der Essen concluded by categorically denying ‘the claim made by some, including the journal of Chicago, that German soldiers attempted to save the library’. Again, here was an example of scholarship was being used to emphasise German barbarism.
Catalogue of an exhibition of the works of Shakespeare, his sources, and the writings of his principal comtemporaries, Tercentenary of the Death of Shakespeare 1616, April 23, 1916
This is an annotated bibliography of the early editions kept at the John Rylands library, with notes on likely influences, other books in Shakespeare’s library, and schoolbooks and other influential books of the time. The book aims to show ‘the unfolding of Shakespeare’s mind as it is reflected in his works’. It provides a short overview of his life and context, his predecessors who ‘fixed the form’ and some outline of his contribution to world culture. The editor comments that Shakespeare’s phrases, ‘only less numerous than those of the Bible, often the most plain and artless, have grown into household words’.
It is not a nationalistic book, except in a somewhat indirect way. The editor notes the popularity of Shakespeare all over the world, including among famous German writers such as Goethe and Heine. ‘Thus we see that it is in no narrow spirit of insularity that we put our illustrious countryman amongst the intellectual giants of the world. Who can deny that he stands incomparably the greatest dramatic writer of modern times, perhaps the greatest the world has ever known.’ This comment might perhaps be aimed at German claims of cultural superiority, which appeared in propaganda, including that attempting to get America to fight with Germany.
1917–18: Understanding the Impact of the War on the Mind
G. Elliot Smith and T. H. Pear, Shell Shock and its Lessons (1917)
Written by two members of the University of Manchester’s medical department, this work was published at the end of the war, and drew on journals from Britain, France, Russia and Germany. Elliot Smith had refused to join the Royal Army Medical Corps as a military psychiatrist because he believed that military discipline was counterproductive to therapy and even potentially fatal for psychoneurotic soldiers. For the authors, shell shock was ‘perhaps one of the saddest of the many grievances aspects of the war’, made worse because of the public’s ‘exaggerated’ distress at mental illness.
The book first defined shell shock. In it, the senses are not lost but rather exhibit a ‘painful efficiency’. Shell-shocked soldiers are still rational – the disturbance is purely emotional. The authors suggest that it is the same as other nervous disorders in its essence, and assert that since soldiers are more focused on bravery and precision, they feel the loss of emotional stability and exaggerated fear more acutely. The book comments that, in the minds of many, nervous disorders are imaginings of the ‘well-to-do woman living in the lap of luxury … This war has, however, removed from honest peoples’ minds the possibility of regarding these phenomena in such a shamelessly unscientific light.’ The authors rejected the common view that shell-shock patients were malingering.
According to Elliot Smith and Pear, there are three stages of shell shock. Following the initial shock the patient will exhibit severe loss of senses, mutism and other such symptoms. In stage 2, we see the residuum of these symptoms and subjective symptoms such as stammering, insomnia and bad dreams. It is best to arrest the disorder here, when it can be reasoned away. In stage 3 the sufferer rationalises his symptoms, and the fact that he perceives these symptoms will make him think he is mad.
The authors focused on a treatment method using persuasion, but were at pains to stress that this involved more than common sense. Knowledge and expertise of the mind were needed in order to interpret dreams, slips and other signs of the unconscious, as the disorder cannot be reasoned away consciously in stage 3. In practical terms, they argued that the ‘history of the trouble can be unravelled in conversation’ by a trained psychologist.
In helping the patient, ‘firmness and sympathy’ were needed. This was not the ‘misplaced emotion’ of ‘petting variety’ sympathy. Isolation and heavy-handedness were also bad. A genuine insight into the problem was required, which could only be gained by careful attention to the patient and knowledge of the mind. Hypnotism could also be useful to break down certain resistances.
Ordinary wards are said to offer only ‘fussy solicitude, gruelling pity or suspicious contempt’. Special clinics for the shell-shocked are held up as far more effective in offering the right care and removing the stigma found in asylums.
More generally the book is a plea to pay more heed to psychology. Current treatment is claimed to be too focused on those already fully insane and therefore ignores the many incipient cases which can be nipped in the bud. The Medico-Psychological Association report’s findings in 1914 had been put on hold by the war. The report suggested a need for more training of doctors, clinics for the treatment of early cases and a reform of the lunacy laws, as well as a ‘vast’ amount of research in psychology. The views of Pear and Elliot Smith challenged military psychiatry’s aim of returning ill men to the Front as quickly as possible.
Bernard Hart, The Modern Treatment of Mental & Nervous Disorders: A lecture delivered at the University of Manchester, on 25th March 1918 (1918)
In this public lecture for a lay audience, Bernard Hart set out the treatment options for victims of shell shock. Thousands of British soldiers were returning from the Front with this new disorder, leading many people either to question their courage or lament the inhumanity of modern war. Bernard Hart was a leading psychologist at the Maghull military hospital, along with T.H. Pear, Manchester University professor Grafton Elliot Smith and 25 other doctors. Experimental psychodynamic techniques were used at the hospital to treat patients with the most severe forms of shell shock.
Hart begins by explaining that ‘nervous disorders’ are distinct from ‘mental disorders’ (madness). Nervous disorders are not due to ‘demonstrable disease or injury of the nervous system’ but rather to mental causes. They include neurasthenia, hysteria, nervous breakdown, nerves and, recently, shell shock. He delves into history to show that the stigma of the medieval witch trial was still attached to mental disease. In the nineteenth century a ‘physiological conception’, which looked for physical causes, held sway. Now a ‘psychological conception’ has come to the fore as ‘mental causes are capable of exact scientific estimation’ – investigation and treatment can be achieved by these means.
By 1918, shell shock was understood by military medicine and the government as a major problem, although officers and ordinary soldiers were often diagnosed with different illnesses based on class assumptions. Psychology was still a fledging discipline and Hart and his Maghull colleagues’ use of experimentalism to combat the assumptions that military medicine made – about the origins of mental illness and that masculine courage and obedience to discipline were therapeutic – was particularly innovative.
Hart used the example of tears to explain the difference between physiological and psychological causes. Tears can be induced by an irritant or by emotions. The trick for doctors is to identify the right cause so that it can be fixed. He used diagrams to show the ‘chains of causation’ of physical and mental causes. In nervous disorders, it is ‘more and more certain that “mental” factors constitute the most important link in the chain of causation’. This emphasis on psychological factors was novel, and contrasted with the dominant physiological explanation.
The final picture shows the cause of nervous disorders: ‘mental causes’
Shell shock, although a new phenomenon, was, according to Hart, ‘in every essential respect identical’ with neurasthenia, hysteria and nervous breakdowns, but differed ‘in colouring due to the particular circumstances’ of the war. The problem in nervous patients is that parts of the mind are not in harmony. The shell-shocked soldier is ‘tortured by memories of the terrifying events he has experienced … one force tends to drag them into the full light of consciousness while another seeks to thrust them into oblivion’. As the causes are psychological, so should the treatment be: ‘The advice so often given to these unfortunate people, “Pull yourself together,” expresses literally and exactly what is required. It is, however, absolutely useless unless the patient knows what he has to pull together, and unless he is shown how to do it, and helped to do it.’
Hart argued that the patient often cannot describe the causes of his trouble – as indeed ‘most people do not fully understand the workings of their own minds’. Therefore ‘knowledge of the mechanisms of the mind’ was needed. The solution, according to Hart, was that the patient ‘must learn to regard the memories as part of the furniture of his mind, and as mere traces of events which are past’. He concluded by noting that psychological treatments had been ‘eminently successful’ but that more provision was needed.
1915–19: War and the Lessons of History
T. F. Tout, Mediaeval and Modern Warfare: A lecture delivered at the John Rylands Library on the 12th December, 1917 (1919)
Tout’s lecture makes thoughtful and lively comparisons between modern and medieval warfare, showing his commitment to using history to better understand the present. Using the fact that both the current war and the Hundred Years’ War had largely been played out in northern France and the Low Countries, Tout compared the style, destructiveness and morality of the two eras.
The scanty resources of the medieval state meant that battles never lasted for weeks and weeks. Moreover, medieval armies lacked unity and organisation, being commanded by different feudal lords. This meant that medieval tactics were much better than medieval strategy, which could often see armies roaming around the countryside for months. Yet some aspects of medieval warfare, according to Tout, had returned. Hand-to-hand fighting, once supplanted by guns, was again prevalent. Poison gas and flamethrowers had similarities with Greek fire and stink pots. Tout also identified a similar mixture of speed through open country and ultimate defensive advantage in both eras. He showed how militarism was not a new invention: England in the fourteenth century shared features with the Prussia of Tout’s time.
Was medieval war more civilised? To illustrate the best traditions of medieval chivalry, Tout provided an anecdote from the Hundred Years’ War. The English army was on the offensive, but the French had holed up in a walled city. The English demanded that they come out and ‘fight like men’. The French agreed to meet to fight fairly on a field, but then reneged and remained within the walls. The English were
bitterly disappointed when the French did not keep their promise, and angrily retired to their starting point, convinced that even if they had failed to conquer a rood of French land, they had proved themselves to be the better men. Their attitude reminds one of the boasts of German spokesmen nowadays that Germany had not been beaten. The French derived a more reasonable satisfaction from the retirement of their enemy. They may have defeated the invasion without having to fight for it, just as French and English have occupied western Germany by reason of the greatest military collapse in all history.
Thinking about his own time, Tout noted that the age of chivalry had died slowly. The Hague convention of 1899, which had sought to codify the laws of war, was largely in vain as the ‘refusal of our enemies to regard it as binding on others, has destroyed, perhaps for ever, the time-honoured conventions that made war tolerable to the moral consciousness because they mitigated some of its horrors’. War was now ‘infinitely more cruel and inhuman’ because atrocities like the use of poison gas are done ‘deliberately and consciously’.
Tout lamented that the distinction between combatant and non-combatant, observed since medieval times and reinforced by the Red Cross, was being ignored by the ‘glorious Teuton whose higher civilisation makes him a law unto himself’, meaning that the ‘other side was practically compelled to follow the example’. More optimistically, in air fighting ‘something like single combat is still possible; here courage, imagination, and individual initiative still have full play … [it shows the] best traditions on both sides of the ancient spirit of honourable rivalry’.
Tout concluded by saying that peace was needed now, based on a true ‘change of heart’. The middle ages had ‘truces of God and its leagues of peace … real internationalism in the Church and sham internationalism in the Empire’. Now we faced ‘fierce national jealousies’ in East Europe, anarchy in Russia and ‘German ascendency claims’, meaning that it was simplistic to talk solely of either progress or decline. He hoped that the ‘good sense of the average man, the general will of civilised humanity, will find a sound solution to all of these problems’.
T. F. Tout, The English Civil Service in the Fourteenth Century: A lecture delivered at the John Rylands Library on the 15th December, 1915
Tout’s lecture began by noting that we are not in a democracy, but a bureaucracy: ‘our masters are the demure and obscure gentlemen in neat black coats and tall hats who are seen every morning flocking to the government offices in Western London at hours varying inversely with their dignity’. He then moved on to weigh the merits of the old and new systems. Although the professional civil service came into being under Gladstone, it had existed without the name in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England. It began as part of the King’s household, meaning there was no clear line between domestic and public administration. Most civil servants were clergy. Tout wryly notes that then as now:
diplomacy was the genteelest of professions. To this day the Foreign Office is spared the disastrous results on its manners and tone that might have followed had its officials, like those of less dignified departments, been selected by open competition. Perhaps brains and social graces do not always go together, and even nowadays a little more brains might have its use in diplomacy. But the practical mediaeval mind secured the happy mixture of good breeding and capacity necessary, let us say, to persuade or coerce a Balkan prince of German origin, by putting a great nobleman at the head of a foreign embassy, while associating with him a bishop, who had, perhaps begun life as a chancery clerk, to help out his intelligence, and a chancery clerk or two still on the make, to supply the necessary work and technical knowledge.
And given that for medieval men a lay clerk was the ‘last word in radicalism’ it ‘goes without saying’ that no women were admitted as was beginning to happen in Tout’s time.
Positions were sold and there was widespread nepotism. Yet even in Tout’s day, seven out of nine of the King’s Bench were related to judges, and ‘it would be impossible to draw from contemporary politics a more happy and complete survival of the mediaeval mind’. Tout saw the medieval system in context, however, noting that patronage was at that time the best surety of fidelity. While they ‘did a lot of business on their own account’, there was no outrage because this was normal and accepted.
Tout ended by sketching the lives of three ordinary clerks, arguing that a ‘good system makes the average man competent’ and that the personal is often unstressed in history. John Winwick was small gentry from Lancaster who rose to become keeper of the privy seal. His was the ‘prosperous, successful, public spirited though not particularly startling career of a good official who throve in all his undertakings and made the best of his chances in both worlds’. Geoffrey Chaucer could not make a living from writing in the days before copyright and printing. He thus used his literacy to work for the king in France and Italy. He absorbed the culture, and his good connections got him promoted. Despite the distractions of his writing, he worked hard and did well in the service. Thomas Hoccleve, a poet, was less successful. His writing tells us about the hard work of the clerk and the aches and pains and solitude. He frequented taverns and took his fair share of bribes, but worked hard.
Tout concluded ‘I cannot but record the impression that the business methods of the mediaeval official were not much worse than those of more recent and more self-complacent days.’ Of course they were corrupt, but ‘we have every reason to believe that even a modern government department might learn something from the wide knowledge, long service, corporate feeling, kindly indulgence, and sufficient devotion to the task in hand that are illustrated by the self-revelations of this obscure and unlucky public servant of the English state who died nearly 500 years ago’. He praised the neatness of the calligraphy, the correctness of the sums and the ‘respectably high level of general competence’ revealed by medieval records that he had spent many hours poring over.
What comes through most of all is Tout’s sympathy with the clerks’ lives and work. He is not blind to the merits of the antiquated system, or to the defects of the modern, professional one.
S. E. Maltby, Manchester and the Movement for National Elementary Education 1800–1870 (1918)
Maltby’s book charts the movement for educational improvement in Manchester. Throughout the period 1800–70, ‘no other single place was so much the focus of educational interest and the hotbed of educational proposals as Manchester and its neighbourhood’. The town’s rapid growth, the presence of child labour and the public-spirited citizens hoping to end this prompted an active movement. The Lancashire Public Schools Association, the Manchester and Salford Committee on Education and the Manchester Education Aid Society were important voices whose ideas were eventually taken up in the 1870 Education Act, which gave compulsory primary education to all.
There was very basic regulation of child labour in 1819, agitated for by Coleridge, the Manchester Board of Health and others. Yet until 1870 there were no publicly controlled schools or obligation to attend. Schools were either endowed schools, day schools, private schools or Sunday schools. Manchester educationalists were either voluntarists, religious or non-sectarian. Dissenters who wanted the disestablishment of Anglicanism were worried that state education would force Anglicanism on children. In addition, the Chartists had called for national education, meaning that it was associated with ‘godlessness’ for many middle-class reformers. Finally, free trade dominated the attention of many reformers until the 1850s.
Voluntarism and the religious question remained the biggest obstacles to state education. If the state was to provide education, how much scope would local interests have to shape that education? The Act was carried in 1870 under a liberal government, with a victory for the secular vision of education. Throughout the agitation the condition of Manchester – the first industrial city – was a reference point. Manchester men like Cobden were hugely influential. In Maltby’s words, Manchester was responsible for the new England and consequently ‘Manchester men felt their responsibility to make that new England good.’
Eventually a bill was passed,
providing all the factors which Manchester men had chiefly contended – viz. a system by which schools could be provided over the whole country, by a local rate aided by government grants, under local management but under state guidance and general regulation; by which all children could be brought to school without the excuse of either poverty or violation of conscience; and which was calculated to enlist in its support all parties equally despite the grave dissatisfaction of most of the Radical politicians.
Like many other authors, Maltby ends by linking the struggle against Germany with the subject of his book:
One would fain hope that England’s proud boast that she is fighting (albeit side by side with centralised and secular France) for right and liberty is but another aspect of that refusal at once either to allow the State to dictate without local control, or to exclude religious teaching from elementary schools.
1915–18: The University at War
From 1915, the Vice-Chancellor’s annual statements recorded the effects of the war on the university. He noted that ‘immediately on the commencement of the session [war] a large number of students had received commissions’. This significantly decreased the number of male students and the revenues of the university. So as not to put soldiers at a disadvantage, the university allowed scholarships to be deferred and teaching posts to be resumed after the war. The VC listed Manchester University staff and students who had died. He noted the charitable activities of female students, including Red Cross work and other social service. The university set up a committee to help Belgian refugees, and allowed them to use university facilities. The John Rylands’ University Library offered books to the destroyed Louvain library.
The university continued to function, but was geared towards the war effort. Lectures on Wednesdays and Saturdays were cancelled to allow for military drill. In addition, many departments dropped their research for war work. Economics students starting gathering statistics for the Board of Trade. Chemistry, electro-chemistry, metallurgical and engineering departments helped to develop explosives, materials for aeroplanes, work for the anthrax committee and treatments for shell shock. Although the VC was often coy about what this work actually entailed – saying, for instance, that Sir Ernest Rutherford was working ‘for the Admiralty’ – he was undoubtedly proud of the university’s contribution. At the war’s end, he noted: ‘one effect of the war has been to reveal to the official world the great intellectual and scientific resources of the Universities, and to show how they might be utilised for public benefit’.
Henry Spenser Wilkinson, Learners as Leaders: An address delivered on 26th April, 1918, at a memorial service for members of Manchester university who have fallen in the war
Henry Spenser Wilkinson was born in Hulme in 1853 and was Professor of Military History at the University of Manchester and then the University of Oxford (1909), and a drama critic for London’s Morning Post. During the First World War he was an outspoken and influential critic of the British government’s strategy and policy.
‘Learners as Leaders’ was a patriotic and stirring lecture on the value of education and Manchester University in particular. The author praises the lecturers who have ‘made our community’. He makes general points about the value of learning: to ‘accustom the growing will to the habit of attention’ and help students ‘to take hold of the common stock of human knowledge’.
The lecture was given in honour of those who had fallen and emphasises the importance of duty: ‘we are Englishmen and our duty is to England. To the service of our country our University is dedicated, and its mission is to quicken our spiritual life, that we may be good and faithful citizens of the land which is our home, of the nation in which we live.’ The community and comradeship learnt at a university was suggested to be a vital stepping stone to a wider, national sense of duty. Wilkinson concluded by suggesting that the secret of leadership is the will to learn, and that this would be required for the ‘new’ England after the war.
For further information on First World War titles from Manchester University Press, please contact Simon Bell ([email protected])