Friday, August 25, 2006

Good evening, everyone, this is Michael Anthony. I’m sorry to say this week is going to have to be an off-week for British History 101 – I have just started a new job, and the demands related to this beginning have been incredibly time consuming. Most workdays are running from 8 AM until about 3 or 4 AM the next morning, so needless to say I’ve had to prioritize a bit this week and getting myself established and settled has been extremely time-consuming – I’ve done what I can on the podcast, but unfortunately I’ve simply not had enough time to complete an episode. I assure you, however, that there will be one next week. That is a personal guarantee.
Also – I am working on correcting my audio problems. Dan from New Zealand has graciously offered to help and is working with me from literally around the world. We are doing our best to get British History 101 up to its full potential as quickly as possible. Thank you, Dan, for your assistance.
With that, I thank you all so very much for tuning in this week, and again apologize for not having something substantial at the moment. I appreciate the absolute outpouring of support from all of British History 101’s listeners and am incredibly grateful for the help everyone has offered. Thanks again, and we will most assuredly talk again next week. Have a great evening.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. Tonight’s discussion will be followed by a bit of housekeeping, so please do stay tuned after the history and give me some feedback if it’s not too much trouble.
In this episode of British History 101, we’ll take a look at the Battle of Dunkirk. Stephen of Belhaven College wrote in last week and asked to hear a bit about this battle, one of World War II’s most famous, and so our topic tonight comes from his suggestion.
The Battle of France began on May 10, 1940 with German Army Groups A and B rolling over the Franco-German border, Group A through the Ardennes area and then turning north, Group B advancing through the Netherlands and heading west through Belgium. Try as they might, Allied forces in the area were unable to stop the German advance over the next several weeks, and the Wehrmacht cut off the British Expeditionary Force, the French 1st and 7th Armies, and the Belgians from the rest of France’s military south of the German incursion. On May 24, Panzer divisions under the control of commander in chief Walther von Brauchitsch were halted outside the Allied city of Dunkirk per orders of the Fuhrer. Adolf Hitler believed that, were the divisions to extend all the way through to Dunkirk, they would be stretched too thinly. This order ran directly contrary to what von Brauchitsch desired. It did, however, allow the Germans to regroup, fortify the areas they had already overrun, and build up strength for the eventual assault on the rest of France.
The day after Hitler stopped his tanks outside Dunkirk, General Lord Gort, the commander of the British Expeditionary Force, ordered the evacuation of all British forces in the area. Over the next 4 days, British forces pulled back closer and closer to the Atlantic coast, creating what is now known as the Dunkirk Pocket along the Franco-Belgian border.
On May 27, Operation Dynamo initiated the actual evacuation of the cornered Allied troops. The next day, May 28, Belgium surrendered to Germany, along with parts of the French 1st Army trapped outside the Dunkirk Pocket. By June 4, 1940, Operation Dynamo was complete, and although the battle was tactically a German victory, the successful evacuation of the thousands of trapped troops was an incredible morale booster to Great Britain – we must remember that by this time, Poland and parts of Europe were already under German control, and the outlook was not good. Saving the lives of the men of the British Expeditionary Force became one of the biggest pieces of propaganda in military history, and the phrase “Dunkirk Spirit” even came to be known to describe solidarity in times of distress.
What was a type of success for the British led to the fall of the French under the Nazi jackboot, as the Germans entered Paris 10 days after Operation Dynamo was complete on June 14, and the French offered surrender to the invaders from the east 8 days later.
That’s it for the history this week. I’d really like to use this episode to, as I said earlier, do a bit of housecleaning, and take care of some business I’ve had on my mind this week regarding British History 101. First of all – a big thank you is due to one listener Michael, who mailed in with a correction to my pronunciation. Previously, I referred to people native to Britain as BRIGHTons. Thanks, Michael, for alerting me the word is said as BRITTens. I ask anyone and everyone to let me know if I do say something incorrectly – I don’t want British History 101 to present anything in any fashion other than correct!
Next, I’m concerned I’m having some audio problems with the podcast. Several listeners have let me know they’re having trouble with the volume level of my recording. When I play the ‘cast back in iTunes on my computer, I have no trouble whatsoever, and most people say it’s perfectly fine on their systems. If you are indeed having difficulty with the volume level and have any idea as to what could be causing it, I’d love to get some feedback as to what the problem could be – I want British History 101 to be 100% accessible to every person that downloads it. Each and every listener I’ve been in contact with has been so incredibly supportive and I really do appreciate that. Much thanks to EVERYONE who listens.
Anyone who listens to this podcast would greatly benefit by listening to Matt Dattilo’s podcast Matt’s Today in History. It’s a fascinating look at the events that have shaped our world and I strongly recommend it to each and every listener of British History 101. More from Matt:
Thanks for that, Matt, I know there are a large number of people out there that love your podcast just as much as me. Keep up the great work.
That concludes tonight’s episode. If you’d like to look back over our discussion of Dunkirk, visit for a transcript of this and every other episode. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to Our music tonight is “Gather Your Rosebuds,” performed by Jeni Malia and available on Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until we talk again, many thanks for listening, and have a great evening.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. I’d like to start tonight with a clarification on last week’s episode covering the Battle of Trafalgar. Once I listened to the podcast after it was released, I realized I never even mentioned why it’s called the Battle of Trafalgar. It was so named because it was fought off the coast of Spain, near the Cape of Trafalgar. Sorry to leave that little bit out – this week’s episode won’t feature any slips like that.
Tonight we’ll be learning about Boudicca, also know as Boadicea, the warrior queen of native Britons during the time of the Romans. When the Roman Empire extended its reach over British lands, the rulers of the native peoples were forced to pay local Roman officials if they wanted protection from attackers. The king who gave rise to Boudicca’s reign was Prasutagus, her husband. Prasutagus ruled the Iceni people, native Britons who inhabited the area around modern-day Norfolk. When Prasutagus died in 60 A.D., he did the customary duty of kings and gave half his wealth and territories to Nero, the Roman emperor at the time. The other half, along with his power as ruler of the Iceni, went to his widow, Boudicca, who would keep it under her care until Prasutagus’ daughters came of age. This was completely normal at the time – the Iceni people accepted feminine authority, and to them Boudicca’s gender presented no problems. However, the Romans thought otherwise. Being the “real” authority in the land, they treated Boudicca with contempt and outright hostility. She was publicly beaten by her Roman overlords and her daughters were raped. The lands of the Iceni nobles were confiscated, and the Roman historian Tacitus tells us, “Kingdom and household alike were plundered like prizes of war.” War itself didn’t come until the following year, when Boudicca led her people in revolt against what the Romans were doing.
Dio Cassius, another Roman historian who has left us with details on the life of Boudicca, describes the queen by saying, “In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying. Her glance was fierce, her voice harsh, a great mass of the most tawny hair cascaded to her hips.” From this, we can see that Boudicca was quite an imposing figure – and for good reason. She went on to lead one of the most violent periods in British history, and it started with the destruction of the town we now call Colchester.
Colchester was the first target of Boudicca’s wrath. She and the band of her followers destroyed the town, causing so much destruction that in 1907 a young boy swimming in the River Alde, Suffolk, the county north of Colchester’s Essex, found a bronze head of the Emperor Claudius. After the destruction of Britain’s oldest city, Boudicca led her army towards Londinium, the relatively new Roman town that later developed into the global hub we know as London nowadays. Londinium received no better treatment than Colchester – it was burned to the ground, and excavators along the River Thames in London have discovered a layer of red clay under centuries of the construction that built London that they have called Boudicca’s layer.
During all this, most of the Roman army was occupied in the northwest, hunting down the Druids they found to be so troublesome. Boudicca decided the Roman military was her next objective, and so she headed off to confront the army and get vengeance for the injustices committed against her and her people. However, Boudicca and her army weren’t alone on their trip – as Boudicca had picked up troops to rally behind her cause all along the way, many soldiers brought their entire families with them. This caused the rebel army to have an enormous train of civilians following behind them. In essence, all those opposed to Roman cruelty were massed together behind their tawny-haired leader, marching across the British countryside to battle the foreign rulers.
After stopping briefly in Verulanium, modern-day St. Albans, to demolish the city, Boudicca most likely encountered the Roman army under the command of Governor Suetonius in the Midlands, north of Coventry near Mancetter. Confronted with the vastly better trained yet smaller in number Roman army, Tacitus tells us that Boudicca paraded before her soldiers in her chariot, rallying them by saying, “I am fighting for my lost freedom, my bruised body, and my outraged daughters. Consider how many of you are fighting and why – then you will win this battle, or perish! That is what I, a woman, plan to do! Let the men live in slavery if the want to!” If ever their was an ancient inspiration of girl power, it was Boudicca.
Although Boudicca and her rebels overwhelmingly held the numerical advantage, the professional Roman army slowly wore down the native army. The train of families following Boudicca had fanned out around the battle site to watch the carnage, and this proved to be the end of the warrior queen. When the rebels were driven back by the Romans, the families’ positions accidentally acted to hem in the army – they were being pushed back by the Romans and had nowhere to go. The rebels were utterly slaughtered, losing 80,000 soldiers to the Roman casualty count of 400. Boudicca and her daughters all took poison, choosing to end their own lives rather than fall into Roman hands again. So ended Boudicca’s Revolt.
In 1902, a statue was raised near Parliament, showing Boudicca in all her battle-earned glory. According to legend, Boudicca fell in battle directly under platform 10 at King’s Cross metro station – of course, this is purely fictional, as most historians agree the warrior died in the Midlands at what has become known as the Battle of Watling Street.
Boudicca’s Revolt ultimately failed. However, the memory of those violent times is part of the soul of Britain today – that indomitable spirit that refuses to live under oppression and tyranny, epitomized by the valiant people that lead Britain to becoming what she is today.
That’s it for this episode of British History 101. If you’d like to look back over Boudicca’s Revolt, check out my blog at for a transcript of this and every other episode. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to Our music tonight is “O Madalena Che Portasti" performed by Joglaresa and available on Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. My best to you all, and as always thank you so very much for listening to and supporting British History 101. Have a great night, and we’ll learn together next week.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

To all those who listen to British History 101,
I'd just like to take some time to really THANK everyone who listens to and downloads British History 101. From the get go, listeners have been nothing but supportive and I've had a grand time working with this podcast. We've built up a pretty good listener base and I'm extremely happy with the way things have turned out. When I released the "pilot" episode, I didn't think BH101 would get a very warm reception - how wrong I was! THANK YOU ALL so much! It's great learning together with everyone, and keep those comments and emails coming!

Warm, warm regards,
Michael Anthony

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. For those of you who have read the British History 101 blog since yesterday morning, you know I’ve been extremely busy this week and just had no time whatsoever to record the podcast – I’m terribly sorry to come out with this installment a day later than I usually release them, but we all know what it’s like to have to prioritize and sometimes hobbies have to fall by the wayside. Anyways, here we are now, and the history can continue. This episode comes from a suggestion by listener David S. from Tiburon, California. David wrote in and said “A highlight on naval history, especially during the Napoleonic era, would be appreciated.” In reviewing what I could do with this, I decided the Battle of Trafalgar was the best way to go, and so today’s topic is the most famous British naval battle in which Admiral Lord Nelson defeated a combined French and Spanish force off the coast of Spain in 1805.
In 1805, the First French Empire, under Napoleon Bonaparte, was the dominant land force in continental Europe, while the British had overwhelming control over the seas. The Royal Navy maintained a blockade of France, making it quite difficult for Napoleon to accomplish anything requiring naval maneuvers. When the Third Coalition, consisting of the United Kingdom, Austria, Russia, Naples, and Sweden, declared war on France, Napoleon decided he needed to invade Great Britain, á la Hastings 1066. However, to accomplish this, it was vital for Napoleon to control the English Channel, which he obviously couldn’t do with the British blockade of France.
France’s main naval fleets were based at Brest and Toulon, which was in the Mediterranean. Also, thanks to its alliance with Spain, France also had fleets available at Cádiz and El Ferrol on the Spanish coast. Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve commanded the French navy, from his base at Toulon. Villeneuve found himself in command of the French navy because most of France’s best naval officers were either executed or otherwise gotten rid of during the French Revolution – the position more or less fell into his lap, and he was no match for the well-trained, top-notch officers and sailors of the Royal Navy.
Napoleon’s plan to invade Britain was quite competent – on paper, at least. The French and Spanish fleets were to break the blockade, meet up in the West Indies, and returned as a combined force to Brest and free the rest of the French navy there. From that point, the Franco-Spanish alliance could clear the Channel of British ships, paving the way for Napoleon’s invasion force. In theory, this was a good plan – however, Napoleon’s lack of understanding of naval tactics and strategy meant it was destined for failure.
In early 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson was in command of the blockade at Toulon, while William Cornwallis kept watch over the French at Brest, the other of the two most important French naval bases. While Cornwallis maintained a stranglehold on his port, Nelson adopted a loose blockade strategy, hoping to lure the French out and destroy them once they were out of port. However, storms blew Nelson’s fleet off station, allowing Villeneuve and the French Toulon fleet to slip past him, through the Straits of Gibraltar, and across the ocean to the West Indies. Once the French and Spanish had regrouped across the Atlantic Ocean, they headed back toward Europe, intent on freeing the fleet at Brest per Napoleon’s plan. However, Villeneuve lost 2 of his Spanish ships at the Battle of Cape Finisterre, and this loss made him decide to set course for El Ferrol.
Villeneuve’s orders were to sail from El Ferrol with his 32 ships and join Vice Admiral Ganteume’s 21 ships at Brest, along with 5 ships under the command of Captain Allemand, giving him a total of 53 ships. This would then create the largest possible number of ships at Boulogne, France, where Napoleon’s invading force was gathering. He indeed headed for Brest, but he then became worried that the British were watching him and knew what he was up to, and so the next day he changed course and moved toward Cádiz. By the 26th of August, the French army at Boulogne saw no sign of the fleet, and thus broke camp and went off to fight in Germany.
Admiral Lord Nelson went home to England in August for some time off and much-needed relaxation. However, his time was shorter lived than he had hoped, for word soon reached England of the French fleet at Cádiz – the British had figured out what was going on, and Nelson was dispatched to the area to handle the situation. On 29 September Nelson was sent to take command of the fleet that had been sent to stop the combined French and Spanish forces.
Nelson quickly formulated a plan to attack the enemy. He instructed the captains of his fleet that the attack was to take the form of two bodies of ships, one under the command of Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, the officer directly under Nelson, which would attack the rear of the enemy line, while Nelson himself would lead the group attacking the rest of the French-Spanish fleet. Among others, this plan gave the advantage to the British in that it would break the enemy line of ships, bringing the battle into a series of individual ship-to-ship skirmishes, which the British would likely win. It also meant that, with the attack on the rear of the French and Spanish fleet, the lead ships would have to turn around to defend them – a maneuver that would simply take a long time, making them vulnerable to British fire. The biggest problem this plan faced was due to the configuration of the opposing fleets – the French and Spanish were arrayed in a shallow crescent, two or three ships abreast and traveling in a line, while the British would attack on a line perpendicular to this formation – essentially, the French and Spanish would have many ships lined up to fire on the column of approaching British ships, exposing the leading ships under Nelson and Collingwood to a broadside they would be unable to respond to – a ship at that time could not fire directly forward (at least not with any gun with considerable power).
This idea of Nelson’s was quite radical – not many sea captains thought to engage in naval combat in any way besides lining up two fleets in parallel formations and exchanging broadsides. Radical though it was, Nelson put it into action, and at 11:35 A.M. on 21 October 1805, he sent the flag signal, “England expects that every man will do his duty,” across the fleet, and British plowed on toward the French. Nelson led one column on his Victory, while Collingwood led his line from Royal Sovereign.
Nelson’s plan indeed succeeded – the French and Spanish fleet was badly fragmented, allowing the British ships to destroy the poorly-crewed enemy formation. However, at one point, Nelson’s Victory locked masts with the French Redoutable, and the French prepared to board and capture Nelson’s ship. Nelson himself was shot in the ensuing battle, a shot hitting him in left shoulder, passing through his body, and becoming lodged in his spine. He was carried belowdecks and lay dying as the battle raged on around him. Eventually, 22 ships of the Franco-Spanish fleet were destroyed, while the British lost none. Admiral Lord Nelson died at about 4:30 in the afternoon, 21 October 1805.
The war that the Third Coalition had declared on France ended less than two months later with the Battle of Austerlitz, where Napoleon defeated Russian and Austrian forces. However, the French leader never gained control of the United Kingdom – the power of the Royal Navy was simply too much for him to overcome. Even without Britain under his belt, Napoleon was undoubtedly one of the most powerful men in military history – on most days. 21 October 1805 was not one of those days.
Admiral Lord Nelson became Britain’s greatest naval hero, and Trafalgar Square in London is commemorated to his victory that day of the Spanish coast, and Nelson keeps watch over the Square to this day from his spot atop the column named after him.
The conclusion we reach here, a summary if you will, of the idea sent in by David, is that British naval power was confirmed by the events of the Napoleonic era. The 18th century was spent building up domination of the sea by Britain, and the perfection of naval practice was exemplified by the Battle of Trafalgar. While Napoleon became Emperor of France and King of Italy, the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom ruled the waves around the globe, and was never seriously challenged by an opposing force until World War I over 100 years later.
For those of you already well-versed in naval history and the Battle of Trafalgar, I’m sure it’s obvious I didn’t go into a terribly great amount of detail with this episode – that is quite intentional, as I like to keep this podcast more or less brief, and an in-depth explanation would have taken quite a while. I know that for me, my attention is kept best by something brief and to the point, and many of those who listen to this podcast are quite busy people – I wouldn’t dare to ask much of your time each week.
Another podcaster who keeps things short and sweet is Matt Dattilo, who I’m sure you’ve heard me mention before on previous episodes. Matt gets an enormous amount of my personal respect for two reasons – 1) Anyone who puts out a history podcast daily, and keeps it interesting and exciting, is worthy of great praise and honor; and 2) He’s my cousin. As brethren of good Italian stock, Matt and I have talked a lot over the past few months about podcasting and he’s taught me everything I know. I’d really love it if you’d try out Matt’s Today in History, the podcast that inspired this one.
I highly recommend Matt’s podcast for all listeners of British History 101 and anyone interested in history at all. Between the two of us, Matt and I can guarantee you’ll always get something fresh and exciting.
That’s it for this episode of British History 101. If you’d like to look back over the Battle of Trafalgar, check out my blog at for a transcript of this and every other episode. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to Our music tonight is Handel’s “Trio Sonato 2, Number 3 in B flat Major: Part 2, Allegro" performed by the Brook Street Band and available on Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until next week, my best to you all, and as always, thank you so much for joining me. Have a great evening.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Hello, everyone - British History 101 is usually recorded on Thursday evenings and pops up on iTunes sometime Friday morning (I'm not sure how other podcatching software works - it may show up sooner or later than it does on iTunes with another program), and if your program is set to download new episodes automatically, you'll see that I'm running behind. I do apologize for this - between beginning a new job and then a random but much-needed getaway Wednesday and Thursday, I have been so busy I haven' t been to record a podcast (quite a shame, I might add - BH101 is a history podcast, and after all time doesn't slow down for anyone, does it? Sure didn't for Harold in 1066...). Anyways, my babbling aside, I am going to record the next episode tomorrow (Saturday 5 August) and will release it ASAP. I'm terribly sorry for the delay but I'm sure you all know how these things happen! Much gratitude to those who subscribe to British History 101 and enjoy it - as much as I love British history, reading emails and comments to this blog really make my day and glad that other people share my Anglophilia.

On a side note - I appreciate the comments that people have left on this blog, but unfortunately I've had to switch the system to allow only registered Blogger users to comment on posts - I began getting spam comments for phony websites, and those have no place here. I welcome comments from legitimate listeners, though, so if you'd like to comment, click on the orange Blogger link on the right side of this page and register - it's quick and easy, and I'd love to hear from you. Of course, there's always, and I check that several times daily, so you'll get a personal response if you choose to use that.

Thanks again! We'll learn together tomorrow!