Legendary American Civil War-era nurse Clara Barton was extraordinary in many ways. Not only was she an important nurse in the US Civil War, she also played a key role in bringing the Red Cross to America. Here, Matt Goolsby follows his first ‘nurses in war’ article on Cornelia Hancock (available here) and tells us about the life of Clara Barton.

 An engraving of Clara Barton from 1867. Engraving by John Sartain.

An engraving of Clara Barton from 1867. Engraving by John Sartain.

Humble Beginnings

The United States was a very agrarian based nation in the early part of the 19th century. Travel and communication were typically slow and arduous.

By the time of the Civil War, the northeast region of the U.S. was experiencing the growing pains of the Industrial Revolution that had started in England in the 1700s. Railroad lines were expanding at an exponential rate as the demand for goods transversed the entire region of the rapidly growing country.

Communication was also becoming a transcontinental medium to rapidly transmit information from one region to another through the use of telegraph lines. Newspapers began publishing stories next day instead of relying on couriers delivering accounts that took days if not weeks to send and receive.

One would assume that the rapidly expanding use of technology and industry would have affected how the medical profession cared for the sick, wounded, and dying soldiers who were the casualties of the Civil War during this time. In reality, it exposed the glaring weaknesses and woeful practices utilized in treatment that spawned a desire for improvement of those who were most vulnerable. Against this backdrop, a formidable leader and role model emerged.

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas Day, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts to Captain Stephen Barton and his wife Sarah Stone. She was the youngest of five children: Dorothy - 17, Stephen - 15, David - 13, and Sally – 10 at the time.

Coming from very unpretentious beginnings, Clara as she was fondly known by, was a timid and shy child. Her elder brother David spent much time with Clara riding horses and enjoying the outdoors which helped to relieve some of the timidity she first felt.

The Barton home where Clara was born still exists to this day in its original location and is a museum to her life and testament to the simple yet solid foundations her family was known for.

The Barton family, whose beginnings can be traced back to 11thcentury England in the Domesday book, otherwise known as: ‘A great survey’ commissioned by William the Conqueror, shows that the family was awarded land due to their loyalty to king and country.

The Barton family in America first appears in 1640 in Salem, Massachusetts after Edward Barton emigrated from England as one of the early colonists. After several moves throughout New England, the Barton family finally settled in North Oxford, Massachusetts and took up daily living with their Universalist religious background.

Of particular note are the facts that Clara’s family established the first Universalist church in Oxford and ordained its first Pastor: Hosea Ballou who is considered one of the fathers of American Universalism. As described in the story of Clara’s life by Percy H. Elper: “Yet her father and mother, however liberal in their creed, never relaxed from the deepest habits of all that was best in Pilgrim and Puritan. No matter how snowy, no matter how the winds hurtled over the hilltops — the Barton family not only drove five miles to church every Sunday, but maintained, during the other six days of the week, the deeper fundamentals of conscience and honor peculiar to their forefathers' faith.”


Foundational Nurse Training

In 1832 Clara and her family experienced a significant medical crisis that helped form her future nursing skills and made clear the talent she innately possessed.

Her brother David was severely injured while working on a barn-raising when one of the boards he was standing on at the peak collapsed under him. He fell to the ground sustaining a severe head injury that laid him up in bed for nearly two years. 

Clara, perhaps from the closeness she felt to her brother while riding horseback in the woods, spent the entire recovery time caring for David. She also was the one who applied the prescribed treatments of the time for him that consisted of: Leeches, setons (stitches to relieve infection), counter-irritating blisters, and blood-letting to relieve his fever. She is quoted as saying: “For two years I only left his bedside for one half day. I almost forgot that there was an outside to the house.”

After David had finally recovered from his injuries, (when the new treatment of steam baths came into use), Clara had to sequester herself for recovery time from the care she had provided. At the tender age of 11, it was a portent of things to come.


Civil War Service

After spending 18 years teaching and then another 5 years living and working in Washington D.C. for the U.S. Department of the Interior and Patent Office, Clara saw firsthand what many of the men who were involved in the Civil War would experience through its long, arduous journey.

In April of 1861, the Massachusetts 6thregiment heeded the call of Abraham Lincoln for 75,000 troops and proceeded to make its way down to the nation’s capital. On their way they passed through Baltimore, Maryland where a crowd of 10,000 opponents of the beginning conflict assaulted them. This left four dead and 30 wounded.

They fought their way through the crowd and arrived in Washington the following day: April 16, 1861. Clara witnessed the regiment as they arrived by train and was there to greet them. 

This was the first time she had worked as a ‘Volunteer Nurse’ and experienced what would become her life’s mission to apply healing to those wounded in conflict. In her own words she testifies: "Among the soldiers, I recognized my own early associates. We bound their wounds, and fed them." There were many from Worcester, Massachusetts including Sergeant J. Stewart Brown and Joseph M. Dyson who she knew by name.

As the war progressed, Clara became acutely aware of the need for frontline care for the wounded and dying. Her desire to care for them put her in mortal danger numerous times. She writes of her time with the soldiers at Antietam in September of 1862: "We were in a slight hollow and all shell which did not break our guns in front, came directly among or over us, bursting above our heads or burying themselves in the hills beyond. A man lying upon the ground asked for a drink, I stopped to give it, and having raised him with my right hand, was holding him. Just at this moment a bullet sped its free and easy way between us, tearing a hole in my sleeve and found its way into his body. He fell back dead. There was no more to be done for him and I left him to his rest. I have never mended that hole in my sleeve. I wonder if a soldier ever does mend a bullet hole in his coat?”

These experiences as gleaned from her writings, demonstrate the conviction of purpose and character that she had developed since her time caring for her brother’s injuries.

There are several key traits of Clara’s personality that are apparent in both her writings and of those who knew her.

The first is that she was never interested in money, only in solving humanities ill fortunes. This is best described later as she would later become the founder of the American Red Cross and would petition the U.S. Government to have its purpose expanded as a humanitarian relief organization for natural disasters as well as their charter to aid the wounded, sick, and dying in war. 

The second trait that also is very apparent is her love for her fellow man and the ability to rise to the occasion when events merit it. I’m reminded fondly of Mother Teresa and her ministering to the poor, sick, and weak ‘untouchables’ of India who she cared for during most of her adult life.

Towards the end of the war Clara was recognized for her gallant service by being named the Superintendent of the Department of Nurses under Surgeon McCormack who was Chief Director of the Army of the James stationed at City Point, Virginia.

As was always the case with Clara, she never settled for comfort in the ‘safe’ zones, but wanted to be attending to the infirm on the frontlines. 

Her oldest brother Stephen would also become a victim of the war and perhaps one of her greatest motivations to fulfill her duty as a nurse.

Stephen Barton had been mistakenly identified as a Confederate by the Union due to his living in North Carolina and had been neglected for a long period until Clara got word of him being hospitalized in Washington D.C. By this time, his health had deteriorated beyond hope.

Not long before he passed away in 1865, she wrote of hearing one of his final, moving prayers: "Oh God, whose children we all are, look down with thine eye of justice and mercy upon this terrible conflict, and weaken the wrong, and strengthen the right till this unequal contest close. Oh God, save my country. Bless Abraham and his armies.” She also painted a vivid portrait of what the conditions of where he passed were: "And there under the guns of Richmond, amid the groans of the dying, in the shadows of the smoky rafters of an old negro hut, by the rude chimney where the dusky form of the bondsman had crouched for years, and on the ground, trodden hard by the foot of the slave, I knelt beside that rough couch of boards, and, to the patriot prayer that rose above, sobbed 'Amen.'”


American Red Cross Founder

For four years following the Civil War, Clara Barton helped find those men who were missing in action from the official records of the war’s dead. While still living in Washington D.C., she ran the Office of Missing Soldiers to identify those who were killed or missing in action to try to relieve the suffering of family and friends.

During this time, she met and befriended Susan B. Anthony as well as Frederick Douglas. These relationships would leave a lasting impression on her as she championed women’s suffrage and civil rights for the rest of her life.

The years of Civil War work for others had taken their toll on Clara. After seeing her doctor and following his orders to get rest and recuperation from her many travails, she decided to visit Europe in 1869. Her first visit was to Liverpool, England and then on to Paris. Her final stop was to be where her life’s calling was forever changed.

Arriving in Geneva, Switzerland for the end of her vacation period, she was visited by the president and members of the “International Committee for the Relief of the Wounded in the War”, which would later become the International Committee of the Red Cross. Since Clara had such an outstanding reputation even with the international community, she was asked why America didn’t honor the recently signed ‘Geneva Convention’ and why after such a conflict as theirs, they wouldn’t be interested in it? Her answer was simple: “I listened in silent wonder to all this recital, and when I did reply it was to say that I had never heard of the Convention of Geneva nor of the treaty, and was sure that as a country America did not know she had declined.”

Not long after she had arrived in Geneva, the Franco-Prussian war broke out. Clara was able to see first-hand how the Red Cross in Europe was operating and how it contrasted with her experiences in the Civil War: "As I journeyed on and saw the work of these Red Cross societies in the field, accomplishing in four months under their systematic organization what we failed to accomplish in four years without it — no mistakes, no needless suffering, no starving, no lack of care, no waste, no confusion, but order, plenty, cleanliness and comfort wherever that little flag made its way — a whole continent marshaled under the banner of the Red Cross — as I saw all this, and joined and worked in it, you will not wonder that I said to myself 'if I live to return to my country I will try to make my people understand the Red Cross and that treaty.' But I did more than resolve, I promised other nations I would do it, and other reasons pressed me to remember my promise.”

One is struck with the irony of Clara’s timing in situations where war breaks out. It seems that she was called for just a time as these.

In early 1871 the Franco-Prussian war ended, but the battles continued throughout both Germany and France until the late summer of the same year. Clara stayed through this entire time ministering to the sick, treating the wounded, establishing clothiers who would fashion garments for the poorest, and soliciting funds from aristocratic donors who included Grand Duchess Louise of Baden, Kingdom of Prussia. Her willingness to befriend any class of person is another testament to her savviness and skill.

By 1874 Clara was worn out from her time in Europe and lack of recuperation. She was no stranger to loss having found out that her sister Sally had died before she could see her one final time in Worcester. Her only remaining relative in her family circle was her brother David whom she had nursed back to health as a child.

She spent several more years convalescing and writing friends, family, and officials of her intentions to establish the American Red Cross. With great perseverance, she was finally successful in 1881 with President James Garfield’s administration and it was established. An assassin’s bullet struck down the President and delayed the formal establishment of the association while the nation mourned for 80 days. 

Finally, in 1882, the Red Cross was formally established with ratification by Congress and the signing of the Geneva Convention by President Chester Arthur. Its role had expanded from not just treating the wounded and dying from war, but also those who experienced natural disasters.

At a convention of the International Red Cross in Geneva during 1882, the President of the International organization gave Clara the credit for the new American branch: "Its whole history is associated with a name already known to you — that of Miss Clara Barton; without the energy and perseverance of this remarkable woman, we should not for a long time have had the pleasure of seeing the Red Cross received into the United States."

Clara would serve as the President of the American Red Cross until June, 1904. Her tasks of running the organization along with doing fieldwork are unheard of in this day and age. 

As the years went by, Clara would write her autobiography titled: ‘The Story of My Childhood’. But the Clara Barton that I read about was gleaned from the book titled: ‘The Life of Clara Barton’, by Percy Elper who was the only authorized biographer of her life by the family. He used her unpublished war diaries, letters, eyewitness accounts, and conversations to write a truly compelling picture of this unique lady. 

Clara died in her home in 1912 at the age of 90. Her stature and legacy on American society have had a tremendous impact on so many people. We have much to learn from her compassionate and caring nature for those in need.


What do you think of Clara Barton? Let us know below.


Percy H. Epler, “The Life of Clara Barton”, The Macmillan Company, New York, July 1915.

 “Evolution of the Railroad”, https://www.history.com/topics/industrial-revolution/videos/evolution-of-railroads

“Nursing History – Clara Barton”, 


“Biography of Mother Teresa”, https://www.biography.com/people/mother-teresa-9504160

“The Domesday Book”, http://www.domesdaybook.co.uk/

“Clara Barton – Library of Congress”, https://www.loc.gov/item/2018651854/

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

Mass shootings are sadly all too common in modern-day America, but they did not happen much at all a century ago. Here, Chuck Lyons recounts the sad story of the first indiscriminate mass shooting in US history. It took place in Winfield, Kansas in 1903 and the perpetrator was Gilbert Twigg.

 A panorama of Winfield, Kansas from around 1910.

A panorama of Winfield, Kansas from around 1910.

Early in the evening of August 13, 1903, thirty-six-year-old Gilbert Twigg parked his wagon in an alley near the corner of Main Street and Ninth Avenue in Winfield, Kansas. A large crowd had gathered there for an outdoor music concert. Wearing a buckskin hunting jacket, he walked to Ninth and Main. The band was taking a break and the crowd milled around talking. About a block from the bandstand, Twinge dropped to one knee, shouted “I’m going to shoot you all,” and opened fire with a shotgun. 

When he was done, nine people including Twigg himself, were dead. 

Gilbert Twigg had become the first indiscriminate mass killer in US history. He had acted without apparent motive and had killed whomever was handy. It was something the country had never seen before and would not see again for almost fifty years. Like many of today’s serial shooters he had served in the Armed Forces and had bought his guns legally. He also left a manifesto of 650 words of rationalization that explained little. 

“You should let this be a lesson to you in the future,” he wrote near its end.


Army veteran

Twigg had been born in Flintstone, Maryland in 1867 or 1868 and around 1888 had followed his uncle Argel to Kansas. There Twigg got a job as a miller and was said by people who knew him to be ambitious, intelligent, agreeable, and passably handsome, with “searing ice-blue eyes.” In those early days in Winfield, he worked, ran with a crowd of other young people, and courted a local woman, Jessie Hamilton, eventually proposing marriage and being accepted. But a short while after she accepted his proposal, for reasons that have never been clear, Hamilton changed her mind and broke off the engagement.

Her decision twisted something inside Twigg. 

“Those were the happiest days in my life,” he would write to a friend, Chance Wells, in 1902, “and it would have been much better for me if I had gotten married and settled down as you have done. I have no doubt but that you are very happy, while I am not.”

In 1896, two years after the thwarted love affair, Twigg enlisted in the army. He served two hitches and at one point was promoted because of his marksmanship. He saw action fighting in the Philippines where he also became involved in some sort of dispute with an officer and a doctor, Lt. Myron C. Bowdish and Contract Surgeon O. W. Woods, the details of which were never made public. But whatever had happened continued to haunt Twigg. He was mustered out of the army in California as a sergeant with an “excellent” service record and lived briefly in Montana working as a miller before returning to Winfield in 1903.

But things had changed, and Twigg was winding tighter.

In Winfield, he was unable to get his old job back or find any other employment probably because of his deteriorating mental condition. He was also reported to have lost his job in Montana “under murky circumstances.” He spent his days lolling around Winfield parks or sequestered in his boardinghouse room muttering about the people in Montana and Kansas who he thought had mistreated him and were plotting against him. 


Crazy Twigg

Local boys began calling him “Crazy Twigg.” 

Finally, on August 1, 1903, the twisting spring broke, and Twigg walked into the Winfield & Miller hardware store and bought a shotgun, an inexpensive .32 pistol, and more than 100 rounds of ammunition. He spent the next several days brushing up on the marksmanship he had learned in the Army. By August 13, he was ready. He piled his guns and ammunition into a tin express wagon and pulled it into the alley behind Ninth Avenue. Taking his shotgun, he began to walk to the Ninth and Main.

Along the way, The Winfield Chroniclelater reported, he ran into a group of local boys and allegedly told them he had some “tall shooting to do” and told them to get out of the area.

“I have no desire to hurt you,” the paper quoted him as saying.

At Ninth Avenue, he stopped in front of the Milligan Shoe Store, in sight of the bandstand and about a block away from it, and began firing. The band, Canton’s Dozen, a military band, was resting on the stage looking over sheet music. Twigg’s first shot grazed a horse that bolted and his second passed through the shoulder of the band’s drummer, Re Oliver, and shattered Clyde Wagoner's horn. Havoc erupted as Twigg kept firing into the crowd. Three men were hit as they exited onto the street from the stairway leading to the Odd Fellows Hall next door to Milligan’s. A group of three women were hit, and a 15-year-old boy. Bodies littered the street in growing pools of blood as Twigg continued firing on the scattering crowd. Some were running holding wounded arms or limping on shattered legs. Others were down in the street and moaning alongside the buildings.

Twigg had chosen the one evening of the week when the most people congregated, and “he chose the spot from which to fire with the skill of a general,” The Chroniclewrote. “He dropped on one knee at each fire, then retreated backward, while reloading, then dropped on his knee again and fired. These are the skirmish line tactics of the army and give a level `body line' to the volley. The employment of the tactics is due the terrible execution of his volleys. He remembered his training and `shot low.'”

Twigg worked his way back to the alley and his wagon. His last two shots were fired as he leaned around the corner. He then grabbed his .32 pistol from the wagon and turned it on himself. The whole incident had lasted less than ten minutes. Eight people, plus Twigg, died either immediately or shortly after the attack. More than two-dozen others had been wounded.

A rumor has persisted in Winfield for decades that Twigg did not shoot himself but was in fact killed by Winfield policeman George Nicholas, Winfield’s first and at that time only black policeman. “That rumor cast Nichols as a ready-made hero who ended the town’s most incomprehensible nightmare,” one historian wrote, “but [the town] was forced to deny his role because it was considered too dangerous for a black man to kill a white man, even justifiably.” 

For the rest of his life, Nicholas continued to deny he had shot Twigg.


The manifesto

The morning after the shooting, local police searched Twigg’s room and found a letter blaming unspecified individuals and the world at large for his troubles. 

"I would like to say to those who have interested themselves so much in my welfare (that seems to be the public in general),” he had written, “that I do not and most likely never will know the real cause of being treated in the manner in which I have been treated…You know you have `doped' me until I was forced to give up about a $100 a month position. You know that youdrove me from place to place and forced me to give up a neat little sum of my hard earned money to railroad companies, money that I went through the danger of war and diseases… You also know that you watched my mail and after finding out my friends and correspondents, you told them some kind of a story about me that caused everyone of them to drop me and turn me down cold.”

Was the cause of this persecution, he wondered, “my girl affaire here some eight or nine years ago? “ 

He also wrote that he regretted that “I did not settle this thing with Lieutenant Myron C. Bowdish and Contract surgeon O. W. Woods while I was a patient…in The Philippines. Then I could have gotten what was due me, and this thing would have been over long ago.”

The Winfield Chroniclewas surprisingly sympathetic to the man who had shot up its town and killed eight of its residents.

“Poor Twigg was not responsible for his insane acts. His disordered mind led him to the conclusion that the whole world was against him and he came back to the home of his boyhood to wreak vengeance and end it all,” it wrote on August 14, 1903.

There would not be another such attack in the United States until 1949, forty-six years later, when Howard Unruh wandered through his Camden, N.J., neighborhood killing twelve people. But by 2017, attacks such as Twigg’s were occurring with frightening regularly—and killing far more than the eight people Twigg had killed. 

“You should let this be a lesson to you in the future,” Twigg wrote in his manifesto, and he had indeed left a lesson for future generations.

But it was one we would be better off without.

Please share any comments or thoughts below.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a non-aggression pact signed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on August 23, 1939, a week before the start of World War II that would allow these two powers to invade Poland. Here is an introduction to the Pact and an overview of its consequences for World War Two.

 Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop shake hands after agreement on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Source: Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H27337 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, available  here .

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop shake hands after agreement on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Source: Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H27337 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, available here.

The Pact

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed between Nazi Germany’s foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Soviet Union’s foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov in Moscow on August 23, 1939.

With the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union committed themselves to not attack each other, and to not support or assist states that were an enemy of the other. The Pact was supposed to last for ten years. The treaty also led to economic and commercial benefits, most notably in a separate 1940 agreement.

The exact details of the treaty were known only by the leadership of both governments - and they were not revealed to the public; however, much later it was found out that the treaty had some secret clauses. Eastern Europe was to be divided into zones of German and Soviet influence, leaving Poland divided between the two powers, and with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania recognized by Germany as areas of Soviet interest.

Under the terms of the Pact, if Germany attacked Poland, the Soviet Union would not provide support to the government in Warsaw. Furthermore, if the consequence of Germany invading Poland was a war with the Western Powers (in particular France and Great Britain), the Soviet Union would not enter the conflict, thus preventing the opening of a second front for Germany. 


The consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact 

The conclusion of the pact meant that Germany would be able to pursue its expansionist objectives in Poland. Adolf Hitler wanted the German state to grow and he wanted “living space” (or lebensraumin German) for the German people in Eastern Europe. In order to obtain this, Hitler had been busy creating a dispute with Poland, just as he had done with Czechoslovakia previously. With Poland, the dispute was regarding Danzig, a largely German-speaking city that was a free state and that became independent of Germany as a consequence of the post-World War I Treaty of Versailles, along with parts of Poland where people spoke primarily German. Hitler wanted these territories to become part of Germany. Indeed, Adolf Hitler used these disputes as a pretext to invade Poland. 

This meant that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact enabled Hitler to invade Poland without Stalin’s interference and allowed for the start of World War II. On September 1, 1939, the Germany army invaded Poland, and on September, 17 1939, with the Polish Army greatly weakened, the Soviet Union attacked the eastern part of Poland. Even before the Soviet invasion, the Western Powers of Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.

A further consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was that the Soviets did not join the fight against Germany from 1939, which may have prolonged the Second World War until 1945. Without the Pact, the war could have ended sooner – although that is far from certain as the Soviet Army may not have been able to defend the Soviet Union effectively against the Germans in 1939 as it was able to in 1941.


German advantages

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact gave Germany some tremendous strategic advantages, as it allowed the country to focus its attack on Britain and France. Hitler did not need to split his forces between the eastern and western fronts; where as during World War One, Germany had to split its forces on two fronts, which may have cost them victory. In 1939, this was not the case, as the German army could fully focus on the west. Thanks to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the German army launched a large-scale attack solely on Western Europe. Within in less than a year of the outbreak of the war, countries including Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France were invaded by the Germans. 

By mid-1940, Stalin may have started to question his decision to cooperate with Hitler, since Hitler had become the master of Europe. Nonetheless, Stalin kept observing the Pact’s terms due to the seeming strength of the German war machine and the need to further strengthen the Soviet Army.

On June 22, 1941, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact came to an end when Germany launched a massive invasion of the Soviet Union, known as Operation Barbarossa. While this was not totally unexpected by Stalin and the Soviet leadership, they were still not fully prepared for a large-scale German assault at that time. So, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact enabled Adolf Hitler to invade France, leave Britain largely isolated in Europe, and allow him to concentrate his efforts on defeating the Soviet Union. 

Even though at first Stalin thought that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was beneficial, as he was able to secure his western borders against attack and gain territory in Eastern Europe, Stalin empowered Germany to dominate Western Europe and later invade the territories of the Soviet Union. In the end, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact made the USSR vulnerable, which resulted in great human and industrial loss to the Soviet Union over the period 1941-45.


What do you think of this introductory history article? Let us know below.

This article was provided by Paperell.com.

Good Queen Anne or Anne of Bohemia (1366-1394) was Queen of England from 1382-1394 as the wife of King Richard II of England (1367-1400; king from 1377-1399). Here, Casey Titus tells us about Anne’s life, the many good deeds she did, the positive influence she had on Richard, and how both she and Richard II died.

 Anne of Bohemia as seen on the Liber Regalis.

Anne of Bohemia as seen on the Liber Regalis.

The background to Anne’s arrival

Anne was born May 11, 1366 in Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) as the eldest daughter to Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, and Elizabeth of Pomerania. Charles IV was the most powerful monarch in Europe at the time and ruled over half of Europe’s population and territory. The majority of her childhood was spent at the Hradschin Palace, today known as Prague Castle, in the recently renovated and flourishing city of Prague. Anne was given an extraordinary education and could speak several languages. Her love of reading was greatly noted as she possessed the Scriptures in three languages, her favorites being the four Gospels, which she constantly studied.

In 1377, King Edward III of England died in the fiftieth year of his reign. Since his eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales (the Black Prince) had died the previous year, the elderly king was succeeded by his grandson King Richard II who was ten years old at the time. Conflicts were already brewing in the early years of his reign which included England beginning to lose the Hundred Years’ War with France, border clashes with Scotland, and economic strains brought on by the Black Death thirty years prior. Following the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, pressures were made to find the now 15-year old Richard a suitable bride.

Three years earlier, a split was formed within the Roman Catholic Church when two men claimed the papal throne, the elected Urban VI and his rival Clement VII. Anne of Bohemia seemed the most strategic choice for the sitting pope, Urban VI, as Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire could be potential allies against France which backed Clement VII as the true pope. King Wesceslaus of Bohemia, Anne’s brother, enthusiastically embraced the marriage proposal between his sister and the King of England. The marriage was not popular among the English nobility and members of parliament as Anne brought no dowry and few diplomatic benefits while King Richard gave Wenceslaus 20,000 florins (4,000,000 pounds in today’s value). Sir Simon Burley, King Richard’s tutor, traveled with the Earl of Suffolk to negotiate the marriage with King Wenceslas in place of her late father and by 1381, the negotiations were settled.


Anne to England

Anne voyaged to England, bringing a mass of ladies-in-waiting and gentlemen. She was stumped at Brussels on the way as the French had schemed to kidnap Anne and her uncle, the Duke of Brabant, who managed to confer with the French king. Charles VI, King of France, recalled his armed vessels, citing his love for his cousin, Anne, and not for the English king. She then sailed to Calais, then Dover, where she was received by the English king’s uncle, John of Gaunt. Upon her arrival, Anne was harshly critiqued by contemporary chroniclers, possibly as a result of the financial arrangements of the marriage. The Westminster Chronicler remarked that she was “a tiny scrap of humanity.” A Benedictine monk, Thomas Walsingham, pointed out a disastrous omen upon her arrival when her ships were smashed to pieces by a violent storm as soon as she disembarked. Anne spent the Christmas season at Leeds Castle before journeying to Westminster where she was greeted with magnificent displays and her future husband at last.

However, as Anne and Richard proceeded through the streets, the crowds ripped the royal arms apart which had been crossed with the imperial arms and mounted on a fountain in her honor. The Bohemian princess was not welcome among the people of England on her arrival.

Nevertheless, Anne and Richard II were married in Westminster Abbey on January 20, 1382, the fifth royal wedding in Westminster Abbey and the last for the next 537 years. She was sixteen years old, Richard a year younger. The exact date of their wedding is still debated. Anne was crowned Queen of England two days later. Despite their tender age, the relationship between these “two wispy teenagers” developed into more than just a political alliance. The king seemed delighted with his bride and paid her every attention. After a week of festivities and tournaments at Westminster in celebration of their marriage, the young couple travelled by river to Windsor Castle accompanied by King Richard’s mother, Joan, Princess of Wales.

 King Richard II of England.

King Richard II of England.

Growing popularity

Initially resented, Anne earned the love and popularity of England over the years. She was gentle and kind in nature, wielding considerable influence over her husband by interceding on behalf of others who displeased him. Examples include acquiring pardons for the Peasant’s Revolt culprits on the occasion of her coronation and begging on her knees for three hours before her husband and his political opponents for the life of Sir Simon Burley, the king’s own tutor, to be spared. He didn’t grant her wish this time but Burley was spared the gruesome traitor’s death.

In 1392, Richard requested a loan from the City of London which the city refused as they were already suffering from food shortages and plague. Angered, the king had the mayor and sheriffs arrested, revoked some of the city’s privileges, and named his own wardens. To add to the stacking penalties, he fined London one hundred thousand pounds. The Londoners submitted. Once again, Anne intervened and begged on her knees for Richard to forgive them at Windsor and Nottingham. The royal couple entered the city to Westminster Hall where Anne begged on her knees for the city’s behalf in a public ceremony. Richard raised her from her knees and seated her next to him before assuring the city officials of their renewed favor, pardoning them in September.

An often overlooked action of Anne’s reign was her protection for the religious reformer John Wycliffe against prosecution and potential death. With her encouragement, Bohemian students traveled to Oxford to study under Wycliffe. As a result, many writings and teachings of Wycliffe were carried back to Prague, Bohemia and throughout central Europe.

The Queen contributed to her new home country in the fashion sense too. She introduced the Polish long-pointed shoes called Cracows. Anne is also credited with introducing a head-dress for ladies known as the horned cap which were two feet high, two feet wide, arranged on a frame of wire and pasteboard, and covered with gold-speckled muslin or gauze. Before her groundbreaking introduction of pins which were produced in Germany for some time, gowns were fastened by tiny skewers consisting of ivory or wood. The queen also accompanied her husband on horseback all over the country. In this age, women rode seated sideways on a cushion behind the male rider’s saddle until Anne was said to have brought in sidesaddles, seats made of wood strapped to the horse’s back with a pommel for gripping, and a wooden plank that was wide enough to accommodate both feet and hung along the left side of the animal.


True love

Richard and Anne grew to love each other deeply. Richard was devoted to his wife and rarely left her side. In a letter to his mother-in-law, Elizabeth of Pomerania, he refers to her as “mater nostra carissima” which loosely translates to ‘mother of my beloved.’ They travelled together everywhere including to a 1383 pilgrimage to the shrine of Walsingham which may have been an attempt at seeking divine intervention for their childlessness. Despite no children being produced during their twelve year marriage, Anne did not become a discarded wife and the lack of illegitimate children shows he did not take any mistresses. At least one biographer theorized that their marriage was childless because it was chaste, due to Richard’s admiration for Edward the Confessor, though Richard strongly expressed a sense of lineage. Ultimately, both were still young so the king must have believed there was still hope for a future heir.

King Richard was infamous for his fierce temper and lack of forethought. The queen rarely wielded political influence but encouraged him to curb his temper and think before reacting rashly, even helping him through his severe depression. After the 1386 death of his mother, his wife became his sole and trustworthy confidant though he continued to favor some nobles.



In 1394, the plague struck and Queen Anne fell seriously ill. She died on June 7, 1394 at Sheen Palace. She was just 28 years old. The king was preparing an expedition to quell a rebellion in Ireland when she fell ill. He rushed to her side and was with her when she died. He was described as “wild with grief” and inconsolable, ordering Sheen Palace to be demolished. Richard summoned all the barons and nobles of England to her expensive and lavish funeral that would take two months to prepare. Extra wax torches were ordered from Flanders. The nobles and their wives were expected to arrive the day before and escort the body from Sheen to Westminster Abbey. On August 3, her body was carried from Sheen to Old St. Paul’s Cathedral to Westminster Abbey. Archbishop Arundel conducted her funeral service and praised her commitment to pious reading.

An embarrassing incident occurred during the funeral when Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, was not present for the procession and then, arriving late at the abbey, tactlessly asked the King’s permission to leave early on urgent business. Enraged, King Richard drew his sword and struck the Earl’s head so violently that he fell dizzily to the ground before ordering him to the Tower. He was released a week later.

 Anne’s funeral.

Anne’s funeral.

Richard after Anne

Richard’s biographer, Nigel Saul, states that even the year after Anne’s death, the widowed king refused to go into any room she had been in. In 1395, Richard commissioned lifelike tombs for himself and Anne with their right hands joined and both holding scepters in their left hands. For matters of state, Richard married Isabella of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France, two years after Anne’s death. She was only six years old at the time and it would be several years before their marriage was to be consummated, thus giving the King more time to overcome his grief for Anne. Despite her age, Richard was fond of her, showering her with gifts and visiting her often. Accounts report that she mourned deeply for him after his death.

The last two years of Richard’s reign were chronicled as a period of tyranny with levied forced loans, arbitrary arrests, and murdering of the king’s rivals. Historians debate whether Richard was suffering from mental illness during this time. Richard’s friends quickly deserted him. If Anne lived, would her pious and gentle influence over her husband have made a difference? The answer is simply no; Richard had very definitive ideals of kingship and his own reign that made him increasingly unpopular.

In 1399, Richard’s first cousin and childhood playmate, Henry Bolingbroke gained enough power and support to declare himself Henry IV of England and deposed Richard, citing his incompetence and tyranny as being unworthy to rule. Richard is thought to have starved to death in captivity at the Tower of London around February 14, 1400. Henry did not honor Richard’s wishes to be buried by his beloved late wife.

Henry IV’s son, Henry V, in an effort to atone for Richard’s dishonorable death and to silence persistent rumors of Richard’s survival, as well as possibly recognizing the tender love between Richard and Anne, moved Richard’s body to Westminster Abbey beside her where they remain today.

While their tomb has been subsequently damaged over time, its effigy initially showed the couple clasping hands, inseparable in death as they were in life.


What do you think of Good Queen Anne? Let us know below.



Abernethy, Susan. “Anne of Bohemia, Queen of England.” The Freelance History Writer, 7 June 2017, thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2014/10/03/anne-of-bohemia-queen-of-england/.

“Anne of Bohemia - Good Queen Anne.” History of Royal Women, 4 Feb. 2018, www.historyofroyalwomen.com/anne-of-bohemia/anne-bohemia-good-queen-anne/.

“Anne of Bohemia.” Henry VI, www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/plantagenet_61.html.

Brown, Rebecca Starr. “The Wedding of Richard II & Anne of Bohemia.” RebeccaStarrBrown.com, 27 Sept. 2017, rebeccastarrbrown.com/2017/01/14/january-14-the-wedding-of-richard-ii-anne-of-bohemia/.

Davison, Anita. “A Royal Love Story-Richard II and Anne of Bohemia.” Political Meaning in 18th Century Nursery Rhymes (Part Two), 5 Aug. 2012, englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-royal-love-story-richard-ii-and-anne.html.

Eckford, Teresa. “Richard II and Anne of Bohemia.” To Be Noble in Italy: Outward Displays of Grandeur as a Means of Class Identification, www.triviumpublishing.com/articles/richard_ii_anne_bohemia.html.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post

As Japan conquered more territory from the 1930s, and as World War Two grew in scale following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, propaganda efforts across Japanese-controlled East Asian territories became more important. Here, Maddison Nichol follows up on his article on Nazi World War Two propaganda (here), and explains the importance of race and anti-Western ideology in the promotion of Japan’s East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

 A Japanese 1930s propaganda poster promoting co-operatuion between Japan and - Japanese-controlled - Manchuria and China.

A Japanese 1930s propaganda poster promoting co-operatuion between Japan and - Japanese-controlled - Manchuria and China.

In 1941, the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor in a surprise air raid. The intention was to sink much of the American Pacific Fleet which was a threat to growing Japanese imperial ambitions in East Asia. Many people forget that Japan had been at war with China since 1937, and by 1941 Japanese society was used to military propaganda blasts about the lofty East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere and other grandiose ideas intended to mask the ugly nature of imperialism. But how did the Japanese Empire justify their aggression and conquests to their own people and those living in the conquered regions? By utilizing racially charged propaganda, picked up from the Germans under Hitler, and vilifying the Western imperial powers through past acts of aggression and gunboat diplomacy, the Japanese intended to create a semblance of authority and affection among their own people and the conquered inhabitants of Asia.



WW2 was a war that revolved around the idea of race. At the apex of the Nazi racial hierarchy were the Aryans, those with blonde hair and blue eyes and the purest of all races. Aryans were the ‘super race’ in this ideology, and the presence of a ‘super race’ means there must be a ‘sub race’. Essentially, the idea goes that everyone who wasn’t Aryan, or in our case here, Japanese, was a ‘sub race’ and inferior to the ‘super race’. The Japanese were even referred to as ‘yellow Aryans’ by their Axis allies.[1]

How did the Japanese utilize their idea of racial superiority? Domestically, like in Nazi Germany, the Japanese proclaimed that they were racially superior to Koreans, Chinese, and other Asian peoples. The Japanese watched Hitler disrupt the status quo of Europe through racially charged propaganda in just shy of a decade, so the Japanese figured they could do the same thing in Asia under their own banner.[2] There was one issue with this new racial model developed by the Japanese. The Nazis had a scapegoat, such as those of Jewish and Slavic descent. The Japanese didn’t. Luckily, like any imagined order, they could just make one up like the Nazis did. Instead of Jews and Slavs, the Japanese chose Britons and Americans, the premier imperial powers in Asia.[3]

There was a long, and confusing, rationale about racial superiority in the Second World War, but the simple version is that the Germans thought they were the superior race destined to rule the world, and so did the Japanese. All this background aside, let’s get into the propaganda itself.

The term “New World Order” is not unfamiliar among savants and scholars of the Second World War. The Nazis used it constantly, and yet not many know that the Japanese intended to create their own New Order in Asia. This was called the East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The central tenant for the Co-Prosperity Sphere was that Asia should belong to Asians and not be subject to the British and American imperial ambitions.[4] Naturally, the Japanese Empire should control all of Asia instead of the Europeans. Throw off the yoke of Western imperialism for… well, another version of Western imperialism.

The real reason for the war in Asia was imperial ambitions. Japan needed coal, iron, and other resources that they just didn’t have in the Home Islands that other nearby areas had, such as Korea and Indonesia. However, masking these goals through race allowed the Japanese to persuade their own people that they intended to liberate Asia from the West. They tried to inform the conquered people that they meant no harm, but were there to free them from the Western powers.[5] A Japanese propaganda corps sent to the Philippines was told to deliver messages about why the Japanese were compelled to go to war. Leaflets describing why the Japanese had gone to war against the USA were given out to Filipinos during the invasion of the Philippines by special propaganda corps.[6] The goal was to try and convince the Filipinos that Japan was an ally, not an enemy. Asia must be liberated from the Europeans and Americans so that peace can reign in Asia. Japanese propagandists cited race issues in the United States as justification for a war of Asian liberation and handed it out to both Japanese people domestically and those of conquered areas to justify their imperial ambitions through the lens of racial struggle.[7] This idea of race goes well with the next big aspect of Japanese wartime propaganda, past deeds of atrocity committed by the Western powers.


Reminders of Western Atrocities

In 1839, Great Britain attacked Qing China for restricting the trade of Opium into China. Opium was a major export for the British and the Chinese market for the drug was lucrative and funded many well off British merchants back in Britain. The Opium Wars went from 1839-1842, and 1856-1860 and brought down the long-established era of Chinese dominance in East Asia. It also worried other parts of Asia, such as Japan, by showing the other Asian countries that Europe would always get what it wanted and was willing to fight against anyone who opposed them.

This war, while over a century old by the time Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, was made into a wartime film by the Japanese to enable everyone to recall the atrocities of the British in the name of wealth. The film was “intended to demonstrate the evils of the British Empire and by extension, the need for someone to step in to halt European aggression, The Opium War also implicitly states the case for Japan as China’s saviour.”[8] By making the Japanese and the Chinese remember the British atrocities against the Chinese, it would hopefully rally the Japanese to support the war while also promoting Japan as the savior of China. By portraying the British in such a negative light, Japanese propagandists hoped the Chinese would support the Japanese effort in creating the Co-Prosperity Sphere and finally bring peace to a racially pure Asia free from Western imperialism.

We don’t know how well the film was received in China and other occupied territories, but on the home front it was a big hit.[9] Much like the Germans, film was intended to reach a broader audience and get people to grasp the key points of the ideological propaganda. But film was not the only way to get people to recall atrocities. In The Philippines, Japanese propaganda corps tried to get Filipinos to remember American atrocities against them, such as how the Filipino soldiers of the USAFFE were being used as shields for the Americans, or how the soldiers were discriminated against by the Americans.[10] They also reminded the Filipinos of how 297 of 300 Filipino laborers were murdered by American soldiers after the completion of the Fort.[11] By trying to appeal to the Filipinos through invoking recollections of American atrocities, the Japanese intended to create a truce between the two Asian peoples by declaring how Japan was their savior from Western atrocities.

We know in hindsight that the Japanese committed atrocities of their own in China, The Philippines, and other areas of occupied Asia. But this was their propaganda strategy to garner support domestically and in the occupied territories for the Japanese war effort. By utilizing the all-too-common race idea into propaganda and causing Asians to remember Western imperial violence, the Japanese tried to create their New World Order in Asia with their superior race leading the rest. Europe and America would be removed, and peace would return to Asia at last. There are many other facets to Japanese wartime propaganda, such as bushido and kokutai, but in broad strokes race and past atrocities were the central ideas to the creation of the Co-Prosperity Sphere. Japan’s “super race” would lead the rest of Asia into an era of peace and harmony free from the corruption of the West. Anyone who actually believed them would soon be taught that liberation was just another name for imperialism.


What do you think of Japanese World War Two propaganda? Let us know below.


[1] Saul K. Padover, “Japanese Race Propaganda”, in The Public Opinion Quarterly 7, No. 2 (Summer, 1943), 192.

[2] Ibid, 193.

[3] Ibid, 194.

[4] Ibid, 196.

[5] A. J. Grajdanzev, “Japan’s Co-Prosperity Sphere”, Pacific Affairs 16, No. 3 (September 1943), 311.

[6] Motoe Terami-Wada, “The Japanese Propaganda Corps in the Philippines”, in Philippine Studies 38, No. 3 (Third Quarter 1990), 285.

[7] “Japanese Race Propaganda”, 197-198.

[8] David Desser, “From the Opium War to the Pacific War: Japanese Propaganda Films of World War II”, in Film History 7, No. 1, Asian Cinema (Spring, 1995), 44.

[9] Ibid, 44.

[10] “The Japanese Propaganda Corps in the Philippines”, 292.

[11] Ibid, 294.


1: Saul K. Padover, “Japanese Race Propaganda”, in The Public Opinion Quarterly 7, No. 2 (Summer, 1943), 192.

2: Ibid, 193.

3: Ibid, 194.

4: Ibid, 196.

5: A. J. Grajdanzev, “Japan’s Co-Prosperity Sphere”, Pacific Affairs 16, No. 3 (September 1943), 311.

6: Motoe Terami-Wada, “The Japanese Propaganda Corps in the Philippines”, in Philippine Studies 38, No. 3 (Third Quarter 1990), 285.

7: Saul K. Padover, “Japanese Race Propaganda”, in The Public Opinion Quarterly 7, No. 2 (Summer, 1943), 197-198.

8: David Desser, “From the Opium War to the Pacific War: Japanese Propaganda Films of World War II”, in Film History 7, No. 1, Asian Cinema (Spring, 1995), 44.

9: Ibid, 44.

10: Motoe Terami-Wada, “The Japanese Propaganda Corps in the Philippines”, in Philippine Studies 38, No. 3 (Third Quarter 1990), 292.

11: Ibid, 294.

Politicians have a history of using fear to gain votes and win elections. Here, Jonathan Hennika (his site here), considers recent events in the US in the context of 19th century America. He explains how immigrants from Ireland and Germany led to fear and the rise of the American Party – or Know Nothing Movement.

 An image representing the American Know Nothing Movement. 1850s.

An image representing the American Know Nothing Movement. 1850s.

In 1958 for three-bits you were able to purchase "Masters of Deceit" by J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The book is currently available at various booksellers and online. In explaining Communist Discipline, he wrote, "Modern-day communism, in all its many ramifications, simply cannot be understood without a knowledge of Communist Discipline: how it is engendered, how it operates, how it tears out man's soul and makes him a tool of the Party.”[i]After defeating the Axis powers in the catastrophic war, a new/old threat emerged, Red Communism. The era of bomb shelters and duck and cover, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, McCarthy and Nixon, and Alger Hiss and the Pumpkin Papers. Korea ended in a stalemate, and something was brewing with the French in Indo-China. Americans were afraid.

According to J. Edgar Hoover, this was the threat America faced, "To make the United States a communist nation is the ambition of every Party member, regardless of position or rank. He constantly works to make this dream a reality, to steal your rights, liberties, and property. Even though he lives in the United States, he is a supporter of a foreign power, espousing an alien line of thought. He is a conspirator against his country."[ii]

Many questions surround the legitimacy of the 2016 elections and the current political climate in America. Regardless, we are still a scared nation, whether it be from a terrorist attack, a mass shooting, or just everyday life in poverty-stricken America. When we vote, that fear is present. We elect leaders whom we believe will take care of us. In the television show The West Wing, the character of Josh Lyman explains to an aide how the electorate makes their choice at the polls: “When voters want a national daddy, someone to be tough and strong and defend the country, they vote Republican. When they want a mommy, someone to give them jobs, health care the policy equivalent of matzah ball soup, they vote Democratic.”[iii] Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst studied the impact of fear and anger in political information processing.[iv] They found “feelings of anger may promote voting for candidates who are well recognized, regardless of their beliefs on issues. However, fear may encourage individuals to vote for candidates whose positions on specific issues are congruent with their own, thus leading to more thoughtful, meaningful, and self-relevant choices.”[v]

At the height of the 2016 election cycle, Time magazine’s political correspondent, Molly Ball, published an article in The Atlantic. The title of her article: “Donald Trump and the Politics of Fear.”[vi] In it, she wrote: Fear and anger are often cited in tandem as the sources of Trump's particular political appeal, so frequently paired that they become a refrain: fear-and-anger, anger-and-fear. But fear is not the same as anger; it is a unique political force. Its ebbs and flows through American political history have pulled on elections, reordering and destabilizing the electoral landscape.”[vii]

It is with that premise in mind that I plan to write on the use of fear in politics, in particular, the “fear of the other.” The other being whomever the politicians need to target to arouse fear and anger. I will work through this examination in chronological order; examining various political campaigns, parties, and movements for their use of fear and treatment of the other. I will demonstrate how the use of fear impacts the electorate.


The First Immigration Crisis: The Irish and Emergence of the Know-Nothing Party

Most Americans recognize the words of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Patriarchal language aside, this was a fundamental tenet of the Founding Fathers. In contrast, thirteen years later, these same founders indicated that an African-American was 3/5th a person, for purposes of the decennial census.

This American Narrative, a nation founded on the principles of freedom and equality, was accepted as truth. The narrative makes false assumptions, using an English and Protestant-centric view. The everyday use of the English language as an amalgamating societal force aided the growth of the narrative. Enacting its first Naturalization Act in 1790, the United States accepted any white person into its citizenry. Estimates are that between 1790 and 1805 immigration to the United States averaged 6,000 new citizens a year. The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 tampered down new influxes of Americans. The first rise in immigration began in 1815, leading the Congress to enact the Steerage Act, in 1819, requiring all ships to keep detailed records of passengers and offer better transportation conditions.[viii]

Immigration to America peaked in 1854 at 428,000, with Irish and Germans escaping adverse agricultural conditions. [ix] For these immigrants, their first views of America were the port cities they disembarked from. The first test of the American Narrative began in that time and place. "In the communities where the new Irish Catholic immigrants settled, many wondered whether their presence would affect American cultural identity. Natives also expressed fears and doubts regarding the allegiance of this group to American democratic values and institutions. Finally, they feared that these newcomers were being manipulated by corrupt city politicians, who were more concerned about votes than inculcating the principles of democracy in the new immigrants." [x]


The Order of United Americans/Know-Nothing Party

Thomas R. Whitney, son of a New York silversmith, is a little-known name to most Americans. A politician and a journalist, Whitney was a moving force in the Order of United Americans (OUA), a nativist fraternity. Founded in 1846, the OUA, was an amalgam of former Whigs, Free-soilers, and nativists who opposed slavery and were concerned with the growing power of the foreign-born. Initially, a secret society (members were instructed to answer that they knew nothing about the organization if questioned), by the early 1850s knowledge of them was common. Whitney served as editor starting in 1851 of the Republic, “a monthly magazine of American Literature, Politics, and Art that the rapidly expanding OUA initiated, sponsored, and distributed. Whitney's standing in the OUA was confirmed in 1853 when he began a second term as grand sachem. In 1856 Whitney crowned his writing career with the publication of a nearly four-hundred-page Know-Nothing bible, A Defence of the American Policy." [xi]

Economic development, a homogeneous national culture, active government, and opposition to the burgeoning women's rights movement was at the heart of OUA beliefs. The nuclear family was essential and required female and filial subordination. An active government was committed to economic and cultural development. It did not offer legislation attacking societal inequality. Whitney opposed maximum hours laws, public aid to the elderly, as well as a homestead bill that proposed to grant federal lands to those without. "Government’s proper task, Whitney argued, was to shore up the foundations of existing society, serve its needs, and advance its general interests."[xii]

To Whitney and the rest of the OUA, foreign-born nationals were not reliable conservatives and would not support the American Narrative. The OUA was threatened by the new peasants, craft workers, and unskilled laborers emigrating to the United States. They did not have the proper political experience. They had the wrong acculturation. The threat to the United States came in two forms: Roman Catholics and Radicals.



According to the Library of Congress, nearing one-third of those immigrating to the United States between 1830 and 1860 were Irish Catholics.[xiii]

An Anti-Catholic fervor swept the nation. One conspiracy theory postulated the Catholic Church was behind the influx of Irish. The Irish also represented a greater fear for the OUA; they did not own property, so they were corruptible, irresponsible, and ignorant. The OUA used propaganda that the Irish were uneducated, politically unaware and easy to manipulate to attract men (i.e.voters) to the OUA. Voters were scared that the corruptible immigrants would prevent "good men" from governing. [xiv]

There was also a fear of radicalism, as Europe was undergoing its transformation in the 1840s. A riot between striking Irish dock workers and strikebreakers exemplified this radicalism. The political upheaval of 1848 added to the fear of newly arrived citizens. Some of the radical ideas were coming out of Germany; thus German emigres were marked as targets. In speaking of these working-class immigrants, Whitney said they were "carriers of a deadly plague--Red Republicanism." [xv]

The political wing of the OUA, the American Party, had strong showings in the elections of 1852 and 1854. The American Party drew most of its support from New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. The 1855 Congressional session started with 43 members of the American Party. Their candidate for President in 1856 won 21% of the vote.[xvi]

The leaders of the American Party were men who had never voted and defectors of the Whig Party. They promised to take power away from the political machines, to "drain the swamp," as it were. They proposed a direct primary voting system and required candidates for office to be "fresh from the people-not professional, no politicians." As a result, most, American Party candidates were inexperienced and incompetent.[xvii]

America, then as in now, was a nation in crises. The people, the voters, were scared. There were more Irish, Germans, and other Europeans coming to America. The revolts in Europe in 1848 added to the influx. The uneducated immigrants added to the population of the emerging cities. Soon, ghettos would appear. As the towns grew so did their political machines. These events added up to a threat against the traditional American narrative cherished by Thomas Whitney and others like him. They seized upon the inherent fear of the other in trying to preserve the American Narrative, never knowing they were altering it by their use of fear.

To be continued.


What do you think of the article? Let us know below.

You can read more of Jonathan’s work at Portable Historianwww.portablehistorian.com.


[i] J. Edgar Hoover, Masters of Deceit, (NY, 1958), 163

[ii] Ibid., 4

[iii]  Elie Attie, “The Mommy Problem,” The West Wing, (2005) https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=the-west-wing&episode=s07e02

[iv] Michael T. Parker and Linda M. Isbell, “How I Vote Depends on How I Feel: The Differential Impact of Anger and Fear on Political Information Processing,” Psychological Science, 21 (April 2010), 548.

[v] Ibid., 549

[vi] Molly Ball, “Donald Trump and the Politics of Fear,” The Atlantic, September 2, 2016, 1.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] The Statute of Liberty- Elis Island, "Immigration Timeline," https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/immigration-timeline#1790

[ix] Raymond L. Cohn, "Nativism and the End of the Mass Migration of the 1840s and 1850s," The Journal of Economic History, 60 (June 01), 361.

[x] Jose E. Vega, "Cultural Pluralism and American Identity: A Response to Foner's Freedom and Hakim's Heroes," OAH Magazine of History, 20 (July 2006), 19.

[xi] Bruce Levine, "Conservatism, Nativism, and Slavery: Thomas R. Whitney and the Origins of the Know-Nothing Party," The Journal of American History, (Sept 2001), 461-463.

[xii] Ibid. 464-466

[xiii] https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/immigration/irish2.html

[xiv] Levine, 468

[xv] Ibid., 469

[xvi] Encyclopedia Britannica, "Know-Nothing Party," https://www.britannica.com/topic/Know-Nothing-party; Michael F. Hot, "The Politics of Impatience: The Origins of Know-Nothingism," The Journal of American History, 60 (September 1973) 311.

[xvii] Ibid., 311, 318,319

It is 1725. The freshly forged and heavily reformed Russian Empire sets on the assertive course to level with the leading European powers by all means. The “Window to the West” was finally opened, and the newly built capital of St. Petersburg was on its way to prosperity. After the prodigious military expansions of Great Northern War, it was now the time to expand the Empire eastwards. Shortly before his death, Russian Emperor Peter The Great drafts an order to arrange the first official expedition east of Siberia - and so began the journey into the unknown.

Here, Sergey Lutsenko explains how Vitus Jonassen Bering led multiple expeditions to the Russian Far East – and managed to ‘discover’ Alaska for Russia.

 A depiction of the wreckage of Vitus Bering's 1741 expedition in the Aleutian Islands .

A depiction of the wreckage of Vitus Bering's 1741 expedition in the Aleutian Islands .

First Kamchatka Expedition

Vitus Jonassen Bering (1681-1741), himself a Dane, serving in the Imperial Russian Navy-was instructed and provided means to sail the dark and treacherous waters of the North Pacific in order to find out, in the Emperor’s words, “where Asia conjoins America” and identify the presence of any European settlers in the area. It was a cold February 1725 when Bering’s expedition set out from St. Petersburg towards Okhotsk- the main Russian naval base on the coast of the Pacific. By way of land, river and snow the experienced crew of 24 members made its way through more than 5,500 kilometers of Russian mainland passing Vologda, Irkutsk and Yakutsk. It took them 2 years to finally reach their destination. The Emperor ordered Bering to build two deck ships to transport the members of the expedition, but Bering had cleverly instructed one of them to be constructed well in advance before his arrival. The second ship was brought to the dock of Okhotsk, repaired and equipped in time as well. Having waited the winter in Okhotsk, Bering set sail onboard his newly built “Fortuna” in the direction of Kamchatka. Ironically, after a week at sea, a misfortune occurred - leakage was spotted and the crew had to urgently dock and unload their vessels. Not willing to lose time and resources in the field, Bering decided to move by land to the staging post- naval base Nizhnekamchatsk, where another ship – “St. Gabriel”- was built. It was onboard that ship, after a year of delay, that the expedition finally set sail towards the edge of the world.

On August 11, 1728, Bering entered a narrow passage, which separated Asia from America. Some decades after, despite the fact that Bering was not the first to cross it, the strait would be designated by James Cook and up to this day bears the name of “Bering Strait”. Two days later, with strong northern winds, the expedition crossed the Arctic Circle. At this point Bering decided that his mission was complete - it was evident to him that the American shore had no connection to Asia. The crew returned to Kamchatka.

After additional efforts to discover a land bridge, Vitus Bering and his crew returned to St. Petersburg. The crew of the expedition received high honors, with Bering himself promoted to the rank of Captain Commander. Even though the First Kamchatka Expedition did not manage to “discover” America, it was an invaluable contribution to the cartography and ethnography of the region. Shortly afterwards, the preparations for the second, much more ambitious expedition began.


Great Northern Expedition (Second Kamchatka Expedition)

Vitus Bering had accomplished his mission in mapping the region; however his achievements were not enough to satisfy the interests of either Russian Governing Senate or the main sponsor of the expedition - the Admiralty. In order to save his reputation, without hesitation he proposed that he should arrange a second expedition. After a delay caused by a major succession crisis within the Russian monarchy, orders were issued by the Imperial Senate under the imprint of Empress Anna Ioannovna.

The expedition was complex and exceptionally expensive by the standards of the 1740s - the estimated expenditure reached a tremendous 1.5 million rubles. This was nearly one sixth of the Russian Empire’s yearly income. The aims included determining the existence of the north-east passage between Europe and the Pacific, the charting of the Arctic coast, extensive mapping of Eastern Siberia, and voyages into Japan and America in order to establish commercial relations. The wider scale of the second expedition can be also seen through the decision to involve members of the Academy of Sciences, founded in 1724. Three professors, accompanied by a team of five students, two landscape artists, an interpreter, a physician, and an instrument-maker were appointed to undertake scientific research throughout the journey. Apart from observations of flora and fauna, scholars were instructed to record customs, habits and behavior of indigenous people.

The expedition left St. Petersburg in three stages; the first, led by Commander Bering, was to proceed to Kamchatka via Okhotsk, and from there further north, to explore the area where the mythical “Joao-da-Gama-Land” was said to be located. Joao da Gama was a famous Portuguese explorer who claimed the discovery of a massive landmass north of Japan back in 1589. Since then, nobody had confirmed his claims. A second group, led by Bering’s second-in-command, Danish captain Martin Spangberg, was headed to China and Japan and a third group was the above-mentioned academic component, on their own separate itinerary. Each of the three groups made significant discoveries, but it is Bering’s story that we are going to follow.


En route to the Unknown

On September 8, 1740, the packet boats “Sv. Piotr” under Bering’s command and “Sv. Pavel”, captained by Alexei Chirikov - who accompanied the first expedition - left the port of Okhotsk towards Kamchatka. They sailed through the passage between the southernmost tip of Kamchatka and the northernmost of the Kuril Islands, and neared their destination by September 27. However, heavy weather and fog forced them back into the sea. It was only on October 6 that the ships entered Avacha Bay, to start building their winter settlement. The settlement was named “Petropavlovsk”, to glorify the names of the saints as well as the first ships to enter. The city later grew to become the capital of Kamchatka peninsula- Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.

Having waited the winter, the crew decided, after some deliberations, to proceed southeast, where, according to their calculations, “Joao-da-Gama-Land” was located. Early in the morning on June 4, both ships left Avacha Bay. The plan was to return by the end of September, but that was never to happen. Having reached the approximate location of the mythical landmass, the officers of the expedition concluded that it never existed, and their efforts were in vain. Both ships turned north.

Sailing conditions were harsh, with frequent storms and thick fog. Despite shooting cannons and ringing bells, the captains lost sight of each other. After three days of unsuccessful attempts to meet, Bering ordered his ship to sail north, while Chirikov headed northeast. The crew of Sv. Piotr spent a long and troublesome four weeks at sea. Storms raged on; thirst, hunger and scurvy devastated the crew.

Captain Bering fell sick. The spirit of desperation began to haunt the sailors, and the bitter end seemed inevitable. Miraculous it was, when on July 16, 1741, the members of the expedition sighted high mountain peaks, covered in snow. They had reached the shores of Alaska. Sv. Piotr continued to sail along the coast and on July 20 anchored near a large island near the mainland. Two teams were sent to scout for fresh water and a more suitable bay to disembark. Upon their return, scouts reported that they had found a good area to dock as well as signs of a small local settlement in the area. At this point Bering was too weak to walk. He instructed the ship surgeon and naturalist Georg W. Steller to explore the island and record his observations. Having spent 10 hours ashore, Steller studied the indigenous settlement and observed local flora and fauna. His efforts were amongst the first European contributions to the natural and human history of the region. The crew refilled their supplies of fresh water, and at 6AM the next day set sail again. They designated the area as “Cape Saint Elias”, which later came to be known as Kayak Island, 250 miles southwest from modern day Anchorage. 

 A map from the 1770s showing the Russian Discoveries.

A map from the 1770s showing the Russian Discoveries.

First Contact and Bering’s Bitter End

The expedition continued to explore the area, but the conditions onboard worsened dramatically. Scurvy now affected almost every sailor, the fresh water supplies were never enough, and Bering’s health deteriorated. The crew went ashore on the archipelago, which was named Shumagin Islands, honoring the first sailor who died from scurvy - Nikita Shumagin. Heavy storms forced a delay but it was these circumstances that allowed for the first European contact with the Aleuts, an indigenous group, to be established. When the storms calmed, Bering decided upon a return to Kamchatka. The way back was more devastating than ever; scurvy ravaged the crew again. St. Peter drifted until November 4, when mountain peaks were spotted again. The ship approached land around nightfall, to face strong winds; attempts were made to anchor close by shore, but the waves broke the anchor chain and the ship was thrown over the riffs, suffering heavy damage. Nevertheless, the crew managed to anchor in a small bay. Over the course of two weeks, sailors who could walk transported their sick ship-mates ashore. Nine died. Bering was sure that they landed on Kamchatka, but after his scouts returned the last hope was gone - they were on an unknown, uninhabited island. There was no choice but to wait the winter. The landscape was mostly covered with snow, with a small freshwater river providing the only source of life. No forest grew next to the shore. Survivors had to winter in dugouts, covered with tarpaulin.

Commander Vitus Jonassen Bering, the legendary captain and leader of the North Pacific expedition, and the man who led an expedition to set foot on Alaska, died on December 19, 1741. The island where he died was later named in his honor - Bering Island, just like Bering Sea, Bering Glacier and Bering Land Bridge. His achievements, however, are subject to debate. He was neither the first Russian to sight Alaska, nor the first to enter the Bering Strait. Nevertheless his efforts to make the first contact with the Aleuts on top of his other exploration endeavors are considered substantial contributions to naval mapping, ethnography, and geography.


What do you think of Vitus Jonassen Bering’s legacy? Let us know below.


J. L. Black, "G.-F. Müller and the Russian Academy of Sciences Contingent in the Second Kamchatka Expedition, 1733-43." Canadian Slavonic Papers 25, no. 2 (1983): 237, 239

Raymond H. Fisher, “Berings Voyages: Whither and Why. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press”, 1977. 17-19

Wieland Hintzsche, Thomas Nickol. "Die Grosse Nordische Expedition: Georg Wilhelm Steller (1709-1746)." The Geographical Journal 164, no. 2 (1998): 200

Sven Veksel’, Vtoraja Kamchatskaja Ekspedicija Vitusa Beringa, Glavsevmorputi, 1940: http://az.lib.ru/w/wakselx_s/text_1759_vaksel_kamchatka.shtml

Velikaya Severnaya Ekspedicija: Vtoraja Kamchatskaya Ekspedicija Beringa (article by Diletant Media): posted 15 June 2018: http://diletant.media/excursions/29368005/

The policies of Nazi Germany and Showa Japan towards Muslim-majority warzones differed greatly. This became increasingly evident throughout the period 1931-45, and notably as World War Two became tougher for the Axis Powers from 1942-45. Here, Guan Kiong Teh considers how Nazi Germany used a ‘confidence-and-supply’ approach in Palestine, and Iraq and Japan a ‘coalition’ approach in Malaya and Singapore.

 Adolf Hitler meeting with influential war-time Palestinian Amin al-Husseini. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1987-004-09A / Heinrich Hoffmann / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Available  here

Adolf Hitler meeting with influential war-time Palestinian Amin al-Husseini. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1987-004-09A / Heinrich Hoffmann / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Available here

This article defines policy as ‘a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organization or individual’[1], and ‘warzone’ as ‘a region where occurred physical conflict’. Whereas the Japanese were interested in a ‘coalition’ with Muslims, trying to incorporate Malay, Indian, Muslim identities as subjugate to a Japanese seishin (‘national spirit’), the Germans preferred a ‘confidence-and-supply’ arrangement, working to lobby and influence Muslims to solicit cooperation in specific aspects, but almost entirely disinterested in other aspects of Islamic life. This policy comparison could take one of several focuses: Islamic importance to each regime’s military strategy or the role of Japanese and German policy in postwar Muslim conflict, to give examples. However, both regimes had, by the eve of campaigns in Muslim-majority regions during the Second World War (1939-45), come to recognise Islam’s capital as a global religion. Both identified that Muslim-majority regions were rich in physical resources. As the dominant religion and identity in many Allied colonies, Protectorates and Mandates, Islamic political interests could be shaped to solicit cooperation to hasten the decline in Allied international influence. Both regimes shared interest in expansionist policy, even if the role of Muslims within these interests differed.

From these commonalities in outlook, four warzones stand out as clear candidates to assess Muslim policy: Malaya & Singapore during the 1941-5 Pacific War for the Japanese, and Palestine & Iraq for the Germans. All four had common experiences as British colonies or mandates. All four were plural societies, accommodating at least one significant minority: the Jews in the Middle East; the Chinese in Southeast Asia. This essay shall first compare the reasons for different interpretations of this resource, assessing how and why German and Japanese regimes altered their approaches to Muslims in these regions during the Second World War. The Japanese and Germans produced two very different strains of philosophies, plans and policies, often only united by Muslim response and interpretation of these policies. Nonetheless, the identification of Muslims as a resource was a common theme, and shall be this essay’s focus.


Japan and Germany: Different Approaches

Differences in contributions to Japanese and German ‘racial’ and ‘ethnic’ intellectual theory throughout the 1930s produced two vastly different approaches towards defining relationships with Islam. The scholarly contribution to Japanese Muslim policy during the 1930s was more complex than that in Germany. This, along with far greater resource scarcity than experienced by the Germans, later translated into a set of policies that demonstrated interest in the indoctrination and long-term domination of society so that Malays and Indian Muslims would view their Muslim identity as subordinate, to their identity as part of the Japanese Minzoku (ethnic nation). By the 1930s, the biological concept of ‘race’ and its mathematical formulae as a means of justifying Japanese superiority and expansionism was outdated amongst Japanese scholars. Takata Yasuma, in particular, rejected ‘the Germanic emphasis on "blood and soil’ as it was insufficiently sensitive to the importance of culture and too dependent on nature for its definitions of the nation’[2]. Most contemporary scholars agreed that the Yamato people were composed of waves of migrants from Southeast Asia, China and Siberia. The study of ethnology was dominated by two competing strains: the theories of Takata Yasuma, and the Society of Ethnology, established in 1934. Doak’s analysis of the Minzoku (ethnic nation) concept claims that the competition in the field of ethnology ‘fanning the flames of wartime aggression’ more so than would a doctrine that believed in racial purity[3]. Takata envisioned a Minzoku that permitted other religions and ethnicities, but ultimately loyal to Japan in language, and, more importantly, political allegiance.


Resource Scarcity in Japan

Contemporary sources demonstrate many practical, pressing concerns in ensuring that the conversion of Muslim opinion occurred rapidly. Writing in 1938, the sociologist Jesse Steiner notes currents of panic amongst the Japanese at the scarcity of resources; horror at the effects of the 1929 Great Depression in destabilising the nation after the Meiji economic boom proved unsustainable[4]. These fears were further compounded by long-standing concerns of overpopulation, which was in turn compounded by widespread opposition to the government’s offer of emigration to Manchuria. By 1938, Japan was unable to feed herself. There was, between 1930-38, a 12-fold increase in whale consumption and reliance on international waters around Japan’s physical boundaries[5]. In Southeast Asia, this was the story. The 1000-strong Japanese fishermen community in Singapore enjoyed plentiful supply of tropical fish. Malaya had plentiful seafood and arable land. Given the lack of evidence of prewar Japanese community ‘befriending’ ordinary Malays, we can assume that resource scarcity took precedence over theory for most Japanese. The mining community in Kuantan and Terengganu (with disproportionately small Chinese communities) showed little evidence of Muslim employment. The most prolific Japanese, ironically, were those who operated businesses in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor - areas with high Chinese concentrations[6]. While the greater academic input contributed towards greater interest in befriending Muslim communities and co-opting their political agendas than amongst the Nazis, there is neither much evidence of transparency nor trust, or even of en-masse interest in socialising with the Muslims in Southeast Asia.


Nazi Germany: Geopolitical Priorities

There were far less spontaneous calls amongst the Germans to work with the Muslims during the 1930s[7]. To some extent, this was simply down to a different approach: while the Institut fur Geopolitik (Geopolitics Institute) fulfilled a similar role to the Society of Ethnology in international research, its research interests were naturally more concerned with geopolitical strategy. Motadel’s quotations suggests that - far more than any academic discussed by Doak or Esenbel - some German academics understood that the stakes of trying to dominate Islam were very high. In 1936, Heinrich Eck discussed Moscow’s abject failure to ‘control’ Muslims. Two years later, Schmitz’s All Islam! Weltmacht von Morgen, asserted that Islam, despite Stalin’s best efforts, remained the ‘life fundament’ of opposition in Russia[8]. Amidst the propagandistic overtones (particularly that of Islamic ‘strong opposition’), the implications of these texts collectively are clear: Islam and Nazism were ideologies that wanted to see similar types of change, and thus, could collaborate over certain matters. Yet its domination was a risky and unnecessary experiment. The contributions of figures such as Oppenheim and Rosenberg during the 1930s were more clearly related to government policy in the 1940s than were those of Takata, Okawa, and others. Yet, as portrayed by Nicosia in Nazi Germany and the Arab World, they were rarely theoretical; more ‘troubleshooting’. Within this ‘troubleshooting’, there was slightly more evidence of planning the ‘confidence-and-supply’ relationship. Rosenberg’s brand of ‘troubleshooting’ is a good example. As director of the Ausschenpolitisches Amt der NSDAP, Rosenberg demonstrated ingenuity in balancing engagement with the Middle East with the more prominent aim of an Aryan sanctuary in Europe. He agreed with Hitler that any claims staked upon former colonies had to be made on grounds of materials. Indeed, the dramatic increase in military spending in the late 1930s strained Germany’s budget and highlighted its shortage of raw materials. Yet the extent of shortages that Germany faced was a far cry from the desperation described in Japan. In addition to an aggressive autarky programme that was demonstrating competency in feeding the nation by 1939, Germany also had the option of annexation for resources, which Japan naturally did not.

The most prominent resource in Palestine to catch Nazi attention was opposition to the Jewish National Home. Having identified this, Rosenberg set out to manipulate it. A June 1936 article in the Volkischer Beobachter details Rosenberg’s caution that the British supported Jewish emigration to Palestine. For at least two years after the publication of this article, however, Rosenberg continued to promote directing Jewish immigration ‘first and foremost to Palestine’[9]. Nicosia’s point that the annexation of Austria and its 200,000 Jews simply meant 200,000 more potential migrants to Palestine is further proof of Rosenberg’s brilliance of ‘troubleshooting’. These actions were characteristic of Germany’s ‘confidence-and-supply’ view of Muslims. Rosenberg understood that there were factions of Arabic society prone to anti-Jewish sentiment, and understood the importance of maintaining a courteous relationship with leaders, as evidenced in German Foreign Office records of arms sales to Palestine in 1936-37. This was to be expected considering general Nazi trade interests in the region in the mid-1930s, and should not be interpreted as interest in political cooperation[10].


The Japanese in Malaysia

Early Japanese attempts to establish ‘coalition-style’ policies often did not demonstrate much evidence in planning, other than a desire to dominate. This is evidenced in their relationship with Ibrahim Yacob: a series of rewards as a direct consequence of damages to his objectives. The Japanese quickly demonstrated interest in working closely with Ibrahim Yacob, going to great lengths to ensure that they presented an illusion of supporting his interests when they detected suspicion and disillusionment. In April 1941, Ibrahim purchased (with Japanese funding) the Warta Malaya newspaper, using it to promulgate anti-British propaganda[11]. The newspaper was distinguished: by the end of the 1930s, it had the highest circulation amongst all Malay-language periodicals. The Japanese were also indulgent. Sensing Ibrahim’s disillusionment at the disbandment of the Kesatuan Melayu Muda (Young Malays Union), Ogawa and Watanabe hosted Ibrahim, appointing him as an advisor by the first week of August 1942. That this appointment occurred just two months after the Japanese outlawed the KMM suggests indulgence. The following October, Japan transferred Perlis, Kedah, Terengganu and Kelantan to Thai administration. Again, sensing Ibrahim’s disillusionment, Ibrahim was tasked with establishing the Giyu-gun and Giyu-tai. It is likely that the decision to instruct Ibrahim to disband the KMM was reached very quickly: Cheah notes that it occurred shortly after the KMM rapidly gained popularity, growing their membership to approx. 10,000 urban and rural Malays[12]. The Japanese could not risk Malay nationalism dominate their young efforts to enforce Japanese seishin. To be sure, the net effects of Ibrahim’s efforts are debatable: Warta Malaya was a well-read paper, but merely an urban, well-read paper[13]. Nonetheless, these efforts were symbolic of Japanese efforts to reach out to influential Muslims in Malaya.


Nazi Confidence-and-Supply

Few events discussed in this essay were more humiliating than al-Gaylani’s requests for assistance to resist the British, following his coup. Hitler responded by providing two Luftwaffe squadrons. Kehoe and Greenhalgh are right to note that Hellmuth’s appointment, and the two Luftwaffe squadrons undermine arguments of German enthusiasm or naivety about strengths needed to resist the British[14]. In addition to his incompetence, Hellmuth’s highest attainment was merely a three-star badge as Lieutenant-General. In addition to incompetence, Hellmuth was also distracted to seek out figures like al-Gaylani in Syria and Lebanon - not indicative of a dedicated, focused deployment[15]. This essay, however, questions the judgement that insufficient resources ‘doomed the German mission to inevitable failure’. Shortages were a vital factor. The urgency of preparations for Operation Barbarossa can be felt through these figures: between late February and late May 1941, over 2.3 million German troops were amassed. However, there is scant evidence of genuine concern for Gaylani’s demands. Scholarship that attribute Gaylani’s defeat to the ruthless efficiency of the British campaign only reinforces this essay’s argument: Gaylani had mooted specific requests since December 1940, asking for captured British weapons for ease of use against the British[16]. If the Nazi administration had truly been enthusiastic about weakening British influence in the region, if, more damningly, the administration could accommodate al-Husseini and al-Gaylani in luxury[17], their failure to make any progress on Gaylani’s coup strongly suggests a lack of interest in achieving aims that did not conform to Nazi interests.

Hitler’s lacklustre response to Gaylani’s coup forms one part of the litmus test that validates the nature of the confidence-and-supply relationship. The other is in Axis involvement in the Baghdadi Farhud of June 1-2, 1941. This time, the Nazis wanted Iraqis to supply violence against Baghdad’s Jewish community. The increasing focus of recent scholarship upon lesser Iraqi and Palestinian nationalist figures and ordinary Iraqis reveals a rapid evolution of discourse in the two months between Gaylani’s coup and the Farhud. While the Nazis were unwilling to make a meaningful contribution to Gaylani’s coup, they injected his short-lived regime with a cocktail of concentrated doses of nationalistic and anti-Semitic propaganda. This, with the rapidity of the British invasion and Grobba, Husseini and Gaylani’s desertion caused doubts over German credibility. There was some evidence of anti-Semitic sentiment before the war: Iraqi volunteers participated in the 1936-39 Arab Revolts. What was new was the inclination towards spontaneous violence in Baghdad. As the British arrived in Iraq in early May, the Nazis began broadcasting propaganda programmes stressing the strengths of the ‘Arab race’ throughout history, and the merits of contemporary Arab nationalism. The motive in doing so - to ‘strengthen their self-assurance’ - is somewhat extraneous given concurrent propaganda efforts on the same subject matter by Arabs.

Restlessness and paranoia grew as the British approached: in the week before the attack, Ida Staudt’s memoirs describes a break-in performed by a mob hunting for British materials over claims that a Union Jack had been spotted, only satisfied when they found a book with a depiction of Churchill[18]. Reeva Simon further notes the paranoia on the streets regarding British spies: a woman was treated as suspect by merit of her reflective gold button, allegedly used to signal the British. Indeed, the emotionally-charged nature of Staudt’s memoirs subject her record of fact to questions over objectivity[19]. However, her portrayal of increasing paranoia agrees with Simon’s characterisation[20]. Moderation is important: Grobba did not convert the average Baghdadi into a Nazi. However, extant evidence suggests that the rapid turn of events in the two months left an indelible imprint in the minds of many. Many reacted in what they perceived as the only way possible: to take it out on foreigners they saw. Ironically, the Nazis’ haphazard accumulation of propaganda succeeded in achieving Jewish persecution at the cost of severe damage of Muslim perceptions.


Japan from 1942-45

The aforementioned differences between German and Japanese policies to Muslims only became more prominent in the 1942-45 period. The ‘coalition’ versus ‘confidence-and-supply’ approaches towards Muslims grew increasingly disparate as pressures from global strategy mounted. The ‘coalition’ assessment of Japanese policy is reinforced in its deteriorating treatment of ‘ordinary’ Muslims and lesser aristocrats in Malaya and Singapore. Japanese administrative and religious interferences sought to solicit an increasing willingness to adopt the Japanese seishin. Overall, policies were designed to enforce, even more stringently than before, loyalty to Japan. Kratoska illustrates that the Malays demonstrated a consensus of dissatisfaction with the ‘benign neglect’ of British rule on the eve of the invasion. The civil service, in particular, was infamous for excessive bureaucracy. Strangely, despite Kratowska’s assessment that ‘many elements of the pre-war administration survived the occupation nearly unchanged’, he cites much evidence that suggests otherwise. The Japanese appointed lesser aristocratic Malays to replace the British as District Officers (D.O) in 1942[21]. This policy initially seemed to support improving Muslim political agency. Yet other policies from 1943-45 demonstrate the DO’s vulnerability. The Southern Army’s headquarters were relocated to Singapore in April 1943, improving the efficiency of the Military Administration. Between 1943 and 45, D.O’s noted increasing Japanese involvement in daily tasks, including de facto surveillance through accompanying field visits. This allowed more efficient administration of the D.O’s. The position of the Gun Shidokanho, created near the end of the Occupation is symbolic of this ‘coalition’ arrangement: the formalisation of a Japanese ‘super District Officer’ above the Muslim District Officer; Japanese identity over Muslim identity. That the official policy declaration for the Gun Shidokanho position defined its purpose as ‘guiding the District Officer in order to adjust and (make) adequate the executions of the latter’s duties’ suggests Japanese expectation that these minor aristocrats would cooperate with the ‘need’ for surveillance[22]. Village chiefs were forced to recruit forced labour. Indeed, the ordinary Muslim had reason to fear, and be suspicious of the Japanese. In general, the Japanese saw no need to indulge ordinary Muslims, whose influence in disseminating anti-British thought was far less.


Nazi Germany and the Middle East from 1942-45

The Japanese and Germans entered and engaged with Islamic consciousness with such different aims and planning styles. It is relatively easy to assess the effectiveness of either according to their own aims, but comparing the effectiveness of both can be problematic, without diverging into speculation (what if al-Gaylani defeated the British on his own merit?). The most telling indicator is in an evaluation of Japanese and German policy towards Muslim interaction with non-Muslims. The intensification of anti-Semitic rhetoric throughout the Second World War, but particularly following the May 1943 defeat in North Africa experienced mere pockets of effectiveness, despite its exception as an exemplar of the ‘confidence-and-supply’ relationship; as one of the few aspects of life in the Middle East which the Nazis hoped to significantly influence through the use of such figures as al-Husseini and Yunus Bahri. Motadel traces the growing virulence of this rhetoric. Propaganda directed towards the Middle East in the summer of 1942 attempted to justify anti-Semitism, prescribing annihilation because ‘The Jews are planning to violate your women, to kill your children and to destroy you.’[23]. By 1944, the need for such justification had dissipated: on March 1, al-Husseini broadcast the far more emotive and direct: ‘Kill the Jews wherever you find them; this pleases Allah, history, and religion. This saves your honour. Allah is with you.’[24]. Despite extensive Nazi efforts in this respect for nearly five years, there was scant evidence of spontaneous uprising against Jewish populations in the Middle East and North Africa, bar the aforementioned Farhud. This is a particularly damning verdict, considering the concurrent anti-Semitic policies of the Vichy government. Motadel, to his credit, recognises that his research illustrates but ‘snapshots’[25]. Nonetheless, his argument is made even more convincing, given the fallacies of the opposition: Herf asserts that propaganda could reasonably be judged to have encountered ‘positive reception’ based on a Voice of America’s report on discussing Judaism with the Palestinian population (it is unclear what these observations are based on)[26]. Herf strongly implies that the messages were quite popular in Palestine and Iraq by his need to make frequent, obvious assertions (such as ‘The purpose of (propaganda) was to inflame and incite, not inform’ and ‘Not only did these assertions… wildly exaggerate the powers of the Jews’)[27].


Japanese ‘Indirect’ Discrimination

Almost the exact opposite is true for the Japanese. Cheah is right to insist that there is little evidence ‘to show that the Japanese deliberately promoted racial animosity’ in Japanese policy, at least until the very final two months of Occupation. However, the motivations and objectives of many Japanese economic and social policies facilitated justification of anti-Chinese sentiment, even violence. The sheer violence of Sook Ching in February 1942 created a great impression among many ordinary Malays. Although Chinese schools, for instance, were allowed to re-open in October 1942, the Japanese forbid the use of Mandarin as the language of instruction[28].

To meet the war’s increasing demand upon resources, the Japanese rescinded Malay Land Reservation Enactments, transferring hitherto protected land in rural Johor and Negri Sembilan to Chinese farmers. Whereas land was also allocated to Malay farmers, suggesting that the need to maintain Malayan food supplies did take precedence over racial policy, only land in the smaller more urban state of Syonan-To (Singapore) was granted[29]. The resultant ethnic conflict that lasted from May 10th to September 1st, 1945 in Batu Pahat and surrounding regions in the Northwest of Johor, had a far wider-ranging and deeper impact than did the Baghdadi Farhud of 1941, and comparisons are inappropriate. Much as some Baghdadis justified their persecution of the Jews by claiming that the latter committed espionage for the British, some Malays justified their massacres by claiming that their Chinese victims were communists[30]. The only main difference: the Japanese role, unlike that of Grobba and Gaylani, was implicit.

A small criticism of Cheah: he cites an anecdote from Chin Peng of a July incident wherein the Japanese ‘went to a mosque… and slaughtered a pig’[31], thereby inciting more conflict. There are issues with Chin’s objectivity as a liaison officer between the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army and the British military. Cheah, to his credit, also notes that the logistical considerations of the war - preparations for significant, widely-reported concurrent battles with the British in the North of Malaya that would absorb much Japanese attention[32] - would overwhelmingly suggest that this anecdote is likely untrue, and, if true, was unlikely to have significant impact. Certainly, the region of Batu Pahat, Endau and Muar constitutes but a small region in Malaya, and was also the only notable spontaneous act of anti-Chinese resistance. However, its severe destabilisation upon the Chinese community - 14,000 displaced refugees who had to flee town centres by early September - leads to the unfortunate suggestion that Japanese ‘indirect’ discrimination was more impactful than was the German bombardment of propaganda[33]. This is not a conclusion of greater efficiency from the Japanese. Nonetheless, the suggestive evidence is notable.



The policies of Showa Japan and Nazi Germany towards Muslims differed significantly throughout the global wars of 1931-45, particularly if one specifically considers their treatment of Muslims in the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, and British mandates of Palestine and Iraq. Indeed, although the development of currents of ethnic and racial theories differed greatly, practical and strategic considerations during both campaigns could have engineered more congruence between the two. Instead, the pressures of failures in strategy during the 1942-45 years made these differences even more pronounced. Overall, neither Japan nor Germany truly convinced Muslims that their values were compatible with Islamic religious and political identities. A final consideration: the detail in policies discussed in this essay do not facilitate awareness that Japan and Germany’s approaches towards Muslim engagement were, from an Islamic perspective, different parts of the narrative of their engagement with the non-Islamic world during the first half of the twentieth century. It would, as such, be useful to conduct a further study into the differences of the roles of Japan and Germany into postwar Islamic revolutionaries and nationalism, in Malaya and Singapore and Palestine and Iraq, but also in the total extent of Nazi Germany and Showa Japan’s spheres of influence.


What do you think about the author’s arguments? Let us know below.




Barber, Andrew, Kuala Lumpur at War, 1939-45, Kuala Lumpur, Karamoja Press, 2012

Cheah, Boon Kheng, Red Star over Malaya: Resistance and Social Conflict During and After the Japanese Occupation, 1941-46, 2nd ed., Singapore, Singapore University Press, 1983

Cheah, Boon Kheng, ‘The Japanese Occupation of Malaya, 1941-45: Ibrahim Yacob and the Struggle for Indonesian Raya’, Indonesia, No. 28 (Oct., 1979), pp. 84-120

Doak, Kevin M., ’Building National Identity through Ethnicity: Ethnology in Wartime Japan and After’ in The Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Winter, 2001), pp. 1-39

Esenbel, Selcuk, ‘Japan's Global Claim to Asia and the World of Islam: Transnational Nationalism and World Power, 1900-1945’ in The American Historical Review, Vol. 109, No. 4 (October 2004), pp. 1140-1170

Goda, Norman J. W., Tales from Spandau: Nazi Criminals and the Cold War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006

Herf, Jeffrey, ‘Nazi Germany’s Propaganda Aimed at Arabs and Muslims During World War II and the Holocaust: Old Themes, New Archival Findings’, in Central European History, Vol. 42, No. 4, (December 2009), pp. 709-736

Kehoe, Thomas J., and Greenhalgh, Elizabeth M., ‘Living Propaganda and Self-Serving Recruitment: The Nazi Rationale for the German-Arab Training Unit, May 1941 to May 1943’ in War in History (2017), Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 520-543

Kratoska, Paul H., The Japanese Occupation of Malaya, London, Hurst & Co., 1998

Mallmann, Klaus-Michael, and Cuppers, Martin, Nazi Palestine, The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews in Palestine, trans. Krista Smith, New York, Enigma Books, 2010

Morse, Chuck, The Nazi Connection to Islamic Terrorism: Adolf Hitler and Haj Amin al-Husseini, Lincoln, iUniverse, Inc., 2003

Motadel, David, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2014

Nicosia, Francis, Nazi Germany and the Arab World, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2015

‘Policy - Definition’, Oxford Living Dictionaries, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/policy, (accessed 24 Dec 2017)

Spector-Simon, Reeva, Iraq between the Two World Wars: The Militarist Origins of Tyranny, Updated ed., New York, 2004

Staudt, Ida, ‘A Nazi-Inspired Revolt, 1941’ in Living in Romantic Baghdad: An American Memoir of Teaching and Travel in Iraq, 1924-1947, Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 2012

Steiner, Jesse, ‘Japanese Population Policies’, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 43, No. 5 (Mar., 1938), pp. 717-733

Tajuddin, Azlan, Malaysia in the World Economy (1824-2011): Capitalism , Ethnic Divisions and ‘managed Democracy’, London, Lexington Books, 2012

Tsutsui, William M., ‘Landscapes in the Dark Valley: Toward an Environmental History of Wartime Japan’, Environmental History, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Apr., 2003), pp. 294-311



[1] ‘Policy - Definition’, Oxford Living Dictionaries, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/policy, (accessed 24 Dec 2017)

[2] Kevin M. Doak, ’Building National Identity through Ethnicity: Ethnology in Wartime Japan and After’ in The Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Winter, 2001), pp. 14-15

[3] Ibid, p. 2

[4] Jesse Steiner, ‘Japanese Population Policies’, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 43, No. 5 (Mar., 1938), pp. 718-720

[5] William M. Tsutsui, ‘Landscapes in the Dark Valley: Toward an Environmental History of Wartime Japan’, Environmental History, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Apr., 2003), p. 298

[6] Ayabe Kuichiro ran a ‘(dentistry)... that doubled as a barber’s shop’. The multiplicity of services probably made Kuichiro a well-known figure in the local area. See Andrew Barber, Kuala Lumpur at War, 1939-45, Kuala Lumpur, Karamoja Press, 2012, pp. 22-24 for similar anecdotes.

[7] David Motadel, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 27-31

[8] Ibid, p. 30

[9] Francis Nicosia, Nazi Germany and the Arab World, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2015, p. 99

[10] Ibid, pp. 87-88

[11] Cheah Boon Kheng, ‘The Japanese Occupation of Malaya, 1941-45: Ibrahim Yacob and the Struggle for Indonesian Raya’, Indonesia, No. 28 (Oct., 1979), p. 94

[12] Ibid, p. 103

[13] Azlan Tajuddin, Malaysia in the World Economy (1824-2011): Capitalism , Ethnic Divisions and ‘managed Democracy’, London, Lexington Books, 2012, p. 94

[14] Thomas J. Kehoe, and Elizabeth M. Greenhalgh, ‘Living Propaganda and Self-Serving Recruitment: The Nazi Rationale for the German-Arab Training Unit, May 1941 to May 1943’ in War in History (2017), Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 526

[15] Ibid, p. 526

[16] Nicosia, Nazi Germany and the Arab World, p. 163

[17] Chuck Morse, The Nazi Connection to Islamic Terrorism: Adolf Hitler and Haj Amin al-Husseini, Lincoln, iUniverse, Inc., 2003, pp. 53-56

[18] Ida Staudt, ‘A Nazi-Inspired Revolt, 1941’ in Living in Romantic Baghdad: An American Memoir of Teaching and Travel in Iraq, 1924-1947, Syracuse, Syracuse University Press, 2012, p. 223

[19] Ibid, pp. 218-221

[20] Reeva Spector-Simon, Iraq between the Two World Wars: The Militarist Origins of Tyranny, Updated ed., New York, 2004, p. 131

[21] Kratoska, The Japanese Occupation of Malaya, p. 64

[22] Ibid, p. 65

[23] Motadel, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War, p. 96

[24] Ibid, p. 97

[25] Ibid, p. 114

[26] Jeffrey Herf, ‘Nazi Germany’s Propaganda Aimed at Arabs and Muslims During World War II and the Holocaust: Old Themes, New Archival Findings’, in Central European History, Vol. 42, No. 4, (December 2009), p. 728

[27] Ibid, p. 731

[28] Cheah, Red Star over Malaya: Resistance and Social Conflict During and After the Japanese Occupation, 1941-46, 2nd ed., Singapore, Singapore University Press, 1983, p. 38

[29] Ibid, p. 39

[30] Ibid, p. 219

[31] Ibid, p. 217

[32] Ibid, p. 235

[33] Ibid, p. 230

Cornelia Hancock was born in 1840, and by 1863 she was ready to help look after the sick in the US Civil War. Here, Matt Goolsby explains how Cornelia broke boundaries and helped many people during the Civil War and after.

20180812 Cornelia_Hancock_civil_war_nurse.jpg

From Quaker to Volunteer Nurse

Life in mid-nineteenth century America was vastly different to today. The news was relayed either by messenger via horseback, by train, or over telegraph wires. The northern states had more than 90% of the established infrastructure of the day versus the paltry facilities of the South.

Unsurprisingly, there was a heightened interest in news of the Civil War and especially of the battle of Gettysburg since the nation’s sons were involved.

Pennsylvania took center stage in July of 1863.

Driven by a desire to fulfill her life’s purpose, Cornelia Hancock knew that she needed to be involved.

Cornelia Hancock came from a very unassuming Quaker family. She had been born on February 8, 1840, at Hancock’s Bridge in Salem, New Jersey. Many Quakers had fled England due to religious persecution and had wanted only to live a quiet life and practice their religion. Their unique lifestyle even caused persecution to occur in early New England history, but had subsided with the Tolerance Act of 1689.

The Hancock family had abolitionist leanings due to their Quaker principles and believed that the nationwide conflict was just. Personally affected, Cornelia’s brother had enlisted in the Union Army, which motivated her to help in some significant way.

Cornelia’s older sister had been employed at the US mint in Philadelphia and later married a Quaker doctor named, Henry T. Child, also from Philadelphia, who felt strongly about caring for wounded soldiers.

Dr. Child knew of Cornelia’s desire to get involved and so requested she travel to Gettysburg to help relieve some of the pain the wounded and dying were going through.

Her arrival in Gettysburg established her role as a ‘Volunteer’ nurse as most of the nurses or assistants of the day had no formal medical training. Nurses of the day were called ‘Volunteer’ and were recruited as plain women over the age of thirty-five who were required to wear unassuming and non-adorning apparel. They were also instructed to wear nothing in their hair and forego jewelry so as not to be a distraction and to also not become a victim of men’s advances. This had been outlined by Dorothea Dix, the Army Superintendent of Nurses. Cornelia spurned these requirements being only 23 at the time and proceeded with grim determination. She made it to the battle site on July 6, 1863 to ghastly conditions.

Most of the dead had remained on the battlefield in the blistering summer sun for three days after the battle ended. This caused the bodies to quickly decompose, which created an unbearable stench that hang heavy in the air.

After losing the battle, Robert E Lee had fled the Union Army with his forces leaving 5000 of his Confederate troops behind. This only added to the misery experienced after the conflict ended.

Upon entering 3rd Division, 2nd Corps Field Hospital on July 7, 1863, Cornelia wrote that the wounded had been separated into differing levels of triage: those who had severe head wounds and were deemed ‘hopeless’, those who had a slim chance of survival, and those who were recovering. Her first official duties were to write down last requests to family members from those too weak to do it themselves who would soon become the ‘beloved dead’.


From Volunteer Nurse to Caregiver

As Cornelia quickly matured in her work at the Field Hospitals, she became a strong advocate for the men in her care. There were severe shortages of basic supplies, especially bedding and bandages. Her writings reflect the desire to meet these basic needs as she solicited family and friends for funds to procure what was essential for the care of the wounded.

The amazing aspect of Cornelia’s personality that comes out in her writings is that she was truly moved by the misery surrounding her and yet the sadness of the situation never seemed to paralyze her to the needs of others. These experiences would refine as well as clarify what her future life’s work would become.

As the war progressed and the suffering continued, she would jokingly refer to the ‘Copperheads’ as being worthy of death because of the lack of support they gave to the Union cause. This coming from a nurse who saw the best and worst in humanity shows the paradox of the experience of war and life itself. 

‘Copperhead’ was the term given to a group of Union Democrat politicians who were vociferous in their criticism of the war and wanted an immediate truce with the Confederates of the Southern United States. It was given to them by Republicans who likened them to a snake of the same name. Not an endearing term or moniker.

Another aspect of Cornelia’s personality that comes out is the love of her family and yet, in the resistance to become what they would have preferred. She had been raised with loving but strict Quaker principles. Her family would have preferred she take a more ‘prudent’ direction with her life. However, she chose to care for those who she felt needed her most. This is very evident in her letters.

One such letter shows the depth of compassion she has for both the wounded and their families and friends: “I have eight wall tents of amputated men. The tents of the wounded I look right out on - it is a melancholy sight, but you have no idea how soon one gets used to it. Their screams of agony do not make as much an impression on me now as the reading of this letter will on you. The most painful task we have here, is entertaining the friends who come from home and see their friends all mangled up”, written Sunday, July 26th, 1863 at 3rd Division-2nd Army Corp Hospital, Gettysburg, PA.

Cornelia had the innate ability to see the greater purpose in her service to others. Her desire to provide for the physical needs of the men as well as their emotional comfort is on plain display in many of her letters. When she speaks of men who are about to die from mortal wounds to those who would cry because they were being transferred to another hospital away from her care, you can hear her compassion and empathy for them.


From Caregiver to Lifelong Advocate

In the final two years of the Civil War, Cornelia spent her time moving to different locations as the need arose. During the latter part of October, 1863, she moved from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. to care for the ‘Contraband’.

The escaped slaves or those who sided with the Union Army during the Civil War were referred to as ‘Contrabands’. Cornelia also used the term in her letters to describe the families of those who had also escaped with them.

Conditions for those termed ‘Contraband’, were dismal at best. It was after witnessing the effects of slavery and poverty that she felt strongly that something had to be done to improve their lives.

Her first efforts were to solicit family for funds to purchase clothing for those who were the poorest of the poor. She also witnessed firsthand the brutal effects of what many a slaveowner had wielded on their slaves.

One such situation occurred when she described two slaves to her mother in a letter dated, November 15th, 1863, Contraband Hospital, Washington D.C.: “There were two very fine looking slaves arrived here from Louisiana, one of them had his master’s name branded on his forehead, and with him he brought all the instruments of torture that he wore at different times during 39 years of very hard slavery.” 

She goes on to describe the heinous instruments used to keep slaves from comfort and freedom. These experiences along with her witnessing what the ‘Contraband’ had for food and clothing only solidified her resolve to do what she could for the least of these, her brethren.

As the war continued, Cornelia would transfer to several different locations. They included: Brandy Station and Fredericksburg, Virginia, White House Landing, City Point, Virginia, and finally to where the war ended: Richmond, Virginia.

After the war ended, Cornelia spent the next ten years in which she established the Laing School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina whose mission was to educate former slaves and to inspire them to become good citizens through high ideals.

The remainder of Cornelia’s life was spent working on behalf of the poor and ministering to those who had no advocate. Her strength of character and purpose is demonstrated in the many letters written to family that document her experiences at Gettysburg and throughout the American experience during the Civil War. She was and continues to be a national treasure.


What do you think of the article? Let us know below.

Finally, the next article in the series is on Clara Barton, another US Civil War-era nurse. Clara Barton also played a key role in the formation of the American Red Cross - article available here.


Henrietta Stratton Jaquette - Editor, “Letters of a Civil War Nurse: Cornelia Hancock 1863-1865”, University of Nebraska Press, 1998, Foreword and 1-32.

“News and the Civil War”, http://americanantiquarian.org/earlyamericannewsmedia/exhibits/show/news-and-the-civil-war

“Cornelia Hancock – National Park Service”, https://www.nps.gov/people/cornelia-hancock.htm

“Definition of Copperhead (Politician)”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copperhead_(politics)

“Definition of Contraband (American Civil War)”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contraband_(American_Civil_War)

“Definition of Quakers”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers

“Laing School – Mount Pleasant, South Carolina”, http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/laing-school/

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

Woodrow Wilson was US President from 1913-1921, during World War I and its aftermath. Here, Kate Murphy Schaefer follows her articles on Abigail Adams (here) and Eleanor Roosevelt (here), by looking at both of the first ladies to Woodrow Wilson: Ellen Wilson and Edith Wilson, who have contrasting legacies.

 Woodrow and Edith Wilson in 1920.

Woodrow and Edith Wilson in 1920.

Conventional wisdom tells us “the past doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”[1] It makes sense there would be some overlap in the experiences of American first ladies: only 46 women have known how it feels to be thrust into that kind of spotlight. Some embraced their new role; others simply tried to make the best of it. Many took on the weight of shaping and maintaining their husband’s legacy: Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jackie Kennedy come to mind. Two very different first ladies took on responsibility for the legacy of President Woodrow Wilson, however: Ellen and Edith Wilson.


The First Mrs. Wilson

Ellen Louise Axson was dedicated to her art, even winning a medal at the Paris International Exposition in 1878. This focus did not go unnoticed by the eligible bachelors in Rome, Georgia, earning her the nickname “Ellie the Man Hater.”[2] This changed when she met Woodrow Wilson. She set aside studio art in favor of the art of compromise, supporting her husband and his dream of entering national politics. Ellen was much more adept than her husband at making the connections and cultivating the relationships that would make presidential candidacy a reality. For example, she knew Woodrow would not win the Democratic nomination without the support of Congressional giant William Jennings Bryan, so she invited Bryan to dinner. She seemed to instinctively know how to make people feel at ease and how to portray her bookish college professor husband in the best light. Though she saw herself as the “most unambitious of women,” Ellen Wilson made President Wilson possible.[3]

She admitted “life in the White House has no attractions for me,” but vowed to make the best of her stay. She supported women’s suffrage, increased rights for African-Americans, and championed restrictions on child labor. She also worked for housing reform in Washington, D.C. A woman of her time and product of her Southern upbringing, she was not as progressive as some, but she was considerably more progressive than her husband. Evidence of her work lived on in the Alley bill passed by the House of Representatives after her death.[4] Ultimately chronic kidney disease, not lack of drive or dedication, kept Ellen from achieving all she wanted to achieve. She died on August 6, 1914. Devoted to Woodrow to the last, her final words were “take good care of my husband.”[5]


A New Mrs. Wilson

Woodrow Wilson grieved bitterly for his wife, but a new Mrs. Wilson was on his horizon. Hoping to break the president out of his depression, Ellen’s former secretary, Helen Bones, invited him to tea with her friend Edith Bolling Galt. Edith had lost her first husband six years before and was not inclined towards another romantic relationship. Wilson, on the other hand, was completely besotted. He proposed within three months, pursuing her even after she declined the first proposal. Initial reluctance aside, Edith seemed to know from the beginning that her future led to the White House, describing meeting Wilson as “an accidental meeting which carried out the adage of ‘turn a corner and meet your fate.’”[6] The couple married in December 1915. Edith was not Ellen: she was not as educated or as knowledgeable about social issues and politics. Where Ellen worked for several causes, Edith had only one: Woodrow Wilson. Fate, whether stumbled upon at tea or grasped head on, is a fickle mistress. On September 25, 1919, Wilson suffered a massive stroke in the residence of the White House. The Mrs. Wilson least prepared to take on politics became the woman in charge of the President and the presidency itself.

Following the stroke, Woodrow Wilson was “paralyzed, unconscious, (and) almost vegetative,” leading Edith to hide the severity of her husband’s condition.[7] Only the most senior White House officials knew the truth, and they were sworn to silence in the name of preserving Wilson’s legacy. Medical records and notes taken by the presidential physicians at the time were buried until 1991. They told a story much different than the one Edith insisted on. The stroke trauma was “so extensive…it would be impossible for him ever to achieve more than a minimal state of recovery.”[8] But the President was not dead, and the Constitution was vague about how to replace a living president that could not serve. (It would take nearly fifty years for the 25th amendment to be ratified.) Edith insisted her husband could still perform his duties as president, albeit with a few changes. She did not allow any visitors and was present in all meetings in his stead. She became the conduit to the President, and “access became tantamount to power.”[9]


The Price of Devotion


“I studied every paper, sent from different Secretaries or Senators, and tried to digest and present in tabloid form the things that, despite my vigilance, had to go to the President. I myself never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband.”[10]


What Edith called her “stewardship,” others called her regency. Some referred to her as “Mrs. President.” Title aside, there was little doubt the first lady was making decisions of her own accord. Politicians who spoke ill of her or her husband were soon cut off. She even fired the Secretary of State because he dared to call a Cabinet meeting without her.[11] Congressional and White House officials alike learned not to question Edith even as they quietly doubted the words she scrawled on their correspondence were from the President’s lips. Vice President Thomas Riley Marshall was aware of his precarious position as the lame duck vice president in Edith Wilson’s White House. Explaining his predicament to New York Times reporter Arthur Krock, he said “no politician ever exposes himself to the hatred of a woman, particularly if she’s married to the President of the United States.”[12]

Edith Wilson was more devoted to the President than to the ideals and nation he swore to protect. In hiding the president’s condition, she lied to Congress. In acting in a role for which she was not elected and far from equipped, she showed blatant disregard for the Constitution. Shaping the present to one exclusive purpose, she also shaped the future. The fallout from her prioritization of Wilson’s legacy would impact American and world history for years to come. As she shuffled papers from one side of the White House to another, the fate of the League of Nations, and the fragile peace of the 1918 Armistice, hung in the balance. Prior to his stroke, Wilson struggled with certain articles of the League, but Vice President Marshall was a staunch supporter. Many historians argue a Marshall presidency would have resulted in the United States joining the League of Nations, ensuring its success. With Edith’s decision to take over her husband’s presidency, the world lost an opportunity to head off the conflicts that would spark into another world war. “What was lost was a generation of experience in leadership,” explained John Milton Cooper.[13]

Historians also wonder whether Ellen Wilson would have made the same decision in Edith’s place. Her persistence in winning support for Wilson in Washington demonstrated her dedication, but would the woman for whom the White House held no attraction have been as eager to take control of the West Wing? It is impossible to know for sure, but remains a tantalizing debate. Devotion, like love, is a tricky thing. Both Mrs. Wilsons loved Woodrow Wilson, and both felt some responsibility for guiding and preserving his political career. Still we remember Ellen Wilson as everything a first lady should be, and Edith as everything she should not.


Do you agree with the author? Let us know below.


[1] Though not verified, this quote is often attributed to Mark Twain.

[2] John Milton Cooper, “Ellen Axson Wilson/Edith Bolling Wilson,” in Susan Swain and C-SPAN, First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women (New York: Public Affairs, 2015), 241.

[3] “Ellen Axson Wilson,” The White House.gov, accessed June 15, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/first-ladies/ellen-axson-wilson/.

[4] The bill did not become a law until 1933 when it was championed by another progressive first lady: Eleanor Roosevelt.

[5] “Ellen Wilson,” White House Historical Association, accessed June 5, 2918, https://whitehousehistory.org/bios/ellen-wilson.

[6] Edith Wilson quoted in Erik Larson, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, (New York: Crown Publishers, 2015), 38.

[7] William Hazelgrove, Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson, (Washington, D.C.: Regency Publishing, 2016), e-book.

[8] Medical records quoted in Phyllis Lee Levin, Edith and Woodrow: The Wilson White House. New York: Scribner, 2001), 344.

[9] Levin, 11.

[10] Edith Wilson quoted in Hazelgrove.

[11] Katie Serena, “Was Edith Wilson Actually America’s First Female President?,” All That’s Interesting, accessed June 5, 2018, http://allthatsinteresting.com/edith-wilson.

[12] Thomas Riley Marshall quoted in Levin, 342.

[13] John Milton Cooper, “Edith Ellen Axson Wilson/Edith Bolling Wilson,” in Susan Swain and C-SPAN, First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women (New York: Public Affairs, 2015), 248.

Sources Cited

Cooper, John Milton and Kristie Miller, “Ellen Axson Wilson/Edith Bolling Wilson,” in Susan Swain and C-SPAN, First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women. New York: Public Affairs, 2015.

“Ellen Wilson,” White House Historical Association, accessed June 5, 2918, https://whitehousehistory.org/bios/ellen-wilson.

Larson, Erik. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. New York: Crown Publishers, 2015.

Levin, Phyllis Lee. Edith and Woodrow: The Wilson White House. New York: Scribner, 2001.

Hazelgrove, William. Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson. Washington, D.C.: Regency Publishing, 2016.

Serena, Katie. “Was Edith Wilson Actually America’s First Female President?,” All That’s Interesting, accessed June 5, 2018, http://allthatsinteresting.com/edith-wilson.

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones