The Zimmermann Telegram was the final piece that launched America into World War I. But what was the Zimmermann Telegram? And what were its consequences for World War One and beyond? Shelli Boyd explains.

Arthur Zimmermann, German Foreign Minister, whom the telegram was named after.

Arthur Zimmermann, German Foreign Minister, whom the telegram was named after.

What was the Zimmermann Telegram?

Until 1917, the US had remained officially neutral in World War I. And while some more Anglophile groups were more inclined to back the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia, many Americans wanted the US to remain neutral. The position of neutrality in World War One was the platform that then-president Woodrow Wilson used to win re-election in November 1916, and he was determined to stand by it. However, several events made it difficult for President Wilson to stay neutral. And there was encouragement from the Triple Entente, who wanted the US to join the war against the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.

The first event that angered many Americans was Germany’s attack of the British liner RMS Lusitania in 1915. The sinking of the Lusitania killed 1,198 civilians, including 129 Americans. Other liners were also attacked by German forces. Still, President Wilson managed to stay neutral as Germany agreed to limit the damage from such attacks, although this did not last. In January 1917 Germany decided to re-launch unrestricted submarine warfare, hoping to restrict food supplies in to Britain and leading to its surrender. The Germans knew this could encourage American participation in the war, and they hoped they could weaken Britain fast enough that any American response would be too late. However the Zimmermann Telegram also played a key role in US participation.


What was the Zimmermann Telegram?

The Zimmermann Telegram was a coded message sent by the German Foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmermann, to the German Ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt. In the telegram he proposed an alliance between Germany and Mexico that could help Germany win the war and Mexico to regain territories previously lost to the USA: the US states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

The reason it was sent was to divert American attention and support from Europe. Aware that America could enter the war following the approach of unrestricted German submarine warfare, Germany wanted to keep America and its resources occupied long enough with a war with Mexico so that it could weaken and defeat Britain. Mexico ultimately rejected the proposal due to internal instability and as it was very unlikely that it would defeat the US in a war.

The Zimmermann Telegram, though, was intercepted by British Intelligence. British code-breakers, notably Nigel de Grey, were able to crack the code quickly. However, the British, worried that the information would expose their intelligence network, including interception of American diplomatic communications, at first did not release the contents. After being sent on January 19, 1917, it was not until late February that the British had enough evidence – and a story about how it obtained the information - to share with the American Embassy in London. From there it went to Wilson.

The Zimmermann Telegram.

The Zimmermann Telegram.

When did America enter WWI?

President Wilson did not actually believe the Zimmermann Telegram when first informed of its contents, but the British had enough evidence to convince him. After Wilson, it was released to the American media and, of course, it triggered outrage among the American public. 

The Zimmermann Telegram was effective in convincing President Wilson to join the war, but just as importantly, it was the final piece that triggered the anger and support of American citizens. After all, it was just a few months before that the American public had voted for Wilson, who did not want to join the war. A month after the Zimmermann Telegram was revealed, the US was no longer interested in maintaining its neutrality in the war, and officially joined World War One on April 6, 1917 by declaring war on Germany.


The consequences of the Zimmermann Telegram beyond the war

A key consequence of the Zimmermann Telegram was to enrage American citizens and so encourage them to volunteer into joining the war. Alongside this, it made the Selective Service Act of May 1917 more acceptable to the American public. The Act supported the need for more soldiers through the draft, and required men aged 21 to 30 to register for the military. The United States was able to send large numbers of troops in 1918, which greatly helped Britain and France after Russia withdrew from the war (which happened formally in March 1918).

The Zimmermann Telegram also had serious impacts on the internal politics of the US. After entering the war, the Selective Service Act led to nearly 5 million American men joining the army, around 2 million as volunteers and nearly 3 million as part of the draft. Female workers often took over the jobs left by these men. The new-found economic status of women helped support the demand to give voting rights to women.


In Conclusion

The Zimmermann Telegram sparked the US into joining the World War I; however it was not the sole reason why they joined. The other factors were that the US was already under pressure from allies to join and due to the unrestricted warfare of Germany - the Zimmermann Telegram was the last straw.

The Zimmermann Telegram played a large role in World War I, in terms of how the American public viewed the war, and the timely inclusion of US forces helped the Allied Powers overcome the German Army.


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This article was brought to you by Shelli Boyd of CustomEssayMeister writing service.

Editor’s note: That external link is not affiliated in any way with this website. Please see the link here for more information about external links.

Queen Mary I of England, or Bloody Mary, was a short-lived English Queen from 1553 to 1558 (and lived from 1516 to 1558). As daughter of King Henry VIII and sister of Elizabeth I, she is often overlooked – or seen as a failure. More intriguingly, in contrast to her father and sister, she was not Protestant but Catholic. Here, Casey Titus tells us about this Tudor Monarch.

See past Tudor history writing from Casey on King Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI (here), and the person who could have been king instead of Henry VIII (here).

Mary I as painted by Master John in the 1540s.

Mary I as painted by Master John in the 1540s.

Mary I of England was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. After an early life marked by religious and personal strife at the hands of her father, Mary inherited the English throne upon the death of her half-brother Edward VI in 1553. She married Phillip II of Spain in July 1554, with the hopes of forging an alliance with her Spanish family and producing a Catholic heir. When the latter failed and by the time Queen Mary I of England died in late 1558, history forever lamented her “Bloody Mary,” for her ferocious persecution of English Protestants and attempt to reverse her father’s Reformation which was promptly completed by her Protestant successor and half-sister, the more renowned Queen Elizabeth I of England, or Gloriana, during her unforgettable forty-five year reign.

The Tudor dynasty lasted from 1485 to 1603 and played an extraordinary role in turning England from a feuding European backwater still engrossed in the Medieval Ages into a powerful Renaissance nation that would dominate much of the world and lead to the formation of even stronger nations and revolutionary philosophies. Yet, typically only three monarchs are given credit for this: Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I. In between the transition of power from Henry VIII to his second daughter, Elizabeth I, Mary I is dismissed despite her direct relation to two of the most influential and powerful nations at the time: Spain and England. Was her ‘bloody’ reign as unfruitful as historians claim?


Early Years

For the first half of King Henry VIII’s reign, Mary was revered as the rightful heir to the English throne. She was ensured an outstanding education by her mother and referred to “his pearl in the world,” by her father. Several marriages were negotiated for little Mary, including the infant son of King Francis I of France and her 22-year old first cousin, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. By the time Mary reached adolescence, she had reportedly developed as a pretty and well-proportioned lady with a fine complexion that resembled both of her fine-looking parents. 

Out of Catherine’s seven pregnancies, only Mary survived beyond infancy. Because of her mother’s failure to produce a living male heir, Henry VIII had fallen passionately in love with Anne Boleyn and sought a divorce from Catherine on the grounds of her previous marriage to his late brother, Arthur, which Henry interpreted as violating a biblical verse (Leviticus 18:16) and was therefore, cursed in the sight of God. The evidence was their lack of male heirs, he insisted. Catherine stood her ground by asserting that her marriage to her brother was not consummated and hence was annulled by a previous pope, Julius II. Her firm resolution to not only keep her position and title as Queen of England but refuse to acknowledge her marriage as void which would render her daughter both illegitimate and unable to inherit the throne suggests that Catherine believed her daughter to be capable of ruling in her own right. This perspective can be further supported by the example of her celebrated mother, Queen Isabella I of Castile who also ruled in her own right and both united and centralized Spain as we know it today. In contrast, Henry’s mother never exercised much political influence as queen, and her husband had no intention of sharing power with her.


Mary’s Problems in the 1530s

Henry’s efforts to divorce Catherine, known as the “King’s Great Matter,” complicated Mary’s life and future. From 1531 onward, Mary fell ill with irregular menstruation and depression, possibly caused by the stress of her parents’ situation or a sign of a deep-seated disease that would affect her later life. She was forbidden from seeing her mother, allowed only one brief visit in five years. After breaking from the Church of Rome, Henry finally married his pregnant mistress, Anne Boleyn, in 1533. That same year in September, with the disappointing birth of a girl they named Elizabeth, Mary was formally stripped of her title of Princess and demoted to “Lady Mary,” and on Anne’s persuasion, was placed in her half-sister’s household as a servant to the baby Elizabeth. Mary would not see her father for two and a half years, having been banished from court as well.  

Despite her banished mother’s worsening health, Henry still forbade Mary from visiting her. Catherine of Aragon died on January 7th, 1536 at the age of 50, most likely of cancer. Mary, described as “inconsolable” at the news of her mother’s death was still forbidden from attending her funeral by her father. Mary saw no future for her in England at this point and wrote to her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, Charles V, begging him to help her flee to Spain. Only four months later, Anne Boleyn was imprisoned in the Tower of London on charges (most likely trumped up) of treason, adultery, and even incest with her own brother. She was beheaded on Henry’s orders on May 19, 1536. 

Even with her mother’s usurper out of the picture, Henry would not reconcile with his daughter until she recognized him as Supreme Head of the Church of England, renounced papal authority, and both acknowledge the unlawful marriage of her parents and her own illegitimacy. At first resisting as far as “God and [my] conscious” permitted, she was frightened into signing a document by Henry that met all of his demands on the probable penalty of a traitor’s death if she refused. The reward of signing that hated document was a decade of peace. Her place at court, household, and estates were restored and King Henry VIII had finally sired a baby boy through his third wife, the sympathetic and meek Jane Seymour.


A new King… and Queen

In 1544, Henry returned Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession through the Third Succession Act behind their half-brother, Edward VI. When Henry died in January 1547, the nine-year old Edward succeeded him. While Mary remained away from court and faithful to Roman Catholicism, her equally committed Protestant brother intensified the Protestant Reformation in England and pressured Mary to comply and convert. A plan was even formulated by her cousin, Charles V, to smuggle Mary to mainland, Catholic Europe, but this did not end up happening

On July 6, 1553, Edward VI died at the age of 15, possibly from tuberculosis. Fearful that his half-sister would overturn his reforms, Edward defied his father’s will and the Succession Act by naming his cousin and fellow Protestant, Lady Jane Grey, as his heir. Informed of this, Mary fled into East Anglia where Catholic adherents and opponents of Lady Jane’s father-in-law, the ambitious John Dudley, resided. On July 10, Lady Jane was proclaimed queen by Dudley. Two days later, Mary assembled a military force and support for Dudley collapsed. Both Dudley and Jane were imprisoned in the Tower of London. Mary rode into London on August 3, surrounded by 800 nobles and gentlemen as well as her half-sister Elizabeth. The citizens of London wept joyfully and Mary read passionately from the Bible: “If God be with us, who could be against us?” (Romans 8:31)


Mary I as Queen

Mary endured extreme joys and sorrows to claim the throne of England. Threats were made against the faith she learned at her mother’s knee as well as to her own life. Now age 37, Mary would spend the remainder of her life searching to avenge it. By that time, her legacy would only be tarnished and maligned. Is there anything worth noting during her reign that challenges the nickname, “Bloody Mary?”

One of her first acts as queen was to find a husband and produce a Catholic heir to prevent her Protestant sister from ascending to the throne. Charles V suggested a marriage to his only son, Prince Philip of Spain, which Mary agreed to. The alliance proved unpopular with the English people and the House of Commons, and a rebellion broke out lead by Thomas Wyatt with the intention of deposing Mary and replacing her with Elizabeth. On February 1, 1554, Mary first demonstrated her resilience and capability as a political leader by rallying the people of London against Wyatt’s Rebellion. During her booming speech, she referred to the people as her “child” and loved them “as a mother doth her child.” Wyatt surrendered and was executed along with ninety rebels. Another example of her skilled capability as a negotiator came when Mary desired to reverse the Dissolution of the Monasteries that had occurred in 1536. However, this threatened the contemporary owners of monastic and ecclesiastical lands that acquired them. As a compromise, Mary permitted the ecclesiastical lands to remain with their owners and merely eliminated the Edwardian reforms to the church.  

As a female monarch in a very patriarchal age, Mary negotiated with her desire to form an Anglo-Spanish alliance with the hopes of a Catholic heir and to please her uncertain people and council. The issue revolved on Mary’s status as queen regnant and holding a traditionally male position with contemporaries believing that a good Catholic wife should submit wholly to her husband, making Prince Philip not only head of his realm but head of his household. Mary resolved this through the marriage treaties that defined Philip’s authority as king consort of England. Mary was represented as a king and queen. England would not be obliged to provide military support to Philip’s father in any way and Philip could not act without his wife’s consent or appoint foreigners to office in England.


Policy during her reign

The loss of Calais overshadowed Mary’s previous military victories. Calais fell to the French in January 1558, although it wasn’t formally lost until the reign of Elizabeth I under the Treaty of Troyes. Calais was expensive to maintain and the queen meanwhile enjoyed the successes such as the Battle of Saint Quentin. While her half-sister was often reluctant to engage in war, Mary relished it, and possibly wanted to imitate her grandmother, the warrior queen Isabella I of Castile.

Mary had inherited the economically strived realms of her father and half-brother. Mary has been credited for her reforms to coinage, extension of royal authority into the localities, managed her parliaments, and made significant reforms to the navy. Mary drafted plans for currency reform but they were not implemented until after her death. The queen had a progressive commercial policy that was embraced by English merchants. Her government restructured the book of rate in 1558, leading to an increase in revenue. 

Moreover, Mary’s failed ability to produce an heir was no fault of her own as thirty-seven was a late age to marry in the sixteenth century and she had only ruled for five years. 

The most infamous aspect of her reign at last was her religious policy. At the start of her reign, her first Parliament declared her parents’ marriage valid and abolished Edward’s religious laws, known as the First Statute of Repeal. Church doctrine was restored including clerical celibacy. By the end of 1554, the Heresy Acts were revived. Under these Acts, almost three hundred Protestants were burned at the stake, one of them being the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who had annulled the marriage of her parents twenty-three years earlier. Nearly 800 wealthy Protestants fled England, including John Foxe. It is interesting to note that the burnings of Protestants did not take place until after the marriage of Philip and Mary, which begs the question of whether Philip influenced his wife’s decisions. Most of the burning victims were from lower classes in the south-east of England. The public burnings were unpopular and Mary’s advisers were divided as to whether or not they were necessary and effective. The question remains to this day as to who was responsible for the burnings, due to a lack of conclusive evidence and the attempt at deflating blame by those who wrote about it. Only the fact exists that she could have halted them and did not.


In conclusion

Historians have been divided on whether Mary I’s five year reign was a success. For the public, her image has been tarnished through the nickname of perpetual infamy: “Bloody Mary,” overshadowing her accomplishments. Mary’s reign was the shortest of the Tudor monarchs (except for Lady Jane Grey, who only ruled for nine days) and would probably not have a lasting effect were it not for Elizabeth. Elizabeth, unlike Mary, was not raised to rule and subsequently learned from Mary’s successes and failures and built upon the foundations of Mary’s reign as one of the greatest English monarchs of all time. 


What do you think of Mary I? Let us know below.




Abernethy, Susan. “Mary I, Queen of England.” The Freelance History Writer, The Freelance History Writer, 16 Nov. 2018,

“Mary I of England.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Jan. 2019,

“Mary I: 8 Facts about Her Life, Death and Legacy.” History Extra, 3 Oct. 2018,

NikitaBlogger. “Just Why Is Queen Mary I Known as 'Bloody Mary'?” Royal Central, 31 July 2016,

Ridgway, Claire. “Mary I - An Underappreciated Queen.” The Anne Boleyn Files, 16 Feb. 2017,

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones
CategoriesBlog Post

The Chief Nurse for the US in the Korean War, Eunice Coleman, played a vital role in bringing a range of innovations in troop treatment, some of which put nurses in great danger. Matt Goolsby continues his series on Nurses in War and tells us about Eunice Coleman.

The previous articles in the series are on US Civil War nurses Clara Barton (here) and Cornelia Hancock (here), World War One nurse Julia Catherine Stimson (here), and World War Two nurse Reba Z. Whittle (here).

The innovative Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (or MASH) in Wonju, Korea. 1951.

The innovative Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (or MASH) in Wonju, Korea. 1951.

Prelude to the Cold War

When World War II ended, the allies who had fought the war against the Axis Powers – Germany, Japan, and Italy – ultimately divided into two ideological camps. 

The first were the United States, Canada, Britain, Western Europe, Australia, and other like-minded nations. These would be the powers who believed in freedom through the rule of law as republics.

The second camp was made up of two large nations, both of whom believed that communism was the way to solve man’s problems. These two nations were: The former Soviet Union and China. 

As these two camps began to divide up the spoils of war in Europe and Asia, a coming ideological storm was looming.


Ideological warfare becomes the Cold War

Ever strategic in their control of power, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong looked to gain geographic strongholds - one in Eastern Europe and the other in Asia. Their interests were in expanding communism throughout as much of the world as possible through brute force and oppression.

During the post-war occupation, Germany was divided into Western and Eastern zones. The Western zone was administered by the United States and the Eastern by the Soviet Union. This would ultimately be the symbolic demarcation of the Cold War.

In China, Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China resumed their dormant civil war with the nationalists led by Chiang Kai-Shek. Ultimately Mao Zedong and his revolutionaries would prevail, thus spreading communism through a vast swathe of Asia. 

The empire of Japan, in ruins after World War II, had occupied and controlled Korea during and prior to the war. Korea was now divided between the Soviet Union controlling the North, and the United States controlling the South.

The ones who suffered the most in these ongoing conflicts were those who had been caught in the middle with either no way of escape or very limited ability to flee.

After World War II, survivors of the Holocaust and other nations wanted to have a refuge for the Jewish people who had been so severely abused during the worldwide conflict. The State of Israel was established by the United Nations in 1947 with Israel itself propelled into an Israeli-Arab war in 1948. This led to conflict in the Middle East that has continued to this day.

By the start of the 1950s, international tension was again escalating.


Into War again

Korea was now a divided nation with separate republics each stating that theirs was the legitimate claim.

As tensions continued to escalate into 1950 between the North and South, North Korea, with the assistance of China and the Soviet Union, invaded South Korea. It hoped to take control of the peninsula, after the attack on June 25th, 1950.

The United Nations, now a full-fledged worldwide body, adopted UN Security Council Resolution 82 on the same day. This condemned the North Korean aggression. 

Two days later, UN Security Council Resolution 83 was adopted authorizing the use of military force to stop the invasion of a sovereign country. 

Acting on the adoption of these resolutions, President Harry Truman asked Congress for approval of funds to fight on the Korean peninsula and received approval in August of 1950. 

America and much of the world were again at war.


The ‘Lucky 13’

The U.S. found itself ill-prepared to go to war in Korea, but had learned a lot from its experiences only 5 years earlier, particularly in terms of trauma care. 

The US Army had drawn down much of its military to such minimum levels that getting nurses to take up the mantle took maximum effort. Most of those brought into active duty status were part of the Army Nurse Corps (ANC).

Deploying with the Army’s 7thInfantry Division were thirteen nurses who worked at the 1stMobile Army Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H.) on September 15th, 1950. The Army had learned that the key to survival for severe injuries was to have a trauma team located close to their position. 

This led to added danger in the conflict, but the rate of fatalities from severe injuries was reduced to 2.5% from 4.5% during World War II.  

Upon deploying to Incheon and then moving to Pusan, the nurses who had journeyed with the infantry came under enemy fire and were forced to take cover. On October 9th, 1950, Chief Nurse Major Eunice Coleman wrote: “The whole sky was lit up by gunfire and burning vehicles. About sun-up we got out of the ditch and started treating the wounded. All that day, until 1500, we worked on the roadside; operating and treating for shock. We lost eight men and quite a number of supplies and vehicles. When all was clear, the convoy started again and arrived at Pusan by midnight.” After this event they began calling themselves the ‘Lucky Thirteen’.

Eunice Strange Coleman was born on March 21st, 1903 in Wilbarger County, Texas to Leonard Alvin and Mary Elizabeth Coleman. She was the 3rdof five children. 

She received her Bachelors of Science degree at the University of Minnesota and had been stationed in Duke, Oklahoma prior to the war.

As with many of the other nurses throughout the history of U.S. war, there’s no record of her ever marrying. She dedicated her life to serving others through the Army Nurse Corps.


Saving Lives at the front

When the Korean War started, only a small contingent of nurses were working in the combat theater. 

As the war progressed, it’s estimated that more than 1,500 nurses served on the Korean peninsula, all of them women since men were not allowed to serve as nurses in the Army Corps until 1955. 

Even though the women stationed in Korea were not trained or required to fight in combat, they still had to be ready to in case the fight came to them. 

As Mary C. Quinn, a First Lieutenant who served alongside Chief Nurse Coleman in the 1stM.A.S.H. unit said: “The nurse must be armed to fight just as the soldier, sailor, or marine. The nurse’s weapons are knowledge and skills that can be employed to wage war on disease and injury wherever these calamities have laid low a man, woman, or child."

Chief Nurse Coleman learned this lesson and many others during her tour in Korea. 

Having had her nurses treat 360 wounded when their capacity had been 60 and surviving their ‘Lucky Thirteen’ roadside episode, Major Coleman, a devout Catholic, was asked why she stayed in the Korean conflict. She answered: “Because if we are to impress Christianity on anybody out here, we must also live it.” Even the Chinese and Korean prisoners of war were amazed at how they were treated.

The Korean War led to great innovations for saving lives. 

The first was the use of helicopters to transfer wounded soldiers back to M.A.S.H. units.

The aircraft used in the majority of transfers was the UH 13 Helicopter called the ‘Sioux’. This method was a rapid way to assist traumatized and wounded patients to the mobile units. 

In fact, not only were American and allied UN soldiers transported, but also North Korean and Chinese prisoners of war were convoyed back where they could be cared for.

The nurses would often work twelve-hour shifts, only to continue on once their shift was over due to the numerous casualties coming into their units.

The second advancement in trauma care treatment was the transport of blood and blood banks to where it was needed most. It was in this conflict that the Army started using plastic instead of bottles to transport, store, and administer blood. 

Storage of blood in bottles often led to breakage in transfer or hemolysis, the destruction of red blood cells, because the bottles had to be stored in refrigerators prior to use.

The third major advancement came in vascular surgery. This led to a reduced level of amputations due to trauma from 49.6% in World War II to 20.5% in Korea. This was a significant reduction in long-term injury care.

The fourth and final advancement came in renal dialysis (kidney). Nurses were the ones to first use dialysis to save lives of those who had hemorrhagic fever thus keeping the severely wounded alive long enough for surgery.

Even while saving lives, Chief Nurse Coleman found humor. 

As the nurses were huddling in the roadside ditch in Pusan, Major Coleman called out their names twice for a response. One of her thirteen ‘Army Nightingales’, as they were fondly called, 1stLieutenant Marie Smarz didn’t answer.

Finally, Major Coleman went down the line touching each one to make sure they were safe. Why hadn’t Nurse Smarz answered? “I was afraid the Reds would hear me,” she replied. 

Major Coleman would go on to be awarded the Bronze Star with V bar for Army Nurse Corps valor. She would also go on to serve at the Kansas City General Hospital School of Nursing. 

Eunice Strange Coleman passed away on August 15th, 1983, living to the age of 80,having served her country for many years in the Army Nurse Corps. 

She exemplified the caring and nurturing spirit that the nurses in our military demonstrate to those in greatest need. The following nurses’ prayer is a testament to what these ‘Army Nightingales’ demonstrated during this conflict.

May they never be forgotten.


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



The Army Nurse Corps Prayer

The Prayer of an Army Nurse.

The Prayer of an Army Nurse.


Mary M Roberts, RN, “The Army Nurse Corps, Yesterday and Today”, United States Army Nurse Corps, 1955.

Margaret (Zane) Fleming Collection, Gift of Frances Zane, Women's Memorial Foundation Collection, “The Lucky Thirteen”, Pacific Stars and Stripes, Tom Hamrick, 1951 and other associated articles. (Many thanks to the Women’s Memorial Curator Britta Granrud for her assistance.)

The Inquisition was led by institutions in the Catholic Church and took on many forms over the centuries. Here we provide an overview of the history of the Inquisition, including witch-hunts, the Spanish Inquisition, and why the Catholic Church launched and maintained it for many centuries. Jessica Vainer explains.

Saint Dominic presiding over an Auto-de-fe by Pedro Berruguete.

Saint Dominic presiding over an Auto-de-fe by Pedro Berruguete.

When was the inquisition and what was its goal?

The Inquisition was established in twelfth century Western Europe by the Catholic Church and had the goal of fighting heresy and threats to Catholic religious doctrine. Initially the leaders of this Medieval Inquisition fought varied groups including Albigensians, Cathars, Manichaeans, Waldensians and other free-thinkers who tried to shake off Catholic doctrine.



However, from the fourteenth and especially the fifteenth centuries, the Inquisition became more interested in witches. Sociologists talk about several reasons for why attention was placed on witches. But, a key reason was the fundamentally patriarchal nature of society at the time. And for a Catholic inquisitor living in such a society, the idea that if a woman caused certain problems, then she was a witch, was quite natural.

The custom of burning witches at the stake was more common in northern European countries, such as Germany, France, Ireland, and Britain.

One of the earlier such instances took place in 1324 in Ireland. Bishop Richard de Lestrade brought accusations against Lady Alice Kyteler for renouncing the Catholic Church. She was accused of:

Trying to find out the future through demons; 

Being in connection with the "demon of the lower classes of hell" and sacrificing live roosters to him; 

The manufacture of magical powders and ointments, with the help of which she allegedly killed three of her husbands and was going to do the same with the fourth. Possibly through this the bishop intended to settle personal accounts with the lady.


Witch-hunting became more common over time and one of the more shocking statistics is that in 1589, in the Saxon city of Quedlinburg, with a population of 10,000, 133 women were burned in one day. More broadly, while exact statistics are hard to come by, from 30,000 to 100,000 people were killed during witch-hunts. Among the executed were men too as accomplices of witches and sorcerers, but that was not the norm. 


Execute all people in the Netherlands

The Spanish Inquisition started in 1478 and lasted until the nineteenth century. This Inquisition spread to other countries, including Portugal, parts of modern day Italy, and the Netherlands. The Inquisition of the Netherlands was established by King Charles V of Spain and continued to work with particular diligence during the reign of his son Philip II, who was a strong advocate of Catholicism. In addition to Spain, Philip II inherited from his father the Netherlands, Naples, Milan, Sicily, and some lands of the New World. To eradicate heresy in his domain, Philip strengthened the courts, and supported them with the use of spies and torture.

During the reign of Charles V, the people of the Netherlands were largely Catholic. But with the beginning of the rule of King Philip II of Spain, the Protestant Lutherans and Calvinists were becoming more important, which intensified the carrying out of the the Inquisition. 

Many inhabitants of the Netherlands did not recognize Philip as their king due to religious reasons, excessive taxes, and the harassment of wealthy merchants. This discontent went from riots and escalated into a large-scale popular uprising in the 1560s. Then Philip sent one of his best military leaders, General Alba, to be the Governor of the Netherlands. With the arrival of Alba and his troops, the fires of the Inquisition broke out: just bad words were enough to send a person to death.

On February 16, 1568, the entire population of the Netherlands - at that time it was three million people - was sentenced to death, apart from a few exceptions. 

On this day, Philip II presented a special memorandum, which stated that "except a select list of names, all residents of the Netherlands were heretics, distributors of heresy, and therefore were traitors to the whole state." The Court of the Inquisition adopted this proposal, and shortly after, Philip confirmed the decision with a document in which he ordered it to be carried out immediately and without concessions. 

Philip II ordered Alba to proceed with the execution of the sentence. Mass executions began in the country, leading many nobles to flee to the German lands. Alba wrote back to Philip that he had already made a list of the first 800 people who would be executed, hanged, and burned after Holy Week. Hundreds of people were subjected to terrible torture before death: men were burned at the stake, and women were buried alive.

According to historians, during his six-year tenure in the Netherlands, Alba personally ordered the execution of 18,600 sentences. But over time, the resistance in the Netherlands was put down, and the Inquisition took on a weaker form.


The end of the Inquisition

The Inquisition was practiced in different European countries – and European territories outside of Europe, particularly the Spanish Empire - with different levels of intensity from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries. It was often a time of cruel torture, bloody punishment, searches, suspicions, and accusations by the Catholic Church against heretics. And it was only by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the religious investigative apparatus of the Inquisition was reorganized, and ultimately wholly abolished.

Spain abolished the Inquisition only in 1834. But the decline of the church court system began earlier, with the ascension to the throne of King Charles IV of Spain in the late eighteenth century. A changing domestic situation and ideas from other countries affected Spain, as the ideas of the French Revolution and enlightenment started to become more important.

All over Europe the times had changed and the Inquisition was over.


This article was brought to you by Jessica Vainer, writer of AU Edusson, an Australia-based writing service.

Editor’s note: That external link is not affiliated in any way with this website. Please see the link here for more information about external links. 


AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

The Battle of the Monongahela took place on July 9, 1755, in the early part of the French and Indian War. In the battle British – and British American – forces battled against French, Canadian, and Native American forces. And the battle took place in part due to a blunder by George Washington. Bill Yates explains.

A depiction of the British general, Edward Braddock, who led British and British American forces in the battle.

A depiction of the British general, Edward Braddock, who led British and British American forces in the battle.

Major General Edward Braddock was tired. Born in 1695, in Perthshire, Scotland, he joined the military as a member of the Coldstream Guard at age 15. For 45 years he dutifully followed orders and fought for his king. Yet, on the steamy hot morning of 9 July, 1755, the immense physical and emotional strain of command wore heavily on his body (1).


July 1754 - Controversial Terms of Surrender

Just the year before he had equaled and surpassed his father’s rank when appointed Major General, and named Commander-in-Chief of all British forces in North America (1). His mission was to clean up a military mess created when a then unknown 22-year old major named George Washington attacked a French patrol. The brief skirmish ended with 13 dead Frenchmen and 21 captured. The French however claimed the men were not on a patrol but a diplomatic mission and as such considered the British action an unprovoked act of war (2/3). 

Concerned the French troops located at Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) would retaliate Washington had a circular palisaded (wooden stake) fort hastily built. He christened it Fort Necessity, and sent word for reinforcements noting; "We might be attacked by considerable forces". By mid June, Washington’s force totaled over 400 men backed with supplies and nine small cannons or swivel guns (4). 

On the morning of 3 July, 1754, Washington received word a contingent of 600 French troops and 100 Native Americans were advancing on the fort. Now promoted to the rank of colonel Washington moved his men from the fort and into entrenchments he had previously dug. The ensuing pitched battle lasted to nightfall, with the British suffering far greater casualties (4). 

Sometime around 8 p.m. the commander of the French force, Captain Louis Coulon de Villiers, requested a truce to discuss the terms of Washington's surrender. It was one of the articles within these terms that the French used for great political gain, and may be noted as the beginnings of both the French Indian War, and the Seven Years War - wherein a clause within the signed terms proclaimed Washington was guilty of assassinating a French officer. Washington later denied the accusation stating the translation he was given was not "assassination", but instead "death of" or "killing". While the truth of the officer’s death is lost to history, the French used Washington’s signed statement as propaganda to great advantage in creating alliances against the English in the upcoming Seven Years War (4). 



February 1755 - Arrival

Major General Braddock stepped on Virginia soil in February, 1755. He was accompanied by two regiments of soldiers, supplies, and an overabundance of British arrogance. Braddock displayed a disdain for the traditions, customs, and columnists themselves. His orders specifically allowed him to demand appropriations from the columnists. And, he expected little objection or resistance to his Imperial seizure of goods, supplies, and soldiers from which he took freely. It may be said Braddock looked upon the British columnists as second-class citizens, and undertook a laissez faireattitude towards American possessions. He completely failed to realize how passionately the colonists would cling to the idea of diffused sovereignty. And, to an extent he and his subordinates, through their haughty, supercilious, condescending and downright aggressive attitudes, actions and policies began to sow the seeds of discontent that would unite the Americans to come together and form a new nation twenty years later (5).

It may be noted his haughty attitude was not the biggest blunder Braddock made. He chose the resource light Virginia as his launching point for a long campaign into the Ohio valley, he squandered native alliances - which he saw little use for, and he brought with him a massive baggage train with vast numbers of burdensome and resource draining followers (5). 


May 1755 – The Trip Begins

Braddock began his ill-fated trip on 29 May. He brought with him as a guide and aid Colonel George Washington and 2,200 troops. His mission was part of a four-pronged attack. He was to take Fort Duquesne and then proceed north and take Fort Niagara, establishing British control over the entire Ohio territory. He however soon encountered numerous problems. Scornful of the Native populace, he didn’t understand the need to recruit them and had only 8 Mingo guides. The road he chose was too narrow for the massive amount of people, supplies, and equipment, which meant it needed to be constantly widened so the artillery and supply wagons could transverse it. Soon, Braddock became frustrated with the lack of progress and split his troops in two. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gage, would lead the “flying column” of 1,300, while he remained with the slower force containing the cannons and supply wagons (5).

As the remote Fort Duquesne had always been lightly manned the British believed they would be in for an easy victory. They even began to talk amongst themselves that the French would evacuate or run away when they saw the might of the British army advancing towards them. However, what the British didn’t know was that the French were anticipating such an attack and had fortified the fort with 1,600 men (5). When scouts reported the British were approaching Claude-Pierre Pecaudy de Contrecœur, the Canadian commander of the fort, dispatched 108 Troupes de la Marine, 146 Canadian militia, and 600 Native Americans led by Captain Daniel Liénard de Beaujeu to meet them (6). 

Here may be noted the massive error Braddock made when his disdain for the Native populace stopped him from recruiting more - as they could have advised him of the tactics which were going to be used against them. This was the hunting ground for the 600 Natives aligned with the French. Thickets, dense shrubs, and mature trees surrounded the higher ground they controlled, while the British found themselves in a lower open forest. In a short time the familiar Native hunting grounds turned into a killing field (6). 


The Battle

Under heavy fire what was left of the flying column went into full retreat, quickly running headlong into the slower heavier force. While greatly outnumbering their attackers the British were caught off guard by their fleeing countrymen. And, the ensuing accurate shots fired by the combined French, Canadian, and Native forces sent them into a panic. The narrow road did not allow the British cannons any effectiveness and deepened the dread in the men. Seeing his troops in disarray Braddock rode forth to rally his troops. His bravery inspired the remaining British officers who stepped into the open in an effort to create defensive lines. They made themselves easy targets but the men steadied and formed together (7).

The British lines began to hold, returning disciplined and deadly shots (7). As the battle ensued elements of the combined French forces circled around and attacked the wagons, and the 19-year old future American icon Daniel Boone barely escaped. A Wagoner under the command of Captain Hugh Waddell, Boone escaped by cutting his wagons and fleeing (8).

Three hours into the battle a musket ball ripped through Braddock’s lung. He limply fell to the ground and was dragged away. With Braddock mortally wounded and the officer corps decimated, the British, believing they were about to be massacred, fled. The Natives refused to follow. And, instead began scalping and looting the bodies (7).


In Retrospect

This is now considered one of the British Army’s worst hours. Braddock died four days later. Of the 2,200 troops, 456 were killed and 422 were wounded. The bravery of the officer core felt the worst casualties; wherein of 86 officers, 26 were killed and 37 wounded. Conversely the French noted light casualties. The lessons learned changed the methodology of how the British would conduct future warfare (7).     

A side note may be referenced in that there are persistent rumors that during the retreat Braddock’s men buried a considerable treasure in the form of payment to settlers for goods and supplies and payroll for the men equaling in today’s value $750,000. While to date this has not been proven we do know Colonel Thomas Dunbar had the wagons burned, destroyed the supplies, and buried the cannons (9). French records do not show gold as spoils of the battle (7), which may lead one to believe it to be nothing more than rumor. Yet, before deciding we may also note that after the battle colonists of the area refused - and were at times forced – to provide supplies to the British. Their reasoning was they “never received payment after Braddock's accounts were lost on the Monongahela” (10).


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


(1). N.A.. (2018, July 9). Edward Braddock British Commander. Encyclopedia Britannica. Online: 

(2). N.A.. (2013, Sept 22). The Braddock Campaign. Fort Necessity National Battlefield Pennsylvania. National Park Service. Online:

(3). N.A.. (2012, March 31). Jumonville Glen. Fort Necessity National Battlefield Pennsylvania. National Park Service. Online:

(4). N.A.. (2015, Feb 26). The Battle of Fort Necessity. Fort Necessity National Battlefield Pennsylvania. National Park Service. Online:

(5). Anderson, F.. (2000).  Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America: 1754-1766 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000).

(6). Eccles, W. J.. (1990). France in America. Michigan State Press. 

(7). Hadden, J.. (1906). Sketch of Thos. Fausett: The slayer of Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock, who fell in the disastrous defeat in the battle of the Monongahela in the French and Indian war, July 9, 1755. Monthly Bulletin of the Carnegie of Pittsburgh. Vol. II 1906.  

(8). Wallace, Paul A. W. (1 August 2007). "Daniel Boone in Pennsylvania". DIANE Publishing Inc.

(9). McLynn, Frank (2004). 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

(10). Hazard, ed., Colonial Records of Pennsylvania, 8:282, 85. Parsons to Weiser, 0an.] 1757, Weiser to Peters, Nov. 17, 1757, Conrad Weiser Papers 2:67, 105, HSP. Stevenson to Bouquet, 31 May, 1757,Louis Waddell et al., eds., The Papers of Henry Bouquet, 6.

In the 1980s Aldrich Ames, a CIA agent, supplied the Soviets with significant numbers of classified American intelligence files – and it was not until after the Cold War finished that he was caught. But Ames was not influenced by ideology – it was something else. Scott Rose explains this Cold War spy scandal.

You can read past articles in the series about spies who shared American atomic secrets with the Soviet Union (read more here), and the 1950s “Red Scare” (read more here).

Aldrich Ames on the day of his arrest.

Aldrich Ames on the day of his arrest.

During the waning years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union received and paid for intelligence from one of the most notorious traitors in American history. Unlike previous American spies who betrayed their country because of communist ideologies, Aldrich Ames did so for another reason: he needed the money. 

The most ironic component of this case was that Ames was a 25-year veteran of the CIA, working in counterintelligence. His activities led to the executions of several Soviets who were working for the United States, and the resignation of a CIA Director. The effect Aldrich Ames had on the American intelligence community was nothing short of devastating.


The Agent’s Son

Born in Wisconsin in 1941, Aldrich “Rick” Ames was the son of Carleton Ames, a college professor, and Rachel Ames, an English teacher at the local high school. In 1952, Carleton went to work for the CIA, and was stationed in Southeast Asia. At that time, the region was a Cold War hotspot, as the communists had taken power in mainland China and Ho Chi Minh’s communist rebels were fighting the French for control of Vietnam. Not far away, American forces were engaged in the bloody conflict in Korea.

Carleton Ames had brought his wife and children to Asia along with him, but the family would not live abroad for very long. Carleton was an alcoholic, and his performance was negatively affected. The CIA called him back to the United States, and the elder Ames would spend the rest of his career at the Agency headquarters at Langley, Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington.

Aldrich Ames used his father’s connections to land a summer job at the CIA in 1957, and returned the next two summers. He worked as a records analyst, filing documents and performing various office tasks. Ames graduated from high school in 1959, and was accepted to the prestigious University of Chicago. However, he didn’t adjust well to life away from home, and his grades were poor. By the middle of his sophomore year, he was in danger of flunking out of school, so he dropped out and returned to his family. He regained employment at the CIA, working at office duties once again. While working at the Agency, Ames resumed his education, this time at George Washington University. At the age of 26, Ames graduated with a degree in history, and was accepted into the Career Trainee Program at the CIA. He received positive appraisals in the program, and had a blossoming romance with another agent-in-training named Nancy Segebarth. In 1969, Aldrich and Nancy were married, and he received his first assignment, in Turkey. At the age of 28, he was one of the CIA’s youngest agents; in all respects, his future seemed bright.


Assignments Around the World

Once Ames and his new wife settled in Ankara, Nancy resigned from the Agency, as the CIA had a rule that married couples weren’t allowed to work from the same office. Ames was given the task of recruiting agents to spy on the Revolutionary Youth Federation, a Marxist group in Turkey. While he was moderately successful, the CIA rated Ames’ job performance as “satisfactory,” and he was so dismayed by the evaluation that he nearly quit the CIA. After three years in Turkey, Ames was recalled to Washington and assigned to the Soviet-East European division. His new task was to recruit informants among workers at the Soviet embassy.

Ames was not very effective at recruiting Soviet spies in Washington, but was praised by his superiors for his management and planning skills. The CIA was concerned that Ames was drinking excessively, and noted this on his file in the mid-1970s. However, the Agency felt that given the right situation, Ames would flourish. He was sent to New York in 1976 to manage two established Soviet informants, and did the job well. Ames received promotions in rank and pay increases, but at times, he made careless mistakes that could have become disasters. Once he even forgot his briefcase, which was carrying classified documents, while traveling on the New York subway. Instead of firing or demoting him, the CIA merely gave Ames a verbal warning.

He was transferred again in 1981, this time to Mexico City. His wife remained in New York, and Ames had several affairs with women in Mexico. He met a lady named Maria del Rosario Casas Dupuy in 1982. Maria, a Colombian national, worked as an attaché at the Colombian Embassy, and Ames managed to recruit her as a confidential informant for the CIA. Ames was supposed to report any romantic relationships with foreign nationals to his superiors, but declined to do so. His coworkers at the CIA station in Mexico were aware of his relationship with Maria, but did not report it either. In September of 1983, Ames was recalled to Washington once more, and he brought his Colombian lover with him. Unsurprisingly, his wife served him with divorce papers the next month. 

Ames was now back at the Soviet and East European division of the CIA, and at the end of 1983, he finally reported his affair with Maria to his CIA superiors. His divorce was costly, as he was forced to pay off his and Nancy’s debts. In addition, he was required to pay alimony for the next three years. To make matters worse, Maria was from a wealthy Colombian family, and she expected to live in luxury. Ames, nearly bankrupted by his divorce, was feeling the financial heat. 


Seeking out the Soviets

Working in a division that dealt with Soviet counterintelligence, Ames was expected to make contacts at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, just as he did in the 1970s. He knew the names of important officials at the embassy, and decided he would use these contacts to remedy his financial problems. In early 1985, he sold his first trove of information to the Soviet KGB for a price of $50,000. Ames would later state that this information was not of particular importance, but that it established him as a credible source of CIA intelligence. He had entered into an alliance that he could not turn away from; the Soviets expected more information, and Ames wanted more money. In August of 1985, he and Maria were married. Ames’ motivation for betraying the United States began to evolve, from financial need into pure greed.

Over the years, the Soviets often targeted Americans who were in over their heads financially as potential sources of information. However, in the case of Ames, he saw espionage for pay as a way to do more than merely keep his head above water; he started living the good life and became addicted to it. For years, Ames had been wearing suits off the bargain rack; now he was wearing custom tailored suits that were more expensive than the ones worn by the top officials at the CIA. He and his new bride developed expensive tastes, with Ames explaining to his coworkers that this was a result of his wife’s family fortune.

By the latter part of 1985, the CIA knew something was badly wrong. Soviets who were spying for the United States were starting to disappear, and word began to trickle in later that these individuals had been arrested and executed. During 1986, Ames told his Soviet handlers that in light of these CIA losses, he was worried that he might become a suspect. The KGB by this time considered Ames too valuable to lose, and took steps to protect him. A carefully planned campaign of misinformation was carried out by the Soviets, leading the CIA to believe the mole was at the Warrenton Training Center in Virginia. The United States spent a year investigating nearly 100 people at the facility.

Later in 1986, the CIA created a mole-hunt team whose sole purpose was to find the source of the leaks. About the same time, Ames was transferred to Rome, which helped him stay under the radar of suspicion. His drinking increased, and his CIA work in Rome was less than stellar, while he continued to sell information to the Soviets. He was once again recalled to Washington in 1990, being assigned this time to the Counterintelligence Center Analysis Group within the CIA.

The CIA mole-hunt team, around 1990.

The CIA mole-hunt team, around 1990.

To Catch a Mole

The clues finally began to point toward Ames, as the members of the CIA mole-hunt team started to closely examine his finances. He had passed a polygraph test in 1986, which had bought him time. However, by 1990, his lifestyle, when compared to his salary, made no sense. When the CIA team examined this, it found that Ames had bought a $540,000 House in Virginia, as well as a $50,000 Jaguar. The minimum monthly payment on his credit card was more than his salary paid him in a month.

Still, Ames was hard to catch. He passed another polygraph in 1991, while a CIA operator incorrectly reported that the mole was a Russian-born agent who had infiltrated the Agency. However, by 1993, all signs pointed to Ames as the culprit. The FBI bugged Ames’ home and installed a device in his car that was used to track his movements. He was kept under constant surveillance as the case was built against him.

The Soviet Union had fallen in 1991, but Ames had continued to spy for the Russian Federation, the country that had formed out of much of the U.S.S.R. He was scheduled to attend a conference in Moscow in the spring of 1994, and American authorities decided it was time to arrest him, fearing he might defect if allowed to attend. On the morning of February 22, he was arrested in Washington and charged with spying. The same morning, FBI agents came to his home, arresting and charging his wife also.

Aldrich Ames pled guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole. His wife had been heard on surveillance tapes discussing Ames’ activities, as he had told her about his role with the Soviets. He had previously told her that he was making large amounts of money on various investments. Maria ended up being sentenced to five years in prison. CIA Director James Woolsey came under heavy fire in the wake of Ames’ capture. Woolsey had only become Director in 1993, but he was criticized for not cleaning house at the Agency after such a fiasco. The CIA as a whole endured heavy criticism for not catching Ames sooner.

The movieAldrich Ames: Traitor Within was made in 1998, and the ABC mini-series The Assets, produced in 2014, was based on Ames. Two members of the CIA mole-hunt team, Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille, wrote a book about the experience.

Aldrich Ames remains in prison at the Federal Detention Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. He pocketed nearly 3 million dollars from the KGB during his years of espionage. While his CIA career was merely mediocre, he was without a doubt one of most valuable Cold War spies for the Soviet Union.


What do you think about Aldrich Ames’ actions?


Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefuille, Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2012

Chester B. Hearn, Spies & Espionage: A Directory,Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, 2006

Slava Katamidze, Loyal Spies & Ruthless Killers: The Secret Services of the USSR, 1917-1991, Barnes & Noble, New York, 2007

Peter Maas, Killer Spy: The Inside Story of the FBI’s Pursuit and Capture of Aldrich Ames, America’s Deadliest Spy, Warner Books, New York, 1995

Tim Weiner, David Johnston, and Neil A. Lewis, Betrayal: The Story of Aldrich Ames, an American Spy, Random House, New York, 1995

The Republic of Uzice was the first free territory in occupied Europe in 1941, and the best proof that the Nazi German Army was not invincible. Existing for only 67 days, this short-lived liberated Yugoslav territory was remembered as a heroic attempt at resistance against a much stronger enemy, even after its fall following a strong German offensive. During the existence of the Republic of Uzice, a factory of weapons and ammunition in the town of Uzice was working full time to produce weapons to fight against the Nazis. In 1941, it was the only factory in occupied Europe where weapons were produced to fight against the Wehrmacht (Nazi forces). Zorica Jovanovic explains.

Slobodan Sekulic, Commander of the Partisan Company, paying homage to the killed soldiers in the town of Uzice, October 2, 1941.

Slobodan Sekulic, Commander of the Partisan Company, paying homage to the killed soldiers in the town of Uzice, October 2, 1941.

Axis forces occupied Yugoslavia in April 1941. The rebellion against the occupiers, which began in Serbia in the summer of 1941, reached wide proportions. By the end of September 1941, almost all major towns in western Serbia were liberated.

The so-called Republic of Uzice is the name that settled in post-war communist Yugoslavia for the first liberated territory inside war-torn Europe in World War II. This "republic" lived, for one fall, for 67 days, from September 24 to November 29, 1941. It was located in Yugoslavia, in Western Serbia, and was part of the Nazi-run ‘Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia’. The Republic of Uzice didn’t have a permanent border, the borders changed almost daily with every movement of the resistance on one side and the occupier on the other side. In this territory, nearly a million inhabitants lived in an area of approximately 19,000 square kilometers.

The united forces of the Partisan (communist) movement and the Chetnik movement (a guerrilla organization that was loyal to the Yugoslav government in refuge) took part in the creation of the free territory in Western Serbia. The newly-appointed German commander in Serbia, Franz Böhme, decided that German soldiers should leave Uzice on September 21. The Germans left the town under the pressure of the uprising, leaving untouched the most important weapons factory in Serbia. The line of Germans was 6 kilometers long and consisted of 1,217 soldiers.

Captured German soldiers in Uzice, 1941.

Captured German soldiers in Uzice, 1941.


The Republic of Uzice wasn’t a homogeneous territory with one authority and a single armed force. There were two different powers in the Republic of Uzice, one from the Partisan movement and the other from the Chetnik movement. For the time that the Republic existed, there was dual authority, army and command, but the Partisans gave the most significant contribution to the organization of authority and defense, especially due to their military strength (25,000 fighters against several thousand Chetniks). The Partisan center of this free territory was located in Uzice (hence the name Republic of Uzice), and the Chetnik center was in the town of Pozega.[1]

The economy was under war conditions in the town of Uzice. There was a weaver workshop, where the linen, towels and some medical supplies were made. Also, the town had a tailor's workshop for making military clothes, a footwear workshop, a partisan bakery, and a leather workshop. Three small hydroelectric plants were continuously operating on the Djetinje River, and the town and all key facilities were regularly supplied with electricity. There was also a railway that was primarily used for military purposes (soldiers were transported to the front), but also served for civilian needs. Workers made an armored partisan train for safer transport.

In this free territory there were established kitchens for the disabled. The influx of population and the evacuation of the wounded to the towns, led to the organization of free health care in hospitals in free towns. An intense cultural life also developed. In Uzice, the Partisans printed newspapers,which posted news of battles. There was even an arts section within the Partisan Company, which had active drama, art and music sections.

An ammunition factory was set-up after the entry of Partisan forces into the town of Uzice on September 24, 1941. Since frequent German bombings prevented consistent production, the factory was displaced several times in different locations in the town to hide its location. Machines of one part of the ammunition department and tools were placed in underground facilities that were built before the beginning of the war for the needs of the National Bank.

In the Republic of Uzice, partisans produced and fixed weapons and ammunition for the front including:[2]

Rifles: 21,000

Special rifles for the supreme headquarters: 40

Ammunition for rifles: 2.7m

Ammunition for handguns: 90,000

Bulletproof ammunition: 20,000

Grenade guns: 300

Hand grenades: 30,000

Fixed machine guns: About 300

Fixed cannons: 3

Repaired cannon grenades: 5,000

Made landing mines: 2,000

Bottles filled with gasoline: 3,000


The breakdown

Hitler was angry because of the rise of the largest and only free territory in occupied Europe. The command for the suppression of the Republic of Uzice came from the highest point of the Third Reich. On September 16, Hitler gave an order to reclaim the liberated territory. Command was entrusted to General Franz Böhme, the commander of the 18th Army Corps. The attack by the German 342nd Division began on September 28, 1941. Wehrmacht units fought against rebels for one month. Although the Partisans and Chetniks repeatedly negotiated during the autumn, they did not agree firmer co-operation. Conflicts between the groups and the weakening of resistance forces were going hand-in-hand, and the Germans who launched an offensive on November 25, 1941.

The Germans, who were more numerous, technically more equipped, and better military-trained, quickly broke the resistance. The Wehrmacht Army reached the Kadinjača Ridge where a large battle took place between the Germans and the Partisans on November 29. The German forces surrounded the Partisan battalion and all the fighters lost their lives in the battle. After World War II a monument was set up for the fallen soldiers at Kadinjača ridge. Just five days after the start of the final offensive, the German division occupied the center of the Republic of Uzice. The German 342nd Infantry Division agreed a demarcation line with the Italians on December 1, with three hunt groups, and that effectively ended the German offensive. After the offensive, the Germans attacked the Chetnik headquarters in Ravna Gora. About 1,500-2,000 partisans from western Serbia retreated with the Supreme Headquarters, to the south of Serbia.



In post-war communist literature, First Enemy Offensivewas the name for the operations that the Wehrmacht occupying forces led against the rebels in the Republic of Uzice, a name that the older citizens still remember today, while the Germans named this operation - Operation Uzice. In the memory of the Yugoslav people, the Republic of Uzice was remembered and celebrated for its glory.

In Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia, glorious battles of World War II were turned into films, so in 1974,the Uzice Republicfilm was made. However, it was more political than action-based. The film wasn’t about the resistance and heroism – politics was the main theme as it was made to glorify the Partisan movement.[3]

Although this free territory did not last long, there was hope in the minds of the Allies that the struggle against the Axis Powers would be successful. The Soviet Union supported the Partisans, and the United Kingdom supported the Chetnik movement, so their attention was piqued with the uprising and the creation of this large free territory. This event also showed the importance of the Balkans and even influenced the creation of resistance movements in other parts of war-torn Europe.


What do you think about the Republic of Uzice? Let us know below.

[1]Petranović, Branko (1992). Srbija u Drugom svetskom ratu 1939—1945  (

[2]Uzice'sNational Museum, Partizanska fabrika oružja i municije (


In the aftermath of World War One, and many changes in the previous decades, many in 1920s America wanted a return to ‘normalcy’ - and this included a change in immigration policy. Here, Jonathan Hennika (his site here) continues his Scared America series by looking at nativism in the 1920s.

Past articles in the series are on strained 19thcentury politics here, Chinese immigration here, and anti-German propaganda during World War One here.

29th US President Warren G. Harding. Harding signed the 1921 Quote Law that restricted immigration to the US.

29th US President Warren G. Harding. Harding signed the 1921 Quote Law that restricted immigration to the US.

As the United States headed towards the holiday season and the new year, another government shutdown loomed. President Donald Trumpinstigatedthe showdown over funding for the Mexico border wall. Congress and the White House entered a tense negotiating stance; on the ground in Mission, Texas another type of battle loomed.

On the outskirts of the town situated close to the border on the Rio Grande River is the National Butterfly Center. Recently Border Agents informed the Executive Director of the Center that wall construction wouldcommence in February 2019. It is unknown how much land the Center will lose, but estimates indicate 70% of the Center’s propertywill be on the other side of the wall. “The center's 100-acre sanctuary… is home to at least 200 species of butterfly, and serves as criticalhabitat for the migration of the threatened Monarch butterfly and endangered species including the ocelot and jaguarundi.” Also, for construction to commence, twenty-eight federal laws governing the land were waived; including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.[i]

The Mexico border wall is a cornerstone of the Trump administration. When dealing with border security, the President fixateson the southern border. However, it was using the legal student visa process that enabled the September 11, 2001 terrorists to enter the country and not via the Mexican border. Politicians, usually of the conservative stripe, have been decrying the lax border security conditions on the southern border for decades. Immigration control on the southernborder links back to the nativist movement of the 1920s.


A Return to Normalcy

The European War was over, peacebrokered, and the American people were tired. The decades of the aughts and the teens were exhausted with the rapid change of Progressive reforms and mobilization towards war. In the election of 1920, one man was speaking their language; in a campaign announcement “aide Ed Scobey announced: `One of his slogans is `back to normal’ and another is `America First.’ In connection with the former, I think I can say there is no man better fitted to bring this country backtonormal more efficiently than Warren G. Harding.” [ii]The return to normalcy included a return to the isolationist days of the nation. One of the ways to achieve that goal was a severe limitation of immigrants permitted entry into the United States.  Congress enacted, and Harding signedthe 1921 Quota law. The Quota law mandated the number of immigrants permitted into the United States, limiting it to three percent of each nationality. The percentage derived by the total number of that nation’s immigrant counted in the 1910 census. While structured around the category of “nationality” soon the quotas naturally evolved into ones based on race.  The Johnson-Reed Act amended the Quota Act of 1921becoming the Immigration Act of 1924.[iii]

The 1924 law had two significant changes: the origin point in determining a nationalities population shifted from 1910to the 1890 census, andthe percentage of acceptable immigrants fell from three to two percent.  “The new immigration law differentiated Europeans according to nationality and ranked them in a hierarchy of desirability…. non-European immigrants—among them Japanese, Chinese, Mexicans, and Filipinos—acquired ethnic and racial identities that were the same. The racialization of the…national origins rendered them unalterably foreign and unassimilable to the nation.”[iv]

The 1921 law established the Quota Board whose job it was to determine the definitions governing immigration. Tocalculate quotas, the Board needed to define such terms as “National origin,” “foreign stock,” and “native stock.” Any citizen who traced their lineage to those present in the United States before1790 were native stock. All other were foreign stock. The countryof birth defined national origin. However, there was no American nationality because “inhabitants in [the] continental United States in the 1920s’does not include (1) immigrants from the [Western Hemisphere] or their descendants, (2) aliens ineligible to citizenship or their descendants, (3) the descendants of slave immigrants,or (4) the descendants of the American aborigines.”[v]The American nation, therefore, was made up only of those white European settlers who arrived before1790. 

In addition to setting quotas on immigration,the act also banned outright immigration from the Asian states. Citizens of Japan, China, et al.were considered aliens ineligible for citizenship. Unfortunately, thepolitical reality of the 1920s included a system of mandates and protectorates established after World War One. Great Britain and France were the major colonial powers after the war and governed much of modern-day Africa, the Middle East and parts of Eurasia. Most often, immigrants from those regions were not natural born citizens, but rather, descendants of the governing colonial powers. For instance, there were scant black South African emigresadmitted while white South Africans, with British heritage, entered the United States.  This practiceaided the quotas in decreasing non-white immigration.


The Era of Scientific Racism 

Attitudes towards indigenous and non-white populations made an interesting turn at the end of the 19thcentury.Aboriginesand indigenous peoplewere considered something less than the civilized white Europeans. This belief was so strong that English author and poet Rudyard Kipling penned a poem mocking this belief, entitled The White Man’s Burden. In 1903, G. Stanly Hall, President of Clark University wrote in the Journal of Education: “My plea is that Indians, who are men of the stone age, and other low races should be first of all sympathetically studied as we study children.”[vi]

It was during this period that scientific theory was gaining a widespread societal acceptance. By the 1920s the White Man’s Burden became a defactoscientific theory. “Historical and sociological data [were] used to prove that race lines, racial distinctions, and inequality of the races are essential.”[vii]In drawing up,the quotas the scientific rationalization of racial prejudice casts its influence. Racial mixing resulted in the downfall of ancient civilizations from Rome to Athens was the argument used to justify limitations on the unacceptable nationalities. That same worry dominated a large segment of the American population in the 1920s. It was a period that saw a sharp rise in membership and activities of patriotic clubs, as well as the Ku Klux Klan. These organizations preached a message of fear regarding the unadvanced foreign interloper. The main concern revolved around the theory that the outsider was unable to conform to accepted American societal norms. The fear was the outsider might manipulate the system toachieve equal societal status with the average American. Thus, “the ambitious immigrant, non-Anglo-Saxon, non-Protestant, whose frequent tendency to overachieve led to actions to `keep him in his place.’”[viii]One of those actions was the strict immigration acts of the 1920s.


The Trouble with Mexico

The Mexican-American war ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. As part of the peace, Mexico ceded a broadswathof territory to the United States. The present-day states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and California all comprise former Mexican territory. The treaty declared that those living in the areasbecame American citizens after one year if they did not announce their intentions to return to Mexico. Unlike the other nations of the world, the treaty governs the naturalization of Mexicans to American citizens.  Hence, Mexico was exempt from the quota system. “While not subject to numerical quotas or restrictions on naturalization, Mexicans were profoundly affected by restrictive measures enacted in the 1920s, among them deportation policy, thecreation of the Border Patrol, and the criminalization of unlawful entry.”[ix]

Embracing the respectability of scientific theory, President Herbert Hoover commissioned a large study conducted by academics and social scientists. The resulting report provides a detailed look at American life in the decade of the 1920s. The report, entitled Recent Social Trends, examined the state of racial and ethnic groups in chapter eleven.  In discussing Mexican migration, the report noted: “that the Mexican element has increased from 3 to 16 percent of all immigration within the past twenty years. Thishas meant an increase from 400,000 in 1910 to nearly a million and a half in 1930 in the number of persons born in Mexico or of Mexican parentage. Of this million and a half,about 65,000 were enumerated in 1930 as "white Mexicans" or those of Spanish descent, while the remaining 1,400,000 were of “Indian and Negro descent.”[x]The report found a variety of pull and push factors for Mexican migration; civil unrest in Mexico and a strong United States economy beforethe Stock Market crash. The impact of the Great Depression decreased the flow of migrants into the United States from Mexico. The American border while porous became tighter in the 1920s; the trickle of emigres permitted in through the quota system virtually stopped as a result of the events of the 1930s. As for the immigrants already present in the United States, the return to normalcy translated into Americanization. Under the pressures of nativism, the narrative of the American melting pot became more one of assimilation. 


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

[i]CBS News, “Butterfly Sanctuary in Texas Expected to be Plowed Over for Trumps Border Wall,”

[ii]David Pietrusza, 1920: The Year of Six Presidents, (New York: Basic Books, 2007) 314.

[iii]Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The 1920s to the 1990s, (Harper Collins: New York, 1983) 205.

[iv]Mae M. Ngai, “The Architecture of Race in Immigration Law: A Reexamination of the Immigration Act of 1924,” The Journal of American History, 86 June 1999, 69-70

[v]Ibid., 72

[vi]G. Stanley Hall, “The White Man’s Burden Versus Indigenous Development of the Lower Races,” The Journal of Education, 58 July 1903, 83.

[vii]W.O. Brown, “Rationalization of Race Prejudice,” International Journal of Ethics, 43 April 1933, 302-3.

[viii]Paul L. Murphy, “Sources and Nature of Intolerance in the 1920s,” The Journal of American History, 51 June 1964, 69.

[ix]Ngai, 71, 88.

[x]T.J. Woofter, Jr., “The Status of Racial and Ethnic Groups,” Recent Social Trends (York, Pa: The Maple Press Company, 1933), 561.

San Francisco is often considered to have a large homosexual community, something that statistics back up. But how long has there been a homosexual community in San Francisco? Here, Alison McLafferty tells us the history of the male homosexual community in San Francisco - and that it goes back a very long way.

“The Miner’s Ball,” by Andre Castaigne, depicting a dance among during the 1849 California Gold Rush.

“The Miner’s Ball,” by Andre Castaigne, depicting a dance among during the 1849 California Gold Rush.

Ask almost anyone in the United States to list the first things that come to mind when they think of that glorious “City by the Bay,” San Francisco, and--along with exorbitant rent, candy-colored Victorian houses, and aging hippies-- they will invariably mention: “gay or homosexual men.” 

The LGBT community in the Bay Area makes up 6.2% of the population, which is almost twice the national average of 3.6%. Homosexual men are also more numerous than homosexual women. The Castro neighborhood, the historic center of homosexual activity since the 1970s, is now one of the hubs of tourist activity. The streets are strewn with rainbow flags, and storefronts revel in double-entendres: “The Sausage Factory” is a restaurant and pizzeria, and “Hot Cookie” sells famously delicious cookies as well as--why not?--men’s underwear.

The city became a hub for homosexual activity in World War II, when men from all over the country found themselves in an all-male environment far from the families and small towns who knew and watched them closely. Facing an uncertain future and shrouded with the relative anonymity provided by a bustling urban hub, many sought to satiate previously hidden desires, finding solace in same-sex relationships. “I think the war has caused a great change,” one of the homosexual “Queens” in Gore Vidal’s 1948 novel, The City and the Pillar, mused while admiring a collection of marines and sailors at an all-male party. “Inhibitions have broken down. All sorts of young men are trying out all sorts of new things, away from home and familiar taboos.”

After the war, many men stayed in the city where they’d finally found a community that made them feel safe and welcome. When the “Summer of Love” bloomed in the Haight Ashbury district in 1967, wreathed in a haze of marijuana smoke and set to the rhythm of Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and the Beatles, homosexual men joined in the general celebration of “free love.” The Castro Neighborhood right next-door to Haight Ashbury, with its cleaner streets, its large Victorian houses, and its cheap rent, became a mecca for homosexual men seeking to build their own community and culture.

So goes the usual history of homosexual men in San Francisco, but few people know that this story goes back much farther than this--back to the old Gold Rush days, back ever further to the days when the Miwok, the Ohlone, and the other Native American tribes hunted and fished in the wild coastlands of the Bay far before any foreigners arrived. 


The Berdache

When French fur trappers, Spanish missionaries, and American explorers first encountered the Indian tribes of the Great Plains and the Pacific Coast, they were shocked to note the presence--in a wide variety of tribes--of Native American men who wore female clothing, performed female duties, and appeared to be the “wives” of prominent Native American men. 

The generic term for such individuals became “berdache,” though different tribes had their own terms. The Hidatsa, for example (the tribe with whom Sacajawea was living when Lewis and Clark met her), called them“miáti.”The Lakota (the tribe led by Crazy Horse in the Battle of Little Bighorn against General Custer) called them “winkta.” Crazy Horse himself had a berdachein his harem. Such individuals existed in tribes from the Pacific Coast to the Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes-- but it was in California that the berdache were particularly ubiquitous.

Berdache were not considered “homosexual” by their tribes--Native Americans did not consider sexuality as binary as westerners came to do, nor did they consider it something biological. Instead, gender was considered an aspect of a person’s spirit, and berdache possessed both male and female spirits. They were not, however, intersex--or, to use the 19th century term, “hermaphrodites,” who possess both male and female biological characteristics. Berdache were biologically male, but often performed the roles of both men and women--for example, dressing as women but joining male war parties--in their daily lives, and generally had sexual relations and marriages with men. 

Berdache were generally greatly respected by their tribes, as they were considered to be endowed with immense spiritual power: many were healers, medicine men, seers, and priests. But to the western missionaries and federal agents who encountered them, they were an abomination: something to be prayed over, forcefully dressed in men’s clothing, put to men’s work, and strictly punished. 


The California Gold Rush

Such a severe crack-down was somewhat ironic: the same Europeans and Americans who exacted harsh punishments on the Native American berdache were quite blind to similar activities among their own people during the gold fever of the 1850s. As men of all ages, all races, and all nationalities flooded San Francisco’s harbor in their head-long rush for the gold fields of California, they found the city--and the newly minted state in general--a hotbed of homosexual activity.

Few men came to San Francisco specifically to seek out other men as sexual partners: the journey was long and arduous, fortunes were fickle, and the city itself was a hastily-built, slap-up affair that burned down every few years and featured, as one young man wrote in his diary, “Far too many drunken men lying in gutters.”

It also featured far too few women: gold digging was a male sport, something to be undertaken by the sex considered more adventurous, hardy, courageous and aggressive. Most men headed to San Francisco for the sole purpose of using it as a gateway to the gold fields: a place to grab some mining equipment, hitch a ride to the gold, strike it rich as soon as possible, and bring the fortune home to lure a lovely bride.

But the dearth of women-- the U.S. Census of 1850 set the population of non-Native women in the entire state of California at just 4.5%-- also provided opportunities for those who did have homosexual inclinations, who struggled with secret desires and new opportunities, or who claimed simple loneliness and the desire for any kind of company. Men who spent their days with their feet in the ice-cold waters of the American River and their backs bent double in the scorching sun sometimes spent their nights in camp with other men, sharing food, tents, and blankets. Starved for some fun and entertainment after long days in a stark, empty landscape, many headed to San Francisco in their free time, carefully hoarding the few flakes of gold they had managed to sift from the churning river waters. 

Because there were never enough women to partner with all the men at dances, it was common practice for a man to tie a handkerchief to his upper arm to signify that he was willing to take the women’s role. Visitors to San Francisco remarked in bemusement on the spinning couples on dance floors-- shaggy, bearded men with faces scrubbed for the occasion, holding each other daintily about the waists, swaying gracefully, and dancing cheek to cheek. Some men even went so far as to don full gowns--often lent by amused prostitutes, who made up the majority of the population--and the practice was generally accepted.

The West, after all, was a space without the usual constraints of civilization: without the laws, taboos, and enforcement agencies that kept Victorian society tightly laced on the East Coast. It was a trans space in many ways--a space for crossing boundaries, lands, identities and sexualities. One Western gentleman (the records just name him “M”) who took several bullets fighting in the Indian Wars, explained that he dressed in women’s clothing because the petticoats covered the holes: “Then I forget all about them, as well as all other troubles,” he explained serenely.


The Third Sex

M, as well as other men of the West in general and San Francisco in particular, were tolerated in part because of the relative dearth of enforcement agencies, and in part because the people of that era understood homosexuality differently than people of the 20th or 21st century. The binary of “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” did not exist until the 20th century, particularly with the rise ofFreud and his psychosexual theory of development. Freud claimed that humans are born innately bisexual, and that influences in early childhood determined whether or not they will follow a “straight” course of sexual development (heterosexual) or a “perverted” course (homosexual). Prior to the popularization of these ideas in the early twentieth century, society generally accepted the existence of a third group of people, commonly termed the “third sex.” This “third sex” was made up of men who identified themselves as women: they dressed as women, did women’s work, and had sexual relations with men. Colloquially, they were often termed “fairies.” 

Although not fully accepted by society--and certainly not by religious institutions or law enforcement agencies--members of the “third sex” were usually tolerated, and even the police tended to leave them alone as long as they didn’t create too much trouble. This was due, in part, to the fact that they played an important role: in Victorian society, white women were considered to be chaste and even asexual, frightened and even repulsed by sex. In many urban centers such as New York City or San Francisco, then, women were not only sparse--as urban centers were considered public spaces where men congregated to work and play, keeping the women at home--but also sexually unavailable. This is one of the primary reasons prostitution was so rampant in the 19th century: prostitutes, themselves either perversions of womanhood or tragic “fallen” women, provided sexual outlets for men whose wives or girlfriends could not satiate their appetites.

Yet in some cases, such as in predominantly male working-class New York neighborhoods, or in Gold Rush San Francisco, even prostitutes were hard to find or too expensive. In those cases, many men sought out members of the “third sex. Because men in this era were thought to be inherently sexual (the constant production of sperm was cited as biological proof), a man who sought out sex was often considered “manly” no matter his choice in sexual partner. Manliness was therefore defined in part by sexual appetite--if no woman existed to slake it, a man might indeed seek out another man, particularly a member of the “third sex,” and no one would question either his manliness or his sexual orientation.

San Francisco, then, has almost always been a haven for homosexual men, in one way or another--and, contrary to popular belief, homosexuality has been historically tolerated across racial and geographic divides. The history of San Francisco’s homosexual community has often been presented as one of recent visibility and recent triumph--and it is true that the gains made since the Gay Liberation Movement of the 1960s-1980s have been momentous. Yet much of this history forgets the long tradition of men whose identities transcended the tenuous binary that 20th and 21st century society has imposed on both contemporary and past societies of different races. Understanding that the standards and codes by which we measure modern society are often of modern, western invention will help us to better understand the actions and experiences of historical subjects.


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


U.S. Seventh Census 1850: California. [Accessed November 2018]:

Gore Vidal, The City and the Pillar, (E.P Dutton & Co: New York, 1948).

Charles Callender, Lee M Kochens, “The North American Berdache,” Current Anthropology,Vol 24: No 4 (August-October 1983).

David Wishard, “Encyclopedia of the Great Plants,” Univeristy of Nebraska, Lincoln, 2011 [Accessed November 2018]:

Timothy C Osborne’s Diary, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.

Albert Hurtado, Intimate Frontiers: Sex, Gender, and Culture in Old California(University of New Mexico Press: Albuquerque, 1999).

Susan Johnson, Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush(W. W. Norton & Company: New York, 2000).

George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (Basic Books: New Yorkm 1995).

Barbara Weltman, “The Cult of True Womanhood,”American Quarterly, Vol. 18: No. 2, Part 1 (Summer, 1966).

Timothy Gilfoyle, City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920 (W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1994).

Frank Newport and Gary Gates, “San Francisco Metro Area Rates Highest in LGBT Percentage,” Gallup, March 20, 2015 [Accessed November 2018]:

Peter Boag, Re-Dressing America’s Frontier Past (University of California Press: Berkeley, 2011).

Brandon Ambrosino, “The Invention of Heterosexuality,” BBC, March 16, 2017 [Accessed November 2018]:

The Falkland Islands are some 300 miles (or about 480 kilometers) off the coast of Argentina and have been a British-owned territory since the nineteenth century; in 1982 Argentina and Britain fought a war over ownership of the islands. Here, Matt Austin considers civilian casualties during the Falklands War in the wider context of the decline of the British Empire.

Argentine prisoners of war during the 1982 Falklands War. Source: Ken Griffiths, available  here .

Argentine prisoners of war during the 1982 Falklands War. Source: Ken Griffiths, available here.


Beginning on the second of April and lasting until the fourteenth of July 1982, Britain was engaged in a seventy-two day war to retain one of its few remaining commonwealth territories. Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges refers to the Falklands War as “two bald men fighting over a comb,” a comparison that strongly outlines the sheer needlessness of the conflict in the eyes of many historians and writers.[1]It is therefore possible to suggest that the casualties endured during the Falklands War, an estimated eight hundred and seventy eight in total, with the inclusion of Argentine prisoners of war, numbering over eleven thousand, were themselves needless.[2]Ultimately, the motivations behind the Falklands War and the nature of how it was fought have led it to be considered one of the most unique conflicts in British military history.


The Decline of the British Empire

Following the Second World War, Britain underwent a period of decline. Due to the heavy economic losses endured during the conflict, the nation was unable to effectively fund its Empire and granted independence to a number of its former colonies from the 1940s onwards. The first of the major colonies to gain independence following the Second World War was India. With warring political groups and a lack of ‘safeguards’ for British business and trade interests, UK Prime Minister Clement Attlee decided Britain was to ‘abandon control’ of India in 1947.[3]

This was followed by the loss of numerous territories in the following decades, such as Ghana in 1957, Uganda in 1962, and Kenya in 1963. Consequently, the loss of Southern Rhodesia, or Zimbabwe, as the newly independent state became known, in 1980, was the last of the British territories in Africa. The loss of Southern Rhodesia represented the end of an era for the British Empire, following its inevitable decline in the decades after the Second World War.[4]This left the former international powerhouse of the British Empire with a severely reduced, sparsely scattered group of commonwealth territories, so threatening the nation’s global influence. With the threat of the Empire being completely lost, a concept that had become gradually apparent throughout the past several decades, Britain would therefore rigorously attempt to retain and protect any of its remaining territories against invasion. 


The Falklands War

The origins of the Falklands Warcan be attributed to the militant Argentine government’s decision to invade and occupy the neighboring islands in an attempt to encourage positive public opinion. Despite having a severely weakened economy and dealing with increasing demand for the introduction a democratic voting system, the government, under the control of their military dictator Leopoldo Galtieri, received an outpouring of public support in favor of the invasion of the islands, as Argentine feelings of nationalism surged.[5]This reinforced the decision to defend their newly captured territory against the prospect of a British invasion.

Following news of the Argentine invasion and take over of the Falkland Islands, Britain responded by sending a naval taskforce on April 5, 1982 to defend the islands from the invading forces. Ultimately, the conflict was short lived, as Britain was successful in its attempt to regain the Falkland Islands through the use of more advanced military technology and superior combat training. US president Ronald Reagan was initially skeptical of Britain’s decision to win back the Falklands, suggesting that it was not worth an invasion. However, in an attempt to avoid any political tension between the United States, and the United Kingdom, under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he eventually decided to support the effort, providing Britain with weaponry and munitions, which aided the victory and shortened the conflict.


Military Casualties

The Argentine casualties during the Falklands War numbered up to six hundred and forty nine, around four hundred more than those of the British. The majority of the casualties of the Falklands War occurred during the attacks on naval ships carrying large numbers of troops. The specific case of the British attack on the Argentine ship, the General Belgrano, resulted in almost half of all Argentine casualties, with three hundred and twenty one of the ship’s one thousand one hundred crew being killed.[6]This has since been considered a highly controversial moment of the Falklands War, sparking the debate over a possible war crime, as the Belgrano was attacked thirty six miles away from the British exclusion zone that had been set up around the islands.[7]

Nevertheless, despite a vast majority of the casualties originating from naval attacks, friendly fire was a larger issue for British troops in the Falklands than the majority of its other twentieth century conflicts, relative to the scale and nature of the war. The majority of incidents of British friendly fire occurred at night. The reason for this can be attributed to the result of misinterpretation of the identity of British troops, among the ‘monotonous, featureless terrain’ of the Falkland Islands.[8]Furthermore, it was not simply British troops that fell victim to friendly fire, as the only civilian casualties of the Falklands War are attributed to this.


Civilian Casualties

The decisive British victory, however, was underpinned by the regularly overlooked deaths of three civilians.[9]Whilst civilian casualties are unfortunately rarely unique during wartime, the case of the death of three Falkland Islanders is in itself a rare occurrence, as these deaths were caused by friendly fire. The three civilian deaths of the Falklands War hold great significance, as they demonstrate the contradictory nature and moral considerations that embodied this conflict. As the islands had been under British rule for centuries, those living there were British citizens and being predominantly farmers, had little to no means of preventing the unexpected Argentine invasion. Consequently, there must have been a sense of relief when news that the British would launch an invasion to secure back the islands reached those living there.[10]However, this was not to be the case for three Falkland Islanders living in the capital, Port Stanley, as Susan Whitley, Doreen Bonner, and Mary Goodwin unfortunately lost their lives during the British bombing of the capital.[11]Whilst these deaths are often overlooked in what is a considerably neglected conflict in itself, they have come to somewhat represent British international relations in the latter half of the twentieth century.

What is therefore so intriguing about these deaths are the wider moral implications that surround them. Britain, in an attempt to recapture the islands, supposedly for the safety of the Falklanders and the right to retain their British identity, contributed to the only incidents of civilian casualties of the war. This represents the contradictory nature of this conflict and creates a wider moral question of whether the unrealistic perception of the ‘Empire’ and the lengths that Britain would go to ensure its survival was worth more to the government and foreign policy makers than the people they were trying to protect. 



The Imperial undertones of the Falklands War are highlighted by these deaths; this article therefore concludes by posing the question of British morality and whether this conflict was simply an overreaction to the post war decades characterized by the decline of the once powerful Empire that built up and bubbled over, culminating in one of the most unnecessary, frustrating conflicts in the nation’s history.


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

[1]Miles Kington, “What did you do in the Falklands War, Daddy?” The Independent, October 28, 1998,

[2]“Falkland Islands War. Cost and Consequences,” Britannica, accessed 17/11/2018,

[3]Nicholas Owen, “The Conservative Party and Indian Independence, 1945-1947,” The Historical Journal 46, no. 2 (June 2003): 404.

[4]Hevina S. Dashwood, “Inequality, Leadership and the Crisis in Zimbabwe,” International Journal57, no. 2 (Spring 2002): 209.

[5]Paola Ehrmantruat, “Aftermath of Violence: Coming to Terms with the Legacy of the Malvinas/Falklands War (1982),” Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies 15 (2011): 95-96.

[6]“Is Maggie Thatcher a War Criminal?” Belgrano Enquiry, accessed 10/12/2018,

[7]“Is Maggie Thatcher a War Criminal?”

[8]Beck, “How Are You Enjoying the Day?”

[9]Lucy Beck, “How Are You Enjoying the Day? Remembering the victims of the Falklands War,” April 2007.

[10]David Saunders, Hugh Ward, David Marsh and Tony Fletcher, “Government Popularity and the Falklands War: A Reassessment,” British Journal of Political Science 17, no. 3 (July 1987): 281-282.

[11]Beck, “How Are You Enjoying the Day?”