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Footnotes of History
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Footnotes of History

Author: Dan Nesbitt / Tim Philpott

Subscribed: 10Played: 126

Description - the podcast that sails confidently into the uncharted waters of the past, bringing back incredible treasures for its listeners. You'll wish you'd listened harder in school as we reveal the oft-forgotten history of the nineteenth century .
34 Episodes
It’s not a big secret that TV shows based in history are sometimes a bit slapdash.Often it’s time pressures, it’s adaptation for drama or even just the taste of the producer.But in this episode, your Oracles of Truth kick around two previous Dispatches topics and get to grips with the “potential” truths that could be being told to you by your very own television RIGHT NOW!These first concern the Rugby World Cup – this year in Japan no less, whose history is as dark as it is mysterious and as misunderstood as it is celebrated.The second, equally dark topic, is that of British fascism and its infamous leader Sir Oswald Mosley, its origins and its surprisingly uncontentious way of running things at the time.As always, if you want to get your controversies brought to you on a silver platter, sign up to our email list on the homepage at!
Quick note: Don't forget to sail yourself over the for more daring exploits from the past.With that announcement out of the way, today's episode is equal parts grand, intrepid adventure and terrifying horror story.In 1845, things were looking pretty good exploration-wise. Humanity knew where most things were and maps were *almost* as we see them today.That’s barring a few wars here and there in Europe – but I’m talking about islands, continents and oceans here, not Bismarck for once.But there was one itch that kept nagging at the compulsive brains of the great and the good - and that was the Arctic.The theory was sound:Logically, from the spherical shape of the globe, there should be some kind of route from Europe that went due north west across the Atlantic, between the coasts of Greenland and Canada.Then you would head sharply west at Baffin Bay and travel “over” the seas off the northern coast of Canada before finally heading south again into the clear waters of the Pacific.From there it ought to be plain sailing to Japan, China and the rich trading zones of the Asian continent.Easier said than done thanks to the treacherous polar ice – its habit of melting and suddenly re-freezing at random had trapped many an explorer in its fatal grip.But the mission remained alluring for a few reasons:It would shorten the trade route to Asia significantly. Currently, ships had to sail all the way south around the Cape of Good Hope and then East. This was a long journey, but it was also dangerous – the seas were rough and - until much later - swarmed with pirates.The country that discovered and secured the route first would be at a significant advantage versus other nations. This was a time of grandiose nationalism and of variations on the “manifest destiny” – many nations considered it their destiny to dominate the world and the North West Passage would be a prestigious asset in the struggle.The man who found the safe route would be the Toast of the Empire for generations to come. In fact, he could readily expect to have the route named after him.There was also a slightly more mundane justification: the Royal Navy was a vast force that was – in the absence of war - sailing about with not a huge amount of purpose.So the stakes were high.Step forward Sir John Franklin.A veteran of polar exploration, eager to make his name and equipped with state-of-the-art ships, Franklin was tasked by the Royal Navy with the exploration of the last bit of the Arctic that was so far uncharted.What would he find?Well you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out!
In this mini-sode, we discuss 2 of our latest email dispatches in more detail, getting to grips with:Do the maps from the nineteenth century inadvertently (or deliberately) reveal the mapmaker’s sentiments (especially as new nations are born in Europe!)The terror felt by one military man in England when Prussia absorbed Germany (he was so scared that he wrote a novel to wake everyone up to the danger!)The weirdly but oh-so-Victorian story of why The Ashes is called “The Ashes”Where cricket failed as a propaganda weapon in the British Empire (when it worked almost everywhere else!)Enjoy the episode – but don’t forget you can join us on our daring historical journey simply by lending us your email address at!
In 1878, the Congress of Berlin assembled the Great Powers of Europe to call time on the out-of-control battle between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.In our previous episode, we pointed out that every Power brought its own food to the table - be it a desire to cry foul on Russia, to balance the tension between two major Emperors or even to exploit events to snatch bonus territories from elsewhere.In this episode, the drama continues as we present: How Britain - assisted by a cast of collaborators - somehow managed to steal the biggest slice of the pie before the negotiations even startedThat the delegates of “Small Men” at the Congress (including, and especially Bismarck) were almost all clueless about what “The Balkans” were and blocked all efforts by Balkans reps to educate themHow the European nations humiliated the Ottomans needlesslyWhat secret scheme the Congress’ “project manager” devised to keep everyone happy during the long debatesThe extremely cheeky message sent from Greece (hiding behind France) designed to provoke the OttomansWhy Bismarck was in such a bad mood for almost all of it (more so than usual) and what he was drinking to keep himself saneHow the Great Powers let Austria elbow itself into the Balkan settlement by the back door and leave it wide open for the 1914 catastropheAnd much more if you click the play button, but the best thing to do to get your mitts on more FOH gold is to sign up to our bi-weekly Dispatches legions here before Bismarck flips his lid:
In this episode, your daring hosts examine the tangled story of the Congress of Berlin. In 1877, having spent the entire preceding century at each other’s throats, arch-rivals Russia and the Ottoman Empire went to war again.Russia considered itself the leader of the Slavs and the prosector of the Eastern invaders, looking to free the Holy Lands from Ottoman control. The Ottomans were an ailing, fragile superstate, inheritors of the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem and now stretched thinly over South-Eastern Europe. Cracks had already begun to appear - in Greece, in Serbia and in several other places.In a very Russian fashion that some might recognise from other historical episodes, Russian-sponsored troops from Serbia and Bulgaria were encouraged to rise up and after much struggling, managed to defeat the Ottoman army in battle.This led to an overly ambitious Russian attempt to redraw the Balkans as it would like to see it, a dangerous move that provoked the ire of the watchful Great Powers. In this episode, we set the scene as the South-Eastern rivals are hauled in front of a jury of their peers and betters and Russia is hauled across the coals for its troubles. In this episode:Why even the most powerful of the Great Powers were secretly desperate to avoid a warThe mystery of “Greater Bulgaria” and why it terrified the AustriansHow an exhausted Russia could still threaten the interests of five industrialised nations simultaneously Why after 500 years, Christendom had “won back” Jerusalem… but didn’t want itHow - in seeking peace - the Great Powers inadvertently sowed the seeds of the First World WarSo plug in your headphones and click the play button at the top of this page to listen to the episode right now!Alternatively, you can click subscribe button above to get the episodes immediately sent to your phone and you can listen on the go!If you’re still reading this then I’ll throw you a bone - for more FOH content and our exciting twice-weekly email series, subscribe at 
Short story long: The one with the biggest army gets to make the rules regardless of whether they’re morally legitimate.This is essentially the story of German unification. Historians will argue that Bismarck was “clever” and that he “manoeuvred” politically etc.But realistically none of it could have been achieved without a massive Prussian army that first whipped Denmark, then crushed Austria and finally bulldozed France.D, A and F were all big players at the time.Bavaria, an ancient kingdom on the border with Switzerland and Austria was a large and wealthy state with a beautiful heritage and a very traditionalist Catholic culture, but it was never in the same league as the big players.Crucially, militarism was never a hobby for the Bavarians.So when it came to resisting Prussia, they didn’t stand a chance. When the chips were down it took them nearly two weeks to mobilise their troops. By that time, their nearest allies were all defeated by the speedy Prussian war machine.Bavaria was reduced to a vassal state of the German Empire.If you listen in to this episode, you will discover:- The real life “Disney” castles that were one ruler’s desperate escape from a painful reality- Why one rebel province still marches out of step with Germany even now- The mysterious disappearance of Germany’s last “true” KingVisit the shownotes pages at
Britain had a good nineteenth century.To know this, you really only have to compare it to other nations of Europe (and actually the world).The “Concert of Europe” – a loosely coordinated regime of quite punishing military repression, censorship and heavy taxes really did for most of the rest of Europe.Repression led to the cultural and nationalist outbreaks of 1848, which – while initially unsuccessful – eventually saw by 1870 the complete destruction of the 1815 post-Napoleonic settlement.In pursuing the opposite route, Britain actually took a secret path. It dodged most of the challenges of aggressive revolutionary groups within society by industrialising its population out of the kind of poverty that was all too common on the continent.Of course when I say “pursued” I actually mean “allowed” – since there was no coordinated “industrialisation” government agenda per se – unlike in France or Germany. So all well and good right?Well there was one area where the British regime bore more than a passing resemblance to the Concert of Europe and that was in Ireland. What were the results of this “loophole” in domestic British politics and liberal philosophy?Well I’ll let you find out in the episode, where Dan and I use the recently released Black ’47 film as a drama prop to illustrate our point.But safe to say it really wasn’t pretty.  In this episode you’ll find:- The old system that doomed Ireland to starvation and that Britain never seemed to fix- Why a law passed during the wars against Napoleon magnified the suffering- The cultural “kink” the Irish had that prevented them from undergoing the same transformation process as the rest of the UKClick the link below to get the full
He was a man who personified his country’s culture but also rose above it – fusing Russian influences with Western to create music pieces which remain some of the world’s favourites today.By the end of his life he was wildly rich, yet subject to such emotional trauma that some say he took his own life.If you want to know more about this epic tale of the first Russian Rockstar, click on and you will discover:The rockstar who personified Russia’s nineteenth century insecurity and schizophrenia – both politically and culturallyThe mystery benefactor who covered his escape from academia and enabled his work to shineThe dark demise of and the conspiracy theories around both his life… and his deathAs always, thanks for listening – you an visit the website at and if you do enjoy our episodes, you really ought to leave us a positive review on your podcast platform – this will help more people to see and listen to all this good stuff!
Back in 1848, a gang of rather pretentious young men with a sentimental disaffection for daily life started their own cultural revolution. They were artists, poets and intellectuals of independent means, intent on shaping a new, idealised world of their own through their own creations.The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were to some extent an early version of the 1960s cultural revolution. Their artistic achievements have left a stunning legacy. Many would agree that works like Ophelia and the Lady of Shallot truly embody the modern perception of what art is supposed to be.But there is a darker side to this glorious success story.In many of their works is depicted a woman – a red-headed, pale and often fragile depiction of femininity that repeats across innumerable works by the Pre-Raphaelites.In this episode you’ll discover:- The powerful tragedy behind the world’s most famous red-haired muse - The soaring artistic heights and the depraved troughs of the Pre-Raphaelites’ counter-cultural lifestyle- The poignant legacy of a female artist whose life was cut short all too soonFind more on our site: the FoH Legion:
Having overcome our slight distraction by showbiz and movies in the last few episodes, Dan and I return to form in this episode, dabbling classic Victorian industrial revolution material with a bit of art. Henry Tate was a towering individual whose humble beginnings would make him a cliche in any novel. Cliches exist for a reason however and Tate represented in many ways the Victorian spirit - he was born poor, built his own commercial empire through serving his neighbours and - as a bonus of sorts - shared the wealth in the process.You can get the shownotes as usual at you can try our new personality quiz at
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