Before the First Snow: Stories from the revolution

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Was the American Revolution Inevitable?

The civil unrest convinced James to leave London and bring out his forces to meet the invading army in a pitched battle. He was frequently debilitated by heavy nosebleeds. However, the king was now convinced that his own life was in danger and was making preparations to flee the country.

Crispus Attucks, First Martyr of the American Revolution - Biography

On 11 December, in the wake of renewed anti-Catholic rioting in London, James made his first attempt to escape, but was captured by Kent fishermen near Sheerness. After considerable pressure from William himself, parliament agreed that he would rule as joint monarch with Mary, rather than act merely as her consort, and on 13 February William and Mary formally accepted the throne. Before they were offered the crown, William and Mary were presented with a document called the Declaration of Rights, later enshrined in law as the Bill of Rights, which affirmed a number of constitutional principles, such as the illegality of prerogative suspending and dispensing powers, the prohibition of taxation without parliamentary consent and the need for regular parliaments.

In reality, the Bill of Rights placed few real restrictions on the crown. It was not until that the call for regular parliaments was backed up by the Triennial Act. Pressure from William also ensured the passage in May of the Toleration Act, granting many Protestant groups, but not Catholics, freedom of worship. This toleration was, however, considerably more limited than that envisaged by James II. Their massive cost led not only to growth of modern financial institutions — most notably the Bank of England founded in — but also to greater scrutiny of crown expenditure through parliamentary committees of accounts.

The bureaucracy required to harvest all this money grew exponentially too. In Ireland and Scotland, the revolution was militarily contested and its settlements extremely politically and religiously divisive. For example, Irish Protestants disregarded the generous peace terms of the Treaty of Limerick 3 October and established a monopoly over land-ownership and political power. The revolution also failed to limit the power of parliaments and created no body of protected constitutional law. Therefore the Septennial Act of was able to effectively undermine the terms of the Triennial Act, ushering in the lengthy rule of a Whig oligarchy.

For the non-white inhabitants of the British Atlantic empire, the Glorious Revolution represented not the broadening of freedom but the expansion of servitude. Cambridge University Press, He is currently writing a history of English radicalism from Magna Carta to the present day. Search term:. Read more. People don't just shiver in the snow. In his Census at Bethlehem, while adults huddle miserably, children skate and sledge on the ice, as they do in Hunters. Dutch artists took up Bruegel's new snow scene genre as winters deepened and hardened and the frosts that seemed novel in became routine though still magical.

In making everything look new and alien - stopping school and work, severing the chains of rural habit - snow created a wonderland that is celebrated, for example, in the paintings of Hendrick Avercamp, where entire Dutch towns are shown out on the ice while old people sit watching, wrapped up warm. In Britain, the 17th-century English diarist John Evelyn recorded that when the Thames froze over, from December to February , people treated it as a "carnival of winter". A carnival was a mad collective escape from drudgery, and in Abraham Hondius's painting, A Frost on the Thames, you can see what Evelyn means.

Long-haired dandies glide across the solid river, visiting booths and tents, while cannons fire to salute a royal visit and children play ball games. Yet, Evelyn points out, this midwinter celebration skated over the chilling facts: the poor were perishing from cold and hunger, the next year's harvest was dead in the ground, and trees were dying.

It was a catastrophe. Somehow, the Thames "frost fairs" turned it all into a joyous Bruegelian celebration of life. The last frost fair on the Thames was in , when Regency fops were just as keen to get on the ice to flirt, as a cartoon by Thomas Rowlandson, of skaters on the Serpentine, shows.

But in the 19th century, the communal hilarity Bruegel bequeathed gives way to a terrible solitude. Snow is no longer made homely by winter sports and braziers. It becomes the white shroud of death. Caspar David Friedrich's painting The Watzmann imagines a snowbound Alp, seen across green foothills, as a smooth, inhuman spectre remote from the fleshy concerns of the everyday.

Cultural Revolution, 50 years on

It is extreme, it is desired, and it will kill you. The Alps in Friedrich's day were still a menace to the economic and political life of Europe.


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The Little Ice Age still had the continent in its grip - crossing from France to Italy was terrifying. JMW Turner made the trip several times and glaciers and blizzards swirl in his paintings, most fantastically in his traumatic vortex of a painting, Snow Storm: Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps.

By the middle of the 19th century, it was over. London would not see another frost fair. Today, to see people larking about on a frozen river in the heart of a great city, you have to go to St Petersburg. What changed? The industrial revolution had an impact on the climate as long ago as the s, together with massive forest clearances in the US. A tendency for the world to become colder, which had been noticeable since the middle ages, was reversed by the stirrings of modernity.

Ice started to roll back from the world - but not from art. It is arguable that abstract art begins with all those snow scenes of the Old Masters, from Bruegel to Turner. When you look at fallen snow, the erasure of detail, the disappearance of perspective is what makes it so magical.


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  8. Bruegel captures this: in his Adoration of the Magi, the action is partly obscured by falling snowflakes. He recognises the disengaging visual quality of snow, an insight that has surprising consequences. May 16, , marks the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. For 10 tumultuous years from , the country underwent massive sociopolitical upheaval that saw countless politicians and intellectuals driven to their deaths, civilians killed in armed conflicts, and cultural relics and artefacts destroyed.

    The official death toll numbered more than 1. Former Red Guards and rebels share their personal accounts of the difficult decade that the country and its people are still struggling to come to terms with half a century on. Aggressively attacking the state of society in which he saw a growing chasm between those in power and the people they served, Mao argued that a revolution of culture would better serve the interests of the masses. The move affronted Mao, a staunch believer of the Marxist class struggle. Of them, President Liu Shaoqi was the most powerful. In the then-ongoing Four Clean-ups Movement launched by Mao in to implement class struggle, Liu took a softer stance on targets of the clean-ups.

    In November , Mao departed Beijing for the south, disappearing from the public eye for a period and thus drawing speculation about his health. Months later, during an expanded Politburo session on May 16, , Beijing issued a directive — endorsed by Mao who was away in the south — kicking off the Cultural Revolution. Mao Zedong was not in Beijing during the first two months of the Cultural Revolution.

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    But on July 16, , he resurfaced in Wuhan, Hubei province, showing the world that he was in robust health by taking a much-publicised swim in the Yangtze River. Upon his return to the capital, Mao reversed almost all decisions made by the central government, even though he himself had endorsed them earlier.

    7 Events That Enraged Colonists and Led to the American Revolution

    Anarchy spread throughout the country as Beijing endorsed the violence and encouraged people to rise up against their local governments. The decade-long revolution resulted in the deaths of some 1. Cities, counties, ministries and even factories split into factions that fought each other. But he also criticised the rebels for mistreating their captives. As armed conflicts increased across the country, state-led purges were ordered to rein in the chaos.

    How Did the American Revolution Influence the French Revolution?

    By , some 2. But the purges ended up claiming more lives than the rebel clashes. All but one of the numerous cemeteries set aside specially for those who died during the revolution have been destroyed. The only one left intact is in Chongqing, which saw guns, cannons, tanks and warships used at the height of armed conflict between rebel groups in the s. The cemetery, for one of the two opposing factions, houses the graves of about people killed in the violence.

    The youngest was only 14 years old.

    Jonathan Jones on artists and winter | Art and design | The Guardian

    In January , Shanghai became the first provincial-level government to be seized by the rebels. By September , all 29 provincial and regional governments had been replaced by the new leadership body. Some 20 of the 29 provincial committees were chaired by local military representatives. But Mao Zedong ordered it renamed.

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