Have the hard brexiters and the EU forgotten the history of Ireland?

Why do brexiters need to study the history of Ireland?

I would like everyone to take an interest in history. At this moment, it is particularly important, especially for the political leaders in the UK and the rest of the EU. One of the thorniest problems for the Government has been the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

How does Brexit affect Northern Ireland, or vice versa?

The UK needs to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, if it is to comply with the Good Friday Agreement. This came into being, at the end of a long and difficult peace process. It is hard to see how we can maintain that arrangement in the event of a hard Brexit. Similarly, Ulster Unionists will regard any arrangement which treats Ulster as separate from the rest of the UK as a threat to the Union.

A cartoon man with a question mark. Trying to think of a solution for Northern Ireland?
A cartoon man with a question mark. Trying to think of a solution for Northern Ireland?
Does Northern Ireland matter?

Yes! Anyone who remembers the violence of the 1970’s and 1980’s, or who knows of the centuries of Anglo-Irish conflict, should have no difficulty seeing why we must keep to the Good Friday Agreement. Someone said the attention being paid to this issue was a case of ‘the tail wagging the dog’. Does he think minorities don’t matter? Is antisemitism unimportant, or why care about Scotland or Wales?

The saltire. If you are British, Scotland matters, as do Wales and Northern Ireland.
The saltire. If you are British, Scotland matters, as do Wales and Northern Ireland.

Who needs to remember the history of Ireland?

I am pleased that Theresa May has made the question of the Irish border an essential element in the negotiations. However, the hard brexiters don’t think it matters and could accept a Brexit without a deal, which would mean a hard border, whilst he EU negotiators suggest a solution that would treat Ulster differently from the rest of the UK. We must not put at risk peace and reconciliation between Unionists and Nationalists

What’s been the role of the Republic of Ireland?

The Irish Government has not been conspicuously proactive in finding a solution. They should look at their history and learn the lessons.

David Steele, a Scotsman, who was the leader of the then Liberal Party, once said,

The English never remember and the Irish never forget.

Let’s hope we don’t repeat the mistakes of history this time.



Questions about the slave trade and Jacobites from Highwaypersons II

Was the book about the slave trade and the Jacobites?

No! Highwaypersons Book II, The King’s Justice, was an adventure set against the background of a Jacobite plot in 1716 when the characters also encounter the slave trade.

I hope you enjoy the story as a good read, but in a recent blog, I suggested some questions you might like to consider or discuss about the historical background to Highwaypersons Book I, Debts and Duties. If you enjoyed thinking about those, you might like these, about Book II, The King’s Justice.

Highwaypersons, Book II: The King's Justice by [Monmouth, Geoffrey]

Remember, there are no right answers, as the questions are to provoke thought and develop your understanding.

Questions about the slave trade.
  1. Why did Billy and Bethan know so little about the trade at first?
  2. Did Megan’s view of slavery change after her encounter with some slaves?
  3. Why did so many British people condone or accept this trade, like the merchants at The Mermaid?
  4. Who profited from it?
  5. Who lost as a result of it, apart from the slaves?
  6. Why did Africans collaborate in the trade, as Thomas described?
  7. Why did the authorities stop sending white people into slavery in the Caribbean?
  8. Was slavery illegal in Britain but lawful in her overseas possessions?
Questions about the Jacobites
  1. Why did Sweden want to help the Jacobites?
  2. Was a Swedish invasion of Britain a serious possibility?
  3. How helpful to the Jacobites would a Swedish invasion have been?
  4. Why did some Protestants, like Charles Butler, support the Catholic Pretender, James Stewart?
Questions about King George I
  1. Why did he pardon so many of his enemies?
  2. Did he support the slave trade, not know about it or just not care?
  3. Why did Billy not realise Georg von Luneburg was King George?
Don’t be a slave to the questions!

They are there to help you get a bit more out of the books, if you want, but don’t let the questions take over from the stories. They are fiction set against a real historical background.

Enjoy your reading, and I hope the third volume in the series will be out after Christmas, if not before.


Do the recent arguments about Zionism show how not to use history?

Is Zionism the same as Judaism or Jewishness?

No. Zionism is political, but you can be a Jew or a follower of Judaism without holding any particular political views. However, in the debate about antisemitism in the Labour Party people have entangled the three concepts. This was mainly because they wanted to ensure they were free to criticise Israel.

What has history got to do with Zionism?

Nobody wants to deny anyone the right to criticise the Israeli Government for its current actions. Many Jews, including many Israelis, are highly critical of that government. The problem arises when people wish to criticise the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948. Yes – that’s history, see?  Some say it was a mistake, morally, politically and legally, to create that state against the will of the local Arabs. Others say it was only right, not to say essential, to give the Jews a country of their own after centuries of persecution in various places, culminating in the Holocaust. Where should German and other displaced Jews go, if not to their ancestral homeland?

Why is being against Zionism antisemitic?

People don’t usually call you racist for taking a view about a historical event. You might claim the Partition of India or the Union of England and Scotland were Bad Things, but that would not make you anti-Indian or anti-English. Israel is a special case. If you say  the founding of the state of Israel was wrong, you are implying it shouldn’t exist now. If it didn’t, what would all its citizens do? Where would they go? Some people think they have a solution: exterminate them. That is the view expressed by a lot of Islamic extremists and some other people. Remembering the Holocaust, you can’t expect Jews to simply write off statements like that as empty rhetoric, although that’s probably the case, mostly.

Zionism is a fact. History can’t be reversed.

Right or wrong, the British, with the approval of the United Nations, created the State of Israel in 1948. It was never going to be possible to undo that act without a lot of bloodshed. A lot. Therefore, in reality, to be anti-Zionist is to be antisemitic. The history of Zionism should help us all understand Israel today. We can all have opinions about that history, just as we can have about the British Empire, the Russian Revolution, or anything else. What is dangerous, however, is to talk as if we can now change that history. Some people say black and Asian people don’t belong in Britain and should go back to where they came from. It is not a viable proposition, as they have been here too long.

I love history, and hope we can all learn from it, but I want to live in the present to deal with the World as it is, not as it once was, or might have been if things had been different.


Read Highwaypersons, then think about these questions.

Why the questions?

You might be among that happy band who have enjoyed Highwaypersons, Book I or Book II, for the stories, the characters and the writing. (Come on! There must be some of you out there.) If so, I hope you will enjoy Book III when it comes out. You might not want to think about any questions. You might, however, be among the people who find the historical setting interesting. I hope you also like the other aspects of the books, but for you I am suggesting a few questions to consider. You might even discuss them in a readers group or history society group, or just with a mate over a pint.

A stack of copies of Highwaypersons, Book I, about which I am asking questions
A stack of copies of Highwaypersons, Book I, about which I am asking questions
These are not quiz questions

There are no right answers, but there are wrong answers. Considering the issues could help you get more understanding of the period and perhaps a better appreciation of the novels. This week let’s think about the Jacobites, in Book I, Debts and Duties.

Questions about the Jacobites.
  1. Why do you think they waited until after the War of the Spanish Succession was over to start their rebellion in 1715?
  2. Would the French or Spanish have helped them if they had rebelled during the War?
  3. Why did they get no help from abroad when they did rebel?
  4. Did the rebels ever have a chance? What went wrong?
  5. Should James Stewart have changed his religion, at least outwardly, and accepted negotiated terms with the British Government, before Queen Anne died?
  6. Who would have been better off if James Stewart, the Pretender, had succeeded and become king? The Scots? The Welsh? The Irish? Anyone?
  7. Why did some Protestants, such as Lewis Pryce and the Duke of Ormonde, support the Jacobites?
  8. I have put answers to some of these questions into the mouths of some of the characters in the novels, but do you agree with them?
More questions coming soon

I want us to think about other historical issues mentioned in the books.

If you haven’t read them yet, here’s where to get the two volumes.

Book I, Debts and Duties   

click here for  Kindle

Book II, paper and Kindle, The King’s Justice