Archive for the ‘Overseas’ Category

The Old Pope and Papal Prestige

In February 1922, there was a new pope: Pius XI. The man born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti would serve for 17 years and lead Vatican City’s creation as a sovereign state in 1929, separate from Italy.

This New York Times Magazine article wrote in February 1922 of the new pope, comparing and contrasting him with his just-deceased predecessor:

Benedict was less understood but better liked than Pius. In a Roman society, both ecclesiastical and secular, that loves a diplomat better than anything on earth, and an aristocrat next to a diplomat, the combination of the two is irresistible! Yet Rome, outside of the officials of his household, knew no more of the Pope than New York knew of him. He was more retiring than Popes must be by the restrictions of circumstance, but he went about his business — his business of knowing this rent and ragged world, of patching it up and drawing the seams together by small stitches wherever he could, of strengthening always the power of that spiritual kingdom which he ruled — with a skill and imperturbable concentration.

If the new Pope is as skillful as the last, the “Roman question,” which at present seems to bar non-Italians from the supreme office in the Catholic church, may be [dead].

In 1978, the Polish John Paul II would become the first non-Italian pope in 456 years — still several decades and five more popes after Pius XI, though. The current pontiff, Francis, is Argentinian, the first-ever pope of that nationality.

Fun fact: the first pope to visit the U.S. wouldn’t come until Paul VI made the trip in 1965.

The Old Pope and Papal Prestige (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 12, 1922

Leave a comment

Written by A Step in the Write Direction

February 13th, 2022 at 12:01 pm

Italy’s Frankenstein and His Monster

A January 1922 New York Times Magazine article described Benito Mussolini as a rising figure in Italy. By October, he would be Prime Minister.

Mussolini had helped birth the Italian fascists (Fascismo) who used rough tactics, up to and including extrajudicial killings, in the name of law and order. As the article explains:

After the close of the war, Italian Socialists and Communists got out of hand… In Italy, as elsewhere in the distracted post-war world, it was the extremists, the preachers of change, who were the militant party; the conservatives, the believers in law and order, vehement as their words might be, were not conspicuous for action… Then — suddenly — these extremists found themselves face to face with something quite as bellicose and lawless as themselves.

A new element of violent action stepped into the field. It presented the strange anomaly of men banded together to uphold law and order and conservatism by methods undistinguishable from those of bank robbers and hold-up gangs. This new element was Fascismo. It was the creation, primarily, of Benito Mussolini.

This January 1922 article can be compared to the June 1921 article in the same publication about Gandhi, discussed here on SundayMagazine.org 100 years later in June 2021. Both men were only just starting to make waves in the early 1920s, although both would become primarily remembered by history for what they did 15 to 20 years later. (One of them, of course, being much more positively recalled than the other.)

For Mussolini, the events were truly set in motion about nine months after this article was published. Tens of thousands of his followers marched in Rome to demand the resignation of the current Prime Minister, Luigi Facta, who indeed resigned under pressure. King Victor Emmanuel III gave Mussolini the job, against the unanimous recommendation of his entire cabinet, since he feared a civil war if he did not.

After Mussolini helped overthrow his predecessor, what goes around comes around. Mussolini himself was deposed by that very same king, who was still in the position, in July 1943, as a result of Italy losing the war by that point and mass national discontent with his policies.

A few months later in September 1943, Italy declared an armistice with the Allies, led by the U.S. and Britain. Then in October 1943, Italy officially switched sides and declared war on its former ally Nazi Germany. Mussolini himself was shot and killed in April 1945.

 

Italy’s Frankenstein and His Monster (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 29, 1922

Leave a comment

Written by A Step in the Write Direction

January 30th, 2022 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Overseas

The Un-Solemn Irish Free State

A new country was created in December 1921: the Irish Free State. This article asked whether it might become “the first demonstration of government with a sense of humor.” Instead, the country was almost immediately plunged into civil war.

Whatever the Irish Free State does, it will not be the usual or conventional thing. A Government with imagination and a sense of humor, if such a thing can be conceived in a world in which Government is the last refuge of pomposity, invariable custom, and solemn twaddle, ought to be competent as well as infinitely diverting. Think of the gorgeous nonsense it could slough off, the paralyzing precedents, the ponderous pretenses.

About that.

The country earned its independence from the United Kingdom in December 1921, but within months — starting in June 1922 — the nascent country plunged into an internecine civil war between pro-independence and anti-independence forces. The pro-independence forces won, although the country only lasted until 1937, when the Irish Free State adopted a new constitution and became “Ireland” that we all know and love today.

The Un-Solemn Irish Free State (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 25, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by A Step in the Write Direction

December 23rd, 2021 at 9:46 am

Posted in Overseas,Politics

“Jazz ‘er Up!”: Broadway’s Conquest of Europe

Jazz, that uniquely American art form, was beginning to take Europe by storm in 1921.

In Paris and a score of other European centres of gayety the words “fox-trot” and “one-step” have become so much a part of the local language that natives have to think twice to remember that the words were originally imported from America and are still members in good standing of the English language.

The catch is, it wasn’t the same jazz songs that were taking America by storm simultaneously.

There is a saying that Paris is the place where good Americans go when they die. Be that as it may as regards ourselves, it certainly applies to American jazz tunes when they die in America. It is quite a pleasurable sensation when one is walking along the street in Paris to hear suddenly, issuing from the lips of a light-hearted Parisian, an American tune which anybody around Forty-second Street and Broadway would have told you had died — after long and honorable service on some of the hottest sectors of the Broadway cabaret front — in the Autumn of 1917.

In the modern era where any cultural phenomena can be consumed simultaneously in all parts of the globe, it’s hard to remember that things used to spread worldwide more slowly. This continued for decades to come — in December 1963, the Beatles received their first radio airplay when a Maryland teenager named Marsha Albert requested them, as the band’s music had spread slowly from Europe.

“Jazz ‘er Up!” Broadway’s Conquest of Europe (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 18, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by A Step in the Write Direction

December 22nd, 2021 at 9:15 am

Posted in Music,Overseas

Playing the King

In 1921, as monarchies in several other nations had recently fallen, a New York Times Sunday Magazine article noted the curiosity that the monarchy in England remained. And it still does.

Of the surprises that have followed the war, one of the strangest is the fact that, with the three great Emperors of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia driven from their ancient and solid thrones, there should remain the King of England, still firmly established in his sovereignty.

The final Russian emperor, Nicholas II, abdicated in 1917. The final German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, abdicated in 1918. The final emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, Charles I, was dethroned in 1919.

The Throne has ceased to be international. With the collapse of royalty in Germany and Russia it is, indeed, isolated. It depends wholly upon the British Commonwealth of nations. And yet it continues.

It continues, indeed. Although the last time that the English monarch actually refused to give “royal assent” to an act of Parliament was Queen Anne back in 1708.

 

Playing the King (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 31, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by A Step in the Write Direction

July 29th, 2021 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Overseas

An Officially Independent Afghanistan

100 years ago, in 1921, Afghanistan gained its independence from Great Britain.

A New York Times Magazine article that year portrayed the newly-independent nation as something akin to Atlantis, a land of mystery, as so few Americans had ever set foot there.

Not more than one American in ten years has ever gone up the Khyber Pass and off the map into Afghanistan. Twenty years ago, an American dentist went up to Kabul to attend to the teeth of the great Amir Abdur Rahman Khan; in May, 1911, an American electrical engineer went up to build a power house for the late Amir Habibullah Khan at Jabal us Siraj, some forty miles from Kabul.

After almost two full decades, under President Joe Biden’s orders, the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan is scheduled to end by August 31 — a move that former President George W. Bush calls “a mistake.”

 

An Officially Independent Afghanistan (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 17, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by A Step in the Write Direction

July 15th, 2021 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Overseas

Gandhi and British India

By 1921, a New York Times Magazine profile article about Gandhi already described him as a living legend: “In point of personal following, he is far and away the greatest man living in the world today.”

Though he’s now primarily pictured bald, as in his later years, at the time the 52-year-old had a full head of hair.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi [is] a dark little wisp of a man, who looks as if he could be picked up in one’s arms and carried off like a child. In point of personal following, he is far and away the greatest man living in the world today.

His mission: Indian independence.

With the passage of the Rowlatt act, he had laid aside his European dress forever. He had become a mahatma, a saint who has transcended the flesh and the world. For him, India had found its soul in the fiery furnace of the Punjab ordeal. By “soul-force,” India would purge itself of every vestige of the British and their “satanic” civilization, and would return to the ancient Vedic wisdom and the peace which antedated the British conquest. And if a purged and purified India should fail in the eyes of the North to progress, that would be its virtue, its proof that it is still sound and healthy at the core.

That mission culminated in success 26 years later, in 1947. The next year, Gandhi was assassinated by a man who considered Gandhi too accomodating to Muslims in the wake of India’s independence.

 

Gandhi and British India (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 10, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by A Step in the Write Direction

July 9th, 2021 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Overseas

The Germans of Tomorrow

A 1921 article by Charles J. Rosebault predicted German youth would depart from their “obedience and reverence” of the past and could very well pave the pathway to world peace. Hate to break it to you…

The German youth, trained and drilled in obedience and reverence, has finally revolted against the mismanagement of the seignors. As might be expected, where all the traditions of the past have been suddenly thrown into the melting pot, there is consternation all around. The elders are upset and the youth are uncertain. The former are trying to pacify and the latter are disposed to experiment. As it is, the youth of today upon whom will fall the burdens of the morrow this condition ceases to be of merely local interest. It is the German youth who must meet the reparations, they who will determine the relations between vanquished and victor and hence the peace of the world.

At the time of this article, Hitler was 32. Did Rosebault consider that an example of German “youth”? Perhaps he did, considering that the actual German president at the time — Friedrich Ebert — was 50. Indeed, Hitler wouldn’t lead Germany for another dozen years after this.

Rosebault ended on a cautiously optimistic note:

In the turning of the young Germans from the works of their elders they may have discarded also the psychology which upset the world. Let us hope so.

Chilling words.

 

The Germans of Tomorrow (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 12, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by A Step in the Write Direction

June 10th, 2021 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Future,Overseas

How Germany Will Pay

This 1921 article questioned how Germany would ever pay off its World War I debts. The answer: very, very slowly. They only finished paying those debts in 2010.

Some day Germany will pay. How much and when are problems still to be decided. Cotinuance of divided councils among the Allies, more particularly within France, may defer the solutions for some time; but pay she will.

Part of the solution came from future Vice President Charles G. Dawes, who as a member of the Allied Reparations Commission in 1924 suggested a system whereby them U.S. would lend money to Germany, which in turn would pay back what they owed to the U.K. and France. The plan won Dawes the 1925 Nobel Prize.

Alas, the plan’s success proved short-lived. First, Germany suspended the payments in 1931 during the global Great Depression, although they’d only paid about one-eighth of what they owed at the time. Then, Hitler refused to continue the payments once in power. Germany split into East and West in 1949, and West Germany specifically agreed to resume World War I debt payments in 1953, paying off the principle during the 1980s. After Germany’s reunification in 1990, the country continued paying off the interest — not finishing until 2010.

Slow and steady wins the race.

 

How Germany Will Pay (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 20, 1921

Leave a comment

Written by A Step in the Write Direction

February 21st, 2021 at 9:59 am