Monthly Archives: August 2013

An Empire is almost born

The term ‘British Empire’ was first used by the British during Henry VIII’s propaganda attempt to convince the Scots that Scotland was always ruled by the British King. The Scots were not amused.

(The Great Courses – The Age of Henry VIII)

Even the worst didn’t use it

Hitler was a victim of chemical warfare in World War I. During WWII Germany did not use chemical warfare because Hitler thought that the Allies would respond with chemical warfare and they would be better at improving them over the course of time.

(The Great Courses – World War I)

Don’t write it down until it is done

The Russian composer Shostakovich was one of the few composers like Mozart who would sit down and write out his composition without sketches or revisions. He said that he had already composed the piece in his head and was just writing it out when he was done.

(The Great Courses – Great Masters: Shostakovich – His Life and Music)

Composing in the evil empire

The Russian composer Shostakovich was famous for his first symphony when he wrote the opera ‘Lady Macbeth’. It was an instant success…until Stalin went to see it. He wrote an ‘anonymous’ editorial in Pravda declaring it to be ‘Muddle instead of Music’. Everyone including Shostakovich expected him to disappear. Shostakovich lived in constant fear for the rest of his life. When he wrote his fifth symphony he lied about the meaning of the music to satisfy the authorities. He constantly spoke the party line in public. However in an interview before his death he revealed his hatred of the Soviet system. These revelations were later published after his death in a book called ‘Testimony’. The notes for this book were all signed by Shostakovich so that it could be verified that these were his thoughts.

(The Great Courses – Great Masters: Shostakovich – His Life and Music)

Being a King’s son isn’t enough

Henry VIII desperately wanted a healthy male heir to the throne which is one of the reasons he wanted to divorce his first wife. She did produce two male heirs who died young.  He actually did have a healthy male son at the time but unfortunately for him it wasn’t with his wife. He did get a noble title but was never considered in line for the throne.

(The Great Courses – The Age of Henry VIII)