Anyone who has travelled by train from Sheffield to Leeds may have found themselves wondering why the Rotherham United stadium, which is right next to the tracks, is called “New York Stadium” some three thousand miles away from the American city. The story behind that involves the town’s industrial past and the manufacturing of New York’s fire hydrants. However, this is not Rotherham’s only connection with a north east American city, as a short walk up hill from the stadium will find you at the curiously named Boston Castle. Built by a man that the United States second first lady, Abigail Adams, once wrote was “too well remembered by America” and thus needed no explanation of who he was in her correspondence. This is how a small building in Rotherham, South Yorkshire came to be named after a city in Massachusetts, and how its original owner, Sir Thomas Howard 3rd Earl of Effingham, became a respected name amongst the founding fathers of the United States.
“In this country in fifteen or twenty years time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”
Those were the words of Conservative MP Enoch Powell on 20th April 1968. His ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech contained criticism of the proposed Race Relations bill of the same year, which aimed to give equal access to healthcare for immigrants from the Commonwealth. He prodded at anxieties already existent in the conscience of the British public since the influx of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) immigration at the start of the decade.
The First World War commenced during the summer of 1914 as a result of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Six months into the international conflict the term ‘shell shock’ first appeared in the medical journal The Lancet. Although soldiers themselves had utilized the phrase, Captain Charles Myers of the Royal Army Medical Corps was the first medical professional to publicly coin ‘shell shock’. Myers had been appointed by the British Army to form a sounder understanding of the unprecedented phenomenon that was in some cases rendering soldiers incapacitated.
When we picture Victorian-era asylums and mental illness images of brutal treatment, inadequate living conditions and physical punishment come to mind. But this was not always the case. In the early 1800s, attitude towards care of the mentally ill shifted away from security and containment and towards a system that ‘aimed to treat people with mental illness like rational beings’. The so-called moral treatment system would forever change the face of psychiatry but was it really the forward-thinking, compassionate approach its proponents claimed? And why, after just a century of implementation, did it fall back into decline?
In a world where we seek clear answers and solutions to all things, in which precision and reduction seems to move our modern world, mental health fails to fit into this neat and reducible construction. Sanitation and vaccination initiatives remain the success stories of the reducible scientific precision that has characterised the modern world, giving us the quality of life and low mortality rates that we now enjoy. However, in a world that emphasises answer and explanation, rates of mental illness continue to grow exponentially. In ten years’ time, depression is projected to be the world’s leading cause of disease burden – a measure related to how disease affects quality of life, life expectancy and the economy.
Dispirited and down encapsulates how masses of people across the globe are feeling in these distressing times. By the first week of April, over half of the 7.8 billion people that inhabit the earth were under lockdown due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Such an absence of normality and the anxiety surrounding the pandemic disrupted the patterns that many rely on for stability and optimism within their daily lives. Yet, hope also became a prevalent symbol; the hope that the world will get through this and gain strength. Likewise, citizens and participants living through WW1 and WW2 were held together by such a feeling. However, underlying the popular positive mentality and patriotic efforts of these past generations, was also a sense of fear and paranoia. In hindsight, this contributed to substantial long term mental health consequences such as PTSD (post- traumatic stress disorder) and depression. Although the events taking place at hand are considerably different, one can counter the 2005 perspective that “war is terrible and beyond the understanding and experience of most people”. Ultimately, in 2020, humans are living within a time of prominent global mental suffering, drawing significant parallels with that of war. Are our current generations experiencing the equivalent mental consequences of a Third World War?
This month we thought it would be nice to hear some of the more uplifting stories from history to brighten up our days! Reading through these articles its hard not to be just a little happier by the end. From the Miracle on Ice and the joy of sport to Sir Seretse Khama and the amazing story of Botswana’s independence there is something here to lighten up the lockdown for just about everyone. Thanks to everyone who contributed this month, and thanks to everyone taking the time to read these stories.
On 1st May 1851, nestled between the elm trees of Hyde Park, a 564 m long and 33 m high glass structure was about to open to the public. This creation (later known as the Crystal Palace) housed something even more astounding than the building itself. Inside the glasshouse was the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. Six million people would visit the exhibition in the coming months – one-third of the population of Britain.
Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, had created an exhibition of inventions, art and precious stones to encourage international cooperation and trade. As a German and an outsider in Victoria’s court, he saw that Britain was deeply divided by class and was wary of foreign visitors. As a result, he wanted to host an event that would bring Britain and the world closer together.
In 1966, when Botswana asked to be granted independence by the British government they were labelled as “either brave or very foolish”. The British protectorate, known at the time as Bechuanaland, had 12km of paved road, a literacy rate of 25% and was one of the twenty poorest countries in the world. Bordered by apartheid South Africa, who was in its ‘golden age’ of white minority rule and political domination, there was little hope of Botswana’s success as an independent state. And yet, over the next twenty years, it would go on to create a state based on political freedom and multiracialism, have the fastest growing economy in the world and create one of the most successful multi-party democracies on the continent. Unlike many African countries emerging from colonial domination, Botswana has never experienced war, dictatorships or political violence.
‘Revolutions’ are events that never fail to evoke images of uncertainty, upheaval and most of all violence. The legacy of the French Revolution on the popular memory has always been defined by the horror and scale of this revolutionary violence. This imagery has only been compounded by the other ‘great’ revolution, the Russian Revolution, which solidified our perceptions of revolutions as events that inherently involve mass violence. Indeed, Arno Mayer argued in The Furies, his history of the French and Russian Revolutions, that ‘there is no revolution without violence and terror’ and insisted that ‘revolution’ can only apply to the most violent and dramatic examples, namely France 1789 and Russia 1917. However, during a six month period of 1989, on the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, no less than seven European states underwent sweeping political transitions that were, with the exception of Romania, largely bloodless affairs and demonstrated that European revolutions could not only be peaceful events, they could even be celebrated.