Page 129. " decided to descend to the bar below to try a little of the local cider. "
Snake-Catcher Scrumpy
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSnake-Catcher Scrumpy - Credit: ipresents
As Stevens is in the West Country, the local cider is likely to be Scrumpy, a particularly robust form of cider which is unfiltered and cloudy, and delivers a hefty kick. Best drunk when sitting, and even better if there's some music in the bar.
Page 135. " I recall also watching Mr George Bernard Shaw "
George Bernard Shaw, 1914
Public DomainGeorge Bernard Shaw, 1914 - Credit: LIFE Photo Archive

An Irish dramatist and socialist commentator, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925. He founded the Fabian Society with Sidney and Beatrice Webb, its aim to educate Britain to accept socialism; the emergence of the British Labour Party was a direct result of the activities of the Society, as was the founding of the London School of Economics.

He was an outspoken critic of the First World War (1914-1918) and wrote extensively against it, earning himself widespread condemnation. He went back to playwriting after the war and travelled the world speaking on socialist issues.

"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it." (Maxims for Revolutionists, 1903)


Page 135. " Lord Halifax and the German Ambassador of that time, Herr Ribbentrop. "
Schorfheide, Lord Edward Frederik Halifax, Hermann Göring
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Lord Edward Halifax with Hermann Göring - Credit: Deutsches Bundesarchiv

Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, was Viceroy of India and later Foreign Secretary in Neville Chamberlain's cabinet. He is remembered as a key proponent of Nazi appeasement in the run up to the Second World War.  He went on to become Ambassador to the United States.

D J Dutton of the Oxford University Press suggests that the popular reluctance to oppose Germany's expansionist policies and go to war was due in part to a disinclination to plunge Britain into yet another long period of hardship, national debt and loss of life, following so closely on from the First World War and the Boer War. Another factor may have been Britain and America's unwillingness to jeopardise their profitable trade with Germany.

Joachim von Ribbentrop
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeJoachim von Ribbentrop - Credit: Deutsches Bundesarchiv

 Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893-1946), Hitler's Foreign Minister from 1938 to 1945 and previously Ambassador to Great Britain, was found guilty of crimes against humanity at the Nuremburg Trials and executed along with a number of other Nazi war criminals on 16 October 1946. Amongst other crimes, he was instrumental in planning the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland, and he negotiated with the Regent of Hungary for Hungarian Jews to be sent to concentration camps.

Page 137. " he had close associations with organizations like the British Union of Fascists "
Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Bt
Public DomainSir Oswald Mosley, 6th Bt - Credit: Glyn Warren Philpot

Sir Oswald Mosley (1896 -1980) was the founder of the New Party, which he formed in 1932 in reaction to the Labour Party's reluctance to implement his ideas for isolationist trade and economic policies to regenerate Britain. Having previously been a member of the Conservative party, he visited Italy to study the fascist model of Mussolini's government.

Mosley was impressed by fascism and believed that parliamentary democracy had to be replaced by a system of government that favoured collectivism over individualism and tight control of the electorate.

Battle of Cable Street Mural
Creative Commons AttributionBattle of Cable Street Mural - Credit: graham

Roger Scruton, in the Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought 3rd ed. (2007), writes:"Fascism is characterized by the following features (not all of which need be present in any of its recognized instances): nationalism; hostility to democracy, to egalitarianism, and to the values of the enlightenment; the cult of the leader, and admiration for his special qualities; a respect for collective organization, and a love of the symbols associated with it, such as uniforms, parades and army discipline."

On his return from Italy, Mosley dissolved the New Party and formed the nationalist, anti-Semitic British Union of Fascists (the Blackshirts), attracting widespread condemnation from socialists and liberals.

The Battle of Cable Street
Creative Commons AttributionThe Battle of Cable Street - Credit: T P Holland
The event most commonly associated with the BUF is the Battle of Cable Street, when anti-fascists from London's East End and elsewhere converged on Mosley and his Blackshirts and managed to obstruct a BUF march. There was a very high Jewish population in the East End in the 1930s (roughly 110,000), and the march would have been seen as inflammatory and provocative.

A commemorative plaque reads: THE BATTLE OF CABLE STREET The people of East London rallied to Cable Street on the 4th October 1936 and forced back the march of the fascist Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts through the streets of the East End. “THEY SHALL NOT PASS”


Page 145. " 'guided inspections' of the poorest areas of London's East End "

The Slum Clearance Act (1930) set out a five-year plan for urban renewal and the building of social housing, legislation that was sorely needed given the squalid conditions in which many people were forced to live. Slums in the East End had repeatedly been condemned by health officers, but with no housing alternatives provided for the occupants until the Act was passed.

Further reading:

Inside the Skin of a Slum

Bethnal Green - Building and Social Conditions from 1915 to 1945

Social Conditions in Britain in the 1930s: Housing