Nineteenth-century History

19th Century News Tips

As part of my efforts to reinvent History Rhymes, I would like to not only publish articles about various topics in nineteenth-century American and European history, but also write about the latest news and research in the field. Of course as a single person, this is a difficult task to keep up with.

That is why I am asking for your help. If you have any news tips or would like to point to a source of nineteenth-century news, please contact me about it.

If it is a piece of news, then please also include the source so that I can reference it and follow up.

Thank you!

— Alex

Categories

Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: Trends in the Design of Domestic Façades

Edwardian Façades

Edwardian Façades in London
Source: Wikipedia

Façades in Fin-de-Siècle Britain changed quite significantly. Early in the period they were very similar to their High Victorian counterparts, but through the designs of architects such as Morris, Webb and Shaw, they began to transform. By the Edwardian era, however, they had become enough different that they could easily be identified as specifically belonging to the period. The façades of houses from the Fin-de-Siècle can be divided into two periods which each have their own characteristics: Late Victorian and Edwardian.

Late Victorian façades were, as would be expected, an odd combination of their High Victorian predecessors and their Edwardian successors. A key element which Late Victorian houses retained was the way in which brick and stone was used in the façade. A single type of brick or stone was still primarily used to build or surface the entirety of the walls of the house. Quoins of a different style — corners that were made to look different from the rest of the façade — were also quite common with Norman Shaw setting an example for other architects by making extensive use of them. Another common characteristic of Late Victorian façades was the use of sharp angles and steep slopes inherited from the Gothic Revival movement.26 These were especially prevalent in the brickwork above windows and in the way the roof was shaped. Windows also tended to be simple glass or ‘sash windows’ with the use of stained glass and windows with geometric patterns first becoming popular in the Edwardian era.

Façades of Edwardian period shared many characteristics with those from the Late Victorian era, but there were some significant differences which made them stand apart from their earlier counterparts. When looking at an Edwardian house, one of the most striking differences is the common use of bricks and stucco together. Whilst Victorian façades stuck primarily to bricks and stones, Edwardian houses began to make use of a combination of the two building styles.27 Very often the ground floor would be bricked whilst the first floor was faced with white stucco. Another innovation in this period was the total omission of bricks or stone in favour of a façade completely created in — generally white — stucco. Mock-Tudor style houses with the prominent use of timber first began to appear in Late Victorian Britain, but the style became particularly popular in the Edwardian period with many moderate-sized homes taking advantage of this type of façade. Some houses even had an odd combination of mock-Tudor and red brick façades which are very unique to this time period.28

One innovation of this period was the use of ‘pebbledash’ façades. These were façades that were covered with small pebbles and shingle mixed with concrete and usually left unpainted.29 Brickwork arches above windows in Edwardian houses were also ‘softened’ to be not as sharp and steep as their Gothic predecessors. The windows themselves were very often made of stained glass, but when they were not, many of them had geometric patterns. Small squares or rectangles were common,30 but unique diamond-like shapes were also very popular.31 Another interesting new development during the Edwardian period was the use of decorative terracotta panels directly inserted into the outside walls. These generally contained patterns such as swirls, floral designs, or other round patterns which would be used to break the monotony of the rectangular bricks. Very much like the façades, the layout of Fin-de-Siècle houses began to deviate from their High Victorian counterparts until they became something quite different altogether.

This post is part of a multi-part series about the houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain. See the rest of the series either on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page or in the category of the same name.


The full bibliography is located on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page.

The Caudillo and the Führer: Franco’s Spain and Hitler’s Germany

Franco and Hitler

Franco and Hitler
Source: NPR

Early in the twentieth century, a new and unique system of government emerged in Europe which would replace most of the age-old monarchies and eventually lead the continent into the modern era of democracy. Fascism, a form of extreme right-wing, nationalistic government controlled by a powerful dictator, rose in Europe from the ashes of the First World War. Germany and Spain were two of the predominant countries where fascism was nurtured and bought to life by vicious, yet charismatic men: Adolf Hitler with his National Socialist (Nazi) Party in Germany and Francisco Franco with his Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista (FET y de las JONS) party in Spain. Both fascist dictators controlled repressive regimes which resulted in the deaths of millions of people. Although they were similar when it came down to their political practices and their view of capitalism and of communism, they were quite different in many respects regarding how the dictators came to and exercised power, their views of and stances in the Second World War and their relationships with other powers.

It is well known that Hitler and his Nazi party eventually came to power through legal means in Germany, however, it is probably less well known how Franco came to power in Spain only a few years after Hitler’s seizure of power. It was on November 9, 1923 that Hitler’s first attempt at seizing power proved to be unsuccessful. The Beer Hall Putsch, or Hitlerputsch as it is known in German, was his first attempt to violently overthrow the unstable Weimar government by first overthrowing the Bavarian government in Munich. His so-called revolution was a total failure with Bavarian police easily able to prevent it.1 For his efforts, Hitler was tried for high treason and sentenced to five years of prison. He only ever served eight months of his sentence, however.2 After his time in prison, Hitler reestablished the Nazi party which had essentially been broken up after the Putsch, according to his own views. Part of this new organization included the idea that the best way to seize power would be through a constitutionally legal means. They ironically ran for elections in September 1930 and won by a “landslide” victory.3 In 1932, Hitler unsuccessfully ran for president against Paul von Hindenburg and in 1933, won the chancellorship from which position he was able to consolidate his power. Other than the Beer Hall Putsch, the Nazi take over of the government was relatively non-violent when compared to that of Franco’s seizure of power.

As with Hitler, Franco used a period of instability in the incumbent government to take control of the country, however, unlike the situation in Germany, Franco’s rebellion led to years of Civil War in Spain. On July 17, 1936, the uprising, which had been in the planning stages for quite sometime, began when, upon the orders of General Franco, the military began to rebel in garrisons throughout Spain.4 The eventual result was the destruction of the Spanish Republic and the placement of Franco as absolute head of state. Both Hitler and Franco came to power by different means, however, they were both inarguably the center of power in their regimes which is reflected by how their governments exercised that power.

A key difference between the way Franco ran Spain and the way Hitler controlled Germany includes the way in which they were able to motivate their populations to rally around a certain cause. Without Hitler and his flamboyant personality, even with another dictator in his place, the Holocaust, for example, may not have happened to the same extent that it did. He managed to motivate and mobilize a down-trodden post-World War I Germany into a very proud, nationalistic force which possessed unrealistic goals of thousand-year empires. A possible explanation for this ‘Nazi-fanaticism’ could be explained by taking the cult of people that followed Hitler’s personality, which formed well before he had even taken power, into consideration.5 Franco, on the other hand, never really had such a cult. The National Socialist Party had over 850,000 members before it came to power, whereas the FET y de las JONS Party only had about ten thousand.6 It was not until his coup was successful after the Civil War that people really began to rally around him, although never to the same extent as Hitler. Whereas Nazism was almost bordering on “political religion,”7 Franco’s FET y de las JONS Party had nowhere near the fanatic enthusiasm. Another key factor to consider in the ability of the dictators to influence and motivate their populace is the condition of the pre-fascist governments of both Spain and Germany. Despite the defeat of Germany in the First World War, at the time Hitler took power Germany was a modern state with well-lubricated systems for accomplishing political agendas. The Spanish republic which preceded Franco’s coup was, on the other hand, far less developed both economically and socially making Franco’s regime far less efficient than Hitler’s.8 Another reason that should be examined when differentiating the two dictators and their regimes is their political goals.

When Nazi Germany is brought to mind, it is often directly associated with the Holocaust and the extermination of other ‘undesirables’ as well as the Second World War; when Franco’s regime is thought about, it is often associated with imperialistic views and bringing about a renaissance of the Spanish Empire. Why these are the associations made when these two regimes are thought about is due to their ultimate political agendas. As he wrote about in his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler’s ultimate goals were an ethnic cleansing of Europe and the establishment of an empire that would last a thousand years. He also looked at Germany as being the last line of defense for Western Europe against Russian bolshevism.9 Franco’s external ambitions were more towards the reestablishment of the lost Spanish Empire and the rehabilitation of Spain’s reputation and image in the international scene. This can clearly be seen by his demands on Hitler for Spain’s old colonies in Northern Africa in return for entering World War II on the side of the Axis powers.

No one would argue Hitler’s involvement in World War II, however, Franco was far less involved. That is known for sure, however, depending on which source is consulted, opinions vary as to whether he was not involved simply because Spain’s economy and military were not up to the task or because Franco did not really want to enter into the war. George Hills argues in his book, Franco: The Man and His Nation, that Franco continually — and artfully — evaded Hitler’s demand that he enter the war on the side of the Axis powers because he was convinced that Britain could never possibly be defeated.10 Franco’s stance on Britain made Hitler feel “like a Jew.”11 Hills also mentions that Franco’s generals and staff were both divided on the issue of being pro-Allies or pro-Axis and that he did not want to create a chasm in his delicate new government.12 This, according to Hills, infuriated Hitler on numerous occasions because Hitler wanted Franco to come into the war on the side of the Axis powers to close off the Gibraltar Strait to deny the Allies access to the Mediterranean Sea. Contradictory to Hills’ arguments, Paul Preston, in his book Franco: A Biography, says that Franco was confident of a quick defeat of Britain and that Spain was excited to help, but Germany was not thrilled about the idea.13 Preston goes even so far as to say that Hitler did not want Spain to become involved in the war.14 Carlton J. H. Hayes, American ambassador to Spain from 1942 until 1945, took the middle ground when he wrote in his memoirs that “Spain did not wish an Axis victory but it most ardently wished the defeat of Russia” and Russian Communism.15 Both of the books by Hills and Preston seem to be backed by good sources, however, time may play a key role here. Hills wrote his book in 1967, whereas Preston composed his in 1994.

One issue, however, that neither author denies is that Hitler and Franco met for the first time Hendaye on October 23, 1940 where they discussed the war. The meeting was to take place at 14:00, however, Franco’s train arrived late to the meeting. Hills argues that Franco did it intentionally because he wanted to put Hitler at a “psychological disadvantage from the start.”16 Again, Preston disagrees. He claims that a number of factors, including an attempted assassination, delayed Franco’s arrival at the station in Hendaye.17 When discussing this topic, this is really the only point of contention between the two authors. They both agree that Spain entering the war was discussed and that both leaders came away from the meeting unsatisfied. A general agreement was made that Germany would send much needed military and food supplies to Spain and that Spain would enter the war on Germany’s side at a later, unspecified date.18 Hitler wanted Spain to enter the war or at least to side with the Axis powers, but Franco remained non-committal and just made unrealistic demands on the Germans — such as France’s former colonies in North Africa and massive amounts of food — in exchange for entering the war. It is debatable whether such extravagant demands were made as an excuse not to enter the war or simply because Spain actually needed some of them such as the massive amounts of food since its population was on the brink of starvation. It is this factor that setup relations between Spain and Britain and the United States which used food shipments to help convince Spain to stay neutral.

The relationship between Spain and the Allied powers — particularly with Britain and the United States — was, needless to say, far better than that with Germany with whom the Allied powers were at war. Again, the sources differ as to whether this was because Franco had a fascination with the imperial ambitions of Britain (Hills), or because Franco feared the United States coming into the war on the Allied side (Preston), or because the American government, through the American red cross, and the British government were both sending food stuffs and other limited aid to Spain.19 In return, Franco sent Britain raw materials which were not useful for him.20 Hitler, on the other hand, being in control of a government adamantly at war with Britain and the United States, had little or no relationship with the Allied powers other than that which is inherently derived from war. This point, among other conflicts, caused friction between the two dictators. Their relationships with the Soviet Union, however, painted quite a different picture.

Both men were extraordinarily anti-communist and Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 fully met with Franco’s approval. During the Spanish Civil War, the Soviet government had sent aid in return for the republican government shipping “its entire gold reserve to Moscow for ‘safekeeping.’”21 This, very naturally, did not please Franco because not only did the Soviet government help his enemies, but after the Civil War, refused to return the gold leaving the new Spanish government broke and in dire straits. Of course this set the stage for sour relations between Francoist Spain and the Soviet Union for years to come. After the Second World War, the Soviet Union would bar entry for Spain into the United Nations with Joseph Stalin ironically calling Franco a “totalitarian and aggressor.”22 As the war began, Hitler concluded a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, but, as can be seen by Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, he did not intend to abide by it permanently. The situation for both dictators was different, however, with Benito Mussolini’s Italy.

While there was constant strife between Germany and Spain about their relations with the Allies and there was agreement that both countries despised the communist Soviet Union, the relationship between Germany, Spain and Italy was a much better situation. This is, however, unsurprising considering all three of the countries were ruled by fascist dictators. Hitler and Mussolini — both of whom were the key players in the Axis powers — were at war with the Allied powers while Spain seemed to be the ‘short leg of the fascist stool.’ Although Franco was a dictator in control of a fascist government, it was an unstable government which could contribute nothing to the agendas of either Hitler’s or Mussolini’s regimes. Despite this, Franco maintained a good relationship with Mussolini — and to some degree with Hitler as well — because of their common policies on governing and their views about the communist and capitalist enemy.

Political enemies, or those considered to be enemies of the state or of the ideologies of the regimes, were in eliminated by both Hitler and Franco. In both regimes, this included communists, capitalists or anyone who was anti-fascist or simply against Hitler or Franco. While very similar, there are, however, some key differences. First of all, Hitler is well known for his role in the extermination of European Jews, but what is less well known is that Franco actually helped Jews escape from imprisonment or execution by the Nazis.23 Another major distinguishing factor is that Hitler made it a part of Nazi policy to ‘cleanse’ Germany and indeed Europe, whereas Franco used imprisonment or death as punishment strictly for his political enemies.24 That is not to say that Franco was more sympathetic or more humane than Hitler in anyway. Upon visiting Spain to prepare security for the meeting between Hitler and Franco in Hendaye, Heinrich Himmler, head of the German Schutzstaffel (SS), mentioned to Franco that even he was amazed about how many prisoners were taken and how many executions were performed by the Franco government after the Civil War.25 The prisons were almost bursting with people. Many of Franco’s political prisoners were also sentenced to sometimes fatal hard labor under the conditions of “redemption through work” and in fact much of post-Civil War Spain was rebuilt by these prisoners.26 This “redemption through work” policy has eerie parallels to the German concentration and death camps adorned with the words “Arbeit macht frei” (“work makes freedom”). According to Franco himself, in the six year period between 1939 and 1945, almost two-hundred thousand people were killed by the government with almost ten thousand people killed per one that was killed by Mussolini in Italy.27 These figures are certainly not comparable to the millions killed by the Nazi regime, however, they are not to be taken lightly either.

Neither Adolf Hitler nor Francisco Franco were men who should have been in power. Their regimes were brutal and their methods deadly. Together, they exterminated millions of people and were responsible for destruction on a massive scale caused by many years of war. Political enemies stood no chance under their rule with their merciless executions and hard labor programs. In these ways, both dictators were quite similar, but their irreconcilable differences of the details and execution of policy, their views of and stances in the Second World War and their differing relationships with other powers were often the cause of great friction between the two leaders. Hitler once said of his meeting with Franco in Hendaye that “rather than go through that again, I would prefer to have three or four teeth taken out.”28 This, however, was met with contradictory measures taken by Hitler such as awarding Franco das goldene Grosskreuz des deutschen Adlerordens, or the Golden Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle for his “decisive action in Tangier” and for his belligerence during World War II.29 It is difficult to determine exactly how the two leaders saw each other, but the general impression is that Franco looked up to Hitler while Hitler looked down on Franco. Both Hitler and Franco were men to be feared for sure because, while they were different in many regards, they were also quite similar.



Bibliography

Primary Sources
Hayes, Carlton J.H. Wartime Mission in Spain: 1942-1945. New York: The MacMillan
Company, 1945.

National Security Council. A Report to the National Security Council by the Secretary of State
on United States Policy Toward Spain.
Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1947.

Secondary Sources
Beaulac, Willard L. Franco: Silent Ally in World War II. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois
University Press, 1986.

Encyclopedia Britannica. “Spanish Civil War.” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/
topic/558032/Spanish-Civil-War
.

Hills, George. Franco: The Man and His Nation. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1967.
Kershaw, Ian. “Hitler and the Uniqueness of Nazism.” Journal of Contemporary History 39
(April, 2004): 239-254.

The History Place. “Hitler’s Rise to Power.” http://www2.dsu.nodak.edu/users/dmeier/
Holocaust/hitler.html
(accessed December 6, 2009).

Lipschitz, Chaim U. Franco, Spain, the Jews, and the Holocaust. New York: Ktav Publishing
House, Inc, 1984.

Navarro, Vincent. CommonDreams.org. “The Deafening Silence About Franco’s Genocide.”
http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0908-32.htm (accessed December 2, 2009).

Preston, Paul. Franco: A Biography. New York: BasicBooks, 1994.

Rich Jr, S. Grover. “Franco Spain: A Reappraisal.” Political Science Quarterly 67 (September,
1952): 378-398.

Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: Architectural Features of the Home

Edwardian Stained Glass

Edwardian Stained Glass
Source: The Victorian Web

As in all time periods, certain trends defined houses in Late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. These were not only visual, but also in terms of how the houses were laid out as well as certain features which were new to the period. Early in the Fin-de-Siècle, the features of a house were not much different than they had been during the High Victorian era. It wasn’t really until the Edwardian period that significant changes appeared in the prominent features of houses which would set them apart from their counterparts of a half-century earlier.

One of the biggest distinguishing factors seen in Edwardian home was the use of stained-glass windows. These were used frequently to decorate and give colour to the house’s façade. In the Edwardian period, colourful floral patterns were very popular which were themselves then intersected by either smaller rectangles or diamond-shaped subsections.21 Whilst these were the most popular patterns, other, more complex stained-glass windows also appeared in larger homes which often, but not always, visually recreated a scene of some sort. Subjects could have ranged widely being anything from Biblical depictions similar to what is found in churches to visual representations of fairy tales or other stories.22 The influx of stained-glass windows could likely be attributed to advances in technology as well as rising living standards and income which made it much more affordable.

Another key feature of the late Fin-die-Siècle house can be seen on many High Victorian homes as well, but with a twist which makes it unique. A new generation of bay windows emerged during the Late Victorian and Edwardian periods. These were two-storey bay windows which would give a room on the first floor the benefit of more windows and therefore more light. It also gave the room slightly more space. These two-storey bay windows were sometimes called a ‘two-storey bow window’.23 The first-storey room which contained the bay window was quite frequently used as a bedroom and a popular use for the extra space was for the occupier’s dressing table and washbasin due to the extra light. By the Edwardian era, bay windows also began to contain more windows. Late Victorian bay windows generally consisted of a large, prominent front window with two narrower windows on either side of it which gave it a boxy look. Some Edwardian houses, on the other hand, had five windows of equal size: one square with front of the house with two on either side of it. This gave the bay windows much more of a circular look and helped reduce sharp edges in the design. Many detached Edwardian houses even featured two sets of bay windows on either side of the front door which was generally located in the centre of the house to give a symmetrical appearance — a complete turn-around from the early Fin-de-Siècle architecture with its chaotic ‘Queen Anne’ design principles. Semi-detached houses also had two columns of bay windows, but there was only one per side of the house. Spanning between the two columns of bay windows was a new feature to British houses: the front porch.

Edwardian houses were the first houses which began to include a front porch. This was generally only a small roof which stretched across the space between the two columns of bay windows and did not cover much more than would protect one or two people from the elements who were standing in front of the door. Regardless of how useful the front porch actually was in the practical sense, it was put to good use in terms of decoration. Adorning the underside of the porch’s roof were often very ornately carved trim pieces.24 Styles varied greatly, but there were many common tendencies which they shared such as thinly carved wooden beams which were set vertically and gave the appearance of a balustrade. The rise in popularity of these was due to advancements in wood-turning which made it easier and far more affordable to created cylindrical carvings.25 Even houses whose front doors were located off-centre had awnings which stretched out to cover the approach to the door. These were also not large, but they covered enough space to be just as effective or ineffective as their centred brethren. Similar in function to the porches were eaves. These were a prominent feature of the façade of Edwardian houses which were built for added protection against the rain.

This post is part of a multi-part series about the houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain. See the rest of the series either on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page or in the category of the same name.


The full bibliography is located on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page.

Historic Books and Documents at the Internet Archive

I stumbled upon an online archive today that ended up costing me about two hours of my time just browsing. The Internet Archive is an organization primarily known for its archiving of the internet. It has snapshots of websites dating back to the early 1990s which you can view and use as though they were still online today. Just take a look at this snapshot of Yahoo from 1996 to see what I mean.

What I didn’t realize, however, was that they also have a digital archive containing digitized historic books and documents. While it’s fun to visit old websites (who doesn’t remember how bad the internet looked in the ’90s?), it’s much more fascinating to look at books and documents that are older than anyone still alive. That is, after all, one of the primary activities that keeps historians busy.

The number of collections they have is very large and I wasn’t able to even come close to going through them all. A person would need days to do that. To get you started though, here are a couple of my favorites so far:

Civil War Documents
19th Century Novels
The Library of Congress

The rest can be accessed by visiting The Internet Archive.

Happy browsing and don’t get lost!

Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: House Architecture in Fin-de-Siècle Britain

Philip Webb's Red House

Philip Webb’s Red House
Source: The Victorian Web

It can be said that a nation’s architecture and national identity can be defined by the way it builds its own houses. Whilst this may be true to some degree, it is very difficult to judge in the case of Fin-die Siècle Britain. Strict class division meant that the majority of houses were working or lower-middle class and they were primarily built for function and cost-efficiency rather than for any particular architectural achievements. Where most of the advancements in home-architecture appear are primarily in and on the houses of the wealthy, however, a relatively new type of house-building was to define Edwardian Britain even more than the large mansions of the rich: the moderate-sized home aimed at the ever growing middle class.

Home-building during the Fin-de-Siècle became something of a complex sport for many architects with each trying to out-innovate the other whilst at the same time imitating the successes of the other. That being said, the competition in the house sector was nowhere near as fierce as it was in the large-building sector.10 The unchallenged king of architecture, however, during the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries is a man by the name of Norman Shaw. His work in both domestic as well as large-building architecture is almost universally considered to be the most important of any architect in the the Fin-de-Siècle.

Throughout his career, Shaw managed to create a very unique style which influenced architects for many generations after him. He ‘gained recognition for the red brick architecture using Classical motifs, known as the “Queen Anne” style’.11 Like his contemporaries, Shaw wanted to create a new style of specifically English architecture which would not be recognisable as being a style which already existed. Although Shaw failed to some degree in this endeavour — also like his contemporaries, it did lead to many of his unique designs which he became famous for. Leyswood in Sussex and Cragside in Northumberland are two examples of houses he designed which best showcase his style of mixing ‘Old English’ motives with new and creative ideas. Another common theme in his work was ‘seventeenth-century motives in brick or in brick with stone quoins and dressings’.12 Although he is arguably the most famous architect of the time, he was certainly not the only architect to become well-known for his house designs.

Two of the chief architects of the moderate-sized Edwardian house are William Morris and Philip Webb.13 Together with Shaw, they were leaders of one of many movements occurring simultaneously: the ‘Arts and Crafts’ movement.14 This movement saw a new creativity and ‘artsy’ style of design with many flowing curves. It was in many aspects the antithesis of the Classical style which focussed on symmetry and blockiness. Both Morris and Webb were trained in the styles of Gothic Revival architecture, but it was largely through their innovations in style that distinguish the Fin-de-Siècle house from its High Victorian predecessor.

William Morris

William Morris
Source: Wikipedia

Although it is quite difficult to distinguish who exactly was the first architect to use which new style, it is clear that both Morris and Webb were leaders in their field. Morris, born in 1834, founded his design firm Morris & Co in 1861 which he would use to create innovative designs in wallpapers, furnishings, stained-glass windows and many types of other domestic products.15 These designs were based on the nineteenth-century notion of ‘the values of pre-industrial England, a mythical land of craftsmen, contented peasants, and romance‘.16 Morris himself did not directly confront industrialisation, although he opposed it. Instead, he used his designs to depict the values of a rural, self-sufficient society.17 His unique designs influenced many future designers and architects, including Philip Webb.

Webb became arguably one of the most influential architects of houses in the Late Victorian and Edwardian eras. Morris helped him launch his career in 1859 when he commissioned a house called ‘Red House’ in Bexleyheath to be designed and hired Webb to do it.18 His most famous works are Red House and another house called Standen in West Sussex. Both are outstanding examples of his work in that they were based on his design philosophy that houses should be created to match the style of their particular neighbourhood. This principle meant that he never really developed a trademark style of his own, but his houses were nonetheless often visited by and subsequently influenced many young architects.19 Although he did design larger houses for the wealthy such as Red House and Standen, Webb’s primary focus ‘was to bring upper-class house-design back to a vernacular simplicity, from which what was called “Queen Anne” emerged’.20 Many of the elements used in Webb’s as well as Morris’s house designs became very popular and came to define the houses of the period.

This post is part of a multi-part series about the houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain. See the rest of the series either on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page or in the category of the same name.


The full bibliography is located on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page.

Kings of Bavaria: Prince Regent Luitpold

Prince Regent Luitpold

Prince Regent Luitpold
Source: Wikipedia

The story of Prince Luitpold and how he came to power is a rather tragic one. Although Prince Luitpold was never actually king of Bavaria, he reigned in place of his nephew, King Otto I, who was declared insane and unfit to rule even before inheriting the throne after the death of his older brother, King Ludwig II. Luitpold was proclaimed prince regent after Ludwig was deposed and remained so until his death in 1912. Despite the shady circumstances that brought Luitpold to power, his oversight and discipline brought stability and prosperity to Bavaria and his rule is viewed by many as the golden age of nineteenth-century Bavarian history.

Luitpold Karl Joseph Wilhelm Ludwig was born on March 12, 1821 in Würzburg and was the third son of King Ludwig I. He was the younger brother of both King Maximilian II Joseph of Bavaria and King Otto I of Greece. As a child, his father favored him greatly over his siblings, presumably because he was not expected to inherit any throne and was therefore less complicated to raise.

Prince Luitpold joined the Bavarian Army at the age of fourteen and was promoted by his father to Captain of the Artillery in 1835. By the end of his military career, he had reached the rank of Major General. During the Lola Montez Affair and the Revolution of 1848, he served as mediator at an audience between a delegation of the discontented population and his father, the King. Although this did not have any significant impact on the outcome of the revolution, it did show the King just how discontented the population was and indirectly led to his abdication of the Bavarian throne later that year.

On April 15, 1844, Luitpold married the Austrian Archduchess Auguste Ferdinande of Austria, daughter of Leopold II, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in Florence, Italy. The couple met on one of many of the Prince’s trips abroad. Ludwig I was initially opposed to the marriage, but eventually gave in. Together the Prince and the Archduchess had four children: Ludwig (the future King Ludwig III), Leopold, Therese and Arnulf. The Archduchess died early of pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of 39. Luitpold never remarried.

After Ludwig I’s abdication, Luitpold’s other brother, Maximilian, became king. During his brother’s reign (1848-1864), Luitpold largely stayed out of politics and did not play any significant role in state affairs. He was initially heir presumptive to the Greek throne, but after his brother was deposed in 1862, he never pursued this claim.

Prince Luitpold on his 90th birthday in 1911

Prince Luitpold on his 90th birthday in 1911
Source: Wikipedia

Things did not get interesting until after Maximilian’s death in 1864, when Luitpold’s nephew, Ludwig II, ascended the throne of Bavaria. Throughout his reign, Ludwig II spent increasingly more time away from the Bavarian capital of Munich and therefore away from the business of politics. This meant that Luitpold was forced to step in and represent his nephew in the government. He also played a significant role in the wars of this period. During the Austro-Prussian war in 1866, Luitpold was commander of the 3rd Royal Bavarian Division and represented Bavaria in the German General Staff during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-1871.

It was in this role that, on December 3, 1870, he delivered the so-called Kaiserbrief written by Ludwig II stating his support for the creation of the German Empire with the Prussian King Wilhelm I as Emperor. As representative of Bavaria, he and Ludwig’s younger brother, Otto, were present in Versailles for the proclamation of Wilhelm as German Emperor.

On June 9, 1886, Ludwig II was declared unfit to reign and Luitpold was made regent a day later. Whether he played a role in the Bavarian government’s decision to declare Ludwig II unfit to reign is still a controversial topic and has not been conclusively proven either way despite there being many conspiracy theories about it. Ludwig II was found dead in Lake Starberg on June 13th and his younger brother, Otto, succeeded him as king. As Otto had already been diagnosed as mentally unstable and was therefore not able to take over his royal duties, Luitpold remained regent, practically becoming king in all but name.

The Prinzregentenzeit, or “prince regent’s time”, has become known as a period of stability and economic prosperity in Bavaria’s history. Luitpold primarily played a passive role in politics and state affairs, preferring to allow the government to function on its own accord while still fulfilling his duties and obligations. It marked a period where the interests of the German Empire led by Prussia trumped those of Bavaria and because of this relations between the two states remained cold. The arts in Bavaria also prospered during this time period as Luitpold was a lover of art and therefore spent a lot of his time and effort into supporting this sector. He was famous for making unannounced visits at young and unknown artists’ studios which would frequently lead to publicity and funding for them.

Luitpold reigned as regent for 26 years until his death on December 12, 1912 at the age of 91. After a long trip through the English Garden in Munich on December 10th, he became ill with a high fever and was diagnosed with bronchitis on December 11th. He died the next day at around 5 am and is buried in the crypt of the Theatinerkirche in Munich. His son, Ludwig, succeeded him as prince regent as Otto was still alive and king. Ludwig would go on to become king himself in circumstances that would lead to the unspectacular fall of all German monarchies after the First World War.

This post is part of a multi-part series about the kings of Bavaria. See the rest of the series either on the Kings of Bavaria project page or in the category of the same name.

Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: Introduction to Styles of Architecture in Late Victorian and Edwardian Britain

Berkeley House Dining Room in 1900

Berkeley House Dining Room in 1900

The end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of twentieth century saw the end of an era of house architecture, whose presence still dominates the British landscape, and the beginning of a new style of building which would simplify the æsthetics of houses into something much more practical and what would today be recognised more as ‘modern’. For most of the nineteenth century, domestic buildings were primarily built according to High Victorian styles and ideals which are important for the Fin-de-Siècle because they formed the foundation on which Late Victorian and Edwardian buildings were designed. These architectural techniques not only comprised æsthetics, but also building methods and floor plans.

Gothic Revival, which was a movement that sought to revive mediæval façades and forms, was the primary style in which public buildings and upper class homes were built, whilst simpler redbrick designs tended to be used for lower and middle class houses and commercial buildings. A fantastic example of Gothic Revival architecture is the Palace of Westminster in London which was built in the mid-nineteenth century. Many architectural feats and building methods were also realised during the nineteenth century which had hitherto been impossible. One example was mastering steel as a building material which meant that the Victorians were able to erect buildings spanning vast areas with very little in the way of structural support. These were generally robust buildings and many still stand today. High Victorian floor plans tended to vary as they still do today, but what makes the Victorians unique is that they mass produced houses on a scale never before achieved in Britain. That meant a single floor plan could have been used for hundreds and sometimes thousands of buildings — something never really done on such a large scale before. This was especially true of working and lower-middle class homes which evolved into the endless rows of terraced housing that still dominate many British cities today.

Architecture began to diverge from some of these tendencies in Fin-de-Siècle Britain, however, whilst at the same time building upon the lessons learned throughout the nineteenth century. Steel continued to be used to construct large buildings and some traces of Gothic Revival designs were still visible. Yet, over the course of the thirty-four years between 1880 and 1914, the façades slowly began to transform into something much simpler and more cost-effective. Arthur Beresford Pite, a well-known architect and professor of architecture at the Royal College of Arts in the Fin-de-Siècle, was only one of many architects to decry the Gothic Revival style by the turn of the century.1 He called it grotesque and out of date, much like modern architects would consider the ‘futuristic style’ of the nineteen-fifties and sixties to be ugly and old fashioned. Pite claimed that he was tired of the ‘idle borrowing from historic styles’ of which he thought that Gothic Revival was guilty.2

What is seen instead at the beginning of this time period is called the ‘Queen Anne‘ style which became a defining characteristic for architecture of Late Victorian Britain. This style grew out of a mixture of Gothic Revival and Classicism which was prevalent in the eighteenth century. Architects such as J. M. Bryson, Norman Shaw, William Morris, Philip Webb and J. J. Stevenson pioneered this style of architecture.3 The ‘Queen Anne’ style can be loosely defined as ‘a variety of freely mixed styles’ which ‘had both grown out of and rebelled against Gothicism in the 1870s.’4 Ironically, it has very little to do with the style prevalent during the actual reign of Queen Anne in the early eighteenth century. By its very nature, it is hectic and inconsistent, encompassing such a large variety of architectural elements as red brick with white stone quoins, mock-Tudor style buildings with timber and white stucco, as well as façades created with terracotta panelling. Buildings with a single tower in one of its corners were a common trend for larger buildings, including medium to large houses. The ‘Queen Anne’ style belonged to the beginning of the Fin-de-Siècle, but what followed was more of an undefined movement. Despite its popularity not only among architects, but also among the population as a whole, some architects such as Pite spoke out against it. In a presentation given in December 1900, Pite said that ‘this school had neither the intellectual apparatus of the older Classicism nor the passionate romantic loyalties of the Gothic Revival’.5 By the turn of the century, ‘Queen Anne’ had become outdated and what followed was a so-called renaissance of the English Renaissance.

Around 1900 architects began to design buildings to look more like they would have in Shakespeare’s time with Elizabethan and Jacobean styles began to once again take predominance in architecture.6 Thomas Graham Jackson, who designed Kirby Hall and the High Street front of Brazenose College, Oxford, was one of the leaders of this trend and one of the first to revive it. However, it was his near contemporary, Rowand Anderson who designed McEwen Hall, that really pioneered the style as he was not as restrained by the same Gothic Revival apprenticeship which Jackson was not able to overcome.7 Another great example of this type is Cragside in Northumberland which was designed by Norman Shaw.

Related to this neo-Renaissance style and occurring simultaneously throughout the period is what is known as ‘free classic’. Loosely based on French Renaissance architecture as opposed to English Renaissance, ‘free classic’ was to become the defining style of the period.8 It was based on the notion employed by many architects, including Norman Shaw who was one of the most prominent architects of the Fin-de-Siècle, that every building of architectural quality had to contain some form of ‘historical fancy-dress’.9 It is a very liberally defined category which includes everything from towers styled after French châteaus as seen in Shaw’s New Scotland Yard in Westminster to the more Gothic Revival style of E. W. Mountford’s Town Hall in Sheffield. ‘Free classic’ defines the period as it was an era of very diverse styles which varied widely based on each individual architect.

Whether architects in the Fin-de-Siècle could agree upon a single style or not, what was obvious even to them was that house architecture was changing. Neither the Classicism nor the Gothic Revival from the previous two centuries were the predominant style of design and yet the new styles had their roots in both. The goal of many architects during this period was to create a new national style of architecture which exhibited ‘Englishness’ whilst also not relying too heavily on previous styles. This resulted in a chaotic mix of styles and architectural experimentation which was only fitting for the Fin-de-Siècle. This series will examine middle-class houses during this time period, specifically looking at general tendencies in architecture, architectural features, façades, floor plans, as well as interior design in the homes of Fin-de-Siècle Britain.

This post is part of a multi-part series about the houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain. See the rest of the series either on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page or in the category of the same name.


The full bibliography is located on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page.

New Series: Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain

Rendition of a Victorian Fireplace

Rendition of a Victorian Fireplace

Quite some time ago, I did a research project about houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain. This resulted in a long essay about middle-class houses during this time period which specifically focused on general tendencies in architecture, architectural features, façades, floor plans, as well as interior design. Since I have just recently dug out this research and dusted it off, I thought it fitting to share it here since it will otherwise never again see the light of day.

I haven’t written very much about houses and architecture on History Rhymes despite it being one of my many interests in history. It is a difficult topic to write about as it not easy to compose an interesting narrative to capture the reader’s interest and hold it. As such, this series will primarily be more academically oriented and focused more on presenting the results of the research rather than recreating a story about the past.

This post is part of a multi-part series about the houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain. See the rest of the series either on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page or in the category of the same name.

New Homepage and Updated Design

I am pleased to announce a few changes that have been going on here at History Rhymes. One of the first things you may notice is that the homepage now has a new design. The purpose of the redesign is to put an emphasis on the feature articles while still allowing me to write minor news posts like this one. Since I am planning on using the news feature a lot more often to provide a source of nineteenth-century history news, I thought this division would be important to reduce clutter and make articles easier to find. Of course the old blog view is still available on the blog page.

The other major update is that the website is now fully responsive. What that means is that if you make your browser window smaller, the website will react and shift its content to fit the smaller window. Of course there is a purpose behind this seemingly senseless gimmick as the website will now automatically be optimized for smaller devices such as smartphones and tablets. What I want to say with all that balderdash is that History Rhymes now looks good on a smartphone.

Other than that, there are a few more minor updates such as speed optimizations as well as an overhaul of most of the images on the website to make them “Retina”-friendly. Now all elements should be crisp and sharp on screens with a high density pixel ratio such as most smartphones, tablets and a lot of new laptops.

Of course this website isn’t about technology nor about the technology powering it. In that light, I would also like to say that I’ve got some exciting new history articles in the works that I can’t wait to publish. More updates to come soon!

— Alex

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