Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby michaelcarragher on Mon Jan 23, 2012 6:07 pm

John Regan’s emphasis on historiography, while disappointing to some who made it to the NLI, might remind others that historiography can be a quite fascinating subject, and obviously all but essential to a full understanding of history. From my limited reading of his work it appears that Dr Regan would be more critical than supportive of revisionist historians, but his criticism is the sort from which anyone could benefit, being intelligent and constructive and not unfair.

He has a very good essay in the current issue of History Ireland, “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: the two histories”, which anyone following this thread of discussion really ought to check out. In this essay Regan examines the revisionist-traditionalist divide in light of the interplay between “professional” and “public” history, and the usually “healthy friction” between the two which generates symbiosis. However,
where public histories compromise historical method [instead of healthy symbiosis] the complexity, contradictions and nuance associated with historical research are replaced by the simplicities, inaccuracies and distortions of an “ahistorical public history”.

Importantly, in my view, Dr Regan warns about the dangers of present-focused “Whig history” (essentially the construct of history as a “grand narrative” describing an “arc of progress” toward a “successful” present), and how this may seduce historians into seeing themselves as players in bringing this “successful” present to birth. To conflate his own remarks with those of his colleague Bernard Lewis, he warns against
a school of history that aims to “amend, to restate, to replace, or even to recreate the past in a more satisfactory form” [; a school that justifies itself with] a “lesser evil” argument. It says that society is better served by purposely inaccurate histories adapted to its needs than by historical research chasing abstract truths that may actually harm us.

Dr Regan goes on to claim that the sort of “ahistorical public histories” that must emerge from this approach
washed back into [scholarly] historical research, where they stained the work of our best professionals.

He seems to mean Peter Hart here.

So far so feasible. And in linking Frank Busteed’s capture of two British intelligence officers to the Bandon Valley killings, which Peter Hart “elided” from his work, Dr Regan both delivers a possible explanation for those killings that is plausibly non-sectarian and skilfully undercuts Hart’s scholarship. Elsewhere (in his reviews of Hart’s books), his respect for Hart seems clear, so his criticism here cannot be dismissed as personal animus or professional envy. Dr Regan’s is a most impressive essay.

So impressive that my criticisms are offered tentatively—all the more tentatively because at least one of those criticisms may be grounded in a misreading. Citing Tom Garvin’s claim that the Die Hard faction “decided to prevent an election taking place as long as an alleged threat of war was being made by the British”, Regan seems to endow that decision with democratic legitimacy:
Once British threats [to invade the Free State] are removed, it is possible to say that the June 1922 general “pact” election was “free” and therefore “democratic”

—his thrust being (or so it seems to me) that the threat of war was real, not trumped up, and that it is therefore fair and reasonable to endow the Die Hards with as much claim to democracy as the Free Staters.

Assuming that my reading of this passage is correct, I find Dr Regan’s logic strained. In his “alleged threat of war” Tom Garvin may have imputed a more subtle meaning to alleged that that normally implied, and taken up by Dr Regan. I haven’t read Garvin’s 1922: the birth of Irish democracy, so I welcome correction from anyone who has, or who is more familiar with Dr Regan’s own work, but pending such correction it seems to me that while the possibility of a renewal of war by the British in 1922 was indeed real, it may be less than fair to say that possibility constituted threat.

This is my first reservation: for in the eyes of any disinterested party, should the Free State government fail to assert dominion within its territory Britain had both the right and the duty to intervene in Irish affairs in 1922. For under not merely British but international law, and indeed in all decency, His Majesty’s government had a clear duty to defend not just the lives and property of all His Majesty’s subjects within the United Kingdom but arguably under the terms of the Treaty the lives of all subjects of the king “in Ireland”—i.e. those of the Free State too, if their elected government proved unable or unwilling to provide such protection.

Add to this the Die Hard IRA’s agenda of military conquest of Northern Ireland, against the wishes of most of that statelet’s subjects, and any British invasion of the Free State could have been construed as moral as well as legal obligation to British subjects farther north.

This is to constrain consideration to the Irish dimension. When we admit the possibility that instability in Ireland constituted a potential threat to British security—in nurturing anarchy and revolution—the possibility of British invasion of the Free State becomes less a “threat” than a pragmatic contingency held in reserve. That the Limerick Soviet once constituted a perceived threat to the order of things now seems absurd—but hardly more absurd than that the Petrograd Soviet could bring down the Romanov Empire. Many of the new European democracies had already fallen into anarchy or totalitarianism, and the Irish Free State seemed likely to join them, if its government failed to establish its authority.

And all this before we remember Tom Paine’s warning: “Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself in all cases as the age and generations which preceded it”. Surely any such pact as was devised in 1922 would have been a constraint on real democracy; an attempt to preserve the democratic representation that had constituted the Second Dail, and deny the electorate to express its true wishes for the Third? Can we imagine the outrage if last year there had been a pact that would have given any electoral advantage to the august statesmen of the thirtieth Dail?

Dr Regan is dismissive of the “constitutional historians” who emerged after 1969, and their well-intentioned efforts to highlight the “Irish constitutional tradition” and downplay the post-Revolutionary emphasis on violence. Perhaps such politicisation did produce revisionist works of the most egregious sort, Niamh Sammon’s documentary on the Coolacrease killings, for instance, but the politicisation was hardly one-way—as many of the essays in Aubane’s refutation of Sammon, Coolacrease, prove. Fr Shaw’s 1972 essay that “challenged” the traditional view of 1916 would have to be one of the works that Dr Regan has in mind here—but that essay was submitted to Studies for publication in 1966 and rejected. One could say that any change in attitude after 1969 was as much redressing a political imbalance as “politicisation”. (Indeed, can any work on history be written in a political vacuum?)

How fair is Dr Regan’s differentiation between “public” and “professional” history? I think it’s thought-provoking and useful, but surely there’s a difference between, on the one hand, Sammon and Aubane and, on the other, Richard English, who proclaims his Irish Freedom to be aimed at “a much wider group than merely that of professional academics”—i.e. “public” history. Yet clearly it is also “professional”.

In drawing attention to the capture of the two British agents immediately before the Bandon Valley killings Dr Regan goes a good way to undermine claims that those killings were sectarian. The sectarian suspicion will probably be impossible to shake off completely, though, because men under torture will eventually tell their torturers what the torturers want to hear, and sectarianism was a fact in Cork at the time. Maire Brugha (Terence McSwiney’s daughter) remarks that into the 1940s ads for positions might stipulate “No Catholics need apply”, and Volunteer Patrick Crowley reports that prior to the Revolution “Bandon and its neighbourhood were strongly Protestant and they were very much against the Catholics”. Such hostility could only have been reciprocated and there is no reason to discount the possibility of paying off old sectarian scores, especially in the anarchistic months of the Munster Republic.

But of course even if sectarianism was a factor in West Cork, one must be careful not to extrapolate too much from that; and my criticisms do not take greatly from the worth of Dr Regan’s essay; it casts far more light than heat and I recommend it to the forum.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby DrNightdub on Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:04 pm

My own take on it is that Garvin uses the qualifier "alleged" threat of war as a means of trying to pull the rug out from under Republicans' objections to the 1922 election results. They claimed the election was distorted by the British threat to renew hostilities, so if he can remove the existence of the threat then hey-presto, the basis for their objections vanishes.

What scuppers his argument (and I use the nautical term deliberately) is that in the aftermath of the Wilson assassination and the Provisional Government's hesitation to dislodge the Four Courts garrison, the British had already despatched warships and troops to Dublin to do the very job which they felt Collins and co. were unwilling to do. Only when Macready's pleas to Downing St to cop themselves on finally sank in were the ships recalled. An ultimatum was then sent saying that if if Dublin didn't get the finger out, the British would regard the Treaty as having been broken and the status quo ante as having resumed - that part is absolutely critical. In such circumstances, they then completely reserved the right to re-intervene militarily.

This then changes Garvin's "alleged threat of war" into a rescinded actual resumption of war, thus effectively validating Regan's argument.

Garvin's position is further weakened by the fact that despite his claim that they "decided to prevent an election taking place", broadly speaking, the anti-Treaty IRA didn't actually do anything of the kind. Yes there were instances of non-SF panel candidates being "encouraged" to withdraw; Dan Breen is instanced as one who applied such pressure (or more precisely, his election agent did, Breen just provided the glowering presence in the room) but as he'd been nominated for both the pro- and anti-Treaty panels, it's a bit harsh to point to that as being solely anti-Treaty intimidation. There were no attempts on the part of the IRA to prevent people voting, so really Garvin is just chucking around spurious allegations.

So if Garvin's thesis is thus undermined, you have to go back and ask what was his motivation for presenting a view that was just as distorted in its own way as Hart's view of the west Cork killings was in its. Which is where Regan's work on historiography comes in.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby michaelcarragher on Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:24 pm

Lots of helpful detail there, Kieran, and further food for thought. In any democracy, however, I still find it hard to accept the idea of an election pact.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby DrNightdub on Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:51 pm

I would too, were it not for Collins' absolute insistence that candidates other than those of the SF panel be allowed stand. I think it's to his credit that he made this a deal-breaker in his negotiations with Dev.

Far more insidious than a pre-election pact is the fact that after the results were in, Collins simply prorogued the new assembly from meeting on no less than five occasions, thus absolving the PG from any sort of accountability. OK, the first meeting being scheduled for 1st July, when fighting was still raging in Dublin, you could kinda let them away with skipping, but the next four? That raises serious questions as to who was or wasn't behavng as democrats.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby michaelcarragher on Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:59 pm

More fair points. Revolution and war are seldom democracy's best friends. Though however undemocratic much of what was done through the revolutionary years, the aspiration toward democracy was there.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby thepremier on Tue Jan 31, 2012 5:26 pm

Video of the History Ireland hedge school available on their website.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby DrNightdub on Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:42 pm

Regan returns to the question of the Bandon Valley massacre here:


The main focus is obviously on Hart's work and the problems identified with it, but there's additional material on Busteed and British intelligence in west Cork that I hadn't come across before.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby NiallMeehan on Tue Feb 07, 2012 1:40 pm

I believe a previous reference to a 'Niall Regan' and Roman Catholic targets of the April 1922 killers might be to me. The analysis referred to is:

Distorting Irish History Two, the road from Dunmanway: Peter Hart’s treatment of the 1922 ‘April killings’ in West Cork

This deals mainly with the April killings. It starts by looking at Hart PhD thesis supervisor David Fitzpatrick's review of Gerard Murphy's Year of Disappearances and Fitzpatrick's seeming endorsement of 'ethnic cleansing' claims by Peter Hart.

I returned to the subject recently and take up in more detail than I had previously (initially in 2008), Frank Busteed, the killing of the three British intelligence officers and their driver, and possible connections with the simultaneous killing of Protestant civilians (in late April 1922 in West Cork). It also looks at southern Protestant attitudes and I suggest that those attitudes are an insuperable obstacle for those arguing that there was systematic republicanism sectarianism.

'The Further One Gets From Belfast', a second reply to Jeff Dudgeon

Distorting Irish History [One] and the first reply to Jeff Dudgeon deal mainly with the Kilmichael ambush (located at the same website above).
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby Jd66 on Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:26 pm

Not directly on the subject of revisionism but inteview here with Eunan O'Halpin on how many died in the War of Independence. Turns out it's about 2,100.

http://www.theirishstory.com/2012/02/10 ... evolution/
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby JulianPutkowski on Sun Apr 08, 2012 1:00 pm

I share your unease about the term ‘revisionist’ but personally understand the term to generally refer to the affirmation of an essentially partisan understanding of British military prowess and leadership. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, with the notable exception of Gary Sheffield (New Labour), the surviving coterie of academic historians who were either self-styled revisionists or (sic) fellow travelling chums are pretty invariably socially and ideologically conservative. Institutionally, many of the leading academic revisionists were associated with the RMA Sandhurst; War Studies Department, King’s College, London University and the British Commission for Military History. Much of what they wrote and published during the 1990’s and early C21st was well researched, well written and attracted an increasingly positive response when peer-reviewed by fellow conservatives.

Since 2000, revisionism has become institutionally more extensive and diverse – and revisionist scholarship extends well beyond affirming the military genius of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig; plotting “learning curves”, and mulling over tactics and strategy. It has also become a wee bit difficult nowadays to assemble more than a skeletal consensus from the over-gnawed bones of revisionist contention. That said, in 2006 I dallied with the task via a WW1-List critique of a BBC radio feature programme:

" Radio 4:
 Things we forgot to remember 3 December 2006

I heard presenter Michael Portillo’s recent,
cringingly bad contribution to Ripperology and rather hoped that this evening’s offering, about the First World War, simply could not have been worse. Waaaal – I wuz wrong.
The programme was a bit of a cut and paste effort,
derived in great measure from ‘The Great War; Myth and Memory’ – and in addition to the author, Dan Todman, it featured a trio of conservative military historians: Hew Strachan; John Bourne and the self-styled WW1 ‘revisionist’, Gary Sheffield.
The thesis advanced by the programme rested on the premise that the British public’s perspectives about the First World War have failed to take due account of the tactics, military genius of the generals; native British technical innovation and ingenuity, and the victories achieved in 1918 by the British and American forces.
It maintained that the war was justified because of
German autocracy, which was alleged to be proto-Nazi and the atrocious behaviour inflicted by German troops during the invasion and occupation of Belgium and Northern France.
The soldiers, it was argued did not see themselves as ‘victims’ but as victors and regarded Field Marshal Haig as a great leader – exemplified by the crowds that attended the rituals accompanying the latter’s burial.
It was explained that the public impression about the First World War is mistaken and misguided, principally because the speedy German surrender after the British victories of 1918 had pre-empted contemporary recognition in the UK of the scale of the military achievement. A combination of ‘Disillusionment’ during the 1930’s; George Orwell’s notional contempt for soldiers; undue attention paid to Conscientious Objectors and the prominence attached to sentiments expressed in Wilfred Owen’s critical poetry about the
war in British school syllabi were also claimed to
have played a part. Then, in the 1960’s Joan
Littlewood’s musical, ‘Oh! What a Lovely War!’ and
John Terraine’s ‘Great War’ TV series cemented the
generally negative impression of the First World War.
There was little attempt at balance in this programme and many of the claims were ill-supported and basically consisted of a sustained collective whine about the British public view of the First World War being pre-occupied with the losses sustained during the battles of 1916 and 1916 and not the advances of Summer 1918. Yet the programme’s perspectives were no
less selective, for it wholly failed to include any
reference to the military debacles and slaughter of
1914 and 1915, when the British Expeditionary Force suffered under the indifferent military stewardship of Field Marshal French. Nor was there any reference whatsoever to the activities of generals other than Field Marshal Haig or any other theatre of war, other than the Western Front.
It was rather surprising that the programme did not openly acknowledge Todman, Sheffield and Bourne’s established reputations for celebrating the ‘rehabilitation’ Field Marshal Haig. However, in their eulogy of the (sic) much misunderstood and maligned ‘perfect Knight’ (pace Chaucer’s “parfait gentil knight”?), nary a reference was made to Haig’s primary critic, the wartime Prime Minister Lloyd George. Moreover, the size of the crowds attending the rituals after Haig died is frankly insufficient evidence of anything more than a big turnout for the burial of a famous figure, albeit (rightly) to be compared with the burial of the Queen Mother and Diana, Princess of Wales. As for the critics of Haig, crudely lumping together George Orwell, Joan Littlewood and John
Terraine is ludicrous for it takes little account of
their very different ideological perspectives, the
media they used, and the size and scale of public
response to the criticisms they advanced. Was the
programme suggesting that this disparate trio of
critics successfully bamboozled the British public: a soi-disant Trotskitye cum informer; a Cockney
Communist and a dyed-in-the-wool Tory? May it equally have been the case that their audiences were already of the opinion that British generalship during the First World War was less than satisfactory? If not, may not Todman et al also engaged in seeking to impose their own, albeit contrary stamp, on what they regard as a malleable British public?
Advancing the proposition that the Second World War was a ‘just war’ and that the First World War has wrongly been regarded as an ‘unjust’ war is frankly, nonsense. Leaving aside interpretation of the Second World War as a just war, the thesis advanced during the programme was, with reference to the First World, decidedly partial. Thus, Germany was damned as an
autocratic, imperialistic and a notionally proto-nazi regime, exemplified by the killing of 5000 Belgian non-combatants in 1914 and the oppression and deportations from German-occupied Belgium and Northern France. All well recognised – but measured against what criteria? King Leopold’s treatment of the Belgians? British pre-war oppression of all who actively resisted British imperialism? In terms of the articulation and exercise of racial superiority, what were the key differences between British, Belgian and
German imperial attitudes and policies? A brief
interrogation of British military activities in India
or Ireland would yield an appreciation of the
bankruptcy of identifying autocracy solely with
Wilhelmine Germany.
Turning now to the programme’s interpretation of
Wilfred Owen’s poetry, which was acknowledged to be of literary worth. Interpretation of the content of Owen’s poetry and condemnation of the ‘old lie’ was reckoned to be contradicted by the poet being decorated for gallantry, and being killed in action. The programme inferred that school syllabi paid too much attention Owen’s declared intention to write about the ‘pity of war’ purportedly contradicted by his military career. This is nonsense – as anyone engaged in teaching Owen’s poetry invariably refers to the actuality of the poet’s military career. If the programme is suggesting that school syllabi lack balance in teaching the poetry of the First World War then they failed to produce evidence to support their
implication that school students have been
indoctrinated by anti-war teachers – and it is hard
 not to conclude that Todman et al, qua Owen,
 protesteth too much.
The case being advanced by the programme hinged on the sound bite that ‘we won the war and we won it well’, due in great part to technological genius (SMLE rifle, Lewis guns, tanks, artillery and air power – but not poison gas?); improved tactics and domestic industrial output in 1918. All of which states the obvious but omits any reference to the weakening of the German forward effort by the Allies sustained naval blockade or the changing war aims of the Allies – which
latterly included territorial aggrandisement as
opposed to coming to the aid of Belgium.
No reference was made to the coercion employed by the British and other armies – including conscription. Britain was transformed into a police state during the First World War and almost half of the soldiers under Haig’s command were conscripts – whose views about the First World War are ill acknowledged in work produced
by Todman et al, and for that matter, John Terraine.
All in all, this programme boiled down to a
Conservative politician presenting a conservative
review of conservative historians’ interpretation of
the First World War. This was not only because it was avowedly patriarchal, politically narrow and a general apologia for British militarism circa 1914-1919. It is also because it reflected an uncompromisingly realist neo-Whiggish view of history: war toys and tactics, big men and big battles, and (no argument about it) the victors were all stout chaps – and woe betide anyone who sez they ain’t – for Todman and chums, such critics are either gutless, gormless or plain

Polemic? Yep! You bet. But before you are tempted to engage in some self-preening, kindly reflect for a moment on the less than objective terminology that you have employed to damn the “pretty poor lot” that revisionists regard as “anti-revisionists”. C’mon, Laffin never implied anything and he certainly never pretended that his “Butchers and Bunglers” book was less than partisan, and your gentle observation about Winter engaging in “manufactured fraudulence” beyond polemicism may even be of interest to the latter’s learned friends.

Dispensing with modesty, what you had to say about Mr Putkowski caused me to wonder whether you might be recycling ill-informed, immature twaddle peddled by Emma Hanna (The Great War on the Small Screen pp. 103, 104, 107, 108-9).

A “plausible anti revisionist” – Moi? Nitpicky, unconvincing? Prone to “rebut rather than engage”? Ahem, aside from criticizing Portillo’s Radio 4 effort and a flutter of exchanges on the WW1-List website, I’ve only crafted one piece of writing that advanced a sceptical view about the revisionists. In 2007 I was invited by Robin Baird-Smith (editor: Continuum Books) to write a brief contribution to “A Part of History” (ed. Michael Howard), addressing revisionist historians’ criticism of the campaign to secure posthumous pardons for soldier who had been executed by the British Army during the First World War. Via e-mail I responded to Continuum thus:

" I'm not exactly sure (for the moment) how 'revisionist' have been the views of Gary Sheffield and chums on either the infliction of the punishments or how they may be disposed to accommodate Des Browne's volte face on posthumous pardons. On the other hand, there has been a mass of comment and controversy during the past sixteen or so years and I have little doubt that historians will be wrangling about the executions and associated issues for a while longer. "

Regrettably, Continuum did not air the frame of reference in the book’s preface - an omission that permitted Hew Strachan in his review of the book to complain about the inadequacy of information about the aims and objectives of the “Shot at Dawn” campaign. Sooo -yep! With reference to “Tommyrot”, well spotted, you – it was a rebuttal because I was requested to write a rebuttal.

In complaining about my apparent dismissal of revisionists, you wrote that it was, “because [of] their accommodation of barbarism and the brutality of war”. You also commented: “ It’s unclear quite what he’s saying here, but it seems to be that high moral dudgeon is preferable to exploring the physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional realities and conundrums with which the actors of history and its horrors had to engage.” Quite ironically, the former snippet (ed: Wot? Not nitpicky, surely) was abstracted from the conclusion of the “Tommyrot” chapter, wherein I stated that the revisionist project did not appear to have been affected by the enactment of conditional pardons for the soldiers who had been executed by the British Army during the First World War. I certainly did not dismiss the importance of revisionists or revisionism:

" Since revisionists dismissed the historical significance of contributions by ‘non-historians’ to public debate about the British Army’s use of coercion during the First World War, there has been little imperative to alter the established tenor of their academic programmes. Their syllabi and recommended reading schedules for the study of the First World War continue to reflect a socially conservative preoccupation with hierarchy, order and rules, tactics, strategy, firepower, logistics, and ‘group cohesion’ – which sounds less woolly than ‘morale’. Students are encouraged to adopt a positivist, semi-actuarial calculation of developments on the battlefield, instead of carnage, mud, blood and weepy messiness. In Sheffield’s teleological work, every battle yields ‘lessons learned’, to be plotted on the learning curve; Simkins exhorts historians to focus on the battlefield; Bond damns “doom and gloom” TV Great War documentaries and “Books with such backward-looking polemical titles as The Donkeys and British Butchers and Bunglers of World War One.” In the aftermath of the enactment of conditional pardons, there seems little sign of any change in the revisionist project. Neither is there much evidence of critical reflection by other revisionist agencies, including members of the Douglas Haig Fellowship or the British Commission for Military History, perhaps because their accommodation of barbarism and the brutality of war is rather too well entrenched. However, by way of consolation for their critics, even if revisionists’ motives have not always been easy to discern, at least their hegemonic ‘Utility not Futility’ message has for many years been quite open and transparent."

You also state: “Putkowski seems to make the typical, rather feeble case for anti-revisionism; one based more on emotion and moral pressure than anything else—indeed, less on emotion than on sentiment.“

Was this penetrating analysis informed by reading Emma Hanna’s work, faux “rationalism” or mebbe your own wry inversion of something I wrote about the revisionists? :

"Prompted by authoritarian convictions or institutional demands, revisionists select facts to bolster their own emotional response to the First World War, and by extension war in general. Their own emotionalism is never explicitly acknowledged in books like The Unquiet Western Front or the essays in Bond’s, The First World War and British Military History (2002); instead such failings are projected onto what are frequently imaginary opponents. In a fashion akin to the pacifists and war resisters of the 1920s, 1930s and 1960s, whose work they despise, revisionists appear to believe that some terrible corrupting force has perverted public opinion through propaganda." (“Tommyrot”, p. 24)

On the “Monocled Mutineer” controversy, please check your facts. I did not resign. What I stated in a Press Release (12.9.1986) was:

"I carried out the technical and historical research during the extended production of the BBC TV series “The Monocled Mutineer”, the central part of which includes a portrayal of the Etaples Mutiny of 1917.

a) The BBC did not consult me on the contents of the final version of the script used to film the series.
b) Those associated with producing the script had been made aware by me of flaws in historical accuracy long before fiilming commenced.
c) When the BBC finally permitted me to see a copy of the post-production script (now published by Hutchinsons) it was riddled with errors of fact and interpretation that they had previously been made aware of by me.
d) Even allowing for problems arising from writing a script based on a bowlderised and sensational version of the mutiny and Toplis’ life, I can only conclude that the BBC were aware of the major historical inaccuracies in the script and chose to ignore my advice.

I do not feel that what has been screened so far does justice to the men of the BEF, Gloden Dallas and Douglas Gill’s pioneering work on the Etaples Mutiny or the memory of Jesse Short. The increasing wave of well merited complaints, in the press and on TV (“Points of View”) thast my attention has been drawn to I would normally accept. However, the BBC’s apparent decision to ignore my considered advice and their failure to consult me at the appropriate time about aspects of historical veracity, I have no alternative but to disclaim all responsibility for the factual errors and misinterpretations that occur in the series.

This decision has been made with due allowance for the enormous difficulties that beset the writing and production of the series and the inherent difficulty with having to use historically contentious source material.

I will cheerfully present a full bottle of fine revolutionary Nicaraguan Rum to the first person who can present unequivocal written proof from contemporary sources that shows Percy Toplis was either a mutineer or anywhere within a hundred mile radius of Etaples Camp in September 1917."

OK - so I issued a post-production discaimer while the series was being screened. However, I have no recollection or any correspondence about resigning or in any way failing fulfill the contractual obligations I entered into with the BBC’s production of “The Monocled Mutineer” TV series. If you are unable to substantiate your allegation, I invite you to reflect further on your inference that I may also be a fickle hypocrite:

“Now he takes issue with those who object to the ahistorical abomination that he himself had walked away from.”

Please note, in general, revisionist historians don’t quibble with the objections I’ve expressed about the “Monocled Mutineer” book or TV series but some contend that there was either: a) no mutiny b) there was a mutiny but it has been exaggerated or c) It was an aberration and signifies very little about British troops engaging in mutinous collective bargaining. Perhaps unsurprisingly, revisionist historians are rarely interested in engaging in original research about military dissent and from what I can dimly recall about gatherings at RMA Sandhurst, mutinous activity gets interred in a midden of euphemistic blather about ‘officer-man relations’.

I also suggest that you try to avoid dumb-ass reductionism because: a) the revisionist/anti-revisionist dichotomy is pretty well past its sell-by date, and 2) as I pointed out in an e-mail to George Simmers on New Year’s Eve, 2009:

"Thanks for congratulating me on my oratorical flummery but I’d welcome a more nuanced acknowledgement of my attitude to WW1 revisionism and revisionists than” Julian managed to get in some kicks at revisionist historians, too. He really doesn’t like them.” You are wrong. In personal terms, I’ve enjoyed an amicable enough relationship with many revisionists. I’ve downed drammies with John Terraine and enjoyed a pint with Gary Sheffield, even when the ‘Shot at Dawn’ campaign was being lambasted at RUSI. Revisionist academics ain’t too precious when referring their postgraduate students to me for research advice and assistance – and Cathryn Corns and John Hughes-Wilson made use of my research about mutinies (albeit selectively) in their book ‘Blindfold and Alone. ’I’ve lost count of the talks and lectures I’ve been invited to deliver by plenty of socially and politically conservative groups and institutions. Conversely, I doubt if I’ve addressed more than five or six gatherings of Lefties (Old or New) in the 40 or so years I’ve researched about the First World War. The latter may have been because in 1968 I was denounced by a Maoist as “A petty bourgeois individualist unsusceptible to political reform.” More plausibly, it’s probably because Lefties are uninspired and view with distaste the crude nationalism that informs much British military history writing. All of which I reckon is a pity because there’s a wealth of opportunity for historical engagement and research (revisionism?) by the Left, as well as the Right. As for my “kicks? They’re to do with -isms and not-ists. It ain’t personal. We do what historians are supposed to do – debate one another’s ideas, ideological constructs and varied interpretations of historical events. That’s all.

* A confused and confusing mental state arising from uncritically accepting imperialist, patriarchal fantasies that were systematically peddled by school teachers, priests and press barons."

Finally, the vexed issue of ethnic Identity also being referenced in your contribution, for the record my anti-authoritarian DNA is culled from Mevagissey, Cornwall; Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk; Ballincollig, County Cork; Zbuczyn, Gmina Siedlce. – and with reference to matters Irish and historical, digest what I have written about A2 operations, including the British spooks botched initiative to capture or kill Michael Collins in early 1920. [http://www.8bitmode.com/rogerdog/lobster/lobster29.pdf. etc] - as referenced by both the late Dr. Peter Hart and the still alive n' kicking Fr. Brian Murphy


Julian Putkowski

Full Name: Julian Putkowski
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