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Making History
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Listen to the latest edition of Making HistoryTuesday 3.00-3.30 p.m
Vanessa Collingridge and the team answer listener’s historical queries and celebrate the way in which we all ‘make’ history.
Programme 5
28 October 2008
Vanessa Collingridge and the team explore themes from Britain’s past thanks to queries raised by listener’s own historical research.

Listen to this programme in full

Remnants of an Army

A listener thinks that the subject of a famous nineteenth century painting is his ancestor, but what’s the painting and what is the story it depicts?

The painting is Remnants of an Army the work of Lady Elizabeth Butler in 1879. It shows an exhausted military surgeon who has just ridden 90 miles through the rough terrain of Afghanistan from the Kabul the Jalalabad – the only British survivor of a terrible defeat for the Empire’s army. The surgeon was William Brydon and his was the only first-hand account of a battle in January 1842 at the end of the First Afghan War. Making History consulted the military historian Professor Jeremy Black at Exeter University.

In the 19th century, Britain, with a goal of protecting its Indian colonial holdings from Russia, tried to establish authority in neighbouring Afghanistan by attempting to replace Emir Dost Mohammad with a former emir known to be sympathetic to the British. This interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs triggered the outbreak of the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1839.

Dost Mohammad surrendered to British forces in 1840 after the Anglo-Indian army had captured Kabul. However, after an Afghan revolt the British had no choice but to withdraw. The withdrawal began on January 6, 1842, but bad weather delayed the army's progress. The column was attacked by swarms of Afghans led by Mohammad's son, and those who were not killed outright in the attack were later massacred by the Afghan soldiers. A total of 4,500 soldiers and 12,000 camp followers were killed. Only one British soldier, Dr. William Brydon, escaped to recount the details of the military disaster.

In retaliation, another British force invaded Kabul in 1843, burning a portion of the city. In the same year, the war came to an end, and in 1857 Emir Dost Mohammad, who had been restored to power in 1843, signed an alliance with the British. In 1878, the Second Anglo-Afghan War began, which ended two years later with Britain winning control of Afghanistan's foreign affairs.

Useful Links

Remnants of an Armyis held by The Tate gallery in London, but visitors should check to see whether it is on display.

The Afghan Wars exhibition at the National Army Museum
Cornish Coats of Arms

A listener in the Cornish village of Blisland wonders why there is a James I Coat of Arms in his parish church and why there are so many for Charles I and Charles II in the county.

Making History asked civil war historian Professor Mark Stoyle from the University of Southampton to become a reporter for the day.

blisland coat of arms
James 1st Coat of Arms, Blisland. Cornwall

Professor Stoyle explained that Coats of Arms were common throughout England because the monarchy instructed communities to display them. However, Parliament’s victory over the Royalists in the Civil War (1642 – 1651) ensured that many were destroyed. It seems then that someone in Blisland had the James I Coat of Arms in safe keeping.

This loyalty to the crown was common throughout Cornwall, which explains why so many Coats of Arms of both Charles I and Charles II survive. But there is another more remarkable church furnishing in Cornwall, a copy of a letter from Charles I to the people of the Duchy thanking them for their support and written in September 1642 at Sudeley castle. This was displayed in many Cornish churches and then destroyed after Cromwell’s victory. At the Restoration, copies were made and displayed again. Mark Stoyle described one at Cardinham church near Bodmin.

So, why this loyalty? Professor Stoyle believes that there are three reasons: religious conservatism which opposed the Puritanism of Cromwell and his followers; dependency on tin mining which was managed by the Crown; and geographical isolation which fostered a loyalty to Britain rather than London.
Mildenhall Treasure

A listener is intrigued by a bowl which is part of the Mildenhall Treasure held by the British Museum. Vanessa met the Curator of Roman Britain, Richard Hobbs to find out more about the find and to discuss its provenance.

Useful links

The Great Dish from the Mildenhall treasureat the Bitish Museum

Mildenhall Museum
King Zog in Buckinghamshire

Listener Neil Rees is researching a period during the Second World War when King Zog of Albania lived in exile in Buckinghamshire. Several stories surround Zog’s stay in Britain and Neil is keen to hear from anyone who might recall seeing Zog.

Contact Making History and we will pass on the information.


Albania achieved a degree of statehood after World War I, in part because of the diplomatic help of the United States. The country suffered from a lack of economic and social development, however, and its first years of independence were fraught with political instability. Unable to survive without a foreign protector, Albania became the object of tensions between Italy and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (the later Yugoslavia), which both sought to dominate the country.

With Yugoslav military assistance, Ahmed Bey Zogu, the son of a clan Chieftain, emerged victorious from an internal political power struggle in late 1924. Zogu, however, quickly turned his back on Belgrade and looked instead to Benito Mussolini's Italy for patronage.

Under him Albania joined the Italian coalition against Yugoslavia, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria in 1924 - 27.  After the United Kingdom's and France's political intervention with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, in 1927, the alliance crumbled. In 1928 the country's parliament declared Albania a kingdom and Zogu King.

King Zog remained a conservative, but initiated reforms, for example, in an attempt at social modernisation the custom of adding one's region to one's name was dropped. Zog also made donations of land to international organisations for the building of schools and hospitals. Mussolini's forces overthrew King Zog when Italy invaded Albania in 1939.

The royal family settled in England, first at The Ritz in London, then moving for a very short period in 1941 to Ascot in Berkshire, (near his nieces who were at school in Ascot), and then in 1941 to Parmoor House, Parmoor, near Frieth, in Buckinghamshire with some staff of the court living in locations around Lane End. He was an occasional guest at Claridge's on Brook Street in Mayfair. It is said that he once talked of using part of his huge fortune to buy The Times, telling Auberon Herbert: "I won't give a penny more than ten million for it". Records of his conversations with friends and family indicate that he wished to set up a feudal kingdom outside Albania if he was not restored to the throne. It is said that Hitler had given him a scarlet Merc and that he drove it around for a time until events on the continent made it too embarrassing. Zog died in the 1960’s.
    Contact  Making History
    Use this link to email Vanessa Collingridge and the team: email Making History

    Write to: Making History
    BBC Radio 4
    PO Box 3096
    BN1 1TU

    Telephone: 08700 100 400

    Making History is produced by Nick Patrick and is a Pier Production.
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    Making History

    Vanessa Collingridge
    Vanessa CollingridgeVanessa has presented science and current affairs programmes for BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Discovery and has presented for BBC Radio 4 & Five Live and a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday, Scotsman and Sunday Herald. 

    Contact Making History

    Send your comments and questions for future programmes to:
    Making History
    BBC Radio 4
    PO Box 3096 Brighton
    BN1 1PL

    Or email the programme

    Or telephone the Audience Line 08700 100 400

    Making History is a Pier Production for BBC Radio 4 and is produced by Nick Patrick.

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