Sir Hew Strachan visits The Green Ribbon Club

The Green Ribbon Club (Sixth Form History) last week were treated to a visit from Sir Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of Military History at All Souls, Oxford. He wrote the Channel 4 series on the First World War and sits on the National Defence Advisory Committee, alongside admirals and generals. The Sixth Form were joined by Block 3 as Sir Hew first turned his attention to the younger members to suggest what they should look for on their upcoming visit to the trenches of World War One in Belgium and France. He gave a lucid outline of the importance of Ypres and the significance of The Somme. He covered a huge range of issues in the rest of his lecture and in questions, from the experience of soldiers (not always as miserable as war poets have suggested) to why the war went on so long and whether it was a ‘good’ war and how best to commemorate it. The Press has, over the last 6 months, been filled with speculation and argument as to how the Centenary of the War should be celebrated/commemorated, with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove keen “good war“ protagonists. Sir Hew was the clearest and most balanced of all voices. It is not surprising therefore that he has so far racked up 60 lectures since the commemorations began last year and we were most fortunate to be privileged with his visit for his 61 st.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

The Green Ribbon Club

On Thursday 25 September, The Green Ribbon Club (Sixth Form Historians) were privileged to hear Dr Anna Keay deliver a lecture on Monmouth, Charles the Second’s favourite but (probably) illegitimate son. It was fitting that she chose Monmouth for he was a key figure in The Green Ribbon Club in the Seventeenth Century. Although Monmouth has had bad press over the years, Dr Keay reassessed him in far more complimentary light and succeeded. Monmouth it transpires was a key figure in history who had major impact on history thereafter, not least, Dr Keay maintained, that there might not have been a Glorious Revolution had Monmouth not been born. He came across as a vivacious and attractive character who battled through difficult circumstances to emerge as a very accomplished soldier. His mother a murderess and no formal education until the age of 8 were significant handicaps. He was not the fool sometimes presented in history. His final gruesome end (another issue clarified here by Dr Keay…it took five strokes to behead him!) came following The Battle of Sedgemoor, the last battle on English soil. Dr Keay kept us thoroughly absorbed and entertained and her case for Monmouth was convincing. We look forward to the publication of her book on Monmouth. As well as historian, Anna Keay is an Old Bedalian and Bedales governor.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History and Teacher of Government & Politics


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

True story of tracking down Auschwitz Commandant

Recently, The Green Ribbon Club was treated to a superb example of the skill of storytelling. Thomas Harding had an astonishing story to tell us, that of his great uncle, Hanns Alexander, who had tracked down the Nazi Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoess, at the end of the war. This was the subject of Thomas Harding’s book Hanns and Rudolf, published last year and already a bestseller. Thomas Harding led us through the lives of Hanns, an engaging, good-looking and fun-filled character and Rudolf, the epitome of Hannah Ahrendt’s phrase, ‘the banality of evil,’ eliciting key moments from the lives of each. Hanns was a mischievous twin and refugee from a distinguished family from Berlin (Hanns’ father had been Einstein’s doctor) and Rudolf a lover of the German countryside where he had been brought up and where he might have stayed but for chance meetings which took him to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (where, extraordinarily, his path crossed with the Hanns’ future father-in-law) and on, through twists and turns of fate, to become the overseer of the development of Auschwitz, where he lived with his family (in a house adjoining the walls of the now infamous institution). At the end of the war, Hanns tracked down the fugitive Rudolf in a thrilling tale, leading to a farmhouse on the Danish border and the discovery of Rudolf, living under a pseudonym, initially denying that he was Rudolf of Auschwitz. He was identified eventually by the initials on the inside of his wedding ring. The story remained compelling through to Rudolf’s full confession (a key point for The Nuremberg War Trials since others had claimed to know nothing) and justice through his being hanged within the walls of Aushchwitz. Hanns was happily married after the war. Thomas Harding had also been able to track down and interview Rudolf Hoess’ surviving daughter, Brigitte, and his account of that interview was fascinating. It was a wonderful, compelling and educative evening. The questions (all of them excellent) flowed and would have continued well into the night had they not been halted. May I thank Thomas Harding most sincerely on behalf of Bedales History.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History

*************************************************************************************************

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Dr Matthew Yeo on ‘Power, Print and Politics’

Dr Matthew Yeo addressed The Green Ribbon Club (sixth form history society) last week on the subject of ‘Power, Print and Politics’. This was a tailored version of his doctorate on The History of The Book. It was stimulating, controversial and fascinating talk which challenged all those present and led to lively questions and debate afterwards. Matthew contended that the appearance, the weight, the smell, the size (the Polyglot Bible over a metre high) and the way a book was read or received was as important as the text. The printed text, he claimed, was only a tiny part of the overall story. Books are a commodity. A book is affected by so many factors: gender (boys read less), price, censorship, and from whom or where we get it. Of equal importance to the printed text are the marginal additions (he showed us books where more was written in the margin than the text). He explored what a book does: it could be an engine of radical thought (Prynne’s pamphlets) or a source of authority (King James Bible). I t could give rise to regicide or further mass political power. This was a subject of endless fascination. His own book, The Acquisition of Books by Chethams Library, 1655 – 1700 (Library of the Written Word) may be priced beyond most pockets at £85 but the review on Amazon suggests it is rather special (“forget everything you thought you knew about History books. This has it all – romance, action, espionage and insightful analysis of the book trade. At one point I couldn’t contain my excitement and just started screaming incoherently. The other passengers on the train were not impressed!”). We are very much hoping that Matthew will return soon.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History

*************************************************************************************************

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

OB Holly Roberts and the Spartan Mirage

Holly Roberts left Bedales four years ago and went to Oxford University to study History. She is about to finish at Oxford.  She spoke to The Green Ribbon Club (sixth form history) on the subject of the Spartan Mirage, a fascinating examination of the myths surrounding the history of Sparta. She made us aware of the problems of studying Sparta since they wrote nothing down, leaving historians reliant on much later written versions such as Herodotus and Xenophon. She illustrated the talk wonderfully including a film version of Spartan warfare and gave us fabulous stories (the little boy who stole a fox cub but too terrified to admit to it under interrogation, he held it under his tunic where it ate away his stomach and he died) as well as exposing the extraordinary ménage a trios of Spartan Warriors which involved the warrior, his older male lover and the warrior’s wife. Holly drew comparisons between the New Model Army (which AS students study) and The Spartan Army. We listened intently and her address was very well-received.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History

*************************************************************************************************

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

A talk of rare quality by General Sir Nick Parker

On Tuesday evening, The Green Ribbon Club was treated to a talk of rare quality by General Sir Nick Parker, Commander UK Land Forces on the topic of Leadership. There can be no-one better qualified since he has been in overall command of International Forces in Afghanistan for the period between General McChrystal and Petraeus in 2010 (where he drew compliments from David Cameron who said that ‘Britain did not miss a beat’ under Nick’s command). He was also in charge of security for The London Olympics. He spoke most effectively of the complex relationship between a soldier and his officer. He spoke of the different styles of leadership needed in the Army, eliciting the qualities of courage ( he had been mentioned in dispatches in Northern Ireland), intelligence, establishing credibility and a quality which surprised members of the audience: sensitivity ( to the culture and traditions in the areas within which the Army found itself operating). He answered complex and difficult questions with an impressive knowledge of geo-political factors. This was a very good talk indeed and widely praised as outstanding by the students. By the end of the talk what was so evident is how considerable were the qualities of Nick himself as a natural leader of men. He had a commanding presence and we all listened intently. It was an absorbing, educational and inspirational address.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History

*************************************************************************************************

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Gerald Parsons questions ‘What is History?’

Gerald Parsons addressed The Green Ribbon Club last week on the subject “What is History?” He opened with an account of a meeting in 1647, chaired by Colonel Rainsborough. Seated around Rainsborough, those present each wore a Green Ribbon. Deftly, Gerald drew us in with this reference to the name of the society. He then discussed three Historians, A J P Taylor, E H Carr and Lord Macaulay and drew attention to their ability to communicate and connect, emphasising the value of narrative History (against skills based History so favoured by exam boards). He cleverly brought in references to all the people studied by students at Bedales: Charles 1st, Napoleon, Ferdinand and Isabella and Lenin to mention a few. He went on to explore how he viewed History as an integral part of his life and recommended several ways in which students might do the same. He suggested keeping a diary or log book as he had done all his life. He suggested making connections across History to the present, perhaps imagining a dinner party and placing guests together to discuss how they might get on…Lenin and Churchill? Charles the 1st and…? He then suggested making connections with what was around one: whenever it snows, he pictures the Battle of Towton, the bloodiest fought on English soil and fought in a snowstorm. Even passing a lamp post gives him cause to reflect. He asked whether students might find it difficult to find their way around London two hundred years ago when there were no street names. In this and many other ways, Gerald taught students that History does not end at the classroom door. This was a thought-provoking, stimulating and scholarly presentation and gave significant weight to the idea of the importance of History.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History

*************************************************************************************************

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.