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The Delusions of Neville Chamberlain and Theresa May

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about the British foreign policy crisis of 1938. This has included reading the Cabinet minutes, the letters and diaries of government ministers and senior civil servants and the memoirs of the leading figures in this political drama. What strikes me is the similarities between the situation faced by Neville Chamberlain in 1938 and Theresa May today. I am not suggesting that May is attempting to appease the EU, in fact, the opposite is the case. My point concerns the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Chamberlain's ministers considered him delusional. I would not be surprised if May's ministers felt the same way about Theresa May. In 1938 it was very difficult at the time to know how Chamberlain had little support for his policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler in his Cabinet. However, like May, Chamberlain avoided taking votes in Cabinet, and threatened he would call a General Election if they resigned and voted against him in Parliament.

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John Simkin

In September, 1997, Spartacus Educational founder and managing director John Simkin became the first educational publisher in Britain to establish a website that was willing to provide teachers and students with free educational materials.

According to a survey carried out by the Fischer Trust, Spartacus Educational is one of the top three websites used by history teachers and students in Britain (the other two are BBC History and the Public Record Office’s Learning Curve). The Spartacus Educational website currently gets up to 7 million page impressions a month and 3 million unique visitors.

As well as running the Spartacus Educational website John Simkin has also produced material for the Electronic Telegraph, the European Virtual School and the Guardian's educational website, Learn. He was also a member of the European History E-Learning Project (E-Help), a project to encourage and improve use of ICT and the internet in classrooms across the continent.

We have published six e-books, Charles Dickens: A Biography (October, 2012), First World War Encyclopedia (October, 2012), Assassination of John F. Kennedy Encyclopedia (November, 2012), Gandhi: A Biography (December, 2012), The Spanish Civil War (December, 2012) and The American Civil War (December, 2012). He also contributed an article to the recently published book, Using New Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Learning in History (December, 2012).

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Alfred Adler
Alfred Adler

In 1910 Alfred Adler published The Psychological Hermaphroditism in Life and in the Neurosis where he explained the inferiority complex in great detail.

"The feeling of inferiority whips up... the instinctual life, excessively intensifies wishes, gives rise to over sensitivity, and produces a craving for satisfaction that will not tolerate compromise... In this hypertrophied craving, in this addiction to success, in this wildly behaving masculine protest lie the seeds of failure - though also the predestination for genial and artistic achievements."

Sigmund Freud wrote to Carl Jung about how he was worried about the development of Adler's theories. "It is getting really bad with Adler. You see a resemblance to Bleuler; in me he awakens the memory of Fliess; but an octave lower... The crux of the matter - and that is what really alarms me - is that he minimizes the sexual drive and our opponents will soon be able to speak of an experienced psychoanalyst whose conclusions are radically different from ours. Naturally in my attitude toward him I am torn between my conviction that all this is lopsided and harmful and my fear of being regarded as an intolerant old man who holds the young men down, and this makes me feel most uncomfortable."

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Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud had very few patients during the first few years of his married life. His first patient was suffering from depression and Freud prescribed electrical treatment. He also gave lectures to young doctors on a wide variety of topics, including clinical neurology and medical uses of electricity. Freud took a close interest in Charcot's "latest investigations upon hysteria... He had proved, for instance, the genuineness of hysterical phenomena and their conformity to laws... the frequent occurrence of hysteria in men, the production of hysterical paralyses and constructures by hypnotic suggestion."

In the autumn of 1892 Ilona Weiss became one of Freud's patients. To protect her identity, Freud always referred to her as "Elisabeth von R". The twenty-four year old daughter of a wealthy Hungarian family was suffering from pains in the legs and had difficulty in walking. Her doctor had examined her and could not find anything physically wrong with her legs and decided she was suffering from hysteria and she was sent to Freud. He decided to use a different method to treat her. Freud asked Elisabeth to lie down on his couch and close her eyes. Applying pressure to her forehead, he asked her to report faithfully whatever came into her mind.

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Book of the Week

Brothers: The Hidden History

Brothers: The Hidden History