Friday, November 15, 2019

RUSSIA AT WAR


A paradoxical aspect of Russia at that time [1944] was that the gigantic human losses it had suffered and the immense devastation wrought by the retreating German armies, as well as great hardships and shortages in both town and country, were combined with a nation-wide feeling of pride and an immense sense of achievement. 

The Soviet Union was faced with the vast problem of economic reconstruction and the at least equally serious population problem. 

Today it is estimated that, by the end of the war, the Soviet Union had lost, in one way or another, about twenty million people, among them at least seven million soldiers. Although no exact figures are available, it would seem that these seven million include some three million soldiers who died in German captivity. 

Further, several million civilians died under the German occupation, including about two million Jews who were massacred, besides the victims of the German anti-partisan punitive expeditions; about a million people died in Leningrad alone, while the sharp lowering of living and food conditions throughout Russia, the shortage of medical supplies, etc., must account for a few million more deaths. 

Several hundred thousand also died in the various evacuations in 1941 and 1942, in the strafing of refugees and the bombings of cities. Thus in Stalingrad alone some 60,000 civilians were killed.

Alexander Werth, Russia at War, 1941–1945: A History. Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

NONFICTION RULES


E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
The Knowledge Deficit
New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006, pp. 78-79

The association of language arts mainly with fiction and poetry is an accident of recent intellectual history that is not inherent in the nature of things.

The substantive topics in literature, history, the arts, and the sciences that literate Americans take for granted are deeply interesting and highly engaging to children.

 
    For many years the great reading researcher Jeanne Chall complained that the selections offered in language arts classes did not provide students with the knowledge and language experiences they need for general competence in reading. She observed that far too much time was being spent on trivial, ephemeral fictions and far too little on diverse nonfictional genres. In the two decades since Chall entered this complaint, little has changed. Most current programs still assume that language arts is predominantly about “literature,” which is conceived as poems and fictional stories, often trivial ones meant to be inoffensive vehicles for teaching formal skills. Stories are indeed the best vehicles for teaching young children—an idea that was ancient when Plato asserted it in the Republic. But stories are not necessarily the same things as ephemeral fictions. Many an excellent story is told about real people and events, and even stories that are fictional take much of their worth from the nonfiction truths about the world that they convey.

    The association of language arts mainly with fiction and poetry is an accident of recent intellectual history that is not inherent in the nature of things. Older American texts that were designed to teach reading, such as the McGuffey Readers, contained moral tales and historical narratives as well as fictional stories (not that we should go back to the McGuffey Readers, which have many shortcomings). Ideally, a good language arts program in the early grades will contain not only fiction and poetry but also narratives about the real worlds of nature and history. Ideally, such a program will fit in with and reinforce a well-planned overall curriculum in history, science, and the arts. The recent finding that word learning occurs much faster in a familiar context implies that the overall program should stay on a subject-matter domain long enough to make it familiar. As we’ve seen, such integration of content in reading and subject-matter classes will serve simultaneously to enrich background knowledge and enlarge vocabulary in an optimal way.

    That fictional stories can covey factual and moral truths is the traditional ground for defending their value and importance in education. The truth-telling and knowledge-enhancing aspect of fiction is emphatically just as important as the aspect of fiction and poetry that stimulates children’s imaginations. The romantic idea that literature should mainly nurture the imagination fits in well with the generally romantic flavor of early childhood education in the United States today. I do not wish to appear in any way hostile to developing children’s imaginations. But the second- and third-rate fictions that are too often presented to children in the early grades are far less stimulating to their imaginations than classical stories and well-presented narratives about the real world.

    We need to reconceive language arts as a school subject. In trying to make all students proficient readers and writers, there is no avoiding the responsibility of imparting the specific knowledge they will need to understand newspapers, magazines and serious books directed at the national language community. There is no successful shortcut to teaching and leaning this specific knowledge. Those who develop  language arts programs at the school level or in publishing houses must understand that the skills they wish to impart are in fact knowledge-drenched and knowledge-constituted. The happy consequence will be reading programs that are much more absorbing, enjoyable, and interesting than the disjointed, pedestrian programs offered to students today.


Monday, November 4, 2019

PHONICS AND KNOWLEDGE

The Epoch Times
 
‘Balanced Literacy’ is a Poor Way to Teach Reading


Michael Zwaagstra


Updated: November 3, 2019
   
The reading wars are over, or at least they should be. Unfortunately, they are not.


In the late 1960s, Dr. Jeanne Chall, former director of the Harvard Reading Laboratory at Harvard University, compared the phonics and whole language approaches to reading instruction. She found the evidence overwhelmingly showed that phonics was superior to whole language. Subsequent researchers came to the same conclusion.


While this should have settled the matter, whole language advocates refused to admit defeat. That’s because whole language’s emphasis on students choosing books of interest to them naturally fits with the child-centred philosophy which has been espoused by progressive educators for more than 100 years. In contrast, phonics, with its emphasis on the systematic teaching of letter-sound correspondences, is widely associated with a more traditional approach.


However, despite the strong ideological commitment to whole language by many educators, it became increasingly difficult to hold on to this program. Whole language’s many failings were widely reported in the media and it soon fell out of favour with the general public.


Nevertheless, as happens with many failed education fads, advocates of the whole language approach managed to rebrand it as something different.


Enter balanced literacy.


Balanced literacy purports to combine the best of both phonics and whole language where students read books of interest to them and receive phonics instruction from teachers on an as-needed basis. Lucy Calkins, the founding director of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University in New York, is probably balanced literacy’s best-known proponent.


Since Calkins is also a whole language supporter, it should come as no surprise that balanced literacy instruction looks a lot more like whole language than like phonics.


In order for phonics to be effective, letter-sound correspondences must be taught in a systematic way. By relegating phonics to brief mini-lessons occurring only when students encounter problems with understanding specific words, balanced literacy deprives students of the focused phonics instruction they actually need. It’s like a buffet chef loading up customers’ plates with as much dessert as possible while providing only tiny portions of nutritious food.


Balanced literacy has two unique features that distinguish it from both whole language and phonics—levelled books and reading comprehension instruction. Unfortunately, both of these make balanced literacy worse than its predecessors.

 
Levelled books, which are common in balanced literacy classrooms, use sentence length and word complexity to assign a letter, from A-to-Z, on books to indicate their relative reading difficulty. Students are then expected to read books from the level they are reading at regardless of the book’s content.

 
However, reading levels fail to account for the important connection between specific content knowledge and reading comprehension. Research shows that students who know a lot about a particular topic can read almost any book about it no matter its assigned reading level. Conversely, students who know little about a topic will struggle with books that are below their reading levels.

Perhaps the worst feature of balanced literacy is the way it reduces reading comprehension to a set of non-content specific strategies. As a result, students spend hours engaging in pointless and mind-numbingly boring activities such as “identifying the main idea,” “making inferences,” and “recognizing story structure.” The thinking behind this approach is that students will be able to use these strategies with any text, regardless of the topic.


However, the best predictor of reading comprehension is prior background knowledge about a topic—not the use of reading comprehension strategies. Someone who knows a lot about mid-19th century Canada, for example, is far more likely to comprehend an article about George Brown’s call for “rep by pop” for Canada West than someone who knows nothing about the topic. Filling out reading comprehension worksheets on completely unrelated articles, especially if the students are not interested in it, isn’t going to make much of a difference in understanding an article about Canadian history.


In order to read and understand an article, students must be able to do two things. First, they need to know how to decode the individual words in the article, and second they need to comprehend, or make sense of, what they are reading. This is why thoughtful reading instruction is so important. 


Decoding is best taught through systematic phonics while comprehension is primarily determined by the accumulation of background knowledge.
 
Unfortunately, balanced literacy gets both these things wrong. It relies primarily on the discredited whole language approach for decoding words and it turns reading comprehension into a series of non-content specific strategies. As a result, students are left floundering.


In contrast, effective reading programs combine the direct and systematic teaching of phonics with a curriculum that is content-rich. In this type of instruction, students actually learn how to pronounce unfamiliar words and they can understand what they are reading. The material is both interesting and challenging.


Canadian schools should replace their balanced literacy programs with reading instruction that actually places an appropriate balance between phonics and knowledge acquisition. This would be the best way to bring an end to the reading wars.


Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher and author of the newly released book, “A Sage on the Stage: Common Sense Reflections on Teaching and Learning.”


Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

DESERT POLICY

               That autumn I saw something of the German “desert” policy in a few of the villages recaptured by the Red Army. Thus, in the village of Pogoreloye Gorodishche, a large part of the population had died of hunger; many had been shot; others had been deported as slave labour, and the village had been almost completely destroyed. Now, in March 1943, fearing to be outflanked by the Russians from the south (and, eventually, of being trapped in that great “twixt-Moscow-and-Smolensk” encirclement which the Russians had failed to carry through in February 1942) the Germans simply pulled out of the “Moscow springboard,” though with some heavy rearguard actions, notably at Viazma, and destroying as much as time would permit them. The official Soviet report, published on April 7, 1943, on the effects of the “desert policy” the Germans had systematically carried out in the newly-liberated areas west of Moscow was a harrowing catalogue of mass shootings, murders and hangings, rape, the killing or starving to death of Russian war prisoners, and the deportation of thousands as slave labour to Germany. 

                 Kharkov was almost mild in comparison. The report noted that most of the shootings of civilians had been done by the German army, not by the Gestapo or the SD. The towns were almost totally obliterated—as I could indeed see for myself soon afterwards. At Viazma, out of 5,500 buildings, only fifty-one small houses had survived; at Gzhatsk, 300 out of 1,600; in the ancient city of Rzhev, 495 out of 5,443. All the famous churches had been destroyed. The population was being deliberately starved. 15,000 people had been deported from these three towns alone. The rural areas were not much better off: in the Sychevka area, 137 villages out of 248 had been burned down by the Germans.

                 The list of war criminals appended to the Report was headed by Col.-Gen. Model, commander of the German 9th Army and other army leaders who had “personally ordered all this.” The report noted that the destruction was “not accidental, but part of a deliberate extermination policy,” which was being carried out even more thoroughly in these purely-Russian areas than elsewhere. It is scarcely surprising that, as the Red Army moved farther and farther west, it became increasingly angry at the sight of all this bestiality and destruction.

Alexander Werth, Russia at War, 1941–1945: A History
Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

CONTENTLESS WRITING

George Mason University
History News Network
11-13-2006

Contentless Writing
By Will Fitzhugh

Mr. Fitzhugh is Editor and Publisher of The Concord Review [fitzhugh@tcr.org] and Founder of the TCR Institute and the National Writing Board [www.tcr.org].


Abraham Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg was short. Indeed, the President had spoken and taken his seat before many in that large crowd gathered outdoors even realized that he had spoken. Fortunately, an alert reporter took down his words. Short as the speech was, it began with a date and a fact—the sort of factual content that is being drained away from student writing today.

The very idea of writing without content takes some getting used to. I was taken aback not long ago to read the comments of a young woman who had been asked how she felt about having a computer grade the essays that she wrote on the Graduate Management Admission Test (Mathews, 2004). She replied that she didn’t mind, noting that the test givers were more interested in her “ability to communicate” than in what she actually said.

Although style, fluency, tone, and correct grammar are certainly important in writing, folks like me think that content has value as well. The guidelines for scoring the writing section on the SAT seem to say otherwise, however. Readers evaluating the essays are told not to take points off for factual mistakes, and they must score the essays “holistically”—at the rate of 30 an hour (Winerip, 2005).

Earlier this year, Linda Shaw of the Seattle Times (2006), reported that the the rules for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) do not allow dictionaries, but “when it comes to the writing section, there’s one rule they can break: They can make things up. Statistics. Experts. Quotes. Whatever helps them make their point.” According to Shaw, the state’s education office announced that “making up facts is acceptable when writing nonfiction, persuasive essays on the WASL.”

Lest you conclude that writing without content, or writing nonfiction with fictional content—think James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces—is limited to the Left Coast, think again. Across the
United States, even the most prestigious writing workshops for teachers generally bypass the what to focus on the how.

All writing has to have some content, of course. So what are students encouraged to put down on the page? In its 2003 report, The Neglected ‘R’, The National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges, gave us a clue. According to the report, the following passage by a high school student about the September 11 terrorist attacks shows “how powerfully children can express their emotions.”
 

The time has come to fight back and we are. By supporting our leaders and each other, we are stronger than ever. We will never forget those who died, nor will we forgive those who took them from us.

Or look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) the supposed gold standard for evaluating academic achievement in U.S. schools, as measured and reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. In its 2002 writing assessment, in which 77 percent of 12th graders scored “Basic” or “Below Basic,” NAEP scored the following student response “Excellent.” The prompt called for a brief review of a book worth preserving. In a discussion of Herman Hesse’s Demian, in which the main character grows up and awakens to himself, the student wrote,
 

High school is a wonderful time of self-discovery, where teens bond with several groups of friends, try different foods, fashions, classes and experiences, both good and bad. The end result in May of senior year is a mature and confident adult, ready to enter the next stage of life. (p. 22)

As these two excerpts show, both the National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges and the NAEP seem to favor emotional and personal writing, at least at the high school level. If personal memoir and “fictional nonfiction” were the sorts of writing that college courses required—not to mention in business, government and other lines of work—then perhaps it wouldn’t matter. After all, top executives at ENRON wrote quite a bit of fiction before their arrests, not to mention some well-known journalists who substituted fiction for fact in their reporting.

The problem is that students must know facts, dates, and the viewpoints of various experts and authors to write their college term papers. The Boston Globe has reported some frightening statistics about students’ knowledge gaps. Sixty-three percent of students graduating from Massachusetts high schools and attending community colleges are in remedial courses, as are 34 percent of those attending four-year colleges. (Sacchetti, 2004)

A survey of leading U.S. companies revealed that organizations are spending more than $3 billion each year in remedial writing courses for both hourly and salaried employees (National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges, 2004).

Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay

As it happens, some teachers and students in U.S. high schools know that writing serious, factual history research papers is good and necessary preparation for future writing tasks, and that it’s a superb way to learn history and practice scholarship. One student, whose history essay appeared in The Concord Review (see “Raising the Bar for Expository Writing,” p. 46) was so interested in the trial and excommunication of Anne Hutchinson in the early 1600s that she spent several months during her Junior year doing independent study at a public high school in Massachusetts. Her 13,000-word research paper won The Concord Review’s Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize [she graduated summa from Yale, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and has a Ph.D. from MIT].

The student found Anne Hutchinson’s independence inspiring. In the following extract from her paper, the student discusses the accusations made against Hutchinson during the trial in which this courageous woman was excommunicated for questioning in private the authority of the ministers as the sole source of God’s wisdom:

    ...This bitter speech, made by a man who had seen his entire career threatened by the woman now standing before him, opened a trial marked by extraordinary vindictiveness on the part of the men presiding. Why? Because their regulatory power had been, up to this point, thwarted. Hutchinson had done nothing in public, nothing that could be clearly seen and defined, nothing that could be clearly punished. The principal accusation leveled against her was failure to show proper respect to the ministers, but again, she had made no public speeches or declarations, and the court would soon find that producing evidence of her insolence was very difficult.

    The assembly did not immediately strike to the heart of the matter: Hutchinson’s disparagement of the ministers of the colony as under a covenant of works. Instead, the presiding ministers first accused her of disobeying the commandment to obey one’s father and one’s mother by not submitting to the ‘fathers of the commonwealth,’ as [Governor] Winthrop termed it. Next, Hutchinson’s meetings were condemned, despite her citation of a rule in Titus exhorting the elder women to teach the younger.


This is factual writing about a historical event—a trial—in which the facts of the case were of the greatest importance. Fiction was not the focus here. The author’s emotions, and her “experiences in high school,” were distinctly of secondary—if any—importance in her account of these events in American religious and legal history.
Some readers may mistakenly assume that writing with content is common in schools. In 2002, the Roper Organization conducted a study for The Concord Review and found that in U.S. public high schools, 81% of teachers never assign a 5,000-word research paper—that’s 8,000 words shorter than the previously cited award-winning essay—and 62% never assign a 3,000-word nonfiction paper. (The Concord Review 2002). Although 95% of teachers surveyed believed that research papers were “important” or “very important,” most reported that they did not have time to assign and grade them.

When Support Trumps Rigor

In her report for the Fordham Foundation on state social studies standards in the United States, researcher Sandra Stotsky (1999), cited a newspaper article about a Hispanic high school student named Carol who was unprepared for college work. Described as a top student, the girl was stunned by the level of writing that her Boston college demanded of her. Although the student said that she had received encouragement and support from her high school teachers, she wished that her teachers had given her more challenging work. According to the reporter, the student discovered that “moral support is different from academic rigor.” Stotsky noted that teachers often substitute self-esteem-building assignments for rigorous work. The same newspaper article described a high school teacher,

    who had had her students “write a short story about their lives” because, in the teacher’s words, it allowed them to show “a high level of writing ability” and to realize that “their own experience is valid and useful.” This teacher is also quoted as believing that this assignment reflected her “high expectations” for her students. It apparently did not occur to the reporter that this kind of writing assignment today, especially for high school students from minority groups, is more likely to reflect a concern for their self-esteem rather than a desire to challenge them intellectually. A regular flow of such writing assignments may be part of the reason that Hispanic students like Carol are not prepared for college-level writing. (pp. 269-270)

Students like Carol who belatedly discover their lack of preparedness for college work are far more numerous than one might think. Through a survey of recent high school graduates (Achieve, Inc., 2005), the National Governors Association learned that a large majority of students surveyed wished that their teachers had given them more challenging work. Moreover, the High School Survey of Student Engagement (Indiana University, 2004) found that 55% of the 80,000 students surveyed said they did fewer than three hours of homework each week, and most received As and Bs anyway.

Anything But Knowledge

Writing about oneself can be the work of genius, as Marcel Proust demonstrated so well in his masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time. But limiting students to thinking and writing almost entirely about themselves in school is, well, limiting. The Boston Globe, which annually celebrates essays on Courage, asks students to submit short essays—not about someone else’s courage, but about their own. Of course, famous people like Anne Hutchinson, Winston Churchill, or Martin Luther King, Jr., don’t have a monopoly on courage. But it would be refreshing for students to look outside themselves from time to time to reflect on such qualities in others. Unfortunately, solipsism seems to have become the order of the day; the lack of a sustained focus on objectivity and rigor in writing is showing up in poor literacy rates, greater numbers of remedial classes in college, and higher college dropout rates.

In 2005, comedian Stephen Colbert introduced the idea of
truthiness into the English language. The term characterizes speech or writing that appears to be accurate and serious, but is, in fact, false or comical. In college, I learned that one of the tasks of thought is to help us distinguish appearance from reality. The goal of "truthiness" is to blur that distinction. On satirical news programs, like The Daily Show, this dubious practice brings the relief of laughter, but on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning—in which students are told that it’s OK to make things up—it just brings confusion, even to the task of writing “nonfiction.”

Postmodernists and deconstructionists at the university level have long been claiming that there is no such thing as truth, but here we have high school students being told, on a state assessment, that when writing nonfiction, it is OK to invent an expert, and then “quote” him in support of an argument they are making.

The danger is that practices like these can lead high school students to believe that they don’t need to seek information about anything outside of their own feelings and experiences. However, college students are still expected to read nonfiction books, which obviously deal with topics other than their personal lives. Students also have to write research papers in which they must organize their thinking and present material coherently. Too many students are not prepared to do this, and many end up dropping out of college. What a terrible waste of time, hopes and opportunity!


Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA
978-443-0022
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®


References

Achieve (2005). Rising to the challenge: Are high school graduates prepared for college and work? PowerPoint presentation prepared by the Peter D. Hart Research Associates and Public Opinion Strategies. Available: www.achieve.org/files/poll.ppt http://www.achieve.org/files/poll.ppt

The Concord Review, (2002). History research paper study (conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis). Available: www.tcr.org/tcr/institute/historytcr.pdf http://www.tcr.org/tcr/institute/historytcr.pdf

Indiana University. (2004) High School Survey of Student Engagement. Bloomington, IN: [Martha McCarthy]

Mathews, J. (2004, August 1). Computers weighing in on the elements of essay; Programs critique structure not ideas. The Washington Post

National Center for Education Statistics. (2002). The Nation’s Report Card: Writing Highlights 2002. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main/2002/2003531.asp

National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges. (2003). The neglected ‘R’; The need for a writing revolution. New York: College Board. www.writingcommission.org http://www.writingcommission.org

National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges. (2004). Writing: A ticket to work...or a ticket out: A survey of business leaders. www.writingcommission.org http://www.writingcommission.org

Sacchetti, M. (2005, June 26) Colleges question MCAS success; many in state schools still need remedial help. The Boston Globe.

Shaw, L. (2006, March 17). WASL writing: Make it up as they go along. The Seattle Times, p. B1.

Stotsky, S (1999). Losing Our Language: How Multicultural Classroom Instruction is Undermining Our Children’s Ability to Read, Write, and Reason. New York: The Free Press, pp. 269-271

Winerip, M. (2005, May 4). SAT Essay rewards length and ignores errors. The New York Times. www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~rgibson/satessay.html

This essay was first published by Educational Leadership [ASCD] and is reprinted with permission of the author.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

CHURCHILL & ROOSEVELT

At 9: 30 A.M. on Friday, [February 2, 1945] the pugnacious gray prow of the cruiser U.S.S. Quincy glided past that same Fort St. Elmo, escorted by U.S.S. Savannah, revived and refitted after nearly being sunk by a German glide bomb off Salerno seventeen months earlier. A half-dozen Spitfires wheeled overhead like osprey, and whooping crowds lined the rooftops and the beetling seawalls around the quays. “The entrance to the harbor is so small that it seemed impossible for our big ship to get through,” a passenger on Quincy wrote.

As the cruiser crept at four knots along the stone embankment, a solitary figure could be seen sitting on the wing bridge, wrapped in a boat cloak with a tweed tam-o’-shanter atop his leonine head and a cigarette holder clenched between his teeth. For this journey he had been assigned a sequence of code names—BRONZE, GARNET, STEEL, and, from the British, ADMIRAL Q—but now there was no hiding his identity. Tars and swabs came to attention on weather decks across the anchorage. A field piece at the fort boomed a slow salute of twenty-one rounds, and that band aboard Sirius tootled through the much-rehearsed American anthem to herald the arrival of Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States. The diplomat Charles E. Bohlen described the moment:

The sun was glistening on the waves and a light breeze was snapping the flags flying from the British warships and walls of the city.…Roosevelt sat on deck, his black cape around his shoulders, acknowledging salutes from the British man-of-war and the rolling cheers of spectators crowding the quays. He was very much a historical figure.

Across the harbor, on the quarterdeck of H.M.S. Orion, another historical figure stood in a naval uniform, puffing a cigar and waving his yachtsman’s cap until the American president spotted Winston Churchill and waved back. An abrupt hush fell across the harbor. “It was one of those moments,” another witness wrote, “when all seems to stand still and one is conscious of a mark in history.” Quincy eased her starboard flank against Berth 9. Thick hawsers lassoed the bollards, and the harbor pilot signaled belowdecks: “Through with engines.”

Rick Atkinson, (2013-10-22). The Liberation Trilogy Box Set (Kindle Locations 44258-44275). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

CULLODEN


John Prebble, Culloden [1746]
New York: Atheneum, 1962, pp. 20-21

        The Age of Reason may have wished its armies would behave like Hectors, and every man may indeed, as Johnson claimed, have thought meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, but the reality of life was not that imagined by the Patriot Muses of The Gentleman’s Magazine. It was dirty, depraved and despised. All men preyed on the soldier, and in his turn he robbed and bullied them. To his colonel he was frequently a toy, to be dressed in bizarre and fanciful uniforms that must have given battle an added horror. He stood on a no-man’s-land outside the law, its victim and its guardian. When called to support it during civil riots he risked death by shooting if he refused, and trial for murder by the civil authority if he obeyed. The whip, the nine-tail cat with knots of precise size, kept him in order, and his wife or his woman could be disciplined by the whirligig. In this chair she was strapped and spun through the air until she suffered the vomiting sensations of sea-sickness. A solder who asked permission to marry a doxy who had loyally followed him through a campaign, risked a hundred lashes for impertinence. Flogging was notoriously commonplace. Almost every day’s entry in the Order Books contains the names of one, two, or three men sentenced to the lash, receiving anything from the minimum of twenty-five strokes to the maximum of three thousand. Men boasted their endurance of the cat. A drummer bragged that he had received twenty-six thousand lashes in fourteen years, and his officers agreed, with admiration, that four thousand of them had been given between the February of one year and the February of the next. Life for the foot-soldier was punctuated by the lash and the pox. Battle came almost as a relief. It was often his only discharge in a war.


        For his sixpence a day he was expected to march from a town where innkeepers had either refused to serve him, or had robbed him when drunk, to eat a breakfast of dry bread and water, to watch his officers indulge in chivalrous courtesies with enemy officers while the lines closed, and then to endure a murderous exchange of musketry or grape at one hundred paces. “We ought to returne thanks to God,” wrote a sergeant of Foot from Flanders, “for preserving us in ye many dangers we haue from time to time been exposed unto...” But thanking God was not always easy when His mercy was hard to find...