Sunday, 3 May 2015

Waterloo Money Myths

With the interest in the 1815 Battle of Waterloo there has begun a review of many of the matters of history relating to that time.  One is the story of Nathan Rothschild who was later alleged to have made a fortune on insider knowledge about the result.

This article in the Independent today gives a summary of it, how it came about and a brief discussion of what may have been or not.  As it happens in the last few weeks I have been trawling old newspapers, not on this subject but other matters relating to individuals around at the time.

It was obvious that there was going to be a battle, but it was much less clear who might win, how great a victory might be and what might be the consequences.  Wellington, a formidable general had a makeshift force stiffened by cadres of good experienced troops.

Napoleon had the remains of his once great Imperial Army to which had been added sundry conscripts and volunteers with little experience or time for training.  It would depend on who chose the ground and made best use of it.

Had Napoleon won, it has been assumed he would once again try to dominate Europe, but we do not know that.  He might have settled for a treaty that allowed him to return and agreed to other issues that removed the core of Allied unity.

He would have known that if he did inflict defeat on the allied force there was a good chance that it would have been very difficult to put together another joint force and given Britain's problems if they let him have France he might let them have control of the sea.

So what was going on in London?  Looking at the newspapers and journals of this period on other matters they were only as good as the information they could print or could know about.  The financial market data is therefore limited to comment, opinion and current pricing.

What actually went on in the brokerages, banks and financial houses was a complex and highly skilled activity that was kept secret to those who knew and who managed it.  Financial journalism as we came to know it did not exist and nor were there academic or other regulatory bodies with interests.  The Bank of England was more secret that any of them.

Historians of the present and past attempting to fathom or come up with hard evidence cannot find it.  Even if there were records available from the past interpreting them would be very difficult and even more so penetrating the minds and expertise of the brokers, bankers and others of that time.

My answer is quite a simple one.  The puzzle of who did well and who did not in 1815 may not be clear at all because the money men at the time had already priced in their dealings to allow for what was certain.  That was there would be a battle and the winner could not be predicted.

If this seems outlandish remember that in very many financial crashes and upheavals some money men seem to come out of with a profit, maybe smaller, maybe larger, depending on the pricing they allowed in their dealings.  Market manipulation is a very old trade and not a new one.

The reason why the Rothschild's did well was because they were good at it and as a European outfit were able to access other markets as part of the warp and weft of their trade.  They survived and those who did became rich.  One reason may have been their relatively conservative financing allied to good information sources.

None of these money men would have needed last gasp information that just beat the official announcements with all the serious risks that such positions would have entailed given the immediate uncertainties of what might follow.  They did not work that way.

But if Nathan Rothschild had a side bet on Field Marshal Blucher as a personal small money gamble it would not surprise me at all.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Labour Vote Dives

The picture above, taken entirely out of context in the great ancient tradition of blogging, is from the Guardian newspaper which is rooting, or routing, for Labour.

The article it comes from is about the joys or disasters of being at summer music festivals.

However, like many music festivals the reality is one of bad, very bad, or dreadful experiences.

My view is that what happens after the election will also fall into one of these three categories because given the way the world is going and how we are governed there can be no good result.

Which possible result will fit into which of the three categories is open to debate at present, please make your own guess.

It will be as bad, very bad or dreadful as anybody else's.

Friday, 1 May 2015

London Calling

Back in the 1950's there was a running joke in the racism and prejudice of the day, that in London the Irish staffed and ran the medical services and made the roads, the Welsh ran the education system and the Scots the police and military.  The rider to this was that the English kept quiet and stayed in the pubs.

An exception was around the docks and in parts of East London where there were "Cockneys", up to a point.  Family historians now know that you could often scratch a Cockney and find another breed inside the skin.

In the current election we are reminded that London elects more members of Parliament than Scotland and unlike them may remain
a Labour heartland and possibly stronger in that they will no longer have to worry about those Labour Scots wanting to make policy, chiefly ones that involve high spending in Scotland at the expense of London.

It is not just Labour that wants to spend money in London, that High (or low) Tory Doris Johnson, the blonde boomerang, wants to see mega outlays in London to keep all the growth going.  He claims that this keeps the UK financially, although reality is the other way round.  All the growingly distant Lib Dem's can do is to try and outbid both parties but they are on a loser.

It is intriguing that the leading American-Australian Scot, Rupert Murdoch appears to be assisting the SNP at one end and the Tories at the other.  Whether he would go so far as to cobble together a Tory and SNP coalition is a question but I doubt it.

For his purpose it is suspected that it might suit him to have the Tories in control in Westminster and the SNP in Scotland in a kind of armed truce where the Murdoch media are the ones to shape and lead any debates on what might be.  If his interests also call the shots in the US elections anything could happen.

But there is another angle to this.  Because if London is Labour and Scotland SNP the Tories will be a party of England outside London and it might be that for the first time for centuries that England outside London could begin to have its own voice.

What happens next?

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Please Teacher

One of the family sent me this link, it is about security and the vital role of further education for preventing terrorism.

Is this why our political leaders are promising vast funding for the training sector?

The Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 has introduced the Prevent Duty for various bodies including all FE colleges, adult education providers and independent learning providers with SFA funding or with over 250 students enrolled from 1st  July 2015 and Ofsted are already including an assessment of its implementation in their inspections.

This is what it is about and there is a lot to read and understand.  But here is a very small taste:


A commencement order for the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 was made on 26 March 2015. This specifies that the ‘Prevent duty’ (i.e. section 26) of the act comes into force on 1 July 2015, save in respect of any specified authority to which section 31 (freedom of expression in universities etc) is expressed to apply.

In effect, this means that the duty will not commence on 1 July 2015 for the proprietor or governing body of any institution which provides further education (within the meaning given by section 2(3) of the Education Act 1996); or which provides courses of a description mentioned in Schedule 6 to the Education Reform Act 1988 (higher education courses).

It will commence on 1 July 2015 for all other authorities specified in Schedule 6 to the act.


This should put a spanner in the works.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Decisions Decisions

The postal vote has to be dealt with and minds have to be made up.

We could vote for the member of the late government who is our MP at present, perhaps out of inertia it being a relatively "safe" seat that may not be that safe.

But second childhood irresponsibility and rebelliousness argues against it.  We are said to have a "good" member but that may be because the media adviser is better than most.

There is a hyper local Lib Dem councillor who works very hard, or at least says he does claiming to do a great deal, unluckily a lot of this gets up the sensitive nose and his party is neither liberal or democratic.

The Labour man seems steady and is not one of the lout or loony end of the party.  But it is his superiors who give me the twitches or perhaps even the shakes.

UKIP is on offer, at least opposed to the EU, if they knew what they were doing.  It might seem a protest vote or it might be just another daft idea or product of a hangover.

The Green seems to be delightfully batty in the right sort of eco-way, which is warming to the heart, alas the other policies which ought to attract bring on cold shivers.

We have a lady from one of the Ultra Left groups who wants to take us back to the delights of one or other of the Soviet satellites of the 1950's, but we do not want to go at any price.

Then there is a protest health candidate who at first seemed to have a point.  Unluckily the flyer that came had a paragraph in it that gave his other ideas all quite barmy.

Decisions like this get my goat but at least the one above knows which way to jump.

I think.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Seacole, Nightingale And Others

The business of the St. Thomas's Hospital and the proposed Mary Seacole statue is one of those strange debates that tell us more about our prejudices of the present than of the past.

If they are looking to remember a lady who had a role in nursing in the Crimean War of 1853 to 1856; who has been forgotten and might have a statue to overlook the House of Commons they should think about Lucretia Whittam.

In 1854 when she embarked among the 38 "forlorn hope" of "chosen ladies" to go with Florence Nightingale she was over 50 and had been widowed the year before.  Her husband, George, had been one of the most senior Clerks to the House of Commons.  He had succeeded his father in that work.

So this was a lady, resident in Cadogan Square, Belgravia, London and evidently wealthy and very well connected.  Not only that but her father had been Francis Rogers Parslow, a leading London surgeon and senior in the medical profession.  Few would have had better "clout" than this lady.

Florence was not simply the leader with the led, she had with her what looks to me like a highly capable team of ladies, some well connected such as the two Le Mesurier's.  It is not easy to be certain of who exactly many of the other's are but an extensive search shows that ladies of standing with major housekeeping experience are probably there as well.

If there is one common element to this team it is that they are likely to have been devoutly religious and holding to the ideal that their lives were ruled by, for and always with God.  It may be this that makes them anathema to modern history or perhaps that as intelligent, capable, indeed formidable ladies of some status, one way or another, they do not fit our current dogmas about the past.

One interesting feature of all this is derived from the picture below.  It is an extract from the Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper of 5 November 1854, the same day as the ladies landed in The Crimea.  It shows that the Nightingale story was already in place before they had emptied their first bed pans.

My interest in this is that when quite young I knew ladies, born in the 1860's to 1890's, perhaps not of high social status, but who were of this stamp.  There were some remarkable women who lived their lives for others.  Not only now are they long gone and forgotten but we do not understand them or recognise the vital role they played.

Such were the ladies who went to the Crimea and served at least for a time, but it is then of interest to those who came later to join them.  It seems that Mary Seacole was among them to make her contribution.  She is not unique and one of many forgotten.  Another group is that of the Catholic Nuns and we should recall the strong prejudices of the time against the Catholics and the Jews.

The nuns would have been key to supporting the many Irish Catholic soldiers.  If there is to be a statue it might make more sense for it to be a group one representing different elements among the ladies who went to The Crimea to do their work for God, the Queen, the Army and for justice.

There are others in the frame as well. Nightingale for all her work and determination must have needed other high powered people onside, including ladies, with the right connections to get to the confused and incompetent coalition government and civil service and to the media of the day.

There is a candidate for this who sticks out a mile, who lived in Lowndes Square adjacent to Lucretia's Cadogan Square and with the same connections.  Also, in neighbouring streets were others of her family again with extensive connections of the right sort in Westminster and in the military.

It is Harriet Whitbread, about whom a book could be written, second wife of William Henry Whitbread, head of the brewing firm and heavily involved in politics and charitable works.  A niece was at Court, one of the society beauties of the day, a daughter married to the heir to the Earldom of Antrim, her former deceased husband once Master of the Senior Lodge in India and noted scholar.

Another daughter married to Charles Conrad Grey as in the family of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and former Prime Minister whose son, also Charles Grey was Private Secretary to Albert, Prince Consort, who acted as private secretary to Queen Victoria while another son and the heir, Edward, was in the Cabinet from time to time.  In short a direct line to the top, the very top.  Harriet was some lady.

When later, the Shah of Persia visited England, he asked for the privilege of meeting her.  He was following in the footsteps of many of the Princes of India who also took quality time to meet with her and discuss matters relating to Asiatic Studies and literature.

To connect Harriet to Florence the answer is one word, Hampshire.  The Nightingale estate at Embley was near to branches of Harriet's own family and Harriet had been there as a child and acquainted with Hampshire society in general.  Did she bump into Jane Austen at any time? Jane does mention her family.

Lucretia Whittam lived until 1891 dying at the age of 88, how much continuing contact she might have had with Florence is not known, but they were near enough in London to talk rather than write.

There are times when the detail can tell us more than the interpretations or theories.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

One For The Pot Promise Of The Day Fourteen

Having just won the London Marathon, must go soon, Chelsea want me in the line up for the big game against Arsenal.  This is a more factual and likely statement than Cameron's inevitable promise of big efforts in the first 100 days, that is, if elected.

In the last 100 or so days, add a few, he came up with new ways of dealing with the pension pots of the pensioners to come.  As a firm believer in the idea of if something can go wrong it will, the article linked below was interesting.

What seems to be happening is that the monetary policies being used to deal with current money problems do not seem to be working at either macro or micro economic levels.

This informed article in Pensions and Investments, "Monetary Policy, Its All Relative" hat tip The Automatic Earth, suggests that the accepted ideas used recently could be having the reverse effects to those intended for a number of reasons.

It is not a long article, intricate, but an interesting read, here is a quote:

When baby boomers were in the sweet spot for housing needs, expenditures on children and cars, etc. 30 to 40 years ago, the effect the central banks were expecting from QE might have worked better, as they expected it would, but that need not be a reliable prediction under the changed current demographic and wealth distribution.

A recent study by the Center for American Progress shows that millions of Americans (as high as 50% of households) are in danger of retiring with insufficient money to maintain the standard of living to which they are accustomed, and the problem is getting progressively worse.

Your previous editorial argues that QE by the central bank may impose unintended costs on pensions, at both the institutional and retail level.


It might be worse again in the UK and Europe.