J D Davies


Happy New Year to all!

2015 already, though…? I’m increasingly convinced that I fell through a worm hole in the space-time continuum in about 1976 and have largely lost track of things ever since. But then, I have a sneaking feeling that many of my friends, and my ex-students in particular, have suspected that all along!

Anyway, regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve made a number of pleas for the current wave of major anniversaries – notably of World War I, Magna Carta and Waterloo – not to completely overwhelm and obscure other important commemorations. Above all, I’ve made the case for remembering the 350th anniversaries of the events of the second Anglo-Dutch war of 1665-7, a period I’ve studied for over 30 years and which now forms the backdrop to my series of historical fiction, the Journals of Matthew Quinton. Although I’ve no doubt that the ‘headline’ events of that period, notably the Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666, will be given due recognition (indeed, we’ve already endured a pretty dreadful TV dramatisation of the latter), and the English acquisition of New Amsterdam / New York before the war officially began already has been, I wonder if the same will be true of the naval events of the war. Of course, I’m talking here from an exclusively British perspective: it’s a racing certainty that the naval anniversaries will be commemorated amply in the Netherlands, where they’re counted among the great triumphs of the country’s ‘golden age’. If you need further proof, the premiere of the new Dutch blockbuster movie Michiel De Ruyter at the Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam on the 29th of this month should provide it.

(By way of digression, when was the last time Britain made a movie about any naval hero, even Nelson? And no, the fictitious Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander doesn’t count, nor does Clive Owen’s bizarre turn as Sir Walter Raleigh in Elizabeth: the Golden Age!)

It has to be said, the omens aren’t good. For example, English Heritage’s list of the ten most important anniversaries of 2015 omits the war entirely – and, indeed, also consigns to oblivion the Jacobite rising of 1715 (before you try the ‘but it was entirely Scottish’ cop-out excuse, English Heritage, no, it most certainly wasn’t…). However, said list does include, umm, the 700th anniversary of the siege of Carlisle. That being the case, it didn’t take too much thought on my part to realise that my pleas for proper recognition of the forthcoming 350th anniversaries had a logical consequence: namely, “if not me, who”? So as of 1 January, I’ve started tweeting the anniversaries as they happen. I don’t mean just the big events, like the destruction of the London on 7 March or the battle of Lowestoft on 3 June; I’m also tweeting about relatively small occurrences, or examples of bigger themes, to try and give as full a picture of the war as it’s possible to develop in 140 characters at a time. The title of this blog post is the hashtag that I’m using, and that I’ll continue to use until the end of the war in 1667/2017 (failure to drop off perch in the interim permitting). If you’re not on Twitter, you should still be able to follow my tweets in the feed to the right of this post. Naturally, I’ll be giving due attention to the really big anniversaries in this blog as well, and over the course of the next few months I’ll also be providing more information about the forthcoming Quinton novel, The Rage of Fortune, a prequel focusing on Matthew’s eponymous grandfather during the last years of Queen Elizabeth’s titanic naval war against Spain. Oh, and I expect there’ll be the odd rant and complete digression along the way, as I hope you’ve come to expect from these posts. So welcome to 2015, and to #2ADW350!