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Crimean War...............help!


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#31 crimeanwar

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Posted 06 December 2009 - 10:52 PM

I have just been given permission to quote at this forum the posts by two eminent Crimean War historians on the Crimean War Group at Yahoo Groups. Both gentlemen are published and respected members of the Crimean War Research Society. They were replying to a 'newbie' on the list who had been seduced by recent hyperbole about Mary Jane Seacole. Their replies are posted here in full:

Colin Robins:

"Some of us, old-fashioned historians, seek confirmation of facts and in this instance they are as scarce as hen's teeth. Her [Seacole] supporters refer to the British Hospital that she ran - pure fiction and make believe. She definitely ran a sutler's shop and sold dinners to officers. She also sallied forth with a cart full of goodies from time to time. There is no real evidence of her nursing in any normal sense of the word. The brilliant Crimean exhibition staged at the National Army Museum a few years back, organised by Alastair Massie, an acknowledged expert, with access to all the NAM's resources, displayed Mary in her sutler's shop. Massie's book based on their collection of letters, many from soldiers cf officers, had not a word on her 'nursing'. Many of us feel that her modern fame stems from politics more than history.

And by the way, she wasn't black, but almost certainly a quadroon.

Major Colin Robins OBE FRHistS
Editor Emeritus, The War Correspondent"

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Bill Curtis:

"The `Black' hype that has been built up surrounding this otherwise worthy woman is a disgrace to the serious study of history. She was a hotel keeper and purveyor of comforts who also exercised a considerable degree of specialist knowledge of treatments for tropical and semitropical ailments. Nursing, as such, seems to have had little or nothing to do with her activities during the Crimean campaign.

A far more worthy choice who was truly nursing at the Hospital at Balaklava and who has been woefully neglected by modern historians is our Welsh nurse, Betsi Cadwaladr from Bala, probably better known by her anglicised name of Elizabeth Davies. She is, at least, commemorated in the name of the Welsh NHS University Health Board which is the Bwrdd lechyd Prifysgol Betsi Cadwaladr.

Betsi also fell foul of the redoubtable Florence, but then who did not? I can recommend Mark Bostridge's FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE, THE WOMAN AND THE LEGENDS for a sensitive, in depth, but not hagiographic, study of the life of our Flo.

W. S. Curtis, A.C.I.I.,
Vice President (Hon.), Crimean War Research Society,
HBSA (Hon. Life)"

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And a further message from Colin Robins in reply to more nonsense from the 'newbie' :

"Oh dear! ******* [name deleted] believes all sorts of things about Mary [Seacole], it seems, even though there is no evidence for them and sniping at me does not make them true.
But nothing I say will convince believers that the earth is not flat, that UFOs are not from other planets, etc etc.
Any one else doubting should re-read Mary's ghosted biography, and Jane Robinson's book. (On the black issue look in the respective indexes under 'racism' and 'Creole'. It is clear that Mary was proud that she was not black!)
This is now becoming boring so I shall say no more.

Major Colin Robins OBE FRHistS"

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I hope the above gives some flavour of the bafflement in the minds of serious historians of the Crimean War with the current fixation with the good Mrs Seacole. At times it seems as if debate about the war is reduced to an unseemly and simplistic 'comparison' of her with Flo Nightingale - a pointless exercise in the view of most historians. Furthermore, the reasons for this attempted comparison are considered highly suspect and politically motivated. The fact is, that the two women were in the war theatre for different reasons. Nor were they the only women there - there were many others: the Royal Navy had their nurses at Therapia across the Bosphorus from Flo Nightingale at Scutari; there were numerous women in the Crimea itself apart from Seacole - army wives, travelling ladies, and so on; plus the French had their cantinières attached to every regiment. Plus, and to top it all, the Russians had nurses in Sevastopol working under constant fire in horrendous conditions. Many people believe - including me - that they were the true Angels of the Crimea. As well as endorsing the reading recommendations above, I would add NO PLACE FOR LADIES, by Helen Rappaport, Aurum Press, 2007. ISBN-10: 1 84513 220 3 and ISBN-13: 978 1 84513 220 0

I appreciate that this will not change anything (like the questions in exams! ;) ) but just feel it has to be said as an antidote for all the Seacole nonsense going around.
ATB
Tom Muir
Crimean War Research Society.
Tom Muir
tommuir.tel

#32 Lucy Harris

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 04:29 PM

Brilliant stuff Tom - and very interesting that my Yr 12s have picked up on the issue of'not only these 2 ladies' in their recent attempt at the Nightingale Vs Seacole assessment question previously posted on this thread, without any prompting!

This will indeed be a great discussion for the kids to view as a way in to the feedback lesson I have planned for this assessment on Wed - thanks very much
Lucy




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