Archive for the ‘History’ Category


October 20, 2021

Russia is no Superpower, a status it acquired in some eyes, notably its own, in the aftermath of the Second World War.That status relies chiefly on three achievements: winning the Great Patriotic War against Hitler; its nuclear armoury, and Sputnik.

However, if you look at each one in detail, they fall apart. For logistic reasons Hitler’s armies never stood a chance of reaching Caucasian oil, which they absolutely had to do, having no other adequate source. A simple sum reveals that no army can advance more than a thousand kilometres during a European fighting season , especially one desperately short of fuel, as the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front was. Napoleon learned that hard lesson in 1812 at Borodino, Hitler had his comeuppance at Kursk in 1943 when his Panzers were massacred in a giant tank trap.. Although Stalin was as militarily incompetent as he was cruel ( he’d killed most of his army officers in 1938, and had a nervous breakdown following the German assault ) his forces could hardly avoid defeating the Nazis in the long run.. The Russian Bomb in 1949 was more a shock than an achievement; even morons like Kim il Jung brandish them today. And while Sputnik was another shock, it was the inevitable consequence of multi-staging V2-era technology (Tsilkovsky 1903) and never amounted to much because Soviet computer technology was so primitive at the time.

Why does it matter now? Because Putin might launch some war he won’t be able to win without going nuclear. Because Europe, terrified of the Great Imaginary Bear in the East will continue to rely on America to come to its aid — which it never will. Europe could quite easily defend itself, but only if it puts the two so-called ‘Super-Powers’ into the category where they truly belong.Nothing could be more dangerous than the present balance of terror– based on delusions.

The details behind this so far sketchy argument are given in my book “HISTORY OF THE BRITS — from a scientist’s point of view” [look under ‘My Books’ Category on this site ] or go directly to the url:

which also deals with with the equally fallacious superpower status of he USA.

NB This was posted in Oct, 2021, 5 months before Putin launched his brutal attack upon Ukraine!! So it may be worth reading some more, about the USA for exmple.


October 20, 2021

America is not, and never was a real Superpower. It was sucked into the Second World War by the KGB but made a vast fortune out of it by picking the pockets of Britain and Russia, which did almost all the real fighting. It managed to defeat Japan only by dropping Atom bombs, which the British had largely taught it how to build. It’s Marshall Aid to Europe was miniscule and, although it did get to the Moon first, it was put up there largely by von Braun and his Germans. And it certainly didn’t win the Cold War as so many have claimed. The Soviet Union (another faux Superpower) broke up for other, more interesting reasons which had nothing whatsoever to do with the USA.

Why does it matter? It matters because the world cannot , and must not rely on the US to do more than it is capable of — for instance lead us away from Global warming, or defend us against threatening dictators like Chi and Pu. All the US is capable of is dropping bombs– a singularly ineffectual, but dangerous method of waging war (viz. Vietnam and Afghanistan).

For my detailed case here either go to my book “HISTORY OF THE BRITS (from a scientist’s point of view)” under category ‘My Books’ elsewhere on this site or go to the url:

Incidentally this was written weeks before the recent humiliating pull out of Kabul. Hollywood was never much good at fighting, not off the screen, where of course it was deadly. Just think what would have happened if John Wayne had gone out to Afghanistan.


May 7, 2021

It suits a lot of people’s private agendas to claim that the British Empire was an evil one. But was it? When I went to work in India I was confronted by a six foot, broad shouldered American in a sari who bellowed: ” You Briddish ought to be ashamed of what you did in India, cutting off the thumbs of all the weavers in Madras to protect your Lanka Shire cotton industry!” Naturally horrified I looked into the alleged crime.

I hope readers won’t be surprised to find it was nonsense, a canard put about by the Indian Congress party to win an election. But the point of this Post is to warn readers to be very careful before acting or voting on the basis of emotive historical narratives which could easily be lies, and to suggest a way to check them.

This is no small matter The Second World War was started by ‘Ludendorff’s Lie’ which Hitler and many other Germans chose to believe, while Scotland could vote to leave the United Kingdom because of a false historical narrative put about by The Scottish Nationalist Party.

As a Space scientist is wasn’t wise to take complex decisions on the basis of emotive tweets, but how were we to take them, winnowing the grain away from the chaff?

I have tried to apply the ‘Scientific Method of History to the hypothesis ‘Scotland would have fared better outside the United Kingdom’ and come up with odds of 250 to 1 against. see:

and have recently published ” HISTORY OF THE BRITS (From a scientists point of view)” 2020,Amazon, paperback £10, in which these ideas and techniques are discussed in a much wider context.The above url is extracted from it .

I would go far as to say that false history is very often a murder weapon far more deadly than shells or mines because it can stir up whole populations to set upon one another. One third of the German population is believed to have died during the religious Thirty Years War. At the present day Putin, Chi, Modi…… are all trying to use it to make their ‘countries great again’ with consequences which might be quite dreadful, even fatal to all of us. If you don’t believe me find out about ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion‘ , a historical falsehood which lead to tens of millions of deaths because decent people didn’t bother to check its veracity.


January 27, 2021

This post is so entitled because it stands for ‘HISTORY OF THE BRITS , ADDITIONS’ where ‘History of the Brits’ refers to my book of the same name published in 2020 (for details see under ‘My Books’ Category elsewhere on this site). Here you will find additions, corrections, images, calculations, supporting data, more detailed arguments and readers comments to what is intended to become what I call a ‘LIVING BOOK’. And this is also where YOU ARE INVITED TO LEAVE YOUR OWN COMMENTS ABOUT THE BOOK, AND ITS ADDITIONS. See below at the bottom of the post to do so. All the additions are shown below under a Chapter Number to which they belong.


I claim in this chapter that Britain has an ideal climate in which to live. That will surprise many people who think of us as living on a wet miserable island. But there’s far far more to climate than sunning oneself on a beach for a fortnight each summer. My argument stems from a study of the subject of Thermodynamics, as it applies to human life. There’s no room to put it in the book but you can follow my account of a fascinating but neglected subject by clicking on the url below.


under ‘Tragedies of Modern Capitalism’, I argue that massive OIL TANKERS are totally unsafe, actually Disasters Designed to Happen. To find why this is so click on:

Also we discuss ‘THE FOLLY OF FREE TRADE’ and there is a Post with that title elsewhere here in the ‘Economics’ Category . Or you can click directly on a long and detailed discussion here:

And if you want to see how LEVERAGING works, why it is so bloody dangerous and what the baboons are doing in the reactor, you can click on:


To see how Numeracy can be much better taught the Common Sense Way, rather than the current unnatural, and to some repulsive way, look at a simple example in which the two are compared at:


If you want to see how I arrive at my conclusion that the present immigration rate is so large that it is equivalent to 3 British mothers out of 4 raising an extra child click on:


Britain must never feel itself weak beside the two so-called Superpowers Russia and America, which are in fact paper tigers bloated on their own propaganda, and quite unfitted and unable to lead a world, because of its environmental state, now desperately in need of leadership . To see the argument click on:


December 16, 2020

How innumeracy has led successive British governments into disastrous economic follies.

In 1820 Britain stood, a lone Collossus, above the world. By 1920 a dozen other nations had higher per-capita GDP. In 2020 we seem even closer to the fringe of things: timid, divided, decaying, relatively impoverished and weak. What happened?

I am going to argue here , through specific examples, that having an innumerate ruling (and media) elite, as we have, is akin to being driven by a drunk.

(A) Leverage (The baboons in the reactor)

The banking crash of 2008. halted progress, stalled incomes, led to austerity, closed social programs and libraries, generated misery and uncertainty, and yet was totally avoidable. Because the ex- Chancellor Gordon Brown, and all his high-powered Treasury officials, were ignorant of simple algebra, they had allowed the Leveraging of bank loans to rise from less than 25 in 1995, already far too high as we shall calculate, to over 50 by 2008. Whatever else was going on, that was bound to lead to a crash. If Brown hadn’t been so innumerate [he did have a PhD in ‘economic history’, which probably made him unjustifiably over-confident] he might even have persuaded his US counterpart ( Alan Greenspan, another innumerate) to behave sensibly. But while Brown was boasting about his “Prudence” he had been blindly driving our bus towards the cliff edge.

A leverage of 50 allows investors to borrow 50 times their own invested capital and so, in a rising market, to double their money every year. How clever, how miraculous! But there ain’t no such things as miracles — even Gordon Brown should have known that. If the market falters, such highly leveraged investors, be they banks or individuals, can lose all their money almost overnight and default on their loans. Banks then panic or crash, and ordinary citizens who were either too wise, too moral or too poor to plunge into the fools’ bonanza, were forced to bail the greedies out. All because Brown and his Treasury wise-acres couldn’t do simple sums. If you want to see just how bloody simple that sum was go to:

(B) Malthus’ Essay on Population.

Follies of innumeracy are by no means uncommon, or new. In 1798 the Revd. Thomas Malthus, a don at Cambridge, published his highly influential “Essay on the Principles of Population”. In it he argued that an unrestrained population would always multiply faster than its food resources, leading inevitably to starvation, to misery, and to a “struggle for existence”. In his own words this struggle entailed  “…..every cause, whether arising from vice or misery, which in any degree contributes to shorten the natural duration of human life. Under this head, therefore, may be enumerated all unwholesome occupations, severe labour and exposure to the seasons, extreme poverty, bad nursing of children, great towns, excesses of all kinds, the whole train of common diseases and epidemics, wars, plagues and famine”.

Malthus’ well-intentioned but naïve argument, was that while population increases exponentially (like flies breeding), food production increases only linearly. It was almost puerile because it ignored the fact that hungry people can often find ingenious new forms of alternative sustenance – thus displaced crofters founded the mighty Scottish herring fishery. But many influential people chose to believe Malthus’ essay, with absolutely tragic consequences for the British poor. It excused: work-houses, forcible Land Enclosures, the transportation of juvenile petty thieves, Highland clearances and so on and so on. The rich used it as an excuse for land grabs, the poor were emiserated, deprived of their livings and their homes, and even of their dignity as human beings. The equivalent of 30 % of the entire British population was forced to emigrate. Never did so little algebra generate so much unnecessary misery. It should have been a warning to all: ‘Beware economic theorists.’

This is a different kind of folly from the first in that here the elite were taken in by a naive mathematics-based essay which most of them probably couldn’t understand but which they should have and probably would have questioned had they had been more confidently numerate themselves. Alas this happens all the time: thus Reagan and Thatcher were taken in by Friedman’s fallacious ‘Monetarism’, again with miserable long-term consequences, mostly for the poor.

(C) The Disastrous Folly of Free Trade.

Malthus’ Essay was bad enough — but it was to be succeeded by much worse. In 1814 Parliament introduced the Corn Laws (i.e. imposed high tariffs on cheap imported cereals) — which enriched the landowning classes and the Church, but impoverished everyone else, especially the industrial poor. The laws were repealed in 1846, but not before they had created a weird economic dogma called “Free Trade”. A millionaire speculator in Parliament David Ricardo convinced many contemporaries that Free Trade is always essential for prosperity and progress. His argument was subtle but, like Malthus’s, far too naive in that it ignored vast factors such as employment, and infrastructure-investment. Unfortunately, subsequent academic Economists, who have a rather feeble grasp of mathematics, though they like to pretend otherwise, were wholly taken in, and what is worse, they persuaded even more innumerate politicians all over the Capitalist world, that Free Trade is good for everybody. It isn’t. It simply isn’t. If you do a proper calculation which embraces all the relevant factors, Free Trade is mostly harmful to any advanced nation like Britain .

       As a result all Britain’s great industries have either closed down, or are in the process: coal, steel, ship-building, cotton mills in Lancashire, woollen mills in Yorkshire, cars, motor-cycles, bicycles, trucks, clocks and pottery in the Midlands, white goods, aircraft, computers, electronics,…….going, going, gone. But it isn’t just Britain. Youth unemployment in France is 25%, 40% in Italy and Spain. And look at America: its great manufacturing centres such as Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland….. are now part of that broken rust belt which rose in despair and voted for Trump. What have we all done to ourselves? I will argue that what the academic economists proclaim is so good for us is actually a deadly poison.

An imported commodity may be dramatically cheaper at the point of retail sale than its domestically produced equivalent. Unfortunately though imports can also have large Sunken Costs arising from losses in domestic employment, investment and profits. And none of us can afford to ignore such Sunken Costs because we will all have to stump up for them in the end in the form of extra taxes to pay for unemployment benefits, retraining and relocating workers,  lost capital and wasted infrastructure (factories, roads, schools, shops, hospitals….). And that says nothing of the misery involved in breaking up communities, families and friends. All that should be obvious; but not apparently to our Economist friends.

What needs to be made, commodity by commodity, is a calculation of the benefits of  a particular Free Trade set against the Sunken Costs which we will have to be borne by the wider community as a whole (i.e. the importing nation). That shouldn’t be too difficult – and it isn’t. I won’t bore you with the algebra at this point (which is rather simple) but you can follow it all up in detail via the links provided; and I encourage you to do so. The results though, are both dramatic and shocking — for instance just take one example: importing a car into an advanced country like Britain only makes sense if its price at the point of retail sale is at least 64% cheaper than its domestic equivalent: 64 per cent! That’s huge. But why so? Because any advanced nation like Britain has, by definition, invested a lot of money in its people and their infrastructure, and when you destroy their means of making their livings and maintaining their societies, by allowing cheaper foreign imports in, it will cost us all an awful lot to replace them. By contrast a relatively backward country like China with almost no welfare system can hugely profit from such trades. But don’t blame China; blame the innumerate economists over here who can’t do simple sums and who’s head is still buried in a dogma formed in the 1840’s during the fight over the bloody Corn Laws. The real point here is that, 160 years later, this is a very different world, but economists don’t seem capable of keeping up. The damage they have done to Britain (and elsewhere), and are still doing, is incalculable. I will say no more here because there is a separate post entitled ‘THE FOLLY OF FREE TRADE’ which includes my calculation as a url.

(D) The Immigration Fiasco.

Is a contemporary example of what a numerically ignorant ruling elite is capable, or rather incapable of — recognising a simple perilous truth, and thus doing something about it. So high has been the the immigration rate been over the past 50 years that it is equivalent to 3 British mothers out of 4 raising an extra child. If that is not “swamping” then what is? Since I have written a whole post on this, entitled ‘IMMIGRATION FIASCO’ I will say no more here. But you can see the calculation there and see if you agree.

(E) The nuclear war that hasn’t happened. Yet.

By contrast to the hideous damage innumeracy can wreak upon a nation, let’s look at even more dramatic example where numeracy may not only have saved the day but have actually preserved Life on Earth.

The most important event of the 20th century didn’t happen — Nuclear Armageddon, though it appears we came desperately, desperately close during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

In 1921 the Quaker mathematician and pacifist Lewis Fry Richardson pointed to the probable cause of the First World War — a mathematical instability in the arms race that preceded it. If nations can arm faster than they can disarm such a race will eventually explode out of control into war. But if they can disarm faster than they can arm, the race need never blow up in such an accidental way. Rightly terrified out of their wits after Cuba, the commanders on both sides, with their experts, recalled Richardson’s analysis and installed a hot-line between the White House and the Kremlin to defuse potential escalations in future. That is probably why you and I are still alive. An innumerate society with The Bomb could still put us all in the grave.


Britain has been, and is being brought low by a ruling and media elite who imagine they are educated. — when they are not . While some cringers are unwilling to look at the truth (viz. on Immigration) I suspect that most of our troubles do not stem so much from cowardice as from what I call ‘Baducation’. For instance most people who have studied ‘PPE’ at Oxford (as so many of our elite have, including the Editor of The Economist ) are simply not numerate enough to grasp salient facts and arguments.

The only good news here is that if we are only willing to face the truth at last we could rapidly put things right because although Innumeracy is a highly debilitating disease it is not malignant. If we paid everyone who made the effort to learn enough to pass a basic test in Numeracy £15,000 ,we could enumerate the entire nation for less than half the cost of a third runway at Heathrow. It is no accident that the wealthiest people on Earth at present, the Japanese, are also the most numerate ( For instance they figured out the Immigration problem long ago).

In the mean time we shouldn’t listen to, and certainly shouldn’t vote for Innumerates, never mind how many PPE degrees and the like they might have got from ancient universities. They’re simply Baducated, and as such dangerous. As the world has become more sophisticated so it needs more sophisticated people to govern it. We wouldn’t accept an illiterate Cabinet; why should we accept an innumerate one?

There is much more on this topic, and possible remedies we can use, in my “History of the Brits (from a scientist’s point of view) “, described elsewhere on this site . For instance it includes chapters entitled Half Baked Economics and Baducation.


November 14, 2020

Before all, dwelling in cities – which is what civilization literally means − requires massive amounts of cheap and reliable transport. A household requires roughly ten kilos of raw food, and ten kilos of fuel a day. If it is to come from twenty kilometres or more away, as most of it must, we are talking very roughly of one Unit of Transport required per household, where one Unit corresponds to one ‘ton-kilometre-per-day’. This is a sensible unit because an extremely fit man could carry on his back forty kilograms for 25 kilometres if he marched all day. In other words every city-household would turn its menfolk (or womenfolk in Africa where most men don’t deign to carry things) into beasts of burden, leaving nobody left to create the very culture the city was supposed to promote. Horses and carts could help, but not by much when you take into account the effort needed to build roads and supply fodder. Athens and Rome got by only because they were brutal slave states dependent on constant conquest to resupply the poor devils whose backs and spirits they then broke. They deservedly passed into oblivion because they never remotely solved the Transport Problem and so instead imposed endless cruelty on their fellow men and women. Almost the first act of the Romans after they landed in Britain was to crucify some locals.

So how did mankind first solve ‘The Transport Problem’? The short answer is by harnessing Moon-power. My grandmother lived at Leigh-on-Sea on the Thames estuary, where it is about ten miles across. In the nineteen forties and fifties one could usually see from there a dozen Thames Barges with their tan spritsails working the wind and tide or waiting patiently, sails furled, anchors down, crew asleep, for the next favourable stream. In 24 hours there are two tides running in the same direction for 6 hours each at an average speed of around 2 knots. So that’s 24 miles a day in your desired direction. And given they had a crew of only two men (and a boy) and could carry a hundred tons, each Thames sailing barge could transport more than a thousand fit men. No wonder London became the greatest commercial city on Earth. The tides running down and up the estuary as far as Tower Bridge were the great pulsing heart of modern civilization.

A Thames sailing barge, the Alamy taking part in a sailing race in 2020. She could carry up to 200 tons of cargo, had a shallow draft and could take to the bottom when the tide receded, yet because of her lee-boards (see one raised on the side) had fine sailing qualities enabling her to range between Cornwall and the Baltic. Her sail plan could be handled by a crew of only 2 men and a boy, and enables her to manoeuvre in and out of tidal streams in the merest zephyr of wind. You are looking at what is the most revolutionary form of transport ever invented,( see Table below) but you won’t find it mentioned in most history books. Copyright Powell/ Alamy Livenews.

With that insight a vital chapter of history becomes explicable for the first time. Big tides are uncommon – none to speak of in most oceans, the Mediterranean or the Baltic. But in North Western France, the Low Countries, and Britain in particular, they are immensely powerful, reaching a height of fifty feet at the headwaters of the Bristol Channel. And that is most likely why civilization, stable enduring civilization, first developed there. London, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Liverpool, Rouen, Glasgow, Rotterdam, Bruges, Bristol….and their hinterlands, didn’t need slaves. They flourished on Moon-power. Food and fuel, building stone and timber, sand and salt, leather, iron-work and bricks, slate, night-soil, fodder and road-stone, flax, wool and beer…..all the necessities and luxuries of a civilized life could glide long distances on tide and wind….thanks to the tidal sailing barge.

The problem with tidal waters is that they don’t generally get very far inland – or stay there for long if they do. But it didn’t take much for someone to think of closing a gate or barrage to hold the tide up and allow vessels to take their cargoes to the utter extremities of tidal reaches. Then of course someone had to build locks in the barrages to allow the captive barges out and back down to the sea without letting too much of the precious water out. But once you have such a lock for letting vessels down why not reverse its action and lift vessels up? Thus in 1300 near Bruges was born what is perhaps the most ingenious contrivance of the human mind: the lock. Ships could now travel up hill by the aid of rainwater – and a little horse-power. Thus the prosperous, and sustainable modern world was born – without the need for a single slave. Tides led to barrages, to canals, to locks and so to industrial cities like Birmingham, far, far inland.

All would have been well if prosperous Tidal Man could have restrained himself . But he didn’t. Temporarily provided for by waterborn wealth he bred like the proverbial rabbit. In a couple of centuries the tidelanders, and in particular the Brits, had cut down most of their trees, precipitating a catastrophic firewood crisis. There was nothing for it but to turn themselves back into slaves and dig coal from underground like blind worms. But if it hadn’t been for the canals and barges, that life-giving coal would never have made it to the shivering cities. The entire South Wales Coal and Steel Industry, which once (1880) ruled the world, was entirely enabled by a pair of lock gates 60 feet high built in Cardiff to hold in the tide. They’re still there.

Coal mines and rain water obviously don’t mix. Steam power had to be invented to pump out the mines and with steam, eventually came the steam train with a transport capability greater than either the tidal or the canal barge. Their gentle days were numbered.

The tidal sailing barge and the canal lock were the miraculous developments which gave rise to true civilization. And if we hadn’t bred so improvidently we might still be living off their backs today. Even by the standards of modern mechanized transport they were pretty efficient as the following table illustrates, where the Units are equivalent to what one very fit man can carry in a day i.e. roughly 1 Ton-kilometre. Attempts have been made to factor in the costs of crews, of forage, of fuel and of the building and maintenance along the ways on which they ran. But that is not easy to do given that governments often tax or subsidize the different factors in haphazard ways. Usage then becomes a vital factor in the relative costs of alternative modes of transport. For instance the British canal system collapsed so rapidly because as railways stole freight away their fixed maintenance costs had to be charged upon fewer and fewer barges (Also railway companies bought up canals and vandalized them deliberately).


In units of 1 Ton-kilometres per day per man required.


BARROW-BOY (Wheels; common in India still) 4

CYCLE (No track costs included) 10

HORSE WAGON (forage costed but not roads) 8

TIDAL SAILING BARGE (Britain; 2.5 crew) 1200

CANAL BARGE ( 30 Tons; including canal costs) 90

CLIPPER SHIP (limited to trade wind routes) 3000

RAILWAY* (incl track and fuel costs) 2400

TRAMP STEAMER (incl 30 crew and 50 miners) 4000

MODERN TRUCK ( 2 crew, fuel and road costs) 3000



* I have everywhere converted fuel costs into manpower units by assuming a man can mine about half a ton of coal a day and that oil will be taxed until it is more expensive than coal per unit of energy stored.

In short we can see that it was the tidal sailing barge which first made true civilization possible. The North Western Europeans were blessed with this rare magic, and of course the Brits, as usual, with far more than anyone else.

This was extracted from Chapter 2 of my ‘History of the Brits’ (Amazon 2020)

NB: This has been an entirely quantitative argument (see table). Some arguments are bound to be of this nature. This is why mathematics has to play a significant, sometimes over-riding role in History [Ch.4].


November 2, 2020

Civilisation meant living in cities, the bigger the better. But cities need vast amounts of fuel and fuel to keep them going. But how were they to be brought in from necessarily long distances away? Athens and Rome used slaves; and failed. London and Amsterdam used Moonpower; and thrived .

The idea of Moonpower stole upon me in the oddest way. I was sailing my Drascombe Lugger up a lonely reach of Milford Haven, dusk was falling and I needed to find a snug anchorage for the night. Discovering a narrow waterway amidst some reeds I sculled up it, under some oaks until they opened out into a basin which took my breath away. It was if we’d broken into Tutenkhamuhn’s tomb by accident. Chained to its crumbling quays lay the rotting wooden ribs of an ancient fleet forgotten altogether by Time. They must once have been, I surmised, the transport system which had powered a thriving economy on the Haven, even before the days of steam. Most had vanished, but in this almost inaccessible spot their ghosts remained, settling generation by generation into the mud.

I went ashore, lit a fire and communed with that vanished age and its rotting bones ; after half a bottle of wine they seemed to stir in the moonlight as if eager to tell me their tales. They recalled boyhood days with my grandmother at Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, watching Thames Barges with their tan spritsails working the tide, carrying cargoes up from the North Sea to the Port of London in the late 1940s.

I took Bob Salt(from my Written in the Stars quartet) up there on a subsequent trip, and he was just as enchanted as I. Between us we worked out the Moon-power story, and he set it in its full historical context . Later on, at his request, we scattered his ashes among their rotting ribs. Here I attach an excerpt from Bob’s book The History of the Brits, from a Practical Man’s Point of View.

No image remains of those old Pembrokeshire vessels, but Thames Barges were making a commercial living on the East Coast as late as 1975, and here is one:

The Thames barge Alamy racing in 2019. Such a vessel could carry up to 200 tons, 25 miles a day, using tidal streams alone. With a crew of only 2 men and a boy they plied their trade anywhere between Cornwall and the Baltic Sea . For their time they were more advanced than the 747 or the Space Shuttle. The huge leeboards allowed a shallow draft but with little leeway. The cunning spritsail rig was highly flexible yet could be handled by a tiny crew. Similar vessels were found in the Low Countries to exploit local Moonpower. Copyright Powell/Alamy Live News.

while my son Mathias took this next picture of one near Tower Bridge in 2020. London’s growth was built on maritime technology like this.

A Thames barge near the centre of London in 2020. Note how the long bowsprit (right) can be tilted upwards to take less space in busy moorings. Using only the combination of mizzen, topsail and staysail she could be manouvered into a favourable stream in a mere zephyr of air, while the boom of her main spritsail could also be used as a derrick to load and unload cargoes . But her most important system can be seen hanging from her bow. When wind and tide were against her it would be lowered ,allowing her highly skilled crew to sleep.

Bob and I believe it was Moon-power, almost completely neglected by historical scholars, which first made sustainable civilisation possible in North Western Europe, where the tides are uniquely strong.


October 31, 2020

We were all suckered in by the myth that America joined Britain in WWII to ‘Save Western Democracy’. Instead it appears that America was suckered into Pearl Harbour by the KGB — which wanted to release Russia’s Manchurian army to save Moscow from the Nazis — which it did.

What America really wanted to do was make vast amounts of money out of that world war, as it had out of the first, by picking both Britain’s and Russia’s pockets. Which it did. How else did America emerge so humungously rich from that war, and Britain so raggedly poor? Britain was still paying off its war debts to the US (for the First WW!) as late as 2015 whilst America’s total Marshall Aid Plan to Britain, so much trumpeted, amounted to barely one per cent of Britain’s losses. And at Bretton Woods in 1944 America forced Britain to give up Imperial Preferences, the basis of its economic success in the 1930s. It’s no accident that the almighty dollar has ruled the financial world ever since.

Then America shamelessly picked Britain’s brains to become, what it certainly was not before — an industrial superpower. Amongst many other gems, it got its hands on: the Cavity Magnetron, the Atomic Bomb, Anti-biotics, the jet engine, solid-state amplifiers (which led to the transistor), Electronic computing, Operational Research, sophisticated Code-breaking, the Proximity fuse, Asymmetric gears…… All Britain asked in return. was the Nordern bombsight — which Roosevelt personally refused to them for what he said were “political reasons”.

In 1946 the US passed The McMahon Act, depriving Britain of access to the atomic bomb — which Britain had largely taught the Americans how to build. It was a foul act of treachery, though we couldn’t say so at the time, which left Western Europe at the mercy of Stalin’s vast tank army poised on the plains of Germany, and of America’s goodwill. So poor Britain had to hastily cobble together a deterrent of its own.

When I was researching The Battle of the Atlantic for my forthcoming book about that titanic encounter (“Strangle“) I became more and more puzzled by the US Navy’s enigmatic role in it. One could even ask whose side they were on. Roosevelt’s stooge, and head of the USN, the incompetent Admiral Ernest J King, made no bones about hating the British, and without reason or warning pulled his forces out of the North Atlantic just as the crux of the battle was approaching. There is still much to ponder on here.

So Britain won the war, but America won the peace.

Of course America was perfectly entitled to an anti-British foreign policy, and to extract vast sums out of Britain if it could and which it did. After all there were large numbers of Irish, German and Italian Americans who had no good reason to want a British victory. Before Cburchill got rid of him, Joe Kennedy, the US ambassador to London, and JFK’s father, did all he could to get Britain to yield to Hitler. But it seems to me that the Brits need to wake up, forget all that hogwash which emanates from Hollywood, and stop talking nonsense about a “Special Relationship”. That was a piece of pure Churchillian rodomontade.

I have to admit that all this rather shocked me when I looked into it, because personally I owe America a lot and have some very good friends over there. And I would be the first to admit that it is controversial. But almost all my sources here are American. You can find references to them in a chapter entitled ‘The Baleful Shadow of America’ from my book History of the Brits, which is here:

Yes there’s much to chew over here. Let’s chew.


October 23, 2020

         If there is one thing that nearly all economists believe, and preach, it is the benefit of Free Trade. As a result all Britain’s great industries have either closed down, or are in the process: coal, steel, ship-building, cotton mills in Lancashire, woollen mills in Yorkshire, cars, motor-cycles, bicycles, trucks, clocks and pottery in the Midlands, white goods, aircraft, computers, electronics, shoes …….going, going, gone. But it isn’t just Britain. Youth unemployment in France is 25%, 40% in Italy and Spain. And look at America: its great manufacturing centres such as Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland….. are now part of that broken rust belt which rose in despair and voted for Trump. What have we all done to ourselves? I will now argue that what the academic economists proclaim is so good for us is actually a deadly poison.

An imported commodity may be dramatically cheaper at the point of retail sale than its domestically produced equivalent. Unfortunately though imports can also have large Sunken Costs arising from losses in domestic employment, investment and profits. And none of us can afford to ignore such hidden costs because we will all have to stump up for them in the end in the form of extra taxes to pay for unemployment benefits, retraining and relocating workers,  lost capital and wasted infrastructure (factories, roads, schools, shops, hospitals….). And that says nothing of the misery involved in breaking up communities, families and friends. All that should be obvious; but not apparently to our Economist friends.

What needs to be made, commodity by commodity, is a calculation of the benefits of  a particular Free Trade set against the Sunken Costs which we will have to be borne by the wider community as a whole (i.e. the importing nation). That shouldn’t be too difficult – and it isn’t. I won’t bore you with the algebra but it is all in the attached article.

Let’s take just one dramatic example: a motor car imported into Britain; it doesn’t matter where from. According to my calculation it will have to be 64 per cent cheaper at the point of retail; sale  than its domestic equivalent to be a bargain.  Sixty Four Percent ! Most of the foreign cars on Britain’s (Frances’s, America’s…..) roads are thus an absolute disaster for the importing country as a whole because the Sunken Costs far exceed the benefits. Ditto for many other countries and other commodities (though bananas will still be welcome in Britain). The more sophisticated a country is in social terms the less it can afford to indulge in Free Trade because its sunken social costs (mostly investments in people ) are so high – by definition. Free Trade makes far more sense for unsophisticated countries because their people-investments are (equally by definition) so much lower. [China for instance barely has a social  welfare system so, by the same argument, it benefits from a wide variety of free trades.]

      I couldn’t believe this calculation when I first made it in 2016. But it has been checked by several other people with far more commercial background than I. It is  right. But please check it out because it is so important for you and your family.

     So why do Economists still preach the nonsense they do about Free Trade? I’m sorry to say that it’s chiefly because Economists appear to be too simple-minded to recognize the fallacies underlying their own profession. Unfortunately the harm they have done already is almost incalculable.

N.B. My argument is NOT Economics, merely accountancy. The distinction is that Economists have to make assumptions about how humans will react. I have not.


         The essential skill of any kind of science is hypothesis-testing.  In my book [ ‘Thinking For Ourselves‘, Amazon paperback, 2020] I demonstrate how such testing works using Common Sense Thinking. But It will only work if the number of possible hypotheses (to explain the evidence) is finite, and indeed very limited in number. Thus dream-interpretation can never become a science because the number of possible explanations (hypotheses) for any dream is unlimited. If there were an infinite number of possible hypotheses  then the initial Odds on any one of them being right would have to be infinitely small, and no amount of subsequent evidence can make something infinitely small finite – that is the obvious logic. Philosophers call this “The Principle of Limited Variety” (PLV for short). The Greeks, the Romans and the biblical Jews were all big on dream-interpretation, but now that we understand the PLV we have (except for psychologists) given the dodgy practice up.

         So what about Economics – can that be a science? For Economics to claim that it is, or could become a science, it must demonstrate that the Principle of Limited Variety applies to it. But how could it do that? Take the recent financial crash of 2007/8. Practically nobody foresaw it, but dozens of books and thousands of learned papers have been written about it since, pointing to different culprits which include: greedy bankers, toxic mortgages, opaque financial instruments, over-leveraging, vast international imbalances (China saving versus US borrowing), auditors in cahoots with the companies that paid them, Fanny Mae and Fanny Mac (you don’t want to know), the scuppering of the 1944 conference on international banking at Bretton Woods, Nixon refusing to back the US dollar in the aftermath of the Vietnam War (1971), over-saving, poor wealth distribution, flash trading, inadequately financed pension funds going in search of unrealistic returns, poor or non-existent supervision of the system by financial supervisors, the Euro, hubris following the collapse of Communism, a naïve belief in ‘perfect markets’, the inappropriate use of ‘The Normal Distribution’ by financial ‘Quants’, insurers ignoring the possibility of correlated market movements, extremely foolish advice given by the actuarial profession, dishonesty on the part of politicians willing to buy votes by offering unaffordable utopias and raising government debts, house owners foolishly believing they were rich because house prices were rising…..and so on and so on. When I read and try to understand the various hypotheses, they all carry a degree of plausibility to me. Moreover they can interact with one another in a whole variety of plausible and dramatic ways leading to an almost infinite number of compounded hypotheses – completely abrogating the Principle of Limited Variety.

Thus it must be true that Economics is not, and never can become, a science!

There is another way to look at the matter. Imagine that Economics   is   a science capable of generating reliable predictions. Suppose that it predicts that farmers will make more money from selling beef than selling milk. Then smart farmers will switch from dairying to beef production. Through scarcity the price of milk will rise; through oversupply the price of beef will fall. The very prediction of the allegedly sound Economic theory has proved to be self-defeating (‘reflexive’ in the jargon). And it seems to me that any ‘science of human behaviour’ would be self-defeating in the same way.

Thus everybody needs to understand that Economics is a church built on quick-sand. However much one might wish it otherwise, nothing can ever be done to rescue that situation. This argument is so simple that one has to wonder why Economists themselves do not understand it. Perhaps they don’t want to.

J.K. Galbraith, the historian of Economics was right when he wrote: “Economics was invented to make Astrology look respectable”.

The good news is that although Free Trade is a paralysing disease it is not  malignant. We could cut it out tomorrow if we wanted to and return to ruddy health. But to do that we first have to convince ourselves that it is bloody unhealthy. So check out the full argument at:


October 16, 2020

is a literally vital subject which seems to have been completely missed by science up until now (That makes me a little nervous, could I really be the pioneer when….. ?) Humans have a mad strategy, they are born warm blooded but naked! They should have gone extinct; instead they have become the dominant species on Earth. Could their weird strategy actually be the secret of their success? Here I argue that it could, and that Thermodynamics dominates every aspect of our lives, our history and our evolution. In the tropics an individual has a thermodynamic efficiency of about 1 percent and must somehow survive with an average useful power of only one Watt, less than a very dim torch ! That same individual in Northern Europe would have 3 Watts and in Greenland 11. If that is true then Human Thermodynamics must dominate every aspect of our lives.

If you find that idea intriguing, or would like to argue with it, you might like to look at a shortish essay on the whole fascinating subject, including its implications for history, for us as a species, and as individuals. If so click on: