Saturday, April 20, 2019

All change in the Balkans

‘Today Montenegro ceased to exist, [. . .] It is however a sad thing that a country should lose its independence of 300 years by the cancelling of an exsequatur to 4 or 5 consuls scattered over the world.’ This is from the diary of the eminent historian Harold William Vazeille Temperley, born 130 years ago today. As a specialist in the Balkans, he served as an adviser to the government during the First World War and its aftermath. His detailed and historically important diary of the period lay ‘slumbering’ in his family’s possession until recently when it was finally edited and published as An Historian in Peace and War.

Temperley was born on 20 April 1879 in Cambridge, the son of Ernest Temperley, a Fellow and Bursar of Queens’ College. He was educated at Sherborne School, and then at King’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated in history. In 1903, he was appointed lecturer at the University of Leeds, and two years later took up a fellowship at Peterhouse, Cambridge. The same year he published his first book, Life of Canning, which had emerged out of his early interest in 18th and 19th century British constitutional history. He married Gladys Bradford, also a historian, in 1913 (though she died tragically young in 1923) and they had one son.

By the start of the Great War, Temperley’s interests had switched to Europe and Britain’s foreign policy, and by then he had travelled extensively in Austria-Hungary and the Balkans. He volunteered for the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, but missed the Gallipoli landings because of typhoid fever. Thereafter, he served in the War Office, researching policy in the Balkans. In 1917, he published History of Serbia; and in 1919 he acted as an adviser for the British delegation to the Paris peace conference. He was also the British representative on the Albanian boundary commission, and an advisor in 1921 to Arthur Balfour at the League of Nations.

During the first half of the 1920s, Temperley edited six volumes of A History of the Peace Conference of Paris; and, in 1923, he founded The Cambridge Historical Journal. For a decade or so and with George Peabody Gooch, he worked on the long-term project to publish British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914. In 1927, he published the best-selling textbook, co-authored with A. J. Grant, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, 1789-1914. In 1929, he married his cousin Dorothy Vazeille Temperley; and in 1930 the University of Cambridge appointed him professor of modern history.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required) has this assessment of the man: ‘Temperley was a gregarious - often anarchic - figure who delighted in a keen sense of paradox in history. He was capable of great personal generosity, as well as sentimental outbursts. He was also unpredictable and prone to long abstruse feuds with libraries, archives, ministries, pupils, and colleagues. It may well be that the tense exchanges with the Foreign Office over the edition of documents deprived him of a knighthood.’ He died in 1939. Further information is also available at Wikipedia, Cambridge University, and from John D. Fair’s biography, Harold Temperley: A Scholar and Romantic in the Public Realm (available for preview at Googlebooks).

Temperley began keeping a near-daily diary in the autumn of 1916 and continued for the rest of his life. Although the manuscript documents remain in the possession of the family, Thomas Otte, professor of diplomatic history at the University of East Anglia, edited them for publication by Ashgate (now Routledge)
 in 2014 as An Historian in Peace and War: The Diaries of Harold Temperley. The publisher says: ‘As a professional historian he appreciated the significance of eyewitness accounts, and if Temperley was not at the very heart of Allied decision-making during those years, he certainly had a ringside seat. Trained to observe accurately, he recorded the concerns and confusions of wartime, conscious always of the historical significance of what he observed. As a result there are few sources that match Temperley’s diary, which presents a fascinating and unique perspective upon the politics and diplomacy of the First World War and its aftermath.’ A review of the work can be found in the Journal of Military History.

According to Otte, Temperley was in the habit of writing up impressions in diary form as early as 1900, usually in the form of travel journals while on summer visits to continental destinations, but it was only in 1916, once firmly established in the War Office that he began to keep a ‘more or less daily’ record of his activities and observations. ‘As a professional historian,’ Otte says, ‘he naturally appreciated the significance of eyewitness accounts, and it seems clear from the nature of the source that he meant eventually to publish at least parts of his diary.’ However, his early death prevented this, and later attempts by his widow, apparently, led nowhere. The diaries, in fact, lay ‘slumbering’ in a tin trunk in Temperley’s Somerset home. As a historical source, Otte concludes, the value of the diaries is ‘immense’, and ‘now take their place alongside those of J. W. Headlam-Morley and Harold Nicolson as essential sources for anyone wishing to understand the development of British foreign policy and diplomacy’ in the period.

Otte’s edition of Temperley’s diaries can be previewed at Googlebooks - the source of the following extracts. (I have reproduced the extracts more or less as published, including the editor’s many square brackets - with one exception: I have removed several instances of ‘[Lloyd George]’ leaving Temperley’s ‘LG’ as sufficient identification.)

25 January 1918
‘I heard today from Sir George Arthur, the last story of LG and Asquith. Recently, feeling his insecurity, as witness his lunch to D[avid] D[avies], [Lloyd George] asked Squith to come to 10 Downing St. ‘I’ll be damned if I do’, said Squith to the intermediary. So LG Cavendish Square. There he posed as humble almost servile. ‘I should be ready to serve under you’, said LG. ‘Neither under you, nor over, nor with you,’ said Squith. (Later this story appeared in the Bystander on the 26th.)

The conversation drifted on to Northcliffe and his hatred of the King, due largely to the fact that the King disliked and hardly ever received him. It is well-known at Court that Northcliffe is anti-King, and it is believed that LG is a Republican in principle.

The Queen told a friend of mine that she had left her emeralds not to the P[rince] of W[ales] as future King but personally. She thought thus that he might inherit them.’

22 February 1921
‘Today Montenegro ceased to exist, on receiving a report communicated by me that Gjonovic[,] the Montenegrin Republican Delegate on the Con[stitutiona]l Committee had proclaimed his adhesion to the Yugoslav union idea, despite his Republicanism, and it was also reported that all the Montenegrin (deputies), including the Communists, had taken the oath on the Constitution. France had already discontinued (30 Dec[ember]) diplomatic representation. Our rep[resentati]ve had left on 24th August.

It is however a sad thing that a country should lose its independence of 300 years by the cancelling of an exsequatur to 4 or 5 consuls scattered over the world.

This night there was a debate on the policy of the Internat[iona]l Inst[itute]. It was of no importance, but in ref[eren]ce to ‘policy’ we had some revelations of the past. Sir M[aurice] de Bunsen, who rep[resent]ed us at Vienna till the war - he contributed some senile reflections: ‘we are always told we sh[oul]d have a policy, but I am not certain that it was an advantage and that our advantage has not lain in not having one. When I went to Vienna in [1913] I don’t remember that I heard that a great war was likely. I heard a great deal about the disputes of the C[anadian] P[acific] Railway] with Austria, but nothing about the imminence of a European crisis. This was the old order, each dipl[omatlc] representative left free to his own devices - and to find out things for himself. I am not certain it was a bad one’. I am.’

15 August 1928
‘[Oslo] At the reception, King Haakon VII spoke to me - he has a gentle laugh, displaying his teeth, amiable and mild.

He talked of our publication and said that there were indiscretions in Sidney Lee’s life of Edward. I did not remind him [Haakon VII] that I had seen his indiscretion. He had tried to make his Cabinet join the with England at the beginning of the war, and this fact we omitted in vol. XI. It was not vital to the understanding of the outbreak of the war.

He said on Edward’s death he had asked that the private letters should be destroyed. He did not know whether this was done. I said I thought so, as much had certainly been destroyed.

Koht said he was going leave. I said ‘Can you, before the King?’ He said ‘Yes, if he does not see me’. Just at this point the King came up as he was leaving. He saw us and took Koht by the hand & walked out with him.

The King is said not to speak Norwegian. He has at any rate a Danish accent. He is very democratic and goes up to Holmkoben [sic] to ski in a tram.’

12 December 1916
‘Peace - in the words of the German Emperor - scraps of paper to be binding and swords to beaten into spades. A peace-offer by wireless by 4 despotic monarchs in the world, while we still fumble on the backstairs of secret diplomacy. Now I understand why several days ago LG’s private secretary [Philip Kerr] wanted me to write an article on ‘What Peace Means’. That, according to LG, is the greatest danger.’

10 September 1917
‘Returned after my second visit to Porlock and Exmoor. Applied my military knowledge to the problem of the Doones. The existence of these freebooters cannot be denied today because parish-registers (which some of the critics do not know) mention persons as having been killed by the Doones. Critics of another sort point out that the Doone valley is not a natural fortress, but is actually defenceless, because it is relatively low, and there is no true Doone gate or waterslide as in Blackmoore’s story. But this is a shallow view - a far better defence than choosing a natural fortress was to choose a secluded valley remote from roads. Now, if examined carefully the position of the Doone valley on Exmoor is unique. The modern roads may not have existed but their prototypes in track and by path did. Now Doone valley is the centre of an area of which the four corners are Brendon, Simon’s bath [sic], Exford and Porlock common, roughly about 5 miles square. In this area there is neither road nor track at all making a through-traverse from side to side of the square. There is no other such trackless waste in all Exmoor - no other place 2 miles square in which tracks do not meet. This therefore was a perfectly ideal centre for a robber band to live. Their valley could not be seen or approached from any important road or track. It was, therefore, ideal for their purposes, because they could sally out straight across country, in any direction, and the distance of 5 miles each way gave them opportunity for detecting any advance.’

13 November 1917
‘Jews. The upshot of an inquiry into Bolshevik activities seems to show that many of them are Jewish, that some of them are paid by Germany, that Lenin, though not a Jew, is so paid. But there the matter would seem to stop. The clearest case of anti-Entente Jewish interference is the Rumcherod, and Jewish agents in Roumania, who sought to corrupt Roumanian Jews, soldiers and peasants and outrageously interfered with the rights of Jews.

It is probable that the majority of Jews are anti-Entente mainly on Socialistic grounds perhaps, but certainly also because of previous maltreatment. The Jews is Entente countries, other than Russia & Roumania, have decidedly come out in favour of the Entente. Even in Poland the Jews are now anti-German instead of anti-Russian. Zionism will probably put the finishing touch to the process of winning the Jewish majority.

Italy. We certainly took away our guns from Cadorna with a curtness that was discouraging, when he declined to renew the offensive on the Isonzo. His calculations were wrong but so also were ours.’

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