23rd August 1915 (Monday)

Empire and global finance

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, publishes his thoughts on the Social Democratic idea of a “United States of Europe”, focussing in particular on the challenge of economic union in the context of political differences:

” Capital has become international and monopolist. The world has been carved up by a handful of Great Powers, i.e., powers successful in the great plunder and oppression of nations. The four Great Powers of Europe—Britain, France, Russia and Germany, with an aggregate population of between 250,000,000 and 300,000,000, and an area of about 7,000,000 square kilometres—possess colonies with a population of almost 500 million (494,500,000) and an area of 64,600,000 square kilometres, i.e., almost half the surface of the globe (133,000,000 square kilometres, exclusive of Arctic and Antarctic regions). Add to this the three Asian states—China, Turkey and Persia, now being rent piecemeal by thugs that are waging a war of “liberation”, namely, Japan, Russia, Britain and France. Those three Asian states, which may be called semi-colonies (in reality they are now 90 per cent colonies), have a total population of 360,000,000 and an area of 14,500,000 square kilometres (almost one and a half times the area of all Europe).

Furthermore, Britain, France and Germany have invested capital abroad to the value of no less than 70,000 million rubles. The business of securing “legitimate” profits from this tidy sum—these exceed 3,000 million rubles annually—committees of the millionaires, known as governments, which are equipped with armies and navies and which provide the sons and brothers of the millionaires with jobs in the colonies and semi-colonies as viceroys, consuls, ambassadors, officials of all kinds, clergymen, and other leeches.

That is how the plunder of about a thousand million of the earth’s population by a handful of Great Powers is organised in the epoch of the highest development of capitalism. No other organisation is possible under capitalism. Renounce colonies, “spheres of influence”, and the export of capital? To think that it is possible means coming down to the level of some snivelling parson who every Sunday preaches to the rich on the lofty principles of Christianity and advises them to give the poor, well, if not millions, at least several hundred rubles yearly.

“A United States of Europe under capitalism is tantamount to an agreement on the partition of colonies.”



























3rd July 1915 (Saturday)


On the American home front: German-American Erich Muenter, also known as Erich Holt or  Frank Holt, plants a bomb on board the SS Minnehaha in New York, a ship loaded with munitions bound for Britain, before attempting (unsuccessfully) to assassinate financier  J.P.Morgan Jr who has arranged for Britain to borrow large amounts in the US to finance its war effort against Germany.



23rd March 1915 (Tuesday)

BORN TODAY: United Breweries Holdings Limited, an Indian Non-Government Company registered at the Registrar of Companies, Bangalore, with authorized share capital (now amounting to)  1,000,000,000 Rupees, and paid up capital of Rs. 668,185,220.


After 100 years, the United Breweries group now holds 40% of India’s brewery market…



The Home Front: In Newcastle, in the north of England, 17 year old William Douglass Horsley is found guilty under the Defence Of the Realm Act (DORA) of…

“possessing wireless telegraphy apparatus Including ‘one complete receiving set of a fairly formidable type that could receive a message from a considerable distance, probably Paris or Berlin’. The apparatus was‘home made but very powerful and much more than a mere toy’. Furthermore, its aerials were concealed”

William pleads guilty, is fined 20 shillings (one British pound) and his equipment is confiscated.


17th January 1915 (Sunday)

BORN TODAY: (only in the USA) – Vincent Kosuga – American onion farmer “best known for manipulating the onion futures market. Though he made millions of dollars on commodity trading, his actions were highly controversial and attracted government scrutiny. This scrutiny led to the passing of the Onion Future Act, which banned the trading of futures contracts  on onions.” [Wikipedia]



In the East: Russia occupies the historic region of Bukovina (now divided between Ukraine and Romania), and also Western Ukraine.




Mining accidents: At the village of Halmer End, in England’s North Staffordshire coal-fields, a coal gas explosion kills 9 miners, including Arthur Shufflebottom, aged just 16.


Society and culture: in the USA, the radical labour organizer and anarchist Lucy Parsons lead a hunger march in Chicago.


12th December 1914 (Saturday)

BORN TODAY: in Haworth, Yorkshire, England – Frank Roper, sculptor and stained-glass artist.



The Commercial Instinct: In Britain, the “Daily Mirror” newspaper is advertising “War Souvenir Xmas Presents” – in solid silver… “beautifully enamelled, correct colours, complete in souvenir cases and post free” – for sending to loved ones at the front.


Global Finance: In New York, the stock market re-opens for trading in equities after a closure of over four months, but later claims that it experiences its biggest ever one day fall in the Dow Jones Index today are incorrect – and are based on a later, 1916, retrospective, definition of the shares listed in the index in 1914. The index of 12 stocks actually rises today, by 4.4% – Lies, damned lies and statistics…



Women’s Suffrage: The Committee of the British Physiological Society passes a new rule “that
women be eligible for membership of the Society and have the same rights, duties and privileges as men.” [Physiological Society web-site]

Click to access Info_Sheet_Amittance_of_women.pdf


28th November 1914 (Saturday)

BORN TODAY: in Springhill, Nova Scotia – Arthur James Cochran Wilson, Canadian crystallographer.



Global finance: After a four month closure, the New York Stock Exchange re-opens for bond trading, but not yet for buying and selling equities.


Society and culture: In response to recent complaints from cinema go-ers in London’s Holloway district, the local police station sends an undercover officer to observe behaviour at the “Rink” cinema in Finsbury Park. [“Khaki Fever Moral Panic: Female spectators and women police at the Finsbury Park Rink cinema, London, 1913-1919”, by Alex Rock].


16th November 1914 (Monday)

BORN TODAY: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York – opening its doors for business for the first time at 10.00AM local time at 27 Pine Street.

Click to access 11_7_64.pdf


Financing the war: At a meeting in the boardroom of the London County and Westminster Bank in the City of London, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) leans on the major British banking houses the day before a government loan, to finance the war effort, comes to the market.

He needed to secure the banks’ firm commitment in advance of the launch, because it was essential that the loan should be seen to sell well. Anything less might suggest – to allies and enemies alike – that Britain lacked confidence” [RBS website]


Balkan Front: At the Kolubara River in the Serbia, the Austro-Hungarian army continues its third attempt to over-run Serbia. Over the next 10 days the Serbians will tactically withdrew into the Serbian mountains (“the Battle of Kolubara”) with the intention to over extend the Austrian lines. Although the Austrians successfully take Belgrade late in November, the position will be reversed in early December, and the invaders successfully expelled, once more, from Serbia by mid-December.


7th August 1914 (Friday)

BORN TODAY: in Auckland, New Zealand – Alice Mary Bush, doctor, paediatrician and family planning activist.



In Belgium, German forces capture the city of Liege, but not the forts, still manned by Belgian forces.

In Alsace, French forces are advancing on Mulhouse, and (briefly) seize/ reclaim the town of Altkirch, just across the Alsatian border.

In Britain, at his first attendance at the Government’s “cabinet” meeting, Lord Kitchener responds to ministers who are predicting a war of weeks, or at most months, that “it will not end until we have plumbed our manpower to the last million” [Scott Anderson].

Global Finance: in the “City” within London, fearful of a run on the banks caused by collapsing confidence that Britain can maintain its globally dominant trading activities, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) David Lloyd George, introduces the “Bradbury Pound” (paper money) designed to shore up confidence.



Burg and Purcell: Almanac of World War


Tuchman: The Guns of August


Anderson: Lawrence in Arabia




1st August 1914 (Saturday)

BORN TODAY: in Belfast, in British Ireland – Cecil Allan – (Northern) Irish footballer.



The French and German governments both order full mobilization, and – before any declaration of war – German troops cross the border into Luxembourg to secure strategic railroad and telegraph locations.

In Berlin, the crowds who have been waiting apprehensively to hear whether Russia will accept the German ultimatum to stop its mobilization process (deadline 5.00pm today) are “electric with rumour”.  When the order to mobilize comes the crowd is “instantly converted from Marx to Mars”  by their “instinctive fear and hatred of the Slavic hordes… From the moment the order was given, everything was to move at fixed time according to a schedule precise down to the number of train axles that would pass over a given bridge within a given time“. [Barbara Tuchman: “The Guns of August”].

At seven in the evening in St Petersburg (shortly to be renamed Petrograd, to rid it of its germanic sounding name) Germany declares war on Russia because “Jurists at the [German] Foreign Office insisted it was legally the correct thing to do” [Tuchman]

In Britain, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill orders the immediate seizure in the shipbuilders’ yards of two battleships which are being built for the Turkish Government, the finances for which have been raised by severe taxation and public subscription of the Turkish people. Turkey, which has not yet indicated its position in the coming conflict, is outraged. [Almanac of World War 1].

Also in Britain, where the government is split on whether or not to support France against Germany,  the Governor of the Bank of England (the Central Bank) phones Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) to tell him that the “City” (London’s financial interests) are “totally opposed to our intervening”. [Tuchman].


Women’s suffrage: In Lisburn, in the North of British Ireland, a group of suffragettes attempt to blow up Lisburn Cathedral.