Nietzsche – Philosophy In An Hour

Friedrich Nietzsche was born 15 October 1844, in Saxony, which was by this time a province of the increasingly powerful kingdom of Prussia. Nietzsche was descended from a long line of tradesmen, including hatters and butchers, but his grandfather and father were both Lutheran pastors. Nietzsche’s father was a patriotic Prussian who held his king, Friedrich

Wilhelm IV, in high esteem. When Ludwig Nietzsche’s first son was born on the king’s birthday, it was obvious that he had little chance of being named Otto. By an utterly meaningless coincidence, all three men were to die insane.

NietzscheThe Little Pastor

Nietzsche was now brought up in Naumburg in a house full of “holy women,” which included a mother, a younger sister, a maternal grandmother, and two slightly loopy maiden aunts. This appears to have affected Nietzsche’s attitude toward women in later life. At the age of thirteen he went to boarding school at nearby Pforta, one of the top private boarding schools in Germany.

Nietzsche, very much the product of his pious, mollycoddled upbringing, became known as “the little pastor” and carried off all the prizes. But he was so brilliant that eventually he couldn’t help thinking for himself. By the age of eighteen he was beginning to doubt his faith. The clear–sighted thinker couldn’t help noticing the square pegs in the round holes of the world about him. Typically this thinking appears to have been done in complete isolation. Throughout his life Nietzsche was to be influenced in his thought by very few living people (and not many dead ones either).

God is dead

At the age of nineteen Nietzsche went to the University of Bonn to study theology and classical philology, with the aim of becoming a pastor. His destiny had been mapped out long beforehand by the “holy women”; but already he was beginning to experience an unconscious urge to rebellion, which resulted in a transformation of his character. On arriving at Bonn the solitary schoolboy unexpectedly became a typical gregarious student. He joined a smart fraternity, took to drinking with his fellows, and even fought a duel (the usual artificial affair, which was stopped as soon as he had received his honourable scar – a slight nick on the nose, unfortunately later obscured by the bridge of his spectacles). But this was only a necessary phase. By now Nietzsche had decided “God is dead.” (This remark, now so closely associated with Nietzsche and his philosophy, was also made by Georg Hegel some twenty years before Nietzsche was born.)

At home during the holidays he refused to take communion and announced that he would not be entering the church. The next year he decided to switch to Leipzig University, where he would drop theology and concentrate on classical philology. Nietzsche arrived in Leipzig in October 1865, in the same month that he celebrated his twenty-first birthday.

The bordello

NietzscheAround this time two events took place which were to transform his life. While on a sight-seeing trip to Cologne, he visited a brothel. According to Nietzsche this visit was inadvertent. On arrival he had asked a street porter to lead him to a restaurant; instead the porter took him to a brothel. The way Nietzsche later related it to a friend: “All at once I found myself surrounded by half a dozen apparitions in tinsel and gauze, gazing at me expectantly. For a brief moment I was speechless. Then I made instinctively for the only soulful thing present in the place: the piano. I played a few chords, which freed me from my paralysis, and I escaped.”

Inevitably, we only have Nietzsche’s evidence regarding this unlikely episode. Whether or not the visit was quite so accidental, and whether or not Nietzsche ended up only fondling the keys of the piano, it is impossible to tell. Nietzsche was almost certainly still a virgin at the time. He was an extremely intense young man as well as being inexperienced and gauche in the ways of the world. (Yet this didn’t stop him from making pronouncements about such matters. Despite his sexual status, he earnestly informed a friend that he would need to keep three women to satisfy him.)

On later consideration Nietzsche must have decided that he had been attracted by something more than the piano. He went back to the brothel and almost certainly paid a few visits to similar establishments when he returned to Leipzig. Not long after this he discovered that he was infected. The doctor who treated him wouldn’t have told him that he had syphilis (they didn’t in those days, because it was incurable). Even so, as a result of this incident Nietzsche appears to have abstained from sexual activity with women.

Despite this he continued throughout his life to make embarrassingly self-revealing remarks about them in his philosophy. “You are going to see a woman? Do not forget your whip.”(Although it’s possible that, owing to the type of bordello, he had visited in Leipzig, he thought it only fair that men should be equally armed for the fray.)

The second-hand book

The second life-changing incident took place when he entered a secondhand bookshop and came across a copy of Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation. “I took the unfamiliar book in my hands and began leafing through the pages. I don’t know what demon it was that whispered in my ear: ‘Take this book home.’ So, breaking my principle of never buying a book too quickly, I did just that. Back home, I threw myself into the corner of the sofa with my new treasure, and began to let that dynamic gloomy genius work on my mind…. I found myself looking into a mirror which reflected the world, life and my own nature with terrifying grandeur…. Here I saw sickness and health, exile and refuge, Hell and Heaven.”

Read more in Nietzsche: Philosophy In An Hour by Paul Strathern, published by Harper Press, and available in various digital formats, only 99p / $1.60.

Clara Zetkin – a summary

Clara Zetkin was, during the late 19th and early 20th century, a prominent German communist. With a strong sympathy for the proletariat causes, Zetkin argued that only through a class revolution, one that would overthrow capitalism, could women finally be considered and treated equally. Most of her work was as a prominent supporter, but not member, as women were not permitted to join, of the German Social Democratic Party and, later, as a founder of the German Communist Party. With an ally in Vladimir Lenin, Zetkin was a feminist who advocated the liberation of women using Marxist reform.

Early Life

Clara ZetkinClara Zetkin was born Clara Eissner on 5 July 1857, the eldest of three to a schoolteacher and church organist father. She was raised in Wiederau, near Leipzig, in Germany. Her stepmother, previously the widow of the local doctor, influenced her from an early age. She learned of women’s education societies and became an activist for economic power and equal rights for women.

At the age of 15, Clara’s family moved to Leipzig and there, in 1875, she began formal studies at Schmidt and Otto’s Van Steyber Institute. She was influenced by the German Women’s Association and continued her studies while reading local periodicals and publications, and attending Association meetings.

Professional Life

As editor of Die Gleichheit, a women’s journal stemming from the SDP, young Clara worked tirelessly to promote women’s issues. She met Russian Ossip Zetkin through some fellow students and, with his mentoring, developed a better understanding of the writings of Marx and Engels. In 1879, with Zetkin, Clara rejected what she considered her bourgeois lifestyle, split from her family and traveled to Russia to observe Marxism in action.

In 1882, Clara and Ossip travelled to Austria where she worked as a tutor for factory workers, while Ossip campaigned for greater socialist reform.

Women’s Rights and Political Activity

From Austria, the couple moved to Paris, where they lived an impoverished life. Having contacted tuberculosis, Clara returned to Germany to recover, where she re-established contact with her family. While recovering, she came to believe that it was social equality of the classes that would liberate women from their oppression without need for special concessions in laws and provisions. She returned to Paris on hearing that her husband had contacted spinal tuberculosis.

As one of the only eight female delegates to the Second International Congress in Paris in 1889, Clara Zetkin made a number of speeches concerning the rights and conditions of the working class, and suggesting that the lives of women would only improve once the capitalism had been eradicated. Her views put her at odds with many of her colleagues who found her views too extreme. Their efforts were more focused on specific goals, such as equal pay for equal work. Not to ne denied, she continued to work in Berlin, where, with others, she founded the Berlin Agitation Committee.

Zetkin served as both a representative of the German Communist Party in the Reichstag legislative body and as an associate of Lenin. She also edited the Marxist SPD journal for women. She also became a firm supporter of trade unionism and its use of organized strikes. She became more moderate in her views as she worked more extensively with the working classes. But in other ways she remained a staunch Marxist in thought and practice even amidst efforts by Marxist Revisionists who urged her to modify her views for more general audiences.

Private life and Last Days

The Zetkins lived as husband and wife and had two sons. In order to retain her German citizenship, Clara never legally married Zetkin but took his name and lived with him to his death in Paris in January 1889. She married again in 1899, the German painter, Georg Friedrich Zundel, 18 years her junior. Their marriage ended in divorce during the Great War.

Clara Zetkin and Rosa LuxemburgFrom 1907 to 1910 Zelkin worked as the secretary of the International Women’s Bureau. She established the first International Women’s Day on 19 March 1911. During the First World War, she and fellow activist, Rosa Luxemburg (pictured in 1910 with Clara Zetkin), condemned the radicals within their party resulting in her leaving the party and resigning her post as editor. Later, with Luxemburg, she formed the Sparticus League, which later evolved into the German Communist Party.

Clara Zelkin’s political views didn’t falter and throughout the 1920s she continued to advocate for women’s education and workers’ reform. In 1932, she was the party’s oldest member and spoke out against Hitler and the rise of Nazism in Germany. Following the ban of the German Communist Party, following the Reichstag Fire in February 1933, Zetkin moved to the Soviet Union.

Clara Zetkin died outside of Moscow from poor health on 20 June 1933. She was honoured with an elaborate funeral attended by some of the leading dignitaries of the Communist world.

Jessica Millis

Jessica is an aspiring writer and proofreader. She works as an editor on EssayMama’s blog.

The Dieppe Raid – a summary

In August 1942, Winston Churchill, Great Britain’s wartime prime minister, flew to Moscow and there met for the first time the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin. Fourteen months before, on 22 June 1941, Hitler had launched Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, the largest military invasion ever conducted. Almost immediately, Stalin was urging Churchill to open a second front by attacking Nazi-occupied Europe from the West, thereby forcing Hitler to divert troops to the west and alleviating in part the enormous pressure the Soviet Union found itself under. Now, as Churchill prepared to meet Stalin, German forces were bearing down on the strategically and symbolically important Russian city of Stalingrad.

Churchill knew that if Germany were to defeat the Soviet Union then Hitler would be able to concentrate his whole military strength on the west. But although tentative plans for a large-scale invasion were afoot, to act too quickly, too hastily, would be foolhardy. Churchill withstood Stalin’s pressure. There would be no second front for at least another year. But, in the meanwhile, Churchill was able to offer a ‘reconnaissance in force’ on the French port of Dieppe, with the objective of drawing away German troops from the Eastern Front. Whether Stalin was at all appeased by this morsel of compensation, Churchill does not say.

Operation Jubilee

Dieppe Raid German defenceThus, in the early hours of 19 August 1942, the Allies launched Operation Jubilee – the raid on Dieppe, 65 miles across from England. 252 ships crossed the Channel in a five-pronged attack carrying tanks together with 5,000 Canadians and 1,000 British and American troops plus a handful of fighters from the French resistance. Nearing their destination, one prong ran into a German merchant convoy. A skirmish ensued. More fatally, it meant that the element of surprise had been lost – aware of what was taking place, the Germans at Dieppe were now waiting in great numbers.

Pictured: German soldiers defending the French port of Dieppe against the Anglo-Canadian raid, 19 August 1942.

Continue reading

A Quick Visitors’ Guide to Ancient Greece

With the remains of many temples, battlefields and ancient Greek cities dotted across the Greek countryside, it’s no surprise that so many flock to soak up the sights of Greece every year. As the original location of the Olympic Games, over 3,000 years ago, and home to the famous Parthenon, we explore some of the country’s top ancient sites.


Located in southern Naples, Paestum consists of three ancient temples; the Temple of Neptune, Hera and Ceres, also known as the Temple of Athena. This historic site contains impressive defensive walls, a Roman forum, ancient tombs, plus the remains of an amphitheatre. Along with a fascinating local museum, the ancient Greek town of Paestum, originally founded in the 6th century BCE, is a tourist hotspot certainly worth visiting.


Temple of ZeusHome to the most famous sporting event in history, Olympia was the birthplace of the Olympic Games back in 776 BCE. Athletes came from neighbouring lands and headed to Olympia to compete against each other in these epic games over 3,000 years ago, and now visitors can walk through the extraordinary ruins of the area. Not only that, Olympia is where the Temple of Zeus resides, one of the largest temples in the southern Greek peninsula of Peloponnese. Originally built with 104 columns, a mere 15 still stand today and are decorated intricately with mythical scenes.

Delphi Continue reading

The Kaiser’s War EPOS

Press release from a new digital magazine entitled EPOS:

EPOSOur first issue of EPOS, 1914-1918: The Kaiser’s War, chronicles the events of the First World War in a refreshingly new light. Illustrated by over two hundred historical photographs, interactive maps, authentic recordings of the time, and rare, and often colourized, film sequences.

The EPOS IOS App was launched in Germany this year and has had an energetic reception from readers all over the country. The iTunes App Store considered it to be the Best iPad App of the Month in May. This month we are launching an English version for our international audience.

EPOS is one of the first ever digital magazines which truly capitalizes on the phenomenon of user interaction through animated graphics, frequent scrolling and parallax effects, to fully immerse the reader in the content that is on offer to them.

Worth having a look, we think, and good value too:
Price: $7.99, €6.99, £5.49.

See more at:

Two World Wars: The Hero Connection

Seventy years ago this past June, the armies of the Allies — young men who had grown up in the shadow of the previous war — landed on the beaches of Normandy to put an end to what had begun, in a sense, 30 Junes earlier on the streets of Sarajevo when Franz Ferdinand lost his life to an assassin’s bullet.

WW2 US heroesThe connections between the two world wars are myriad but one that most Americans never consider is this: both conflicts were fought with courage if not heroism. Americans make an immediate association between the concept of hero and the Second World War thanks, in part, to a continuous stream of related television and film productions featuring our Greatest Generation. But the First World War? Most of us know too little about it to make that connection.

And heroism requires a cause. World War II clearly had it. World War I did not, at least initially. The nationalism and related territorial claims that stirred Europe to war in 1914 hardly constituted a good vs. evil situation.

Brave Little Belgium

Continue reading

Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife – a summary

As is the case with her husband, we know remarkably little about the life of William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway. There is no record of either her birth or her baptism, but the inscription on her gravestone indicates that she was 67 years old when she died in 1623. This suggests she was born in 1556, which would make her eight years older than her husband.

Anne HathawayAnne was the eldest of eight children born to local farmer and landowner, Richard Hathaway. It is assumed that the first three children were borne by Richard’s first wife, and the woman listed as her mother, Joan Hathaway, was, in fact, Anne’s stepmother. We have no information as to the identity of Anne’s biological mother, nor do we know for sure if Richard had ever married her.

(Pictured: Drawing purportedly of Anne Hathaway).


The family was raised in the village of Shottery, about a mile-and-a-half from Stratford-upon-Avon. Their home was a twelve-room farmhouse which has since become known as Anne Hathaway’s Cottage – a rather misleading nickname considering it is much larger than a cottage, and it never actually belonged to Anne. As the eldest girl, Anne would have been expected to help with the care of her younger siblings and with the upkeep of the farmhouse. We have no information about the education she received, although it is doubtful that she attended school. This does not necessarily mean, however, that Anne was illiterate, as has often been suggested. In fact, given that her family were ardent Protestants, it is likely she would have been taught to read, if only to enable her to study the Bible.

Hasty marriage to William Continue reading

Who Betrayed Anne Frank?

On the morning of 4 August 1944, a car drew up outside 263 Prinsengracht, a warehouse and office building in central Amsterdam. Several men exited the vehicle and made their way inside, among them an Austrian officer named Karl Josef Silberbauer and some members of the Dutch Nazi Party. They had been tipped off that Jews were hiding on the premises. Whoever had made the anonymous phone call that day was correct: in an annexe at the back of the building, Silberbauer and his men discovered eight Jews. The youngest among them was a 15-year-old girl named Anne Frank.

The Arrest

Anne FrankThe warehouse staff had pointed Silberbauer in the direction of the first floor offices on his arrival to 263 Prinsengracht. Upon entering, a pistol was drawn and Viktor Kugler, the director of the company, was ordered to show the men where the Jews were hiding. Unwillingly, Kugler took them to a bookcase, which concealed the door to what people around the world now know as the Secret Annexe. This was where the Frank family, the van Pels family and a dentist named Fritz Pfeffer had been living clandestinely since 1942, supported by Kugler and other helpers. All of them were German Jews who had fled Nazi rule in the 1930s, only to find their lives endangered once more following the occupation of the Netherlands and the implementation of anti-Semitic laws.

Otto FrankOtto Frank (pictured) was giving 17-year-old Peter van Pels an English lesson when the Nazis entered the Annexe. They joined their families and Pfeffer on the lower floor, where they were ordered to give up their valuables. Looking for something in which to transport the loot, Silberbauer picked up Otto’s leather briefcase, the private place where his youngest daughter Anne had chosen to keep her diaries. Her writings were unceremoniously emptied on to the floor as what little cash the Franks had was stashed away by the Gestapo.

Initially, the Jews were told they had just a few minutes to pack a small bag, but Silberbauer then saw Otto’s trunk, evidently the property of a German war veteran. He was astonished that a Jew had served in the German army and subsequently told everyone to take their time. Similarly astounding was Otto’s revelation that they had been in hiding for over two years. As proof, Silberbauer was shown the pencil lines where Otto had charted Anne and Margot’s growth since 1942 and a map studded with colourful pins, charting the progress of the Allied invasion. D-Day, on 6 June 1944, had been jubilantly celebrated in the Annexe, as everyone had believed that the liberation could not be far away. Now, however, it was evident that for them, the Allied invasion had begun too late.

Deportation Continue reading

The End of the East India Company in India

The Indian ‘Mutiny’, or Rebellion, started on 10 May 1857 and lasted until about mid-June 1858. But by then, the mutineers were a spent force. For the British, having brought in reinforcements from overseas, it remained only to launch a series of mop-up operations to quash every last pocket of resistance. Revenge was very much the motivating force. The Times demanded that, ‘every tree and gable end in the place should have its burden in the shape of a mutineer’s carcass.’ The avengers needed no encouragement – thousands of Indians were killed indiscriminately, whether they had been involved in the rebellion or not; and whole villages set ablaze.

Two years and two months on from the initial outbreak in Meerut, Lord Canning, the first viceroy of India, who served from 1858 to 1862, was able to issue on 8 July 1859 a proclamation declaring: ‘War is at an end; [the] rebellion is put down.’ 11,000 Britons had died, 75 per cent from disease, while the number of Indian casualties, be it sepoy or civilian, remains unknown but numbered many thousands more.

Post-mutiny: the British Raj

East India Company coat of armsLord Canning then managed to quell the bloodthirsty British, earning the contemptuous name ‘Clemency Canning’ from his revenge-driven soldiers. The rebellion may have been dealt with but now the questions were asked – namely, how did it happen and how to ensure that such a catastrophe should never again occur. The East India Company, the de-facto rulers of India, blamed the British Christian evangelicals for having upset local religious sensibilities; while the evangelicals blamed the Company for hampering its efforts.

(Pictured: Coat of Arms of the East India Company).

The uprising may have been far-reaching across northern and central India but Britain’s success was ultimately down to the vast majority of Indian sepoys that had remained loyal to the British. Without their support, the conflict would have had an entirely different ending. Nevertheless, the British Army in India was reorganised so that the proportion of sepoy to British soldiers never exceeded two to one, and the handling of artillery was to be the exclusive responsibility of British-born soldiers. Local religious and linguistic groups were mixed up within regiments to avoid any one group dominating.

The British Crown takes over Continue reading

Thomas Cromwell – a brief summary

Like his mentor Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell came from a modest background: his father was variously a cloth merchant, fuller and blacksmith, and the owner of both a brewery and a hostelry (where he allegedly watered down the beer). Born around 1485 in Putney, Cromwell’s birthplace is now, ironically, where the Green Man public house stands. He acknowledged that he had been a ‘ruffian in his younger days’, when he left his family for the Continent and became a mercenary who marched with the French army. He later entered the household of the Florentine banker, Francesco Frescobaldi.

Thomas CromwellReturning to England, he married Elizabeth Wyckes and had three children. In 1523, he became a member of the House of Commons, and in 1524, he was elected as a member of Gray’s Inn and entered the service of Cardinal Wolsey. He served Wolsey as his lawyer and was heavily involved in the dissolution of nearly thirty monasteries, which raised the funds to found both The King’s School, Ipswich and Cardinal College, Oxford. When Wolsey fell from power in 1530 he was appointed to the Privy Council.

(Pictured: Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein the Younger, c1532).

Thomas Cromwell was possessed with genuine reforming zeal and a loathing for what he perceived to be the superstitions and corruptions of the Catholic monks. Along with his fellow Protestants, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cranmer, he was instrumental in the achievement of the break with Rome. At the height of his career, Cromwell was central to the annulment of the marriage to Catherine, the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, the execution of Thomas More, and the dissolution of the monasteries. In 1536 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Cromwell of Wimbledon, and in April 1540 he became Earl of Essex. Yet his support for the disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves led to his abrupt downfall in 1540, followed by his botched execution on 28 July 1540 and his head on a pike on London Bridge. He was 55 years old when he died.

That other famous Cromwell, Oliver Cromwell, the Parliamentarian leader during the English Civil War and later Lord Protector, was a great-great-grandson of Thomas Cromwell’s sister, Katherine Williams, whose husband assumed the Cromwell name.

Henry VIIISimon Court.

Henry VIII: History In An Hour, published by William Collins, part of HarperCollins, is available in various digital formats, only 99p / $1.99, and downloadable audio.

See also Thomas Cranmer and Thomas More.