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LETTERS.

Correct Dieting

I read with interest Janet Hartley's account of Charles Whitworth's experiences as the British representative in Moscow in the early days of the eighteenth century (June 2000).

However, Whitworth did not move straight from the Board of Trade to the Diet of Ratisbon. In 1698 he joined George Stepney in Berlin, and accompanied him to the meeting at Goer between William III and the Elector of Hanover to decide on the peaceful division of the Spanish Empire when her childless king died.

It was Stepney who recommended that Whitworth should go to Ratisbon, writing to the Secretary of State Charles Hedges, and assuring him that Whitworth had `been about with me thro' several Courts of Germany,' and that he had `acquired some knowledge both of their affairs and language.' However, Stepney also wrote privately to his friend John Tucker (Under-Secretrary in Whitehall) on the same day, remarking that `perhaps the King may think it convenient that I appear there for a month or two in my proper person and with the Title of Plenipotentiary.'

The diplomatic careers of both Stepney and Whitworth survived the death of William III and the accession of Mary in 1702. Whitworth's appointment to the Diet of Ratisbon was occasioned by a letter from the Queen to that assembly, inviting them to join the Grand Alliance. Stepney's Letter Books do not reveal the exact date of Whitworth's arrival in Ratisbon, but on May 20th he wrote to Cardinal Lamberg (the Emperor's Representative at the Diet), introducing to him `ce jeune Gentilhomme'.

When the Elector of Bavaria's troops threatened Ratisbon, Stepney advised Whitworth to stay where he was until Lamberg left the city. The Diet might reassemble in Stein or Krems, and Whitworth would be welcome in Vienna. Whitworth eventually arrived in Vienna on September 17th, 1703, following Lamberg by some three months. He then deputised for Stepney during the latter's absence in the Netherlands and England.

Whitworth left for Russia on November 26th, 1704. In August of that year Stepney had written to Adam de Cardonnel (the Duke of Marlborough's secretary), recommending that the `poor Muscovite' should be his (Stepney's) successor in Vienna. This time, however, the recommendation was not approved.

Ms E.S. Spens Hove, East Sussex

The Etymology of F

Quentin Hawkins' fine letter (June 2000) in riposte to Ronald Maxwell's review of Luc Besson's film Joan of Arc made lively reading. I should like to elaborate on his final paragraph.

According to Cassell's Dictionary of Slang, the `F' word first appears in the late seventeenth century. It is not related to the German ficken or the French foutre, and its origins remain unknown. The Reader's Digest Universal Dictionary, on the other hand, gives the sixteenth century as the source, claiming German origin and the Middle Dutch fokken, meaning `to strike'.

However, Richard Ehrenberg's Capital and Finance in the Age of the Renaissance (1928), states that `it is undeniable, moreover, that the Fugger in many countries were hated by the people. Envy and misunderstanding contributed not a little to their unpopularity. In popular language their name was used as a generic term for a great monopolist. The Fucher, Fokker, Fucar and so forth have ever since become in many different countries the name for the financiers which the people held responsible for every evil.'

This is presumably in reference to Jacob Fugger the Rich (died 1526), who gained his vast wealth from control of the silver mines of Schwaz, dealings with merchant houses of Augsberg and Bruges, and the Habsburg dependency on instant loans to ease their constant strifes. He was possibly referred to by both Maximilian I and Charles V as `that Rich Fugger'.

Ray Broadbent Stretford, Manchester

Fishing for the Truth

John Hayward's review of Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga (July 2000) discusses the Norse discovery of `Vinland' and the lack of impact that this extraordinary feat had on the way medieval Europeans viewed their world.

I wonder if this is entirely the case? We know that Norse ships carried Irishmen as part of their crews and there is a distinct possibility that other nationalities were also included. Furthermore, the Germans, French, Spanish and Portuguese were all active in Iceland shortly after the initial discovery of `Vinland'. Given the nature of human inquisitiveness, the chances are surely high that some of these seafarers ventured to North America.

Medieval records show that the Portuguese and the Basques had been whaling and fishing in the North Atlantic for a long time. So is it not possible that the Norse discovery of `Vinland' revealed to these fishermen the presence of highly desirable coastal fishing grounds? Certainly tales of such rich fishing grounds were passed on by word-of-mouth for generations after the demise of the Norse Vinland colony in c.1450.

Rather than dismiss the Norse efforts as having little impact on the rest of Europe, I prefer to believe that the later English and French northern voyages were triggered, in part, by a desire to possess these rich fisheries, before the eighteenth century and the scramble for North America had begun.

Henry E. Orysiek Inverness

Is This the Army?

Some points in David Culbert's most informative article `This Is The Army' (April 2000) seem to be wrong or confusing.

Mr Culbert refers to the `Air Corps' throughout his discussion of the Second World War film This Is The Army. But the US Army Air Corps became the US Army Air Forces on June 20th, 1941, six months before the United States entered the war. Furthermore, Mr Culbert tells us that `the Air Corps did not become a separate service arm until 1944.' In reality the US Air Force was not created until July 26th, 1947.

Finally, Mr Culbert claims that Joe Louis appears in a sequence of the film `with no suggestion that he was forced to travel apart from other members of the troupe' (p. 45), but he goes on to argue that `[Irving] Berlin was a pioneer in insisting that the performers travel as an integrated unit, black and white eating and rooming together.' The sentences seem mutually contradictory.
Stanley Sandier
Conquest '14 Chair in the
Humanities
Virginia, USA
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Publication:History Today
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Date:Oct 1, 2000
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