Château Laurier Ottawa Canada

The Grandest of Canada’s Railway Hotels

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Canada’s railway companies built grand hotels along the routes of the country’s burgeoning rail network. Many of these hotels were built in French château- and Scottish baronial-inspired styles, rich in dormers, towers and turrets.

When air travel started to compete with the railways in the second half of the twentieth century, many of the hotels struggled. Some were closed and torn down. The ones that survived are now national landmarks.

Let us take you on a tour of the grandest of Canada’s railway hotels. Continue reading “The Grandest of Canada’s Railway Hotels”

Washington DC nuclear attack illustration

Imagining World War III in 1945

As soon as the Second World War was over, military strategists started planning for the next one.

Life magazine reported in its November 19, 1945 edition that the head of the United States Air Force, General Henry H. Arnold, had warned that technologies developed during the last war — atomic bombs, ballistic missile, long-range bombers — could make possible “the ghastliest of all wars.”

The destruction caused by nuclear weapons would be so swift and terrible that a “war might well be decided in 36 hours.”

Life envisaged what such a war might look like. Continue reading “Imagining World War III in 1945”

The Hague Peace Palace design by Willem Kromhout

Designs for the Peace Palace in The Hague

In 1903, the American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $1.5 million (almost $40 million in today’s money) for the construction of a Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The building would become known as the Peace Palace and eventually house several international courts.

An architectural competition was held for the design. Renowned architects from around the world, including the Netherlands’ own Hendrik Petrus Berlage and Willem Kromhout, submitted ideas. France’s Louis M. Cordonnier Neo-Renaissance palace won. Continue reading “Designs for the Peace Palace in The Hague”

Soviet Arctic dam map

The Soviet Plan to Thaw the Arctic

These days, we worry the Arctic is getting too hot. Half a century ago, the Soviets wished it was warmer — and they thought of a way to thaw the frigid North.

Popular Mechanics reported in June 1956 that Soviet authorities were considering building a 55-mile dam between Alaska and Siberia. The barrier would keep icebergs and arctic currents out of the Pacific, allowing warm southern currents to sweep unchecked up the eastern shore of Siberia and down the western coast of North America. Warm water from the Pacific Ocean would be pumped back into the Arctic and transform the once-frozen region into a “blossoming landscape”. Continue reading “The Soviet Plan to Thaw the Arctic”

Berlin Germany skyline

Hitler’s Nightmare Capital of the World

When you look at the projects that the Nazi government tackled, you cannot rid yourself of the feeling that they had a grandiosity fetish.

To put it in more direct terms: Megalomania was an intrinsic feature of the system. World domination, tank-battleships like the Landkreuzer Ratte and the drastic redesign of Berlin into the capital of the world — Germania. Continue reading “Hitler’s Nightmare Capital of the World”

English-Speaking Union map

Robert Sherwood’s Union of the English-Speaking Peoples

For British conservatives of a certain persuasion, the idea of uniting their country with its former white dominions plus America has long had a special appeal.

Outside Britain, not so much. Few Americans, Australians or Canadians, much less the Irish and South Africans, have ever relished the prospect of an English-speaking union.

One exception was Robert E. Sherwood, an American playwright who would write speeches for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Second World War. Continue reading “Robert Sherwood’s Union of the English-Speaking Peoples”

Nazi whale swallows Britain

How the Nazis Planned to Invade Great Britain

After Germany had overrun France and the Low Countries in the spring of 1940, an invasion of Britain — then the only nation still free in Europe — seemed like a distinct possibility. German fighter planes and bombers waged a months-long air war with their British counterparts over the Channel and the south of England in the summer of that year. The Germans meant to follow up with an amphibious assault once the Luftwaffe had established air superiority.

Of course, the Germans never managed. Prime Minister Winston Churchill congratulated Britain’s airmen in August, saying they had “unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger” and were “turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion.”

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” he said.

The British had been outnumbered and outgunned yet managed to fend off the Nazi air assault and give Adolf Hitler his first defeat.

Even if they’d failed, though, it is doubtful that a German invasion of Great Britain would have succeeded. Continue reading “How the Nazis Planned to Invade Great Britain”

Man in the High Castle North America map

What If Germany and Japan Had Conquered the United States?

Earlier this month, we looked at some hypothetical Axis invasion plans of the United States. In reality, neither Germany nor Japan ever had a concrete plan to attack North America. But what if they did?

Philip K. Dick’s 1963 novel The Man in the High Castle gives us a world in which the two Axis powers not only mounted an invasion of America but succeeded in conquering it. Continue reading “What If Germany and Japan Had Conquered the United States?”