Game Review: ‘Wolfenstein: The New World Order’

 

‘Wolfenstein: The New Order,’ is one of those rare things that developers strive toward but few can actually roll out; a first person shooter where the player can look past the gore and the slaughter and immerse themselves in an emotional, thought out story. This is no mindless Call of Duty, this is a cover-based shooter where the player can see Bethesda producers hiding in the vents whispering ‘once more, with feeling’.

In The New Order (TNO) you play as William ‘B.J.’ Blaskowicz, a veteran from the second world war that the Nazi’s won. B.J. is being treated at a mental hospital, trapped in his own body due to the copious amounts of shrapnel lodged in his brain. His quest, topple the twisted empire that conquered the globe using futuristic technology. And B.J. does just that, breaking out of his vegetative state and the mental hospital and turning the enhanced Nazi weapons on their masters in an excellently constructed underdog story. The story features two timelines which are identical with the exception of armour and health upgrades and a few choice characters, a nice inclusion.

Easily the best thing about TNO is its core gameplay; it meshes cover-based shooting with all out shoot-‘em-up action that just keeps on giving. I struggle to remember a point in the campaign where this became boring, primarily due to the many different ways you can approach any scenario; you can choose to make the stealth manoeuvre and take out all the opposition with only a silenced pistol and knives, alternatively you can dual-wield automatic shotguns or assault rifles until every Nazi trooper looks like Leerdammer cheese. Your skill tree grows and expands according to how you play with a wide variety of stealth, explosives, and dual-wield unlocks gained by accomplishing certain feats in-game.

The graphical style of The New Order is realistic but not so detailed as to reduce the frames-per-second, the game always runs smoothly. Enemies range from scientists with pistols to armoured troopers to the hulking oversized Supersoldaten; genetically engineered 8ft tall super soldiers. Not to worry, B.J.’s arsenal includes assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and futuristic laser weapons to deal with any threat thrown his way.

Though mostly good, there are some areas though where TNO slips up. Water interaction is not bad but could be improved, especially from transit into and out of the water, with Blaskowicz’s emergence from water being a hit-and-miss affair; sometimes he comes out, sometimes he slips straight back in. The game’s antagonist General Deathshead only appears properly in a couple of missions, and though this was likely meant to give the impression of B.J. fighting a regime rather than a single jumped up mad scientist, for me it left the final few encounters feeling a little detached.

The main qualm for me though was the use of a single button for multiple tasks. The same button is used for reload, ammo pickup and heavy weapon pickup, I often found myself lifting and dropping the same weapon many times whilst only trying to pick up ammo. It’s a shame because there is never any reason not to pick up ammo, so this could easily have been avoided by automatic pickup whenever B.J. walks over ammo.

In short, Wolfenstein The New Order is a good example of how modern shooters don’t have to be mindless or bland but instead can feature a well-rounded story and solid core gameplay that makes this game a hard act to follow for any FPS.

 

Good:

Polished, cover-based shooter gameplay

Involved, moving story

Varied weapons, enemies and upgrades

 

 

Bad:

Loot collection tiresome

Antagonist barely features

Occasional control issues

 

 

7.5/10

Don’t throw down Voltaire for Voltage: A student’s defense of humanities

 

The year before I began my university career studying a BA in History, it was reported that A Level students were shunning humanities subjects. This downturn has largely been blamed on the much advertised uncertainty of the economy, with prospective students adapting to this climate by choosing vocational courses with clear gateways into the working world.

As a member of  the imprecisely labelled demographic of ‘young people’, from the age of 16 to the present day, I have been fed the bitter cocktail of how foreboding and unforgiving the modern-day job market is. Competition is rife for graduate jobs and my school, college and university were not at all out of line advertising this. The career guidance I received was fairly one-dimensional: do law to become a lawyer, do medicine to become a doctor, study surveying to become a surveyor. For many people under the cloud of such uncertain times, in pursuit of some sort of reassurance, the clearest path to a job, is often the best path.

I was lucky…

I have always been glued to some sort of historical book. Horrible Histories occupied me when I was younger and marching through Max Hasting’s brilliant volumes, as I am older. However, interest, as is the case in many things, does not always translate into grade performance. On the back of some fairly uninspiring grade predictions for my AS History paper, I set out to look for a University where I could study Psychology, realizing that if my attained grades for History matched my predictions, I would be better served looking to do a different course at a ‘better’ university.

I continued to work at History, with Biology taking my focus during my A-levels, as my required science subject to apply to the Psychology course. When visiting universities I would only casually visit the history departments, with a passing interest but without any real conviction. I did this largely to humour my mother – whose study of history at A-level had not marked the end point of her enjoyment of the subject.

It was on one open day, on the south coast, that it all just clicked. The University in question had a respectable looking humanities campus – not the run down, out of sight department that I had seen elsewhere, on other visits. I thought to myself, ‘this University respects this discipline’, it got me thinking and, after some very positive results in my History AS-Level, I chose to, and luckily was accepted into, said University. I had blindly gone for the subject I loved unquestionably.

To many students, this approach is uncomfortable and illogical. I was going for a humanities subject, one that could branch into many fields of work, but one that does not select it for you.

Classifying the value of degree in this way is the first mistake students make. Yes, as consumers, this can be viewed simply as a transaction. The fee-paying student seeks to obtain the skills that will get them into the most agreeable jobs for the modest price of £9000 a year. But ‘transferable skills’ is only one part of this transaction. For a humanities degree, it is only a small part. Cultural enrichment is a term that would probably cause many to cringe. It is probably a term you would find in a fictional dystopian Orwellian novel, whereby an unfortunate protagonist is ‘encouraged’ to reacquaint themselves with the values of their ‘mother’ country. Label it however you wish, it is the study of humanity that provides this knowledge and awareness, which encourages us to adopt an open-minded free-thinking approach to solving life’s may conundrums. It is within the field of Law, by all accounts a career which avoids that all too familiar situation at that family drinks party where one well-oiled guest decides to question your entire future, that the value of humanities is arguably understood the most. Maths graduates are considered desirable for their logical approach to problem solving and humanities students for their cultural awareness and creativity. This is not a skill, this is quality of personality and mind, nurtured over the course of a humanities degree.

The world needs logical thinkers and it needs creativity. Science degrees will certainly provide the latter, simply by virtue of the material being consulted and the way it is assessed. Humanities students are pushed to think creatively and outside the box. No one group is more important than the other. Steve Jobs’ vision would have been nothing without the insurmountable talent at his disposable, but without Job’s anthropological and sociological background, it would equally have been wasted. Rarely in history have individuals been truly gifted with both of these things. When they have, they have gone on to do great things, Albert Einstein and Steven Hawking, but to name a few. And yet, the world cannot rely on these rare instances. Creativity must be fostered and the place this begins is at University.

The stigma from within Universities, against humanities students, as an irrelevant luxury must go. Not for the sake of those studying there, they know why they’re there, but for those who are making the almost life changing decision on what degree course to embark upon. Schools must be more creative and enthusiastic about the opportunities presented by taking a humanities degree. Faculties have argued that the solution lies in the graduates of humanities degrees sharing their experiences so as to encourage others to follow in their footsteps. For the lecturers of empire and feminist history alike to expect this, for them to attract the most promising, they too must be realistic. Students may often omit an aura of peaceful ignorance to their long-term prospects, but in reality, we worry, we worry a lot. History, English, and Philosophy departments across the land, must accept that they will lose some of their best young thinkers to industry and elsewhere. They must be more active and forceful in promoting the utility of a humanities degree for a career outside of academia, instead of limply repeating the term ‘transferable skills’, without any real additional direction.

We live in concerning times, where from a young age, setting a course for a job is top of the agenda. We are encouraged to assess what we are good at, and what we are are not. To dust off the careers book and plot the course of our entire adult life in but a few years. A humanities degree does not hold you back on this path to employment. It allows you to become a more rounded individual with a skill-set and more importantly, a mindset, that is of just as much importance to the job sector and indeed humanity itself.

Game Review: ‘Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor’

If you enjoyed any of the Assassin’s Creed series or Batman Arkham franchise then Shadow of Mordor will be right up your street. The game manages to blend that fast-paced, counter-stun-flurry combat style with stealth and exploration sections that keep the game varied.

You play as Talion, a ranger of Gondor whom along with his family is brutally murdered by the main antagonist, the Black Hand of Sauron. Talion discovers he has been ‘banished from death’ and his fate has been bonded to that of a wraith, via the ritualistic murder at the behest of Sauron. Tolkein fans will be astonished by how the story of Shadow of Mordor follows the Middle Earth continuity almost to the letter, introducing appendices throughout the game on every aspect of Mordor and all its inhabitants that the player can browse at their leisure. The story itself however, is not particularly inspiring; progression is much as expected on a linear path to revenge and freedom from the curse laid on Talion.

Luckily, the gameplay is exemplary, with a large number of ways of approaching any encounter, from just wading in sword swinging to quietly removing all opposition from a distant position with ranged attacks. Truth be told, the stealth elements of the game take a lot from Assassin’s Creed, in that you can traverse buildings in much the same way and perform ledge or aerial kills in a very similar manner. Unlike Ubisoft’s triple A franchise, combat situations are very easy to become overwhelmed in, as a vast number of orcs start pouring in from all directions and it becomes difficult to get stay in control of the situation whilst dodging archers and close quarters attacks. This difficulty ramp is never too steep though, and it feeds well into the showpiece of the game; the nemesis system.

Watching an Uruk rise through his society through various power accruing events is not only interesting to watch, it also makes each encounter with said Uruk memorable and keeps encounters from becoming bland and repetitive. Each captain has his own respective strengths and weaknesses that can be found through interrogation of certain orcs and then exploited at will. One of the ways for an orc to rise through the ranks is to kill you, the player; death is followed by a cinematic showing how the orc society shuffles around as a direct result of your demise before you respawn vowing revenge and recompense with gritted teeth and a grim smile on your face. Power struggles and other facets of the AI’s military order are only improved when Talion gains the ability to control orcs through domination by wraith powers. Watching an Uruk you have ‘branded’ progress from captain to bodyguard to warchief, whilst commanding him to incite discord among the others and gather more followers is in many ways more involving than Talion’s story (especially the latter parts which left me sighing at the screen). The sheer amount of actions available to your very own private orc army can keep any player amused for hours.

Another problem however, is that as any LOTR fans know, Mordor isn’t the most interesting of locales, described in the books as the ‘land of ash and shadow’. Predictably, that is most of what the game’s version is made up of, with the odd friendly orc BBQ party or ruined buildings interspersed between sweeping expanses of……ash, mud, and not a lot else. It’s a shame because the nemesis system interplays well with the combat, with even late game missions not simply becoming a choice between brand or kill but more working out which mind-numbingly brutal moveset to select and flow through from your ever expanding arsenal, a particular favourite of mine being pointing your bow at an enemy, teleporting over and liberating his ugly head from his misshapen shoulders. It’s touches like these that kept me striving to progress to the next grey horizon between the grey sky and grey landscape. The rewards system manages to tread the difficulty ramp perfectly, and the side missions lend themselves well to this, providing varied quests to progress to the next ability or upgrade, aiding Talion in his vengeful rampage/recruitment programme.

Shadow of Mordor is essentially a game with a big heart of gold composed of awesome gameplay, jaw-dropping executions, diverse side missions and a complex, well rounded set-piece provided by the nemesis system. Then Warner Brothers and Monolith have taken it and covered it in a dirty (though in fairness, thin) layer of uninspiring story and depressing scenery.

Good:

Intuitive, varied gameplay

Excellent AI system

Who doesn’t want a private army of orcs?

Bad:

Uninspired  setting

Bland protagonist

Story falls somewhat short of epic

8.5/10

 

Learning To Be You Again

Leo Gauvain 

This blog is meant to be presented in quite a light-hearted manner but there are some serious issues that also need to be addressed and this is one of them.  I feel on my part it’s probably quite a selfish act and I do not wish to condone misery on anyone that reads this.  As a matter of fact it aims to hopefully support and connect with those going through similar periods whilst simultaneously being used as my own form of therapy. I am talking about being on the receiving end of a break-up.

It’s something that pretty much everyone will go through in their lives and, no matter how you put a spin on it, it’s one of the worst feelings you can have.  It may not get any easier but one thing is for sure and that is that you will be better equipped to deal with those feelings of loss.  Of course your friends will be there for support but they can only offer so much support before they start repeating themselves.  It’s something you have to tackle head on and just look at ways to ease the pain.  I personally found that the emotional investment and being so close to someone only for that to be sheared off is akin to someone suddenly pushing you into a freezing cold lake.   You’re  completely unprepared and are without that transition you need to adapt.  You have that security of someone who loves and cares about you, they become very special to you and you may become quite dependent on them.  It’s a mutual bond that when severed can really leave you in the lurch.

I perhaps over indulged the grieving phase and from time to time would say I still do from time to time but not as bad as originally, I digress.  In a relationship your personalities gel with your other half.  You unconsciously find yourself taking on some of their traits and following their interests. You become almost a hybrid of the person you once were.  When this is all over, you leave yourself with all those traits you have taken on that made you so happy previously instead only serving as painful associations.  It’s natural that in your daily routine you will probably reminisce when a particular object evokes that particular memory of you together but you can’t compare everything you now do to how it was before.  I was/am guilty of this, it is not helpful.

Of course no one wants to be sad, although the emotional release of a good cry now and then can be satisfying, happiness is usually the primary objective that every human being strives to achieve.  If you can make yourself happy without relying on anyone else you are in a very strong position in the greater scheme of life and independence.  Everyone is their own person with their own values and of course their own methods with coping against adversary.  I knew that rediscovering what made me happy would undoubtedly improve the situation and i would do this at any cost.

I’ve always loved music and playing the piano is something I love doing at home. I never really had the opportunity to play at University and it was that release that I was sorely missing.  I go to the piano when I’m stressed, when I’m upset, when I’m angry as well as for pleasure.  It’s a skill I am incredibly grateful for and one that the highs you gain from playing a particular piece are quite hard to explain.  The obvious decision, therefore, was to purchase my own piano for my uni room. I got my own headphones so as not to disturb my fellow house mates and play away until my heart’s content.  The headphones have the added benefit of blocking you off from the rest of the world, leaving you immersed in doing what you love.  As well as playing, I have started listening to a lot more music.  Those previous lonely journeys to the shops or to campus take on a completely different view when accompanied to good old R.E.M, that reassuring message that everybody hurts.  I’m personally a massive fan of the song, it’s not as negative as it sounds and offers reassurance when you feel at your lowest.

Friendships are those special relationships that can sometimes get neglected when your mind is elsewhere, yet when you’re in need you can always rely on those loyal people in your life.  You can often find yourself feeling very lonely after a break up but, if you reach out, your friends will be there with an outstretched hand to lift you out of that hole of self pity you find yourself in.  I sometimes I feel that I don’t have many friends but then realise that those I do have really do look out for me and knowing that I mean a lot to them is reaffirmation that I am happy to have them in my life.  I guess it is born out of insecurity but I have often felt that few people really care about me just because I’m not told.  I find I get very emotional when those that are close do try to show me that I am perceived and received in a positive manner.  Recently I went to visit my friend in Manchester.  We barely speak during term time but it was just so nice to spend time with him and enjoy his company.  It was confirmation of why we have stayed friends for so long; since the age of 6.  Back at Uni, I am extremely fortunate to have friends such as my co-blogger who stick with me through thick and thin and I’m not really sure what i’d do without them. Soppy I know.

Getting my brother to come and visit me in Southampton has also been a great decision.  I don’t get to see him often but after dining with him in London I was reminded of how important family are and how fortunate I am to have the family I do have.  Nothing tops a big hug from your bro or a heart to heart mother son talk to reassure you everything is going to be ok.

It’s coming up to Christmas now and, although I’m not fully upbeat, I definitely intend to enjoy the holidays and not let anything get in the way. Sometimes you have to put yourself first and convince yourself that you are a great individual with plenty of fulfillment in your life.  You need to learn to love yourself.  Relationships are great when you’re in them but the end of one, doesn’t have to be the huge negative it appears to be.  That age old cliche that time heals; well it will but only if you give it a little helping hand.

 

Cold War in the Kitchen

 

Cooking. It’s the one feature of uni life that students perhaps fear the most as they embark on their first tentative steps to semi-independence. A life skill that, if you were lucky enough, you never had to do yourself as a child. Personally, I find cooking quite enjoyable from time to time. However, this is mainly due to the fact that I am able to make use of the well stocked fridges and cupboards of home. Yet when Uni comes around, those premium ingredients that I took for granted for so many years were cruelly taken away from me in one foul swoop.

When you brave your first halls kitchen, the cooking game is a completely different kettle of fish. One hopes that if everyone pooled all their cooking knowledge together that you would be able to share the bountiful culinary delights that your combined teamwork would hopefully produce. While I am sure this may happen in rare cases, the reality, is that student cooks often have to fend for themselves. Constantly wary of each other, the game turns into more a game of espionage than Ready Steady Cook. you will very soon realise that student cooking intelligence agencies do exist, and that they will use any means necessary to increase their own cooking prowess at the expense of your own. This can be achieved through various means, the most popular is the poaching of your very own ingredients. This not only undermines your own natural resources but, moreover, causes a rift between you and a flat mate, who is rapidly emerging as Public enemy no. 1.

The severity of the situation is only fully realised when your meal of today becomes their meal of tomorrow. One can only assume that whilst you share a friendly conversation by the hob, that this is merely a distraction whilst the blue print of your steak with peppercorn sauce is being duly noted down and undoubtedly stored in the theoretical book of stolen student recipes that has now manifested itself in your head.

This really shouldn’t bother you as much as it does. After all, your adversary has every right to attempt your staple dishes, the ones you undoubtedly planned with your parents to make sure that you didn’t return home at Christmas resembling a deflated balloon that requires re-inflation. However it is the manner with which they have so obviously thieved your expertise that hurts the most. Without this vital know how, they would be forced into an existence of papa johns (budget permitting), instead of sponging off your well earned survival skills.  You may not be Bear Grylls, but a student learns to adapt and survive on the scarcest of resources.  Making those multiple cans of long life soup that fester in your cupboard last a year is an achievement in itself.  However, it is clear that with your new nemesis clawing for parity on the cooking front, you will have to step up a gear and what ensues is the beginnings of an arms race centered around food and one that will encompass cuisines from far and wide as well as combinations you didn’t think could exist. All in an attempt to gain that vital edge and maintain your superiority as top dog.

It is a relief when the ordeal is over, for this ongoing conflict only usually lasts the first year before dissipating.  When you have a house with people you have chosen to live with they are much more willing to trade secrets or, if you’re both on the same wavelength, go halves on a takeaway.

Olga Gray: a Secretary and a Spy

 

In the early stages of the 1930’s, the gaze of British Intelligence lay not on the maneuverings of a failed Austrian art student, but on the insidious threat of the ‘Red Menace’ which seemed to threaten peace and order in Europe.

Despite the Communist Party of Great Britain’s (CPGB) political impotence (not a single seat was gained in the 1931 elections), the effect of Communism on social stability was considered the greatest threat to Britain between the war years.

MI5 Spymaster Maxwell Knight, widely held as the inspirations for Ian Fleming’s character ‘M’, sought to infiltrate communist activity within Britain. Maxwell Knight was an unusual man by the standards of the time. He was known to keep an array of exotic animals and later went onto become a naturalist. Knight further stood out from his peers in his support for the use of female agents. The most successful of these agents, was Olga Gray.

Maxwells-cuckoo
Maxwell Knight

Gray, the daughter of a night editor at the Daily Mail, was recruited by Knight in 1931. She was a talented secretary and provided the perfect fit for Knights model of infiltrating a ‘subversive body’. Knight believed, so as to limit suspicion, that it was most prudent to wait for the investigated group to make the first contact with the agent and not the reverse.

After putting herself ‘out in the open’ by becoming a member of the Friends of the Soviet Union and doing work for the Anti-War Movement, Gray was approached – Knight’s plan had worked.

Gray was approached by a member of the CPGB whom she had met through her past work to undertake a ‘special mission’. At was at this stage where Gray experienced one of the most peculiar situations of her career as a counter-espionage agent.

Gray had been instructed to deliver key messages to Communist elements within India. This was a trip fraught with potential problems and seemingly doomed to fail. Travelling to India in the monsoon season was highly unusual and was bound to attract attention from the authorities. Furthermore, a single woman entering the country at that time of year would almost certainly result in her being turned back as a suspected prostitute.

Gray thus had to turn to Knight to enable her to enter the country. A ludicrous scenario ensued whereby Knight and MI5 needed to provide Gray with a cover to enter the country and perform her duties for the CPGB to maintain her invaluable position within the organisation.

Knight wrote on the whole affair:

Our department was faced with a peculiar situation whereby Miss ‘X’ had to be assisted to devise a cover-story which would meet the requirements necessary, without making it appear to the Party that she had received any expert advice.

In 1935, Gray dropped her undercover work, citing the strain of the job making it impossible to work effectively. Nevertheless, the threat of Communism had shown little signs of abating and experienced agents were still sorely needed. Knight managed to persuade Gray to at least remain in contact with her former communist employers.

Gray was later contacted by Percy Glading, a member of the CPGB who she knew from her past days within the Anti-War Movement. Glading instructed her to hunt out a flat for the Party. Knight recalled that Gray was ‘none to keen’ to be embroiled in undercover work again, he soon persuaded her.

Gray discovered that along with the frequent meetings at the Holland Road flat that it was being used to photograph top secret documents from Woolwich Arsenal. This exchange went on for a number of months. On the 21 January, Gray informed to Knight that Glading was to meet with his contacts from the Arsenal at 8.15pm at Charing Cross station. The meeting was targeted by the authorities and resulted in the arrest of Glading and 3 others.

After the successful trial of Glading and his accomplices, the judge congratulated Gray (or Miss ‘X’ as she was referred to during the trial) for her ‘extraordinary courage’ and ‘service to her country’.

Percy Glading given six years for his activities.
Percy Glading given six years for his activities.

Olga Gray’s career with the B5(b) section of MI5 ended over a lunch at the Ritz; with a cheque for £500 and a thanks for her service. She went on to change her name and settle in Canada. It is believed that Gray was aggrieved by this fairly demeaning end to her loyal service. Maybe at this time, the threat of Communism within Britain was not as great as the highest authorities believed. But there can be no question marks over the commitment of this one, rather uncelebrated, brave lady.

 

Quitting Like You’ve Never Seen it Before!

 

Quitting smoking, not the easiest task by any stretch. Plenty try and most fail. Those adverts designed to persuade us to quit smoking certainly don’t do much to alleviate the stresses of the guilty smoker, with dangers including: arteries rammed full of yellow gloop and idiotic children trying to puff on a crayon (frankly, this advert concerns me for more reasons than than passive smoking). A world that includes skyscraper sized cigarettes is certainly not one that I want to live in. In spite of the trials of the modern day smoker, imagine living in a time where your habit would have had you labelled an ‘ape’ and a sinner by your own king.

James I, king of England, successor to Elizabeth I, survivor of the Gunpowder plot was also a vehement critic of smoking. In 1604, his work ‘A Counterblaste to Tobacco’, became one of the first anti-smoking publications of all time. James was a talented and well educated man, he authored many works and earned himself the unshakable title of ‘the wisest fool in Christendom’. Whether this title is wholly complimentary is certainly questionable, James’ attitude towards smoking and more specifically Tobacco, was not.

Just as James I had done some 300 years earlier, a certain Austrian dictator was also to publicize the perils of smoking. Whereas Hitler, as he had done for most of Germany’s mishaps, blamed the importation of this nefarious habit upon the Jews, King James I was equally contemptuous towards the ‘barbarous’ Indians for introducing this disgusting new trend into his beloved country. To James, smoking the Native American remedy for ‘pocs’ was tantamount to imitation – the great people of England may as well be walking around naked with feathers in their hair.

10440

What James I lacked in racial tolerance, he made up for in some disturbingly familiar observations on the practice of smoking tobacco. Although seriously hindered by the medical knowledge of the time, James I still managed to identify some causal links between smoking and its side effects. For instance, he recognised that smoking was ‘dangerous’ to the lungs, while those around him nonchalantly puffed away on this new delight from across the Atlantic. The boy born in Edinburgh Castle was certainly right in assuming that the foul smell of tobacco smoke did not bode well for our poor little alveoli.

“A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.”

‘Peer pressure’, just another aspect of smoking that James I correctly identified.

“We cannot be content unlesse we imitate every thing that our fellowes doe, and so proove our selves capable of every thing whereof they are capable, like Apes, counterfeiting the maners of others, to our owne destruction.”

The number of people who started smoking as part of some disappointingly familiar guise to be ‘cool’, will forever stagger me, old James I saw it for what it was.

By today’s standards, a remedy for gout, that could make an alcoholic sober, induce sleep – while also being useful in keeping you awake, and one that could alleviate stomach problems, is certainly a dubious one. This being considered, James was by no means the Stephen Hawking of 17th Century England for finding holes in the ‘omnipotent power of Tobacco!’

While identifying the link between smoking and lung problems is probably the most striking achievement of this publication, James I also identified a few other features of smoking that, if we’re all honest, we loath in equal measure.

Lets be be truthful, we all hate the breath of a smoker – James I was also not a fan. He proclaimed that a man who smoked, was a selfish man. He argued that a man who smoked tobacco should be ashamed of himself, for he was corrupting the ‘wholesome’ and ‘clean complexioned’ woman that he called his wife. At the very least, a husband was damning his wife ‘to live in a perpetuall stinking torment.’

He, like many of us, was repulsed by the idea of people smoking at the dinner table. He condemned smoking in the ‘Dining Chamber’ as being unclean, it polluted the air and the food on the table. James is remembered as quite a lavish king, it is hard to see his meals as being less than decadent, it is hardly surprising therefore, that he viewed those who soiled his epic meal time with such disdain.

When James I became king on the 25th July 1603, he inherited a kingdom in a very poor economic condition. Desperately looking for sources of revenue, it is unsurprising that in 1604, he should turn to the very lucrative Tobacco trade as a new source of income. The cynics among us, will say that ‘A Counterblaste to Tobacco’ was just a means of legitimizing an onslaught on a highly lucrative industry by emphasizing its perverse features.

It is doubtful if we will ever find out the true root and cause of James I’s vigorous assault on tobacco smoking, which in parts, was well ahead of his time. James I work seems even more impressive, when we consider that he advanced his ideas in an age where medical treatment amounted to treating conditions such as syphilis with a good old bath of mercury. Still, Adolf Hitler is widely credited as the first major leader to oppose smoking. However, after studying James I’s critique, we can quite safely say, back off Hitler, James beat you to it.

German_anti-smoking_ad