The History of Peaky Blinders - Communists, IRA, 1920's Gangs, The Italian Mafia and More!



i'm hilbert and this is history with helmets and welcome to today's episode on the pinky fucking blunders I personally think I'll have a great Brummie accent although opinions are divided so for those of you don't know the peaky blinders is at CTV series that's on the moment on at the moment on the BBC and it's set in the 1920s and follows the exploits of the Shelby brothers three brothers who made up a gang or in the series they make up a gang called the peaky blinders and this is actually based on real history a lot of the time and they cover a lot of historical topics so even if you don't watch the show I'm gonna invite you to stick around because I'm gonna be talking about a lot of different history stretching from the I Irish rising and the IRA to the Russian Revolution the spread of communism and socialism throughout Europe and the various integration of different ethnic groups throughout England during the 1920s and the early 20th century as a whole so I think it's gonna be really interesting one if you're interested in early 20th century history at all and yeah so let's crack on so the peaky blinders as I said it's a TV series and it's actually based on a real gang who were called the peaky blinders from Birmingham from an area called small heath or small leaf as they say in the show and while this was a real gang obviously this show is set in the 1920s however the peaky blinders were at large at the end the last decade of the 19th century and that's when they sort of lose their position as the prominent Street gang of Birmingham and what they did was they are called peaky blinders not because as the show shows them having razor blades stuck in their hats so the hats they're wearing are called peaked caps which came into fashion around this time or in the the working classes of people in large industrial cities like Birmingham or Manchester potentially London later on as well and that the the show said that they then sew razor blades into the top of their hats so that they could take them off and it's there's a scene in the show where they do this they take them off and they whack people across the face with them essentially blinding them so it becomes a weapon but there's no actual evidence for this and actually instead like I said the hats were called P keys so they think that's why they called them P key because they were working lower-class men and blind is because blinder was an other word for Slugger which was a fighter that kind of thing and they were before this the the peaky blinded Gong were called sluggers this kind of thing and there were quite small gangs not like the kind of mafia idea our gang today the small groups of men who would go to the race courses where there was a lot of betting going on and they would offer the various people taking in the bets protection which obviously means by offering they would they were forcing them to pay them some of the earnings they were getting to protect them from the other gangs who were protecting over bet makers and you know bookies that kind of thing and you do see this in the show as well which is very interesting now obviously as I said you get a lot of different history in this as well it's set in the 1920s so you have all sorts of the class divisions the rise of communism you've got things going on in Ireland the various gangs different ethnic groups going on and I'm gonna take a look at all of that in this video so first of all what I'd like to look at is the impact of the First World War which was huge on British society now obviously it's set in the 1920s so pretty much all the young men and pretty much all the men have fought in and been scarred by the First World War and really it was a huge thing obviously it was the first time that so many men in England practically all the men of the age unless they hadn't gone to war in which case they were shamed and it does play a part in the show as well that the commander Campbell that it's always brought up that he didn't go over to France to fight and that he's therefore a coward but all these men went to France to fight in the First World War which was an horrific war the amount of people who came back completely destroyed by the war by what they called shell-shocked back then and we now call post-traumatic stress disorder is amazing as you can see the guy in the picture has the thousand-yard stare which is just this glazed over expression and those who weren't completely mentally knackered from the war and you do see that in the show as well Arthur Shelby he has really bad post-traumatic stress disorder and deals with in in a violent way with alcohol and drugs and he has a lot of issues as does Danny in the first season who is also a veteran who comes back and forgets he's actually in England and he wakes up thinking he's in France and in the trenches as does Tommy although Tommy deals with it in a different way and really when you see it this way it's very interesting because all these men have gone out to fight they've seen horrific things you know from all sorts of different backgrounds from just working-class people in Birmingham go out to France and they'd see you know their best friend's that their heads being shot off and awful things that we can't even comprehend and then suddenly they'd come back to England after sometimes four years of being away to fighting and they'd be back in the same very poor conditions remember it's this is before a lot of the social welfare things have kicked in so people were incredibly poor that the cities were very overcrowded still even after the reforms in sort of the the late 19th century that did do a lot but still these these people were very poor and and lived in very overcrowded areas and suddenly all these people came back and then it's no wonder that quite a few of these gangs would pop up because people as Tommy Shelby is he comes back and oh yeah and I should mention there will be spoilers obviously because I'm gonna be talking about the show and it's mentioned that he was a communist before going out or was a member of the Communist Party and I think the best way to describe Tommy Shelby is disillusioned and it's easy to see because of all this horror that they witnessed in France and then when they came back you know their situations hadn't improved so then a lot of these men kind of went rogue and that's essentially where the peaky blinders comes from the idea in the show that they then came back although there is something mentioned that they had an organization already before the war but then they come back and perhaps that's why they were able to do search awful things to other people like the blinding x' and things like that because they'd witnessed such horror in France and in Belgium during the the first world war it's quite an interesting sort of premise for the whole series now obviously the plot of season one that gets it all kicked off is that Tommy Shelby some of his men accidentally unload the wrong box when they I think they were meant to be getting cigarettes but instead they took one from the British Army completely by accident and found a crate full of 25 Lewis guns Lewis Gran's being early machine guns of the time and that's sort of what the plot of the first one revolves around because I can't remember exactly what it was but the British were trying to ship this crate of Louis guns to Libya however the IRA had taken it off the train so the IRA get involved the IRA for those of you who aren't aware are the Irish Republicans are me and I will cover them right now so in 1916 obviously slap-bang in the middle of the first world war in Allen Easter Sunday there was a rising in Ireland now Ireland at this time was part of the United Kingdom although there was very much a sense of tension between certain people in Ireland and the United Kingdom one big misconception is that everyone in Ireland hated the British before the Easter Rising this certainly isn't true the group of Irishmen who did not like the British having control of Ireland were called the Fenians at this time going back to this a really old idea a dark age idea even of groups of essentially bandits young men who would go and a bit like the peaky blinders they'd go out and do you know commit acts and go off and pillage people that kind of thing but anyway that's that's by the by but I'm in on Easter Sunday there was a rising in Ireland in Dublin and other parts of the country where members of the Irish Republicans army who were fighting for the independence of Ireland captured various places in Dublin famously the post office and declared the Irish nation free from British subjugation and this is essentially the start of Ireland's process towards becoming an independent country towards the start of the Republic of Ireland and now as I was saying obviously this did actually happen that's why we have Ireland today although as you will know if you've seen any of my videos or know anything about Ireland is that the whole island isn't part of one country the North actually remained part I think Mahnomen six counties remained part of the United Kingdom because thanks to you it's a long story but essentially the British monarchs they planted English Scots and Welsh Protestants in the Northeast to subjugate the various they very strong Gallic resistance there which is why you had a lot of people in the north least who were in the region traditionally called Ulster who were very Pro British and unionist oranges they're also called there's so much history to go into here but I will resist the temptation and they wanted to remain with the United Kingdom which is a clause but we'll get into that later as well because in the in the second season this becomes an issue because some of the IRA accepted the treaty that these six counties would go to the United Kingdom and some of them didn't and this was actually one of the courses or the main cause for the Irish Civil War which was right after they learned their independence the IRA started fighting among themselves of pro-treaty and anti-treaty and that's where you get the premise of the second season with the various IRA factions trying to use Tommy and the British government against one another because they want to get enough a hand in this Civil War but yes as I was saying in 1916 the IRA captured various areas in Dublin like the post office and declared the Irish Republic a thing however the British did come in and they did clear out of the Irish before too long and the rising was pretty much a complete failure however the harsh treatment of the Irish they took captives and the leaders meant that the people in Ireland became very anti British because they saw how they were being treated and the British really shot himself in the foot by doing this because then suddenly the Irish population became increasingly hostile and it's from that point on that the Irish war of independence starts which was from 1919 the January of 1919 until 1922 which is when this treaty was signed when the Irish the IRA they were fighting a guerrilla war against the British especially their Black and Tans which is the officer that Tommy has to shoot Black and Tans were mostly Scots I believe who were Protestant and they were sent to Ireland and they were known for being incredibly ruthless towards the native Irish a lot of whom were Catholic especially the IRA who were opposing the British which is another dimension to the Irish conflict however at the same time as the Korea Wars going on obviously Koreas they need money they any troops they need ammunition they need guns that kind of thing which is why the Lewis guns were so important to them which is why that all played out and they obviously had people undercover who went to England as well as America a lot of financing for the IRA came from America because hey-ho you know a lot of Irishmen went over to America so there was strong support for them there which is where you get sort of the IRA secret agents coming over to Birmingham that kind of thing because remember Birmingham is in is it in the West Midlands I think it's the West Midlands yeah so that's sort of more towards the Irish Sea probably I had they'd come in through Liverpool and then down to Birmingham over the railways now at the same time you have a lot of class distinction now I absolutely love the aesthetics of the peaky blinders of wearing the peaked caps that kind of thing even though they do wear the kind of the posture suits because obviously the the gang become very rich so they can afford this kind of thing and you can instantly tell the difference which is something that I love between them the kind of the the working-class ruffians the members of the peaky blinders gang and the upper-class very posh people and some of my favorite scenes in the entire series one of them is when they're at the racecourse and they're surrounded by all these you know really posh rah-rah the people who would say that very naturally kind of thing where in the top hats and jackets and then you have you know the the peaky binder lads wear their caps on and which it's just one of the images that I absolutely love from the show and at the same time you had a very clear class system arguably you still do in the United Kingdom and this is one of the reasons why communism and socialism plays a large part in this now obviously you have Freddie Thorne who is the prominent communist in season one as well as various striking action that they they take part of and something that I'd also like to mention is the role of the sort of the the the the suffragette movement or technically the post sub-project movement because most of the suffragette stuff was done before World War one and then after World War one is when women got the vote in the United Kingdom over a certain age and then but obviously a wage equality had not yet been reached and then that's also played a part in the peaky blinders series but as I was saying this kind of drive towards socialism is very understandable when you see some of the conditions that the people were working in and that was one of the ways in which people protested against having gone out to France remember all the men had served their King they'd lost brothers and Friends and then they came back and you know their conditions hadn't improved so a lot of them as is very clearly shown in the first season you know they join communist parties which were very popular in big industrial cities in England as well as throughout Europe during this time now this is all very much related to what's the Russian Revolution which is obviously 1917 Russia was at war with Germany on the Eastern Front they did abysmally badly actually I have a video about this if you're interested and there was a revolution and when obviously the the Russians they went down the slippery slope of communism and when they had their revolution and obviously this inspired a lot of people back in England and throughout Europe to do the same which is why you have after will be born in Germany various times that the Communists threatened to capture Germany for example the spot assists in 1919 and the red ruler uprising as well as I believe Bavaria went communist for a while in Germany but at the same time you had the ousted members of the old elite who had disillusioned liberals and sort of the traditionalists in Russia who formed the white Russians and there was a civil war in Russia between the red so the Communists the Bolsheviks and the white Russians for a long time who were supported by most of the nations of Europe because sort of Britain America and France I believe even sent troops that way which is why I think it's Estonia is an independent country because they landed there in Estonia which I think used to be part of Prussia as well obviously that all fell apart at the end of World War one because it was part of the German state as a result of the Treaty of Versailles and they then fought this big civil war and obviously the Reds won in the end but the white movement was a big movement and this obviously plays a huge part in the peaky blinders in season 3 and as well then you see a collaboration between the communists at home the homegrown British socialists a lot of them as I said disillusioned soldiers returned from the front and then the Communists in Russia the Bolshevik regime because they then saw this as wow it's actually works the workers have been able to topple a government in such an autocratic one as Tsarist Russia so for us it must be possible as well so this was a real sign for communists at the time that things could go the way they wanted them to and then obviously you had the white Russians who were fighting against this and they actually continued to fight in various forms as either Koreas or as a standing army in the first few years against the white the the Communist Russians the red Russians right up until the Second World War hundreds of thousands of Russians joined the SS and joined the German invasion of Russia because they saw this as their chance to get at the Bolsheviks and if you know the Germans had succeeded in the East then it's likely that they would have taken over administration so a lot of them worked as translators that kind of thing which is really interesting I find at least an interesting topic to look at and this is why because they were fighting this war in Russia against the the Bolsheviks the red army that they are so desperate to get their hands on these vehicles which is again season 3 what that plays into with the factory but then at the same time you have people in the factory who are British workers British socialists and communists who do not want them to have this and you know you have the whole thing where they go out and strike people's action that kind of thing which is I just find it really interesting how they sort of blend foreign politics as well as sort of domestic issues and social issues at the time how it all comes together in the peaky blinders which is one of the reasons why I absolutely adore the show and of course a very interesting thing is that the Shelby rulers I've hardly talked about them actually there's John Shelby who's the youngest earth she'll be the oldest and Tommy she'll be the leader and the middle brother and they are all gypsies which is just it adds a really interesting dynamic because some of the which is in the peaky blinders and there there are quite a few languages spoken in the show one of them is Romani which is the language spoken by some of some groups of gypsies in the Roma gypsies for example and they do converse in Romani and you have the whole kind of even though it's the 1920s and it's Birmingham and it's the factories and you know the common English folk you do have this kind of they repeat the phrase gypsy witchcraft them and they kind of joke about it as well and they whole the whole sort of relationship between the various groups because I'll get into some of the other gangs in a minute and most of them are sorted along sort of ethnic lines which is very interesting because you kind of have the same thing today in America obviously there are contradictions and there were back then as well but you have kind of gang set along social and ethnic lines and the Shelby brothers they are a gypsy family so then you have that whole kind of sort of extra element added into this blend this modern blend which just gives the show something more which I found very interesting of course the three brothers then have very much experience with animals so there's a great scene in the last season in season 3 where Tommy's been arrested and the the Irishman actually they're all the police constables are ulster irish so Protestants which is why they are sent over to Birmingham to deal with the IRA and the Communists which they both hate equally as much and it's a great scene where he's in the cell and obviously there's the dog and he's kind of got this it's almost stereotypical but you know it makes sense he's great with animals Tommy so he's sort of psyching out the dog and then that's why he's into horse-racing so much in owning horses because obviously gypsies are very good with horses especially back then not necessarily modern gypsies but back then it was you know you do see the caravans and the horses and you know they look absolutely great and then you have the whole dynamic of the various gypsy families so in the first season you have this big gypsy war between the Shelbys and the LEAs the leaves being another family and then it's really interesting that the way they resolve this is to marry John LVT Ismaili and then to literally create an alliance so it's almost like a feudal dynasty doing the same thing you know I could be talking about Henry the seventh year but it's a similar kind of dynamic with these warring families which is really interesting I find to sort of draw the parallels there now on the other side obviously in this season which is still ongoing by the way which is season four you have the Italian gangs no actually in the second season you had another Italian gang which was the Sabini gang and Sabini was a real man he really existed as did Thomas Shelby he was real Billy kimber from the first season he was a real guy although they have sort of bended the facts bent the facts a little bit and to make the narrative easier as I already mentioned with the difference in timeline between the real peaky blinders and the peaky blinders of the show but this new Italian gang is very interesting because they represent a very different kind of gang so far they've all been kind of the the lads from your Street versus the lads from the other Street kind of thing whereas these are real an organized gang more in a modern sense obviously the mafia who were the mafiosi from sicily originally but these are they're the American ones in this one and obviously in America Italian gangs played a huge role which is very interesting contrast to more of the kind of street gang vibe of the gangs in Great Britain and obviously these guys are absolutely armed to the teeth and you you really learn to hate them if you start watching the show but it's very interesting how they play out all of these Italians coming over from New York and how they bring that into the mixer and at the same time my absolute favorite character in the show has got to be Alfie Sullivan's who is the leader of a Jewish gang and I believe the Jewish gang is based on a real gang from London from Camden called the Yiddish a–'s obviously Yiddish is the Germanic language spoken by various Jewish groups in Europe and he is just really funny his character just gets me all the time and so yeah I highly recommend that you do watch the show and watch out for alfie suliman's when he when he said it but it's it's interesting that you know the Jewish people also had a gang in London at the time and for a while they were really big enemies with the Italians which played out but then for a long time at the start of the 20th century they actually had an alliance with the Italians because it allowed sort of the the trade between them to carry on a very interesting thing is that in the nineteen late 1920s and 1930s this alliance fell apart because obviously Italy went fascist and these ideas from Italy from the motherland spread to London and obviously fascists and Jews they aren't really the best of friends so the this alliance fell apart with that and actually the Yiddish has played a role in the Battle of Cable Street which was very famous encounter between Oswald Mosley and his union of British fascists against various people who were opposed to them and it's it's interesting that they played a part in that as well so thank you very much for watching I realize I've rambled for a long time but this is kind of what I intended this video to be because there were so many interesting points to discuss here about the various politics in history of the 1920s and off what's shown in the peaky blinders so I do hope that you will consider watching the peaky blinders and checking out the series because I absolutely love it I think there's so many great bits in the acting's great you know the scenery it you really do feel like you're in the industrial heart of the 1920s whereas you still have all of these historic things connecting it to times gone by and also things that will occur in the future so it's on the BBC I realized a lot of you guys won't be able to get the BBC and you know I'm sorry about that there's not really much I can do but if you can't get it then do consider checking out so thanks very much I'm history with Hill but don't forget to give me a thumbs up and check out the peaky blinders and by order of the peaky blinders i order you to have a good night




Comments
  1. When you say about the whole Ireland hating England, it was the minority that liked England, the history between England and Ireland stretches back centuries. England tortured us Irish, they tried to wipe us out. And even winston Churchill said “the Irish are a funny race, the refuse to be English”. During the ‘Great famine’ the Irish wasn’t only dependant on potatoes, we had a load of other food there but the English took the food away from us, put it on boats and sent it to england to feed to the English and try to get rid of us once and for all but the that didn’t work, we came back and took up arms against the English during the famine. The rebellion during the famine and the rebellion of 92’ inspired 1916, there was meant to be 1000s of men and women who were supposed to show up until the leader of the volunteers put in a newspaper cancelling their part in the rising, we had weapons coming from Germany which was sank by the English, and sir roger casement got hanged for treason when he just wanted to free his native land, a land that is destined for freedom. Before you decide to call the men and women who died fighting for my land ‘bandits’ learn the history of my country and then learn the history of your country, learn how you’re country rape, plunder and killed innocent people

  2. It's funny because Cillian Murphy is Irish, and he played a soldier in the IRA during this exact same time period in the movie "The Wind That Shakes The Barley." He wore a peaky cap in that too.

  3. In the show, when they're speaking "Romani", they are actually speaking Romanian. The Gypsy language sounds nothing like Romanian. So that would be a mistake on the part of the director(s) of the show.

  4. Tommy tells May "I'm not Gypsy the way you mean Gypsy". And Billy Kimba calls them a "didicoy razor gang", an insult meaning they are only part Romani. Polly being Catholic, where Tommy follows the religious beliefs of the Roma on the rare occasion that he follows any at all, also supports that.

    I feel like it's an important part of the story that you've maybe missed. That they are outcasts from all groups except the one they create for themselves. And at a time when social exclusion guaranteed economic exclusion (though that's still mostly true).

  5. I stopped watching the show when the black guy who was in the war with them had dreads . The Jamaicans didn’t move to England till a lot later and Rastafari didn’t exist either

  6. It's an OK programme using poetic licensing go the fullest..holds as much truths as a soggy loaf. The music is awful and no one sounds like there from Birmingham

  7. I’m from Oklahoma so I know jack about the history behind the Peaky Blinders (WWI, but not the other more specific stuff in England and Ireland) So thank you for making this!!

  8. Many of the IRA leaders were actually Protestant. Including some that were shot in 1916. The religion wasn’t the cause. It became more of a problem in the provisional Ira during the troubles.

  9. Hello! Nice history timeline that you did, but i really wanth to expose one thing that you and even the producers of the series goted wrong, the language spoken in the film is romanian, and romanian population is not gypsies. In Romania are living many gypsies but ther language is romany, and this 2 languages, romanian and romany are not the same, theny not resemble at all.

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