There was no North-East Frontier Province so-called, but the Burma-Yunnan border was the Raj’s northeast frontier from the fall of Mandalay in 1886 to Burma’s separation from India in 1937. In the north, on the Burma side, were the Kachin Tracts. In the south were the Shan States. Those British names do not do justice to the complex ethnographic map of Burma.
Now India’s northeast frontier is Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China. If you take Arunachal away, it is Assam. Arunachal borders Tibet and Burma. So would Assam but for Arunachal: the buffer was established by the McMahon line in 1914. Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, to the south of Arunachal, border Burma.
I saw a novella in a real bookshop recently about life in the Kachin country: Last Chukker by JK Stanford (the Wikipedia entry needs an editor), Faber and Faber (no less), mcmli. 1951.
“Few writers have attempted to describe the north-eastern frontier of Burma, where it marches with Yunnan, in all its loveliness and savagery. Fewer still have woven a real knowledge of this land, little known even before the Japanese War, into a tale of smuggling and polo, of mystery and murder, of wild beasts, and even more dangerous men.
“The author of The Twelfth, who knew Burma well for over eighteen years, has crowned the vivid story of Jeremy Gayner (naturalist and ex-policeman and the bankrupt outcast of the European community) with a climax which will thrill even those who have never seen polo played.
“Last Chukker is an unforgettable vignette of the Burma which came to an end so abruptly in 1941.”
How can one resist an invitation to a lost world? I bought, read and enjoyed it.
Stanford saw active service in both wars, and between the wars was a civil servant in Burma, including in the Police Department.
M.F.M.M., Obituary, Lt.-Col. J.K. Stanford, O.B.E., M.C., Scottish Birds, Vol 7, No 1, spring 1972:
“He was one of that admirable band of servants of the British Empire who passed the few hours of leisure they had in enriching, or even founding, the ornithology of the remote areas where they were stationed, and it is as an authority on Burmese fauna that J.K.’s name will largely survive.”
Until twenty years ago, one read obituaries of these Empire naturalists in the Telegraph.
He wrote many books, mainly in his retirement in England. The first, The Twelfth (1944, revised 1964), written in the North African desert, was a comic fantasy of English sporting life about a character called George Hysteron-Proteron. Later came Ladies in the Sun: The Memsahibs’ India, 1790-1860 (1962). His bird knowledge is evident in Last Chukker.
The nineteen year-old Orwell joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma in 1922 and stayed until ’27. Perhaps Stanford met him. Perhaps Orwell reported to Stanford. Orwell’s maternal grandmother lived at Moulmein. He was posted in various places, ending in Katha, which became the setting for Burmese Days (1934). That was furthest north he got. He arrived in Burma during a crime wave which had turned it into the most violent corner of the Empire.
Emma Larkin quotes a memoir by Stanford (Reverie of a Qu’hai, and Other Stories, 1951, apparently a memoir) in her book about Orwell in Burma, Secret Histories, John Murray, 2004:
“‘Everyone had realised what an astounding assortment of malefactors – murderers, dacoits, thieves, robbers, house-breakers, forgers, coiners, blackmailers, and so on – each district possessed. They seemed to spring up like dragon’s teeth, till there were scarcely enough columns in the criminal game-book.’”
We meet them in Last Chukker. One wonders how much of that savagery was a result of British interference with Burmese life.
Last Chukker has illustrations (drawings by Maurice Tulloch). I wish more books did, but publishers are too lazy and mean to commission them. For “what is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?”
Beyond the Raj, to the north and east, were desert, ice and green: Sinkiang (Xinjiang, Chinese Turkestan), Tibet and Yunnan. Which, come to think of it, are the colours of the Indian flag, not that that is its official symbolism.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and India border Xinjiang.
India, Nepal, Bhutan and Burma border Tibet.
Burma, Laos and Vietnam border Yunnan.
Archive for the 'South Asia' Category
It was the armed forces of the East India Company and the Crown that opened up the sub-continent of India to British trade through the wars of 1799-1849, and it was the Royal Navy that opened up the sub-continent of China to British trade through the War of 1840-2.
1799, as every Victorian schoolboy knew, saw the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. 1849 saw the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War and the annexation of the Punjab. Could one put the first India date earlier, at the start of the First Anglo-Mysore War?
The Mysore Wars broke the power of the Muslim Kings of Mysore. The Maratha Wars broke the resistance of the Hindu Maratha Confederacy in the Deccan. The Sikh Wars, after the conquest of Sindh, broke the power of the Sikh Empire.
First Anglo-Mysore War (1767-69)
First Anglo-Maratha War (1777-83)
Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-84)
Third Anglo-Mysore War (1789-92)
Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1798-99)
Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-05)
Third Anglo-Maratha War, or Pindari War (1817-18)
First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46)
Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-49)
Wellesleys and Lawrences (old post)
First Opium War (1839-42)
Second Opium War (1856-60)
Tipu Sultan confronts his opponent during the Siege of Srirangapatna (1792) in the Third Anglo-Mysore War; Wikimedia Commons, unidentified 1909 source
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939 (footnote)
“The optimistic view is that Karachi has seen worse periods of violence only to bounce back, even to thrive.” BBC correspondent Shahzeb Jillani, who is returning there after twelve years in London. I would be doing the same in his position.
This is from Basil Davidson’s 1984 sweeping Channel 4 television series Africa: A Voyage of Discovery (from the third of its eight one-hour parts).
Davidson put African history on the map for laymen, including Africans. Is he still regarded highly? If not, is that because he has been superseded or because he was self-taught and a journalist and lacked any academic qualifications? Or is it a residue from a time when he must have seemed unsettlingly left-wing and when African history was not considered a real subject?
The Channel 4 series is all on YouTube, but not in one place and not in good recordings. There is no decent bibliography of him online. Many people will know his Lost Cities of Africa (1959), African Slave Trade (1961), Africa: History of a Continent (1966) and Time-Life book African Kingdoms (1966).
Swahili, or Kiswahili, is a Bantu language of the East African coast. It became the tongue of the urban class in the Great Lakes region and went on to serve as a post-colonial lingua franca in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Romans visited the coast in the first century. Arab traders had contact with the black coastal peoples from the sixth century CE or earlier. Islam reached the coast in the ninth century or earlier. There is cultural evidence of early Persian (or Arabo-Persian) settlement on Zanzibar from Shiraz. Swahili contains many Arabic and Persian loan words.
City-states – Muslim, cosmopolitan, and politically independent of each other – began to flourish along the coast and on the islands: Kilwa, Malindi, Gedi, Pate, Comoros, Zanzibar. They depended on trade from the Indian Ocean.
The Swahili acted as middlemen between Africa and the outside world. Slaves, ebony, gold, ivory and sandalwood were brought to the coasts and sold to Arab, Indian and Portuguese traders, who carried them to Arabia, Persia, Madagascar, India, China, Europe. Many slaves sold in Zanzibar ended up in Brazil.
Zanzibar grew spices: cinnamon and cardamom were introduced from Asia (when?), chilli and cacao were brought by the Portuguese from South America. When were cloves introduced? Were spices sent mainly to Europe or also to Asia?
How Arab were the ruling classes? How much of the Indian Ocean sailing was done by black Africans? Is there evidence for the arrival of black traders in China? Wikipedia on Chinese in the Indian Ocean and in Africa.
The sultanates began to decline in the sixteenth century, as Portuguese influence grew. The Portuguese in turn were threatened by Omanis, who controlled Zanzibar from 1698 until the middle of the nineteenth century, when the British started to interfere. They were in turn followed by Germans.
Commerce between Africa and Asia via the Indian Ocean declined, but some of the dhow trade survived when Davidson made his film. Swahili fishermen still sell fish to their inland neighbours in exchange for products of the interior.
The earliest known documents written in Swahili are letters written in Kilwa in 1711 in the Arabic script. They were sent to the Portuguese of Mozambique and their local allies. They are preserved in the Historical Archives of Goa. Another document in Arabic script is Utendi wa Tambuka (The History of Tambuka), an epic poem from 1728, written in Pate, about wars between Byzantium and Muslims from 628 to 1453. The Latin script was used later, under the influence of European colonial powers.
Akbar recognized that a Muslim regime in India could not survive for long if it failed to win the assent of its Hindu subjects. In 1564 he abolished the poll-tax on non-Muslims. He demonstrated his power to the Rajput descendants of the Huns and Gurjaras by taking Chitor in 1567-8 (this once impregnable rock was not proof against artillery), but, having intimidated the Rajputs, Akbar conciliated them, and this was wise, since they were the most martial of the Hindu peoples before the rise of the Marathas and the Sikhs, and Rajasthan, where the Rajputs had congregated since the Muslim conquest of the Jumna-Ganges basin in the twelfth century, was the nearest to Delhi of all the regions in India in which the Hindus had preserved their autonomy.
However, Akbar’s conciliatoriness to his Hindu subjects was not prompted solely by political considerations; it was partly inspired by an ambition to break down the traditional barriers between the historic higher religions. Akbar initiated a series of debates between representatives of Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Roman Catholic Christianity, and in 1582 he promulgated a new religion of his own, the Din-i-Ilahi (“the Divine Religion”), which, so he hoped, would unite all the older religions by transcending each of them.
The first call on Akbar’s time and energy was necessarily the organization and expansion of his empire. Akbar profited by the administrative and financial ability of the Bengali Afghan Emperor Sher Shah Sur, who had evicted Akbar’s father Humayun from India in 1539-40. In his brief reign (1540-5), Sher Shah had created an excellent administrative and fiscal organization and postal service, and these assets were inherited from him by Akbar.
Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous
Akashic Books (New York) publishes the grim Delhi Noir, new stories by: Irwin Allan Sealy, Omair Ahmad, Radhika Jha, Ruchir Joshi, Nalinaksha Bhattacharya, Meera Nair, Siddharth Chowdhury, Mohan Sikka, Palash Krishna Mehrotra, Hartosh Singh Bal, Hirsh Sawhney, Tabish Khair, Uday Prakash, Manjula Padmanabhan. All, as far as I can see, written in English except one, which is translated from Hindi.
“Delhi Noir’s fifteen original stories are written by the best Indian writers alive today – the ones you haven’t yet heard of but should have. They are veteran authors who have appeared on the Booker Prize short list and budding geniuses who your grandchildren will read about in English class. Delhi Noir is a world of sex in parks, male prostitution, and vigilante rickshaw drivers. It is one plagued by religious riots, soulless corporate dons, and murderous servants. This is India uncut, the one you’re missing out on because mainstream publishing houses and glossy magazines can’t stomach it.”
The gang rape makes it topical. (What is this particular publisher unable to get right when it does it as an ebook? Every two or three pages, a word has a nonsensical hyphen in the middle.)
It is edited by Hirsh Sawhney, who writes the Introduction, which is dated May 2009. He came back in 2005 from New York to a Delhi where middle-class families who had once lived frugally were comparing plasma television prices. Nowadays those televisions are rigged up in slums. He doesn’t define his own family as middle-class, though their address in the 1950s, Connaught Place, perhaps suggests it. They had one bedroom, but they were refugees from the Punjab. I can remember when the English middle class was, by modern standards, poor. It was all it could do to keep a bottle of sherry in the larder.
“International brands like the Wall Street Journal and Chanel were setting up shop. The city’s cruddy public transportation system was being revolutionized by an ultramodern metro. [...] The educated elite [...] bragged about the new malls and cinemas going up in Gurgaon.”
Reforms began under Manmohan Singh in 1991 when he was Finance Minister. He began to dismantle Nehruite socialism. This new India, and new Delhi, does not like to talk about its noir side.
“Every morning, papers abound with alarming stories: accounts of the unmitigated corruption and contract killing that make this city of more than fifteen million tick; indications of increasing divisions between rich and poor that lead servants to murder masters and foment Maoist movements in the country’s hinterland; synopses of so many rapes and sexual assaults that readers become numb to them. Yet the everyday depravity and anguish of Delhi life remains confined to news copy. Despite notable exceptions like Namita Gokhale and Arvind [sic] Adiga, authors of literature – particularly those who write in English – usually choose to ignore the capital’s stains.” Perhaps no more. What must the rape statistics be telling us about violence hidden in the home?
A servant murders his once-loved master in Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, which won the Booker Prize in 2008. I enjoyed that book. Some thought it vastly overrated. It certainly had flaws.
“It’s only natural that Delhi’s book-buying-and-publishing citizens would avoid such writing. Any insight into their hometown’s ugly entrails would threaten their guilt-free gilded existence and the bubble of nationalistic euphoria in which their lives are contained. They are too dependent on the power structures and social systems intrinsic to the city – embassies, government offices, and corporations; rural poverty and illegal immigration – to risk looking critically at these things.
“[...] Delhi Noir’s contributors are diverse: They are Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Punjabis, Biharis, Bengalis, and Keralites; men and women; gay and straight. Many reside in the capital, but others have addresses in Uttarakhand or the U.S. Some have published critically acclaimed books, and a few are still working on their first manuscripts. What they have in common is the inclination to write delectable literature that doesn’t shy away from the city’s uncomfortable underside.”
The stories, as with others in the Noir series, are identified in the table of contents with areas of the city: Ashram, Bhalswa, Defence Colony, Delhi Ridge, Delhi University (North Campus), Green Park, Gyan Kunj, Inter-State Bus Terminal, Jantar Mantar, Lodhi Gardens, Nizamuddin West, Paharganj, RK Puram, Rohini.
I discovered Nizamuddin in 2010. Email me if you want the address of an upmarket bed and breakfast there. It’s a Muslim area, as the name suggests. Part of it is pleasant and expensive, with gates that are lifted before cars can drive in. Still, not repulsive, or a planned development, or too obviously part of the great middle-class secession into gated communities (to quote, or paraphrase, Arundhati Roy), and seductive and neighbourly in the early evening. This is Nizamuddin East. Nizamuddin West, across Mathura Road, is rougher. Part of it feels medieval. Go there if you want to eat without alcohol at Karim’s.
“Irwin Allan Sealy’s tale about a vigilante autorickshaw driver who avenges sexual assault on the Ridge is defined by the wry, rhythmic prose that garnered him a place on the Booker Prize shortlist in 1998.” Allan is an Anglo-Indian who lives in Dehra Dun. At the top of the valley, in Mussoorie, resides an Anglo-Indian who must be the least noir writer in the subcontinent, Ruskin Bond.
I have read two stories in Delhi Noir: Mohan Sikka’s The Railway Aunty (Paharganj) and Palash Krishna Mehrotra’s Fit of Rage (Defence Colony). They aren’t masterpieces, but they do tempt me to sample more of the book. The Railway Aunty is about a young man who becomes a gigolo in a middle-class prostitution ring. Fit of Rage is about a servant’s murder of his master, or rather mistress.
I was in New Delhi in early summer 1999. The person who was looking after me, R_, from the Confederation of Indian Industry, invited me to a reception they were holding at the Taj Palace hotel (Diplomatic Enclave). We arrived there after some meetings an hour and a bit before it was due to start. R_ said she would go home to get ready. We would see each other later.
She never returned. I didn’t think much of it, but it was puzzling. I was staying not at the Taj but at the more modest and delectable (in those days) Claridge’s (“The Claridges”), a two-storey building in the Lutyens Bungalow Zone. You wouldn’t think, in the LBZ, that Delhi was a violent city. (Yet it’s a cliché in small talk that Delhiites are not the nicest people in India.)
In the morning, The Times of India was brought into my room with my breakfast. High on the front page, a column was headed: “Mother of CII Director Murdered in South Delhi.” I could hardly believe that the daughter was the person I had been with the evening before.
“NEW DELHI, April 28 (PTI) — The 63-year-old mother of a top executive of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) was today found strangled to death at her flat in a South Delhi locality.
“H[_] K[_] N[_]’s body was discovered by her daughter R[_] N[_], who is Director (International) at CII, around 6.30 p.m. when she returned to her East of Kailash home, the police said.
“The house was bolted from outside and the victim’s body was lying in a pool of blood in an inside room of the flat with hands and legs tied with a rope and a sari tied around her neck, the police said, adding that there were strangulation marks on her body.
“The victim, a widow, was alone in the house when the incident occurred.
“The house was completely ransacked and it could not be immediately ascertained whether any valuables were missing as the victim’s family was under shock, the police said.
“Senior police officials and forensic experts examined the area and lifted some fingerprints as the body was sent for a post-mortem examination.
“The police suspects the absconding servant, a Nepali employed just four days back, in the murder and has detained for questioning a maid who had brought him to the house.”
I have the original newspaper somewhere. That’s from The Tribune and is on the web. R_ was unmarried and lived with her mother. I have blanked out their names. One report said that the servant had run into the main street and had been seen catching a bus.
South Delhi is prosperous. I assumed it was a robbery, and I remember wondering why it was necessary to kill an old woman for the sake of a few valuables.
Mehrotra asks that question in Fit of Rage:
“Servants murdered their masters all the time in Delhi. Every other week the newspapers carried stories of elderly couples being drugged and clobbered to death. I often wondered: If the motive was robbery, why kill? Why not steal and scoot? Anyway, this seemed to be how they did it in Delhi.”
I called R_ that day at home. “Now you know India,” she said to me bitterly. Had she gone back the night before, with so little time to spare, because she was afraid of something?
Are criminals sometimes referred to as “Nepalis” before anybody has checked? In The Railway Aunty, we have:
“‘You’re not to open the door, Bibiji,’ she said sharply to the old woman. ‘What if some Nepali slashes our throats?’”
Akashic started the Noir series in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. They have done several dozen cities since, not all in the US, but nothing on East Asia. No Tokyo Noir, no Shanghai Noir, no Hong Kong Noir, no Bangkok Noir. Macau might not have enough writers, but is certainly noir enough. But Manila, Seoul and Singapore are scheduled. Yes, Singapore. One had been told that crime was forbidden there. They will lap that up when Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan delivers it. Lagos Noir is due, editor Chris Abani. So is Baghdad, editor Samuel Shimon. Tokyo is a strange omission.
There is a Venice Noir. Venice, Italy, but can a city that has no nightlife be noir? Of course there is a Moscow Noir, and a St Petersburg. Paris Noir contains no Simenon, since most volumes allow stories only by living writers (a few, subtitled The Classics, have older ones), and how can a city be noir when Madame Maigret is preparing foie de veau à la bourgeoise for the commissaire’s lunch? But some of Simenon’s eleven “hard” novels set in the US (Les frères Rico, Feux rouges) are true examples of 1950s noir.
To Delhi from Ferghana and Calcutta (old post)
Constantine’s motive for becoming a convert to Christianity was ethically much inferior to Ashoka’s motive for becoming a convert to Buddhism. Ashoka’s motive had been repentance for his crime of having waged an aggressive war, and he had never gone to war again. Constantine’s motive was gratitude for his victories in three successive civil wars.
Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous
In A.D. 1952 it would, no doubt, have been folly for a Western World that had been thrown on the defensive by a Russo-Chinese entente under the banner of Communism to count upon any possibility of a future breach between the two titanic non-Western Powers that were now cooperating with one another in an anti-Western campaign.
But a breach occurred in 1961. The two powers had been diverging ideologically since 1956.
There was perhaps more legitimate ground for encouragement in the fact that a Western Community which had come into headlong collision with the Chinese in Korea and which was desperately embroiled with the Vietnamese in Indo-China had managed to come to terms with the Indonesians after having crossed swords with them on the morrow of the “liberation” of the East Indian archipelago from the Japanese, and had voluntarily abdicated its dominion over the Filipinos, Ceylonese, Burmans, Indians, and Pakistanis by amicable agreements that had not been sullied by any stain of bloodshed.
The voluntary liquidation of American rule in the Philippines was perhaps not so remarkable – though an English observer could hardly claim to be an impartial judge in this case – as the voluntary liquidation of a British Rāj in India that was not only a hundred years older than the American régime in a former dominion of the Spanish Crown but had also come to count for far more in the life of the ruling Western country. When, on the 18th July, 1947, [footnote: This was the date on which the Royal Assent was given, at Westminster, to an India Independence Act enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The formal assumption of authority by the Governments of the Indian Union and Pakistan followed on the 15th August, 1947.] Great Britain had completed the fulfilment of a pledge, first made on the 20th August, 1917, [footnote: In the House of Commons at Westminster by the Secretary of State for India, Mr. Edwin Montagu.] to grant full self-government to India by stages at the fastest practicable pace, the Western country that had carried out this transfer of political power on this scale without having been constrained by any immediate force majeure [he is flattering us] had performed an act that was perhaps unprecedented and was certainly auspicious for the future, not merely of the Western Civilization, but of the Human Race.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
Satyajit Ray’s documentary about Rabindranath Tagore (1961).
Film made by the Warwick Trading Company. Fascinating because of its age, but the title is wrong. These are ghats of Bernares or Varanasi, four hundred miles up the Ganges, not of Calcutta, where the Hooghly is a Ganges tributary. The mistake was presumably deliberate. The word Calcutta meant more to people at home than Bernares.
BD Garga, From Raj to Swaraj: The Non-fiction Film in India, New Delhi, Penguin/Viking, 2007, a book which, strangely enough, I have, mentions the Company, but not the film. Swaraj was Gandhi’s conception of governance in India after independence.
Before the Industrial Revolution, Man had devastated patches of the biosphere. For instance, he had caused mountain-sides to be denuded of soil by felling the trees that previously had saved the soil from being washed away. Man had cut down forests faster than they could be replaced, and he had mined metals that were not replaceable at all. But, before he had harnessed the physical energy of inanimate nature in machines on the grand scale, Man had not had it in his power to damage and despoil the biosphere irremediably. Till then, the air and the ocean had been virtually infinite, and the supply of timber and metals had far exceeded Man’s capacity to use them up. When he had exhausted one mine and had felled one forest, there had always been other virgin mines and virgin forests still waiting to be exploited. By making the Industrial Revolution, Man exposed the biosphere, including Man himself, to a threat that had no precedent.
The Western peoples had begun to dominate the rest of mankind before the Industrial Revolution. In the sixteenth century the Spaniards had subjugated the Meso-American and Andean peoples and had annihilated their civilizations. In the course of the years 1757-64 the British East India Company had become the virtual sovereign of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. In 1799-1818 the British subjugated all the rest of the Indian subcontinent to the south-east of the River Sutlej. They had a free hand because they held the command of the sea and because in 1809 they made a treaty with Ranjit Singh, a Sikh empire-builder, in which the two parties accepted the line of the Sutlej as the boundary between their respective fields of conquest. In 1845-9 the British went on to conquer and annex the Sikh empire in the Punjab. Meanwhile, in 1768-74, Russia had defeated the Ottoman Empire decisively; in 1798 the French had temporarily occupied Egypt, and in 1830 they had started to conquer Algeria; in 1840 three Western powers and Russia had evicted the insubordinate Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, from Syria and Palestine. In 1839-42 the British had defeated China dramatically. In 1853 an American naval squadron compelled the Tokugawa Government of Japan to receive a visit from it. The Japanese recognized that they were powerless to prevent this unwelcome visit by force of arms.
These military successes of Western powers and of one Westernized Eastern Orthodox power, Russia, were won at the cost of occasional reverses. In the seventeenth century, the Portuguese were evicted forcibly from both Japan and Abyssinia. A British army that invaded Afghanistan in 1839-42 was annihilated. Yet by 1871 the Western powers and Russia were dominant throughout the World.
Even before the Industrial Revolution in Britain the Tsar of Russia, Peter the Great, had recognized that the only means by which a non-Western state could save itself from falling under Western domination was the creation of a new-model army on the pattern of the Western armies that were being created in Peter’s time, and Peter also saw that this Western-style army must be supported by a Western-style technology, economy, and administration. The signal military triumphs of the Western powers and of a Westernized Russia over non-Westernized states between 1757 and 1853 moved the rulers of some of the threatened states to do what Peter the Great had done.
Eminent examples of Westernizing statesmen in the first century after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Britain are Ranjit Singh (ruled 1799-1839), the founder of the Sikh successor-state, in the Punjab, of the Abdali Afghan Empire; Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman Padishah’s viceroy in Egypt from 1805 to 1848; the Ottoman Padishah Mahmud II (ruled 1808-39); King Mongkut of Thailand (ruled 1851-68); and the band of Japanese statesmen that, in the Emperor’s name, liquidated the Tokugawa regime and took the government of Japan into its own hands in 1868. These Westernizing statesmen have had a greater effect on the history of the Oikoumenê than any of their Western contemporaries. They have kept the West’s dominance within limits, and they have done this by propagating, in non-Western countries, the modern West’s way of life.
While the achievements of all the Westernizers mentioned above are remarkable, the Japanese makers of the Meiji Revolution were outstandingly successful. They themselves were members of the hitherto privileged, though impoverished, traditional military class, the samurai; the Tokugawa Shogunate succumbed after offering only a minimal resistance; a majority of the samurai acquiesced peacefully in the forfeiture of their privileges; a minority of them that rebelled in 1877 was easily defeated by a new Western-style Japanese conscript army composed of peasants who, before 1868, had been prohibited from bearing arms.
Muhammad Ali and Mahmud II did not have so smooth a start. Like Peter the Great, they found that they could not begin to build up a Western-style army till they had liquidated a traditional soldiery. Peter had massacred the Muscovite Streltsy (“Archers”) in 1698-9; Muhammad Ali massacred the Egyptian Mamluks in 1811, and Mahmud II massacred the Ottoman janizaries in 1826. The new Western-style armies all gave a good account of themselves in action. Muhammad Ali began building his new army in 1819 and a navy in 1821; in 1825 his well-drilled Egyptian peasant conscript troops almost succeeded in re-subjugating for his suzerain Mahmud II the valiant but undisciplined Greek insurgents. The Greeks were saved only by the intervention of France, Britain, and Russia, who destroyed the Egyptian and Turkish fleets in 1827 and compelled Muhammad Ali’s son Ibrahim to evacuate Greece in 1828. In 1833 Ibrahim conquered Syria and was only prevented from marching on Istanbul by Russia’s intervention on Mahmud II’s behalf. Muhammad Ali’s army was more than a match for Mahmud’s because he had been able to make an earlier start in building it up. Mahmud could not start before 1826, the year in which he destroyed the janizaries; yet, in the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-9, his new-model peasant conscript army put up a much stiffer resistance than the old Ottoman army in the Russo-Turkish wars of 1768-74, 1787-92, and 1806-12.
Ranjit Singh, like his contemporary Muhammad Ali, engaged former Napoleonic officers as instructors. The British succeeded in defeating the Western-trained Sikh army in 1845-6 and again in 1848-9, but these two wars cost the British a greater effort and heavier casualties than their previous conquest of the whole of India outside the Punjab.
Rulers who set out to Westernize non-Western countries could not do this solely with the aid of a few Western advisers and instructors. They had to discover or create, among their own subjects, a class of Western-educated natives who could deal with Westerners on more or less equal terms and could serve as intermediaries between the West and the still un-Westernized mass of their own fellow-countrymen. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Ottoman Government had found this newly needed class, ready to hand, among Greek Ottoman subjects who were acquainted with the West through having been educated there or having had commercial relations with Westerners. Peter the Great in Russia, Muhammad Ali in Egypt, and the British in India had to create the intermediary class that they, too, needed. In Russia this class came to be called the intelligentsia, a hybrid word composed of a French root and a Russian termination. During the years 1763-1871, an intelligentsia was called into existence in every country that either fell under Western rule or saved itself from suffering this fate by Westernizing itself sufficiently to succeed in maintaining its political independence. Like the industrial entrepreneurs and the wage-earning industrial workers who made their appearance in Britain in the course of this century, the non-Western intelligentsia was a new class, and by the 1970s it had made at least as great a mark on mankind’s history.
The intelligentsia was enlisted or created by governments to serve these governments’ purposes, but the intelligentsia soon realized that it held a key position in its own society, and in every case it eventually took an independent line. In 1821 the ex-Ottoman Greek Prince Alexander Ypsilantis’s invasion of the Ottoman Empire taught the Ottoman Government that its Greek intelligentsia was a broken reed. In 1825 a conspiracy of Western-educated Russian military officers against Tsar Nicholas I was defeated and was suppressed, but it was a portent of things to come, and this not only in Russia but in a number of other Westernizing countries.
To live between two worlds, which is an intelligentsia’s function, is a spiritual ordeal, and in Russia in the nineteenth century this ordeal evoked a literature that was not surpassed anywhere in the World in that age. The novels of Turgenev (1818-83), Dostoyevsky (1821-81), and Tolstoy (1828-1910) became the common treasure of all mankind.
See the eighth volume of the Study and the Reith lectures.
Vasily Timm, The Decembrist revolt, painted 1853, St Petersburg, Hermitage
The scampering boy in the foreground appears in so many works of this period and somewhat earlier. In British prints he sometimes rolls a hoop and is followed by a scampering dog.
Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous
“Welcome to Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire. This website holds detailed information on over 6000 films showing images of life in the British colonies. Over 150 films are available for viewing online. You can search or browse for films by country, date, topic, or keyword. Over 350 of the most important films in the catalogue are presented with extensive critical notes written by our academic research team.
The Colonial Film project united universities (Birkbeck and University College London) and archives (British Film Institute, Imperial War Museum and the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum) to create a new catalogue of films relating to the British Empire. The ambition of this website is to allow both colonizers and colonized to understand better the truths of Empire.”
Circa 1922. Ronny Heaslop, city magistrate at Chandrapore, and his mother:
“‘We’re not out here for the purpose of behaving pleasantly!’
“‘What do you mean?’
“‘What I say. We’re out here to do justice and keep the peace. Them’s my sentiments. India isn’t a drawing-room.’
“‘Your sentiments are those of a god,’ she said quietly, but it was his manner rather than his sentiments that annoyed her.
“Trying to recover his temper, he said, ‘India likes gods.’
“‘And Englishmen like posing as gods.’
“‘There’s no point in all this. Here we are, and we’re going to stop [ie stay], and the country’s got to put up with us, gods or no gods. Oh, look here,’ he broke out, rather pathetically, ‘what do you and Adela [his fiancée] want me to do? Go against my class, against all the people I respect and admire out here? Lose such power as I have for doing good in this country because my behaviour isn’t pleasant? You neither of you understand what work is, or you’d never talk such eyewash. I hate talking like this, but one must occasionally. It’s morbidly sensitive to go on as Adela and you do. I noticed you both at the Club to-day – after the Burra Sahib [the Nawab Bahadur, a local Muslim dignitary, loyal to the British; but the scholarly Abinger Edition has substituted “the Collector” at this point – ie Turton, the British tax collector] had been at all that trouble to amuse you. I am out here to work, mind, to hold this wretched country by force. I’m not a missionary or a Labour Member or a vague sentimental sympathetic literary man. I’m just a servant of the Government; it’s the profession you wanted me to choose myself, and that’s that. We’re not pleasant in India, and we don’t intend to be pleasant. We’ve something more important to do.’
“He spoke sincerely. Every day he worked hard in the court trying to decide which of two untrue accounts was the less untrue, trying to dispense justice fearlessly, to protect the weak against the less weak, the incoherent against the plausible, surrounded by lies and flattery. That morning he had convicted a railway clerk of overcharging pilgrims for their tickets, and a Pathan of attempted rape. He expected no gratitude, no recognition for this, and both clerk and Pathan might appeal, bribe their witnesses more effectually in the interval, and get their sentences reversed. It was his duty. But he did expect sympathy from his own people, and except from newcomers he obtained it. He did think he ought not to be worried about ‘Bridge Parties’ [social events intended to bring Indians and British together] when the day’s work was over and he wanted to play tennis with his equals or rest his legs upon a long chair [see the picture in this post].
“He spoke sincerely, but she could have wished with less gusto. How Ronny revelled in the drawbacks of his situation! How he did rub it in that he was not in India to behave pleasantly, and derived positive satisfaction therefrom! He reminded her of his public-schooldays. The traces of young-man humanitarianism had sloughed off, and he talked like an intelligent and embittered boy. His words without his voice might have impressed her, but when she heard the self-satisfied lilt of them, when she saw the mouth moving so complacently and competently beneath the little red nose, she felt, quite illogically, that this was not the last word on India. One touch of regret – not the canny substitute but the true regret from the heart – would have made him a different man, and the British Empire a different institution.”
EM Forster, A Passage to India (1924).
Britain announced last week that it would end financial aid to India by 2015.
A collection of photographs of British India c 1912 was found recently, wrapped in copies of the Statesman from 1914, in the archives of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Samples here, here and elsewhere.
Calcutta, High Court in background
Office in Madras
Chandpal Ghat, Kolkata; bathers reached the river through tunnels under the railway line
Owing to the tendency of the parochial states of a broken-down civilization in its Time of Troubles to sharpen their weapons in fratricidal conflicts with one another and to take advantage of this dearly bought increase in their military proficiency to conquer neighbouring societies with their left hands while continuing to fight one another with their right hands, most universal states have embraced not only a fringe of conquered barbarians but substantial slices of the domain of one or more alien civilizations as well. Some universal states, again, have been founded by alien empire-builders, and some have been the product of societies within whose bosoms there has already been some degree of cultural variety even on a reckoning which does not differentiate between march-men and the denizens of the interior of the same social world. [...]
No other universal state known to History appears to have been as homogeneous in culture as Japan under the Tokugawa régime. In “the Middle Empire” of Egypt, in which a fringe of barbarians on the Nubian glacis of its Theban march was one element of variation from the cultural norm of the Egyptiac Society of the age, there was another and more positive feature of cultural diversity in the Empire’s culturally Sumeric provinces and client states in Palestine and Coele Syria. As for “the New Empire”, which was a deliberate revival of the original Egyptiac universal state, it accentuated the pattern of its prototype by completing the assimilation of the barbarians of Nubia and by embracing the domain of an abortive First Syriac Civilization in Syria and North-Western Mesopotamia; and this culturally tripartite structure – in which the cultural domain of the civilization through whose disintegration the universal state has been brought into existence is flanked by culturally alien territories annexed at the expense of both barbarians and neighbouring civilizations – appears to be the standard type.
For example, in the Mauryan Empire, which was the original Indic universal state, an Indic cultural core was flanked by an alien province in the Panjab, which had been at least partially Syriacized during a previous period of Achaemenian rule after having been partially barbarized by an antecedent Völkerwanderung of Eurasian Nomads, while in other quarters the Mauryan Empire’s Indic core was flanked by ex-barbarian provinces in Southern India and possibly farther afield in both Ceylon and Khotan as well. The Guptan Empire, in which the Mauryan was eventually reintegrated, possessed an ex-barbarian fringe, with an alien Hellenic tincture, in the satrapy that had been founded by Saka war-bands in Gujerat and the North-Western Deccan, and a Hellenized fringe, with a Kushan barbarian dilution, in the territories under its suzerainty in the Panjab. In a Han Empire which was the Sinic universal state, the Sinic World proper was flanked by barbarian annexes in what was eventually to become Southern China, as well as on the Eurasian Steppe, and by an alien province in the Tarim Basin, where the Indic, Syriac, and Hellenic cultures had already met and mingled before this cultural corridor and crucible was annexed to the Han Empire for the first time in the second century B.C. and for the second time in the first century of the Christian Era. In the Roman Empire, which was the Hellenic universal state, a culturally Hellenic core in Western Anatolia, Continental European Greece, Sicily, and Italy, with outlying enclaves in Cilicia, in Syria, at Alexandria, and at Marseilles, was combined with the domain of the submerged Hittite Civilization in Eastern Anatolia, with the homelands of the Syriac and Egyptiac civilizations in Syria and in the Lower Nile Valley, with the colonial [Carthaginian] domain of the Syriac Civilization in North-West Africa, and with ex-barbarian hinterlands in North-West Africa and in Western and Central Europe as far as the left bank of the Rhine and the right bank of the Danube. [Footnote: Leaving out of account the late-acquired and early-lost Transdanubian bridgehead in Dacia.]
There are other cases in which this standard cultural pattern has been enriched by some additional element.
In the Muscovite Tsardom, a Russian Orthodox Christian core was flanked by a vast ex-barbarian annex extending northwards to the Arctic Ocean and eastwards eventually to the Pacific, and by an Iranic Muslim annex consisting of the sedentary Muslim peoples of the Volga Basin, the Urals, and Western Siberia. This pattern was afterwards complicated by Peter the Great’s deliberate substitution of a Westernized for a traditional Orthodox Christian cultural framework for the Russian Orthodox Christian universal state, and by the subsequent annexation of additional alien territories – at the expense of the Islamic World on the Eurasian Steppe and in the Crimea, the Caucasus, and the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin, and at the expense of Western Christendom in the Baltic Provinces, Lithuania, Poland, and Finland.
In the Achaemenian Empire, which was the original Syriac universal state, there was an antecedent cultural diversity, within the Syriac core itself, between the Syrian creators of the Syriac Civilization and their Iranian converts, and a geographical gap between Syria and Iran that was still occupied by the dwindling domain of the gradually disappearing Babylonic culture. The Achaemenian Empire also embraced the domain of the submerged Hittite culture in Eastern Anatolia, the best part of the domain of the Egyptiac Civilization, fringes torn from the Hellenic and Indic worlds, and pockets of partially reclaimed barbarian highlanders and Eurasian Nomads. Moreover, after its life had been prematurely cut short by Alexander the Great, its work was carried on by his political successors, and especially by the Seleucidae, whom it would be more illuminating to describe as alien Hellenic successors of Cyrus and Darius. In the Arab Caliphate, in which the Achaemenian Empire was eventually reintegrated, the Syriac core – in which the earlier diversity between Syrian creators and Iranian converts had been replaced by a cleavage, along approximately the same geographical line, between ex-subjects of the Roman and ex-subjects of the Sasanian Empire – was united politically, by Arab barbarian empire-builders, with barbarian annexes – in North-West Africa, in the fastnesses of Daylam and Tabaristan between the Elburz Mountains and the Caspian Sea, and on the fringes of the Eurasian Steppe adjoining the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin – and with fragments of alien civilizations: a slice of the new-born Hindu World in Sind; the potential domain of an abortive Far Eastern Christian Civilization in the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin; an Orthodox Christian diaspora in Syria and Egypt; and a fossil of the by then elsewhere extinct Babylonic Society at Harran.
In the Mongol Empire, which was a universal state imposed by alien empire-builders on the main body of the Far Eastern Society in China, the annexes to a Chinese core were unusually extensive – including, as they did, the whole of the Eurasian Nomad World, the whole of Russian Orthodox Christendom, and the ex-Sasanian portion of a Syriac World which by that time was in extremis. The Mongols themselves were barbarians with a tincture of Far Eastern Christian culture. In the Manchu empire-builders, who subsequently repeated the Mongols’ performance on a less gigantic yet still imposing scale, there was the same tincture in a more diluted form; and the Chinese universal state in its Manchu avatar once again embraced, in addition to its Chinese core, a number of alien annexes: a “reservoir” of barbarians in the still unfelled backwoods and still virgin steppes of Manchuria, the whole of the Tantric Mahayanian Buddhist World in Tibet, Mongolia, and Zungaria, and the easternmost continental outposts of the Islamic World in the Tarim Basin, the north-western Chinese provinces of Kansu and Shansi, and the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.
In the Ottoman Empire, which provided, or saddled, the main body of Orthodox Christendom with its universal state, the alien ʿOsmanli empire-builders united an Orthodox Christian core with a fringe of Western Christian territory in Hungary, with the whole of the Arabic Muslim World except Morocco, the Sudan, and South-Eastern Arabia, and with pockets of barbarians and semi-barbarians in Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, the Mani, the Caucasus, the Crimea, and on the Arabian Steppe. In the Mughal Empire, which was the Ottoman Empire’s counterpart in the Hindu World, the pattern was simpler, since, apart from the Iranic Muslim empire-builders and their co-religionists who had been deposited in the Hindu social environment by earlier waves of invasion from the Middle East and Central Asia [since the twelfth century], the Mughals’ only [sic] non-Hindu subjects were the Pathan barbarian highlanders on the north-western fringe of their dominions. When, however, the Mughal Rāj was replaced by a British Rāj, the pattern of the Hindu universal state became more complex; for the advent of a new band of alien empire-builders, which substituted a Western element for an Islamic at the political apex of the Hindu universal state, did not expel the Indian Muslims from the stage of Hindu history, but merely depressed their status to that of a numerically still formidable alien element in the Hindu internal proletariat, so that the Hindu universal state in its second phase combined elements drawn from two alien civilizations with a Pathan barbarian fringe and a Hindu core.
There had been other universal states in which, as in the Mughal Empire, the cultural pattern had been less complex than the standard type yet not so simple as that of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The Empire of Sumer and Akkad, which was the Sumeric universal state, included no representatives of an alien civilization – unless Byblus and other Syrian coast-towns are to be counted as such in virtue of their tincture of Egyptiac culture. On the other hand, the Sumeric Civilization itself was represented in two varieties at least – a Sumero-Akkadian and an Elamite – and in no less than three if the domain of the Indus Culture should prove also to have been included in “the Empire of the Four Quarters of the World”. Moreover, the Babylonian Amorites, who eventually restored a polity that had been first constructed by the Sumerian Ur-Engur (alias Ur-Nammu) of Ur, were not merely marchmen but marchmen with a barbarian tinge. So, on a broader and a longer view, the cultural pattern of the Sumeric universal state proves to have been less homogeneous than might appear at first sight. “The thalassocracy of Minos”, again, which was the Minoan universal state, probably included representatives of the continental Mycenaean variety of the Minoan culture as well as the creators of that culture in its Cretan homeland, even if it did not embrace any representatives of an alien civilization.
In the Central American World, two once distinct sister societies – the Yucatec Civilization and the Mexic – had not yet lost their distinctive characteristics, though they had already been brought together by force of Toltec arms, when the task, and prize, of establishing a Central American universal state was snatched, at the eleventh hour, out of the hands of barbarian Aztec empire-builders by Spanish representatives of an utterly alien Western Christendom. In the Andean World the Empire of the Incas, which was the Andean universal state, already included representatives of the Kara variety of the Andean culture [...] before the indigenous Incan empire-builders were suddenly and violently replaced by Spanish conquistadores from Western Christendom who turned the Andean World upside-down, with a vigour reminiscent of Alexander the Great’s, by proceeding to convert the indigenous population to Christianity and to variegate the social map by studding it with immigrant Spanish landlords and self-governing municipalities.
The Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy, which served as a carapace for Western Christendom against the assaults of the ʿOsmanlis, and which, seen from the south-east, wore the deceptive appearance of being a full-blown Western universal state, set itself, like the Tokugawa Shogunate, to achieve domestic cultural uniformity, but lacked both the ruthlessness and the insularity which, between them, enabled the Japanese isolationists for a time to put their policy into effect. In pursuing its aim of being totally Catholic, the Hapsburg Power did succeed, more or less, in extirpating Protestantism within its frontiers; but the very success of its stand, and eventual counter-attack, against the Ottoman embodiment of an Orthodox Christian universal state broke up the Danubian Monarchy’s hardly attained Catholic homogeneity by transferring to Hapsburg from Ottoman rule a stiff-necked minority of Hungarian Protestants and a host of Orthodox Christians of divers nationalities, most of whom proved unwilling to accept the ecclesiastical supremacy of Rome, even when the yoke was proffered in the easy form of Uniatism [union with Rome and retention of local rites], while, among those who did accept this relatively light burden, the rank and file remained nearer in heart and mind to their dissident Orthodox ex-co-religionists than they ever came to be to their fellow Catholics who were of the Latin Rite.
The [post-Assyrian] Neo-Babylonian Empire [or Chaldean Empire], which was the Babylonic universal state, similarly forfeited its cultural purity – and thereby worked unwittingly for the eventual extinction of the Babylonic Civilization itself – when Nebuchadnezzar conquered and annexed the homeland of the Syriac Civilization west of the Euphrates; and the impress of the indigenous Babylonic culture became progressively fainter as the domain which Nebuchadnezzar had bequeathed to a short line of native successors was incorporated first into the barbaro-Syriac Empire of the Achaemenids and then into the Hellenic Empire of the Seleucids.
Our survey has shown that, in the cultural composition of universal states, a high degree of diversity is the rule; and, in the light of this fact, it is evident that one effect of the “conductivity” of universal states is to carry farther, by less violent and less brutal means, that process of cultural pammixia that is started, in the antecedent Times of Troubles, by the atrocities that these bring in their train. The refugees, exiles, deportees, transported slaves, and other déracinés of the more cruel preceding age are followed up, under the milder régime of a universal state, by merchants, by professional soldiers, and by philosophic and religious missionaries and pilgrims who make their transit with less tribulation in a more genial social climate.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
The military vs the militant.
The English [...] were temporarily shaken out of the moderation which they have studiously practised both before and since by the extraordinary lavishness of Fortune when she showered Canada upon them with one hand and Bengal, simultaneously, with the other. In 1763 it seemed “the manifest destiny” of the British Empire to swallow up the whole of North America as well as the whole of India. Yet twenty years later Great Britain had lost the better half of one of the two sub-continents and was in imminent danger of losing the whole of the other. It is true that the verdict of History has now acquitted British statesmanship of exclusive responsibility for the break-up of the First British Empire. American historians have latterly done much to show that in the fratricidal war of 1775-83 the war-guilt was divided; and the name of Warren Hastings no longer sounds so sinister as it was made to sound a century and a half ago. Nevertheless the fact remains that the Thirteen Colonies would never have been lost to the British Crown if from 1763 to 1775 it had shown towards them the same tact and consideration as it has repeatedly shown towards Canada from 1774 [Quebec Act] onwards. Nor would Bengal have been retained – nor, a fortiori, enlarged into an empire embracing all India – if the predatory practices of the Company’s servants in the East, from Clive and Warren Hastings downwards, during the twenty-six years following the intoxicating victory of Plassey had not been discouraged by the abortive India Bill of 1783 and the effective India Bill of 1784 and the long-drawn-out state trial [of Warren Hastings] of 1786-95. However sincerely Clive may have “marvelled at” his “own moderation”, his economy of virtue would assuredly soon have cost his countrymen the loss of an Oriental dominion which his excess of unscrupulousness had suddenly won for them, if they had not exerted themselves to improve upon Clive’s moral standards under the sobering influence of their American disaster.
The victor over the French (and their allies the Nawabs of Bengal, who were nominally subject to the Mughals) at Plassey in 1757 was Clive. The victor over the French at Quebec in 1759 was Wolfe.
Company rule in India began in 1757, when the Nawab of Bengal surrendered his dominions, or in 1765, when the Company was granted the diwani, or right to collect revenue, in Bengal and Bihar, or in 1772, when it established a capital in Calcutta and became directly involved in governance. It lasted until the Government of India Act of 1858, when its powers were surrendered to the Crown. There were Governors of the Presidency of Fort William (Bengal) from 1774 to 1833 (the first was Hastings) and Governors General of India from 1833 to 1858.
The British ruled Canada directly from the Treaty of Paris in 1763 until 1867. There were Governors of the Province of Quebec from 1760 to 1786, Governors General of the Canadas from 1786 to 1840 and Governors General of the Province of Canada from 1840 until the Constitution Act of 1867, which gave Canada virtual independence and in effect founded the Commonwealth.
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939
The generation of the Wellesleys [Richard and Arthur] (circa A.D. 1800-30) [...] revealed the promise of a Pax Britannica when they broke the power of Tipu Sahib in Mysore and of the Marathas in the Deccan; and the generation of the Lawrences [Henry and John] (circa A.D. 1830-60) [...] turned promise into performance by breaking the still more formidable power of the Sikhs in the Panjab and then riding the storm of a Mutiny in which the newly launched ship of British state in India came as near to foundering as the Achaemenian Empire came in the general revolt against the tyranny of Cambyses.
A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939
Harsha (last post) was a convert to Buddhism and was the last Indian Buddhist ever to rule an empire. Had any of the Guptas been personally Buddhist? Which of the Kushan emperors were Zoroastrian? Were all the Indo-Greek kings personally Buddhist? Were all the Mauryan emperors after Ashoka personally Buddhist?
Wikipedia, slightly edited: “The distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism in India was purely sectarian and never more than the difference between saivism and vaishnavism [Buddha was an avatar of Vishnu] [my bracket]. The exclusiveness of religious doctrines is a Semitic conception, which was unknown to India for a long time. Buddha himself was looked upon in his lifetime and afterwards as a Hindu saint and avatar and his followers were but another sect in the great Aryan tradition. Ashoka was a Buddhist in the same way as Harsha was a Buddhist. But in the view of the people of the day he was a Hindu monarch following one of the recognized sects. His own inscriptions bear ample witness to the fact. While his doctrines follow the middle path, his gifts are to the brahmins, Buddhist priests and others equally. His own name of adoption is Devanam Priya, the beloved of the gods. Which gods? Surely the gods of the Aryan religion. Buddhism had no gods of its own. The idea that Ashoka was a kind of Buddhist Constantine declaring himself against paganism is a complete misreading of Indian conditions. Ashoka was essentially a Hindu, as indeed was the founder of the sect to which he belonged.”
Interesting, though not in the style of an encyclopaedia. Indian writers (I notice) often storm into Wikipedia and write or rewrite tendentiously and without citations.
The Mauryas and the Guptas alike retained their seat of government at Pataliputra (the latter-day Patna), which had previously been Magadha’s parochial capital. [Magadha was ancient Bihar.] Standing, as it did, at the junction of the Ganges with the Jumna and with two other tributaries, Pataliputra was the natural administrative centre for the Ganges Basin [...].
After the derelict domain of an enfeebled Mauryan Empire had been overrun by the Euthydemid Bactrian Greek prince Demetrius in the second decade of the second century B.C., the conqueror transferred the seat of government from Pataliputra to a new site far along the Great North-West Road connecting the former Mauryan capital with Demetrius’s own former capital at Bactra (Balkh) on the Central Asian side of the Hindu Kush. Demetrius’s New Taxila [it was called Sirkap] lay near the old city of the same name, in the neighbourhood of the latter-day Rawalpindi, which, before the foundation of the Mauryan Empire, had been the capital of a parochial Indian state; and it commanded the approaches, on the Indian side, to the difficult section of the highway in which a traveller had to negotiate the three successive obstacles of the River Indus, the Khyber Pass, and the main chain of the Hindu Kush.
This neighbourhood was the natural location for the capital of a Power which was seeking to “abolish the Hindu Kush” by uniting the Ganges-Jumna Basin with the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin. The Greek warlord Demetrius’s pioneering essay in this audacious defiance of physical geography proved ephemeral. The Bactrian Greek Power had no sooner overrun the Mauryan Empire than it was broken up by fratricidal warfare which opened the way for Nomad invasions of its dominions on the Indian as well as the Central Asian side of the Hindu Kush; but, when, after more than two centuries of kaleidoscopic political changes, the momentary achievement of the Greek empire-builder Demetrius was repeated in the first century of the Christian Era by the Kushan empire-builder Kadphises I and was perpetuated by Kadphises’ successors, the seat of government of this reconstituted political union of North-Western India with Central Asia came to rest not far from the spot originally selected for it by Demetrius. The capital of the Kushan Empire was planted at Peshāwar [then called Purushapura], on the Great North-West Road between the Indus and the Khyber Pass.
After the Mauryan Empire had been re-established by the Guptas, history repeated itself. The Guptas, like their predecessors, ruled the Indic World from Pataliputra; but, when the Guptan Empire collapsed in its turn and was momentarily restored by the Emperor Harsha (imperabat A.D. 606-47), this last of all the rulers of the Indic universal state [after this, in Toynbee’s terminology, the society is no longer Indic, but Hindu] placed his seat of government, not at Pataliputra, but at Sthanesvara [now called Thanesar] on the banks of the Upper Jumna, above the site of Delhi, covering the north-western approaches to the Ganges Basin from the quarter from which Hun and Gurjara Nomad invaders had swept down on the Guptan Empire from the Eurasian Steppe in the preceding chapter of Indic history.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
Click. (Strange spelling of Uzbekistan.) The Hindu Kush is a western extension of the Pamirs. On Aksai Chin, see this post.
Both images Wikimedia Commons.
Maps of the Silk Road differ and are often approximate if not inaccurate. Nor is there one Silk Road. I’ll take this one, which appears to be in the public domain, as a simple reference. It shows the main route from Chang’an, now Xi’an, in Shaanxi province, going north and south of the Taklamakan desert or Tarim Basin. The westernmost city in modern China here is Kashgar or Kashi. From there the road passes through Tajikistan (and perhaps Kyrgyzstan) into Uzbekistan – in other words, through Sogdiana – and from there into Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria.
This does not show an alternative southern route which began west of Kashgar and passed through Bactria, north of the Hindu Kush, before rejoining the main route north of Merv.
Another road left China to cross the Karakoram into what is now Pakistan.
The Silk Road is not a steppe route. It runs south of the steppe. It is a mountain and desert route.
Buddhism entered China on the Silk Road via the Kushan Empire in the first century of the Christian era.
Newish Granta-format quarterly published by the UK-based Muslim Institute.
I worried about the title at first, but I suppose the implication is fair.
Issue 4: forthcoming on Pakistan
“Take up the White Man’s burden –
Send forth the best ye breed –
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild –
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
The savage wars of peace –
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper –
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard –
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light: –
‘Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?’
Take up the White Man’s burden –
Ye dare not stoop to less –
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
Have done with childish days –
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!”
Kipling. See last post but one, including first comment. The Times, February 4 1899; Wikipedia says McClure’s magazine with no exact date; The Five Nations (1903). The text here is from The Five Nations.
“To veil the threat of terror.” That word already.
I forget what historian said, in a memorable passage, that England after 1895 no longer, to him, felt like England: something febrile had come into the atmosphere.
Was it Élie Halévy?, who wrote at the beginning of the Epilogue of his History of the English People:
“I will conclude my [principal] narrative about the year 1895, that is to say, about the time when Gladstone disappeared from political life. Neither Chamberlain with his exploitations of the warlike passions of the democracy, nor Lloyd George, author of the budget of 1909, the Insurance Act of 1911 and the programme of land reform of 1912, were men of the Victorian age. The period between 1895 and 1914 does not belong to the British nineteenth century, as I understand it. It is at most the epilogue of that century, as it is the prologue of the century which opened with those four [fourteen, surely] years of tremendous upheaval, both military and social.”
Or am I half-remembering something more substantial in Halévy? Or in GM Young’s Portrait of an Age? Or in George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England? Dangerfield was writing more about the years immediately before 1914.
Halévy’s great book is called History of the English People in my Pelican edition, but is really History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century. It was published in France between 1913 and 1932 and in translation in England in 1931-32. The first volume – three in the Pelican series, perhaps it was divided in the French too – was on England in 1815. The second took the story to 1830 (an English date, too: accession of William IV, end of Wellington). The third to 1841 (second Peel ministry). The fourth, taking it to 1852, was never completed. The Epilogue on 1895-1914 is three more volumes in the Pelican series. I have never seen the intervening volumes in Pelicans.
The unfinished fourth volume was published in English in 1961 as Victorian Years, with a supplementary essay commissioned from RB McCallum to link it to the Epilogue. I own the six Pelicans (collectors’ pieces), published between 1937 and 1940.
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee comes in the middle of that closing lustrum of the nineteenth century. Imperial events punctuate the years like gunshot reports.
Jameson Raid 1895-96, Transvaal Republic
Siege of Malakand 1897, North West Frontier Province
Fashoda Incident 1898, Sudan
Siege of Ladysmith 1899-1900, Natal
Siege of Mafeking 1899-1900, Transvaal Republic
None of them was a happy event or foregone conclusion, though this was the time of the greatest imperial ebullience. The scenes of hysterical celebration in England at the relief of Mafeking shocked many contemporary observers.
But the heady year 1897 produced Kipling’s Recessional, whose prescience is so remarkable that it hardly sinks in on one reading even today. (It is also a Hamlet, so full is it of quotations.)
“God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine –
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law –
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word –
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
Recessional was published in The Times on July 17 1897 and collected in The Five Nations (1903). The text here is from The Five Nations. Kipling had intended his Jubilee poem to be The White Man’s Burden, but that was published later (The Times, February 4 1899; Wikipedia says McClure’s magazine with no exact date; The Five Nations), when it was made to apply to American expansionism and given the subtitle The United States and the Philippine Islands. It, too, has its complexities.
Kipling, taking his whole achievement together, was surely one of the four fin-de-siècle English and Irish geniuses – with Elgar, Yeats and Chesterton. Wilde is a runner-up. Shaw, Wells and others are in the B list. Most of Elgar’s œuvre was a kind of recessional.
The musical hit of 1897, which reflected, perhaps helped to make, the public mood, was an Imperial March by the still little-known Edward Elgar. BBC Philharmonic, George Hurst.
Boult does it with a degree more urgency. It’s an Imperial summons, a pre-echo of the Pomp and Circumstance marches; there was also the Empire March of 1924 for the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. The image is an unwrinkled Queen Victoria’s official Jubilee photograph.
The ninth symphony of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music (“Sir?, symphony?, Master of what?”) is dedicated to the Queen for this Jubilee and has its premiere tomorrow with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko. Then it will be heard in the Proms. PMD writes about it here. There are anti-imperial things in the work. He had told us that the Antarctic symphony would be his last. One hopes that he is not inviting the curse of the ninth.
The music at the Jubilee service in St Paul’s on Tuesday contained a sub-Ruttersque piece by Will Todd. Why? Vaughan Williams’s Old 100th was taken too slowly.
The 1897 Jubilee was the culmination of a rehabilitation of the monarchy which had been started by Disraeli during his second ministry (from 1874), if not during his first. The monarchy had become a marginal institution, hardly in the public consciousness, and in aristocratic terms was in any case irrelevant. It had a constitutional function, but there was no pomp. Victoria, in perpetual mourning, never appeared in public. (She disliked ceremony to the end of her life. She hardly dressed up for the Jubilee.) Republicanism was far stronger in England than it is now. Bagehot had defined constitutional monarchy in modern terms in The English Constitution in 1867, but he cannot have foreseen what was about to happen to it.
Disraeli saw that the new global empire which was taking shape, and the industrialised democracy at the centre of it, now semi-educated (Education Act 1870), with the yellow press round the corner, needed a new unifying institution. Victoria was susceptible to flattery and Disraeli set to work on her. (She liked outsiders: her German husband Prince Albert, her Scottish servant John Brown, her Jewish prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, her Indian servant Abdul Karim. Brown made romantic Scotland flesh for her, “the Munshi” romantic India.)
In 1876 Disraeli pushed through a Royal Titles Act to make her Empress of India. She was proclaimed at the Delhi Durbar of 1877. The title was available. It had been in abeyance since the deposition of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur II, in 1858. The Mughal dynasty had ruled over most of the subcontinent from the sixteenth century, but had used the title Badshah (whence Pādeshāh, considered in the West to be equivalent to Emperor) without geographic designation. During the Indian rebellion of 1857, the rebel sepoys had proclaimed Bahadur II as Badshah-i-Hind or Emperor of India.
The emotional hold Disraeli had over Victoria in this came from the fact that her eldest daughter, Victoria, had in 1858 married the future Friedrich III of Prussia. In 1871 his father, Wilhelm I, had become Kaiser or Emperor. So Victoria’s daughter was an empress in waiting. For the daughter to upstage the mother wouldn’t do. (She was not an empress for long, as it turned out. Friedrich inherited the title in 1888, but died of natural causes in the same Year of Three Emperors, to make way for Kaiser Bill.)
Jan Morris in a 1997 BBC television documentary about the 1897 Jubilee (Jonathan Stamp; David Cannadine a consultant), on iPlayer here until tomorrow: “Powders, gold, palm trees, strands [...]. The whole image of India, then as now, had a romance to it, so for the British to feel that they were masters of this almost legendary, almost fictional, landscape on the other side of the earth was something that was very easy for an astute politician like Disraeli to exploit.”
The same elevation of monarchy to suit a modern, militaristic society occurred in Japan after the Meiji “restoration” of 1868, one of the many ways in which Japanese history has, at various times, strangely paralleled English. Here, too, the monarchy was brought out of abeyance, dusted down and given new ceremonies over which to preside.
Between 1876 and 1897, even as Britain’s relative industrial decline began, the image of Victoria as mother to a global family was perfected. (A youngish taxi driver in Dar es Salaam referred to the present Queen to me this year as “our mother”. How long can this go on?)
Her name was on the map from Victoria Falls to the city of Victoria in western Canada to the state of Victoria in Australia to Victoria on Hong Kong island. She never travelled in her Empire. India was the only part of it that lived somewhat in her imagination. (Her son visited India as Prince of Wales, just before she was made Empress.) But in 1897 the Empire came to London.
In 1877, 1903 and 1911, there were imperial durbars in Delhi. (George V attended the 1911 durbar. Edward VIII visited India as Prince of Wales. George VI, as far as I know, never did. Nor was there a durbar for him.) The last, judging from film of it, looks inflated to the point of vulgarity. Many (including Elgar and Chesterton) would find the Empire Exhibition of 1924 at Wembley, where the Duke of York struggled to make a speech, vulgar, though it wasn’t a royal event.
But on the whole, royal ceremonies have avoided inflation. George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 was a high point for the monarchy, and the king, rather than aggrandising himself, was famously humbled by it. Anyone looking at the 2012 Jubilee celebrations, whatever their views on the monarchy, would have to agree that Britain has a talent for this sort of thing, a sureness of touch which we hardly, any longer, show in anything else. Where does it come from? I suppose partly from a memory of medieval pageantry, partly from experience in constitutional ceremonies and ceremonies necessary in the running of an empire. I am sure that some of it comes from Mughal India, with its pomp and its processions, its colours and its swaying elephants. The British must have learned something from this. I don’t know whether Cannadine makes this point in his Ornamentalism. The point of that book, according to the Amazon blurb, was to show how “the British Empire was based on a conscious effort to export a model of class hierarchy and status from home out to overseas possessions. The Indian Raj and the tropics of Africa were run as though they were the ornate stately homes or broad-acred landed estates of southern England.” (“Ornate”!) An influence, in other words, in the opposite direction.
Simon Schama in the generally feeble BBC television coverage: “We must remember how extraordinary it is that the problems of Empire morphed into the genuine community of affection of the Commonwealth.” The Jubilee was not merely a British event. London this week was full of Commonwealth representatives, and doubtless some Gurkhas. London in 1897 was full of loyal, foreign Imperial regiments. Some of those soldiers must have died subsequently in France, Mesopotamia and elsewhere. But to one blogger, James Bridle, the present Jubilee is “false memory”.
In my early childhood I saw imperial flag-lowerings on television. Churchill’s funeral. Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in Whitehall. Images of endings. More recently, we have seen weddings and jubilees. Another funeral in 1997. An unhealthy amount of attention has been given to some of this.
It’s moving to hear old people in the film remembering their youthful pride in the Empire. The exhilaration of 1897 has proven hard to shake off. Many in Britain are still living, in some degree, under the spell of that year. In the last night of the Proms we have (to quote the film) “an echo of that distant euphoria”. After many soccer matches, we have an echo of Mafeking night.
Within a couple of years of 1897, the Second Boer War had begun, whose difficulties were a shock to the British, as those of the Vietnam war were to be to the Americans. They learned new, inhumane techniques of warfare, as the Americans did in Vietnam. Jan Morris in the film (how nice it always is to listen to her):
“Almost at once, looking back on it, it began to crumble [...]. Almost at once this vast and marvellous illusion turned out to be an illusion after all. Almost immediately the Boer War happened and there was the humiliation of the Empire, which it never quite got over. And after that, of course, came the much worse tragedies, the First World War, which perhaps made the British feel that they weren’t the masters of their fate, as they had fondly thought they would always be, and that things were not so certain, nothing was quite so bold and straight and square as the crowds watching the Diamond Jubilee going by had thought they were.”
Queen Victoria with Indian servants, Windsor Castle, 1895
Review by Robin Yassin-Kassab at Pulse of Alex Strick van Linschoten, Felix Kuehn, editors; Mirwais Rahmany, Abdul Hamid Stanikzai, translators; Faisal Devji, foreword; Poetry of the Taliban, Hurst & Co.
“What is so interesting is that the Taliban’s official face and past practice has been so fiercely anti-Sufi, anti-historical, and seemingly anti-culture. This book provides an entirely different outlook. Indeed, in their rich memory of 19th century British invasions, of Afghan folklore and Islamic heroism, the Taliban poets seem more awake to history than we are.”
Thomas Friedman on Michael Sandel. New York Times Sunday Review.
Quasi-public spaces (old post).
Here I quoted Arundhati Roy on the “most successful secessionist struggle in India”. She was referring to the ominous retreat of the Indian middle and upper classes to gated residential communities.
Facebook is a gated community, though not for the rich. I prefer the public squares of the web.
Açoka has left us a notice of the philosophic missions which he sent to the realms of five of Alexander’s successors in the second generation, but no record of his emissaries’ activities has come to us from their mission field, and, whatever their fortunes may have been, they made no discernible effect upon the history of Mankind. In seeking to propagate the philosophy of Siddhārtha Gautama beyond the western limits of his own Mauryan Peace, Açoka was unlucky in his generation, for the Achaemenian Peace, which had proved so conductive a medium for Judaism and Zoroastrianism, and had perhaps conveyed to the Hellenic World the Zoroastrian and Indic elements that are to be found in Orphism, had been broken up by force of Macedonian arms two generations before Açoka’s time, and the anarchy that racked the Syriac and Hellenic worlds, with little intermission, from this break-up of the Achaemenian Peace to the establishment of the Roman Peace was particularly unpropitious for missionary work.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
The roads built by the British authorities in the Ionian Islands during the British protectorate of 1815-64 have been partly abandoned, or at least they have considerably deteriorated, since the termination of the British connexion and the incorporation of the islands into the Kingdom of Greece. And the same fate has overtaken the roads that were built by the Allied Armies in Greek Macedonia in 1916-18, and by a British force in Eastern Persia (to the Persian city of Mashhad from the British-Indian rail-head in Baluchistan) during the same years.
The Ionian Islands were successively Roman, Byzantine, Norman, Genoese, Venetian, Napoleonic French, British and Greek. Mashhad is the second largest city in Iran and the only major Iranian city with an Arabic name.
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939
The contact of China with [...] medieval Western Christendom during the brief period when the Mongol universal state extended continuously from the coasts of China to the coasts of the Black Sea and the Baltic was a curiosity of history which, like Alexander’s raid on India, had no lasting effect.
This refers to Alexander’s crossing of the Indus. His effect on the right bank of the Indus was lasting, and his Bactrian successor Demetrius made a more lasting impact in northwest India.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
In the encounter between the world and the West that has been going on by now for four or five hundred years, the world, not the West, is the party that, up to now, has had the significant experience. It has not been the West that has been hit by the world; it is the world that has been hit – and hit hard – by the West; and that is why, in the title of this book, the world has been put first.
The World and the West, OUP, 1953
In writing both the world and the west into my title, and writing the two words in that order, I was doing both things deliberately, because I wanted to make two points that seem to me essential for an understanding of our subject. The first point is that the west has never been all of the world that matters. The west has not been the only actor on the stage of modern history even at the peak of the west’s power (and this peak has perhaps now already been passed). My second point is this: in the encounter between the world and the west that has been going on now for 400 or 500 years, the world, not the west, is the party that, up to now, has had the significant experience. It has not been the west that has been hit by the world; it is the world that has been hit – and hit hard – by the west; and that is why, in my title, I have put the world first.
Let us try, for a few minutes, to slip out of our native western skins and look at this encounter between the world and the west through the eyes of the great non-western majority of mankind. Different though the non-western peoples of the world may be from one another in race, language, civilisation, and religion, if we ask them their opinion of the west, we shall hear them all giving us the same answer: Russians, Moslems, Hindus, Chinese, Japanese, and all the rest. The west, they will tell us, has been the arch-aggressor of modern times, and each will have their own experience of western aggression to bring up against us. The Russians will remind us that their country has been invaded by western armies overland in 1941, 1915, 1812, 1709, and 1610; the peoples of Africa and Asia will remind us that western missionaries, traders, and soldiers from across the sea have been pushing into their countries from the coasts since the fifteenth century. The Asians will also remind us that, within the same period, the westerners have occupied the lion’s share of the world’s last vacant lands in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and South and East Africa. The Africans will remind us that they were enslaved and deported across the Atlantic in order to serve the European colonisers of the Americas as living tools to minister to their western masters’ greed for wealth. The descendants of the aboriginal population of North America will remind us that their ancestors were swept aside to make room for the west European intruders and for their African slaves.
This indictment will surprise, shock, grieve, and perhaps even outrage most of us westerners today. Dutch westerners are conscious of having evacuated Indonesia, and British westerners of having evacuated India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon, since 1945.
That was almost all the imperial evacuation that had happened by 1952, except for the abandonment of concessions in China. Hard as it is to believe now, the British Empire handed over no territory (except the Anglo-Egyptian “condominium”, Sudan; I don’t count Palestine or the military base at Suez) between the end of the Raj on August 15 1947 and the independence of Ghana on March 6 1957. 1952 was also a year of direct British and American interference in the internal affairs of Iran.
British westerners have no aggressive war on their consciences since the South African war of 1899-1902, and American westerners none since the Spanish-American war of 1898. We forget all too easily that the Germans, who attacked their neighbours, including Russia, in the First World War and again in the Second World War, are westerners too, and that the Russians, Asians, and Africans do not draw fine distinctions between different hordes of “Franks” – which is the world’s common name for westerners in the mass. “When the world passes judgment, it can be sure of having the last word”, according to a well-known Latin proverb. And certainly the world’s judgment on the west does seem to be justified over a period of about four and a half centuries ending in 1945. In the world’s experience of the west during all that time, the west has been the aggressor on the whole; and, if the tables are being turned on the west by Russia and China today, this is a new chapter of the story which did not begin until after the end of the Second World War. The west’s alarm and anger at recent acts of Russian and Chinese aggression at the west’s expense are evidence that, for westerners, it is today still a strange experience to be suffering at the hands of the world what the world has been suffering at western hands for a number of centuries past.
The lectures introduced ideas which would be developed in the eighth volume of the Study.
In the encounter between the world and the west that has been going on now for 400 or 500 years, the world, not the west [...], has had the significant experience
is the most striking sentence. These views were shocking, as he says, to many listeners in 1952. They seemed defeatist.
I have taken this from a transcript on the BBC website, not from the printed book: there may be differences. The transcript probably shows what was printed in The Listener. I have made the use of upper case in references to world wars consistent.
The lectures were published in book form as
The World and the West, OUP, 1953
It is amusing to note that the British Government’s relations with the Sultan during the Allied occupation of Constantinople [1918-23] were attacked by the Turkish Nationalists and by the Indian Moslems with equal bitterness, but with diametrically opposite presumptions as to their character. Apparently the Indians considered that the Sultan was a prisoner under duress, and that the British Government were restraining him from exercising his lawful authority as Caliph of Islam. Undoubtedly the Turkish Nationalists regarded him as an opponent of constitutional government and almost as a traitor to his country, who was lending himself to British designs against their movement in the hope of recovering the autocratic power formerly enjoyed by Abdu’l-Hamid. In the Indians’ eyes he was a tragic captive, in his own countrymen’s a sordid tool.
The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922
India’s are in Allahabad, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Calicut, Chennai, Coimbatore, Gorakhpur, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, New Delhi (two), Patna, Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruchirappalli.
China’s are in Beijing, Hong Kong, Macau, so in the whole of China “proper” there is only one, at least according to Wikipedia. (This blog has few readers in China, many in India.)
Bangladesh has one, in Dhaka. Pakistan two, in Karachi and Lahore. Sri Lanka, where Arthur C Clarke lived, one, in Colombo. Japan thirty-one. Korea apparently none. Africa three, but only one between Alexandria and Johannesburg: in Accra. Italy, Spain, Poland, Mexico many. The UK many, but in 2006 the London Planetarium (opened 1958, its high dome unlike any other I can think of) was closed and the space linked to Madame Tussauds. Shows about celebrities and others replaced astronomical projections.
This was five years after the removal of elephants from London Zoo. Scenes of ’60s childhood memories. Battersea Funfair closed in 1974.
A new planetarium opened in Greenwich in 2007.
Modern planetariums used to depend on technology developed by Zeiss in Jena, but many are now digital. The first public Zeiss cosmic projection was at the Deutsches Museum in Munich on October 21 1923.
Planetarium in Berlin, 1939, Deutsches Bundesarchiv (did the lower part of the design give the idea for extraterrestrial insect invaders in the ’50s, the upper the idea for Daleks in the ’60s?)
Mahatma: Life of Gandhi 1869-1948, a documentary, all five hours and ten minutes of it. It makes Attenborough look revisionist. Script, commentary and direction by Vithalbhai Jhaveri. Produced by The Gandhi National Memorial Fund in cooperation with the Films Division of the Government of India in 1968.
It is strange to hear that Gandhi read the Bhagavad Gita for the first time towards the end of 1889 in London while reading for the Bar, and in the translation, or poetic rendering, of an Englishman, Edwin Arnold, the author of The Light of Asia. It is true: Gandhi admits it in his autobiography. He had read it neither in Sanskrit nor in his native Gujarati. He read it alongside the original, but he knew English better than Sanskrit.
Whatever his knowledge of other Indian literature, wasn’t this an instance of what Toynbee called the “ordeal” of living between two cultures which was the fate of members of nineteenth-century intelligentsias? As it is the fate now of many British children and grandchildren of immigrants from the subcontinent?
Sergei Bondarchuk’s seven-hour War and Peace, another state-produced megafilm, but one of a higher imaginative order, was released in Russia between 1965 and ’67.
Jinnah, an acted film, so in a way a response to Attenborough. Less than two hours. Directed by Jamil Dehlavi, written by Akbar S Ahmed and Jamil Dehlavi and released in 1998 in the UK and Pakistan. Produced by Akbar Salahuddin Ahmed. Starring Christopher Lee as Jinnah, Shashi Kapoor as the narrator, James Fox as Mountbatten, Maria Aitken as Mountbatten’s wife Edwina.
It was a success in Pakistan at least, “a place”, according to Salman Rushdie in Shame, “insufficiently imagined”. (A brilliant phrase, but some Pakistanis probably find it patronising.)
Mahatma means Great Soul in Sanskrit, Quaid-e-Azam Great Leader in Urdu.
Since I mentioned him in the last post, here is Hinterhäuser playing Scelsi’s eighth piano suite. They both come from the same corner of Liguria. The suite is called Bot-Ba, which I think means Tibet. This is the first of three clips.
That figure is all too reminiscent of a cripple on an Indian pavement, but is obviously a dancer, presumably Tibetan. A kind of Tibetan breakdancer, judging from the still, but I suspect rather slower.
The famously unphotographed Scelsi turns out to have had quite a few photographs taken of him.
His music is something like Scriabin meets Nono or Feldman, but there is no point in trying to classify it. It is surely not the total break with European tradition that it is sometimes made out to be. Some works may be, but I can hear Liszt and Ravel here. So strong is that pull that some modernist and other purists must have been tempted to call it edelkitsch. Or am I carrying too much aural baggage? Scelsi’s intention was to create a bridge to a transcendent reality and to help us to lose baggage. This is from the beginning of what is called his second period.
100th anniversary of the Delhi Durbar of 1911.
In India, the Persian word durbar (from دربار , darbār) meant either a feudal state council for administering the affairs of a princely state or a purely ceremonial gathering. The Persian word diwan overlaps with it in meaning, but usually refers to an inner council.
The British durbars in Delhi were demonstrations of loyalty by Indian princes and dignitaries to the British Crown. Two of them took place in Delhi while the capital was still Calcutta.
The Proclamation Durbar of 1877, less than twenty years after the Crown had replaced the East India Company, when the Viceroy was Lord Lytton, celebrated the proclamation in 1876 of Queen Victoria as Empress of India.
The culmination was the Delhi Durbar of December 1911, which George V and Queen Mary attended in person. They were the only British monarchs to visit India during the period of British rule. (Edward VIII had visited as Prince of Wales, as had George V himself, and Edward VII.) Practically every ruling prince attended to pay homage. The Gateway of India in Bombay commemorates the visit. The Viceroy was Lord Hardinge.
At the durbar, George V announced that the capital would be transferred forthwith from Calcutta to Delhi. The foundation of New Delhi was laid three days later. It was planned by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, christened New Delhi in 1927, and formally inaugurated on February 13 1931 by the Viceroy Lord Irwin, Viscount Halifax (who was Foreign Secretary when the war broke out).
Mughal processions, in the Victorian imagination, with their umbrellas and brown Kims on swaying elephants, were something romantic, fantastic, but the 1911 durbar was more elaborate than anything previously seen. It could hardly have been called charming. Was the 1877 durbar more authentically Mughal in feel? During the royal wedding in London this year, I found myself wondering whether the famous British skill at pageantry was not really something we had brought back from India.
With Our King and Queen through India – or The Durbar in Delhi – was filmed in Kinemacolor and released in February 1912. About two hours of film survive, but it was originally longer. List of Kinemacolor films. Why was the process not used more often and why not after 1914?
The king then went big game hunting in Nepal. See Hon John Fortescue, Narrative of the Visit to India of Their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary and of the Coronation Durbar Held at Delhi, Macmillan, 1912.
Elgar’s The Crown of India was staged at the Coliseum Theatre in London in March 1912. The king and queen had arrived home in February. The words, spoken and sung, were by Henry Hamilton. It was a masque consisting of two tableaux.
Tableau I: The Cities of Ind
1 – Introduction
2 – Dance of Nautch Girls
India Greets Her Cities [The cities of Ind were Agra, Delhi, Calcutta, Benares, Lucknow, Bombay, Madras, “Haiderabad”, Mysore, Gwalior, Allahabad, Lahore.]
3 – Song (Agra): “Hail, Immemorial Ind!” (The Homage of Ind)
Entrance of Calcutta. India: “Welcome Calcutta!”
Entrance of Delhi. Delhi: “Stop! That place is mine” [Delhi-Calcutta rivalry!]
4 – Introduction
March of the Mogul Emperors. India: “Illustrious Emperors!”
5 – Entrance of John Company. Calcutta: “Good John Company, reply” [John Company was a colloquialism referring to the East India Company.]
Entrance of St. George. India: “Calcutta, Delhi, give your quarrel pause”
6 – Song (St. George): ”The rule of England”
7 – Interlude
Tableau II: Ave Imperator!
8 – Introduction
9 – The Cities of Ind. India: “Hail festal hour from out the ages drawn”
10 – March: The Crown of India. India: “Incessu patuit Imperator”
The Homage of Ind
11 – The Crowning of Delhi
12 – Ave Imperator!
There’s nothing I like on YouTube and most of it is not great music.
On the accession of George VI in 1936, when the Viceroy was the 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow, it was decided not to hold a durbar. The cost would have been a burden to the government of India, and Indian nationalism was rising.
2011 – 1911 – 1811. In 1811 the British East India Company, confronted with a reassertion of Mughal rights in Bihar and Bengal, had already declared that it was “unnecessary to derive from the King of Delhi any additional title to the allegiance of our Indian subjects”.
BBC news links:
Audio slideshow. The narrator says that when he came to Delhi in 1945 it was like a village compared with Calcutta.
The word “Natives” is like a piece of smoked glass which modern Western observers hold in front of their eyes when they look abroad upon the World, in order that the gratifying spectacle of a “Westernized” surface may not be disturbed by any perception of the native fires which are still blazing underneath.
Savages are distressed at the waning of the moon and attempt to counteract it by magical remedies. They do not realise that the shadow which creeps forward till it blots out all but a fragment of the shining disc, is cast by their world. In much the same way we civilised people of the West glance with pity or contempt at our non-Western contemporaries lying under the shadow of some stronger power, which seems to paralyse their energies by depriving them of light. Generally we are too deeply engrossed in our own business to look closer, and we pass by on the other side – conjecturing (if our curiosity is sufficiently aroused to demand an explanation) that the shadow which oppresses these sickly forms is the ghost of their own past. Yet if we paused to examine that dim gigantic overshadowing figure standing, apparently unconscious, with its back to its victims, we should be startled to find that its features are ours.
A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934
The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922
Toynbee is sparing with references to Spengler in the Study and doesn’t mention him in the Acknowledgements and Thanks.
A four-page annex in Volume XII deals with one of his ideas.
Spengler’s concept of “pseudomorphosis” (“Deceptive Cultural Formation”) is one of the most illuminating of his intuitions. It throws light, for instance, on the relation between a satellite civilization and the society into whose field it has been drawn.
In essence the idea is a simple one. When two civilizations are interacting with each other, their meeting may be on an unequal footing. At the moment one of the two may be the more powerful, the other the more creative. In this situation the more creative civilization will be constrained to conform outwardly to the more powerful civilization’s cultural configuration, like a hermit crab who fits himself into a shell that is not his own. But an observer would be allowing himself to be misled if here he were to take appearances at their face value. He must look below the surface, study what underlies it, and take due note of the difference between the two. “The hands are the hands of Esau”, [footnote: 2 Gen. xxvii. 22.] but only because they have been disguised in order to deceive. “The voice is Jacob’s voice.” That is authentic, and it is therefore telltale, provided that the listener is not bent upon being deceived.
Didn’t Spengler’s conception of pseudomorphosis often imply the constraining of a vital new culture by an ingrained older one, with the creativity on the new rather than the old side?
Since the fifteenth century of the Christian Era, Islam has captured (sic) Indonesia. In this case the conversion has been accomplished by peaceful missionary enterprise, not by force of arms, and therefore has not provoked the militant opposition that it did arouse among Hindus in India. Nevertheless, Islam in Indonesia has not succeeded in supplanting, below the surface, the Indian culture – Hindu and Buddhist – which had been paramount in Indonesia for more than a thousand years before Islam’s arrival there. A present-day Indonesian Muslim reminds himself of his Hindu cultural heritage by assuming a Sanskrit name in conjunction with his Arabic one; and he celebrates the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday (the Mawlid) by entertaining himself with puppet-plays [wayang kulit or shadow plays] in which the characters are the heroes of the Mahabharata. Here we can watch the Indian culture, which the Indonesians have never ceased to cherish, breaking through an Islamic veneer. The Islamic surface of present-day Indonesian culture is, in fact, a “pseudomorphosis”. But so, too, was the Indian culture which preceded Islam in Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula and which, in the Hinayanian [roughly, Theravada] Buddhist version of it, is still paramount on the South-East Asian mainland in Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia. [Vietnam follows the Mahāyāna, or Northern Buddhism, which it took from China.] In South-East Asia the dissemination of Indian culture, like the later dissemination of Islam in the insular and peninsular parts of the region, was a peaceful process. But the Indian Civilization in South-East Asia experienced the same fortune that Islam experienced there later. The Indian Civilization, too, failed to supplant the previously prevailing local cultures. Below the surface these continued to hold their own. In South-East Asia the exotic forms of Indian architecture, art, and religion have been adapted to express a native South-East Asian content. [Footnote: See D. G. E. Hall: A History of South-East Asia (London 1955, Macmillan), passim.]
“In many parts of Indonesia, the celebration of the Mawlid al-nabi ‘seems to surpass in importance, liveliness, and splendour’ the two official Islamic holidays of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.”
Quotation from Herman Beck, Islamic Purity at Odds with Javanese Identity: The Muhammadiyah and the Celebration of the Garebeg Maulud Ritual in Yogyakarta in Jan Platvoet and Karel van der Toorn, editors, Pluralism and Identity: Studies in Ritual Behaviour, Leiden, Brill, 1995.
Balinese wayang performance, image from Gustavo Thomas Theatre; Bali is Hindu anyway: Islam didn’t penetrate there, but wayang kulit is popular in Java too
There is almost nothing about Southeast Asia in the first ten volumes of the Study. Toynbee may have acquired Hall’s book as background reading for his journey round the world of 1956-57. I bought it as a 1,000-page paperback in Bangkok c 1990.
A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961
I enjoyed Mohammed Hanif’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes for its Catch-22-like humour, its poetry and its portrayal of the pompous, cruel, easily-distracted, vaguely loveable, whisky-swilling ruling class which has so utterly failed Pakistan. It’s about the days leading up to the death of Zia-ul-Haq in 1988. The humour misfires once or twice and the plot is sometimes hard to follow, but it made me want to read more by him, which I am not sure Adiga did with The White Tiger.
Here is Robin Yassin-Kassab’s review in The Guardian of its successor.