The tyranny of Greece over Germany

July 6 2015

Eliza Marian Butler.


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July 3 2015

Back July 6.


Eight Greek plebiscites

July 3 2015

I  1920, December 5, YES to return of Constantine I

He had abdicated and gone into exile in Switzerland in 1917 (retaining his titular right) because of a disagreement with the charismatic and anti-royalist prime minister, Venizelos, over whether Greece should enter the war. Constantine supported the Central Powers, Venizelos the Entente.

He came back after his son Alexander had died from a monkey bite.

He abdicated again on September 27 1922 after the Greek debâcle in Asia Minor and spent the last few months of his life in exile in Italy. He was succeeded by his eldest son, George II, but the defeat nearly destroyed the monarchy.

II  1924, April 13, NO to continuation of the reign of George II

George had himself gone into exile in December 1923 (Rumania, then Britain) after royalists had attempted and failed to take control of the government. A republican interlude followed: the only time after the revolutionary years of 1822-32 and before 1973 when Greece was a republic.

III  1935, November 3, YES to reinstatement of George II

Metaxas was the prime minister from 1936 to ’41 and died in office before the German invasion, but after the Italian invasion; despite his fascist sympathies, he had rejected an Italian ultimatum demanding the stationing of Italian troops in Greece.

George went into exile in Britain when the Germans invaded. The old regime had been quasi-fascist, but he did not become a German puppet.

IV  1946, September 1, YES to return of George II

He died in 1947. The monarchy was, of course, anti-communist in the Civil War (1946-49). The last two kings were Paul and Constantine II.

V  1968, November 15, YES to new constitution prepared by the Colonels

Military junta of 1967-74. The monarchy was retained, but Constantine II had gone into exile (Italy, then Britain) at the end of 1967. He returned to live in Greece in 2013.

VI  1973, July 29, YES to Colonels’ proposed abolition of the monarchy

VII  1974, December 8, NO to reinstatement of the monarchy after the collapse of the junta

VIII  2015, July 5, YES or NO?

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As far as I can see, the record of the monarchy was not entirely dishonourable.

A referendum about conditions for debt relief was proposed under Papandreou in 2011, but not carried out.

I don’t think these referenda, which were anyway often manipulated, justify Stiglitz’s rather shallow-sounding reference in the Guardian the other day to “Greece, with its strong democratic tradition”.

On the other hand, Greece has been holding parliamentary elections for nearly two centuries.

Alexis Tsipras led the left-wing Syriza party to victory in a snap general election on January 25 2015.

There’s a list of Greek monarchs after this post.


The Serbian-Hungarian border

July 2 2015

Migrants.


Skalkottas sketches

July 2 2015

Nikos Skalkottas, Ten sketches for stringsc 1940, New Hellenic Quartet


Greek guitar music

July 1 2015

And, at the end, Theodorakis at 90.

Kostas Grigoreas plays Adagietto from Skalkottas’s 1925 solo violin sonata, arranged by Grigoreas; it is hard to imagine this sounding more natural in the original version

Stella Kypreou plays Αισθησιακό (Sensual) by Manos Hadjidakis

Kostas Grigoreas plays Η μπαλάντα των αισθήσεων και των παραισθήσεων (Ballad of Sensation and Illusionsby Manos Hadjidakis; it has a kind of leftist drive to it, but isn’t political

Last two from what? Originally for guitar? The last is also a song, with lyrics by Aris Davarakis.

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Mikis Theodorakis will be 90 later this month. I can’t post music when I don’t know what I think of it. It’s not a matter of not getting past the Zorba theme. I have no response at all yet to what I’ve heard. But Bob Shingleton at On an Overgrown Path has good things to say, especially about the Requiem. Here are his posts.

The main events in Greece in the twentieth century were its wars with Turkey, an invasion by the fascist forces of Italy and Germany, the subsequent Civil War and a military junta. Not that the Colonels were Greece’s first dictators. Theodorakis fought successively against fascists, anti-communists and the junta. He was tortured, went into hiding and was jailed and exiled.

There were many noble Theodorakises in Latin America. But the humane left is no longer fighting militarists or fascists. Theodorakis has declared himself in favour of Tsipras, but his leftism thrives in an unreformed system. It is part of the same set of illusions which caused the mess. The renewers of the left now are the Green movement and an emerging global class warfare in which Tsipras and Varoufakis are (sort of) players.

The Wittelsbachs and Greek debt (old post): but that is a trivial comparison


The Archives of the Planet

June 30 2015

Albert Kahn called his vast photographic project (last post) Les archives de la planète.

Selection. Music: part of slow movement of Mozart’s sonata for two pianos, K 448. I don’t know who’s playing. It is one of the pieces said to produce the Mozart effect.

Kahn called his garden in Boulogne-Billancourt, in the west of Paris, Les jardins du monde.


Thessaloniki 1913

June 29 2015

From a five-part BBC documentary series about Albert Kahn, Edwardians in Colour [why Edwardians?]: The Wonderful World of Albert Kahnc 2007. The talking head is Mark Mazower, mentioned in the last post.

BBC: “In 1909 the millionaire French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn embarked on an ambitious project to create a colour photographic record of, and for, the peoples of the world. As an idealist and an internationalist, Kahn believed that he could use the new Autochrome process, the world’s first user-friendly, true-colour photographic system, to promote cross-cultural peace and understanding.

“Until recently, Kahn’s huge collection of 72,000 Autochromes remained relatively unheard of. Now, a century after he launched his project, [a] book and the BBC TV series it accompanies are bringing these dazzling pictures to a mass audience for the first time and putting colour into what we tend to think of as an entirely monochrome age.

“Kahn sent photographers to more than 50 countries, often at crucial junctures in their history, when age-old cultures were on the brink of being changed for ever by war and the march of twentieth-century globalisation. They documented in true colour the collapse of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, the last traditional Celtic villages in Ireland, and the soldiers of the First World War. They took the earliest known colour photographs in countries as far apart as Vietnam and Brazil, Mongolia and Norway, Benin and the United States. In 1929 the Wall Street Crash forced Kahn to bring his project to an end. He died in 1940, but left behind the most important collection of early colour photographs in the world.”

The photographer of Thessaloniki in early 1913 was Auguste Léon, but the name mentioned at 00:20 is hard to understand.

Cf Prokudin-Gorskii, who photographed the Russian Empire in colour. Posts about him here. He used a different method to obtain colour, not colourised, photographs – not the Autochrome process.

Mesmerising as some of the images are, does Kahn concentrate too much on street sellers and the like? What is unrecorded by his photographers and by most others is what life was like indoors. That is the real lost world.

And these records show nothing of people’s manners.

Mitchell and Kenyon are of similar importance in England before the First World War because of the technical quality of their work, though they made moving films, and in black and white.

Musée Albert-Kahn, Paris.


Tent

June 28 2015

Islam: A tent for the ignorant.


Singing Sephardim

June 28 2015

[Sephardic Jews] developed under the Ottoman régime a quite different êthos from the Jewish êthos as we know it in the West, because the treatment which they received at the ʿOsmanlis’ hands was quite different from the treatment which Jews have customarily received at the hands of Westerners.

The psychological effect of four centuries of the [comparatively benign] Ottoman régime upon the descendants in the Near East of these Sephardi refugees from Castile was once brought home to the writer of this Study by an incident which came under his personal observation.

One day in August 1921, some eight years and more after Salonica, with its Sephardi population of eighty thousand souls, had passed by conquest out of Ottoman jurisdiction into Greek, I found myself travelling by train from Salonica to Vodena in the same carriage with three Sephardi school-teachers going on a holiday and one Greek officer going to rejoin his regiment. The holiday-makers – two girls and a man – were in high spirits, and they gave vent to their mood by breaking into song. They sang in French: the “culture language” in which the modern Near Eastern Jew has found the necessary supplement to his hereditary Castilian vernacular. After they had been singing for some time, the Greek lieutenant broke his own silence. “Won’t you sing in Greek for a change?” he said. “This country is part of Greece now, and you are Greek citizens.” But his intervention had no effect. “We prefer French” the Jews answered, politely but firmly, and fell to singing lustily in French again, while the Greek lieutenant subsided. There was one person in the carriage, however, who was even more surprised at the Jewish teachers’ reply to the Greek officer than the Greek himself, and that was the Frankish spectator. Seldom, he reflected, would a Jew have shown such spirit in such circumstances in France or England or America. The incident bore witness to the relative humanity with which the Jews in the Ottoman Empire had been treated by the ʿOsmanlis; and it also had a wider and more interesting significance. It was evidence that the Jewish êthos was not something ineradicably implanted by Race or something indelibly ingrained by Religion but was a psychic variable which was apt to vary in response to variations in Gentile behaviour in different times and places.

The Jews were singing in a lingua franca, French, not in a ghetto language, and they were not showing a ghetto mentality. Such cheerful defiance in the presence of a member of the dominant culture, and a soldier, would not have been thus demonstrated in Russia or Austria – but really not in France, England or America?

Would the point have been made even more strongly if they had been singing in Turkish or Greek or would that have come from mere cultural dilution? Would they have shown even more confidence if they had been singing in the “hereditary Castilian vernacular”, ie Judaeo-Spanish, ie Ladino? Ladino was spoken by Sephardic minorities in the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. Most speakers are now in Israel.

It is not to be confused with another Romance language, Ladin, which is spoken in parts of northern Italy and is related to Friulian and the Swiss Romansh.

The Jews of Salonika were happier in the multi-ethnic Turkish Empire (before the arrival of the Young Turks) than under the Greeks (1912-41). 98% of them died in the Holocaust. Much of the Jewish Quarter had been destroyed in the fire (probably accidental) of 1917.

See Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950, Harper Collins, 2004.

Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki.

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934


Cockaigne

June 27 2015

To be added to London anthologies:

“If you roll a boxful of shoes down some stairs, you will hear the word ‘London’.”

Andrew Cover, a friend, c 2000.

Elgar, Cockaigne, Elgar conducting BBC Symphony Orchestra, April 11 1933


Basileus

June 26 2015

The sovereign of the Achaemenian Empire, which served as a universal state for the Syriac World, asserted the oecumenical range of his rule by styling himself “King of the Lands” or “King of Kings” [footnote: Meyer, E.: Geschichte des Altertums, vol. iii (Stuttgart 1901, Cotta), pp. 24-6.] – a title which was laconically translated into Greek in the one word βασιλεύς without even an introductory definite article. [Footnote: This verbal recognition of the uniqueness of the status and office of the Achaemenian Great King was a striking act of homage on the lips of Hellenes who were defying his efforts to extend his oecumenical authority over their own city-states.]

Caricaturing Persia (old post).

A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939


GM Trevelyan on film 2

June 25 2015

1945 film directed by Richard Massingham and perhaps made for the British Council, which shows, at 6:50, the most popular serious English historian of the first half of the twentieth century, the Master of Trinity, lecturing at Cambridge.

University lectures and lecturers are often (usually?) disappointing. “Forged on the anvil of time.” He could write better than that. Apart from the important collective experience of sitting together and seeing your teacher, what could such wooden discourses offer that a book couldn’t? Trevelyan is old-fashioned, but he deserved his reputation in print.

We see Lawrence Bragg, Cavendish Professor of Physics, who had won the Nobel Prize at the age of twenty-five; John Sheppard, the Provost of King’s, talking theatrically to foreign visitors about Greek “freedom and friendship”; absurdly old-fashioned conducting by Patrick Hadley, and Bach performance, at 19:25.

The waves of Marxism, sexual liberation, deconstruction, gender politics and political correctness of later decades seem far off.

Where was bohemianism? In 1945, perhaps nowhere.

Toynbee was an Oxford man, though only briefly a don, but he declined the Regius Professorship of Modern History at Cambridge in 1947 in succession to GN Clark. The job would surely not have suited him. It was taken by JRM Butler instead.

Old posts:

GM Trevelyan on film

Trevelyan bibliography

Differences between Oxford and Cambridge

Forster at King’s in 1958

The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, 1829-

Crews.


The Turkish spy

June 24 2015

Twice on [his] antiquarian tour [of Italy and Greece in 1911-12], the Oxford don-elect was arrested as a Turkish spy, first on the evening of the 16th November, 1911 on the last lap of a day’s march from Terracina to Formia, by an Italian carabiniere [Footnote: On this occasion, the suspect was able to clear himself by showing a card with “Balliol College, Oxford” engraved on it. “Ah! Collegio! Dunque non siete Turco”, reasoned the intelligent Italian security officer, and straightway left the left the suspicious-looking traveller in peace. Forty years later, in A.D. 1952, the carabiniere would, of course, no longer have been justified in acting on an a priori assumption that “Turk” and “college” were incompatible ideas.]

The Italians had every reason to be spy-conscious: their war with the Ottoman Empire, which gave them Libya and the Dodecanese (Rhodes), had begun at almost the exact moment Toynbee arrived in Italy. It ended soon after his return from Greece. (They held both colonies until the Second World War. The Dodecanese were returned not to Turkey but to Greece.)

and then again, on the 21st July, 1912, by a Greek military patrol. [Footnote: On this second occasion, he was arrested on the reasonable charge that he had walked across the perilously vulnerable railway viaduct over the gorge of the River Asopus at Elefterokhóri, where the sole railway running from Athens to the Graeco-Turkish frontier leaped across a chasm to come to earth again along the eastern flank of the citadel of Trachis. This charge was supported by the less convincing argument that the trespasser must be a foreign military spy because he was wearing insignia in the shape of a military water-bottle that was not of the pattern affected by the Greek Army.]

The Balkan Wars began a few weeks after his return to England.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


From the latifundia to Eni

June 23 2015

Apropos Byron’s Childe Harold (last post), I asked my friend Giovanni Caselli whether the Romans would have recognised the Italian landscapes of 1818. He generously replied with this broad-brush agrarian history of Tuscany, Umbria and the Marches and has allowed me to quote him. The same patterns are not necessarily found in northern Italy, Latium or the south. 1818 was a good time.

“The latifundia of Roman times collapsed during the war between the Goths and Byzantines. The large estates of the Late Empire, with great fields of wheat, vineyards, and olive groves with flocks grazing under the trees became a wilderness (5th-6th centuries CE).

“During the Longobard and Frankish period this wilderness was reclaimed with the [primitive feudal] courts system (7th-9th centuries). Patches of cultivated land appeared in clearings of the Mediterranean bush and oak wood forests.

“These cultivated clearings expanded during the castles period (10th-12th centuries), interspaced by larger clearings used for grazing.

“In the 12th-14th centuries the city bourgeoisie destroyed the power of the earls, who had demanded tolls for the transit of goods, and took over the production of wine, wheat and olive oil, with a crop-sharing system [payment of a share of the crop as rent]. Central Italy became dotted with hill-towns and scattered houses with mixed agriculture, and the mountains, largely deforested by charcoal burning, were used for grazing. The bourgeoisie employed the former slaves of the earls as farmers, giving them a better deal with contracts, enough land, and autonomy. They also bought slaves from the Crimea and the khanates of the Tartars. These introduced tools and implements of their own and also an ‘oriental’ method of growing vines. Women slaves introduced the use of pasta in Italy, being house servants and concubines. Each vine grew supported by the branches of a maple, shaped as a chandelier, each at a distance of eight to ten yards one from another.

“The Black Death caused a collapse of the countryside. By the start of the 15th century the towns and scattered farmhouses were gradually restored and reoccupied. Again the landscape was planted with mixed crops and trees. Sheep rearing was enormously increased with laws and regulations for summer and winter pastures and droves connecting them. Siena grew wealthy with this transit of sheep and by renting grazing areas to flocks along the Tuscan coast. The wool trade made cities like Florence rich.

“This mixed agricultural landscape collapsed again in the course of the 17th century, with another great plague, and this lasted till the shabby landscape that was seen by Tobias Smollett in 1766.

“Then, province by province, the country was restored to its ancient orderly farming system by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, especially Peter Leopold of Augsburg [who became the Emperor Leopold II], a genius neglected by biographers. Tuscan farmhouses were specially designed by an appointed architect, new ways of farming and drainage of the country were perfected, and the Grand Tour travellers saw this Tuscany. Napoleon said, upon conquering Tuscany, that it was vastly more civilised than any French Department. No hovels, but great houses and competent healthy, proud farmers were seen working with their great white cows in the fields of North-Central Italy. Cities grew wealthy with a farming economy. Tuscany abolished the death penalty in the 1830s and many taxes. It drastically curbed the power of the church to the minimum for survival. Tuscany had Protestant leanings.

“With the unification of Italy, Tuscany became a Mediterranean country and ceased to be progressive and functional. In 1982 a law made the crop sharing system illegal. Farming collapsed for this reason, founded on political ideology, and climate change made matters worse. Marx had called the peasants conservative and obtuse. There were songs proclaiming ‘I won’t marry a peasant, I want a factory labourer and to have a good life’. Farmers could no longer find a wife. They all wanted to be employed by FIAT. If not by FIAT, they would prefer to become road sweepers rather than remain on the land. They lost both culture and wisdom, becoming indiscriminate consumers and never created a workers’ ‘culture’, like for example in England or in other European countries. The workers never wanted a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ either, contrary to what the ‘intellectuals’ proposed to them. They wanted to cease to be a proletariat and become petty bourgeois, imitating the life-style of their factory masters. Instead of a big villa, they would seek a small one. Rather than a big car, they would be happy with a 500. Instead of skiing in Cortina they would go skiing in the Apennines. And so forth. Plainly, Thorstein Veblen was right and Marx wrong in the interpretation of what the masses wanted.

“Now the landscape is reverting to the state it was in in the Baroque period, with sections of entire regions devoted to intensive agriculture and intensive industry, the rest an abandoned wilderness. Where the Italians speak about ‘National Parks’, these are mere wastelands. The people live in a bubble, they have no idea of what is done in other countries. Like the savage, they think in terms of themselves being the right people and the rest ‘barbarians’. Italy lives in this illusion, and the Mafia and corruption have a really good time. Should anyone object to this description, I shall take him by the neck and drag him to see reality. Organic agriculture is practiced only by a small number of heroes, fighting against ENI, the firm that produces masses of weed killers, fertilisers and other poisons that have killed every insect species, including bees, and made farming products inedible by people gifted with a sense of taste, smell and eyesight, who can see the disaster around them.”

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Giovanni Caselli is an Italian historian, archaeologist, illustrator and expert on pilgrim ways. Emilio Sereni’s History of the Italian Agricultural Landscape is too theoretical for his taste: like Toynbee, he prefers to understand a landscape by walking in it.

I have already posted a piece by him about the Appian way between Rome and the Alban Hills and one about the impoverishment, or rather creation, of the Italian language since unification.

Botros, Tuscany in the fall

Fall in Tuscany, copyright, used with kind permission of F Botros at fbotros.com


Old command

June 22 2015

“A land
Which was the mightiest in its old command”

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Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV, 1818.

The next line has … “and is the loveliest”.

England’s landscape declined with its power. The trajectories were different, but (if you have anything like a classical view of landscape) they were in decline together from the moment English power started to decline.

The great twentieth-century popular historian of the English landscape was WG Hoskins, who published The Making of the English Landscape in 1955. That link is to a Wikipedia article which contains a summary of the book. The story was set in a wider historical context for the same generation, which had a stronger memory of old landscapes than we do, by GM Trevelyan (post here). For Trevelyan, the English landscape was still at its loveliest in 1818.

But would the Romans have recognised the Italian landscapes of 1818? I asked my friend Giovanni Caselli this question. I will post his reply tomorrow.


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June 13 2015

Back June 22.


Passing

June 13 2015

The Wagon Passes, from Elgar, Nursery Suite. Ulster Orchestra, Bryden Thomson.

Or, as Elgar actually wrote, The Waggon (Passes).


Salonika 1912

June 12 2015

The writer of this Study vividly remembers how the continental character of Macedonia impressed itself upon him at the first view. He first visited Macedonia in the summer of 1912, at the end of a visit to the Kingdom of Greece within the frontiers as they then stood. Since the standard-gauge railway which now links Athens with Salonica had not been completed at that date, he travelled from the Peiraeus to Salonica by sea. He had been looking forward with interest to observing the political aspect of the passage from territory under Greek to territory under Turkish rule; but, as the steamer entered Salonica harbour, his eye was caught, not by the Turkish flag flying above the custom house, but by Austrian and German railway-wagons standing along the quay, on rails which ran without a break from Salonica to Vienna and from Vienna to Berlin. He then realized in a flash that this economic solidarity with Central Europe was the distinctive and fundamental characteristic of Macedonia, and that the political connexion with Turkey-in-Asia, though picturesque, was accidental and superficial.

These were the last days of the Ottoman suzerainty in Salonika which had begun in 1430. The First Balkan War broke out on October 8. On November 8, the feast day of Salonika’s patron saint, Demetrius, the Greek army accepted the surrender of the Ottoman garrison.

The Bulgarian army arrived a day later. Tahsin Pasha, the governor, said to them: “I have only one Salonika, which I have surrendered”.

The rail connection to central Europe had been built some years before the connection to Constantinople.

The Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, at the end of the Balkan Wars, divided Macedonia between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, with Greece getting the lion’s share; a small section went to Albania. The Serbian part ended (from 1946) as a separate constituent republic of Yugoslavia and is now an independent country.

Toynbee also visited the Athos Peninsula in 1912. On his way home to England in August, he either visited Durrës (Durazzo) or saw the Turkish flag over it from his ship. After a short period of occupation by Serbia it would become part of Albania in 1913.

The Great Fire of Thessaloniki of 1917, unlike the Great Fire of Smyrna of 1922, seems to have been accidental.

Summary of the Balkan Wars (old post).

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934 (footnote)


Demotic China

June 11 2015

“I found that the history of Chinese literature consisted of two parallel movements: there was the classical literature of the scholars, the men of letters, the poets of the imperial courts, and of the élite; but there was in every age an undercurrent of literary development among the common people which produced the folk songs of love and heroism, the songs of the dancer, the epic stories of the street reciter, the drama of the village theatre and, most important of all, the novels. I found that every new form, every innovation in literature, had come never from the imitative classical writers of the upper classes, but always from the unlettered class of the country-side, the village inn and the market-place. I found that it was always these new forms and patterns of the common people that, from time to time, furnished the new blood and fresh vigour to the literature of the litterati, and rescued it from the perpetual danger of fossilisation. All the great periods of Chinese Literature were those when the master minds of the age were attracted by these new literary forms of the people and produced their best works, not only in the new patterns, but in close imitation of the fresh and simple language of the people. And such great epochs died away only when those new forms from the people had again become fixed and fossilised through long periods of slavish imitation by the uncreative litterati. …

“It was the anonymous folk songs of Antiquity that formed the bulk of the great Book of Poetry [mainly Western Zhou, 1046-771 BC] and created the first epoch of Chinese Literature. It was again the anonymous folk songs of the people that gave the form and the inspiration in the developments of the new poetry in the Three Kingdoms [immediately post-Han] and later in the T’ang Dynasty. It was the songs of the dancing and singing girls that began the new era of ts’ĭ or songs in the Sung Dynasty [between the post-T’ang Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period and the Mongols]. It was the people that first produced the plays which led to the great dramas of the Mongol period and the Mings. It was the street reciters of epic stories that gave rise to the great novels [Ming, and before and after], some of which have been ‘best sellers’ for three or four centuries.”

The op cit footnote refers to:

Hu Shih: The Chinese Renaissance: The Haskell Lectures, 1933 (Chicago 1934, University Press) […].

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954


Port Said to Yokohama

June 10 2015

or, East of Suez

“[…] Aden, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Rangoon, Singapore, Penang, Bangkok, Saïgon, Hue, Hanoi, Hong-Kong, Shanghai, their names roll on the tongue savourily […]”
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Somerset Maugham, The Gentleman in the Parlour, A Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong, 1930.

That shore-hugging list may not correspond exactly to anything on a real timetable. The Mediterranean to Japan would have taken perhaps four weeks with these stops.

Penang should come before Singapore. If anywhere is missing, it is Colombo. And the first stop after Aden could have been Karachi.

So the imperial journey might have touched Port Said, Aden, Karachi, Bombay, Colombo, Madras, Calcutta, Rangoon, Penang, Singapore, Bangkok, Saigon, Hue, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yokohama. Hanoi’s port was actually Haiphong, 65 miles downstream on the Red River delta.

The cities between Siam and China in Maugham’s list correspond to the three divisions of the old Vietnam: Cochinchina’s capital was Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Annam’s was Hue (Huế), Tonking’s was Hanoi.

AE5Y2B White Man Burden is to teach cleanliness described in a Pears Soap advertisement 1890s


Siam and the West, 1511-1932

June 9 2015

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to give an account of Siam. After their conquest of Malacca in 1511, they sent a diplomat, Duarte Fernandes, to Ayutthaya.

A century later, on August 15 1612, an East India Company merchantman, The Globe, arrived bearing a letter from James I.

Ayutthaya may have been the largest city in the world in the seventeenth century, with a population of a million. Trade flourished, especially with the Dutch, French, Chinese and Japanese.

Episode of Constantine Phaulkon. Siam became more closed after the 1688 revolution (last post but one).

The heirs of Rama I became concerned with the threat of European colonialism after British victories in Burma in 1826.

They signed a series of treaties with foreign powers: the Burney Treaty with Britain in 1826, treaties with the US in 1833 and 1856. Others with other powers during the reigns of Mongkut or Rama IV (reigned 1851-68) and his son Chulalongkorn or Rama V (reigned 1868-1910).

They were caught between the British in Burma and the French in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

The French had designs on Siam. Britain was Siam’s ally and wanted to preserve it as a buffer state, and so it remained. The Thais gave Britain economic privileges in return.

Their survival was due to a balance of power between Britain and France, but they believe that they also owe it to the diplomatic skills and modernising reforms of Mongkut and Chulalongkorn (1851-1910).

They were nevertheless forced to concede territory, influence or claims (it is often hard to tell them apart), especially to the French. Ie:

Cochinchina, or the extreme south of Vietnam, to France in 1862;

Cambodia to France in 1867; Cambodia had been a pawn in power struggles between Siam and Vietnam since the seventeenth century;

Thai-speaking Shan States in the north to British Burma; various dates (1893 Hansard discussion here);

Laos to France in Franco-Siamese War of 1893; large parts of Laos had come under Siamese control when the unified Lan Xang Laotian kingdom had disintegrated at the beginning of the eighteenth century; there had already been cessions in 1888; more was handed over in 1904 and 1907;

Territory in the south to Britain; but the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 defined the border between Siam and British Malaya by recognising Thai authority over the semi-Malay areas of Patani, Yala, Narathiwat and Satun.

Siam became the only country in Southeast Asia to avoid European colonisation.

From 1892 to 1924, the Siamese government retained lawyers who specialised in international lawGustave Rolin-Jaequemyns served as Adviser-General from 1892 to 1902. Edward Strobel, a Harvard law professor, served as American Adviser-General from 1906 until his death in 1908. He was followed by further Harvard professors: Jens Westengard, Francis Sayre and Eldon James.

A coup planned by young military officers was discovered and thwarted in 1912. Compare the Russian revolution of 1905, Persian revolution of 1905-07, the Young Turks of 1908.

Siam declared war against the Central Powers on July 22 1917, mainly to gain favour from Britain and France. In 1918 it sent 1,284 volunteers to the Western Front. The force included 95 qualified pilots and a medical unit. In addition to the Chinese Labour Corps and 140,000 Vietnamese troops and workers drafted by the French, the Siamese troops were the only Southeast Asians to participate in the European theatre.

Siam was given a seat at Versailles and used the opportunity to argue for amendments of nineteenth-century treaties. The US obliged in 1920, France and Britain in 1925, but I am not aware of any territorial concessions. Siam was a founding member of the League of Nations in 1920.

Modern Thai politics begin in 1932, when the military staged its first successful coup and transformed the government of Siam from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, with a cabinet presided over by a prime minister.


Conrad in Bangkok

June 8 2015

“One morning, early, we crossed the bar, and while the sun was rising splendidly over the flat spaces of the land we steamed up the innumerable bends, passed under the shadow of the great gilt pagoda, and reached the outskirts of the town.

There it was, spread largely on both banks, the Oriental capital which had as yet suffered no white conqueror; an expanse of brown houses of bamboo, of mats, of leaves, of a vegetable-matter style of architecture, sprung out of the brown soil on the banks of the muddy river. It was amazing to think that in those miles of human habitations there was not probably half a dozen pounds of nails. Some of those houses of sticks and grass, like the nests of an aquatic race, clung to the low shores. Others seemed to grow out of the water; others again floated in long anchored rows in the very middle of the stream. Here and there in the distance, above the crowded mob of low, brown roof ridges, towered great piles of masonry, King’s Palace, temples, gorgeous and dilapidated, crumbling under the vertical sunlight, tremendous, overpowering, almost palpable, which seemed to enter one’s breast with the breath of one’s nostrils and soak into one’s limbs through every pore of one’s skin.”

___

Joseph Conrad, The Shadow-Line, a late novel, written 1915, published 1917. Crossing the bar meant crossing the sandbank which often lies at the mouth of a river. Going in the other direction, it could be a metaphor for setting off into the unknown. Conrad’s young narrator is sailing up the Chao Phraya River.


Siam’s 1688 revolution

June 7 2015

… or, King Narai’s falcon

Constantine Phaulkon (1647-88) was a Greek adventurer, born to Orthodox parents in Venetian-ruled northern Cephalonia.

He left Greece to work for the English East India Company and became an Anglican. He arrived in Siam in 1675, became fluent in Thai, and began to work at the court of King Narai of Ayutthaya as a translator and finally as the king’s chief adviser.

Ayutthaya was the dominant power in Thailand from the fourteenth century to the eighteenth. Recent post. Its capital, Ayutthaya, was the “largest city in the world”. It would be interesting to make a list of all the cities that have had that claim made for them through the centuries.

In 1682, Phaulkon became a Catholic and married a Catholic woman of mixed Japanese-Portuguese-Bengali descent named Maria Guyomar de Pinha. They lived a life of affluence as he rose as de facto minister of finance and of foreign affairs to Narai. There were two sons – with Greek, Portuguese, Bengali and Japanese blood, João and Jorge – the first of whom died before their father.

Following troubles with the over-aggressive English and Dutch, Phaulkon engineered circa 1680 a Franco-Siamese rapprochement. Several embassies were exchanged between France and Siam. This was not the beginning of Franco-Thai relations, but from about 1680 to 1688 the contact was close.

In 1687 Siam fought a war with the East India Company and the French, seeking to press home their advantages, sent an expeditionary force.

Ayutthaya had been open to other traders and tolerant of missionaries. Chinese, Annamese, Indians, Japanese, Persians, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French came and went. Some set up villages outside the walls of the capital. There had been limited contact with the British, starting in 1612, when an East India Company ship arrived, carrying a letter from King James I for the Siamese king.

Louis’ ambassadors compared Ayutthaya in size and wealth with Paris. The Abbé de Choisy, who was part of the embassy of Chevalier de Chaumont in 1685: “The king has absolute power. He is truly the god of the Siamese: no-one dares to utter his name.” (Wikipedia)

French engineers constructed fortifications for the Thais and built a new palace for Narai at Lopburi. French missionaries engaged in education and medicine and brought the first printing press into Siam. Louis XIV’s personal interest was aroused by reports from missionaries suggesting that Narai might be converted to Christianity.

Phaulkon’s closeness to the king earned him the envy of some Thai members of the court. The Abbé de Choisy:

“He was one of those in the world who have the most wit, liberality, magnificence, intrepidity, and was full of great projects, but perhaps he only wanted to have French troops in order to try and make himself king after the death of his master, which he saw as imminent. He was proud, cruel, pitiless, and with inordinate ambition. He supported the Christian religion because it could support him; but I would never have trusted him in things in which his own advancement was not involved.” (Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de Louis XIV via Wikipedia)

When King Narai became terminally ill, a rumour spread that Phaulkon wanted to use the designated heir, Phra Pui, as a puppet and become ruler himself. French motives also came under suspicion. All this provided an excuse for Pra Phetracha, the foster brother of Narai, to stage a coup d’état.

Without the king’s knowledge, Phaulkon, his followers and Phra Pui were arrested and executed on June 5 1688 in Lopburi.

King Narai learned what had happened, but was too weak to take any action. He died several weeks later, a prisoner in his own palace. Phetracha proclaimed himself the new king of Siam. The French were expelled (Siege of Bangkok). Phetracha began a xenophobic regime which expelled almost all foreigners from the kingdom.

Phaulkon (which means falcon) was in effect, or became, a double agent, if that is not too modern a phrase. The revolution interrupted relations between France and Siam until the nineteenth century, although French Jesuits were allowed to resume preaching. After 1826, the Thais had to deal with the new territorial acquisitiveness of the British and then of the French.

In 1893 and 1941, they fought wars with France. But they are another story.

A narrative of Constantine’s life was written in France circa 1691 by a Père de Beze, one of a group of Jesuit fathers who arrived in Siam in September 1687 at the request of Phaulkon. The manuscript found its way into the hands of GE Morrison, “Morrison of Peking”, The Times correspondent there from 1897 to 1912. In 1917 Baron Iwasaki, the former President of Mitsubishi, bought Morrison’s library. It became the kernel of the great Japanese Asian library, the Tōyō Bunko.

An English scholar, EW Hutchinson, saw the manuscript in Tokyo in 1936 and made some use of it in Adventurers in Siam in the Seventeenth Century, London, The Royal Asiatic Society, 1940. He believes that it was addressed to Père de la Chaise, the Confessor to Louis XIV, and was never intended for publication.

The manuscript was published in Tokyo in 1947 as Mémoire sur la vie de Constance Phaulkon, par Père de Bèze, Presses Salesiennes, in an edition prepared by Jean Drans, Acting French Director at the Maison Franco-Japonaise and Father Henri Bernard, S.J., Professor at the École des Hautes Études de Tientsin.

In 1957 Hutchinson decided to translate the whole memoir “slowly” into English.

The result was a scholarly book of which I bought a well-printed local edition in Bangkok in 1992: 1688 – Revolution in Siam, The Memoir of Father de Bèze, s.j., Translated into English with Introduction, Commentary, Appendices and Notes, Hong Kong University Press, 1968. Father de Bèze is considered more reliable than the highly-coloured tales strung together and published by Père Tachard (1686 and 1687), which in turn were used for the Histoire de Monsieur Constance of yet another Jesuit, the Père d’Orléans (1690).

Somerset Maugham, aware of the Père d’Orléans but not of the Père de Bèze, describes Phaulkon in The Gentleman in the Parlour, A Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong, published in 1930. He had made the journey with Gerald Haxton in 1922-23.

“I was within forty-eight hours by rail of Bangkok, but before going there I wanted to see Lopburi and Ayudha, which at one time were capitals of Siam. In these Eastern countries cities are founded, increase to greatness and are destroyed in a manner that cannot but fill the Western traveller, accustomed for many centuries now to a relative stability, with a certain misgiving. A king, forced by the hazards of war or maybe only to gratify a whim, will change his capital and founding a new city, build a palace and temples and richly ornament them; and in a few generations the seat of government, owing to another hazard or another whim, moving elsewhere, the city is abandoned and desolation usurps the place of so much transitory splendour. Here and there in the jungle, far from any habitation, you will find ruined temples, overgrown with trees, and among the dank verdure broken gods and elaborate bas-reliefs as the only sign that here was once a thriving city, and you will come across poverty-stricken villages that are all that remain of the capital of a rich and powerful kingdom. It is a sombre reminder of the mutability of human things.

“Lopburi is now but a narrow winding street of Chinese houses, built along one bank of the river; but all about are the ruins of a great city, mouldering temples and crumbling pagodas with here and there a fragment of florid carving, and in the temples are broken images of the Blessed One, and in their courtyards bits of heads and arms and legs. The plaster is grey as though it had been discoloured by London fogs and it peels off the bricks so that you think of old men with loathsome diseases. There is no elegance of line in these ruins and the decoration of doors and windows, robbed by time of their gold and tinsel, is mean and tawdry.

“But I had come to Lopburi chiefly to see what remained of the grand house of Constantine Faulkon, who was, I suppose, one of the most amazing of the adventurers who have made the East the scene of their exploits. The son of a Cephalonian innkeeper, he ran away to sea in an English ship, and after many hazards arriving in Siam rose to be the chief minister of the King. The world of his day rang with the tale of his unlimited power, splendour and enormous wealth. There is an account of him in a little book by the Père d’Orléans of the Company of Jesus, but it is a work of edification and dilates unduly upon the tribulations of Constantine’s widow when after his death she sought to preserve her virtue from the rude onslaughts of a Siamese prince. In her laudable efforts she was supported by her saintly grandmother, who at the age of eighty-eight, having lost nothing of the ardour and vivacity of her faith, talked to her continually of the famous Martyrs of Japan, from whom she had the honour to be descended. ‘My daughter,’ she said to her, ‘what glory there is in being a martyr! You have here the advantage that martyrdom seems to be an heirloom in your family: if you have so much reason to expect it, what pains should you not take to deserve it!’

“It is satisfactory to learn that, sustained by these counsels and fortified by the incessant admonitions of the Jesuit fathers, the widow resisted all temptations to become the bejewelled inmate of an almost royal seraglio and ended her virtuous days as dish-washer in the house of a gentleman of no social consequence.

“One could have wished that the Père d’Orléans had been a little more circumstantial in his account of his hero’s career. The vicissitudes in the course of which he ascended from his lowly station to such a pinnacle surely deserved to be saved from oblivion. He represents him as a pious catholic and an upright minister devoted to the interests of his king; but his account of the revolution that overthrew both king and dynasty and delivered the Greek into the hands of the outraged patriots of Siam, reads as though a certain arrangement of the facts had seemed necessary so that neither le grand roi nor various persons in high places should incur reproach. A decent veil is thrown over the sufferings of the fallen favourite, but his death at the hands of the executioners is vastly edifying. Reading between the jejune lines you receive notwithstanding the impression of a powerful and brilliant character. Constantine Faulkon was unscrupulous, cruel, greedy, faithless, ambitious; but he was great. His story reads like one of Plutarch’s lives.

“But of the grand house which he built nothing remains but the high brick wall that surrounded it and three or four roofless buildings, crumbling walls and the shapes of doors and windows. They have still the vague dignity of the architecture of Louis XIV. It is an unhandsome ruin that reminds you of nothing but a group of jerry-built villas destroyed by fire.

“I went back to the river. It was narrow and turbid, deep between high banks, and on the other side were thick clumps of bamboo behind which the red sun was setting. The people were having their evening bath; fathers and mothers were bathing their children, and monks, having washed themselves, were rinsing out their yellow robes. It was a pleasant sight and grateful to the sensibility jarred by those sordid ruins and perplexed.”

History Today (not consulted):

Robert Bruce, Louis XIV’s Mission to Siam, March 1971

Robert Bruce, Constantine Phaulkon: The Greek Dictator of Siam, February 1982

Peter Murrell, Louis XIV and the King of Siam, May 2014.

A Siamese execution, 19th-century illustration from Le Petit Journal used on the jacket of my edition of Hutchinson’s translation:

EW Hutchinson, Revolution in Siam


Southeast Asian languages

June 6 2015

The main language systems are

Austroasiatic
Austronesian
Hmong-Mien
Sino-Tibetan
Tai-Kadai.

Austroasiatic includes Mon (Burma), Vietnamese and Khmer.

I have done a post on Austronesia. Austronesian languages include Malay, Polynesian languages and Tagalog.

Hmong-Mien languages are spoken in mountainous areas of southern China. Within the last 3-400 years, many Hmong and Mien speakers have migrated to Burma, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Sino-Tibetan includes Chinese (Mandarin and non-Mandarin), Burmese and the Tibetic languages. It has more native speakers than any other language family except the Indo-European. Tibeto-Burman refers to the Sino-Tibetan languages that are not Chinese.

Tai-Kadai includes Lao and Thai (last post).

These are linguistic, not ethnic, classifications.

African languages (old post).


From the Yangtze to the Gulf of Thailand

June 6 2015

The Thai are a subgroup of the Tai people, who include the Ahom in India, Dai in China, Shan in Burma, Lao in Laos and others in Vietnam. The Tai appeared historically in the first century CE in the Yangtze River valley. Chinese pressures forced them south.

The ancestors of the Thai entered the central part of the Southeast Asian mainland from Yunnan circa AD 1000.

The most powerful Tai kingdom in Yunnan had been Nanchao or Nanzhao, 729-902. It was followed by the Dali Kingdom, 937-1253, whose founder claimed Han descent, and which was conquered by the Mongols.

Some Tai presumably migrated because of infiltration of Yunnan by Han Chinese. More later fled from the Mongols. It was the Mongols who brought Yunnan definitively into China.

Nanzhao had been influenced by Tantric or Tibetan Buddhism, but, at least after their migration, the Thais became converts to the Theravada or Sinhalese southern Buddhism that had established itself in Burma in 1190.

There have been four main Thai polities in Thailand (capital here means main capital; other cities may have served the function for some of the time):

I  Kingdom of Sukhothai, 1238-1438
Capital Sukhothai, 265 miles north of Bangkok

Phra Ruang dynasty, but from 1368 under the suzerainty of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya

II  Kingdom of Ayutthaya, 1350-1767
Capital Ayutthaya, 50 miles north of Bangkok

First Uthong dynasty, 1350-70
First Suphannaphum dynasty, 1370-88
Second Uthong dynasty, 1388-1409
Second Suphannaphum dynasty, 1409-1569
Sukhothai dynasty, 1569-1629
Prasat Thong dynasty, 1630-88
Ban Phlu Luang dynasty, 1688-1767

Ayutthaya was brought down by Burmese invaders, who continued to harass Thailand in the coming decades.

III  Kingdom of Thonburi, 1768-82
Capital Thonburi, now part of Bangkok

Thonburi dynasty

IV  Kingdom of Rattanakosin, 1782-present
Capital Bangkok

Chakri dynasty

Rattanakosin comes from Rattanakosin Island in Bangkok, the original site of the capital.

All the Chakri kings have the official name of Rama. Bhumibol is Rama IX. His predecessor Ananda (last post) was Rama VIII.

Thais called the country Mueang Thai. The exonym Siam came from the Portuguese. It has been identified with the Sanskrit śyāma (श्याम), meaning dark or brown. Some Thais are very dark.

Siam was officially adopted under Mongkut or Rama IV (reigned 1851-68). On June 23 1939 the name was changed to Thailand. From 1945 to May 11 1949 it was Siam again. Then it reverted to Thailand.

The distance from the Yangtze basin to the Gulf of Thailand is about 2,500 miles.

Tibetan rivers (old post).

Thailand


Mystery in Siam, and other unlucky kings

June 5 2015

Peter, Ananda and Faisal.

Yugoslavia: Ex-King Peter, 1945

Mystery in Siam, 1946

The exonym Siam became official under King Mongkut (reigned 1851-68). On June 23 1939 it was changed to Thailand. From 1945 to May 11 1949 it was Siam again. Then it reverted to Thailand.

Iraq Bombshell, 1958


Violent Buddhists

June 5 2015

… in Sri Lanka

Charles Haviland, BBC Radio 4. A depressing account.

Turbulent monks – the Pali Tipitaka (old post).


Tuba concerto

June 4 2015

Vaughan Williams, 1954. Patrick Harrild, tuba; London Symphony Orchestra, Bryden Thomson.

Prelude: Allegro moderato

Romanza: Andante sostenuto

Finale: Rondo alla tedesca, allegro.


Dust

June 4 2015

Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

[Footnote: ShirleyDeath the Leveller, the closing lines.]

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


The romance of simple maps

June 3 2015

The less a map contains, the more it involves you. This is also true of PowerPoint presentations. (Above all, historical maps should not contain arrows.)

Looking at the Sea of Japan map (separate window), you think of the straits which Dutch, Russian and French sailors navigated; of the Jesuits whom the Japanese had confined to the mainland; of Peter the Great’s prospectors, Russian settlers, alarmed shoguns; wonder who, if anyone, ever travelled overland from the Strait of Tartary to Vladivostok; realise why North Korea is an unruly client of China, not Russia; ask yourself why such a small part of the Japanese population faces that sea; see what Japanese generals stared at in 1900: Korea, the colonial temptation; Manchuria, the sphere of influence (was that phrase already used?), separated from the sea only by a thin strip of Korea and Russia; Russia, the alien superpower whom they were about to defeat as they had already defeated their giant, enfeebled and estranged cultural parent China.


Jews and Muslims in Christendom

June 2 2015

Though the status [of Jews] was not recognized de jure in the canon law of the Christian Church, it was no more possible for Christianity than it was for Islam to cut the ground of its own moral claims to theological validity from under its own feet by proscribing another higher religion which was not only older than it was, but was its forerunner according to its own contention. [Footnote: The historical relation of Christianity to Judaism explains why the Christian Church never extended its tacit toleration of Judaism to an Islam which was in one aspect a post-Christian reversion to Judaism from Christianity. In the Christian view the tolerance morally due to a truly though imperfectly inspired pre-Christian approximation towards Christianity could not properly be extended to a perverse backsliding from the Christian summit of religious attainment.]

Christians did not treat Jews better than Muslims. They had higher regard for Jewish theology, but where Jews had no civil rights, religious toleration had no meaning.

Islam’s traditional respect for the older religions is disappearing in some quarters.

A Study of History, Vol VIII, OUP, 1954


Odi et amo

June 1 2015

Odi et amo: quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

[Footnote: Catullus, Q. V.: Carmina, No. lxxxv.]

“I hate and I love. Perhaps you ask why.
I do not know, but I feel it happen and I am torn apart.”

A Study of History, Vol VIII, OUP, 1954


Dogs, Hoops and Running Boys

May 31 2015

… gave life to the foreground in engravings from, say, 1750 to 1830 – and suggest a title for a book of light social history. They come into nursery rhyme illustrations as well.

The Foundling Hospital, Bloomsbury in a print published in January 1753 or earlier:

Foundling Hospital, 1753

St James’s Square, 1752 (Chatham House, Duke of York Street and St James’s, Piccadilly in background; boy and hoop centre foreground; possibly clearer colour version here):

St James's Square, 1752

A painting of the 1825 Decembrist revolt in the Senate Square, St Petersburg by Vasily Timm has the running boy, but in these circumstances no dogs or hoops (he is similar to a running figure on a print of Bow Church and Cheapside in 1750, Getty images):

Timm, Decembist Revolt, 1825

This of the Tower of London, c 1810, has a hoop and ambling boy, but no dog.

One of the new lodges, Hyde Park, 1828, with hoop and dogs; dandies lounge at the rails:

New lodge, Hyde Park, 1828

St Giles-in-the-Fields, c 1820 (the figure may not be a boy, but we have seen him in the Foundling Hospital, Bow Church and Russian images):

St Giles-in-the-Fields, c 1820

There are several Thomas Bewick wood engravings of boys with hoops, and an oil painting by John Opie.

It seems that boys did no more than roll the hoop.


Gibbon and the defence of America

May 30 2015

Gibbon’s confidence [General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West in Vol VI] in the inviolability of an American asylum for the Western Civilization would have been justified if – but only if – the aggressor’s part had been played in reality by those arrested Nomad riders [Nomadism is one of Toynbee’s “arrested civilizations”] who had been cast for it in Gibbon’s imagination. If the Continental Power that was under suspicion in A.D. 1952 of entertaining designs of world-wide conquest had been, once again, the Mongols, the peoples of the Western World would assuredly have had better reason this time for counting on the survival of their own distinctive culture than they had had in A.D. 1238, when they had been facing the prospect of a Mongol occupation of the West European peninsula of Asia without having any reassuring Transatlantic asylum at their backs. In A.D. 1952 they could have taken comfort in reminding themselves that in A.D. 1281 the forces of a Mongol Empire, which at that date had been mistress of the Continent from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the Persian Gulf and the Baltic Sea, had been thrown back ignominiously from the beaches of Japan; for a cavalry Power which had proved impotent to conquer a cluster of small islands separated from the Continent by only a hundred miles of sea at the nearest point would have had no prospect, if she had occupied the European coastline of the Continent that the Germans held in June 1940, of being able to conquer the great island of North America on the farther side of a nearly two thousand-miles-broad Atlantic Ocean, or even the sister island of South America, which was divided by not less than sixteen hundred miles of sea from the Continent at the Straits of Dakar, where the westward bulge of Africa approached closest to the eastward bulge of Brazil. Indeed, the fiasco of Qubilay Khan’s attempt on Japan suggests that even the twenty-miles-wide Straits of Dover, which had foiled Napoleon and foiled Hitler when the local Continental war-lord of the day had had the whole of Europe under his command, might have proved impassable for Qubilay Khan in spite of his commanding the Asiatic mass as well as the European extremity of the Continent. But the historic immunity of the isles from conquest by Continental war-lords had been due to the comparative innocuousness of even a sedentary community’s most formidable weapons of offence until a hundred years and more after the date at which Gibbon had been writing; and no one who had lived through the war of A.D. 1939-45 could be blind to the truth that, since then, times had changed. The weapons with which Hitler had come within an ace of conquering Britain, and with which the combined forces of the United States and the British Commonwealth had succeeded thereafter in conquering Hitler’s vaunted Festung Europa, were indications that in a future world war the conquest of North America might not be beyond the reach of a Power controlling the aggregate resources of the Old World and capable of forging this incomparably vast store of war potential into unprecedentedly potent weapons through a mastery of an ever improving Western technology.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954


Mozart’s emperor

May 29 2015

In 1780 Maria Theresa was succeeded by her son Joseph II.

She was the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Francis died in 1765. Maria Theresa went into perpetual mourning.

Joseph succeeded Francis as Emperor and lived until 1790. His successor was Leopold II.

His mother continued to rule the Hapsburg lands of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia jointly with her son, as, after the War of the Austrian Succession, she had done with her husband. (Another of her children, Marie Antoinette, married Louis XVI.) Joseph’s war against feudal privileges began at her death.

Joseph was a devoted disciple of the French philosophers, and he attempted to carry out uncompromisingly in backward Austria that transformation of society which was accomplished a few years later in such partial measure in progressive France. The actual achievements of the French Revolution were none the less stupendous, however short they fell of their aim, and they were only made possible by the spiritual response of the Nation to the philosophers’ gospel. Joseph undertook the mission of the “philosopher-king,” and attempted by means of “Strong Government” to wrench unenlightened populations out of their cherished traditions and convert them forcibly by the accomplished fact. Neglecting all local differences of language, religion, and custom, he proceeded to refashion his dominions on a pedantically uniform plan.

Joseph’s crusade was a disastrous failure. Reform was checkmated by revolt, and he was killed by ten years of unrelieved disappointments. Yet his short reign has determined the course of the Monarchy’s internal history ever since.

He contrived to range Nationality and Enlightenment in opposite camps. His dogmatic disregard for national feeling awakened it into frantic life, and it arrayed itself for the battle not in the “Rights of Man” (of which it had never heard), but in the familiar harness of mediæval vested interests. The centres of nationalistic resistance were the provincial “estates,” bodies representative not of peoples but of castes. They were dominated by the nobility and the Church, so that nationalism in the Hapsburg Empire started with a strong feudal and clerical bias, which has left permanent effects. The movement has remained legalistic instead of becoming philosophic. It looks to the past rather than to the future, and has fallen a willing victim to the malady of “historical sentiment.”

Joseph’s death in 1790 concluded the first bout in the contest between enlightened despotism and nationalistic reaction, but the factors of success and failure were too evenly divided between the two forces to allow a speedy decision. The struggle continued intermittently till the revolutionary year of 1848 brought it to a head.

Maron, Joseph II

Anton von Maron, Joseph II (1741-90), Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Bohemia, in the uniform of a field marshal of Austria, wearing the Order of the Golden Fleece, the Military Order of Maria-Theresa and a plaque of the Order of St Stephen of Hungary, Château de Versailles

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915


Hermit crabs

May 28 2015

The ʿOsmanlis […] despised armour – perhaps on account of their own proficiency in the use of long-range missile weapons. (They inherited an aptitude for archery from their Nomad ancestors, and they took kindly to fire-arms.) The Janissaries [infantry] wore no armour at all, and the Sipahis [cavalry] seldom bothered to take any with them when they started on a campaign, since they counted upon being able to capture all that they wanted from the enemy. When they did wear armour acquired in this way, the Sipahis made a point of choosing pieces that did not fit, in order to show that they were hermit-crabs.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934 (footnote)


Leonardo and digital death

May 27 2015

“Eschew a line of study in which the work done dies together with the worker.” [Footnote: “Fuggi quello studio del quale la resultante opera more insieme coll’ operante d’essa” – Leonardo da Vinci, in The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, compiled and edited from the original MSS. by J. P. Richter, 2nd ed. (Oxford 1939, University Press, 2 vols.), vol. ii, p. 244, No. 1169.]

So don’t blog. There are no defences against the whims of providers and obsolescence of software.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Rush-hour in Hong Kong

May 26 2015

The third of Abram Chasins’s Three Chinese Pieces (1926). The other two are A Shanghai Tragedy and (for white keys) Flirtation in a Chinese Garden.

Gullivior has run together four performances:

Abram Chasins (piano roll) (00:00)
Benno Moiseiwitsch (01:32)
Shura Cherkassky (02:56)
Constance Keene (04:33)

Chasins isn’t the best, perhaps because of the piano roll. What subtle thing gives a piano roll away? Keene was his wife.

I heard this on Cathay Pacific circa 1987 (during Cathay’s better days). The classical audio channel’s presenter was Edward Greenfield, who was still, in his companionable radio voice, quaintly referring to his selections of “gramophone records”.

Film about Greenfield. He was a kind of opposite number, at the Guardian, to Michael Kennedy at the Telegraph.


Egypt and India, 1915

May 26 2015

It was easy for an Indian to be Panislamist in 1915, more difficult for an Arab. The Panislamism stirred up during the war by the Young Turks was at odds with Arab nationalism and Panarabism.

The Indian Moslem is misled by his own experience. In India Islam is a nationality. Its professors may have been Arab, Persian, Afghan or Mogul when they came as conquerors to the country, yet now they are one blood, bound together by the common menace of Hindu race-hatred. Conditions are different in the Ottoman Empire. The menace of the Unbeliever is here imperfectly realised, and national antagonisms find an arena within the “Bulwark of Islam.” Our educated Indian Panislamist should talk to an educated Panarab from Egypt, if he wishes to discover how Moslems of Arab speech feel towards the political ambitions of their Turkish co-religionists.

The Egyptian will agree with the Indian emphatically, that the rule of the European is a humiliation for Islam, and that British administration, however beneficial or even necessary it may be for the moment, [footnote: Though, except for the work of the irrigation engineers, he will have much less good to say of it than the Indian.] must be no more than a transitory phase in the long history of Egypt and India; but he will tell him that he has experienced one thing worse than British occupation, and that was the tyranny of the Turkish official class, which Great Britain ended just a generation ago. “It is only when I think what we suffered from the Turk,” he will conclude, “that I can find it in my heart to tolerate his British successor.”

There is, of course, an element of propaganda here, despite Toynbee’s explicit anti-imperialism even as he was doing official war work.

Egypt, Iran and Palestine had an especially bad experience with the British, but were never officially colonies.

See Sidney PeelBritish Administration and Irrigation in Egypt, Political Science Quarterly, Vol 20, No 3, September 1905, pp 513-534, at JSTOR here without charge or other restriction. Worth reading and by a grandson of Robert Peel.

India’s feeling of solidarity with Egypt is conveyed, in the language of the time, in the chapter called Egypt’s Fight for Freedom in Nehru’s answer to Wells, Glimpses of World History (1934).

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915


Malankara Orthodox

May 25 2015

Random eastern Christian.

Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, or Indian Orthodox Church: Oriental Orthodox, West Syrian rite. Not part of the “Greek” Orthodox family. Based in Kottayam, Kerala. Language Malayalam.

Here, Quarbana or Eucharist celebrated by HG Paulose Mar Pachomios, Metropolitan, at St Stephen’s, Kattanam, Kerala. Note the curtain and the furious censer-swinging. The men and women are segregated. No religious person should wear a beard any more. I sympathise a bit with the children.

For my rough guide to eastern Christianities, go here and (for India) here.

Wikipedia pages written by Indians often seem over-engaged and not to see the wood for the trees. The one for this church is an example.


The Melkite Church

May 24 2015

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church uses the Byzantine rite (tradition of Saints John Chrysostom and Basil). The liturgical language is Arabic (and sometimes Greek). Here (no embedding) is a chant performed at the start of Holy Communion, sung in the Saint Paul Basilica, the Melkite cathedral in the Lebanese mountain village of Harissa. You’ll hear the word Allah.

Melkite comes from the Syriac word malkoyo (ܡܠܟܝܐ in the Syriac alphabet‎) and the Arabic malakī (ملكي)‎, meaning royal, and by extension, imperial (ie Byzantine).

Nearby is the Marian shrine Notre Dame du Liban, visited by all Christian denominations. Christians, Druze and Muslims all have a devotion to Mary.

For my rough guide to eastern Christianities, go here and here. I will do a further post on liturgies.

Here, courtesy of KTO, the French-language television channel of the Archbishop of Paris, is Benedict XVI at Harissa in September 2012; he reads an apostolic exhortationEcclesia in Medio Oriente, in French (it came out of his 2010 Special Synod on the Middle East), and signs it:

He also met the Syriac Maronite Patriarchate, Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, Syro-Catholic Patriarchate (Syriac Catholic) and others. Maronites, Armenians and Syrians are the three Catholic churches headquartered in Lebanon.