Archive for the 'Oceania' Category

Southeast Asian languages

June 6 2015

The main language systems are


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).

Flying doctors

May 15 2015

Cook, Nullarbor Plain, South Australia, 1961:

Toynbee passed through Cook by train en route from Adelaide to Perth in July 1956.

Through the whole of the morning and half the afternoon, the tufted red expanse went on opening out in front of us and fading away behind our rolling wheels. Nothing changed except when, once in every hour or two, we passed a row of half-a-dozen houses and a water tank. “Cook”, “Hughes”, “Reid”, “Haig”: such monosyllabic place-names are just the right ones for these pin-points of human life on the map of the wilderness. The rhythm of the journey is so regular that it begins to have a hypnotic effect. But something must be going to break the trance, for this evening we are to reach Kalgoorlie, and to-morrow we shall be in Perth.

Cook was created in 1917 with the completion of the Trans-Australian Railway and is named after the sixth Prime Minister of Australia, Joseph Cook.

It died in 1997 when the railways were privatised. The new owners did not need a support town there, but diesel refuelling and overnight accommodation for train drivers remain.

The bush hospital (supported from Ceduna and which advertised itself at the station with “If you’re crook come to Cook”) and airstrip were closed, but medical supplies are stored at Cook against a possible train disaster. The Tea and Sugar Train which had supplied the town ceased operation. The former airstrip is known as a place to spot inland dotterel. When Cook was active, water was pumped from an aquifer. Now it is carried in by train.

The Anglican-affiliated Bush Church Aid Society of Australia, 1919- , mentioned in the clip, were not the more famous flying doctors, but the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, 1928- (it began with a different name) also had evangelical origins, in their case Presbyterian. How much of their respective work was directed at indigenous Australians?

The largest religious group in Australia are Catholics.

The Flying Doctor, Australian-British film by Miles Mander, 1936

Flying Doctor Calling, history by Ernestine Hill, 1947

The Flying Doctor, Australian-British television drama series about RFDSA, 39 episodes, 1959; in UK shown on ITV; opening credits; based on radio drama series broadcast, in the UK, on the BBC; how were both of these aired in Australia?

Six novels by Michael Noonan, 1961-69

The Flying Doctors, Australian (Nine Network) television drama series, 1986-93; opening credits (do they ever stop smiling?)

RFDSA promotional film, 2006

Australian eBay

Flying Doctors of Malaysia

The Flying Doctors of East Africa, film by Werner Herzog, 1969

Amref Health Africa

Flying Doctors of America

Los Médicos Voladores

Sai Wan, Hong Kong island, 1961 again; it is hard to believe that this is not some comparatively remote spot in the New Territories:

History of air medical services

The French pioneer of medical aviation was Marie Marvingt; in 1934, she established the first civil air ambulance service in Africa, in Morocco; Marvingt and her proposed air ambulance, by Émile Friant, 1914:

Marie Marvingt, 1914

Flying Doctor Calling

Le toubib volant

East to West, A Journey Round the World, OUP, 1958


April 25 2015

The first victory of the Ottoman Empire was a defeat of the Byzantine army near Nicomedia, at Bapheus, in 1302. The defeat of British imperial and French forces on the Gallipoli peninsula, April 25 1915 to January 9 1916, was almost the last.

Gallipoli was also a landmark in the career of a Turkish general, Kustafa Kemal Atatürk. It was a dress rehearsal for the struggle to come.

It disgraced Churchill, who had ordered the naval attack.

During the Irish War of Independence balladeers sang “Twas better to die ’neath an Irish sky than in Suvla or Sedd el Bahr”.

Gallipoli helped to forge national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand, both newly independent and fighting their first war. Today is Anzac Day and the centenary of the start of the campaign.

The first Jewish fighting force – with a Jewish emblem and flag – since the defeat of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in AD 136 fought in Gallipoli. So, in a small way, this was a dress rehearsal for the wars of Zion.


The peninsula forms the northern or western bank of the Dardanelles, the strait that provided a sea route to the Russian Empire. Russia’s allies Britain and France launched a naval attack followed by a landing, intending to secure it and then capture Constantinople. The naval attack was repelled and after eight months’ fighting the land campaign was abandoned and the invasion force withdrawn to Egypt.

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was formed in Egypt in 1915 and commanded by General William Birdwood. It was disbanded in 1916. Later formations.

What has been happening in Palestine during the War? Dr. Trietsch informs us that the Ottoman Government has been proceeding with the “naturalisation” of the Palestinian Jews, and that the “local execution of this measure has not been effected without disturbances […].” [My bracket, not AJT’s.] One significant consequence was the appearance in Egypt of Palestinian refugees, who raised a Zion mule corps there and fought through the Gallipoli campaign.

The Zion Mule Corps was formed in March 1915. It was the precursor of the Jewish Legion (1917-21), the unofficial name for the 38th to 42nd Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, which fought against the Ottoman Empire. Jacob Epstein served in the 38th.

Casualties at Gallipoli:

Ottoman Empire (Turks, Arabs, others): 109,042 wounded and missing, 57,084 killed

Britain: 52,230 wounded, 21,255 killed

Australia: 19,441 wounded, 8,709 killed

France: 17,000 wounded, 10,000 killed (estimates), including an unknown number of Senegalese

New Zealand: 4,752 wounded, 2,721 killed

India: 3,421 wounded, 1,358 killed

Newfoundland: 93 wounded, 49 killed

Germans: a few fought with the Turks

The numbers vary greatly from one source to another. Allied numbers here are via, which gives its source as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australia. It doesn’t say whether wounded includes missing. Ottoman numbers via Most sources give only the Allies. Have the Ottoman totals ever been broken down?

Anzac parade, London, date not shown:

Turkey, A Past and a Future, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917

Former peers of the Minoans and Vikings

April 26 2014

The Polynesians […] ventured upon the tour de force of Oceanic voyaging. Their skill was to perform these stupendous voyages in frail open canoes. Their penalty has been to remain in an exact equilibrium with the Pacific – just able to cross its vast empty spaces, but never able to cross them with any margin of security or ease – until the intolerable tension has found its own relief by going slack, with the consequence that these former peers of the Minoans and the Vikings have degenerated into incarnations of the Lotus-Eaters and the Doasyoulikes: loosing their grip upon the Ocean and resigning themselves to be marooned, each in his own insular paradise, until the Western mariner comes at last from the ends of the Earth to exterminate them as he exterminates the Arctic hunters’ seals or the prairie hunters’ bison. [Footnote: The decimation of the Polynesians by the Western “beach-combers” has not, of course, been deliberate; yet the bullet and the harpoon which have done such execution among the non-human [he might have added human] fauna of North America are not so deadly to Primitive Man as the germs of contagious diseases which the Westerner involuntarily brings – not to speak of the profound devitalizing influence which the Westerner’s very spiritual presence exerts upon the Primitive who suddenly comes into social contact with him.]

A strenuous Victorian is uncomfortable with tropical ease and prefers the Minoans and Vikings.

He might as well use Charles Kingsley further and call the Polynesians water babies. He is using the word Polynesians in its old-fashioned sense of Pacific islanders generally. Which devitalised them more: the idyllic islands or the intruding Westerners? Of course, the latter.

Old posts:


The temptations of Odysseus.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934

Îles Marquises

April 25 2014

Of all major Pacific island groups, the Marquesas, 850 miles northeast of Tahiti, suffered the greatest population decline from diseases brought by Western explorers: from over 78,000 in the eighteenth century to about 20,000 by the middle of the nineteenth and 4,000 by the beginning of the twentieth.

The population had increased to 8,548 by the time of the 2002 census, not including Marquesans residing on Tahiti, and 9,264 at the 2012 census.

The island furthest from any other inhabited place is Tristan da Cunha in the bleaker south Atlantic. But the Marquesas, like other Pacific islands, are further from a continent than Tristan: 3,000 miles from the nearest continental landmass (Mexico).

The Polynesians arrived before AD 300. Ethnological and linguistic evidence suggests from the region of Tonga and Samoa. The islands were given their European name by Álvaro de Mendaña, who reached them in 1595. He named them after his patron, García Hurtado de Mendoza, 5th Marquis of Cañete, Viceroy of Peru.

Cook visited them on his second voyage. An American maritime fur trader, Joseph Ingraham, visited the northern Marquesas while commanding the brig Hope in 1791 and called them the Washington Islands.

In 1813 Commodore David Porter claimed Nuku Hiva for the US, but Congress never ratified the claim. France took possession and established a settlement there in 1842, abandoned it in 1859, re-established control 1870 and later incorporated the islands into French Polynesia, which is now a pays d’outre-mer of France.

“The race is perhaps the handsomest extant […] yet death reaps them with both hands” (Robert Louis Stevenson, In the South Seas, posthumously-published memoir of a visit to the Marquesas and other islands in 1888).

Marquesas 1.

Some Marquesans feel neglected by politicians in Tahiti. Some favour a direct link with Paris instead of dependence on Papeete. Some Marquesan political leaders, fearful that Tahiti might proclaim independence, have declared themselves in favour of separating from French Polynesia. Pro-independence Tahitian leaders have accused the French central government of encouraging the separation of the Marquesas.

Melville’s Typee is about the Marquesas. Gauguin died on Hiva Oa, Jacques Brel is buried there. In Huxley’s Brave New World, the Marquesas are a place of exile for those considered dangerous to the World State. Thor Heyerdahl spent a year on Fatu Hiva and wrote about his disillusionment.

Austronesia: Madagascar to Hawaii

April 24 2014

The widest term for the languages and cultures, not racial identities, of Malaya, Madagascar, Sumatra, Java, Taiwan (before the Chinese), the Philippines, Borneo, Micronesia, Melanesia, New Zealand, Polynesia, Hawaii is Austronesian.

Austronesian languages include Acehnese, Hawaiian, Javanese, Maori, Malagasy, Malay, Polynesian languages, Sundanese, Tagalog.

They are not to be confused with the much older Papuan and Australian languages. (New Guinea is outside the Austronesian space.)

It used to be thought that they had originated in Taiwan, from where large-scale migrations began after 5000 BC. The first Austronesian-speaking settlers were said to have landed in northern Luzon, where they intermingled with an older population.

Recently (2009) their origin has been placed further south, in Sundaland, the peninsula, before the end of the last Ice Age, that had extended the Asian landmass as far as Borneo and Java. Under this scenario, refugees from the rising seas migrated north to Taiwan.

Austronesian-speakers spread eastward to the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia and westward to Madagascar. Sailing from Melanesia and Micronesia, they had discovered Polynesia by 1000 BC, Easter Island and Madagascar by AD 300, Hawaii by AD 400 and New Zealand by AD 1280. They reached South America and traded with Native Americans.

By the beginning of the first millennium CE, the Austronesian inhabitants of maritime Southeast Asia had begun trading with India and China. Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced and Indianised kingdoms established. By the tenth century Muslim traders had brought Islam, which gradually displaced the older religions. The Austronesian inhabitants of Polynesia were unaffected by these cultural migrations and diffusions and retained their indigenous culture.

Map of the Austronesian migrations, Wikimedia Commons, opens in a new window; a couple of the dates differ slightly from ones I have given:


Christmas in Australia

December 24 2013

Richard Mason, director. Australian Commonwealth Film Unit, 1958.


August 15 2013


Chinatowns in Africa

Chinatowns in Asia

Chinatowns in Australia

Chinatowns in Canada

Chinatowns in Europe

Chinatowns in Latin America

Chinatowns in the Middle East, but are any real?

Chinatowns in Oceania

Chinatowns in the United States

Oldest. Anywhere: Manila. In Japan: Nagasaki. In Americas: Mexico City. In US: San Francisco. In Canada: Victoria. In Australia: Melbourne. In Europe: Liverpool. The oldest are never the largest.

Largest. In US: New York, followed by San Francisco. In Canada: Vancouver, followed by Toronto. In Japan: Yokohama, followed by Kobe, followed by Nagasaki (the three official Chinatowns). In Australia: Sydney, followed by Melbourne. In Britain: London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle.

In the Netherlands: Amsterdam, followed by The Hague, followed by Rotterdam. In Belgium: Antwerp (the only official one). In France: Paris, the main one in the 13th arrondissement.

The only official Chinatown in Korea is in Incheon. There are Chinatowns in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Jakarta’s is in a district called Glodok. The only real Chinatown in India is in Kolkata.

It is odd, in the case of Singapore, to have a Chinatown in a country that is ethnically Chinese. The word at least pays lip service to Singapore’s multiculturalism. There is no Chinatown in Tokyo.

Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo do not have well-defined areas. Buenos Aires has a small Chinatown. Moscow and Berlin do not have historic Chinatowns.

Many Chinatowns are in decline or are being replaced by China-themed malls. Flight of upwardly-mobile Chinese in US to the suburbs.

Chinese laundries in North America.


Chinatown cooks

Manhattan, Wikimedia Commons

The coalescence of the Oikoumenê

June 12 2013

By the year A.D. 1952 the initiative and skill of Western Man had been engaged for some four and a half centuries in knitting together the whole habitable and traversable surface of the planet by a system of communications that was unprecedented in the two features of being literally world-wide and being operated by a technique which was constantly surpassing itself at a perpetually accelerating pace. The wooden caravels and galleons, rigged for sailing in the eye of the wind, which had sufficed to enable the pioneer mariners of Modern Western Europe to make themselves masters of all the oceans, had given way [in the 1840s] to mechanically propelled iron-built ships of relatively gigantic size [some smaller steamships had wooden hulls]; “dirt-tracks” travelled by six-horse coaches had been replaced by macadamized and concrete-floored roads travelled by automobiles; railways had been invented to compete with roads, and aircraft to compete with all land-borne or water-borne conveyances. Concurrently, means of [instantaneous] communication which did not require the physical transportation of human bodies had been conjured up, and put into operation on a world-wide scale, in the shape of telegraphs, telephones, and wireless transmission – visual as well as auditory – by radio. The movement of sea-borne and airborne traffic had been made detectable at long range by radar. There had been no period in the history of any other civilization in which so large an area had been made so highly conductive for every form of human intercourse.

From this perspective, the creation of an electronic World Wide Web (for non-privileged users) in 1994 was the latest stage of a process that had begun with the discovery of Madeira by the Portuguese in 1419.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954

The ship

June 11 2013

The key-notes of the fifteenth-century acceleration in the shipwright’s and the navigator’s art were its suddenness and its speed.

“In the fifteenth century … there was a swift and momentous change in the building of ships. It was a great era of architecture. In the space of fifty years the sea-going sailing-ship developed from a single-master into a three-master carrying five or six sails.” [Footnote: Bassett-Lowke, J. W. [that should be W. J.], and Holland, G.: Ships and Men (London 1946, Harrap), p. 46. […]]

The revolution in navigation was the development of the sea astrolabe.

And this technological revolution in the West not only gave its authors access to all quarters of the Globe by making them masters of Oceanic navigation; it also gave them an ascendancy over all non-Western mariners whom they encountered in any seas.

“At the beginning of the fifteenth century the seaborne trade of Europe was carried in ships markedly inferior in design and workmanship to the vessels used in many parts of the East; but at the end of the sixteenth century the West European ships were the best in the World. They were, perhaps, less handy and less weatherly than the junks of the China seas, but in general, in their combination of seaworthiness, endurance, carrying capacity, and fighting power, they proved superior to anything else afloat.” [Footnote: Parry, J. H.: Europe and a Wider World, 1415-1715 (London 1949, Hutchinson), p. 21.]

This new-fangled Western type of vessel is the most characteristic emblem of a Modern Age of Western history (currebat circa A.D. 1475-1875) during which its unchallenged supremacy was proclaimed in its monopoly of the title “ship”, by which it came to be known par excellence. The “ship’s” distinctive virtue, in which it surpassed its successors as conspicuously as its predecessors, was its power to keep the sea for an almost unlimited length of time on end; and this virtue has been divined and lauded by a nineteenth-century Western man of letters who lived to see the “ship” reach its peak of technical perfection, and all but lived on to see it disappear from the seas as suddenly as it had invaded them some four hundred years earlier.

“L’ancien navire de Christophe Colomb et de Ruyter est un des grands chefs-d’œuvre de l’homme. Il est inépuisable en force comme l’infini en souffles, il emmagasine le vent dans sa voile, il est précis dans l’immense diffusion des vagues, il flotte et il règne.” [Footnote: Hugo, Victor: Les Misérables, Part II, Book II, chap. 3.]

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

The last days of sail

June 9 2013

The writer of this Study had the good fortune, as a child, to catch a last glimpse of the sailing-ship before she vanished from the seas, and to be initiated into the lore of her divers rigs by the former master of an East Indiaman, his great-uncle Captain Henry Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1819-1909), who had retired from the sea in A.D. 1866 without ever having seen service on a steamship or indeed on any build of sailing-vessel other than a full ship since his first voyage at a tender age on a barque [which is a “full ship”]. On summer holidays in the eighteen-nineties at St. Margaret’s Bay on the English shore of the Straits of Dover, under the eye of the South Foreland lighthouse, the small boy learnt the rigs from the old sailor as the ships came gliding past: schooners and three-masted schooners and top-sail schooners (very common); brigantines and brigs (rather rare); barquentines and barques; and full-rigged ships ranging from classic three-masters to the four-masters and five-masters that were a nineteenth-century revival of a sixteenth-century fashion. He learnt to know and love them all, without ever suspecting that he would live to see the disappearance of this divine work of Man’s hands which, in his uncle’s confident eyes, was as much a part of the eternal order of Nature as the chalk cliff on which they were standing, or as the water which gave the measure of the distance from the shore to the passing ship. In the eighteen-nineties the sailing-ships plying through the Straits were still far more numerous than the steamships (though doubtless steam had by then long since outstripped sail in aggregate tonnage). As late as the summer of 1910, there used always to be several four-masted sailing-ships at anchor in Falmouth harbour, and in the summer of 1911 the wreck of one huge sailing-ship was lying huddled against the cliffs between the South Foreland and Dover. Yet, already, forty years back, sail was being driven by steam off one sea-route after another. The China tea clippers had been put out of business by the opening of the Suez Canal in A.D. 1869, which had deprived them of their advantage over steamships trying to compete with them on the long voyage round the Cape; by A.D. 1875 all routes except the Australian had been captured by steamships; and in A.D. 1881 the Australian route itself was conquered for steam by the S.S. Aberdeen with her triple expansion engines, though the wool clippers went on fighting their losing battle till the end of the decade. The interval between the first two world wars saw the process of extinguishing the sailing-ship completed.

Clippers were very fast sailing-ships that appeared in their classic form at the same time as steamships and competed with them for a generation.

Footnotes refer to three works previously cited:

Clowes, G. S. L.: Sailing Ships, their History and Development: Part I: Historical Notes (London 1932, H.M. Stationery Office) […].

Abell, W.: The Shipwright’s Trade (Cambridge 1948, University Press) […].

Bassett-Lowke, J. W. [that should be W. J.], and Holland, G.: Ships and Men (London 1946, Harrap) […].

Footnote on Uncle Harry:

“Captain Henry Toynbee was one of the most scientific navigators of his day. … ‘He was always sure of his longitude within five miles,’ writes one of his officers. And his wonderful landfalls were the admiration of his passengers.

“Toynbee … went to sea in 1833 at the age of fourteen as a midshipman in the East Indiaman Dunvegan Castle. … Toynbee’s first command was the Ellenborough; and he had also commanded the Gloriana and Marlborough before he took over the Hotspur, the command of which he resigned in 1866 in order to succeed Admiral Fitzroy as Marine Superintendent of the Meteorological Office. He retired in 1888, and lived to be over ninety years of age, an example of all that an officer in our mercantile marine should be” (Lubbock, Basil: The Blackwall Frigates, 2nd edition (Glasgow 1950, Brown, Son, & Ferguson), pp. 145-6).

Additional footnote:

In The Times of the 25th January, 1951, a photograph will be found of “the Pamir and Passat, the last two sailing barques to take part in the traditional grain race from Australia to England, lying at Penarth Docks. They will be taken in tow to Antwerp for breaking up.”

Petschili in the English Channel

The four-masted barque Petschili in the English Channel between 1903 and 1918; the Petschili was built in Hamburg in 1903 and beached in 1919 in Valparaiso and was a sister ship of the Pamir and Passat just mentioned; Wikimedia Commons

HS Tuke, Four-Masted Barque, 1914

One of those four-masted sailing-ships at anchor in Falmouth harbour, watercolour, Henry Scott Tuke, 1914

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnotes)

Colonial Film

November 14 2012

“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.”

The significant experience

April 11 2012

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

The World and the West

March 6 2012

This is from the first of the 1952 BBC radio Reith Lectures, given under the title The World and the West. I posted the fourth, The Far East and the West, here. Background on Reith Lectures here.

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 all the territory Britain had lost by 1952, except for Palestine and concessions in China. We lost none, except Sudan (which was an Anglo-Egyptian “condominium”) and a military base at Suez, between Ceylon on February 4 1948 (which completed our evacuation of the subcontinent) and 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

The airman and the nomad

March 4 2012

An airman […] had fallen in with a vagrant food-gathering tribe of aborigines as a result of having had to make a forced landing at a remote spot in the interior of the Northern Territory. Wishing to give his unsophisticated hosts an overwhelming impression of his superiority in power and skill, the castaway took up his rifle, which had come down with him intact, and picked off one of the innumerable black swans that were riding on the waters of a lake on whose shore the wandering Blackfellows were encamped. He had duly demonstrated Civilization’s power of taking life at long range, yet it was evident that the Blackfellows had not after all been impressed, and his chagrin and bewilderment must have been manifest on his countenance, for his considerate hosts lost no time in giving him a demonstration of the proper way to do the job. As soon as the rest of the swans, who had risen in flight from the water at the sound of the rifle-shot, had recovered from their alarm and had settled again, an aged Blackfellow daubed his hair with mud, crowned the daub with a bunch of waterplants, stuck a hollow reed into each of his nostrils, waded gently into the water, and disappeared under the surface. All that was now visible was a bunch of water plants, apparently drifting in the wind among the swans, with the ends of two broken reeds protruding from the water a few inches away. The swans were not alarmed, nor did the survivors take alarm when, one by one, some six or seven of their number softly and silently vanished under water and did not reappear. After a few seconds the old Blackfellow re-emerged from the lake bringing with him the six or seven swans whom he had caught and killed by seizing their legs, pulling them down, and drowning them. The Blackfellows’ method of food-gathering was so crushingly superior to the rifleman’s that, after all, it was no wonder that his rifle-shot had failed to hit its intended psychological mark. For this tribe, the problem of scarcity was non-existent so long as there was a mud-banked, reed-fringed, swan-covered lake in their universe.

Was the plant intended as a camouflage for the reeds? Would two reeds have looked alarming? If the swans were likely to notice a disturbance in the water and fly away, would they reason: “It doesn’t matter, it is being caused by a plant”? And if not, why wear the plant?

The lake was perhaps Tarrabool Lake or one in the Lake Sylvester System.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)


November 20 2011

“For over two hundred years the frontier-line [between Araucanian natives and Spanish colonists in Chile] [bracket in original] shifted back and forth of the River Biobio, with a story of struggle exactly similar to that between the Saxons and the Wendish Slavs at the River Elbe from the ninth to the twelfth centuries in Europe. The Araucanians were never conquered, and held all their territory. In 1870 they accepted peacefully the sovereignty of Chile, and traders with disease and alcohol, and farmers with their ploughs, entered their country; but no compulsory training in civilized ways was imposed upon them. Steadily their aboriginal population declined, and continues to decline” (Macleod, W. C.: The American Frontier (London 1928, Kegan Paul), pp. 117-18). With slight changes, this passage could be adapted to give an accurate description of the history of the relations between the Maoris and the British settlers in New Zealand.

The Araucanians (Mapuche) certainly had their own ploughs and I assume that they had alcohol.

A Study of History, Vol V, OUP, 1939 (footnote)

No surrender: Japanese holdouts

October 26 2011

List at

Hiroo Onoda, who now lives in Brazil

Arts of Asia

August 7 2010

Just a nod to one of my favourite magazines, published from Hong Kong since 1971. Ideal bathroom reading.

Living national treasures

August 7 2010


Elizabeth II

July 24 2010

Source not stated.


Crown dependencies

Commonwealth realms

Commonwealth realms (countries of which she is or was head of state)

Commonwealth countries

Visits by Elizabeth to colonies and Commonwealth countries since accession

Wikipedia articles about all British royal visits to Canada (since 1786) and Australia (since 1867)

Commonwealth Games since 1930

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings since 1971

British royal Christmas messages

She is Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

From 1952 to ’56, she was Queen of Pakistan.

Main Wikipedia article.

The Commonwealth can be said to have begun with the de facto independence of Canada in 1867.

The end of freshness

March 18 2010

“Journeys, those magic caskets full of dreamlike promises, will never again yield up their treasures untarnished. A proliferating and overexcited civilization has broken the silence of the seas once and for all. The perfumes of the tropics and the pristine freshness of human beings have been corrupted by a busyness with dubious implications, which mortifies our desires and dooms us to acquire only contaminated memories.

“Now that the Polynesian islands have been smothered in concrete and turned into aircraft carriers solidly anchored in the southern seas, when the whole of Asia is beginning to look like a dingy suburb, when shanty towns are spreading across Africa, when civil and military aircraft blight the primeval innocence of the American or Melanesian forests even before destroying their virginity, what else can the so-called escapism of travelling do than confront us with the more unfortunate aspects of our history? Our great Western civilization, which has created the marvels we now enjoy, has only succeeded in producing them at the cost of corresponding ills. The order and harmony of the Western world, its most famous achievement, and a laboratory in which structures of a complexity yet unknown are being fashioned, demand the elimination of a prodigious mass of noxious by-products which now contaminate the globe. The first thing we see as we travel round the world is our own filth, thrown in the face of mankind.”


John and Doreen Weightman, translators, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, Jonathan Cape, 1973; first French edition Librairie Plon, 1955.

The first Australian saint

January 10 2010

Mary MacKillop, who will be canonised this year.

Revenge on Germany

December 7 2009

Germany to 1813

From Stein to Bismarck


Prussianism 2

German Africa

German Africa 2

German Oceania

German China

German Oceania and China

Toynbee was never more prescient than when warning of the dangers of humiliating Germany in a peace settlement after the First World War. I posted a clip a while back from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, where Michael Maloney portrays Toynbee in Versailles in 1919. Toynbee is made to say:

“My fear is that we do not have statesmen with enough courage to resist the public demand for revenge. [Woodrow Wilson] is a ‘fine man’ obsessed with forming his absurd League of Nations and meanwhile he’s giving way to every bloodthirsty demand. He’s completely outwitted. Clemenceau [is] a dinosaur baying for blood, Lloyd George a politician with no vision or morality at all. You can’t just wipe your enemy out. Years ago Rome could just wipe Carthage out, but now the world has changed. These men are trying to force Germany down, but it cannot be done without terrible tragedy. Push Germany down and you’ll pay a price. And one day it will once more rise to the top. But this lot are behaving like men with no memories. Those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.”

What lessons exactly? His final words are an echo of George Santayana’s aphorism in his The Life of Reason (5 volumes, 1905-6): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (I have no evidence that Toynbee had read Santayana.)

The speech sounds too good to be true as prophecy, but his first book, Nationality and the War, from which I have been quoting, does bear out those views, even more remarkably in that it was written at the start of the war, in late 1914 and early 1915. I’ll quote the passages again at the end of this post.

The spirit of Nationality and the War had been, in McNeill’s words, “that of liberal, upper class Edwardian England, combining a concern for principle with a sublime confidence that enlightened English opinion, and the benevolent interests of the British Empire, would (or at least ought to) prevail.” But the outbreak of that war had already changed his view of history.

One of the failures of McNeill’s book is that he does not track Toynbee’s responses at Versailles to the emerging idea of the League. Perhaps the data does not exist.

In Nationality and the War, Toynbee had written that any future international machinery

cannot encroach upon individual sovereignty in any way that affects, or is deemed to affect, the sovereign right of self-preservation: in particular, it cannot aspire to the regulation of War, and it is waste of ingenuity to propound any international machinery for this purpose. The best-conceived arbitration or conciliation is bound to break down, when once a sovereign state has made up its mind that the surrender of its will on a particular issue is equivalent to annihilation. No international authority could ever prevent parleys like those of last July from resolving themselves into a conflict of arms.

Of Woodrow Wilson he says only:

President Wilson has offered Europe the good offices of the United States for mediation at the close of this war and for devising arrangements that shall prevent war for the future. Europe would do well to take President Wilson at his word, and ask the United States to give her permanent assistance of a very practical kind […]. The proposition would doubtless come to American public opinion as a shock, for it has been a constant maxim of their foreign policy to incur no political obligations across the Atlantic, and they will be more eager than ever to maintain this principle, now that they have seen what volcanoes underlie Europe’s smiling surface.

Clemenceau and Lloyd George are not mentioned. What sources, other than that book, could the Indiana Jones programme-makers have used when putting those words into his mouth? They will hardly have gone to archives. McNeill’s biography is more helpful here than Toynbee’s autobiographical Experiences and Acquaintances. They may have used other published memoirs, or histories of the conference. Toynbee’s contribution, The Non-Arab Territories of the Ottoman Empire since the Armistice of the 30th October, 1918, in HWV Temperley, editor, A History of the Peace Conference of Paris, Vol 6, OUP, Issued under the auspices of the British Institute of International Affairs, 1924, might shed light on his feelings in early 1919.

The autobiographical volumes say nothing important about his attitude to Clemenceau and nothing that shows a particularly hostile attitude to Lloyd George (but see this post). In Acquaintances he calls Wilson’s “psychic radar” “inadequate”. In Experiences he says that Wilson,

concentrating on saving as many Yugoslavs as he could from Italy’s clutches, threw German-speaking South Tyrol to the Italian wolves. […] This was one of the most inexcusable of the violations of the principle of self-determination in the 1919 peace settlement.

The Study is critical of Wilson. He regards him as not up to the peace-making job. McNeill quotes a letter from Toynbee to his mother dated November 12 1916:

I hope and sometimes dare believe, Wilson will be mediating between us this time next year.

But this is the only reference to Wilson in the book. He makes his antagonism against Lloyd George clearer. The gist, according to McNeill, is that in April 1919 Lloyd George had disregarded his and Harold Nicolson’s (Nicholson according to McNeill) advice in a memorandum to “cleave” Europe from Asia, give Greece Constantinople and the European shores of the Straits and the Sea of Marmara, but give Turkey the whole of Anatolia and its shores. They were opposing the then-prevailing British and American views, which involved giving new-fangled League of Nations mandates to the US for an “independent” Armenia and also for Constantinople and its “adjacent region”, which presumably included a large part of Anatolia. Here we do have a sign of feeling against the League. You might have thought that he would favour any device that would protect the Armenians, after his championing of their cause in 1915.

This rejection is part of a narrative of failure which McNeill is keen to establish as one of the themes of his biography. Of course, Toynbee’s ideas later became even more pro-Turkish, and when Lloyd George got into trouble over the enforcement of the Treaty of Sèvres, he could not help gloating at his discomfiture. His views got him into trouble when he took a sabbatical from his Greek-funded professorship at London University to become a war correspondent in Turkey, and in 1924 they led to his retreat to Chatham House. They were partly a reaction against his early anti-Turkish writings.

In Nationality and the War he had felt that Smyrna was “marked out to be the capital of a diminished Turkey”. The book was, of course, premature. Many people felt that the war would end soon. That makes it interesting: we can look at each of Toynbee’s ideas and compare them with what actually happened, as I’ve been doing in recent posts in a few areas.

Lloyd George’s rejection of his advice, McNeill suggests, “spelled failure” for his effort to justify his personal role in the war. He had evaded the draft on what seem to have been spurious medical grounds and a feeling of guilt seems to have stayed with him. His whole life’s work was a kind of expiation. He comes close to saying as much, while maintaining that he had been spared from service by a medical accident.

McNeill’s suggestion is believable in emotional terms, but really needs more than the rejection of a single memorandum to support it. He has, however, described previous clashes and tensions with old Foreign Office hands and military intelligence officers in the Foreign Office in London.

McNeill writes of his “growing radicalism [in 1918] and dismay at a social system that could provoke and sustain such a war”. He joined the Labour Party. We are not told in what month. Letter to his mother, no date, probably July 1918 from Castle Howard (aka Brideshead):

I find myself inclining steadily towards the social revolution. The middle class have had their fling for a century and produced this [war]; now let the working class have their try. I am for nationality at one end and internationalism at the other, as essential parts of reconstruction, and if existing states and their traditions cannot square with them, let them go to the devil, the United Kingdom and the Dual Monarchy and all of them.

Post-Second World War communists in western Europe would echo the second sentence more esoterically and substitute “bourgeoisie” for “middle class”.

Virginia Woolf, patronising as usual in her diary, January 1918, quoted by McNeill: “Arnold outdid me in anti-nationalism, anti-patriotism, and anti-militarism. … I like her [Rosalind] better than Arnold, who improves though, and is evidently harmless, and much in his element when discussing Oxford. He hasn’t much good to say of it and will never go back. … He knew the aristocratic heroes who are now all killed and celebrated, and loathed them; for one reason they must have thought him a pale blooded little animal. But he described their row and their violence and their quick snapping brains, always winning scholarships and bullying and … admitting no one to their set.” He never did return to academic tenure at Oxford. Who were those aristocratic heroes?

McNeill: “Having failed to ‘do his part’ in the war by enlisting in the army, he justified his personal behavior by condemning the criminal folly of war more violently than he might otherwise have done.”

The severity of the burden which reparations imposed is disputed, but Hitler consciously played on resentment of the Treaty as he rose to power. In Acquaintances, Toynbee writes of Smuts that

he has […] been charged with being the main inventor of the ingenious devices by which the terms of the reparations chapter of the Treaty of Versailles were kept within the letter of the “no indemnities” stipulation in President Wilson’s Fourteen Points (to which the governments of the Western allies had committed themselves in the armistice agreement), while the spirit of the President’s stipulation was being flagrantly violated. […] The morally unwarrantable inflation of the reparations bill was a breach of faith; and, for a statesman of Smuts’s standing, to advise that the fraudulent act was legally allowable was tantamount to recommending it and incurring responsibility for it.

Presumably the “no indemnities” stipulation was the third Point, which asked for “The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance”. There was, in effect, no equality of trade conditions for Germany and serious economic barriers were erected against her.

Paul Johnson called Toynbee “early League of Nations man” with some justification (The Times, July 15 1976). The tone of the first two volumes of the Survey of International Affairs is pro-League. The man behind the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Lionel Curtis, wanted to jettison the British Empire in its old form and substitute a free British Imperial Federation, or Commonwealth, of dominions, in alliance with the US, as the driving force in a new world order. What was his attitude to the League? The US, despite having formulated the concept and signed the Covenant, never joined the League of Nations. Toynbee seems to have embraced an idea of “world government”, all the vaguer for being free of Curtis’s ideas about the Commonwealth, after 1945, as the only alternative to mass-suicide in the Atomic Age, having, like almost everybody, become disillusioned with the League in the ’30s.

Curtis chaired a meeting for a group of British and American delegates at Versailles on May 30 1919 at the Hotel Majestic, the headquarters of the British and Dominions delegation, at which he proposed the idea of an Anglo-American institute of foreign affairs to study international problems with a view to preventing future wars. In the event, the British Institute of International Affairs was founded in London in July 1920, with Curtis as its joint Honorary Secretary, with GM Gathorne-Hardy, and received its Royal Charter in 1926. The Council on Foreign Relations, which had its own partially separate antecedents, was founded in 1922 in New York.

What influence did Curtis’s views have on Toynbee when they were in Versailles? If Toynbee found the idea of the League “absurd” for a time, did that reflect a phase of Curtis’s thinking? McNeill does not tell us exactly when Toynbee left Paris, but it seems to have been in April. This is confirmed by Toynbee in The Western Question in Greece and Turkey. Yet Chatham House’s book, Chatham House, Its History and Inhabitants, CE Carrington, revised and updated by Mary Bone, Chatham House, 2004, having given the May 30 date, publishes part of a letter from Toynbee to a Miss Cleeve, presumably of Chatham House, dated October 15 1958, in which he recollects an evening at the Majestic, with “L.C.” holding the floor, at which “the Institute was launched”. He tells a similar story, again with no date for the meeting, in Experiences, though not in Acquaintances, which has a whole chapter on Curtis. Neither account mentions the presence of Americans. McNeill certainly has Toynbee in England, and in a state of mental collapse, on May 30.

He recognised, in Experiences, that the League

did effectively intervene to prevent the inter-war Polish Government from evicting German agricultural colonists in Posnan (Posen) who had been planted, before the First World War, on lands in this Polish territory that had been expropriated by the Prussian Government, while Posen was still Prussian territory, as part of a policy of Germanization. This policy had been indefensible; yet, in the inter-war period, the League of Nations rightly held that the indefensible circumstances in which the German settlers had acquired their farms in Posnan did not justify their now being evicted from these, however unjustifiable their installation in them might have been. Eviction on political grounds was rightly held to be inadmissible, even in unusually provocative circumstances.

The first big lapse from the observance of this principle was the compulsory exchange of minority populations and their property as between […] Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria after the débâcle of the Greek army in Anatolia in the Graeco-Turkish war after the end of the First World War.

No such humanity as the League insisted upon in inter-war Poland was shown by the Russians towards Germans in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union after the Second World War, whose numbers, received in West Germany, were

approximately equal to the number of European Jews murdered, during that war, by the Nazis.

In 1931 Japan invaded China in violation of the Covenant of the League, and of the Washington Treaty and the Kellogg Pact. The League did nothing. Hardly surprisingly, without America.

In 1935-6 Britain and France refused to support the League when Italy attacked Ethiopia.

The whole thing is so infantile, as well as so evil, that it makes me sick to think about it. [Letter to Veronica Boulter, April 17 1936, quoted by McNeill.]

But he continued, at least until Munich, to believe that some kind of accommodation with Germany was possible, and some of his views during this period, and a visit to Hitler in early 1936, just before the reoccupation of the Rhineland, caused some to think of him as an appeaser.

His disillusionment confirmed his belief that

the principal cause of war in our world today is the idolatrous worship which is paid by human beings to nations and communities or States. […] People will sacrifice themselves for the ‘Third Reich’ or whatever the Ersatz-Götzen [“substitute Gods”; Götz is a diminutive] may be, till they learn again to sacrifice themselves for the Kingdom of God.” [Letter to the Manchester Guardian published on April 9 1935, quoted by McNeill.]

The posts listed at the top take us through the beginning of the second chapter of Nationality and the War. The chapter is called Prussianism, or Germany’s Ambitions. A sketch of German history led into a description of Prussianism and of the German overseas Empire. He recommended that, in accordance with a generally fair treatment of Germany after the war and respect for her commercial and industrial interests, Germany should be given back her African colonies. But the German colonies were a peripheral matter. After a concluding passage to the first section, which I will quote in a moment, he goes on to discuss how Germany should be treated in Europe. The first section is called The German Empire. The four subsequent sections of the chapter are called The French Frontier, The Danish Frontier, The Polish Frontier and Prussian State and German Nation.

McNeill summarises his recommendations: “Treating Germany well meant partitioning the Hapsburg monarchy and allowing Austria and Bohemia to unite with Germany, while also shearing off portions of Alsace and Lorraine in the west and some Polish lands in the east, all in accordance with local opinion as indicated by plebiscites. Such a peace settlement would make Germany supreme on the continent of Europe, but that did not bother Toynbee since a generous settlement in accord with the principle of nationality might be expected to convert the Germans and other Europeans from ‘national competition’ to ‘national cooperation,’ particularly in view of the threat from China that he anticipated.” I will post the arguments in full in due course.

Great Britain’s true policy, then, is to allow Germany to retain all openings for peaceable, as opposed to forcible, expansion afforded her by her oversea dominions as they existed before this war broke out, and we shall have a particularly free hand in the decision of this question, because the command of the sea, and the world-wide naval operations it makes possible, fall almost entirely within our province, and not within that of our European allies. We must furthermore give just as great facilities as before to German immigration through all the vast portions of our empire that are still only in process of being opened up and settled, and we must urge our allies to adopt the same principle with regard to the territories in a similar phase of development which acknowledge their sovereignty. We must also respect the concessions which German enterprise has secured for its capital, with such fine initiative and perseverance, in neutral countries of backward growth. We shall find instances, similar to the coaling stations in the Pacific, where professedly economic concerns have an essentially political intention – certain sections of the projected Bagdad (sic) railway occur at once to our minds – and here we may be compelled to require Germany to abandon her title; but we must confine such demands to a minimum. Both we and our allies must take care that neither political panic nor economic greed induces us to carry them to excess, and in every case where we decide to make them, we must give Germany the opportunity of acquiring, in compensation, more than their equivalent in economic value.

If we meet Germany in this spirit, she will at least emerge from the war no more cramped and constricted than she entered it. This will not, of course, satisfy her ambitions, for they were evil ambitions, and could not be satisfied without the world’s ruin; but it will surely allay her fears. She will have seen that we had it in our power to mutilate her all round and cripple her utterly, and that we held our hand. Once her fear is banished, we can proceed to conjure away her envy: for to leave her what she has already would prepare the ground for an invitation to join us in organising some standing international authority that should continuously adjust the claims of all growing nations, Germany among the rest, by reasonable methods of compromise, and so provide openings for the respective expansion of their wealth and population.

Such an international organ would replace the struggle for existence between nations, in which each tries to snatch his neighbour’s last crust, by a co-operation in which all would work together for a common end; but many tangled problems strew the ground in front of us, before we can clear it for such a construction. The national foundations of Europe must first be relaid; and just as in the question of territories over sea the decisive word will lie with ourselves, so in the case of European frontiers it will lie with our allies, because the war on land is their province and because the national problems at issue affect them even more directly than us.

This does not absolve us from the duty of probing these problems to their bottom: rather it makes it the more imperative that we should do so, inasmuch as our influence upon their solution will depend principally on the impartiality of our point of view and the reasonableness of our suggestions, and very little on any power of making our will prevail by mere intransigeance (sic), or by the plea of paramount interests. Great Britain ought to come to the conference with very definite opinions about the details of these problems, even at the risk of annoying her allies by the appearance of meddling with what is less her business than theirs. The Allies have proclaimed to the world that they will wage this war to its conclusion in concert, and that declaration will not be difficult for them to observe: but they have also implied that they will negotiate in concert the terms of peace, and it is here that the separateness of their positive interests, beyond the negative bond of self-preservation, will be in danger of manifesting itself. They have morally pledged themselves to a settlement that shall subordinate their several, and even their collective, interests to the general interests of the civilised world, and it is on this ground that they have claimed the sympathy of neutrals in the struggle with their opponents. To fulfil their promise, they will need all the wisdom, patience and disinterestedness that they can command; and the supreme value of Great Britain’s voice will lie in the proposal of formulas calculated to reconcile the views of the Allies with each other and also with the relatively impartial standpoint of the non-nationalistic element that happily obtains some footing in all countries and in all strata of society.

The solutions we offer, then, for the national problems of Europe must not be conceived as demands which it is in Great Britain’s vital interest to propound and in her absolute power to enforce, but rather as suggestions compatible with British interests, and capable of acceptance by our allies. The satisfaction of all parties on whom their translation into fact will depend, is, however, only a negative condition: they must further be governed by the positive aim of dealing impartial justice to ourselves, our friends and our enemies alike. We must follow the principle that a “disinterested” policy ultimately serves the truest interest of its authors.

The first problem that confronts us is that of the alien nationalities included against their will within the present frontiers of the German Empire. The settlement after this war must bring justice to these populations by affording them an opportunity for choosing freely whether they will maintain their connection with Germany or no, and if not, what destiny they prefer. When we have estimated the probable results of their choice, we may proceed to consider what the effect is likely to be on German public opinion, and look for some means of cancelling the bitterness which cannot fail to be aroused in some degree. But this is essentially a secondary consideration. We have accepted the principle that the recognition of nationality is the necessary foundation for European peace; and peace is endangered far more by the unjust violation of the national idea than by the resentment due to the just reversal of the injustice, even if the wrongdoer be the most potent factor in Europe and his victim the most insignificant. We will proceed, therefore, to consider in turn the national problems within the German Empire on their own merits.

That concludes the first section of the second chapter of Nationality and the War. Here is a passage from the first chapter, which is called The Future.

[War] rouses the instinct of revenge. “If Germany has hurt us, we will hurt her more – to teach her not to do it again.” The wish is the savage’s automatic reaction, the reason his perfunctory justification of it; but the civilised man knows that the impulse is hopelessly unreasonable. The “hurt” is being at war, and the evil we wish to bann (sic) is the possibility of being at war again, because war prevents us working out our own lives as we choose. If we beat Germany and then humiliate her, she will never rest till she has “redeemed her honour,” by humiliating us more cruelly in turn. Instead of being free to return to our own pressing business, we shall have to be constantly on the watch against her. Two great nations will sit idle, weapon in hand, like two Afghans in their loopholed towers when the blood feud is between them; and we shall have sacrificed deliberately and to an ever-increasing extent, for the blood feud grows by geometrical progression, the very freedom for which we are now giving our lives.

Another war instinct is plunder. War is often the savage’s profession: “‘With my sword, spear and shield I plough, I sow, I reap, I gather in the vintage.’ [Footnote: The song of Hybrias the Kretan.] If we beat Germany our own mills and factories will have been at a standstill, our horses requisitioned and our crops unharvested, our merchant steamers stranded in dock if not sunk on the high seas, and our ‘blood and treasure’ lavished on the war: but in the end Germany’s wealth will be in our grasp, her colonies, her markets, and such floating riches as we can distrain upon by means of an indemnity. If we have had to beat our ploughshares into swords, we can at least draw some profit from the new tool, and recoup ourselves partially for the inconvenience. It is no longer a question of irrational, impulsive revenge, perhaps not even of sweetening our sorrow by a little gain. To draw on the life-blood of German wealth may be the only way to replenish the veins of our exhausted Industry and Commerce.” So the plunder instinct might be clothed in civilised garb: “War,” we might express it, “is an investment that must bring in its return.”

The first argument against this point of view is that it has clearly been the inspiring idea of Germany’s policy, and history already shows that armaments are as unbusinesslike a speculation for civilised countries as war is an abnormal occupation for civilised men. We saw the effect of the Morocco tension upon German finance in 1911, and the first phase of the present war has been enough to show how much Germany’s commerce will inevitably suffer, whether she wins or loses.

It is only when all the armaments are on one side and all the wealth is on the other, that war pays; when, in fact, an armed savage attacks a civilised man possessed of no arms for the protection of his wealth. Our Afghans in their towers are sharp enough not to steal each other’s cows (supposing they possess any of their own) for cows do not multiply by being exchanged, and both Afghans would starve in the end after wasting all their bullets in the skirmish. They save their bullets to steal cows from the plainsman who cannot make reprisals.

If Germany were really nothing but a “nation in arms,” successful war might be as lucrative for her as an Afghan’s raid on the plain, but she is normally a great industrial community like ourselves. In the last generation she has achieved a national growth of which she is justly proud. Like our own, it has been entirely social and economic. Her goods have been peacefully conquering the world’s markets. Now her workers have been diverted en masse from their prospering industry to conquer the same markets by military force, and the whole work of forty years is jeopardised by the change of method.

Fighting for trade and industry is not like fighting for cattle. Cattle are driven from one fastness to another, and if no better, are at least no worse for the transit. Civilised wealth perishes on the way. Our economic organisation owes its power and range to the marvellous forethought and co-operation that has built it up; but the most delicate organisms are the most easily dislocated, and the conqueror, whether England or Germany, will have to realise that, though he may seem to have got the wealth of the conquered into his grip, the total wealth of both parties will have been vastly diminished by the process of the struggle.

The characteristic feature of modern wealth is that it is international. Economic gain and loss is shared by the whole world, and the shifting of the economic balance does not correspond to the moves in the game of diplomatists and armies. Germany’s economic growth has been a phenomenon quite independent of her political ambitions, and Germany’s economic ruin would compromise something far greater than Germany’s political future – the whole world’s prosperity. British wealth, among the rest, would be dealt a deadly wound by Germany’s economic death, and it would be idle to pump Germany’s last life-blood into our veins, if we were automatically draining them of our own blood in the process.

But issues greater than the economic are involved. The modern “Nation” is for good or ill an organism one and indivisible, and all the diverse branches of national activity flourish or wither with the whole national well-being. You cannot destroy German wealth without paralysing German intellect and art, and European civilisation, if it is to go on growing, cannot do without them. Every doctor and musician, every scientist, engineer, political economist and historian, knows well his debt to the spiritual energy of the German nation. In the moments when one realises the full horror of what is happening, the worst thought is the aimless hurling to destruction of the world’s only true wealth, the skill and nobility and genius of human beings, and it is probably in the German casualties that the intellectual world is suffering its most irreparable human losses.

With these facts in our minds, we can look into the future more clearly, and choose our policy (supposing that we win the war, and, thereby, the power to choose) with greater confidence. We have accepted the fact that war itself is the evil, and will in any event bring pure loss to both parties: that no good can come from the war itself, but only from our policy when the war is over: and that the one good our policy can achieve, without which every gain is delusive, is the banishing of this evil from the realities of the future. This is our one supreme “British interest,” and it is a German interest just as much, and an interest of the whole world.

This war, and the cloud of war that has weighed upon us so many years before the bursting of the storm, has brought to bankruptcy the “National State”.

Here again are the passages in the second chapter in which he asks for lenient treatment of Germany in a post-war settlement.

Our ultimate object is to prevent war for the future, and the essential means to this end is to convince Germany that war is not to her interest. We and the French disbelieve in war already, but a minority of one can make a quarrel, in spite of the proverb. The only way to convince Germany is first to beat her badly and then to treat her well.

If we humiliate her, we shall strengthen the obsolete ideas in her consciousness more than ever – perhaps no longer the idea of “Plunder,” but certainly that of “Revenge,” which is much worse: if we deal “disinterestedly” with her (though it will be in our own truest interest) we may produce such a reaction of public opinion in Germany, that the curse of aggressive militarism will be exorcised from her as effectively in 1914, as the curse of political paralysis was exorcised in 1870.

“First to beat her badly and then to treat her well.” This was the approach of the Western allies, in relation to Japan as well as to Germany, after 1945.

One thing is clear: whether Germany’s feeling of constriction has good grounds or not, we must avoid deliberately furnishing it with further justification than it has already. It would be possible to maintain that the colonies and concessions Germany has already acquired give her room for expansion ample enough to deprive her of excuse for her envy, not to speak of the conduct by which she has attempted to satisfy it; but even this view would be rash in face of Germany’s vehement conviction to the contrary. Germany is likely to judge her own plight more truly than we can, and even if she has judged wrongly, her opinion is more important for our purpose than the objective truth. To give the lie to this national belief by taking from her even that which she hath, would be the surest means of deepening and perpetuating her national bitterness.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

Experiences, OUP, 1969

William H McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee, A Life, New York, OUP, 1989

Acquaintances, OUP, 1967

German Oceania and China

November 26 2009

Germany to 1813

From Stein to Bismarck


Prussianism 2

German Africa

German Africa 2

German Oceania

German China

Toynbee had argued, in a book published on April 1 1915 whose Preface is dated February 1915, that Germany’s colonies in Africa should be returned to her after the war.

Germany has another group of possessions in the Pacific, and perhaps here she cannot succeed in coming out of the war unscathed. Her Pacific territories have little value as areas for settlement or commerce. Kaiser-Wilhelmsland in New Guinea is the only one of any extent; several archipelagoes of small islands only useful as coaling stations, and the notorious fortress of Kiao-Chao, planted like a piratical stronghold on the Chinese peninsula of Shantung, constitute the remainder. They are not so much an Empire in themselves as a strategical framework laid down for a future empire of indefinite extent, and as such have caused considerable uneasiness to the maritime states in this part of the Pacific, especially to Japan our ally, and to Australia and New Zealand, two self-governing members of our empire. The anticipations of these nations with regard to Germany’s designs are revealed by the energy with which they proceeded to attack these positions as soon as war broke out. New Zealand struck at Samoa, Australia at Neu-Pommern, Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, and the Solomon islands, while Japan undertook the severest task in the reduction of Kiao-Chao. Japan will emerge from the war in possession of the latter place, and she has handed over the Caroline and Marshall Islands, which she occupied in the course of her operations, not to ourselves but to our two Pacific Commonwealths.

The disposition of Germany’s Pacific dependencies will therefore not come into our hands at all. We may ensure that Japan keeps to her declared intention of consigning Kiao-Chao to its ultimate owner China, by offering to resign simultaneously Wei-hai-wei on the other coast of Shantung, which we only leased as an offset to Germany’s coup in seizing Kiao-Chao; but in any event Kiao-Chao will not pass back into Germany’s possession, and it is most unlikely that any of the other territories in question will be relinquished by their respective holders. Certainly Great Britain has no authoritative power to procure their retrocession to Germany, even did she desire it, and there is after all no reason why we should deplore Germany’s loss of them. It will involve no corresponding loss to her industrial and commercial prosperity, a German interest that we mean scrupulously to respect and if possible to promote, but will only cripple her design of a militaristic world-empire, a German interest that we intend, in self-defence, to remove from the sphere of practical politics.

“Japan […] has handed over the Caroline and Marshall Islands, which she occupied in the course of her operations, not to ourselves but to our two Pacific Commonwealths.” That was a temporary arrangement. Japan was granted League of Nations mandates over them after the war, and also over the other former German possessions north of the equator, the Northern Marianas and Palau.

The possessions south of the equator were taken by “our two Pacific Commonwealths”. Australia was awarded mandates over New Guinea, the German Solomon Islands and Nauru, and New Zealand over Western Samoa.

Japan did return Kiaochow to China, in 1922, but Britain did not surrender Weihaiwei until 1930.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

German Oceania

November 24 2009

Germany to 1813

From Stein to Bismarck


Prussianism 2

German Africa

German Africa 2

Circa February 1915.

The largest place in the sun that Germany staked out in East Asia and the Pacific was German New Guinea (Deutsch-Neuguinea), 1884-1919.

Kaiser-Wilhelmsland was the northern half of the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. The territory below it was British.

German and British New Guinea, Wikimedia Commons

The western half of New Guinea was part of the Dutch East Indies. You can see the border of Dutch New Guinea on the left of the map. In 1949, when the rest of the colony became independent as Indonesia, the Dutch retained sovereignty over western New Guinea, where there were many Eurasian settlers. It was placed under UN administration in 1962-3, and then under Indonesian until Indonesia annexed it in 1969. Indonesian names for it have been West New Guinea, West Irian, Irian Jaya (or Glorious Irian) and, unofficially, West Papua. In 2003, it was split into the provinces of West Irian Jaya and Papua. In 2007, West Irian Jaya was renamed West Papua.

In 1883, the British colony of Queensland (Australia) annexed the southeastern part of New Guinea against the wishes of the British government. It was administered from London as British New Guinea. In 1906 British New Guinea passed to Australia as the Territory of Papua. We’ve already seen different uses of the name Papua.

The British flag being raised by Queenslanders in Port Moresby, Wikimedia Commons and elsewhere

This ignited German interest in the remaining third of the island. In 1884, the flag of the newly founded Neuguinea-Kompanie (New Guinea Company) was raised there.

The main part of German New Guinea was Kaiser-Wilhelmsland. The largest islands immediately to the east were Neu-Pommern and Neu-Mecklenburg in the Bismarck Archipelago. (Neu-Pommern was called New Britain and Neu-Mecklenburg New Ireland before and after the German period.)

In 1899 the German government took direct control of New Guinea and the area became a protectorate.

Australian troops captured Kaiser-Wilhelmsland and the islands in 1914, after a short resistance. The only significant battle occurred on September 11, when the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force attacked a wireless station on Neu Pommern. The Australians suffered six dead and four wounded, their first military casualties of the War. On September 21 all German forces surrendered.

Hermann Detzner, a German officer, and some twenty native police, evaded capture in the interior of New Guinea for the entire war. Detzner had been on a surveying expedition to map the border with Australian-held Papua and did not at first know that the war had begun. His claims in his book Vier Jahre unter Kannibalen (1920) were disputed by various German missionaries, and he recanted most of them.

After the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, Germany lost all its colonial possessions. In 1920 German New Guinea (and Bougainville and Buka: below) became a League of Nations Mandate Territory under Australian administration. Papua was an External Territory of the Australian Commonwealth, though as a matter of law it remained a British possession. (To Australians, New Guinea meant the formerly German part, and Papua meant their part.) The difference in legal status meant that Papua and New Guinea had separate administrations, both controlled by Australia.

From 1941 to ’44 Japan occupied the mandated territory, and part of Australian Papua to the south. In 1945 the two were merged to become the UN Trust Territory of Papua and New Guinea, administered by Australia, which became the independent kingdom of Papua New Guinea in 1975. There are still differences between the legal systems in the north and south of the country.


Solomons. The German Solomon Islands (Salomonen or Nördliche Salomon-Inseln; Buka, Bougainville and several smaller islands) lay beyond the Bismarck Archipelago. The German New Guinea Company established control over the northern Solomons in 1885.

The southern islands were placed under a British protectorate in 1893; the eastern islands were added to it in 1898.

In 1899, Germany transferred its smaller islands (not Bougainville and Buka, which shared a fate with German New Guinea) to Great Britain in return for British withdrawal from Western Samoa. Japan occupied the British Solomon Islands in 1942. They became self-governing in 1976 and independent in 1978.


Nauru. Germany annexed Nauru (Nawodo or Onawero) in 1888 and incorporated it into their Marshall Islands Protectorate, below. In 1914 it was captured by Australian troops, in 1920 granted as a League of Nations mandate to Australia, New Zealand and Britain (with actual administration by Australia), from 1942 to ’45 occupied by Japan, and in 1947 made a UN trust territory with the same arrangement as under the mandate. It gained independence in 1968 as the Republic of Nauru.


Carolines. The Caroline Islands (Karolinen) is now the independent Federated States of Micronesia. In 1885 Pope Leo XIII recognised the Spanish claim to the Carolines – hundreds of islands north of New Guinea – which then became part of the Spanish East Indies, along with the Palau, the Mariana Islands and the Marshall Islands. They were all administered from the Philippines. After being defeated in 1898 in the Spanish-American War, Spain sold the Carolines to Germany. In 1914 they were occupied by Japan. After the war, the League of Nations awarded the Carolines to Japan as a mandate. From 1947 they were administered by the US as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which comprised all the islands which had been mandated to Japan: the Carolines, Palau, Marianas and Marshalls. On May 10 1979, the four districts ratified a new constitution to become the Federated States of Micronesia, but only the Carolines participated. The FSM signed a Compact of Free Association with the US, which entered into force on November 3 1986, marking Micronesia’s emergence from trusteeship to independence. The Compact was renewed in 2004. The UN Trust Territory Islands were Micronesia, the islands to the south Melanesia, those to the east Polynesia.

Palau. Palau lies to the west, north of Indonesian West Papua. In 1885 Pope Leo XIII recognized the Spanish claim, but granted economic concessions to Britain and Germany. Palau then became part of the Spanish East Indies, along with the Caroline Islands, the Mariana Islands and the Marshall Islands. They were administered from the Philippines. After being defeated in 1898 in the Spanish-American War, Spain sold the Palau archipelago to Germany. In 1914 the Japanese navy seized it. After the war, the League of Nations awarded it to Japan as a mandate. Palau was a scene of intense fighting between American and Japanese forces in 1944. From 1947 it was administered by the US as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1979, Palauans voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia because of language and cultural differences. The UN Trust Territory was dissolved in 1987, but Palau remained a US trusteeship. Independence came in 1994, when Palau (which has been called a Republic since 1981) voted freely to associate with the United States.

The Mariana Islands (Marianen). The Marianas are composed of two administrative units: Guam in the south, a US territory which was conquered by the US in the Spanish-American War and was never German (it had been a resting-stop for the Manila galleons); and the Northern Marianas, which were sold by Spain to Germany in 1899 after the Spanish-American War, occupied by Japan in 1914 and granted to Japan as a League of Nations mandate after the war. Japan invaded Guam from the Northern Marianas in 1941. America captured the Northern Marianas and recaptured Guam in 1944 (a Japanese soldier, Shoichi Yokoi, hid in the village of Talofofo in Guam until 1972). Saipan, the largest island in the Northern Marianas, was the scene of a major battle when the US marines landed. After Japan’s defeat, the Northern Marianas were administered by the United States as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. They decided not to seek independence, but instead to forge closer links with the United States. Since 1978 they have been a Commonwealth in political union with the US. Guam is a US Territory.

The Marshall Islands (Marshall-Inseln) had nominally been under Spanish sovereignty and were sold to Germany in 1884 through papal mediation. A German trading company settled on them in 1885. They were taken by Japanese troops in 1914: Japan was an ally of Britain. After the war, the League of Nations awarded the islands to Japan as a mandate. In 1944 they were occupied by the US and in 1947 they became part of the US-administered UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. They gained autonomy as a republic in 1979 and signed a Compact of Free Association with the US which came into effect in 1986 and marked the Marshall Islands’ emergence from trusteeship to independence. The Trust Territory was dissolved in 1987.


With the exception of German Samoa, all German islands in the Pacific were eventually brought into an administrative union with German New Guinea: the German Solomon Islands, Nauru, the Carolines, Palau, the Marianas (except for Guam) and the Marshall Islands.

None of these places had been colonised by a modern power before the Germans arrived, though there had been a failed French experiment on New Ireland, and Germany fought Britain and the US over Samoa.


German Samoa (Deutsch-Samoa). Samoa was Germany’s easternmost possession. Three powers fought each other for possession of it.

Wikipedia: “The Samoan Civil Wars is a Western definition of political activity in the Samoa Islands of the South Pacific in the late 19th century. By this non-Samoan definition, the Samoan Civil Wars were a series of wars between Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, ending in the partitioning of the island chain in 1899. The concluding event was the Second Samoan Civil War. The first Samoan Civil War lasted for eight years. The warring Samoan parties were supplied arms, training and sometimes even combat troops by Germany, Britain and The United States. The three powers were playing them off against each other as each country wanted Samoa as a refueling station for coal fired shipping [and for its copra and cacao]. They also wanted Samoa due to the scarcity of unclaimed territory from 1870 onwards to gain more power in Europe.”

In 1899 the eastern island group became a territory of the United States and is today known as American Samoa; the western islands, by far the greater landmass, became known as German Samoa after Britain vacated all claims and terminated German rights in Tonga and certain areas in the Solomon Islands and West Africa. New Zealand troops landed on ’Upolu unopposed in August 1914 and seized control from the German authorities, following a request by Britain for New Zealand to perform their “great and urgent imperial service”.

From the end of the First World War until 1962, New Zealand controlled Western Samoa as a League of Nations mandate and then as a UN trust territory. It became independent as Western Samoa in 1962, and the name was changed to Samoa in 1997. American Samoa remains a US Territory.

’Upolu, Samoa, Wikimedia Commons


German official, Wikimedia Commons; his name is Karl Kammerich; shown here in naval dress and from 1905 to 1910 a police official on Ponape in the Carolines

Oceania (CIA World Factbook 2004)

A place in the sun

November 10 2009

The year after his Hun speech, Kaiser Wilhelm II coined the phrase “place in the sun”, Platz an der Sonne, which Toynbee quoted in English.

It came into a speech on June 18 1901 during the Lower Elbe Regatta, addressed to the Bürgermeister of Hamburg and others on board the passenger steamship Prinzessin Victoria Luise of the Hamburg-Amerika line.

“In spite of the fact that we have no such fleet as we should have, we have conquered for ourselves a place in the sun [in Africa, the Pacific and China]. It will now be my task to see to it that this place in the sun shall remain our undisputed possession, in order that the sun’s rays may fall fruitfully upon our activity and trade in foreign parts, that our industry and agriculture may develop within the state and our sailing sports upon the water, for our future lies upon the water. The more Germans go out upon the waters, whether it be in races or regattas, whether it be in journeys across the ocean, or in the service of the battle flag, so much the better it will be for us.

“For when the German has once learned to direct his glance upon what is distant and great, the pettiness which surrounds him in daily life on all sides will disappear. Whoever wishes to have this larger and freer outlook can find no better place than one of the Hanseatic cities. … We are now making efforts to do what, in the old time, the Hanseatic cities could not accomplish, because they lacked the vivifying and protecting power of the empire. May it be the function of my Hansa during many years of peace to protect and advance commerce and trade!

“As head of the Empire I therefore rejoice over every citizen, whether from Hamburg, Bremen, or Lübeck, who goes forth with this large outlook and seeks new points where we can drive in the nail on which to hang our armour. Therefore, I believe that I express the feeling of all your hearts when I recognize gratefully that the director of this company who has placed at our disposal the wonderful ship which bears my daughter’s name has gone forth as a courageous servant of the Hansa, in order to make for us friendly conquests whose fruits will be gathered by our descendants!”

Alfred von Tirpitz had been appointed Secretary of State of the Navy in 1897 and held the office through the naval arms race with Britain, until his dismissal in 1916.

On the night of December 16 1906 the Prinzessin Victoria Luise had departed from Kingston, Jamaica, while on a cruise, when her captain mistook one lighthouse for another and grounded her. Salvage operations began immediately, but waves caused further damage. The passengers were safely taken off on the following morning. Captain Brunswig remained on the vessel, retreated to his cabin, and shot himself. A German Admiralty court posthumously found him negligent in May in the following year. The ship was declared a total loss on December 19.


Consecrating a memorial to German sailors, January 4 1891, Samoa. The territory became a German protectorate in 1900. Flickr credit: National Library of New Zealand.

The Yellow Peril

November 6 2009

The first ripples of Chinese migration are already striking upon the East Indies, Australia and the Pacific sea-board of North America, and the brutality with which these states are repelling this peaceful, casual invasion shows how terribly they dread the pressure to come. Forcible exclusion will succeed for the present, because China still lies in the grip of a thousand years’ political paralysis; but the power of movement is already returning to her limbs. The fundamental factor of world-politics during the next century will be the competition between China and the new commonwealths. China will strive to reorganise her national life, and to bring all her immeasurable latent strength to bear on the effort to win her “place in the Sun” (a more titanic struggle this than Germany’s present endeavour): the others will make haste to swell the ranks of their white population till they can muster enough defenders to man the wide boundaries of the inheritance they have marked out for themselves, and become strong enough either to fling back China’s onset or to deter her from making it at all. All the threatened nations – Canada, the U.S.A., the South American republics, New Zealand and Australia – will draw together into a league, to preserve the Pacific from Chinese domination. Japan will probably join their ranks, for she is the Great Britain of the China Seas, and, just like ourselves, would be menaced most seriously by the emergence of a World-power on the continent opposite her island country. Russia, who has not even a strip of sea to protect her, but is China’s immediate continental neighbour along a vast land-frontier, will actually be the chief promoter of this defensive entente, for she will be exposed to the first brunt of the Chinese attack.

This was a common set of predictions in the early twentieth century. In 1895, Kaiser Wilhelm II commissioned a picture from Hermann Knackfuß showing the Archangel Michael leading the peoples of Europe against an Asiatic threat represented by a golden Buddha and ordered it to be hung in ships of the Hamburg-Amerika and Norddeutscher Lloyd lines.

The phrase Yellow Peril became popular soon afterwards and may have been coined by MP Shiel. It was often used in English in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst. I am told that my German grandfather (1886-1964) occasionally used it.

Angel Island

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

October 25 2009

This was a Depression, not Crash, song, but it will do to mark the anniversary.

The market slid on Thursday October 24 1929, but the catastrophic collapse occurred on Monday and Tuesday, October 28 and 29.

The song was written in 1931. The lyrics were by Yip Harburg, the music by Jay Gorney.

Here sung by the little-known Charlie Palloy, with guitar and his orchestra, recorded in 1932. He gets the song’s grim tread better than its better-known exponent, Bing Crosby.

Bing Crosby. I’m not sure of the date.

Frank Lloyd Wright and other mysteries

October 21 2009

What’s My Line?, CBS, 1950-67.

Frank Lloyd Wright. June 3 1956.

Surreal to have this nineteenth-century gentleman, born in 1867, here. He died in 1959.

Salvador Dalí, January 27 1957:

Eleanor Roosevelt, October 18 1953; she comes to life at the end:

William Schuman, composer and first president of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, September 30 1962:

Schuman, unlike Copland, Barber, Bernstein – and even Piston, Hanson, Harris – never had a popular hit. Lincoln Center had opened on September 23. Bernstein conducted his friend’s eighth symphony at Avery Fisher Hall on October 4. There is a recording of the work on YouTube from a performance there on October 9. It’s worth hearing if you like that phase of American cultural history.

Noël Coward from 18:15, looking rather dissolute, March 1 1959; he’d appear again five years later:

Ronald Reagan, July 19 1953; charming … but:

Maurice Chevalier, April 4 1965:

He had been on once before. His mother was Belgian. He has a Belgian persona.

Van (Harvey Lavan) Cliburn, April 5 1964:

Cliburn was the young Texan who in 1958 won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. This was one of the great cultural episodes of the Cold War, like Gould’s visit (1957), Nureyev’s defection (1961), Ogdon and Ashkenazy (1962), Stravinsky’s return (1962). Gagarin vs Glenn if you look more broadly. Cliburn’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s first concerto and Rachmaninoff’s third gave him an eight-minute standing ovation. The judges asked permission of Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. “Is he the best?” Khrushchev asked. “Then give him the prize.” Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York. This was his third appearance as mystery guest. (The first was soon after Moscow, the second in 1962.)

The regular What’s My Line? panelists, under John Daly as chairman, were the journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, the actress Arlene Francis and Bennett Cerf, the co-founder in 1927 of Random House.


The Daily Telegraph published a sad obituary a few days ago of an Australian pianist, Geoffrey Tozer, who died in August in Melbourne aged 54.

I have one of his Chandos recordings – of the concerto which Tchaikovsky made at the end of his life from part of a discarded symphony. The third concerto is a fascinating but rarely played work, full of new sounds.

What went so wrong with Tozer’s career? Was it his name? Paul Keating gave some answers in a eulogy delivered at his memorial service, which is worth reading. It’s very – Paul Keating.

Neither the Telegraph nor Keating mentions Noel Mewton-Wood, another Melbourne pianist, as one of Tozer’s forbears, but clearly he was one, in more ways than one – especially with his championship of Busoni. Mewton-Wood committed suicide in London in 1953. Here’s an account of how it happened. He looks rather like Cliburn.


In Mewton-Wood’s small recorded legacy is a performance of Tchaikovsky 2, to complete our survey of the Tchaikovsky concerti. All three – Cliburn, Mewton-Wood, Tozer – are on iTunes, though the Cliburn may be from a return visit.

Mewton-Wood was a pianist of the front rank, the equal of Lipatti. He was one of a group of classical musicians – Neveu, Lipatti, Ferrier, Kapell, Cantelli, Brain – who died young at around that time. Neveu, Kapell and Cantelli died in plane crashes, like Thibaud, Buddy Holly and Hammarskjöld, Brain in a car crash, like James Dean, Pollock and Camus.


There was an English version of What’s My Line?, which ran on BBC television from 1951 to ’63. Unlike the vast archive of the American version on YouTube, there is very little of this. What there is (link here) is so innocent – with that charming central European postman – that one can hardly believe that this is what the British masses were watching half a century ago.

It is also curiously depressing. We are glad, at the end, to have moved on. This is from the year before Suez. Three regular panelists appear, with Eamonn Andrews as the host. Two were tragic figures. Lady Isobel Barnett, the exemplar, perfect hostess, immaculate public speaker – not an aristocrat, but the wife of a knighted mayor of Leicester – electrocuted herself in 1980 after she had been convicted of shoplifting. She was, or had become after the death of her husband, a kleptomaniac. Gilbert Harding, a broadcaster, was a repressed homosexual in a 1950s mould, whose life was even sadder. He only prefigures modern BBC celebrities by having attracted mass audiences by outbursts of rudeness.

If you want a UK example, equivalent to Frank Lloyd Wright, of a major artist with pre-television age roots entering the quiz-programme studio, you have William Walton, on a programme called Face the Music which ran on BBC2, in its main sequence, from 1966 to ’79. A team – Richard Baker, Joyce Grenfell, Robin Ray – would pretend to be more ignorant than it really was when answering questions posed by the pianist Joseph Cooper. Here is the second half of the programme, where Walton, the Oldham boy who seduced a series of rich women, married an Argentinian heiress and settled in Ischia, lumbers in at the time of his seventieth birthday, Easter 1972. His Sitwellian affectations are worth studying, the sycophancy of the studio is a sign of things to come. It’s a pity they chose his bombastic Spitfire prelude as one of the pieces he was supposed to recognise. A decade later, Walton was the subject of a remarkable film by Tony Palmer, At the Haunted End of the Day.

Angel Island

February 12 2009


Chinese immigrant at Angel Island, San Francisco Bay

Angel Island was an immigration station from 1910 to 1940; Ellis Island, the east coast equivalent, from 1892 to 1954.

Chinese immigration began with the California Gold Rush. From 1882 until 1943, it was regulated (not stopped) by the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first important restriction on immigration in US history.

A “Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907” was made with Japan to regulate Japanese immigration.

In 1917 an Immigration Act designated an “Asiatic Barred Zone”, a region that included much of south and east Asia, including India, from which people could not immigrate. Previously, only the Chinese had been excluded.

The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 imposed national quotas for Europeans, based on existing numbers in the US, and confirmed the provisions against East Asians. Britain had a quota, but it was a high one. There were no quotas for Latin America.

The Chinese Exclusion Act remained on the statute book, but was repealed when China was an ally of the US against Japan. The act of repeal, the Magnuson Act, introduced a quota, 105 Chinese immigrants per year.

The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 modified the rules affecting Asians (and others), but large-scale Asian immigration did not resume until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 superseded the 1924 act (and abolished the quotas affecting Europeans). Chinese Americans have been notably upwardly-mobile since the ’60s.

Wikipedia: “By equalizing immigration policies, the [1965] act resulted in new immigration from non-European nations which changed the ethnic make-up of the United States. […] The most dramatic effect was to shift immigration from Europe to Asia. Immigration from the Western Hemisphere was unlimited under the 1924 act, so the 1965 act actually somewhat mitigated the inflow from Latin America.”

Toynbee refers several times in his writings to the US acts of 1921 and ’24 as marking a historic change in a previously-open country. He should have referred to the earlier measures.

A “White Australia” policy intentionally restricted non-white immigration to Australia from 1901 to 1973. The Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 was one of the first measures passed by the newly-independent Commonwealth. The rules were relaxed in 1973, and a Racial Discrimination Act, covering immigration among other matters, was passed in 1975. New Zealand had its own discriminatory rules.

Between 1945 and 1972 British subjects were eligible for an “assisted passage” by sea to Australia, costing £10: the last substantial scheme for preferential migration from the UK to Australia.

When the Chinese coolie emigrates to Malaya or Indonesia, he is apt to reap a reward for his enterprise. By facing the social ordeal of leaving his familiar home and entering an alien social environment, he exchanges an economic environment which is congested and poverty-stricken for one in which he has a chance of bettering himself, and not infrequently he profits by this chance to the extent of making his fortune. Suppose, however, that we intensify the social ordeal which is the price of economic opportunity. Suppose that, instead of sending our Chinese emigrant to Malaya or Indonesia we send him to Australia or California. In these “White Man’s countries” our enterprising coolie, if he gains admission at all, will undergo an ordeal of vastly greater severity. Instead of merely finding himself a stranger in a strange land, he will have to endure deliberate and sometimes malignant penalization, in which the Law itself will discriminate against him instead of coming to his aid as it aids him in British Malaya, where an official “Protector of Chinese” is appointed by a benevolent Colonial Administration. Does this severer social ordeal evoke an economic response of proportionately greater vigour? This question is answered in the negative when we compare the levels of prosperity which are in fact attained by the Chinese “Diasporà” in California and Australia with the levels attained in the Philippines and Malaya. The comparison shows conclusively that the social ordeal to which the Chinese are everywhere subject abroad brings in diminishing returns when it is intensified from the Malayan to the Australian or from the Philippine to the Californian degree.

Colonial powers in Southeast Asia tended to treat the Chinese favourably: a story for another post.

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934

English translations of the Qurʿan

January 10 2009

The Koran has probably had as much effect as any other book that has yet been written. In this it rivals the Bible, the Confucian Classics, Homer and The Book of the Dead, not to speak of the Vedas. Moreover, one cannot yet foresee any term to the period of the Koran’s influence over the minds of a large contingent of the human race. Accordingly, it is important for all of us whose mother tongue is not Arabic to have translations of the Koran that reproduce for us, as faithfully as possible, the atmosphere, spirit, and meaning of the original.

Here is a list of English translations. Here is an article about translations of the Qurʿan generally.

Dr. Arberry’s purpose in making his present translation into English has been – as be tells us in his preface – “to imitate, however imperfectly, those rhetorical and rhythmical patterns which are the glory and the sublimity of the Koran.” He has not imitated them mechanically. For instance, he has sought to reproduce the effect of the Arabic rhymes that punctuate the sub-divisions of many chapters of the Koran, not in English rhymes, but in short lines of free verse punctuating sequences of longer lines. He has also called attention to changes of mood and tempo in the original by making corresponding variations in his own rhythmical patterns.

Dr. Arberry modestly concurs in the orthodox Muslim view that the Koran is untranslatable. The present reviewer’s smattering of Arabic is just enough to allow him to obtain the impression that Dr. Arberry’s interpretation has been successful and has been very well worth while.

In his preface he leads up to the considerations that moved him to translate the Koran himself by way of a review of the earlier translations into Latin and English. He gives the reader the means of comparing these translations with each other and with his own by quoting the renderings, in each, of the passage describing the incident of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife and the passage recounting Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary. He also quotes from the prefaces of some of the earlier translations, to show the spirit in which they were made. The Western translators who did their work before the “Enlightenment” at the end of the seventeenth century were ostentatiously hostile. The eighteenth-century translator Sale was fair but perhaps rather supercilious. Some of the nineteenth-century and twentieth-century translators have been preoccupied with the higher criticism and have arbitrarily changed the traditional order of the chapters, and, indeed, of fragments of the chapters, in accordance with what they believed to have been the chronological order of their original emission.

One of the twentieth-century English translators, Marmaduke Pickthall, was himself a convert to Islam, and approached the task of translation in the spirit of humility and reverence with which an adherent of any religion regards his own religion’s holy scripture. Dr. Arberry shows himself sympathetic to this approach. Like Pickthall, he preserves the traditional order of the chapters. His aim is to give, in English, as far as may be, the equivalent of the effect that the original Arabic has produced, through the ages, on the minds and hearts of believing Muslims. This makes sense, because it is the Koran in its traditional presentation that has moved the Islamic World and has thereby made history.

Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s may be the most widely-used version, alongside Pickthall’s.

The old Penguin translation by NJ Dawood is still in print, but has been criticised.

Robin Yassin-Kassab has a special liking for the translation by Muhammad Asad (1900-92), originally Leopold Weiss, a converted Polish Jew who studied in Vienna, lived in colonial Palestine and Pakistan, and became Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations.

There have been a dozen translations in the last ten years, including MAS Abdel Haleem, in the Oxford World’s Classics.

Review of Arthur J Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, two volumes, Allen & Unwin, 1955, in The Observer, Sunday April 8 1956

Historical novels: New Zealand

July 7 2008

Wikipedia lists one: Season of the Jew (1987) by Maurice Shadbolt (1932-2004), about the Māori Wars, or New Zealand Wars, as they are now called.

Maurice Shadbolt sounds like the name of a fictional author in an old-fashioned play, but he was a real and notable New Zealand writer.

The shot heard round the world 2

July 5 2008

The shot heard round the world 1

The latter part of Toynbee’s public lecture at the University of Pennsylvania in spring 1961.

In the first part he looked at the impact of America’s revolution in other countries. But how direct was its influence? How did it affect the French revolution, which would have happened anyway? The American revolution’s roots were equally in the Enlightenment.

It was an inspiration, an exemplar for overturning a régime, like the Dutch Revolt and the English revolution.

The Marquis de Lafayette helped the Americans in the war of 1775-83 and was in America from 1777 to ’82, with a break in France in 1779. He returned as a hero in 1824-5, visiting every state. The Declaration of Independence influenced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which was adopted by the National Constituent Assembly in 1789.

In the first extract, Toynbee, who was so aware of the temptations of nationalism, fails, like many nineteenth-century liberals, to distinguish carefully between nationalist and social revolutions, as if freedom from foreign oppression were itself Liberty. He speaks like an old-fashioned man of that century.

The American revolution was social first, national second. The Americans were overthrowing an oppressor, but it was their government and society that these colonies professed to be seeking to reform. What kinds of societies would the peoples who had heard the American “shot” produce?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Once America had separated itself, it became clear that the fragment continued to oppress many of its members.

Toynbee is romantically unrealistic when he recalls the America of 1961, that “leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in defence of vested interests”, to its revolutionary traditions in its foreign policy. At one point he seems to defend revolutionary violence. He was especially provocative in implying a sympathy for Castro.

This lecture was, perhaps, a turning-point in his relationship with America, the country that had welcomed him with something like adulation in the late ’40s and the ’50s. His Study of History had seemed to have important things to say to America during its “rise to globalism”. He supported the civil rights movement, and opposed the Vietnam War in the ’60s and ’70s, and his later and bleak view of American foreign policy is reflected here in posts called Neo-colonialism: The view from 1969 and The frontier spirit.

What we are hearing now, above the echoing sound of that American shot, is the answering voice of the mass of mankind. This two-thirds – or is it three-quarters? – of the World’s population is still living only just above the starvation line and is still frequently falling below even that wretched line into death-dealing famine. Since the time when our pre-human ancestors became human, this majority of the human race has never dreamed, before today, that there would ever be any change for the better in its hard lot. Since the dawn of civilization, about 5000 years ago, the World’s peasantry has carried the load of civilization on its back without receiving any appreciable share in civilization’s benefits. These benefits have been monopolized by a tiny privileged minority, and, until yesterday, this injustice was inevitable. Till the modern industrial revolution began to get up steam, technology was not capable of producing more than a tiny surplus after meeting the requirements of bare subsistence. In our time, technology is coming within sight of being able to produce enough of civilization’s material benefits to provide for the whole human race. If technology does make it possible to get rid of the odious ancient difference in fortune between the few rich and the innumerable poor, future generations will perhaps bless the Industrial Revolution in retrospect, and will think kindly of its British, American and German pioneers.

We already have the means for making a start in improving the lot of the great depressed majority of our fellow human beings. But, in the last resort, we human beings have to do things for ourselves. The World’s peasantry cannot hope to improve its lot substantially unless it can awake from its age-old lethargy. It is being awakened at this moment by the sound of that American shot as that sound circles the globe for the third time. That sound has now been heard by the World’s whole depressed majority, and we, the affluent minority, are now hearing the majority’s reply. At last, the majority is shaking off the fatalism that has been paralysing it since the beginning of time. It is becoming alive to the truth that an improvement in its lot is now possible. More than that, it is realizing that it can do something towards this by its own efforts. Go to India; visit some of the thousands of villages there in which the Community Development Plan is already in operation; and you will see, with your own eyes, this new hope and purposefulness and energy breaking into flower. This is, to my mind, the most wonderful sight that there is to be seen in the present-day world. And this world-revolution of the peasantry is the most glorious revolution that there has been in the World’s history so far.

Well, perhaps I ought to have said “the most glorious secular revolution”; for the religious revolutions may have been more glorious; and these may also, in the long run, prove to have had still greater and more beneficent effects. By the religious revolutions I mean the advent of the World’s missionary religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and the others. The new world revolution of the peasantry perhaps cannot properly be called a religious revolution. At the same time it is unquestionably a spiritual one. It is true that the objectives that are its first aim are of a material kind. These material objectives are as elementary as they are indispensable for making a start. They are such fundamental things as a concrete lining and lip for the village well, to protect the water from being contaminated; a concrete surface for the village lanes, to redeem them from being wallows of pestilent filth; a dirt-road to link the village up with the nearest main road; and, after that, a village school. When a village reaches the stage of building a school and finding the means to provide a living for a schoolmaster, it is already beginning to raise a spiritual mansion on the preliminary material foundations. Without the foundations, the building could not go up. But the material foundations are a means to a spiritual end. And what could be more obviously spiritual than the awakening of hope and purposefulness and energy that is the driving force behind the whole of this glorious revolution? This driving force is the last and greatest of the revolutionary forces that have been released, all round the World, by the sound of a shot that was fired, on an April day, by embattled American farmers.

This exhilarating sound has not only roused the peoples of the World to action in their own homelands; it has also drawn them, like a magnet, to the land in which the shot was fired and from which the sound has gone forth. For a century, European farmers flocked to the United States in order to become American farmers, and, as the Industrial Revolution got up steam on both sides of the Atlantic, European industrial workers were soon crossing the Atlantic westward in the farmers’ wake. The tide of immigration into the United States began to flow mightily within a few years of the end of the Napoleonic Wars [when there was a severe depression in Europe]. It went on flowing till the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. And, as it flowed, it gathered volume. Before it was abruptly checked in 1914 by the action of the belligerent European governments that were concerned to conserve their cannon-fodder, the annual total of immigrants had risen to about two million in more than one year after the turn of the century.

When I think of this century of massive immigration from Europe into Europe’s American promised land, my mind focuses on my memory’s picture of an old farmer, Bavarian-born, whom I met on my first visit to this country, now nearly thirty-six years ago. His farm was in East Central Kentucky, where I was staying with a college friend of mine. At home in Bavaria, this farmer had had no farm of his own and no prospect of ever acquiring one there. It had been the hope of winning one in the New World that had lured him across the Atlantic. Though he had emigrated while he was still a young man, he had not arrived till some year in the eighteen-nineties, and by that time, of course, all the best land in the state had been taken up long ago. In Kentucky by the eighteen-nineties, settlement had been going on for more than a hundred years. All the same, this Bavarian farmer had come in time still to be a pioneer. In the western foothills of the Appalachians – “the Knobs” is their local name – he had hit upon a valley that was still unreclaimed because no predecessor of his had found it sufficiently inviting. The Bavarian had seized on that valley and had made it fruitful. To transform it had been his life-work. He had not only made it yield him enough for raising a family. By the time his sons were grown up – and there were several of them – the father had also saved enough to be able to buy for each son a better farm than the father’s own. But the old man would never buy a better farm for himself. The valley-farm had been his life-work, and, more than that, it had been his European dream translated into an American reality. As a boy in Bavaria he had dreamed of one day having a farm of his own if he could screw up his courage to pull up his roots and cross the Ocean. In this unpromising valley in Kentucky he had made his farm and his farm had made him. Nothing this side of death would part him from it.

Multiply this Bavarian-American farmer by some millions and you have a revolution inside America to match those revolutions all round the World of which I have given you a breathless catalogue. America’s revolution on her own ground and her revolutions abroad have been like each other in everything that is important in them. They have both been set going by the shot fired in April 1775; they have both been triumphs over social injustice, poverty, and hopelessness. These revolutions are true daughters of the American Revolution, and to have fathered this mighty brood is indeed an achievement to be proud of. And now come the paradox, and, I should also say, the tragedy. At the moment when the sound of that historic American shot was circling this planet for the third time, at the moment when the American revolutionary spirit had come within sight of inspiring the whole human race, America herself disowned paternity, at least for the younger and less decorous batches of her offspring.

It has been suggested recently by at least one American student of American history that America did not wait till the twentieth century to dissociate herself from the World’s response to the resounding American shot’s reverberations. The founding fathers of the United States lived to witness the French Revolution, and at least one of the most eminent of them, John Adams, put on record his repudiation and rejection of the American Revolution’s French eldest daughter after she had jilted Lafayette and had plunged into Jacobinism. I owe my knowledge of the following passage to an article by William Henry Chamberlin in The Wall Street Journal of 31 March 1961. John Adams is quoted by Mr Chamberlin as having said that “Helvetius and Rousseau preached to the French nation liberty till they made them the most mechanical slaves; equality, till they destroyed all equity; humanity, until they became weasels and African panthers; and fraternity, till they cut one another’s throats like Roman gladiators”.

This bitter verdict on the Jacobin revolution gives us some notion of how John Adams and like-minded American contemporaries of his would have reacted to the Communist revolution, if they could have lived to witness this still more violent subsequent response to the echoes of the revolution which the founding fathers themselves had launched. The founding fathers had, no doubt, carried their own revolution just as far as they had intended, and evidently some of them were unwilling to see revolution, either at home or abroad, go even one inch farther. This is indicated by the bitterness of those words of John Adams’s that I have just quoted. But his words are not only bitter; they are also ironic. They bring out the irony of the contrast between intentions and results; and this is one of the perennial ironies of human life. It is seldom indeed that the consequences of human action work out according to plan; and one might venture on the generalization that they never work out as intended when the action is of the violent kind represented by revolution and war. The more violent the initial act, the more likely it will be that its consequences will escape control. Has there ever been a revolution or a war that has produced the results, and none other than the results, that its authors intended and expected? The American revolutionaries, like their French counterparts, and unlike at least one celebrated batch of Roman gladiators [to what is he referring?], were not “too proud to fight”; and they could not fire their shot without its being heard by other ears, and without its being taken as a signal for non-American, and perhaps un-American, action. In illustrating the vanity of human wishes by the example of the Jacobins, John Adams was unconsciously passing judgement on himself as well. Fabula de te narratur is the comment that he invites in retrospect. But Adams’s anti-Jacobin invective, which thus recoils like a boomerang on Adams himself, leaves his co-founding father Jefferson unscathed. Jefferson recognized that the price of political liberty would be “turbulence”, and he was not distressed by this prospect. “I hold,” he wrote to Madison, “that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

“Too proud to fight” was a phrase used by Woodrow Wilson to defend American neutrality in the First World War. It was immediately used against him.

Thus Adams’s conservatism was not shared by all the founding fathers; and Emerson was not the first American to acclaim the World Revolution and to recognize it as being the American Revolution’s offspring. America had already given a blessing to the late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century revolutions in Europe which it would be difficult for her ever to revoke, since it has been written into the map of American place-names. The names of the Corsican, Greek, Polish, and Hungarian revolutionary leaders Paoli, Ypsilandi, Kosciusko, and Kossuth have been thus immortalized. On the other hand, no Leninburg or Trotskyville has ever jumped out of the map of the United States to catch my eye. Of course there is less room for putting new names on this map nowadays than there used to be. Yet, if tomorrow a new territory of the United States were to be staked out on the face of the Moon, I do not think that any of the mushroom cities there would be likely to be called Fidel, though Fidel is really rather a beautiful name if American lips could pronounce it dispassionately.

Today America is no longer the inspirer and leader of the World Revolution, and I have an impression that she is embarrassed and annoyed when she is reminded that this was her original mission. No one else laid this mission upon America. She chose it for herself, and for one hundred and forty-two years, reckoning from the year 1775, she pursued this revolutionary mission with an enthusiasm which has proved deservedly infectious. By contrast, America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in defence of vested interests. She now stands for what Rome stood for. Rome consistently supported the rich against the poor in all foreign communities that fell under her sway; and, since the poor, so far, have always and everywhere been far more numerous than the rich, Rome’s policy made for inequality, for injustice, and for the least happiness of the greatest number. America’s decision to adopt Rome’s role has been deliberate, if I have gauged it right. It has been deliberate, yet, in the spirit that animates this recent American movement in reverse, I miss the enthusiasm and the confidence that made the old revolutionary America irresistible. Lafayette pays a high psychological price when he transforms himself into Metternich. Playing Metternich is not a happy role. It is not a hero’s role, and not a winner’s, and the player knows it. But, in those early nineteenth-century years when the real Metternich was fighting his losing battle to shore up the rickety edifice of restored “legitimacy”, who in the World would have guessed that America, of all countries, would one day cast herself for Metternich’s dreary part?

What has happened? The simplest account of it is, I suppose, that America has joined the minority. In 1775 she was in the ranks of the majority, and this is one reason why the American Revolution has evoked a world-wide response. For the non-American majority of the majority, the American revolutionary appeal has been as attractive as it was for eighteenth-century America herself. Eighteenth-century America was still appreciably poorer than the richest of the eighteenth-century West European countries: Britain, Holland, the Austrian Netherlands, France. No doubt America was, even then, already considerably richer than Asia or Africa; yet, even measured by this standard, her wealth at that time was not enormous. What has happened? While the sound of the shot fired beside the bridge at Concord has been three times circling the globe, and has each time been inciting all people outside America to redouble their revolutionary efforts, America herself has been engaged on another job than the one that she finished on her own soil in 1783. She has been winning the West and has been mastering the technique of industrial productivity. In consequence, she has become rich beyond all precedent. And, when the American sputnik’s third round raised the temperature of the World Revolution to a height that was also unprecedented, America felt herself impelled to defend the wealth that she had now gained against the mounting revolutionary forces that she herself had first called into existence.

What was the date at which America boxed the compass in steering her political course? As I see it, this date is pin-pointed by three events: the reaction in the United States to the second Russian revolution of 1917 and the two United States immigration restriction acts of 1921 and 1924.

The American reaction to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia was not, of course, peculiar to the American people. It was the same as the reaction of the rich people in all countries. Only, in the United States, it was a nation-wide reaction, because, in the United States, the well-to-do section of the population had become, by that time, a large majority, not the small minority that the rich have been and still are in most other parts of the World so far.

Rich people, not only in the United States but everywhere, have, I think, taken Communism in a very personal way. They have seen in Communism a threat to their pocket-books. So Communism, even when it has raised its head in some far-away country, has not felt to the rich like a foreign affair; the threat has seemed close and immediate, like the threat from gangsters in the streets of one’s home town. I think this explains the fact – and I am sure this is the fact – that Russian Communist aggression has got under the skins of the well-to-do in the Western World, while German nationalist aggression has not angered them to the same degree. This relative complacency towards German aggressiveness, as contrasted with the violence of the reaction to Russian aggressiveness, has made an impression on me because, I confess, it makes me bristle. I have noticed it among the rich minority in my own country, and I have noticed it still more among a wider circle of people in the United States. It is a rather startling piece of self-exposure. It is startling because, among the various dangers with which we have been threatened in our time, the danger to our personal property is not the one that we ought really to take most tragically. As a matter of fact, the well-to-do Western middle class would have been fleeced economically by the Germans, as thoroughly as this could be done by any Communists, if Germany had happened to win either the first or the second world war – and Germany came within an ace of winning each of these wars in turn. But the tragic loss that would have been inflicted on the Western World by a German victory would have been the loss of our political and our spiritual liberty. In two fearful wars that have been brought upon us by Germany within the span of a single life-time, we have saved our liberty at an immense loss in infinitely precious human lives. We have had no war with Russia in our life-time, and the Western and the Communist camp are not doomed to go to war with each other, though at present the common threat of self-annihilation in an atomic third world war hangs over us all.

Of course someone might reply to what I have just been saying by admitting the whole of my indictment of Germany but pointing out, at the same time, that Russia, too, threatens our political and spiritual freedom, besides threatening just our pockets. This is true. Yet, if I had to make the terrible choice between being conquered by a nationalist Germany and being conquered by a Communist Russia, I myself would opt for Russian Communism as against German nationalism. I would opt for it as being the less odious of the two régimes to live under. Nationalism, German or other, has no aim beyond the narrow-hearted aim of pursuing one’s own national self-interest at the expense of the rest of the human race. By contrast, Communism has in it an element of universalism. It does stand in principle for winning social justice for that great majority of mankind that has hitherto received less than its fair share of the benefits of civilization. I know very well that, in politics, principle is never more than partially translated into practice; I know that the generous-minded vein in Communism is marred by the violent and intolerant-minded vein in it. I also recognize that Communism in both Russia and China has been partly harnessed to a Russian and a Chinese nationalism that is no more estimable than German nationalism or any other nationalism is. Yet, when all this has been said, I still find myself feeling that the reaction of rich individuals and rich nations in the West to Communism since 1917 has been an “acid test”, to use President Wilson’s memorable words [the phrase is used in his Fourteen Points]. Anyway, it is, I think, indisputable that the reaction in the United States to Communism in and since the year 1917 has been a symptom of a reversal of America’s political course. It is a sign, I think, that the American people is now feeling and acting as a champion of an affluent minority’s vested interests, in dramatic contrast to America’s historic role as the revolutionary leader of the depressed majority of mankind.

The United States immigration restriction acts of 1921 and 1924 are, I believe, pointers to the same change in the American people’s attitude during and immediately after the First World War. Naturally I realize the urgent practical considerations that moved the Administration and the Congress to enact this legislation. The First World War had just brought to light a disturbing feature in this country’s domestic life: I mean, the persistence of the hyphen. [He means in phrases such as Italian-American and Irish-American.] An appreciable number of United States citizens, and of immigrants who were on their way to becoming citizens, had proved still to have divided loyalties. The American melting-pot had not yet purged out of their hearts the last residue of their hereditary attachment to their countries of origin on the European side of the Atlantic. There was evidently a long road still to travel before the process of assimilation would be completed, and this race between assimilation and immigration might never be won for Americanism unless the annual intake of immigrants were drastically reduced. Moreover, the pre-war immigrants were under criticism not only for still being pulled two ways by divided loyalties; they were also under suspicion of perhaps not being representative samples of the best European human material. The introduction of an annual quota would enable the United States Bureau of Immigration to sift the candidates for admission and to select those who promised to make the best future American citizens, and the policy of restriction was thus recommended by a eugenic motive as well as by a political one.

These considerations, by themselves, would have made some measure of restriction and selection desirable after the First World War anyway. But the main motive for the enactment of the acts of 1921 and 1924 was, I believe, a different one. Europe had just been ravaged by a war of unprecedented magnitude and severity. European belligerent governments had stopped their subjects from emigrating in order to conserve their supplies of cannon-fodder. And, now that the war was over, it was feared in the United States that the flow of immigration would start again, and this time in an unprecedented volume. A flood of penniless Europeans might pour into the United States in quest of fortunes in the New World to compensate for ruin in the Old World, and this probable rush of millions of European paupers to win a share in America’s prosperity was felt to be a menace to the economic interests of the existing inhabitants of the United States, who had a monopoly of America’s wealth at present.

If I am right in this diagnosis of the main motive for the United States immigration restriction acts of 1921 and 1924, the American people went on the defensive at this time against the impact of European immigration for the same reason that made America react so strongly against Communism. Both these reactions were those of a rich man who is concerned to defend his private property against the importunity of a mass of poorer people who are surging all round him and are loudly demanding a share in the rich man’s wealth.

What would have been the effects on America’s economic life if immigration into the United States had been left, down to this day, as free as it was during the century ending in 1921? Presumably the present population of the United States would have been much larger than it actually is, but it does not necessarily follow that the average income per head would have been lower. Experience tells us that a country’s total annual product is not a fixed amount. It may be increased by various factors. One of these stimuli to production may be a steep rise in the volume of population through a reinforcement of the natural increase by immigration. For example, the massive and unrestricted immigration into West Germany from East Germany since the end of the Second World War has been one, at least, of the causes of West Germany’s unexpected and surprising post-war economic prosperity. On this analogy it is conceivable that the economic effects of the United States immigration restriction acts of 1921 and 1924 was contrary to the legislators’ intentions and expectations. While conserving the previous income per head of the existing population of the United States, the immigration restriction acts may have prevented the income per head from rising so fast and so high as it might have done if immigration had been left unrestricted. A continuance of unrestricted immigration might also perhaps have saved the United States from the great depression of the nineteen-thirties. These are hypothetical questions which even an economist might find it hard to answer, and I am not an economist. But I would suggest to you that, whatever the economic consequences of those immigration restriction acts may have been, these economic consequences have not been the most important. The political and psychological consequences have, I should say, counted for more, and these non-economic consequences have, I should also say, been unfortunate for America as well as for Europe.

So long as immigration into the United States from Europe was unrestricted, America’s ever open door kept America in touch with the common lot of the human race. The human race, as a whole, was poor, as it still is; and America was then still a poor man’s country. She was a poor man’s country in the stimulating sense of being the country that was the poor man’s hope. She was the country, of all countries, in which a poor immigrant could look forward to improving his economic position by his own efforts. America did not, of course, even then, offer this opportunity to immigrants from the whole of the Old World. The opportunity was always restricted to immigrants from one small corner of the Old World, namely Europe. All the same, so long as America still offered herself as even just the European poor man’s hope, she retained her footing as part of the majority of the human race. In so far as she has closed her doors since 1921, she has cut herself off from the majority. This self-insulation is the inevitable penalty of finding that one has become rich and then taking steps to protect one’s new-found well-being. The impulse to protect wealth, if one has it, is one of the natural human impulses. It is not particularly sinful, but it automatically brings a penalty with it that is out of proportion to its sinfulness. This penalty is isolation. It is a fearful thing to be isolated from the majority of one’s fellow-creatures, and this will continue to be the social and moral price of wealth so long as poverty continues to be the normal condition of the World’s ordinary men and women.

I will close this first lecture in the present series by trying to drive this point home in a piece of fantasy. Let us imagine a transmigration of souls in reverse. Let us slip our own generation’s souls into the bodies of the generation of 1775, and then set the reel of history unwinding with this change in its make-up. The result that we shall obtain by this sleight of hand will be startlingly different from the actual course of events in 1775 and thereafter. The Declaration of Independence will now be made, not in Philadelphia, but at Westminster. King George III will raise his standard, not at the Court of St. James’s, but at Independence Hall (of course that building will not bear its historic revolutionary name; it will be called “Royal Hall” or “Legitimacy Hall” or some other respectable conservative name of the kind). The other George, George Washington, will take command of his royal namesake’s army. There will be no Continental Congress here in Philadelphia for George Washington to serve. The revolutionary parliament will be on the other side of the Ocean. It will be at Westminster. And the revolutionary leader will not be a George, but a Charles, namely Charles James Fox. The bridge beside which the embattled farmers will fire their shot will not be the bridge at Concord. The flood that it spans will be the Thames. The shot will be heard round the World, but it will be an Old-World shot, not a New-World one.

This nonsense that I have just been talking will have had its use if it has illustrated my thesis. I am maintaining that, since 1917, America has reversed her role in the World. She has become the arch-conservative power instead of the arch-revolutionary one. Stranger still, she has made a present of her glorious discarded role to the country which was the arch-conservative power in the nineteenth century, the country which, since 1946, has been regarded by America as being America’s Enemy Number One. America has presented her historic revolutionary role to Russia.

Is this reversal of roles America’s irrevocable choice? Is it a choice that she can afford to make? And, if she were to change her mind once again, would it now still be possible for America to rejoin her own revolution after having parted company with it forty-four years ago? I shall be taking up these questions in the second and third lectures in this series.

The second and third lectures were called The Handicap of Affluence and Can America Re-Join Her Own Revolution? The first, of which I have quoted all but the opening in these two posts, was called The Shot Heard round the World.

For the first post, I referred to the extract in EWF Tomlin, editor, Arnold Toynbee, A Selection from His Works, with an introduction by Tomlin, OUP, 1978, posthumous.

For this post, ie the remainder of the lecture, I referred to Questia’s online version of America and the World Revolution and Other Lectures, New York, OUP, 1962, which prints three sets of lectures given in different places in the New World in 1961 and ’62. The quotation from Jefferson is garbled here. I have corrected it. I have presumptively corrected one or two other mistakes: texts on Questia are not page-images and are not reliable. The Pennsylvania lectures were printed in the UK on their own as America and the World Revolution, OUP, 1962.

America and the World Revolution and Other Lectures, New York, OUP, 1962

The shot heard round the world 1

July 4 2008

In public lectures delivered at the University of Pennsylvania in spring 1961, Toynbee reminded his audience of “the revolutionary tradition which the United States had inaugurated and which she needed to re-join if she were to continue to play a positive role in the world” (EWF Tomlin).

I am just old enough to remember the time when Britain was still rich and strong enough to be the principal target for poorer and weaker peoples’ malice. Baiting is one of mankind’s oldest games, but the victim has to be a substantial one if the game is to be fun. Twisting the lion’s tail ceases to be rewarding if the lion shrinks to the size of a cat; but if a buzzard swells to the size of an eagle, it then becomes worthwhile to pull out the bird’s tail-feathers. It is not easy to adjust oneself to a rapid decrease in one’s wealth and power, but the transition is eased by one consoling form of relief. In being relieved of power and wealth, one is automatically relieved from odium. Experto crede. I am speaking from my own country’s experience in my own lifetime. We have been released from the odium that used to hang round Britain’s neck like the Ancient Mariner’s murdered albatross. The neck that is now adorned by the corpse of that albatross is America’s. When we British look at America nowadays, our feelings are mixed. We feel consoled for the recent change in our position in the world; at the same time we sympathize with you for the change in your position. I do hope that the second of these two feelings will make itself obvious to you in this present course of lectures by a British speaker. In examining America’s situation in the World today, I can say, with my hand on my heart, that my feelings are sympathetic, not malicious. After all, mere regard for self-interest, apart from any more estimable considerations, would deter America’s allies from wishing America ill. If, absit omen, America were to be worsted by her present ordeal, this would be as great a misfortune for her friends and associates as it would be for America herself.

I suppose many of us in this room have stood, more than once in our lives, on the bridge at Concord, Massachusetts, and have then crossed the bridge to read, engraved on a bronze plaque, a poem that we already knew by heart. As far as I remember, I first got to know this poem of Emerson’s through being given it, at school, to translate into Greek verse. The school was in England, not in America. The date must have been about 1905. That would be one hundred and thirty years after the day on which the historic shot had been fired by embattled American farmers. That was time enough to have made it possible for English schoolmasters and English schoolboys to look back at what had happened in April 1775 without having our vision blurred by irrelevant national sore feelings. What thrilled us, in England in 1905, at the sound of that shot, was the point that has been put inimitably by Emerson in the eight monosyllabic words of his immortal line. We forgot that the shot had been aimed at red-coats. We remembered that it had been heard round the world. That shot now meant for us, too, what it had meant for your ancestors. I myself, for instance, made my pilgrimage to the bridge at Concord the first time I visited the United States, which was in 1925.

A poet knows how to sum up in one line what it takes an historian at least several pages to recite. Within these last one hundred and eighty-six years the sound of that American shot has been travelling round and round the globe like a Russian sputnik. It had been heard in France before the eighteenth century was over. It was heard in Spanish America and in Greece while the nineteenth century was still young. In 1848, when the nineteenth century was not yet quite half spent, the sound reverberated, like a thunderclap, over the whole of Continental Europe. It was heard in Italy, and Italy arose from the dead. The Italian Risorgimento was evoked by that American shot. The sound was heard in Paris again in 1871; this time the Commune was Paris’s response to it. Travelling on eastward, the sound touched off the Russian revolution of 1905, the Persian revolution of 1906, and the Turkish revolution of 1908. By that date it had already roused the Founding Fathers of the Indian National Congress. I believe, by the way, that the original instigator of the Indian Congress Movement was an Englishman [he is thinking of Allan Octavian Hume or William Wedderburn]. If I am right about this, that Englishman launched a far bigger movement than he can have realized at the time. The Indian Congress Movement has been the mother of all the independence movements in all the Asian and African countries that, till recently, have been under the rule of West European colonial powers. But, anyway, whoever may deserve the credit for having started the Indian Congress Movement, the inspiration of it came from the sound of that American shot as this sound travelled over the Indian sub-continent on its eastward course. By this time it had gathered a speed that must have been greater than the speed of light. By 1911, the year in which the sound was heard in China, it had already been heard on the far side of the pacific, in Mexico. It had already touched off the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

By 1910, the eastward-travelling American sputnik had come round, full circle, to re-visit the New World. But it did not stop at that point. Its momentum was still unexhausted. It sped forward for the second time over the Atlantic to re-awaken the Old World’s seven sleepers with still more thunderous reverberations than it had detonated at its first visitation. In 1917 Russia heard that American sound for the second time, and this time she heard it with a vengeance. Turkey heard it for the second time after the end of the First World War, and this time the sound touched off the radical Westernizing Turkish revolution led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Compared with this second Turkish revolution of 1919-’28, the Turkish revolution of 1908 had been half-hearted. In April 1923, just one hundred and forty-eight years after the firing of that shot, far away, at the bridge at Concord, Massachusetts, I heard the sound reach Ankara, Turkey’s new capital, where I happened, at that moment, to find myself. There and then, I was given an inkling of what it must have felt like to be in the streets of Paris in 1789 or beside the bridge at Concord in 1775.

The sound did not flag or falter. It went on making its second circuit of the globe. In China, in 1948, its second visitation produced the same enormously enhanced effects as its previous second visitations in Russia and in Turkey. Speeding across the Pacific for the second time, the indefatigable sound called the Bolivian miners to arms and roused the Guatemalan peasants to demand a re-distribution of the land. In 1960 it roused the peasants of Cuba. Fidel Castro must have been surprised and gratified by the attention that he has won for himself in the United States. He has had the advantage of standing so close to the American people’s ear that, by shouting into it, he has been able to make it tingle. He wanted to annoy America, and he succeeded. But, if he had not had the luck to be so close to you, his oratory would have been drowned; for, before the end of 1960, the sound of the embattled American farmers’ shot had crossed the Atlantic for the third time and had roused up the whole of Africa from Sharpeville to Algiers.

At this moment at which I am speaking to you here in this room, I am surprised that I have succeeded, like Fidel Castro, in making my annoying words heard above that other sound’s roar. For, by now, the sound of the embattled farmers’ shot “is gone out through all the Earth”, to quote the Psalmist’s words. The noise has become world-wide and it has become deafening. Jefferson hit the mark when he said that “the disease of liberty is catching”.

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream that seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.”

Emerson wrote Concord Hymn in 1836 for the dedication of the Obelisk, a battle monument in Concord, Massachusetts that commemorated the contributions of area citizens at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, April 19 1775, the first battle of the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4 1776. Emerson’s grandfather was at the bridge on the day of the battle; their family home, The Old Manse, was next to the bridge; and Emerson is known to have written the hymn while living there. And in 1837, the hymn was sung during Concord’s Fourth of July celebration to one of the greatest tunes ever composed: the Old Hundredth.

America and the World Revolution, OUP, 1962

Uncontacted peoples

May 30 2008

The moon and desolation

State of Acre, Brazil, near the Peruvian border:

Few, if any, peoples have remained totally uncontacted by modern civilisation. “Uncontacted” here includes those who have chosen to make contact exceedingly difficult or dangerous. Brazil has most, followed by New Guinea and Peru.

Wikipedia suggests that the phrase “isolated peoples” might be more apt. Both are politically weighted. “Isolated” reminds one of the English headline, apocryphal or not, “Fog in Channel: Continent isolated”.

On 18 January 2007, the Fundação Nacional do Índio, FUNAI, reported that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005. With this addition Brazil overtook the island of New Guinea as the territory having the largest number of uncontacted tribes. There are seven Terras Indígenas (Reservations) exclusively reserved for isolated people.

Large swathes of New Guinea are yet to be explored by scientists and anthropologists. About 44 uncontacted tribal groups live in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya or West Papua.

There are now five reserves in the Peruvian Amazon. Most of them are entered by illegal loggers and petroleum companies with legal concessions to work in those lands, although their activities jeopardise the lives of the isolated populations.

In the 1970s, the Philippine government announced the discovery of the Tasaday, a supposedly uncontacted stone-age tribe living in Mindanao. It turned out be a hoax.

In 1984, a family of nine Pintupi people who were living the old hunter-gatherer desert-dwelling life was tracked down in the Gibson Desert in Western Australia and brought into contact for the first time with European-Australian society. They are believed to have been the last uncontacted Australian group. They became town-dwellers. One of them, Yari Yari (male), returned to the desert after two years. The surviving town-dwelling members are now all visual artists.

In India, tribes of the Andaman Islands, notably the Sentinelese, continue to refuse contact with the outside world, and are believed to have survived the 2004 tsunami.

There are groups in Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. The Tagaeri tribe of the Huaorani barely survives in Ecuador. As of 2006, the presence of five uncontacted groups was confirmed in Bolivia. In Paraguay, some Ayoreo-speakers are believed to be the last uncontacted Indians south of the Amazon basin.

On Brazil, see John Hemming’s trilogy: Red Gold: The Conquest of the Brazilian Indians (1978, covering the period 1500-1760); Amazon Frontier: The Defeat of the Brazilian Indians (1985, covering 1760-1910); Die If You Must: Brazilian Indians in the Twentieth Century (2003).

Some of the information here has been critically summarised from Wikipedia – which does not even mention Africa in this context.


Nepal and New Zealand

January 11 2008

Edmund Hillary, I suppose (after Wilfred Thesiger died), was the last of the “British” explorers in the old tradition. Hillary and Tenzing took their place with Scott of the Antarctic. Thesiger never quite made it into the popular imagination.

Hillary didn’t care whether he or Tenzing Norgay had trodden onto the summit first. Tenzing much later revealed that it was Hillary. The climb, directed by John Hunt, using the South Col route, was a team effort. Hillary disliked the obsessiveness with which modern climbers tried to reach their goal, even, in 2006, passing a dying climber, David Sharp, as several of them did, without helping him.

The British reported the conquest of Everest – which took place on May 29 1953 – as if it was a British moment. But Hillary was a New Zealander and will have a state funeral in New Zealand. Hunt was British, but I don’t think Hunt reached the summit. New Zealand didn’t object, and the reason all this was not discussed was that most British in 1953 still thought of New Zealand as being, virtually, British and most New Zealanders still thought of Britain as home.

Most people think of Sherpas as porters or guides. They are an ethnic group. Edmund Hillary’s main achievement, in his own view, was not his conquest of Everest, but his work with a trust which he established which has founded schools and hospitals in the Sherpa region of eastern Nepal, and with the American Himalayan Foundation. Nepal is predominantly Hindu. If you did a straw poll in a pub about its religion, there would doubtless be a consensus that it was Buddhist.

A counter-intuitive fact: Everest is south of Delhi. I’ll look at the complicated history of Nepal soon.

Nepal will abolish its monarchy in 2008. Unless Kosovo gets there first, it will be the world’s next republic. Will New Zealand ever become one? There are republicans in New Zealand, but the republican movement is weak. New Zealand became a separate British colony in 1841, having briefly been part of New South Wales. It became a self-governing Dominion in 1907 and is still a Dominion even if the word is no longer used. (Canadian republicanism is weak because the Crown symbolically distinguishes Canada from the US. New Zealand doesn’t need to distinguish itself from Australia in that way.)

Three things occurred to me when I went to New Zealand, once, in the late ’80s. First, it isn’t anywhere near Australia. Second, it has a very obviously different ecosystem: Australia is a continental desert; New Zealand, at least the northern part – I didn’t travel south of Wellington – is a South Sea island. Third, I realised that I’d never really seen Polynesians. I thought that if I tried to draw a Maori (if I could draw) the result would involuntarily be like the drawings eighteenth-century travellers made of people they met: caricatures. The drawings those travellers made weren’t done as caricatures deliberately or out of racism, but because they weren’t used to what they were seeing. Even to me, a Londoner, everything was new about the Maori, starting with the oily hair.

Hillary had a close relationship with the Sherpas, and so did Britain with the Gurkhas. They come from four ethnic groups, take their name from an eighth-century Hindu warrior-saint, Guru Gorakhnath, and claim descent from the Rajput princes of northern India. When they invaded Tibet in 1791, there was a Chinese retaliation – which led to a Chinese conquest of Tibet which lasted until the fall of the Chinese Empire in 1911. The Chinese recovered Tibet after the Communists took power in 1949. The Gurkhas fought the British between 1814 and 1816, at which point Nepal became a de facto British protectorate, which it remained until 1923. During that time, and subsequently, Gurkhas from poor villages enlisted/were enlisted as British mercenaries in many wars. There are Gurkhas in Iraq now. They were “the bravest of the brave” and are still a major part of the Singapore police force.

Today’s World at One, the BBC Radio 4 lunchtime news programme (available for a few more days here), had a touching, even historic, interview with Jan Morris and with Tenzing Norgay’s son Tashi Tenzing (who reached the summit in 1996). Tenzing Norgay himself died in 1986. Jan Morris, as James Morris, accompanied the 1953 expedition to the base camp as a correspondent for The Times and reported the news to the world. It arrived in time to reach the press on the day of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, June 2. Was it held back so that it would coincide with that event, in a Britain of uncertain post-war morale? The question has often been asked. Jan Morris’s answer today was that it was hurried back, but that the coincidence had been a happy one.

Everest from the International Space Station, looking south over the Tibetan plateau, Everest in the middle, Wikimedia Commons:


January 7 2008

Israeli colonialism since the establishment of the state of Israel is one of the two blackest cases in the whole history of colonialism in the modern age; and its blackness is thrown into relief by its date. The East European Zionists have been practising colonialism in Palestine in the extreme form of evicting and robbing the native Arab inhabitants at the very time when the West European peoples have been renouncing their temporary rule over non-European peoples. The other outstanding black case is the eviction of five agricultural Amerindian peoples – the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creeks, Cherokees, and Seminoles – from their ancestral homes in what are now the states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee to “reservations” in what is now the state of Oklahoma. This eviction was started in 1820 and was completed for the most part by 1838. But the Cherokees were recalcitrant and the Seminoles resisted by force of arms. They [the Seminoles] withdrew into the swamps of Southern Florida, and their resistance there was overcome by the United States Army only in the course of the eighteen-forties. This nineteenth-century American colonialism was a crime; the Israeli colonialism, which was being carried on at the time when I was writing, was a crime that was also a moral anachronism.

Experiences, OUP, 1969

The British way of denying atrocities

December 20 2007

George Monbiot, The Guardian, December 27 2005.

Unequal wars

March 26 2007

Toynbee was not referring at the end of the last post to wars between the West and“natives”, which were more than comparatively frequent. This list of wars fought by the English is incomplete. The first two Anglo-Maratha Wars were pre-1815. So were the four Anglo-Mysore Wars. The Third Afghan War was in 1919.

The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-18)

The First Anglo-Burmese War (1823-26)

The First Asante War (1826)

The First Opium War (1839-42)

The First Afghan War (1839-42)

The First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46)

The First Maori War (1845-7)

The Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-9)

The Second Anglo-Burmese War (1852-53)

The Second Opium War (1856-60)

The Second Maori War (1860-61)

The Second Asante War (1863-64)

The Third Maori War (1863-66)

The Third Asante War (1873-74)

The Second Afghan War (1878-80)

The Anglo-Zulu War (1879)

The Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-87)

The Fourth Asante War (1894-96)

The Anglo-Pathan War (1897-98)


February 19 2007

When we Westerners call people “Natives” we implicitly take the cultural colour out of our perceptions of them. We see them as trees walking, or as wild animals infesting the country in which we happen to come across them. In fact, we see them as part of the local flora and fauna, and not as men of like passions with ourselves; and, seeing them thus as something infra-human, we feel entitled to treat them as though they did not possess ordinary human rights. They are merely natives of the lands which they occupy; and no term of occupancy can be long enough to confer any prescriptive right. Their tenure is as provisional and precarious as that of the forest trees which the Western pioneer fells or that of the big game which he shoots down. [Footnote: This point of view was translated into action by the Government of the United Kingdom in A.D. 1932-3, when they threw open the Native Reserves in Kenya Colony to European gold-diggers. […] ] And how shall the “civilized” Lords of Creation treat the human game, when in their own good time they come to take possession of the land which, by right of eminent domain, is indefeasibly their own? Shall they treat these “Natives” as vermin to be exterminated, or as domesticable animals to be turned into hewers of wood and drawers of water? No other alternative need be considered, if “niggers have no souls”. All this is implicit in the word “Natives”, as we have come to use it in the English language in our time. […] A classificatory-minded society has not hesitated to apply the name indiscriminately to the countrymen of a Gandhi and a Bose and a Rabindranath Tagore, as well as to “primitives” of the lowest degree of culture, such as the Andaman Islanders and the Australian Blackfellows. For the theoretical purpose of objective description, this sweeping use of the word makes sheer nonsense. For the practical purpose of asserting the claim that our Western Civilization is the only civilization in the World, the usage is a militant gesture. It signalizes the fact that all the non-Western societies which are alive in the world to-day, from the lowest to the highest, have been swept up into our economic net, and it postulates the contention that this common predicament is the only important fact about any of them. In short, 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.

HG Wells wrote in his preface to The War of the Worlds (1898): “Before we judge them [the Martians] too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals such as the vanished bison and dodo, but also upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years.”

The last full-blooded Tasmanian was said to have been a woman called Truganini, who died twenty-two years before that was published. Even if that was not true, Tasmanian aborigines are now extinct. Aborigines in Australia were sometimes really hunted as big game. I heard an Australian in Sydney, circa 1987, speak of “abos” in practically those terms. Toynbee, of course, says that Australian “Blackfellows” were “primitives” with a low “degree of culture”. He denies racial, but not cultural, hierarchies.

When he mentions Subhash Chandra Bose next to Gandhi and Tagore, he is mentioning somebody in the Indian independence movement who has been rather forgotten in the West, but in 1934 was better known than Nehru. Why is he forgotten? Because he died before independence – in August 1945, perhaps in an air crash in Taiwan, though facts about his death are disputed. So he was not on the scene at the “midnight hour”. And because he was a fascist.

He was a Bengali, born in Orissa. From 1943 he was the leader of the strongly nationalist Indian National Army, which fought alongside the Japanese in Burma and Manipur. Before that, he had escaped from India to Germany, via Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, to seek an alliance with the Axis powers with the aim of attacking the British in India from the north west. When the German invasion of Russia was pushed back, he began to work with Japan. He had become disillusioned with Hitler because of his lack of interest in India – but he had an Austrian wife, Emilie Schenkl, who only died (where, in Austria, or India?) in 1996.

“Niggers have no souls” was a phrase used and quoted in the nineteenth century. I am not sure of its origin.

A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934