An interesting demand

PM May should ‘beg forgiveness’ for UK’s colonial sins: Indian MP

That’s from Press TV.

How interesting that the Iranian state broadcaster should be concentrating upon the British colonial experience there and not the one immediately preceding, the heavily Persian influenced Mughal Empire.

Historical question of the day

His parents, Frank and Rosa, were immigrants from Europe. His hard-working Slovenian-born father had prospected for gold in Alaska before setting up a meatpacking business in Seattle. Sutter’s no-nonsense approach was shaped by a household of good-natured teasing and a simple European lifestyle — his mother, who had been born in Austria-Hungary,

To what, important, extent were Slovenia and Austria-Hungary different places pre-WWI?

No, this isn’t my godmother’s husband but….

There’s a great deal of similarity in the stories.

The remarkable story of a Czech pilot who fought for Britain in between fleeing fascism and then communism in his homeland has emerged after 70 years.
Jiri Hartman became a Spitfire hero after he sought sanctuary in England following the Nazi invasion of his homeland in 1938.
The immigrant airman defended London by engaging in dog-fights over the English Channel and provided air cover for the disastrous Dieppe raid, the D-Day landings and the Battle of Arnhem.
He also protected bombers during raids on German airfields, ports and trains.
In all he flew on 168 sorties and shot down or damaged numerous enemy aircraft, which won him the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war he was given the honour of leading 54 Spitfires of the Czech Air Force back home to Prague.
He married an Englishwoman who he took to Czechoslovakia but following the Soviet-backed communist putsch of his country in 1948 he had to flee a second time.
Czech airmen who served with the Western Allies in the Second World War were arrested and subjected to ‘political torture’.
He managed to stage a dramatic escape across the mountains to Germany while being pursued by border guards.

The only real difference in the story is that Mr. Desmond didn’t flee over the border, he and some mates stole a Czech plane and flew it over. And he settled in Bath, not Portsmouth. Ecstatically happy with the rest of life as a newsagent. What with having escaped from the Lubyanka and walked home to Moravia before the war as well he’d had quite enough excitement for one pass through this world. Serving up The Times and 20 Bensons was a very pleasant way to spend life after that.

I’ve always sorta wondered whether the tale grew in the telling to be honest, but that others did much the same makes me think perhaps not.

British colonial history

So, piece complaining that kids aren’t taught history properly in school. Fair enough. But which contains this line:

Aged 11, my son learned in a geography class that one of the many reasons Ghana (the Gold Coast to its 19th-century British rulers) was economically less developed was because of its colonial past. It had been stripped of its wealth by the British. Just one bland sentence.

Well, yes, that’s very Marx and Lenin on imperialism. But it’s not actually true, is it?

Ghana did rather well under the Empire. It was Nkrumah and successors who screwed the pooch.

As it happens I’ve got Angus Maddison’s spreadsheet open for something else. Ghana, in 1950, had GDP per capita of $1,122 (these are international dollars, so adjusted for inflation over time and price differences across geography). In 1984 it was $933.

Significantly worse than Gabon (French colony) and about the same as Liberia at the start (not colonised). Better than Kenya (British colony).

And there’s the other side to it as well. If the British knicked all the money then why didn’t it make Britain rich? Because the colonies didn’t, did they?

Is this really how it went?

I’ve obviously missed a bit of my historical education:

In the days of the British Raj, when Britain’s economy depended on commodities such as cotton, Indian cotton growers were forced on pain of imprisonment to sell their cotton yields to Britain at prices determined by the buyer. The raw cotton was sent back here, to our “satanic mills”, and Indians – who had been weaving cotton for centuries – were then prohibited from weaving their own and forced to buy woven cotton back at prices determined by Britain. That wouldn’t happen today – would it?

Doesn’t sound all that likely to me but here it is again:

The Lancashire textile boom could never have taken hold without the protection of high tariff walls against the world’s great textile workshop in India. Indian hand weavers, whose quality was high and wages low, had been the centre of world production for centuries. But British protectionism, in combination with the extension of imperial power through the East India Company (an early example of a ‘public-private’ partnership), changed the rules of the game. British policy transformed India from an exporter of textiles to a supplier of raw cotton for Lancashire factories. The tactics were brutal. They included smashing the hands and cutting off the thumbs of Indian weavers, while implementing a system of usurious taxes favouring cotton production – sometimes provoking famine in the process. When Gandhi led the movement against imported British textiles and in favour of Indian handlooms, Winston Churchill caught the temper of British attitudes, famously denouncing Gandhi as ‘half naked… a seditious Middle Temple lawyer.’

17th century saw the East India Company importing masses of Indian made cotton fabrics into Europe. Then the mills started up. And a century later British cotton fabrics were exported to India and the hand weavers didn’t do so well. Then the Indian industry mechanised around 1850. Gandhi’s bit wasn’t about no British imports, it was about no mechanisation, no?

That’s what I recall. But what I don’t recall is either the raw cotton exports to UK from India, nor the forced growing of raw cotton and certainly not the suppression of local hand weavers.

So, is it me just not being taught right? Or is this leftist interpretation of history missing a bit?

This is more how I remember it:

Finally, in 1721, Indian cotton imports were banned by parliament. Ironically, soon after, cotton cultivation exploded in the American colonies and the “threat” of Indian cotton was muted by a major shift in cotton production. Where Indian cottons had long been grown and manufactured in India by farmers working with merchant houses, then exported to East Asia, Africa, and Europe, the cotton industry in the southern colonies of British North America came quickly to rely on slave labor. In turn, the climate of the southern colonies proved ideal for cotton production and, by the middle of the eighteenth century, British-controlled cotton production and manufacturing had emerged as a serious rival to the Indian industry.

There was no flood of unprocessed Indian cotton to the UK mills – it came from the slave states of the US.

A day late but very good

As the two battle fleets made stately progression towards each other in the gentle morning breeze, Admiral Villeneuve made a signal. Having read the flags the midshipman on duty rushed to Lord Nelson and said “I don’t understand the flags sir – With water, it is time.”
Nelson decided to check the signal. Having considered the signal Nelson turned to the snotty and replied “No, you need to read the signal in the original French – A l’eau, c’est l’heure.”


The worst bit about it, so I’ve heard, was that people around the world were shocked by what had happened. No, that’s not bad. So they tried to show that they cared and no, that’s not bad. So they sent toys.

And there were no children left.


the Suffolk Punch has been described as having “the face of an angel and the backside of a farmer’s daughter”.

Strangely, still rather useful in forestry. If managing mixed woodland one or two horses are much easier to use to get just the one tree out rather than some vast machine. No help at all with clear cuts and all that of course.

This is rather old fashioned isn’t it?

In an interesting turn of events, a 19-year-old villager named Himalaya Mohanty from Odisha hacked into a Hyderabad-based company, causing a loss of Rs 60 lakh.

According to a report by The Times of India, a native of Shibapura village in Balasore district managed to hack the EPABX toll-free number of Lloyd Electricals and Engineering Ltd using his 3-inch mobile phone, and later, uploaded the code along with the toll-free number of Lloyd on a website. This hack allowed him to make free calls via toll-free number.

Wasn’t that the origin of hacking itself, that 30 or 40 years ago? Hacking the telephone exchanges to get free calls?

A fun story about Frank Whittle

Yet the genius of Sir Frank Whittle, the man who invented the jet engine, will go almost entirely unheralded when the 75th anniversary of his achievement falls next weekend.

His son, Ian, has accused successive governments of “marginalising” his father because Whitehall was slow to realise the importance of his invention, enabling the Germans to seize the initiative in jet development during the war.

He said his father’s place in history had been allowed to fade because of a reluctance to draw attention to the “mistakes” made by Whitehall in the past.

May 15, 1941 was the day Whittle’s revolutionary engine took to the skies for the first time, powering a Gloster E.28/39, the ancestor of every jet aircraft flying today.

These stories tend to grow with the telling so I’ll tell it as I’ve been told it. The important part is this:

Whittle, who honed his engineering skills in his father’s workshop as a boy, joined the RAF as an apprentice mechanic in 1923, where his superiors quickly marked him out as something of a genius.

Back then pilots were officers. And officers were gentlemen. As in the Army and Navy of the day. And, of course rude mechanics were not gentlemen. Good grief, they actually did things with their hands!

At which point someone thought, hang on a minute, we’re going to need officers of those mechanics and they’d better know about mechanics. So, umm…..they picked 8 rude mechanics to go off and train as officers. One of whom was grandpa, Bill Worstall. They would become pilots too, as well as rude mechanics, because pilots were officers and therefore officers were pilots, see? Definitely made a difference to Bill’s life, son of the head printer at the Yorkshire Press becoming an officer? This was a big deal back then: as were the elocution lessons. This was bounding across the class barriers.

As father has pointed out we’re both rather glad that Bill survived the 8 crashes that he had before he got married. One such crash even made The Times, which is more than his marriage did I think….

Frank Whittle didn’t make the grade: he was number nine on the list. Then the lad who was number 8 broke his leg on a cross country run/race and Whittle was bumped up.

As far as I know it’s true.

And two that I do know are true: No one ignored that jet engine for the war. Rather, they took an executive decision. We can build reasonably large numbers of things which are good enough (Hurricanes, Spitfires, and here on my desk I have the souvenir/memorial ashtray of Bill having worked on the program including landing the things on carriers) and diverting our limited resources away to this newer, better, but riskier, technology might be a bad idea. As, say, the German idea of building things like King Tigers and so on: they sucked up huge resources but there were never enough of them. Vast numbers of T34s and Shermans were the way to go, lower tech but numbers more than made up. They didn’t ignore the possibility, they decided against it, rightly or wrongly.

And Whittle had a fun meeting with a Ministry man. Showed the design (this was when everyone had indeed woken up, war imminent) and he said, hmm, yes, you’re going to need tungsten for that. From Portugal. Which all added to the fun that was had here. Out in the Beira at that time good quality tungsten ore could just be picked up in the fields. Wolframite. Wanted for anti-tank shells, armour plating and those jet engines. Thus all sorts of SOE shenanigans as mule trains collecting for the Germans were hijacked by Brits, mule trains collecting for the Brits vice versa and so on. Excellent novel, Robert Goddard Wilson, “Small Death In Lisbon” based on the events. What really made that one fun for me is that it’s set in modern day Cascais, with the underlying plot all coming from those WWII days, and I was thinking about wolframite at the time and living in Cascais…..

Well, not so much actually

This morning Ken Livingstone said “Hitler was supporting Zionism… Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel”.

Just reading Timothy Snyder’s book about this and no, it wasn’t Israel.

It was “anywhere other than Europe” really, with Madagascar and Siberia both talked about. It was the Poles who were arguing that it should be Israel.

I hadn’t known this

Corgan said he remembered growing up in “a liberal Democratically leaning Chicago that was about tolerance”, and not “shut it down because it’s unpleasant”, citing a 1978 Klan march in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Skokie, Illinois, near where he grew up.

“We may not like it,” he said, “but it’s better to have an America where these idiots get to walk down the street and spout their hate.”

The march Corgan was probably referring to, which was actually planned by neo-Nazis, not Klansmen, initiated a protracted legal battle that went all the way to the state supreme court, but wasn’t much of a march at all. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, about 20 neo-Nazis appeared for about 10 minutes before being shouted down by counter-protesters and going home.

So there was a real story at the root of the Illinois Nazi Party?

I wonder, I just wonder…..

From as far back as I can remember, Elsie would talk openly to us kids about the work she did at the convent. She and the other women, she told us, were made to assemble and package popular Hasbro board games.

“Tell us about Buckaroo!, Elsie?” we used playfully mock her, because she always gave the exact same response.

“Oh God, don’t talk to me about that aul Buckaroo,” she’d say.

“And that bloody Mouse Trap, the worst of the lot of them.”

One Christmas, when I was 12, someone gave me a present of a KerPlunk set.I felt confused. Even at that age, I still felt there was something inherently sinister about deriving any kind of enjoyment from a gift that my great aunt could have packaged at the convent in Waterford.

I knew from the stories Elsie told us at home, every Christmas , about how strict the nuns were.

I wonder whether the Good Shepherd Sisters packaged any other board games?

Dear God these Salon people are ignorant

In this blockbuster, Elizabeth Taylor plays Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt. It did not matter to the filmmakers that Cleopatra actually looked much more like Cicely Tyson. To cast an Egyptian pharaoh as anything but a White person would have been out of step with the racist fantasies the filmmakers desired to capitalize on. Whitewashing glorious non-Whites in history has been one of Hollywood’s favorite pastimes. As quite possibly the most acclaimed and popular movie on ancient Egypt, “Cleopatra” Whitewashed Black Egypt in the American mind probably more than any other film.

Egyptians would be pretty pissed off at being referred to as black if we’re honest about it, that’s something they use to describe the others further south. And Cleopatra wasn’t ethnically Egyptian anyway. Of Greek, Macedonian, descent.

True, not as pale white as Liz Taylor but most certainly not “black” in the meaning either of the time or today.

“The Passion of the Christ” did much more than tragically reinforce the myth that evil Jews killed Jesus—a myth that has inflamed anti-Semitic sentiment for centuries. If “Cleopatra” is the most notable cinematic Whitewashing of ancient Egyptians honored by the Oscars, then “The Passion of the Christ” is the most notable cinematic Whitewashing of Jesus honored by the Oscars. Jim Caviezel starred as Jesus Christ, satisfying the racist theological imagination that can only envision the son of God as a White man. To racist logic, just as the ancient Egyptian fashioners of human civilization must be White, God and his perfect god-son—the creators and saviors of humanity—must be White. Maybe the lightning that struck Caviezel during the filming of “The Passion of the Christ”—scourging him badly—was also meant to strike at this universal perception of Jesus as White.

Are Semites white? They’re certainly Caucasian….

This animated film produced by Walter Disney contained eight segments set to classical music. In “The Pastoral Symphony” segment, Disney presents an ancient Greco-Roman world of centaurs—heads of humans, bodies of horses—where Black female centaurs shine the hooves and groom the tails of the prettier White female centaurs. Critics immediately hailed “Fantasia” as a masterwork of animation, neglecting to mention it animated the racist ideas of Walt Disney for gullible American children.

Pretty weak really. American society really was pretty racist at that time. US Army was still fully segregated for example.

Black people had long been likened to apes in racist mythology. And so, it is hardly a stretch to say the film’s apes—who enslave the White astronauts after their long space journey—signify Black people in this movie.

Anyone noted that the Africa apes at least, chimps, bonobos, gorillas, are in fact black of face?

In the “Song of the South,” Walt Disney celebrated the docile, contented slave character of Uncle Remus, created and popularized by Joel Chandler Harris in the late 19th century. James Baskett starred as Uncle Remus and Disney cast Hattie McDaniel in her customary role as the happy Mammy.

Blimey, as best we know the Uncle Remus stories are the filtration through the slave experience of original West African stories. This is true oral history with a vengeance.

Ibram X. Kendi is an assistant professor of African American history at the University of Florida

Another place to add to our little list of universities not to get educated at.

Interesting point

Fears have been raised in Hong Kong over creeping cultural dominance from Beijing after a broadcaster aired a programme subtitled with characters that are commonly used on the mainland.
More than 10,000 viewers complained to TVB after the media outlet used simplified Chinese characters for a news bulletin, as opposed to traditional characters which are common in Hong Kong.

As I understand it Taiwan is the only place left that actually has bits and pieces of Imperial, or at least pre-revolution, cooking floating around. The smaller offshoots of a culture being those that retain the older customs the longer. As here, with traditional and simplified characters.

The Benny’s being the last outpost of 1950s England sorta thing…..certainly, the one time I ever spoke to one on the phone it was like listening to, well, not 1950s, but perhaps 1900, Dorset or Devon perhaps.

From the Annals of the Righteous Amongst the Nations

Israel has honored the late Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds for risking his life to save Jewish American soldiers during World War II. What can you say about such a man?

The Nazi soldiers made their orders very clear: Jewish American prisoners of war were to be separated from their fellow brothers in arms and sent to an uncertain fate.

But Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds would have none of that. As the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer held in the German POW camp, he ordered more than 1,000 Americans captives to step forward with him and brazenly pronounced: “We are all Jews here.”

He would not waver, even with a pistol to his head, and his captors eventually backed down.

Seventy years later, the Knoxville, Tennessee, native is being posthumously recognized with Israel’s highest honor for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II. He’s the first American serviceman to earn the honor.

You don’t have to be Jewish to be a mensch.

Pretty much pisses on that Noble Savage idea, eh?

A chilling prehistoric ‘war grave’ containing the smashed remains of hunter-gatherers is the first evidence of a human massacre and demonstrates the terrifying aggression of early man.
The fossilised bones of a group of 27 hunter-gatherers, who were murdered 10,000 years ago, was discovered at Nataruk near Lake Turkana in Kenya.
Four victims, including one heavily pregnant woman were bound by the hands and feet before they was slaughtered. The others showed signs of extreme violence and some had blades and arrows still buried in their skulls.


The origins of human aggression are controversial, with many archaeologists believing that hunter-gatherers were largely peaceful, and did not resort to warfare until after the agricultural revolution, when groups grew jealous of the land and possessions of their rivals.

Possession of a hunting ground, a foraging area, is a possession. Think how aggressive nomads are today at preserving ownership of grazing rights….

This idea that all was peace and love in some early beginning simply cannot be true. We only need to observe humans today to see what we must have been like. Partly we can observe those societies that are still, roughly, hunter gatherers, various Amazon and Papua New Guinea etc. The murder and violent death rates there are stratospheric. Secondly, we can just observe in and out group behaviour among modern humans. That the Lower Bash Street Boys try to beat up the Upper Bash Street Boys after the footie has nothing at all to do with the footie, booze, the collapse of civilisation or which model of Doc Martens people should be wearing. It’s the remnant of that early past, that young men are like that. And a society in which young men are like that ain’t all that fun for everyone else.

Our forebears were ghastly, vicious, thugs. That’s why they survived and bred.


Cecil Rhodes was a man responsible for untold, unending devastation and violence. An architect of South African apartheid

They might want to have a little look at that history curriculum in Oxford really.