The British colour bar

Ms. Gopal again and her knowledge of history:

In the postwar period, the colour bar in hotels and other public spaces was challenged by people like the famous cricketer Learie Constantine, who won a landmark judgment.

Britain never did have a colour bar. This wasn’t Jim Crow, you know, that was some other group of wipipo. As was apartheid some other group. Sure, we all look the same but really, you should be able to distinguish.

Constantine booked into a hotel, having been assured that his colour was not a problem. Then the actual management of the hotel on the spot insisted it was. After remonstration etc he moved to another hotel owned by the same company.

So, clearly not a bar in law nor by the hotel chain. Racism, yes, clearly. The case was breach of contract, having taken his booking and not supplying the room. He won.

This is many things including a righteous biff on the nose to racism. It’s also not proof of a colour bar having existed.

Ms. Gopal

Yes, this is the bird who insisted that not being addressed by her title by a college porter (not her own college you understand, just some other) was evidence of institutional racism:

whether through bigotry or predatory capitalism.

sharp critiques of both capitalism and empire, or racial capitalism.

Since colonialism was inseparable from capitalism

If only historians actually did know history.

Pre-capitalist societies had slavery, colonialism and racism. Capitalist did too. Therefore none of the three are unique to capitalism, are they? Yea, whatever Lenin said in On Imperialism.

Gotta get the Marxism in there, eh?

Jackson discovers that ivory was also taken from Africa, with elephant tusks loaded alongside the human cargo to boost profits even further: a reminder that, at its heart, slavery – although underpinned by white supremacist beliefs – was driven by extreme, unchecked capitalism, rather than racism alone.

Slavery rather predated capitalism. It was a feature of feudal societies and also of the classical ones before that. Slavery also was not a feature of capitalist societies after any level of development of the capitalism. Because it was that very machine use – so promoted, invented and caused by capitalism – that brought slavery to an end in an economic sense.

But we’ve got that Marxist underpinning to the explanation of everything these days, don’t we? Capitalism is bad, slavery was bad, therefore slavery and capitalism must be the same thing.

Jackson and Hirsch travel to Elmina Castle in Ghana, the first trading post on the west African coastline,

Nope, Arguim was earlier. Elmina the first on the Gulf of Guinea, sure, but that’s not all of West Africa, is it? Pendantry to be sure but they’re making a damn history programme…..

Last word to Hirsch, though. She is told of the science that went into the positioning of the triangular sails of tall ships – a 15th-century innovation that harnessed the wind’s power, enabled the ships to sail the oceans at speed, and helped turn the looting of Africa into a business. Hirsch observes: “You think of pioneering technology as a positive thing, but it’s just heartbreaking that Europeans saw this as an opportunity to really embark on their most evil project.”

Slavery is more evil than the Holodomor? The Holocaust? An interesting claim…..

Honey buns…..

So those of us with time, resources and motivation are left to bridge the void through self-education, which often involves grappling with significant facts and figures.

The numbers of Africans estimated to have been trafficked by Europeans to their American and Caribbean colonies: 12 million-plus. Deaths on the Middle Passage alone, across the Atlantic: 1.5 million at a highly conservative estimate. The cumulative individual tragedies on slave trails to the coast, in the barracoons, and on the beaches: no one can even count.

So the four centuries of African enslavement by Europeans remains an abstract story.

The longer, larger and with greater transport losses enslavement of sub-Saharan Africans by Arabs might also get a look in. But as that doesn’t fit the political narrative it don’t, do it?

Further, Honey Buns, a little examination of your own Akan forbears in the trade might be worthwhile. There are recorded instances of said Akan buying slaves off the Portuguese in the 1440s……it’s the partiality that grates, no?

How this will confuse the Wokerati

English Heritage has commissioned portraits of forgotten black figures to hang in its properties, beginning with an African girl who was sold into slavery and became Queen Victoria’s goddaughter.
The portrait of Sarah Forbes Bonetta will go on display at Osborne, the Queen’s holiday home on the Isle of Wight.
Bonetta was born as Aina, daughter of a West African ruler, who was orphaned and captured by King Gezo of Dahomey (modern-day Benin)during the Okeadon War in 1848.
The following year, Gezo was visited by a Royal Navy officer, Captain Frederick Forbes. During negotiations, Gezo offered the then-five-year-old Aina as a diplomatic gift to Queen Victoria.
The little girl was re-named Sarah Forbes Bonetta – Bonetta was the name of Forbes’ ship – and taken back to England, where she became the Queen’s godchild. When she married and had children of her own, she named her first child Victoria.

There is no sold into anything there. Although there’s very definitely slavery. Except no wipipo are involved in her slavery anywhere. Purely and entirely a function of ructions among the indigenes of West Africa. All happening in West Africa too.

The confusion will stem, of course, from how can this be possible. For slavery is a wipipo sin, right?

You knew this would be left out, didn’t you?

The International Brigades by Giles Tremlett review – fighting fascism in Spain


The Spanish civil war has long been valorised by the European left, documented, debated and commemorated in incredible detail – in many thousands of books, but also in film, in song, in musical theatre, in poster exhibitions, badges and T-shirts. And while there are many tales of selfless sacrifice, solidarity and idealism, there is also much in the story that is inglorious – the boredom, unpreparedness and terrible equipment, the panic, internal arguments and betrayals, lice, accidental deaths and injuries and Franco’s eventual triumph.

So, we going to get to the Stalinist murders of the rest* of the left?

Ah, no, thought not.

*An exaggeration but not by much.

Not so much really

Blonde and burly, the Vikings are commonly viewed as a Scandinavian warrior-race who traversed treacherous seas to raid and colonise distant lands.
However, the biggest ever study of skeletons from archaeological sites in Europe and Greenland has shown that the Vikings were less of a race and more of an idea, with some even hailing from Scotland.
DNA analysis from bones from burial sites in Orkney has found that the remains were of Scottish locals who had adopted Viking identities.
Skeletons with British heritage were also found in Norway, while other Vikings had ancestors from Asian and Southern Europe. Many were found to have dark, not blonde hair.
Prof Eske Willerslev, of St John’s College, University of Cambridge, and the University of Copenhagen, said: “This study changes the perception of who a Viking actually was – no one could have predicted these significant gene flows into Scandinavia from Southern Europe and Asia happened before and during the Viking Age.”
“We have this image of well-connected Vikings mixing with each other, trading and going on raiding parties to fight kings across Europe because this is what we see on television and read in books – but genetically we have shown for the first time that it wasn’t that kind of world.
“The results change the perception of who a Viking actually was. The history books will need to be updated.”

The imagery rather includes the blokes in helmets trotting back to their ships with the local birds over their shoulders. Along with that nirvana, the mother in law free marriage, this does rather imply a certain genetic mixing in the next generation. And folks were going a viking for several generations…..

So here’s a fun task for someone bored

In The Road To Wigan Pier Orwell gives us the weekly diet of a poor family on benefits.

50% of the weekly cash is spent upon food. And he details out what that is spent upon.

So, anyone actually got that list? Can’t seem to find it, Google Fu is failing. And then, then – anyone want to price it up at today’s prices? Go with the Aldi/Lidl/Sainsbury’s Basics range sorta prices.

Or, perhaps, if someone can find that list I’ll have a go.

Would be interesting to price that diet as against modern wages…..

Well, not hugely so really

The film opens on his early life in England. Osbourne’s family was poor, and he was the middle child of six siblings and was plagued by massive insecurities while growing up.

He was a subpar student — later diagnosed with dyslexia — who was ashamed of the conditions in which he grew up. The Osbourne family didn’t have an indoor restroom and often didn’t have money for soap.

Poor by the standards of today, certainly. By those of 1950s England? Not so much:

His mother, Lilian (née Unitt; 1916–2001), was a non-observant Catholic who worked days at a factory.[7] His father, John Thomas “Jack” Osbourne (1915–1977), worked night shifts as a toolmaker at the General Electric Company.

Skilled working class, not the lap of luxury to be sure but poor? By the standards of then?

The end of an era

Augustus James Voisey Fletcher was born in Gurney Slade, Somerset, in 1928, the son of James Fletcher, a farm labourer, and his wife, Naomi (née Dudden), who before her marriage had been in domestic service.

A century before the wife of a farm labourer – indeed of many – would likely have been in service. By the 1920s it was much rarer as being in service was. Naomi’s experience – and of one of my grandmothers – was of the last generation before it near entirely died out. By the 1950s very few would have been in that service.

Something worth remembering about that past. In England at least service was, for most who did it, more like an apprenticeship than it was a life.

Something I would like to know about David Olusoga

Those who grew rich on slavery and the slave trade were not neutral and no achievement or act of philanthropy justifies airbrushing their involvement from history. This is because forgetting slavery means forgetting its victims. As a nation, we still have only a dim understanding of the slave system that funded Sloane’s collecting. Ironically, one of the sources we can turn to in order to learn more is his own accounts of late 17th-century Jamaica.

The system he witnessed and wrote about was one in which human beings were worked to death. One in which enslaved people suffered and even died from malnutrition, as the economics of the slave trade meant that it was cheaper, at times, to starve people and then replace them than it was to provide them with food.

Sloane witnessed and later became part of a system ruled by terror. He saw how enslaved people who had risen up were burnt to death, castrated or mutilated, punishments he regarded as “merited”. In the system that made Sloane wealthy, black women sought out herbs, plant species that he carefully identified and categorised, and used them to induce abortions, determined as many were not to bring into the world children who would be born items of property and destined to live short, brutalised lives.

Olusoga is of – half – Nigerian descent. Various among the societies that were agglomerated into Nigeria were more or less involved in that slave trade from the supply end. Which of those societies does Olusoga’s ancestry come from?

Reasonable estimates have some 50% of the inhabitants of the Sokoto Caliphate – as late as the late 19th cent – being slaves….

This is indeed tu quoque. But it is Olusoga who keeps insisting that it’s the Brits who are uniquely responsible…..

Which bit are you celebrating?

Union leaders have praised the “brave actions” of a railway worker who overturned a racist recruitment policy in the 1960s.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) marked the 54th anniversary of the breaking of the colour bar at London’s Euston station by pledging to continue its campaign against racism.

On 15 August 1966, the colour bar at Euston station was defeated when Asquith Xavier was allowed to start work after initially being refused a job.

The RMT’s assistant general secretary, Mick Lynch, said: “Today we remember the brave actions of Asquith Xavier and those NUR officials who supported him in a campaign which eventually defeated the colour bar at Euston station. We owe so much to those who challenged racism on the railway in an era when it was all pervasive.

Cool, except:

Xavier joined British Railways. In 1966 he was working as a guard at Marylebone station in central London. He applied for a promotion and transfer to work at Euston station, but was rejected. A letter from a staff committee at Euston—which was dominated by members of the National Union of Railwaymen—explained that it was because of his colour. Unions and management had informally agreed in the 1950s to ban non-white people from jobs at Euston involving contact with the public; they could be cleaners and labourers, but not guards or ticket collectors.

Moors and Saracens

Well, yes, OK.

It is not only the twin towers and rose window that have their origins in the Middle East, she pointed out, but also the ribbed vaults, pointed arches and even the recipe for stained glass windows. Gothic architecture as we know it owes much more to Arab and Islamic heritage than it does to the rampaging Goths. “I was astonished at the reaction,” says Darke. “I thought more people knew, but there seems to be this great gulf of ignorance about the history of cultural appropriation. Against a backdrop of rising Islamophobia, I thought it was about time someone straightened out the narrative.”

See a good idea, copy it, why not? It’s only those worried about cultural appropriation – which we don’t – that would, erm, worry.

They might want to have left out this example though:

“Notre-Dame’s architectural design, like all gothic cathedrals in Europe, comes directly from Syria’s Qalb Lozeh fifth-century church,” Darke tweeted on the morning of 16 April, as the dust was still settling in Paris. “Crusaders brought the ‘twin tower flanking the rose window’ concept back to Europe in the 12th century.”

You know, as the 5th century predates the entire idea of Moors and Islam and Saracens?

Ammonium nitrate

Nasty stuff if it does explode. Which is what just happened to Beirut, couple of thousand tonnes of the stuff. Happened at Texas City and also, I think, in Halifax in WWII? Or thereabouts. One of the stories of which is that anyone happening to be looking out the window as the shockwave arrived is blind…..for obvious reasons.

The ancestor will be revolving

Rage against the dimming light: Irish rebel over lighthouse LED makeover

One of the lights to be changed is St John’s Point. Which is – I assume at least – where g g grandpops was. He was a lighthouseman and moved up from Queenstown to Dundrum and there aren’t many other lights around there.

He’ll thus be revolving. Or, of course, heartily approving. If they work better then why not?

What they say he said

Tom Cotton calls slavery ‘necessary evil’ in attack on New York Times’ 1619 Project

Err, no, not quite. What he actually said:

He added: “We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”

Now my knowledge of the details of US history is light but even I can see that that’s a very different statement.

As to what was actually the necessary evil I have an inkling that the Founding Fathers didn’t say that slavery was, but some sort of deal that dealt with the existence of slavery was – the union could only get going if there was some recognition of its existence, some set of rules that allowed a slave based society to be a part of it etc.

Perhaps someone who knows more on this would care to elaborate for the rest of us?

Isn’t this just such a horror

Mary Trump has given numerous interviews this week after being released from a temporary restraining order.

In an interview with the Washington Post, released Thursday, she described the president as “clearly racist”, and linked it to her wider family’s “knee-jerk anti-Semitism, a knee-jerk racism”.

“Growing up, it was sort of normal to hear them use the n-word or use anti-Semitic expressions,” she told the Post.

Many of us will be about the same age. Mid to late 50s.

40 years back such language might have been considered a tad uncultured but it wasn’t unusual. You know, the past, a foreign country….