Tomas Guy and the South Sea Company

If only there were the odd historian on the BLM side. Clearly, David Olusoga doesn’t count:

Thomas Guy

A founder of Guy’s hospital in south London, he made his fortune through owning a large number of shares in the South Sea Company, whose main purpose was to sell slaves to the Spanish colonies.

A statue to Guy stands by the hospital and is owned by the hospital’s charitable arm. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS trust ruled out any renaming but said it would discuss the sculpture’s future as part of Khan’s review, adding: “We recognise and understand the anger felt by the black community, and are fully committed to playing our part in ending racism, discrimination and inequality.”

That might best be done by telling them to stop being twats:

Investment in the South Sea Company
By the late 1670s, Guy had begun purchasing seamen’s pay-tickets at a large discount, as well as making large loans to landowners. In 1711, these tickets, part of the short-term ‘floating’ national debt, were converted into shares of the South Sea Company in a debt-for-equity swap. The South Sea Company was a government-debt holding company, and while there was a brief attempt to sell slaves in Spanish America, this was completely unprofitable in Guy’s lifetime.[3] Therefore, while he is sometimes erroneously portrayed as having profited from slavery,[4] this is incorrect. In 1720, the year when the South Sea Bubble burst, he sold 54,040 stock for £234,428, making a profit of about £175,000.[5] He then re-invested this money in £179,566 4% government annuities, £8,000 of 5% government annuities, and £1,500 East India Company shares.[6]

Thew South Sea Company did indeed pursue, own, the assiento. It also never even exploited it fully, let alone made any money out of it.

A most fun and interesting project

All we need is a moneybags to fund it.

So, some of the most vocal BLM commentators are of recent African extraction themselves. That’s fine. It’s just that the issue of slavery in Africa, by Africans, is worth addressing.

Off the top of my head I can thing of peeps of Sudanese, Nigerian and Ghanaian – partial – extraction who tell us that slavery is Britain’s irremediable sin. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a look back at the ancestry of those African parts of their families and work out how far back the slavery connection is? Not suffering it but inflicting it?

After all, Yoruba and Asante – and Muslim Sudanese – were hardly unknown as participants in the slave trade now, were they?

So which baker will make us some Colston Buns?

Seem to be similar to a Bath Bun but not as good – as with anything from Bristol of course. Seems to be the candied peel that is the difference.

So, given events around that statue perhaps we can find a baker to make some:

A Colston bun is a sweet bun made of a yeast dough flavoured with dried fruit such as currants, candied peel, streusel and sweet spices. It is made in the city of Bristol, England, and named after Edward Colston, a Bristol-born English merchant, philanthropist, slave trader, and Member of Parliament who created the original recipe. It comes in two size categories: “dinner plate” with eight wedge marks on the surface and “ha’penny staver”, an individual sized bun.[1][2]

The Colston Bun is traditionally distributed to children on Colston Day (13 November), which celebrates the granting of a Royal Charter to the Society of Merchant Venturers by Charles I in 1639. The custom originated from the Colston’s School, which was established for poor children in the early 18th century. Originally, the child would receive a large “dinner plate” bun with eight wedge marks so that individual portions could be broken off and shared with their family, plus a “staver” which could be eaten immediately to “stave off” hunger, and a gift of 2 shillings (now 10p) from the wives of the Merchant Venturers. The gifts of buns and money are still distributed to some school children in Bristol on Colston Day by the Colston Society.[3]

Colston Buns are not widely known outside Bristol, and are generally only available for sale on occasion in independent bakers around the city.[4] In the 21st century, the name has become controversial as Edward Colston was known to have been a slave trader.[5]

Colston was indeed a slave trader. As with other humans he contained multitudes. He was also a significant philanthropist and generations of Bristolians have gained from his endowments. The bun is, as above, purely about that philanthropy – and I particularly like the thought that went into the delivery of the dinner plate and the staver. Someone had properly observed young folk to think that up.

The point being, not that the mob is likely to hear it, that it is possible to celebrate the good without having to hagio* the entirety. Even, to celebrate that good while condemning that bad.

And if you were to desire to – not that anyone would, oh no – rather stir things up you would start a practice of, on that 13 November, handing them out at the location of where that statue used to be.

*If a hagiography is the written down version of it, then the verb is to hagio, isn’t it?

That African American experience of slavery really was unique you know

Passport details
Lady Florence Baker, née Flora Barbara Maria von Szász, or Sass. Born 6 August 1841 in Nagyenyed, then in the Kingdom of Hungary, now Aiud in present-day Romania.

Claim to fame
The details of Florence Baker’s early life are sketchy – for dramatic reasons. As an orphan she was sold into the Ottoman slave trade, and in 1859 found herself on the auction block in Vidin, in present-day Bulgaria. Blonde, blue-eyed and polylingual, she caught the eye of English traveller Samuel Baker, who bought her.

The uniqueness of that African American experience being that it involved more sea journeys. Chattel slavery not being something even odd in the historical record.

Hmm, well, yes….

Avery ordinary-looking metal canister will appear on BBC primetime series The Repair Shop next month. The size of a holdall, it looks like something found in a suburban garage. But it holds an incredible past. The simple container once held guns, ammunition and hand grenades dropped to the man who was perhaps Britain’s most important agent in occupied France: Major Francis Suttill, codenamed Prosper.

“He created this enormous network in just a few months – more than anyone expected him to,” says his son, also named Francis, who brought the canister to the show. “It was amazing in the circumstances. But then it fell apart due to bad luck and bad security by one of his lieutenants.”

There’s an optimal growth rate for a secret network. Fast enough to be able to do stuff, but not so fast that it accepts people who are security risks. The only perfectly secure one being the one person who never communicates and that’s of no use at all.

Ignorant tosser

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, has had enough of the bombast. “But if we’re using war analogies,” she says, “there have been times during this crisis which have had the feeling of the first world war, with the army generals camped hundreds of miles from the front line ordering troops over the top.”

Ypres is 139 miles from London so unless the generals were in Reading or points west then that didn’t happen, did it?

Mining the Moon

Russia compared the idea to colonialism. “There have already been examples in history when one country decided to start seizing territories in its own interests and everyone remembers how that turned out.”

Well, yes. All of what is now Russia east of about Nizny Novgorod, west of Tver actually. And that before we even start to talk about the now independent countries…..

But that’s not what they mean, obviously.

Probably so

‘Stay alert’ – the government’s new coronavirus slogan falls flat

It could just be that Boris and his Cabinet compadres are too young.

There used to be an ad campaign. For, umm, milk I think? Which had as the tagline “Be Alert – your country needs lerts”.

Or maybe that was graffiti following such a campaign or summat.

Certainly, I recall some such from around, umm, 1973 or 1974?

Straws and milk. And, I think, the Kilroy was here figure.

Update – Ah, yes, as the first comment shows, it’s my memory that’s confused.

Difficult quiz question of the day

So, when was the last time that the Monarch Regnant of the UK (or, to go further back, England) was the grandchild of a couple without a title?

George, in the fullness of time, will become King. One pair of his grandparents are the Middletons. Who may or may not end up with a title but they’ve not got one at the moment and can therefore be called commoners.

So, when was the last time this was true?

Will’s gps were Earl Spencer etc pm the non-Royal side.

Charlie’s Princes etc of Denmark and or Greece?

Brenda’s Earl of Strathmore

George VI Mary of Teck (ie, a princess of the German sort)

George V Danish royal family

Edward VII Dukes of Saxe Coburg

Vicki Saxe Coburgs again

William IV and G IV both Duke Mecklenburg

And so on and on back. When was the last time a pair of grandparents were commoners?

I’m going to run with Edward VI myself (Jane Seymour’s parents were a knight and his wife) unless anyone can show better?

Unkind but

Bauer’s controversial past was revealed in an article in Die Zeit, which uncovered historical research suggesting that Bauer was both a member of the Nazi party and a member of the SA, the Nazis’ pre-war paramilitary wing. Bauer also appeared to be a key part of Goebbels’ Reichsfilmintendanz, a body established by the propaganda ministry in 1942 to control the cinema industry.


The revelation, coming just days before the opening of the 70th festival, is of huge embarrassment to the Berlinale, which has always held Bauer in high regard, naming one of its most important prizes after him in 1986, after Bauer’s death. The prize celebrates filmmakers who open up new perspectives in the art of cinematography.

The thing is, whatever other vilenesses Goebbels and his team committed – a lot of them too – they did open up new perspectives in the art of cinematography. They were masters at the use of it in propaganda for example. Leni and the Olympics is a masterwork, whatever else it is too.

Not that I disagree with the decision here, nor even the discomfort.

So FDR screwed the blacks then

The nasty thing about this is that it’s entirely true:

After the Gilded Age, which led to the Great Depression and essentially collapsed the American economy, our government ushered in a series of New Deal policies that reined in unfettered capitalism and corporate consolidation. However, to a large extent progressives sacrificed the interests of blacks by way of a Faustian bargain that convinced southern legislators to pass New Deal legislation in exchange for not disrupting Jim Crow racial hierarchies. As a result, many of the federal policies adopted in the 1930s and 1940s, which generated the largest growth in our nation’s white-asset based middle class, were racist in both design and implementation.

In the case of labor, the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, also known as the Wagner Act, guaranteed workers the right to organize and collectively bargain, and provided workers with critical safeguards against corporate exploitation. But this legislation intentionally (by design) excluded agricultural and domestic workers. In the 1930s, nearly half of black men and 90 percent of black women worked in either the agricultural or domestic sector. The same exclusions applied to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which meant that many black sharecroppers and farmers were without protection from continued exploitation by white-male plantation owners in the Jim Crow south.

The New Deal was – at best, at very best – politically bought by screwing the blacks in order to gain the votes of the Democratic Party. At the time largely a Southern and Jim Crow supporting institution.

Fun subject, history, eh?


A comment at The Guardian:

“which reinforce the inherently colonial practice of “colourism” – the discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone.”

It’s not colonial, it’s classist. Dark skin means sun exposure. That is, someone who works for a living outside in the fields. Pale skin means someone rich enough to stay inside. Thus the bits in Jane Austem where the girls worry about their bonnets for they might get freckles.

This also changed, entirely, when work for poor people moved inside and only the rich could afford to get away for a tan. Suddenly, to have a tan – darker skin – became a mark of wealth, not poverty.

A change rather reflected in make up in fact, pre WWII (about, roughly) the aim was to powder or cream the face to be pale, pale, white. Post it much foundation make up is to add colour, not take it away.

This also explains the popularity of sunbeds and fake tans, something which a century ago would have been quite literally unthinkable.

Colourism exists, most certainly, but that flip shows that it’s about class, not colonialism.

For the part about it that the colonialism reason cannot explain is why that flip.

That it’s about class also explains why colourism happens in places that never were colonies – Thailand say.

A good education on the subject would explain this…..

Job offers

We want to hire an unusual set of people with different skills and backgrounds to work in Downing Street with the best officials, some as spads and perhaps some as officials.

Could be fun for some.

Not sure Cummings has got it entirely right though:

On the frequency and severity of interstate wars, 2019. ‘How can it be possible that the frequency and severity of interstate wars are so consistent with a stationary model, despite the enormous changes and obviously non-stationary dynamics in human population, in the number of recognized states, in commerce, communication, public health, and technology, and even in the modes of war itself? The fact that the absolute number and sizes of wars are plausibly stable in the face of these changes is a profound mystery for which we have no explanation.’ Does this claim stack up?

That’s not a mathematical question. The explanation coming from entirely outside the calculation.

The stationary part is human nature, the lust for power and the susceptibility of the population to demagoguery. All the other things are simply the changing background against which these universals play out.

March 1942

From the London Gazette:

Awarded the George Medal:—
Halstead Middleton Turnbull, M.R.C.S.,
L.R.C.P., Medical Officer, Works First Aid
Post, Birmingham.
Dr. Turnbull has been on duty during
every air raid on Birmingham.
He has shown cool courage and resolution,
without regard for his own safety and, by his
skill and resourcefulness, many lives have
been saved and much suffering alleviated.
When the building in which the First Aid
Post is situated was damaged by bombs, the
Doctor, despite the difficulties, searched for
and treated persons buried under debris.
On numerous occasions he has been called
to treat casualties trapped in wrecked
buildings. In order to administer morphia
to an injured woman, he lowered himself
head downwards into a narrow space regardless of the danger from a wall liable to
When an area was evacuated owing to the
presence of a time-bomb, Dr. Turnbull stayed
with a woman who was seriously ill until
such time as she could be moved with safety.

“Lowered himself” was actually Grandpa having the firemen loop a rope around his ankles and lower him down into the hole they’d dug looking for survivors.

He was a GP. But also a Major, and I’m not sure Major of what. He was too young for WW I. And certainly didn’t serve in WW II in the main Army. Perhaps Home Guard? He’d have been 37 or 38 in 1939. Would a doctor have been made straight up to Major? After all, doctors straight out of college are Captains, right?

Heinz Kiosk is alive and well

Informing Spacely-Trellis as well:

Centuries of Christian anti-Semitism led to the Holocaust, a landmark Church of England report has concluded. In a foreword to the report, published today, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that Christians cannot challenge and reflect on the past honestly, “until we have felt the cruelty of our history”.

The document, which has been three years in the making, was prepared by the Church’s Faith and Order Commission and entitled: God’s Unfailing World: Theological and practical perspectives on Christian-Jewish relations.

It urges Christians to not only be repentant for the “sins of the past” against Jews, but also to challenge active attitudes and stereotypes.

It also marks the first time that the Church of England has made an authoritative statement on the subject of anti-Semitism.

The new “tool for teaching” on Christian-Jewish relations acknowledges that Christian theology played a part in the “stereotyping and persecution fo Jewish people which ultimately led to the Holocaust”.

We are all guilty.

Nothing would make me think better of Heath

Except, perhaps, this:

In the docu about Mrs Thatcher’s rise to power Edward Heath was talking with a snob (Geoffrey Palmer)

Snob: I trust you will stop her, we can’t have a grocer’s daughter leading us; dear God, a grocer’s daughter

Heath: Of course you can trust me, I’m a carpenter’s son

Assuming he was making the point as I think he was. Rather than the possible one, which is that an artisan’s son is better than the daughter of someone in trade.

This is slightly fun

Fun by our high intellectual standards around here that is:

Scientists from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science found that within 300,000 years of the asteroid strike, small shrew-like mammals had increased in size three fold, and by 700,000 had grown to be about the size of a large dog.

The boom in mammals was driven by a surge in new plant life which allowed herbivores to grow much bigger, and experts believe the large sizes achieved were driven by the evolution of legumes which gave a protein boost.

Just been reading an old history of the middle ages. And the insistence is that a large part of the population and economic growth was similarly drive by beans, legumes.

The move from the two fields to three system that is. Instead of just fallow and crop there was now winter, spring crop and fallow. Often enough the spring being a legume, or bean. Which vastly increased the nutrition level of the general populace. Driving that population and economic growth.

Basically, the argument is a repeat of the stunting one used today about particularly direly poor places.

Same book has a shock for our farmer readers. Seed corn to harvest was thought to be perhaps one to 2.5. One bushel of seed gave 2.5 at harvest. The iron – therefore deeper working – ploughs of the early middle ages raised that to 4. A grand victory.

We’ve discussed this before and as I recall it the modern answer is “I don’t know how many grains I get from one seed because it’s so many we don’t think of it that way”.

But we do know what the average tonnage crop per acre is. What’s the average weight of seed corn needed to get it?


As I and others have argued before, one reason that British people feel complacent about Britain’s role in pioneering slavery, and the racism that underpinned it, is that it happened slightly farther away. The Caribbean is Britain’s own Deep South, where enslavement and segregation as brutal as anything that existed on American soil took place at the hands of British people.

The islands were worse than the US. We can even prove this. The survival rate for slaves was higher in the US. As was the birth rate, as also the child survival rate.

Yes, I do know this “natural increase” was an argument used by Jefferson Davis among others. Still true though. The sugar islands were vastly worse for slaves than mainland USA.

It’s true that the country’s treatment of people descended from this history could not be more shameful. From the institutionalised racism they experienced fighting for Britain in both world wars, to the attempts to deport members of the Windrush generation just last year, they have endured the worst of what Britain has had to offer.

But this campaign is not requesting a favour for a marginal section of society. The history of how we came to be this nation is a history for us all. If we can’t dignify it with a simple memorial, one whose location, design, importance and even planning permission have already been established, then we really have lost the plot.

• Afua Hirsch is a Guardian columnist

Afua is also, apparently, descended from an Akan mother.

Akan states waged wars on neighboring states in their geographic area to capture people and sell them as slaves to Europeans

A little less of the whitey is responsible for everything perhaps?