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Ed Webb

Dear Prince Charles, do you think my brown skin makes me unBritish? | Anita Sethi | Opi... - 0 views

  • some people, including the prince, urgently need a history lesson about immigration, the British empire, the Commonwealth and colonialism. Because I do look like I’m from Manchester, actually – a city in which many people of colour have been born and bred. Growing up in Manchester, and going to school in Rusholme, a multicultural area in that city, I remember being taught nothing in history lessons about the Commonwealth (I have four different Commonwealth countries in my heritage). If such vital knowledge was more ingrained there would not be so much racism and ignorance.
  • I can’t tell Prince Charles exactly where I am from originally – that old chestnut. Why? Because the British destroyed much of the evidence that my ancestors were shipped over from India in the 19th century to toil for the empire as indentured labourers on sugar colonies in the Caribbean.
  • I am here because you were there.
Ed Webb

Who was behind the Balfour Declaration? - 0 views

  • Samuel presented a memorandum titled The Future of Palestine, to the British Cabinet, proposing a Jewish commonwealth, but then Prime Minister HH Asquith did not find his proposal enticing.

    “He thinks we might plant in this not very promising territory about three or four million European Jews” as a solution to anti-Semitism, Asquith wrote.

    In a revised memorandum, Samuel said the British government should enable Jewish immigration “so that in the course of time the Jewish inhabitants, grown into a majority and settled in the land, may be conceded such degree of self government”, which he said “would win for England the gratitude of the Jews throughout the world”.

  • treaty
  • Sykes served as a key channel between Chaim Weizmann and his fellow Zionist activists, and the British government
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  • , Mark Sykes’ involvement in the Balfour Declaration is often overlooked.
  • "Should Palestine fall within the British sphere of influence, and should Britain encourage a Jewish settlement there, as a British dependency, we could have in 20 to 30 years a million Jews out there - perhaps more; they would develop the country, bring back civilization to it and form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal."
  • In his autobiography, Lloyd George reportedly wrote that the Balfour Declaration was offered to Weizmann, who became a British citizen, as a reward for his contribution to the war effort
  • In his memoirs, Lloyd George listed a multitude of reasons as to why he supported Zionism, including a desire to attract Jewish financial resources, Christian Zionist beliefs, the Jewish lobby in Britain, and sympathy with Jews facing anti-semitism.
  • convinced that a Jewish settlement in Palestine would ensure British imperial interests and minimise French influence there
  • the Cambon Letter.

    The letter, addressed from Jules Cambon, the secretary-general of the French foreign ministry, to Sokolow, expressed the French government’s sympathy towards “Jewish colonization in Palestine”.

  • Prior to serving as prime minister, Lloyd George worked closely with Theodore Herzl, the “father of political Zionism,” on the Uganda scheme - a plan to resettle the Jews in Uganda under British auspices.
  • His niece, Blanche Dugdale, who worked in the London office of the Jewish Agency with Chaim Weizmann, indicated that Balfour was a Christian Zionist in her autobiography: “Balfour’s interest in the Jews and their history was lifelong, originating in the Old Testament training of his mother, and his Scottish upbringing.”
  • others argue that Balfour was an anti-Semite and that his interests in the Zionist project were merely for British strategic gains
  • said to be the first Jewish Cabinet minister in England in 1909
    A couple of errors here (see my sticky notes), but potentially productive context.
Ed Webb

Government admits 'losing' thousands of papers from National Archives | UK news | The G... - 0 views

  • Thousands of government papers detailing some of the most controversial episodes in 20th-century British history have vanished after civil servants removed them from the country’s National Archives and then reported them as lost.

    Documents concerning the Falklands war, Northern Ireland’s Troubles and the infamous Zinoviev letter – in which MI6 officers plotted to bring about the downfall of the first Labour government - are all said to have been misplaced.

  • British colonial administration in Palestine
  • Other files the National Archives has listed as “misplaced while on loan to government department” include one concerning the activities of the Communist party of Great Britain at the height of the cold war; another detailing the way in which the British government took possession of Russian government funds held in British banks after the 1917 revolution; an assessment for government ministers on the security situation in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s; and three files about defence agreements between the UK and newly independent Malaya in the late 1950s, shortly before the two countries went to war with Indonesia.
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  • Some historians have been particularly distrustful of the Foreign Office since 2013, when the Guardian disclosed that the department had been unlawfully hoarding 1.2m historical files at a high-security compound near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

    The hoard came to light during high court proceedings brought by a group of elderly Kenyans who were detained and abused during the Mau Mau insurgency in 1950s Kenya, when the Foreign Office admitted it had withheld thousands of colonial-era files.

Ed Webb

Britain's imperial dream-catchers and the truths of empire | Aeon Essays - 0 views

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Ed Webb

'Lone wolf' or 'terrorist'? How bias can shape news coverage | Poynter - 0 views

  • take a moment to remember U.S. history (or even a few seconds to do an internet search) and it’s easy to find many examples of far deadlier shootings. It’s a sad reality that most victims of the worst massacres that don’t rate a mention were people of color: Native Americans and African-Americans
  • there have been much worse atrocities and mass shootings committed against Native peoples going back to the beginnings of our country’s history
  • after mass attacks perpetrated by brown Muslim assailants, such as the Orlando Pulse massacre or the San Bernardino, California, killings, the media, authorities and politicians were quick to label them “terrorism” even before we had full information
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  • Just 100 years ago this June, armed whites rampaged through East St. Louis, slaughtering more than 100 African-Americans. In Tulsa in 1921, white mobs attacked a wealthy black neighborhood, killing as many as 300 people and leaving 8,000 homeless in what was wrongly labeled a “race riot” and left out of history texts until recently.
  • The unwelcome title of largest massacre might belong to Bear River, Utah, where at least 250 Native Americans were slaughtered in 1863; Native American historical accounts put the number at more than 450. In 1890, Native American men, women and children were massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, with estimates of the death toll ranging from 150 to 300.
  • Just because someone’s angry or even mentally ill doesn’t mean their actions aren’t those of a domestic terrorist (see U.S. Code definition above). As Joshua Keating points out in Slate, being distraught and a terrorist are “not mutually exclusive.” A 2013 study of violence by far-right extremists in America in Criminology and Public Policy found 40 percent of “lone wolf” domestic terrorists had a history of mental illness
  • Fox News dubiously described the shooter’s father’s life as “colorful,” as if it were entertaining that the man’s father robbed a string of banks, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and busted out of a federal penitentiary. Can you imagine a black, Muslim or Latino’s long criminal record being described in the same way?
  • Underlying this bias is the implication that Muslims or brown immigrants are more dangerous to Americans’ safety than white attackers. That is provably false, based on government statistics – yet it was the central narrative of President Trump’s campaign
  • according to an analysis by the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh of fatal terrorism on U.S. soil from 1975 through 2015 – including the staggeringly high toll of the 9/11 attacks – the chances of an American being killed in a terror attack on U.S. soil by a foreigner was a miniscule 1 in 3.6 million per year. The chances of being killed by an illegal immigrant in the same 41-year period was an infinitesimal 1 in 10.9 billion per year.
Ed Webb

The Forgotten Cameroon War - 0 views

  • In 2005, parliament adopted a law requiring history teachers to discuss the “positive aspects” of colonization. Of course, this has always been done: many French colonial atrocities have been erased, and the driving forces of imperialism are rarely, if ever, critically examined. School curricula propagate a sugarcoated version of France’s bloody past.
  • French society as a whole perpetually extols its colonial history. All over the country, innumerable streets and headstones pay homage to the worst colonialists, the scholars who justified a white supremacist racial hierarchy, and the imperial army’s violent feats.
  • A significant majority of French people remain proud of their colonial past, unaware of the barbarous manner in which France conquered Algeria, Indochina, and Madagascar in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ignorant of how it violently suppressed colonial resistance in Morocco, Benin, and Martinique, and having only a basic knowledge of the massacres that punctuated the last phase of the colonial era — from the carnage of the Thiaroye military camp in Senegal on December 1, 1944, to the mass killings in the streets of Paris on October 17, 1961.
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  • Among the omissions of French colonial historiography, the Cameroon war of the 1950s and 1960s is perhaps the most striking. Hardly anyone even realizes it took place. This secret war, which nonetheless claimed tens of thousands of victims, went almost unnoticed at the time, and its victors, the French and their local intermediaries, methodically erased every remaining trace in the following decades: the Gaullist regime installed a ferocious dictator in Yaoundé who hastened to wipe out all memory of the anticolonial struggle.
  • Tens of thousands of letters and petitions were sent to the United Nations to convey the UPC’s watchwords: social justice, an end to racial discrimination, total independence, and reunification — slogans that echoed the promise of the UN charter itself
  • European authorities quickly realized that the trusteeship system weakened the imperial edifice. If the Cameroonians managed to assert the rights the United Nations legally upheld, the wind of decolonization, already blowing in Asia, would arrive in Africa, causing surrounding colonies to crumble by contagion and destroying what remained of empire. For the French, who controlled the major part of the country, it became urgent to halt the growing liberation movement.
  • The Union of the Populations of Cameroon (UPC), founded in April 1948, centered the independence movement, which was gaining in popularity daily. Particularly well-structured and led by some remarkable militants, the UPC rapidly extended its influence and began to undermine the administering authorities, not only in the urban centers of Yaoundé, Douala, Dschang, and Édéa, but also in the countryside. Ever-larger crowds gathered to listen to speeches from UPC secretary general Ruben Um Nyobè, President Félix Moumié, and Vice Presidents Abel Kingue and Ernest Ouandié.
  • In 1972, the French government censored French Cameroonian writer Mongo Beti’s Main basse sur le Cameroun, the first work describing the atrocities of the independence war. The French government immediately banned it and destroyed all available copies.
  • In Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and elsewhere, African politicians cynically accepted French authorities’ assistance in establishing themselves in positions of responsibility that were, in reality, closely supervised. In Cameroon, however, the operation proved more difficult to carry out: UPC leaders refused to betray the political aims and popular aspirations they had upheld for years. As they continued the work of political mobilization within and beyond Cameroon’s borders, Paris decided to employ strong-arm tactics.
  • In Kenya in 1952, the British had bloodily repressed the Land and Freedom Army — which they pejoratively called “Mau Mau”— and seemed determined to maintain their grip on that country. Elsewhere, however, their strategy appeared to diverge. In the Gold Coast (now Ghana), London seemed prepared to negotiate independence with the nationalist movement lead by Kwame Nkrumah. Such weakness scandalized some French observers of colonial affairs. The British were going to give away their empire and abandon the unfinished work of colonialism! And all for the benefit of a handful of radicalized Africans who would inevitably deliver the continent to the communists.
  • The more aware French administrators, however, held a different view. Aware that traditional colonialism was done for, they saw Britain’s apparent laxness in the Gold Coast and elsewhere as a subtle way of controlling their colonies’ inevitable independence. According to this analysis, London was trying to reproduce in Africa what Washington and Moscow had realized in Latin America and Eastern Europe: converting these countries into vassal states by leaning on local elites as their collaborators and intermediaries.
  • A new piece of legislation, prepared as soon as 1954 and adopted two years later under the name of the “Defferre loi cadre,” or framework law, entrusted certain responsibilities to handpicked African elites who would keep the colonies within the French fold. By giving local autonomy and limited power to local leaders, this particularly perverse outsourcing of the state’s domestic administration undermined its full sovereignty.
  • In late trusteeship-era French Cameroon, Messmer’s mission was to keep the UPC underground and groom a local ruling class that could continue to favor French interests after independence. As he explicitly wrote in his memoirs, the idea was to give “independence to those who called for it the least, having eliminated politically and militarily those who had called for it most intransigently.”
  • From the moment independence was proclaimed, France intensified its war effort. The Sanaga-Maritime had been, in large part, purged between 1957 and 1959, and the conflict escalated in Wouri, Mungo, and the Bamileke region, where the Kamerunian National Liberation Army (ALNK) had been established in 1959.

    The French army repeated its villagization policy, set up militias, and disappeared prisoners. It added a vast campaign of aerial bombardment to its repertoire. The population endured intense psychological campaigns — torture was systematized, public executions proliferated, and the severed heads of alleged rebels were displayed at markets and public squares.

  • the two top French administrators in Cameroon had a shared interest in counterinsurgency. In part inspired by the psychological warfare developed in the United States and by British techniques used in various colonial arenas, a line of French officers during the 1946–1954 Indochina war elaborated the French counterrevolutionary war doctrine
  • aimed to install civilian-military structures capable of leading the masses physically and psychologically
  • The counterrevolutionary doctrine was exported simultaneously to two territories under French rule — Algeria, shaken by the National Liberation Front (FLN) movement, and Cameroon, where French officialdom described the UPC as a sort of African Vietminh. Smarting from Indochina, these officers arrived in Cameroon in 1955 with the firm intention of scouring out “communist subversion.”
  • December 1956 marked a major turning point. Pierre Messmer organized elections in which the outlawed UPC could not participate. This way, the high commissioner could validate the elimination of the main Cameroonian party and appoint “democratically elected” candidates better disposed to France. To prevent this, the nationalists organized resistance fighters through the National Organization Committee (CNO)
  • The French reaction became so violent that tens of thousands of families left their villages to take refuge in the surrounding forests and put themselves under the protection of the CNO maquis. Other armed organizations joined the fight, attempting, with varying degrees of success, to coordinate with the UPC.
  • Like the British in Malaya and Kenya and like the Americans later in Vietnam, the French began a process of so-called villagization. Security forces under French command mercilessly hunted down all those who refused to join military regroupment camps. The French army and its affiliated militias burned illegal villages and summarily executed outlaws extrajudicially. Those who joined the regroupment camps, willingly or not, had to experience the army’s total surveillance apparatus, endure endless screening sessions, and take part in countless psychological rehabilitation schemes.
  • We will probably never know the exact number of people massacred during these “cleansing operations.” We do know that the UPC’s charismatic Um Nyobè — a priority target — was one of the victims. A comrade was tortured until she revealed Um Nyobè’s location, and a military patrol quickly assassinated the nationalist leader.
  • The “troubles,” as the French authorities called them, affected all of southern French Cameroon, in particular the area from the port city of Douala to the coffee-growing Mungo and Bamileke regions. Because these regions bordered British southern Cameroon — where numerous UPC leaders had taken refuge — the French rebuked their British counterparts, accusing them of allowing their territory to be used by the nationalist combatants as a strategic withdrawal zone.
  • Under the French secret services’ watchful eye, UPC president Félix Moumié and a dozen others began a long revolutionary journey, settling successively in Sudan, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, and later, in Algeria, Congo-Brazzaville and Angola — in any African country that would grant them asylum.
  • From the Cameroonian perspective, the scheme had two obvious defects. For one, it called for independence prior to an election. For another, the Cameroonian leaders whom French authorities co-opted as allies had to sign a series of bilateral accords with Paris, some of them secret, that would legalize French control over the new state’s commercial, monetary, military, cultural, and diplomatic policies.

    This was, then, an illusory independence — the Cameroonian people were deprived of sovereignty, and their leaders remained under France’s supervision.

  • This controlled independence had numerous advantages for the French. Apart from defusing the real Cameroonian independence movement’s message, it allowed the French authorities to put an end to the international trusteeship system and shed UN oversight. Also, independence would accelerate British Cameroon’s emancipation, and Paris assumed the two parts of the country would quickly reunite. The latter aim was only half achieved — the northern half of British Cameroon joined Nigeria. Surely the most important outcome of Cameroon’s independence was that it freed France to repress movements deemed subversive as it wished.
  • The Soviets, suspected of trying to spread “world revolution,” were often accused of directing African independence movements from afar
  • It was only when Ouandié was arrested in 1970 and publicly executed in January 1971 that the nationalists accepted that armed struggle had definitively failed.
  • Supervised by French advisers, Cameroonian president Ahmadou Ahidjo — installed in 1958 — transformed his regime into a dictatorship. Well aware that he owed his power to France, he suppressed all civil liberties and progressively established a one-party system. Under the pretext of fighting “subversion,” he surrounded the Cameroonian people with a wall of silence. With its omnipresent army, brutal political police, and administrative detention camps, the regime became one of the most repressive in Africa to the benefit of the local apparatchiks and French businesses, who shared in the profits from the country’s economic exploitation.

  • “Françafrique” was born — the French version of neocolonialism, which allowed Paris to maintain its former African colonies not in spite of independence but, in fact, thanks to it.
  • According to the British embassy’s confidential report from the mid 1960s, the war caused from 60,000 to 76,000 civilian deaths between 1956 and 1964. At a 1962 conference, a journalist from Le Monde claimed 120,000 had been killed since 1959 in the Bamileke region alone. “Yet we are almost entirely ignorant of this even in France, the former metropole,” he added. For good reason: neither he nor any of his colleagues informed their readers about it.
  • To admit that repression continued — let alone that it intensified — would have highlighted the artificiality of independence and the illegitimacy of the pro-France regime. As a result, very few journalists were allowed in combat zones. Taken up in French planes to observe the conflict from above, they described it as an incomprehensible “tribal war,” thereby justifying French aid — “at the request of the Cameroonian government” — to end this “anachronistic” conflict. If the journalist from Le Figaro — one of the few French people to fly over the Bamileke region in 1960 — is to be believed, French intervention in Cameroon was a kind of humanitarian charity.
  • France’s military strategy included the deliberate portrayal of the conflict as a tribal or civil war. Heavily committed in Algeria — which was also monopolizing public attention — the French army sent very few of its own troops to Cameroon. As much as possible, they trained and supervised troops either from surrounding French colonies (Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Gabon) or from local paramilitary groups and self-defense militias within Cameroon
  • by stirring up ethnic rivalries, French instigators could hide behind their African subordinates when carnage ensured, attributing it to “innate African savagery.”
  • The French victory and Ahidjo’s installation as the postcolonial state’s first president not only muzzled all criticism of the regime, but also effaced the memory of the nationalists who fought to achieve real independence.
  • Not until the 1980s could Cameroonians begin to research their country’s violent decolonization, and even then they had to do it abroad.
  • in 2009, François Fillon responded to questions about France’s role in the UPC leaders’ assassinations by describing the accusation as “pure invention.” In fact, this aspect of the war is the best documented. Granted, in a July 2015 visit to Cameroon, François Hollande mentioned these “tragic episodes” for the first time. But his vague sentence barely paid lip service to these “episodes”; indeed, he appeared to not know what he was talking about. There has been no follow-up to these muddled ramblings.
Ed Webb

Brexit reinforces Britain's imperial amnesia - 0 views

  • leading Brexiters and advocates of “Global Britain” misunderstand the past — with dangerous consequences for the future. They speak warmly of returning to Britain’s historical vocation as a “great trading nation”, when it was actually a great imperial nation. That important distinction leads to overconfidence about the ease of re-creating a global trading destiny, in a world in which Britannia no longer rules the waves.
  • For a Martian historian, the most interesting thing about modern British history would surely be that the country built a massive global empire. But for the Brits themselves, shaping a national story that centres around the war against the Nazis — rather than the empire — makes psychological sense. It has allowed Britain to nurture a national self-image as champions of freedom and plucky underdogs (captured in the eternal popularity of the television programme Dad’s Army) rather than imperialist oppressors.
  • Victory in Europe was a moment of national triumph that cushioned the psychological blow of the loss of empire. All British opinion formers have 1945 stamped on their memory — the year that marked victory in Europe. Few would be able to tell you that 1947 was the year of the independence of India.
Ed Webb

The West is playing an old game with the minorities of the Orient | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • This is the big door through which we may penetrate into the affairs of the East …. In addition to the big door there is a smaller one. Syria, and the Christian population of Lebanon in particular, have the right to obtain from the Sultan, by virtue of a European intervention, guarantees, and in particular an administrative regulation, which may provide them with protection from the abuse they suffered under different rulers and that may secure Syria against sliding once more into chaos … We believe that it is the duty of the Christian powers, even their honour, to support this approach and push forward toward accomplishing a positive practical outcome
  • Guizot thought that obtaining the consent of Russia and Austria would neutralise Britain and make it less able to hinder the implementation of his project. Russia had been pursuing an expansionist approach within the Ottoman sphere of influence. It had close links with the Orthodox and Armenians of the Sultanate, who – and not the Catholics – constituted the majority of the Christians of the Orient.
  • he was seeking to establish an independent, or semi-independent, administrative status in the district of Jerusalem, which was at the time part of the Damascus governorate
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  • The new entity would include the Christians of the East, foremost among them the Catholics of Lebanon, and would be placed under the protection of the European powers, particularly France, Russia and Austria
  • What is astonishing is that Guizot did not ask if the Christians of the Orient, who were scattered all over the Orient, would agree to emigrate from their historic homelands to live in such a European protectorate. He did not even ask if the Muslims, who were the majority of the inhabitants of the Jerusalem Province and who also sanctified the city, would accept his project.
  • Reflecting the French Revolution’s legacy, and the spirit of state hegemony over its people, Guizot – throughout his long years in the Ministry of Education in the 1830s – endeavoured to spread public education across the country and establish at least one primary school in every community.

    In the meantime, the French colonial administration had started to secularise management and education in Algeria, which France had been occupying since 1830. If there is a degree of peculiarity in the Christian foreign policy of a secular and liberal minister, it is even more peculiar that Guizot was not a Catholic but a Protestant.

  • Guizot’s policy was not in any way religiously motivated. Nor was it Catholic. Guizot policy in essence was the policy of supporting minorities and using them to reinforce the status of the European powers in the confrontation with the majorities.
Ed Webb

Varieties of 'Islamophobia' and its targets | openDemocracy - 0 views

    Very useful in placing in historical context identity politics that can appear to be eternal. Empires built both umma nationalism and Islamophobia, in different ways.
Ed Webb

Mongolia honours China conqueror Kublai Khan on 800th birthday - 0 views

  • "In Mongolia, Kublai is known as Kublai 'The Wise'," said museum researcher Egiimaa Tseveendorj. 

    "Genghis Khan is known as a military leader, but Kublai was a king who organised an enormous kingdom, not only by conquering it, but with administration, politics, trade, diplomacy, science, religion and production," she added. 

    "In the period of Kublai Khan the Silk Road, which facilitated trade with the West, experienced a new era of prosperity."
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