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Henry M. Stanley, explorer and journalist

Henry M. Stanley, explorer and journalist

Stanley with a bearer carring his favourite shooting stick / literaturadeviajes.com

Stanley with a bearer carring his favourite shooting stick / literaturadeviajes.com

One is not too sure that modern schoolchildren are taught about persons like Henry Stanley, or for that matter Dr. Livingstone, with whom Stanley is inextricably connected. It is supposed that vast changes in syllabus are responsible for this, just as in the Classics, neither Latin or Greek are these days awarded much importance. At my school we were unfailingly taught that Henry Stanley was American; he was a naturalized American citizen for a period, but he was born British – Welsh in fact – son of a farmer from that region. He was also illegitimate, and was first called John Rowlands.

Stanley lived a life so adventurous it seemed to be fiction stemming from the Boys Own Paper. Born in 1841 he existed, somehow, in a poorhouse from 1847 to 1856, got away and managed to get himself on a ship sailing to the United States. Here he was luckily befriended by a merchant in cereals who adopted him. Young Henry also took the merchant’s name – Stanley, and after adoption automatically became an American citizen. (more…)

By | 2015-09-23T10:00:32+00:00 September 23rd, 2015|African History, British History, US History, World History|0 Comments

The Dominions, and the Statute of Westminster

A part of New Zealand / airnewzealand.ar.com

A part of New Zealand / airnewzealand.ar.com

Readers become confused by the essential differences between dominions and colonies and protectorates. The British Empire, when it existed, embraced all three. ‘Dominions’ was the name used for countries in the Empire that had a certain degree of self-government, but owed allegiance to the British Crown. The first country to be called a Dominion was Canada (1867), followed by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and, at last, the Irish Free State in 1921. Their new independence was officially recognised at the Imperial Conference in 1926. Actual power to pass legislation independently of the Government was confirmed by the Statute of Westminster.

In 1931 this Statute gave freedom to the Dominions. Following the Great War these Dominions had been accepted as national states in their own right, though they were still part of the Empire. They joined the ill-fated League of Nations (q.v.) but it was seen (by them) as if their ‘freedom’ was still limited. (more…)

Grabbing Africa

Cecil Rhodes / it.wikipedia.org

Cecil Rhodes / it.wikipedia.org

Though some may not believe it, in 1879 little of the vast continent of Africa was in European hands. Colonial administration ruled in the Gold Coast and Senegal in West Africa. Europeans had penetrated strongly and deeply only in South Africa; some colonial success was evident too, in the north, in Algeria. And yet, strangely, by 1914 the sole areas of Africa not under European control were Ethiopia and Liberia. (The first of these had already been Christianized).

   How did this happen in only thirty-five years? Colonial troops, explorers, missionaries and professional administrators were on the spot and their respective governments reacted speedily to their requests. Colonies were grabbed by other powers to prevent other nations seizing them first. It was a concerted rush, a ‘scramble’ for Africa. (more…)

By | 2014-10-06T17:43:06+00:00 October 5th, 2014|African History|0 Comments

Colonization

/ from a painting by Angus McBride - posterlounge.co.uk

/ from a painting by Angus McBride – posterlounge.co.uk

These days the word strikes a sour note, arousing images of rough settlements, starving ‘piccaninies’, whips, shackles, thoughtless government from a distance of thousdands of miles etc. If there are any ‘colonies’ left after the post-war rush to be rid of them I think it is because the ‘colonists’ prefer it that way. 90% of colonies which achieved independence have suffered under bad or atrocious rule since being ‘freed’, with the possible exception of the United States, and even there half the settlers in the Thirteen Colonies claimed they did not wish for independence from British rule, and after 1776 sold up lock, stock and barrel and moved to Canada, where they were welcomed. (more…)

Jan Christian Smuts

Smuts with Churchill during World War II / flickr.com

Smuts with Churchill during World War II / flickr.com

The South African soldier, hero and future Prime Minister was born in the Cape Colony in 1870. No-one was more in the centre of South African politics during the first half of the 20th century. Nobody in South Africa but Smuts was regarded as a world-class politician and statesman, even in the 1990s forty years after his death. (more…)

By | 2014-06-02T19:24:44+00:00 June 2nd, 2014|African History, World History|0 Comments

The struggle for independence: Rhodesia

Ian Smith of Rhodesia, died 2007 / forumparadoxplaza.com

Ian Smith of Rhodesia, died 2007 / forumparadoxplaza.com

It would seem clear that Cataluña will, by one means or another, free herself from Spain, of which she has always been an integral part. All the signs are there; Catalan politicians speak in Catalan on national TV, so the rest of the nation must either know Catalan, or remain ignorant of what is being said. The President of Cataluña, Mr Artur Más, talks of his region being ‘a nation within a nation’, as if that were possible. At meetings of Spanish regional leaders you can be sure of his absence. There are weekly demonstrations in Barcelona and other key cities designed to show that all Catalan peoples support the idea of unilateral independence – that is to say, total independence without consulting or listening to the national government in Madrid. Catalans speaking with persons from other nations – such as Spain – claim the national government steals from Catalan pockets. Let us examine what happened some nearly fifty years ago in Africa, when a British colony decided to break the chains with Britain, rather in the style of thirteen American colonies across the Atlantic two hundred years before. (more…)

The Barbary Coast, and Wars

It is difficult to find any time since the Byzantine Empire when the North African coast from Morocco to Libya was not infamous for piracy. The worst period was the beginning of the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth. The Berbers, who may or may not have originally populated the Canary Islands, were piratical by nature and good navigators in the treacherous Atlantic and unpredictable Mediterranean.

Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania (Libya) take their name from the infamous pirate Barbarossa. Even the English adjective barbaric has its roots in berber, bereber or Barbarossa. (more…)

Commerce in History: the slave trade

/ freewebs.com

/ freewebs.com

Thinking people still get hot under the collar when the subject of the trade in slaves looms. But then, more nonsense is spoken about the slave trade by otherwise intelligent and educated people than one would care to admit. For those determined only to be ‘politically correct’, the trade was perfectly simple, evil of course, and typical of the many important countries which indulged in it. It consisted (for them) of wicked whites landing on the coast of West Africa, driving inland with fire and sword, kidnapping young black people from their homelands, chaining them up, and driving them back to the waiting ships with a whip ever ready in case of complaint. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In the first place, coastal African tribesmen would have taken very badly to any kind of invasion made by white people, unless they knew exactly what the white intruders were in Africa for. (more…)

Prime Minister Lord Salisbury

Lord Salisbury / gatesofvienna.blogspot.com

Lord Salisbury / gatesofvienna.blogspot.com

Kind Hearts and Coronets is probably the best and blackest of the British 1950s comedies written for the screen. The film tells the story of an illegitimate boy who grows up determined to become a Duke, because his biological father is an aristocrat who refuses to help or even recognise the boy’s poor mother. And become a Duke Dennis Price does, by killing off eight members of a ducal family (all played by a spectacular Alec Guinness) who must be dispatched for him to acquire the title. Each of his victims is called ‘Gascoyne’. It is very likely that the film’s screenwriter was thinking of a certain marquesate when he wrote this name, precisely the Gascoigne-Cecils, one of whom was called Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoigne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury. (more…)

Curious Anglo-German Agreements

What Grand Fleets used to look like / en.wikipedia.org

What Grand Fleets used to look like / en.wikipedia.org

Why ‘curious’? Because the first was agreed between Britain and Germany only fourteen years before the outbreak of a world war, the first of its kind.  And the second was signed only four years before the next one. (more…)

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