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The Ashanti Wars (also ‘Asante’ & Asanti’)

In the middle of a battle /

In the middle of a battle /

Much of the 19th century in Africa was spent in wars between the Ashanti and an enemy tribe, the Fante, and the British, who made up in ferocity what they lacked in numbers. The Asante (as it was called) was a rich and powerful state, becoming more so in the 18th and 19th centuries in what is now called Ghana. The population was between five and three million. (more…)

By | 2013-07-24T09:26:05+00:00 July 24th, 2013|African History, British History, World History|0 Comments

What was ‘Apartheid’?



Nelson Mandela /

Nelson Mandela /

  The word itself is Afrikaans or South African Dutch and means ‘separateness’. In the 50s of the last century a morbid joking pun was made in the music halls, calling it ‘apart-hate’, and one can understand why. It was the purely racial policy of a government, stemming from the Population Registration Act of 1950 in South Africa. The Act divided the population into three: Bantu if you were black, White, and Coloured if you were of mixed race. A little later a fourth section was added – Asian. (more…)

Caustic Congresses III: the Peace of Utrecht (1713)


Great men conferring /

Great men conferring /

Of all the peace conferences that turned caustic almost at the moment of signing, the Peace of Utrecht which ‘ended’ the War of the Spanish Succession (q.v.) wins a prize. The year was 1713; the comparatively peaceful eighteenth century was just beginning. The seventeenth had been full of blood and thunder.

The Congress met at Utrecht in the Low Countries without the presence of Austria. Philip V (Felipe Quinto) stayed as King of Spain but had to renounce his claim to the French throne, and to accept the loss of Spain’s European empire. Later, Austrian emperor Charles VI found he could not carry out his plans for expansion without allies, and accepted the terms of Utrecht at Rastadt and Baden in 1714, one year later. (more…)

The battle of Blood River ( Natal, 1838)


The battle at Blood River /

The battle at Blood River /

The ‘Great Trek’ was the massed movement of Boer (Dutch/Africans) farmers to the north out of the Cape Colony into the Orange Free State, Natal and Transvaal in the 1830s. The Boers had resented the British ever since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, when they took over the Cape from the Dutch settlers. They disliked new laws which prevented them from buying or keeping slaves, and they equally disliked what they saw as soft treatment of black people in the courts. Therefore trekboers wanted not only to get away from British rule but also to find more land – and new sources of labour; several thousand people migrated northwards across the Orange River and into lands still controlled by blacks. (more…)

The end of the British Empire and imperialism



It is barely seventy-two years since a quarter of the human race lived, toiled, danced and finally died under the Union Jack. It is a very short time in terms of the history of the world, but in that time the British view of themselves, and their nation’s place in that world has altered, perhaps more radically than ever before. No other country has experienced a sudden and dramatic convulsion in its own outlook – no, not even terrible wars, occupation, subjection beneath the heel of an aggressive foreign invader, however awesome their effect, can produce a change in national philosophy as total as that undergone by the British since 1939. While Rome took centuries to crumble, the British Empire vanished almost overnight. (more…)

Great War Leaders: Kitchener needs YOU!

Horatio Herbert Kitchener was born in 1850. At school in Switzerland he learned perfect French, and later went to Palestine where he picked up near-perfect Arabic. After military college and commissioning he got to Egypt (where his knowledge of languages was useful for a junior officer).

The British were occupying Egypt in 1882, but this was the time of the Mahdi, an almost mythical religious and military leader who caused consternation in Britain by the brilliance of his strategy, and the blind faith in him showed by his followers. (more…)

What was ‘Indirect Rule?’

It was a system of colonial administration, mainly British, by which colonial powers ruled through local chiefs. The concept was not new, as it stemmed from the fact that great African empires had been run this way too. The Asante for instance ruled their conquered territories via local indigenous chiefs. The Dutch absorbed native dynasties and ruled the Dutch East Indies using them.

   The British employed indirect rule in India, two-thirds of which was ruled by Indian princes. Indirect rule was first used by the British in Africa in Buganda, developed it in Northern Nigera, later extending it to other colonies in Africa. The Uganda Agreement (sic) of 1900 clarified that Bugandans were to be governed by hereditary rulers. These made laws in accordance with the British Governor. (more…)

History of the Commonwealth of Nations

Mistakes made by leaders of powerful countries have been legion throughout history. Enormous losses in the human and animal races have been the result. It is arguable that had George V of England and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany not disliked each other, and had had more control over the ambitions of their respective political leaders, there would not have been a First World War. Again, if Blair, Aznar and Barroso had exhibited more guts on that island in the Azores, they might have persuaded George Bush Jun. to stop telling himself and them what he (and they) knew to be a lie – that Saddam was storing massively dangerous secret weapons in Iraq – and better methods than medieval ones could have been used to depose a dictator. And 100,000 Iraquies would not have died, nor nearly 4000 young servicemen and women from the USA. (more…)

History of the Bible

The Bible is the sacred book of Christianity. There are many Christian churches, but all accept the two sections of it: the Hebrew scriptures, which we know as the Old Testament, and the Christian writings, known as the New Testament. Roman Catholics, among other Christian churches, accept a third section known as the Apocrypha. This was included in the Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint).


The Jameson Raid

Artist's impression of the Jameson Raid /

Artist’s impression of the Jameson Raid /

One hundred and five years ago something happened in South Africa which has now largely been forgotten. The incident probably arose because of the remorseless and unnecessary need of the British to expand an already overlarge Empire.

On December 29, 1894, Dr. Leander Starr Jameson (1853 – 1917), who was an administrator in the British South Africa Company, led an armed band of 470 mounted men (whites of course) from Bechuanaland into the Transvaal. The intention was to advance 180 miles to Johannesburg, there to join the non-Boer European workers known as the Uitlanders, in their attempt to overthrow the government of Paul Kruger. (more…)

By | 2011-01-25T17:30:03+00:00 January 25th, 2011|African History|3 Comments
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