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. Continue reading
Volunteers from countries foreign to Spain rushed from around the world to aid the republican cause during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1938). Contrary to popular literature’s view, the Brigades were not packed full of European and American playwrights, intellectuals and novelists. Most volunteers came from the working classes. Ernest Hemingway came, but as a war correspondent. Stephen Spender and George Orwell came, but were kept as far away from the front as possible, because the propaganda value of their possible capture to the Nationalist forces would have been great. Poets W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood watched from a safe distance, as indeed they did again, this time from California, during the Second World War. Continue reading
Napoleon Bonaparte decided he would imitate the Roman emperors. Instead of listening to his better senses, he invaded the Peninsula of Spain and Portugal, causing one of the Napoleonic Wars, and a very great deal of unnecessary bloodshed. Spain is included in the very short list of nations it is unwise to invade or attempt to occupy. Continue reading
Vargas was born in 1883. A small, chubby and discreet man, he grew to become a rich cattle man in Brazil, and in 1928 became the Governor of his state –Rio Grande do Sul. In 1930 he was propelled into the Presidency of his country by the army, which claimed that too much of the country’s wealth was being invested in the coffee trade, in effect propping it up, which it needed due to bad management. The second of many things the army disliked was that too much money was going in the direction of one state of Brazil –Sao Paulo.
Having Vargas in the presidency did not amuse the coffee barons, and they (and the rest of this enormous country) came to dislike even more Vargas’s methods of governing, which he did by decree. He replaced state governors at will, and constructed a patronage network in individual states. Historians agree that he appeared not to recommend any particular political stance, Right or the Left for instance. He was, however, a master of political opportunism, changing policies according to circumstances, and coinciding with the mood in general of the nation. Continue reading
Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was one of those Iberian dictators who stayed dictating for a long time. General Franco ruled Spain for nearly forty years, and General Salazar ruled Portugal for thirty-six years.
He was born in 1889 in a peasant family, conservative, devoutly Catholic and certainly reactionary if given the chance. He got his education at a seminary but decided against becoming a priest, perhaps because of his experiences at the seminary. The monks assuredly educated him however, for he became a lecturer at the Coimbra Universityin 1917 when he was twenty-eight years old. He never married and had no reputation as a lady-killer. Nor the opposite either, so he was probably asexual. Continue reading