During Porfirio Diaz’ rule, power in Mexico was pre-eminent among the elite – landowners, bankers, captains of industry etc. Urban and agricultural workers, the growing middle classes and peasants were excluded from any political process. Foreign financiers dominated the economy. When the inevitable revolution came there was for once no organised political party behind it, more usual in revolutions. One Francisco Madero called for democracy and rejected Diaz’s re-election as President in 1910. A rebellion, he insisted, was called for. In the north peasants grabbed machetes and went to war under the leadership of the fanatical former ‘Robin Hood’ of Mexico – Pancho Villa. Meanwhile in the southern areas, Indians whose lands had been stolen from them were led by Emilio Zapata. Continue reading
The end of the great Spanish Empire was to a great extent aided by two officers, one Spanish himself, the other a Creole from Venezuela. Both achieved huge successes, but in the end neither was satisfied.
José de San Martín was born in 1778, the son of a Spanish army officer. He left the Argentine with his father and family when he was eight, as his father had to return to military duties in Spain. Naturally, as these things run in the family he trained as a soldier, and fought against Bonaparte from 1808 to 1811, in the Spanish War of Independence. In 1812, three years before the Battle of Waterloo, he went back to Buenos Aires where he joined the military regime. Continue reading
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
Eugenio Pacelli was born in 1876, and was elected Pope in 1939. He came from a familyprominent for its loyal service to the Vatican. He was ordained priest in 1899 at twenty-three. By 1901 he was already entrenched in the Vatican administration. Continue reading
This early fifteenth century name was coined to cover English merchants engaged in the export/import trade. The first of these was made official in 1407. After this, internationally-based English companies flourished throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The idea derived from a haphazard collection of merchants in the major British ports, mostly selling wool and cloth to the continent of Europe, but specializing in business with Antwerp in the Netherlands. Some of these acquired royal charters in ports like Bristol (1467) and the Port of London (1505) as well as settlements (which would eventually transform themselves into Consulates) in the foreign ports, always concentrating on business.
With this kind of organization at full speed, the merchants became dominant in foreign trade, which did nothing to increase their popularity or that of England. Their rivals were ousted, especially merchants in the Hanseatic League (Cologne, Hamburg, Lübeck, Bremen etc.). The Merchant Adventurers’ ships began arming themselves with cannon, and arming the sailors themselves. In the reign of monarchs such as Elizabeth I, some other European states started calling the Merchant Adventurers by a different name – pirates. It is certainly accepted that the Queen encouraged her Adventurers to be adventurous, and this sometimes involved armed attacks on foreign ports, especially Spanish ones.
In 1611 the Merchants made Hamburg their centre of operations, but their base had always been London. They were the forerunners of the great chartered companies, but declined in importance in the eighteenth century.
Four hundred years before the British Empire never enjoyed the setting sun, the Spanish Empire rose, flourished, dwindled and vanished. From the late fifteenth century, Spain, a fraction smaller than France, forged an empire including the Canary Islands, most of the West Indian Islands, all central America, all of South America except Brazil, parts of the Low Countries and parts of Italy, plus the Philippines. Continue reading
By the last quarter of the nineteenth century piracy and slavery/the slave trade were almost extinguished, partly because governments were not inclined, as they had before, to ‘turn a blind eye’. The slave trade had been abolished in the British West Indies in 1834, and in North America in 1863. Both US warships and the British Navy were kept busy maintaining the Law. While the sixteen and seventeenth centuries had seen ‘gentleman adventurers’ running their own buccaneering ships backed by European kings and governments in the ‘licenced piracy’ industry, the ‘Jolly Roger’ was now frowned upon, especially by Britain and the United States, while superb Dutch, French and Spanish navigators based on the Venezuelan and Brazilian coasts and in the Caribbean were still loath to give up a highly profitable (though risky) business. In the South China Sea there has always been piracy, though half-crazy individuals like Brooke the White Rajah of Sarawak (q.v.) did much to suppress it. Continue reading
Today we will concentrate on two bad men whose names constantly crop up in history. One, the first, was a Nazi leader in Germany, the second was a German-born President of a Latin American country.
Julius Streicher was born in 1885. Though it is difficult to believe he was once a schoolteacher. But he frightened his pupils by teaching them anti-Jewish propaganda. He also wrote at least three books for children with strongly anti-Semitic text. He used the periodical Der Stúrmer (which at one time he owned) to publish his virulent views, and probably because of this came to be noticed by Adolf Hitler. Continue reading
Sir John and Sir Richard Hawkins or Hawkyns would have preferred to be called seamen, or navigators, or simply sailors. That is how British history books describe them. French, Dutch and especially Spanish historians prefer to say corsarios or piratas. But then most European historians describe any man (or woman) who sailed across the seven seas with a crew and attacked other shipping or a passing port – as long as they were British – as pirates or corsairs. The Spanish even call Admiral Lord Nelson a pirate, despite the awkward fact that he was a professional navy man who assaulted Spanish-held ports or Spanish ships when England was officially at war with Spain (or France for that matter). One could claim that that was his job. Hawkins however was by no means indefatigable, losing a sea battle to the Spanish at San Juan de Ulúa Continue reading
Francisco Pizarro was born in 1475 in Extremadura in western Spain, when that country was even more powerful than France. He became a conquistador and an important explorer. He started the adventures that took him half way round ther world by joining Vasco Nuñez de Balboa’s expedition across what is now Panama, eventually discovering the Pacific in 1513. Continue reading