For this week and the letter ‘N’, I will be giving a brief history on possibly one of the most infamous (if not the most infamous) modern-day political anomaly that is North Korea. North Korea is a byword for oppression, modern-day dictatorships, mass poverty, corruption, and any other negative connotation relating to politics and culture – to the extent that the term “this is like North Korea” is used to immediately express unfairness, personal depravity, and sometimes just commercial inconvenience. But how did North Korea come about? This blog will look at the years between the Second World War and the Korean War and how the political power and state of the land that still exists today originated and grew.Continue reading “The Birth of North Korea”
In this long and fascinating episode Lilly and Alex are joined by Nick to talk about his specialism of environmental history, particularly in the political and activist movements through 20th Century America.
You can listen through Spotify below, or head to Anchor for links to follow on Apple, Google and wherever else you get your podcasts.
Hello again dear readers! After a few days on holiday, we are back with the ABC of World History. Today I take you yet to another set of islands in the southern hemisphere: Fiji. I really wanted to bring more attention overall to the area of Oceania as part of this tour of the world moving away from eurocentrism and acknowledging the colonialist issues caused by many European powers throughout history which are in large still palpable today. So, Fiji sort of helped kill 2 birds with one stone. I don’t have enough time or space her today to tell you a lot about the history of this wonderful place, but I hope this will inspire more people to do research regarding these parts of the world as there are not a lot of accessible works out there in English for the public to read.
Quickly and for context: Fiji is in the south Pacific and the archipelago itself has 330 islands and 500 islets. Fiji used to be part of the British Empire and was a colony until 1970 when it gained its independence. But today we will be talking about the changes that happen to Fiji once proper contact with the Western powers is established in the 19th century and why this happened.
‘They Came for Sandalwood’: Western Trade & Fiji
Fiji was first visited in the 17th century by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. However, it wasn’t until 1804 that the first proper maintained contact between westerners and Fijians took place. The first people that showed a interest in the lands of Fiji were traders, and they went there for a very precious resource in ever growing demand: sandalwood.
Sandalwood is one of the worlds most expensive types of wood. It is yellowy, has a fine grain and it is an aromatic wood. Even amongst aromatic woods, sandalwood is particularly prominent as its smell can keep for years on end. This fragrance has been valued for centuries, and it was often consumed in the shape of sandalwood oil extract. The type of sandalwood that grows in Fiji is called Santalum Sayi which also appears in Tonga, and the oil extract is often for fragrances and cosmetics. Another cultural aspect to consider about sandalwood overall is that it plays an integral for Hinduism and Jainism practices and considering that part of Fiji’s population comes from the Indian subcontinent, I am sure you can all see why traders would want a piece of Fiji.Continue reading “Fiji: Trade & Colonialism”
Continuing with our ABC of world history, today as part of our third entry in this yearlong enterprise we invite you to come with us to the beautiful archipelago of Cabo Verde. If you’re an Anglophone, I must warn you that you may still be referring to this country by Cape Verde, and if that’s the case, you really should stop, as the government officially changed the name for all purposes as of 2013. (It seems there was a need there to reflect the Portuguese inheritance of the country and the common use of the English terms in a global sphere didn’t really stick). The name Cape Verde came from Cap-Vert which was the closest landmass to the archipelago: a peninsula on the western coast of Senegal. At this stage, you may be wondering exactly where this place is I am talking about and what I will be discussing today. Well, let’s not rush things but, here is the deal.Continue reading “Cabo Verde: A Slavery Hub”
The British Empire holds a strange place in the UK’s national memory; many young people have little knowledge of it while many older people remember it fondly, with 65% of over 65s in a YouGov poll saying the Empire was something to be proud of in 2014. Considering that the British Empire lasted for 500 years, it is rarely talked about, usually only brought up when talking about immigration or invoked as a nostalgic tool to invoke ‘Britannia’ in relation to issues such as Brexit. Actual detail is rarely mentioned, it’s rarely covered in film or TV despite the UK’s love of period drama and the teaching of it in schools is minor, if existent at all.
I was never taught about the British Empire in school. I was never even taught about the slave trade, except for brief mentions during Black History Month – and then only the USA’s role was mentioned. I know some people a little younger than me at least were taught about the slave trade and going back to my parents’ school days of the 1960s and 1970s, the slave trade was mentioned. The British Empire overall though was barely touched upon. While teaching of the British Empire has reportedly been improved upon in recent years, it is still patchy due to a focus on certain aspects or periods of the Empire.
The problem with teaching about the British Empire is that it isn’t easy and it doesn’t make Britain look good. Take the teaching of World War Two in Britain – the Nazis were clearly evil and we fought against them, so we’re the good guys! Great detail is gone into on the Nazi atrocities, quite rightly. However any evil done by the British is glossed over to preserve the dichotomy. No talk of handing over Czechoslovakia to Hitler prior to the war; or the bombing of German civilians; or the British government doing nothing to help victims of Nazi persecution (the famous Kindertransport children were only allowed to enter the country if a non-governmental organisation found them a place to stay and a £50 bond per child was paid); the internment of those who came from countries who were part of the Axis Powers; and the blind eye turned to the rape of women and children, committed by Allied troops, by the Allied leadership to name a few. Acknowledging the atrocities committed by the Allies does not make the Nazis look at any better, nor does it mean disrespecting those who died – they were not the government. Acknowledging these atrocities does however damage the myth of a heroic Britain, of a past we should be proud of. That is exactly why the British Empire is such a touchy subject.
Exact numbers of those who died at the hands of the British Empire will never be known, and no estimation will ever be agreed on but let’s take a look at a couple of generally accepted figures. 3.1 million Africans were transported by the British to its colonies and other countries. 1 million (at least) died in the Irish Potato Famine, while the British government exported food from Ireland and British landlords evicted families. 4.3 million died in the Southern India famine of 1876–78, while the British government exported food from India and refused to provide any charity, instead forcing the starving to work for rations that were not enough to sustain them. At least 28,000 Boer women and children and 20,000 Black people died in one of the earliest examples of concentration camps, created by the British Army during the Second Boer War. These uncomplicated figures are enough to cause horror for any person with something resembling a moral compass. These are indefensible. These were civilians; the excuse of ‘they were attacking us’ just simply doesn’t count for these examples.
Now there are people who claim that the British Empire was a force for good, a highly controversial claim among many historians, but the major problem with the lack of education or thorough discussion of the Empire outside academic circles means that these claims are fed uncritically to the public almost always via newspapers and politicians who are using this argument for their own political means. For example, if we refer back to the atrocities above, the Daily Mail in one article claimed that during the British Empire ‘the occasional massacre was undoubtedly carried out’ but we played a role in ending the slave trade and ‘successfully exported’ democracy to countries that were colonies. This of course shows a rather dismissive attitude to the deaths of millions and conveniently leaves out the British role in beginning the slave trade. This is not exactly unsurprising when you consider even Wikipedia refuses to use the Daily Mail as a source; that such an article makes no attempt to even vaguely consider history properly. It is also understandable in some respects why newspapers like the Daily Mail aggressively pursue such a position; they do not exist to teach history – or even tell the truth – they are there to push a particular opinion onto readers in the hope that readers will support their political aims at the ballot box to financially support their owners. This, of course, is not confined to just right-wing newspapers but to newspapers in general.
The problem is that when many peoples’ knowledge comes from journalists set on achieving political goals the actual debate and evidence of the Empire is not present. While historians cannot escape ideology completely, at least there is some kind of attempt at being critical of their perspectives and examining evidence. If an argument is to be made that the British Empire was ‘good’ then it should be put forward properly evidenced with historical rigour, with an actual chance of experts being able to debate the argument for its historical accuracy rather than political value. This is why it is so important that the British Empire is actually taught in schools so students have a chance to critically engage with the history rather than be fed carefully condensed politicised propaganda. An evidenced debate in schools has been favoured by school leaders and historians over a curriculum based on fostering patriotism. This approach has also been favoured by students themselves.
The lack of knowledge about the British Empire is particularly problematic because of how much of an impact it is having today. The British Empire created Apartheid in South Africa, and continued to resist imposing sanctions on the government till the end. Claims of violence between black and white South Africans has recently been the subject of interest amongst Trump supporters. The British Empire played a large part in the beginnings of the Israel-Palestine conflict, perhaps the most controversial conflict in modern history. After pitting Hindus and Muslims against each other for the British Empire’s own gain, the rushed partition of India helped cause the bloody legacy of the events of the partition that still plagues the relationship between India and Pakistan today. Intervention in Afghanistan began with the British Empire and the volatile state of the country can be linked back to British installed puppet governments. Proper understanding of these current events cannot be achieved without the knowledge of what past events caused them, and in so many cases the British Empire played some part.
It is even still having an impact on government policy as seen with the recent Windrush scandal with those who came to Britain and their descendants from former colonies in the Caribbean being threatened with deportation. The disregard for these people who spent their early lives under colonial control and then came to rebuild the UK due to lack of work available in their own countries because of colonial policy, all while having to cope with racism and poverty when they came to Britain. The recent scandal led to many of these people facing racism and poverty all over again; with many arguing that such behaviour would have never happened to white immigrants and that the decision to destroy records was racially charged. Whether such assertions are true or not, there is certainly an issue that being former colonial subjects that their history was not considered as important as white Britons.
Despite such claims that the British Empire was a good thing, even from politicians in government, there is a strong suggestion that perhaps the British government aren’t quite as proud about it as they claim. In 2011 a group of elderly Kenyans won the right to sue the British government for the torture they allege they suffered in the Mau Mau rebellion against the Empire. As a result of this an official review of colonial government papers, which unlike most government papers had not been passed onto the National Archives, was undertaken. The review found that they had been purposefully hidden, and that also thousands had been disposed of with the expressed intention by the secretary of state for the colonies so that any records that “might embarrass Her Majesty’s government” should be destroyed.
A History of our time?
The forgotten founding father?
Legacy, what is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
I honestly could not resist writing a piece about Hamilton. Hamilton is the 2015 musical phenomenon written by Lin Manuel Miranda and inspired by R. Chernow’s 2004 biography titled Alexander Hamilton that has since reached London’s West End as of December 2017.
I have been extremely lucky to have watched the performance twice! Now I feel it would be appropriate to examine the historical significance of the musical about the man who is on the $10 bill and how it resonates to a present-day audience on both sides of the Atlantic. I will focus more on social and political matters as opposed to the economic and military. If you wish to see the musical in the future, please note I will make mention to some elements in the plot.
Alexander Hamilton’s Early Years
My name is Alexander Hamilton and there’s a million things I haven’t done just you wait, just you wait…
Let’s start with the backstory. Alexander Hamilton was an American statesman who fought numerous battles in the Revolutionary War against Britain and became the first United States Secretary of the Treasury. The story narrates the life of Alexander Hamilton, an unlikely founding father who was born on the British island of Nevis (now St Kitts and Nevis) in January 1757/1755 as there is some debate amongst historians regarding this, although it is widely considered to be 1757. Born outside of wedlock, his father abandoning the family and his mother dying when he was still a child, his prospects on the face of it appeared dire.
Hamilton’s mother, Rachel Fawcett was married to Johann Michael Lavien before she met James Hamilton, the father of Alexander Hamilton. Lavien seized Fawcett’s estate in St Croix (now United States Virgin Islands) in probate court upon her death and sold off a sizeable portion of Fawcett’s items.
Hamilton later became a clerk at Beekman and Crugar, an import and export firm. The firm traded with the colonies of New England and New York. At 14/16, Hamilton was placed in charge of the firm when his employer was away at sea for five months. Hamilton’s cousin, Peter Lytton briefly looked after him and his brother, James Jr Hamilton before he committed suicide. From this point henceforth, the brothers were separated though remained on Nevis.
Hamilton (Alexander) was taken in the custody of Thomas Stevens, a local merchant and the older Hamilton (James Jr) became a Carpenter’s Apprentice. By this point Alexander Hamilton was well read and enjoyed writing in his spare time. In 1772 a devasting Hurricane hit St Croix, in response Hamilton (Alexander) wrote a letter to his father pertaining to the Hurricane in enormous detail and his thoughts on the destruction. The letter gained popularity after it was published in the Royal Danish-American Gazette by Journalist, Hugh Knox. This popularity garnished the attention of community leaders. This was a real turning point for Hamilton, as the news of his letter impressed the leaders so much they collected funds to send Hamilton to study in New York. This proved to be an invaluable opportunity for Hamilton, which no doubt paved the way to his military and to a higher extent, his political pursuits. Much of these accounts from Hamilton’s early life are touched upon during the musical’s opening number, Alexander Hamilton.
The musical synopsis
The story develops and looks at how he overcame these difficulties in early life looking at how he established himself in New York City; at King’s College (now Columbia University), his personal life, military /political exploits, his relationships with other founding fathers; John Laurens, Marquis de Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and not forgetting his relationship with political rival, Aaron Burr, which ended in Hamilton’s death on 12th July 1804 as a result of the famous Burr-Hamilton duel on the day before.
This is all set at a time of revolution and increased animosity towards the British in the colonies, chiefly regarding taxation. This animosity occurred since 1765 and arguably more so after the Boston Massacre of 1770 when a group of American colonists were shot by soldiers who were stationed in Boston to control heighted colonial unrest, the capital of the Provence of Massachusetts Bay.
What Hamilton (the musical) does so well is create a visually stunning performance, amalgamating the history of a nation with the contemporary, a retelling of history, predominately in the form of hip-hop and casting actors from ethnic minority backgrounds in major roles within the production. This invariably is told as a history of our time, in other words to reflect the society of the US and the UK today.
The historical legacy
Ethnicity & Immigration in the United States
Let’s start with the casting. A conscious decision was made regarding the casting. The story is told by a diverse group of actors from different backgrounds. This is true in both the US and UK productions. Notably, the roles of the founding fathers; Hamilton, Burr, Laurens/Philip Hamilton, Mulligan/Madison, Lafayette/Jefferson and Washington were played by actors from an ethnic minority. This is also true of the Schuyler sister roles in the musical; Angelica, Elizabeth “Eliza” and Margarita “Peggy”. For reference, the Schuyler family were influential Dutch landowners that held much prominence in New York, Elizabeth Schuyler was a fourth generation American and the wife of Alexander Hamilton. They married in December 1780 and their courtship was acknowledged during the song Helpless.
Immigrants we get the job done
Essentially what the musical does is it tells the story about an immigrant trying to establish a place for themselves through hard work, grit and determination. These are traits not so different in people today. What Hamilton was doing back in the 1700s, hundreds if not thousands of immigrants since then have aspired to work hard for their livelihoods and prosper in their endeavours. Looking at the United States today many people can trace their ancestry back to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This applies to the original Broadway cast. For instance; the Musical’s creator, Miranda who played Hamilton has Hispanic heritage from the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Not to dissimilar from the character he was playing in that respect that they both had a personal connection to the Caribbean as Hamilton was born there. However, he was of Scottish and French Huguenot descent, although there is speculation that Hamilton’s mother was of mixed racial descent there is no substantial evidence to support these claims. Philippa Soo who originated the role of Hamilton’s wife, Eliza is of White European and Chinese descent and lastly another example would be Daveed Diggs who originated the role of Lafayette/ Jefferson whose mother was Jewish and his father, African-American.
These examples really do highlight and bring to prominence what America looks like today, by casting actors from an ethnic minority it really does bring life to the storytelling and above all accessibility. Yes, in real life the founding fathers were of White English, Scottish and Irish descent, yet despite that, the casting of Hamilton brings forth the idea of inclusiveness and allows for a more cathartic experience for audiences that resonate with them. This is a great way to promote history to more people that might otherwise feel alienated from this episode of history.
Looking beyond what race these characters were back then, now in the present day the United States is a melting pot of cultures from across the globe. In a traditional sense it is the primary and secondary source material found in archives, manuscripts and books to name but a few that provide us with the know-how. It is the power of theatre that allows us to look beyond the traditional historiography for a moment and build a bridge taking elements of the past and mixing it with the present to generate interest and come away thinking; it does not matter who you are or where you come from, we all have an opportunity to make a difference.
Consequently, looking at it in this sense, the story of Alexander Hamilton’s journey from orphan, to immigrant, to statesman serves as a timeless inspiration that immigrants past, present and future strive to better themselves and as a result shape society in enterprise, business, education, government, science, healthcare and as the musical reflects, the arts.
Much like analysing the first line in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” as being true to a society where it was acceptable in some states; particularly the south to keep Black African slaves. Looking at this declaration by todays standards, there would be a consensus refuting that declaration. It is how a particular place in time within society can interpret events.
But how is this argument historically significant for the UK?
Very much so. The UK very much like the US has been a magnet for settlement throughout history, going further back in time before the formation of the UK some of the earliest setters came from the Roman Empire, Germanic speaking tribes; the Angles, Saxons and Jutes known collectively as the Anglo Saxons, the Vikings and the Normans and French Huguenots.
In more recent history since the 19th century immigration from outside of Europe started to take shape chiefly from British colonies. In the 20th century immigration started to become more pronounced after the decline of the British Empire and many people settled from former colonies and countries making up the Commonwealth from the East, Africa and the West Indes. The imagery used once more in the UK casting reflects the society of the UK today and at the same mirrors Hamilton’s own backstory. Strikingly, Jamael Westman who currently plays the title role of Alexander Hamilton has Irish roots from his maternal side of the family and Afro-Caribbean roots from Jamaica on the paternal side.
Other examples include; Rachel John who currently plays Angelica Schuyler, her mother immigrated to the UK from Trinidad, Michael Jibson who currently plays King George III hails from Yorkshire, Leslie Garcia Bowman who currently plays Charles Lee/Ensemble comes from New Zealand and Rachelle Ann Go who currently plays Eliza Hamilton was born in the Philippines to name but a few. In all essence the full cast does reflect modern British society, just as the Broadway cast does in the US. The subject content is largely on American history and that this episode in history is not as well known in the UK, the idea nonetheless remains the same. By bringing forth historical content to the stage it serves as a virtual source to appeal to those that would not necessarily read about the content. What’s more the diversity of the cast has more of an impact resonating with members of society that are not always included in retellings of history, much like the argument that was put forth previously under Ethnicity & Immigration in the United States.
Knowing Brixton is a short distance from Victoria, the London home for Hamilton, just shy of 37 years the Brixton Riot occurred in April 1981. This was at a time when recession hit, those of Afro-Caribbean descent living in the area were particularly affected by lower job prospects and public services. Hamilton justly serves as a history of our time told by society as it is today, all backgrounds coming together to tell the story of a struggling immigrant intent to shape the future and leave a legacy, two things that are not to dissimilar to the actual narrative.
The “forgotten” Hamilton
A wife’s tale
I put myself back in the narrative… I’ll live another fifty years, it’s not enough
There is much mention about the roles of women in Hamilton. However, for the purposes of this piece I will examine the role of Eliza Hamilton nee Schuyler, Hamilton’s wife of 21 years before his death. A fundamental conclusion to the musical details a wonderous segment, regarding Eliza Hamilton’s role in preserving the legacy of her husband, Alexander Hamilton. After Hamilton’s death Eliza along with the help of her son John Church Hamilton organised and arranged his political writings in view of publication. This was to ensure his legacy in American politics was not forgotten by the people. What the musical does so well is it attributes Chernow’s school of thought, that Eliza Hamilton’s role was significant in preserving Hamilton’s memory and conveys this with such vigour. This is considering she was left widowed, having to settle Hamilton’s debts and knowing that he had an affair with Maria Reynolds (this was publicly declared by Hamilton himself in the self-published, “The Reynolds Pamphlet” in 1797). The musical suggests Eliza Hamilton, upon hearing the news of Hamilton’s affair burns her correspondence with her husband in the song titled Burn. Although it is not certain Eliza Hamilton burnt her letters, the musical nevertheless supports Chernow’s school of thought that she did destroy her letters but there was no evidence to suggest how.
Her passion and devotion to keeping Hamilton’s memory alive really hits home when her contribution to Hamilton’s legacy is explored in Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story, knowing that Eliza Hamilton lived in a male dominated society in commerce, politics and education, she was able to rise above her station and truly make a difference by getting Hamilton’s “story” out there for all to see and hear.
Eliza Hamilton did not stop there, not only did she ensure Hamilton’s writings were preserved, she also ensured to help orphans in New York city. Hamilton himself was an orphan, this in part must have played a large role in Eliza Hamilton’s efforts to help orphaned children. Together Alexander and Eliza Hamilton had eight children and one known foster daughter, having been caring for eight children and bringing in a foster daughter into the Hamilton household, it was apparent Eliza Hamilton cared deeply about children.
Eliza Hamilton helped to establish the first private orphanage in New York city in 1806 along with her friend Joanne Bethune. Eliza Hamilton was the Vice-President of the organisation and continued her support well into her nineties. It was called the Orphan Asylum Society of the City of New York, this organisation still exists to this very day by helping to care for children ensuring access to education, health care and support. Today it is named Graham Windham. This is where the whole idea of legacy intertwines, by preserving Hamilton’s legacy and crafting a legacy of her own.
Hamilton’s death must have been a horrible prospect for Eliza Hamilton to have dealt with but reviewing her contribution after his death, some goodness has come out of it by helping the next generation of orphans in a city where as a child orphan himself, Alexander Hamilton thrived. Though Hamilton could not live to see his legacy, Eliza Hamilton lived for another 50 years after her husband’s death in that time ensured others could see it.
My personal thoughts on Eliza Hamilton’s significance
Writing as a 21st century woman it is incredible to think that Eliza Hamilton achieved a great deal in her own right at a time, considering women’s suffrage was not on the agenda at the time of the Orphan Asylum Society of the City of New York’s creation and when she was organising Hamilton’s writings for preservation. As with the section on Ethnicity & Immigration, we see many women in professions doing what Eliza Hamilton did; women historians, women social workers and women carers to name but a few. That is another great legacy to add to mix, we see her character in many of the women of today, very much a living history of our time.
To end on, the musical really does highlight Eliza Hamilton’s prominence regarding Hamilton’s legacy. The staging was beautifully crafted, whereby during the first Act Hamilton was centre stage in the story. Eliza Hamilton, on the other hand was not standing on the main stage, she was staged with the characters; Maria Reynolds and Angelica Schuyler, seemingly fighting to declare their love for Hamilton during the musical’s opening number but for it to be bellowed by them at the same time, “I loved him”. However, at the end of the second Act, Hamilton casts himself aside from the spotlight but close to his wife to reveal much of his legacy is owed to Eliza Hamilton, where she is the one standing in front of the legacy she preserved. Alexander Hamilton is often credited as America’s “forgotten” founding father, the end piece almost appears as if there was a forgotten behind the forgotten in the form of Eliza Hamilton.
 L. Manuel Miranda, “The World Was Wide Enough” as performed by L. Manuel Miranda & L. Odom Jr. in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack
 L. Manuel Miranda, “Alexander Hamilton” as performed by The Original Broadway Cast in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack
 Ibid; “Alexander Hamilton”
 L. Manuel Miranda, “Helpless” as performed The Original Broadway Cast in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack
 L. Manuel Miranda, “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” as quoted by D Diggs and L. Manuel Miranda in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack
 L. Manuel Miranda, “Burn” as performed by P Soo in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack
 Ibid; “Burn”
 L. Manuel Miranda, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” as performed by The Original Broadway Cast in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack
 Ibid; “Alexander Hamilton”
This January is the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points. Wilson addressed to congress a 14-point programme to aid with universal peace on January 8th, 1918. These peace negotiations were intended to take affect after World War I. On the face of it, the 14 points looked as if they were a “cure” to fully eradicate aggression, hostility and above all out war amongst nations. However, this was not meant to be. This post will look at what kick started the 14 points, what they were and the lasting impact of them.
What kick started the 14 points?
The United States of America entered World War I in April 1917, three years after the war was started. The entry into the war was heavily due to unrestricted warfare on submarines and that American ships were sunk. Unrestricted submarine warfare allowed vessels like freighters and tankers to sink from submarines without warning. Germany initiated this in early 1915 when they considered the waters surrounding Britain to be a war zone and as a result attacked ships, including merchant and neural ships. It was a type of naval warfare and considering that Britain and Germany were two prominent colonial powers, they relied heavily on colonial imports for produce, another reason why this warfare was lucrative. This warfare occurred in the surrounding waters of western Europe. For one thing the British ship, Lusitania, despite mainly being a passenger ship also carried munitions. This was enough for the German navy to justify the sinking. 1,201 lost their lives and drowned at sea, including some 128 Americans. When the United States and other neutral countries put pressure on Germany, they stopped.
However, this suspension was not to last. Germany, not wanting to appear passive wanted to adopt unrestricted submarine warfare again. On January 8th, 2017, a year before the 14 points were addressed, Kaiser Wilhelm was persuaded by navy leaders that this warfare should go ahead, despite some reservations from the German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg who did not attend discussions. On February 1st, 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare was resumed by the German navy and the United States entered the war 2 months later.
With the help of some geographers, historians and political scientists, Wilson arranged these professionals under the watchful eye of Edward M House, Wilson’s advisor. They were put to work to study and analyse topics of discussion likely to appear in peace talks, concerning American and European (Allied) interests of international relations, economics and society. It was from these studies that Wilson’s speech came about, the 14 Points.
The 14 points
The 14 points advocated acts of diplomacy and addressed what the causes for war are in his opinion. He also alluded to how war could be avoided in the future. The list of the 14 points are listed before-
To abolish secret treaties between nations. An organisation should be set up, involving different countries and its members would constitute talks to solve international problems.
Freedom of navigation outside territorial waters, unless otherwise specified by an international agreed convention.
Equality of trade relations and eliminating trade barriers as much as possible between nations.
To reduce armaments, to ensure greater international safety.
Colonial claims to be adjusted, relating to all European nations who hold colonial territories.
The evacuation of all Russian territory in Eastern Europe and to the Ottoman Empire, this later became known as the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, when Soviet Russia exited the war.
To restore sovereignty in Belgium.
French territory taken should be restored to them, particularly Alsace Lorraine.
To realign Italian borders in the north, whereby the Italian speaking areas are within its own borders.
Self-determination for the peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Occupied areas of Eastern Europe; Montenegro, Serbia and Romania should be restored and free from occupation. Serbia should not be land locked and allowed sea access.
Secure sovereignty for Turkey but other areas that make up the Ottoman Empire should have the right to Self-determination such as Bulgaria and territories in the Middle East. Free passage of the Dardanelles to be permitted.
An independent Poland, free from occupation and allowed sea access.
The speech was very nearly not made at all as Wilson knew that the British Prime minister, David Lloyd George made a similar speech on January 5th, 1918, outlining very similar aims to Wilson’s intended 14 points. These aims were then known and agreed to by the British dominions. After some persuasion from House, Wilson made the speech as planned and proved to be a very successful precursor to the eventual Armistice later in the year and the Paris Peace Conference, the following year
When news of the speech spread to Europe it garnished much support in general. Wilson knew that these 14 points were integral to American interests as they were fundamental for global commerce and safety to the American people. Events preceding the war had brought about a spat of aggression and domination. In addition, a new school of thought under the Bolsheviks was looming and proved successful in the October revolution of 1917, when Imperial Russia became but a memory. In this sense, the United States had to abandon its Isolationist principles for a time.
However, in Europe the two allied leaders of the time were rather sceptical of Wilson’s idealism. The British and French leaders, David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau held reservations regarding the applicability of all 14 points. For it to be successful, the 14 points had to apply to all nations, the Allied and Central powers alike and Wilson was not entirely sure how these points would be administered. The 14 points were translated into German and distributed to their readership. No hostility came about because of it and it was said that these points inspired a call for surrender.
Looking back at this event which took place 100 years ago, the remnants do appear in the modern world today, as International cooperation is a commonplace to ensure universal peace, suffrage and trading relations. However, Wilson’s notion of the ill-fated League of Nations was not to last as another international conflict soon ensued in 1939, World War Two. Essentially, not knowing the damage of what the war repatriations on Germany could do in the not to distant future appears unfortunate. The harsh realities of the reparations appeared to be a catalyst for what was to come in 1930s Germany, nevertheless that on its own is not enough to justify a single cause for further conflict. Putting the counterfactual to the side for a moment, what resulted after World War 2 was another call for peaceful resolutions on an international scale, the United Nations. Although, there is certainly a long way to go to reach the end goal for international peace, conflict has taken many guises under the Cold War and the War on Terror, nevertheless it is hard to deny that the 14 points and the aim to provide peaceful diplomacy has done much to pave the way to fruition.
This post will document the Czech/Slovak resistance to Nazism in Czechoslovakia during the Second World War. It was a time of great struggle for the people of Czechoslovakia under the Munich Agreement of 1938 the area of Sudetenland (today in the Czech Republic) on the borders of Bavaria, Saxony and Lower Silesia now Poland was amalgamated into Nazi Germany. It was in September of that year in 1938 that Adolf Hitler wanted to take Sudetenland. The area of Sudetenland had many German speakers residing there and many of the population suffered greatly during the Great Depression. Much of the population were employed in export dependent industries including; paper making, textiles, toy manufacturing and glass manufacturing. Many Sudeten Germans wanted answers to their problems and as a result they turned to more extreme movements to rectify this. One as such was Fascism. The Munich Agreement was a conference attended by Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy. Czechoslovakia was not invited to the conference and as a result felt betrayed by the United Kingdom and France, hence the name the Munich betrayal. All parties signed the agreement on 30th September 1938, however it was dated on 29th September that Hitler was permitted to take Sudeten lands in Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovakian government was exiled to London. Fast forward a year and the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia was a separate pro-Nazi republic and Hitler proceeded to seize the rest of the area including Moravia and Bohemia where Prague is located. This fundamental decision on Hitler’s part ended appeasement. Later in 1939 Germany invaded Poland and propelled Europe into another war, The Second World War that would last another 6 years.
Resistance occurred in the form of boycotts and mass protest demonstrations at the start of the Second World War. Operation Anthropoid was a planned assassination of a high ranking Nazi Official by the name of Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich was head of the Reich Main Security Office , General of Police and later Acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. He was notoriously attributed to the “Final solution” to the Jewish question, helping to organise Kristallnacht and quash resistance in Czech/Slovak lands, this involved suppressing their culture. When he was in Prague he did not hesitate to eliminate any threat to Nazi rule. 92 people were assassinated shortly after Heydrich’s arrival to Prague and placed c.5000 people into concentration camps. Heydrich did not hide his intentions that he wanted the Czech lands to become German. The Czech people were an exploited labour force for Nazi Germany.
The Czech government in exile in London agreed that Heydrich was to be assassinated. Jan Kubis, a Czech and Jozef Gabcik were chosen to lead the operation and it was initiated by the Head of Czech Intelligence Frantisek Moravec and approved by Czechoslovakian President, Edvard Benes. They were trained by the British Operations Executives in order to carry out the operation. Kubis and Gabcik arrived via parachute in December 1941 and were in hiding whilst planning and conducting the assignation attempt. In this time they came into contact with anti-Nazi organisations and families that helped them and prevent them being thwarted. It was intended that they were to arrive in Pilsen, however this never happened due to navigation issues. This included doing background research that included Heydrich’s routine in order to paint a reliable picture for them to aid with their mission. It wasn’t until May 27th 1942 that they were successful. Kubis and Gabcik eventually settled on a plan to assassinate Heydrich in Prague.
On May 27th 1942 Heydrich left for Prague from his home in Panenske Brezany. The area that Kubis and Gabcik ambushed Heydrich was at a curvature of a tram line. This area was used because the curvature allowed for Heydrich’s car to slow down making the ambush seemingly easier to perpetrate. Kubis and Gabcik were stationed 100 metres from each other and when Heydrich’s car approached the curvature, it was Gabcik who opened fire at Heydrich with a sub machine gun but it wasn’t functioning properly. Heydrich ordered the car to stop to apprehend the assailant and tried to shoot Gabcik with his luger pistol. Upon witnessing this Kubis threw a grenade at the car. Shrapnel was scattered from the grenades collision through the car’s right rear bumper and hit Heydrich’s border (the shrapnel). Kubis and Gabcik shortly attempted to shoot in the direction of Heydrich but missed their target. Heydrich attempted to chase and shoot Gabcik but he collapsed and was bleeding heavily from his injuries. Heydrich’s driver attempted to apprehend Gabcik after Kubis left the scene by bicycle. However Gabcik wounded the driver and he too escaped. Initially it was thought on both Kubis and Gabcik’s part that the operation was a complete failure. Heydrich was later taken to hospital and operated on and needed blood transfusions. On 4th June Heydrich died from his injuries and contracted sepsis.
The consequences were that Heydrich’s death was the only successful assassination attempt of a high ranking Nazi official. Gabcik and Kubis managed to lay down low from preying Nazi eyes. In the meantime Nazi Intelligence linked the assailants to the village of Lidice and or Lezaky where the entire village was completely obliterated to the ground. Many inhabitants died. Intelligence officers alluded to the fact many Czech soldiers who were in exile in the United Kingdom originated in Lidice and so was concluded the assailants had connections there.
For a time it proved difficult for the Nazi’s to get a lead on who perpetrated the assignation. The bounty was set for 1million marks in exchange for where the assailants were hiding. A fellow exiled Czech soldier, Karel Curda who arrived along with 3 other exiled soldiers for their own mission to sabotage gasworks in Prague in 1942 as part of a resistance group Out Distance betrayed the operation and led the Nazis to those who provided help to Kubis and Gabcik. Those who offered help to the resistance were tortured, sent to concentration camps and killed. The torture for one young man, Ata was truly deplorable as after he was beaten his torturers showed the decapitated head of his mother. Ata resisted any attempts to reveal information for some time and continued to uphold his silence on the matter very bravely in the face of adversity. However, he later broke his silence under the torture and revealed to the Gestapo what they needed to know.
Nazi Intelligence found out that Kubis and Gabcik were residing in the Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Prague. A shootout ensued which resulted in the death of Gabcik and other resistance fighters. Kubis alongside other resistance fighters committed suicide in the crypt. The Bishop Gorazd and other senior church leaders were shot by firing squad. In a noble fashion Bishop Gorazd took the blame for what happened in the Cathedral to protect his flock. The man who betrayed his fellow comrades, Curda was a Gestapo collaborator for the reminder of the war but after the war was over he was tracked down and charged with high treason and for punishment was hanged.
It is certainly an enthralling piece of Czeck/Slovak history and one that is remembered for those who fought for freedom and justice to crush Fascism and tyranny. The bullet holes are still evident on the outside of the Cathedral today from the shootout and today a museum is housed in the Cathedral. I was lucky enough to visit Prague and was staying in the Manes area in the New Town, fairly close to Wenceslas Square and to this day the bullet holes remain on the exterior of the Cathedral. Although, please note the museum is not open on Mondays*
There are two films that base the events of what happened; Operation Daybreak released in 1975, starring Anthony Andrews and Timothy Bottoms and Anthropoid released in 2016, starring Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan that are both worth watching in order to gain more of an insight regarding the operation.
*correct at present time of publishing
The events that led Victoria to the throne involved a love match, national mourning and a race for royal princes to procreate quickly, quietly and efficiently. The sons of George III had a race to provide him with a suitable grandchild to continue the house of Hanover and naturally the most pressure fell on his eldest, the future George IV. George, as the Prince of Wales, was capable of only one(legitimate) progeny who was a girl, the Princess Charlotte. His other children were illegitimate and unable to take the throne due to the succession laws of Britain that barred any product of immoral or illicit unions. Princess Charlotte had grown up as a pawn in the furore that rang above her head between her father, the king, and her mother Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Her parents were first cousins with Caroline’s mother being the sister of George III, George IV’s father and predecessor on the British throne. The engagement between George IV, then the Prince of Wales, and Caroline occurred in 1794 due to a natural solution to clear some of his ever-mounting debts. If he married someone appropriate to become his queen the parliament and treasury would agree to increase his yearly allowance. By the eighteenth century choosing a bride for a British monarch had become increasingly more difficult than acquiring a substantial dowry, good looks and fertile child bearing hips. Naturally these were still important but events in the seventeenth century further narrowed the marriage market. One of the key aspects of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 that over threw the Catholic sympathiser James II, in the favour of a Protestant monarch, meant that Catholicism was now barred from the throne. The last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, who died in 1714 without a male heir left a vacuum that needed to be filled. The new laws meant the chosen heir would be needing to be related to the Stuart dynasty, male, preferably one with ruling experience and most importantly Protestant. This left very few people to take the helm except the rulers of a small German principality. The eventual George I was ruler of Brunswick-Lüneburg and descended maternally from the Winter Queen Elizabeth Stuart, eldest daughter of James I of England. He believed in the appropriate faith and already had an heir and a spare to satisfy the English parliament. Thus, creating the Hanoverian house which Caroline was marrying into.
Before their wedding day the couple had never met and therefore embarked on a lifelong union on the 8th of April 1795. Caroline had endured a difficult journey from her home in Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Germany. Britain was currently at war with revolutionary France whom had allies that surrounded the small German duchy. However, Caroline was known for being high spirited and verbally effusive, and arrived in England in a flurry of ill-mannered and vulgarly transparent behaviour. The future king the Prince of Wales was evidently disappointed as he was expecting a siren of beauty gracious, and kind, and most importantly quiet and biddable. None of which would describe Caroline’s delight in gossip and flirty behaviour. It is said that Caroline was equally disappointed with the appearance of her husband to be, who was fat, argumentative and given completely to his mistress (or possibly wife) Maria Fitzherbert. Their union is said to have lasted the length of their first night together and in the morning traded insults through mediators. George believed her to be unhygienic and not a true virgin in the marriage bed and Caroline was appalled that she was to have one of his mistresses, Frances Villiers, serve as her Lady of the Bedchamber (hence in close quarters and in insufferable dislike). It was however sufficient to get Caroline pregnant immediately and therefore sparing George the need of visiting her bed frequently. Despite her openness and given to charming the many men who looked her direction Caroline earned a popular reputation with the people, even furthering George’s hatred of her due to the public being very fluent in their despair of him and his behaviour. The notion of a child occurring so soon cemented the public opinion that Caroline was good and needed their support. On the 7th January 1796, a healthy daughter was born and christened Charlotte after the current queen who was the wife to George III. Upon hearing the birth of his daughter, the Prince of Wales responded by rewriting his will thus leaving all his property to Maria Fitzherbert and to Caroline one shilling. If there was need for evidence of the animosity between the couple, the will would naturally serve quite easily. George was disappointed for not having a boy but his father the king George III was delighted to have a legitimate grandchild regardless of her sex.
Charlotte was to grow up in a very divided household. Her mother was portrayed as the ‘wronged woman’ due to having her letters read by George’s mistress for any evidence that would permit divorce, and her father was vilified in the press for continuing to live in luxury and preventing Caroline from visiting anywhere without his permission. By August 1797 Caroline had moved into her own establishment of Blackheath and lived as though a single privileged woman. Happily, for Caroline who was fond of her daughter, Charlotte summered with her governess on the Montague House estate and could visit her frequently. It became clear quickly that Charlotte was to be the only child between George and Caroline and both parents attempted to instil their opinions and demands upon the young child. Caroline wanted better treatment within the royal family for having provided an heir but other than being allowed to visit Charlotte, she had no say in the child’s upbringing. Therefore, the child was to be brought up entirely by governesses and decisions made by her father. Despite this Charlotte saw very little of her father and it was unbeknownst to him that Caroline made a point of taking her daughter for carriage rides in the park, much to the delight of the public who were sympathetic to them.
The Prince of Wales had every appearance as a dominant father figure who liked his own way. When Charlotte was eight he pushed her mother out of Blackheath to live in small Kensington Palace apartments and moved his daughter into Montague House itself to allow visits to his Carlton House residence. Charlotte is said to have been socialised very well with her own peers as she rattled around her home with no company except those who were paid to serve her. She also suffered her first loss as her governess Lady Elgin was forced to retire due to her age despite them being close friends. Her replacement was Lady de Clifford who was not adept at disciplining the child who had grown into what would termed as ‘tomboy’ today. Charlotte would delight in playing with boys and becoming accustomed to unlady-like pursuits, such a fighting and galloping horses through the house estates. By 1805 Charlotte had a full suite of tutors to educate her on the Protestant faith, government and various genteel activities, however she evidently only learnt what she thought necessary herself. Thus, she became fluent in some languages and proficient at the piano but virtually illiterate alongside.
Relations between her parents had deteriorated by the time Charlotte reached the age of ten. Her mother acting upon George’s orders and pretended to not see her each time they came across each other in the park, rendering the young child deeply upset. At the time Caroline was under investigation against having taken various lovers however the ‘delicate’ matter found nothing that would aid George in finally divorcing her. The end of the proceedings allowed Caroline to visit Charlotte again but disallowed contact between any of Caroline’s followers. As Charlotte grew into a teenager and her visits to court became more frequent she was described as uncouth and undignified. Her father placed the blame of her mother’s influence with this despite being immensely proud of her stellar equine pursuits. She grew up into a tall and buxom lady with a love of Austen, Mozart and candid discussion… with a fondness of allowing her under-drawers being seen without concern for the dignity of her rank. Charlotte loved to do whatever she was told not do. On the 6th February 1811, her father became the Regent of Britain and Charlotte, forbidden to attend, rode obviously up and down the ground floor windows attempting to catch a glimpse of the solemn ceremony. Charlotte and her father did have some similarities, they were both politically minded with leanings towards the Whigs. Although the Whigs did not enjoy much royal enthusiasm while George was regent, Charlotte made it obvious where her feelings lay by flirting across the opera hall to the Whig leader, the Earl Grey. It would seem since George as a child rebelled against the strict confines of his parents rule he would learnt to show some respect to a child ready to grow up and explore. He however placed even stricter decorum and allowance rules upon Charlotte which led to her disappointing him frequently. Charlotte did not have a proper allowance for a princess for clothing and was forced to leave shows or operas early and to observe them without being perceived from most of the audience. She was also made to live in Windsor Castle with her unmarried aunts who she believed to be stuffy and dull. With such boredom to contend with her eye fell upon men for entertainment. George FitzClarence, her cousin, was banished to Brighton to join his regiment early after behaving unseemly with the princess and Charles Hesse of the Duke of York’s household was allowed several clandestine meetings with Charlottes mother’s blessing before Hesse was commanded to Spain.
However, Charlotte was at the age where marriage would be looming fast and her father started negotiations in 1813 after the tide of the Napoleonic wars steered in prosperous favour of the British. The first candidate was William, Prince of Orange who would increase alliances and trade with Northwest Europe. The potential couple met at the Regent’s birthday party and all males were riotously drunk. Although having given no official word about what was intended Charlotte had heard suggestions through the grapevine and did not bother to hide her distaste at the prince. She was informed properly of the match through Doctor Henry Halford who found her displeased at the prospect and declared that she did not wish a future queen to marry a foreigner. True enough in English and European history there is enough evidence to both support and negate this belief. The Regent had managed to mishear his daughter’s intentions and thought she wished to marry the Duke of Gloucester instead. Vehemently speaking he argued with both Charlotte and the Duke before realising there were no improper actions taken or about to be undertook. This whole affair was being enjoyed by the public through the satirical papers and news press who continued to vilify the Regent and bless the princess. On the 12th of December, Charlotte had given George the impression she liked the Prince of Orange and started to proceed with marriage plans. These took several months as Charlotte refused point blank to leave Britain and visit the home country of the prince. Many historians believe Charlotte was being difficult after having been advised by the Earl Grey to play for time before deciding on her future husband. The diplomats were also slowing progress since neither crown had the wish to unite under one throne and therefore inheritance of William and Charlotte’s children needed to be divvied up as to whom would gain Britain or the Netherlands. Charlotte signed the marriage contract on the 10th of June despite rumours of her having fallen in love with one of a few Prussian princes. The whole agreement was however about to be thrown into disarray. Charlotte met Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld at a party held for the Russian cavalry. Leopold was invited to attend Charlotte for a meeting and he impressed her father by leaving a note stating he wished no improper feelings toward her. George did not think Leopold would become an issue and knew that he would be an impoverished man to consider courting Charlotte.
During this Caroline who maintained public support was against the match between Charlotte and the Prince of Orange and the press agreed. Charlotte to the magnificent displeasure of the Regent broke of the engagement when she discovered her own mother would not be welcome within her marital home. Wishing to avoid being closeted with the Queen spirited herself away in a Hackney cab to her mother’s household before ordering Whig politicians to attend and advise her. She returned to her father reluctantly the next day after the Duke of York stating he had the power to return her by force. Charlotte lived in forced isolation until the end of July 1814 when she was informed her mother had left to live on the continent, never to see her again. Charlotte could visit Weymouth and travel as a dignified princess should eventually reconciling properly with her father at Christmas. The Regent held high hopes that Charlotte would return to the Prince of Orange but by March 1815 she had fixed upon Leopold as a future spouse. Issues surrounded her decision since Leopold was fighting with his regiment against Napoleon although he was responding enthusiastically to Charlotte’s overtures through intermediaries. As the continent was unsettled the Regent refused Charlotte’s initial proposal of marriage to Leopold before eventually summoning the man to Britain in February 1816. Leopold impressed both Charlotte and her father and the marriage was allowed to take place on the 2nd of May 1816. Delighted to have an end to his daughter’s romances he gave Claremont House and a generous income to the couple to set up a proper house for the future King and Queen of England. Crowds lined the streets and celebrations continued in the public spaces. The only mishap was when the poor Leopold promised his worldly goods to Charlotte who giggled in response.
Marriage to Leopold proved to be a calming balm on Charlotte who became quiet, respectful and more ladylike. Despite an early miscarriage Charlotte fell pregnant in April 1817 and she was restful and happy for the duration. Naturally at the mercy of the press, gamblers had bets on the sex of the child and economists made prospect forecasts. Charlotte’s pregnancy progressed normally under the care of Sir Richard Croft and a medical team. However, when her contractions came on the 3rd of November an unsuspected shock would rock the country. Charlotte had difficulties and her labour spread over several days until the end of the 5th of November a large stillborn boy was born. Charlotte received the news of her child calmly and appeared to recover from her ordeal. Leopold however distressed from being at his wife’s side the whole time took and sleeping draught and slept. In the early hours of the 6th of November Charlotte was violently ill and succumbing to post-partum bleeding. Within an hour Princess Charlotte had died while Leopold slept in the next room.
The death of Charlotte was a major loss to the royal family, she was the Regent’s only heir and none of his brothers had heir’s either. The public reaction to the news was one of genuine remorse and deep mourning even down to the paupers and homeless carrying black bands in respect. The entire running of the country shut down for two weeks and all gambling dens closed on the day of her funeral out of respect. The Prince Regent was distraught and unable to attend his own child’s funeral while Caroline fainted at the news after hearing it through a passing courier. It is said that Leopold never fully recovered from the loss of his wife and refused to remarry until he became King of the Belgians in 1832. He married Louise-Marie of Orleans and had four children. The princess was buried in St George’s Chapel with her son at her feet under a magnificent structure with help funded by the public. What killed Charlotte was never fully explained and despite receiving no blame from the Prince Regent, Sir Richard Croft committed suicide for his role in Charlotte’s labour.
Charlotte’s death meant there were no legitimate grandchildren of George III. George IV did not provide any more children during his rule as Regent or as King meaning there was a race for his younger brothers to marry and procreate, fast. After George IV died, the next in line was George III’s next son William IV who had a fonder love of sailing and ships then women. Once again England was facing the prospect of choosing someone to rule when the Hanoverians ran out of male brothers. Light did appear at the end of the tunnel, once Prince Edward the Duke of Kent discovered Charlotte’s death while at home in Brussels he abandoned his long-term mistress and sought a wife immediately. He chose Dowager Princess Victoria of Leiningen, Leopold’s sister, and they married in 1818. Their child, Charlotte’s niece, was born Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent. Edward did not live long enough to become king after his elder brother William IV. This meant the throne passed to his daughter in 1837 who became Queen Victoria, one of Britain’s longest reigning monarchs. Despite the sons of George III being disappointed in not being able to provide him with a male grandchild, it almost seems natural after the death of Charlotte that the grandchild that follows him to the throne would be a queen. And one that placed a descendant in nearly all the remaining ruling houses of Europe.
(Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mbell1975/6118587664)
When you mention the phrase ‘trade with India’ in a historical sense, people automatically think of the British East India Trading Company that dominated English international affairs, trade and politics from the 31st December 1600, yet few would know that this was not the only attempt to trade with the India, the Caribbean or the Americas on the British Isles. Despite being joined under the crown by James I in 1603, upon the death of the last Tudor Elizabeth I, English and Scottish trade and political links were most definitely separate entities that operated within virtually the same sphere of ideology. This was exasperated by many European countries seeking trade from India and the Americas within years of each other. Scotland in the seventeenth century had struggled with famine and continued endurance of continental warfare that had crippled the trade links that were already established. Scotland was not capable of protecting itself against English legislation which was increasingly bringing the Scots under the rule of an English Parliament. The Scottish economic bands were diminishing and Scotland needed to find a quick route back to prosperity. Thus, in the 1690s, the Darien Scheme was born. The founding father of this scheme was a Scottish financial master called William Paterson who had spent several years south in England formulating what would become the formidable Bank of England. Paterson had spent time learning about the East India Trading Company and decided to take a new venture up to Scotland in order to garner trade links across the Pacific Ocean. The basis of the idea allegedly came from Paterson having a conversation with the sailor Lionel Wafer who told tales of paradise populated by friendly Indians in the fertile land of Darien.
Trade was incredibly lucrative in the seventeenth century for those who was capable of exploiting it successfully, and naturally the thought of Darien stuck in the mind of Paterson. It was however enormously expensive. The merchant ships had to travel a hazardous route below the southernmost tip of South America to reach most of the Pacific markets. The trip took months and there was a high risk of shipwreck or becoming at the mercy of piratical theft. Paterson had the forethought to plan for goods to be carried across Panama from the Pacific harbours to Darien which was situated on the east side next to the Atlantic. This meant there was a virtually unimpeded sea route from Scotland to the Americas. Therefore speeding up Pacific trade and making it instantly more accessible. Economically Scotland would gain huge profits. There was a minor problem. The area that Paterson wished to gain control over to create these trade links was owned by Spain, who were going to prove very problematic for the Scots.
When Paterson took his idea back to Scotland it was very popular and in 1965 the Company of Scotland Trade to Africa and India was established. However, the move was distrusted and disliked by both Spain and England who thought the Scots were going to overtake their monopoly on British trade to the Indies. The English investors into the company were forced to withdraw after the English Parliament threatened Scotland with impeachment. The threat did not prevent Paterson and the company from continuing their venture and they appealed to the Scottish people to help. Thousands subscribed and within six months approximately £400,000 was raised, which was used to fit out five ships even with the English attempting to block progress in every corner. Ambassadors were flocking to attempt to embargo any merchants who dared to trade with the new company.
The sailor had given the company an unrealistic vision of what to expect as they thought they were going to be greeted by people living in luxury. The first expedition set out in 1698 with a band of army veterans in order to establish a colony and to govern until a Darien Parliament could be established. The idea was to create a colony on the Isthmus of Panama and launch a prosperous gateway between the Atlantic and the Pacific traders. By the time the first five ships set sail Paterson was no longer involved due to being culpable for a subordinates embezzlement of the company, he was expelled from the Directors Board and away from the project. Most of the company consisted of those who would little chance of employment elsewhere and some had notorious backgrounds – involvement in the Glencoe Massacre is one particular example – that would’ve hindered their later life. On the whole approximately 1200 people set off from Leith in July 1698 and sailed East to avoid being observed by English warships. They landed in Darien on the 2nd November 1698 after short supply stops in Madeira and the West Indies.
The colony was quickly founded and named ‘Caledonia’ under the leadership of Thomas Drummond. The founders quickly formed their harbour in Caledonia Bay and built Fort St Andrew and a watch house. Several hiccups occurred in quick succession such as tides that threatened a ship if it tried to leave the bay and also the fact they had built in the heart of the Spanish landed colonies that traded silver. Caledonia eventually formed into becoming ‘New Edinburgh’ as settlement huts expanded the village and farming land was cultivated for the growth of maize. This seemed to be an auspicious start for the colonists but the founders did not fare well with those that already occupied the land. The local Indians refused to trade with the Scottish and those that docked in Caledonia bay did not express interest in their wares. Illness also spread with malaria producing a death toll of at least ten settlers a day. Some local Indians attempted contact by offering fruit but these were mainly commandeered by the leaders who kept mostly to their ship cabins. The only luck that occurred was a proficiency at turtle hunting.
Many analysts of the Darien scheme believe that had the English supported the colony, the settlers would have prospered and grown fairly rapidly. However, the English and the Dutch had expressly forbidden their merchants to supply the Scots, for fear of angering the Spanish, which meant after eight months the colony was abandoned. With most their people dead from dysentery and infested food only three hundred people survived long enough to sail to Port Royal in Jamaica. As the former settlers were deemed a disgrace to those at home they sailed north to New York to attempt a new life in the then small town.
As much a failure the first expedition was this did not prevent the Scottish from reattempting their scheme in 1699. The second flagship arrived in Darien in November 1699 and found the burnt embers and mass graves of the first settlement. Morale was low since it was expected that these people who join a busy town not be responsible for building a new one. This new settlement started a turf war with the Spanish and it did not gain any headway until the arrival of Alexander Campbell of Fonab. He organised a strong defence and took to forcing the Spanish back. As with all wars illness was rife which led to legions of death from both the Scottish and Spanish armies. Spain was able to regroup and forced a siege upon Fort St Andrew that lasted a month. Eventually in January 1700 the Scottish colonies were deserted for the last time. Few went home to Scotland, most sought a new life in the established colonies in North America. Of the approximate 2500 settlers that left Scotland, a mere couple of hundred survived to go elsewhere.
The failure of such a promising scheme led to a further morale loss in the Scottish heartlands who had lost a significant amount of their workforce. Many of the contemporary people placed the blame upon the English which led to an assault on an East India Company merchant ship and the hanging of the captain. Historians still debate today as to why the Darien Scheme failed so disastrously. One thing is certain, the failure of Darien Scheme was, and is, cited as a motivation to codify the 1701 Act of Union between English and Scotland. Due to many of the Scottish landowners having lost money through the scheme the English bailed out the Scottish economy in return for an offset future liability to help contribute to reducing the English national debt. This scheme still survives as an oral tale amongst the Kuna Indians who were the only people to settle peacefully in the region.