Conflicts with Funny Names

Today I bring you an idea I borrowed from a history magazine I found at work (I am not sure if it was BBC history or History Extra, but it must have been one or the other). There were a few pages dedicated to  armed conflicts with some pretty silly or bizarre names. Now their list was pretty extensive, and in no means I have time to cover that amount of stuff in here. So instead I had a look at some of the issues that I found more interesting, and tried to keep them varied in terms of geographical location as well as historical period. So here it goes to a collection of pretty random war names.

War of the Bucket: sometimes also referred to as the War of the Oaken Bucket; a bellicose dispute between Bologna and Modena. The year was 1325 and the area where the vast majority of the conflict actually develops, is in the district of Emilia. It all started with some troops from Modena pilfered a bucket from a well belonging to the Bologna city walls. And you would think: all that fuss for a blooming bucket?! Well my friends, in case you are not up to speed with the Italian politics of the period, this was obviously not just about the bucket, but about the fact that Modena and Bologna where on opposite sides of the power struggle between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope. Bologna, as a supporter of the Pope was part of the Guelfs, whilst Modena sided with the HRE and the Ghibellines. In short, the outcome of this not so silly war was a victory for Modena, despite the 30000 soldiers that Bologna sent to confront their enemy. And what happened to the bucket? In case you are interested, this is apparently still displayed at Modena’s city hall – just out of spite.

Football War: this was a relatively recent conflict between El Salvador and Honduras. It is often referred to as well as the Soccer War or the 100 Hours War due to its duration – whether that makes it qualify as a war or not… And it is all because of football; indeed. It started in 1969 during the world cup qualifier match for the 1970 FIFA competition between these two nations. And was this really about football? Well, just like with the bucket; not quite that simple I am afraid. Issues rise up regarding immigration due to disputed border and land ownership which affected the mix population of Hondurans and Salvadorans in the area, the latter being effectively kicked out of the country in 1967. So y the time the match comes up, people in Honduras were concerned there were Salvadorans crossing the border not just for the sake of the match, but to stay. A series of nationalistic riots pushed the military to get involved, to the point that the Honduran government was sincerely concerned there would be a trespassing on behalf of the Salvadoran army which eventually happened. For the  over 100 hours that the conflict lasted, the number of casualties added up to around 3000 deaths, most of which were Honduran civilians.

The Flagstaff War: British v Maori. This is the conflict that in fact relates to Hone Heke’s rebellion. After a somewhat peaceful coexistence between the inhabitants of New Zealand and the newcomer British Empire, Heke instigated the war against their new friends due to many things, but I guess the straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that the British transferred their capital to Auckland from Okiato. This resulted in dramatic economic loses for Heke and his fellowmen. Thus, they decided to take their anger out on the British flag on Maiki Hill, which was chopped down repeatedly in 1844. This caused severe grievances as the British would keep on putting it back on the ground, and Heke and his people kept on cutting it down. The last time this stand-off was performed, it actually ended in violence with the death of one of the keepers of the flag. Leading to several battles; the entire conflict becoming a stalemate, which nonetheless has mostly been presented as a British victory as it meant grounds for reconciliation with Heke and the rest of the Maori communities…

Potato War/Plumfuss (1778-9). This was a conflict involving Austria against Prussia, with the special and additional mentions of Bavaria and Saxony. During the Bavarian War of Succession there was an attempt made by the alliance of Prussia and Saxony to stop the Hapsburg control over the region of Bavaria. As a result the fight entangles into a series of skirmishes. However, although the conflict was not so terrible there were thousands of death due to starvation as the result of  the raiding and pillaging soldiers who spoilt the vast majority of the food supplies. So, yes, perhaps this one war and its funny name have a higher affiliation in terms of terminology than the others. And the reason for the variance between potato and plum? It is a German thing: the Prussians and Saxons referred to it as the Kartoffelkrieg (Kartoffel being potato, krieg: war), whilst the Austrians used the term zwetschgenrummel (zwetschgen – plum, rummel – hustle). So it really depends on which side of the war your stand with this one.


When Politics Come to Sport: A History of Protest and Boycott at the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Politics and professional sport have forever been intertwined. Recently this has become more apparent with a number of news stories demonstrating this relationship. The American footballer Colin Kaepernick has made headlines and received a great deal of harassment for kneeling during the American national anthem at matches in protest of police violence against African Americans. There has been a great deal of political fallout over the choice to ban Russian para-athletes in the Paralympic Games, leading to the hacking of WADA. There was also the recent death of Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, famous for her protests against the Soviet Union during her career. My fellow W.U History contributor Matt wrote about Mandela’s use of the 1995 Rugby World Cup back in 2014, so I have decided to focus on the use of political protests in the modern  Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Despite the repeated attempts (and harsh punishments against those do) of theIOC and IPC, the Olympics and Paralympics have rarely been politically free.

Irish athletes protested their inclusion in the Great Britain team. In 1906, the Irish high jumper Peter O’Connor had the British flag raised for his silver medal position; he scaled the pole with an Irish flag and waved that instead while his teammate Con Leahy remained at the foot of the pole to guard him. This led in 1908 to the team name being changed to Great Britain/Ireland and even allowing in several events Ireland to compete separately despite Irish independence not being achieved until 1911.

The 1956 Olympics faced a number of boycotts from countries due to a range of political tensions. The Suez crisis led to Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq boycotting. The Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland also boycotted in protest of the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Finally China decided to boycott upon Taiwan being allowed to compete. Supporters of countries such as Australia vocally supported the Hungarian athletes in protest of the Soviet invasion. For the most part tensions never reached a boiling point except during the water polo, which became known as the Blood in the Water match. The match was between the Hungarians and the USSR, with the match turning violent very quickly. The match earned the name after the Hungarian Ervin Zádor was punched by one of the Russian team leading to him bleeding from his forehead. The spectators of the match were mostly Hungarian, Australian and American leading to an almost riot, only avoided by the police moving the crowd out. The Hungarians won the match and eventually the gold medal.

South Africa’s participation in the Olympic and Paralympic Games caused a huge deal of controversy between 1960 and 1992. Not only did many of the African nations protest against the policy of Apartheid itself, but South Africa’s attempts to send only white athletes caused controversy. Many Western countries however continued to try and include South Africa in the competitions; South Africa was only officially banned from the Olympics in 1970. They had been disinvited from the Olympics in 1964 and 1968, due to the protests from African countries.  However, until the Dutch hosted the Paralympics in 1980, the South Africans continued to participate in the Paralympics. They were only expelled by IPC in 1985. With the exception of the a few countries from the Eastern Bloc and Finland, white majority countries did not boycott but a number of countries with non-white majorities did. The 1976 Games also had a boycott because of the continued inclusion of New Zealand, after the protests of a number of African countries. New Zealand’s rugby team had toured South Africa despite the majority of countries boycotting Apartheid South Africa;  twenty nine countries in all, mostly countries from Africa and the Middle East. Upon the end of apartheid, South Africa was allowed to compete with a multi-racial team.

Perhaps the most famous of all Olympic protests was Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico Games. The American pair had placed first and third in the 200m respectively but drew outrage on the podium during the American national anthem. The pair both raised their fists, the well-known symbol of the Black Power movement, in protest of the treatment of Black Americans. Martin Luther King Jnr had been assassinated earlier in the year and despite the passing of the Civil Rights Act, unsurprisingly racial tensions were still high. The pair were booed as they left and were quickly punished by the IOC, leading to their expulsion from the games and Olympic Village. The implications of their protest continued to affect the pair after the 1968 Games. Both were subject to deaths threats and criticism in the US. Neither pair competed again in the Olympics, although both men continued in sport.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were not the only athletes to protest during the 1968 Olympic Games. Czech gymnast Věra Čáslavská had already upset Soviet authorities earlier in 1968 having signed the protest manifesto ‘The Two Thousand Words’ during the Prague Spring, a period of political liberalisation that threatened the Soviet Union’s control over Czechoslovakia. Upon the Soviet invasion in August 1968, Čáslavská was forced into hiding in the Moravian mountains. Having lost her training facilities she trained for the games outside in the forests of Moravia, using logs as beams and potato sacks as weights to defend her titles from the previous Games. She only received permission at the last minute to participate in the 1968 games. While Čáslavská managed to defend two of her medals and gained a further two medals, controversy arose when two judging decisions favoured Soviet gymnasts over her. As a protest Čáslavská bowed her head and turned away during the playing of the Soviet anthem. While she received no punishment from the IOC, Čáslavská was banned from sport events in Czechoslovakia and abroad. This forced her into early retirement. It was not until the threat of ceasing oil exports to Czechslovakia by Mexico was she allowed to leave the country in 1978. In 1985 under the pressure of the IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch she was finally allowed to return to the sport as a coach and judge. After the fall of communism Čáslavská held a number of positions within the IOC.

The 1980 Olympics in Moscow caused one of the largest boycotts in Olympic history. Due to the decision not to hold the Paralympics by the Soviet Union, instead it was hosted by the Netherlands with no boycott. Upon the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US gave the ultimatum for the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan or there would be a boycott of the games. Despite the efforts of the IOC, no compromise was made; in all, mostly because of the boycott (although a few were for other reasons) sixty six countries who were invited to be part of the games did not attend. These were mostly African and Asian countries. Several Western countries did not fully boycott, but did protest by refusing to attend the Opening Ceremony, or athletes competed under the Olympic flag rather than their own.

The following games in 1984 were held in Los Angeles, where this time the Soviet Union and a number of their allies boycotted. However this boycott was on a much smaller scale, only 14 countries. The boycott was called because of claims of security concerns and an anti-Soviet climate. The Paralympics were mostly boycotted again by Soviet countries; however East Germany, Poland and Hungary participated when they had boycotted the Olympics.

Since 1992, despite political concerns, there have been no large scale boycotts or major political gestures at either the Olympics or Paralympics. Despite concerns about the 2008 Beijing Games and possible boycotts being discussed, the Games were largely successful.

The reluctance to boycott more recently has no exact reasoning, but is probably down to several reasons. Primarily I believe this is mostly down to the large cost, in both money and time that athletes – and their supporters – must dedicate to helping their training. Athletes had previously been outspoken about missing their chances to compete due to political interference but were more likely to toe the line. Today they would be less likely to accept their countries’ decisions to boycott, they are less likely to risk their position at the Games by protesting at all. The end of the Cold War has also removed one of the biggest political obstacles, but while there are still tensions between Russia and the USA, the Olympics almost seem to now be seen as an opportunity to compete, in a non-violent way.

Maori Protests and the Treaty of Waitangi

History of the British Empire’s involvement and subsequent negative and detrimental impacts on indigenous people and societies of the lands they colonised in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is well-known. Those effects today are highly prevalent even in now developed and Westernised countries  of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with indigenous populations having faced depleting numbers, inequalities in welfare and health care and mistreatment from the government, and ongoing disputes concerning land rights. But focus has slid from the perspective of Maori people, and their history outside of New Zealand is largely ignored, and their movements and protests discussed very little.

In New Zealand, a major problem lies within the context of implementing treaty settlements via indigenous institutions. Issues of marginalisation help to fuel feelings of discontent and protests concerning their own land rights. Marilyn Lashley discusses how treaty settlements as reparative justice ‘provides neither adequate nor sufficient redress to most Maori individuals or households harmed by marginalization and the lingering legacy of dispossession.’  But where do these disputes concerning treaties originate from, and why is it felt that they are not doing enough to decrease the gap in inequality between the Maoris and Pākehā – the Maori term for New Zealanders of European descent? Lashley underlines the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi as a source of dispute. The treaty established New Zealand as a British colony, and was written in English and Maori. Lashley discusses that this inclusion of both languages has been a major cause of disagreement, as the texts differ greatly. Maori people understood that the treaty was one for power sharing between themselves and the British, and Maori people would be equal with the British in the cultural, economic, social and political life of New Zealand. From the English text, however, the Maori ceded ‘all the rights and powers of sovereignty over their respective territories’ to the British Crown. Therefore, instead of creating a united country of the European settlers and the Maori, the legacy was one of continued land disputes, wars over sovereignty, treaty rights and marginalisation.

In the 1974, the renaming of  Waitangi Day as New Zealand Day was seen as inappropriate by many protestors, who saw it as demeaned the Treaty of Waitangi. But issues had started earlier, by using the day as a national day of thanksgiving concerning issues detached from the treaty. Therefore, this caused a growing number of protests in the 1970s. In 1971 activist group Ngā Tamatoa organised the first protests at Waitangi on Waitangi Day. This would be followed by protests in 1973, in which members of Ngā Tamatoa wore black armbands, signifying the loss of Maori land. The Ngā Tamatoa were a group created by young Maoris who wished to draw attention to the loss of Maori land and indigenous rights, created in 1968. Throughout the 1970s, Maori people increasingly took part in protests concerning their marginalisation and land rights.

Government response to the protests has been arguably slow. In 1975, the Treaty of Waitangi Act ‘reasserted the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of New Zealand’ (Lashley, pp. 6). Although it went through readjustment ten years later, it still prevented the Maori tribunal from functioning as a legally binding institution.  Protests have thus continued against acts and instances in which the rights of the indigenous Maori population is negatively affected, although not as intense as protests in the 1970s. Lashley argues the most successful treaty settlements in bringing the Maori and the Pākehā  have been in language, preschools and biculturalism, using institutions like the Tainui Trust Board to provide community-based educational, social, and health services and employment. However, it is evident Britain’s colonial footprint has left its lasting mark on New Zealand’s Maori population and their voices are largely ignored in the main scope of discussion, which underlines the major reason for these protests in the last fifty years. Issues have transcended into the country’s current political situations. The Maori marae is an open space where people can gather for discussion. In 1998 then opposition leader Helen Clark was criticised for speaking on the marae when Maori women could not. Ongoing protests have meant politicians have often avoided attending Waitangi Day at Waitangi, showing the remaining passion amongst Maori people concerning their marginalisation and land rights.

Further Reading

Maori Protest Movements

Waitangi Day Protests

Lashley, M.E., ‘Implementing Treaty Settlements via Indigenous Institutions: Social Justice and Detribalization in New Zealand’, The Contemporary Pacific, 12,1 (2000), 1-55.

New Zealand: Land of Legend

The first man to discover New Zealand was the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. He got to Golden Bay with his ships in 1642, but his mission was rather unsuccessful, and tragic. It seems that he and his men tried to establish communications with the locals, but they were not fruitful. After one of their attempts, something went wrong. The sources are not entirely clear of what happened exactly but it seems that miscommunication and poor interpretation of actions turned the situation into a small armed conflict were both the Dutch and the Maori lost men. Because of this, Tasman named Golden Bay as Moordenaers Baij, or Murderer’s Bay. Some time after Tasman’s failed mission, Captain James cook had a rendezvous across the same waters the Dutch had neglected, in 1769. He actually managed to map the location and fulfil exploratory enterprises in the mainland. This basically opened the doors of the territory to new comers.

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New Zealand: Polynesian New Found Land

Nowadays New Zealand seems to be one of the top world touristy destinations, with amazing landscapes, peculiar culture and, of course, HOBBIT HOLES!! 😀 The production of the Lord of the Rings movies, as well as the recent The Hobbit (trailer for the new one coming out this week!) make it seem like the country is trendy and has always been so…But, that is not the truth, is it?

In Maori mythology, New Zealand was literally fished out of the ocean by the Polynesian demigod Maui. Also, it had a different name. For them it was called Aotearoa, or the “Land of the long White Cloud”. To our knowledge, New Zealand had no human settlements until the Maori decided to migrate there, sometime in the 13th century most likely. Nevertheless, historians and archaeologists are still debating whether the original settlement happened in an earlier period, or even perhaps a later one. Anyway, what matters is that around the time of our Western European Middle Ages, a man known as Kupe found the new island while voyaging in his waka hourua (a voyaging canoe, in Maori language). According to the tradition, he had departed from his home land in Hawaiki and trace a route southwards. We are not entirely sure where Hawaiki was, but it was probably located in one of the archipelagos of the south pacific ocean.

Continue reading “New Zealand: Polynesian New Found Land”