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ociet Victory at the Oscars S n reports back from the EUSA Society Oscars, where the History Society won a top award FANTASTIC night was had by all the History Society comm ittee at EUSXs Society Oscars, held in Teviot in February. As if the pro m ­ ise of free food and wine we re not enough to draw History Society committee members along, the ex­ tra thrill of having been short listed for the 'Best Society' award meant it was a night not to be missed! Sporting party frocks and tuxes, the committee members didn't quite hit the red carpet, but Teviot debating hall did look very smart all the same. During the buffet dinner, whilst sampling the finest offerings from 'Echo Falls', we were enter­ ta ined by the rhythm ic sensation that is the Bangra Dance Society, the female voice choir and a hil ari­ ous performance by the Improverts. As the awards were announced, the room gained an air of excitement

and an ticipat ion, heightened by the stream of win ne rs and runn ers- up approaching th e stage to collec t th eir winn ings. Our table became extremely nervo us as the ni ght approached its climax and the an­ nounceme nt of who had won 'Best Society' was growi ng ever nearer. As Ca mi lla Pierry bega n to run th rough the short list, our tabl e's claims of, "the economics society must have it:' and, "it can't be us, no way:' nearly drowned ou t her description of the winning soci­ ety's footba ll team, trips to Historic Scotland sites and own jou rna l. Finally the penny dropped. Before Cam illa could even utter the wo rds, our shrieks an nounced to th e entire hall that the H istory Society had been victorious. Gri nning from ear to ear an d eager to collect our £5 00 prize, we ran fo r the stage. President

of the society, Dun ca n Butler, per­ haps a little more eager than the rest of us (or perhaps just having con­ sumed a litt le more shiraz) reach ed the mic rop hone first and thanked EUSA and his fellow com mi ttee members from this year and last who had contributed to the win. Amid the excitement of being on stage, getting our photo taken and receiving the large novelty cheque, th ere was one cas ualty of the eve ni ng. The decapitation of the Oscar statue did not dampen our spirits, however, as we headed to the bar. As our eup hori c celeb ra­ tions continu ed, it began to sin k in what an achi evement the award actually was. It had been ten years since the H isto ry Society had won th is award and our victor y was grati fi cation for the hard work of the committee who successfu lly or-

gan ised events and trips and helped to increase membershi p. It is also proof of the dedicated and talented History Societ)' members who sup­ po rt us and participate so eagerly in all of our events. Wi nni ng the 'Best Society' award is a great achieve ment, espe­ cia lly as Edi nburgh has one of the largest number of student societies at any UK univers ity. Co mpetition was stiff, but the Oscar is confirma­ tion of what we al ready knew; that we are the best SOCiety. All the trips we run , our journ al, ou r footba ll tea m an d the epic pub crawls, all of which contrib uted to the win, co uld not have been possible 1Nithout our loyal members and committee. Thank you to you all and watch this space fo r what we pla n to do with the prize mo ney over the coming yea r.


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T H E HISTORY Society Ball

is one of the biggest an d most an ­ ti cipated events in the Univers ity of Edinburgh's social cale ndar. Af­ ter last year's success at Dynamic Earth, the pressure was on to cre­ ate an event just as amazing. This year's ball ce rta inly d idn't disap­ point.

The five star Caledonian Hilton Hotel was the venue fo r this social extravaganza; history stu de nts surrounded by th e beautifu l art­ work of the hotel's grade II listed Castle Suite, the build ing dat ing back to 1905. To make the event spectacu­

lar, the ball was transformed into a masquerade. From cl ass ical Venetia n masks, to the ki nd usu ­ ally mod elled by Zo rro, guests hid th ei r faces whilst letting their dresses, kilts, suits and tuxedos do the ta lking.The night started with a bang, literally. As guests arrived to the soun d of our very own piper, a cascade of firewo rks, celebrating St. Andrews day, deco­ rated the sky, Edinburgh castle providing the perfect backdrop to the ma gical evening. Guests we re then greeted with a cham pag ne re­ ception, before taki ng their places un der the beautiful chand eliers of th e Castle Suite fo r an exquisite three course go ur met meal. Full to th e brim with food and wine, there was then the oppo r­ tun ity for mass photo taki ng, the bea utifu ll y decorated Christmas trees as we ll as the hotel's grand piano being ho ts pots. Gues ts to ok full advantage of th e stu pendo us staircase, some using it for photos, wh ilst others used the opport u­ nity to recreate the in famo us Dis­ ney Beau ty and th e Beast scene. Gues ts then enj oyed a vas t menu of cocktails, slowly working thei r way through the many vers ions of martini on offer, th e Paolo Martini

going down a storm! Afte r being suitab ly refreshed, the real fun of the even ing began . Having tra nsfo rm ed th e ro om into a large dance floor, it was ti me fo r guests to grab th eir partne rs and dosey doe. After strippi ng th e willow and a few Gay Go rd ons, people rested thei r feet wh ist the President of the History Society, Duncan Butl er, gave a few words of thanks to guests and to those who had been respons ible fo r or­ ga ni zi ng the eve nt, the History Society committee. With the night still young, guests hopp ed ac ross th e road to club Bacaro, which had opened exclUSively that night fo r the H is­ tory Society. ll1e celebrati ons con­ tinued in style, wit h more danc­ ing, more swishing skirts and a few more cocktails. Bow ties we re undone, wh il st so me of the men fe lt it necessa ry to prove their true Scotsman status with a cheeky fl ash of th e ki lt. The night was a success and a wonderful opportunity to get the whole society toget her for a bit of Ch ristmas cheer. Howeve r, all th oug hts now turn to how the His­ tory Society is going to to p such an outstand ing event next year.


HE HISTORY Society kicked off the New Year with a free visi t for all members to Sti rl ing Castl e, re­ establishing the society's li nk with Historic Scotland. Despite the early morn ing start on a cold, miserable day, History Society members turn ed up in full, wrapped up to tackle the cold. Al­ though the trip nearly ended up in Bathgate, after a m isun derstanding with trains, all members eve ntually arrived in Stirli ng, ready to face the steep ascen t up to the castle. Upon reachi ng the castle, so­ ciety members took in the breath­ taking view, cameras capturing the distant Wallace Monument as well as the royal castle set aga inst the backdrop of snow covered hills. After having a small amount of time to explore the castl e for themselves, they were treated to a tour by a most enthusiastic guide. From th e canons to th e beauti­ fu l wooden beams supporting the great hall, members were given detailed information abo ut the his­ tory of the castle. Througho ut the walking tour, visitors contin ued to snap away with their cameras at the beautiful, symbolic archi tecture. The tour ended in the Royal

l6lif\midbIDlfllhmn adventures to Stirling Castle and finds more than canons and vaulted. ceilings

Chapel, surro unded by a se ries of exquisite tapestries kn ow n as The Hunt of th e Unicorn . History Society members were told of the sto ries surro un ding each tapes­ try, further ing thei r interest in the beautifu l artwork. With th e tour completed, mem­ bers set off aro und the castle, ex­ plori ng all of the d ifferent roo ms, walkways and viewpoi nts the site has to offer. From a depict ion of life in a sixteenth century castle

kitchen, to the opportunity to visit the regimental museum, visito rs were spoil t for cho ice in the range of act ivities on offer. One of the most uniqu e opportuni ties, how­ ever, was the chance to see profes­ sional weavers atte mpti ng to rec re­ ate th e ou tstanding tapestries that had bee n previously ad m ired in th e great hall. In th e tapestry stu­ d io, members were able to observe the fasci nating process and wit ness how d ifficult weav ing is, with the

tapestry taking nea rl y four years to complete. The exc urs ion to Stirling Cas­ tle was a great success an d History Society mem bers were able to gain hands-on experience of the amaz­ ing history th at Scotland has to offer. Although th e weathe r was m iserable, members explored the castle till thei r hea rts' conten t, the Histo ry Society pleased to have provided another successful trip with the help of H istoric Scotland.


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Kate Cranston-Turner and BrOttany Harbidge report back from their sneak preview of the new School of History, Classics and Archaeology building

As SOME of you may have read in the last issue of Retrospect, the School of History, Classics and Ar­ chaeology is soon to be established in a new home, in the West Wing of the historic medical school. As members of the cross-school staff student liaison committee, we were invited, along with Classics and Archaeology representatives, to see how the work was coming along. De­ spite the miserable day, the dust and scaffolding, it is clear that the work being done is creating a truly beauti­ ful space, fitting for the study of the past. As a grade A listed building, the re-design has been undertaken with great care. Key features, such as cornerstones and window frames, have been preserved. However, this has largely restricted the utility of the space. The most obvious impact is the disparity in the size of staff offices, some of which have only been cre­ ated with half a window each (if any staff are reading this they may want to get their requests for particular offices in early, we recommend the third floor) . The strikingly beauti­ ful staff room does go some way to making up for this. The post-gradu­ ates will also be lucky enough to have exclusive use of five forty-ca­

pacity study rooms, all benefiting from large windows and stun ning arch itecture. However, undergradu­ ate students of each school are not so lucky.

Despite claims that the building was designed to reinforce the sense of an "academic community': the undergraduate seems to have been left out in the cold somewhat, with only one sixty-capacity study space for all of the 1,100 students. Each of the representatives present voiced our concerns as the tour continued and it became clear that no more space was to be allocated for us. Particularly concern ing is how this will affect the Classics students who will rely on this space once their private library in David Hume Tower is moved into the new building. For History students, the Scottish, social and economic and the Compton libraries will also be relocated into

th is limited space, raising concerns over of how many students will ac­ tually be able to access these books at one time. Be reassured, the main library will still retain its collections of history books, but it is frustrating that provision for undergraduates seems to have been an afterthought in the designs of the building. When these concerns were raised at a recent cross school meeting, it was impUed that student representa­ tives were being close minded with regard to use of the space. With the building already underway, there is now little option of making any sig­ nificant changes to the plans. How­ ever, it was suggested that if we have any ideas on how to make use of the existing space - such as whether to include computers or just powe r­ points - these may be brought before a further board meeti ng. As a result we leave it to you to tell us what you want. A facebook discussion has now been created on the history society page, with li nks to the Classics and Archaeology societies. If you would prefer to re­ main anonymous, email Kate Cran­ ston-Tu rner, the staff student liaison officer fo r the History SOCiety, with any suggestion s.


Remembering James F. McMillan J'n Stephenson and Jeremy Cran pay tribute to their brilliant friend and colleague James F, McMillan ROFESSOR JAMES F. McMil­ lan, Richard Pares Professor of His­ tory at the University of Edinburgh, has died at the age of 61. He was an outstanding scholar, an in spirational teacher, a brilliant academ ic manager and a wonderful colleague: the word "collegial" might have been coined to describe him. His death robs ,the academic community of a bright star whose warmth and humanity won him so many friends, in Edinburgh and many other places. The tributes paid to him by former students tes­ tify to his brilliance and commitment as a teacher and research supervisor. Jim was an immensely sociable man who enjoyed nothing more than comradely conversations with col­ leagues about the idiosyncrasies of academic life over a convivial glass of wine. His presence in a group invari­ ably lifted its spirits: as one member of staff recalled, "Jim made us all feel better about ourselves': For Jim, the glass was always at least three­ quarters full; this "can-do" approach was both attractive and infectious, spurring colleagues and fri ends to attempt to solve problems that had previously seemed intractable. Jim McMillan showed early promise as a dux: medall ist at St Mirin's School in Paisley, his home town . He went on to emerge from the UniversityofGlas­ gow in 1969 as top Modern History graduate in his year, proceeding from Glasgow to Balliol College, Oxford, where he completed his D.Phil. thesis on "The Effects of the First World War on the Social Condition of Women in France" under the supervision of Richard Cobb. This was the basis for his path-breaking book, House­

jim's judiCious poliCies, espeCially in the area of staffing, saw the ap­ pointment of many talented young scholars to the new School. He leaves a solid foundation for the future.

to de Gaulle: Politics and Society in France 1898-1969 (1985 ) and Na­ poleon IJI (1991), Ji m de monstrated his intellectual breadth by teaching undergraduate courses on the his­ tory and sociology of religion as well as on literary theory and history. In 1987-88 he was an exchange profes­ sor at California State University.

wife or Harlot? The Place of Women in French Society 1870-1 940 (1 981), published at a time when "women's history" was still a minority interest. After a year as a tutorial assistant in Glasgow in 1972-73, Jim's academic career began at the University ofYork, where he served as lecturer, and then senior lecturer, fro m 1973 to 1992. His years at York were happy ones, especially after his marriage to Donatella Fischer. As well as pro­ ducing two furthe r books, Dreyfus

In 1992, Jim returned to Scotland as Professor of European History at the University of Strathclyde, and it was here that his managerial skills became evident. He served with dis­ tinction as Head of the Department of History and as Vice-Dean (Re­ sources and Planning) in the Faculty

of Arts and Social Sciences. A revised and extended edition of Dre)iu5 to de Gaulle appeared under the title of Twe ntieth Century France: Politics and Society 1898- 1991 (1992) and his academic excellence was recognised by his election to a Fellowship of tlle Royal SOCiety of Ed inb urgh in 1996. In 1999 jim was appoi nted to the Richard Pares Chair at the Uni versity of Ed inbu rgh in succession to anoth­ er distinguished histori an of France: Maurice Larkin. He threw himself into academic affairs in Edinbu rgh with immense energy and infectious enthusiasm. A fur ther book soon fol­ lowed, France and Women 1789-1914: Gender; Society and Politics (2000) , and the respect and admiration he earned from his colleagues made h im an obvious choice as the fou nding Head of the new School of History and Classics in 2002, as part of the university's internal restructuring. His preparation for an orderly transition was painstaking. Some staff were sceptical about the new structures, but Jim patiently took time to nurse them . This was his method throughout: to take col­ leagues along with him, by consent.

jim's prodigious work as Head of School, as well as the care and at­ ten ti on he gave to his many devoted students, did not crowd out other in­ terests. With Donatella, he was a keen tl1eatre and concert -goer, and he re­ mai ned an ardent Celtic fan. Indeed, wh ile at York, he had played in a local league as part ofthe staff team and was said to have been a creative midfield­ er with "a cultured right foot': He also remained loyal to his faith, serving for many years as convener of the Scot­ tish Catholic Historical Association. Cancer claimed Jim McMillan at the height of his powers. At the end of his tenure as Head ofSchool in 2005 he as­ sumed the directorship of the univer­ sity's Centre for the Study of the Two World Wars and was awarded a Ma­ jor Leverhulme Fellowship to enable him to research and write a book on religious belief in the First World War. The following year he was elected to a Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford. Alas, emerging ill­ health prevented him from making the most of these new avenues and opportunities and his book remained unfin ished. Jim faced his long ill­ ness with typical courage and dig­ nity. He was a truly inspiring figure whose remarkable human qual ities and exceptional scholarship will be sorely missed by his colleagues and many friends. He is survived by his wife, Donatella, a lecturer in Ital­ ian at the University of Glasgow.


eatu A patriotic

venture Hamish Kinnear reviews Britain's ongoing imperial stance in the Falklands War in the 1980s

By THE

1980s Britain was a shadow of its former im perial self. Si nce the co nclusio n of the Second World War its territories had been systematically relinquished. De­ spite Harold Macm illan 's "Winds of Change" speech that had sug­ gested an honourable handover of power to local authorities, Britain 's policy of decolonisation was a hu­ miliating experience. In the face of the intellectual protest of Mahatma Ghandi or the aggress ive national­ ism of Nasser, Britons began to fee l an acute sense of embarrassment about their imperial past and apa­ thy towards the ir future. Yet the British overseas territories which were and are still remain ing represent an "empire" on which the sun never sets. The territory th at once covered a qua rter of the globe has been th oroughly dismantled, but there stiJI remai n a number of - mostly uninhabited- islands dot­ ted around the globe. These impe­ rial leftovers include a set of bar­ ren, windswept isles in the South Atlantic named the Falklands. The Islands had little to profit from economically and therefore few incentives for settlement. Their proximity to Cape Ho rn -the tip of South America- made them strategically important. Indeed, a crisis over their ownership in 1770 brough t Britain, France and Spain to the brink of war. However, in 1833 ownership passed to the Brit­ ish who established the fi rst perma­ nent settlement of Po rt Stanley. The British nationality of the settlers ens ured loyalty to their country of origin . But claims on the Islands by Spain and its post-colonial suc­ cessor Argentina, dating fro m their discovery in the 1520s, plagued British administration. The issue of sovereignty became significant with the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. The Argentines joined the scores of

other natio ns asking for territorial concessions off Britain. The Argen­ tine claim on the Falklands, or Las Malvinas, was justified by accusing th e British of aggression when th ey removed the Argentine inh abita nts from the Islands in 1833. In 1982 the fa ltering mil itary junta th at had taken co ntrol of Ar­ gentin a in 1976 decided to distract attention fro m its eco nomic an d political failings by increasi ng the pressure on Britain to co ncede the Falklands. The lack of British diplo­ matic engagement led some Arge n­ tine leaders to believe that invasio n was the only option. Eventually, en­ couraged by Britain's apparen t lack of concern for the Falklands and its dwindling mi li tary presence in the area, the Arge ntine leader Leopol­ do Galtieri ordered an invasio n. Now in an attempt to save the remnants of her empire, Britain tackled the Argentine offensive head-on. Bombing raids were ex­ ecuted from the mid Atlantic pos­ session of Ascension agai nst Argen­ tine positions. This was foll owed up by heavy naval bombardment and a task force that reclaimed the Is­ lands wi thi n one month . War fever remin iscent of the height of empire swept th rough Britain, enth used by the hard-fo ught battles at Goose Green and Mount Lo ngdon. Th e Sun newspaper famous ly, and rath­ er coarsely, head lined its report on the controversial Si nking of the Ar­ ge ntine Crusie r General Belgrano with "GOTCHA!" The British had reason to cel­ ebrate. They had wo n a war 8,000 m iles from home in wh ich the ob­ jectives were co nsidered by many to be a "military impossibility". They had also seem ingly fought for the right reason: the liberation of British subj ects from an unpro­ voked invasion by a militaristic aggreSSive neighbour. The wave of patriotic fervo ur and confidence had been unseen si nce the Second

Wo rld War. Returning soldiers were greeted by crowds of jubilant, flag-waving civilians. There we re notable opponents to the war. but the ge neral consensus was unden i­

able. Indeed, the Prime Minister herself, Margaret Thatcher, stated that the victory "put the 'Great' back in Great Britain". Britain had rid herself of her post-impe­ rial apathy through a method that had originally created the Empire: warfare. But why was a war where the combined casualties of each coun­ try nearly equalled the population of the territory fought over so pop­ ular? Further to th is, tho ugh the ou tcome of the war was uncertain, why were British people willing to accept such high casualty figures during its duration, and even after the wa r? A single month of the hos-

tilities ca used 258 deaths, a higher figure than the current British fatal­ ities in th e nine year co nflict in Af­ gha nistan. Perhaps the easiest con­ clusion is that so long as a co nflict is sho rt and successful the populace will accept high casualties. The more important factor is the impact that th e success of war can have on a natio n. Thatcher's elec­ tion to a seco nd term in 1983, by no means assured befo re the war, was secured by the military victory. Her approval rating almost doubled during the relatively short duration of the conflict. The opposite was observed in Argentina, where the ruling junta was quickly deposed fo llowing its defeat. The protection of British citizens is an esse nti al task if we are to believe in the principle of a nation-state, and in this sense the Falklands War was justified. But the euphoria that greeted the successful conclusion of a co nflict over a set of islands hith­ erto unheard of came as a surprise to many. As modern and "civilised" western nations we may consider ourselves to be above the celebra­ tion of war. It rema ins clear that regardless of the origi nal motive or the death toll, a successful war will always be popular.

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Our lads sink gunboat and


10

T HERE

WERE lavatori es, jammed wi th co rpses of young men who had muscled their way to com ­ parative safety. And aU the nauseat­ ing smell of p utrefying flesh, faeces and urine. The very thought brought vomit to Huku m Chand's mouth." This sorry description of the typi­ cal violence carried out between South Asian Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs during the mass migrati on which followed the Pa rtition of In­ dia in August 1947 is taken from Khushwant Singh's famous novel, Train to Pakistan . The novel, pub­ lished ni ne years after Partition in 1956, is set in Mano Majra, a fiction­ al village on the border of Pakistan and India. Singh contrasts the peace­ fu l cohabitation of the Musli m-S ikh population with the heart-breaking violence that ensued once the Bri

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visited Indi a in his life - that divided the subconti nent into two sovereign states, Muslim and Hindu. The ex­ tent of the violence caused by such a decision has only recently been recognised by Western readership. Partition literature such as Singh's has been praised for its ability to uncover the hu man aspect of the eve nt and describe the gut-wrench ­ ing attacks that each rel igious group ca rried out agai nst its countrymen. Singh writes, "Both sides killed. Both shot and stabbed and speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped". Such thorough detail of emotion al suffering is abse nt fro m contem­ porary political reports; Ayesha Jalal and Sugata Bose have uncov­ ered Lord Mountbatten's detach­ me nt in his appraisal of Partition as merely "one of the greatest ad ­ ministrative operation s in hi story'~

ed for the unidentified refu gees. Weste rn histori og raphy's struggle to produce hu man history con fi rms Ed ward Said's Orientalist theory that Western historians cannot help but cast the ex periences of colonial natives as "other". Such detach ment

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de nies the reader an empathetic un­ derstand ing of what Pa rtition mea nt in social terms, No r does human emotion fe ature in Indian national ­ ist histories which portray Partitio n as simply par t of th e large r drama

as e ses the ifficulty in rec

like child ren". The author's memory is never pure or unmediated and therefore seems unreliable. But it is important to note that Mano Majra, although a typical Indian town, is fictional and Singh does not present his own experience. In terms of first-hand accounts, is it possible that some expe ri ences are just so barbaric that they are inde­ scribable? Words fa il. In remember­ in g one's own suffer ing is it natural to adopt a detached stance and pro­ tect oneself from fur ther pain? The intercommu nal n ature of the hostili ­ ties meant that socio- religious pride played a significant role. In some acco unts fathers chose to kill thei r own families and th en themselves to save th eir wives and daughters bein g raped or th eir sons converted to the ene my reli gion, The mass­ suicide of Sikh women and chil dren

violence of the Parti ion

of India

ish imposed false borders to divide India's three comm un al groups. Although the statistics vary, it is accepted that a million people lost their lives in the intercommunal homicide. In the context of decolo­ nisation after the Second World War, and with the growing influ­ ence of Gandhi's nationalist Qui t India Movement, Britain was all too happy to flee the violent subcon ­ tinent which seemed on the brink of civil war, and focus her imperial might on the scramble for Afr ica. Britain's colonial policy of "Divide and Rule" through the colonial census - which classified Indian citizens in terms of their religion rather than their social status or gender - exacerbated an environ­ ment of hostile communal relations. The Indian National Congress led by Jawaharlal Nehru was seen as a largely Hindu organisation and was vehemently challenged by Muham­ mad Ali Jinnah's Muslim League. But it was the work of Viceroy Mountbatten and lawyer Sir Cyril Radcliffe - the latter never having

Subsequent historiography has overlooked the suffering of the masses by refe rring to refu­ gees in terms of statistics and employing focUSing on the po­ litical ram ificat ions of the event.

The ra ison d'etre of the h isto ri­ cal ap proach lies in fac tuality and objectivity; this impa rtial stan ce is prone to present ind ividuals as mere sources of information , eyewitness­ es, the deceased and the missing. The individual's suffering can never be uncovered through trad itional h istorical sources such as govern­ ment reports wh ich prese nted th e evacuation in terms of sums of money or quantity ofclothing need-

of th e st ruggle for independen ce. Than ks to the literary devices of di alogue and description, Partition novels can tackle aspects of hu ­ man suffering which lie beyo nd the historian's scope, Anthropological intervie ws and first person literary acco unts reveal the inner-most feel­ ings of those who participated in Partition violence and go fur th er in exp laining their motivations than historiog rap hy. Saad at Hasan Ma n­ to's collec tion of sati rical poe ms, Mottled Dawn, and Bhisham Sahni's Ta mas, th e latter having bee n made into a fil m, offe r intimate accounts of Pa rtition on a pop ular scale. But Partition novels are not with ­ out th eir own flaws. Written by tho se who experienced the terror, they are hugely su bjective an d it is d ifficult to monitor the au thor's ex­ aggeration of events. Singh's dep ic­ ti on of com munal har mony, before the arrival of a t rain load of m ur­ dered migrants as depicted above, has been criticised as an unrealistic idyll: "Sikh and Muslim vi llagers fell into each other's ar ms and wept

in Thoa Khalsa was praised by Con­ gress for their preservation of Indi­ an womanhood. O thers neglected their religiOUS belief an d converted si mp ly to save their lives, wh ich co uld be considered shameful. Some wom en were forced to convert, remarry and settle in Pa­ ki stan or India among th eir en­ emy communal group. W hat is eve n more difficult to grasp is that, when India lau nched legisla­ tion to recover these lost women from Pakistan, many did not wa nt to leave, aware of th e difficulti es of rei ntegration once tainted by th e opposite religio us comm unity. A middle way that marries h is­ torical factuali ty with personal narratives could solve the prob­ lem of recording Partition vio­ lence. Knowledge of the political events that caused such violence is equally as importa nt as appreciat­ ing the suffe ring which followed. A reader m ust no t forge t wh at happened and that such knowl ­ edge helps co mmunal con fli ct in South Asia come to an end.


"THEN HE broke the barriers of war and through the swollen river swiftly took his standards. And Cae­ sar crossed the flood and reached the opposite bank. From Hesperia's for­ bidden fields he took his stand and said: 'Here I abandon peace and des­ ecrated law. Fortune, it is yo u I fo l­ low. Farewell to treaties. From now on war is our judge: Hail, Caesar: We who are about to die salute you:' It is with these momentous words that, acco rding to Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (the Pharsalia of Lucan ), julius Caesar crossed over the Rubi­ con river into the heart of the Roman Empire, ushering in a series of civil wars that raged across the Roman Emp ire, virtually crippling its gov­ erni ng power for the next 20 years. One man wou ld emerge from th is conflict to rebuild the wo rld's greatest empire, once again placing it at the ve ry pin nacle of human civilisation, but in doing so he would destroy the world's first and greatest republic. In the years preceding these events, Roman rule through the republican senate had sunk from the glorious heights achieved at the close of the Macedonian and Carthaginian wars into an oligarchic system of corrup­ tion, characterised by power strug­ gles and endemic mismanagement. This ubiquitous inability of th e senate to govern the Roman Em­ pire had lead inexorably to the civil wars that marked its effective end as the sole arbite r of governmen­ tal power throughout the empire. As its fortunes plummeted in a series of political power struggles, the senate desperately searched for one man after another in a vai n at­ tempt to compensate for its own shortcomings th rough the uncon­ stitutional gove rnance of power­ fu l individuals. The only efficient

counterweight to such sporad ic governance, wh ich amounted to a series of military despotisms, was the creation of another such power to oppose it. This build up of power in the hands of a few, ruthlessly mo ­ tivated men could only, inescapably, lead to fu ll blown military hostilities. The rise of Gaius Octavianus julius Caesar to supreme power mirrored that of so many others th roughout history. Octavian (as he is more com­ monly known) scrambled home, th rough the tumult of civil war, us­ ing an effective mix of inspired lead ­ ership and sheer determination to better his opponents in a string of military and political confrontations.

After achieving the ultimate vic­ tory, the remainder of Octavian's career wo uld break the histo ric mould as he attempted to restore the republic which he and his fore­ bears had done so much to dest roy. On his return to Rome in 29BC Octavian enjoyed a personal as­ cendancy in power as had never been riva lled by any other individual thro ughout Roman h istory. He had the full strength of the mi litary at his disposal, had recently won great pres­ tige in the war with his rivals, Antony and Cleopatra - who were despised as tra itors by th e citizens of Rome ­ and was the sole survivor of a strin g of military autocrats who had domi­ nated Roman rule fo r two decades. The pri ncipate ofOct avian has been

viewed by scholars, both ancient and modern, as merely another case of despotism in the cycle of totalitarian Roman rulers; his authoritarianism was expertly masked by a shroud of superficial republica n percep­ tions. However, th is simple notion of yet another aggressive usurpation of power cannot explain the con­ stant battle waged by Octavian with the senate in h is attempt to revive the rep ublican rule of the Empire. During the cou rse of his ru le Oc­ tavian retained command of the em ­ pire,s army. This can easily be mis­ construed as a purely belligerent act, Octavian clinging to mi litary co ntrol in order to asser t his will on the rule of the empire. However, the regula­ tion of the admi nistration of the armed forces by a single, all power­ ful, leader was essential in order to prevent the proliferation of new civil wars. In order to prevent the rise of another military commander who may have been able to challenge Oc­ tavian fo r the rule of Rome, he was forced to keep fu ll control of mil i­ ta ry arra ngements, only entrusting truly loya l subjects with command. While maintaining an authori­ tarian hold of the martial forces, Octavian attempted to pass civil authority back into the hands of the senate. On 13 january 27BC Octa­ vian revealed h is genuinely repub ­ lican sentiments as he announced his resignation of all power and provinces to the free disposal of the senate and people of Rome. This ac­ clamation was drowned in protest from all corners of the senate; the senators pleaded with Octavian not to abandon the empire which his ac­ tions alone had saved. The senate's refusal to allow Octavian to abdicate acknowledged his rectorial pOSition as indispensable an d granted him

senatorial authority to last 10 years. It is at this time that Octavian had the title Augustus conferred upon him by the senate, signalling his transit ion from dictator to constitu­ tional ru ler. Coins and inscriptions of the age hailed Augustus' r ule as the "restoration of the republic". Such a declaration was not mere propagan­ dist fantasy; it contained a degree of truth. From 27 BC Augustus took the role of an elective official whose powers were a gift from the senate and people of Rome, being subject to the fu ll sovereignty of the law. The restoration of republican rule was not to last; its fin al end arose from its sheer inability to govern the complex, far-reaching empire. The senate, either through fear or lack of experience, made such spari ng use of its powers of legislation that this role was devolved, in whole, upon Augustus, who either brought forward bills directly or had them brought forward by other senators. In recognition of its own shortcom ­ ings the senate began to withdraw its numerous administrat ive services, leaving them to be filled by nomi·· nations of the emperor (which Au­ gustus had, in effect, now become) . By replacing the volatile sen­ ate with a new, professional impe­ rial executive Augustus ended the republican predilection of roman rule and allowed effective recon­ struction of the govern ing system of the empire. The emergence of Octavian as the primary power in roma n governing society unequivo­ cally sealed the fate of the rep ublican order and ushered in a new era of roman rule. By the astute reforma­ tion of governance laid dow n by the settlements of Augustus, the empi re was placed on a firm footing, so­ cially, eco nom ically and militarily.


2 C UBA:' SAID Fidel Castro in the aftermath of the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, "is not another Gua­ temala". The desire in Cuba to avoid the same fate as Guatemala demon­ strates the importance of this often overlooked episode in American foreign policy. The American government's suc­ cess in aiding and abetting the over­ throw of the democratically elected, progressive President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 extinguished the last chan ce for democratic change in the region and polarised political opinion with­ in Central and South America. It was a morally repugnant stain upon the history of American foreign policy. Over the next four decades, the suc­ cessive US-backed military juntas waged a counter insurgency cam­ paign of terror against leftist rebels, which killed 200,000 people. The economic relationship be­ tween the United States and Guate­ mala, specifically the actions of the US United Fruit Company in Gua­ temala, constituted a mercantilist, domineering form of neo-imperial­ ism, inspired by economic self-in­ terest, communist paranoia and a trad itional assumption of the legiti­ macy of American hegemony in the entirety of the Americas, harkening back to the Monroe Doctrine. The extent of the UFCO's influence was not limited to bananas; the com­ panyearned the name El Polpo (The Octopus) amongst Guatemalans due to its far reaching monopoly over the nation's railways, maritime transport and even domestic politics. El Polpo's tentacles were not only wrapped around the Guatemalan government; the UFCO had an ever­ increaSing sway ove r United States foreign policy and diplomatic rela­ tions with Guatemala and other "Ba­ nana Republics': In 1948, attempts to institute minor labour reform in Guatemala had been thwarted by US diplomatic pressure. The UFCO

instigated this policy, concerned that their ever growing monopoly in Guatemala was being underm ined. Yet this disregard on the pa rt of the UFCO and the U.S. governme nt for Guatemalan sovereig nty and pro­ gressive reform pales in comparison with the events that were to follow. Guatemala was an enormo usly divided nation; a mere 2.2 per cent of the population cont rolled 70 per cent of the nation's arable land whilst utilizing on ly 12 per cent of it. The UFCO controlled vast swathes of land across Guatemala as well as Honduras, Costa Rica, Pan ama, Co­ lombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. By 1954, the company was the single largest landholder and employer in Guate­ mala. Over half a million acres of ar­ able land was under its control. The US State Department described the UFCO in 1954 as "the expression of Guatemala's economic colonialism:' Such was the influence of the UFCO that in 1936, its Managing Di­ rector, Samuel Zemmary, was able to gain a 99 year lease on land on both

Pacific and Atl antic coasts. Other concessions abso lved the UFCO from nearly all tax and import du­ ties, granted the company unregu­ lated transport rates and preven ted other compan ies from competi ng charters. If this was not enough, the UFCO was awarded unlimited profit remittances, free reign to build new transport and communication net­ works and the right to charge for their use once built. By 1950, the

UFCO's an nua l profit exceeded $25 mi llion: a sum equivalent to twice the ordinary revenues of the Guate­ malan government. In March, 195 1 Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman ascended to the Guatemalan Presidency in what marked the fi rst peacefu l transition of power in Guatemalan history. He campaigned on a platfo rm of eco­ nomic and social reform and, thanks to his popular policy of end ing Gua­ temalan dependence on the Un ited States, Arbenz won 65 per cent of the vote. The cornerstone of Arbenz's reformi ng ideology was land reform and the improvement ofGuatemalan infrastructure. His 1952 Decree 900 red istributed unused la nds of sizes greater than 223 acres amongs t local peasants. The UFCO plantatio n of Tiquista had 234,000 acres of uncul­ tivated land whi ch was red istributed am ongst the Guatemala n people. At the Bananera plantation, 173,000 acres of the 253,000 acre plantation were redistributed. The UFCO received government bonds of up to $1,185,000 for the re­ d istributed land. The company had become a victim of its own success at manipu lating the Guatemalan government as it had previously undervalued its land for tax pur­ poses and only once the lands were seized was the true value revealed as $ [9,355,000.Arbenz's government also threatened EI Polpo's grip on the country's infrastructure. The new program me of road improvement and constructio n in Guatemala helped to lift what th e World Bank declared "the greatest single barrier to the econom ic development and cultural integrat ion of th e Republic': Crucially, it broke the monopoly of the International Railways of Cen­ tral America Company on internal freight transport from the capital to the Pacific coast. Rumours of a US-backed invas ion spread once the CIA began tra ining

and arming Guatemalan exiles and prevented the Guatemalan govern­ ment from buying weapons from Canada and Germany. A defec­ tor among the plotters confi rmed Arbenz's suspicions and aided the Guate malan government in an arms deal with Czechoslovakia. The arms shipment provided the United States government with a pretext to launch overt action aga inst Arbenz. The US State Department records of Guate­ malan- American relations and the recently declassified CIA records of Operation PBsuccess demonstrate an awareness that the alleged Com­ mun ist stance of the Arbenz govern­ ment only posed a minimal th reat to the United States. The only thing threatened by a left -wing Gove rn ­ ment in Guatemala was the UFCO monopoly. The US state department ad mit­ ted in a memorandum in May 1954 that, "the international Communist movement is certainly not the cause of the social revolution in Guatema­ la", and that Guatemala presented, "no present military danger to us at aU:' Why, then, did the CIA train, arm and fi nance a military coup to overthrow a government that posed no threat to America? It was the fact that this reform threatened Ameri­ can business and American proper­ ty in Guatemala, namely that of the United Fruit Company. The eventual successor of Arbenz, Carlos Castillo, who had been an advisor to the UFCO, immediately reversed the redistribution efforts of Decree 900. Allen Welsh Dulles, the head of the CIA during the pe­ riod, was a major shareholder in the UFCO, as was his brother. Unde r the pretence of national security, the CIA instigated a military junta at the expense of a freely elected gov­ ernment, to reaffi rm American eco­ nomic dom inance and the security of the UFCO to continue to exploit the natural resources of Guatemala.

r-.it

CQ

A ruthless neighbour

Gregor Donaldson explores the USA's economic dominance of Guatemala


13

Through a child's eyes

T OM

BROWN and his school days, Mary Lennox and her secret garden; both were popular, fic­ tional characters of Victoria n and Edwardian ch ildren's literature. Children's boisterous play began to move beyond the school yard, to the wider playground - inhab ­ ited by strange creatures and dan ­ gerous "natives". The ornamental empire, British India specifically, became the setting for many chil­ dren's adventure stories. Popular fict ion is rarely just about a story. Authors champion certain values and use their work to propound contemporary ide­ ologies. Thus, literature is simul ­ taneously a social product an d a socialising force. Arguably, these functio ns are most explicit within juvenile literature as most texts are written or bought by adu lts who direct children to the types of lit­ erature they read, an d th us, their own accu lturated ideas. Children of the empire provided writers, publishers, moralists an d imperi­ alists with a captive audience. Child re n's literature became in­ creaSingly popular from th e 1860s and developed after the 1870 Ed­ ucation Act, which encouraged literacy amongst school children. Most genres were imb ibed with a sense of inst ruction and were de ­ ployed as a form of social control. From Sunday school tracts that conSCiously strove to save inno­ cent street-urchins fro m the co r­ ruptible clutches of ind ustri alisa­ tion, to fictiona l adve nture sto ri es that continued to propo und evan­ gelical models of male morali ty, children's literature was a lucrative ente rprise for Victoria n publish­ ers. As a source of much prestige and power fo r Britai n, it is unsur­ prising that the Empire became a popular literary motif during the nineteenth century. Authors were conscious that these young, im­ pressionable m inds were, poten­ tially, the empire's fu ture leaders, or their mothers. Conservative in­ terpretations of empire were typi­ cally enshrined an d unchallenged. Frances Hodgson Burn ett's classic, The Secret Garden , captured these positive perceptions of empire. The Secret Garden, published in 1911, features Mary Lennox as the heroine. With a female pro­ tagonis t, Burnett aimed her wo rk at middle and upper class girls. By the turn of the century "books for

girls" we re commonplace. Achiev­ ing limited improvement in their political and economic pOSition, ladies increasingly fo und roles outside the domestic sphere; the empire was a far cry from the par­ lour and new modes of behaviour needed to be taught. Thus, the empi re became a suitable setting for instruction for gi rls, as well as boys. An intensified view of European superiority was central to th e idea of empire. Until the 1930s there was a pessimistic outlook towa rds India's impact on ch ildren. India's climate and prolonged expos ure to intense sun light, it was fea red, weakened the blood and d isrupted the nervous system. Moreover, it was believed th at a child should not remain in India over th e age of eight, otherwise th eir rac ial identity and cultural develop­ men t wo uld be compromised. The open ing paragraph of The Secret Garden emphasises how "yellow" Mary's hair and face was and her vulnerabil ity to disease. Burnett repeatedly describes Mary as "thin, sallow [and] ugly", d irec tly contrasting her appea rance with that of "rosy" Martha, born and raised on the Yorkshire moors.

Racial mutation, it was feare d, might occur ifchildren were raised for long periods of time in coloni­ al lands. Martha is in itially disap­ pointed that Mary is no t "a black': suggesting that Mary's racia l iden­ ti ty may have been jeopardised if she had re mained in India. The motherland, on the other hand, held the transformative power to hea l colon ial childre n upo n their re turn - British food and weather being most benefi ­ cial. India's climate, contact wi th natives (particularly her Ayah ) and the lack of mothering made Mary disagreeable. She is cu red of these afflictio ns and hea led by the gardens of Engla nd . The "fresh, strong, pure air from the moor" aided her transformation; it had "sti rred her blood [and ] her mind". Thus, the English weather

held phYSical and spi ri tual healing powers and "whipped some red colou r into her cheeks". The gar­ den, symboliSing the ge nt le Eng­ lish countryside, is the primary site of Mary's recover y. Descrip­ ti ons of pale colon ial children who regained their rosy colour once re­ turned to Britain were commo n in children's lite rature. Burnett does not disp ute th e imperialist mat rix of a dominant ideo logy that pe rvaded all areas of British cul ture. Ma ry refle cts imperial va lues by viewing Colin as a "yo ung rajah" and as they ex­ plore the house, their games re­ fl ec t the actions of colonisers fin d­ ing new territory whilst conscious of the presence of "other people". By incorporating the ideology of empire into playtime, Burnett im­ pl icitly implies to her reade rs that imperialism is an acceptable, even benefi cial, source of amusement for their imaginative play. However, the young rajah is a problematic figure and may be in ­ terpreted as an implicit critique of em pire. Coli n ru les ove r his peo­ ple, answering to a highe r au th or­ ity, hi s father: Indian raja hs were answe rable to th e British. He is a despotic prince, com manding to be obeyed dur in g his father's pro­ longed abse nces, th rowing tan ­ trums and ru ling thro ugh fear. A pa rallel is drawn betwee n the fa il ­ ure of pa rental rule and imperia l ru le - both lead ing to d isrupt ive behaviour amongst na tives. Neve rtheless, these interp re­ tat ions require great inference; the text was not inte nded as an overt crit ique of empi re. True to fairy ta le form , the yo ung rajah is reunited with his father beca use of the garden that he has colonised. Positive, conservative con nota­ tions of empire are upheld. W hat was propagated in ch il­ d re n's literature was a generally ac­ cepted ethos that pervaded almos t every sense of British culture. It inculcated a social outlook that wou ld develop girls into th e keep­ ers and transm itters of mo ral va l­ ues. Thus, empire was rarely criti ­ cised an d British authors projected an in nate sup eriority over the sav­ age "nat ives" that they sought to acculturate. Children's literatu re played a key ro le in maintaining conservative, imperial mo des of be haviour an d ensuring that fu ­ ture ge nerations wo ul d lead the empire to further glory.

Cather· e McGlo· reveals the British Empire's influence on children's literature


14

Blood and Treasure

Ruiko Asaba looks back to a time when Europe ruled the high seas

"w

HOEVER COMMANDS the ocean, commands the trade of the world, and whoever commands the trade of the world, commands the riches of the world, and who­ ever is master of that, commands the world itself' So wrote the sev­ enteenth-century English writer, John Evelyn, in his book, Naviga­

tion and Commerce, their Origin and Progress in 1674. The vacant ownership of the ocean at that time as asserted in Evelyn's quota­ tion encapsulated the escalation of European power rivalries on the sea from the late sixteenth-century to early eighteenth-century. Ulti­ mately, the sea provided a site for the interplay, friction and the clash of national interests. England (later Britain), France, the Netherlands, and partially Spain, all competed, negotiated and waged their for­ tunes to defend and to map the sea with the atlas of their own national interests. In the race fo r conquest and the expansion of empires, whoever rowed a boat successfully over the vicissitudes of international power relationships could claim the own­ ership of the sea. The transforma­ tion in naval arch itecture, tactics, gunnery and navigation in the late fifteenth to the ea rly sixteenth-cen­ tury wrought by a technological in­ novation ofheavy artillery rendered an arms race in Europe that esca­ lated in a power struggle to expand empire. By the 1500s, all the Medi­ terranean galley fleets were armed with heavy gunneries that became unbeatable, since they were far su­ perior against carracks and carvels. A car rack was developed and used for crossing the Atlantic Ocean by the Portuguese during the Age of Sails in the fifteenth-century. However, the Portuguese were quick to realize the need for install­ ing heavy gunneries to protect their interests and their ships against in­ truders. Consequently, they devel­ oped an innovation for housing a heavy gunnery in a galley. As a gal­ ley armed with heavy artillery was

unbeatable, carracks and carvels were quickly displaced from Medi­ terranean war fleets. When th e French Mediterranean galley san k one of Henry VIII's ships in th e lat­ ter's disastrous campaign of 1513 in Brittany, the galley came to rep­ resent the mode rn naval weapon system fo r Englishmen. The galley was the example that had to be im­ itated. It not only comprised of the threat England had to counter, but constituted at the same time, the on ly solution to mounting heavy gun nery at sea. During the reign of Henry VIII, various types of oared vessels were experimented with and the English navy developed a "sailing-galley" or "galleon". Even tll ough it could be attested as being an English de­ velopment, it may well have been

borrowed: the Portuguese had been carryi ng heavy guns to sea for longer than the English; the Span­ ish and others also built and had galleons, and during the period of 1563-70, the Danish and Swedish engaged in several artiJIery battles. However, it is certain that by the time of Queen Elizabeth's war with Spain, most English warships and armed merchantmen were built in this style. Nevertheless, the problem of providing victuals (food supplies) prevented Queen Eli zabeth's navy from being an instrument of co­ lonial conquest in contras t to th e Spanish navy, even though th e former was equipped with more numbers of heavy artiJIery installed in the galley than the latter. The Spanish navy had the geographical

advan tage, which are the patterns of winds and currents that enabled the Spanish navy to explore the New Wo rld. The British manage­ me nt of victuals was revised from 1780 after the heavy defeat of the Royal Navy in the War of Alneri­ can Indepe ndence, thus enabli ng British fleets to embark on much longer expeditions to th e far cor­ ners of the world. By 1650s, however, the evolving naval architecture to comfortably station the heavy artiJIery forced apa rt the English warships and the merchantmen in their designs an d thus the areas of operation, the lat­ ter being differentiated by the mat­ ter of geopolitics. Modern techno­ logical innovation went hand in hand with the expansion ofempires in each European state. That, at the same time, caused each state to be alert to the movements of other states in defence of thei r own na­ tional interests. W hen the English defeated the D utch during th e First Anglo-D utch War (1652 - 54) and captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655, the news greatly alarmed Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Paris as much as it did in Madrid since the events demonstrated Eng­ land's emerging and exceptio na l capacity for maritime an d colonial expansion. Thus, when England and the Dutch Republic entered the Second Anglo-D utch War (1 665 - 67), o n the Dutch side, the aim of the war did not only remain within the con­ fines of waging a war for the empire outside of Europe. It was not, at the same time, either to ha lt or to re­ verse English maritime and colonial expansion as such. Rather, the War was the mea ns and ends to provide a sufficien t deterrent to compel the English to cease th eir interference with Dutch shipping and fisher ies, and to defend those colonies wh ich th e English were tryi ng to seize. On the French side, however, the course leading up to the War did not pose so simplistic a matter of deterrence or defence. The young Louis XIV had been eager to enhance French

territories overseas, by advancing her commerce and coloni­ sation. He invested substantial resources both in extending and strengthen­ ing the French navy. His minister in charge of finance and economic affairs, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, was tireless in his efforts to promote French industry an d overseas com­ merce. Em igration to the French coloni es was greatly encouraged to fos ter populat ion in New France and to increase the number of colonists on Saint-Domingue. Mea nwhile, in want of the Spanish Netherlands, French fo reign policy was not marked with antagonism towards the English, but towards th e Dutch and the Spanish. Nevertheless, when the prospect of th e second war between England and the Netherlands arose, France fou nd itself caught in a strategic dilemma that concerned her inter­ est. Whilst Louis wished to put the Dutch in their place, he di d not wish to see England emerge as the mai n maritime powe r. This would not fu rther French interest either in the Ind ies or in Europe. As a resu lt, Louis signed a defensive treaty with the Dutch in 1662 to give them just enough assistance to combat the English. Once th e English defeat was in sight, Louis diverted his at­ tention to projecting French power. After the Battle of Nevis in May 1667, in which a combined Fran ­ co-Dutch fleet of 18 ships fought a smaller English fl eet, Franco-Dutch strategic collaboration ceased. Louis ceased to reinforce his garrisons in the Caribbean, and the French army made its entry into the Span ­ ish Netherlands. The entry not only initiated the War of Devolution from 1667 - 68 between France and Spain, but rendered the immed iate concl usion of the War necessa ry fo r the Dutch in order to concentrate on curbing French expansionism in Europe. The Dutch suspicion of France for the latter's expans ionist scheme in Europe transformed the


strategic situation thro ughout the continent. Just as the Netherlands and France were modern ising an d professional­ izing their navies from the early sev­ enteenth ce ntury for the further en­ hancement as well as the protection of their interests, th e Royal Navy in England too came to represent the interest of the nation, by bridging the agendas of the Parliament an d the public. As the navy became more prominent in the determina ­ tion of the life of the country, from the 1660s Parli am ent grew accus­ tomed to voti ng large sum s in direct taxation specifically for th e navy. The revenue came to hold the state and the Admiralty accou ntable for delivering the outcome that com­ pensated the value of money for the public. The reciprocity of "tax and spe nd" policy is the proof that trade and the empire was seen as a matter of national importan ce. As the Dutch suspicion of Fran ce intensified, England ceased to re­ gard the Netherlands as an impe­ rial competitor. English suspicion of France, on the other hand, was very differe nt. England could not sit back with the comfort of knowing Lou is's priorities were always dynastic and continental; the naval might France had obtained under the scheme de­ veloped by Colbert superseded the form er assurance. The strategic con­ sequence of the Glorious Revol ut ion rendered the English and Dutch na ­ val all iance possible in William III's continental coalition against France in 1689 - 97. The European power struggle came to a head during the clash in the War of Spanish Succession (1 702 - 13). The dynastic tension was inexorably lin ked with the in­ terests of land, trade and empires. When England and the United Provi nces declared wa r on France and the new Bourbon ki ng of Spain, it was from the conviction that they must not allow the Spanish Ind ies, the Spanish trade, and the southern Netherl ands to fa ll into the hands of the French. When France turned to Britain for a peace negotiation after failing to come to a compromise with the Dutch, Britain expressed its willingness to make a separate deal with France. Britain asse rted her will ingness to keep Philip on the th rone of Spain and Spanish America, provided Louis granted sweeping maritime an d colonial concessions to Bri tain. The Treaty of Utrecht in 17 13 allo­ cated Gibraltar, Minorca, as well as Newfou ndland, Nova Scotia, and Hudso n Bay under the British co­ lonial possession. In regards to the

European balance of power, and her own security, Britain was satisfied with the guarantee that the French and Span ish thrones should never be united, with the tran sfer of the southern Netherlands to Austria, along with Naples and Milan. As with any other periods of his­ tory, the late sixteenth to early eight­ eenth century sea provided the site for national interests to converge as well as to clash. The sea in the lat­ ter centuries was, most specifica lly, mapped by substantial trade and im perialistic interests. However, it is important as Aylmer asse rts not to be nostalgiC abo ut empire. This applies to Britai n and the rest of Europe. Alyme r says, "Between the 1680s and the 1720s it is not fa nci­ fu l to see the emergence of a nava l tradition. At its best th is spel t in­ novation, heroism, and victories, but it could all to o easily degenerate into a complacent and dangerously obscu rantist mystique; even at its most successful, the con nection of seapower wi th trade an d Empire was only partial, and intermittent, if none the less sometimes decisive. Therefore, only with the advan tage of hindsight can we ide nti fy th is pe­ riod as a turning point:'

Aylmer, G. E. "Navy, State, Trade, and Empire" in The Oxford History of British Empi re. Vol. I: The O ri ­ gins of Empire: British Overseas En­ terprise to the Close of Seventeenth Century, Nicholas P. Can ny (ed. ) (Oxford University Press: 1998). Israel, j. I. "The Emergi ng Empi re: The Co nti nental Perspective, 1650 - 1713" in The Oxford History of British Empire. Vol. I: The Origins of Empire: British Overseas Enter­ prise to the Close of Seventeenth Century, Nicholas P. Ca nny (ed.) (Oxford Un iversity Press: 1998 ). Morriss, R. "Colonisation, Con­ quest, and the Supply of Food and Transport: The Reorgan isation of Logistics Management, 1780 - 1795", War in H istory, 2007, 14 (3). Rodger, N. A. M. "Guns and Sails in the First Phase of English Colo­ nisation, 1500 - 1650" in The Ox­ ford History of British Empire. Vol. I: The O rigins of Empi re: British Overseas Enterprise to the Close of Seventeenth Century, Nicholas P. Canny (ed.) (Oxford: 1998) . Rodger, N.A.M: The Com mand of the Ocean: A Naval Histo ry of Brit­ ai n volume 2, 1649 - 18 15 (London: 2004)


.. •

T HE PLASTIC People of The Uni­ verse (PPU) is a rock band formed by MejIa H1avsa in the autumn of 1968, shortly after Soviet tanks rolled into Prague. This "fraternal assistance" from the Soviets arrived after what has been termed "The Prague Spring" which, depending on how you meas­ ure it, began as early as 1958 but certainly ended in late August 1968, though even this is disputed. What is not disputed, however, is MejIa Hlav­ sa was a rock musician involved with many bands at that time as indeed were many of the musicians in the PPU during that period. Quite how he and his fr iends became a threat to the Czechoslovak state in the 1970s, and; by implication, a threat to what has been termed the Soviet Empire, is a farce explored by many. However, the ignorance displayed by the Czech authorities in the Soviet satellite state is one I wish to explore here. I intend also, to leave aside the re-working of mean ing when an in­ vasion like the one in 1968 involving fire fights, deaths, arrests and the ter­ rorization ofa population was termed "fraternal assistance': Instead, let us begin conSidering the founding po­ litical philosophy of the Soviet Un ion and ask the question, "was the Soviet Union ignorant of its founding prin­ ciples by 1968?" The answer to tllis

question could involve a lot of tortu­ ous reading of tracts by Lenin, Trot­ sky, Stalin and others. Nevertheless, one could take a sim­ pler route and look at how the Soviets acted to consolidate their power and interpret that as some of the founding principles of what later became the "Soviet Bloc': "Empire of Evil" or "So­ viet Empire': It would not be too diffi ­ cult to conclude that the Soviet Union effectively took control of what was formerly the "Tsarist" Russian Em­ pire in 1922 and that the Soviet Un ion extended itself by ruth lessly exploit­ ing state infrastructures in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary made fragile by tile 1939-45 war in Europe. Clearly, the Soviet Empire won the Second World War on its own terms and by 1948, most of Eastern Europe, was in the Soviet sphere of influence. Let us not quibble about the intricacies of Lenin's political philosophy. By 1948, Stalin continued with his own version. His political philosophy was brutal involving the suppression of opposition, terrorizing of entire communities and nations' populations and the imposition of a tightly controlled, centralised bureaucracy on the people Living under Soviet control. One could easily conclude that the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was plan ned and conducted on such a philosophical

model. Where resistance appeared, resistance was crushed. This worked well in Poland and Hungary before 1968. Mejia H1avsa and his friends became known as revolutionaries but they were distant from the anti­ communist stereotype. They were

'All that could be said about the philosophy of the PPU was that it involved growing hair longer' young men who grew up in the relatively liberal Prague Spring regime of Czechoslovakia, played guitars, grew long hair, smoked and drank a lot and played a few gigs in front of small groups of friends. These young men in the PPU didn't want regular jobs and liked the lifestyle associated with rock 'n' roll. Even after the Soviet Empire had "assisted" with the "normalisation" of Czechoslovakia in the early 1970's, all that could be said about the philosophy of the PPU was that it involved growing hair longer and shaving less. In effect, the PPU were behaving as if the Soviet Empire

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did not exist and the normalisation of Czechoslovakia didn't apply to them. As the 1970s went on, this failure to participate in the regime seemed to make them a threat. So much so that their performing License was taken away and with it, their equipment. However, the PPU continued and instead of performing at "official" venues, they performed in friends' flats and in barns in the Czech cou ntryside. Band members and their frie nds were easily identifiable by their long hair and the secret and normal police in and around Prague routinely harassed them. However, if anything, the band had become even less of a threat to the regime. They no longer performed songs in English, which was frowned upon by that time. Now, their repertoire consisted of poems by leading Czech poets set to less than catchy arrangements which have been described as "free­ jazz" or "psychedelic" by their fans or "an organized disturbance of the peace" by the less-than-impressed Czechoslovak authorities. By 1976, wearing your hair long, pretending the Soviet Empire didn't exist and singing about peace being like toilet paper was more than making a juvenile noise, it was a criminal offence. Putting this into some context, the "normalised" Czechoslovak authorities were able


17 to devote resources to watchi ng the PPU and their friends because all opposition was, though not quite absent, effectively meaningless. Members of the CommW1ist Party, Catholic clergy, some Protestant churches, some academics and some luvvies from the theatre, notably one Vaclav Havel, plus those friends brave enough to continue associating with them. This was a disparate group of individuals noted more for arguing amongst themselves than for constituting a credible threat to the state. However, what made the PPU and their friends a threat was they managed to gather crowds of sometimes over 100 people. Vaclav Havel would have struggled to get more than five people into his flat. In short, what opposition that existed in early 1976, was a joke, a dark comedy of hot air and bad manners described in one novel published in those times. Whatever the merits of the case against them, the PPU and some of their friends were arrested in March. Then tried and jailed in September 1976: guilty ofan, "organized disturbance of the peace:' Quite what the Czechoslovak au­ thorities thought they would achieve by this action is the topiC of much de­ bate; if they imagined the trial would pass without comment from a divided opposition, they were wrong. During the trials (and there were two), what was the comedy opposition hardened and unified. This opposition became very serious "dissidents'; though they retained their sense of humor. Fur­ thermore, this opposition produced a document outlining the Czechoslovak state's failure to comply with its own obligations under the UN Human Rights Charter, a new international treaty singed by the Czechoslovak government in Helsinki. These new dissidents produced their own document, called "Charter 77~ collected their own signatures and became a very organized thorn in the side of Czechoslovakia and a very persistent international embar­ rassment to the Soviet Empire. Over­ zealous judicial state officials are one thing; there is every reason to think that they had nothing better to do with their time. Further, these officials had to dem­ onstrate they did something to con­ tinue collecting on their privileged status. However, a tightly controlled state being totally ignorant of the risks associated with contravening the UN Charter on Human Rights, a docu­ ment Signed with great fanfare, dis­ plays many levels ofignorance beyond the power of description. This UN Charter protects longhaired hippies from state harassment and positively

encourages them to play loud mu­ sic in front of an audience. By jailing the PPU and their friends, the Soviet Empire's puppets were responsible for creating their own opposition and worse, legitimizing them under the UN Charter of Human Rights, which they, of course, had recently signed. One can describe a rock concert as an "organized disturbance of the peace" buta state cannot comply with its ob­ ligations under the UN Charter and jail a bunch of hippies. The story does not end there of course. Even up to 1989, no more than 1500 people Signed Charter 77. The Soviet Empire may have been humiliated in Afghanistan in similar ways to the British a hundred years earlier but their Czechoslovak of­ ficials still managed to terrify the Czechoslovak population; so much so that they intimidated many more into signing the ''Anti-charter'' displayed in the National Theatre in Prague. A document and location that in many ways symbolizes the Czech national psyche during the 1970s and 1980s: defeated, scared, occupied, complying with the wishes of the Soviet Empire and ignoring an international treaty obligation.

'The UN Charter

protects hippies

from state

harassment'

The PPU and their friends were released, but continued to be interro­ gated up to three times a day, found it difficult for logistical as well as "cul­ tural" reasons, to keep jobs. Some were jailed again; others emigrated. The Soviet Empire did not forget that these "plastic people" assisted with the foundation of its local Czechoslovak opposition and did its best to disin­ tegrate the PPU and the so-called "Chartists" or "dissidents': However, the Empire disintegrated first and despite Mejia HlaYa's early death from lung cancer, The Plastic People ofThe Universe continue. Even though most of the band are well into their sixties, they continue composing and performing songs as they always have done: choosing the best contem­ porary Czech poetry and setting it to original music. Their latest CD release "Maska za Masky/ The Mask Behind The Mask" even contains a poem by the Russian poet Daniil Kharms, an­ other victim of the Soviet Empire. Nevertheless the ignorance of Em­ pire does not stop with the disinte­ gration of the Soviet Union and its satellites, it continues with the aura sounding the Plastic People of The

Universe. Vratislav Brabenec, the band's saxophonist and one of those jailed in 1976 may regularly joke that the communists gave them huge PR by jailing them. However, the band members were never dissidents. They were and remain a rock band, not a political grouping. "Politicians still tell lies and we still play our music, noth­ ing has changed'; is another regular quote from press interviews. This is not to be interpreted as an opposition policy statement but a statement of the facts as Brabenec sees them. Tom Stoppard, the British play­ wright has written about those times in his play Rock 'n' Roll. It chronicles the lives of the PPU and those friends who acted as the opposition to the Soviet Empire in the 1970s and 1980s. Stoppard interviewed two band members for The Times in December 2009. He gave the piece the title "Did Plastic People of the Universe topple commW1ism?" In it, he quotes one of his own characters, "Journalists never mention the music;' complains Jan, "only about being symbols of resist­ ance:' "Yeah;' the reporter says, "that's the story, I'm afraid:' Stoppard con­ tinues, "Twenty years after the fall of communism, Vratislav Brabenec, the Plastic People's saxophone player since 1972,was in London to promote an album and a concert, and it's still the story, I'm afraid:' Now, the ignorance extends to lazy journalists who continue to swallow the old Soviet Empires branding of the band as dissidents. That fact re­ mains, they never were. Stoppard's play, Rock 'n' Roll is still performed in Pragues National Theatre, the same venue which hosted the ''Anti-char­ ter': The building remains a powerful symbol of Czech culture, a culture still emerging from the shadow of the Soviet Empire, the sloppiness of jour­ nalists and the ignorance about the meaning of Czech history.

Machovec, Martin (ed), "Views From The Inside: Czech Underground Literature and Culture (1 948-1989)'; Un iverzita Karlova, Prague 2006. Stoppard, Tom, "Did Plastic People of the Universe topple communism?': The Times, London, 19 December 2009. Bondy, Egon (et al) contributors, "The Plastic People of The Universe: Lyrics and Texts'; Globus Music­ Mara, Prague 1999.

Michael Tate is from University Col­ lege London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

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18

Science Turned E'v il?

Francesca Zaffora Blando examines the manipulation of science through politics

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OBJECTIVE account is one wh ich attempts to capture the na­ ture of the object studied in a way th at does not depend on any fea­ tures of the particular subj ect who studies it. An objective account is, in th is sense, impartial, one which could ideally be accepted by any subject, because it does not draw on any ass u mptions, prejudices, or values o f particu lar subjects. This quotation from Gaukrog­ er's 'History of Objectivity' seems to express our orthodox, and yet rather na'ive, notion of scie nce, wh ich presumes that scientific practice is one of our most objec­ tive tools to unveil and master the na tural world. Science provides us with everyday comforts and unbi­ ased knowledge of how the uni­ verse works, fo r experiments are seen as a matter of measurement, and testability is independent from individual scientists' biases.

Unfortunately, this account of science snubs a few complica­ tions: scientists, alth ough hav­ ing being trained to follow spe­ cific procedures, are still bound to m ake some importan t decisions, e.g. which objects are to be meas­ ured or which research path is to be pursued. In fact, seve ral times governments, especially coercive ones, and ideologies have ended up heavily fette ring scient ific choices, often precluding some importa nt developments in certain branches of scie nce fo r some time. In this article, I shall focus on two twe ntieth-century empires, the Third Reich and the USSR, and shall ill ustrate how the develop­ ment of phys ics and biology was affected by authoritarian and chau­ vinistic decisions, rather than un­

prejudiced technical one. In 1905 Albert Ei nstein p ub­ lished a paper en titled 'On th e Electrodynam ics of Mov ing Bod­ ies: where he introduced the con­ cep t of special relativity, namely, the idea th at the speed of light in free space is equal for all observe rs, regard less of the ir motion relative to the light source. A few years lat­ er' Einstein also came up with the notion of general relativity, wh ich baSically holds that space-time is not fl at, but gets curved because o f the presence of matter. These di s­ coveries are now rega rded as hav­ ing tota ll y revolu ti onised mode rn physics. However, Ei nstein's ideas used to be strongly opposed by his con­ temporaries in his hom eland, Ge r­ many. This hostility was not due to scie ntific concerns about th e soundness of th e theory, but rather to the rac ist ideology of Nat ional Socialism. The arguments against Einstein's discoveries were, in fact, ad personam. German phys icists under th e Nazi regime claimed they wou ld have never rega rded him as a proper scientist because he was a Jew. This led to th e rejec­ tion of his theory of relativity as a "Jewish world-b luff" for almos t half a century in Ger many. "Deutsche Physik" (German Physics), as this nationalistic move­ ment was labelled, actually started off during Worl d War I as a "war of mi nd s~ whose contend ers were the German and the British scientists. The German s claimed, for example, that it was absolu tely unn ecessa ry to use the Englis h language to label an d divu lgate scientific discover­ ies, while the English held that the German army had proved to be disrespect ful of th e cultural herit­ age of other co untries, for it had set on fire the famous library of the Katho lieke Un iversiteit Leuven in 19 14, d uri ng the German invas ion of Belgium. Duri ng Wo rld War II the situ­ ati on furth er worsened. Extreme nationalism and anti -Sem itism be­ ga n to run high both among Ger­ man civilians and scientists. The most influential advocates of the so-called "German Phys ics" move­ ment were two Nobel-Prize physi ­ cists, Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark. They called the mselves and th eir entourage "nation al research­ ers" and their mai n aim was to de­ velop an Aryan physics under th e

wing of the "Gennan Empire". As a yo ung scientist in the 1890s, Ph ilipp Lenard had worked under the supervision of Heinrich Hertz, who enhanced the electromagnetic th eory of light put fort h by Max­ well, and proved the existence of electromagnetic waves. Although having initially strongly su ppo rted his m entor's discoveries, later on Lena rd utterly dismissed them , for he discovered that Hertz's fath er's family was Jewis h. Le nard also maintain ed that British scie ntists were culp ab le of persistent plagia­ rism, e.g. he thought Sir jose ph john Thompson, a Cambridge scholar, had stolen his ow n discov­ eri es on cath ode rays. Lenard was also one of the most ardent det rac­ tors of Einsteinian physics. Einstein ha d dism issed the no­ tion of luminifero us ae ther, viz. th e imagi nary medium wh ich, since th e late nin eteenth century, was thought to serve as the propagator of light, and which was still wide­ ly accep ted within the scientific community. Moreove r, his relativ­ ity theory involved very compl i­ cated m athematica l comp utat ions, which Lenard, as an expe rim enta l physicis t, probably could not un ­ derstand. Hence, in his 1937-book Deut­ sche Physik Lenard declared his own xe nophobic scientific pro­ gramme, "'German phYSicS?'" one will ask - I could have said Aryan

physics or physics of the Nordic man, p hysics of the reali ty explor­ ers, of the truth seekers, the physics of those who have founde d natural science. 'Science is and remains intern ational! ' so meo ne will reply to me. He, however, is in error. In reality science, like everyth ing man prod uces, is racially de termined, determined by blood:' Obviously, Hitler's regime highly appreCiated Lena rd's work. In 1933, the Law for the Resto ration of the Professional Civil Service was passed. This allowed th e remova l from their offices of Jewish civi l se rva nts and political opponents, which also led to the ejection of25 per ce nt of the physicists hold ing academ ic pOSitions. In 1935, then, the Nuremberg Laws o utl awed the prese nce of jewish professors in German un ive rsities. The second leade r of the Aryan physics move ment, johan nes Stark, even tried to recreate a hierarch ical str ucture si milar to the one of the Thi rd Reich within th e scientific commu nity. He had a grandiose plan: becom ing the new Fuhre r of physics. However, even the Nazi regime had to recognise, at last, that the postulates of th e Deutsche Physik were indefensible, no matter how advantageous they might have seemed from a political and propa­ gand istic perspective. Relat ivity theory and q uantum mechanics - which was also regarded as hav ­


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ing taints of Je wish ness because, am ong its fou nders, there were also Heisenberg an d Einstei n - had to be fin ally accepted, since they were clearly crucial to the progress of scientific knowledge. The historian Mark Walker af­ firme d, "Despite his bes t efforts, in the end his [Sta rk's] science was not accepted, supp orted, or used by the Thi rd Reich . Stark spen t a great deal of his tim e during the Third Reich fi ghting with bureau­ crats wi thin the National Socialist

state. Most of the National Socialist leadersh ip either never supp orted Lenard and Stark, or abandoned them in the course of the Thi rd Reich:' Another em blematic example of how the progress of science can be dreadfully influenced and delayed by th e empire and the amb itions for personal power, rather than for dispass ionate knowledge, is repre­ sented by the case of biology in the Soviet Union, where Trofim Denis­ ovich Lysenko, a Ukrai nian pse udo biologist, as he is now considered, tyra nnised Russia n science for, agai n, almost a half centu ry, pre­ cluding importan t research devel­ opments in the fie ld of genetics. Si nce the Russian revolution in 1917 was aimed at eradica ting the Tsa rist autocracy, referr ing to the USSR wi th the te rm "empi re" m ight seem inappropriate. How­ ever, many wo uld ag ree that, after Lenin's death and Stali n's rise to power, the Soviet Uni on to tally lost its original solidaristic intents and turn ed into a monocracy and an

imperialistic nation. Nonetheless, Stalin and hi s as­ sociates t ried to keep the co m­ mun ist fa<;:ade alive and used it to justify most of their repressive deeds. The sa me underhand tech­ nique was applied to science du r­ ing Lysenko ism , so that in the late 1930s mos t d issenters, even if they were eminent and knowledgeab le scie ntists, ended up being labelled as poli tical traitors, bourgeois o r supporters of the weste rn capitalis­ ti c science, and being se nt to con-

centration camps in Siberia. Lysenko started his career as an agro nomist, and gained h is reputa­ ti on than ks to h is self-advertisi ng skills and his alleged discovery of vernalisati on, which was actually the traditi onal practice of su bject­ ing seeds to low temp eratures in order to hasten plant deve lopme nt and flo wering. He also developed a theo ry of hered ity based on this idea, whi ch challenged Mendelian genet ics and supported the speculations of the Russian hor ticulturist Ivan Vlad imirovich M ichuri n. The ba­ sic tenet of Lysen ko's theory was the inheritability of acquired char­ acteri stics, i.e. the beli ef (orig ina lly put forth by the ni neteenth cen tury French naturalist Jean -Baptiste Lamarck) that changes in physiol ­ ogy, whi ch orga nisms had acquired over the ir lives, could be transm it­ ted to thei r offsp ring. Thus, his idea was that whole organ isms, rather tha n ge nes in ge rm cells, were to be stud ied in order to understa nd hered ity patterns.

Lysenko says, "Contrary to Men­ delism- Morga nism, with its asser­ tion that the causes of variation in the nature of organ isms are un­ knowable and its denia l of the pos­ sibility of directed cha nges in the nature of plants and an imals, M i­ churi n's motto was: 'We mu st not wait for favours from Nature; our task is to wrest them from her. [ .. . ] It is possible, with man's interve n­ tion , to forc e any form of animal or plant to change more qui ckly and in a di rectio n desirable to man : [.. . J The Michur in teach ing flat ly rejects th e fundamental principle of Mendelism-Morganism that hered ity is completely independ­ ent of th e plants' or ani mals' con­ ditio ns of life. "The Michurin teaching do es not recognise the existe nce in the organism of a sepa rate hered itary substan ce which is independent of the body. C han ges in the heredity of an organ ism or in the heredity of any part of its body are the result of changes in the living body itself. And changes of the living body oc­ cur as the resu lt of depa r ture from the normal in th e type of ass imila­ tion an d dissimilation, of depar­ ture from the normal in the typ e of metabolism . [ .. . J C hanges in heredity, acquis ition of n ew char­ acters and their augmentation and acc umulatio n in successive genera­ tion s are always determ ined by the organ ism's conditions of life:' As shown by Lyse nko's words, his critique of Me ndelian genetics was primarily based on non -scientific and vague reasons. He thought it offered a passive acco unt of hered ­ ity, because men seemed no t to have any possibility to d irectly af­ fect plants and animals, and was, therefore, regarded as a "barre n" theory. On the contrary, h is own one was depicted as being mo re p rac ti cal and as being able to bring abou t a Significant increase in the Soviet Union agric ultural prod uc­ tivity, whi ch obviously did not oc­ cur. So Lyse nko's theory of hered ­ ity was defined as the correct one not because of proper scient ific gro und s, but for it see med the most ideologically correct. It was materialistic, whereas Mendelian ge netics was desc rib ed as ideal­ istic, reactionary and so meh ow dange rously related to the prac­ ti ce of euge ni cs (namely, the al­ leged science of selec tive breeding in order to improve the hum an race) in Nazi Ge rmany. Thanks to Stalin's su pport, Lysenko managed to create a "rei gn of terror" within th e Soviet scientific community. He succeeded in silencing anyone

_ _ __. . . .__19

who dared criticiSing the dogma of Lysenko ism from a scientific perspective by appea ling to their loyalty to Co mmunism, the refore mi xing two sphe res, poli tics and science, which wou ld do better to be kept as dista nt as possible. When Lysenko's dictatorship fi nal­ ly ended in 1964, Russian ge neti cs was hal f a century behin d the rest of the western wo rld.

The relationship between sci­ ence an d political power, espeCially a coercive one, has been shown to be h ighly problematic, for it almost always affects science in a very de trimen ta l way. Relat ively recent empires such as the Third Reich and th e USSR in the twentieth cen ­ tury are examples of how seve rely a despo tic leadership ca n damage the progress of scie nce. Th ese ex­ am ples also show t hat the notion of science as com pletely neutral and detached from whatever source of bias is rather fic tit ious. Science was extensively and ope nly influ­ enced by imperialisti c policies in the pas t, so we m ight susp ect that, eve n now, better disg uised empires playa decisive role when it has to be decided which directions our best scie nce shou ld take.

Gaukroger, S. (200 I). " History of Objectivity.", in Smelser, N . 1. & Ba ltes, P. B. (eds.) International

Encyclopaedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences. Oxfo rd. pp. 10785- 10789. Lysenko, T. D. (1 948). "Soviet Biology. Repo rt by Lysenko to the Lenin Academy of Agric ul­ tural Sciences". On line version by Ryan , S., URL = http://ww w. marx ists .org/refe re nc e/ arch ivel lysen ko/wo rks/l940s/report. htlll Stevenso n,

L.

&

Bryerly ,

H.

(2000) . The many fa ces ofscience: an introduction to scientists, val­ ues, and society, chapter 9, 2nd Ed. Westview Press: 2000.


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I AFTER MAO Zedong died in 1976,

Deng Xiaoping and his colleagues were forced to confront the legacy of their predecessor and the empire he had erected. My essay is about how Deng Xiaoping and the pragmatists he led in Chinese Commlmist Party wrestled witll the complexities of Mao's legacy. Xiaoping had a differ­ ent vision of what China should be compared to Mao and he made im­ portant reforms. These reforms were targeted in the area of economics and they were initiated to achieve two dif­ ferent yet connected objectives; firstly to erode what were considered as the weaker aspects of Mao's legacy and secondly to modernise the Chinese empire. However, there were parts of Mao's legacy he maintained and there was a fundamental paradox running tI1rough Xiaoping's reforms. They strove to be liberal economically but were conservative politically. Before the pragmatists could under­ take any reforms, they had to fight fo r power. By 1978 Deng Xiaoping had not yet succeeded Mao as the leader of China. His most pressing priority was to deal with the Gang of Four led by Mao's wife Chiang Clling. The Gang of Four had played a key role in the Cultural Revolution and came into existence due to Mao's patronage. Pre­ venting them from gaining power was not only a question of acquiring con­ trol of the China but also a symbolic one since indicting the Gang of Four would pass as a value judgement on Mao's legacy.

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Xiaoping forged an alliance with Mao's appointed successor, Hua Kuo­ feng to thwart the Gang of Four. They were arrested in October 1976 and their trial took place from November 1980-January 1981. Xiaoping's re­ gime was striving to adopt a jud icial system in direct contrast to the arbi­ trary power Mao wielded during tlle Cultural Revolution, where any op­ position to him was crushed. Follow­ ing the trial the official stance towards Mao's legacy was enshrined at tl1e Sixtl1 Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee held from June 27-291981. A 35,000 word document called, "Resolution on Certain Ques­ tions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People's Republic" was written which detailed the party's accomplishments of tlle past 60 years.

The most important part of tlus doc­ ument was its criticism ofMao and his responsibility for tl1e Cultural Revo­ lution. Hsii identifies the four major components of Mao's legacy which the meeting in 1981 sought to clarify as wrong so the new leadership could

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press forward with reforms. Mao's first major mistake was his encouragement of excessive population growth. The population soared from 500 million in the early 1950s to over a billion by the 1980s. Exacerbating the dilemma of the population explosion was Mao's importation of the Soviet model of socialism in the 1950s, which empha­ sised investment in heavy industry, not agriculture. Ln a country "vith so many people, such a policy was a considerable mis­ judgement. Secondly, Mao was con­ vinced China had to be self-reliant and therefore he blocked China to the out­ side world. Thirdly, Mao had a fond ­ ness for setting short-term goals witll­ out thinking about long-term ones. Fourtl1ly and most significantly, Mao destroyed party democracy through his style ofleadership. The first result of these particular set of reforms was tlle reSignation of Hua Kuo-feng in November 1980 at a meet­ ing of the Politburo. Hua reSigned be­ cause of his complicity in the Cultural Revolution. He was replaced by one of Xiaoping's proteges, Hu Yao-pang who became General Secretary of the Central Committee at the plenum of June 27-29 198 1. Xiaoping's otller protege Chao Tzu-yang became Pre­ mier. Together, Xiaoping, Chao and Hu formed the triumvirate which de­ fined Cllina's political landscape of the 1980s. They proceeded to implement the Four Modernisations of industry, agriculture, national defence and sci­ ence combined with technology. These were written into the party

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constitution in August 1977 and the state constitution in March 1978. The aim of the Four Modernisations was to quadruple GNP from $250 million to $1 trillion. These reforms and their alignment or lack of with Mao's legacy will now be explored. In 1981, Xiaoping planted the seeds for China's famous one-child policy by establishing the State Planni ng Com­ nlission "with the aim of restricting the population to 1.2 billion by the turn of the century': Similarly, in line with empowering individual people and reducing the power of the gov­ ernment, the revised state constitu­ tion of 1982 "emphasised the duty of citizens to practice fanilly planning': It is also worth mentioning that no nationwide initiative was drawn up to introduce the one-child policy, it was the provinces that implemented it. Th is reflected the desire of Xiaoping to strengthen collective responsibility that he perceived had been damaged during the Maoist era. When it came to agriculture, Xi­ aoping pursued a policy which em­ phasised individual entrepreneur­ ship. These reforms took place from 1979-1983. Perkins identifies two key elements of reform in the agricultural sector. The first "freed up market forc­ es in rural areas gave farmers the op­ portunity to make profits by produc­ ing fo r the market. .. over time rural products were bought on the market': Secondly, the next phase of reform be­ gan in 198 1 where there was a return to household farnling and the taking apart of production teams. In Mao's

Reforming an Empire BlaJlbiXiI DbmJlGI asseses the significance of Deng Xiaoping for China


time. a group of farms was rWl under a system called collectivisation where a commune leader would be responsi­ ble for production. The commune leader would respond as much to higher-level government officials as concerns for making his project profitable and efficient. Xiaop­ ing ainled to eradicate such a mental­ ity and he hoped the change would help solve China's population crisis. It was difficult to completely root out the Maoist ideal of collectivisation as it constituted a large part of the mind­ set of many farmers. especially in the rural villages where "egalitarian pres­ sures" were the norm and there "were notions about social peace and stabil­ ity" that were part of the communist ideology. According to Perkins. grain output increased from 3.5 per cent a year to 5 per cent a year but this did not last long as it tailed off arowld 1984. Another dimension to these agricul­ tural reforms was to give far mers the incentive to move their efforts into higher cash crops and even out of ag­ riculture all together and into services. Those in non-farming occupations rose from 11 7.8 million people in 1978 to 210.6 million in 1987. a rise of 6.7 per cent a year. The modernisation in agriculture was connected to other parts of Xiaoping's broader strategy to raise Living standards. By 1987, the percentage of those working in agri­ culture had fallen from 71 per cent to 60 per cent. Furthermore, the drive to industri­ alise China was astounding. China's urban population rose from 172.5 million in 1978 to 503.6 million by 1987. Also, throughout the 19805 an average of nearly 900 million square metres of new housing was built each year. The emphasiS on improving people's standard of Living led to rais­ ing aspirations and in turn to heavy materialism and conslUllption; some­ thing Maoist elders in the party saw as a flagrant breech of classical Maoism. For instance. in 1975 China was only manufacturing 170.000 televisions an­ nually; by 1987 it was producing a 20 million a year. A vital element of Xiaoping's rejec­ tion of Maoism was opening China to the West. The first major step he took was to expand Mao's legacy of detente. albeit to a point where it went against Mao's policy of self-reliance. Between January-February 1979. Xiaoping went on his first state visit to the U.S. and it was the first state visit by a sen­ ior official from the People's Republic of China for thirty years. He held talks with President Jimmy Carter. Xiaop­ ing, being the pragmatist that he was, weighed the possibilities. He decided that the relationship with the U.S should be one of mutual co-operation rather than hostility. Both sides established full diplomatic

relations. Xiaoping's first goal was to increase fo reign trade. In 1972, Sino­ American trade was only $92 million but by 1986 it had shot up to $ 13.5 billion. The foreign trade was meant to generate enough foreign exchange to finance modernisation. A second target of the agreement was to help the Chinese advance themselves in the fiel ds of tech.nology and science. Xi­ aoping believed that openness to the West would allow China to modernise witllout inlPOrting foreign values or perspectives. He was gravely m istak­ en. From 1978- 1988, 60,000 students and visiting scholars went abroad. By December 1986. many of these people formed the bedrock fo r the wide activ­ ism against the Chinese Communist Party. which culminated in the show­ down between the protestors and es­ tablishment at T ien-an-men Square in June 1989. Although Xiaoping made reforms and was liberal in economics, he was fundamentally a centrist. He had been very successful at implementing his reform program until December 1986 when the forces he unleashed started to cause problems. Xiaoping's desire for political and social conserv­ atism was in direct conflict witll the economic liberalism he preached. He did not realise that by raising people's standard of livi.ng. it also raised other aspirations. Steadily, Xiaoping grew resistant to these aspirations which forced him to make decisions tllat continued the darker side of Mao's im­ periallegacy. Xiaoping's restructuring of China's political system is worth analysing as it was both strangely Maoist but un­ Maoist. Xiaoping retained the Lenin­ ist structure of government with the three core elements including the no­ menklatura personnel system, inter­ locking directorate between the party. army and state and control of the mass media. However. Xiaoping did decentralise power and tried to make the bureaucracy more efficient. For in­ stance. in 1982 the State Council saw a reduction of ministers and vice m in is­ ters from 505 to 167. Another facet of reform Xiaoping was conscious of the need to tackle corruption. He revived the National People's Congress created in 1954 to help scrutin ise what the government was doing. Nevertheless. problems continued. Nepotism was a considerable problem that hurt trust in the Chinese Commu­ nist Party. It was hypocritical that Xi­ aoping and his allies had condemned Mao's patronage. which had brought the Gang of Four into existence in the first place but then indulged in patron­ age themselves. Nothing highlighted the arbitrary nature of Xiaoping's use of power more than his response to the student protesters and Maoists who challenged his leadership through tile late 19805.

Xiaoping took the most pragmatic route and sided with the hardlin­ ers. He sacked his two proteges that served him loyally and competently for many years. In January 1987. Hu lost his position as General Secre­ tary of the party and Chao replaced him only to be removed in June 1989. The massacre on June 3-4 in Tien-an- men Square did irrevers­ ible damage to Xiaoping's reputa­ tion. A decade of original ity in pol­ icy reform had been brought to an end Xiaoping's reaction showed his trust in his conservative instincts remained paramount to determin­ ing his thinking. In conclusion. Xiaoping turned away from th e purist ideology of Maoism which crippled China during the Cultural Revolution. Xiaoping's pragmatism placed the emphaSiSon economics rather than ideology. It did raise the standard of living but it also raised people's aspirations. Xiaoping's influence has been more positive econom i­ cally as opposed to socially and po­ litically. Xiaoping dismantled Mao's complex legacy in order to create his own which is just as complex and paradoxical as his predecessor that is. in a sense. a continuation of Mao's legacy and the empire he es­ tablished.

Bailey, P 200 I. China in the Twenti­ eth Century. 2nd ed. Oxford. Wiley­ Blackwell. Fewsmith. J. 1991, "The Dengist Reforms in Historical Perspective': in B.Womack, ed. Contemporary

Chinese Politics in Historical Per­ spective. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991. pp 23-53. Hsu. I. 2000. The Rise of Modern China. 6th ed. NY. Oxford Univer­ sity Press. Oksenberg. Michael. 1991. "The Deng Era's Uncertain Poli tical leg­ acy'; in K.Lieberthal et.al, ed. Per­ spectives on Modern China. NY, M E SharpeInc. 199 1. pp31O-339. Perkins, D. 1991. "The Lasti ng Ef­ fects ofChinese Economic Reforms 1979-1989'; in in K.Lieberthai et.al, ed. Perspectives on Modern China. NY. M E Sharpe. 199 1. pp 341-363. Salch. T. 2001 . Governance and Politics of China. 1st ed. London, Palgrave Publishers Ltd. Shambaugh. D. 2000. "The Chinese State in the Post-Mao Era" in D. Shambaugh. ed. The Modern Chi­ nese State, Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 2000. pp. 161- 188.


2

IfHE

SEPOYS (Indian soldiers fi ghting for the English East In­ dia Company or for the Crown) who mutinied at Meerut and then marched on Delhi in 1857 un­ leashed spectacular violence against British rule in India. Widespread rumours that the sepoys raped Brit­ ish women and children were false, but the sepoys killed women an d children when they had the oppor­ tun ity. In July, the British garrison at Kanpur, including dozens of women and child ren, surrendered when the sepoys laying Siege to the ga rrison promised them safe passage. When the British emerged, the sepoys killed all of the men, except for five who managed to escape. The sepoys impriso ned the women

Michael Walzer puts it, "the aliena­ tion [was] temporary, the humanity imminent:' Lieute nant Frederic Roberts wrote letters to his fam ily th ro ugho ut the Uprisi ng. His exercise of restraint in taking a particular village must be contrasted with the violence typical of his conduct in suppressi ng the Uprising. By 22 May, eleven days after the mutiny at Meerut, Robe rts was accusing the sepoys of abusing and ki lling women and children . He describes the British reaction: they hunted down and ki lled four hun­ dred sepoys. Eve n the Sikhs and Af­ ghans, who were renowned fo r their cruelty, exercised more restraint. In general, h is troop "gives no quarter, every single man we find

wo uld go to any extremity to pro­ tect British women and children, to avenge his fr iends, and to uphold British rule in India accords with Rudrangshu Mukherjee's presenta­ tion of British violence in India. However, Roberts's purported desire to kill eve ry native is some­ what misleading. We must weigh h is invec tive against the disquiet he occasio nally showed about British violence in suppressing the Upris­ ing. His unce rtainty is important evidence that he was not, in fact, willing to go to any end to uphold British rule in India. After reducing the garrison of rebels in a walled village north of Lucknow, Rob ­ erts's troops destroyed the village. Roberts begins his letter abo ut the

to read too much into this incident. Roberts had no compu nction about killing rebels. Still, his statements reflect un cer­ tainty about whether suppressing the rebellion was worth, or required, destroying peasants' houses. More­ over, th e people in the regio n were involved in reb elling; they were not "civilians" in a straightforward way, though the widows' dead husbands were apparently not sepoys. Simply put, upholding British suzeiranty did not outweigh Roberts's moral sentiments. Of course, not every soldier exe rcised such restraint, nor does every sold ier discuss restraint. Unlike Roberts, Roland Richard­ son, a Scottish Lieutenant who also served during the Uprising, does

of the Indian Mutiny in 1857

and children, and eventually kil led them, too. Rudrangshu Mukherjee argues that violence was a funda­ mental characteristic of British ru le in India. The existence of individ ual clemency does not, to his mind, re­ fute the general argument that bru­ tality was "a major thrust of policy". Soldiers and sepoys ali ke com mit­ ted atrocities within the context of a violent confro ntation between rul­ ers and ruled. It is worth consider­ ing how British soldiers understood the suppression of the uprising. Three questions come to mind: Why were they willing to comm it acts of such violence? Were there times when thei r human decency overcame the des ire for revenge? What did they think should be done in the future? The re were times when indiv idua l British soldiers and officers exercised restrai nt. This article begins by considering an in­ stance of this sort, a time when, as

is killed". With each passing month his determination to ki ll the sepoys grew stronger. He enjoyed "helping to exterminate every nati ve" and was willing to "undergo any priva­ tion" to avenge the deaths of his fr iends. He reaches a climax just be­ fo re the fa ll of Delh i, when he claims "no one ever died in a better cause", a startl ing shift from his state ment

four months earlier that he wished the cause he was fighting for were a better one. Roberts's claim that he

battle by clarifying to his sister that he is just as willi ng to kill rebels as any other British officer. But when he is bu rning down th e village's houses, he meets a "very old m an", two of whose sons are missing. He is moved by the man's sto ry, believes it to be true, and "had not the heart to bu rn his house:' Later, he meets a group of widows grieving over the bodies of thei r husbands, "none of them Sepoys I believe:' and is "qu ite unhappy" and wishes "most Sincerely this horr id war was at an end." These feelings are obviously limited. He did not have the heart to burn the old man's house down, but felt he should have done so anyway. Rob erts does not bla me the soldiers, who "cannot be expected to distinguish betwee n the guilty and innocent in the heat of the moment'; but he continues: "such sce nes make one wish that all was settled:' It is impor tant not

not discuss why he kills. It is his d uty to fight, and he fights when he is ordered to. Richardson reports the ru mours about massacres (which were tru e), but he does not claim women and children were abused (they were not). It is possible that Rich ardson ei ther did not hear, or did not be­ lieve, the widespread reports that sepoys were rapin g European wom­ en. His matte r-of- fact reporti ng is attributable to this as well as to his being ten years older than Roberts. He does refer to "that horrible mas­ sacre at Cawnpore", where some of his fr iends died, but he seems oddly di spassionate. W hen Roberts writes that everyone he knew had lost fri ends, he focuses on the uni­ versal desire fo r revenge. In October, Richardson's troop was still marching arou nd Awadh, rath­ er than halting at Delhi or Lucknow, looki ng for bands of rebel sepoys.


Instead of focus ing on his desire for revenge, however, he is concerned about warm clothing, horses, guns, and books. The first three were nat­ urally crucial for a winter campaign in a cold climate, but also suggest a

cooler disposition . He deplored the death of his comrades, but he wrote to h is fam­

ily about his creature comfo rts. (In­ deed, a letter befo re the Uprising refers to his displeasure at the fact that he had not been able to ge t his cushions stuffed.) The fact that after mo nths at war he was more con­ cerned about books to read tha n the war he was fighting seems odd even for a devoted biblioph ile. He did not write abo ut the death of his friends at Kanpur with the same sad ness as Roberts did, nor does he regret the vio lence inflicted on Indian civil­ ians. He deplored the death of his com­ rades, but he wrote to his family about his comforts. (Indeed, a letter before the Upris ing refers to his dis­ pleasure at the fact that he had not been able to get his cushions stuffed.) The fact that after months at war he was more concerned abo ut books to read than the war he was fight­ ing seems odd even for a devoted bibliophile. He did not write about

the death of his friends at Kanpur with the same sadness as Roberts did, nor does he regret the violence in fl icted on Indian civilians. Why did Rich ardso n and Roberts think the mutiny happened in the fi rst place? Richardso n claims the muti ny was th e result of "foolish" governmen t policy. W hile he does not countenance the mutiny, the se­ poys had every right to object "qui ­ etly" to the cartridges, for "touching an d biting such Cartridges entails to most of them a loss of caste with consequences wo rse than excom­ mu nication in days of old:' Later, he implies that the proclivity to mutiny was partly the res ult of wh at "class" soldiers came fro m. Richard ­ so n's argument th at the sepoys had

on clemency "absurd'; although he d isli ked Canning in part because the prize money fro m Delhi had still not bee n distributed. Roberts also criticises civil serv­ ants for how they ha ndled the crisis: "our civilians have ruined India by not punishing natives sufficiently, and by allowing all the rasca ls in the country to hold high offices in their Kutcherri es:' For him, the broader problem was that the officers trust­ ed th e sepoys too much. He said, " I don't believe myself there is one single Native in the whole coun try who wou ld no t go aga inst us, if they did not think they were better off by remaining on our side:' These are not clear proposals fo r reform so mu ch as they are ana lyses of what

in India. Nevertheless, their understandi ng of the problems with British rule was clearly limited. They did not venture to question ing the imperia l project. Upholding British imperial rule in India by suppressi ng th e Up­ ri sing, li ke imperial rule elsewhere and warfa re in general, rested on a denial of humanity. Still, there was room for a British offi cer to show mercy. The British occasionally rec­ ognised Indian civilians as people with famili es who deserved mercy, but the vast majo rity of the ti me they d id not. 111is is a bittersweet realisation, and it makes the atroci­ ti es committed by both sides all the more poignant.

a right to object to the cartridges is unusual, but it is by no means uniqu e. Roberts, too, claims that the cartridges were "at the bottom ofthe whole a ffa ir'~ As Kim Wag ner has argued, the assumption that the fea r of losing one's caste due to car­ tridges was th e primary cause of the Uprising was common among Brit­ ish soldiers and commentators. Roberts and Richardson also of­ fer suggestions for how British government in India should be re­ form ed. Richardson believed that if commanders had been given more power to punish soldi rs wh o mis­ behaved that the mutinies would not have happened. Richardson and Roberts both expressed co ncern about whether the Bombay and Ma­ dras armies co uld be trusted and suggested that the armies should be restructured. Along the sam e lines of d iSCipli ne and distru st, Richard ­ so n called Canning's proclamatio n

the problems are. Richardson and Roberts relied on interpretations circulating among th e soldiers and printed in the English-language p ress. This is not surprising. As Roberts wrote in August, "our first business is to get out of the scrape, an d find out the cause afterwards:' While the suppression of the Upris­ ing was incredibly violent, there are sign ificant ind ications that Roberts, and probably other officers, were occasionally appalled by the scale of violence. This article has sought to suggest th e complexity of the violence that upheld British rule in India. Individual soldiers' attitudes provide a crucial corrective to the assumptions of monol ithic violence. The soldiers' theories of the mutiny were based on a ci rcumscribed se t of tropes, but they still devoted some thought to the reasons for the uprisi ng. They also recognised some of the shortcomings of British rule

Rud rangshu Mukherj ee, "The Kan ­ pur Massacres in India in the Revolt of 1857: Reply'; Past and Present 142 (February 1994), pp. 178-89. Letters by Rolan d Richardson, Ri­ chardson Family Corresponde nce, National Library of Scotland, MS 3990. Frederic Roberts, Letters Written During the Indian Mutiny by Fred Roberts (Macmillan and Co., Lim­ ited: London, 1924) . Kim Wagner, The Great Fear of

1857: Rumours, Conspiracies, and the Making of the India n Uprising (Oxford: Peter Lang, 201 0) . Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust

Wars: A Moral Argument with His­ torical Illustrations (New York: Basic Books, 1977).


Id


P OSTCOLONIA L THEORY is almost impossible to define co n­ clusively. This is primarily beca use it places itself both in opposition to and supposed ly beyond coloni­ alism, and brings a moral imp era­ tive to bear. A working definit ion might refer to postcolonial theory as the intellectual outgrowth of Edward Said's Orientalism, draw­ ing on "postmodern" and "post­ structuralist" theor ists to critique "coloni al discourse". That is not to say th at Orien talism is the only p rogenito r of postcolonial theory, but it was certa inly the fir st com ­ plete framework of a "postcolo­ nial" that questioned the actual epistem ic basis for understand ing the non -West. Postcolonial theory questions the validity of "West­ ern" epistemology stem ming from the En lightenme nt as un iversa l. On the other hand, postcolonia l theory is inextricably linked wi th anti-coloni al senti ment, with all the debts to Ma rxism that implies. The postcolonial and the anti­ colon ial, then, are both dee ply influenced by Marxist thought which, having been adop ted as a particul arly powerful framework for criticising capital ism, mud­ dies the waters of the postcolonia l rejection of supposedly Weste rn foundatio ns of knowledge. This highlights the ambigui ty of post­ colon ial theory: is there a clear distinction be tween Wes tern and non- Western ways of thinking? It is unli kely. The in tellectual under­ pinn ings of postcolonial theory are part of the post-Enlig hten­ men t philosophical tradition that supposedly constitutes mental colonialism, just as much as the post modern and post-str uctural­ ist theory grew o ut of modern ism and structuralism - criticism be­ ing simply the negative outgrowth of the sa me founda tion . Whe n critically evaluated, it becomes clea r that postcolon ial theory is not a rigoro us effort to recons titute histo ry; instead, postcolonial theory utilises the gu ise of a less exacting and m ore aesthetic li terary critical theory to dismiss the project of develop­ ing a new basis [o r kn owledge as less im portant th an critiquing the "colonial" episteme. Th is is not to say that postcolonial theory has not provided a usefu l corrective in perspective fo r historians, but that taken as a complete framework it reaches untenable conclusions. It is due to this lack of ri gor th at some postcol onial theory enda ngers th e empowerment of the peoples it seeks to represen t. Iro nica lly, but un surprisingly,

heady theories of epistemology and post-stru cturalism exclude all but the mos t ed ucated elites. O ut-of- hand rejection of an essen ­ tialised Western thought not on ly makes pos tcoloni al thinkers li ke Ashis Na ndy an d Dipesh Chakra­ barty seem eit her sloppy or mali­ cious, it d ismisses the role that the colonised played in the thou ght of th e colon iser. Ma ny postcolonia l theorists, like Said hi mself, fa ll into inverted versions of thei r ow n critiques : they maintain the West­ Oth er paradigm by essen ti alising the Wes t in many of the same ways they claim the West esse ntia lised the Other.

'Postcoloni.. .

theorists rei

orientalist

perceptions \

"spiritual El"

a "rational 1.

the differen _.,'

being to pl2

the essentia

East above

essentialise,

In doi ng so, they re ify that di s­ tincti on an d igno re the historical evolution of Western th ought, par­ ticularly the influence of the rest of th e world on it and the si milarities between Rom ant icis m and their own rejecti on of the hegemony of En lighte nm ent thought. In reject­ ing post-E nli ghtenment th ought, par ticularly the universality of science, out of hand, postcoloni al theorists li ke Nandy reprod uce orientalist perceptions of a "spirit­ ua l East" and "rational West" with the only d ifference being to place the esse nt ialised Eas t above the es­ se ntialised West. Th is not on ly has political im­ plications, empowering reli gio us extremists who would seek to re­ jec t or co-op t science to push their own agendas, b ut blocks formerly co lonised peoples from empow­ er men t through their fa ir claim to the development of science. Pos tcolonial theorists conflate the poor imp lementation of scie nce with th e practice of science itself, judging the epistemic basis fo r scientific knowledge by the social damage it migh t prod uce; wh ether intentional ignora nce or malicious intent, they seek to make science relat ive and make it no more "real" than nat ivist ideas. Another way in wh ich pos tco­

lonial th eory enda ngers the em­ powerment of the people it seeks to represent is via th e adoption of the Gramscian idea of th e "sub­ altern". Utilised by the Subaltern Studies gro up, headed up by Rana­ jit Guha, "subaltern" came to be an ambi guous term ap plying to tho se groups for merl y exclude fro m or misrepresented in the history of the formerly colonised world. It was dev ised as a means of empow­ ering and representing the major­ ity of Indians who had previo usly bee n wri tten out of an elitist h is­ toriography in whi ch the primary de bate - wh ether or not th e eli tes of India acted in the pu rs uit of power or as rig hteous ideologues in th e move towards indepe nd ­ ence, cru dely - was a dia lectic that d id not allow for the age ncy of the "masses". Much li ke the European Marx­ ist histo ri ans who influenced the Subalte rn Studies collective, the "bottom up" approach to history had a profou nd corrective quality and inspired mu ch new research; unli ke the European Marx ist his­ tor ians, ho weve r, the Sub altern Studies gro up claimed to be sub ­ alte rn s the mselves . Th is is whe re their Marxist roots met th e pro b­ lematic of postcolonial theor y: as individu als who identified as previously colonised, th ey we re "subaltern" not d ue to material­ ism, bu t in identity and culture. Postmode rn ideas of identity have allowed these historians - a liter­ ate eli te - to take th e position of the subordi nate. This process of co-opting su b­ alternity li m its the empowerment of the subaltern by glOSSing over differe ntiations of material an d social hierarchy within the broad group of "non -elite;' which rea lly only referred to poli tical or inter­ cultural non -elite. This arg ument, primarily es po used by Rosa lind O'Han lon and David Was hb roo k, has been summarised in criti cis m by Nicho las Dirks as: "postcolo­ nia l criti cs suc h as Prakas h ignore class so as to d isg uise their ow n position as vi ctors ra ther than vic­ ti ms in a world capitalist syste m". Dirks argues th at foundat ional Marxism ble nds into th e view­ point of th e Cam bridge school of histo rians of India - th e group wh o posited that Indian elites were co nd itioned into seeking in depe ndence for power's sake - and that Marx ist critics of post­ colo nial theory use class ana lysiS to deny the rea lity of coloni alism . Althou gh Dirks is defen di ng Gyan Prakash's in tr igui ng proposal of "post-fo undati onal" histories, wherein found ational metanar­ ratives wo ul d be abolished in the

search for organic but form erly ma rginalised perspectives, he makes th e same (perhaps inevita­ ble) m istake as Prakash: th ey both de ny all fo un dat io ns but the non ­ fo und atio n of pos tm odern ism and colon ial critique. Prakash, O'Hanlon and Was h­ broo k see m to be argui ng past each other: Prakash not ackn owledging his own place ment of founda tio ns, rejec ting the esse nti al catego ry of material class in the metanarrat ive of world cap italism. A more frui t­ fu l app roach mi gh t be to recognise the im possi bi li ty of ab olis hi ng all arti ficial fou nd ations while recog­ nising that they are m ethodo logi­ ca l imperat ives rather than obj ec­ tive rea lities. Furthermo re, those debat ing be­ tween Ma rxist and postmode rn l post-structuralist persp ectives on the prob lematic of the postcoloni­ al, so deeply entrenched in polem­ ic, have not acknowledged that the two are not mutu ally exclusive in theory, and that rather th an their own neat and tidy dialectic be­ tween rich an d poor or colon iser and colonised, for example, th ere are more va rying strata of sup eri­ o rity an d subordination. A more emp oweri ng app roach would be more sophisticated and recogni se the heterogeneity of the "subaltern" and incorporate the materi al and the cul tural, racia l, and gender stratifi cations of iden­ tity an d power. This acknowledg ­ men t of heterogeneity does not, howeve r, necessitate the extreme em phasis o n the individual "na­ tive informant" and d e-emphas is on th e author espoused by Jam es Clifford and to wh ich Pra kas h's app roach logically leads. Gay­ atri Spivak has effectively argued th at the sub altern cann ot speak; if the subalte rn could speak, they wou ld cease to be the sub altern.

She points out that to foc us on the "native informant" does the sa me epistemic vi olence to subalte rn s that th e colonial anthropo logists d id. Indeed, Was hbrook and O'Hanlon point out th at the decontextuali za­ ti on of th e ind ividual "indigeno us collaborator" is "a very old device of liberal ideology' and tha t '[t]he British colonial record is fu ll of


[itl ." This problem of the "native informant" goes even further, cre­ ating a nativist idea of postcolo­ nial knowledge. Nandy has gone so far as to argue that h istory itself is a for m of colonialism because it replaces the rea l history of peoples with that produced by "colonial" culture. This is tantamount to a modern nativist "reverse" racism by certain postcolonial theorists who would vest author ity in "the people" themselves to represent their culture, barri ng outsiders from any knowledge of such. This despite the likelihood that th is wo ul d favo r those ed ucated elites within that culture to rep­ resent it and thus skew an d pos­ sibly alte r their own culture, much li ke the Brahmin "native inform­ ants" who had a major role in Sanskritization in Ind ia. Barring the obvious problems of reverse essentialism expressed fro m Said to Prakash, the idea of "self-rep­ resentation" as a form of authority obliterates the possibility of em­ powerment for the vast majo rity of postcoloni al subject peoples . "Occidentalism" as a reverse form of orientalism is another danger to the peoples postcolonial theorists seek to represent. As posited earlier, essentialis­ ing a monol ith ic "post-Enlight­ enment" West maintains a para­ digm of difference in almost the exact same ways as orientalism. A monolithic "colonial ity" of an es­ sentialised Europe does not on ly arbitrarily maintain the orientalist idea of the "non-West" in terms of what was "non-Western" when it is questionable as to whether this monoli th ic Europe ever atta ined the things that are attributed to it, but it writes out the centuries of interaction that affected this mon­ olithic Europe just as much as they affected the colonised world.

This, much like histo ries of the Atlantic slave trade that depict a monolithic European exploiter an d a monolithic African victim, denies the agency and heterogene­ ity of colonised peoples. Frederick Cooper points out, for example, the importance of the Hai tian revolution in determining French ideas of citizensh ip. The colonial

cu ltura l excha nge was not one of coloniser onto colo nised, or even simply a reciprocal relations hip; it was a process of creati on. Many ideas attr ibuted to "European" in­ flue nce or ideologica l dominance we re in fact created in the colo­ nial experience, such as mode rn nationalism. problem of the "na­ tive informant" goes even fmther, creating a nat ivist idea of postco­ lonial knowledge. Nandy has gone so far as to argue that history itself is a form of colon ialism because it replaces the real history of peoples with that produced by "colo nial" culture. This is tantamo unt to a modern nativist "reverse" racism by certain postcolonial theorists who wou ld vest autho rity in "the people" themselves to represent their culture, barring outside rs from any knowledge of such. This desp ite the li kelihood that th is would fav or those educated eli tes within th at culture to rep­ resent it an d thus skew and pos­ sibly al ter th eir own culture, much like the Brah m in "nat ive inform ­ ants" who had a major role in Sanskritizatio n in India . Barrin g the obvious problems of reve rse esse ntialism expressed from Said to Prakash, the idea of "self-rep­ resentation" as a for m of au thority obli terates the possib ility of em ­ powerment for the vast majority of postcolonial subj ect peoples. "Occidentalism" as a reverse form of o rientalism is another da nger to the peoples pos tcolonial theorists seek to represent. As posited earlier, essentialis­ ing a monol ith ic "post-Enlight­ enment" Wes t mai ntai ns a para­ digm of diffe rence in almost the exact same ways as orientalism. A monolithic "colon iali ty" of an es­ sentialised Europe does not on ly arbitrarily ma intai n the orientali st idea of the "non-West" in ter ms of what was "non -Western" when it is questionab le as to whether this monolithic Europe ever atta ined th e things that are attrib uted to it, but it writes out the centuries of interaction that affected this mon ­ olithic Europe just as mu ch as they affected the colonised world. This, much like histories of the Atlantic slave trad e that depict a monolith ic European exploiter and a monoli thic African victim, denies the agency and heterogene­ ity of colonised peoples. Frederick Cooper points out, for example, the importance of th e Haitia n revo lution in determi ni ng French ideas of citizenship. The colonial cultural exchange was not one of coloniser onto colonised, or even si mply a reciprocal re lationship; it was a process of creation . Many ideas attributed to "European" in­

f1uence or ideological domin ance were in fact created in the colonial ex peri ence, such as modern na­ tionalism. Just as in the Uni ted States sla ve owne rship made nasce nt Amer icans more protect ive of their li ber ty, th e do minance of colonial hold ings made Europea n governments more protective of their sovereignty. History is not as simple as postcolonial theor y sug­ ges ts, but the process of histo ri cis­ ing and co ntextu alising has been challenged as pa rochia ll y Wes t­ ern by postcolonia l the orists. This simp ly re inforces the anti-histori ­ cism of postcolonial theor ists, an d mea ns that, des pite all the polem ic, "colonial critique" wi ll never em­ po wer the very groups it seeks to represent: they will continue to be denied a history unt il privileged postmodern nave l-gazing yields to pragmatiC histories that utilise the perspective shifted by postco­ lonial critics.

solid example for futu re proj ects. Rigorous, pragmat ic, and nondog­ matic ap plications of the perspec­ tive shift from postcolonial theory have been beneficial. However, the theories them­ selves have endangered the em­ powerment of the peoples whom th ey seek to represe nt. They have pe rp etuated many of the very as­ sumpt ions they have sought to brea k down wh ile simu ltan eously co-opting the position of su bal­ temity, renderi ng it less potent and unreprese nta tive. The ideas of "self- representati on" and "post­ fo undationalism" have stym ied at­ tempts to make progress in giving history to, and thus empowering, postcolon ial subj ects. Fort un ately, postcolonial theory is heterogene­ ous and dynamic; its benefits will not be eras ed if it shifts so th at the enda ngerment to th e empower­ ment of its subjects can be over­ come.

Cooper, Frederick, 'Postcolonial Stud ies and the Study of Histo ry' in Postcolonial Studies and Be­ yond ed. Ania Loomba et al (Lon­ don, 2005 ).

On th e other hand, postcolo ­ nial th eory an d the debates that it has enge ndered have for the most part been fruit ful endeavors th at have shi fted the perspective of many scholars fro m entrenched ass um ptions to new, criti cal an d dyn amic un dersta ndin gs of th e non -West (and the West). The problem is th at, despite an effort by Chakrabarty that ultimately fell victim to the exact problems his project so ught to solve, the proc­ ess of "provincial ising Europe" is incomplete and as an idea is still laden with problems of essential­ is m. Postcoloni al theor ists who hide behind amb iguous and "aes­ th etic" critical theories that lack th e rigorous emphasis on evidence important in his tory contin ue to rei fy in new ways the very prob­ lems th ey claim to seek to end. In the process of cri ti cisi ng colonial­ ism , they have foregone a rigorous reinven ti on of world history. To be fair, many historians informed by postco lon ial theory, such as th e Subaltern Studies group, did attempt a thorough reworki ng of Ind ian history that has provided a

Dirks, Nicholas B., 'Postcolonial­ ism and Its Discontents: History, Anthropology, and Postcolonial Cri ti que' in Schools of Thought: Twenty-Five Years of Interpretive Social Science ed Joa n W. Scott & Debra Keates (Oxford, 2001 ). Guha, Ranajit, 'On Some Aspec ts of th e Historiography of Colo­ nial Ind ia' in Selected Subaltern Studies ed. Ranajit Guha & Gay­ at ri Chakravorty Spivak (Oxford, 1988). O'Hanlon, Rosa li nd and Wash­ brook, D. A., 'A fter Orientalism: Cu lture, Cri ticism and Poli tics in the Third World' in Mapping Sub­ altern Studies and the Postcolon ial ed. Vi nayak Chaturvedi (Lo ndon, 2000). Prakash, Gyan, 'Writing Post­ Or ienta list Histories of the Third World: Pe rspectives from Indian Histo riography' in Mapping Sub­ altern Stu dies an d the Postcolonial ed. Vinayak Chaturvedi (London, 2000) . Spivak, Gayatri Chakravo rty, 'Can the Subal tern Speak? ' in Marxism and the Interpretation of CuI· ture ed. Cary Nelso n & Lawre nce Grossberg (London, 1988).


eVleW

A new book that explores

the turbulent history of Czechoslovakia does not impress Michael Klimes

The State that Failed

Czechoslovak history that looks to exorcise the caricature of the coun­ try as a victim of its imperialistic neighbours. She critiques Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Benes, the two founders of the state, declaring they had been "brilliant propagandists" who manipulated the political opportun ities opened up by the First World War and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles, to create an unstable Czechoslovakia living on borrowed time th rough an arti ficial and romantic nationalism. According to Heimann, Masaryk's nationalism cultivated a mentality of victim hood among its citizens, mak­ ing them believe they were victi ms of oppression, rather than perpetrators of it. She does not explore Masaryk's philosophy and human ism in the context of other competing ideolo­ gies at the ti me. Her general thesis is, "Czechoslovakia was not officially re­ membered as an aggressor but a vic­ tim country; not as a perpetrator but rather as a martyr of state-sponsored racism, ethnic intolerance and polit­ ical repression:' This interpretation does have an amount of truth to it. She aims to produce an ambitious For instance, one major di fference and iconoclastic interpretation of between communist and Nazi rule

T HE

HISTORY of Czechoslova­ kia in the twentieth-century is both tragic and complex. It has experi­ enced a wide variety of political sys­ tems such as capitalist democracy, communist one party rule and Nazi fascism. The consequences of these totalitarian regimes have been occu­ pation, revolution and war. Czecho­ slovakia: The State That Failed by Mary Heimann, a senior lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, covers the history of this troubled country. Her book has been marketed as the definitive account of Czechoslo­ vakia and there are aspects of the work which warrant such acclaim as it is meticulously researched, densely footnoted, and erudite.

in Czechoslovakia was that there were more indigenous supporters of communism: there were more Czechoslovak communists inside the country during the Stalin ist era than there were Czechoslovak Nazis during the fascist era. Therefore, one could argue that communist in fl u­ ence did have an internal level of support that Nazism did not have. However, any merits of Heimann's revisionism evaporate with her po­ lemical and vindictive to ne which is stridently anti-Czech and anti Slovak. This book comes across as the work of a tabloid hack. Her perspec­ tive is grotesquely one-sided, poorly written, badly argued, snide, sarcas­ tic and some judgements are disturb­ in gly pathological. In a remarkable moral lapse she says, "The so-called 'May Crisis: turned out to have been caused by Czechoslovakia's unjus­ tified military provocation:' This makes one think that Adolf Hitler was a paCifist, is not to blame for causing the Second World War and that Czechoslovakians had no reason to feel intimidated by Nazi Germany. Many more passages are satu­ rated with frivolo us cynicism, me­ chanical prose and irrelevant char­

acter vilification, one such example being her depiction of Antonin Dvorak, the great Czech composer, as second rate and as someone who, "might have otherwise been con­ demned forever to playing ...in his village band:' She does not mention that Dvorak was an internation­ ally renowned mus ician even be­ fore the creation of Czechoslovakia.

Even Vaclav Havel, the only figure of merit in the book who is not com­ pletely ravished, is used to cut down Czechoslovak dissidents: "His posi­ tions, admirable and humbling, as of­ tenas they were, werehighlyuntypical of all but a tiny dissident Czech elite:' There are so many mistakes in this book that it is puzzling how such a work was published by such a prestigious publisher.


28

ving the h Enlpire

het

f3i'tJdh lRiraiiyml, learns how to survive the and come out on top

A

PARTIAL view : that is how we are introduced to the prison at which Ma lik (Ta har Rahim ) will spend the next years of h is li fe, and that is how the film co nti nues. Throughout A Prophet we only see the story th rough Mali k's eyes and even th en we are not privy to his thoughts. This tech nique ill us­ trates the partial view that life af­ fords prisoner, whe re th ey ca n only tr ust in themselves. Malik is commanded by Ceasar, the emperor of the prison and leader of its to ughest gang, to kill an inmate. The murder displays Malik's palpable vul nerabil ity as he is cripples wi th nerves and fee li ngs of guilt. In a typically French fas h­ ion, an element of surrealism is in­ jected into the fi lm when the mur­ dered man co ntinually appears as a ghost and at times, strange though it may seem, con tributing to the funniest moments of the fil m. You would expect that th e res t of the fi lm would be abou t Malik learning the ways of Ceasar's gang

and his gradua l ascension through the ranks, and fi rst it seems as if th is is what will happe n. How­ ever, as the fi lm progresses, it be ­ comes clea r that Mali k is worki ng for hi mse lf and only hi mself. The fi lm documents Malik's carving out of his ow n empire which chal­ lenges and eventually topples that of Ceasar's. Ceasar does attempt to rega in his grip on the prison and goes to extreme le ngths to do so (enter horri fic almost-eye-go uging scene). However, Malik is rele ntless an d emerges the more cu nni ng and powerfu l, the cul minat ion of his hard work being an intensely symbolic scene where he forces Ceasar to cross the yard to come to talk to h im , only to have him kicked in the stomach. Yes this is a fi lm abo ut becoming a ma n in a place where on ly the stron gest sur­ vive, where the m an with the larg­ est and most powerful empire is in co ntrol. Nonetheless, A Prophet is more than that. It is a no- ho lds­ barred expose of the side of French life the tourist board does not want yo u to see. The fi lm vivid ly depicts the racia l d ivides and hierarchies that pe rmeate French society, th e prison being a microcos m of the co un try as a whole. Th e Parisian prison sys tem is exposed as corrupt and as a train­ ing ground for violen t crim inals

eager to beco me emp erers on the outside. Howeve r, at the same ti me the fil m is ge ntl e and touch ing. Mali k for ms one true fried in pris­ o n who the n beco m ing ill, leaves Mailk to provide for his wife an d ch ild.

The image of Ma li k fallin g asleep with a baby clutched to his chest is ju xtapose d with that of him ri p­ pi ng ope n the th ro at of h is first vi ctim in dica ting that Ma li k is no t a monste r but just an ingeni ous man staying alive and becom­ ing successful in the onl y way he knows how. One cannot help feel­ ing that Malik has bee n let down by France as have the thousands of other pri so ners: being swept to the side beca use they are no t quintes­ sent iall y Fre nch and therefore ru in the postca rd picture of a Fre nch idyll.


I T IS a bold feat to pe rform the

W ITH ITS relentlessly provoca­ tive exploration of U.S. dom inance and American hegemony, Colossus packs a punch that barely allows th e reader to draw breath. Niall Fergu­ son, never one to avoid controversy, sets his stall out from the start with his unabashedly imperialist stance. It is a call to America to recognize her imperialistic tendencies for the good of the world, showing that Colossus is no less provocative than his other works. For example, in his introduc­ tion, he asserts, "I am fundamen tally in favour of empire. Indeed, I believe that empire is more necessary in the twenty-first century than ever before:' From the man who argued that Britain should have allowed Germany to win the First World War, such a penchant fo r the controversial should come as a surprise.

As the war in Iraq limps on and the "Coca-colonisation" of commerce and culture continues apace, Colos­ sus is certainly relevant. However, set against th is backdrop, Ferguson's bemoaning of the American antipa­ thy for Empire and his argument that an avowedly imperialistic America would be beneficial as a more afflu ­ ent Third World would benefit the entire world economy will sit un­ comfortably with many readers. The

book's subtitle is "The Rise and Fall of the American Empire" yet Fergu­ son only succeeds in dealing with the "rise" and not the "fall': That is, he simply fa ils to deal witl1 the murkier side to the American Empire; Guan­ tanamo Bay and the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners held in the Abu Gh­ raib prison are either skipped over or not mentioned at all. That America should find the la­ bel of imperialist nation difficult to bear can be traced back to her origins. The fou ndi ng fath ers were determined that America wou ld not get involved in the European wars and alliances which they themselves had fled. Many trumpet the fact that America never partook in the Euro ­ pean scramble for Africa and instead made only relatively "local" acquisi­ tions of Louisiana, California and Hawaii in comparison to the sprawl­ ing British Empire. In particular, the formal aIU1exation of the Philippines in 1899 is a great exam ple of a his­ torical anomaly. George Santayana once said that, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it;' and it is preCisely th is sentiment that Fer­ guson is evoking. For example, the decision in 2003 to seek a second UN resolution gave the French the diplo­ mat ic initiative by allowing them to threaten to veto it. Consequently, the Iraq war lacked legitimacy in the eyes of the wo rld. Furthermore, if policy makers had looked back to 1920, then they might not have been so shocked that An­ glophone occupation of Iraq co uld provoke such persistent resistance. If Ferguson gets his wish and America declares herself as an Empire - let's hope that she has learned from both her own and the mistakes of others, as Fe rguson's argument is not a con­ vincing one.

infamo us 'Scottish play' in the na­ tion's capital city; inevitably tempt­ ing the Go ds of fa te. In fa mously ass ociated with the phrase "break a leg", the notorious bad luck of the play was to be upon the head of those associated fro m the begin­ ni ng. As one of the witches took ill, it seemed the curse of Macbeth was in Bedlam's very wa lls. Hubble bubble toil and trouble seemed far away on opening n ight however. To the unknowing aud i­ ence, the cast were well rehearsed and nothing if not professional. As far as th e acting was co ncerned, no cast member appeared to be a dam n spot wa iti ng to be outed. In­ deed, theatrically the performance was profeSSional an d polished. Amidst an awkward ly sexual atmosphere created by the newly refo rmed witches, Solomon Mo u­ sley depicted an easily lured and excellently exec uted Macbeth. An acute mix of hes itation an d amb i­ tion proved to depict Shakespeare's hero excellen tly. As an audience member, the empire that Mac­ beth was pushed towa rd s was in the very room. Mousley portrayed both a to rmented character and an overwhelming presence of empi re that has certai nly been lacki ng in less professional prod uctions. Alice Bonafacio's portrayal of Lady Macbeth was nothing if not in tense. He r physical realisation of the character so obsessed with the prom ise of an empi re it consumes

her was captivat ing to watch. She created tension physica lly and ver­ bally, alerting the aud ience both to the powe r of the fema le and the of persuasion from the begi nn ing. Wh ere the acting excelled how­ ever, the d irec ti on seemed to lack. As a typ ical Shakespearean trag­ edy, the beauty of Macbeth lies in it's delicate blend of wo rdplay and action. Too often however was em ­ phasis placed on words alone. Act 4, Scene 3 was seem ingly ignored when planni ng action, leavi ng the intricacies of Shakespeare's charac­ ters to words alone. With such an exceptionally intelligent tragedy as Macbeth, the scope to explore this through the physical is too great to ignore. Leaving the theatre, I fe lt exactly as I expected I would. Sorry for Macbeth, terrified of becoming Lady Macbeth, and yearning fo r something slightly more from the prod uction . It was satisfactory but lacked the phys ical ded ication that the play rightly deserves.


Precious Toby Paterson

The Fruitmarket exhibits a looks at what the film Precious bright artist with beautifully bleak work, says tells us about empire

~

T HERE

IS obvious gasping and flinching amongst the audience. On the screen before us is the vast form of an overweight teenager tumbles down filthy concrete stairs, coming to rest in a foetal position around her own tiny newborn baby. Above her the terma­ gant figure of her mother looms, hold­ ing aloft a television before dashing it down the stairwell narrowly missing daughter and baby. Welcome to this year's big Oscar hopeful, Precious, a film where the action is sometimes as painful to watch as the issues at its heart relate to modern day America. Based on Push: the Novel by Sap­ phire (the alias of writer Ramona Lofton), Precious has made a rec­ ognisable face of young actress Ga­ bourey Sidibe. The fil m has earned Sidibe multiple Oscar nominations including best actress, best supporting actress and best film, and has forced someone, somewhere to take Mariah Carey seriously. Dealing with issues of rape, disenfranchisement and in­ cest, to name only three of the many weIghty topics encountered within its 109 minutes of emotionally charged drama, Precious is the sort of cin­ ematic work we might have expected f:om co-producer Oprah Winfrey in hght of previous projects such as 'The Colour Purple: Much like its pred­ ecessor, Precious has a great deal to say about the patterns of inclusion and exclusion which inform Western society. Precious and her mother are present­ ed within the narrative as members of a disenfranchised underclass, trapped in a netherworld of welfare cheques, day-time television, flock wallpaper and unimaginable violence. The first few scenes take us th rough an unset­

tling array of emotions wh ilst never leaving the claustrophobic confines of their box-like apartment. The setting

is so confined that at times it feels like we are watching some subterranean world, outside of and lmseen by the one we inhabit. Our world view only un folds beyond this as Precious is in­ creasingly liberated from the family home during th e course of the film. One of the most' powerful elements of the film is the absence of Precious' abusive father. Although everything WhiCh occurs throughout Precious is

a result of his actions, he is always an unseen presence. An almost uniform­ ly female cast ofcharacters (excluding Leimy Kravitz's fabulously lazy eyed Murse) attempt to make sense of the chaos this menacing figure has cre­ ated. His presence rules the film but we never see more of him than his belt buckle or his back. Similarly the confrontations we witness between characters are often haunted by the ghosts of th ings un ­ seen. Even the fina l confrontation be­ tween mother and daughter is charac­ terised by silences and th ings which can only ever be partially explained or understood. Closure is rarely com­ plete: instead we as an audience are forced to recognise that everything that has happened necessarily infl u­ ences everything th at will happen. One of the most problematic as­ pects of Precious is perhaps its place­ ment in a 'once upon a time' of the 1980s. We can leave the cinema cush­ ioned by the idea that the poverty and suffering we have witnessed has gone the same way as The Sugarhill Gang and the Theri Curl. But perhaps this approach is necessary. In a new presi­ dency and an era which promises hope, 'Precious' must perhaps be an unavoidably veiled threat. Just as the figure of our heroine disappears into the crowd both hopeful and vulner­ able, this is a film which perhaps both anticipates the possibility of progress and reminds An1erica of the dangers of relapse. We have come a long way but there is much which still remains unsaid.

W EALL have

our opinions on modernist 1960's architec ture. Most of them are un favorable. I once heard someone describe the aes­ thetics of Appleto n Tower as "Sara­ jevo circa 1995." It seems that every ci ty and town large enough to have a featureless tower block, has several. The most functionalist designs have come to represent dysfunctional hOUSin g estates and depressing in ­ dustrial parks. But fo r so me people, such as the Glasgow- based artist Toby Paterson, the urban monoto ny of towns and cities is peculiarly in­ teresting. Since he was a boy skate­ boarding through Glasgow's estates, he has bee n fas cinated by images of neglected urban landscape, and th e shapes and pattern s whi ch consti­ tute them. Paterson's current exhibition, 'Con­ sensus and Collapse' at the Fruit­ market Gallery, lasts until the 28 March. As you enter th e exh ibition the information leaflet advises you to, "take time to orientate yourselfi n the space:' Paterson's wo rks, many of which are acrylic on transparent pe rspex, hang down from wooden frames dispe rsed th roughout the ro om an d guide you through a maze of colourful, geometriC drawings. Paterson's intention was to make you fee l as though you we re wan­ deri ng th rough a city, with images catching your eye th rough the gaps and as yo u turn around corne rs. His paintings range from composi­ ti ons of abstract shapes to detailed designs of Eastern Europea n apart­ ment blocks, set in isolati on on grey or transparent background s. They are his inter pretations of photographs taken while travelinab through cities from Rotterdam to Belgrade. The photographs, so me

of wh ich can be seen in the second room, capture mostly ugly modern buildings or decaying urban land­ scapes.This exhibition is a brilliant, free opportun ity to see one of Brit­ ain's major contemporary artists. His work is unpretentious, not nec­ essarily making a strong point ex­ cept to tu rn our attention to struc­ tu res, images, patterns and sce nes which we would otherwise neglect. Isolating the clean li nes of a modern ch urch deSign, or d istilli ng into ba­ sic for ms an interchange underpass, his depictions are odd ly compelli ng in their plainness. They remind us of the post-war utopian visio n whi ch architects and deSigners in the 1960s had in mi nd. Coping with the decl ine of the empi re inspired deSigners in Britain, where evidence of 1960s modern ism is widespread, to envi­ sion a utilitarian world. The vision cont rasts almost com ically with the derelict wastelands wh ich often sur­ rou nd these structures. Our distaste for them is perhaps a reaction to the arrogance with wh ich modern ism tried to design society. O ne thi ng which Paterson does by outl ining certai n designs in isolation and high lighting the geomet ry is re­ store them to their in tended glory and convey the romant ic vision of a perfect life wh ich th ey were meant to herald. Paterson's art isn't for eve­ r yone. Some may find the subject matter a little bleak or plain. But if when you see a deso late, graffiti­ strewn tower block yo u stare with intrigue at the forbidding deSign, or if you just want to see a respected co ntemporary artist following his unusual interest, then you would probably fi nd this exhibition totally absorbing.

I


T HE DESIRE of the National Gallery to show off its adm ittedly impressive collection of works is palpable the moment one enters their recent exhibit by the Dutch born art ist Sir Peter Lely. The ex­ hibitio n is meant to examine not just the talents of Lely as a leadi ng artist of the seventeenth century restoration period, but also to en­ compass the massive collection of art he amassed in his lifetime and how this impacted on his tastes, works and life . The range of pieces that can be viewed in the exhibit is nota­ ble: there are the chalk sketchings that Lely himself made on paper, beautifully rendered mezzotints of which he was so fond of and draw­ ings from several Italian and Flem­ ish old masters to name but a few. The exhibit is located in the lower section of the nat ional gallery (per­ haps strangely for an English court painter of Dutch origin) in the Scottish GOllection . No criticism can be levelled at

the quality of the works on display : everything on show, be it print, sketch or engraving is of an excel­ lent standard and since some of the pieces are rarely open to the public the chance to see them here is a positive treat. Of particular interest is a mezzotint of Lely himself which takes up a com mand ing space in the centre of one of the walls. Lely's face is perfec tly rendered an d expressive to the pOint where the viewer can catch a gli mpse of Lely's con fidence and part of the ego that was presumably linked with his role as the pre-eminent artist of his court. This mezzotint would make a worthy centrepiece for any exhi­ bitio n devoted to Lely . Sadly though it is th e lacklustre use ofLely h imself as the theme fo r the exhibit that most lets it down. As a subject, the li fe of Si r Peter Lely is a fasci nat ing tale spanning one of the most turbul ent times in British history. Lely saw the fa ll and subsequent restoration of the British mona rchy at the hands of Cromwell first hand and was one

of th e few people at the time whose high status was unaffected by the events. Indeed, it was Lely who was re­ spo nsi ble for the fa mous "war ts and all" pain ting of Cromwell that is still so recognisable to students of h istory. Some refere nce to this fasc inati ng background or to the relevance of Lely's work in estab­ lishing the mezzotint as a po pu la r art istic method in Bri tain would have made for a more enl ighten­ ing and releva nt exhibit but an ­ noyingly ne ither are to uched upo n here, mea ning that Lely is treated less as a foca l poi nt for an exhibit of his own works and collection, and more of a convenient lin k that allows the gallery to show off some of its lesser seen works. As much of a wasted opportuni ty as this seems, as a collection of in­ dividua l works, it must be said that th ere are some tr uly imp ressive works to be seen here so it is still worth vis iti ng, especially given the lack of an entrance fee.


Profile for Retrospect Journal & Magazine

Empire - S/S 2010, No.1  

FEATURES: A PATRIOTIC VENTURE; A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES; SAVING AND EMPIRE; A RUTHLESS NEIGHBOUR; IN A CHILD'S EYES. ACADEMIC: BLOOD AN...

Empire - S/S 2010, No.1  

FEATURES: A PATRIOTIC VENTURE; A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES; SAVING AND EMPIRE; A RUTHLESS NEIGHBOUR; IN A CHILD'S EYES. ACADEMIC: BLOOD AN...

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