Archive for the ‘Egypt’ Category

Piece from Ugandan Television about Heritage Centre Celebrating Emin Pasha, Fighter Against the Slave Trade

January 20, 2023

I came across this piece yesterday from the Ugandan broadcaster UBC. It’s a short video about the restoration of buildings donated by local people to the Ugandan government to be used as a heritage centre commemorating the stay in the area of the Emin Pasha. Pasha, real name Edward Schnitzer, was born in Poland but briefly settled in this part of Uganda in 1891-2 to combat the slavers in the area. He then left for what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he died a couple of years later. The heritage centre will be also be an information centre, and has been visited by students from Uganda’s university and primary schools. Although the speaker states that there has been no serious incidents, he does describe some friction between the restoration team and local people. From the context it seems that this may be over the gift of the land and buildings to the government, but relations have been soothed by the fact that the government is actually restoring the buildings.

East Africa was prey to Arab, Portuguese and Indian slavers and the African tribes who allied with them to do the actual slave raiding. During the ‘scramble for Africa’ of the late 19th century, Britain fought against these slavers. There were also military expeditions launched by the Egyptian pashas in the 1870s to stamp out slaving in the Sudan and Uganda. I wonder if Pasha was part of these operations, as shown by his taking a Muslim name.

I’m putting up this video, because it shows a different aspect to the memorialisation of the slave trade in Africa, one in which the men, who fought against it are celebrated. In the case of Emin Pasha, this is a White European, whose efforts on behalf of and with Black Ugandans is clearly appreciated and celebrated.

Book on Pioneering Victorian Explorer of Abyssinia, Sudan and Egypt Manfield Parkyns

January 6, 2023

Duncan Cumming, The Gentleman Savage: The Life of Mansfield Parkyns 1823-1894 (London: Century Hutchinson 1987).

I’ve been meaning to put up something about this book for a little while now, as I thought it might be of interest to any readers with an interest in Victorian travellers and explorers and their accounts of east Africa. I bought it from one of the remaindered bookshops decades ago now, and can’t remember much about it except that Parkyns was a member of the British gentry, who left Britain to explore the Middle East. He travelled from Egypt down to Ethiopia, where he learned the indigenous people’s languages and adopted their dress and culture, becoming a warrior in the Ethiopian army. He married a local woman and had a son by her, Johannes, before returning to England. Later on the son travelled to Europe in search of his father.

The blurb for the book runs

‘Mansfield Parkyns came from a landed gentry background in the East Midlands. As a young man he was sent down from Cambridge and decided to leave England for the excitement of travel in Egypt and Abyssinia, where he intended to discover the source of the White Nile.

His especially gift as a traveller was his ability to immerse himself in local life, which left him to abandon his western clothes and outlook, and to make, as Lady Palmerston put it, ‘the most successful attempt by a man to reduce himself to the savage state on record.’ Unlike many other Victorians he did not believe in the innate superiority of the white man and he therefore took a refreshing view of his surroundings which led to many fascinating observations. He became part of a village community, married a local girl and took part in raids on other villages. He travelled by a route no European had previously taken to Khartoum and then tried to cross Africa to the Atlantic, but was thwarted by civil war.’

Parkyns’ Ethiopian son, Johannes.

His respect for Ethiopian culture did not mean that he was entirely uncritical. He was shocked by what he saw as the abysmal state of the Ethiopian Coptic church, which I think he felt ought to be destroyed and replaced with something better. As for his adoption of Ethiopian dress and culture, this resulted in people singing ‘The King of the Cannibal Islands’ in mockery of him, which shows the racism in Victorian society. And I would have liked to know much more about his son’s journey to Britain to meet him, and what he thought of us.

My Email to the Local Labour Party about the False View that only White Europeans Were Responsible for Slavery

January 4, 2023

I had an email from my local branch of the Labour party in Bristol this morning informing that they will be out this weekend canvassing people about the issues that matter to them. I wish them the very best of luck. Twelve years of Tory misrule have just about wrecked this great country and are forcing millions of ordinary, hardworking Brits into poverty. Not to mention the continued exploitation and impoverishment of the disabled and unemployment through benefit sanctions, work capability tests and all the rest of the welfare reforms that they have pushed through to enable them to stop paying benefits to people, who genuinely need it, all on the flimsiest of pretexts.

But one issue in Bristol that particularly concerns me is the way the slave trade is represented in exhibitions, the media and in education. Bristol was one of the major cities in the UK slave trade, along with London, Liverpool and I think Glasgow in Scotland. Although the slave trade was banned in 1807 and slavery itself abolished in 1837, it still casts a very long shadow over the city, just as it does the country generally. This was shown three years in the BLM riot that brought down the statue of Edward Colston and in a motion passed by the city council calling for reparations to be paid to the Black population. What concerns me about this is that it seems to me that a distorted image of slavery has arisen, in which White Europeans and Americans are seen as uniquely responsible and culpable for it. I am worried about the apparent lack of awareness that it existed right across the world and long before Europeans started enslaving Black Africans for labour in the plantations of the New World. It also appears that the BBC is determined to push this distorted image, as detailed by the group History Reclaimed and their document identifying the bias in twenty BBC programmes, several of which were about slavery. These included the edition of The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan when he went to Sierra Leone and Enslaved, presented by Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson. I therefore sent a reply stating my concern about this issue and the way it was handled by the local council. This runs

‘Dear Neil,

Thank you for your email letting me know that the party will be out this Saturday canvassing people in Bedminster about the issues that matter to them. I am afraid that long term illness prevents me from attending. However, apart from the continued cuts to public services forced on the mayor by central government cuts, there is one local issue that is of deep concern to me. This is the presentation and public knowledge of the history of slavery. Slavery has existed since antiquity and across the globe. Some of the earliest records come from the ancient near eastern town of Mari, which detail the sale of slaves and other properties. You can find lists of slaves on noble estates from ancient Egypt. Slavery also existed in the Muslim world, India and China. It also existed in Black Africa long before the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade. In some African societies, the proportion of the population that was enslaved varied between 30 to 70 per cent. By and large the slaves acquired by White European and American merchants were purchased from Black African slavers. Duke Ephraim, the king of Dahomey, had an income of £300,000 a year from slaving. There are records of British merchants to Africa being offered slaves Black chiefs. After abolition some of the slaving tribes attacked British trading posts in order to make us resume purchasing their human wares. Britain also paid compensation to former African slaving nations after abolition. In the 1850s we also fought a war with Dahomey in order to stop them enslaving the other local peoples.

But I am afraid I find little awareness of these issues in Bristol and among people generally. I am worried that this is creating a false view of the trade in the public, in which slavery, and particularly Black enslavement, is wholly the fault of Whites. This includes a lack of awareness that White Europeans, including British people and Bristolians, were also enslaved during the Turkish conquest of the Balkans and the Barbary pirates from Algiers and Morocco from the 16th century on till the French conquest of Algeria in the 1820s. I feel very strongly that this is creating an ideological motivated demonisation of Whites, especially if coupled with Critical Race Theory, which holds that all Whites are racist and will remain so.

I also feel this situation has been exacerbated locally by the motion passed a year or so ago calling for the payment of reparations for slavery, introduced by Green councillor Cleo Lake and seconded by Deputy Mayor and head of Equalities Asher Craig. This called for funding to be given to Black organisations rather than individuals, so that they can create sustainable, prosperous Black communities. This is obviously a noble aim, but the stipulation that the money should cover all Afrikans, as councillor Lake styles all Blacks, in the context of reparations means that Britain has accepted a moral responsibility for compensating people,. who were never enslaved by us, and which includes the vary African nations that committed the raiding and brutality that supplied the slaves. It also has nothing to say against the celebration in some African countries of these slavers, like Efroye Tinobue in Nigeria. It also erases from history the White victims of slavery.

I sent emails last year to Mdm. Craig and Councillor Lake pointing out these defects. I regret that I never received a reply. But this issue still has a particular urgency in Bristol. In previous correspondence, Asher Craig informed me that the local government was planning a new, ‘One Bristol’ curriculum for schools, which would foreground Black people. I have absolutely no qualms about Black Bristolians receiving the educational help they need, nor being included in our city’s history. But I am afraid that this curriculum will place the blame for slavery solely on White Bristolians and that this will lead to further racial division and prejudices.

I would very much like the local council to ensure that whenever slavery is taught or exhibitions on it mounted, its antiquity and the fact that other peoples, such as Black Africans, Arabs, Indians and so on were also involved, and that Whites were also the victims of the trade. This need not be an extensive treatment, but it should be there.

I hope you will take on board these concerns and recommendations, and wish you and the other party members all the best campaigning on Saturday.

Yours faithfully,

David Sivier’

I’ll let you know if I get a reply.

Simon Webb’s Speech to the Traditional Britain Group: A Critique

December 29, 2022

One of the great commenters on this blog asked me the other day if I’d watched Simon Webb’s speech to the Traditional Britain Group, which has been posted up on YouTube. Webb is the man behind History Debunked, in which he criticises, refutes and comments on various historical myths and distortions. Most of these are against Black history, as well as racial politics. Occasionally he also presents his opinions on gay and gender issues. Like other YouTubers and internet commenters, you need to use your own discretion when watching his material. Sometimes, when he cites his sources, he’s right. At other times he’s more probably wrong. As much of his material is against mass immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and he believes that there is a racial hierarchy when it comes to intelligence, there’s some discussion of the man’s political orientation. He’s definitely right-wing, reading the Torygraph and attacking Labour as ‘high spending’. But it’s a question of how right-wing. Some people have suggested he’s English Democrat or supports a similar extreme right fringe party.

The other day he gave a speech at the Traditional Britain Group, which is a particularly nasty set of rightists within the Conservative party. There was a scandal a few years ago, you’ll recall, when Jacob Rees-Mogg turned up at one of their dinners. Mogg claimed he didn’t know how far right they were, but was shown to be somewhat economical with the actualite when someone showed that he’d actually been warned against associating with them. They are fervently against non-White immigration and some of them have a dubious interest in the Nazis and the Third Reich. I’ve also been told that their members include real Nazis and eugenicists, which is all too credible. They also want to privatise the NHS. I found this out after finding myself looking at their message board a few years ago. They were talking about how they needed to privatise the health service, but it would have to be done gradually and covertly because at the moment the masses were too much in favour of it. Which has been Tory policy for decades.

Webb’s speech is about half and hour long, and takes in slavery, White English identity and how Blacks have taken ownership of the subject so that it’s now part of theirs, White guilt over it and the industrial revolution and how White Brits are being made to feel ashamed of imperialism. He also blamed Tony Blair for mass immigration and claimed that it was due to this that the health service was collapsing.

The British Empire

He started off by saying that when he was young, everyone believed that the British Empire was a good thing and that we had brought civilisation to Africa and other parts of the world. I don’t doubt this. He’s older than me, and so I can believe that the received view of the Empire in his time was largely positive. Even the Labour party broadly supported imperialism. Its official stance was that Britain held these countries in trust until they were mature enough for self-government. This has changed, and there is a general feeling, certainly on the left, that it’s something we should be ashamed of. But this has come from historians and activists discussing and revealing the negative aspects of colonialism, such as the genocide and displacement of indigenous peoples, enslavement, forced labour and massacres. The end of empires tend to be particularly bloody, as shown in the various nationalist wars that ended the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and the French possession of Algeria. Britain fought similar bloody wars and committed atrocities to defend its empire, as shown in the massive overreaction in Kenya to the Mao Mao rebellion. Jeremy Black, in his history of the British Empire, also argues that support for the empire fell away from the 1970s onwards as British youth became far more interested in America. I think the automatic condemnation of British imperialism is wrong and one-sided. It’s also somewhat hypocritical, as the same people condemning the British Empire don’t condemn other brutal imperial regimes like the Ottomans. It’s also being used by various post-colonial regimes to shift attention and blame for their own failings. But all this doesn’t change the fact that some horrific things were done during the Empire, which politicians and historians have to deal with. Hence the shame, although in my view there should be a space for a middle position which condemns the atrocities and celebrates the positive.

Britain and Slavery

He then talks about how slavery is now identified solely with Black transatlantic servitude. But he argues that the White English can also claim slavery as part of their identity. He talks of the first mention of the English in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, when pope Gregory the Great saw some English children for sale in the slave market in Rome. Asking who such beautiful children were, he was told they were Angles. At which Gregory punned, ‘Non Anglii, sed angeli’ – ‘Not Angles but angels’. At the time of the Domesday Book 10 per cent of the English population were slaves. And the mob that tore down Colston’s statue in Bristol were unaware that the city had been exported English slaves over a millennium before. These were shipped to the Viking colonies in Ireland – Dublin, Wexford and other towns – from whence they were then trafficked internationally. Slavery existed long before Black transatlantic slavery. The first record we have of it is from 4000 years ago in the form of document from the Middle East recording the sale of slaves and pieces of land. While they weren’t aware of transatlantic slavery at school, they knew slavery existed through studying the Bible. The story of Joseph and his brothers, and the Israelites in Egypt. But slavery has now become identified exclusively with Black slavery and is part of the Black identity. It’s because we’re supposed to feel guilty about slavery and feel sorry for Blacks that Black people over overrepresented in adverts, on television dramas and even historical epics, such as the show about the Tudors where half the actors were Black.

Webb is right about slavery existing from ancient times. There are indeed documents from the ancient near eastern city of Mari in Mesopotamia recording the sale of slaves along with land and other property, as I’ve blogged about here. One of the problems the abolitionists faced was that slavery existed right across the world, and so their opponents argued that it was natural institution. They therefore also claimed that it was consequently unfair and disastrous for the government to abolish it in the British empire. He’s right about Pope Gregory and the English slaves, although the word ‘Angli’ refers to the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that settled and colonised England with the Saxons and Jutes after the fall of the Roman Empire. Angles in Anglo-Saxon were Englas, hence Engla-land – England, land of the Angles, and Englisc, English. Bristol did indeed export English slave to Ireland. Archbishop Wulfstan preached against it in the 11th century. We were still doing so in 1140, when visiting clergy from France were warned against going for dinner aboard the Irish ships in the harbour. These would lure people aboard with such promises, then slip anchor and take them to Ireland. The Irish Vikings also imported Black slaves. One chronicle reports the appearance of a consignment of blamenn, blue or black men in Old Norse, in Dublin. David Olasuga has also claimed that they imported 200 Blacks into Cumbria. Bristol’s export of White English slaves is mentioned in a display about it in the city’s M Shed Museum, which also contains the statue of Edward Colston. I do agree with Webb that there is a problem with popular attitudes towards slavery. Its presentation is one-sided, so that I don’t think many people are aware of it and its horrors outside the British Empire, nor how White Europeans were also enslaved by the Muslim Barbary pirates. I very strongly believe that this needs to be corrected.

Black Overrepresentation on TV

I don’t think it’s guilt over slavery alone that’s responsible for the large number of Black actors being cast on television, particularly the adverts. I think this is probably also due to commercial marketing, the need to appeal to international audiences and attempts to integrate Blacks by providing images of multiracial Britain. Many adverts are made for an international audience, and I think the use of Blacks has become a sort of visual shorthand for showing that the company commissioning the advert is a nice, anti-racist organisation, keen to sell to people of different colours across the world without prejudice. At home, it’s part of the promotion of diversity. Blacks are, or are perceived, as acutely alienated and persecuted, and so in order to combat racism the media has been keen to include them and present positive images of Black life and achievement. There are organisations dedicated to this task, such as the Creative Diversity Network, as well as systems that grade companies according to how they invest in multicultural enterprises, such as television and programmes with suitably racially diverse casts. Webb has himself talked about this. He’s also stated that Blacks are disproportionately represented on television, constituting only 6 per cent of the population but a very large proportion of actors in TV programmes and adverts. This might simply be because other, larger ethnic groups, such as Asians, aren’t so concerned with entering the entertainment industry and so aren’t represent to the same extent. Hence, Blacks sort of stand in for people of colour as a whole. As for adverts, I’ve also wondered if some of this might be purely commercial – a concern to sale to an emergent, affluent, Black market, perhaps. It also struck me that it might also be a make work programme. As I understand it, there are too many drama graduates for too few roles. This is particularly going to hit Blacks and other ethnic minorities because Britain at the moment is still a White majority country. There have consequently been demands for colour blind casting, as in Armando Iannucci’s recent film version of Oliver Twist. A year or so ago one Black actor announced that there should be more roles for Blacks or else they would go to America. As for the casting of a Black woman as Anne Boleyn, this seems to follow the theatre, where colour blind casting has existed for years. I think it also follows the tacit demand to create an image of the British past that conforms to modern multicultural society rather than how it really was. And some of it, I think, just comes from the feeling that as modern Blacks are as British as their White compatriots, so they should not be excluded from appearing as historical characters who were White. I think these considerations are just as likely, or more likely, to be the causes of the disproportionate number of Blacks appearing on camera than simply pity for them as the victims of slavery.

Blair Not Responsible for Mass Immigration

Now we come to his assertion that Blair was responsible for mass immigration. When he made this declaration, there were shouts, including one of ‘traitor’. I don’t believe that Blair was responsible for it, at least, not in the sense he means. The belief that he was, which is now widespread on the anti-immigrant right, comes from a single civil servant. This official claimed that Blair did so in order to change the ethnic composition of Britain and undermine the Tories. But did he really? This comes from a single individual, and without further corroboration, you can’t be sure. In fact Blair seems to have tried to cut down on immigration, particularly that of non-Whites. In order to dissuade people from coming here, he stopped immigrants from being able to apply for welfare benefits. The food banks now catering to native Brits were originally set up to feed those immigrants, who were no longer eligible for state aid. I also recall David Blunkett stating that they were going to cut down on immigration. The Guardian also accused Blair of racism over immigration. He had cut down on non-White immigration from outside Europe, while allowing White immigration from the EU and its new members in eastern Europe. The right had also been concerned about rising Black and Asian immigration for decades, and in the 1980s Tory papers like the Depress were publishing articles about unassimilable ethnic minorities. This started before Blair, and I don’t think he was deliberately responsible for it.

But I believe he was responsible for it in the sense that many of the migrants come from the countries Blair, Bush, Obama and Sarco destroyed or helped to destroy in the Middle East, such as Libya, Iraq and Syria. Blair had made some kind of deal with Colonel Gaddafy to keep migrants from further south in Libya, rather than crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. This was destroyed when Gaddafy’s regime was overthrown by Islamists. The result has been the enslavement of Black African migrants, and renewed waves of refugees from North Africa fleeing the country’s collapse.

He also stated that the industrial revolution, which was something else that was traditionally a source of pride, is now considered a cause for shame instead. Britain had been its birthplace and given its innovations to the rest of the world. However, we are now expected to be ashamed of it through its connection to slavery. The cotton woven in the Lancashire mills came from the American slave south, while sugar came from the slave colonies of the Caribbean. We’re also supposed to be ashamed of it because it’s the cause of climate change, for which we should pay reparations.

The Industrial Revolution and Climate Change

Okay, I’ve come across the claim that the industrial revolution was financed by profits from the slave trade and that it was based on the processing of slave produced goods. However, this is slightly different from condemning the industrial revolution as a whole. You can lament the fact that slavery was a part of this industrialisation, while celebrating the immense social, technological and industrial progress itself. After all, Marx states in the Communist Manifesto that it has rescued western society from rural idiocy. The demand that Britain should feel ashamed about the industrial revolution because of climate change comes from Greta Thunberg. It is, in my view, monumentally stupid and actually shows an ignorance of history. It’s based on an idealisation of pre-technological societies and an idealisation of rural communities. It’s a product of European romanticism, mixed with contemporary fears for the future of the planet. But the agrarian past was no rural idyll. People in the agricultural societies before the urbanisation of the 19th century had very utilitarian attitudes to the environment. It was a source of resources that could be used and exploited. The nostalgia for an idealised rural past came with the new generation of urban dwellers, who missed what they and their parents had enjoyed in the countryside. And rural life could be extremely hard. If you read economic histories of the Middle Ages and early modern period, famine is an ever present threat. It still was in the 19th century. The Irish potato famine is the probably the best known example in Ireland and Britain, but there were other instances of poverty, destitution and starvation across the UK and Europe. Industrialisation has allowed a far greater concentration of people to live than would have been possible under subsistence agriculture. Yes, I’m aware that overpopulation is a problem, that industrial pollution is harming the environment and contributing to the alarming declining in animal and plant species. But technological and science hopefully offer solutions to these problems as well. And I really don’t want to go back to a subsistence economy in which communities can be devastated by crop failure.

The call for climate reparations, I think, comes from Ed Miliband, and in my view it shows how out of touch and naive he is. I have no problem the Developed World giving aid to some of those countries threatened by climate change, such as the Pacific islands which are threatened with flooding due to the rise in sea levels. But some countries, I believe, are perfectly capable of doing so without western help. One of these is China, which also contributes massively to carbon emissions and which I believe has also called for the payment of climate reparations. China is an emerging economic superpower, and I see no reason why the west should pay for something that it’s doing and has the ability to tackle. I am also very sceptical whether such monies would be used for the purposes they’re donated. Corruption is a massive problem in the Developing World, and various nations have run scams to part First World donors and aid agencies from their money. When I was at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum one of these was a scheme for a hydroelectric dam in Pakistan. The Pakistani government was calling for western aid to finance the project. Britain refused, sensing a scam, for which we were criticised. Other countries happily gave millions, but the dam was never built. All a fraud. I suspect if climate reparations were paid, something similar would also happen with the aid money disappearing into kleptocrats’ pockets. There’s also the problem of where the tax burden for the payment of these reparations would fall. It probably wouldn’t be the rich, who have enjoyed generous tax cuts, but the British working class through indirect taxes. In short, it seems to me to be a colossally naive idea.

But these ideas don’t seem to be widespread. When he announced them, there were shouts from the audience to which Webb responded that it was coming, and they should wait a few years. Perhaps it will, but I’ve seen no enthusiasm or even much mention of them so far. They were mentioned during the COP 27 meeting, and that’s it. Thunberg’s still around, but after all these years I think she’s somewhat passe. At the moment I don’t think these ideas are issues.

Mass Immigration Not the Cause of NHS Crisis

Now let’s examine his statement that it’s due to immigration that the NHS is in the state it’s in. This is, quite simply, wrong. He correctly states that while Britain’s population has grown – London’s has nearly doubled and Leicester’s grown by 30 per cent – there has been no similar provision of medical services. No new hospitals have been built. As a result, where once you could simply walk into your doctor’s and expect to be seen, now you have to book an appointment. And when it comes to hospitals, it’s all the fault of immigrants. He talks about a specific hospital in London, and how the last time he was in that area, he was the only White Brit in the queue. This was because immigrants don’t have GPs, and so go to the hospital for every problem. We also have the problem of sick and disabled people from the developing world coming to the country for the better services we offer. A woman from the Sudan with a special needs child will therefore come here so that her child can have the treatment it wouldn’t get in the Sudan.

I dare say some of this analysis is correct. Britain’s population has grown largely due to immigration. One statistic released by a right-wing group said that immigration was responsible for 80 per cent of population growth. It’s probably correct, as Chambers Cyclopedia stated in its 1987 edition that British birthrates were falling and that it was immigration that was behind the rise in the UK population. I don’t know London at all, and I dare say that many of the immigrants there may well not have had doctors. I can also quite believe that some immigrants do come here for our medical care. There was a case a few weeks ago of a Nigerian woman, who got on a flight to London specifically so that she could have her children in a British hospital. I think this was a case of simple health tourism, which has gone on for years, rather than immigration.

But this overlooks the fact that the problems of the NHS has been down to successive Thatcherite regimes cutting state medical care in Britain all under the pretext of making savings and not raising taxes. Thatcher closed hospital wards. So did Tony Blair, when he wasn’t launching his PFI initiative. This was supposed to build more hospitals, but led to older hospitals being closed and any new hospitals built were smaller, fewer and more expensive. Cameron started off campaigning against hospital closures, and then, once he got his backside in No. 10, carried on with exactly the same policy. Boris Johnson claimed that he was going to build forty hospitals, which was, like nearly everything else the obese buffoon uttered, a flat lie. And Tweezer, Truss and Sunak are doing the same. Doctors surgeries have also suffered. Many of them have been sold off to private chains, which have maximised profits by closing down those surgeries that aren’t profitable. The result is that people have been and are being left without doctors. If you want an explanation why the NHS is in the state it is, blame Thatcher and her heirs, not immigrants.


While Webb has a point about the social and political manipulation of historical issues like the slave trade and the British Empire, these aren’t the reasons for the greater appearance of Black actors and presenters on television. Blair wasn’t responsible for mass immigration, and it’s underfunding and privatisation, not immigration, that’s responsible for the deplorable state of the health service. But he’s speaking to the wrong people there anyway, as the TBG would like to privatise it.

I am not saying it is wrong to discuss these issues, but it is wrong to support a bunch of Nazis like the TBG, who will exploit them to recreate all the social inequality, poverty and deprivation of pre-modern Britain.

Netanyahu’s Far Right Allies Call for Gays and Trans People to Be Denied Healthcare

December 28, 2022

I wonder how Keir Starmer, who is ‘100 per cent Zionist’ and determined to push through legislation banning conversion therapy for gay and transgender peeps is going to react to this. The Rev. Simon Sideways is a right-wing YouTuber. I think he might be a trucker, as his videos are frequently of him, sat behind a wheel, driving somewhere and giving his opinions on illegal immigration and woke ideology. He describes himself as a White activist, but as far as I know, he’s not an anti-Semite. In the video below he attacks calls from two members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, for industry and medicine to be able to deny their services to members of the LGBT community for religious reasons. These are members of the coalition partners of Netanyahu’s Likud, the Religious Nationalist Party. In other words, far right religious fanatics. The type of people one Israeli intellectual called ‘Judaeonazis’. He starts by asking whether such a policy would be acceptable in Britain if it came from a similar ruling coalition between extreme secular nationalists on one hand and Christian fundamentalists on the other. Clearly it wouldn’t. He’s also perplexed at how a people, who have suffered such terrible persecution over the centuries, such as the Holocaust, could inflict similar persecution on other marginalised groups. As it stands, the pair demanding the right to discriminate against gays state that, in the case of medicine, this should only be done if there are other people willing to provide the treatment that religious individuals and companies are withholding. Yeah, I’m sceptical about this. This is how it starts, but if people give into this, before long they’ll be a blanket permission for everyone to withhold their services from gays. He also says it doesn’t seem very godly, given that God made everyone.

Okay, the prohibition against male homosexuality is found in the Bible. It’s amongst the various laws in Leviticus. There is no similar legislation against lesbianism, though the Talmud refers to it as ‘the practices of the Egyptians’. However, there are about 600+ laws in the Old Testament, and hundreds more in the Oral Law preserved by the rabbis in the Talmud. From what I understand, liberal interpreters of the Law don’t consider it any more important than some of the others, and I don’t doubt that some Jews probably ignore it altogether as something more fitting to another time. Much homosexuality in the ancient world was paedophilia, and so I think some have interpreted this verse as a ban on that, rather than a ban on consensual sex between adult men. As for how a persecuted nation can behave like this to another persecuted group, Jews are human beings and human being are capable of terrible persecution, regardless of their nationality, race or religion. Just look at what the Israeli state has done and is doing to the Palestinians. Of course, there are liberal Jews, who are going to be as outraged about this as Sideways, because they believe that liberal values are at the heart of Judaism. For them, so I understand, to be a Jew is always to side with the oppressed, never the oppressor.

Sideways also wonders how the UN will react, noting that they have previously passed 50 or so resolutions against Israel for breaches of international law. I don’t know, but from previous occasions, they’ll probably ignore them and accuse the UN of being anti-Semitic.

This might, however, damage some of their public relations image. Critics of Israel have talked about ‘pinkwashing’ by the Israeli state. This is using it’s liberal attitude to homosexuality, shown in such events as the Jerusalem Mardi Gras, to present the country as a beacon of liberalism and tolerance against Palestinian, Arab, Muslim homophobia. A while ago the Beeb showed a series about gay people in Britain. One of the men shown was a young chap with a Jewish boyfriend. He was very much impressed with this apparent Israeli tolerance to the point he was considering converting to Judaism. If the Israeli coalition passes this wretched legislation, that gay-friendly image will take a hit.

My guess it won’t get passed and I’ll be surprised if this story is widely reported. If such legislation was passed, then it should be a problem for Starmer. How would he be able to justify such absolute support for a persecutory state while at the same time opportunistically declaring his support for some of those people likely to suffer under such laws?

Or would he and the Israeli nationalists who support him go back to the old tactic of smearing anyone who makes such a criticism an anti-Semite?

The Stupidity of Black Anti-Semitism

December 23, 2022

Last week, the American rapper Kanye ‘Ye’ West successfully managed to torpedo his career and popularity by making stupid and bigoted comments about Jews. Unfortunately he isn’t the only person to hold stupid and malign anti-Semitic beliefs. His comments, however, led to one YouTuber putting up a half-hour long video examining whether Michael Jackson was anti-Semitic. I don’t know whether Jackson was or wasn’t. He may have been, but at the end of his life one of his friends or associates was, I believe, a rabbi, Shmuely Boteach. This suggests he probably wasn’t, or if he was, that any anti-Semitic views he had may have been nuanced and riddled with exceptions. But I confess, I didn’t watch that part of the video because I’m not that interested in Michael Jackson. As far as I’m concerned, Jackson was an immensely talented musician and dancer, but a deeply flawed human being. He seemed to me to be a perpetual child, surrounding himself with toys and exotic animals, and his musical achievements are tarnished by the accusations of child abuse.

What I found interesting instead was the beginning of the video, which included clips of other rappers and Black musicians airing their prejudices and negative opinions about the Jews. Many of them were complaints that they were being exploited by the music industry, which they believed was run by the Jews. I dare say that there may be a higher proportion of Jews in the music business, as there supposedly is or has been with the film industry. But this doesn’t come from any kind of stupid conspiracy to control the media. It’s simply because the entertainment industry, by and large, was more tolerant of Jews than other sectors of society. As for exploitation, there are any number of White musicians as well who’ve fallen out with the record label and feel they’ve been cheated on issues of recording rights and royalties. Where this has occurred, it’s been because their managers or the recording companies are acting as exploitative individuals. Again, it’s got nothing at all to do with race, and everything to do with the fact that there are people in every industry who will try to exploit and cheat their clients.

The video began with Professor Griff, who was sacked from NWA because of his anti-Semitic views, and included a clip of Griff explaining them and the circumstances of his sudden exit from the band. And from what he said, Griff certainly appeared to have genuinely Nazi views. He claimed he carried a library of books on them around in a suitcase, in order to educated people, and he’d lay them out on a table. These included such classic anti-Semitic texts as Henry Ford’s The International Jew. Ford was certainly a member of the extreme right. He hated socialism and trade unions, as well as Jews and Lord knows who else. I think he was a favourite of Hitler and the Nazis, who also believed that Blacks were racially inferior. One nasty piece of Nazi doctrine, according to Orwell, was that Blacks could interbreed with gorillas. I really do wonder why any self-respecting person of colour would read anything by people who believed such vile rubbish.

He then came out with some of the class anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, like the Jews caused World War II. This is still being repeated by White fascists after Hitler and Oswald Mosley over here in the UK. No, the Jews had nothing to do with it. The War started because Hitler invaded Poland, thus provoking France and Britain who had made pledged themselves to defend the country.

He also talked about the Rothschild’s and other Jewish banks extending credit and loans to Nazi Germany. This is true. They did, along with a number of other big American companies like IBM. This has absolutely nothing to do with the owners of these banks being Jewish. It’s simply because they, and the other gentile-owned companies that did business with the Nazis, were run by utterly amoral people who cared only about profit. Their dealing with the Nazi was naturally deeply and bitterly resented by ordinary Jewish peeps. And it should be a problem for any daft conspiracy theories about a secret Jewish plot to gain global domination. I really don’t understand how that can be squared with Jewish banks, which are an integral part of this putative conspiracy, collaborating with a regime dedicated to destroying their people. There are attempts to do this, in which a distinction is drawn between the Jewish elite behind the conspiracy and normal, decent Jews, but it’s still an obvious, glaring inconsistency that should show that the conspiracy theory is utter nonsense.

I do wonder where this anti-Semitism in parts of Black popular culture comes from. The Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan are one source. Farrakhan blames the Jews for the slave trade and in the 1980s a ‘historical research institute’ connected with the sect published a book promoting this idea. Proper historians of the slave trade dismiss the idea. Very few of the merchants involved in the trade in America were Jewish. I think Hugh Thomas says there were just four in his excellent book The Slave Trade. There were Jewish financiers involved, but again I don’t think there were that many. And as has been pointed out by historians of transatlantic slavery and anti-racist activists, they were employed by Christian princes.

I do wonder if some of this Jew-hatred comes from racial politics in Harlem during the 1920s and ’30s. The book Colour Prejudice notes that there was considerable anti-Semitism among Harlem’s Black community. This might come from the fact that many of the stores were White-owned, and despite selling to a Black clientele they wouldn’t employ Black staff. This resulted in a concerted campaign by an alliance of Black labour organisations against the policy. They organised a boycott of these stores under the slogan ‘Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work’. One of the leaders of the boycott was Sufi Abdul Hamid, a colourful figure who dressed in exotic eastern robes. He was another native-born Black American, who had converted to a form of Islam. Hamid was particularly vehement against the Jewish owners of such stores, as well as Greeks and Italians, who he derided as ‘spaghetti-slingers’. The boycott was successful, but Hamid lost control of the movement because the other leaders were acutely embarrassed by his racism. See the chapter on Hamid and his literary followers, ‘”In Turban and Gorgeous Robe”: Claude McKay, Black Fascism and Labor’ in Mark Christian Thompson, Black Fascisms: African American Literature and Culture Between the Wars (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press 2007), 87-116.

And against ideas of a Jewish racial antipathy towards Blacks, there’s the long history of Jewish support for the Black Civil Rights movement. Many Jews worked as social workers, school teachers and other professionals within the Black community and so were deeply sympathetic to their cause. The awesome Black Jewish pro-Palestinian activist, Jackie Walker, is an example of this. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist from Georgia and her father was a Russian Jew. Her parents met at a rally by the Communist party. I’ve forgotten the fellow’s name, but one of the Jewish supporters and campaigners for the civil rights of Black Americans was a rabbi.

Griff’s endorsement of Ford’s wretched tome did confirm something that I’ve suspected: that Black anti-Semites were also reading and being influenced by White racists. The same thing appears to be the case in much Afrocentric literature about ancient Egypt being the source of both European and African civilisation. It’s based on long out-disproven theories by White colonial anthropologists, for whom the Egyptians were White Hamites, who spread southward and colonised the continent. The Black Afrocentrists who took over this view simply flipped the races, so that the Egyptians were Black. The result, however, was much the same in that the indigenous African peoples were denied the credit for their own cultural achievement made independently of Egypt, whatever skin colour the Egyptians had.

If the ultimate source of Black American anti-Semitism does come from the racial politics of pre-World War II Harlem, then it’s profoundly depressing that it should still cast a shadow over race relations nearly a century later. Quite apart from the fact that no-one, of any colour, should believe Nazi conspiratorial rubbish.

Graham Hancock – A Crank, Possibly, But Definitely No Racist

December 9, 2022

My discipline, archaeology, has been massively going after Graham Hancock this week. Hancock’s ah, um,, ‘maverick thinker’, I suppose you’d say, who’s been presenting a series on Netflix arguing that thousands of years ago there was a highly advanced civilisation that perished in a cataclysm, but passed on its secrets to other ancient civilisations around the world. This has understandably annoyed archaeologists and a number have put up videos, some of them lengthy and quite detailed, disproving him. Hancock’s been promoting this idea for some time now. Going back two decades and more, he had a series on Channel 4 with the title ‘Water World’ or something like it, also arguing that there was a global advanced civilisation, whose monuments have been covered up by a flood, as recorded in the Bible and other ancient religions. Now I’m sure that Hancock is wrong, and the criticisms of his dodgy history and archaeology are right. But I take exception to one of the other accusations levelled at him, which is that he is racist.

This accusation is partly based on his false ascription of the achievements of indigenous cultures around the world to this putative prehistoric civilisation. It denies those people the credit for their achievements. But the accusation is also that it’s similar to the ideas of some bonkers White supremacist groups, who are using Hancock’s ideas to promote themselves. One archaeologist posted a video saying that Hancock should have disavowed the use of his ideas by these fascists. It also criticised him for being friends with Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson. There are fair criticisms to be made of both of these men. Peterson’s an arch-conservative and anti-feminist, but hardly a Nazi. Rogan was pushing anti-vax nonsense and is an advocate for some mind-expanding drugs. A few years ago people were accusing him of being a ‘gateway to the Alt-Right’. Possibly, but he also talks to people from the left, who are otherwise denied a platform by the lamestream media. Journalists like Abbie Martin, who talked about Israeli propaganda against the Palestinians and how she found, when she visited the beleaguered Arab nation, that the reality was nothing like the picture painted by the Israeli state. He’s also talked to biologists and journalists exposing the lies of the trans ideology. This is not Alt-Right, no matter what groups like Mermaids, Stonewall, Antifa and the rest say. The people criticising the gender ideology tend to be radical feminists, many from the socialist left. Part of their opposition against it is that it reduces masculinity and femininity to traditional, stereotypical sex roles. One of the feminist vloggers interviewed one of the leading activists against the trans ideology, who was furious that people like her were being presented as right-wing. Another feminist activist criticised Matt Walsh for misrepresenting feminists as uniformly in favour of trans ideology, and then criticising them for it. Rogan gives a voice to people outside the mainstream. Sometimes it’s rubbish, and sometimes it’s immensely valuable. He has also interviewed a number of Black celebs, so again, not a Nazi.

The White supremacist ideas being referred to seem to me to be the Traditionalist ideology of Giulio Evola. Evola was an Italian Fascist and occultist, who was a major ideological influence on the scumbuckets behind the Bologna railway bombing in the 1970s. A fascist group bombed the station, killing and maiming over a hundred people. Evola believed that there was a strongly hierarchical, ‘Aryan’ civilisation in Hyperborea in the arctic, which was responsible for all the subsequent cultural achievements of the civilisations around the world. This is twaddle. But Hancock’s ideas are also similar to those of others, which don’t come from people in the fascist fringe. A couple of years ago I picked up an old book, Colony Earth, which had been published in the 1970s. This claimed that Earth may have been an extraterrestrial colony, whose advanced civilisation was destroyed in a nuclear war. The pyramids may have been fall-out shelters, as were the megalithic tumuli in Britain. It’s an interesting read, but certainly wrong. I think Charles Berlitz, who started the Bermuda Triangle myth, also believed in this, supporting it in one of his books with artefacts from Aztec tombs that look like aircraft. Berlitz is someone else, who I’m fairly certain has absolutely no connection to fascism whatsoever.

And I don’t believe Hancock is either.

When he was travelling the world on his Channel 4 series he was accompanied by his wife, who is Sri Lankan. Now, White supremacists do not, as a rule, marry dark-skinned people from outside Europe. If they do, they’re angrily denounced as ‘race traitors’. In one edition of this earlier series, Hancock reported on the mysterious ruins of ancient city found off the coast of the Bay of Bengal. He was shown talking respectfully to an Indian gent, who told him how such findings tie in with Hindu ideas of the antiquity of civilisation and ancient Indian legends of flooded cities. Again, this isn’t quite behaviour you’d expect from a genuine White supremacist. He also travelled to South and Central America, where he proposed the old theory that the Mayans, Aztecs and other ancient Amerindian civilisations must have learned how to build their pyramids from someone else. I think this was once again ancient Egypt. But who brought that knowledge to the New World? Black Africans. He pointed to an Olmec bas relief of a warrior’s head, and declared its features to be ‘proudly African’. If this is racism, then its Afrocentrism rather than White supremacy. As for the ancient race behind these monuments, Hancock doesn’t say what colour they are. In this, he breaks with some of his predecessors, who say they must have been White because the legends of numerous Amerindian peoples state that vital parts of their culture were brought to them by White gods. Hancock is therefore less racialised in what he says than his predecessors.

I disagree profoundly with Hancock’s ideas, but he has a right to say them like everyone else. And if it piques people interest in these ancient cultures so that they want to find out what they were really like, that’s all to the good. But I do think it’s profoundly wrong to accuse him of racism. That just further cheapens the word and weakens it as a weapon against the real thing.

Video on Archaeology’s Challenge to Enlightenment Accounts of Origins of States and Inequality

December 8, 2022

This is a fascinating video I found on Novara Media’s channel the other day. In it, host Aaron Bastani talks to archaeologist David Wengrow about the origins of the state and the development of social inequality. Wengrow argues that the evidence from archaeology challenges assumptions that prehistoric and preliterate peoples were incapable of rationally deciding for themselves what kind of societies they wished to live in. He gives examples from prehistoric Europe and North and South America to show that ancient and indigenous peoples not only did decide on the kind of societies they wanted, but were perfectly capable of reversing trends in their societies towards authoritarianism. One of the examples of this, which I found truly jaw-dropping, was one of the city states the conquistador Hernan Cortes made alliance with against the Aztecs. Unlike the Aztec empire, that state city was a democratic republic. He also talks about the influence on Enlightenment critiques of western society of a Huron Indian chief in Canada, who was an intelligent conversationalist able to hold his own in conversations about the nature of society to such an extent that French, British and Dutch colonial authorities invited him to dinner to talk this matter over.

Wengrow starts off by stating that modern political theory about the origins of society, as taught in politics courses, is completely divorced from archaeological accounts. The theory is based on the speculations of foundational Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes and Rousseau, who admitted that they were speculating. But these accounts are now taught as fact. Archaeological research, however, is overturning previous ideas about the origins of urban society. For example, it was believed that agriculture and urbanisation were linked and appeared together as part of the Neolithic Revolution. But this is not the case. Excavations of the ancient city of Catalhuyuk in Turkey show that while it was an urban centre, although Wengrow hesitates to call it a city, show that its people were still hunter-gatherers, living by foraging rather than agriculture. And the same is true of the settlement at Amesbury at the time Stonehenge was being built. The people then had given up agriculture, although they retained animal husbandry. It appears they had tried growing crops and then rejected it in favour of foraging.

He then goes on to talk about the Huron Amerindian chief. He inspired a colonist from New France, who had been expelled from the colony, to write a book based on the chief and his dinner conversation when the colonist was penniless in Amsterdam. This became a massive Enlightenment bestseller, and inspired other books by Voltaire and others in which Chinese, Tahitians and other outsiders criticise European society. Wengrow states that the Indian societies surprise western Europeans because they were much less hierarchical than they were, and contact with these societies and the indigenous critics of western civilisation did influence European political philosophy. We easily accept that Europe took over many material products from these nations, but are much less ready to accept the idea that they influenced our ideas, even though the Enlightenment philosophers said that they had.

He also talks about Cahokia, a great pyramid and city state in the Mississippi valley in America. This appears to be another example of a society, in which people rebelled or simply walked away from authority and hierarchy. It was also another indigenous monument that was ascribed to everyone else but the native peoples when it was first discovered, and is now disrespected by having a road driven through it. When it was constructed, the local society seems to have been hierarchical. At the top of the mound is a structure from which all of the city could be viewed. But sometime after its heyday it was abandoned. The traditional reasons are that the climate changed, but Wengrow finds that unconvincing. What seems to have happened instead is that people simply got tired of living in such a society and walked away.

Tenochtitlan, one of the great cities in ancient Mexico, is another example of a strongly hierarchical society that underwent profound social change and became more democratic. Wengrow states that it’s a massive state, and they owe a debt to the French scholar who produced detailed maps of it. When it first emerged, it was hierarchical but then the nature of society changed. People started living in high-quality, single-floor homes. These were so good they were originally thought to be palaces, but now it appears they were villas occupied by ordinary citizens. At some point, the people of Tenochtitlan decided that they wanted a more equal society, to the extent that some scholars believe that there was a revolution.

Then there is the case of the democratic city state Cortes encountered. This really was democratic, as there are accounts of the debates in its assembly. This astonished the conquistadors, as there was very little like it in Europe at the time, except some of the Florentine republics. This all challenges the notion that once society develops to a certain extent and becomes complex, inequality also emerges and is very difficult to challenge or remove. These cases show that indigenous peoples could and did. He also argues that the same may have been true of slavery. The only successful slave revolt that we know of is Toussant L’Ouverture in Haiti. But Wengrow suggests there could have been thousands of other successful slave revolts in prehistory of which we are unaware. Slavery came about, he argues, from the expense of laying out offerings for the dead. In order to leave food and drink for the dead, the bereaved had to have access to the foods themselves and so they became indebted and dependent on the people who owned those resources.

He also talks about the problems in describing some of these urban centres as cities. There are huge sites in the Ukraine, but archaeologists are hesitant about calling them cities with some preferring other terms such as ‘mega-sites’ because they aren’t centralised.

Bastani asks him at one point about the problem of pseudo-archaeology. I think this came up because Graham Hancock is currently fronting a series on Netflix claiming that way back in prehistory there was an advanced society, but that it was destroyed in a global cataclysm. Wengrow states that quite often pseudo-archaeology is based on old and discarded idea, such as Atlantis. The people involved tend not to be anyone who’s ever been on an archaeological dig, and view archaeologists as spending their lives trying to hide some momentous secret from everyone. But it can act as an entry for some people to archaeology, and he doesn’t really like the sneering attitude of some archaeologists towards it.

Wengrow himself is an interesting character. He didn’t want to be an archaeologist originally, but came to it from acting. He also worked in the BBC Arabic service. He decided at one point he wanted to get a degree, applied to the best university he could, Oxford, and sent reams of applications to its various colleges. They turned him down. Then he was told that he should apply for a place on a course that was just being set up. One of the colleges was just setting up an archaeology course, so he did. When it came to the interview, he told the interviewer that he had always wanted to be an archaeologist. At which point she held up all the previous letters he’d written. But they admitted him, and he has now had a career teaching and excavating in places like Egypt.

He states that sometimes the pseudoarchaeology about a period or culture misses the point about what’s really interesting about it. He talks about the idea that the Sphinx was constructed before the pyramids, and admits that it’s actually a reasonable question. But if you go back to the predynastic period a thousand years before the pyramids were built, you come to the burial sites of one of Egypt’s first kings. This is fascinating, although you wouldn’t know it from the dry way it has been discussed in conferences and museums like the Petrie Museum. Excellent though these are, they talk about highly specialised subjects like pot typography which is excruciatingly dull if you want to know the wider picture. The early king’s tomb is composed of room after room of the bodies of the people and occasionally the animals that were slaughtered to accompany the king into the afterlife.

The interview is based on a book Wengrow wrote with a colleague, The Dawn of Everything. Sadly, after spending a decade writing it, the co-author died just a few weeks after its completion. The book has been widely praised, and has even inspired artistic pieces. He talks about a French woman, who composed a piece of music based on it. He regrets he was unable to attend its performance thanks to jet lag coming back from somewhere, but later met the lady when she came to Britain.

I know a little about some of what he’s talking about to have no doubt that he’s absolutely right. One of the seminars in the archaeology department at Bristol, which I attended, was about how cities like Catalhuyuk were established before the appearance of agriculture. One of the huge Neolithic sites in the Ukraine is discussed in the La Rousse Encyclopedia of Archaeology. The great mound of Cahokia is also discussed in a book I bought years ago on North American Indian archaeology. I wasn’t aware that the people of Stonehenge had given up growing crops, nor of the democratic city states in South America and Mexico. This is fascinating stuff.

He’s right about archaeology contradicting the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers about the origins of society, though I’m not sure how much of a problem this is. The philosophers he discusses – Hobbes and Rousseau – were Social Contract theorists. Social Contract theory is the idea that the state and society were set up when men came together to select an authority under whom they would live, so that their lives and property would be protected. Thus the first kings. These princes are the representatives of the people, and so from the 17th century onwards the idea developed that sovereignty lay with the people, who could revoke the power they had delegated to the prince. This was the view of John Locke. However, subsequent philosophers showed that this was just conjecture, and that it could have happened like that as the people at the time were using concepts that only subsequently developed after the foundation of states and kingdoms. I thought Social Contract theory was dead, and he closest it had to a modern advocate was John Rawls in his Theory of Justice. Rawls argued that if people were just disembodied entities wishing to chose the kind of society in which they would care to live, they would choose one that had the maximum freedom and justice for everyone, as that would also include them. Away from centrist politics, the anarchists have been keenly interested in anthropology and those indigenous societies where there is no central authority.

I’m not sure how well some of this would go down with Sargon of Akkad and the Lotus Eaters. They’ve developed an interest in archaeology, recently posting a video discussing Homo Erectus, along with the Norman Conquest and ancient Rome. But Sargon is a huge fan of John Locke and describes himself as a classical liberal. I don’t know whether archaeology’s findings about the origin of early states would contradict his ideas or not.

An Ancient Egyptian Maths Textbook

November 20, 2022

I found this list of the contents of an ancient Egyptian maths manuscript, papyrus 10057, on the chapter on the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus dating from c.1650 BC, in Henrietta Midonick’s The Treasury of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1965). The book’s a collection of ancient maths texts from around the world, with relevant commentaries and explanations. I found it interesting because it shows the kind of maths problems ancient Egyptian scribes were interested in and had to deal with, and which were being taught in the schools. The papyrus is divided into three books

Book 1

Division of various numbers of loaves equally between 10 men.

A group of completion calculations involving multiplication of fractions.

Another group of completion calculations involving simple addition of fractions.

Arithmetical solution by trial of equations of the first degree.

Similar equations involving the bushel.

Division of loaves between men in unequal proportions

Book 2

Part 1: Volumes and cubic content in corn.

Cylindrical containers

Rectangular parallelopipedal containers.

Expression in correct form of 1/10, 1/20 up to 1/100 of a bushel, disguised as a sum in cubic content.

Part 2. Areas

Area of square and circle compared.




Truncated Triangle


Division of given area of land into equal sized fields

Part 3: Batter, or the angle of a slope.

Book 3: Miscellaneous Problems in Arithmetic

Multiplication of fractions

Proportionate values of precious metals.

Division of loaves in unequal proportions.

Division of barley into shares in arithmetical progression.

Division of loaves in unequal proportions.

Daily portion of a yearly ration of fat.

Reckoning of livestock.

Division of 100 bushels of corn in unequal proportions.

So-called pefsu-reckonings. Conversion of grain into bread and beer, and the barter of these last.

Geometrical progression.

Conversion of fractions of the bushel (1/2,1/4, 1/8 etc) in henu.

Food estimate for a poultry yard.

Estimate of food of an ox-stall.


Unintelligible group of signs.

Fragment of accounts.

Calendrical entries.

There’s considerable interest in ancient Egypt among Blacks, because it’s been seen since at least the early 19th century as a great Black civilisation. Despite attempts to improve the educational performance of Black children, they still lag behind other ethnic groups like Whites and Asians in schools. I wondered if a way round this would be to try to stimulate their, and other races’ imaginations, with maths problems based on those of the ancient Egyptians. You wouldn’t want to teach them ancient Egyptian mathematical methods, as they’re very different and more convoluted than modern methods and some of them are frankly wrong. But I think you could set kids problems based on the kind of problems budding scribes were taught. You could possibly combine it with Black History month and have the kids dressed up as ancient Egyptians and learn a bit about the civilisation as well.

Reproduction of a page from the maths manuscript.

Twitter Campaign Against the Opening of a Deep Coal Mine in Cumbria

November 17, 2022

I got this email from the countryside charity CPRE urging people to tweet at the PM to stop the opening of a deep coal mine in Cumbria, which will be highly polluting and damaging to the climate. I’m not on Twitter, but if you feel strongly about this, please feel free to do so yourself.

‘Hi David,

Thanks for being part of the campaign that successfully stopped the return of fracking to the UK. Because of you, we’ve shown that when we come together, change can happen.  

But now we need to come together again. 

This year, the decision on whether to approve a deep coal mine in Cumbria has been delayed three times – the last being just a few weeks ago as world leaders headed to Egypt for COP27. 

The Cumbria coal mine would create 9 million tonnes of CO2 every year – more than all of the currently open UK coal mines combined. This is the last thing we need at a time when experts are warning we have precious time left to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown, the greatest threat facing the countryside today. 

The new deadline of 8 December could well be an intentional delay in order to push the announcement until after COP. But whether deliberate or not – we won’t let the government take decisions this big out of the international spotlight.  

We want the Prime Minister to know that we’re watching his next move very closely. And we won’t forgive him if his government approves the country’s first deep coal mine in over 30 years. 

Will you tell Rishi Sunak not to COP out on coal? 

Tweet the Prime Minister

Not on Twitter? Forward this email to a friend!

While the politicians deciding on the Cumbria coal mine have changed, the facts haven’t.  

In June, the Chair of the Climate Change Committee said the approval of a new coal mine in West Cumbria in light of the government’s net zero commitments would be ‘absolutely indefensible’. 

It would provide, at best, a small number of jobs in an industry set to be made redundant from climate change legislation in the next decade. Meanwhile, the Local Government Association has calculated there could be 6000 green jobs in Cumbria by 2030, with the right investment [1]. 

We know this mine needs to be refused, and we know that the new PM does listen to public pressure – he wouldn’t have even been at COP without it. So, it’s all still to play for.

Can you tell Sunak to show true climate leadership and stand up for the countryside by refusing the Cumbria coal mine? 

Tweet the PM

Not on Twitter? Forward this email to a friend!

We’ve not got long left to influence the decision but, together, we have the best chance to swing it in our favour. 

Thanks for all you do, 


Mark Robinson
Campaigns Officer | CPRE The countryside charity

[1]Local green jobs – accelerating a sustainable economic recovery in Cumbria – Local Government Association