Posts Tagged ‘Universities’

Tories Now Ordering Universities to Stop Training So Many Medical Students

January 28, 2023

So much for anything the Conservatives may tell us about putting more money into the health service and training more medical professionals to fill the gaping shortage left by underfunding, overwork and burn out. It’s because of the extra work doctors have had to perform due to the crisis that so many are leaving the NHS. We need new doctors, not to mention more nurses and other medical professionals, trained up. But the Tories really don’t want to spend the money. The excellent Maximilien Robespierre has put up a short video on his YouTube channel reporting that it costs £160,000 to train a doctor until he or she graduates. Some of this is paid by the students themselves in their tuition fees. But it still costs the state, and so the Tories have instructed the universities not train so many. Those universities that do will be fine £100,000.

Other countries are also experiencing problems training doctors and medical staff, but they also have better access to foreign doctors to fill the vacancies. But we don’t. Thanks to Brexit, 4,000 of the 37,000 foreign doctors working in the NHS have since left.

All this is, as the Sea-Green Incorruptible explains, done to keep two of the various factions in the Tory party happy. The block on spending money is to keep the small government Tories on side, while the ban on foreign recruitment is to placate the bigots and racists. And in the meantime ordinary people face queues and cancellations, while the doctors that remain are worked to point of exhaustion and beyond.

But still, they’ve got to give those big tax cuts to their rich donors.

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.

Guardian Article on Ethiopia Covering Up Its Slaving Past

January 18, 2023

Today’s Groaniad has published a fascinating article on Ethiopia’s refusal to acknowledge its history of slavery and slaving, ”If you had money, you had slaves’, how Ethiopia is in denial about the injustices of the past’, by Fred Harter. Here are a few extracts.

‘Histories of the country gloss over slavery and the subject rarely surfaces in public discourse. At the National Museum of Ethiopia in the capital, Addis Ababa, none of the exhibits deal with domestic slavery, while in Dalbo the chains once used to bind slaves have been melted down to make knives and farm implements. Little has been preserved.

“Slavery is a controversial issue,” says Nigussu Mekonnen, a guide at the museum. “There is limited evidence and information about it.”

“We tend to ignore certain kinds of history that would shape the negative image of the country,” says Kiya Gezahegne, an assistant professor in the social anthropology department at Addis Ababa University. Instead, official narratives focus on Ethiopia’s ancient Christian civilisation and its reputation as the only African country to have successfully resisted European colonisation.

“We are taught to be proud of our identity, and bringing in this narrative of slavery would be a challenge to that discourse,” says Kiya.

Yet slavery was once widespread in Ethiopia. Stretching back centuries, slaves served as soldiers, domestic servants and labourers, who were put to work at royal courts, in churches and fields.

Many were born into servitude. Others were captured in raids and during wars, or sold into slavery after they failed to pay debts. Much of the trade was domestic, although Ethiopian slaves were also sold across the Red Sea to Arabia and Turkey, where they were prized as concubines and servants.

Historical data on the slave trade is patchy. Ahmed Hassen, a professor of history at Addis Ababa University, says the number of enslaved people ebbed and flowed, especially during times of war, but estimates that up to one-third of Ethiopians were enslaved at different points in history.

In some districts, the proportion was likely even higher. The sociologist Remo Chiatti calculates that 50 to 80% of people were slaves in parts of Wolaita, a southern kingdom centred on Dalbo that was absorbed into the Ethiopian empire in the 1890s.

“Slavery was everywhere,” says Ahmed. “It was the backbone of labour; it was the source of everything. It was not only landlords and the court of the emperor keeping slaves, but also rich peasants. If you had money, you had them.”

Abolition came slowly, the result of “external and internal realities”, says Ahmed. The first big step came in 1923 when Haile Selassie signed an accord promising to end slavery to gain admittance to the League of Nations, although the practice was not stamped out entirely. In the 1930s, Benito Mussolini used the issue to justify his invasion of Ethiopia, which Italian fascist propaganda cast as a “civilising mission”.

In 1942, after Ethiopia’s liberation from Italian occupation, Haile Selassie issued the decree abolishing slavery. Even then, the practice lingered in some pockets and the influence of the former slave-owning aristocracy would not be smashed until 1974, when revolution swept to power the Provisional Military Administrative Council, also known as the Derg, a Marxist-Leninist military junta that introduced land reforms.

Today, the impact of slavery is keenly felt. After abolition, many slaves became part of the families of their former masters, but in some areas the descendants of enslaved people are seen as impure and are marginalised, barred from participating in ceremonies such as funerals or marrying into other clans. In Addis Ababa, it is common to hear light-skinned highlanders refer to darker-skinned people from southern Ethiopia as “bariya” (slave).

“Slavery in Ethiopia is not a historical phenomenon,” says an Ethiopian researcher, who did not want to be named. “Its legacy still affects people’s lives today.”

Little has been done to heal these rifts. In 2019, a year after Abiy Ahmed became prime minister on a tide of mass protests and promising reform, Ethiopia’s federal parliament set up a reconciliation commission to address past political repression and historical injustices, including the slave trade.

“It is one of the injustices that Ethiopian society inflicted on its members,” says Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, the head of Ethiopia’s Roman Catholic church, who participated in the commission. “We felt slavery should not be put under the table. It should be studied and addressed if there is to be real reconciliation.”

But the commission’s work was never published and it has now been subsumed into a broader national dialogue commission, which opposition parties claim is government-controlled. Critics of the government say political repression has crept back in after the outbreak of the war in Tigray in November 2020.

The polarised environment has made it harder to discuss issues such as slavery. A teacher in Addis Ababa, who did not want to be named, says he grew up with “zero knowledge” that slavery was once so widespread.“People are too preoccupied with ethnic-based politics,” he says. “If you talk about slavery, you are accused of trying to divide your group.”

He says: “I see a lot of posts online about George Floyd, talking about how racist America is, and of course that’s an issue. But we also need to talk about inequality here. There are still ethnic groups looking down on others.”

A new generation of historians are starting to piece together the history of Ethiopia’s slave trade, but discussions remain confined to academic journals and seminar rooms. Last year, there were no public events to commemorate the 80th anniversary of abolition, and most local oral histories are still hidden.’

This is interesting, as it shows that Ethiopia, like many of the other countries outside Europe that were involved in the slavery and the slavery, is also trying to tackle this aspect of their past. Historical slavery is an issue affecting many different countries and cultures, and certainly not a case of evil White Europeans and American enslaving noble Black Africans. Nevertheless, this is how it is viewed and presented by many activist groups.in Britain and America.

For further information, see https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2023/jan/18/ethiopia-slaves-in-denial-about-injustices-of-the-past

Gladstone’s Defence of Jewish Emancipation

January 13, 2023

Among the various texts and speeches in Alan Bullock’s and Maurice Shock’s The Liberal Tradition from Fox to Keynes is one of Gladstone’s advocating Jewish emancipation. Traditionally Jews, along with Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters had been legally barred from public politics and offices through the Test and Corporation Acts. During the 19th century these legal disabilities were removed so that the members of these religious groups were able to vote and hold public offices, serving as MPs and local councillors. When it came to the Jews, Gladstone made a brilliant speech urging their emancipation and rebutting the various prejudices against them. These were that they hated Christians, had no love for the country and were money-grubbing. Gladstone attacked these by saying that if Jews hated Christians, it was because Christians had persecuted them. If they had no love for their country, it was because their country still only half accepted them. And they were only money-grubbing because banking had been the only profession they had been allowed to pursue. But the Jews were nevertheless a great people, and he compared their glorious past, when they possessed the splendid temple in Jerusalem and merchants fleets plying the seas, when at the time the British were still savages living in mud huts.

Gladstone is something of a paradoxical figure. He started as a right-wing Anglican before moving left and becoming one of the leading voices for the non-conformist conscience. He also wanted the disestablishment of the Anglican church and Home Rule for Ireland. If he’d been able to get it, this may well have prevented so much violence and bitterness this past century. He believed strongly in political freedom and the Liberals were critics of imperialism, but it was during Gladstone’s tenure as prime minister that the British empire expanded the most.

I felt I should put up a piece about him and his defence of the Jewish people and their freedom, because last year following Black Lives Matter and the current debate over slavery there were a couple of attempts to remove memorials to him. The students at one of the Liverpudlian universities decided to rename one of their halls of residence named after him because his family had got their wealth from slavery. The new hall was instead named after a Black communist woman schoolteacher. I’m sure she was a fine and inspiring lady, but she’s not in the same league as Gladstone. In London, Sadiq Khan’s decision to rename public amenities according to the present ethnic composition of their areas lead to an activist coming into a number of schools in Black and Asian majority areas to urge that the local park, named after Gladstone, should be renamed. Two of the suggestions were ‘BAME Park’ and that it should be renamed after Diane Abbott. Again, as one of Britain’s first Black MPs, she deserves to be memorialised, but again, she isn’t a political titan like Gladstone.

People are not responsible for the actions of their ancestors, and however much we despise the source of his wealth, Gladstone was not only one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers, but one of the 19th century architects of British liberty and democratic institutions. People need to know far more about him, and the other great politicians, rather than having him erased from public memory because of present controversies over the source of their money. Because if people like Gladstone are removed from public memory, so too is their achievement in helping to build a free Britain in which people can express their hatred of slavery and tyranny.

The Lotus Eaters Reject Objective Moral Values

January 8, 2023

This is a bit abstract, but as it involves issues about the objective reality of moral values and justice against moral relativism, it needs to be tackled. A few days ago the Lotus Eaters published an essay on their website by Helen Dale, which denied that there were such things as objective moral values. This followed an conversation on YouTube between Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Gasbag, and the philosopher Peter Boghossian, in which Sargon was also arguing that objective moral values don’t exist. People, including myself, have taken the mick out of Sargon, pointing out that he’s not university educated and that at one point his standard response to his opponents seemed to be to ask if they hadn’t read John Locke. But Sargon’s bright and is well-read in political philosophy, albeit from the Conservative, Libertarian perspective.

Which seems to be where his denial of objective morality comes. Conservatives since Edmund Burke have stressed the importance of tradition, and from what I remember of Sargon’s debate with Boghossian, he was arguing that concepts like human rights and democracy are the unique products of western culture. These notions are alien and incomprehensible to other culture, such as Islam, which have their own value systems, notions of justice and ideas about their ultimate grounding. Now Sargon does have a point. Human rights seem obvious to us, because we have grown up in a society in which such notions have developed over centuries, dating back to the 18th century and beyond, going back to the Roman idea of the Lex Gentiles, the Law of Nations. This was the idea that there were fundamental assumptions about justice that was common to all nations and which could be used as the basis for international law. And the Enlightenment philosophers were confident that they could also discover an objective basis for morality. This has not happened. One of the problems is the values which are to be regarded as fundamental also need supporting arguments, and morality has changed over time. This can be seen in the west in the changing attitudes to sex outside marriage and homosexuality. Back in the early 20th century both were regarded as immoral, but are now accepted. In the case of homosexuality, moral condemnation has been reversed so that it is the persecution of gays that it rightly regarded as immoral. The philosopher Isaiah Berlin was aware of the changes in morality over time, and deeply influenced by the 17th century Italian philosopher Vico. His solution, as someone who bitterly hated Stalin’s USSR and its tyranny, was to argue that although objective moral values didn’t exist, there were nevertheless moral values that acted as such.

I can see some positive aspects to Sargon’s position. If it is accepted that western ideas of truth and justice are just that, localised western notions, that it prevents them from being used as pretexts for foreign imperialist ventures like the Neo-Con invasions of the Middle East. It brings us back to the old, pre-War American conservative values that held that America had no business interfering in the political institutions and concerns of other peoples. But it also leaves the way open for cultural relativism and the justification of despotic regimes. If there are no objective moral values, then there can be no firm moral objections to obvious injustices, such as the genocide of the Uighurs in China or the Taliban’s recent decision to deprive women of university education. From what I’ve been reading, Chinese nationalist communists dismiss such ideas of democracy and human rights as baizuo, which translates as White liberal nonsense. And the Fascists and Communists Sargon despises were also moral relativists. Both Mussolini and Hitler also declared that each nation had their own set of unique moral values and that liberal notions of justice and humanity did not apply to their regimes. In a number of his speeches Lenin denied that there were any eternal moral values, but that these changed instead with each historical epoch, as determined by the economic structure of society at the time. This opened the way to the horrendous atrocities committed by the Nazi and Soviet regimes.

The Lotus Eaters are also staunch enemies of wokeness, but Critical Theory in its various forms also relativizes traditional morality and attitudes arguing that these too are merely the local intellectual products of the west, and specifically White heterosexual elite men. This has led to Postcolonial Theorists betraying feminists and human rights activists in nations like India, by refusing to criticise these cultures repressive traditions, or instead blaming them on western imperialism.

My own belief is that there are indeed objective moral values although human moral intuitions have changed over time. Notions of democracy and human rights may have their origin in the west, but they are nevertheless universal and universally applicable. This does not mean that other cultures may not adopt and adapt them according to their own cultural traditions. In the case of Islam, there are any number of books by the Islamic modernists arguing that modern notions of human rights are perfectly in accordance with Muslim values.

For the sake of genuine humanity and international justice and the eradication of tyranny, we have to believe that there are objective moral values protecting human life and freedom.

Modified Version of Einstein’s Relativity Would Allow Faster Than Light Travel

January 3, 2023

I came across a really interesting piece of science news yesterday. Scientists at the universities of Warsaw and Singapore have proposed a modification of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which would permit objects to travel faster than the speed of light. They propose that this would be possible in a universe that was pretty much the opposite of ours with the number of space and time dimensions. Our universe has three dimensions of space and one of time, although it has been suggested that we may also have extra dimensions of space as well, but which are currently rolled up smaller than atoms. The universe the scientists modelled had only one dimension of space and three of time. Objects in this universe could travel faster than the speed of light, but these objects would still experience the speed of light as an unbreakable barrier from their point of view. The reports say that it’s unknown at the moment how this theory could be tested and observed, but they’re working on it.

This is very interesting, but I don’t know what help it is for the scientists and engineers who are seriously interested in FTL travel and warp drives, because as far as I and everybody else is aware at the moment, we don’t live in such a universe. This would only become relevant to us if somehow it was proved that we did, or a way could be found of entering and exiting such a universe similar to the hyperspace theory of FTL travel. Hyperspace is a dimension in which spacecraft can exceed the speed of light. The idea is that a spaceship enters hyperspace at the beginning of its journey to the stars, and comes out of it at the end. Unfortunately, no-one knows how to enter such a dimension. Furthermore, work a few years ago said that in hyperspace, although it would allow FTL travel from the point of view of our universe, for reasons that unfortunately I’ve forgotten the speed of light would remain as a barrier there, so in effect it would still forbid exceeding the speed of light. This new theory suggests that there are universes in which the speed of light would not be a barrier, but there’s still the problem of getting to them and utilising them.

As for extra dimensions of time, I did wonder what our world would be like if there were extra, hidden time dimensions. Would this explain the folktales in which a person travels to fairyland only to find years or centuries have passed since they left when they return?

Leaked Report Reveals Prevent Funding Used for Islamist Groups, and More Focussed on Tackling White Fascism

January 2, 2023

This obviously isn’t something you want to hear, but it needs to be recognised and the problem tackled properly. A few days ago the Shawcross Report into the operation of the Prevent programme was leaked to the press. The Prevent programme was the scheme launched by Blair as part of the ‘War on Terror’. It was set up to identify and deradicalize people, like schoolchildren, who were being drawn into Islamist terrorism. The report has been repeatedly delayed from fears that some of the individuals discussed in it would sue. It found that instead of the money being used to deradicalize people, it was instead being used by Islamist groups to fund their activities and propaganda. This included one group, who called on Muslim soldiers in the British army to disobey orders. Which is mutiny. Furthermore, the programme was more focussed on identifying and punishing White nationalists in contrast to the other anti-terrorism organisations. Of course, the report was immediately denounced as ‘harmful to community cohesion’ and racist and islamophobic.

Unfortunately, I am not remotely surprised. Private Eye a long time ago quoted a passage from Ed Hussein’s book, The Islamist, in which he described watching a long line of Muslim clergy and community leaders entering No. 10 to reassure Blair that they were all moderates and were doing their bit to tackle extremism in their communities. And he knew that every one of them was lying, and that they were all Islamist radicals. A friend of mine used to help teach Islam at university. One year his university arranged to host an interfaith conference between Christians and Muslims. He told me that the Muslim delegates were all jihadis. As for the misplaced focus on White fascism, I think this is a result of repeated criticisms from the Muslim community. Before the BNP finally collapsed, whenever the subject of tackling Muslim radical organisations was raised someone from one of the main Muslim organisations would indignantly retort that this was racist and islamophobic, and that they should ban the BNP instead. The Prevent programme has come under repeated attack from Muslims for supposedly being racist and Islamophobic. And whenever Muslim bigotry is exposed, as in the 2007 Channel 4 programme, Undercover Mosque, there are inevitably the same defensive claims about harming community cohesion. This is despite the fact that community cohesion was harmed the moment someone took the decision to invite the preachers of hate in. Simon Webb, who has very far right opinions himself, stated in one of his videos that the focus on tackling White extremists rather than Muslim was an attempt to mislead the public into believing that there were more of them and they were a bigger problem than the Islamists. Even allowing for Webb’s own views, I think he has a point. White fascists have used violence and terrorism. In the 1960s they bombed a couple of synagogues in London. Many of us still remember the mass violence between far right football hooligans and Black and Asian youths in the 70s and 80s, and the racist murder of Black kids has inspired pop songs attacking the hate and violence like ‘Down in the Subway’. In the 90s there was a bombing campaign by a member of the National Socialist party against Blacks, gays and Asians, in which nail bombs were planted in three pubs. People are very aware of the threat from White racial terrorists. Targeting these groups is also easier because it will have greater support from the left from the kind of people, who would suspect that a programme targeting Black or Asian terrorists is persecuting them unfairly. The police and local authorities, who refused to tackle the Pakistani grooming gangs in Rotherham and elsewhere did so because they didn’t want to start riots. I think the same attitude is behind the skewed focus in the Prevent programme. I think there is a reluctance amongst the political class to tackle ethnic minority criminality and extremism because of memories of the race riots of the 60s, 1981/2, and Oldham more recently, and a determination to prove Enoch Powell wrong in his lurid predictions of racial violence in the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.

Islamism is a real danger, but the proportion of people who hold Islamist views are trivially small. Only about five per cent of the Muslim population, according to the polls, want to be governed by shariah law. There are far greater numbers who support British democracy and values, albeit often moderated. This is why the Lotus Eaters, in order to show that the Muslim community rejects British traditional values, concentrated on single issues like Muslim disapproval of homosexuality and singing the national anthem. There is genuine opposition to Islamism and the preachers of hate from other parts of the Muslim community here in Britain. Back in the ’80s and ’90s Muslims organised their own demonstrations against the protests and hateful preaching of the extremists demanding the death of Salman Rushdie. Ed Hussein in his recent book states that his fathers’ generation came to Britain because they believed in our country and its values. I’ve heard other Muslims say that their parents came here to enjoy the freedom and opportunities they were denied in their own country. Mahyar Tousi, a true-blue Tory Brexiteer, said something similar in a recent video of his on the channel migrants. He stated that second and third generation British Blacks and Asians were against further immigration, not because they were traitors to their own kind, but because their parents and grandparents had come to this country to share and support its values and were concerned that later migrants did not share these. Tousi’s a libertarian Tory, who’d sell off the health service if he could, but he does have a point. Some of the Muslims in Hussein’s recent book stated that much of the violence and criminality their communities now suffered from came from recent migrants, like asylum seekers from war-torn parts of the world, who could not adapt to peace nor fully accept that they were not under threat from the state. One of the issues connected with immigration identified by one genuinely moderate imam, writing in the Financial Times in the ’90s, was that the shortage of home-grown Muslim clergy meant that bigoted preachers from Pakistan were being allowed in to rectify this shortage.

We really need to tackle the problem of Muslim radicalisation properly and squarely, without listening to reassuring blandishments and assurances of peace and cooperation from those who don’t believe remotely in it. And we can do so by strengthening and listening to genuinely moderate, liberal Muslims voices and supporting their protests and initiatives against such hate.

BBC Criticised for Anti-White Bias: The Case of Romesh Ranganathan and Sierra Leone

December 30, 2022

A day or so ago a group of right-wing historians calling themselves History Reclaimed released a report accusing the Beeb of anti-White bias. They gave a list of 20 instances in which the BBC distorted history for apparently political and racial reasons. One example was of a programme that claimed that Robert Peel had a callous disregard for the victims of the Irish potato famine. The truth, they claimed, was that Peel risked his career pushing through legislation abolishing the Corn Laws, so that Irish, and poor British people, could buy cheap foreign grain. The name History Reclaimed to my ears suggests some kind of link with Laurence Fox’s Reclaim party. The group includes the historians Andrew Roberts and Jeremy Black. While I strongly disagree with their Tory views, these are respectable, academic, mainstream historians. Roberts talked rubbish in a video posted on YouTube by PragerU, an American right-wing thinktank, which tries to present itself as some kind of university. He claimed that the British was A Good Thing because it gave the world free trade and property rights. Well, property rights exist in Islam, and I’ve no reason to doubt that they also existed in China and India, so that’s a very dubious claim. As for free trade, well, the privatisation the IMF has forced on some of the African countries that came to it for aid has generally left them worse off, sometimes catastrophically so, as when one of the southern African countries deregulated its sugar industry. But whatever I think of Roberts’ political views, he is in other ways an excellent historian. The same with Jeremy Black, whose Slavery: A New Global History I thoroughly recommend. Black has also published a history of the British Empire that does acknowledge the atrocities and human rights abuses that occurred. We are not, therefore, dealing with people who want to erase history themselves.

Regarding Robert Peel, I’ve no doubt they’re right. Peel was a great reforming Prime Minister. He founded the metropolitan police, hence their nickname of ‘bobbies’ and ‘peelers’. He also reduced the number of capital crimes from well over hundred to three. These included murder and treason. It’s because of him that you can no longer be hanged for impersonating a Chelsea pensioner. There were British officials, who felt that the Irish had brought it on themselves and should be left to starve. The head of the civil service, Trevelyan, is notorious for these views. But I don’t believe that Peel was one of them.

But it’s not Peel, who I shall discuss here, but Sierra Leone. Another example they gave was of Romesh Ranganthan’s presentation of the history of slavery in Sierra Leone in one edition of his The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan. In the programme, Ranganathan went to a slave fort on Bunce Island and talked to local people about the country’s history. By their account, this was very one-sided. The slavers were presented as all being White British. In fact, as History Reclaimed states, the African peoples in the area were also slavers. In 1736 or so one of the local chiefs attacked Bunce Island because it was taking trade away from him. And although the programme mentioned raiders, it did not state that the slaves were supplied by Black Africans, and so gave the impression that the trade’s victims were enslaved by White British.

It also neglected to mention that Sierra Leone was founded as a state for free Blacks, and that there is an arch commemorating the emancipation of Black slaves in Freetown which the UN has stated is comparable to the Statue of Liberty in espousing and celebration freedom, democracy and human rights. I have no doubt that this is also correct.

Slavery existed in Africa for millennia before the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade. While Europeans had and occasionally did raid for slaves, they were prevented from penetrating inland through a mixture of the disease-ridden climate and power African kingdoms. Europeans were confined to their own quarters of indigenous towns, like the ghettos into which Jews were forced in the Middle Ages. The slave trade was extremely lucrative, and the slaves were indeed sold to them by Africans, some of the most notorious being Dahomey, Ashanti, Badagry and Whyday. After the ban on the slave trade in 1807, one African nation attacked a British trading post in the 1820s to force us to take it up again. I found this in a copy of the very well respected British history magazine, History Today.

In the late 18th century – I’ve forgotten precisely when – the colony was taken over by one of the abolitionist groups. It was intended to be a new state for free Blacks. Three shiploads of emigrants, who also included some Whites, set sail. The idealists, who planned the colony also changed the laws regulating land tenure. I’ve forgotten the system of land tenure they altered, but from what I remember they believed it had been introduced by the Normans and was part of the framework of feudalism. I think it was also intended to be governed democratically. The new colony immediately fell into difficulties, and the colonists were reinforced with the arrival of Caribbean Maroons and Black Loyalists from America. The latter had been granted their freedom in exchange for fighting for us during the American Revolution. After independence, they were moved to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada. Unfortunately, they were prevented from settling down through a mixture of the harsh northern climate and racism. The colony still experienced considerable trouble, and was saved by being taken over by the British government. After Britain outlawed the slave trade, it became the base for the British West India Squadron, which was tasked with patrolling the seas off Africa intercepting slavers. It was also the site of one of the courts of mixed commission, in which suspected slavers were tried by judges from Britain and the accused slavers’ nation. The British navy were assisted in their attacks on slavers by indigenous African tribes, such as the Egba, and their help was appreciated. The admiralty stated that soldiers and sailors from these people should receive the same compensation for wounds suffered battling slavers as British troops, not least because it would reaffirm British good faith and encourage more Africans to join the struggle.

Slaving by the surrounding tribes and even by some of the liberated Africans in the colony itself remained a problem. As a result, British officers from the colony made anti-slavery treaties with the chiefs of the neighbouring Sherbro country, and reported on and took action against the Black colonists stealing young boys to sell to the slave states further south. Freetown became a major centre of education and western civilisation in Africa. Many of the anthropologists, who first described African languages and societies, were Sierra Leonean Blacks. The father of the 19th century Black British composer, Samuel Coleridge Taylor, was a Black citizen of Sierra Leone.

None of this is at all obscure or controversial. African slavers and their complicity in the trade are mentioned in Hugh Thomas’ brilliant book, The Slave Trade, as well as various general histories of Africa. There is even a book specifically on the history of Sierra Leone and the West India Squadron, Sweet Water and Bitter: The Ships That Stopped The Slave Trade by Sian Rees (London: Chatto & Windus 2009). One of the Scottish universities over two decades ago published a book collecting the Black colonists’ letters. I’m afraid I can’t remember the title, but we had a copy at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. Now a programme could well be made about the Black colonists and their struggles from their own words. One of the problems with history is that the lower strata of society generally remain silent, unless described or remarked upon by the upper classes. This is particularly true when it comes to slaves or former slaves. But somehow mentioning that it was settled by former slaves was considered unimportant or even embarrassing or controversial by the show’s producers.

Simon Webb of History Debunked has noted the various instances where the account of the slave trade has been selectively retold and omits any mention of Black African complicity. As far right as Webb is, I believe he has a point. But this attitude is not only anti-White, it also does Blacks an injustice by assuming that they are emotionally unable to handle this aspect of the slave trade. One Black historian with whom I worked at the Museum stated quite clearly that in the Caribbean they were told by their mammies that it was the Africans who sold their ancestors into slavery. And no, he didn’t hate Africans either. Channel 4 even presented a show about African involvement in the slave trade twenty or so years ago. This is the channel that the Tories hated for being too left-wing and having Michael Grade, ‘Britain’s pornographer in chief’ as they called him, as its controller. I am not blaming Ranganathan himself for the bias. The right hate him because he is very outspoken in his anti-Brexit views. But I doubt he knew much about Sierra Leon and its history. The fault lies with the producer and director, if not further up BBC management who may have laid down rules regarding the presentation of slavery and the British empire generally.

Black complicity in the slave trade doesn’t excuse White European involvement, but it does need to be taught so that people get a balanced view of the historical reality. And I wonder why the Beeb didn’t.

Violent Trans Rights Activism and Nazi Transvestism

December 6, 2022

Before I go further, this post is very definitely not aimed at trans people in general. As I’ve said many times on previous occasions, I condemn persecution against people because of their sexuality or gender expression. I don’t doubt that most ordinary trans people just want to get on with their lives in peace. And I am acutely aware of the danger of stirring up prejudice and hatred against sexual minorities. This post is not against them, but against the militant and violent trans rights activists, many of whom aren’t trans, who hurl accusations of fascism against gender critical feminists and their supporters and threaten violence.

Unfortunately, there have been numerous violent and threatening incidents by trans activists. There have been incidents in Spain where feminist protesters have been assaulted and knocked to the ground. This also happened in Britain to Maria MacLachlan of the Peak Trans blog, who was then prosecuted by her attacker for hate speech. The veteran gay rights activist Fred Sargeant was also assaulted and knocked to the ground because of gender critical banners he was carrying at a Pride march in America. A feminist demonstration in Spain was met with such menacing opposition by trans activists that the police ordered the women to go home as they could not protect them. There have also been ugly scenes at Kelly-Jay Keen’s rallies in Britain, including Manchester, where a woman was pushed over a low wall, Bristol and Brighton. At that event, trans activists let off smoke bombs, accused an innocent father of being a fascist and raising a baby fascist, and one was arrested with a bag of 12 knives. Katherine Holdstock, a gender critical feminist, was threatened at her university with a baying mob throwing smoke bombs around.

Many trans activists really do believe that ‘TERFs’ are fascists. I’ve reblogged a video from Peak Trans, in which she discusses this assertion and utterly refutes. No gender critical feminist, as far as I am aware, has ever recommended persecuting trans people, putting them into concentration camps or murdering and experimenting on them like the Nazis did to gay men and women, some of whom would probably today be considered trans, during the Third Reich. But still the accusation keeps being made. MacLachlan filmed her trip to Bristol to hear K-J K speak. At one instant, just as she was leaving, there was a young man solemnly telling the crowd that TERFs were fascists and that their Nazi persecution would start with trans people before being expanded to cover gays and other despised minorities. And yesterday the accusation surfaced once again that gender critical feminists were part of the far right.

It’s a dangerous assertion for trans activists to use. Not just because it’s wrong, but also because it can very easily be turned around against them. They are the people preaching violence and intolerance against their enemies, who refuse even to let their arguments be heard because somehow this makes them unsafe and constitutes violence. But also, because, historically, there was a very strong element of homosexuality and crossdressing within the Nazi party, despite the horrific persecution of gays. The German historian Ludwig Theweleit described this back in the 1980s or so in his book Male Fantasies. This includes passages on events such as the transvestite dances held by the German navy at their base in Kiel. And in 2018 Martin Dammann, another German historian, published a book Soldiers Studies: Crossdressing in the Wehrmacht, which discussed this peculiar phenomenon. The Daily Mail published a review of the book by Sarah Malm ‘His and Herrs: Photos reveal how cross-dressing Nazis loved to wear women’s clothes for fun during World War Two‘ in the 6th November 2018 edition. This began

Photographs show soldiers in the German Nazi Army dressing in women’s clothing

Some snaps show them putting on cross-dressing shows for each other while on the front line

Others see them mucking about in women’s underwear, and in some cases also make-up

A series of fascinating photographs showing how German Nazi soldiers would dress up in women’s clothing and put on cross-dressing shows on the front line, has been compiled in a new book.

Artist Martin Dammann had intended to research soldiers’ lives in the Third Reich, and ended up stumbling across a surprising number of amateur photographs of Nazi conscripts dressed as women.

They show Nazi soldiers in everything from bras and dresses to home-made crop-tops and skirts created from blankets. 

Cross dressing during times of war was not isolated to the German Nazis, and notably also took place during World War I. 

It is thought it served as a way to lighten the mood of soldier life, and to provide entertainment to tired and bored soldiers, a large majority of them heterosexual men starved of female company.’

The article was also illustrated by photos like the one below:

 

See: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6357677/Photographs-line-German-Nazi-soldiers-dressing-womens-clothing.html

For Brits of a certain age, it’s all very like some of the weird antics of Herr Flick, Von Schmalhausen and Lt. Gruber of the German army in the long-running BBC comedy series ‘Allo, ‘Allo. One of the photos in the article even shows a group of soldiers with their little tank.

The trans militants also resemble fascists in other ways. There’s the superficial one of dress. They dress in ‘black bloc’, which has traditionally been the colour of fascism since the days of Mussolini and the black shirts. Their refusal to debate with their opponents and use of threats and violence instead follows the Futurist dictum that they supported ‘the punch, the slap, as the decisive argument.’ And the particular hostility directed to gender critical women recalls the Futurists’ advocacy of ‘scorn for woman’ in Marinetti’s Founding and Manifesto of the movement. This is very far from the attitude at a transvestite convention in Weston-Super-Mare during the 1980s. That event was covered in the Bristol Evening Post. At least of the attendees said that many men had terrible attitudes to women, which showed their sympathy and solidarity with the opposite sex.

Violence and intolerance from whatever quarter needs to be condemned. We need honest, reasonable debate, not shrill and baseless accusations. And fascistic behaviour can also come from trans activists, claiming to defend persecuted sexual minorities. This has to be condemned along with other forms of hatred and intolerance.

For further information, the Amazon page for the book is at: https://www.amazon.com/Soldier-Studies-Cross-Dressing-Martin-Damman/dp/3775744835

Sketch of Astronomer Heather Couper

December 3, 2022

This is quite an obscure one, but I’ve drawn her because she was an important pioneer and science populariser in her way.

The Wikipedia page on her begins with this potted introduction to her life

Heather Anita CouperCBE FInstP FRAS[1] (2 June 1949 – 19 February 2020) was a British astronomer, broadcaster and science populariser.

After studying astrophysics at the University of Leicester and researching clusters of galaxies at Oxford University, Couper was appointed senior planetarium lecturer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. She subsequently hosted two series on Channel 4 television – The Planets and The Stars – as well as making many TV guest appearances. On radio, Couper presented the award-winning programme Britain’s Space Race as well as the 30-part series Cosmic Quest for BBC Radio 4. Couper served as President of the British Astronomical Association from 1984 to 1986, and was Astronomy Professor in perpetuity at Gresham College, London. She served on the Millennium Commission, for which she was appointed a CBE in 2007. Asteroid 3922 Heather is named in her honour.[2]

The online encyclopedia states that she was encouraged in her career after writing a letter to Patrick Moore about it when she was 16. He replied, ‘Being a girl is no problem’. She studied astronomy and physics at Leicester University in 1973, where she met her long-term collaborator, fellow astronomy student Nigel Henbest. The two formed a working partnership, Hencoup enterprises, devoted to popularising astronomy. She then carried out postgraduate research as a student of Linacre College, Oxford, in the university’s Astrophysics department. She became the senior lecturer at the Caird Planetarium at Greenwich. In 1984 she was elected president of the British Astronomical Association. She was the first female president and second youngest. I can remember her appearing on Wogan and playing down the fact that she was the first woman to become president, far preferring to be noted as the youngest. She also served as the President of the Junior Astronomical Society, now the Society for Popular Astronomy. In 1988 the London Planetarium invited her to write and present its major new show, Starburst. In 1993 she was appointed professor of astronomy at Gresham college. She was the first woman to hold the position in 400 years and remained professor until her death.

She wrote and co-wrote with Henbest over 40 books, as well as writing articles for a range of magazines such as BBC Sky at Night, BBC Focus and Astronomy. She also presented a lecture on the solar eclipse in Guernsey in 1999, and led expedition to view other eclipses in Sumatra, Hawaii, Aruba, Egypt, China and Tahiti. She also made numerous public appearances and talks about the cruise liners Arcadia, Queen Mary 2, and Queen Victoria. She was aboard Concorde when it made its first flight from London to Auckland. She also appeared and spoke at various science festivals, including Brighton, Cheltenham, and Oxford. She also spoke at corporate events for British Gas, Axa Sun Life and IBM.

She also presented a number of programmes and series on astronomy on the radio. These included Starwatch and The Modern Magi on Radio 4. She also presented an Archive Hour programme on the same channel on Britain’s Space Race, for which she received an Arthur C. Clarke award. She also appeared on Radio 2, and Radio 5Live, as well as making other appearances on Radio 4. She also presented a series of thirty 15-minute episodes on the history of astronomy. Her shows for the BBC World Service included A Brief History of Infinity, The Essential Guide to the 21st Century, and Seeing Stars, which was co-hosted by Henbest.

She made frequent appearances as the guest expert on various TV programmes, mostly on Channel 4. She made her first TV appearance on The Sky at Night, In 1981 she presented the children’s TV programme, Heaven’s Above, on ITV with Terence Murtagh. I think I remember watching this when I was about 14 or so. She then presented the series The Planets for Channel 4, which was followed by The Stars. She also presented the ITV show Neptune Encounter, the Horizon episode ‘A Close Encounter of the Second Kind’, and Stephen Hawking: A Profile on BBC 4.

Couper, Henbest and the director of her series, The Stars, founded a production company, Pioneer Productions. The Neptune Encounter, which covered Voyager 2’s flyby of the planet, was its first programme. She was also the producer for the Channel 4 shows Black Holes, Electric Skies and Beyond the Millennium. She later left the company to concentrate on more general radio and TV appearances.

In 1993 she was appointed a member of the Millennium Commission. Of the nine commissioners appointed, only she and Michael Heseltine continued until it was wound up.

Outside her work on astronomy, she was also a guest presenter on Woman’s Hour, as well as the John Dunn programme and Start the Week on the radio. She was also interested in local history and literature, and so appeared on Radio 4’s With Great Pleasure and Down Your Way. She also appeared on Radio 3’s In Tune selecting her ‘pick of the proms.’ She was also the narrator on a number of other factual programmes, including Channel 4’s Ekranoplan: The Caspian Sea Monster, and Raging Planet on the Discovery Channel.

So, a huge science populariser, but probably one whose achievements are obscured by other, more prominent, celebrities.

As well as the children’s astronomy programme, I also once saw her speaking on about Mars and the question of life on the Red Planet at the Cheltenham Festival of Science. She had a rather mischievous sense of humour. There’s a real possibility that life in some form has existed on Mars and may exist now, but if it does, it’s almost certainly at the level of microbes. At the time, however, various individuals who had spent too long looking at photos of the planet claimed to have seen much larger lifeforms on the planet. There was a programme on Channel 4 in which a Hungarian astronomer appeared to describe how he believed there were massive mushrooms growing there. People also thought the saw giant ‘sand whales’ crawling about its surface, like the sandworms in Dune. These were, in fact, geological features left by some of the dune’s slumping, which created a trail that looked like the segmented body of a worm. One of the peeps taken in by this was the late Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke rang her up from Sri Lanka, asking her if she’d seen them and telling her that he really didn’t know what to make of it. She commented that for a moment she thought he’d gone mad, then covered her mouth like a naughty child caught saying something she shouldn’t.

For all that she played down her importance as a female pioneer in astronomy, I think she did prepare the say for more women to enter it and become television presenters. There’s now a drive for more women in the hard sciences, and we’ve science had a Black woman presenter, Aderin-Pocock, on the Sky At Night, and female astrophysicists and mathematicians appearing on the radio and TV.