Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Broadcast 29 May 2001 and covering 1750–1800. The series is the exhilarating and terrible story of how the British Empire came into being through its early settlements--the Caribbean through the sugar plantations (and helped by slavery), the land that later became the United States and India through the British East India Company--and how it eventually came to dominate the world. A story of exploration and daring, but also one of exploitation, conflict, and loss.

Work through the following key terms and concepts using the online course compendium and related materials:

· Ireland as Colonial Model
· British Society and Attitudes in the 19th Century (women, White Man’s Burden, class)
· Whigs and Tories, Chartists, the Anti-Corn Law League, and the Factory Act of 1833
· East India Company
· Robert Clive
· Tippu Sultan
· Migration and the Indian colonial experience
· Uprising of 1857 (Government of India Act 1858)
· Aboriginal Australia and colonisation
· Australian Rum Rebellion
· Convicts and Australia (Transportation)
· Australia and exploration
· The Scramble for Africa (The Berlin Conference 1884-85)
· British colonisation of the Cape
· Colonial wars in Southern Africa

Colonialism does not occupy a single time frame or set of events or practices. In many situations it is discussed as the representatives of one country taking over, occupying or imposing ideas over another nation or group of people. Such a situation has been part of human history for a very long time. The period of colonialism that we are most interested in for Cultures of Commonwealth English is when the European powers began sending out ships and often through trial and error, began to expand their influence beyond their own borders. The earliest period of modern European colonial expansion was undertaken by the Portuguese and Spanish (1400-1500s), closely followed by the Dutch and the English. The great rival of England for colonial power was France and throughout the history of the British Empire it has been France that has been the foil or enemy in so many battles and discoveries. Other European countries did not expand colonially or create colonies until later, such as Italy and Germany, which both took possessions in the late 19th and 20th century.

What is Colonialism?
Colonialism is the extension of a nation's sovereignty over territory beyond its borders with the establishment of either settler-colonies or administrative dependencies in which indigenous populations are directly ruled and/or displaced. Colonizing nations generally dominate the resources, labor, and markets of the colonial territory, and may also impose socio-cultural, religious and linguistic structures on the conquered population (see also cultural imperialism).

What this means it that colonialism is essentially a system of direct political, economic and cultural intervention based on power. Though the word colonialism is often used interchangeably with imperialism, the latter is sometimes used more broadly as it covers control exercised informally (via influence) as well as formal military control or economic leverage.
A BBC documentary on the British Empire.

The British Empire

The British Empire was the largest empire in history and for over a century the foremost global power. It was a product of the European age of discovery, which began with the maritime explorations of the 15th century, that sparked the era of the European colonial empires.

By 1921, the British Empire held sway over a population of about 458 million people, approximately one-quarter of the world's population. It covered about 36.6 million km² (14.2 million square miles), about a quarter of Earth's total land area. As a result, its legacy is widespread, in legal and governmental systems, economic practice, militarily, educational systems, sports, and in the global spread of the English language. At the peak of its power, it was often said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire" because its span across the globe ensured that the sun was always shining on at least one of its numerous colonies or subject nations.

During the five decades following World War II, most of the territories of the Empire became independent. Many went on to join the Commonwealth of Nations, a free association of independent states.

With the complexity and great size of the British Empire a discussion on the whole development would take a very long time. Instead, we will look at four areas once controlled by Britain but which today are called Australia, India, Southern Africa and England. Colonialism is a complex and often controversial topic, which should always be remembered in this series of lectures. The intention is not to weigh up the positive and negative elements of the colonial period, but rather to examine the historical conditions that created the cultures today that are found in these four areas.

The Beginnings of British Colonialism

The conquest of Ireland by the Tudors in the late 1500s and King James 1 (1566-1625) and the re-conquest by the forces of Oliver Cromwell in 1649-50 can be seen as an ongoing early example of colonialism on the part of England (which had already conquered Wales under the 1284 Statute of Rhuddlan, although a formal Union did not occur until 1536 and in 1707 Scotland was formally united with England to form Great Britain with the Act of Union).

A video covering 1690–1750. As the new century dawned, relations between Scotland and England had never been worse. Yet half a century later the two countries would be making a future together based on profit and interest. The new Britain was based on money, not God. BBC: A History of Britain

The early story of the British Isles is one of colonisation. Firstly, Celtic and Pict tribes arrived and formed the first communities in the British Isles. Then came the Romans. In 250AD, Rome sent a contingent of black legionnaires, drawn from the African part of the empire, to stand guard on Hadrian’s Wall. There is no evidence that these men stayed in Britannia and when the Romans finally quit in the fifth century, the way was clear for the Germanic tribes that would slowly become the English. Four hundred years after the Jutes, Angles and Saxons colonised modern-day southern England, the Vikings arrived, bringing a distinctive new influence to the cultural pot. The Vikings' sphere of influence was northern Britain and modern-day East Anglia. The most dramatic of these immigrations was the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Normans, descended from Vikings who had settled in France, brought with them their early-French language which would fundamentally change the direction of English, government and law. To this day, a number of Parliamentary ceremonies can be dated back to the Franco-Norman era. The first Norman king, William the Conqueror, invited Jews to settle in England to help develop commerce, finance and trade.

In the modern era colonisation brought great wealth to England but it also cost a lot. Wars were fought, ships sent out, colonies financed, deals made with Spain and France and the infrastructure of empire established. The rewards were of course huge, with raw materials and markets both ruled by the colonial power in the far flung empire.

Oliver Cromwell and the English Civil War

Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658)

It was Oliver Cromwell who formed the short lived Commonwealth of England, the republican government which ruled first England (including Wales) and then Ireland and Scotland from 1649 to 1660. Cromwell is a pivotal figure in the history of England and the British Empire. Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader best known for his involvement in making England into a republican Commonwealth and for his later role as Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland. He was one of the commanders of the New Model Army which defeated the royalists in the English Civil War. After the execution of King Charles I in 1649, Cromwell dominated the short-lived Commonwealth of England, conquered Ireland and Scotland, and ruled as Lord Protector from 1653 until his death in 1658.

Cromwell was born into the ranks of the middle gentry, and remained relatively obscure for the first 40 years of his life, at times his lifestyle resembling that of a yeoman farmer until his finances were boosted thanks to an inheritance from his uncle. After undergoing a religious conversion during the same decade, he made an independent style of Puritanism a core tenet of his life. Cromwell was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Cambridge in the Short (1640) and Long (1640-49) Parliaments, and later entered the English Civil War on the side of the "Roundheads" or Parliamentarians.

An effective soldier (nicknamed "Old Ironsides") he rose from leading a single cavalry troop to command of the entire army. Cromwell was the third person to sign Charles I's death warrant in 1649 and was an MP in the Rump Parliament (1649-1653), being chosen by the Rump to take command of the English campaign in Ireland during 1649-50. He then led a campaign against the Scottish army between 1650-51. On 20 April 1653 he dismissed the Rump Parliament by force, setting up a short-lived nominated assembly known as the Barebones Parliament before being made Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland on 16 December 1653 until his death. When the Royalists returned to power in 1660, his corpse was dug up, hung in chains, and beheaded.

For a comical, but nonetheless thought provoking, account of the Lord High Protector see the Mark Steel Lecture on Cromwell

The Plantations of Ireland

The Ulster Plantation and the Cromwellian Genocide in Ireland 1603-1680

Under the Tudor conquest of Ireland a plantation system was begun with confiscated lands made into large plantation farms run by English aristocracy in conjunction with a parallel system with smaller model farms being set up with the intention of the Irish copying them. The plantations in Ireland had a huge impact on Irish culture and society in the areas where they were established;

"The Plantation of Ulster with English and Scottish settlers was not initially intended as a religious campaign against Catholics. But it took on its own dynamic and effectively became such by the turn of the 17th century. For Protestant settlers too the century established the perception of Catholics poised to take revenge and dispossess them at the first opportunity, for the Ulster Irish had risen in 1641 and 'massacred' large numbers of the settler population. That the Ulster Plantation was never as total, nor the 1641 uprising as brutal as tradition allows, matters little. Both have continued to be axioms of respective communal identities and along with the religious demography of Ulster, established by the Plantation, these beliefs have remained virtually unchanged for over three centuries." BBC Wars and Conflict: The Plantation of Ulster (Note this is a British source and therefore may explain the de-emphasis on the brutality of what lay behind the plantation system in Ireland).

In this long quote it is possible to see an example of the goal of this course, to understand that the scattered groups of people who speak varieties of English do so because of what has happened in the past. Not only is the language something they developed through the processes of colonisation, but the sort of society they live in, with its religions, laws, customs, education and media have been formed by the same processes. In the colonization of Ireland, particularly under the direction of Oliver Cromwell it is possible to see elements of all prior colonial projects within the frame of the British Empire; the establishment of administrative centers (usually on the coast), the dispossession of indigenous peoples from land, the imposition of religious and cultural systems by the colonisers (usually through education and propaganda), the implementation of economic systems advantageous to the colonizers and the merciless punishment of resistance and dissent.

Attitudes at the Beginnings of Empire

'A detail from William Hogarth's painting Scene from Shakespeare's The Tempest,
depicting Caliban carrying a load of wood (Circa 1728). It is generally thought that Shakespeare wrote The Tempest in 1610-11 at the dawn of the great age of British colonialism, which was well under way by the time Hogarth painted this painting. Caliban is the sole resident of the island depicted in the play who was actually born there; he is 'the native'. The name of the character is widely considered to be a reference to the Caribs, the indigenes of the Caribbean encountered by early European sailors in their first journeys to the Americas. The name Caliban is also roughly anagrammatic to Cannibal, which was both a fear and a belief held by many Europeans at the time regarding the occupants of the 'New World'. Later, in Hogarth's century the concept of the 'noble savage' became popular in Western European intellectual cultures. The 'noble savage' can be described in relation to the character of Caliban as a representation of the 'natural man', that the tribal and non-industrialized cultures of the lands colonized by European powers where closer to nature and lived more 'genuine' lives reminiscent of the Garden of Eden myth of Christianity.

A modern production of The Tempest.In Julie Taymor's version of 'The Tempest,' the gender of Prospero has been switched to Prospera. Going back to the 16th or 17th century, women practicing the magical arts of alchemy were often convicted of witchcraft. In Taymor's version, Prospera is usurped by her brother and sent off with her four-year daughter on a ship. She ends up on an island; it's a tabula rasa: no society, so the mother figure becomes a father figure to Miranda. This leads to the power struggle and balance between Caliban and Prospera; a struggle not about brawn, but about intellect.

In Shakespeare's day, most of the planet was still being "discovered", and stories were coming back from distant islands, with myths about the Cannibals of the Caribbean, faraway Edens, and distant Tropical Utopias. With the character Caliban Shakespeare may be offering an in-depth discussion into the morality of colonialism. Different views are discussed, with examples including Gonzalo's Utopia, Prospero's enslavement of Caliban, and Caliban's subsequent resentment. Caliban is also shown as one of the most natural characters in the play, being very much in touch with the natural world (and modern audiences have come to view him as far nobler than his two Old World friends, Stephano and Trinculo, although the original intent of the author may have been different). There is evidence that Shakespeare drew on Montaigne's essay Of Cannibals (1603), which discusses the values of societies insulated from European influences, while writing The Tempest.

Beginning in about 1950, with the publication of Psychology of Colonization by Octave Mannoni, The Tempest was viewed more and more through the lens of postcolonial theory. This new way of looking at the text explored the effect of the colonizer (Prospero) on the colonized (Ariel and Caliban). Though Ariel is often overlooked in these debates in favor of the more intriguing Caliban, he is still involved in many of the debates. The French writer Aimé Césaire, in his play Une Tempête sets The Tempest in Haiti, portraying Ariel as a mulatto who, unlike the more rebellious Caliban, feels that negotiation and partnership is the way to freedom from the colonizers. Fernandez Retamar sets his version of the play in Cuba, and portrays Ariel as a wealthy Cuban (in comparison to the lower-class Caliban) who also must choose between rebellion or negotiation. Although scholars have suggested that his dialogue with Caliban in Act two, Scene one, contains hints of a future alliance between the two when Prospero leaves, in general, Ariel is viewed by scholars as the good servant, in comparison with the conniving Caliban—a view which Shakespeare's audience would have shared. Ariel is used by some postcolonial writers as a symbol of their efforts to overcome the effects of colonization on their culture. Michelle Cliff, for example, a Jamaican author, has said that she tries to combine Caliban and Ariel within herself to create a way of writing that represents her culture better. Such use of Ariel in postcolonial thought is far from uncommon, as Ariel is even the namesake of a scholarly journal covering post-colonial criticism. (Wikipedia)

The People of Empire

Many people (not all) who participated in the colonisation of subjected lands in the British Empire did so with the belief that they were better than the peoples they had conquered. Often using philosophies of Social Darwinism (not to be confused with Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution,which it really does not represent - this film), where the survival of the fittest idea was adapted to social and cultural contexts, the industrialized and militarized organisations that represented the British Empire oppressed, enslaved and regulalry massacred outright the peoples of the lands they colonised.

Along with this brutal collective face of colonialism there existed other aspects. Christian missionaries who worked to convert the peoples of the colonies. The orientalists who studied them with a romantic sense of admiration. The merchants and entrepreneurs who wished to make money and develop businesses in the colonies. As well there were the poor and middle class citizens of England who either immigrated or were sent to the colonies to either better their lives or because they had no choice. It is important to remember that the urban working class of England were often not so far behind the most oppressed in the colonies, considering a boy born in inner Liverpool in 1851 had a life expectancy of only 26 years (BBC). The urban centers of the Midlands, London and the north grew enourmously between the late 18th and mid-19th century.

The poverty of 19th century Victorian England was extream. By looking at the lives of the most vunerable members of the urban population we can gain an idea of how it was to be poor in England in the 1800s. Children suffered particularly when their surroundings where defined by poverty. An example from 1849 of living conditions in relation to sewage:

Henry Mayhew was an investigative journalist who wrote a series of articles for the Morning Chronicle about the way the poor of London lived and worked.

In an article published on 24th September 1849 he described a London Street with a tidal ditch running through it, into which drains and sewers emptied. The ditch contained the only water the people in the street had to drink, and it was ‘the colour of strong green tea’, in fact it was ‘more like watery mud than muddy water’. This is the report he gave:

‘As we gazed in horror at it, we saw drains and sewers emptying their filthy contents into it; we saw a whole tier of doorless privies in the open road, common to men and women built over it; we heard bucket after bucket of filth splash into it’.

Mayhew’s articles were later published in a book called London Labour and the London Poor and in the introduction he wrote:

‘…the condition of a class of people whose misery, ignorance, and vice, amidst all the immense wealth and great knowledge of “the first city in the world”, is, to say the very least, a national disgrace to us’.

(For more on the conditions for impoverished children in Victorian England)

Please read (print it out if you can) this account of Liberals and Conservatives: from AD 1832
in England
. You need to be able to say what are Whigs and Tories, Chartists and the Anti-Corn Law League, and say what the Factory Act of 1833 was in response to.

As well the Great Exhibition of 1851 took place in London, it celebrated the power and achievements of the Empire. The Great Exhibition was the first international fair of trade and industry, that is it was international in that it showed off products from the whole of the Empire. As well the machines of industrialised England were on display;

"James Nasmyth’s famous steam hammer was there (the machine used by Robert Stephenson to drive home the piles of his bridge at Newcastle). Garforth’s riveting machine, marine engines from Maudsley’s works, McNicholl’s travelling crane and De La Rue’s Patent Envelope Machine. Operated by only two boys, this could cut , fold, gum and stack thousands of envelopes an hour in “a series of the most beautiful mechanical movements it is possible to conceive ”. There was even an alarm bed that ejected its occupant at a pre-set time." The Great Exhibition


Abel Magwitch, escaped convict in a depiction set in 1823 from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations adapted to film by David Lean in 1946. The life of convicts kept on the prison hulks, huge floating prisons in river estuaries was horrible, and transportation to Australia was worse.

Prison hulk

A prison ship, historically sometimes called a prison hulk, is a vessel used as a prison, often to hold convicts awaiting transportation to penal colonies. The vessels were a common form of internment in Britain and elsewhere in the 18th and 19th centuries. Charles F. Campbell writes that around 40 ships of the British Navy were converted for use as prison hulks. One was established at Gibraltar, others at Bermuda, at Antigua, and off Brooklyn in Wallabout Bay and Sheerness. Other hulks were anchored off Woolwich, Portsmouth, Chatham, Deptford, and Plymouth. Private companies owned and operated the hulks holding prisoners bound for penal transportation.

Women in the British Empire

While British women in the empire were always outnumbered by British men, from the beginning of empire women traveled to many sites of empire, where they established homes and found opportunities and a way of life not available to them in Britain. Beginning around 1850, the numbers of white women living in the empire increased, partly because the empire grew considerably in the later 19th century—the period historians call the Age of New Imperialism—and partly because of the rising concern in Britain over the relationships between British men and indigenous women. Encouraging white British women to travel to the colonies was seen by the British as a way to protect and maintain the social hierarchy of the colonial world, while preserving British racial purity.

In evaluating the role of British women in the empire, it is important to differentiate between colonies in Africa and India and white settler colonies where the situation of British women was substantially different. In Australia, where the number of British settlers rapidly outnumbered the indigenous population, men substantially outnumbered women, especially in the early stages of white settlement. Male convicts outnumbered female convicts 4 to 1, and the beginning of the colony in Australia was marked by the rape of women—both white and indigenous. In Australia, the numbers of women did not equal that of men until after World War II. As the colony developed, most settlers moved to isolated rural farms where women lived hard working lives. By contrast, in New Zealand, while men did outnumber women, it was a colony that encouraged settlement by families—a factor that shaped the lives of women. Interestingly, in 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the vote.

The White Man's Burden

The White Man's Burden

"The White Man's Burden" is a poem by the English poet Rudyard Kipling (December 30, 1865 – January 18, 1936). It was originally published in the popular magazine McClure's in 1899, with the subtitle 'The United States and the Philippine Islands'. "The White Man's Burden" was written in regard to the U.S. conquest of the Philippines and other former Spanish colonies. Although Kipling's poem mixed exhortation to empire with sober warnings of the costs involved, imperialists within the United States latched onto the phrase "white man's burden" as a characterization for imperialism that justified imperial policy as a noble enterprise.

"The White Man's Burden"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go make them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Have done with childish days--
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers.

The Navy and Empire
The British navy was the largest and most effective in the world between the early 18th and late 19th century. As well as its military role the Royal Navy sponsored and trained many of the most successful explorers who charted territories and claimed lands in the name of the crown. One of the most famous of these was Captain James Cook. Captain James Cook FRS RN (7 November O.S. 27 October 1728 – 14 February 1779) was an English explorer, navigator and cartographer, ultimately rising to the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy. Cook was the first to map Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean during which he achieved the first European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands as well as the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. Cook died in Hawaii in a fight with Hawaiians during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific in 1779.


The first organised presence of British forces in India were under the banner of the Honorable East India Company. The Honorable East India Company (HEIC), most commonly referred to as the East India Trading Company, though often colloquially referred to as "John Company", and simply as the East India Company or the "Company Bahadur" in India, was an early joint-stock company (the Dutch East India Company was the first to issue public stock). The company's main trade was in cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpeter, tea and opium. It was granted an English Royal Charter by Elizabeth I on December 31, 1600, with the intention of favouring trade privileges in India. The Royal Charter effectively gave the newly created HEIC a 21-year monopoly on all trade in the East Indies.

The Company transformed from a commercial trading venture to one that virtually ruled India and other Asian colonies as it acquired auxiliary governmental and military functions, until by the Government of India Act 1858 the British Crown assumed direct rule, following the events of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The Company was finally dissolved on January 1, 1874, as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act.

Perhaps the most famous employee of the East India Company was Robert Clive who started his career as a clerk in Madras (now Chennai) . By the mid-eighteenth century the Mughal Empire had become divided into a number of successor states. For the forty years since the death of the Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, the power of the Emperor had gradually fallen into the hands of his provincial viceroys or subahdars. The three most powerful were the Nizam of the Hyderabad State in the Deccan region (Asaf Jah), of south and central India, who ruled from Hyderabad, the Nawab of Bengal (Murshid Quli Khan), whose capital was Murshidabad, and the wazir or Nawab of Awadh (Sa'adat Ali Khan, Burhan ul-Mulk). The European Trading companies still acknowledged the sovereignty of the Emperor at Delhi, Bahadur Shah I, but their relations with these regional rulers were of much greater importance. In addition the relationship between the Europeans was influenced by a series of wars and treaties on mainland Europe. Since the late seventeenth century the European merchants had raised bodies of troops to protect their commercial interests and latterly to influence local politics to their advantage. Military power was rapidly becoming as important as commercial acumen in securing India's valuable trade, and increasingly it was also the means of securing riches by another route: the right to collect land revenue.

After Clive's arrival in India, the rich lands of the Coromandel Coast were contested between the French Governor General Joseph François Dupleix and the British. This rivalry included the British and French supporting various factions as Nawab of the remaining parts of the Mughal Empire. Clive was the first of the "soldier-politicians" (as they came to be called) who helped the British gain ascendancy in India. While the British would later be challenged in the South by Tipu Sultan of Mysore, Clive's fame and notoriety principally lie in his military conquest of the province of Bengal.

Robert Clive

Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey, KB (29 September 1725–22 November 1774), also known as Clive of India, was a British soldier who established the military and political supremacy of the East India Company in Southern India and Bengal. Together with Warren Hastings he was one of the key figures in the creation of British India. Wikipedia

The Battle of Plassey 23 June 1757

The Battle of Plassey was a decisive British East India Company victory over the Nawab of Bengal and his French allies, establishing British rule of India for the next two centuries. The battle took place on 23 June 1757 at Palashi, West Bengal, India, on the banks of the Bhagirathi River, about 150 km north of Calcutta, near Murshidabad, then the capital of the Nawab of Bengal. The opponents were Siraj Ud Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, and the British East India Company. The battle was waged during the Seven Years' War in Europe (1756–1763) and in a mirror of their European rivalry the French East India Company sent a small contingent to fight against the British East India Company. Siraj-ud-Daulah had a numerically superior force, and made its stand at Plassey. The British, worried about being outnumbered and not above some bribery, reached out to Siraj-ud-Daulah's deposed army chief - Mir Jafar, along with others such as Yar Latif and Rai Durlabh. Mir Jafar thus assembled his troops near the battlefield, but made no move to actually join the battle, causing Siraj-ud-Daulah's army to be defeated. Siraj-ud-Daulah fled, eventually to be captured and executed. As a result, the entire province of Bengal fell to the Company, with Mir Jafar appointed as their puppet Nawab.

The Defeat of Tippu Sultan

After Horatio Nelson had defeated Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile in Egypt in 1798 CE, three armies, one from Bombay, and two British (one of which included Arthur Wellesley, the future first Duke of Wellington), marched into Mysore in 1799 and besieged the capital Srirangapatnam in the Fourth Mysore War. There were over 26,000 soldiers of the British East India Company comprising about 4000 Europeans and the rest Indians. A column was supplied by the Nizam of Hyderabad consisting of ten battalions and over 16,000 cavalry, and many soldiers were sent by the Marathas. Thus the soldiers in the British force numbered over 50,000 soldiers whereas Tippu Sultan had only about 30,000 soldiers. The British broke through the city walls, and Tippu Sultan died defending his capital on May 4 1799. With the defeat of Tippu Sultan the last substantial autonomous remains of the Mughal Empire (yet another story of colonial imperialism - links to the video documentary The Mughals 1526-1707) on the Indian subcontinent was defeated and the way was clear for the establishment of a colonial administration with Hindu Maharajas appointed by the British administration. Tippu is today revered as an Indian hero and remembered as a great leader and military inovator, (video of Tipu's use of rockets).

Three major migrations took place during the colonial period in India.

(1) Indentured labour Migration (1834 – 1920).

(2) Indians used as soldiers abroad and on the colonised subcontinent.

(3) The migration of Indians as labourers to Africa.

Coolies: How Britain Reinvented Slavery

This ten minute documentary tells the astonishing and controversial story of the systematic recruitment and migration of over a million Indians to all corners of the Empire. It is a chapter in colonial history that implicates figures at the very highest level of the British establishment and has defined the demographic shape of the modern world.
Combining archive footage and historical evidence the programme includes interviews with Gandhi's great-grandaughter, Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie, about Gandhi's campaign to end indentured labour and David Dabydeen - author and academic - whose great-grandfather was an indentured labourer in British Guyana.
Coolies: How Britain Reinvented Slavery traces family stories through epic voyages across South America, the South Pacific and Africa, as descendants invetigate their past and trace the last surviving witnesses.

The Armed Rebellion of 1857

Lakshmibai, The Rani of Jhansi (c. 1828 – 17 June 1858) A leader of the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of sepoys of British East India Company's army on the 10th of May 1857, in the town of Meerut, and soon erupted into other mutinies and civilian rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilities confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region. The rebellion posed a considerable threat to Company power in that region, and it was contained only with the fall of Gwalior on 20 June 1858. The rebellion is also known as India's First War of Independence, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, the Revolt of 1857, and the Sepoy Mutiny.

The rebels quickly captured large swathes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, including Delhi, where they installed the Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar, as Emperor of Hindustan. The Company response came rapidly as well: by September 1857, with help from fresh reinforcements, Delhi had been retaken. Nevertheless, it then took the better part of 1858 for the rebellion to be completely suppressed in Oudh.

Other regions of Company controlled India—Bengal province, the Bombay Presidency, and the Madras Presidency—remained largely calm. In Punjab, only recently annexed by the East India Company, the Sikh princes backed the Company by providing both soldiers and support. The large princely states, Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, and Kashmir, as well as the smaller ones of Rajputana, by not joining the rebellion, served, in the Governor-General Lord Canning's words, as "breakwaters in a storm" for the Company.

In some regions, especially in Oudh, the rebellion took on the attributes of a patriotic revolt against European presence; however, although the rebel leaders, especially the Rani of Jhansi, became folk heroes in the burgeoning nationalist movement in India half a century later, they themselves "generated no coherent ideology or programme on which to build a new order." Still, the rebellion proved to be an important watershed in Indian history; it led to the dissolution of the East India Company in 1858, and forced the British to reorganize the army, the financial system, and the administration in India. India was thereafter governed directly from London—by the British government India Office and a cabinet level Secretary of State for India—in the new British Raj, a system of governance that lasted until 1947.


Clash of the Worlds (Episode 1 of 3): The Indian Mutiny of 1857

Aired: October 28, 2007 on BBC 2

Exploring how past conflicts between a Christian West and Islam can help explain more recent violence. The first programme tells the story of the Indian uprising in which both sides committed atrocities in the name of their faiths

Government of India Act 1858

The British Raj (Rule) of India began with the Government of India Act 1858, actually entitled An Act for the Better Government of India. An Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (21 & 22 Vict. c. 106) passed on August 2, 1858. Its provisions called for the liquidation of the British East India Company (who had up to this point been ruling India under the auspices of Parliament) and the transference of its functions to the British Crown. Lord Palmerston, then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, introduced a bill for the transfer of control of the Government of India from the East India Company to the Crown, referring to the grave defects in the existing system of the government of India.

The title "Empress of India" was taken by Queen Victoria from May 1, 1876. The title was created nineteen years after the formal incorporation into the British Empire of Britain's possessions and protectorates on the Indian subcontinent, comprising most of modern-day India (excluding the Portuguese colony Goa, the State of Sikkim, and the French colony Pondicherry), Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma (though the latter would be made a separate colony in 1937). When Victoria died, and her son Edward VII ascended the throne, his title became "Emperor of India". The title continued until India and Pakistan became independent from the United Kingdom at midnight on 14/15 August 1947. The title itself was not formally abandoned by Edward VIII's successor, George VI, until 1948.

Zafar Delhi and Dalrymple

This is an article by the British historian William Dalrymple on New and Old Delhi. The capital of India is an amazing mixture of history with examples of ancient, modern and even postmodernist architecture often within meters of each other. Everywhere in Delhi are examples of the colonial past; be it the Mughal period or the British rule of India. Dalrymple describes the early period of colonialism in India under the British when the East India Company did business with local rulers and whose officials where often as much "Hindoos as Christians". In the article Dalrymple describes Delhi in the 18th century as

"I am hardly alone in being struck by this: the ruins of Delhi are something visitors to Delhi have always been amazed by, perhaps especially in the 18th century when the city was at the height of its decay and its mood most melancholic. For miles in every direction, half collapsed and overgrown, robbed and re-occupied, neglected by all, lay the remains of six hundred years of trans-Indian Imperium- the wrecked vestiges of a period when Delhi had been the greatest city between Constantinople and Canton. Hammams and garden palaces, thousand pillared halls and mighty tomb towers, empty mosques and semi-deserted Sufi shrines- there seemed to be no end to litter of ages: “It has a feeling about it of ‘Is this not the great Babylon?’ all ruins and desolation,” wrote Emily Eden in her diary. “How can I describe the desolation of Delhi,” agreed the poet Sauda. “There is no house from which the jackals cry cannot be heard. In the once beautiful gardens, the grass grows waist-high around fallen pillars and ruined arches. Not even a lamp of clay now burns where once the chandeliers blazed."

Today Delhi remains a tissue of influences and presences, as this video of former colonial palaces in Delhi shows:


These were the New Delhi palaces of the princely rulers during the British Raj - Hyderabad House, Jaipur House, Bikaner House, Baroda House. They are now home to government offices and museums.


Aboriginal Australia and Colonisation

Aboriginal tribal and language groups prior to colonisation. The Europeans who came to Australia imagined that the Aboriginal people where far more homogeneous than they actually were. Different groups differ greatly, speaking totally different languages and having totally different customs, although there were great similarities between some groups as well. Aboriginal Australia could be considered as a continent of nations. The organisation of Aboriginal societies did not however have such a system of centralised political leadership that resembled that of the colonisers, but was rather led by customs, laws and elders within the society.


''An Aboriginal history of white Australia.''

The continent of Australia was known to exist by European sailors at least since 1606 when the Duyfken captained by Dutchman, Willem Janszoon landed on the northern coast. The Dutch were repelled by Aboriginal warriors at Keer Weer (Dutch for "Turn Back!"). Of course, Australia had been hosting visitors long before this, the most well known being Macassan traders from the Indonesian archipelego who had been trading with the Yolongu people of the central north of Australia for hundreds of years. It was not until 1906 that the trade with the Macassans was stopped with the national boarder of the recently created Commonwealth of Australia (1901) being enforced and their entry into what was now 'Australian waters' being denied. Between 1606 and 1770, an estimated 54 European ships from a range of nations made contact. Many of these were merchant ships from the Dutch East Indies Company and included the ships of Abel Tasman. Tasman charted parts of the north, west and south coasts of Australia which was then known as New Holland.

In 1770, Englishman Lieutenant James Cook charted the Australian east coast in his ship HM Barque Endeavour. Cook claimed the east coast under instruction from King George III of England on 22 August 1770 at Possession Island, naming eastern Australia 'New South Wales'. The first British settlement on Australian soil was established at Port Jackson, (today Sydney) on the 26th January 1788. Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet, comprising 11 ships and around 1,350 people, arrived at Botany Bay between 18 and 20 January 1788. However, this area was deemed to be unsuitable for settlement and they moved north to Port Jackson on 26 January 1788, The coast of Australia, featuring Tasmania as a separate island, was mapped in detail by the English mariners and navigators Bass and Flinders, and the French mariner, Baudin. A nearly completed map of the coastline was published by Flinders in 1814. From 1788 until 1823, the Colony of New South Wales was a penal colony. This meant that there were mainly convicts, marines and the wives of the marines although free settlers started to arrive in 1793. In 1823, the British government established a New South Wales parliament by setting up a Legislative Council as well as a Supreme Court under the New South Wales Act 1823 (UK). This Act is now seen as a first step towards a 'responsible' Parliament in Australia. A more detailed time line of law and order in Australia can be found [ HERE].

"Portrait of Bennilong, a native of New Holland, who after experiencing for two years the luxuries of England, returned to his own country and resumed all his savage habits" (1798)

Bennelong was captured on a fishing forage with his friend Colby at Manly in November 1789. Bundled into a long boat at the behest of Arthur Phillip, who was under instructions from King George III to "endeavour by every possible mean, to open an intercourse with the natives, and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all our subjects to live in amity and kindness." Bennelong and another Aborigine named Yemmerrawanie (or Imeerawanyee) travelled with Arthur Phillip to England in 1792, and were presented to King George III on 24 May 1793. Yemmerrawanie died while in Britain, and Bennelong's health deteriorated. He returned to Sydney in February 1795 on HMS Reliance, the ship that took surgeon George Bass to the colony for the first time. He taught Bass some of his language on the voyage.[3] Increasingly overwhelmed by European culture, Bennelong quickly became alienated from his own people after this return.

Bennelong was long troubled by the consumption of alcohol. He frequented Sydney less often and eventually died at Kissing Point (now known as Putney, in Sydney’s North West) on 3 January 1813. The area now has Bennelong Park named in his honour. He was buried on the estate of James Squire. His obituary in the Sydney Gazette was unflattering, referring to him as a thorough savage unable to be warped from that form, which presumably reflected where he had sunk to in the esteem of white society in his last years.

'''Aboriginal Australia, Colonisation and the Law'''

I use the examples discussed in the Bringing Them Home Report into the removal of Aboriginal children by the state of Australia. Indigenous children have been forcibly separated from their families and communities since the very first days of the European occupation of Australia.

Violent battles over rights to land, food and water sources characterised race relations in the nineteenth century. Throughout this conflict Indigenous children were kidnapped and exploited for their labour. Indigenous children were still being `run down' by Europeans in the northern areas of Australia in the early twentieth century.

"... the greatest advantage of young Aboriginal servants was that they came cheap and were never paid beyond the provision of variable quantities of food and clothing. As a result any European on or near the frontier, quite regardless of their own circumstances, could acquire and maintain a personal servant" (Reynolds 1990 page 169).

Governments and missionaries also targeted Indigenous children for removal from their families. Their motives were to `inculcate European values and work habits in children, who would then be employed in service to the colonial settlers' (Ramsland 1986 quoted by Mason 1993 on page 31). In 1814 Governor Macquarie funded the first school for Aboriginal children. Its novelty was an initial attraction for Indigenous families but within a few years it evoked a hostile response when it became apparent that its purpose was to distance the children from their families and communities.

Although colonial governments in the nineteenth century professed abhorrence at the brutality of expansionist European settlers, they were unwilling or unable to stop their activities. When news of the massacres and atrocities reached the British Government it appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the condition of Aboriginal people.

The government response was to reserve land for the exclusive use of Indigenous people and assign responsibility for their welfare to a Chief Protector or Protection Board. By 1911 the Northern Territory and every State except Tasmania had `protectionist legislation' giving the Chief Protector or Protection Board extensive power to control Indigenous people. In some States and in the Northern Territory the Chief Protector was made the legal guardian of all Aboriginal children, displacing the rights of parents. The management of the reserves was delegated to government appointed managers or missionaries in receipt of government subsidies. Enforcement of the protectionist legislation at the local level was the responsibility of `protectors' who were usually police officers.

The Rum Rebellion

The Rum Rebellion, also known as the Rum Puncheon Rebellion, of 1808 was the only successful armed takeover of government in Australia's recorded history. The Governor of New South Wales, William Bligh, was deposed by the New South Wales Corps under the command of Major George Johnston, working closely with John Macarthur, on 26 January 1808, 20 years to the day after Arthur Phillip founded European settlement in Australia. Afterwards, the colony was ruled by the military, with the senior military officer stationed in Sydney purporting to act as the Lieutenant-Governor of the colony until the arrival from Britain of Major-General Lachlan Macquarie as the new Governor at the beginning of 1810.

The Reverend Langhorne on Civilization (1839)
My mother's mother's mother's father's father came to Australia in the 1830s as a Christian missionary. I obviously never met him but my grandmother knew his son when she was a little girl and she spoke to me about him and his family a lot when I was growing up. He was a very devout Christian and believed that he was working to save the souls of the Aborigines and that their way of life was morally wrong. Today it seems strange or even outrageous that someone could come to such a conclusion, but the Reverend Langhorne not only believed he was doing the Lord's work, he wrote letters about it, collected funds to support it and even instilled the same beliefs in his own children. George Langhorne, his son and when he was growing up with his missionary father he learned to speak the language of the local Aboriginal people (in what is today Melbourne) and could track animals and people using Aboriginal techniques. He once tracked a man over 1000 kilometers who was wanted for murder and found him. My grandmother, who knew the younger George said he was kind to the Aborigines, giving them food and not stopping them from performing their ceremonies when they passed though the land that was actually theirs and had been for thousands of years. My grandmother spoke about lying in bed at night and hearing the singing of the Aborigines down by the nearby creek.

This is an extract from a long letter which is online written by George Langhorne senior (c1810-1897 pictured) to the Governor of the Colony of Victoria regarding what he thinks should be done about the Aboriginal people who had lived in the Prahran area of what is today Melbourne for thousands of years. The entire letter as a scan of the original documents can be seen by following this link. The following is an extract from the letter which you can read online as a typed page by following the title link in this section:

Melbourne Port Phillip

15th October 1839


In accordance with your Honor’s desire I proceed to make a few remarks relative to my late employment as Government Agent for the civilization of the Aborigines

Your Honor I believe is already acquainted with the nature of my Instructions as received from Sir Richard Bourke, it is therefore unnecessary for me to dwell upon them further than to remark that Sir Richard’s ultimate view appeared to be (had his plan in embryo at all promised success) the intermixture by marriage of the Aborigines among the lower order of our Countrymen as the only likely means of raising the former from their present degraded and benighted state. Utopian as this scheme now appears to me I must confess I was sanguine enough to contemplate in prospect the final realization of such hopes with this difference, that whilst the Governor forbid the slightest restraints to be placed upon the movements of the Natives the children not excepted, I contended that the only likely mode under God of effecting the desired object, would be to promote with some degree of compulsion if necessary, the partial migration of the Natives from one district to another so distant as to leave faint hopes of return and thus oblige them to have recourse to their white friends for protection, and render them more available, to the Missionary or Instructors, who should be placed among them.

To His Honor

C J La Trobe Esre

No 39/96
19th October 1839
Mr. Langhorn
The aborigines

“Facing the Enemy”, in WARBURTON, Peter Egerton,
Journey across the Western Interior of Australia (London, Sampson Low, Marston, Low, & Searle, 1875)

(More early Images of the Australian Aborigines)

Aboriginal Resistance

"I was over on North Keppel some five years ago, and the blacks showed me a line of bones over a hundred yards long, and told me they belonged to a tribe of blacks who were shot by a boarding party of whites many years before … an old black named ‘Jamie’ told me all about the brutality of the shooting. He mentioned about an old gin who was trying to escape carrying a cripple on her back, and how both were mercilessly shot down."
(Rockhampton Bulletin, 27 January 1903)

Time Line of Aboriginal Armed Struggle

The reality of armed struggle against the European colonisers has only relatively recently been accepted as being part of Australia's history. For many years it was taught that the indigenous peoples of Australia where not capable of organising an armed struggle against the colonisers. In the last decade or two there has been a large amount of research and public discussion around the resistance to colonisation and the violence that often accompanied it.

The Stolen Generation

The Stolen Generation (or Stolen Generations) is a term used to describe the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, usually of mixed descent who were removed from their families by Australian government agencies and church missions, under various state acts of parliament, denying the rights of parents and making all Aboriginal children wards of the state, between approximately 1869 and (officially) 1969. The policy typically involved the removal of children into internment camps, orphanages and other institutions. The Stolen Generation has received significant public attention in Australia following the publication in 1997 of Bringing Them Home - Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. Questions regarding whether the Stolen Generation actually occurred or to what scale it occurred, remain controversial topics within Australian political discourse.

The federal government of Australia, led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, made a formal apology to the Stolen Generations on February 13, 2008.

Dark Science

In 1910 a team of young Swedish scientists sailed to the far north of Australia in search of the missing link between Man and Ape. They did not find it and, in their search, they lost themselves. The expedition returned to Sweden with illegally smuggled indigenous human remains and artefacts accompanying the flora and fauna they collected. Dark Science tells the story of an expedition gone badly awry, of a megalomaniacal leader and of the men who found paradise but failed to recognise it. The remains that he took from the Kimberleys were returned to Australia in 2003 by the Swedish Government , the first repatriation of human remains by a major European Museum.
Contemporary Australian Reaction to Eric Mjöberg


Blackbirding refers to the recruitment of people through trickery and kidnappings to work on plantations, particularly the sugar cane plantations of Queensland (Australia) and Fiji.[2] The practice occurred primarily between the 1860s and 1901. Those 'blackbirded' were recruited from the indigenous populations of nearby Pacific islands or northern Queensland. In the early days of the pearling industry in Broome, local Aboriginal people were blackbirded from the surrounding areas, including aboriginal people from desert areas.

The Convicts

The convct system was brutal and severe. When the last shipment of convicts disembarked in Western Australia in 1868, the total number of transported convicts to the Australian mainland stood at around 162,000 men and women. They were transported on 806 ships. The colony of Van Diemen's Land was established in its own right in 1825 and officially became known as Tasmania in 1856. In the 50 years from 1803-1853 around 75,000 convicts were transported to Tasmania. By 1835 there were over 800 convicts working in chain-gangs at the infamous Port Arthur penal station, which operated between 1830 and 1877. Transportation to the colony of New South Wales was officially abolished on 1 October 1850, and in 1853 the order to abolish transportation to Van Diemen's Land was formally announced.

The Female Factory was the destination of all convict women transported to the colony who had not been assigned as servants. Within a decade there was considerable pressure on the authorities to deal with increasing numbers of female convicts who could not be adequately accommodated at the Factory but it was not until the arrival of Governor Lachlan Macquarie that a solution was found.

Macquarie selected a four acre site on the opposite bank of the Parramatta River from the Governor's Domain to build a new Factory and issued instructions to convict architect Francis Greenway to design a building that would accommodate 300 women.

The Factory was built using convict labour from locally quarried sandstone and was completed in 1821 at the cost of 4778 pounds. The walls of the main building ranged from 2 feet 6 inches at the foundation to 20 inches at the apex of its three storeys. It had an oak shingled roof, floors of 6 inches paving or stringbark with barred leadlight windows in the basement and lead glazed windows on the upper floors.

The first floor was used for meals with the top two floors for sleeping. The porter, deputy superintendent, superintendent and matron were provided separate accommodation on the site.

The Factory was often referred to as the Nunnery and served as a refuge, a gaol, an asylum, a home for the infirm, a labour exchange, a marriage bureau, a hospital and a manufactory.

Originally intended as a place of refuge for the women and children of the NSW colony, within a decade it became more like a conventional prison, like that of Pentonville in the UK.

The Factory was the site of Australia's first industrial action in 1827 when women rioted for better food and conditions. It was also the site of the colony's first manufactured export producing 60,000 yards of woven cloth in 1822.

By 1842 the Factory accommodated 1,203 women in the most deplorable conditions, riots occurred frequently and reforms were called for which resulted in the cessation of solitary confinement and alterations to the main building.

" Hunger is our sauce; we grind in a hand mill, we bake
in the ashes, and live in miserable huts,which admit both
wind and rain.

A sheet of bark and a bundle of straw is our bed,and a
blanket our covering: but fatigue is ours, and we sleep
as if on beds of down.

The slightest offence provokes flogging; insolence is
the grand bugbear in this colony. A man calls himself a
settler, first imposes upon his slaves,goads them on to
speak and then drags them before a magistrate to be lashed
and tortured for insolence.It is useless to murmer, for
complaint is crime in this dreadful country.

A Master,up the country, is a petty King, and the spirit
with which he exercises his power is truly diabolical.If
his slave speaks, the wretch's stomach is tormented. We
all feel a twofold degradation here; we feel that we are
slaves to paltry tyrants, who seem as if they where born
to add to the stings and tortures of a wretched criminal." Female Convict (1838)


The exploration of Australia by Europeans went on into the 20th century. The explorers of Australia are household names even today and are taught to every school child. Here are some of the most famous:

Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth

From the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, settlement had been confined to the coastal strip around Sydney, because no way could be found across the Blue Mountains to the west. In 1813, following several attempts by others, Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth found a passage to the western plains by following the top of a ridge. It was a difficult journey, often through thick scrub and steep country, and sometimes it was difficult to find grass for the horses to eat.

Blaxland described the start of the journey:

"On Tuesday, May 11, 1813, Mr. Gregory Blaxland, Mr. William Went worth, and Lieutenant Lawson, attended by four servants, with five dogs, and four horses laden with provisions, ammunition, and other necessaries, left Mr. Blaxland's farm at the South Creek near the present town of St Marys, for the purpose of endeavouring to effect a passage over the Blue Mountains, between the Western River, and the River Grose. They crossed the Nepean, or Hawkesbury River, at the ford, on to Emu Island this sand island disappeared some time later, at four o'clock p.m., and having proceeded, according to their calculation, two miles in a south-west direction, through forest land and good pasture, encamped at five o'clock at the foot of the first ridge. The distance travelled on this and on the subsequent days was computed by time, the rate being estimated at about two miles per hour."

Towards the end of their journey, Blaxland had this to say:
"The party encamped by the side of a fine stream of water, at a short distance from a high hill, in the shape of a sugar-loaf. In the afternoon they ascended its summit, from whence they descried all around, forest or grass land, sufficient in extent in their opinion, to support the stock of the colony for the next thirty years. This was the extreme point of their journey. The distance they had travelled they computed at about fifty-eight miles nearly north-west; that is, fifty miles through the mountain, (the greater part of which they had walked over three times,) and eight miles through the forest land beyond it, reckoning the descent of the mountain to be half-a mile to the foot."

The Burke and Wills Expedition

When John McDouall Stuart and Charles Todd arrived separately in Adelaide in 1839 and 1855 respectively, the British Empire was at its zenith, and young men were flocking to the colonies in search of adventure, fame and fortune. The mother country was six months by sea, and Australia it seemed was six months behind in news and fashion, scientific breakthroughs and new technologies.
Todd, a mathematical talent, took up the position of Government Astronomer. But his fascination for the telegraph soon led him to link a wire from Adelaide to Port Adelaide, cutting information travel time from one day to one minute.
Stuart was an adventurer. At first he worked for wealthy pastoralists, exploring the outback looking for gold, copper, and grasslands. But as he perfected the art of travelling light with few men or provisions, his usefulness took on a more important dimension. He became known as the man who would go where other surveyors could not.
Todd came to see that Stuart was the man who could make the hazardous journey to Australia’s northern most shore, and map the route of a telegraph line that would transform the whole country. It was paramount to Todd and his supporters that Adelaide should be the first Australian city to connect to London.
At the time, most people imagined a vast inland sea separated Australia’s east and west coastlines. There was enormous public and media speculation about whether the Victorian backed Burke and Wills or South Australia’s Stuart expedition would be the first to cross the continent’s interior.
Burke and Wills perished, but Stuart survived, partly because he adapted himself to the arid Australian landscape and was able to read signs of water. He realised that he could follow the techniques used by Aboriginal people who had survived in this harsh land for many thousands of years. Inevitably there was conflict as he crossed (unannounced) tribal lands. In describing one battle he wrote in his journal of the warriors he fought; “They are the finest natives I have yet seen. Tall, powerful and muscular men. Bold, daring and courageous. Not at all afraid of either us or our horses.”

The image of the explorers and the ways they describe the country and its inhabitants should always be considered in the contexts from which they come.


The Proposition

The Proposition is a movie directed by John Hillcoat and written by Nick Cave. It stars Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, John Hurt and Danny Huston. The film's production completed in 2004, and was followed by a wide 2005 release in Australia and a 2006 theatrical run in the U.S. through First Look Pictures. The movie was Rated R by the MPAA for strong grisly violence and for language.

Set in the Australian Outback in the 1880s, the movie follows the series of events following the horrific rape and murder of the Hopkins family, allegedly committed by the infamous Burns brothers gang. The film opens with a violent gunfight between the police and Charlie Burns's (Guy Pearce) gang, which ends with the deaths of all of the gang except for Charlie and his younger, mentally slow brother, Mikey (Richard Wilson), who is wounded. Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) offers Charlie a proposition whereby he and Mikey can go free of the crimes they have committed if Charlie kills his older brother, Arthur (Danny Huston). Arthur is a mercurial psychopath who has become something of a legend and is so vicious that the aboriginal tribes refer to him as "The Dog Man" and both the police and the aboriginals refuse to go near his camp. Captain Stanley muses that, perhaps, the bounty hunters will kill him in time and then states his intention to civilize the harsh wilderness he has been forced to live in by bringing Arthur to justice and uses Mikey as leverage. Charlie has nine days to find and kill Arthur, or else Mikey will be hanged from the gallows on Christmas Day.

Southern Africa

''The Scramble for Africa''

It is important to remember that the countries of India, South Africa and Australia did not exist prior to colonisation. Each was created as a nation through the colonisation process. South Africa was part of the Southern African possessions of Britain which included what is now Zimbabwe, Botswana and Uganda.

When war broke out in Europe in 1803, Napoleon tried to stop British trade with Europe. Britain had lost its American colonies with their valuable trading opportunities and was forced to look elsewhere to find new markets for trade. The logical choice was the East. This meant trading by sea and the Cape was the ideal place for ships to obtain fresh water and produce. This prompted the second occupation of the Cape of Good Hope by Britain, in January 1806.

In 1875 the two most important European holdings in Africa were French-controlled Algeria and the United Kingdom's Cape Colony. By 1914 only Ethiopia and the republic of Liberia remained outside formal European control. The transition from an "informal empire" of control through economic dominance to direct control took the form of a "scramble" for territory by the nations of Europe. The United Kingdom tried not to play a part in this early scramble, being more of a trading empire rather than a colonial empire; however, it soon became clear it had to gain its own African empire to maintain the balance of power.

As French, Belgian and Portuguese activity in the lower Congo River region threatened to undermine orderly penetration of tropical Africa, the Berlin Conference of 1884–85 sought to regulate the competition between the powers by defining "effective occupation" as the criterion for international recognition of territorial claims, a formulation which necessitated routine recourse to armed force against indigenous states and peoples.

European claims in Africa, 1914

The Congress of Berlin

The Berlin Conference (German: Kongokonferenz or "Congo Conference") of 1884–85 regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period, and coincided with Germany's sudden emergence as an imperial power. Called for by Portugal and organized by Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor of Germany, its outcome, the General Act of the Berlin Conference, is often seen as the formalization of the Scramble for Africa.

The Cape Colony

The Cape Colony, part of modern South Africa, was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, with the founding of Cape Town. It was subsequently occupied in 1795, and finally taken in 1806, by the British - the period immediately before and during the Napoleonic Wars. It was coextensive with the later Cape Province, stretching from the Atlantic coast inland and eastward along the southern coast, constituting about half of modern South Africa: the final eastern boundary, after several wars against the Xhosa, stood at the Fish River. In the north, the Orange River, also known as the Gariep River, served for a long time as the boundary, although some land between the river and the southern boundary of Botswana was later added to it.

In 1902 the United Kingdom completed its military occupation of the Transvaal and Free State by concluding a treaty with the two Boer Republics following the Second Boer War 1899-1902. The four colonies of Natal, Transvaal, Free State and Cape Province later merged in 1910 to form the Union of South Africa.

British gains in southern and East Africa prompted Cecil Rhodes, pioneer of British expansion from South Africa northward, to urge a "Cape-to-Cairo" British controlled empire linking by rail the strategically important Suez Canal to the mineral-rich South. In 1888 Rhodes with his privately owned British South Africa Company occupied and annexed territories which were called after him: Rhodesia between 1896 and 1980, when it became independent under the name Zimbabwe. Together with British High Commissioner in South Africa between 1897-1905, Alfred Milner, Rhodes pressured the British government for further expansion into Africa. German occupied territories in East Africa would hamper Rhodes’ Cape-to-Cairo-ambition until the end of World War I. In 1903, the All Red Line telegraph system communicated with the major parts of the Empire.

Paradoxically, the United Kingdom, the staunch advocate of free trade, emerged in 1914 with not only the largest overseas empire thanks to its long-standing presence in India, but also the greatest gains in the "scramble for Africa", reflecting its advantageous position at its inception. Between 1885 and 1914 the United Kingdom took nearly 30% of Africa's population under its control, compared to 15% for France, 9% for Germany, 7% for Belgium and 1% for Italy: Nigeria alone contributed fifteen million subjects, more than in the whole of French West Africa or the entire German colonial empire

Cecil Rhodes of the British South Africa Company

The British South Africa Company (BSAC)

The British South Africa Company was established by Cecil Rhodes through the amalgamation of the Central Search Association and the Exploring Company Ltd., receiving a royal charter in 1889. Modelling the BSAC on the British East India Company, Rhodes hoped it would enable colonisation and economic exploitation across much of south-central Africa, as part of the "Scramble for Africa". The company's directors included the Duke of Abercorn, Rhodes himself and the financier Alfred Beit.

British Colonialism in Southern Africa

The British attempted to alleviate the land problems of Boers in the eastern Cape by sending imperial armies against the Xhosa of the Zuurveld (literally, "sour grassland," the southernmost area of Bantu-speaking settlement, located between the Sundays River and the Great Fish River). They attacked the Xhosa from 1799 to 1803, from 1811 to 1812, and again from 1818 to 1819, when at last, through ruthless warfare, they succeeded in expelling the Africans into the area north of the Great Fish River. Thereafter, the British sought to create a fixed frontier by settling 5,000 British-assisted immigrants on smallholder farms created out of land seized from the Xhosa south of the Great Fish River and by clearing all lands between the Great Fish River and the Keiskama River of all forms of African settlement.

"Open Letter to Blackpool."

As mentioned at the opening of this lecture, it should be remembered that not all Europeans supported colonisation and many were strongly aginst the subjecgation of colonised populations. An example of this comes from anArticle by Clements Kadalie, in The New Leader, September 30,1927:

"Most Europeans have some knowledge of the opening up of the "Dark Continent" by the white races, from the commencement of the Slave Trade and the invasion of the Continent by missionaries and white settlers, through the successive stages of colonisation and industrialisation, until 1909, when the separate Colonies of South Africa were grouped into a self-governing unit. After 1909, most British people, except those directly connected with any of the vast profit-making mining or industrial concerns of the country, have ceased to be particularly interested in events in South Africa. The whole fate of the country, and of her millions of people of subject races, has been left to a small minority of white men, whose immediate interests have been diametrically opposed to the welfare of the vast mass of the population." Clements Kadalie, 1927.

Colonial Subjects as Objects

Saartjie "Sarah" Baartman (1789 – December 29, 1815) was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as sideshow attractions in 19th century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus—"Hottentot" as the then-current name for the Khoi people (this is now considered an offensive term), and "Venus" in reference to the many works of art depicting the female form.

Her exhibition in London, scant years after the passing of the Slave Trade Act 1807, created a scandal, and an abolitionist benevolent society (equivalent to a charity or pressure group) called the African Association petitioned for her release. Baartman was questioned before a court in Dutch, in which she was fluent, and stated that she was not under restraint and understood perfectly that she was guaranteed half of the profits. The conditions under which she made these statements are suspect, because it directly contradicts accounts of her exhibits made by Zachary Macaulay of the African Institution and other eyewitnesses.

She died December 29, 1815 of an inflammatory ailment, possibly smallpox, while other sources suggest she contracted pneumonia. An autopsy was conducted and the findings published by French anatomist Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville in 1816 and by Cuvier in the Memoires du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in 1817. Cuvier notes in his monograph that Baartman was an intelligent woman who had an excellent memory and spoke Dutch fluently. Her skeleton, preserved genitals and brain were placed on display in Paris's Musée de l'Homme until 1974, when they were removed from public view and stored out of sight.

There were sporadic calls for the return of her remains beginning in the 1940s but the case became prominent only after U.S. biologist Stephen Jay Gould published an account, The Hottentot Venus, in the 1980s. When Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa in 1994, he formally requested that France return the remains. After much legal wrangling and debates in the French National Assembly, France acceded to the request on 6 March 2002.

Mara Verna's interactive audio and video piece including a bibliography on Saartjie "Sarah" Baartman.

South Africa government site about Saartjie, including Diana Ferrus's pivotal poem

The display of colonial subjects, Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Indian tribal peoples was fairly common. Often it was their bodily remains; skin, hair, bones, teeth, genitals, and even preserved corpses that where put on display around European cities. Other examples include the last of the Australian tribal Tasmanians Truganini, whose life reads like a tragic study in human suffering. Truganini's hair, skin, skeleton and jewelry were kept in museums and her skeleton was displayed until 1976. Bennelong, the Australian Aboriginal man mentioned above was also 'shown' in London for a time, as a curiosity for the royal court and high society.

Resistance in Southern Africa

An interesting factor to the resitance to colonisation in Southern Africa was that it did not just come from the indigenous African peoples (the example I give here is from the Zulus but there were others) but there was also resistance to British colonisation from the Boer descendants of Dutch settlers to the Cape from a previous wave of colonisation which the British displaced.

Zulu War

When I was at High School in Australia in the 1980s the last day of school before the summer holidays (in November) was an 'out of uniform' day where we could come to school in our own clothes. We spent the day playing sport in the morning and then in the afternoon we were shown a film in the assembly hall of the school. The film that was shown was usually a morally upright one with earnest men struggling against some force that was often greater than them, but which they always overcame (often Japanese, German or African). A favorite was the war film and one that was shown more than one summer was Zulu (1964). Now that I think back to it, we were quite the little sons of empire there in the swealtering heat of early summer watching the fatal attack on Rorkes Drift (the site of a Swedish run Christian mission station) and its defence led by Micheal Caine.

"On the January 22nd 1879 the British Army suffered one of its worst defeats when Zulu forces massacred 1,500 of its troops at Isandlhwana. A short time after the main battle a Zulu force numbering in excess of 4000 warriors advanced on a British hospital and supply dump guarded by 139 Welsh infantrymen. The film concentrates on this bloody 12 hour battle during which the British force, under their commander from the Royal Engineers who happened to be in the area building a bridge and happened to be senior to the infantry officer, won 11 Victoria Crosses. While taking some liberties with history the film follows reality fairly closely, including matching exactly the identities of the VC winners."

"Defense of Rorke's Drift" by Alphonse de Neuville. Painted in 1880, commissioned by the Fine Art Society and now located at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Australia.

ZULUS AT WAR-1879 AD After diamonds were discovered at Kimberley and gold in the Transvaal, British colonization stepped up. Charged with stopping Zulu attacks, 5000 British soldiers invaded Zululand, setting camp at Isandalwana, where more than 1300 British soldiers died.


The Second Boer War

Commonly referred to as The Boer War and also known as the South African War (outside of South Africa), the Anglo-Boer War (among most South Africans) and in Afrikaans as the Anglo-Boereoorlog or Tweede Vryheidsoorlog ("Second War of Independence"), was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902, between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic). After a protracted, hard-fought war, the two independent republics were absorbed into the British Empire. The Boer War can be described as the first modern war, featuring guerilla tactics and what are today recognised as war crimes; ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, killing of civilians and mobile artillery.

The campaign had been expected by the British government to be over within months, and the protracted war became increasingly unpopular especially after revelations about the conditions in the concentration camps (where thousands died of disease and malnutrition). The demand for peace led to a settlement of hostilities, and in 1902, the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed. The two republics were absorbed into the British Empire, although the British were forced to make a number of concessions and reparations to the Boers. The granting of limited autonomy for the area ultimately lead to the establishment of the Union of South Africa. The war had a lasting effect on the region and on British domestic politics. The war, known as the last British imperial war, was the longest (almost three years), the most expensive (over £200 million), and the most disastrous of all wars for Britain between 1815 and 1914. Over 30 000 soldiers from the British colonies, including Australia and India fought for the British in the Boer War.


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