Back to: "These Aren't the Worlds You're Looking For" | Forward to: Wicked (1)

It's people!

Yes, it's made out of people, but I don't mean the food - I mean the society in which any SF novel takes place. (I could've quoted Margaret Thatcher instead, about there being no such thing as society, but only to negate her sentiment.) It's something like the Gestalt notion of perception, of seeing a foreground object only against its background, content in its context - characters in their culture.

Of course a novel's scientific extrapolation, whether wild or logically reasoned, may already drive the fictional culture in a particular direction. Even so, you want something twisty and interesting, rather than straightforward. For me, much of the background is a natural part of the tapestry - in other words, as flashes of scenes come to me, the people's interactions are driven by how they are related. Those relationship types might be peculiar to the context: officer/private, master/slave.

I'm not really a political writer, I don't think, but my most overtly political world-building belongs to my books set furthest in the future (a 35th-century colony world, isolated for 1200 years) and those set closest to the present day - somewhere between 10 and 30 years from now.

Resonance with Karl's previous post may occur from time to time...

The far-future world was the one with oracles, whom I chose to depict as tools of the political powers that be, rather than the wielders of power. An aristocracy seemed the natural setting, and the protagonist's story would be one of rising from a humble background (while having one arm cut off for lawbreaking on the way), through servitude among aristocrats, to power of his own. I mention the story because I can't discuss the culture without it: it's the Gestalt thing again.

(Useful background: all habitation is deep below ground, with twenty or more levels - strata - while as a generalization, the higher classes live higher up.)

There's a long-established brainstorming technique for SF/F writers in particular: if you know the culture but not the protagonist, ask yourself, who's hurting? Rags-to-riches is a fine story line... but rather too simple for me, so that's only part of it.

A whole raft of complications came to me fast - I mean, twisty in ways I found interesting. Here's a quick, partial list:

  • the world would have c.100 spoken languages, therefore different regional cultures, including modes of government

  • there would be a revolutionary movement in the region where the story takes place

  • the revolution would be led by flawed human beings with incomplete plans

  • some aristocrats would be tyrannical, while others would be as enlightened as their upbringing allowed them to be

More generally, my determination was that no facet of the culture would be simple. If I were feeling bitchy, I might add: in total contrast to Star Trek. (Oops.)

Story-telling is personal. Something has to press my buttons, or where's the emotion going to come from? The answer doesn't have to lie in the ambient culture, but this time it did...

So here's a scattergun blast of related observations, which are somewhat autobiographical. That doesn't make the book's concerns automatically important to others - but it explains why there's emotion driving the extrapolation. A novel is not a cold intellectual exercise; it's about people.

People say you should write what you know; I think you should write what you care about.

And that includes the characters, or it shouldn't be a novel... But why an aristocracy? Do we live in one? Do I really think such cultures will arise in the future? Before I go on, I might add something here...

  1. I don't do utopias.

  2. I don't do dystopias, either.

Anyway, an easy answer is that I wasn't attacking (or defending) a specific political agenda, and that an hereditary aristocracy serves as an allegory for any elitist power structure. In that sense, aristocracies are likely to be a recurring feature of future cultures. (In a future isolated world, I do think that true aristocracies are more probable than most of us would like. Certainly not inevitable, though.)

But let's get personal. Like Charlie, I'm a second-generation British immigrant. I'm older than he is, plus I lived in a county that was late changing to the comprehensive school system, which I meant I experienced the Eleven Plus exam, separating 11-year-old kids into two different sets of schools based on (essentially, theoretically) IQ tests.

Most of my fellow pupils in grammar school (to non-Brits: high schools for the ones who passed the exams), and particularly in the "alpha stream", came from rather more middle-class backgrounds than I did. Nothing there to incense me, you understand - just enough to pick up on, so that when I started meeting Etonians and the like, the differences became obvious.

And, see, most of my literary influences since childhood have been American, but none of those writers grew up in a true class system. Old Money doesn't cut it. Here are two specific hints: you can't become an aristocrat through earning wealth (sorry, Mr Trump!); accents have a three-dimensional component almost impossible to disguise (north-south, east-west, pleb-aristo).

I might add, anyone who thinks what's-his-face in Mary Poppins sounded Cockney needs to take my word for it... this is an alien world right here.

I mention my age partly because (of course) the class system has been in decline since WWII, but my school years were the 1960s/early 70s... when there were still people muttering about the "servant problem" (cf. early John le Carré novels).

And I remember a TV interview with Lady Somebody-or-other who was trying to define what upper class was, while successfully defining what it wasn't, including this sneering gem: "No, it's not education. A-levels? Why, even the postman's son has A-levels."

Did I mention my dad was a postman? When I'm writing, I use Dad's old wooden toolbox as a footrest. It keeps me grounded.

As I said, it's personal. None of these details have any importance to the reader, but each is a coal-lump in the emotional furnace that makes the story work. (How about that for a dated metaphor?)

I've also written more than intended on this one culture, so I'll leave the near-future stuff for another post. That has a very specific transatlantic dimension, my (now-realized) expectation being that American and British readers would experience the books differently. [Apologies to everyone else in the rest of the world. I know you exist, honest!]

There was something transatlantic in the background of the far-future thing, however, that I was aware of and would like to throw into the public arena. I viewed the 1970s IRA bombing campaign with the same disgust and horror as most English folk; but I had a more nuanced view of why it was occurring in the first place, such as the quasi-apartheid system that obtained in Belfast. (Hint: factories and offices would have prominent signs reading: No Catholics Employed.)

I've compared notes with other second-generation immigrants my age, and we agreed: we learned two versions of Irish history - one at school, one at home. It would have been interesting to find out what was being taught in US schools on the subject.

Recently I read that many of the Americans who contributed to the Irish republican cause - the collections in Boston/Chicago/NY bars kind of thing - actually believed that the whole of Ireland was still under British rule. I'd like to think it's not true.

So years later, when President Bush said he was going to hunt down terrorists and the people who funded them, who did he mean, exactly?

[Touchy subject, handle with care... After the 7/7 London bombings, I heard of more than one transatlantic conversation in which the US side went: "Now you know how we feel." The remarks were not meant to be offensive. However, the English parties were thinking about supermarkets and train stations being blown up in the 1970s. That's how hard it is to discuss such emotional issues even among friends and allies.]

Of course it's a truism - one-man's-terrorist etc. - but that doesn't stop it being valid. Plus, by chance, I've been within minutes of three bomb explosions in my life, in three different countries, so it's less of an abstraction that way...

For a writer creating a fictional culture in conflict, the important things - I'm hypothesizing - are that everyone in a conflict (of any kind) has historic motivations that justify their actions to themselves; there are always more than two sides in any conflict; nothing turns out the way any party expects... and so on. We're making it up, so let's make it complex enough to be interesting, and in a way that rings true.

Let me add that it's not all personal - there is actual logic involved in world-building also. One thing was, my reading had led me to believe that historically, revolutions often occur when there's been an easing of tyranny - either because it offers a glimpse of liberty, or because people are either too frightened or too dispirited to rebel when completely under the thumb. I also had a graph showing this world's population throughout the 12 centuries of human habitation, with a reasonably detailed model of food distribution and the like.

Oh, and one last thing. One of the things people have commented favourably on (even more than the one-armed protagonist) is the sympathetic gay characters, particularly our hero Tom's best friend. That arose from the needs of the story itself. For a large chunk of the book, Tom is essentially a slave among nobility, his actions constrained. I needed his aristocratic friend to have a corresponding weakness, and that suited him (as I'd visualized him): to be gay in a culture where it is verboten. (Not in the whole world, mind you - just certain strata of certain regions.)

So let's finish with questions again:

  1. Does Britain still have a true class system?

  2. Can English-language writers of other countries realistically portray such systems, either in SF or in fantasy?

  3. What other (real) conflicts are subject to such wildly different perceptions as the US/UK examples above? Are there fictional counterparts that are equally complex that spring to mind? (Please play very nice.)

P.S. I wrote the book in question during 1998-99, and most of the current geopolitical situation was right off my radar. No political prophet, me.

P.P.S. If you don't get the allusion in the title, it might be an age thing...



John, I think that if you're actually able to ask Question #1 with a straight face, then the answer must be yes.

The only place in North American where I've really experienced a class system in the sense you're talking about was in old-money Boston. Most of the time, I'm insulated from it (admittedly, partly because, being anglo, white and male, I am already part of the historical ruling class).


Some SF luminary one said (something like) "science fiction is about human reactions and responses to changes in science and technology", observing that it's perfectly possible to write stone-age SF.

(I forget who it was. Anybody?)


(FYI to anyone who moderates these comments: I'm the same person as the "Aaron" who occasionally turns up here to spew profanity and bring down the tone of the place, and who managed to earn himself a yellow card a few months back in the thread arguing the Fukushima debacle. I don't know whether or when such warnings expire, but if it's still in effect, then you'll likely want to transfer it from that identity to this one, under which I'll be commenting hereafter.)

Karl Schroeder, I'm white and male but not Anglo, and I was born and raised in Mississippi. Believe me when I say that the United States does have a class system, even if it's not acknowledged or given the benefit of official sanction.

And, being that I am from Mississippi, I have an easy off-hand answer for your Question #3: why, the Civil War, of course! Granted that many Southerners these days have no particular interest in history, even their own; granted that, of those who do, most have been so thoroughly taught the Northern perspective on those events that they aren't even aware there is any other perspective -- which, if we accept the axiom that the winners write the history books, is quite true. But so-called "Lost Cause" literature, particularly that of Admiral Semmes, can nonetheless be illuminating, and you don't need to be a Confederate revanchist to recognize that there truly were two sides, two political philosophies and two sets of common interests, at work in the causes of that conflict, and that the South's "peculiar institution" had much, much less to do with any of them than is commonly believed -- and commonly promulgated by the victors' descendants -- today.

If you're interested in the Confederate perspective on the Civil War and its causes, you could do much worse than to read Memoirs of Service Afloat, During the War Between the States, by Raphael Semmes, Esquire, late Admiral of the Confederate States Navy. If you're not interested in the details of his cruise in command of CSS Sumter, you needn't continue past the first dozen or so chapters, in which he provides a succinct and thorough description of the events leading up to the war, from a perspective which does a great deal to complicate the supposedly truthful official line promulgated today.

And if you don't think that's a valuable thing, consider your own declaration, in the post above, anent world-building -- "no facet of the culture would be simple". Presumably (and judging especially by your side-snark at Star Trek with which I fervently agree) you find complexity in world-building a necessity because, in order to produce a credible world for your readers, your efforts must reflect the complexity apparent in the real world, by which all fiction is inspired. This being the case, are you really sure you wish to place all your faith in the exceedingly simple official line with regard to the Confederacy and the Civil War?


(Addendum: Those interested in Memoirs of Service Afloat can obtain it, in either scans of the original or a lovely HTML/EPUB edition with illustrations intact, from the Gutenberg Project's collection, here.)


Aaron, yellow cards are usually specific to a single thread, but I'll make an exception for attempts to defend the Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion. Drop the topic now. Or else.

(My take on such attempts is about the same as my take on memoires of Wehrmacht soldiers on the eastern front in 1936-45: apologetics for atrocities.)


1) probably 2) Indians certainly could 3)I would say 1st world / 3rd world qualfies


Aaron is correct that the American Civil War was far less black and white then we are currently taught.

Charlie, Americans do not think of the Civil War in ANYTHING like the same way we think of Nazi's in WWII, that applies both north and south. The reasons for this are very interesting in and of themselves

Slavery was a great evil, however many of the confederates that fought for the south were not big fans of slavery. The civil war was at least initially not fought over slavery from the north's perspective but over states rights vs federal rights. Slavery was always in the background though.

I think one of the big takeaways I get from the civil war is when you are in the middle of a cultural conflict, when you were raised and seeped in a cultural identity, you can build up blinders to the things that immensely obviously wrong about your culture. They are not immensely obviously wrong to you, which is how you get fundamentally good, honorable people like Robert E Lee fighting for the wrong side.

It's an immensely interesting conflict for a number of reasons. It's also very relevant to this thread, I cannot off the top of my head think of another conflict between industrial cultures that had such explicit themes about the preservation of cultural identity at all costs

I recommend Shelby Foote's, The Civil War a Narrative


You could even make an argument that if there is something seriously rotten at the core of your culture, that one way of dealing with it is to, at least outwardly, go massive opposite extremes everywhere else.

Would explain why slave owning cultures like the American South, the Spartans, and even the British Imperialists had such an obsession with honor, chivalry, etc. "How could slavery be wrong if they people that practice it are such paragons of virtue?" Overcompensation at it's finest


Would explain why slave owning cultures like the American South, the Spartans, and even the British Imperialists

BZZZT: The British abolished slavery quite a long time before the US got around to it. In fact, England was the cradle of the anti-slavery movement.

Yellow card! Cause: trying to spread the blame around. (This is a pretty common tactic used by holocaust deniers as well: "the Nazis wouldn't have been as awful if they weren't fighting an implacable enemy without and a fifth column within", or words to that effect. Reprehensible lies, and the pattern has a familiar reek.)


British abolished slavery in 1812 and it was never very widespread in the British Islands. The anti-slavery movement was one of the pinnacle achievements of the British Empire, Britiain probably killed off slavery a good fifty years before it would have died on it's own. The British Navy hunted slavers mercilessly, and anti-slavery lobby was one of the primary reasons why Britain did not come in on the side of he South.

However, the British did not have their hands clean in the centuries prior by any means.

Slavery is really interesting because to modern people like us, it's so obviously an abomination, and yet so man many cultures practiced it throughout history. most of the figures in the old testament for starters....


Okay, the American Civil War qualifies for John's question. We get that.

Now please stop trying to prove your interpretation of one aspect or another of it. I agree it's an interesting, and even necessary, discussion, but NOT HERE, please. (That includes discussions of slavery in other cultures, under Charlie's "spreading the blame" comment.)


"We learned two versions of Irish history - one at school, one at home. It would have been interesting to find out what was being taught in US schools on the subject."

Irish history in southern California schools in the 80s (my personal experience) was close to zero. There were a couple bits about Irish immigration during the Famine, some mentions of "no Irish need apply" bigotry later on.

There was and something like a sentence or two on the Anglo-Irish War (that's what our history book called the 1916-1922 war in Ireland/UK). No American high school class made it much past Rosa Parks and the beginnings of the US civil rights era as far as I can tell from talking to my friends, and there wasn't anything about the issues in Northern Ireland in the 60s/70s.

And thank you, Charlie, for the note and the name of the American civil war.

Brief aside - I think it's interesting in a tragic sort of way that everyone has different names for wars. In Irish, the [Irish] Civil War is called Cogadh na gCairde - "War of the Friends". Saddest name I can think of.


Well, let's be honest -- schools in the LA area (where I grew up, in the 70's and early 80's) didn't teach much about any history. Watered down American history, some fuzzy international history. Learned quite a bit about the Spanish settlements (this was in San Fernando Valley, after all), but even that was watered down.


I think for science fiction, I would look at the British Empire. That period is full of cultural conflicts and wildly different world views, but in addition you get the effects of a massively more technologically advanced civilization impinging on other cultures with varying degrees of technological disadvantages.

British India, South African republics, Rhodesia, all fascinating stuff, very applicable to science fiction. Also, has not been done to death like imperial Rome of greece...


1) probably yes

2) depends where they come from, there are probably plenty of regions where class is still highly important (regionalism can perhaps be substituted), but I think it is something you need to have experienced to be able to describe properly.

3)Most independence wars will lead to these asymmetric descriptions. As will a lot of colonial history.

In fiction there are not many things that come to mind right now. Tolkien seems to have some in the relations between Rohirrim and Dunleddings (1} of course a footnote 2} essentially again an colonial equivalent) I think similar conflicts are present in other 'epic' fantasy series (Jordan, Martin, Erikson). But I am drawing a blank at anyone using it as a central theme.


Neal Stephenson uses it as a central theme in a number of his books. Baroque Cycle especially, Diamond Age, most of his books really


On 1- yes, 2, probably, 3) probably. Maybe the crusades? How about WW1?

There is still a class system in Britain, but the aristocrats have adapted rather well to the need for money and have taken care to colonise the areas which have it. At the same time the penetration of capitalism, spearheaded by Thatcher and her bastard offspring of Major, Blair and Brown have ensured that the UK's class system is bound ever more closely with global capitalism and money and associated power are the thing to have.

On Northern Ireland, I understand that whilst there were signs saying no Catholics here, there were plenty of businesses and councils where the majority of people employed were catholic. It was a cold war of separation, with separate schools, separate workplaces, separate everything.


"I might add, anyone who thinks what's-his-face in Mary Poppins sounded Cockney needs to take my word for it... this is an alien world right here."

Har. Even in America we know that was a terrible accent.

"Recently I read that many of the Americans who contributed to the Irish republican cause - the collections in Boston/Chicago/NY bars kind of thing - actually believed that the whole of Ireland was still under British rule. I'd like to think it's not true."

Unfortunately I'm willing to bet that it is.

"P.P.S. If you don't get the allusion in the title, it might be an age thing..."

It might not be common knowledge among my age group, but I'm willing to bet the self-selecting audience of an SF author's blog is familiar with it. I knew what Soylent Green was years before I ever saw the movie.


Mr. Stross's house; Mr. Stross's rules. I won't do that again here.


Ditto on the state of California education. I had the same schooling that Sean did. Let's be honest here: in California, they don't even really teach what the missions and the Americans did to the California Indians. Ever heard of an Indian leader named Estanislao? He gave his name to Stanislaus County in California. I hadn't either until someone gave me a book about him.

Actually, unless one reads Mike Davis (City of Quartz, Under the Perfect Sun), it's difficult to get a history of southern California when you grow up or live here.

So anyway, I didn't find out about Irish/Anglo history until I was quite a bit older. Sorry.


Does Britain still have a true class system?

It did when I left for the US in the late 1980's. There comes a point when a class "above" you rubs your nose in it once too often.

Having said that, I think Brits trap themselves in the class structure. One become very sensitive to the nuances and one's actions are molded accordingly. Spend time away from it, and the conditioning largely goes away.

Class systems require some insularity to be maintained, so I expect that increasing globalism is wearing away at it steadily.


I find it fascinating that baboons operate on a hybrid system, with a meritocracy for the males and an aristocracy for the females.

Q1: I'm a Mairkin, and incapable of fully understanding the distinction you're making. However, the UK still has some hereditary seats in the House of Lords, right?

Q2: This is a question that might best be answered experimentally. I think that SF writers have the best chance of getting it right, though social immobility would have to be a major feature of the setting and the plot.

Q3: The US is currently embroiled in a set of conflicts over issues that are perceived in wildly different ways. The folks on the opposite side from me are, of course, horribly brainwashed, blindered, and possibly insane[sic].

I'm quite sure that you would find wildly different perceptions regarding the origin and nature of recent conflicts in Sudan, Rwanda, Colombia or Zaire. However, I'm sure you're looking for deeper and less typical differences.


I don't think you could find a complex, industrial society that does not have a class system. Many nations have dispensed with hereditary aristocracy, and few went so far as to create formal castes, but mere class systems are easy. Hell, start with wealth disparity and cycle that through several generations...

For a situation that satisfies "conflicts with different perceptions" have a look at any civil war. Distinguishing the rhetoric from mere propaganda is tough, telling real villainy apart from cultural relativism is harder (I doubt that anyone gets out of bed thinking "How can I torment this thing that is not a man today?") Speaking of civil wars, and noting James Moores translation (back at #12), have a think about the results on the survivors. Are any of them going to think clearly about the topic ever again? So who negotiates any kind of settlement? What stories will they pass on to their children?

  • I don't know about the UK, but I know the USA does - in both minority and majority cultures. There are blue blood families, and while 'class' is more mobile or dynamic of a concept here it is still present - the difference between a first or second generation 'fortune amassing' person and a fifth or seventh generation silver spooner. If you look at the Native American cultures, some had and have clearly defined classes - and others have nearly none. The Southwestern USA's Hispanic/Spanish population still has its share of 'noble' families, and there are some clear memories of who was and wasn't important a few hundred years ago when it was all New Spain.

  • The 'glass walls' of a class system are hard for writers to make visible, in the same way the same glass walls of modern American racism (See, we live on the same street as [minority], and I talk to some socially, it's totally not racist here now!) but it's only difficult, not impossible. For example, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels showed double glass walls - class/caste system and gender-system. I haven't lived long-term anywhere outside of the USA, so my personal experience with the British 'true class system' is limited to seeing it second order in ex-colonies (US, Canada, Belize/British Honduras, Bahamas) where it lingers in a locally adapted form.

  • Conflict-wise, I was raised in an area with interesting historical allegiances, New Mexico. For the USA, highly varied - likely less so compared to the historical track of many conflict areas in the rest of the world. So, lets see: A. Pueblo Revolt(s) by local Native Americans v. Spaniards after an initial conquering. To the Pueblo people, Spanish Revolts. History class at school taught us it was a bad idea on both sides and everyone was really sorry about it later. People from the Pueblos still have biter recriminations about their treatment by the Spaniards, and depending on the Pueblo their rule by Catholic priests. Many of those deeply involved in slaughter, mass murder, and warfare against civilians [ on all sides including the US - looking at you, Kit Carson, whose name still makes some Pueblo elders spit ] still have streets, squares, geography, and landmarks in their name.

  • B. Conquistadors/Spanish-American war/Mexican War for Independence/etc: Growing up in northern New Mexico oral and written Hispanic culture emphasizes heavily on the Spanish angle, many land grants from Mexican authority (after the Mexican War for Independence) can be challenged by grants preceding them in the New Spain days since grants from Mexico are 'questionable', and there is a heavy focus on the Conquistadors and missionaries and their role in 'civilizing' the west. Depicted the natives as ungrateful for baptism and being forced into 'wardship' [technically free, non-slave persons - but without rights in most ways].

    These two points of view are well opposed and rooted fairly deeply. While the cultures mingle socially and after a hundred years or so of 'peace' have put the obvious conflict, there is still bitterness. People who are new to town (east and west coast transplants) often fail to see those pitfalls in the local political structure. Failure to acknowledge the right cultures, claims and counterclaims, etc, can blindside a newcomer like a lorry.

    One thing was, my reading had led me to believe that historically, revolutions often occur when there's been an easing of tyranny - either because it offers a glimpse of liberty, or because people are either too frightened or too dispirited to rebel when completely under the thumb.

    I'd offer a third - because I think you have cause and effect backwards for at least some cases. (Think of it this way: there's often a slight easing of tyranny just before the revolution.) There are usually fairly clear signs of the populace's unhappiness before you reach the point of actual revolution. Some rulers have historically responded with brutality, but trying to defuse the protest is also a not-uncommon response by those with slightly more realism. So the easing of tyranny can be an attempt by the ruler to prevent the revolution; in effect saying "see, I do give you what you want, so you should let me stay in charge" (while only giving them a tiny part of what they want). Of course, this will often combine with your first reason...


    Class, oh my...

    A couple of years ago, the trading floor I worked on had a very, very posh and well-spoken lady: a few words into any conversation, it became clear to all that she was better-bred than you, that her ancestors probably owned yours; and that, with unassailable confidence, this matters.

    She decided that she liked me when she discovered that I spent occasional weekends at the Ancestral Farm in Kildare, and that the tatty and disreputable Barbour coat I wore to work had a distinctive smell of countryside.

    It annoyed me to see that some of the staff fawned over her - same fools who went all dewy-eyed when coverage of the Royal Wedding was all over the video feeds - but senior managers and her fellow-traders put up with it because she was damn' good at her job.

    One day, she was not at work: her horse had died.

    Whether she needed the day to sort out the practicalities of certification and the removal of half-a-ton of meat (I have no idea what a horse weighs, nor of what's involved it its disposal), or whether it was grief, I'll never know.

    On her return, she was greeted by an austere and understated Card of Condolences, signed by her colleagues; and, tastefully-wrapped in black with a black silk ribbon, a tin of Pedigree Chum dog food.


    "Can English-language writers of other countries realistically portray such systems, either in SF or in fantasy?"

    I've noticed that writers from countries without a well-defined class sytem get formalities wrong - plenty of folks addressed as Lord this or that by people, an obsession with uniform etc, when a real life British aristo is likely to dress as they please and be addressed as "Jeff", or whatever.

    People with knighthoods in stellar empires wear swords, or sidearms - people with real knighthoods do not, and would be locked up if they did.

    Also, accents. In such stories people always seem to have a class-specific accent at all times, in real life many aristos have a range from lower Estuary to Radio 4 Standard, depending on who they're with.


    The Opium Wars offer much scope for different perceptions. One might contrast Britain then with Britain now. The two countries would surely be fighting on different sides.

    I found it fascinating to read this link and to wonder at what is missing.

    The Wkikipedia article has a fascinating sentence

    Hence it became comparatively uneconomical for the British to import the same low-value manufactured consumer products to China as they traded in India, and which the average Chinese could afford to buy.

    I'm not a historian. I don't know exactly what is at issue, but I have been reading about Georgian England. "Exports of iron nails, for instance, rose from 14,442 cwt in 1725 to 36,971 cwt in 1750" which is 90 years too early. Nevertheless I'm guessing that the low-value manufactured consumer products were things such as hammers, nails, saws, chisels, etc.

    So the basic framework is intra-Chinese conflict. Ordinary Chinese would be much better off if they could farm tea and trade it for British nails, tools, etc. The Chinese ruling elite aren't interested. They restrict the supply of tea and earn monopoly profits, not huge amounts in total, but huge per person for the lucky few at the top of Chinese society.

    The opium side of it is an example of the law of unintended consequences. If you enact a broad prohibition of trade, you don't hit all goods equally. Trade shifts from bulky goods to high value items that are worth smuggling, not sacks of nails but bales of opium.

    Notice how the first link completely misses the intra-Chinese power struggle. It frames the conflict as Britain versus China and says that China lost. Did they? The Chinese ruling elite lost, but one guesses that Chinese peasants now had access to nails to build their pig pens and their chicken coops, so the Chinese people won.


    Whilst I agree with you re. people getting the system wrong, I think you are being too restrictive when it comes to galactic empires - as long as the setup is similar to feudal and post-medieval times, then having knights wear sidearms is completely ok. An interstellar empire is a bit different from 21st century Britain.


    WW-2's draft mixed our Classes. Those people got old and died. Now fear that the new lowers will want some of the money made by off shoring jobs has remade the class system.
    Here near the center of America I can say that less is taught about Ireland than is taught about France. Outside of some East Coast nuts living in a dream world we just don't care.
    American ships were famous for there speed. They would warp and be too slow for trade in a few years. They were so fast so they could outrun the British Navy. Lots of old time money here started with the Tangle trade. Trade goods to Africa, slaves to Cuba and rum+money to home port.
    The history is gone but those Confederate ships wrecked American trade. America was first in World shipping till some Englishmen more or less gave away the raiders. After that war till after WW-2 the Brit's ruled World trade. Funny how that worked out.
    Many of the Confederates that fought for the South were drafted. In the hills many did not go and were supported by their families. They were hunted and there were many shootouts and no go zones. After the war came revenge on them.
    People keep making up reasons for the Civil War. All they halve to do is read the Congressional Records and read the South's news papers. It was about Slaves! That's what they said then. They had been terror of losing their slaves from before there was a USA. That's why we have a Electoral Collage who says who the President will be. The slavers would not sign the Constitution till they could vote their slaves. All the other states blocked that. To make America there was a hated compromise. The slavers could vote their slaves at 3/5 the vote of a white man in the new Electoral Collage. This let the slavers rule the country till the war.
    I've lived down there. The liberties are about 50% of how the South was picked on. Never mind how the North was taxed to pull the Southt out of drinking down stream of pig pins. Or how the Republicans of the time hated spending the money.


    "The far-future world was the one with oracles"

    Death to know a Sybil, death to harm a Sybil, death to love a Sybil, death to be a Sybil" ( Joan Vinge )

    "In a future isolated world, I do think that true aristocracies are more probable than most of us would like" Like the society on MountLookItThat! ?

    "Class System" You are my age (ish) I'm 65. What class system? I can count both penniless religious refugess who came to England in the clothes they stood up in, and two father-&-son Lord Chanclleors in my ancestry (plus a family named "Paramour" plus Vikings). Excuse me, but this is irrelevant nonsense.

  • NO! 2.Yes, if they come from Australia or New Zealand, or are P. M. A. Linebarger .....
  • Difficult. Vietnam 1945-59 ?? US "war between the States" as the slavery-apologists lie about it.
  • @ 5 & 7 Aaron & Charlie The specific reason for secession was always given as "States Rights" but what is NEVER mentioned, especially in the US South is which specific right. IIRC Missisippi & S. Carolina specifically had the racial inferiority of "blacks" written into their state's constitutions, and they were specifically defending THAT RIGHT. Oops, at least.

    Unholyguy @ 10 WRONG Britain banned slavey in 1807, and slave-trading at the same time. It was just about legal in the colonies, because of huge vested commercial interests (sound familiar?) in the W. Indes. It was completely abolished in 1833. by which time it had died out everywhere except said Windies... slave-owners were regarded as pariahs in the UK by that time...

    Alex Tolley @ 21 Sorry Not so. Or if someone tries it on me, they get a nasty shock, for reasons explained above. Including, I may say, inverted snobs who regard me as "too patrician" - yes I've had that too!

    Phil Knight @ 27 "when a real life British aristo is likely to dress as they please and be addressed as "Jeff", or whatever. For an extreme example of this, try reading more about this nutter - note that he got a GM for Bomb-Disposal work! Amongst all his other talents.


    @22 aaronB Some Hereditary Peers still sit in the house of lords, but they were elected to those seats by their peers (small p) when the house was reformed, i.e. they were thought to be good at their job. Their descendants will only be as entitled to a seat as the rest of the population of the country. ( Insert snide remark about brawn paper envelopes here.)

    A good essay on the nature of revolutions a la John's point on the 'easing of tyranny' is: 'Chapter Two: Rethinking Revolutions' in '1688: The first Modern Revolution' Steve Pincus, Yale 2009. As I imagine most of you will be going 1688? I think that rather demonstrates the point of the essay - in that no one notices a really sucessful revolution.

    1a- I've grown up knowing Right Honourables, nieces of Bright Young Things, scions of of the Victorian Establishment, on some level they are deeply different people from most of us. I think that has a lot to do with knowing who and where you are in the world. Money helps, but when you inherit all the furniture down to an extensive wellington boot collection you don't need that much. ( Until you have to find 1/2 million to repaint the windows or some such.)

    I can't remember learning any anglo-irish history at school (mid-late '80s). Radio 4 ect. much more helpful. But with a surname (Ruddy) bearing ancestor who crossed the water generations ago, and a grandfather who moved to London to marry his best friend's cousin I did get the odd comment from possibly "well informed" individuals which unsettled me at the time. It could have been that the RC primary school inured me to such things with its mixture of really I don't know what and a few Muslims thrown in for good measure. NB. People who comment on the name in this town think it's Indian…?

    1b- I think the concept of the 'Middle Class' is even more bent out of shape than anything else. In the old days (post war?) with the welfare state it was easy to advance in class through education rather than generationally by marrying up. now there's nowhere to go and who can afford it. And what about those who aren't interested in 'advancement'?

    3 - I have a friend whose parents ( white ethnic South Africans ) came to England in the late '60s for many reasons; love and career not least among them. Today she can't understand why the UK government of the day might have been the tiniest bit beastly to them. You don't have to look to other places for misunderstandings to arise, other times will do just as well.

    well that was a lot of bleather _ I enjoy reading everyone's posts and comments


    I've never lived there, but the American South definitely has had that kind of class system. A fiction book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett is very close to the non-fiction books, like The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson, telling us about the class situations between white and black, and poor and middle class.

    (Both books have been bestsellers.)


    Dear Ghu. Almost all people knowledgeable of that period say that slavery is the cause for the Civil War. You clearly got brainwashed in Mississippi.


    Yet another who has been trained wrong. I live in Manassas, where the first major battle of the Civil War occurred and we have a lot of information all around the area about why the South fought. It was slavery.


    You didn't include the link for "this nutter"


    I grew up on and around Ft. Belvoir and visited the Manassas battle field a few times, but it wasn't until years later that I learned that the Battles of Manassas and the Battles of Bull Run were the same. It's also were I first heard the story that inspired the "Son of a Gun" Mythbusters episode.

    I remember seeing an interview with a Southern Civil War reenactor (something my father used to do), and he was asked why the war was fought. He gave the usual "States Rights" answer, the interviewer pressed on; What Rights in particular? The right to own private property, was the answer. Next question; Oh, you mean property like Slaves? That shut him up.

    to the moderators: Thanks for not publishing my earlier comment on another thread--was way too early to be thinking straight.


    Dve Bell @ 36 Something went worng there - the link should have worked.. Try googling: "Victor Rothschild" instead !

    [[-- MODERATOR NOTE: I've repaired the original link: you'd put "href+" instead of "href=" --]]


    We just had the Sesquicentennial Commemorative Event. It was too hot for everything, and even with cancelling the 10am-6pm events, they had about 50 people in the hospital and 150 being taken care of at the sites. My condo is on the actual battle field, but was checked for things before it got built. All new buildings here get checked first.

    There were three events about a quarter-mile to my west, nine about a quarter-mile east, and one about four blocks north, over railroad tracks, so it actually takes longer to get there.

    I was just posting on LJ, thinking I'd put up a link to a column about this, then I decided I'd link here, so instead of doing both, I'll put the column link here and the folks who follow from LJ to here can read it from here.


    Regarding the centrality of the issue of slavery to the Civil War, this excerpt from Mississippi's Declaration of Succession is, uh, instructive:

    "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery [unambiguous, eh?] - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."


    Please stop discussing the Civil War and its causes. Everyone.


    Oh, I've definitely heard of him. (clue - somebody with my surname runs Chicheley Hall these days)


    Sean, I'm waiting for the usual suspects to get around to an argument about whether the right side won the critical civil war battle on Marston Moor, and what its effect on the institution of Slavery would have been. I'd grant a waiver to hear that discussion.

    But yes, I second the sentiment and from now on will delete on sight postings about the unpleasantness of the 1860s that don't refer to it as "The Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion". In fact, I think we should make that a permanent custom on this blog.

    Because this is my platform, and I'm not willing to provide a safe space for other folks who want to express support for (or apologize for) slavery and/or genocide.

    (Apologies to John for the interruption.)


    "Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion." RIGHT ON BRO.


    I still say British India is the best place to go to answer the three questions postulated.

    I'm curious, what do they teach in the current British school system about that time period?


    Question #3 Growing up as the granddaughter of Irish immigrants to America, I had heard about an evil country called "England". When I learned to read, I read books about Brave Britain, the last lone outpost holding out against the Nazis. When I was told that Great Britain and England were the same country, I was genuinely shocked. (Yes, I know that England is only one part of Britain and yes, the histories a 10-year old could read left out the entire eastern front.} A second interesting contrast of opinions is between the views of Southerners in the 1860s about the Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion and the views of Southerners now. During the time of the war itself, huge numbers of Southerners joined the Northern army, especially from the upper Southern states and two states had secessions in which pro-Union sections split off and formed a new state (West Virginia and East Tennessee, although East Tennessee did not last as a separate state because Tennessee was reconquered so rapidly.} One big difference between the Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion and the War of the Crazed Anti-Working Class Thugs Who Turned Against Their Own Upper Class Creators (1939-1945 for the international phase in Europe) is that the losing side in the 1861-1865 war was romanticized but the losing side in the European part of the 1939-1945 war was thoroughly rejected. If the Germans post-war had acted more like Southerners, the world would be a much nastier place. If the Southerners had acted more like the Germans, it would be much better place. And why we sometimes learn lessons from wars and sometimes just adamantly refuse to (US & Vietnam) is a mystery to me.


    Could be you don't find as much vilification of the loosing side in civil wars, the winning side may want to kiss and make up and put it all behind them asap. Method of avoiding another civil war down the road perhaps?

    In wars with external enemies that have been defeated, there is a lot of advantage in playing up the evils of the opposition after the war is over. WWI and WWII come to mind

    Compare the general pardon issued after the Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion vs Nuremberg trials. Not a single Southerner ever prosecuted for anything.

    It's also very interesting looking at how Germany reacted to the end of WWI vs WWII

    I'd also argue that the US did not learn anything from Vietnam. They didn't learn not to do stupid things like Vietnam, that is for sure, or at least if they did learn that for 30 years or so it didn't stick. But they learned a lot about how to execute such stupid wars once you get in them.


    About Marston Moor, To this day, the name of the leader of the Parliamentary cavalry at that battle is not permitted to be spoken in my parent's home, so I wonder what effect a different outcome in that battle would have had on my Irish ancestors. I must admit though, I suspect that Ireland would have picked some religion other than England's and if England had gone back to being Catholic (unlikely even if the Royalists had won), the Irish would have picked some flavor or other of Protestant.
    After all, through most of history until Henry VIII, it was England that was loyal to Rome and Ireland that was beyond Rome's control.

    Also, thank you Charlie Stross. You are one of the few writers I know who can make casual references like this that send me Googling and that leads me to some fascinating pivot point in history that had escaped my attention. Another one, I remember a while back was a British naval operation near Ottoman Turkey that would have altered that part of WW1 had it been carried off properly.


    Point of information, perhaps- Heinrich "Henry" Wirz did get hanged afterwards. On one hand, he was something of an adopted Southerner, having immigrated from Switzerland in his twenties. On the other hand, he did run a bit of a death camp for Union prisoners, so it wasn't exactly being a Confederate per se.

    Anyhow, as far as getting a feel for a class system, this might be expensive but take a dozen of your friends and go to a country much poorer than yours. Spend a few months there. Consider how much more relaxing it is dealing with people who have similar wealth to you, enjoy familiar customs, and speak as you do. Learn how stressful it is to put up with the wackiness of the squalid poor, the strange things they do for fun, and the constant fretting about whether they'll steal your watch, car, etc. Go home and write about aristocracy.


    A short time after that war the de-slaverazsion of the South stopped. Unlike Germany's de-Nazi campaign. In JFK's book "Profiles in Courage" one of the ten was a congressman? who voted not to impeach a president who turned the old South lose. The KKK was one of the milder things that happened then. There were things like a cannon put in front of A Court House and fired till all the elected were guaranteed their lives and came out. They were then killed and their killers took their places.
    In the times I have worked down there has never been anything but surprise and rage when I say white workers had to compete with slaves. I think they all belived they would be the ones on horseback making more slaves.
    There is a large "Southern League" who wants to, by peaceful means if possible, make a county in America that still has the kind of States rights we once had. And not one more word on it from me. No really.


    Is "The War Of Southern Aggression" also acceptable? If only because it'll piss off the really hardcore Confederate apologists.


    Jake @ 50 Nice title!

    "British India" Well ... If you are in what is NOW called India - you'll get a very positive response to our presence there. We made a unified country, gave them railways, telegraphs and a common language. Since 1948 they've teken it away, and improved it no end.... If you are in what is now called "Pakistan" the answer would be very different. And what problem has "Pakistan" in common with Ireland? Bigoted religion. Then there's Kashmir, one of the most stunningly beautiful places on the planet ... Which should either be independant, or part of India. ( Ask my neighbour, whose grandparents had to flee the oh-so-friendly Pakistani invasion ) Geography and religion will alter the answers ....


    I'll just note that a part of the split that led to the American Civil War was the difference between an agricultural economy and an industrial one. The economy of the South depended on slavery, but you can see signs of the agriculture/industry split in modern American politics and today it doesn't map so well onto the slave states.

    Farming is on a small enough scale that individuals can expect to build up and maintain a successful business. There's good evidence that control has to be local.

    An industrial plant is just too damn big for an individual: so far, some form of capitalism seems to be the more successful way of setting it up. However you set it up, running it needs different mechanisms. It's not on the scale of a family or tribe.

    A lot of the history of the last couple of centuries has been partly driven by that change.


    @ 39 Thanks. That declaration by Missisippi was one of the ones I was thinking of. At least one other of the Southern traitor-states made a very similar declaration, IIRC. Yes - if you look: Here AND Here as well You will see that all the "causes" listed by S. Carolina refer to slave-owning, as the specific "State's Right" that they were "protecting". Ughhhh ....

    What is also clear is that Lincoln was very careful to leave the South an "out", and to ensure that they fired the first shots, no matter what the provocation.

    If this sounds similar to the present antics of the "Tea Party", I suspect you are not too far out!


    The slavery discussion winds up interesting for one reason, to me- the two drastically different empathetic responses to the topic:

    For the empathetic ones, say the word "slavery" and there's an immediate, horrified response. It's visceral, intense, and profound.

    For others, say it and the response ranges from an economic description to a shrug and dismissal along the lines of "the cotton wasn't going to pick itself".
    There may be the view that it's a bad idea, but it's intellectual, with little if any emotional involvement in the issue of whether slavery is a good or bad thing.

    Something massively different is going on in the two sets of brains, and I'm not sure it's a gulf that can be crossed through political discourse.
    How would you make someone care- emotionally care- about an issue with which they are already familiar but to which they don't emotionally respond?


    A usefull book on that subject would be Hinton Helpers "The coming crisis of the south", which basically argued that slavery was bad for property values and then used census data to prove it. The Southern upper class put a bounty on his head.


    In 1777 the slave Joseph Knight won his case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, when the Lord President Lord Kames ruled that slavery had no place in the law of Scotland.

    I think that is the first such unequivocal statement in what was to become the Abolitionist movement. I know Somersett's Case in 1772 at the English King's Bench might be seen as a precursor, but Lord Mansfield's judgement was not nearly as clear-cut as Lord Kames'.

    Americans & others should note that there is no such thing as 'British law' - the law of Scotland is separate and distinct. English law does not apply in Scotand.


    "we" also put down the Cult of 'Thuggee ' or at least good old William Henry Sleeman did ..

    " He is best known for his suppression of the Thuggee secret society. He had captured "Feringhea" (also called Syeed Amir Ali, on whom the novel Confessions of a Thug is based) and got him to turn King's evidence. He took Sleeman to a grave with a hundred bodies, told the circumstances of the killings, and named the Thugs who had done it.[2] After initial investigations confirmed what Feringhea had said, Sleeman started an extensive campaign, becoming superintendent of the operations against them in 1835, and commissioner for the suppression of Thuggee and Dacoity in 1839. During these operations, more than 1400 Thugs were hanged or transported for life. One of them, Bahram, confessed to have strangled 931 persons with his turban. Detection was only possible by means of informers, for whose protection from the vengeance of their associates a special prison was established at Jabalpur (at the time Jubbulpore). Sleeman had a Government Report made in 1889.[2]"

    Of course there was a dark side to British rule in " The Jewel of Empire" but there were decent men who did do their best for common good.

    Back in the 1950s to mid 1960s we English of my generation did get a reasonable grounding in History but it was based pretty heavily on Kings And Queens and Empire with a strong military bias and it wasn't until I was transferred into one of the first Comprehensive schools in 1964 aged 15 that I studied social history with a teacher who had the most astonishing memory for dates and detail that I've ever come across and he, without notes, but with enthusiasm taught the the factories acts development of the schools system and so forth.

    I think that it was at that time in the mid 1960s that teaching of history started to suffer since we were given a choice of studying either history or geography but not not both. Odd I know but that's the way that it was and history as a subject taught in school in England gradually became deeply unfashionable, so that by the time that my nephews went to secondary school I discovered in casual conversation with them that the teaching of history in their otherwise good - middle class area - school was so poor they knew virtually nothing about the English Civil War and had only the vaguest of the notion of the pattern of British history .. pretty much the book " 1066 and All That " meets the real world.

    I gather that in recent years attempts are being made to remedy the deficiency that was probably caused by a revulsion by the teaching profession against British Empire based teaching of British history but we have a couple of generations of people whose knowledge of history is either poor or very heavily biased in the direction of their social groups prejudices - as with the appalling mess in Northern Ireland that was/is a kind of extended low level Civil War that continues to this day.


    Indian history... The curriculum I followed stopped at 1848, and prior to that focused on Europe. I can recall only brief descriptions of the East India company, and no details.

    This could be my fault!

    What I mostly recall is reading Rudyard Kipling. I never discussed his books with my Indian friends. Lots of missed opportunities. Hmm.


    Having said that, I think Brits trap themselves in the class structure.

    Good point, and I hadn't thought of it. Unconscious responses keeping the system going...


    James @ 12:

    In Irish, the [Irish] Civil War is called Cogadh na gCairde - "War of the Friends". Saddest name I can think of.

    Agreed... And if I use it as a title, I'll credit you!


    Chrisj @ 25 :

    I think you have cause and effect backwards for at least some cases.

    I wonder if it would be true to say that it works both ways, as a feedback loop, in all cases.

    A classic example among therapists who are into brief intervention is to look at how depressed people "do" depression. It is true to say that someone is hunched over and dull-voiced because they're depressed; but it also true that hunching over and dulling one's voice produces (is doing) depression. (Not that curing depression is as simple as telling someone to stand up straight.)

    I hadn't thought of the powers that be deliberately placating the populance, so that's really interesting...


    1: Does Britain still have a class system? "Unconscious responses keeping the system going..."

    The comedian Stewart Lee has an entire routine about this idea, specifically in regard to David Cameron, from his most recent series :

    2: Can English-language writers of other countries realistically portray such systems, either in SF or in fantasy?

    Kazuo Ishiguro did one about Britain: "The Remains of the Day."

    3: What other (real) conflicts are subject to such wildly different perceptions as the US/UK examples above? Are there fictional counterparts that are equally complex that spring to mind? (Please play very nice.)

    Cossacks in the Ukraine.


    Circa mid-1970s to early 1980s here: history at school consisted of the classical civilizations, then a bunch of kings and dates from 1066 through roughly 1607 ... then a gap until the 'O' level syllabus picked up the thread in 1870 through 1945. (Actually a little bit before 1870, to accommodate the Franco-Prussian war.)

    It's an interesting approach, because it effectively censored the entire period that defined the shape of the modern world (as depicted, thinly fictionalized, in Neil Stephenson's Baroque Cycle): loosely, 1607 through 1848.

    Note that I didn't take 'A' level history. (The only people who did were those who were going to study history or related subjects at university.)


    British India: Well it is good to know American's don't have a monopoly on self delusion.

    ".... All the city's people found within the walls of the city of Delhi when our troops entered were bayoneted on the spot, and the number was considerable, as you may suppose, when I tell you that in some houses forty and fifty people were hiding. These were not mutineers but residents of the city, who trusted to our well-known mild rule for pardon. I am glad to say they were disappointed"


    "It was literally murder... I have seen many bloody and awful sights lately but such a one as I witnessed yesterday I pray I never see again. The women were all spared but their screams on seeing their husbands and sons butchered, were most painful... Heaven knows I feel no pity, but when some old grey bearded man is brought and shot before your very eyes, hard must be that man's heart I think who can look on with indifference..."


    @ 65 The Indian Mutiny well .. there are OTHER takes on that one! Start by asking a well-educated Sikh. 100 years before, the then kahn of Delhi put (the last ?) Sikh guru to death, with "every refinement of torture". The guru cursed him and all his descendants, and promised him that in 100 years that the ferenghi would come and take your place, and kill all your people (or words to that effect). And - it happened. Guess which side the Sikhs fought on during that conflict?

    Actually a work of supposed fiction gives a vivid picture of the atrocities committed by both sides at that time ... "Flashman in the Great Game" by G. M. Fraser


    the 'O' level syllabus picked up the thread in 1870 through 1945.

    IIRC there were various options for historical periods at O'Level. We had 1769-1868 to cover the agrarian and industrial revolutions and the rise (and fall?) of the great European powers. I think the choice was the history master's. Otherwise your experience mirrors mine. (2ndry schooling 1965-1972)


    @66 Yes and there are other takes on slavery too.

    The fact that the British conquered and enslaved a subcontinent for 300 years is patently, obviously wrong, just like slavery is patently obviously wrong

    And just like slavery at the time, the British did not admit it was wrong, and many good and honorable men lived their lives supporting it.

    And even when you had freaking Gandhi fighting against it, it still took a generation to really sink in

    And just like slavery there are still people who romanticize or apologize it today.

    The trick to understanding the points in the original post is to get inside the heads of those people and develop and understanding of how their entire culture managed that level of double think.


    One question. Apologies if this is too simple a question or too broad brush. Could the North afford (expense or inclination) to round up the wackier elements of the South after the 'Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion'? In the 20th century 'Truth and Reconciliation' councils ( I know I'm over simplifying here.) were often often funded by 'third' parties i.e. those not directly involved on either side but favoured by the winners of course. Does an attempt to get to the bottom of things make that much of a difference in the long run? Lights blue touch paper and runs

    What I took away from my History GSCE was an understanding of the complexities of Evidence - helped by having as ex Detective Constable as a teacher. I remember being thoroughly sick of the 'three field system', and couldn't see the point of ThePrincesInTheTower. Context is indeed everything! I love history and think it's really important to understand today- I wish I knew more.


    I have to say I'm frankly disgusted with Greg Tingey's post dismissing the war crimes of the British Empire.

    India's indigenous politics were oppressive and even bloody, but that doesn't change the fact that the British Empire was a corrupt and criminal enterprise whose pretensions to a 'civilising mission' in India and elsewhere were just that, pretensions and nothing more.


    Well most of the wackier elements of the South were dead on the field. The North's main concern after cessation of hostilities was to avoid a guerrilla resistance, which they more or less successfully accomplished through amnesty and general war weariness in the south.

    Also there were significant legal disagreement at the time as to whether secession was technically treason by the US Constitution. The North had a lot to loose and nothing to gain by actually taking the confederate leaders to trial, if the supreme court ruled that secession was not technically treason or illegal, it would hurt the north's credibility in the civil war and interfere with reconstruction efforts.


    thank you for your answer unholyguy


    I'm the son of an immigrant, went to school during 50s/60s and failed my 11+ (despite having a Mensa IQ and getting a BSc in physics). So I have something of a handle on the situation in the same biased way (is there an unbiased view?). My bias was a combination of (almost certainly) Aspergers plus a distaste of growing up amongst total morons. Took me decades to appreciate that ordinary people often have other redeeming features even if lacking scientific intelligence.

    As for the question: "Does Britain still have a true class system?" The answer is yes, but it's more constricted than it used to be, and less obvious. And yes, the accent still matters a lot. (Mine varies between neutral to upper middle class depending on who I am talking with). I can also do "army officer class". In fact, its not only the accent but the articulation, speed of speech and forcefulness that delineates class boundary. State schools these days only seem to teach surly-prole-speak, if they teach anything at all in English classes. They ahve certainly dropped all that elitist nonsense about "stand up straight, look me in the eye, speak clearly boy". That is only taught at fee paying schools to the future leaders of the nation.

    One thing was, my reading had led me to believe that historically, revolutions often occur when there's been an easing of tyranny
    So the easing of tyranny can be an attempt by the ruler to prevent the revolution; in effect saying "see, I do give you what you want, so you should let me stay in charge" (while only giving them a tiny part of what they want).

    Yeah. What usually causes revolutions are a reactionary class of elites determined to hold on to their privileges no matter what the cost to anyone else. As a consequence, you get an increasingly authoritarian government which adopts increasingly draconian measures to put down any protests of the established order . . .

    One question. Apologies if this is too simple a question or too broad brush. Could the North afford (expense or inclination) to round up the wackier elements of the South after the 'Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion'? In the 20th century 'Truth and Reconciliation' councils ( I know I'm over simplifying here.) were often often funded by 'third' parties i.e. those not directly involved on either side but favoured by the winners of course. Does an attempt to get to the bottom of things make that much of a difference in the long run? *Lights blue touch paper and runs*

    Ah, but you see, the defining of the American South has pretty much been - forgive me - buttheadedness. In a bit of synchronicity, you might be interested in this piece by Digby over at Hullaballoo:

    History suggests that the southern culture has always been as defined by it's resentment toward the rest of the country as much as anything else. The so-called bi-coastal liberal elites certainly don't think of themselves as having a lot in common with each other, other than being Americans. People from Los Angeles and Vermont call themselves Californians and New Englanders, respectively. I don't think they believe they share a "culture." People in Seattle call themselves pacific northwesterners. People in New York call themselves New Yorkers --- Chicagoans midwesterners. They identify themselves by their specific region and a broader identity as Americans, not by this alleged Bi-coastal cultural alliance. This notion of two easily identifiable cultures is only held by the people who used to call themselves the confederacy and now call themselves "the heartland." That alone should be reason to stop and question what is really going on here.


    Bear in mind that middle and upper class Southerners were politicians by birthright. Active participation in politics was, in the South, a way of life. One would expect, therefore, to find a much greater degree of political skill and acumen there than in the North. What one finds there instead is demagogy, bombast, irresponsibility, incompetence, a childish refusal to come to grips with realities, and a habitual substitution of slogans, symbols and bogeymen for facts. These are strong statements, but hardly strong enough to fit the situation.


    The South had an almost unbroken control of the Federal Government from 1789 until secession. The presidents were either Southerners., or Northerners like Pierce and Buchanan, who were mere puppets in the hands of Southern senators and cabinet members. For seventy years, the Supreme Court had a majority of Southern justices. With the aid of its Northern allies and the three-fifths rule, the South controlled one or both houses of Congress. The fifteen Slave States, with a white population of not quite eight million, had 30 senators, 90 representatives, and 120 electoral votes, whereas the State of New York, with a population of four million had two senators, 33 representatives, and 35 electoral votes. Even the election of 1860 left the South in control of both houses of Congress, and until at least 1863, Lincoln and the Republicans would have been powerless to pass legislation hostile to the South, and through its control of the Senate, the South could have blocked the confirmation of every Lincoln appointee whom it considered unfriendly. In spite of this, and notwithstanding Lincoln's repeated assurances that he would not, directly or indirectly, interfere with slavery where it already existed, the South chose to secede.

    Iow, yeah, in one sense, the American Civil war really was about slavery, or as our host puts it "The Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion". But in another, it really was all tribablism, with the South wanting no compromise, and wanting things their way, always. For them, it's always been about ressenitment, and slavery was just one more issue for them to feign outrage over. Iow, a milieu set up by - and for - Sociopaths.

    Sorry, but I calls 'em as I sees em :-(


    As an ex-member of the Roundhead Association you might guess my answers.


    All this talk of slavery and SF and not a mention of John Norman...? :-) I recall first seeing one of his novels in the public library, opening it and thinking WTF! A real top shelf moment. Clearly none of the library staff had read it (I assume, but one never knows with librarians). I am sure he has been a very influential writer in the life of many male teenage SF fans.


    Unfortunately I never hit the exulted Heights of The O /A level British exam system simply wouldn't have been possible because my class didn't do the Gramar school sylabus that lead to real exams and thus sometimes to University .I gather that the Grammar Schools themselves ..whilst teaching Latin..did stream their pupils into, admission to civil service, admission to other public service inc Librarianship and then, and only then, University .

    Grammar School was short for ' Latin ' Grammar School aka publicly funded down market for clever or/well connected kids of the middle classes who couldn't afford to send their kids to public/private fee paid schools - which fee paid schools were themselves sub-divided into Eton /Harrow, GOOD Schools, and, well, Minor public schools. Also there were /are prep schools to get ones well heeled brats into the Decent Public Schools ... you put your kids name down for Eaton/Harrow et al before the little creatures left their nannies tender care.

    You've have to read ' Peter Pan ' and all those ghastly 'Bunter' ish Public School stories to get the flavour of SHEER LONGING to be a part of it all that kids were made to feel ..its Sparklie Ponies/Chalet School, Midnight feasts in the Dorm country.

    Then consider Anne McCaffreys 'Dragonriders of Pern ' series ..Sparkly public school ponies, sorry, Flying Teleporting Time travelling, Fire Breathing and - OH!Can we have some of this 'Science' Stuff ? - Generically Engineered Sparkly Ponies belonging to the Wheir/wierd ... who bond only to leather clad, Sexy Girls and Boys like .. Anne, Hero of The School/ Ann of the Forth Form/ Ann Pulls it Off!.

    I'm really and truly amused that that series has turned into a sort of Family Franchise. McDonalds without the crappy mince meat patties and plastic furnishings .. designed to appeal to Children Everywhere, who would probably be better of if they ate the bloody plastic seating rather than the burgers

    How fortunate we are in this 21st Century AGE of modern juvenile /Young Adult fiction of the 'Harry Potter 'kind, we are well rid of the English/Public School System examples in fiction, eh wot? Oh well, at least the Potter series is well written and does do Good Plebeian Kids against Evil/badly influenced Aristocratic, Born to Rule, Kids.

    ' Brave New World ' and all that sort of thing?

    How happy we will all be when the Right Sort of People have their human genome intelligently rewritten....but in a, Nice Way. Not 'The Master Race ' at all ..Oh, Dear Me, No!


    Unholyguy @ 69 "Enslavement" is the WRONG word for British India. Especially given the treatment given internally by some rules - see my previous post. Also, even at the height of the Raj, it was known and accepted that "native" Indians could be as good or better than the ruling Brits, as well as worse. For proof of this, try Kipling (yes, really) ....

    DGPOK @ 70 And the Pope is nice to know, I don't doubt! Yes, crimes were committed, but it was usual to at least try to run a (by the standards of the time) a fair show. Compare India and Pakistan, now, like I said. And if you are Irish-American, I suggest you examine the treatment of the Amerinds, especially in the period 1779 - 1861.

    SoV @ 74 Like North Korea, or syria, do you mean? Um.

    76 Some of us have a lot of time for Fairfax. Cromwell was a nsty piece of work, but then, CharlesI was totally untrustworthy - a recipe for disaster.

    77 "John Norman"? Just dont mention subservient bondage .....


    If you haven't done so already then I do urge you to read Anthony Prices " War Game " ..

    " a murder mystery set in the world of reenacting - as the murder itself was set in a reenactment itself. Then he throws in a secret gold treasure and Cold War era radical politics and scheming, and it seems I have found a must read for myself. I would highly recommend this to anyone who appreciates good English Cold War (and English Civil War) mysteries and especially to any reenactors out there, who should get a special kick out of this account of a reenactment gone bad! " ...


    @79 "enslavement" it is exactly the right word to use when you conquer a country and rule it by force. If the shoe fits, wear it.

    But heh, if you are all "take up the white mans burden" and whatnot, well have at it


    The one I liked was "Devil on the Road" by Robert Westall. Has some nice scenes with re-enactors, but the author is obviously pro-Royalist. Given that there is still an undercurrent of serious politics after 350 years it's not surprising that the US Civil War still raises passions to such a degree.


    Not the' Raj ' I will admit..but it does have the authentic flavour of empire ...

    " Sandi the Strong, Sandi The Wise ... when each bends his back with his neighbour ..." And so on. Ah, well. they did mean well and some of the Legacy of Empire was worth having.

    SoV @ 74 Like North Korea, or syria, do you mean? Um.

    Yup. Yet another edition of easy answers to simple questions. And if you're wondering - yes, I do happen to think that certain types of class systems, aristocracies, etc. select for sociopaths.


    I don't think it would have been that hard to do. Especially compared to what it took to defeat the South militarily. One crude simplification would be to think that New England really was on an Abolitionist mission but the Midwest really just wanted to make sure that white people were not forced into slave-like conditions through competition with slaves. So once slavery was abolished, the New Englanders did not have enough support to carry out a de-slavification of the South. Although there were serious forces that wanted to try, which is why Andrew Johnson was impeached (=indicted) but not convicted. Allowing Caucasianist terrorists to undermine the post-War South was a real tragedy and waste.


    If you want Raj... Carry on up the Khyber

    Allowing Caucasianist terrorists to undermine the post-War South was a real tragedy and waste.

    'Tis a universal truth that some terrorists are more equal than others :-(


    Perhaps, but the humour is rather too Carry On Traditional British gentle comedy.

    How about "Gunga Din " There is an air of genuine well meaning sincerity in " Gunga Din" which was filmed in the dying days of The British Empire ...

    " One of the greatest adventure films ever made! Directed by the impeccable George Stevens, director of "Shane" among many other great movies. This film inspired and informs "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". "


    One thing to note in worldbuilding (and one tiny fault with Stross's writing, personal opinion) is that realistically there's not going to be a clear-cut division between morally-upstanding humanist protagonists and evil sociopathic antagonists.

    In the context of slaveowner rebellion, for example, you could have:
    Abolitionists who oppose slavery because they consider it unjust, but would support some other form of subjugation of what they consider "inferiors".
    Abolitionists who become motivated by a desire to punish slaveowners more than a desire to free slaves.
    Abolitionists who are concerned with furthering or protecting their own economic interests more than necessarily freeing slaves.
    Slaveowners who would support compassionate treatment of slaves...but who would oppose freedom for them because of the economic disruption.
    Unionists who don't give a damn about slavery one way or the other, but simply oppose rebellion.

    Where would you stick a "good" or "evil" label among those?


    Q3: As one answer I'm a bit surprised that no one has mentioned the rather obvious modern example of Israel/Palestine. :-)


    Which reminds me I still have a book on the Highland Clearances I need to read, probably one of these places with a highly divergent official and local histories.

    Also I should finish 'Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee' which I put to the side for its depressing nature. But luckily one of the ignored unofficial histories coming out into the limelight.


    I think "make it more nuanced" is always a safe thing for fiction. Even different parts of the same side have their complexities.

    I was talking to a couple guys from my (Irish-language) class late one night back in the early 90s. One was from Northern Ireland, the other was a priest who had been in El Salvador. They were talking about dealing with security forces.

    The priest's take: never, never look them in the eye. Be polite, and maybe everything will work out.

    The young guy from the North: it depends on who you're dealing with. The [British] army isn't the problem. They're not there to mess (he used a stronger word) with you. It's not pleasant having them around, but they're not a threat. But the locals? Run.


    Not that I've made a great study of them, but I've picked up a few things over the years, and reckon that there's probably less divergence over what actually happened in the Highland clearances than you'd think. Rather, the differences come about decades later in the filters people look at them through. Thus to one person the clearances were a sad necessity given the economic underdevelopment of the Highlands, to another they were the deliberate destruction of an ancient way of life, and so on.


    Funny thing about Cromwell. He warred against the anti-Irish Protestants who backed the King. Not the Irish who had been conquered and colonized. But that's not what everybody "knows."
    I like what a member of the SF writers said about John Norman. They did not has the right to tell him what to write. But they had the right not to be around him!
    America was not really one country till a Socialist started a campaign to make it one, as happed in Germany. He funded it and his magazine by selling American flags and getting them put in classrooms.
    There are no white terrorists. Just good men who have been driven to madness by liberals.
    I've read more than once that the British LIBERAL's conquered and enslaved a subcontinent to stop slavery and things like bride burning and keeping people from being sick. Now they have gone home and everything is going back to the way it was. But their doing what they want thanks to freedom.


    J Moore @ 92 Spot on. The in-fighting between different sections in Ireland was/is one of the reasons it has been so difficult to settle. In a previous thread I have commented on the slow train-wreck of Irish politics 1911-23. Where each of the THREE sides involved took sequential turns to screw it up beyond all hope.

    It's only now that S. Ireland has finally realised, that bad though (some of) the Brits were, there are worse "masters" - starting with the bastards they morally enslaved themseleves to in 1923 - the RC church.

    DGPOR @ 70 - I hope you are reading this!


    Ahem: the Indian Empire was pretty much created by private enterprise -- go read up on John Company (aka the British East India Company). The Company had its own armies and conquered the various Indian principalities by a combination of strategic alliances and brute force in the late 18th through mid-19th centuries. The pivotal event of the Rebellion of 1857 nearly overthrew its reign, and at that point it was effectively nationalized by the British crown. But the "Liberals" under whom it was created were not today's liberals -- they were basically freebooting mercantilist privateers, more like Xe (formerly Blackwater) and Halliburton, and about as right wing as it got back then (the Conservatives being primarily rural protectionist landowners back then).

    My take on it is that the Indian Empire was unconscionable. Yes, it did some good things -- abolishing Sutee and crushing the Dacoits and Thugee. But those pale into insignificance against the impact of an imperial occupation of an entire sub-continent that lasted centuries and killed millions by deliberate neglect during famines engineered by prioritizing the conquerors' cash crops over the natives' food. Praising the Indian Empire is about as insensitive as it would be to praise Fascism for delivering trains that ran on time and really funky police uniforms.


    "Slaveowners who would support compassionate treatment of slaves...but who would oppose freedom for them because of the economic disruption. "

    This one was nonsense. Abuse of slaves was intense and uncontrollable. There may have been individual slave-owners who treated their slaves mostly fairly (although anything short of setting them free was not completely fair), they never had the capacity to rein in their more vicious neighbors.
    Particularly when the sexual element is considered, "humane slavery" was never a possibility and anyone living in slave-holding areas would have known that.

    More generally, yes life is full of grays, but I wouldn't want that used to obscure significant distinctions. The difference between pro- and anti-slavery forces was about as clear a difference as one runs across in human affairs.


    It'd probably be analogous (though an unpleasant analogy) to modern opinions on the treatment of pets- wanting to limit and punish abuse where possible, but not suggesting a change to the notion of owner and owned because they didn't believe that the slaves (on average) had the capacity to function economically on their own.

    You could hypothetically grey the area further by asking whether a position that called for the gradual abolition of slavery instead of a blanket immediate emancipation would be a good or evil thing.
    Pennsylvania, for example, simply outlawed the notion of being born into slavery, while retaining the institution for existing slaves. (


    Among other things, the British conquering of India led to the de-industrialization of India in favor of merchantilism. Indian textiles, ship builing and metal working were at an early stage of development but competitive with the rest of the world. It took India the better part of the 20th century to catch up.


    Well yes I know about the British East India Company. But I was talking about the Livingstons who took the Western Churches and Western medics west in Africa. The way I read it, they did much talking about fighting Moslem slave takers in Parliament. And I read the military and businessmen wanted nothing to do with it.
    If it made money the accountants would not have dropped the Empire so fast.
    I think it matters whose History you read and believe. But but I read nothing about this in school and you must have. How much do you trust and how much is what people you know say.
    The only reason I am still posting on that for profit war is that it's the best case of black propaganda I have ever heard off. Back when I was ridding around I was in one of many small towns were the young had Reb flags on their trucks and believed they were Southern.
    The old Town Square had a big war monument. It had the names of the townspeople who fell saving the Union. But the fools in town believed the huge monument by the Daughters of the Confederacy to their Fallen Dead. Those huge monuments went up all over the country at the time the KKK was becoming a real power in the 30's. I found one about a 100 miles from Wounded Knee. There were no whites at all around Wounded Knee then. BUT THE FOOLS WILL VOTE THEIR DREAMS NEXT TIME.




    Greg at 31 made this answer to the original question...

    2.Yes, if they come from Australia or New Zealand.

    Interesting, but as an Aussie I am not completely sure where you are going with that. Australia is an interesting place culturally. Boardly speaking, Eastern States (where the majority of the population live) are all ex convict stock (or at least want to be to prove they are not 'upper class snobs') but are also regarded as elitist by the rest of the Nation.

    South Australia (warning, Pioneer Settler Name Drop Alert) in the lower middle of the country was a free settler colony and unlike all other states never had convicts. It is regarded as a weird backwards place still stuck in the 1970s where everything is closed on weekends and everyone talks with a plum in their mouth. Oh, and the kinky murder state just to be really polite.

    WA is so far into a different time that most people forget it exists. It's mindset is completely different and most of them do not like the eastern states. This comes up in our system of Government where the eastern states (all the population) end up dominating the lower house and hence all laws are very 'east based'. WA threatens to tell the rest of OZ to bugger off (and actually won an referendum on the subject mid last century but never acted on it) from time to time and regards the eastern states as a mob of self centred *s.

    So, do we Aussies have class?

    (sorry, wrong question - do we Aussies have a class SYSTEM?)

    Depends. Money is important and does divide. Not so much as 'we are better then you' as the fact that most people find it hard to relate when their car costs more then your house. Having said that there is the concept of the 'Cashed Up Bogan' where someone has come from a low beginnings and made it big. Shane Warne is a prime example. He is probably more cashed up then anyone here on this blog but deep down most people wouldn't invite him to a formal dinner just in case he gets wasted and decides to show you his goggly.

    Having said that, offspring of a cashed up bogan, esp if they grow up 'rich' probably would be acceptted. You personally might not be able to 'buy in' but you could get your children into the system.

    In the convict states there is a bit of generation spite. The idea that some snob lord sent their great great grandfather out here for stealing some bread and now I am rich and successful and SCREW YOU YOU SNOBBY GIT is strong with those people. Happens less so in SA (free settlers) and while there are some old families with big money there is still not the idea of 'lords and betters'. If anything it is the concept of just not relating to the difference in disposable income.

    So, in answer to question 2... dunno if an Aussie can write class system as we don't really have one. Class warfare in Oz is typing to imply that the rich are ripping off the poor and is normally one political group trying to push a new tax through but when a high school drop out can go work in the mines and make more then the lawyer from the good school it is a bit hard to draw clear lines.


    You're being a touch hard on Aaron here. The 'states rights' (which is BS, it was the North insisting on states rights, the south wanted the feds to crush the north for refusing to enslave runaways) and conflicting economy argument (never mind that the different southern economy was created by slavery), are rampant in the American school/university system.


    Charlie @ 96 We're going to have to agree to disagree about that one. The book you rely on, "Victorian Holocausts" is severely flawed, to say the least. Anglo-Indian administrators who did their best to allievate famines were praised and promoted. Those who did nothing were promoted to the broom cupboard. India is now ONE country speaking ONE language. There is also the subsidiary argument that Indian independance came both too soon and/or too late. A read of the late M.M. Kaye's (author of "The Far Paviions") autobiography is informative. She was strongly of the opinion that India should have had "Dominion Status" by 1938, for instance ....

    MudCrab @ 102 I was thinking of the Aus/NZ take on "colonial" wars. The difference between th treatment of the "Abos" in Aus, and the Maori (Post-Waitangi) in NZ. And, of course, the real damage was done by missionaries, or so I think, anyway.


    The gradual abolition of slavery and payment for the slaves was offered. More than once I think. The slavers hated that too. Who would they have left to lord over? And admit they had been wrong!!


    India is now ONE country speaking ONE language.

    Actually no, but thanks for playing.

    India was partitioned in a very bloody fashion, and it remains partitioned: and it also remains a highly linguistically diverse country.

    As for the Indian famine, it sounds all too familiar from an Irish perspective:

    Greg will no doubt now throw his toys out of the pram and have another cathartic rant about the Pope - conveniently forgetting that in places like Quebec the British Empire was quite happy to use the Romish church as a prop for its own power and rule.


    The difference between the way the Australian Aborigines and NZ Maoris are treated has a lot to do with the fact that the Maoris are and were one of the world's pre-eminent warrior cultures that could, on occasion, give the Brits a kicking. Not so the Australian natives. As an American friend commented, the Brits only respect people who can give them a kicking. Hence the Brits generally looked down on Africans, with the exception of the Zulus, and Asians with the exception of the Japanese.


    "One thing to note in worldbuilding (and one tiny fault with Stross's writing, personal opinion) is that realistically there's not going to be a clear-cut division between morally-upstanding humanist protagonists and evil sociopathic antagonists. "

    We will see it soon enough if we manage to make Human scale (or better) artificial intelligence. And to a lesser extent if we decide to uplift various animals eg apes, dolphins etc. Those are the areas where the issues of slavery will be re-fought.

    OTOH one might claim the battle against politically sanctioned institutionalized slavery is still continuing with the Animal Rights movement.


    One might claim that, yes. Then again, that results in one asserting (and PETA has) that chicken farming is equivalent to Auschwitz.
    Anyone who has their ancestors compared to a bucket of Kentucky Fried will likely take some offense, as will many other observers.


    "enslavement" it is exactly the right word to use when you conquer a country and rule it by force. If the shoe fits, wear it.

    Hm, in my eyes "enslavement" refers to conquering a free or somewhat civilized country.

    What the "Company" did in India was taking over an institutionalized system of slavery. I'd call that a hostile change of management.

    That's the main reason, the job was so easy in the beginning. There were waves and waves of foreign armies coming into India, mainly from the Northwest.

    The caste system is a leftover of one of these conquering armies, the Mughal state was a leftover from another one.

    In contemporary Indian eyes, the British were a lot less bloodthirsty than Tamerlan and a lot more respectful to servants than a typical Hindu Maharaja. If you're sufficiently cynic, you'd call that an improvement.

    The business model of the "Company" broke down, when ideas began to spread among sepoys, that maybe there could be more to life than a somewhat lenient slave master.

    And what I've seen personally of the treatment of lower castes in the Indian countryside probably would be quite shocking to Afro-Americans old enough to remember the Civil Rights Movement.


    "Hm, in my eyes "enslavement" refers to conquering a free or somewhat civilized country."

    Does that work on the small scale, too?
    "Well, he was already enslaved when I bought him, so shame on that guy that enslaved him. I'm a much nicer master, so hooray for me!"


    And what shall we do to those newcomers who see an abbreviated STR and fail to STR?


    I think for science fiction, I would look at the British Empire. That period is full of cultural conflicts and wildly different world views, but in addition you get the effects of a massively more technologically advanced civilization impinging on other cultures with varying degrees of technological disadvantages.

    There's definitely a sense in which any novel set in the 19th century is going to be a science fiction novel, because it's going to be about people living in a time of rapid and radical technological change. Just as any novel set in (say) Britain in 1941 is going to be a war novel.

    But be careful of assuming that the British Empire was one big Outside Context Problem impinging on everyone else. A lot of the time, the Brits weren't really much more advanced than the people they were fighting. For every Maxim gun vs. spear battle, there was a Firozpur or a Maiwand or a Lucknow where two armies of near-identical tech level fought on pretty well equal terms.

    And what I've seen personally of the treatment of lower castes in the Indian countryside probably would be quite shocking to Afro-Americans old enough to remember the Civil Rights Movement.

    Hence the old joke about Nixon at the Ghanaian independence celebrations, asking his neighbour "So how does it feel to be free?" "I wouldn't know, sir. I'm from Alabama."


    Minor point: Eton no longer allows you to put your children down for a place at birth. This has been the case for at least twenty years, and apparently caused a lot of upset among some prospective parents when the change was introduced ("What do you mean, I'll have to wait until he's eleven? I was at this House, and so were my father and his father and his father before him!").

    I don't know about Harrow (or any other public schools, come to that), but I expect they're the same.


    "But be careful of assuming that the British Empire was one big Outside Context Problem impinging on everyone else. A lot of the time, the Brits weren't really much more advanced than the people they were fighting. "

    Ditto the Roman Empire. What they and we had, and the opposition did not, were organization and discipline.


    One of the great strengths of dead tree books is that they last a very long time of the weaknesses is that they can last a Very long time in the cupboards of the classrooms of secondary modern schools whose buildings had their origins in the era of Good Queen Victoria. The text books that my teachers used in the early '60s of the last century weren't quite that old but they were pretty solidly infused with the values of that time and so the history text books were structured on Ancient Empires of the Greek/Roman persuasion that the Victorians and their successors rather approved of and Kings and Queens, Generals from a bit before 1066 onwards and ... HEROES and Heroines of the Empire.

    So, on India what we got was a faint background of John Company that was Heavily overlaid with Clive of India. There were illustrations of battle fields and maps of the same and Progress in the form of the Empire bringing Benign, but Firm, Rule to the natives who were without the LAW.Oh, and reproductions of paintings of Gentlemen in Wigs who Florished Swords and were depicted leading Loyal Native Troops. The suppression of the Indian Mutiny was mentioned but the books skirted around those bits that included, er, bits of people blown off the muzzles of cannon.

    William Henry Sleeman didn't start off as a Hero of Empire-he wasn't mentioned in those text books of yore - rather he was a pestilential nuisance who was only authorised to put down the Thugs when they made the mistake of bumping off British - native - troops who were on their way home on leave. Even after William Henry had pointed out that these disappearances were a Bad Thing - how easy it is to drop into the phrasing of "1066 And All That " - he got sweet fuck all in the way of resources and had to invent his own intelligence system and armed support backup.

    One thing that The Empire was Really Really Good at was propaganda based on Heroes and the Occasional Heroine. Underpin the Tales of Empire with a solid foundation of Public School " Play Up Play Up and Play the Game " and away you go for the most successful Empire in History.

    As for Sleeman .....

    "Sleeman was resident at Gwalior from 1843 to 1849, and at Lucknow from 1849 to 1856. He was opposed to the annexation of Oudh by Lord Dalhousie, but his advice was disregarded. He died at sea near Sri Lanka on a recovery trip to Britain in 1856."

    Mysterious deaths of people who oppose the march of Empire are nothing new.

    Did you Know that a tortoise bought as a present for Clive of India died in a zoo in 2006 at the venerable age of 255. Not many people Know That.


    I'd be surprised if there weren't Ways around that proscription, especially if the proscription is supposed to be applied to sprigs of the British Nobility. I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see such a proscription used against kids who are in some respect undesirable. Times Change ... but they don't change that much.

    I think you have cause and effect backwards for at least some cases. I wonder if it would be true to say that it works both ways, as a feedback loop, in all cases. I hadn't thought of the powers that be deliberately placating the populance, so that's really interesting...

    It definitely isn't universal; there have been plenty of occasions where the initial signs of protest lead to a crackdown, which results in violent rebellion. But there's a continuity of ruler-responses - (almost) always trying to stay in charge, but using different measures to keep power. Witness the variety of ruling-class activities in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe - everything from a negotiated transfer of power through to tanks in the streets.

    A classic example among therapists who are into brief intervention is to look at how depressed people "do" depression. It is true to say that someone is hunched over and dull-voiced because they're depressed; but it also true that hunching over and dulling one's voice produces (is doing) depression. (Not that curing depression is as simple as telling someone to stand up straight.)

    The problem here is that this is one of the classic errors - confusing unhappiness and clinical depression. The difference between them is a bit like the difference between not getting enough exercise and having no legs. People with no legs tend not to get as much exercise as would be ideal, but that's a symptom of their problem (and a relatively minor one at that), not the cause. It isn't even a matter of it not being "as simple as telling someone to stand up straight" - telling someone with clinical depression to cheer up tends to actually make them worse. Most people suffering serious depression would like to be happy, but they don't have the right equipment. At best, they don't know how, and months or years of assorted therapy can improve matters by teaching them (because, yes, mood and affect interact in really interesting ways). But that tends to be limited, both in the extent of improvement possible and in the range of patients who can show improvement as a result. There are plenty of studies showing that serious depressives are often made worse by talking therapies of most kinds, and the condition of people with that kind/degree of illness can only be treated by trying to adjust their neurochemistry. (And our current understanding of neurochemistry is a bit like a caveman faced with a steam locomotive. Sometimes, you can make it go by hitting that bit with your club. But we're not sure why that works, and when it doesn't work we don't know what else to try because we have a very limited understanding of what's actually going on.)

    A better analogy might be telling someone having an asthma attack to calm down and take deep breaths. Some sufferers will be able to follow the advice, and will improve temporarily; for some (like me) it's even enough to control the symptoms most of the time. But you're not treating the underlying problem, which will (in non-trivial cases) carry on doing permanent damage in the meantime. And many serious sufferers (who would love to be able to just calm down and breathe deeply) will get worse because of the stress imposed by reminding them that they can't.


    Regarding the English, or more accurately British civil war and slavery, one of the less well-known features of the Restoration was that Lord Clarendon, Charles II's prime minister (although the term didn't then exist), combined vicious, Soviet-esque judicial murders of those Commonwealthsmen who didn't either turn their coats in time or go into exile, with rewriting the law to create the status of "slave".

    Of course, chattel slavery was a new development in Britain, and the remaining feudal duties had been abolished during the Commonwealth and nobody wanted to re-open that particular mass grave. So Mr. C has to come up with a legal basis for owning human beings, otherwise any contract involving slaves would be unenforceable.

    Every nation has its national tyranny. For us it's the Restoration, and you can tell by all the romanticised bullshit about thigh-slapping comedy princelings and red-headed tarts and Sam Pepys (aka. the guy who was in charge of the Navy when invaders landed in Britain and carried out regime change).


    very few Brits even know about the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and even fewer foreigners. It's when the Dutch invaded with a rather large army and installed William of Orange as the new king and Mary as the Queen.

    "William's fleet, with about 40,000 men aboard roughly twice the size of the Spanish Armada — and assembled in a tenth of the time — consisted of 463 ships,[48] among which 49 warships of more than twenty cannon (eight could count as third rates of 60–68 cannon, nine were frigates), 28 galliots, nine fireships, 76 fluyts to carry the soldiers, 120 small transports to carry five thousand horses, about seventy supply vessels and sixty fishing vessels serving as landing craft."


    "India was taking over an institutionalized system of slavery. I'd call that a hostile change of management."
    Sounds about right! There is a belief that if it was done before the West came and stopped it, it must have been right. It was not.


    DJPOK @ 106 Partition of India was an umitigated disaster. Partly because the Brits started playing silly divide-&-rule games, when they should have been doing as M M Kaye and others wanted, heading towards Dominion Status in the 1930's. Partly because of inherent religious, specifically muslim, pressures. Yes, there are hundreds of languages in India, but English is the lingua franca, and that spoken in its law courts and parliaments. Stop hugging your Irish hurt over the brutal Brit in the Famine ... the whole of Europe had appalling harvests 1847-8. ONLY England, parts of Scotland and Wales and Belguim survived at all easily, everywhere else was in deep misery - NOT JUST IRELAND. Yes, the administration fckd-up big-time in Ireland, but that's not the point, is it?

    Dirk Bruere @ 107 WRONG or at least partly so. The Maori understood PROPERTY RIGHTS, and the treaty of Waitangi acknowledged this. The "abos" did not have the concept of landed property. "Kicking" - not so, with the possible exception (again) of the Sikhs, and the Ghurka - though we never fought the Ghurkas - a very fortunate occurrence, actually!

    @ 110 & 111 "Enslavement" refers to treating private persons as property. Please keep to the definitions? However, the old Mughal empire was disentegrating, as its rulers became more fundie-muslim (see my earlier reference to persecution of the Sikhs), the treatment of Dalit ("Untouchable") castes in Inda was (& remains in some places) a disgrace - it's racism, pure and simple, analagous to the Japanese treatment of the Burakumin. Yes, I know "It can't be racism, because it's not being done by Western Europeans" ... err .. no. AND Someone was going to fill the power-vacuum. The alternative contender was Bourbon France - look up battle of Plassey. As it happens, it was us.

    And re @ 115 Several places became parts of the Brit Empire, because the slaughter and massacres and atrocities next door got so bad that the Brits felt obliged to move in (think Yugoslavia in the '90s for similar contaxt) Examples include Ghana/Gold Coast - the local ruler started massacring everyone, and bathing in their blood and .... Uganda, where something very similar happened. And upper Burma, when the local king had a lot of people deliberatly trampled to death by elephants. In all three of these cases, there was (at the time) no commercial reason for occupying the territory. Oh, and only about half of greater India was directly under Brit rule anyway - the rest wer Princely States. That's what caused the disaster over Kashmir - the then kahn couldn't make up his mind which way to go, until the new Pakistan invaded - at which point he asked for Indian help.

    Alex @ 119 It was a LOT MORE COMPLICATED than that! Cromwell was a murdering bastard, and Chs I was totally untrustworthy. Chs II was determined not to "go on his travels" again, and had to balance the still-warring factions. Clarendon was wierd. He wrote some wonderful stuff, but was responsible for the Clarendon Code, which you refer to. The matter was finally resolved by the REAL revolution, in 1688, when the Army refused to support James II, and Wliiam brought Huguenot troops from the Netherlands. The really important bit about that was that it ensured the supremacy of parliament, resulting in our present status as a republic in all but name, with an hereditary head of State. And certain basic, garuanteed freedoms and rights, codified in the Bill of Rights. Which certain people and institutions, like the EU Commission seem determined to remove.


    As I predicted, Greg Tingey once again fails to deal with his anger issues in a mature or adult fashion.


    here is the list of people that gave the british empire a kicking


    You know whenever i hear the British empire apologist stuff, all i can picture is a bunch of good ol' boys sitting around going "they was better off as slaves, we was doing them a favor"


    I think my geography books were in the same vein. The world was about climates and resources that could be mined or grown. Oceans were transport routes, so you needed to know currents and wind patterns.

    I swear that the only photos of people in far off places showed them in "grass skirts".

    Of course, northern England also had "satanic mills". ;)


    "You know whenever i hear the British empire apologist stuff, all i can picture is a bunch of good ol' boys sitting around going "they was better off as slaves, we was doing them a favor""

    Google "Belgian Empire" or even "Roman Empire"


    Google "Belgian Empire" or even "Roman Empire"

    What's your point, caller? If you mean that everyone else does or has done it ( by 'it' I mean 'built Empires by killing lots of people, and exploiting the survivors'), then that's not really much of a defense.


    The point being that the British Empire was probably the most benign in history, and in many cases was vastly better to live under than what immediately preceded it, or indeed followed it in many places.


    In a college town in south-central Indiana (in other words, not Indianapolis, and not a really small town either), our history options were still pretty limited. We had US history, some local history (blah blah Northwest Territory blah blah old capital blah blah new capital; I certainly don't remember learning anything like "whoops, people already here, round them up and relocate or shoot them"), and then some rather large topics to cover in a semester.

    I think one class was "European" history (so you can imagine how little we learned in that class: an entire continent in four months). I doubt I took anything else. There were more in-depth options for US history ... I suppose there could have been one more class for European history, but nothing more fine-grained than that. As a result, the chances of me learning much at all about Irish history were pretty small. (Granted, this is 25-30 years ago, so I may be forgetting some small things they did teach us. I doubt it's much, and I'm certain they weren't covering anything from modern times.)


    Administrative Note: Greg, time out on this thread. Please back away from the keyboard, take an evening out for a nice pub session, and nobody needs to get hurt.

    (You're fighting on all fronts, which is never a good sign. I suggest you drop off this thread completely -- it's obviously pushing your buttons, and not only are you getting angry, you're pissing off everyone else. This is not good, and if you weren't a regular I'd be handing you a red card at this point.)

    D. J. P. O'Cane: Please back off on Greg, the matter is being dealt with. (Otherwise I'll start to wonder if you're part of the problem, too.)

    I am in San Francisco attempting to unwind after a hard week; I do not need to spend my time moderating a discussion that's spiralled out of control.


    D. J. P. O'Cane: Please back off on Greg,

    Roger wilco, Wing Commander.

    ('O'Cane' is a refreshingly new misspelling of my name, thanks for that).

    I shall leave to the collective imagination my response to Mr. Breuer's claim about the benign nature of the British Empire.


    By regular Net standards its quite a polite discussion so far!


    Sorry about the name thing -- moderating flame wars before the first caffeine of the day has cut in isn't my favourite way to wake up!


    That would be because of our host's demonstrated robust attitude to flame wars and the like.

    Charlie - think nothing of it. 'Keane', 'O'Keane', 'O'Cayne', I've had them all. It's a good thing I didn't go with the original, Gaelic form of my surname. . .


    Charlie - OK: Except to note that DGPOK doesn't seem to have answered my points. ad hominem IS the phrase isn't it??

    However, Dirk Bruere has hit it exactly in 129. The Brit Empire NOW would be vile. By the standards of the times, it was the least-worst, if not the best. Like I said it's COMPLICATED. In fact I wonder if this is morphing into the next thread, and becoming a "wicked" problem?

    Meanwhile - I've got to go and dance outside a pub later (the hardship!) so I'm off shortly, anyway.


    Charlie - think nothing of it. 'Keane', 'O'Keane', 'O'Cayne', I've had them all. It's a good thing I didn't go with the original, Gaelic form of my surname. . .

    Say what you like about the Protestant Ascendancy, at least they made things easier to spell. (This is not intended as a serious defence of the Ascendancy.)


    Damn it All Chaps! We should stiffen our lips and remember that we are British ! So at the risk of getting into trouble with The Management, and in the faint hope of easing the tension a touch ....

    " Song of Patriotic Prejudice (The English are Best) AT THE DROP OF ANOTHER HAT " ...


    And for our foreign friends, the last verse of the UK national anthem which they will seldom hear sung:

  • Lord grant that Marshal Wade May by thy mighty aid Victory bring May he sedition hush And like a torrent rush Rebellious Scots to crush God save the King
  • 141:

    OK, if that's how you want to play it. . .


    Written in 6 minutes! Amazing. I wonder where he, 'gets his crazy Ideas from? '


    One of the most surreal moments happened decades ago when I was playing soldiers and everyone in the mess started singing Irish rebel songs!


    " Québec - Je me Souviens " Québec ? Thats in Canada isn't it? Haven't the French forgiven General Wolfe yet? After all WE did win ..


    Yet you failed to crush the spirit of the people.


    Indeed we didn't. If said People all watched "One Week " and failed to expire with terminal despondency they must be pretty damn resilient to Gloom.


    Okay, I'll add a video for your pleasure: Randy Newman's "Great Nations of Europe"

    I hope that works, doing this on my Touch, keeps wanting to open it in the youtube app.


    We're very much fighting the slavery battle again with the prison labor system in the US, though disturbingly few people are aware of it.


    I don't know if Britain still has a true class system, but the US does. According to Pew Research Center, classes continue to differentiate.


    to get the flavour of SHEER LONGING to be a part of it all that kids were made to feel ..its Sparklie Ponies/Chalet School, Midnight feasts in the Dorm country.

    Try Jo Walton's Among Others.


    The too bad to be believed Belgian Empire was not the Belgian government. It was the King of Belgians private property. If you can, look up what Mark Twain said about it. Every body hated it. And it went broke.
    The "if India did it must be alright people..."India All the biggest mess in India is because it's the last Colonial power. The UN gave them kas..? after WW-2 to take care of till the people who lived there could vote on what they wanted. Anybody who asks what about voting is a terrorist and must be killed. If they would stop killing Moslems maybe Moslems would stop killing them. But its eye for a eye time now.


    I have a Confederate cemetery about four blocks away from me, and a lot of people go to see the graves. And, yes, rebel flags and other icons are all over here, not to mention about half of the re-enacters.


    When we were stationed in Guam, I was part of one of the welcoming troupes with, yes, grass skirts. They were adults, I was seven. Turned out I was good at doing a sideways eight with my hips. Hmmm, I'm still good at it in the chair; but I'd probably fall if I tried it standing up. I have a picture somewhere, but haven't found it yet.


    No, it's three small videos on the left side but nothing about Newman. I think it's something like your favorite list.


    You've given me my next pseudonynm, thank you! From now on I'll be Seán O Maonaigh...


    Back from dancing and drinking .. hic.

    I wonder. There has been peripheral discussion of the UK's Civil War(s). There is this song, admiitedly from the royalist side, but it underscores the tensions of the time, and some of which persist to this day.

    Here we go: The Lawyer's farewell to Charing Cross Undone! undone! the lawyers cry, They ramble up and down; We know not the way to WESTMINSTER Now CHARING-CROSS is down.

    (refrain) Now fare thee well, old Charing-Cross, Then fare thee well, old stump; It was a thing set up by a King, And so pull'd down by the RUMP.

    And when they came to the bottom of the Strand They were all at a loss: This is not the way to WESTMINSTER, We must go by CHARING-CROSS. Then fare thee well, etc.

    The Parliament did vote it down As a thing they thought most fitting, For fear it should fall, and so kill 'em all In the House as they were sitting. Then fare thee well, etc.

    Some letters about this CROSS were found, Or else it might been freed; But I dare say, and safely swear, It could neither write nor read. Then fare thee well, etc.

    The WHIGs they do affirm and say To POPERY it was bent; For what I know it might be so, For to church it never went, Then fare thee well, etc
    This cursed RUMP-REBELLIOUS CREW, They were so damn'd hard-hearted; They pass'd a vote that CHARING-CROSS Should be taken down and carted: Then fare thee well, etc.

    Now, WHIGS, I would advise you all, 'Tis what I'd have you do; For fear the King should come again, Pray pull down TYBURN too. Then fare thee well, etc.

    I sometimes recite it at "ales"/folk-gatherings.


    Crap! Thanks for letting me know. I don't know what that was. Here's a proper link--I hope.

    Don't know how historically accurate the song is, but it's funny, along with Newman's "The World Isn't Fair".


    The slavery debate is still very much alive thanks to the explosion of prison labor in the US, either in a very direct way in states where prisoners will be punished for refusing to work, or just in the not terribly nice knock on effects of people with a lot of lobbying power profiting off sub minimum wage labor.

    You never actually hear about it on TV when a judge gets busted for taking bribes to give out longer prison sentences or the abuse gets so bad that prisoners actually put aside racism to try and fight back, so its a very small debate, but its there.


    @ Greg on 104

    Oh okay, I see where you were coming from.

    Not sure I agree though. There IS a definate gap between the city living 'white' Australians and the bush living 'black' Australians. (to use VERY general terms, no offense intended).

    However this is more a culture divide rather then a class thing. There is little concept of 'you are from group X, therefore you can never join gang Y' within Australia. It is more a case of 'if you want to join gang Y, then you play gang Y rules'.

    Racism isn't all that massive in Australia. It is more cultural-ism. The mainstream 'culture' is one of you work for a living, pay for your own stuff and don't bludge off others. If you work for a living and I work for a living then we relate and get along.

    So while it may be a very head up clacker way to look at the world and that I am completely ignoring the arguements of European settlement vs pre 1788 Australia, it is not a class divide that can never be crossed. 'White/Euro/City/Generic Steriotype' Australia will accept you and let you join their gang if you do the same things as they have been forced to do; Get a Job.

    So, getting back to Question 2, an Australian could probably write a novel about cultural repression and cultural divide but I still don't think we could write about 'class'.


    I'm not so sure how well the defense of different morals can really be used for past atrocities. I don't know about the British side of things, but I've dug through 19th century newspapers that had articles condemning the Indian Wars and the lack of enforcement of the 15th ammendment. Those things would raise a much bigger cry these days, but at best its comparable to the torture and assassination policies of the US over the last 11 years.


    @ 161 Thanks for that. I was wondering last night about another version: We've been talking about the "evils" of past empires, real or imaginary. What about real present evils from present empires? Of which there are two.

    The obvious one is the US, where the military are use to back-up a very corrupt commercial empire Though even there it is getting better in some places - the fruit-growing combines no longer control the Central American states. Blackwater (or whatever they are called this week) etc. Then there's China. A real colonial empire - Tibet And a growing commercial one, but with "planted" settlement, especially in Africa.

    Perhaps we should be looking at those?


    Meanwhile (after a short advert), military drill as an expression of politics:

    People can be so strange.


    > Racism isn't all that massive in Australia.

    You must be kidding. The stolen generation? One Nation? The casually-used "Abo", "Chink" and "Wog"?

    Australia has an enormous problem with racism, but white Australians refuse to even see it.


    One Nation was in some ways hilarious, kind of a Totally Raving Loony Party that took itself seriously. Sadly, it seems their appeal to our worse nature has resulted in our appalling treatment of asylum seekers. Tom Keneally's "The Tyrants Novel" should be required reading for Aussies.


    My 1965 Sciology text said America had classes and listed them. Newer books say there is no such thing in America, because people can rise and fall. Real numbers show that's not true. Now if you are not on food stamps you are middle class and vote for pols to save you from people just like you.
    "Cromwell was a murdering bastard," who did he kill? the KINGS MEN.


    @ Spudtater @ 164

    Hi Spud,

    important thing in my arguement is the words and before I get started I am in no way claiming that Australia does not have a VERY ugly side or am I claiming that Australians are shining role models that the rest of the world must look up to.

    So, my arguement. Australians have a problem with CULTURE.

    If you are willing to join the 'mainstream' (whatever that means) culture then you are acceptted. Your race have very little to do with it. Depending on the size of your workplace, many of the Aussie readers here will be able to look around and spot many people of different racial backgrounds, and I am also guessing that by and large you get on well with them (at least proffessionally).


    They work with you in a very similar job and you relate to them. They probably go to after work drinks with you and are in the office footy tips. Their culture is the same so they become 'US'.

    Now my arguement is that there is no 'race' divide in Australia. Race background will not prevent someone joining the 'US' group provided they are willing to do the 'US' things.

    However there is also THEM. A prime example is Islam which is considered a THEM. Now since anyone can convert to Islam this is clearly not a race thing but is a CULTURE thing. Non Islams are failing to understand Islams and vice verse and hence we have THEM issues.

    Aborigine Australia is also by and large a culture thing and not a skin thing. Do Australian's have problems with black skinned Americans or Euros? Not really and that is basically because they all share Western Culture. They are US just with less freckles.

    Aborigine Australia is a different culture from western/urban/euro Australian culture. A lot of Aborigine Australia lives in effectively 4th world conditions. There are many reasons for this and unfortunately a lot of it is because of a different culture. For thousands of years these people were nomadic hunter gatherers. The entire culture of living in a city is alien to their culture. And since if you destroy a persons culture you remove who they are, many of them are understandably very reluctant to give up their traditional way of live.

    However since you cannot hunter-gather in Australia anymore they instead live in townships in central Oz and are supported by the government. Some people resent that as they see them as lazy people sitting around ripping off welfare.

    Another issue is that since their culture is what defines them, many are unwilling to share. Australian media is full of disclaimers about 'beliefs of tranditional owners' and 'respecting culture'. How does this translate? It makes them in the eyes of many, one of THEM.

    Is is good? No Are many Australians largely needless living s* lives? yes Is this an ugly side of Australia that we should not be proud of? yes Do I know how to fix it? no

    However, and this was my arguement, it is not race based. The divide is cultural. Australians would accept anyone provided they drove a Holden, hated Collingwood Football Club, worked for a living and drank in a pub at least once a month. You fail to fit into that mold then up come the barriers, the distrust and unfortunately, the hate.


    Extremely interesting extended essay about class in America.

    The author is from a different class than me, and so her concerns are alien to mine. I'm a middle-class nerd (I just made that class up), and she's a middle-class Asian-American, educated at Ivy or Stanford (I forget which). So she socialized -- and socializes -- a lot with the upper classes, which will mess with your head if you're not one of those classes. I hardly ever contact the upper classes.

    Her observations about upper-middle-class American Jews made me chuckle. I grew up in THAT environment, and I have family members still deeply embedded in it. My relations with that environment are at times awkward, the same combined feelings of inadequacy and superiority that the author of the class-in-America essay seems to feel toward her upper class peers.

    I mean, when I'm visiting my upper-middle-class Jewish friends and family, part of me is saying, "Ha ha! I am so superior to them, with their concern about nice cars and nice clothes and wealth and their McMansions! I care about Ideas! And Technology!" And part of me is saying, "What's wrong with me? Why don't I have a nice car and nice clothes and wealth and a McMansion."

    The more sane part of me says, look, I don't have a McMansion because I don't want one. I have clothing that suits me (and recently I've come to appreciate the value of a nice, tailored suit -- I'm hardly a hippie). My car is a 2003 Subaru Forester that's comfortable and drives well, it hasn't needed ANY significant maintenance since we bought it. And I indulge myself on Mac gadgetry. If my upper-middle-class Jewish friends and family have different priorities, well, that probably suits them as well.


    Yep, that's the right URL -- and a funny, ironic song.

    (I want you to know that I paused Delbert McClinton to watch that.)


    I read that in In WW-1's Africa, the Australia troops were mad with racism and fear. The German treated 'THEIR" people better than the English did. In the war they armed them and made them sergeants. I've read the Australia's were wild over that. And the native German troops kept winning trill they ran out of supplies.


    "From now on I'll be Seán O Maonaigh..."

    A Sheáin, a chara,

    A fyi from the department of very annoyingly pedantic proofreaders: keep the long mark on the O: Seán Ó Maonaigh. Irish keeps long marks on capital letters, unlike French practice for accents. (Lots of people, including me, are lazy, though - online quick Irish tends to drop long marks completely, or use slashes: Sea/n O/ Maonaigh. Looks hideous.)


    Mr Brown - Can you particularise those Australians fighting in WWI Africa? Other than the battle of Gaza against the Turks (and beating up civilians in Cairo) I can't recollect a significant Australian campaign in those parts at that time. Mind you, grabdfather did say in one of his letters home from Egypt after being invalided out of Gallipoli "Twenty of our men who went away two months ago with what is known as the Composite Regiment returned today. This regiment went away in a great hurry and it consisted of men drawn from all the L.H. regiments. They went down to Alexandria & from there 100 miles along the coast to the west by train & after that 80 miles across the desert. They must have had very fierce fighting against the niggers as this regiment that our men were with lost one man killed. They were only in action once and our fellows and the Tommies killed about 700 of the enemy on Xmas day. Badly armed niggers are the best kind of enemy to fight against."

    But still, only one regiment and no Germans.


    All I know is what I read in a book about German Colonies in WW-1. I'm sure it by a Brit, for what that's worth. I don't think Grand Pappy was where I was talking about in the German Colonies there. I will say I was impressed by the Zeppelin, that was made of supplies and was ready to fly there till aphony radio traffic said they had fallen.



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by John Meaney published on July 29, 2011 6:56 PM.

    "These Aren't the Worlds You're Looking For" was the previous entry in this blog.

    Wicked (1) is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

    Search this blog