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Colonial Wars-1: Steve Gilliard's Web Log
January 24, 2005
Steve Gilliard's "History of Colonialism" has been nominated for best series (Wampum); your humble correspondent is the more humbled by never having heard of it till now. Having read it, I would like to furnish readers with links to it. (Quotes from Steve have been italicized)
- Part 1, begins with passages from Grandin's review of Ferguson ("The Right Quagmire", text). I had read similar reviews of Ferguson long before but didn't bother to discuss him much (beyond this 1, 2). Gilliard closes with ten important things that Mr. Ferguson left out of his primer out imperialism. Number eight:
It's always cheaper to buy resources than plunder them. The Soviets thought they would pay for their invasion of Afghanistan by stealing its natural gas. The Washington neo-conservatives who engineered the Iraq war ludicrously claimed its stolen oil would fully cover the costs of invasion and occupation.
- Part 2; mostly passages from "COIN: The Portuguese in Africa, 1959-1975", "The End, But Not The End" and "Namibian Concentration camps" (a history of the extermination campaign against the Witbooi & Herero of Namibia). These three articles relate to two neighboring countries, Angola and Namibia, where methods employed were frankly genocidal.
- Part 3: Ten for Every One: the Balangiga Massacre [in the Philippines, Jan-April 1902] During the approximately five years of war in the Philippines against the nascent republic and Pilipino patriots, the US military repeatedly resorted to massacres in reprisal for ambushes and defensive warfare.
- Part 4 (on the Belgian Congo):
Before we discuss the British in Mesopotamia, it would be good to discuss what is widely seen, except in Belgium, as the darkest aspect of colonial history, the creation of the Belgian Congo.Passages from "The Belgian Congo" (Congo2000); "The Congo Free State, 1885-1908" (KMLA); extracts from the Casement Report (of Roger Casement, a fascinating early opponent of human rights abuses in the Congo; see also Edmund Dene Morel).
- Part 5 (on the collapse of Belgian rule in the Congo): passages from BBC Case Study on the DRC; "Heart of Darkness: the Tragedy of the Congo, 1960-67" (Chandelle). Mr. Gilliard comments that the Belgians, almost unique among the colonial powers, never trained a cohort of civil servants; they assumed the Congolese would remain forever incapable of self-rule.
- Part 6 (Part 2 on the collapse of Belgian rule in the Congo: the UN gets involved). Passages from "The UN and Congo"; however, as with the first posting in this series, Mr. Gilliard's own views are well-put, fresh, and cogent. He has an outstanding knack for slashing through balderdash (e.g., here):
Everything Hitler did to the Poles and Jews in 1942, Gen. Lothar von Trotta did to the Hottenttot and Herero in 1904. No, he didn't turn them into ash, but he sure did build concentration camps and starve them to death. Collective punishment? You bet. Auschwitz was the last step in a chain of human cruelty, not the first. And it didn't start with the Nuremberg Laws. It started with people no one noticed or knew or much cared about, savages. It only dawned on Europeans the evils of colonies when Hitler turned their countries into colonies of Germany. All of the techniques used by the Nazis, forced labor, theft of resources, stealing land, well, it began in Africa and Asia. Hitler just did them to Europeans.
I've tried to make this point in my own insidious way, probably to no avail.
But Europeans have never, to this day, truly faced the bloody legacy of empire building. This doesn't mean Americans have either. But when you hear Europeans exclaim wonder and amazement at US attitudes towards Iraq, how many know what Belgians thought about the Congolese or British thought about Kenyans or Malaysians? They were equally as complicit and silent, only a few lonely voices rejecting the horrors of colonialism. Why should Americans be any better or different?
- Part 7 (on Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia). Passages from "A Short History of Indonesia" (Abacci Atlas) and the Library of Congress Country Study" (1, 2); "The Colonial Rulers" (Peter Lowensteyn);
- Part 8 (Part 1 on the end of Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia); material from GlobalSecurity.org's synopsis of the war for independence; again, good summary by Mr. Gilliard at the end:
The parallels between the Dutch in Indonesia and the US in Iraq are a lot closer than the Dutch would like to consider. They basically launched their return on false pretexts and then fought a brutal, losing war for four full years.
- Part 9, (Part 2 on the end of Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia); very stern indictment of Dutch atrocities in Indonesia, from "Indonesia: Painful Memories Haunt the Dutch" (Radio Netherlands; text no longer online); "Holland's Black Page," Dheera Sujan (War and Forgiveness" series, WNYC, Radio Netherlands); "The Dutch Connection" (autobiography of Maria van der Linden); Steve concludes:
There is a general silence about the murders committed by the Dutch Army in the name of the Dutch kingdom. And after all this was done, they were shoved to the back of the line in terms of employment. Colonialists got the first pick of jobs, because they were no longer welcome in Indonesia.
The quickest way to forget war is to forget the veterans. And considering the kinds of crimes permitted by their commanders, it served everyone's purposes to skip over the 1945-50 period. The veterans who didn't immigrate, didn't need reminders, and the ones who did were forgotten. And the Indonesians, the Ambonese and Moluccans, who fled to Holland, were the ones who sided with the Dutch. The Indonesians were trying to forget their painful past. So no one wanted to ask, no one wanted to find out what happened and no one did.
But the ghosts of colonial misrule and murder linger over Indonesia, even today.
- Part 10 (on British rule in Kenya); notable quote:
While the partition of India is the stuff of epic novels and Masterpiece Theater, the bloody end to British rule in Kenya is often overlooked. The whole nature of the British in Kenya reads like a lurid sex novel, complete with murder. theft of Kikuyu and Masai lands are of lesser interest to people, since white actresses can't be seen semi-nude in the story of destroying the pastoral life of a people.(Now wait a minute; hasn't Steve seen Dances with Wolves?). Mention of the use of Kenyans as troops in other parts of the Empire (e.g., Burma; this was obviously very common in the empires and even a significant motivation for preserving them); a vivid account of why the Kenyans might have resented the British settlers ("Altitude sickness" by Javier Gómez-García); Chicago Tribune article on land theft; "1954: British crackdown on Kenya rebels" (BBC), which is utterly stunning in account of mass detentions, executions to end Mau Mau uprising.
- Part 11 (on the Jallian wala Bagh Massacre, Amritsar, India, 1919):
Amritsar.com: It started a few months after the end of the First World War when an Englishwoman, a missionary, reported that she had been molested on a street in the Punjab city of Amritsar. The Raj's local commander, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, issued an order requiring all Indians using that street to crawl its length on their hands and knees. He also authorized the indiscriminate, public whipping of natives who came within lathi length of British policemen.As Steve points out, many in the House of Commons defended perpetrator Reginald Dyer, much as many in Congress raced to defend the conduct at Abu Ghraib.
- Part 12 (on Armed Resistance to British Rule in India). Very good material, such as this essay "Hill Stations: Pinnacles of the Raj" (on the land policy of the Raj). Mistrust the account of British colonialism cultivated by Masterpiece theater.
- Part 13 (on the Partition of India following British departure); links to "The Partition of India" (Emory Postcolonial Studies Dep't); a controversial Time article ("Hurrying Midnight"; the premise is that, unbeknownst to Lord Mountbatten, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was dying of tuberculosis; had independence been delayed to 11 Sept '48, when Jinnah died, there might have been no partition. Time is worthless.) Partition was an unmitigated disaster, in which 15 million refugees fled to their respective sectors, and one million died in communal violence. 24 years later, the other boot fell with the partition of Bangladesh (an almost entirely forgotten colonial war, outside of Bangladesh).
- Part 14 (on the repression of Madagascar). This is an especially interesting post for me because Madagascar's struggle for independence is a recurring, and forgotten, nightmare; and also because of the extraordinary ecological disaster of French colonial rule there. Le Monde Diplomatique has a series on the 1947 Rebellion (1997, 1, 2, 3); the Library of Congress country study (1, 2);
- Part 15 (on the French acquisition of Vietnam); includes the CNN account; a Thai guide summary; "Early History of Vietnam" (1, 2); and my links on the subject here.
- Part 16 (on the French effort to reconquer Vietnam after 1947; Vietnam was overrun by the Japanese toward the end of WW2 and then the nationalist Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, captured much of the country.) Much of the text comes from "From Haiphong to Dien Bien Phu" ("origins of the war", "War in Laos"), which I have to admit was an excellent find.
- Part 17 (the French in Algeria); this is mainly from the Library of Congress country study for Algeria. For more on this topic, I recommend "One man's war?", "Remembering the revolution", "France confronts its past," "Bullets in the water", and "War chronicles" (al-Ahram); and this file of related documents (courtesy of Marxists.org).
- Part 18 (on the Spanish in Morocco); mainly based on the Columbia encyclopedia (and for Abd al-Krim; see also OnWar, Wikipedia, The Rif War [Steven Thomas], and Flagspot). Astonishing dearth of detailed information online about the Rif War; unfortunately, the LoC country study for Morocco is not online.
- Part 19 (French Invasion of Egypt, 1798-1801)
- Part 20 (on Turkish—actually, Khedive Muhammad Ali's—rule over Sudan [1821-1884], followed by British rule in Sudan [1884-1955]). Material from LoC, country study for Sudan (1, 2); Here's my essay on imperialism in Sudan. See also this history of the Darfur Sultanate, which was an independent nation until 1916 and governed separately afterwards.
- Part 21 (on the Khedives of Egypt and their complicated relationship with the British); material from LoC country study for Egypt, mainly on Khedive Ismail
- Part 22 (on the end of British rule in Egypt); mostly "The Era Of Liberal Constitutionalism And Party Politics", "Egypt During the War, 1939-45" and "On the Threshold of Revolution, 1945-52" (LoC country study for Egypt)
- Part 23 (on the Suez Incident); "The Revolution and the Early Years of the New Government: 1952-56"; see also the Wikipedia entry.
- Part 24 (on the French Mandate in Syria and Lebanon)
- Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, 28A, 28B, 29, 30, 31 (on the French Algerian War, 1954-1963). Lots of very good links on this, including this INA series on the presentation of the war to French television viewers; also, "Torture in the Algerian war (1954-62)", "Algerian War Reading" (USF Prof. Webber's page); as mentioned above, there's the LoC country study for Algeria; see also the magnificent archives of the Cairo weekly, al-Ahram, such as this profile of "Ahmed Ben Bella: Plus ça change" (May '01). Mr. Gilliard's commentary is also pithy:
Part 31: At the end of this bloody war, France had no role in Algeria and nearly lost their democracy. It was a close run thing, and only de Gaulle's charisma saved the day. The French media had not leveled with the French people about the real cost of the war, and many were surprised when allegations of torture were made. The colonial war in Algeria turned from the FLN against France to the FLN versus other guerrillas to the OAS against the French. The increasing desperation of both sides was evident. The General's Putsch was the final straw. The Army was going to subvert democracy to keep Algeria. Nothing they supposedly stood for matter more than keeping their colony. And the media always promoted the idea that Algeria was crucial to France. Not until it was clear that Algeria was lost did people change their minds.
- Part 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and 37 (on the British Mandate in Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine, 1919-1958). This, I believe, is even better than the series on French Algeria—in addition to the use of the LoC country study for Iraq (edit. cut-off date: 1988), and the oft-cited "Iraq 1917" by Robert Fisk (Iraq archive, Globalpolicy.org), he has letters by Gertrude Bell, the polymath adventurer and architect of Iraq [* * *]; "Aeroplanes and Armored Cars: Imposing British Colonial Control on Iraq in the 1920s" (V.G Kiernan), "The Royal Air Force in Iraq" (Peter Sluglett), "A Report on Mesopotamia" (T.E. Lawrence), "Germany, Great Britain and the Rashid Ali al-Kilani revolt of spring 1941" (James C Scott's masters thesis); and "The Last Time (1941) Iraq Was Invaded"
(James Dunnigan, StrategyPage.com); see also Wikipedia's History of Iraq, Faisal I, Nuri as-Said, and Rashid Ali.
- Why are the Colonial Warfare Posts So Long?
It's very simple. We're all learning at the same time. I don't know all of the details and when I start to write essays I want to have the facts on the table. These are not widely known facts and while heavy slogging, I think it's critical to an informed discussion.
Because people like Max Boot and Niall Ferguson lie. They make shit up. They edit their arguments. I don't think that's how you make a historical argument.
Now, I plan to discuss post-colonialism after everyone catches their breath, but to do that, and say nasty things about Zaire and Indonesia, you need context and fact. You can't enter the discussion in the middle.
I was thinking of going on with the series, since the method is pretty easy.
Part 38: The Opium War (China, 1839-1842): LoC; Commissioner Lin's letter to Queen Victoria, 1839; The Opium Monopoly;
Part 39: Western Involvement in the T'aip'ing Rebellion; Modern History Sourcebook; LoC
Part 40: The Lorcha War; AKA the Arrow War, 2nd Opium War; War Times; Iridis;
Part 41: The Rape of China (1842-1900): map; Angus Maddison, Chinese Economic Performance in the Long Run", Chapter 2 (PDF)
Part 42: "The Boxer Rebellion" (China 1900); "Fei Ch'i-hao"(Modern History Sourcebook); LoC background
Part 43: East Pakistan, 1947-1971: LoC "Revolution" of Ayub Khan, 1958-66", "Emerging Discontent, 1966-70
Part 44: Colonial war, March-December 1971: LoC "The War for Bangladeshi Independence, 1971"; "Case Study: Genocide in Bangladesh", selected other links