Friday, July 26, 2013

One-sided History, Fantasy and Nostalgia

Some time ago I was having a conversation with an American friend of mine about the American war of independence. During the conversion he was going on and on about how America kicked the great British army’s ass and won their independence. I listened for a while and agreed that yes America did win the war of Independence but then asked him a simple question.


At the time of the American War of Independence, can you describe to me what was happening in Britain at the time? This he could not answer, he had no idea what was happening in the Britain at the time. He knew the King and his countrymen got beaten but that was it and I was not surprised because he was never thought anything about life in the Britain during this war. He knew nothing about the mood of the people, nothing about what was happening on that side of the world. I suppose the yanks left that part out of history because it may affect the way the story was told. If you want to create Big Bang memorable event that solidify's a nation and have them rally round that event then your enemy must be a big and bad, powerful tyrant who attacked you with all his might and you kick his sorry ass to achieve ultimate glory. Cue Gladiator music!!!

Many years before this conversation I was sitting in my West Indian and European history class, when the professor walked in and asked ...do you know how slavery ended? Well everyone in the class nodded in agreement, yes after one revolt and riot after another, we became such a thorn in the side of the British that they had no choice but to give in and free us.


He told us that at the end of the school year he hoped we would come away with a better understanding of how the world worked. He went on to say that at the time Britain was the greatest Military power the world had ever seen in a longtime. That Britain ruled the high seas, had more military might than the next 6 world power put together and could travel half way round the world and lay waste to any of her enemies. He told us we were going to analyse, investigate and evaluate why Britain did not use her Military might and lay waste to tiny Jamaica and restore order?
 
He declared that for the next couple months we would study British History during the years leading up to the abolition of the slave trade and slavery. Trying to find out why Britain did not bring the full force of her Military might down on Jamaica but instead abolished Slavery and the Slave trade. We needed to understand the mood of the country at the time and how it was changing, to find out if that had anything to do with the outcome. 

For the next couple months we studied British and European History
  • We studied about conditions that existed in Britain at the time. 
  • We studied about the Plantocracy, who they were and how much power they had. 
  • We studied about the start of the industrial revolution and the great transformation of the British economy.
  • We studied about the rise of the Industrialist, the industrial barons.
  • We studied about the decline of the Plantocracy, how and why they lost power.
  • We found out that that what was important to the Plantocracy was not important to the industrialist.
  • We studied the rise of beet sugar and how it affected cane sugar, who was no longer king.
  • We studied about industrialist financing various abolition movements at home and abroad and how they elected several of their members to parliament thus further weakening the Plantocracy.
  • The only reason Britain ended the slave trade on the high seas was because it was trying to starve her military rivals the French, Spanish and Portuguse of wealth. Fearing that if it was profitable to them like how it was profitable to the British then they would  create vast navy to rival their Britain's navy. Britain cared nothing about the black slaves.


We were given manuscripts containing debates after debates in the British parliament about the colonies, slavery and emancipation, as well as various issues affecting the British Economy and the different interest of the British society. While reading and analysing various debates, we came across a passage that said Jamaica was now costing Britain 10,000 more shillings per year than she earns. It seemed slavery was no longer earning Britain as much money as before and was now costing Britain money, and you cannot have that, why should industrialist finance a bunch of farmers in this black colony.

So the reasons for the end of the slavery and the slave trade was complex and multidimensional. We found out that the industrialist used various revolts to their advantage as a means to an end but it was not the revolts that ended slavery, after all, the only thing this great power had to do was raised a vast army from her vast Empire, send over loads of ships and bombard the entire island from sea before invading and re-establish her control.


So what of the American Revolution, what was happening in Britain and Europe at the time? We know Britain was at war with the French who were just across the channel, a hop, skip and a jump away. We know that Spain, as an ally of France and was also at war with the British. We know the British was at war in other parts of the Empire as various European nations try to loosen her grip on power and take some of what she had.  We know at the time America was not considered a valued colony because British West Indian colonies were way more valuable to Britain. In 1773 the value of British Imports from Jamaica was five times greater than those from all the American colonies. Nevis produced three times more British imports than New York between 1714 and 1773 because it was sugar, ...not tobacco that was king...  



Britain was not about to take its eyes off the French and Spanish to fully engage those British citizens in America. It was one thing to fight Native Red Skin Americans and Mutinous black slaves and put them down like dogs but it was another to fight your own British brothers and sisters. We know that various debates in parliament by British MP’s supported the views of the British people in America, some even wear blue colour to show their support.

Spain, as an ally of France and attacked far more important British colonies such as Gibraltar and the West Indies; therefore the far more experienced and better quality British soldiers were sent to successfully defend these and other places, rather than the thirteen colonies that were more of a drain on the British treasury than filling it since Britain over the years had to send its army to help the colonies against the Indians and other potentially invading Europeans. In the end Britain had a choice to make and she made it by weighting her pros and cons. 

If you learned about West Indian History from British books then you know nothing about West Indian history. The books that the British distributed to the colonies before and after independence was designed for the single purpose of making the British look good, benevolent and making us look like the whites man’s burden. It was not by accident because the British did nothing by accident, it was a calculated strategy designed for control by making us feel grateful to the British, grateful for colonization and even grateful for slavery. To fully understand history one must have all the facts, only then can we fully appreciate the realities of life...




The British also teach their own citizens this British version of sanitized history, which is why the average English person have a look of confusion when you do not seem grateful because in his or her mind, if is was not for them we would not know how to use knife and fork. To them their grand Empire and colonization was a blessing to the world and we should thank our lucky stars even for the slavery because through slavery they saved us from a life in Africa, trying to pretend that they are not responsible for the problems Africa faces.

2 comments:

  1. lol don't ruin it for us...the revolts and maroon attacks i am sure had something to do with this valuable colony now being more expensive to maintain than to use...

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  2. hahahaha... yup they upset the planters and the planters complain to Britain who no longer cared...

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