A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘britain

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • Architectuul looks at the Porto architectural project Critical Concrete, here.
  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait shares the evidence for our galaxy having experienced a phase as a quasar a quarter-million years long some 3.5 million years ago.
  • Author James Bow celebrates the end of his publicity tour for The Night Girl, including a controversy over cover art featuring the CN Tower.
  • Robert Zubrin at Centauri Dreams considers how we could detect energy from artificial singularities used for power and propulsion. (Is this how we find the Romulans?)
  • The Crux considers whether or not the new proposals for more powerful supercolliders in China and Europe are likely to produce new discoveries.
  • D-Brief explains why older generations so often look down on the young: The elders idealize their younger selves too much.
  • Dead Things notes new evidence, in the tracks of trilobites moving in line 480 million years ago, for early life being able to engage in collective behaviour.
  • io9 interviews Kami Garcia about her new YA book featuring venerable DC character Raven, remaking her for new readers.
  • The Island Review interviews David Gange about The Frayed Atlantic Edge, his book account of his kayak trip down the western coasts of Britain and Ireland.
  • JSTOR Daily explains why Martin Luther King Jr. thought so highly of jazz.
  • Eleanor Penny argues at the LRB Blog against taking Malthus, with his pessimism trending towards a murderous misanthropy, as a prophet for our times.
  • The NYR Daily looks at the play American Moor, which touches on the efforts of black actors to engage with Shakespeare.
  • Drew Rowsome reviews the new film The Flick, an old to old-style movies and theatres.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map depicting Hutterite migrations across early modern Europe.
  • Starts With A Bang shares new speculation that some evidence for dark matter might actually be a mistake in measurement.
  • Strange Maps notes the now mostly submerged continent of Greater Adria.
  • Window on Eurasia shares a suggestion that the deep Russophilia of many ordinary people in Belarus might support union with Russia.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the different meanings of “unaccompanied”.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Anthropology.net reports on the discovery of footprints of a Neanderthal band in Le Rozel, Normandy, revealing much about that group’s social structure.
  • Bad Astronomer’s Phil Plait explains why standing at the foot of a cliff on Mars during local spring can be dangerous.
  • Centauri Dreams shares a suggestion that the lakes of Titan might be product of subterranean explosions.
  • Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber considers how, and when, anger should be considered and legitimated in discussions of politics.
  • The Crux looks at the cement mixed successfully in microgravity on the ISS, as a construction material of the future.
  • D-Brief looks at what steps space agencies are considering to avoid causing harm to extraterrestrial life.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes new evidence that the Anthropocene, properly understood, actually began four thousand years ago.
  • Jonathan Wynn writes at the Everyday Sociology Blog about how many American universities have become as much lifestyle centres as educational communities.
  • Far Outliers reports on how, in the 13th century, the cultural differences of Wales from the English–including the Welsh tradition of partible inheritance–caused great instability.
  • This io9 interview with the creators of the brilliant series The Wicked and the Divine is a must-read.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at a paper considering how teachers of German should engage with the concept of Oktoberfest.
  • Language Hat looks at a new study examining the idea of different languages being more efficient than others. (They are not, it turns out.)
  • Language Log looks at the history of translating classics of Chinese literature into Manchu and Mongolian.
  • Erik Loomis considers the problems the collapse of local journalism now will cause for later historians trying to do research in the foreseeable future.
  • Marginal Revolution reports on research suggesting that markets do not corrupt human morality.
  • Neuroskeptic looks in more detail at the interesting, and disturbing, organized patterns emitted by organoids built using human brain cells.
  • Stephen Baker at The Numerati writes, with photos, about what he saw in China while doing book research. (Shenzhen looks cool.)
  • The NYR Daily notes the import of the working trip of Susan Sontag to Sarajevo in 1993, while that city was under siege.
  • Robert Picardo at the Planetary Society Blog shares a vintage letter from Roddenberry encouraging Star Trek fans to engage with the Society.
  • Noel Maurer at The Power and the Money looks at the economy of Argentina in a pre-election panic.
  • Strange Company looks at the life of Molly Morgan, a British convict who prospered in her exile to Australia.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that, in 1939, many Soviet citizens recognized the import of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; they knew their empire would expand.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the treatment of cavemen, as subjects and providers of education, in pop culture.

[MUSIC] Five music links: music videos, Yes Yes Y’All, 1970s Britain, New Caledonia, immigration

  • Noisey interviews Ryann Donnelly on the importance of the music video as a sexually revolutionary art form.
  • NOW Toronto celebrates the tenth anniversary of queer Caribbean dance party Yes Yes Y’All.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how, in 1970s Britain, pop music was often anything but apolitical.
  • The Conversation shared this article taking a look at the important role of protest music among the independence camp in New Caledonia.
  • At Inter Press Service, A.D. Mackenzie wrote about an interesting exhibit at the Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration in Paris on the contributions made by immigrants to popular music in Britain and France from the 1960s to the 1980s.

[AH] Five alternate history maps from r/imaginarymaps (#alternatehistory)

  • r/imaginarymaps has a map imagining that, in the 1520s, the Kalmar Union successfully established outposts on Newfoundland. What would have happened next?
  • This r/imaginarymaps map imagines that establishment, by the late 17th century, of a collection of Japanese settler states on the Pacific coast of North America.
  • This map, tying into a scenario elsewhere, imagines a southern Africa largely colonized by the mid-18th century by an Iberian empire.
  • What would a Britain successfully conquered by Napoleon look like? This map offers one idea.
  • This r/imaginarymaps map imagines a fictional city of a half-million people, Ramsay, at the location of St. Catharines in Niagara.

[AH] On John Quiggin’s imagining a different First World War

Last week, John Quiggin engaged in a bit of alternate history writing at Crooked Timber. There, he imagined a war equivalent to the First World War starting in 1911, one that ended in a v victory of the Central Powers and could even conceivably be blamed on the Entente powers.

Looking back at the Great War raises lots of questions. Was it, as most observers concluded in the aftermath of the war, the inevitable product of a clash of rival imperialisms, or of rising class tensions. Or should we prefer the views of the revisionists who stress the war guilt of the Entente powers, and particularly of France? Or was it, perhaps, a tragic and avoidable accident?

Starting with the now-dominant revisionist case, there’s no doubt that French aggression against Morocco, going back to the first Moroccan crisis of 1905-06, was the proximate cause of the war. Not content with the effective control over Moroccan affairs gained in that episode, France used the rebellion against the Sultan to establish a formal “protectorate”. The contemptuous dismissal of the Algeciras conference agreement as a “scrap of paper” presaged the entire French war strategy. Most notable was Joffre’s invasion of Belgium (doubtfully accepted as necessary by Poincare, who had just displaced Joseph Caillaux as Prime Minister). The postwar emergence of an anti-Semitic dictatorship, headed by Marshal Petain, is seen as representing an inherent French tendency to authoritarianism and aggression, reflected in everything from the Bonapartes to l’affaire Dreyfus

The other Entente powers come off little better on this account. Lloyd George was already the dominant figure in the British government and signalled his aggressive intent with the Mansion House speech. The fall of Herbert Asquith as a result of a sex scandal propelled Lloyd George into the Prime Ministership at a crucial moment. His ascension ensured that there would be no negotiated peace. The Entente with the Czarist empire adds weight to the indictment. The aim of encircling and crushing the nascent democracies of the German-speaking world could scarcely be more obvious.

But it is the documents unearthed from wartime archives that are seen by revisionists as sealing the case. The Sykes-Picot agreement, carving up the Middle East, the Constantinople Agreement handing the centre of the Islamic world to Russia, and the offers to Italy under the Treaty of London make the case for Entente war guilt seem unarguable.

I’m not necessarily convinced by the exercise. As commenters note, you may need deeper reasons for Britain and France to adopt more aggressive policies towards Germany, particularly (on Britain’s part) to justify invading Belgium. The explanation as to why the war starts in the first place does not ring true to me. Likewise, it does not make intuitive sense to make that a war waged by Britain and France in 1911, three years before 1914, against a relatively weaker Germany, would end worse for the two powers in any case.

What say you?

Written by Randy McDonald

January 12, 2016 at 7:46 pm

[NEWS] Some Friday links

  • io9 shares wonderful illustrations of Titan’s methane showlines.
  • The Atlantic Cities notes that the coastline of Louisiana is receding so quickly mapmakers are hard-pressed to keep up.
  • BusinessWeek wonders how great cities, like New York City or Rome, reconcile change and tradition.
  • Christianity Today features a Philip Jenkins article noting that the origins and alliances of the Crimean crisis can be traced back at least as far as the Crimean War.
  • Ha’aretz notes that Israelis are moving to Tel Aviv, abandoning peripheral areas (with large Arab population) like Galilee and the Negev.
  • MacLean’s notes that condo construction is set to boom in Toronto.
  • Tablet Magazine notes that Crimea, immediately after the Second World War, was positioned as a potential homeland for Soviet Jews.
  • According to Time, changes in Canadian immigration law may be discouraging rich Chinese immigrants.
  • Universe Today notes that China’s Yutu moon rover can’t properly move its solar panels.

[LINK] Frank Jacobs at Borderlines: The Guyanas and Sealand

I found out just now that Frank Jacobs, the writer whose map-themed blog Strange Maps became the enjoyable book Strange Maps, now blogs at the New York Times, in Borderlines. He blogs there about any number of unusual borders and their particular historical circumstances, writing with his usual erudition and humour.

Two posts stand out particularly for me. The first being is his January post “The Loneliness of the Guyanas”. Guyana, Surinam (formerly Dutch Guyana), and French Guyana, located on the northeastern coast of South America between Venezuela and Brazil, are incredibly isolated from their neighbours despite long being part of one western European empire or another.

The area’s relative obscurity is not just name-related. With a combined population of less than 1.5 million, the Guyana Three are hardly a hotspot for news. If you know three things about French Guiana, it’s probably these: there’s a pepper (and a Porsche) named after its capital, Cayenne; the notorious French penal colony of Devil’s Island was located off its shore; and it’s the site of the European Space Agency’s spaceport, at Kourou. Suriname? Two things: the Netherlands traded it with the English for New Amsterdam, and it’s the only Dutch-speaking country outside of Europe. Guyana? The Jonestown Massacre of 1978.

But as a set, the three entities are a significant anomaly, and a case study in the way that geology and the environment can combine with geopolitics to shape a region’s history.

Since Belize won independence in 1981, French Guiana is the last territory on the American mainland controlled by a non-American power. But in fact, all three Guyanas are Fremdkörper in Latin America: they are the only territories in the region without either Spanish or Portuguese as a national language. These are coastal countries, culturally closer to the Caribbean.

Moreover, these shores are cut off from the rest of the subcontinent by dense rainforest. And that jungle remains virgin by virtue of the Guyana Shield, a collection of mountain ranges and highlands seemingly designed to conserve the interior’s impenetrability. The shield is best known for its tepuis: enormous mesas that rise dramatically from the jungle canopy and are often home to unique flora and fauna (tepuis feature prominently in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World” and, more recently, the animated film “Up.”)

And even more paradoxically, the borders–or in some cases, the existence–of the Guyanas have been challenged.

Jacobs’ most recent post, “All Hail Sealand”, takes a look at the Principality of Sealand located in the English Channel and the phenomenon of the micronation.

The Principality of Sealand is a textbook example. Literally. Open any book or Web page on micronations, and you’re likely to see its unmistakable silhouette: a two-legged marine platform. Sealand is one of the first, arguably one of the most successful, and possibly the best-known example of modern micronationalism. It’s also one of the most intriguing experiments in state-creation in history.

Start with its geography, as it were: Sealand was founded on an abandoned World War II sea fort six miles off the coast from Felixstowe, in the southern English county of Suffolk. The installation, officially known as Her Majesty’s Fort Roughs, is one of the half dozen so-called Maunsell Forts, built during World War II to provide antiaircraft defense and abandoned by the British Army in the 1950s. Predictably, the hulks of concrete and steel left to rust in the busy waterways just off the English coast were accidents waiting to happen. In the deadliest one, the Norwegian ship Baalbek collided with Nore Army Fort, in the Thames estuary between the Isle of Sheppey and Southend-on-Sea, killing four people and destroying two of the fort’s towers.

The mid-1960s saw the re-occupation of some forts, this time by pirates rather than privates. Not cutlass-and-peg-leg pirates; these were of the broadcasting variety (though some swashbuckling was involved). One of the more colorful radio pirates was Screaming Lord Sutch, who established Radio Sutch in Shivering Sands Army Fort, a collection of outlandish huts on stilts also in the Thames estuary. “Britain’s First Teenage Radio Station” was quickly rebranded Radio City by its new manager, Reginald Calvert. Other pirate stations were set up at the Red Sands Army Fort and the Sunk Head Navy Fort, all competing with the more established, ship-based pirate stations, most notably Radio Caroline.

These heady radio days were hardly halcyon. The pirates took to the sea to operate on or beyond the fringes of the law. Arguments were settled by violence. Mr. Calvert was killed in a dispute over, among other things, radio crystals. In 1965, a group of feral DJs under the command of Roy Bates ejected a rival crew from Knock John Navy Fort; it then became the base for Radio Essex, the first pirate to broadcast around the clock. The next year, a conviction for illegal broadcasting forced Mr. Bates to abandon Knock John, which was located within the three-mile radius of British territorial waters, to Fort Roughs, which was just outside.

In response, the Marine Broadcasting Act of 1967 made it illegal for pirate radios, even those outside territorial waters, to employ British citizens. Mr. Bates promptly declared independence, probably hoping to circumvent the strictures of the act. Henceforth, he would be Prince Roy, ruler of the Principality of Sealand.

Mr. Bates never got around to resurrecting his radio station. The accident of statehood turned into his core business. On the Web site, noble titles are for sale (“Lord, Lady, Baroness — from £29.99”). Until 1997 it even issued passports (Mr. Bates suspended the practice because of widespread fraud). Over the years, Sealand’s supposed sovereignty has attracted the interests of some who seek sanctuary from the law, from gambling operators to, more recently, WikiLeaks, which was examining whether to move its servers to the principality.

Sealand’s struggles to gain recognition as a sovereign principality, so far fruitless despite claims, are intriguing.

Go, read.