Friday, 30 July 2010
I'll not quit my bed for them, not I;
But rout the vermin, every bug destroy,
Now make my bed, and all the sweets enjoy
So said William Cuffay, Britain's black Chartist revolutionary leader, in a speech attacking the aristocracy illustrating his ability to inject humour into his speeches.
While this was not used in it, congratulations to Bill Morris and the producer for an excellent programme about Cuffay broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 28 July. Also to the contributions of leading Chartist historian Malcolm Chase, Jan Morris of National Portrait Gallery and Keith Flett, a leading member of the London Socialist Historians Group.
Cuffay was mentioned in the Jeremy Irons' Who Do You Think You Are? TV programme, which Malcolm took part in. Iron's ancestor Thomas and Cuffay's portraits were sketched by fellow Chartist prisoner William Dowling while they were in Newgate; the Irons one still in the family's possession, Cuffay's at the National Portrait Gallery.
Cuffay was the subject of a play by the Irish playwright Sam Dowling performed at the Space Art Centre in London ending on 31 October last year.
Bruce Aubrey's pamphlet William Cuffay: Medway’s Back Chartist, 22 pages £3, including p&p, is still available from Brian Joyce: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The reprint of Peter Fryer's text about him in his book Staying Power can be seen on www.alphabetthreat.co.uk/pasttense/page2.html.
On 31 October last year I spoke about Cuffay on behalf of Black & Asian Studies Association (BASA) at the Feargus O'Connor Memorial event at Kensal Green Cemetery. The text can be seen on the BASA website: www.blackandasianstudies.org. I suggested that there were three things of particular contemporary significance about the Charter, O'Connor and Cuffay.
Firstly, the authorities were prepared to attack their own citizens if the Kennington Common demonstrators had attempted to cross the Thames. That is precisely what the police and the army did on Bloody Sunday in 1887. The policing of the G20 demonstration the previous April showed that the need for vigilance to protect our democratic right to demonstrate is on-going.
Secondly, sometime ago I suggested that we had entered into a period of New Corruption with some features similar to the Old Corruption of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. The demands of the Charter that have been implemented have clearly not been sufficient to prevent the new corrupt abuses, of which the MPs expenses scandal was a visible manifestation. As a columnist had argued in The Guardian it is time to revive the debate about the last of the Chartist demands - annual Parliaments to ensure accountability.
Thirdly, as a figure at the centre of the fight for British democracy, Cuffay is a reminder of how wrong the BNP is.
Austen and her family lived in Chawton because her brother Eward had been adopted and inherited the estate owned by distant cousins who were childless. However, part of that wealth was in slave ownership. Nearby is the former Chawton Manor House where James lived. It now houses the Library of Early Women's Writing 1660-1830. This started off as the collection of the American philanthropist Sandy Lerner, who runs Cisco Systems with her husband. She leases the house, funded its renovation and shipped her collection including paintings to create the Library which opened in 2003. It is run by a private trust. It is becoming better known as a unique research facility.
On 21 September it will be the venue for the 'Rethinking the Fall of the Planter Class' Conference organised by Dr Christopher Petley at the University of Southampton. Speakers include Nick Draper of the Legacies of British Slavery. Topics include the rise of the planter class in Jamaica, 16601-763; the Jamaican sugar industry 1760-1830; the London Society of West India Planters and Merchants after abolition 1807-1834; planters and politics, and their cultural lives. Full details from Dr Christopher Petley: email@example.com.
Leaving aside the issue of overnight accommodation on 20 and 21 the Conference costs £50/£35, with an optional there course dinner as an extra.
For further details of:
Jane Austen's House Museum: http://www.jane-austens-house-museum.org.uk/.
Chawton House: http://www.chawton.org/.
Friday, 16 July 2010
Further to my blog posted on 4 July about Legacies of British Slavery in my presentation on the slavery business across South London I reviewed the evidence of the wide range of involvements in the slavery business of the wealthy in various parts of South London. One of the important pieces of analysis I was able to undertake when preparing my talk was into the lists of owners and occupiers in Dorian Gerhold's Villas and Mansions of Roehampton and Putney Heath (Wandsworth Historical Society, 1997) against known involvements in the slavery business from other sources in the decades leading up to emancipation, and the information provided to me by Nick Draper of the Legacies project team on those who were involved in compensation claims. It highlights the importance of studying in detail who the wealthy were both in terms of land and other forms of wealth, because their involvements in the slavery business were often hidden and because profits of slavery contributed to that wealth. Decades of work by W. D. Rubinstein on different aspects of the wealthy have provided useful context. His more recent work on probate records culminating in Who Were the Rich? (Vol 1. 1809-39) is derived from a database of some 12,000 of the richest people dying between 1809 and 1914 with £100,000 personalty. Rubinstein and the team are sharing their data for mutual benefit. This is a very welcome cross academic project development.
While Rubinstein has drawn on John Bateman's The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland in his work, his analysis excludes landed wealth. The team will therefore be working systematically through Bateman to trace the effects of movement of slave-wealth into English land. Bateman based his work on the Parliamentary Returns 1872-3 of Every Owner of Land in England and Wales (Parliamentary Papers 1874. c. 1492), excluding London. He corrected the figures through correspondence with owners. There may also be local and regional studies which will help like R. G. Wilson's Gentlemen Merchants: The Merchant Community in Leeds, 1700-1830 (Manchester 1971). This was cited by Rubinstein in his article New Men of Wealth and the Purchase of Land in Nineteenth Century Britain in Past and Present (No. 92. August 1981), along with The Making of a Ruling Class: Two Centuries of Capital Development on Tyneside. (Newcastle 1978) which he describes as 'impressive'. The question arises as to how many other detailed studies of the wealthy at local and regional level there are. And we must not forget that many landowners owned estates all over the country, so links between regions also have to be looked for. It is to be hoped that those with relevant knowledge will attend the workshop in the region where they are based. The studies in the long awaited publication from the English Heritage and National Trust Conference on Slavery and the English Country House should add to our knowledge. Work may have been carried out in the Victoria County Histories England's Past for All projects which may provide useful information.
There were plenty of ideas at the 3 July workshop on how the Legacies project team could be working. As someone who is bombarding the team members with nuggets of information, ideas and questions, I recognise that the scale of the work accumulating for them could overwhelm them. Pursuing some ideas could divert them from the completion of the core of the project. Others will require a lot of input but are unlikely to maximise benefits. The key is how to maximise publicity and engagement with minimal input. The County summaries of people connected with compensation being prepared for each workshop, could be posted on the project website, along with a list of all the claimants and awardees by address (both County and London if both), along with an explanation that the team would welcome any information from family, local, business, economic, etc, historians about these people. The list would need to include a reference to those who appear in the Dictionary of National Biography. Co-operation with the DNB would enable the Legacies team to check whether any of the individuals it is interested in are being worked on for future inclusion. Another area for potential co-operation is with the Victoria County Histories England Past project team in case their work has generated any material that is relevant to the Legacies project. Another useful tool on the website would be a list of slave plantations by island and parish with a request especially to archivists as to whether they have any records at any period relating to those plantations.
Despite all the work on slavery and abolition in 2007 we are only at the threshold of understanding the real impact of the slavery business on British economic, political, social and cultural development. Earlier in the year one of the Long 18thC Seminars at the Institute of Historical Research had an impromptu discussion on whether 18thC studies were in crisis. I suggested that the new work on slavery emerging from the work around the 2007 commemoration had begun to provide the basis for a re-examination of the 18thC economy, and that the work the English Country House and the Legacies Projects would contribute to a re-evaluation. Nick Draper's book The Price of Slavery of Emancipation (Cambridge University Press. 2010) gives a flavour of the potential impact.
A key element of the Legacies project is the looking forward at what recipients of compensation did with the money; funding colonial development, industrial development, colonial enterprise, building development, and cultural and philantrophic activities. It will hopefully provide a lot more information that will show how British Governments and entrepreneurs underpinned the continuing slave economies in the United States, Cuba and Brazil. Marika Sherwood threw out as a challenge the need to do such research in her polemic After Abolition (I B Tauris, 2007)
James Bogle Smith (1797-1870). who for many years lived on Battersea's Lavender Hill is an example of these people. Nick tells me that he was a partner in the West India merchant firm of Brooke Smith of 1 Sambrook Court, Basinghall Street at the time of compensation in the early 1830s; by the late 1830s he was trading under his own name at 15 Tokenhouse Yard. He appears in the compensation records with Elizabeth Brooke, Henry James Brooke and William Robertson Webb (the first two of whom Nick believes were heirs of Smith's former partner in Brooke Smith and the third a partner in the related firm Brooke Webb) as mortgagees or creditors of the Rabaca [sp?], Dumbarton and Belmont estates on St Vincent (St Vincent Nos. 452, 461, and 597), for all of which they were awarded the compensation. The same group had two other apparently unsuccessful counterclaims on St Vincent (St Vincent Nos. 447 and 573), and two counterclaims in British Guiana against Alexander Cruikshank (also the original claimant on the Belmont estate in St Vincent). In these last two claims (British Guiana 697 & 700), which were large awards (£21,073 11s 9d and £11,566 8s 3d respectively), the compensation was officially awarded to Alexander Cruikshank but there is evidence suggesting that Smith et al. came to an arrangement at least to share the compensation with Cruikshank: they had counterclaimed as holders of a mortgage for £43,006 16s 10d.
Separately, Smith was awarded the compensation for 28 enslaved in Kingstown St Vincent, apparently as a trustee of a marriage settlement for the beneficiaries of compensation. From the late 1830s until the 1860s he was a director of the Union Bank of Australia, a director of the Marine Insurance Co. (1836) and Vice President of the National Life Assurance Co. (1850). He served as Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths Company in 1835.
Another person who has surfaced involved in Cuban sugar is Julius Caeser Czarnikow (1838-1909) founder of C. Cazarnikow Ltd., a London sugar and colonial brokerage. He purchased Elm Lodge in Mitcham in 1869, having previously lived at Brook House, Clapham Common. Most of his business was with Cuba. Did he start there before emancipation in the island? And how did he get started financially? There are likely to thousands of such people who will surface during the continuing work.
For the maximum benefit to be derived through sharing knowledge and development co-operation, it is to be hoped that the regional workshops will be well attended.
Friday, 9 July 2010
Is Ferguson left or right; or are these labels meaningless?
Is he a neo-conservative defending the British Empire, or does he, as a historian should, present a balance sheet of positives and negatives, even if some readers think he may have got the balance wrong? (That surely should lead to healthy debate.)
What is the balance sheet on the British Empire?
Did the Labour Party invent an anti-imperialist mantle behind which it supported it supported imperialism?
Has the Labour Left a romantic view about itself in relation to Empire?
Did the Labour Left delude itself as to its ability to win the anti-imperialist argument within the Labour Party?
Did the non-Labour Left have a more realistic view of the contradictions within the Labour Party, or did the different sections of it have their own internal contradictions, including within the former Communist Party?
Throughout the past decade I have been arguing that the black and labour history movements should be doing more work on the history of white anti-colonialist/imperialist/racist activities.
BASA member Daniel Whittall suggests that the following are useful to read:
Stuart Macintyre's Imperialism and the British labour movement in the 1920s (Communist Party Historians Group. Pamphlet 64. Autumn 1975).
Nicholas Owen's The British Left and India (Oxford Univ. Press, 2007) which reviews the various branches of the labour movement in Britain and their approaches to imperialism.
Stephen Howe's Anti-Colonialism in British Politics (Oxford Univ Press. 1993).
Within the black history world the debate about the Communist Party, imperialism and black rights has been heavily influenced by the oft-expressed views of Marika Sherwood that the CP was racist. While many people will not have read it, because it is in a US journal, her article The Comintern, the CPGB, Colonies and Black Britons 1920-38 (Science & Society, Spring 1996) is essential reading to understand the basis on which she makes her case. Equally little known is John Callaghan's strong rebuttal of her analysis in Colonies, Racism, the CPGB and the Comintern in the Inter-War Years (Science & Society, Winter 1997-1998). It is not cited, for example, in Hakim Adi's recent article The Comintern and Black Workers in Britain and France 1919-37 (Immigrants & Minorities. July/Nov 2010).
What do readers of this blog think?
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
As it published my articles on organised cycling and politics in Battersea and on the Edwardian Rolling Skating boom I am delighted to be able to promote the Annual Conference of the British Society for Sports History on 11-12 September. I have been arguing for some time that one of the few advantages of the Olympics in London 2012 is the stimulus it should give to researching and commemorating the wide range of professional and non-professional sports and physical leisure in local areas. The Conference is taking place at the Wellcome Collection in Euston Rd on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 September. It has a full programme of parallel sessions under the headings: medical aspects of Sport, the impact of WWI on sport, Olympics and national projection, sports and politics, sport in totalitarian states, local case studies in the development of sport, coaching, sport and the media, women and sport, sport and business and pre-modern sport, sport and ethnicity, national sorting cultures, British influence on European sport, sport and the arts, clubs and their communities, competition and conflict, representations of sport, sporting tours, issues of sporting style. Of particular interest will be Daryl Leeworthy Partisan Players: Youth, Sport, and Political Organisation in Britain, 1918 – 1939, Luke Harris Going in British Fashion’. British Perceptions of Britishness and the 1908 London Olympic Games; Keiko Ikeda Pierce Egan’s ‘Tom-and-Jerryism’ and its Music: A Musical Sports History, Samantha-Jayne Oldfield The Coaching Business: Nineteenth Century Manchester Sporting Entrepreneurs, and Geoff Levett Sport and the Empire: Colonial Tours in Edwardian London. It will be interesting to look across between sports history and the legacies of British slavery. How many slave owners were active in a range of sports in adult life (bare-knuckle boxing, horse racing, fencing, cricket, etc) either in Britain or the West Indies, whether did any of them helped fund sports organisations in Britain, especially after their received their emancipation compensation? Then there is a the African-American Robert J. Harlan who is reputed to have been wealthy enough to have been involved horse racing and gambling when in Britain between 1858 and 1868. Closing date for registration is 22 August. Full details, conference registration form, etc on: www.sporthistory.org.
Sunday, 4 July 2010
Wednesday 14 July. 7pm. ‘walkwalkwalk London’. walkwalkwalk create live art events inspired by walks through East London’s overlooked places. They will present a selection of archival artefacts and walk stories.
Saturday 24 July, 5pm ‘Poetry from Another London’ with Alan Morrison, David Kessel, John O'Donoghue, Tom Jayston and Jan Bradley. An evening of poetry about imagined Londons. Alan Morrison launches his latest poem, ‘Keir Hardie Street’, a journey to the heart of a secret, parallel socialist London utopia.
Wednesday 28 July, 7pm. ‘The Partisan Coffee House’. Historian Mike Berlin tells fascinating story of this short-lived, but highly influential, coffee-shop which served as the spiritual home of the New Left in the 1950s.
Saturday 31 July, 11.15am ‘Radical St. Pancras & Somers Town’ with Mike Berlin. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot and to find out where to meet. Full listings information can be found at www.housmans.com/events.php.
The Alliance for Green Socialism is initiating a debate about whether company limited liability status is a licence for non-accountability that explicitly allows limited companies and their shareholders to evade responsibilities for their debts, and
implicitly encourages reckless behaviour by limited companies and their directors. It suggests that recent changes in the law further encourage recklessness and debt evasion. 'A significant effect of limited liability has been the control of much of the economy by entities that are answerable to no-one because their shares are held by other limited companies and organisations which are not personally owned nor accountable, including investment funds and pension funds.' AGS believes that radical reform of the law allowing limited liability is needed.
'Limited liability' means that the shareholders, who own the company, have a right to the profits and the assets of the company, but they are not legally liable for its debts. The company can buy and sell and borrow but no-one has to pay its debts if it fails.' So the directors and shareholders of a company which runs into financial trouble can start another and then let the first go bust. If the second gets into trouble, a third can be started, and so on. Suppliers lose their money, employees lose their wages (and even the vital national insurance contributions the company had failed to pay), and the Government loses its unpaid taxes.
AGS accepts that a counter argument is that limited liability 'enables the creation of large companies to do things that no individual or partnership would be prepared to risk. The argument is that real people would never invest in searching for oil in the North Sea, building an offshore wind farm, designing a new jumbo jet, producing a new PC operating system, running a supermarket chain, etc, if they were liable for any (potentially huge) debts of the project.'
AGS poses two questions of principle:
- is it true that large private projects require limited liability?
- do we want large projects controlled by private finance anyway?
This is a very important debate. However there is one section of companies that are covered by limited liability which would be adversely affected, voluntary and charity organisations whose members are £1 shareholders and whose Directors receive no pay, and which pay no profit dividends. The end of limited liability could be that no one would wish to be involved in any voluntary or charitable organisation with large budgets.
Information about the Alliance can be found on:www.greensocialist.org.uk/ags.
4 September Scotland Glasgow
25 September The North-east Newcastle
9 October The West & East Midlands Birmingham
23 October The North-west and North Wales Liverpool
27 November The South-west and South Wales Bristol
I will be speaking at the North East workshop.
What the team aims to do in these workshops is to present the aims, scope and limitations of the Legacies project, including preliminary data that is of particular relevance for each workshop region; to have presentations from workshop participants of their own work and plans for future research; and to discuss how the team can share and disseminate further work and build a national network of interested parties. Further details can be seen on: www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs.
The London workshop was well attended by a wide range of people including members of the Black & Asian Studies Association (www.blackandasianstudies.org), academics, postgraduate students, Black Caribbean-British family history and plantation researchers, and people involved with archives and local museums.
Local histories of the Balham. Battersea, Clapham, Oval, Kennington, Putney, Roehmapton, Streatham, Tooting, Wandsworth Town districts of the Boroughs of Lambeth, Merton & Wandsworth.
Co-operative, freemasonry, labour movement, friendly society, and mutual organisation histories.
Black & Asian presence in Britain.
Slavery & Abolition.
North East slavery and abolition and radicalism.
Contemporary community and social action issues facing community and voluntary organisations.
Up to now I have shared information about events and issues about the above in my History & Social Action Newsletter, which I publish and email out about every three weeks. Later it is published on my website: http://www.seancreighton.com/. The Blog will enable me to make information available more quickly.