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The Sunset Empire Shudders and Shakes

by BruceMcF Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 02:03:36 AM EST

crossposted from Voices on the Square

Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun

Just this week, intervention into Syria was debated on the floor of the House in a robust, spirited debate in which the government of the nation presented its case, its elected opposition presented the contrary argument, and those fighting against intervention won the vote, 285-272.

front-paged by afew


NB: written for a US-based community blog, so apologies for US-centric language and explaining the obvious apply throughout

 
Now, many of you know what I am referring to, others are puzzled that the vote included 557 voting, since the House of Representatives only has 435 voting members. But the "House" I am referring to the British House of Commons, the "government of the nation" is the parliamentary cabinet headed by Prime Minister David Cameron, Ministers of Her Majesty Queen Ellizabeth II, backed by a majority of 304 Conservative Party ("Tory") and 55 Liberal Democrats ("LibDems") members of the House of Commons.

Leading the opposition are 257 members of the Labour Party, and sitting in the cross benches are 17 Northern Irish MP's ~ 8 Democratic Unionist, 5 Sinn Fein (who abstain in protest to UK sovereignty in Northern Ireland), 3 Social Democratic and Labor Party, and 1 Alliance Party member ~ 11 minor party members, including the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalist), a Green and a (socialist) Respect Party member, and 5 Independents.

About thirty (30) Labour Party members were absent from the vote, and 5 members of Sinn Fein always abstain, so a unified Tory vote would have carried the day, independent of the vote of the LibDems. However, according to the tweets copied by the Guardian's Live live blog of the Syrian Motion debate,  about 30 Tory members broke ranks, along with about 12 Lib Dems, and with an almost unified opposition, that was enough.

As Anne Perkins at the Gardian discussed in the coverage today, the long shadow of Iraq carries carried substantial responsibility for this defeat. It was due to Iraq that the PM David Cameron promised to allow Parliament a veto on going to war. Also carrying substantial weight among MP's was how badly Iraq turned out after seeming so simple at the outset, where by contrast we are already aware of the bewildering complexity of the situation in Syria.

Most evocative for me, however, is the historical echo of this vote. By most accounts, the last time a British PM lost a War Vote in the House of Parliament was part of the transition from the First British Empire to the Second British Empire, as recounted by a historian interviewed for the AP coverage:

George Jones, professor emeritus of government at the London School of Economics, compares the House of Commons' decision about Syria to its vote in 1782 to have British forces call it quits during the American Revolution.

 
"The last time the government was knocked off course by Parliament like this was in the 1780s when Parliament accepted that we'd lost the war of American independence and gave up America, so this is a pretty important event," said Jones. "If the government can't get through its policy of war and peace, it's an issue of confidence. Its competence has been shattered."


The ebbs and flows and long waves of geopolitical history

Now, last time this happened in England, the context was quite different. At the time, the British government was the "hegemonic" power of the West ... the "first among equals", typically able to swing things its way, so long as it avoids confrontations that unite every other power against it. It had emerged to that position in the then-"Emerging Economies" of the 1600's and 1700's on the back of Spanish Silver. Luxury goods ~ both traditional British luxury exports like fine woolens and new British luxury exports like Sugar ~ were used to persuade the Spanish aristocracy to hand over silver, mostly newly mined in their two Mountains of Silver in Mexico and Peru. That silver was then taken to allow British merchants to buy their way into the carrying trade in East Asia, where although the market for inferior European products was limited, East Asian producers were quite happy to sell their products for cash ~ silver.

Back then, the new colonies in British North America were by no means as central to the First Empire as the British West Indies, but we did play our roles. This included acting as a logistical support base for fur trading in the great watershed of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and as a source for timber, rope, pitch and other supplies required for ship building, giving British maritime trade an additional competitive advantage.

But it was decided in the House of Commons in 1782 that we weren't worth the cost in blood and treasure it would take to reconquer British North America.

And, indeed, the loss of British North America was only a warning tremor for the geopolitical earthquake that hit Europe: the Napoleonic Wars, which given the geopolitical impact outside of the European subcontinent has very real claim to being the Original World War.

Indeed, the greatest impact of the American Revolution may have been the combination of filling the heads of young radicals in France with Republican ideas at the same time as it emptied the Treasury of the French Monarchy. Out of the convulsions of the French Revolution emerged the strong-man dictator Napoleon Bonaparte, who gained enough ground in Europe to challenge Britain's position as hegemonic European power in a balanced of power with the far older and more common system of a subcontinental land empire, surrounded by tributary states.

However, after inventing the modern mass civilian armed force capable of moving in independent Armies and crush opposing forces in ground of his own choosing, Britain was able to hold its own and continue playing balance of power politics until Napoleon over-reached in Russia, lost the bulk of the veteran core of his Grande Armée and was finally defeated.

While Britain emerged from the Napoleonic Wars as the hegemonic power in Europe, the Second Empire that it built in the 1800's was substantially different from the first. Even as the British were losing their hold on British North America, they were consolidating their hold in India under the British East India Company. The Napoleonic Wars had been a bonanza for the British East India Company. As the Industrial Revolution took hold, the Europeans reversed their historical competitive disadvantage in textiles as the abundant labor and more productive agricultural systems of India and China became less important than the productivity of the grim "Satanic Mills" of the English Midlands.

India's traditional trade deficit to its east balanced by a trade surplus to its west was replaced with a trade deficit on all sides, and in the resulting depression, the British East India Company was able to raise armies with more Indian soldiers than the local rulers, better equipped with Indian-made weaponry than the local rulers, and use the export to Europe of raw materials from the newly conquered territory to pay for the costs of the conquest.

But the British East India Company proved less competent at government than it was at conquest for profit. There were a series of regulatory Acts of Parliament in the 1800's, until finally after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British government nationalized the British East India Company and India under direct Imperial control became the cornerstone of the Second British Empire.

Of course, in the former British colonies of North America, the original New World trade plantation basis of British West Indies had gained a new lease on life with the mechanization of the stripping of cotton seeds from cotton bolls, and Southern US cotton plantations had boomed selling cotton into the mechanized textile mills of England. while in the North, the economy was built on "sweat equity" investment in frontier farms taken from Native Americans in a symbiotic relationships with a domestic manufacturing economy on the Northeast coast. The conflict over the institution of chattel slavery erupted into the Civil War, and with the victory of the North, the United States began the process of economic development that made it the largest economy in the world by the turn of the Century.

And so in the extended World War of 1915 to 1945, while Great Britain emerged having defeated its primary rival power in Europe of Bismark's Germany, it emerged also having lost the power position on which it had built its Second Empire, and almost immediately afterward the process of European Decolonization began.

And the United States proceeded to build the peculiar institution of a Base Network Empire, an Empire where the purpose seems to include that the Empire cost money, in order to ensure an ongoing share of national income to the merchants of death that manufacture the weapons systems and provide logistical support to our armed forces.

At the end of World War Two, this expensive Base Network Empire made a certain kind of bizarre sense. The US had fully half of the functioning productive capacity of the world coming out of WWII. We made most of the things that people wanted to buy ~ not just overseas, but in the United States as well. Without substantial spending of US dollars overseas, overseas economies could not afford to buy US products. And the maintenance of US bases overseas was one means of ensuring that US dollars continued to be spent overseas, so that countries overseas could not collapse into a general international trade depression after the War.

We had, after all, experience the kind of malignant political parties that can be established in the midst of general depression with the fascist parties of Spain, Italy, and particularly Germany. We did not want to recreate those conditions, even more widely.

But times changed, economies developed, and the conditions under which the Base Network Empire made a certain kind of bizarre sense no longer apply. The United States was, at the end of WWII, a country with a massive share of world productive capacity and a substantial trade surplus. We are now a country with a declining share of world productive capacity, on many measures being passed or already having been passed by China, and with a massive trade deficit. We were an energy exporting nation at the end of WWII. We are now an energy dependent nation. At the end of WWII, we were the nation in the world who offered the greatest economic mobility ~ particularly the greatest chance to someone who was born in the bottom fifth of the income ladder that they could climb into the middle class. We have become a far more rigid class society, where being born into the bottom fifth largely condemns one to remain in the bottom fifth, and being born in the top tenth is the primary means of reaching the top tenth in adulthood.

The Base Network Empire was always a brutal affair, with the bulk of the US population largely shielded from the brutality on which it was based. But in the 1950's, there was a tension in concerns for international peace and justice regarding how to weigh the substantially different points to be made on the benefit and cost side of the scales. Particularly since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, it has become harder and harder to find any points to lay on the benefit side of the scale.

 
The Self-Funded, Self-Appointed Policeman Is Not A Policeman

So now we find ourselves facing the question of whether the United States should once again spend a fortune in blood and treasure acting as the Policeman of the World. However, it cannot be ignored that when someone pays to act as a policeman, rather than working on the pay of the community being policed ... and indeed appoints themselves as police ... that does not fit any sane definition of "police".

That may be a vigilante. If enough people have gotten together it might be a mob. If its a single powerful individual who uses political power or wealth to organize a police force, we might call that a strongman, mob boss or warlord. But its not police.

Korea: that was a Police Action. The US forces forming the backbone of the UN forces were acting on the orders of the United Nations (after the Soviet Union missed a meeting of the Security Council). The Invasion of Iraq, that was more a self-appointed mob, a "coalition of the willing to invade another country".

But now we don't even have the backing of the UK. Without the backing of the UK, it seems highly unlikely that the United States will obtain substantial NATO support, so even the perversion of what was originally supposed to be a treaty of mutual self-defense into an organization to provide political cover for actions that cannot gain the sanction of the United Nations is not going to be there.

If we act in Syria, without UN backing, without NATO backing, without even the backing of our closest allies ... we will just be a rogue state. We will be labeling the state that we are attacking a rogue state, as rogue states are wont to do, but that won't change our status.

And if we attack, it will be under the leadership of the President who as a candidate in 2008 pointed to the importance of what observers referred to as "Soft Power". Joseph Nye in June 2008 wrote:

I have spent the past month lecturing in Oxford and traveling in Europe where Barack Obama could be elected in a landslide. I suspect that this fascination with Obama is true in many parts of the world. In fact, as I have said before, it is difficult to think of any single act that would do more to restore America's soft power than the election of Obama to the presidency.

 
Soft power is the ability to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than using the carrots and sticks of payment or coercion. As I describe in my new book The Powers to Lead, in individuals soft power rests on the skills of emotional intelligence, vision, and communication that Obama possesses in abundance. In nations, it rests upon culture (where it is attractive to others), values (when they are applied without hypocrisy), and policies (when they are inclusive and seen as legitimate in the eyes of others.)

 
Polls show that American soft power has declined quite dramatically in much of the world over the past eight years. Some say this is structural, and resentment is the price we pay for being the biggest kid on the block. But it matters greatly whether the big kid is seen as a friend or a bully. In much of the world we have been seen as a bully as a result of the Bush Administration policies.

How far we have fallen from those giddy days. But that fall was inevitable. For it is not enough to wish to rely on Soft Power rather than Hard Power ... a country would also have be able to advance a vision that is attractive in its own right. "We won't be as recklessly foolhardy in our brutal application of force overseas, but instead will be brutal in measured, well considered doses" is only attractive in the immediate aftermath of the George W Bush Residency. Once that memory fades and it has to stand on its own innate appeal, it has little innate appeal to draw upon.

Indeed, the United States could still draw on a massive well of good will around the world, but only if:

  • ... if we were to abandon our Base Network Empire and the brutal policies that we have had to pursue to maintain the Base Network Empire;
  • ... if we were to dismantle the protections for our own Neo-Aristocrats and restore the ladders of opportunity which we have dismantled at their direction
  • ... if we were to break through the opposition of the Climate Suicide Pact and lead the way to a sustainable 21st Century

... we would gain massive and sustainable influence ... at the expense of expensive and unsustainable hard power.

But one thing we would have to do is to abandon the idea that the whole world is our stage.

Our neighborhood is the Americas, Western Europe, West, Central and Southern Africa, and the Pacific Rim. It is a big, big neighborhood. But it does not include Central Asia. It does not include the Arabian Peninsula. It does not actually include Syria.

The basic, empty argument for intervention is: "Something must be done; this is something; therefore we must do this".

The answer that would be given by a United States that was pursuing a foreign policy that is not doomed to collapse in another ten to twenty years would be, "If something must be done, we must persuade either the world community or else Syria's neighbors of this fact, and if we agree with the action that they come up with, we should offer support that action."

The crisis in Syria is, after all, far more like the French and Indian War or the American Revolution than it is like the Napoleonic Wars or the World War of 1915-1945. And we risk taking on the role of the French in those wars, wasting our blood and treasure on reckless foreign adventures while ignoring the rotting foundations of our domestic economy.

 
Don't Leave Your Heart in a Hard Place

I know that the sunset empire shudders and shakes
I know there's a floodgate and a raging river
I say the silence of the ribbons of iron and steel
I say hear the punch drunk huddle drive hammer and steel

 
Sometimes you're beaten to the call
Sometimes you're taken to the wall
But you don't give in

 
I know that the cannibals wear smart suits and ties
I know they arm wrestle on the altar
I say don't leave your heart in a hard place

 
Sometimes you're shaken to the core
Sometimes the face is gonna fall
But you don't give in

Display:
European Tribune - The Sunset Empire Shudders and Shakes
But it was decided in the House of Commons in 1982 that we weren't worth the cost in blood and treasure it would take to reconquer British North America.

Happened a wee bit earlier, wouldn't you say?

Now to read the rest.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 03:55:21 AM EST
So they went for reconquering the Falklands instead.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 04:35:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... why didn't it automatically fix itself to 1782 in the Eurotrib version?

Lucky for me I didn't crosspost this to four or more places as I've sometimes done.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 07:11:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
.
It's not about being the policeman of the world, it's still about empire building of influence around the Arabian Oil peninsula as was seen in 1953 with the overthrow of Mossadeq in Persia by the CIA with support of the British. During Obama's first term, Ms Clinton trusted US foreign policy on advisors from Bill Clinton's presidency with a NeoCon signature lacking skills of diplomacy. I've covered this extensively @BooMan in many, many diaries followed by the Syrian crisis. There is not a single starting point for the Syrian civil/sectarian war as it has been raging for more than a decade of US policy of regime change in Syria. See the crisis in Lebanon, influence of Syria (Shia Iran) and Saudi Arabia (Sunni wahhabism and salafism) and the Hariri assassination by a plot of a Sunni militant group. The Saudi regime of King Abdullah had been stirring the sectarian differences in Syria through Wahhabist clerics and funneling funds to mosques and madrasses.

NeoCon policy got a makeover under the pretense of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine invoked to legitimize the 2011 war on Libya and just morphed into ''responsibility to attack'' (R2A) policy for Syria. The so-called red line on the Assad regime had been crossed a number of times and ahead of the G8 conference in June, president Obama came with a hard statement: Syria Has Used Chemical Arms on Rebels, and Crossed a Red Line. The intense diplomatic effort by John Kerry was a welcome change from Ms Clinton. Obama made a irresponsible choice of appointing Susan Rice to the position of National Security advisor, trumping diplomat John Kerry. Both Susan Rice and the new Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power are "humanitarian hawks." With the commitment to attack Syria, this is a first result of that effort.

US Will Be Ousted by Saudi King Abdullah in Middle-East

++++++++

Obama's Credibility and Israel's Red Line
.
After ...
the case build on Israeli intelligence from IDF Unit 8200;
can't be shared because of security assets in region;
war rhetoric by Peres and Liberman;
got decision from US president to react with force;
credibility on the (red) line;
surprise moment of caution;
the truth starts to manifest itself:
JPost - Weak world response on Syria boosts chance of strong Israeli action on Iran.

Stock of CW and BW was seen as a poor man's option for a nuclear deterrent. Both Syria, Libya and Iraq used this strategy because of Israel's rogue status as the only nuclear power in the region and with no scrutiny by the IAEA. Now Obama is using a new argument for a casus bellum?

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 04:30:50 AM EST
.
Came across this oldie ...
Samantha Power, the Monster, and the Libyan Intervention  by Frank Schnittger - Sept. 8, 2011

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.
by Oui on Fri Sep 13th, 2013 at 03:24:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - The Sunset Empire Shudders and Shakes
As the Industrial Revolution took hold, the Europeans reversed their historical competitive disadvantage in textiles as the abundant labor and more productive agricultural systems of India and China became less important than the productivity of the grim "Satanic Mills" of the English Midlands.

Not so much productivity as political power.

Economy of India under Company rule - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"It was stated in evidence (in 1813) that the cotton and silk goods of India, up to this period, could be sold for a profit in the British market at a price from 50 to 60 per cent. lower than those fabricated in England. It consequently became necessary to protect the latter by duties of 70 or 80 per cent. on their value, or by positive prohibition. Had this not been the case, had not such prohibitory duties and decrees existed, the mills of Paisley and of Manchester would have been stopped in their outset, and could hardly have been again set in motion, even by the powers of steam. They were created by the sacrifice of the Indian manufactures. Had India been independent, she would have retaliated; would have imposed preventive duties upon British goods, and would thus have preserved her own productive industry from annihilation. This act of self-defence was not permitted her; she was at the mercy of the stranger. British goods were forced upon her without paying any duty; and the foreign manufacturer employed the arm of political injustice to keep down and ultimately strangle a competitor with whom he could not contend on equal terms." -- James Mill in The History of British India[21]

So selective tariffs to destroy the competition.

The history of cut thumbs, is however hard to find a good source on. But if it is a myth no one appears to have tracked down the roots of that either. So, hm.

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by A swedish kind of death on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 04:36:51 AM EST
The history of cut thumbs, is however hard to find a good source on.

I have also had problems documenting this allegation. I first read of it in a summary of British Colonialism in India by an Economics Masters student with whom I was collaborating in an interdisciplinary study in 1964-5. I will inquire of him. Perhaps he recalls the source he found. Have to have a source before it can be evaluated. :-)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 01:35:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Googling "British cutting the thumbs of Indian weavers" gives several links.
From the Telegraph-Calcutta:
Found: Raj-razed town
The British had chopped off their forefathers' hands in Bengal a generation ago, so the weavers of Mahua Dabar in Awadh cut off a few British heads during the turmoil of 1857. Erased from the face of the earth by the Raj's revenge, this lost town has been found again thanks to one man's effort, reports Tapas Chakraborty

George Monbiot recites the story and immediately afterward cites Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy...by Ha-Joon Chang:
India gets serious on climate change  Guardian

Indians are also painfully aware that the rich nations in the past deliberately prevented their nation from developing. England, for example, banned the import of calico (cotton cloth) from India, in order to protect its own textile industries. It went on to smash Indian looms and cut off the thumbs of Indian weavers in order prevent them from making their superior products. As Ha Joon Chang shows in his book Kicking Away the Ladder, England's industrial revolution was made possible by preventing India's. Many people there suspect that attempts to limit India's future greenhouse gas emissions have the same purpose. (I may well buy Kicking Away the Ladder which may or may not document the incident)


Indian Models of Economy, Business and Management - Page 42 by Kanagasabapathi (Google books) extends and provides a source for Chang's quote:
(H H) Wilson made it clear when he wrote that the British manufacturer "employed the (arm of political injustice to keep down and ultimately strangle a competetor with whom he could not have contended on equal terms...They even took the extreme step of cutting off the thumbs of weavers..."

This appears to come from The History of British India by James Mill and H H Wilson pub. J. Madden, 1848. H H Wilson was an Orientalist and became a scholar of Hindi literature while in India working for the British East India Corporation, and who extended Mill's work posthumously.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 03:12:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(Gotta love the wonders of html. By the time I had all my links working correctly I forgot to check the syntax.)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 07:29:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I happened to have a copy of Kicking Away the Ladder handy. In the relevant passages, Ha-Joon Chang is discussing tariffs and similar policy.  He does not mention thumbs at all, as far as I can tell.  The relevant passages of Chang's discussion cite Eric Hobsbawm's Industry and Empire.
by External Student on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 10:25:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome to European Tribune, External Student.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 12:22:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
longtime listener/first-time caller.  Thanks.
by External Student on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 09:52:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the concept of Kicking the Ladder Away is quite apt on its own here ... the adoption of Free Trade dogma by the UK after its previous protectionist policies had served their purpose, the increasing adoption of Free Trade dogma by the United States once it was the largest, most productive economy in the world, setting aside 160 years of protectionist industry development from 1790 through 1950.

Unfortunately for the domestic US economy, economies aren't static, and we actually still needed that ladder to keep climbing ourselves ... but for the Neo-Aristocrats, its not much issue whether the shares are yielding income from income-led growth in the US or from grabbing a larger share of income from wage earners, or from distributing production around the world, so long as the income to the ownership shares keeps flowing.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 05:00:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course.  Raise the drawbridge after me.
by rifek on Mon Sep 9th, 2013 at 01:23:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I took a stab at finding the 1848 version online, but no luck. It is in ten volumes and I have not able to locate them all.

It is not in Mill's original (only six volumes), that one only mentions thumbs in relation to religious practices etc.

The claim could of course also appear in Indian litterature on subject, which might have other sources. Hm.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 10:01:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I found a contemporary British source for you: Considerations on India affairs - William Bolts - Google Books, published in 1772. The passage mentioning thumb-cutting is at the bottom of page 194. However, it was "winders of raw silk" not weavers, and it wasn't to end weaving in India, but to enforce the British East India Company's monopoly (all weavers were to work for them through exclusive deals).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 02:31:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually I misread: the winders cut their own thumbs off to get out of their crippling obligations. The passage in William Bolts's 1772 book is quoted in later works.

A year later, The Critical Review: Or, Annals of Literature - Google Books quotes the passage with the claim on chopped-off thumbs at length, predicting in a comment that such practices will lead to the decline of "the trade of the East India Company".

More importantly, the first Indian source on the thumbs story I found is another quote of the William Bolts book in the 1902 book The Economic History of India by Romesh Chunder Dutt (page 27, pdf page 25). Here a more complex narrative is set: the combination of the enforced monopoly with extreme profit-taking by the middle-men and tariffs first suppressed Indian manufacturing, and then the price competition from cheaper machine-produced imports was the death knell of India's hand-woven industry. The same passage and the same narrative is repeated in Economic History of India: 1857-1956, edited by Viv Bahadour Singh and first published in 1965.

From what I have seen, all Indian sources with the simplified narrative and the thumb-chopping story located in the early 19th century are later than this, so it is possible that they are an apocryphal misinterpretation of this source.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 03:20:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... " Economic History of India: 1857-1956"

By 1857, England does have a pronounced advantage in textile productivity. But over the period 1760 to 1810, the productivity gains were rather catching up to the most productive textile production in the world ... its only after the Napoleonic Wars are over that it pushes ahead into world-leading productivity in textiles (and mostly just in textiles ~ which is part of the reason why the US was able to pass the UK by the early 1900's).

And that advantage was not the result of just fate, it was the consequence of a series of policy regimes which each were effective for the conditions of their day, until they fell behind the times and were replaced. Neither the industrial protectionist policies nor the so-called "Free Trade" policies would have been as effective a part of the whole process of the establishment of British dominance in textile exports without the other.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 05:58:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
" Economic History of India: 1857-1956"

Come on, the title of the book is irrelevant to the timeline of the thumbs-cutting story.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 06:09:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The timeline of the thumb cutting story? If the relevance of the timeline of the thumb cutting story is to prove that the British East India Company used barbaric methods in its effort to enforce its lucrative monopoly on exports out of its territory of control, that tends to indicate that those exports were still lucrative in the late 1700's.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 12:17:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Two more Indian sources accessible only in parts in which I had to mine the full passages piece by piece.

  • I now found the earliest version of the Brits cutting the weavers' thumbs claim in The Modern Review - Google Books (1953). This version is still fitting the historical context by claiming that the measure was punishment for those not respecting the Company's monopoly:
    The East India Company can be accused not only for the negligence towards the promotion of the industries but also for imposing abominable hardships on the efficient craftsmen by levying even corporal penalties of which the most detested one was the cutting of the thumbs of the efficient muslin weavers of Dacca who were prohibited from weaving the muslin except for the Company and in the factories of the East India Company.

  • I also found older Indian books mentioning both thumbs claim(s) in a sceptical tone. The second from 1978 is an obvious plagiarism of the first, which is Economic transition in the Bengal presidency, 1793-1833 - Hari Ranjan Ghosal - Google Books (1966). This one says:
    ...The popular story about the weaver's thumbs suggests itself in this connection. There are two versions of the story. One is that the Company's servants with a view to force British manufactures into Bengal cut off the thumbs of the indigenous weavers, so that they might be permanently disabled for weaving. The other is that in order to be relieved from the obligation of working for the Company the weavers themselves cut off their thumbs. The first one may be forthwith rejected as incredible. The Company, instead of discouraging cotton manufacture in Bengal, rather forced advances on the manufacturers for piece-goods. Whether the second one, as Dr. J. C. Sinha supposes (op. cit. pp. 84-85), is based on the passage in Bolts's Considerations where it is said that winders of raw silk cut off their thumbs to escape compulsory winding, is a point on which opinions differ. But in the absence of any other contemporary reference to it, Sinha's contention may be accepted as right.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 12:24:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That reminds me of the hundred year war story, were the french cut off the thumbs of all captured english archers.
by IM on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 12:40:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"the winders cut their own thumbs off to get out of their crippling obligations."
This raises more questions in my mind as it answers. It seems questionable that a significant number of spinners would make such a choice. How many people are capable of cutting off their own thumb? Sending their families away first and then leaving after work and not returning would seem more likely. However, it could also be blame shifting by the perpetrators. "They did it to themselves."

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 4th, 2013 at 12:37:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is the one and only contemporary claim of thumb-cuttings, without specific details on when and where it was supposed to have happened and how the author learned of it (it only narrows it down in time to the rule of Shuja-ud-Daula until the book's publication, that is 1754-1772), hence the scepticism expressed by an Indian author referenced upthread. If we are to speculate on the basis of this scant evidence, then blame shifting is unlikely in a tract critical of the Company, it would be more likely that the author gave credibility to unchecked rumours.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Sep 4th, 2013 at 12:36:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did say blame shifting by the perpetrators.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 4th, 2013 at 01:39:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bolt was an independent spirit and it appears he might have been planning on becoming an 18th Century whistle-blower. From wiki:
He spent some time working in Lisbon in the diamond trade, according to a deposition he made in 1801, before he went out to Bengal in 1759 where he was employed in Calcutta as a factor in the service of the English East India Company. He learned to speak Bengali, an addition to his other languages, English, Dutch, German, Portuguese and French. Later he was appointed to the Company's Benares (Varanasi) factory, where he opened a woollens mart, developed saltpetre manufacturing, established opium works, imported cotton, and promoted the trade in diamonds from the Panna and Chudderpoor (Chhatarpur) mines in Bundelkhand.

He fell foul of the East India Company in 1768, possibly because diamonds were a favourite means for Company employees to secretly remit to Britain the ill-gotten gains of private trade in India which they were officially forbidden to engage in. He announced in September of that year that he intended to start up a newspaper in Calcutta (which would have been India's first modern newspaper), saying that he had "in manuscript many things to communicate which most intimately concerned every individual", but he was directed to quit Bengal and proceed to Madras and from thence to take his passage to England. Company officials declared him bankrupt, "to the irretrievable loss of his Fortune", he later claimed. He never seems to have been able to redeem himself in the eyes of the Company, and in London and elsewhere fought a rearguard action against his many opponents within it. In 1772 he published Considerations on India Affairs, in which he attacked the whole system of the English government in Bengal, and particularly complained of the arbitrary power exercised by the authorities and of his own deportation. The book was translated into French and enjoyed wide circulation, which contributed to his fame on the Continent.


Sounds like he was planning on busting some of the EIC operatives based on what he knew from the diamond trade and they retaliated. But he did learn to speak Bengali in addition to his several European languages. The above summary does not indicate that he was ever posted where he would have had direct contact with weavers or spinners but indicates that he dealt in woolen goods and diamonds. This inquiry into the 'cutting of thumbs' issue seems like paleontology, where one is at the mercy of the fossil record.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 4th, 2013 at 08:38:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cutting off hands or thumbs was apparently used on several occasions and in different circumstances both to incapacitate competitors and as exemplary violence or terrorism. This and other sordid exploits had given the British East India Company a bad reputation amongst many upper class English and was the basis for criticism of the Government by the landed gentry, who generally were threatened by the rising power of merchants in general. I saw Walpole quoted criticizing English atrocities in India in some of my reading on this subject in the last two days.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 03:44:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cutting off hands or thumbs was apparently used on several occasions and in different circumstances both to incapacitate competitors and as exemplary violence or terrorism.

We are trying to find credible sources for this oft repeated claim. I found none thus far, though I did find lots of evidence of torture and mistreatment in various forms (including applying the thumb-screw to whole villages, although not against weavers).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 05:25:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had not seen your second post when I made that comment. This documents the destruction of Muhua Dabar in 1857 in the report of a British soldier who survived the beheading of the six British soldiers by the residents of Muhua Dabar:
Mohammad Latif Ansari, 65, had been leading a nondescript life as the owner of a tailoring establishment in Mumbai for many years. But an inexplicable force kept drawing him to a spot near his native village of Bahadurpur, about 15 km south of Basti, a town in central UP. Ansari's forefathers were weavers from Murshidabad in Bengal and had fled that province in the late 18th century to escape atrocities on Bengal's famous weavers by the British who were keen on promoting their textiles by eliminating India's native weaving industry.

Archives at the National Library in Kolkata, accessed by Open, show that the British chopped off the thumbs and hands of master weavers in Bengal, and many of them fled with their families to other parts of India. About 20 such families sought refuge from the Nawab of Oudh, who settled them at Mahua Dabar, a centre of weaving and dyeing near Basti. By the mid-19th century, Mahua Dabar had become a prosperous town of about 5,000 people. But the descendants of the refugees from Bengal could not forget the persecution that their grandfathers and great grandfathers suffered at the hands of the British, and, when an opportunity presented itself to take revenge in 1857, they killed six British army officers on 10 June that year. A little over a week later, British forces surrounded Mahua Dabar, looted it, massacred its inhabitants, demolished all structures, set them on fire and levelled them to the ground. The killings, plunder and destruction took nearly two weeks. By 3 July 1857, Mahua Dabar was no more.


This repeats the claim of the cutting of thumbs in a specific incident at a specific place with twenty specific families in the late 18th century. I have e-mailed Sudheer Birodkar, who has a cited blog on Indian history and culture, about eyewitness testimony as to the original cutting of the thumbs. As I noted previously I do believe this probably happened more than once, but it would be good to better substantiate those occurrences.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 07:36:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw that already when askod quoted it, but I don't find it credible. (The source, not the notion that the British colonial empire would condone such acts.) To be precise: it is a more or less detailed source on the much more gruesome slaughter in 1857 but a (secondary) source severely lacking in details on the late-18th-century thumbs-chopping claim, and I don't trust it on a correct paraphrasing of what it found in the original sources. This is because at the end of the first paragraph, it is conflating the East India Company's late 18th century monopoly enforcement for the selling of textile at a profit with the elimination of India's native weaving industry in the 1810s-1830s (which changed the equation for the Company, too). Thus, the lacking detail and inconsistency of the text throws up several questions and regarding possible (mis)interpretations:

  • What kind of archives did Open access in that library? Contemporary sources like the Surat Factory Diary or official letters, 100 year old books, 20 year old books? Or did it access any sources at all? (Similar claims are in the two years older The Telegraph - Calcutta article also quoted by askod, but without any sourcing.)
  • If Open didn't misread a source with a claim identical to William Bolts's, who were "the British" who were claimed to have chopped off fingers: soldiers, East India Company British agents, the Company's native agents, or local soldiers doing the dirty work? (Hand-chopping wasn't unheard of in Indian kingdoms, nor 'cooperation' with the British in the exploitation of the underclass.)
  • What was the reason for the claimed chopping according to the original source?
  • Were the 20 families who fled to the Nawab of Oudh specifically known to have fled after their thumbs were chopped, or before their thumbs were to be chopped, or have they just fled the Company's general oppression of weavers?
  • Do sources say that the reason for the killings was the persecution that happened to the killers' grandfathers and great-grandfathers, or is that the Open author's speculation? (The more detailed account in the linked article says nothing on motives; the Calcutta Telegraph article claims that the weavers settled in that village in the 1830s only; and a 2010 article in the Telegraph - India references an unspecified early 19th century British crackdown.)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 10:47:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, here are two more original sources I skimmed yesterday:

  • A Letter from the Marquis Wellesley, Governor-general in Council ... (dated 19 July 1804): this was still written at the time India exported textile under the Company's monopoly. the then new Governor-general lambastes the Company's export monopoly with frequent allusion to (unspecified) inhumane and unjust practices vs. native workers (f.e. paragraphs 50-53), argues that giving freedom to workers is not actually against the Company1s interests (next two paragraphs), and suggests (in paragraph 47) that the purpose of the monopoly was not the exclusion of rival British traders but the total control of the weavers' labor and thus the profit from their trade.

  • In a 1831 parliamentary debate on the East India Company, in the testimony of a Mr. Robert Richards, there is a lengthy discussion of the Company's practice to coerce workers prior to 1811 [when he left India] (paragraph 2846). On several prior pages, Richards argues that the company1s 1813 claim that it conducts British-Indian trade at the highest level possible is not true and more would have been possible if natives were allowed free trade, and claims that authorities undermined an 1813 law partially lifting the Company's trade monopoly. (Other testimonies already discuss the then recent flood of British textile imports and consequent job loss for locals.)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 11:43:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The claims of cutting off of thumbs was passed down by oral tradition in the families of Mahua Dabar in Awadh, where, indeed, they had reestablished their trade by teaching their children to weave and had a successful village business in cloth manufacture until some of them exacted revenge on British officers for acts most likely committed by EIC officials or their local hirelings. Oral tradition is not proof, but it is substantiation and I, at least, would not dismiss it in this context.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 12:48:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The destruction of Muhua Dabar was in 1857 but the slaughter of the British soldiers that provoked that destruction was revenge for the mutilation of their ancestors in the late 18th century by EIC operatives. In the late 18th century the British could find little that could compete legitimately in the Indian market, so they destroyed the competition by various means. The genocide in Muhua Dabar was retaliation for the descendents of those having thumbs cut off taking revenge.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 12:47:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
.
How British Rule Ruined the Life of of Artisans and Craftsman in India

From the very day, the British won the Battle of Plassey, the East India Company and its servant's exploited the craftsmen of Bengal. The British pursued the policy of coercion and terror. The artisans were forced to sell their products below the market price. The price was determined by the Company and it was not profitable for the craftsmen. The services and the labour of the craftsmen were hired at very low wages. It was impossible for the craftsmen to adopt their traditional profession.

So they were force to abandon those crafts. The worst affected were the weavers of Bengal and textile industry of Bengal was virtually closed. It was said that the thumbs of the weavers were cut off. Actually it meant that thousands of weavers were made jobless due to closure of weaving industry.

    "While such fine skilled craftsmanship was much relevant in the middle ages. With the coming of mechanization, and mass production, craftsmanship became irrelevant and a waste of manpower. Whenever the British saw competition from craftsmen, it suppressed their arts as in the case of the cutting off the thumbs of the skilled superfine saree weavers of Bengal." [Source: link]

The India that achieved its freedom at midnight on August 14-15, 1947, was the product of several thousand years of history and civilization and, more immediately, of just under two hundred years of British colonial rule. Learned British econometricians have tried to establish that the net result of this experience was neutral--that the British put about as much into India as they took out. The negative side of the ledger is easily listed: economic exploitation (often undisguised looting of everything from raw materials to jewels); stunting of indigenous industry (symbolized by the deliberate barbarity with which, on at least two occasions, the British ordered the thumbs of whole communities of Indian weavers chopped off so that they could not compete with the products of Lancashire).
Source: India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond
Chapter 2 - Two Assassinations and a Funeral: The Death of a Dynasty
by Shashi Tharoor


Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.
by Oui on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 10:35:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sudheer Birodkar does not give sources (source mentioned as "link") in first blockquote.

In India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond
Chapter 2 - Two Assassinations and a Funeral: The Death of a Dynasty by Shashi Tharoor Google books can only find one mention of "thumbs" and that is in relationship to the Thumbs up brand of cola.

But wikipedia links to a page that links to:

The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | At Leisure | Found: Raj-razed town

"I began from zero. There was no trace of the town; the Basti district map had no reference to it," Ansari, a textile exporter who began his search in 1994, told The Telegraph. "But I was adamant. I had to verify what I had heard from family elders about the town that our ancestors had fled after the British razed it during the 1857 revolt."

His persistence prompted the then Basti district magistrate, R.N. Tripathi, to set up a committee of historians from Lucknow who, after 13 years of research, have now confirmed that the town indeed existed, at a spot 15km south of Basti town.

Ansari feels he has paid off a debt to his ancestors -- which is what some of his forbears in Mahua Dabar too must have felt when, in the first weeks of India's first war of independence, they attacked a boat carrying British soldiers.

They had reason to feel vengeful.

In the early 19th century, the East India Company, eager to promote British textiles, had cut off the hands of hundreds of weavers in Bengal.

Twenty weavers' families from Murshidabad and Nadia had then fled to Awadh, whose nawab resettled them in Mahua Dabar and allowed them to carry on with their livelihood.

Many of the first-generation weavers had already lost their hands, but they taught the craft to their sons and the small town of 5,000 people soon became a bustling handloom centre.

It was around March-April 1857 when Zaffar Ali, a young man whose grandfather had migrated from Bengal, spotted a boat coming down the Manorama (a tributary of the Ghagra) on whose banks the town was located.

The historians' report names the six soldiers beheaded: Lt T.E. Lindsay, Lt W.H. Thomas, Lt G.L. Caulty, Sgt Edwards and privates A.F. English and T.J. Richie.

On June 20 that year, the 12th Irregular Horse Cavalry surrounded the town, slaughtered hundreds and set all the houses on fire. The Raj decreed that no one could live in the place from then on. On the colonial revenue records, the area was marked gair chiragi (non-revenue land).

Mahua Dabar ceased to exist.

The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | At Leisure | Found: Raj-razed town

The historians' committee -- headed by V.P. Singh and including J.P.N. Tripathi, both former Lucknow University teachers -- kept digging into the district museum archives.

Yes, names! Haven't been able to find the actual report, but from an article about it:

Unearthing a Gory History | OPEN Magazine

Archives at the National Library in Kolkata, accessed by Open, show that the British chopped off the thumbs and hands of master weavers in Bengal, and many of them fled with their families to other parts of India. About 20 such families sought refuge from the Nawab of Oudh, who settled them at Mahua Dabar, a centre of weaving and dyeing near Basti.

So Indian sources it was.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 01:39:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
.
Same book, should be Chapter 1 - A Myth and An Idea - paragraph quote can de found on page 14.

My last link is also Indian sourced.

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 01:58:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Not so much productivity as political power" ...

... I don't see any contradiction to what I said, you've just gone into more detail how British textile production arrived at its productivity advantage by the mid-1800's. That alongside the tariffs on British steel rail in the US, are a big part of the inspiration infant industry development policy pursued in Latin America after WWII.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 07:15:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if English textile could out-compete Indian without greater productivity, then it does not hinge on the productivity.

But mainly, you just triggered a pet peeve of mine.

Essentially, this view:

Whose thumbs were cut by the British in indian history? - Yahoo! Answers India



The British didn't cut off thumbs. They didn't need to. Their machine-made products were much cheaper and left the Indian buyers more money to spend on other things - including, eventually, weaving machinery.

Which is just far to common.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 03:47:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But that has the chronology wrong ... Western Europe was still a semi-peripheral region in the early 1800's, the catching up to and then passing East Asia did not occur until the middle of the 1800's.

Talking about actions of the East India Company in the late 1700's / early 1800's based upon the productivity advantage that English manufacture had developed by the 1850's is just a lazy reading of history, akin to the Eurocentric histories popular in the late 1800's which made the recent emergence of Europe as the core economy of Eurasia into an inevitable thing. Often including paeans to a Free Trade policy that would never have been of any use without the foundation of industrial development laid under the preceding protectionist policies.

The growth of English textiles in the Napoleonic Wars alongside growth in imports from India, and then the tariff protections once wartime demand began to ebb to protect the newly expanded domestic industry was only effective as infant industry industrial development because of the following increases in productivity. In 1813, most of it hadn't happened yet.

Much of this is obscured by the later fight to repeal protectionist policies once they had done their job and the industries that they had protected no longer required that protection.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 04:51:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I found contemporary texts discussing the plight of Indian weavers as a consequence of cheaper imports produced with the power-loom. The texts date to the 1830s, and the problems described appeared in the 1810s.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 05:34:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I found one of these sources again: it's in an 1841 newspaper and includes actual numbers on the dramatic decline in Indian exports.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 05:39:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And look at the details:

In 1800, 800,000 pieces of Indian cotton to the US, in 1930, "not 400"

In 1800, 1,000,000 to Portugal, in 1830, only 20,000.

Placing the Indian transition from net exporter of cotton textiles to net importer due to the productivity of English power looms as already having happened by 1813 is quite clearly premature. It happened in the decades after the ending of the Napoleonic Wars.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 05:48:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, your point in the diary stands, but I reacted to "the middle of the 1800's" and "by the 1850's": it happened two decades earlier.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 06:07:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But it wasn't an event, it was an extended ongoing process. The evidence you present that it was ongoing several decades earlier does nothing establish that it was completed by the 1830's, which is what you require to contradict my contention that the process was not completed until the 1850's.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 08:28:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
99.5% and 98% drops in export represent a pretty much finished state.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Sep 4th, 2013 at 12:06:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the Indian domestic economy its only one step to the position that British textiles held in Indian domestic markets by the 1850's. It may have been inevitable once Indian textile exports were no longer a lucrative source of trade incomes for the East India Company, but inevitable or not, a process is not complete until it has played itself out.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 4th, 2013 at 02:23:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That source, Fleet Papers, was presenting argumentation to British readers dealing with issues such as The Corn Laws and seems to have been misrepresenting, either deliberately or, more likely, through ignorance of the timing of the developments of the British Industrial Revolution, as it tries to claim that the cause of the unemployment of Indian weavers in ca. 1813 was superior British productivity and, worse, that this had been the entire reason for the collapse of Indian cloth manufacture.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 01:12:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Fleet Papers source of 1841 is actually quoting a Dr. John Bowring (MP for Kilmarnock District of Burghs) from a parliamentary hearing on hand-loom weavers on 28 July 1835 (which can be found in full here) and makes no claim about "the unemployment of Indian weavers in ca. 1813". It does claim that the entire reason for the collapse of Indian cloth manufacture between 1800 and 1830 was "the presence of the cheaper English manufacture, the production by the power-loom", which does add up (the manufacture did not collapse under the violently enforced East India Company monopoly half a century earlier).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 09:36:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would appear that the "violently enforced East India Company monopoly" of ~ 1760-1810 had the effect of sheltering the development of a machine powered cloth industry in England by creating a market for that product in England and its colonies. Other parts of India continued to produce and export cloth to countries such as the US and Portugal until the price and quality of the power loom produced cloth drove them out of business later in the 19th century.

Somewhere in my recent reading of online sources, (keeping track of them through the jumble of comments is getting difficult), it appeared that a description about the cutting of thumbs was by Wilson and followed directly from the quotation of H H Wilson in the 1848 History of British India that both askod and I have cited. This was separate from Chang's quote of the same passage. This would be significant as Wilson had been in India as early as 1808 and learned to read the local languages. Many people who had witnessed the events of 1760 to 1808 were still present, and Wilson, while critical of EIC actions, seems unlikely to have invented or uncritically accepted invented stories.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 01:33:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The productivity improvements in textiles was from 1760 through to 1860, and it was in the mid-1860's that 2/3 of British cotton goods and 1/3 of British woolens were exported.

Any comparison of the pressures faced by Indian cotton textile producers that conflates the 1760's, 1810's and 1860's is going to give a deceptive picture.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 05:42:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I apologise for this derailment by nitpicking the 1850s; just to be clear: you correctly point out that the guy in the Yahoo! Answers quote tries to explain away thumb-cutting with something that happened after them (whether they happened in the early 19th century or the second half of the 18th century).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 06:16:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Politically speaking, from the late 18th century to the early 19th century the East India Company was more and more government controlled and less and less about (monopolized) trade and more about administration.

So the thump cuttings stories or at least their true core seem to belong in the late 18th century, when the Company was still a trade monopoly, less supervised and indian textile exports still relevant.

by IM on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 12:29:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, the Act of 1933 stripped the East India Company of many of its earlier export monopolies, though not opium, and surely it is no coincidence that the period 1815-1835 was the collapse of Indian textile export markets and 1835-1855 the growing dominance of UK textile in domestic Indian textile markets. The Act of 1833 seems to represent in part the East India Company surrendering trade monopolies that were no longer lucrative, with the period 1935-1855 demonstrating their incapacity to operate as the de facto imperial government of the subcontinent.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 4th, 2013 at 02:17:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Sep 10th, 2013 at 10:44:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The sordid history of the British in India also came to be a factor in the American Revolution. Thomas Paine was aware of the details of some of the most disgusting aspects of British East India Company activities, including artificially induced famines, tying native 'recruits' unwilling to fight across the mouth of a cannon and firing the cannon , etc. and wrote of this in Philadelphia, among other places. He argued that the state backed monstrous behavior of the British East India Company in India was a harbinger of what was to come in the American Colonies. And, of course, it was British East India Company tea that was famously dumped into Boston Harbor during the original Boston Tea Party. The relationship between the British East India Company and the British Government of the time is not too dissimilar to that between large corporations and the US government of today. May the outcome of the current example be as propitious.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 04:05:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Telegraph [UK]: Tory leaders insist Britain still has role to play on world stage (30 August 2013)
The Prime Minister said Britain remained "engaged" on the world stage despite 30 backbenchers forcing him to abandon plans to help America with missile strikes against the Syrian regime.

...

In the aftermath of the defeat George Osborne, the Chancellor, tried to lead the Downing Street fightback. Mr Osborne said there had to be "national soul searching" over Britain's world role.

...

The country must decide if it wants to continue "being that big open and trading nation that I like us to be or whether we turn our back on that", he said.



Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 07:26:14 PM EST
Still referring in the present tense to an economy that has long been in the grave. Like the USA the UK is using financialization to strip mine and leach out accumulated wealth from their country that has been built up over hundreds of years by exporting the jobs to low wage countries.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 1st, 2013 at 07:35:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To focus more on the actual topic, I see why you argue the risk of "wasting our blood and treasure on reckless foreign adventures while ignoring the rotting foundations of our domestic economy", in particular to a US audience. However, as empires fall it is not the worst. But not the best either.

Best would be to pull out, draw troops home before they are run out.

Worst would be catastrophic over reach. Doubling down in order to fix existing problems. Before modern warfare this often meant that the king and the army marched away and died in foreign lands. With modern warfare it has become a matter of total destruction of the ability to wage war, and with nuclear arms it is potentially the total destruction of, well at least higher forms of life.

Right now, there is no movement towards drawing down, but to soon to say if it will end in some nuclear gambit. One can hope that the US empire gets its Gorbachev evnetually.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 01:11:18 PM EST
If we are lucky, the catastrophic collapse comes via a sudden interruption in oil supplies which lays the foundation for a new power coalition that breaks the hold of US oil producers on national political power.

If it comes in some nuclear gambit, that would suck in a real big way.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Sep 2nd, 2013 at 04:54:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Sep 3rd, 2013 at 08:20:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The British and French empires could be wound down without total collapse of the colonizing power largely because of the protection afforded them by the new hegemon, the USA. Who could and would provide such a service to the USA while it wound down its empire? Possibly Russia and China. Were the USA to undertake such a farsighted policy they would be regional beneficiaries. But the likelihood is that dickheadedness will continue to reign in the US polity and they will be forced into an adversarial role in the interests of US domestic politics.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 4th, 2013 at 01:48:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US empire could be wound down to the benefit of the US domestic economy because it is a big drain, and a hindrance to tremendous opportunities for positive collaboration with the economies of Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular.

But not to the benefit of the current core vested interests of the status quo, so the policies that can be advanced in that direction at present would be those that fly below the radar of the top 0.1%.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 4th, 2013 at 02:13:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. Canada was part of British North America [BNA] and its "constitution" was the BNA Act so that BNA didn't disappear after 1781.
  2. The Original World War was fought in North America, Europe and India from 1754 in N.America (1756 in Europe) to 1763, resulting in the British conquest of French possessions in India and North America. This was Winston Churchill's opinion.
by albertde on Tue Sep 10th, 2013 at 08:43:01 PM EST
Where was the claim that the BNA act disappears after 1781?

And yes, it would not be surprising if an Englishmen wished to place the focus on successful British engagements against France. But I'm more following Paul Fregosi here, in Dreams of Empire: Napoleon and the First World War, 1792-1814.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Sep 10th, 2013 at 10:43:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He is (if I am reading it right) arguing that British North America survived the rebellion in the southern parts of it.

But it was decided in the House of Commons in 1782 that we weren't worth the cost in blood and treasure it would take to reconquer British North America.

And, indeed, the loss of British North America ...

Albert is (according to profile) Canadian, which might be relevant.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Sep 11th, 2013 at 03:52:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I recognize the fact being claimed. What the comment doesn't explain is what statement in the diary is modified or contested by the fact being claimed, and so I asked.

Perhaps it is talking about the reference to the decision of Parliament whether reconquering the breakaway colonies was worth the blood and treasure, but then making the point that it would only cost blood and treasure to reconquer those colonies that had rebelled seems pointlessly pedantic and would contribute nothing to the argument being made. It should be obvious that when talking about the blood and treasure to reconquer BNA its referring to that part of BNA that would have required reconquering.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Sep 13th, 2013 at 05:48:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome to European Tribune!

Would including the breakout of that war strengthen or weaken the conclusion presented?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Sep 11th, 2013 at 03:54:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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