Reading, the last week in january

by zunguzungu

As I try to impress upon my students the paramount importance of having good verbs, strong claims, and an interesting argument, I find myself wanting to just give you other people’s thoughts. So here’s some pieces of what I’ve been reading this week (or so).

Out in the Midday Sun, Elspeth Huxley, 1985, p80:

“…in 1919, at this remote spot [in British East Africa] there had arrived between seventy and eighty war-damaged men, some one-armed or one-legged, some on crutches, some with sight or speech impaired, others shattered by shell-shock, and all inspired by a belief that here in a new land they would make for themselves a new life of action. Poverty and unemployment in Britain were already destroying the hopes of men back from the trenches and reducing some to hawking matches and shoe-laces on city pavements. In Africa, they believed, sunshine, highland air and wide horizons would heal them, and tasks beyond their damaged capabilities would be done by able-bodied Africans. The scheme was doomed to failure and it failed.”

White Man’s Country, vol 1, Elspeth Huxley, 1935:

“Pioneers like Delamere often seemed to have a dead side to their natures. They seldom appear to take any interest in music or art, or to look for beauty in existence. They cannot afford to do so. They must not admit the need for such spiritual stimulants in the midst of the raw, prosaic realities which surround them; they must force themselves to be content to live out of contact with art and intellect.

“Some have few finer wants, a low standard of intellectual living. Others, perhaps, may find some aesthetic satisfaction in this arduous business of taming new land and imposing the order of man’s design on nature’s apparent chaos. These men exercise their imagination by creating waving wheat fields out of veld and bush; see beauty in the lines of a ram or bull perfect of its kind; hear music in the swish of the reaper.

“Pioneering may itself be a kind of art, in its own way as creative as the painting of a picture. Has not the artist a landscape for his canvas, ploughs for brushes and axes for a scalpel? Daubs of brown go in with broad sweeps of the brush, to be changed again, here to green and there to yellow; buildings appear to give the composition balance; forests are erased in one corner and added in another, sheep bring contrast to the pastures; roads add proportion to the design. And at the end, when the macrocosmic artist surveys his canvas, he may see a grace in the homesteads with their gardens abd their solidarity that his mind has conjured out of scrub, just as the painter knows that he has created beauty out of the pigments in which he has clothed his inspiration.”

Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, James Belich, p42:

…Many writers feel that the Reconquista in Spain in particular paved the waay for expansion in the Americas by supplying tested institutions, practices, and techniques for conquest, control, and settlement. Cortes sometimes described Aztec temples as ’mosques.’ Much of the same has been said of British conquest and settlement in Ireland from the late sixteenth century. Some scholars feel that one can exaggerate the exten to which Ireland was a ’blueprint for America.’ But one cannot deny that the settlement of Ireland produced a particularly tough and re-settlement-prone subculture: the Scots-Irish. These people had by far the highest rates of overseas migration in the British Isles in the 18th century. The same is true of the Andalusians of Spain and the Cossacks of Russia. These groups were the shock troops of Euroepan far-settlement, and they had been produced by earlier, closer, settlements.

The Defense of Inhumanity: Air Control and the British Idea of Arabia,” Priya Satia:

“Thus the British concession of Iraqi independence in 1932 was nominal at best; the Air Staff made it clear that the change upon Iraq’s admission to the League of Nations would be “more apparent than real.” The regime’s austerity allowed a discreet continuity in these arrangements, for “in countries of this sort … the impersonal drone of an aeroplane … is not so obtrusive as the constant presence in the streets of numbers of soldiers.” Air control was a mechanism of control for a region in which more overt colonial rule was a political impossibility; even British public opinion would theoretically pose no obstacle, since the scheme was cheap enough to elude the check of taxpayers. Air control allowed covert pursuit of empire in an increasingly anti-imperial world. Squadrons were reduced gradually, but the country was reoccupied during World War II, and the RAF departed only in 1958.”

The Cultivation of Hatred, Peter Gay, p53:

“The appearance of unanimity, or at least of a broad consensus, among its leading spokesmen is an illusion, generated by a handful of glib advocates who specialized in boisterous and easily remembered pronouncements. They papered over discord with a handful of resounding and endlessly reiterated, suitably vague maxims touting the survival of the fittest, maxims that served the cause well because they were short and seemed profound; their pithiness made thinking superfluous.”