Jane Austen and ...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jane Austen and the Black Hole. Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Colonial famine, genocide and ethnocide

“The Hindoo appears a being nearly limited to mere animal functions and even in them indifferent. Their proficiency and skill in the several lines of occupation to which they are restricted, are little more than the dexterity of which any animal with a similar conformation but with no higher intellect than a dog, an elephant, or a monkey, might be supposed to be capable of attaining. It is enough to see this in order to have full conviction that such a people can at no period have been more advanced in civil policy.”

- Lord Hastings (Lord Moira, Marquess of Hastings and Governor-General of India, 1813-1823) (1813) 1

“The trifling quantity of piece goods which Bengal still exported is for the most part made from English twist.”

- C.E. Trevelyan (1835), reporting on the effective destruction of the centuries-old Bengal textile industry. 2

“The population of the town of Dacca [a key textile centre] has fallen from 150,000 to 30,000 or 40,000, and the jungle and malaria are fast encroaching on the town.”

- C.E. Trevelyan (1840), reporting to a Parliamentary Committee on the destruction of the Dacca textile industry. 3

“This being altogether beyond the power of man, the cure had been applied by the direct stroke of an all-wise Providence in a manner as unexpected and unthought of as it is likely to be effectual.”

- C.E. Trevelyan (1846) (the responsible Undersecretary for the Treasury, commenting on the Irish famine as a “cure” for overpopulation). 4

“the great object of saving life and giving protection from extreme suffering may not only be as well secured, but in fact will be far better secured, if proper care be taken to prevent the abuse and demoralisation which all experience shows to be the consequence of ill-directed and excessive distribution of charitable relief.”

- Report of the Indian Famine Commission 1880 5

“In my judgement any government which imperilled the financial position of India in the interests of a prodigal philanthropy would be open to serious criticism. But any government which, by indiscriminate alms-giving, weakened the fibre and demoralised the self-reliance of the population would be guilty of a public crime.”

- Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India on the 1900 Indian Famine (January 1900) 6

“I have the honour to state that there are no Aborigines in my district.”

- Reverend James Walker (1846), reporting on the total elimination of indigenous people from the North Parramatta district of New South Wales, Australia..7

Famines in India 1770-1943

The above considered assertion by Lord Hastings in 1813 was about the people that created one of the earliest major human civilizations, 8 an extraordinary culture most evident in literature, music, art and architecture (such as the Taj Mahal or the great Hindu temples) 9 and one of the world’s most technically and philosophically sophisticated societies by the time of British invasion in the mid-eighteenth century.10 Famine is not simply a deficiency of food production in a particular area. It derives from the inability of people in a particular area to either harvest or purchase food. 11 Before the British invaded and enslaved Bengal, this part of the world had a highly productive agricultural and manufacturing economy. Not content with the enslavement and rapacious taxation of the farmers, the British shifted crop production from food crops to indigo, opium, cotton and jute. From a situation in which Bengal was initially a major exporter of textiles to Britain, the textile industry was remorselessly destroyed by differential duties and Bengal was reduced to a cotton-producing captive market for British textiles. Desperate poverty was thus imposed upon formerly prosperous Bengal and, with variations, upon India as a whole by a remorseless invader. A Governor-General of the East India Company described this succinctly in 1835: “The misery hardly finds a parallel in the history of commerce. The bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains of India.” 12

After the great famine in Bengal in 1769-1770 one would have supposed that a morally responsive conquering nation would have taken stock and taken steps to ensure that such awful events would not recur. This was not the case. We have seen that the British under their hero Hastings extended their hegemony in various capacities to Rohilkund, Delhi, Benares and Oudh in the north and finally disposed of French imperial dreams in the south of India. However this process inevitably produced great distress in concert with the vagaries of climate. Combinations of taxation, war, the burning of crops and drought brought famine to Madras in 1781 and more generally to the Carnatic, Mysore and the Bombay region in 1781-1783. Drought affected the west of India (Thar, Pakar and Sind) in 1782-1784 and in 1782-1784 drought, war and crop burning brought famine to Madras, Bengal, Bombay and Upper India. 13

We have seen in the previous chapter that generalized concerns in relation to the distress of Indian subjects were raised during the impeachment proceedings but to no avail. The proceedings evidently became more concerned with the rights of Indian princes and princesses and Hastings was ultimately acquitted. India was to suffer nearly 2 centuries of recurrent famine under British rule. It should be stated clearly at this point that after the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, while scarcities and localized famine distress occurred on occasion, there was by and large no recurrence of the massive, catastrophic famines of the kind suffered under British rule. (The biggest South Asia post-war famine events were those in Bihar in 1966-1967 and in Bengal in 1974).14 That this dramatic post-independence amelioration occurred despite massive population increases can be primarily attributed to the application of modern technology and the replacement of callous British rulers by indigenous governments that, for all their faults, evidently had a vastly greater humanitarian concern for their subjects.15

Prior to conquest by the British, India had experienced immense famines that were basically caused by drought and in some cases severely exacerbated by war or excessive revenue-raising. Thus about 80 famines - nearly all occasioned by drought but in some cases greatly affected by war or excessive taxation - occurred in various parts of India from the prolonged 293-282 BC famine in Bihar up to the famine in 1759 in the Bombay area that was caused by wars of the Marathas. The invasion of northern India by Timur caused famine in 1399 and the wars of Aurangzeb caused famine in the 17th Century. However the indigenous rulers, and indeed also the Moghal rulers, variously perceived an obligation to ameliorate the suffering due to drought-induced famine through the purchase of food, the opening up of food stores, the construction of irrigation works and the employment of famine victims on these and other public works.16

As we will see, the British were not totally unmoved. Improvements to roads, the installation of railway lines, the construction of irrigation works (especially in the Punjab) and a succession of Famine Commissions resulting in the refining of “Famine Codes” towards the end of the 19th Century all helped to mitigate the effects of drought. However the real killers were the utter impoverishment of the Indian people to satisfy British greed and the not unconnected administrative apathy borne of entrenched racism. In the simple but profound words of Kachhawaha (1985): “The administration failed to realise that it had an obligation to save every human life. The relief measures were not undertaken promptly and were generally half-hearted and inadequate to meet the situation. ” 17

The Indian sub-continent covers a vast area and contains a multiplicity of cultures. For geographical and other reasons some regions were more susceptible to famine than others. Greenough (1982) has compiled a list of recorded famines in India from about 290 BC to 1944 AD and has categorised various regions of India in terms of famine propensity as reflected in the number of historical famines. Thus (in order of risk) “high” propensity areas were the upper Gangetic valley and the northern Deccan, “middle high” areas included Punjab-Kashmir, southern Deccan, Peninsular west coast, Rajasthan-Sind, middle Gangetic valley and Peninsular east coast and “middle low” areas included Gujarat, West Bengal-Bihar and Central India. The well-watered and highly productive regions of Orissa and East Bengal had the lowest famine propensity and it is accordingly of particular note that these regions suffered horrendously from famine during the British administration of India.18

The nature and occurrence of famines in India has been reported extensively. About 4 dozen famines occurred in India since the Battle of Plassey (1757) and it is beyond the scope of this book to describe in detail this immense carnage that swept away tens of millions of people in ghastly circumstances. Nevertheless I feel obliged to offer at least the following chronology of imperial mass murder interspersed (in square brackets) with some relevant events elsewhere in the Empire. The major sources for this catalogue are Cook & Stevenson (1991), Ghosh (1944), Greenough (1982), Kachhawaha (1992), Langer (1952), Maloo (1987), Roberts (1958), Sen (1981) and Spear (1965).19

[Battle of Plassey 1757];

Bombay (1759); Bengal, Bihar (1769-1770); Madras (1781); Carnatic, Mysore, Bombay (1781-1783); Thar, Pakar, Sind (1782-1784); Madras, Bombay, Bengal, Oudh, northern India (1782-1784); northern Deccan, Bengal (1787);

[invasion of Australia (1788)];

Bombay, Gujarat, Deccan, Hyderabad, Kutch, Orissa, Marwar, Madras (1790-1793); Rajasthan (1796);

[inadvertent and “forgotten” second settlement on the East Coast of Australia on Preservation Island in Bass Strait by substantially Bengali shipwrecked sailors bound for Sydney from Calcutta (1797)];

north-west provinces, Kutch, Bombay, central India, Rajasthan, Hyderabad, Deccan (1799-1804); Bombay (1806-1807); Carnatic (1806-1807); Bombay, Sind, Gujarat, Agra, Rajasthan, north-western provinces (1812-1813); Madras (1812-1814); north-west provinces, Rajasthan, Deccan, Sind (1819-1822); Deccan, Bombay, Madras, Gujarat (1823-1825); Sirohi (1824); famine due to over-taxation and disorder in Mewar (1828); Punjab (1827-1828);

[abolition of slavery in the British Empire (1833)];

Deccan, Madras (1831-1833); Ajmer, Cawnpore, Bundelkhand, Gujarat, Deccan, Rajasthan, Punjab (1832-1834); Madras, Deccan, Punjab, Gujarat (1833-1835); north-west provinces, Rajasthan, Punjab (1837-1838); Gujarat (1838-1839); Deccan (1845);

[the first Maori War (1843-1848); the Irish Famine (1845-1850, 1 million dead, 1.5 million emigrated); the potato famine in Scotland (1848-1849)];

Rajasthan (1847-1849);

[the Taiping rebellion and associated famine in China took 20-100 million lives (1850-1864)];

Madras, Deccan, Rajasthan, Bombay (1853-1855); Orissa, Bihar, Gunjam, Hyderabad, Mysore (1856-1857);

[Indian Mutiny (1857-1858); end of rule in India by the East India Company (1858); first Indian indentured labourers - 3-year slaves - to South Africa (1860)];

north-west provinces, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat (1860-1862); Deccan (1862);

[abolition of slavery in the U.S.A. (1865)];

east coast, Orissa, Bihar, west Bengal, Madras, Deccan, Bombay (1866); north-west provinces, Rajasthan, Deccan, central provinces, Punjab, Gujarat (1868-1870); north-west provinces, Bihar, Oudh, Bengal, Bundelkhand (1873-1874);

[cession of Fiji (1874); death of Truganini, the last “full-blood” Tasmanian (1876)];

Madras, Bombay, Mysore, Hyderabad (1876-1878); north-west provinces, Kashmir, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan (1877-1878); north-west provinces, Deccan (1879-1880);

[commencement of indentured Indian labour - 5-year slavery - to Fiji (1879)];

west Bengal, Bihar (1884-1885); central provinces (1886-1887); Orissa, Ganjam (1888-1889); Garhwal, Bengal, Bihar, Madras, Rajasthan (1890-1892); central provinces (1894); north-west provinces, Bengal, Madras, central provinces, Bombay, Punjab, Bihar, Hyderabad, Rajasthan, Bundelkhand (1896-1897); Punjab, Rajasthan, central provinces, Bombay, Hyderabad (1899-1900); Gujarat (1900-1902);

[the Boer War (1899-1902); death of Queen Victoria (1901); genocide of the Hereros and Namas of South West Africa by the Germans (1904-1907)];

Bombay, Deccan, Rajasthan (1905-1906); Bihar, Bengal (1906-1907); Uttar Pradesh, central provinces (1907-1908);

[the First World War (1914-1918); the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923); influenza epidemic killed 27 million world-wide, 17 million in India (1918-1919); East Africa Famine (1919-1920), end of the indentured labour or girmit system of Indians to Fiji (1920); the Russian Famine (1921); last major massacre of Australian aborigines, northwest Australia (1926); famine in China (1920-1921, 1928-1930); the Ukraine Famine (1928-1933); Japanese invasion of China (1937); Niger famine (1942); Hunan famine, WW2 China; the Second World War and the Jewish Holocaust (1939-1945)];

Rajasthan (1939-1940); Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Orissa (1943-1946).

In briefly considering this disastrous catalogue we should indicate the more serious of the pre-20th Century famines, namely those in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa (1769-1770), Rajasthan, Oudh and elsewhere in northern India (1782-84), Rajasthan, Bombay, Gujarat and north-western provinces (1812-1815), north-western provinces, Punjab and Rajasthan (1837-1838), Madras, Deccan, Bihar, Bengal and particularly Orissa (1866), Rajasthan and northern India (1868-1870), and throughout much of India from Hyderabad to Rajasthan and the Punjab (1899-1900). The 1769-1770 and 1899-1900 famines were the worst and the 1943-1944 Bengal Famine was in the same league of massive catastrophe.

While the consistent primary cause of these famines was drought, the ultimate cause of death was lack of resources to purchase food in these times of scarcity - in the parlance of Amartya Sen, a deficiency of “entitlement”. 20 The administering power had imposed a system of remorseless revenue collection without realistically accepting responsibility for its millions of starving subjects. This situation was exacerbated by the immense damage done to Indian industry and hence earning capacity by restrictive trading practices of the British, notably through imposition of prohibitive tariffs excluding Indian goods from Britain. This is well illustrated by a dramatic set of statistics relating to Indian textile exports to and imports from Britain in the 19th Century: the value in rupees of cotton goods exported/imported in 1815/16 was 13,151,427/263,800 but by 1832/33 this proportion has shrunk to 822,891/4,264,707. 21 A further major impact was war, both in the sense of paying for this senseless pursuit and the actual damage and disruption caused by war. Thus war conducted by the British or their foes clearly contributed to famines in the period of conquest 1759-1807, the Indian Mutiny period of 1856-1857 and the Second World War period of 1939-1945. In order to get a better feel for these events we will specifically focus on 2 radically different areas, namely relatively dry to desert Rajasthan and lush, well-watered Bengal, to illustrate the courses of famine in British India.

Famine in Rajasthan

Detailed accounts of famine in Rajasthan have been written by Maloo (1987) and Kachhawaha (1992). 22 Rajasthan (the land of Rajputs) is divided into two distinct areas by the Aravali range running southwest to northeast. The west-northwestern 60% of the territory is comprised of the very dry states of Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Marwar. The east-northeast states of Jaipur, Ajmer, Merwara, Kishengarh and Alwar variously have the benefit of wells and irrigation and to the south Sirohi, Mewar, Dungarpur and Banswara are hillier and have better rainfall. The eastern fringe of Rajasthan includes Bharatpur, Dholpur and Karauli in the north and Kotah, Bundi, Jhalawar and Tonk in the south.

Before the British arrived there had been drought-induced famines in various parts of Rajasthan: Marwar in the reign of Rao Rajal who opened his granaries to the people (1309-1313); Ajmer and elsewhere in which people were driven to cannibalism and the Moghal Emperor Akbar instituted public works relief at Nagaur (1570); Mewar and elsewhere in which a large lake was constructed near Udaipur as part of famine relief (1660-1661); Marwar (1698-1770); Jaipur (1711-1716); Sojat, Raipur and Jetaran in Marwar (1742); Rajasthan generally (1747); Marwar (1756).

After the firm establishment of the British in large swathes of northern, eastern, southern and western India, famine became endemic to this region. The immense famine that afflicted northern India in 1782-84 during the “reign” of Warren Hastings had a particularly bad effect on the northern-most state of Bikaner. A further huge famine afflicted Rajasthan in 1812-1813 that caused massive losses of cattle and crops and depopulated large swathes of the country. This was followed by famines or severe scarcities affecting parts of Rajasthan (1819-1822), Mewar and Sirohi (1833), Alwar, Bharatpur, Dholpur, Karauli and Jaipur (1838-1840), Ajmer and Marwar (1848) and various parts of Rajasthan (1853-1855) and northwestern Rajasthan and Alwar (1860-1862).

The last 4 decades of the 19th century saw massive famines in Rajasthan. In 1868-1869 famine particularly affected Marwar, Bikaner, Ajmer and Merwara and killed one third of the population of Marwar, Bikaner and Ajmer. About 480,000 people died in Marwar alone and a further 1,000,000 emigrated, leaving the state largely depopulated. It has been estimated that 1,250,000 people perished in Rajasthan as a whole.

In 1877-1878 major scarcity of food in Rajasthan forced substantial emigration, Alwar losing 10% of its population in this way, and a similar period of scarcity occurred in 1891-1892 occasioning implementation of the Famine Code for Native States for the first time. Failure of the monsoon in 1896 caused famine that particularly affected Bharatpur, Bikaner, Dholpur, Jaisalmer and Marwar in the northern half of Rajasthan and precipitated relief measures.

In 1899-1900 one of the worst famines to occur in British India severely affected many parts of India including Rajasthan. The worst affected area was the western two thirds of Rajasthan including Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Marwar (20,000 deaths), Mewar (223,000 deaths) and Tonk. Cholera and malarial epidemics inevitably accompanied starvation. 1,000,000 million people starved to death in a Rajasthan reduced to the semblance of Bergen-Belsen. About 750,000 people emigrated out of the province to escape the famine.

The appalling sequence of events in Rajasthan and elsewhere in India in the course of the 19th Century led to Famine Commissions and the promulgation of Famine Codes for dealing with such emergencies (of which more later). However the disasters kept occurring into the 20th Century. Thus there was a major period of scarcity throughout most of Rajasthan in 1901-1902 and explicit famine in 1905-1906 that affected Ajmer, Merwara, Alwar, Bharatpur, Dholpur, Jaipur, Marwar and Mewar. Various parts of Rajasthan suffered scarcities over the next 40 years with Ajmer, Merwara, Bharatpur, Bikaner, Banswara, Bundi, Marwar and Mewar being particularly affected in 1915-1916. India made a major contribution in men and material to the British war effort but any British gratitude did not extend to the people of Rajasthan, a contemptible passivity that was to recur during the Second World War. In 1939-1940 most of Rajasthan suffered explicit famine that was nevertheless to be dwarfed by the Bengal Famine of 1943-1945.

Famines in Bengal between the 1769/70 and 1943/45 holocausts

In 1782-1784 northern India suffered a grievous famine that has been alluded to above. This famine was complicated by war and attendant rapacious taxation of the kind brought up in the Hastings Impeachment. The Company administration was aware of the problem and even set up a Committee but with results that are not apparent. Well-watered Bengal escaped the worst of this famine which devastated Madras and Bombay as well as Oudh and other parts of northern India.

In 1865 failure of expected rains led to fears about the winter harvest that were cruelly realised. 1866 saw widespread famine in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and other parts of India including the Carnatic, Madras and Bombay. In the middle of 1866 the authorities refused to accept that there was a serious problem and only commenced importation of food in June when it became apparent that soldiers and prisoners could not be fed. The occurrence of rain in August and attendant disease compounded the problems of those weakened by starvation. The famine had the greatest impact in West Bengal (Midnapore, Bankura, Nadia, Murshidabad and Hughli) and Orissa. Orissa, like Bengal, was a major rice producer and exporter but storms prevented the necessary importation of food by sea. The total loss of life was in excess of 1 million people with 750,000 dying in Orissa alone. The devastation was seen to be so enormous that the Board of Revenue was criticized by the subsequent Famine Commission in 1867 and the Board subsequently professed regret for their tardiness in appreciating the extent of the impending disaster, remitting land taxes, importing food and taking other relief measures. 23

In 1873-1874 famine again struck Bengal, Bihar and nearby provinces, the winter rice crop in Bengal being only three eighths of normal. However in this instance the humanity and intelligence of one man, Sir George Campbell, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, saved millions from disaster and this despite the contemptible unresponsiveness of the Home Government and the Central Government of India 70 years later General Wavell (Viceroy of India) and the Australian R.G. Casey (Governor of Bengal) were to energetically address the horrendous wartime Bengal Famine in the face of Home Government unresponsiveness and after disastrously ineffectual responses from their predecessors, Linlithgow in Delhi and Herbert in Calcutta, respectively. Sir George Campbell responded quickly to the crisis through importation of food, introduction of relief works and systematic provision of relief food throughout Bengal. Nevertheless the Viceroy, Lord Northbrooke, declined to prohibit the continuing export of rice to Ceylon, the West Indies, Mauritius, England and elsewhere in the Empire, a position supported by the Home Government - free trade must go on. 24

In 1875-1876 food was still scarce in Bengal but famine was averted. Similarly shortages in 1884-1885 and 1892 did not cause catastrophic famine in Bengal. However in 1896-1897 severe famine affected all of northern India including Bengal. Fortunately the dreadful famine of 1899-1900 that swept away several million people in a huge area of India - Punjab, Rajasthan, Central Provinces, Bombay and Hyderabad - had much less impact on Bengal. Ghosh (1944) writes with bitterness and contempt about the grandeur of the Delhi Durbar of 1902 held at immense expense shortly after one of India’s worst famines. Famine recurred in Bengal and Bihar in 1906-1907 but, scarcity aside, Bengal was then free of famine for nearly 40 years. 25

Responses to Indian famines by the British

The British had a major responsibility for famine in India in a clear and fundamental way - they had imposed themselves gratuitously and violently upon a complex sub-continent and became the rulers. The unspoken contract between the rulers and the ruled in civilised human societies is that the ruled pay their taxes and get something back in return from the rulers - whether this be bread and circuses, leadership in war or relief at times of natural disaster such as periods of food scarcity and famine. The conduct of the British in India - for all the immense propaganda to the contrary in relation to dams, railways, law and Pax Britannica - reveal them to be merely thieves and slave-masters with a callous disregard for their subjects right up to the time they finally got the message and left. Indeed it is the thesis of this book that the process of exploitation and imposition has not yet finished and that Gadarene European mercantilism will impose an even more dreadful exaction from the Indians (and others) in the next century as a price for their sharing the biosphere with the “master culture”.

Specifically, the British were responsible for famine in India in many ways: through wars, rapacious land taxes, export of food, conversion of land use to growth of non-food cash crops and destruction of indigenous manufacturing industry through discriminatory taxes and violence. We have seen, for example, the dramatic decline of the Indian cotton industry brought about through highly discriminatory tariffs blocking Indian exports to Britain. In times of food scarcity people in India survived through the help of their rulers and other people who had a sense of social obligation imbued by the steady evolution of their society over thousands of years. However ultimately, in the absence of food in their immediate environment, hungry people had to buy it from elsewhere. Colonial policies led to significant conversion of food crops to industrial cash crops (e.g. cotton, jute, opium, tea and indigo) and damage to ancient Indian industries (in favour of metropolitan industry and its sales to a captive market). These pressures diminished food supply and the ability of Indians to buy food. Yet the British right to the end maintained the economic fiction that the famines of India were “acts of God” rather than the clear and appalling reality that they were due to the actions of the colonial overlords.

There is a horrible story that I have been told by a number of Indian scholars and which relates to the Bengali muslin weavers of Dacca. It was said that muslin from Dacca was so fine that a sari made from this material could be drawn through a wedding ring. The manufacture of Dacca muslin was disposed of by the British through the expedient of chopping off the thumbs of the weavers - or so the story goes. The only published versions of this story that I have seen are of 2 kinds - one more or less as above and the other involving self-mutilation by brutally oppressed weavers. The latter story tells of Bengali raw silk winders cutting off their own thumbs to prevent their being forced to wind silk by the brutal Company agents. 26 Of course the absence of a satisfactorily documented “written” account does not necessarily invalidate the tale (as we can see from the oral traditions of aboriginal people in Australia or ragas in India). If indeed it is merely a story, then it nevertheless serves as a powerful metaphor for the social, agricultural and industrial disruption due to the British in India that visited Bergen-Belsen conditions to swathes of the sub-continent in virtually every decade of British rule for 2 centuries of unprecedented holocaust. Karl Marx (1853) described precisely how a combination of British imperialism and technology impoverished Bengal and the rest of India:

“It was the British intruder who broke up the Indian hand-loom and destroyed the spinning wheel. England began with driving the Indian cottons from the European market; it then introduced twist into Hindustan and, in the end, inundated the very country of cotton with cotton. From 1818 to 1836 the export of twist from Great Britain to India rose in the proportion of 1 to 5,200. In 1824 the export of British muslins hardly amounted to 1,000,000 yards while in 1837 it surpassed 64,000,000 of yards. But at the same time the population of Dacca decreased from 150,000 inhabitants to 20,000. This decline of Indian towns celebrated for their fabrics was by no means the worst consequence. British steam and science uprooted, over the whole surface of Hindustan, the union between agricultural and manufacturing industry.” 27

The British did inquire into the famines as they occurred. A commission of 3 experienced men was sent out to Bengal in 1772 to inquire into the conduct of affairs but unfortunately the commissioners did not arrive, the ship taking them to India, the Aurora, having been lost at sea with all hands. Nevertheless official inquiry into the 1769-1770 famine was made and evidence adduced of speculation in food by Company men. Other analyses and reports of famine in India were published. 28 The great Adam Smith commented on the Bengal famine of 1769-1770 in relation to his proposition that scarcity should never translate into famine provided there is no constraint on normal free trade. In his view inappropriate regulations and restraints by the British administrators simply compounded the problem at the time of this famine in Bengal. 29 Imposition of differential duties by the British through simple regulation abolished both the foreign and domestic market for Bengali and Indian textiles and brought horrendous suffering to millions. 30 We will see later that ultimately British “regulations” killed a million people in the Irish famine. 31 In the Bengal famine of 1943-1945, British regulations (significantly enacted a week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) gave individual provinces the power to control their own food trade. This has been described as a “tragic step” and a “fatal mistake” that helped to seal the fate of millions of Bengali famine victims. 32

As famine recurred throughout the nineteenth century, the British would earnestly analyse the data and this inevitably led to palliative measures. Thus the improvements to ports and roads and the building of railways increased the capacity to bring food into famine areas. Storms that prevented the supply of Orissa by sea in 1866 were responsible for an immense loss of life in that famine. Major irrigation works in the Punjab provided greater security against the effects of climatic oscillations. Famine Commissions were conducted and ultimately revised versions of Famine Codes were promulgated. Improved irrigation was seen as a major beneficial move to prevent famine with improved transport and relief work programs as effective responses to famine. However the continuing reality was that Indians lived on the edge. For those who worked for money to buy food (or had been forced into this situation through drought), a downward shift in their income coupled with an upward shift in the price of food would lead to disaster. The Famine Codes indicated a growing moral sensibility on the part of the British. 33 However the very existence of these regulations could impair effective response. Thus the acting Governor of Bengal in 1943, Sir T. Rutherford, informed the Viceroy of India that he had not actually declared a famine because this would have obliged him to implement the measures laid down in the Famine Codes. 34

The context of global genocide

It is useful at this point to put the British crimes against humanity in India into the context of what they had been up to elsewhere and what other European powers were doing. In considering European colonial excesses we will be largely concerned with the span of 2 maximal human lifetimes (2 times 125 years) on either side of the year of Jane Austen’s death (1817). This takes us roughly from the accession of Queen Elizabeth I in England (1558) to a point just after the middle of the 21st century, by which time global warming changes would already have wreaked disastrous “entitlement” changes for the people of the tropical third world (see Chapter 16). We will be largely concerned with the activities of the British (both at home and abroad) but will intersperse our account with the more revolting “colonial” activities of some other powers.


The slave trade in Africa began with the Portuguese obtaining slaves from indigenous slave traders on the coast of Mauretania in the 15th century. The trade was initially Africa-based (e.g. the Portuguese trading slaves to Africans in return for Angolan gold and running slave-based plantations on Sao Tomé off the African coast). The conquest of the New World and the setting up of plantations in South and North America and in the West Indies dramatically increased the slave trade and brought the Dutch, French and British into the act. In the 17th century the Dutch moved into the trade in Angola to service their plantations in South America but were eventually pushed out by the Portuguese.

The major years of the trade were 1750-1850, nicely bracketing the life of Jane Austen. A total of about 11-20 million slaves were sent to the Americas but this estimate can be increased by about 25-50% to include those that died in the appalling imprisonment, shipping and physical punishment impositions of the process. The regions of activity stretched down the coast from West Africa to Angola. The Arabs were heavily involved on the East coast of Africa. The economic impact on England and other slaving countries was enormous. Slavery and attendant economic activity helped to fund the capital accumulation needed for the Industrial Revolution and associated expansion elsewhere. The general procedure involved coastal acquisition of slaves captured and brought in from the interior followed by trans-Atlantic shipment and re-sale. The overall process involved enormous violence, social disruption and substantial losses during transportation. While African population growth compensated for these depredations, the trade as such distorted African societies in substantial contact with Europeans and imposed parasitic and exploitative indigenous “slaving” classes upon African societies.

Through the lobbying of decent people of the likes of the Quakers and poets such as William Cowper (see Chapter 7), pressure mounted against the slave trade. However the abolition of the slave trade was not simply due to the altruism and goodness of a noble people (we recall Henry Tilney declaring to Catherine Morland: “Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christian”.) Contrary to the “goodness” myth and ostensible public assertion, it is likely that slavery was abolished by Britain because it became expensive and uneconomic. It is a much better proposition to employ “free” workers who are subject to State authority and have no choice but to work for you or to starve. Britain was the leading slave trading country and lead the way in abolishing the slave trade in Britain and its dominions in 1807. Slavery in British colonies was abolished in 1833 and this example was followed successively by the French, the Danes, the South American republics, the USA (1865), Spanish Cuba (1888) and Portuguese Brazil (1888). 35 However we will see later (p129) that British and Australian slavery would occur later in the Pacific as so-called “blackbirding” for Melanesian sugar plantation labour.

The abolition of the slave trade on the part of Europeans brought expansion of “legitimate” commercial activity to Africa involving palm oil in West Africa and farming by the Dutch Afrikaners, Portuguese, Germans and the British in Southern Africa. This simply involved the violent seizure of African lands and the expansion of “efficient” scientific European agriculture. The British expansion in this respect led to the agricultural settlement of Rhodesia and eventually of the high country of Kenya, which was ideal for coffee production. The Great Trek of the Afrikaners from the Cape colony into the Transvaal led them into conflict with African tribes, substantial but incomplete seizure of African lands and use of indigenous labour. The British expansion into Natal led to conflict with the Zulus and the celebrated Zulu wars. The Natal and Kenya expansions resulted in the need for labour and the introduction of Indian and Chinese labour. The Portuguese extended agricultural activity in Mozambique and Angola and the Germans (of whom more later) seized African lands for cattle farms in South West Africa.36 The nineteenth century saw the division of Africa between the European powers namely Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Germany and Italy. This acquisition phase produced some conflicts of exceptional violence and horror that we will now briefly deal with in rough chronological order.

The Zulus were ruled by Shaka from 1818 to 1828, when this monster was assassinated. This was a time of pressures deriving from the northward movement of the Europeans from the Cape of Good Hope and the Zulus made space for themselves through frightful expansion and genocide. Shaka organized his soldiers into a merciless military machine that in battle would approach the enemy as a crescent, the horns of which would close up to encircle the foe. Everyone thus trapped would be systematically slaughtered. The women, children and elderly of his opponents would be all murdered. Some young women might be occasionally spared for sexual purposes but Shaka saved young men for his own army. Shaka created zones of death around his kingdom in which nobody was left alive and maintained the security of his domain by keeping his neighbours in a state of utter terror. Shaka was a prototype of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot - they all ruled their territories by force of arms complemented by the sheer terror of remorseless mass-murder. 37

The British and the Afrikaners moved north into regions depopulated by the Zulus under Shaka and defeated the Zulus and other African tribes in a succession of encounters during the nineteenth century. Major events included the massacre of Piet Retief and his followers by the Zulus under Dingaan and the subsequent defeat of the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River by the Afrikaners (1838); war between the British and the Kaffirs resulting in the defeat of the Kaffirs in the War of the Axe (1847-1848); the mass-starvation of the Kaffirs (1856); the final Kaffir War (1877-1878); and the Zulu War of 1879 which saw initial Zulu victory over the British but eventually the inevitable Zulu defeat. As we will see later it was not just the indigenous people of Southern Africa who gave the European imperialists a run for their money in the 19th century, despite the impossible odds of spears against guns. 38 [As a child I used to borrow “ripping” British Imperial adventure books from the personal library of a kindly, elderly Mrs Walker who lived up the hill on Mount Stuart Road on Mount Stuart in Hobart, Tasmania (our road and hill being named after Mount Stuart Elphinstone, the great British India administrator, and indeed diverging from Elphinstone Road further down Mount Stuart). One of my favourites was Sanders of the River, who would go out to Africa armed with his “equalizers” and, with the help of “friendly natives”, would wreak havoc on dissident Africans. In hindsight, these tales had very much an Old Testament flavour about them, with the hapless African “savages” as Canaanites, the “friendly natives” as Israelites and Sanders being someone like Joshua, an agent of the Lord’s Will and who has the advantage of transcendental destructive powers. Well might they have said “God is an Englishman”].

The ancient land of Egypt was invested by the British, exciting events in a Boy’s Own Annual sense being the bombardment of Alexandria and the occupation of Cairo by the British (1882), the capture of Khartoum in the Sudan - with the attendant massacre of General Gordon and his garrison by the followers of the Mahdi (1885) - and the reconquest of the Sudan by General Lord Kitchener at the Battle of Obdurman in which Churchill participated (1896). Bad treatment of the vanquished by the British under Kitchener included the maltreatment and murder of the wounded. Pelling (1974), in recounting this episode, quotes Churchill’s comment about Kitchener: “He may be a general - but never a gentleman.” 39

The Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) followed the successful fight for independence of the Transvaal Afrikaners against the British (1880-1881) and the British desire to reassert authority after the discovery of gold on the Witswatersrand in 1896. This conflict involved 300,000 British Empire soldiers pitted against the Boer farmers. The British herded captured Boer women and children into concentration camps where there were massive casualties. About 10% of the Afrikaaners perished and there was a particularly high death rate among children. As a result of this war Britain gained the South African goldfields but also earned great disapprobation in Europe for treating white folks so badly. However other European powers had also dirtied their reputations in Africa as the following examples show. 40

The Congo region became the venue for rapacious rubber collection and appalling cruelties by the Belgians. King Leopold of the Belgians had attempted to get interest in forming a Belgian equivalent of the East India Company that would do to China what that Company had done to India. Fortunately for the Chinese there were no takers and Leopold turned to the Congo. The International Association for the Exploration and Civilization of Central Africa was set up (ostensibly to suppress the slave trade) in 1876. H.M. Stanley (of “Dr Livingstone, I presume” fame) was recruited after his famous trans-Africa trip to act as an agent of the Belgian part of the committee. He returned to Africa and set up Belgian stations in the Congo. The International Association of the Congo was set up and received international recognition. This period of Central African history was attended by all kinds of exciting diplomatic to-ing and fro-ing between the Belgians, British, Portuguese, Germans and the French and also saw European defeat of Arab slave traders. Risings by the Batetalas on the Upper Congo were suppressed by the Belgians (1896) and the Portuguese suppressed a revolt in Angola (1902).

The Belgians extracted rubber from the indigenous inhabitants of the Congo with unbelievable cruelty - women and children were captured and violated, Africans were mutilated or just simply murdered out of hand on a huge scale. The chopping off of hands was a favourite device to punish Africans for insufficient collections. Smoked ears and hands were tendered by the agents as evidence of their enthusiasm. Evidence from a variety of witnesses described appalling atrocities and the widespread and near-total destruction of African communities. The graphic account by E.D. Morel entitled Red Rubber, the Story of the Rubber Slave Trade Flourishing on the Congo in the Year of Grace 1907 raised great public indignation in Britain, the US and Germany, as did the reports of the British consul Roger Casement. 41 Sir Roger Casement, the decent and good man who had so earnestly pleaded the cause of the horribly afflicted inhabitants of the Congo, was hung by the British in 1916 for his support for Irish self-determination.42

South West Africa was seized by the Germans in the 19th century and they proceeded to dispossess the native inhabitants of their land, territory lying between the coastal sandy Namid desert and the Kalahari desert on the east. This arid country was sparsely populated by the Ovambo (125,000) in the north, the Hereros (80,000) in the central region of Hereroland and the Namas (20,000) in the southern Namaland. The Hereros were nomadic herdsmen and the Germans, after the fashion of their British cousins in similarly arid Australia, simply seized native lands as well as maltreating the Hereros by rape, imprisonment, flogging and murder. The Hereros were ultimately forced into revolt through the expansion of the German railways and hence of German pastoralists and their herds. These encroachments were set to destroy their very ability to survive in this relatively harsh environment.

The Hereros revolted in 1904 under the leadership of Samuel Maharero and had major initial successes. They conducted themselves very honourably in relation to non-combatants, including non-Germans. The Germans came back with great ferocity and effected the first of a number of 20th century genocides on their slate. The Hereros had no answer to artillery and machine guns and the Germans instituted a deliberate policy of total extermination. Ultimately the survivng Herero women and children were driven into the desert to die. The proto-Nazi General von Trotha who was responsible for these enormities wrote: “This uprising is and remains the beginning of a racial struggle, which I foresaw for East Africa as early as 1897 in my reports to the Imperial Chancellor”. About 50% of Hereros and Namas taken prisoner died in captivity i.e. were murdered. Overall these proto-Nazi colonial Germans wiped out 80% of the Hereros and 50% of the Namas in South West Africa. 43

The struggle of Africans for their lands and liberty was fought out over several centuries in all parts of Africa, the bloodiest struggle being the Algerian war of independence against the French that cost over a million lives. The most notable successes in a British colonial context were the successful campaigns of the Mau Mau of the Kikuyu in Kenya (leading to independence), the Zimbabweans (independence) and the African National Congress (democracy achieved 1995). However of relevance to these processes and our concern with India was the system that brought indentured labour from India to South Africa and East Africa. These workers were essentially “3 year slaves”, becoming free again on the expiry of their contract. These people and their “free” immigrant compatriots made a good “go” of it in Africa and certainly contributed to political development in an increasingly racist environment. Gandhi had lived, worked and organized for public and political decency in South Africa. Indians contributed to the failure of Kenya to become a white-dominated minority-ruled country after the fashion of South Africa or Southern Rhodesia and were actively involved in the ultimate destruction of Apartheid in South Africa. [Just as my father-in-law Abdul Lateef MBE believed in the equality of man and to that end was actively involved in the creation of institutional access - to secondary education, golf, the Club, the law, parliament - for everyone in colonial Fiji (and ultimately to global institutions through independence), so an Osman Latief insisted on his right to travel by train in colonial South Africa]. 44

Nevertheless it is abundantly clear that the myth of British Imperial decency, sustained by the Austenizing of history, contributed to a view among those who matter in Britain, the US and Europe that the quintessentially (and in many cases actually) Nazi South African Nationalists, their supporters and their English “running dogs” were somehow respectable and honourable in a way that the Africans, “Coloureds” and Indians were not. This was certainly the attitude among conservative Australians up to a few years ago (and for all I know still is behind club doors). This had a sustained public expression over several decades after the Sharpeville Massacre (1960) in relation to economic and sporting boycotts of South Africa. On a very celebrated occasion in 1987, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a good-humoured, passionate and good man, who was visiting Australia at the time, was vehemently condemned as a “witch doctor ... breathing hatred” by an outspoken Returned Soldiers’ League official. 45 The sanitized view of British Imperial history contributed to the pragmatic and far too tolerant attitudes to white minority regimes in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa and hence the longevity of these obscenities. The Nationalist imposition on South Africa for half a century has been an immense human and social disaster.


The invasion of the Americas commenced with the voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola became the initial capital of Spanish colonial rule in the New World. Disease and violent enslavement decimated the indigenous population. African slavery was introduced there in 1500. By 1535 the first of many genocides in the New World had eliminated the indigenous Arawak Indian population (variously estimated to be up to several million in number in 1492). For maltreatment of the Arawaks, Columbus was arrested and taken back to Spain in 1500 on orders of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, these being the monarchs responsible for the expulsion of Jews and Moors from Spain but who paradoxically favoured the conversion of the Indians. Columbus was forbidden entry to Hispaniola again.

The defeat of the Aztecs at Otumba by the Spanish under Cortes in 1500 and the subsequent conquest of the Aztec empire was followed by defeat of the Maya Indians. The Spanish brought disease that decimated the Indian populations. In Peru Pizarro (see Chapter 7) seized the Inca Atahualpa, ransomed him for a gigantic fortune, murdered him in 1533 and then defeated the demoralised Incas and seized their capital Cuzco. Throughout Spanish and Portuguese American possessions disease, maltreatment, taxation and brutal enslavement took an enormous toll of the indigenous Indian population. Even the altruistic missionary process contributed to the epidemics through mass gatherings and consequent transmission of disease. The 19th century saw the deliberate genocide of Indians in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay to permit cattle ranching and horrendous crimes against Peruvian and Brazilian Amazonian Indians associated with settlement and rubber collection.

The French colonial expansion in North America brought inadvertent and deliberate destruction upon the Indians. The French alliance with the Huron Indians against the Iroquois and other European interests along the St. Lawrence resulted in the destruction of the Hurons by the Iroquois, only one Huron tribe surviving by the middle of the 17th century. French expansion up the Mississippi River in the early 18th century finally met with resistance from the Natchez Indians. In 1731 a combination of the Choctaw Indians and the French defeated the Natchez who were then sold into slavery in the West Indies plantations and disappeared from history. 46

The English first became actively involved in American affairs through the slave trading of John Hawkins in the mid-16th century and the attacks on Spanish ships and establishments by Drake and Cavendish. These adventures and the explorations of these and other sailors such as Frobisher, Gilbert and Davis ultimately led to the first unsuccessful attempts to establish a colony in Virginia in the late 16th century under the auspices of Sir Walter Raleigh. The Jamestown settlement led by Captain John Smith was established in Virginia by the London Company in 1607, which went into tobacco and was also involved in Bermuda. [If one wishes to be comprehensive in this catalogue of colonial mayhem it is worth noting that in the First World every year about 1 in every 1000 people dies of smoking-related disease. With a global population now of about 6 billion and with smoking an epidemic in some major countries such as China, it is estimated that smoking kills about 5 million people a year - a death toll greater than that from that scourge of humanity, malaria]. The Pilgrim Fathers arrived at Cape Cod in the Mayflower in 1620 and set up a colony outside the jurisdiction of the London Company. Catholic settlement in Maryland took place in 1633 and Lord Saye and Sele (whose tribe was later connected with the Leighs and the Austens) was involved in settlement in Massachusetts in 1635. The Dutch West India Company purchased Manhattan Island from the Indians for 24 dollars in 1626. The Dutch pushed out the Swedes from New Sweden on the Delaware in 1655 and were in turn turfed out of North America in 1664 with the surrender of New Amsterdam to the English, who renamed the colony New York. 47

When the first European settlements were made in Virginia and New England epidemics of disease contracted from previous contact with European fishermen and adventurers had already swept through the Indian populations. The plague epidemic in 1614-1616 and the smallpox epidemic of 1633-1634 had a big impact. However loss of land, winter food stores and livelihood together with European violence compounded the problems for the Indians. The notion of vacuum domicilium, or unoccupied land, was accepted by the Europeans, this convenient notion being encouraged by the depopulation due to disease. (We will see later that the same notion of terra nullius, or empty land, justified the wholesale removal of traditional lands from Australian aboriginals). Roger Williams had his opinions burnt and was banished from Salem for arguing for Indian land rights. While most

Indian tribes were too disadvantaged to resist the Europeans effectively, the Pequots of southern Massachusetts resisted, only to be defeated by the English in alliance with the Narragansett Indians. The Pequots were exterminated, many of those not directly killed being burnt to death in their wigwams. Prisoners were taken to sea and thrown overboard. The Pequots disappeared from the world in 1637-1638. The Naragansett Indians were forced to fight back and achieved success in 1675 against the English, but inevitably they too followed the path of the Pequots into oblivion. 48

As the English colonies expanded and prospered, the surviving Indian communities in “settled” areas, ravaged by war, violence and disease and deprived of lands and traditional livelihood, shrank into political irrelevance. However resistance continued on the frontier. There is evidence that the Europeans deliberately used smallpox infection of Indians to wipe out their opponents. British military authorities at Fort Pitt (later Pittsburgh) gave blankets from the smallpox hospital to Indians in order to cripple a revolt in the mid-18th century. The British commander-in-chief in America, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, had directly advocated this procedure and the Delawares, Mingo and Shawnee were consequently swept with a smallpox epidemic. It is interesting to observe that while Jane Austen’s friend Mrs Lefroy helped in the cowpox vaccination of local villagers against smallpox following the discovery of this procedure by Edward Jenner in 1796, 49 English settlers in America had already applied this device for the protection of their slaves. It appears that deliberate biological warfare was applied in North America as an instrument of genocide.

The “Indian question” re-appeared politically in relation to westward expansion of European settlement. The revolt of the colonies against the British was impelled by considerations such as “no taxation without representation” and the rights of local entrepreneurs to operate without metropolitan, Parliamentary restrictions and impositions. The Boston Tea Party was a demonstration against the monopoly of the East India Company and its relief from duties on tea imports from the East in England that were nevertheless to be paid in the American colonies. The British Government had imposed a restriction on westward expansion of the colonies in 1763, concerned by the cost of providing military protection. George Washington was strongly opposed to this constraint on the dispossession of Indians on the frontier and beyond and it became a significant issue in the rebellion of the colonies in 1775. The final defeat and concession of the British in 1783 gave the Americans their independence and freedom of economic and territorial expansion that was to dispossess the remaining aboriginal inhabitants in the west. 50

By 1800 the American European population was about 5 million and the Indian population had shrunk to about 600,000. The 19th century saw Americans move west taking with them the remorseless logic of the American mercantile tradition, of “free trade” garnished with moralistic, religious and nationalistic rhetoric and instinctively pragmatic “democracy” coupled with profoundly entrenched racism. The Indians in their path were inevitably subdued, dispossessed, swept aside or moved on. The “divide and rule” policy of using particular tribes to help suppress others was very effective for the Americans but ultimately the collaborators shared the fate of their earlier victims. Thus the Cherokee accommodated and collaborated in the suppression of the Shawnee and the Creek Indians. However they were finally evicted from their lands in Georgia and forcibly removed to west of the Mississippi in a process associated with massive loss of life (25% of the population dying in the Cherokee Removal). Chickasaw, Choctaws and Creeks were also deported from their lands.

With the discovery of gold in California the indigenous Indians came in for the routine of mass murder, enslavement, rape, disease and dispossession. Thus the Yuki Indians of Northern California suffered a population decline of from 3,500 in 1848 to merely 400 in 1880 as a result of these vile processes. Associated with massive population decline and dissolution of formal Indian social organization came the process of ethnocide associated with assimilation of surviving Indians into mainstream society and decline of cultural integrity, a process to be seen elsewhere in the English-speaking world with the indigenous people of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and indeed of the Celtic people of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Cornwall. [It is amusing to note an anecdote from an academic Ulsterman in this connection. He asserts that because of substantial migration of Gaelic-speaking people from northern Ireland to America in the 18th century, the revolutionary Americans seriously considered Gaelic as an option for a national language for America, English just winning over Gaelic which in turn did vastly better than the biblically-inspired Hebrew option].

As the Americans spread over the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains and beyond, the Indians in these parts found their economy disrupted through disease, violence, mass murder, dispossession and the slaughter of wildlife necessary for their survival. In the early 1860 the Americans mobilized cavalry regiments to meet a perceived threat from horse-riding Indian tribes such as the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Apache, Comanche and Kiowa. The Sioux were defeated by General Sibley at Wood Lake in Minnesota in 1862 but other Indian tribes continued resistance. The Cheyenne under Chief Black Kettle were prepared for peace against overwhelming odds but in 1864 were massacred - men, women and children - by the Americans under Chivington at Sand Creek in Colorado. The American government provided “reservations” for the Cheyenne and Arapahos in 1865, a policy that was extended to other Plains Indians such as the Apache, Comanche, Kiowa and Sioux. However the authorities were ever ready to remove lands from such reservations to meet the needs of the immense European population streaming west over the Plains.

Wildlife destruction and removal of lands cut at the basis of biological survival for the Plains Indians and starvation compounded the problems of disease. The bison (Bison bison) numbered an estimated 60 million in the mid-19th century but were virtually pushed to the very edge of total extinction. The American passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was numbered in billions and yet became totally extinct by 1814. The advance of the railways, the slaughter of buffalo and the continuing flood of settlers (stimulated further by the discovery of gold in the Black Hills of Dakota) pushed the Sioux into revolt. Custer and his men were massacred by the Sioux under Chief Sitting Bull at Little Big Horn in 1876, for which the Americans exacted salutory revenge upon the Sioux. The Nez Perce Indians under Chief Joseph were defeated in 1877 and the Apache in Arizona and New Mexico under Chiefs Victorio and Geronimo were finally forced to concede to the might of the U.S. Army in 1886. Geronimo’s Apache tribe (together with the Apache scouts who had tracked them down and persuaded a final surrender), were carted off to Florida in cattle trucks to imprisonment, disease and enforced removal of their children (a process to be repeatedly applied to “aboriginal” people elsewhere, and most notably in Australia up to the late 1960s). As with indigenous lands in Southern Africa, New Caledonia and arid Australia, the lands of the Apache were given over to grazing by the livestock of the invader. With the final military defeat of the Plains Indians came their confinement in each case to reservations. The Indian population fell from about 400,000 in 1850 to about 250,000 in 1890.51

The defeat and dispossession of the Indians by the United States was paralleled by the more benign conquest of the western and northern wildernesses of Canada. A substantial body of Canadians were Scots and Irish forced from their homelands by English rapacity. The assimilatory ethnocide practised by the Americans also applied in Canada and such policies (notably those applying to children) extended vigorously into the 20th century in Canada and indeed in other parts of the English-speaking world, including Australia. Such policies have a continuing impact today in all of these countries.

Finally a brief comment must be made about the West Indies that was the first site of colonial exploitation in the New World. The islands of the Caribbean Sea were variously seized by the Spanish, Dutch, French, British and Danes and the sugar plantations were the earliest targets of the slave trade from Africa. Prior to Spanish conquest, parts of the West Indies had been conquered by Caribs from the mainland who enslaved the Arawak-speaking women and put to death the menfolk. European colonial rule disposed of both groups. The Caribbean islands saw the whole gamut of colonial excesses: the genocide of the original inhabitants; African slavery (from 1501 onwards); the violent suppression of revolts by slaves or former slaves (notably that in Jamaica in 1865 that was suppressed by Governor Eyre with controversial ferocity); successful slave revolt (in Haiti against the French in 1804); and the introduction of indentured labour from India after the abolition of slavery .52

The works of V.S. Naipaul and his brother S. Naipaul give a delightful insight into the latter experience as well as a more sombre view of the wash-up of British colonialism elsewhere in the world. While V.S. Naipaul’s An Area of Darkness (1967) appears insufficiently responsive to the courage and dignity of the impoverished people of India, the realistic perceptions of this precise observer must be taken very seriously as the Third World approaches a catastrophic era. The writings of both V.S. Naipaul 53 and Shiva Naipaul 54 are splendid examples of the rich outflowings from the cultural fusions of the British Empire. 55 [My wife introduced me to V.S. Naipaul’s glorious A House for Mr Biswas over 30 years ago, her grandparents having left India for the sugar cane plantations of Fiji as opposed to those of Natal, Mauritius or Naipaul’s Trinidad]. [It is not surprising that British commercial and military activity in the West Indies as well as India should actually score mentions (albeit very brief) in particular Jane Austen novels given the interests of her connections in both places. The Reverend George Austen was the trustee for an estate in Antigua owned by James Langford Nibbs of St John’s College (as well as being trustee for the fund set up for Eliza by Warren Hastings). Francis and Charles Austen had sailed the waters of both places in the British Navy; James Austen’s father-in-law General Matthew had served as Governor of Granada and Charles Austen’s father-in-law was John Palmer, the Attorney General of Bermuda; Cassandra’s fiancé the Reverend Thomas Fowle had died at San Domingo in 1797 under the command of Lord Craven, in turn connected with Jane Austen’s sisters-in-law Mary and Martha Lloyd.56 In addition, Mrs Austen’s sister-in-law Jane Leigh-Perrot (née Cholmeley) was heiress to an estate in Barbados and the Reverend George Austen’s relatives William and George Walter worked on the Jamaica estates of Sir George Hampson, a relative of his mother Rebecca (née Hampson)]. 57


The first settlement of Australia, the convict settlement that eventually became Sydney, was made by the “First Fleet” under Captain Phillip in 1788. Strategic naval considerations relating to the naval defence of British India against the French were important factors in this settlement (as well as the often-stated need for a place for convicts after the loss of America) [We have already seen in Chapter 2 how close Jane Austen’s aunt Jane Leigh-Perrot came to transportation to “Botany Bay”]. Settlement in other parts of Australia followed over the next century, namely settlements that were destined to become the following State capital cities: Hobart (Tasmania, 1804), Brisbane (Queensland, 1824), Perth (Western Australia, 1829), Adelaide (South Australia., 1834) and Melbourne (Victoria, 1835). The Mainland Australian colonies were associated with relatively well-watered coastal regions and vast interior regions suitable for “wheat and wool” at best, for only livestock when more marginal and ultimately giving way to the interior desert. 58

The aboriginal inhabitants (“aborigines”) quickly came into conflict with the settlers and were rapidly dispossessed of their land and remorselessly exterminated through disease (including deliberately introduced disease), shooting, bludgeoning and the poisoning of water holes and flour. They did not give up their land without a fight but were ultimately defeated by disease, weight of numbers, a mounted enemy and guns. The aborigines, ethnically connected with the Dravidians of South India, had lived in Australia for some 50,000 years (some suggest 60,000 years). While they had a major impact on the environment through the use of fire, they did not practise cereal agriculture and maintained a population compatible with a hunter-gatherer culture. They had a sophisticated civilization involving a large number of distinct cultures and languages throughout the Continent. Their vulnerability is dramatically illustrated by the fact that one well-armed European with his family could occupy a water-hole at the cross-roads of a transcontinental aboriginal trade route, shoot or drive away the aborigines and destroy a sophisticated continental inter-tribal trading system that had been operating for millennia. 59

The insidiousness of this genocidal evil can be seen from the accounts of the writer Dame Mary Gilmore. 60 She recalled seeing with her parents a murdered tribal group lying dead in the vicinity of a poisoned water-hole. 61 The last major massacre of Australian aborigines occurred in Western Australia in 1926 in which about 100 aborigines were gunned down, the survivors being led away in chains. 62

There were perhaps 300,000 aborigines in Australia in 1788 although other estimates go as high as several million. 63 By 1890 this had been reduced to about 85,000. Those now living a culturally more or less intact “tribal” existence are largely confined to the Northern Territory (the last region to be colonized). Today [2008] there are perhaps about 50,000 “full-blood” aborigines and some 450,000 part-aboriginals who nevertheless very strongly identify with their aboriginal heritage. An appalling large-scale policy of deliberate ethnocide applying for much of the 19th and 20th centuries involved simply taking aboriginal children from their parents. This policy stopped in West Australia as recently as 1967 and the after-effects continue to have a major impact on a substantial proportion of aborigines in Australia to this day. An extraordinary account of this process is given by Sally Morgan in her astonishingly light-hearted book My Place .64 The conservative Australian Government refused to officially apologize for this crime against humanity.

Aborigines were finally officially regarded as Australians for the purpose of the National Census and Federal legislation in 1967. 65 However the process of dispossession and abuse continues today despite a political consensus dictating at the very least “politically correct” deference and public respect for aborigines in public life. Aboriginal mortality, morbidity and living conditions in many areas are appalling even by Third World standards. The rates of imprisonment of aborigines are extraordinarily high and the incidence of “aboriginal deaths in custody” proportionately exceeded that in Apartheid South Africa and remains an outrageous national blemish. While the celebrated “Mabo” case decision of the Australian High Court (1992) disputed the concept of terra nullius and established the possibility of “land rights” for some Torres Strait Islanders and thence by implication for other indigenous Australians, 66 a current conservative thrust is impelling continuation and final legitimation of the dispossession of aborigines that started over 2 centuries ago.

New Zealand

The Australian aborigines were almost completely exterminated in the rich coastal areas of South Eastern Australia through a combination of European weaponry, genocidal settler ferocity, disease and enforced ethnocidal assimilation through child removal. In addition the determined and courageous aboriginal resistance was made more difficult because they had a multiplicity of tribes that spoke different languages and were spread out over a vast continental expanse. In New Zealand the British encountered indigenous people, the Maoris, who were more concentrated geographically, extremely war-like, armed with modern weapons and who were able to unite and give the invaders a much more difficult task. There were about 100,000 Maoris in New Zealand in the early 19th century when whalers and sealers started to arrive and merchants from Sydney started trading firearms for flax and timber. The first Church of England Mission was founded in 1814 in the Bay of Islands by the Reverend Samuel Marsden who, as a magistrate in Sydney, would have men flogged to death. The acquisition of firearms allowed coastal Maori tribes to impose upon those in the interior, but when all tribes obtained guns a modus vivendi was established and the so-called Musket Wars came to an end. Disease had a major impact but it was not as devastating to the Maoris as for indigenous people in other parts of Oceania and in Australia.

The first British colonists arrived en masse in 1840 and in that year 500 Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi which was to be repeatedly violated for the next 150 years by the European (pakeha) invaders. Such violations and indeed different interpretations based on English/Polynesian semantic and cultural differences led to the First Maori War (1843-1848). The settlers were defeated by the Maoris at Wairau and eventually the British Army was brought into the conflict. The Maoris developed excellent strategies to deal with the enemy, a notable one being the “disposable” pa (or fortification). While a pa in a coastal location was readily susceptible to naval attack or to Army shelling, a much greater investment in time and resources was required to invest a pa in the interior. When the Maoris saw impending defeat they would simply slip away and the British would have expended lives and effort for little gain. A further advance on this type of strategy was the construction of defensive earthworks, trenches and bunkers to allow shelter from shelling and gunfire and to allow for very effective ambushing of advancing British troops. These techniques bedevilled the campaigns of the British under General Cameron and General Pratt during the subsequent Second Maori War (1860-1870) and led to vindictive butchery of women and children by the British, as at the Battle of Orakau (1864).

While they were not able to defeat the British, the Maoris achieved considerable success against great odds in terms of numbers and arms. They did so with great skill and innovation by avoiding suicidal confrontations and in the design of the “modern pa”. The sophistication of these latter fortifications was not appreciated by their immediate protagonists (presumably due to myths of racial superiority that in the event proved to be very expensive). However a 20th century British general was to describe these constructions as “perfect examples of field-fortification”. Nevertheless weight of numbers ultimately defeated the skill and courage of the Maoris. [Charles Wilson Austen, great-grandson of Reverend George Austen’s uncle and benefactor Francis Austen (Chapter 3), died in action in New Zealand]. Treaties notwithstanding, the Maoris became, in effect, second class citizens in their own country, this situation still obtaining today. 67


The French, British, Americans and Germans variously became involved in territorial expansion in Melanesia and/or Polynesia in the 19th century. The Polynesians of Tonga, Tahiti and Hawaii were particularly war-like. Indeed Captain Cook, so attentive to “noble savages” in Cowper’s poem quoted earlier, was slain in Hawaii. The Polynesian aristocracy of Fiji derive from war-like invaders from Tonga lying to the east. The Polynesians, including the Tongans, Samoans, Tahitians, Hawaiians and Maoris were particularly war-like and in particular circumstances practised cannibalism (both of these sociopathies being linked to overpopulation relative to the “carrying capacity” of their island homes.) 68 [An anecdote involving an implausible one-upmanship: a Tongan is boasting of their past prowess and cannibalism to a visiting Australian who refers to cannibalism of their prisoners by Fijian warriors last century. The Tongan replies “But we didn’t cook ours.”] Horrendous tales are told of cannibalism in this region, of prisoners used as human rollers to launch war canoes, of victims offered a first bite of themselves and of missionaries intervening to save young women from being eaten. The Reverend Baker was followed village to village through the hills of Viti Levu (the main Fijian island) by a highly-prized whale’s tooth (tabua, pronounced tambua) offered to those who would kill him for past discourtesies. The prize was secured and the missionary killed and eaten after he eventually committed the double discourtesy of re-possessing his comb from the head of a ratu (chief) (in their culture of keri keri you simply give something to a person if it is desired and you do not touch the head of another, and especially not the head of a ratu). 69 Maoris on occasion welcomed Europeans sailors by chanting “Come ashore and be eaten” and practised great cannibalistic excesses on their enemies, the genocide of the Chatham Islands Morioris being a dreadful example.70

European imperialism was actively sought in one case at least. The Fijian chief Cakobau (pronounced Thakembau) of Ovalau, off the coast of the main island of Viti Levu, was being threatened by the American Navy for impossible claims for compensation and approached the English in relation to cession and protection. The English were not particularly enthusiastic but eventually accepted cession of Fiji to Britain in 1874. 71

The major consequence of European imperialism in the Pacific was massive population decline due to disease. It is estimated that the population of Fiji declined by one third in 1874 due to measles. Similar massive depredations due to disease occurred in the late 19th century in the Solomons and the New Hebrides, disease being introduced by missionaries and by “blackbirders”, the last British adventurers to be engaged in slave-trading. Polynesia suffered enormously also and it has been asserted that a high proportion of the French Polynesian colony of Tahiti are European-Polynesian hybrids selected for survival through disease epidemics.72

The development of the sugar industry in Fiji and in Queensland led to a need for cheap labour which was met through “blackbirding” or kidnapping of labour from the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides as well as the Santa Cruz, Ellice and Tokelau groups. Tens of thousands of “Kanakas” were brought to Australia in the late 19th century, half a century after the ostensible abolition of slavery in the British Empire. These people were treated with great brutality in all facets of the process. In Fiji another source of slaves was from the Fijians themselves, Ratu Cakobau having sold men of Lovoni in 1871 as plantation workers. The death rate of such Melanesian workers in Fiji in 1875 was estimated to be about 50% as compared to the death rate among Indian indentured labourers of about 2%. The British installed a Pacific Islanders Protection Act in 1871 and attempted to enforce it. 73

The squeeze on “blackbirding” led to the need for labour from another source and as a consequence the indentured Indian labour system (girmit) was introduced in 1879. Indians would commit themselves to 5 years of effective slavery in Fiji in return for a remuneration ostensibly much greater than they already received for labour and the promise of a free trip home. In the event neither of these promises were satisfied and the indentured labourers had a very hard time. They worked 6 days a week, this involving heavy physical labour in a hot humid environment. They were flogged for not working hard enough and often those unable to cope went out to the jungle and killed themselves. The typically Australian overseers and Indian sirdars could be brutal and impose upon women, single or married. As in the South African system, there was a major disparity of men over women in the ratio of as high as about 3 to 1. This system ended in 1920. 74

Finally the European colonial takeover of the major western parts of Melanesia - New Guinea and the adjoining islands of New Caledonia, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu - requires a brief mention. Tropical disease (especially malaria) took a heavy toll of British soldiers in the West Indies, Cassandra Austen’s fiancée being one of 80,000 dying in the campaign against the French in the Caribbean sector of the Napoleonic Wars. 75 There were also very high casualties from disease in Bengal at about the same time. 76 The Melanesians and the related people of the Torres Straits Islands and the north coast of Australia were in a sense protected from European settlement by the scourge of malaria, against which they had some degree of immunity.77 However the Kanaks of New Caledonia had to suffer massive European settlement because of the discovery of nickel and land seizure for cattle ranching. Cattle and mining continue to conflict with indigenous interests in Northern Australia. Gold was discovered in New Guinea and the Melanesians there had the pleasure of European company. 78 Environmentally destructive mining and massive logging of tropical rainforests continues to have a massively destructive effect in Melanesia.

China and South East Asia

No account of British imperialism would be complete without brief mention of British interactions with China and South East Asia, the emigration of Chinese throughout the British Empire and their differential treatment in the various locations. The East India Company had a major trade involving export of opium from India to China to secure the bullion required for the purchase of tea. In addition to tea, Chinese porcelain and silk were important imports for Britain. These goods had an additional major impact through encouraging the scientific and technological advances required for European manufacture of replacement products. The opium trade was lucrative and a key component of the British exploitation of Bengal. [We have already seen the involvements of Francis Austen with the East India Company including a highly profitable trip to China involving opium, bullion and the death of a Chinese]. The end of the East India Company monopoly of the China trade lead to British negotiations with the Chinese who were unhappy about opium per se and losses of bullion from the trade. This led to the Opium War of 1840-1842 that in turn resulted in the cession of Hong Kong to Britain and the opening up of a number of Chinese ports to trade.

Britain and other European powers had their way with China throughout the 19th century and the middle of the century saw the Taiping rebellion that was inspired in part by western Christian notions and fuelled by the erosion of Imperial authority by the Europeans. This conflict disrupted China in the period 1850-1864 and associated famine and distress is estimated to have taken 20-100 million lives. Key events specifically associated with European incursion include the Treaty of Tientsin that opened up further trade (1858), the occupation of Beijing by British and French troops (1860), recognition of British occupation of Burma (1886) [we remember that Charles Austen died of cholera on the Irrawaddy in 1852 during a war with the Burmese] and intervention by Britain and other powers in the Boxer rebellion (1900-1901). The flavour of these interactions can be gauged from stories and illustrations in Chums’ Own Annuals for British boys (in which there seemed to be a peculiar hatred for the Chinese) and the notorious park sign in European Shanghai “No dogs or Chinese allowed”. Unfortunately for the Chinese, the 20th century saw the Japanese militarists emulating European colonial conduct on a Chinese stage with unimaginable ferocity and carnage. 79

The discovery of gold in Australia and in California produced a large migration of Chinese to these goldfields. In about 1855 20% of the male population in the State of Victoria in Australia was Chinese but their hard work excited envy and antagonism. Anti-Chinese riots on Victorian and other Australian goldfields, “Chinaman hunts”, restrictions on entry to Australia and deportations ultimately reduced the Chinese population drastically. The Chinese goldminers by their simple presence contributed to the genesis of a deep anti-Asian strand in Australian consciousness that was close to the heart of the working class and the Labour movement who felt a threat to the employment and minimal social position of European workers. This found concrete expression in the White Australia policy constraining non-European immigration into Australia. 80

Chinese emigrated throughout the British Empire, from Malaya to the West Indies. Some 64,000 Chinese indentured labourers were brought to South Africa to work in the goldmines of the Witwatersrand. They were in effect “3-year slaves” and were subject to maltreatment including flogging. Considerable concern in South Africa and Parliamentary debate in Britain led to their repatriation in 1907. 81 One of Churchill’s most celebrated comments is that related to the effective slavery of indentured Chinese labourers in South Africa: “It cannot in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government be classified as slavery in the extreme acceptance of the word without some risk of terminological inexactitude.” 82

The cruelties and human toll of European colonialism in East Asia and South East Asia - principally by the British in Burma, Malaya and China, by the French in Indo-China and the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies - was dwarfed by the carnage inflicted by Japanese imperialism in the 20th century. It has been estimated that war waged by Japan in China in the 1930s and 1940s consumed as many as 35 million lives, a carnage tragically approached postwar by the approximately 30 million lives lost due to the presumably well-intentioned but tragically misplaced Great Leap Forward (1959-1961). 83 We will see in Chapter 15 how bad advice to government contributed to the death of millions of people in the Bengal Famine of 1943-1945.

Celtic Britain and the Irish famine

The English conquest and final subjugation of the Gaelic-speaking areas of Britain had the inevitable consequences of changes in land tenure and progressive ethnocide. By the 19th century Welsh, Cornish and Irish and Scottish Gaelic were still being spoken but English had made major inroads in the respective areas of Britain. However there was explicit discouragement of the retention of these cultures as seen in the prohibition of talk in Welsh in Welsh schools and the clearing of the Scottish Highlands.84

The Corn Laws of England artificially maintained high prices for British grain through imposition of duties on imported grain and there was considerable agitation for their repeal coming from a variety of quarters in English society for various obvious reasons (the labourers and the poor for cheaper food, the manufacturers for lower subsistence wages and the farmers for free trade and a consequent lower cost of living). The Tory landowners - the people of Jane Austen novels - were opposed to repeal and were unmoved by the misfortunes of their own people.

The ruin of the Irish potato crop by Phytopthera infestans (potato blight fungus) took away the basic staple of the impoverished Irish and led to the Irish famine or An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) (1845-1852). This led to the death from starvation and attendant disease of 1 million Irish and 1.5 million emigrated to Australia or America. 85 The Tory Prime Minister Peel instituted a relief Commission in November 1845 and by the beginning of 1846 the man in charge was Charles Edward Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. Trevelyan was a rigidly upright, evangelical who disapproved of the Irish and, while of Cornish background, regarded Celts such as himself as having been ameliorated and rendered “practical men” by “long habits of intercourse with the Anglo-Saxons”. Trevelyan permitted export of food from Ireland and approved of exorbitant prices charged by grain dealers during the famine in the name of “free trade”. 86 However one should appreciate the cruel logic involved for an Irish tenant farmer: in the absence of potatoes, sale of grain for rent to avoid eviction meant starvation. Peel repealed the Corn Laws in 1846 in the face of the mounting disaster but his government paid the political price of being overthrown by Disraeli and his supporters. 87

The relief measures based on public works and workhouses were by definition grossly insufficient. Trevelyan regarded the event as a “local distress” and took the relief provided by the Government as a powerful argument for continued association between Ireland and England: “The poorest and most ignorant Irish peasant must, I think, by this time, have become sensible of the advantage of belonging to a powerful community like that of the United Kingdom, the establishments and pecuniary resources of which are at all times ready to be employed for his benefit.” 88 Trevelyan had a cold-blooded attitude to the Irish population/food discrepancy that could be summed up as “let nature take its course”. In his own obscene words: “This being altogether beyond the power of man, the cure has been applied by the direct stroke of an all-wise Providence in a manner as unexpected and as unthought of as it is likely to be effectual.” 89

This devoutly Christian bureaucrat, having done his job with the Irish, went out to preside over post-Mutiny famine and distress in India in 1858-1860 and thence in 1862-1865. C.E. Trevelyan married the sister of the great historian T.B. Macaulay, his son G.O. Trevelyan (1838-1928) becoming an historian, Chief Secretary for Ireland (1882-1884) and an opponent of Irish Home Rule. C.E. Trevelyan’s grandson was the historian G.M. Trevelyan (1876-1962), Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, whose History of England (1952 revision) totally ignores both the Bengal Famine of 1769-1770 and that of 1943-1945, and indeed any Indian famine whatsoever including those occurring during his grandfather’s sojourn in India.90 This omission is the more surprising because of the passion with which his great-uncle had written about the Bengal famine of 1769-1770. 91 This is all that G.M. Trevelyan had to say in this work about the most appalling event in Irish history and indeed in the history of the British Isles:

“and partly because of the potato-blight in Ireland in 1845-6 left him [Peel] no other choice than either to suspend the Corn Laws or to allow the Irish to die by tens of thousands.” 9 2

The same blight that, together with the English, devastated Ireland in 1845-1850, affected much of Western Europe in the middle to late 1840s and precipitated a potato famine in the Scottish Highlands. In that sorry land the English had already been busily engaged for a hundred years replacing the Highland Scots with sheep just as the settlers were to do to the aborigines in Australia. “Free trade” ruled despite the relief works that were instituted and desperate men and women faced the red-coat bayonets in Inverness trying to stop grain ships leaving port. 93

Of interest in the context of Austenizing history, Harriet Beecher Stowe, famous for her abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was visiting friends in the Highlands at the time of the famine and continuing clearances. However not a skerrick of these troubles disturbs the happiness of her Highland holiday record, Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands. 94

The genocide of the Tasmanian aborigines

The extermination of the Tasmanian aborigines is one of the best documented accounts of genocide and has a special place in the sad litany of the crimes of British global expansion. 95 We have already seen in Chapter 3 how the English sheep farming gentlemen with the help of convict labour recreated the Home Counties in the Tasmanian midlands replete with Georgian mansions, stone churches and bridges, sheep, horses, cattle and rabbits. There were about 6,000 Tasmanian aborigines at the time of settlement and they divided into a number of tribes who waged war on each other in a gentlemanly way (like the Papuans, quitting after the first death in an encounter). They were relatively small people. This would have surprised the Dutch sailors of Abel Tasman in 1642 who were alarmed on seeing footholds 6 feet apart on the trunks of Tasmanian trees - they should have determined that the footholds actually spiralled around the trunks. These hunter-gatherers came into conflict with the European settlers in the 19th century.

Government propaganda “cartoons” attempted to convince the aborigines that they would be protected from abuse by whites and vice versa. In 1830 a celebrated “Black Line” of soldiers and settlers moved across the island in an attempt to capture all of the surviving aborigines but they secured only 2. George Augustus Robinson was commissioned to persuade the aborigines to “come in”. He had some success (at the cost of spreading disease that was a major cause of their demise) and the aborigines were shipped to Flinders Island off the north east coast of Tasmania in 1832. The aborigines declined on Flinders Island and eventually in 1847 the 4 dozen survivors were relocated to Oyster Cove near Hobart in southern Tasmania where they finally all succumbed to disease. Robinson, “Protector of the Aborigines”, returned home and died at 78 on the hill in Bath where Catherine Morland was to walk with her friends in Northanger Abbey.

The last male “full-blood” aboriginal “King Billy” Lanney lived in Hobart and died in 1869. The last full-blood female aborigine was Truganini (“seaweed”). Her mother had been murdered by a European and her sister was captured by sealers. Truganini had been captured and raped while her man was mutilated and drowned. Taken to New South Wales with 2 male and 2 female Tasmanians by Robinson in 1839, she was charged with them over the death of a European. The aboriginal men were hanged and Truganini and the other women were returned to Tasmania. Truganini died in 1876 at the age of 73 and was buried in the grounds of the Cascades Female Factory, located in South Hobart by the Cascades Creek at the outlet of a gully in the foothills of Mount Wellington. [This eventually became a timber yard where I used to play as a 6 year-old child]. Truganini’s body was disinterred and her standing skeleton was one of the key exhibits in the Hobart Museum in my youth, together with the panoramas of the long-lost aborigines, stuffed Tasmanian tigers and the dreadful “dunking boxes” for the aquatic torture of British seamen.]

The Tasmanian aborigines did not totally disappear due to kidnapping and rape perpetrated by bushrangers, shepherds, sealers and others. There are several thousand Tasmanians today who are proud of their aboriginal heritage deriving from women violated after being kidnapped from the Mainland or in Tasmania. I remember a very poor, dark boy and his pretty, athletic sister in my primary school in the foothills of Mount Wellington by the Lenah Valley Creek. The Creek springs from the wind-blasted dolorite massifs of the Mountain and makes its way down to the River Derwent through fern-tree and sassafrass forest glades.96 About half a century ago the boy showed us how to “tickle” fish in the Creek and the exquisite native orchids on the bush track leading up to the Mountain.

2008 Postscript

An outstanding account of the evolution of European racist ideas and their translation to colonialism and genocide is given in Sven Lindqvist’s “Exterminate All the Brutes97, this title and a key subject of the book deriving from Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness” about Belgian colonialism in the Congo (later made into the movie “Apocalypse Now” based in Indo-China). 98 There have been further recent accounts of genocides and European colonial atrocities. 99 For detailed histories of European colonialism on all continents see “Body Count”. 100 Horrendous post-invasion excess deaths are associated with the ongoing Palestinian Genocide (0.3 million), Iraqi Genocide (2 million) and Afghan Genocide (3-7 million). 101 Now in 2008 biofuel-, climate change- , oil price-, meat diversion-, globalization- and speculation-driven food prices are being translated into Third World famine, biofuel famine and climate genocide threatening billions. 102


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