Category Archives: British Empire

To Understand Chinese Expansionism, Look to the Opium Wars

Sebastien Roblin writes for War Is Boring:

[…] It’s hard to over-emphasize the impact of the Opium Wars on modern China. Domestically, it’s led to the ultimate collapse of the centuries-old Qing Dynasty, and with it more than two millennia of dynastic rule. It convinced China that it had to modernize and industrialize.

Today, the First Opium War is taught in Chinese schools as being the beginning of the “Century of Humiliation” — the end of that “century” coming in 1949 with the reunification of China under Mao. While Americans are routinely assured they are exceptional and the greatest country on Earth by their politicians, Chinese schools teach students that their country was humiliated by greedy and technologically superior Western imperialists.

The Opium Wars made it clear China had fallen gravely behind the West — not just militarily, but economically and politically. Every Chinese government since — even the ill-fated Qing Dynasty, which began the “Self-Strengthening Movement” after the Second Opium War — has made modernization an explicit goal, citing the need to catch up with the West.

The Japanese, observing events in China, instituted the same discourse and modernized more rapidly than China did during the Meiji Restoration.

Mainland Chinese citizens still frequently measure China in comparison to Western countries. Economic and quality of life issues are by far their main concern. But state media also holds military parity as a goal.



How the Curse of Sykes-Picot Still Haunts the Middle East

Robin Wright writes for the New Yorker:

In the Middle East, few men are pilloried these days as much as Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot. Sykes, a British diplomat, travelled the same turf as T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), served in the Boer War, inherited a baronetcy, and won a Conservative seat in Parliament. He died young, at thirty-nine, during the 1919 flu epidemic. Picot was a French lawyer and diplomat who led a long but obscure life, mainly in backwater posts, until his death, in 1950. But the two men live on in the secret agreement they were assigned to draft, during the First World War, to divide the Ottoman Empire’s vast land mass into British and French spheres of influence. The Sykes-Picot Agreement launched a nine-year process—and other deals, declarations, and treaties—that created the modern Middle East states out of the Ottoman carcass. The new borders ultimately bore little resemblance to the original Sykes-Picot map, but their map is still viewed as the root cause of much that has happened ever since.

“Hundreds of thousands have been killed because of Sykes-Picot and all the problems it created,” Nawzad Hadi Mawlood, the governor of Iraq’s Erbil Province, told me when I saw him this spring. “It changed the course of history—and nature.”

May 16th will mark the agreement’s hundredth anniversary, amid questions over whether its borders can survive the region’s current furies. “The system in place for the past one hundred years has collapsed,” Barham Salih, a former deputy prime minister of Iraq, declared at the Sulaimani Forum, in Iraqi Kurdistan, in March. “It’s not clear what new system will take its place.”


Cecil Rhodes statue to remain at Oxford after ‘overwhelming support’

Kevin Rawlinson reports for The Guardian:

rhodes statue 425x265Oriel College has said it will not remove the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University despite a campaign by students who believe the British imperialist’s legacy should not be celebrated.

The Rhodes Must Fall movement said the statue of the man who was an ardent imperialist and left a sizeable sum to the college in his will, was representative of Britain’s “imperial blind spot” and should be taken down.

But on Thursday the college, which owns the statue, said a consultation process had shown “overwhelming” support for keeping it.

“Following careful consideration, the college’s governing body has decided that the statue should remain in place and that the college will seek to provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there,” it said.

The college confirmed it had been warned of the possibility that it would lose about £100m in gifts should the statue be taken down but a spokesman insisted the financial implications were not the primary consideration.


Britain still thinks it’s a great power – but it isn’t

Victoria Honeyman writes for The Conversation:

In the days of empire, Britain was a force to be reckoned with. Coalitions of the willing were an unnecessary nicety. Britain’s opinion mattered, both in Europe and further afield. The current situation in Syria shows how far Britain has moved from that position.

David Cameron, prime minister of a majority government, is having to carefully time his parliamentary vote on airstrikes over Syria in order to win. And to do so, he is having to rely on the support of dissenters from the main opposition party. These are hardly the actions of the leader of a great world power.

That’s really because Britain is no longer a great power; it is a medium size power. That’s not something for it to be ashamed of, but something it, as a nation, struggles to accept.

The mirage of great power status is a comfort blanket to cling to in an uncertain world, but the truth is Britain’s voice has stopped being a roar. Intervening in Syria under a delusion of grandeur has long-term implications both nationally and internationally.


Gallipoli: Churchill’s Disaster

Eric Margolis writes:

One hundred years ago this month -April 1915 – the Allies and Germany were stalemated on the Western Front. Winston Churchill, the young, ambitious First Lord of the British Admiralty proposed a scheme first advanced by France’s prime minister, Aristide Briand.

The best way for Britain and France to end the stalemate and link up to their isolated ally, Russia, would be a daring “coup de main,” or surprise attack, to seize the Ottoman Empire’s Dardanelles, occupy Constantinople (today Istanbul) and knock Turkey out of the First World War. Though rickety, Austria/Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were Germany’s most important wartime ally.

Churchill’s plan was to send battleships of the British and French navies to smash their way through Turkey’ decrepit, obsolete forts along the narrow Dardanelles that connects the Aegean and Mediterranean with the Sea of Marmara, Constantinople and the Black Sea, Russia’s maritime lifeline.

This bold naval intrusion, that some predicted would rival Admiral Horatio Nelson’s dramatic attack in 1801 on Danish-Norwegian Fleet sheltered at Copenhagen, would quickly win the war and achieve for  Churchill  his ardent ambition of becoming supreme warlord.’


The University of Cape Town is right to remove its Cecil Rhodes statue

David Priestland writes for The Guardian:

Cecil John Rhodes statue is removed from the University of Cape Town[…] What should happen to the statues of fallen “heroes” – once respected, now reviled? We’d be looking at a lot of empty plinths if every offender against modern morality were to be removed. And yet statues in public spaces have enormous symbolic importance, for they are erected to promote particular ideals and values. This is why many have welcomed the removal of dictators’ images in eastern Europe and the Middle East in recent years as signs of freedom, while the restoration of Stalinist slogans in the Moscow metro has been condemned as a sign of authoritarianism.

Clearly the current political context is crucial. Statues of Henry VIII – one of our more unpleasant and brutal rulers – are, like 16th-century politics itself, pretty uncontroversial, and it would be absurd to remove them. But in contemporary Cape Town, memorials to Rhodes are very hard to defend. Rhodes was not just personally unscrupulous and venal, making his enormous fortune by cheating and bullying Africans out of their land, but he was also a committed ideologist of British racial supremacy and an important progenitor of apartheid. Even contemporaries saw him as extreme in his imperialist views. Given that apartheid fell so recently and its legacies survive in huge disparities of wealth, education and land distribution, what is truly surprising is that the monument has survived for so long.’


The East India Company: The original corporate raiders

William Dalrymple writes for The Guardian:

British Indian Empire[…] We still talk about the British conquering India, but that phrase disguises a more sinister reality. It was not the British government that seized India at the end of the 18th century, but a dangerously unregulated private company headquartered in one small office, five windows wide, in London, and managed in India by an unstable sociopath – Clive.

In many ways the EIC was a model of corporate efficiency: 100 years into its history, it had only 35 permanent employees in its head office. Nevertheless, that skeleton staff executed a corporate coup unparalleled in history: the military conquest, subjugation and plunder of vast tracts of southern Asia. It almost certainly remains the supreme act of corporate violence in world history. For all the power wielded today by the world’s largest corporations – whether ExxonMobil, Walmart or Google – they are tame beasts compared with the ravaging territorial appetites of the militarised East India Company. Yet if history shows anything, it is that in the intimate dance between the power of the state and that of the corporation, while the latter can be regulated, it will use all the resources in its power to resist.’


Winston Churchill: The Imperial Monster

Michael Dickinson wrote in late January for CounterPunch:

churchillThis week Britain is commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. Millions of people worldwide watched his state funeral on television in 1965, and thousands of people lined the streets of London to pay their last respects as his cortege slowly passed. But I somehow doubt that President Obama will be adding his own warm words of remembrance for the iconic British wartime leader.

After all, his own paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was one of 150.000 rebellious Kikuyu “blackamoors” forced into detention camps during Churchill’s postwar premiership, when the British governnment began its brutal campaign to suppress the alleged “Mau Mau” uprising in Kenya, in order to protect the privileges of the white settler population at the expense of the indigenous people. About 11,000 Kenyans were killed and 81,000 detained during the British government’s campaign to protect its imperialist heritage.

Suspected Mau Mau insurgents were subject to electric shock, whippings, burning and mutilation in order to crush the local drive for independence. Obama’s grandfather was imprisoned without trial for two years and tortured for resisting Churchill’s empire. He never truly recovered from the ordeal.’


The palace of shame that makes China angry

Chris Bowlby writes for BBC Magazine:

A temple in the ruins of the Old Summer Palace, Beijing, China, circa 1860.There is a deep, unhealed historical wound in the UK’s relations with China – a wound that most British people know nothing about, but which causes China great pain. It stems from the destruction in 1860 of the country’s most beautiful palace.

It’s been described as China’s ground zero – a place that tells a story of cultural destruction that everyone in China knows about, but hardly anyone outside.

The palace’s fate is bitterly resented in Chinese minds and constantly resurfaces in Chinese popular films, angry social media debates, and furious rows about international art sales.

And it has left a controversial legacy in British art collections – royal, military, private – full of looted objects.’


The diplomat who said ‘No’ to Saudi oil

From BBC News:

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud (5-R) in Paris in March 1939 ‘[…] Oliphant was no fool. In a glittering career at the Foreign Office he guided British relations with Persia and Arabia for more than 30 years, rising to a wartime ambassadorship. His stance, though possibly over-cautious and imbued with colonial high-handedness, made perfect sense at the time.

So his emotions at the news of 31 May, that American prospectors had struck oil in Bahrain – off the Saudi coast – just two weeks after he had sent the Saudis packing, can only be imagined.

Within a year Ibn Saud handed the concession to search for Saudi oil to an American consortium – and in 1938 they discovered the world’s largest reserves of crude. Saudi Arabia was “a little-known country” no longer, and the US had begun supplanting British power in the Gulf.’


When the West wanted Islam to curb Christian extremism

Ishaan Tharoor writes for The Washington Post:

Russian and Ottoman forces battle in 1788 over a port on the Black Sea. (Wikimedia Commons)‘[…] Islam and those who practice it were not always perceived to be such a cultural threat. Just a few decades ago, the U.S. and its allies in the West had no qualms about abetting Islamist militants in their battles with the Soviets in Afghanistan. Look even further, and there was a time when a vocal constituency in the West saw the community of Islam as a direct, ideological counter to a mutual enemy.

Turn back to the 1830s. An influential group of officials in Britain — then the most powerful empire in the West, with a professed belief in liberal values and free trade — was growing increasingly concerned about the expanding might of Russia. From Central Asia to the Black Sea, Russia’s newly won domains were casting a shadow over British colonial interests in India and the Middle East. The potential Russian capture of Istanbul, capital of the weakening Ottoman Empire, would mean Russia’s navy would have free access to the Mediterranean Sea–an almost unthinkable prospect for Britain and other European powers.’


The Untold History of Independence Day: Interview with historian Peter Linebaugh

UN committee backs Argentina over Falkland Islands

Alexandra Olsen reports for the Associated Press:

‘A United Nations’ committee approved a new resolution calling on the UK and Argentina to negotiate a solution to their dispute over the Falkland Islands, essentially favouring Argentina’s stance in the long-running feud. The 24-nation Decolonization Committee passed the resolution by consensus despite passionate speeches from two Falkland Islands representatives who said most islanders wanted to keep things as they are.

The decision showed that the committee members have been largely unmoved by a referendum in the Falkland Islands last year in which more than 99 per cent of voters favoured remaining a British Overseas Territory. The UK has rebuffed Argentina’s calls to negotiate the sovereignty of the south Atlantic islands, saying it is up to people who live there to decide. Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman attacked the UK for ignoring dozens of UN resolutions urging the two countries to talk.’


Historians reveal secrets of UK gun-running which lengthened the American civil war by two years

David Keys reports for The Independent:

‘New historical and archaeological research is shining an embarrassing light on one of the darkest periods of British foreign policy. Investigations by a leading Scottish maritime historian have succeeded, for the first time, in locating the main secret British headquarters of the American Civil War Confederate government’s transatlantic gun-running operation.

Other research, carried out over the past decade, has revealed the extraordinary extent to which substantial sections of Britain’s business elite were working with impunity to help the slave-owning southern states win the Civil War – despite the fact that Britain was officially neutral  and had outlawed slavery almost 30 years earlier. What’s more, in the Bristol Channel, the remnants of one of the Confederate gun-runners – the 395 ton Matilda – has been tentatively identified on the seabed off the coast of the island of Lundy.

Three other confederate wrecks had already been identified in British waters – off the west coast of Scotland, off Liverpool and in the Bristol Channel. In total some 200 vessels were purpose-built or upgraded on Clydeside, in Liverpool or in London for the Confederate states – and hundreds of thousands of guns (including heavy artillery) were manufactured in Birmingham, Newcastle and near London for the Confederate Army. The entirely illegal, but tacitly British-Government-approved pro-Confederate gun-running operation is thought to have lengthened the American Civil War by up to two years – and to have therefore cost as many as 400,000 American lives.’


Gertrude of Arabia, the Woman Who Invented Iraq

Clive Irving writes for The Daily Beast:

‘She came into Baghdad after months in one of the world’s most forbidding deserts, a stoic, diminutive 45-year-old English woman with her small band of men. She had been through lawless lands, held at gunpoint by robbers, taken prisoner in a city that no Westerner had seen for 20 years.

It was a hundred years ago, a few months before the outbreak of World War I. Baghdad was under a regime loyal to the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish authorities in Constantinople had reluctantly given the persistent woman permission to embark on her desert odyssey, believing her to be an archaeologist and Arab scholar, as well as being a species of lunatic English explorer that they had seen before.

She was, in fact, a spy and her British masters had told her that if she got into trouble they would disclaim responsibility for her. Less than 10 years later Gertrude Bell would be back in Baghdad, having rigged an election, installed a king loyal to the British, re-organized the government, and fixed the borders on the map of a new Iraq. As much as anyone can be, Gertrude Bell could be said to have devised the country that nobody can make work as a country for very long—no more so than now.’


The Western-Imposed Partition of the Middle East Is Dead

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

‘“Sykes-Picot is dead,” Walid Jumblatt roared at me last night – and he may well be right. The Lebanese Druze leader – who fought in a 15-year civil war that redrew the map of Lebanon – believes that the new battles for Sunni Muslim jihadi control of northern and eastern Syria and western Iraq have finally destroyed the post-World War Anglo-French conspiracy, hatched by Mark Sykes and François Picot, which divided up the old Ottoman Middle East into Arab statelets controlled by the West.

The Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and Syria has been fought into existence – however temporarily – by al-Qa’ida-affiliated Sunni fighters who pay no attention to the artificial borders of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Jordan, or even mandate Palestine, created by the British and French. Their capture of the city of Mosul only emphasises the collapse of the secret partition plan which the Allies drew up in the First World War – for Mosul was sought after for its oil wealth by both Britain and France.

The entire Middle East has been haunted by the Sykes-Picot agreement, which also allowed Britain to implement Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s 1917 promise to give British support to the creation of a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine. Perhaps only today’s Arabs (and Israelis) fully understand the profound historical changes – and deep political significance – that the extraordinary battles of this past week have wrought on the old colonial map of the Middle East.’



MI5 files reveal details of 1953 coup that overthrew British Guiana’s leaders

From the AP:

CHEDDI AND JANET JAGAN‘Secret documents declassified on Friday by MI5 reveal in detail how in 1953 the UK under prime minister Winston Churchill overthrew the elected government of British Guiana – now Guyana – because he feared its leftwing leader and his American wife would lead the British colony into the arms of the Soviet Union. The documents reveal how British spies kept up intense scrutiny on Cheddi Jagan and his wife Janet, who together founded the People’s Progressive party (PPP) to campaign for workers’ rights and independence from British rule for the sugar-producing colony in northern South America.

The UK had agreed a new constitution in the early 1950s which allowed British Guiana’s political parties to participate in national elections and form a government, but maintained power in the hands of the British-appointed governor. Christopher Andrew, MI5’s official historian, said the files provide new details of the coup and “further evidence that MI5 played a more important part in British decolonisation than is often realised”.’


Map: European Colonisation of Africa

New Zealand PM: Time for a New Flag

Rob Quinn writes for Newser:

A supporter of New Zealand waves a flag as the Emirates Team New Zealand yacht returns to Port America's Cup.The era of British colonialism is over and it’s about time New Zealand adopted a flag without a Union Jack on it, says Prime Minister John Key. “The flag remains dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom,” he said yesterday, announcing that a referendum on a new flag will be held within three years, the BBC reports. “I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag,” he said.

“We should be represented by a flag that is distinctly New Zealand’s; a flag that is only New Zealand’s,” Key said, noting that Canada ditched its Union Jack-dominated flag for the maple leaf in 1965. He said it was important for the public to have input on new designs, though his preference is for the silver fern design used by the country’s national sports teams, reports the New Zealand Herald. Polls, however, show that most New Zealanders are happy to keep the current flag, with veterans’ organizations firmly opposed to ditching the flag that tens of thousands fought and died under.


First world war: an imperial bloodbath that’s a warning, not a noble cause

And in case there were any doubt that all the main combatants were in the land-grabbing expansion game, Britain and France then divvied up the defeated empires.' Illustration: Matt KenyonSeumas Milne writes for The Guardian:

They were never going to be able to contain themselves. For all the promises of a dignified commemoration, the Tory right’s standard bearers held back for less than 48 hours into the new year before launching a full-throated defence of the “war to end all wars”. The killing fields of Gallipoli and the Somme had been drenched in blood for a “noble cause”, declared Michael Gove. The slaughter unleashed in 1914 had been a “just war” for freedom.

Hostility to the war, the education secretary complained, had been fostered by leftwingers and comedians who denigrated patriotism and painted the conflict as a “misbegotten shambles”. Gove was backed by the prime minister, as talk of international reconciliation was left to junior ministerial ranks.

Boris Johnson went further. The war was the fault of German expansionism and aggression, London’s mayor pronounced, and called for Labour’s shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt to be sacked forthwith if he doubted it. The Conservative grandees were backed up by a retinue of more-or-less loyal historians. Max Hastings reckoned it had been fought in defence of “international law” and small nations, while Antony Beevor took aim at “anti-militarists”.

This is all preposterous nonsense. Unlike the second world war, the bloodbath of 1914-18 was not a just war. It was a savage industrial slaughter perpetrated by a gang of predatory imperial powers, locked in a deadly struggle to capture and carve up territories, markets and resources.


From Snowden To Manning… To Ben Franklin And Sam Adams? A History Of Leakers Of Secret Gov’t Documents

Political cartoon from 1774 by Paul Revere, depicting Death attacking Governor Thomas Hutchinson. (Wikipedia)

From Techdirt:

For all the talk from some about how terrible and “anti-American” Ed Snowden and Chelsea Manning are for distributing secret government documents that revealed misbehavior on the part of the government, the Digsby blog highlights a historical parallel that I hadn’t heard about before: the Hutchinson Letters Affair, in which Benjamin Franklin essentially played the role of Snowden and Manning.

The short version is that Franklin obtained — through means unknown — a packet of letters written by Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver to Thomas Whately, the assistant to UK Prime Minister George Grenville, concerning how to deal with the increasingly angry colonists in the late 1760s. This was at the time that colonists — especially in Massachusetts — were increasingly angry about moves by the UK to raise taxes and remove their rights. Hutchinson more or less suggested accelerating the process.

In the letters, Hutchinson made some damning comments about colonial rights. Even more provocative, Hutchinson recommended that popular government be taken away from the colonists “by degrees”, and that there should be “abridgement of what are called English liberties”. Specifically, he argued that all colonial government posts should be made independent of the provincial assemblies. Finally, he urged his superiors to send more troops to Boston to keep American rebels under control.

Upon obtaining these (while in London), Franklin realized that they were somewhat explosive, and he quickly sent copies to some friends in the US, starting with Thomas Cushing (apparently no known relation to our own Tim Cushing), and told him to share them with others, but to not have them published. However, after Cushing and Sam Adams saw them, they figured out how to get them out.


Map of Countries the British Never Invaded

Britain has invaded all but 22 countries in the world in its long and colourful history, new research has found

How British Empire’s dirty secrets went up in smoke in the colonies

From The Independent:

In April 1957, five unmarked lorries left the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur and drove to a Royal Navy base in Singapore with their cargo of files detailing the secrets of Britain’s rule in Malaya. Their destination was, in the words of one official, a “splendid incinerator”.

This “discreet” mission in the closing days of British rule over what became Malaysia was one of hundreds of similar operations. As the sun finally set on the Empire, diplomats scurried to repatriate or destroy hundreds of thousands “dirty” documents containing evidence that London had decided should never see the light of day. Some 50 years later, the sheer scale of the operation to hide the secrets of British rule overseas – including details of atrocities committed during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya – is revealed in documents released today by the National Archives in Kew, west London.

The so-called “migrated archive” details the extraordinary lengths to which the Colonial Office went to withhold information from its former subjects in at least 23 countries and territories in the 1950s and 1960s.

Among the documents is a memo from London that required all secret documents held abroad to be vetted by a Special Branch or MI5 liaison officer to ensure that any papers which might “embarrass” Britain or show “racial prejudice or religious bias” were destroyed or sent home.

The ramifications of the operation to conceal the resulting archive of 8,800 files – a closely guarded Whitehall secret until the Government recently lost high-profile court cases – are still being felt in compensation claims for victims of atrocities committed under British rule from Kenya to Malaya.


14 Caribbean nations sue European countries for slavery reparations

GonsalvesFrom Al Jazeera:

Fourteen Caribbean nations are suing the governments of the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands for reparations over what the plaintiffs say is the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade.

In a speech Friday at United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves said the European nations must pay for their deeds.

“The awful legacy of these crimes against humanity – a legacy which exists today in our Caribbean – ought to be repaired for the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples,” Gonsalves said. “The European nations must partner in a focused, especial way with us to execute this repairing.”

The lawsuits – which are likely to amount to a lengthy battle – are being brought by The Caribbean Community, or Caricom, a regional organization that focuses mostly on issues such as economic integration. They will be brought to the U.N.’s International Court of Justice, based in The Hague in the Netherlands. It is not immediately clear when court proceedings will begin.

The countries will focus on Britain for its role in slavery in the English-speaking Caribbean, France for slavery in Haiti and the Netherlands for Suriname, a Caricom member and former Dutch colony on the northeastern edge of South America.

They have hired British law firm Leigh Day, which waged a successful fight for compensation for hundreds of Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government as they fought for the liberation of their country during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s.


Gambia quits Commonwealth

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh (AFP Photo / Andrew Burton)From RT:

Gambia announced it is immediately leaving the Commonwealth of Nations, saying it will not be part of an “institution that represents an extension of colonialism.”

[…] However, one anonymous foreign ministry official told AFP the decision was made after the government disagreed with a 2012 proposal by the Commonwealth to create commissions in the Gambian capital of Banjul to address human rights, media rights, and corruption. Following the proposal, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma met with Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and other top officials.

Jammeh has ruled Gambia – Africa’s smallest mainland country – since 1994, and has been often accused of human rights abuses, including unlawful detentions, media intimidation, and discrimination against minorities in the country.

Since the mid-fifteenth century, the Portuguese, French, and British empires competed for colonial supremacy in Gambia. It is estimated that well over three million people from the Gambia area were sold into slavery during the transatlantic slave trade. Present Gambian boundaries were formed in 1889 as the area became a British Crown Colony known as British Gambia. Gambia formed its own executive and legislative councils in 1901, and on February 18, 1965, Gambia gained independence as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth of Nations.



US and UK accused of ‘squeezing life out of’ Ascension Island

SEE ALSO: John Pilger Documentary – Stealing A Nation

Ascension Island south AtlanticFrom The Guardian:

The British government is accused of presiding over the emptying of the remote colonial outpost of Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic, uprooting families that have lived there for almost a century. Local people claim the UK is engaged in a slow-motion repeat of its widely condemned expulsion of the inhabitants of the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia.

Ascension Island is a tiny leftover of empire, a volcanic island 700 miles from anywhere. It is dominated by a US military airbase, which more than 100 aircraft passed through on security duties during Barack Obama’s recent trip to Africa. There are satellite and submarine tracking stations, a BBC transmitter, and a listening post run by GCHQ’s Composite Signals Organisation.

Its resident population – most of them originally from St Helena, another British South Atlantic island – has fallen by a quarter in a decade to less than 800, as the companies that now run most military and civilian services replace settled family communities with contract workers. Local people say the island now has more antennas than people.

Caroline Yon, a former island councillor whose day job is running a European Space Agency tracking station, said: “The US and UK are squeezing the life out of the place. They want to make Ascension like Diego Garcia.” Britain expelled the population of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean 40 years ago to make way for a US airbase.

A shopkeeper, Cedric Henry, said: “It’s like being on an oil rig now. We have no rights. We are just a workforce, even though many people have never lived anywhere else. Some families have been here for four generations.”

The issue is expected to come to a head in elections later this year for the island council – a purely advisory body that is the island’s only semblance of democracy after 198 years of British rule.