June 29, 2006

History Student in a Lighter Mood

Sun did It (Other Title)

“As one saith in a brave kind of expression, the sun never sets in the Spanish dominions, but ever shines upon one part or other of them.”

The above given comment was made by Bacon for Spain under Habsburg Dynasty. It was made when Britain was not all that big and great empire and reached to level of giant proportion afterwards for which it latter came to be known for. It was latter that the same comment was used for British Empire. Bacon belonged to England.

Gibbon also used the term “The Roman World” in the same tone and tenure to suggest the greatness of the Roman Empire as the biggest empire of the world.

Describing the giant proportion of the British Empire, Webster had said “her morning drumbeat following the sun, and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth daily with one continuous and unbroken strain of its martial airs.”

Kaiser William did not like the tone of such quotations. He sought the place in the sun.

Finally, the First World War was fought.

It means Bacon started all this.

Historians used sun to write quotations.
Sun saw history making nations.
A nation saw sun every where.
Other nation sat on sun to see every nation.
In between, the world wept for their sons.

June 26, 2006

Henry Every ‘An Arch Pirate’ and Mughal Emperor Connection

Henry was a pirate who had looted the ships Ganj-i-Sawai and Fateh Mohamed which belonged to Emperor Aurangzeb of Mughal Empire in India. He was the most renowned pirate of his time.

Other names of Henry Every were John Avery, Long Ben, Henry Avery and Benjamin Bridgeman. It is believed that during the last stage of his life, he adopted the name Benjamin Bridgeman and died with that name. 1

He was native of Devonshire (near Plymouth, England). He started his pirate career in 1691 under Captain ‘Red Hand’ Nicholls. He undertook his first individual pirate activity on the ship Charles II (also called Duke in some different source). The ship was under Captain Gibson. He went on Pirate strolls in 1695 on the ship of Captain Gibson by naming it as The Fancy. In the same year he attacked the ship Gang-i-Sawai and Fateh Mohamed somewhere near Red Sea. Those two ships belonged to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (1657-1707). It is believed that the ship Gang-i-Sawai had 62 guns, 500 (approximate) musketeres and 600 aboard the ship. Both the ships were not able to any fight to Henry Every because an accident took place on Gang-i-Sawai when a gun busted at the time of firing. Both the ships surrendered. It is believed that Every looted nearly five lakhs pieces of silver and gold. In addition to that he laid hands on a large numbers of rubies, jewels and women. 2

The looting of the ship of the Mughal Emperor is termed as the "Richest Single Crime in the World". The total cost of the booty was rated at 5.2 millions rupees or in other words 52 lakh rupees. The event took place in 1695. 3

The raid on Mughal Ships proved his wrong doing. Emperor Aurangzeb did not take it lightly. The ships were part of the trading activity of the women of the Mughal Royal family. The Mughal Emperor stopped all the trades of East India Company in India. It was the period, when the East India could not dare to earn the wrath of the Mughal Emperor. 4

It is on record that East India company offered an extra reward of 4000 rupees for the capture of the pirate Henry Every. The document containing this record can be accessed at Fact Files of British Library. 5

It is believed that after that it became difficult for Henry Every to pursue his pirate career. He was soon reduced to beggary and died without money even for a coffin. The attack on Gang-i-Sawai and Fateh Mohamed ended his career. 6


Footnote 1:

http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Post/407998 part of Famous Pirates Biographies at Ancient Worlds as accessed on June 26, 2006 and Henry Every at Wikipedia.

Footnote 2:

ibid. accessed on June 26, 2006.

Footnote 3:

Henry Every at Wikipedia as accessed on June 26, 2006

Footnote 4:

A. L. Srivastva, Mughal History. Agra.

Footnote 5:

Rivals of East Indian Company in Fact Files on East Indian Company on British Library as accessed on June 26, 2006.

Footnote 6:

Ancient Worlds Op. Cit as accessed on June 26, 2006.

History Carnival XXXIV

June 18, 2006

Bindee Tiwari

An article titled ‘A Salute to Bindee Tiwari’ by Jyoti Singh has appeared in the Spectrum section The Tribune dated June 18, 2006.

The article of Jyoti Singh has really humbled me. I believed that I had read a lot about 1857 and the First War of Independence. I have in my record a good amount of details about the year 1857 derived from secondary sources. I have gone through different books and even well researched article written by my friend Prof. Rajneesh Khanna which I have modified also by adding some details. I remember that I have mentioned about the first revolt of the Indian soldiers against the British colonial authorities in the eighteenth century in that article. I have made a note of the revolt of the Indian infantry in 1824 while borrowing from R. C. Majumdar and S. L. Sikri. There is reference to the revolt of the Indian soldiers in 1824 in my notes, but no where, I have mentioned the name of Bindee Baba, as he was popularly known and even today, that is the term used for the temple in his name at Barrackpore.

Coming back to the article of Jyoti Singh, it is suffice to say that it is a fine article. It was written for a newspaper. Therefore, there are no mention of the references and the ideology which went behind in forming the body of the article. The article definitely conveys the meaning and message which went behind it while writing. The spirit behind the article becomes clear in the lines which Jyoti Singh wrote and I quote;

"Their masters (The high caste soldiers who constituted the army of the British East India Company) let them observe their religious customs, etc. and the common man read it as their generosity. They were too gullible to discern that the picture of brotherhood that the British maintained was simply a subterfuge to extend their imperial designs. Everything was fine between them until English officers at Barrackpore ordered an expedition of the 47th Native infantry to Chittagong and then to Rangoon by sea, in 1824."

I do not know what made the author write these lines. The author may have in her possession a book by some historian or may have access to some sources from where she gathered actual picture of the episode. But those who know the history of India, they can well appreciate that by 1824, the directors of the company were more concerned with what was left with them after the charter of 1813. Secondly, by 1818, they have ended the power of Marathas, the only force which they feared at that time. The company and its officers were now coming out in their true colours.

Continuing with the narration of the episode, the author of the article brought out very nicely the working of the mechanism which provoked the Indians to raise the standard of revolt in Barrakpore. I quote;

"The sepoys felt offended by this order ( the order of voyage to Rangoon through sea), as this also meant that they would be unable to perform their ritual – cooking food, taking a dip, and doing puja – during the voyage."

Further, the author emphasized that the soldiers objected because there was no clause in their contract about serving overseas. The British reacted by stopping their allowances. There is need to consider the aspect of stopping of allowance in 1824, and if it is backed by primary proofs, then it is the most important aspect of the article. The scholars and even the contemporary officials who evaluated the causes of the uprising of 1857 had been emphasizing that the event of 1857 was mainly a result of the grouse against the reduction of the allowances and bhattas in 1850s. It means, it was merely taken as an excuse. The imperial ruler had been going back from their commitments in the contracts while recruiting the soldiers. They had breached the contract again and again. This was the actual story. They were doing it with everyone.

Another fact that is referred to in the article is also very important. It is written that "the sepoys got together to oppose the British and elected a commander – Bindee Tiwari – from amongst them" This is something which if supported by proofs, is highly important feature. It destroys thesis of the moderates of 1880s who had been giving the thesis of "nation-in-making".

The rest of the detail is the story, a part of which is also available on the web site of Barrackpore Cantonment. The event of the revolt took place on November 1, 1824. No doubt, there is more details in the article. Finally Bindee Tiwari was captured probably by November 4 or 5 and soon afterwards hanged. No body was allowed to claim his corpse. His body remained hanged from a pipal tree where now a temple stands.

I did not know about this fact of history in detail as it is given in the article. I made google and yahoo search. I did not find anything on yahoo search but google search took me to the site of Barrackpore Cantonment. Now that was another surprise. The web site of Barrackpore provides some original documents from 1870. Secondly, it also provides you with the references. Now this something opposite to what I had been ruing about concerning Indian history sources online. However, this is one example where original sources on Indian history available online.

On the web site of the Barrackpore Cantonment, the list of the references and old records are available in the Bibliography of the Cantonment and Vintage Documents links.

Finally, it is now again repeated that there is need to rewrite the history of India. There is need to define the concept of nation from the point of Indian history. India was not a nation in making in 1880 which was nurtured by educated middle class. One should remember, the awareness of western thinkers and thoughts did not dawn upon India after 1857. Before 1824 itself, the Hindu College had already established its credentials. The Derozio episode had taken place by that time. Even Sultan Tipu was fully aware of the designs of the British imperialistic activities. The recent movie, Range Dai Basanti has already shown that there was one other face of the national consciousness that pervaded and is still alive. No doubt, the movie is work of fiction but it suggests that a peculiar consciousness of history has meaning for the present also and that is true nation and history. The main requirement is to define it rightly and not to distort it through half baked history – the history as it is found and also that one which post Ramjanambhoomi agenda wants to write. There is need to bring out the revolutionary and virile features of Indian character. India is definitely a country of non-violence but a country of Jains and Buddha non-violence is a force because it is virile also. There is a history of this country which is existing in the minds of the people through their Indian way of life which is required to be written.

If I am not able to make myself in the preceding paragraph, then let me put in other words. There is need to give the right place to works of the armed revolutionaries in Indian history. Do not feel shy in telling that Ajatshatru killed his father Brihadrath to acquire the throne.

Note: The link on the above article is not available on the site of The Tribune online. I have written an email to them. Let us see if they respond.
An Update: The link to article ‘A Salute to Bindee Tiwari’ mentioned above is now active. The link is place above at the appropriate place. The note stands withdrawn.
Editing Notes:
Edited for changing the structure of a sentence on June 19, 2006.

June 13, 2006

Huge Data Base on A Secondary Source

During the course of solving the recent Civil Services Preliminary General Studies paper (2006), I stumbled upon a commercial site and left amazed and flabbergasted by the amount of data available there in. The site is called Internet Movie Data Base or simply IMDB.

There is a strong debate going on among the different group of historians. They are fighting by making groups like revisionists, nationalists, oral history, dictated histories, subaltern history, Marxist, Post-modernist, Ranke, Romanists and what not. What may be the views of the contending groups, I am convinced that the movie people also work in the field of history and help in preserving history and giving interpretation to the historic sources. Through the film media, they try to recover the past. I accept that they can not be included in the list of actual historians. They have freedom to use their imagination as they want and then articulate their views through the medium of film. Secondly the actors who enact the historic character also try to give some non-historic articulation. But on the whole, they are definitely assisting in the field of interpretation, preservation of data and showing the relevance of history for the present times.

In the recent years in India, there is a spate of historic movies. In case of one historic personality, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, there were five movies in a row which were released. Then came the Sardar Patel and then the Mangal Pandey and Netaji Subash Chander Bose: The Forgotten Hero. This year (2006), Rang De Basanti added a new dimension in the field of historic films. I will soon write an article on this movie. I am not concerned with the movie as it is, but I am definitely excited by the theme and the story line. It is a new thing to happen in the field of film production as well of significance of history for the present. No doubt, there are some other experiments which are coming up in which the real character are going to play the reel characters. One of the satisfying results were found in case of Gone with the Wind, Titan, Lawrence of Arabia, Shatranj Ke Khilari, Guide etc. In each case I got the chance to learn about basic data, some additional information and other useful stories.

Coming back to IMDB, I say that I am completely amazed. I made some searches on this site. It was confined mainly to Indian Movies. I picked the older movies especially those which were released in 60s and 70s. Do you know that there was a movie Dewaar released in Pakistan in 1954? This is what I found when I tried to search for Dewaar of Amitab Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor. I got similar results on Zanjeer, Don (along with similar titles from other countries), Sholay (Including five more of them: Do you know about them?) etc. I made an experiment with the term "Hanste Zakham", the movie I like for its story, music and acting of Priya Rajvansha. (Sorry, present day Damsels of Bollywood, None of you stand anywhere near her. Not even Preeti Zinta and Juhi Chawla. I do not reckon Aishwarya or Sushimta anywhere or some of the new ones who attract but I do not remember their names. )

The data available is really comprehensive. You learn about the producer, writer, director, actors (with their names and the character they played), anecdotes, music directors, cinematographers and all people with the related fields of movie production. There is further detail on each person who was or is associated with the movie. No doubt, more detailed data is available only if you are ready to pay. But the amount of data which they provide, is enough for starting a detailed study on any movie.

I strongly recommend it to the teachers, scholars and researchers to check this site to make their own judgement if they do not already know about this site.

Further, as a bonus, you get to know a lot about the latest releases in any language.

Validation Through Examples:
The American President Blog has described Ronald Reagan through details from IMBD. (Located on July 24, 2006)

June 12, 2006

Eight Tips for American Separatists – A lesson for the rest of the Separatists

In the month of May, 2006 I tried to study the events, sequence and documents of secession before the Civil War of America. I read the World History blog by Miland Brown but somehow I did not read his post titled "The Dominion of British West Florida and Tips for Creating an American Separatist Cause". In the month of June, he reproduced the "Tips" to claim a separate country for oneself if one likes. When I read it, I stopped from making further postings on the American History.

I wondered why Miland talked like that. The second thought which came to mind and remained for long was that how far this could be relevant in case of India. In India, the Kashmir, North East states especially Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam, Tripura, then Hyderabad State, Junagadh State, Goa, Sikkim, even Punjab as it was in 1849, and even for that all the states which were annexed during the period of Dalhousie, must try to understand and read them.

While reading the secession declaration of South Carolina and Texas, I was once convinced that they had the reason and legal argument to establish themselves as separate state. Even before that, when I studied American history for the first time, at one stage, I felt that the thirteen colonies had virtually occupied and snatched the country from the Red Indian Tribes. I even once joked that one should enter America and then claim ownership on the land on the basis of their history on the continent. However, a student of history does not sit a judge over the past events. He has to study the past on the basis of the facts as it existed and the cause and effect relation of a period of time and concerning a region or space. He has to identify a fact as it exists and existed. If today, a good lawyer is given chance to plead the case of South Carolina and Texas and all the eleven states which later joined to form the Confederacy of States, he could prove that they had suffered at the hands of the North States and they had valid point to secede.

Well, those who have this a job to read, write, read, ponder and then elaborate, come up with such thoughts and understanding which only the people of their class and ilk can understand. Sometimes, they come out with such amusing thoughts. No doubt, the post in question is of the same genre.

The comment of Jennie W of Kent, the blogger of Jennie’s Rumbles, is most pertinent. She says, "This is simply hilarious". Miland knew it at the time of posting it.

He did not boost in vain when he wrote, "I really should start my own separatist cause. With my knowledge of history, the Web, and how to play the separatist game, I could have a lot of fun! Or maybe not...".

The elementaryhistoryteacher really got serious with this post the way I became when I first read it. Jennie W also joined in the comment section and Miland got the chance to take a pinch at them by playing to the gallery. I am sure, while writing the reply to the comment he might have mischievous smile. Now doubt, he remarked, "Hello the CSA lost!"

On the whole, it is really enjoyable to read and share such thoughts because they come to regular readers and scholars now and then. They are not shared only because they are just minor spin off of reasoning faculty.

However, point 4 to 8 are written in lighter vein but they are very pregnant with great possibilities. The present form of Internet may change with change in technology. However, with time, the interconnectivity of internet paradigm will remain and it will be a force. The day, that will become true, the day, many people will join together on world wide web with new devices and formats, the tips of 4 to 8 can work as big bombs. Today, it may be taken in lighter vein, but they can be implemented with deafening results. I do not know why I feel that some separatist is reading those lines again and again.

Miland, get serious. Your later part is worth putting in practice. I will claim my share when you succeed.

Kindly note: It is re-posting. It has already appeared as Dear Separatists, "Historians are Definitely not Boring".

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