Author Archives: jfwknifton

Vive l’Empéreur !! (2)

Last time, I wrote about how Napoleon wanted to export the liberal values of the Enlightenment across Europe. And how the British upper classes wanted none of it. They wanted to keep society as it was, rotten the core, but with them in charge of every facet of life. And that’s why they paid countries such as Austria and Russia £65,000,000 over the years to attack and annihilate Napoleon, without any English lives being lost:

What a chance we missed by ignoring the ideas Napoleon eschewed. Just look at what Napoleon achieved in his own country.

The Code Civil was “a fundamental change in the nature of the civil law legal system with its stress on clearly written and accessible law”.  It was created by committees of experts and closely monitored by the Emperor. He set up other codes for criminal and commercial law:

code civilxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

He set up a system which established “due process”, the requirement that the state must respect the legal rights of its citizens, and which protects the individual from a powerful government.
Napoleon carried out steps which would allow both Germany and Italy to emerge within less than a century as unified nations. He helped the USA to expand with the Louisiana Purchase:

lousisa n purchase

He founded the Légion d’Honneur, awarded for excellence and achievements not just in war, but also for achievements by civilians which helped the French nation. Here is the first ever award, presented by the Emperor himself:

Debret_-_Premiere_distribution_des_decorations_de_la_Legion_d'honneur[1]

Napoleon abolished the ancient system which forced peasants to work as medieval serfs for their lord and master, carrying out specific jobs every year. This helped the growth of a money based economy, rather than paying rent, for example, by any other means, such as barter or the carrying out of physical tasks.

frenchrepubliccinqcent500francsxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]

Napoléon abolished the medieval guilds, allowing the birth of the entrepreneur.

He abolished ghettos for Europe’s Jews who were made equal to everybody else. In fact, everybody enjoyed equality in every field.

The power of the church was vastly reduced, especially their ecclesiastical courts. The Inquisition came to an end. (Nobody expected that.)

monty-python-spanish-inquisition_article_story_large[1]

His military innovations led Wellington to say, when asked who was the greatest general of the day: “In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon.”

1415357107592.cached[1]

Napoleon gave enormous support to the metric system, introduced by the French revolutionary government in 1799. He made use of the process of storing and preserving perishable food in tins. His armies were the first to use the baguette:

French became the official language of the state. No more Basque, Breton, Corsican, Occitan nor, indeed, any of the countless dialects spoken in Europe’s second biggest country. Instead, everybody spoke French.

Secondary education was supported by the state, and lycées were established. State secondary schools followed the same system as nowadays. He made major efforts to keep education totally free from church interference. He introduced scholarships for poor students.

He introduced science into the school syllabus. In England, the church were still busy at this time trying to stop vaccination being introduced as anti-religious. Not so in France:

And that is not the end of Napoléon’s list. More next time.

13 Comments

Filed under France, History, Politics

What do you do with your Freed Slaves ? (5)

In my last article I posed the question of  “How did the British free their slaves?”. They had none of the difficulties faced by the USA (a bloody civil war), Russia (a bloody revolution and a bloody civil war) or France (a bloody revolution in Haiti).

west injdies plantation

Unbelievably, a decision was taken that the government would use taxpayers’ money, taken from the ordinary man in the street, to buy the owners’ slaves from them. This was a very cunning plan on so many levels. The government remained popular with the rich people. The rich people who owned no slaves remained rich. The rich people who owned slaves also remained rich. Nobody lost any money whatsoever except the poor old taxpayer, who now had to wait a little longer for his free medical care, free education, sanitation, decent roads, law and order in the streets and so on.

And what about the slave owners?

Carried_Slaveowner

Well, by this windfall, they became even more unbelievably rich. And then they went on to invest their cash in other ventures so they could make even more money.

They didn’t hate the politicians who had abolished slavery either, because the slave owners had suddenly been made so rich by their actions.  You can probably guess who came out of it badly…

The population of black ex-slaves who now had nowhere to go. They couldn’t go down to the docks and catch a boat to West Africa. Instead they had to stay where they were and work for a pittance at their old job. This man’s family (218 slaves) made a good profit on the whole deal. They received £4,442 compensation, the equivalent of £3 million today. Don’t know who he is?:

orwell

And this man’s father received £106,769, the modern day equivalent of £80 million. Don’t know who he is?:

1271754717_william-e_-gladstone

19 Comments

Filed under France, History, Politics

Vive l’Empéreur !!

I watched a fantastic programme, or rather series of programmes, last winter on BBC2, I think it was. They were so good that I bought the book:

cover

They were all about Napoleon.
I had always wondered why the British hate Napoleon so much and the French love him. Why the British call him names and the French name streets after him.
Both the programmes and the book were by Andrew Roberts:

andrew-roberts
He did a great job at explaining exactly why this situation has arisen.

It was because on the one hand, the England of the Napoleonic era had always prided itself on being full of free men, free to say what they wanted, to go where they wanted and so on. With a parliament and a monarch beloved by all, bless him, who never interfered in the running of an almost perfect society. Deep down though, the English knew that this portrait of their land was a complete load of rubbish.

They knew that Napoleon was a child of the Enlightenment, the fullest and finest flowering of ideas in the history of Mankind:

stamp-napoleon-france

Napoleon wanted to export the values of the Enlightenment across Europe. And the British wanted none of it. That’s why they coughed up £65,000,000 over the years, paying for countries such as Austria and Russia to attack and annihilate him, without any English lives being lost:

wallpaper_cossacks_2_
The British saw Napoleon as a direct threat to “England’s Green and Pleasant Land”.

A “Green and Pleasant Land” where the rich seized the poor’s common land and called it their own.

Where Corn Laws prevented hungry poor people from eating bread made from cheap imported foreign wheat, so that rich English farmers could stay wealthy.

Where all of the people in charge of anything, the army, the navy, the government, everything, was a nobleman and had a title:

house-of-lords4[1]

And parliament was full of greedy men elected by unbelievably tiny numbers of voters. This practice made use of “Rotten Boroughs” and Pocket Boroughs”. Here are two of the “Four Prints of an Election” by William Hogarth.  You can see them in greater detail here.

This is the “Election Entertainment“:

chairing

This one is called “Chairing the Members”:

election enter
Next time, we will look at the achievements of Napoleon. They are many and apply to so many different fields, from giving a mole catcher a more important job to making the arrangements to educate young women:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 Comments

Filed under Criminology, France, History, Politics

What do you do with your freed slaves? (4)

Sooooo.

Not only have you managed to compose the sentence:

All men are created equal …….endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

But you have understood it.

And then you have decided to act upon it. Unless you do this, there’s very little point in expressing these fine sentiments anyway:

slaves

But in practical terms, just what do you do with all these people who are, at a stroke, suddenly given their liberty ? The only figure I have been able to find on the Internet comes from the History Channel, who say that there were four million or more slaves suddenly granted their freedom. And the USA wasn’t the only country to have this problem to deal with.

Tsarist Russia called them “serfs” but they were to all intents and purposes no better off than the slaves in America. In this photograph, lucky Russian women are doing the work of an English horse, pulling a coal barge up a river, probably the Volga:

serfs

The serfs were all freed in 1861 but were then discouraged from moving away from their owner’s  estates. Indeed, they had to stay and work for the landlord in the normal way for two years.

The land, too, was divided up. The nobility were allocated almost all the meadows and the forests. The state paid all their debts.

The poor old serfs, though, they had to pay over the odds for the land they were allocated. On average, it was 34% extra. In the north, it was 90% over the odds and it was 20% more in some of the so-called black earth regions in present day Ukraine and southern Russia.  In what is now Poland, the Tsar wanted to harm the Polish landowning classes, so the peasants paid nothing extra for their land.
None of this worked, of course. The poor old serf farmed his land but saddled with huge debts, he couldn’t make ends meet. He only received 50% of his total income from his own usually tiny farm. The rest he got by continuing to slave away on his landlord’s farm. As a result of this stupid, short sighted iniquity, many of the serfs moved to the cities to work in the factories there. And that process did end in tears:

Lenin-Hooray

In England, slaves were kept but really only as domestic servants. It was too cold to grow cotton. Within the British Empire, though, slaves were used in very, very large numbers to cut sugar cane in the West Indies:

west injdies plantation

Britain, of course, was a country owned and run by the extremely rich, for their own benefit, and in a way which would ensure that they remained extremely rich. Many of them were large scale slave owners. How could they possibly be made to free their slaves and impoverish themselves?

hogarth1

In the next article, all will be revealed.

 

 

20 Comments

Filed under History, Politics

The Peregrine : the Fastest Creature in Victorian Nottinghamshire (2)

Last time I was talking about Joseph Whitaker and the many times he saw Peregrines in Nottinghamshire. Here is the great man:

He isn’t the only overweight old bloke with excess facial hair to have seen Peregrines in action, though.

Very early one morning in Cornwall, I once watched a Peregrine chasing a Herring Gull. The latter was so scared that it landed and walked across to stand right next to me, like somebody queuing for the bus at a bus stop.  When the falcon flew away, the gull departed a few seconds later, in the opposite direction.

Shortly after May 1, 1920, Mr Frank Hind,  one of the leading members of the Nottingham Natural Science Field Club wrote:

“A very large bird was circling high up in the sky over Gedling. From its manner of circling, and flight and the great height, I can think of no bird but the Peregrine Falcon as likely to be the one seen.”

peregrineflying

The following account was published in the Nottingham Evening Post of April 14th, 1976:

“The pigeons in the Old Market Square in Nottingham had better watch out. For a bird of prey has been spotted on top of the nearby Council House. And it’s thought his taste for city life might be due to the prospect of a convenient meal of pigeon.
A spokesman for the Trent Valley Birdwatchers said the bird had not been positively identified but it could be a Peregrine Falcon. It was disturbed by one of the club members who was carrying out repairs to the Council House.”

pery grin1

Nowadays,  of course, this scenario is an everyday one. I wrote about the peregrines on the Newton Building of Trent University in an article entitled:

Jer Falcon. one shot at Park Hall by Mr Shelton. Now in my collection

There are live webcams of city dwelling peregrines across most of the developed world including Derby.

And Norwich

And Mississauga

And Etobicoke

The camera at Phoenix in Arizona is of very good quality:

If you get bored, go to Bowling Green in Ohio.

or Kitchener in southern Ontario in Canada.

Peregrines are pretty much the same the whole world over. They breed in every continent except one.

If you get tired of travelling the world, you could always use the webcam on the Newton Building here in Nottingham.

One of my favourite webcams though, is one that shows lots of brightly coloured American birds, and another where you can try to see the Loch Ness Monster.

Good luck  with that one.

 

18 Comments

Filed under Cornwall, History, Nottingham, Personal, Twitching, Wildlife and Nature

Six Kings and Two Queens (3)

So why is this rambling windbag of a tale called Six Kings and Two Queens ?

Well, the hero, John Deane, the entrepreneur, the sea captain, the ex-cannibal, the ex-poacher, the ex-deer stealer and the ex-butcher’s apprentice lived a very long life. And when he eventually succumbed, Captain Deane, as the locals all called him, was buried in the churchyard at Wilford:

john deane tombxxxxxx

He had lived through the reigns of six kings and two queens.

He was born during the reign of Charles II. To me, Charlie looks a real sleeze of a man. He couldn’t keep his hands off Nell Gwynne’s oranges and he appears to me to be just the type to be arrested by the police for having inappropriate images on his computer:

charles II

And here is History’s most famous orange seller, Charles’ mistress Nell Gwynne. This was his own personal pin-up:

gwynn

Next came James II. Here he is. He was chucked out eventually because he was a Roman Catholic, and because of this, the Protestant nobles thought that he would eventually want to be an absolute monarch and then they would all have to work for a living:

James_II_(1685)

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 brought in William and Mary:

william_and_mary

Is is just me, or does Mary look like a man?

Queen Anne was definitely not a man. She had seventeen children but, poor woman, none of them survived to become adults:

annexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

No silly jokes about her. She is too sad a person for that. All of her weight gains came from what must have been more or less continuous pregnancies.

Enter George I, a German who spoke little or no English:

King_George_I_

Like all of the Hanoverians, George I hated his son and his son hated him. Here is George II. He was the last English king to lead his troops into battle, at Dettingen in 1743. He galloped so fast his wig blew off:

george II

George III was mad, mad, mad. He lost the American colonies, of course. Perhaps they thought they would be better off without a registered lunatic in charge?

King George III

George III  was the last monarch of John Deane’s long life. Six and out, to borrow a cricketing phrase.

Mr Spielberg, I have the film script for all of this nearly half finished…

 

 

 

 

22 Comments

Filed under Criminology, History, Humour, Nottingham

Six Kings and Two Queens (2)

Hopefully, you have already read the first part of the blood soaked story of Captain John Deane and the wreck of The Nottingham Galley on the ice cold, wind swept rocks of Boon Island, just off the coast of New Hampshire:

cheat

The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood by John Frost Sutton does not disappoint with its continuation of the story.

Captain Deane returned to Nottingham where he wrote a bestselling book about the tragedy. Surprisingly, he was the hero.

The First Mate, Christopher Langman, did exactly the same. He wrote his own book where he was the hero.

Two very different stories, with each author accusing the other of being a liar and a cheat.

According to Stephen Erickson, the controversy lasted for a good while. It was essentially the two boat owners, the Deane brothers, versus the members of the crew.  John Deane in particular, was to become an eighteenth century spin doctor for the rest of his life, telling and re-telling the story with himself as its hero, over and over again, to whoever would listen.

Books were written in the immediate local area, such as Great Shipwrecks of the Maine Coast by Jeremy D’Entremont.

book

The same events were related in Great Storms and Famous Shipwrecks of the New England Coast by the aptly named Edward Rowe Snow. The most recent book is Boon Island: A True Story of Mutiny, Shipwreck, and Cannibalism by Stephen Erickson and Andrew Vietze.  And Boon Island by Kenneth Roberts turned the story into a novel:

book novel

Modern authors have added to the drama with suspicions of insurance fraud and the allegation that The Nottingham Galley could have arranged beforehand with French privateers to be captured for financial gain.
Most interesting perhaps is the Wreck of the Nottingham Galley published by the Book Arts Studio at the University of Maine at Machias. This contains everybody’s two cents’ worth, with five significant histories of events: Captain John Deane’s original account; the crew’s rebuttal; Cotton Mather’s rendition; a sensationalized, anonymous narrative; and John Deane’s expanded final account.

wreck of the npottingham gaslley

As if all that controversy, from 1711 to the present day, were not enough, according to The Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events connected with Nottingham and its neighbourhood:

“….a very sad and fatal affair arose. Dr Jasper Deane, the brother of Captain John, resided in Fletcher-gate. He had embarked considerable property in The Nottingham Galley, and whenever he met his brother, the Captain, he yelled at him so long and loud about the cause of his serious financial loss, that they finally just avoided each other’s company.
At length their animosity appeared to subside, and under the condition that the subject of the shipwreck should not be brought up, the Captain met the Doctor at a party. There was every appearance of a restoration of friendship on both sides. No mention was made of The Nottingham Galley, and instead of separating, the Captain agreed to accompany his brother back to his house. Unhappily, the Doctor’s stifled feelings broke free, and in Fletcher-gate he again gave way to prolonged and bitter abuse of his brother. They had nearly reached his door when the Doctor assumed a threatening attitude, the Captain pushed him away with his open hand, and the Doctor fell. He ruptured a blood vessel, and died immediately. Whether the rupture was caused by excitement or the fall could not be ascertained.”

In 1714, Captain Deane commanded a ship of war in the service of the Czar of Muscovy, which he retained until 1720. We know this Czar of Muscovy better as Peter the Great. the founder of the Russian Navy:

Peter_der-Grosse_1838

Captain Deane was subsequently British Consul at the ports of Flanders and Ostend, until 1738, when he retired to Wilford near Nottingham with a handsome pension. Wilford was a live wire sort of place in 1740. In actual fact, the man you can see fishing in the River Trent in this picture is still there to this very day. He is a kind of Flying Dutchman figure, cursed by his wife never to come home from his fishing for the rest of eternity:

wiklford ferrry

The Date-Book hasn’t finished the tale yet:

“The retired Captain built the two neat dwellings near the entrance of the village from the ferry. The one nearest the river was the one he occupied first; the other, very similar in appearance, was erected afterwards:”

his house the palazzo
“In 1748, whilst walking in his own grounds in broad daylight, the Captain was attacked by a robber, who plundered him of everything valuable he had about him, even to the sleeve buttons from his wrists. The despoiler, whose name was Miller, was apprehended, and a few months afterwards he was executed.”

Miller was hanged in public on a wooden gallows. This execution would have taken place on the Forest Recreation Ground as I have previously described in my article “Gun Battle on Derby Road

One more bit to the story…..

 

 

15 Comments

Filed under Criminology, History, Nottingham