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Posts Tagged ‘British Empire

“We have always been taught that navigation is the result of civilization, but modern archeology has demonstrated very clearly that this is not so”*…

 

CanoeKane

 

The islands of Polynesia stretch over thousands of miles of ocean, presenting a daunting barrier to ancient people before the invention of magnetic compasses and modern navigation equipment.

Yet early Europeans exploring the Pacific found island after island full of people who shared similar customs and beliefs despite their far-flung distribution. They told tales of epic voyages of discovery and colonization, undertaken in ocean-going canoes, robust enough to make the trip but fragile enough to make some Western scholars doubt they could have made the crossing, preferring instead a narrative of accident and drift.

Who the Polynesians were, where they came from, and how they navigated such formidable seas has puzzled explorers, missionaries, anthropologists, and archaeologists for centuries…

A conversation with Harvard Review editor Christina Thompson, author of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia, in which she examines what’s known about what might be humanity’s most epic migration, and what questions remain: “The history and mystery of Polynesian navigation.”

[Image above: source]

* Thor Heyerdahl (who had a hand in unraveling [some of] the secrets of ancient Polynesian navigation)

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As we find our way, we might recall that it was on this date in 1606 that James I of England established the Virginia Company of London by royal charter with the purpose of establishing colonial settlements in North America.  Several months later, on Dec 20, the Company loaded three ships with settlers, who set sail to establish Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.  As this was the UK’s first colony, that day can be considered the birthday of the British Empire.

A rendering of the initial settlement/fort at Jamestown, c. 1607

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“Study the past if you would define the future”*…

 

Six Degrees of Francis Bacon (SDFB) is a digital reconstruction of the early modern social network that scholars and students from all over the world will be able to collaboratively expand, revise, curate, and critique. Historians and literary critics have long studied the way that early modern people associated with each other and participated in various kinds of formal and informal groups. By data-mining existing scholarship that describes relationships between early modern persons, documents, and institutions, we have created a unified, systematized representation of the way people in early modern England were connected…

Follow the connections at Six Degrees of Francis Bacon.

* Confucius

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As we marvel at the interconnectedness of it all, we might recall that it was on this date in 1606 that The Virginia Company loaded three ships with settlers, who set sail to establish Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.  As this was the UK’s first colony, today can be considered the birthday of the British Empire.

A rendering of the initial settlement/fort at Jamestown, c. 1607

source

 

Written by LW

December 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“A dull, decent people, cherishing and fortifying their dullness behind a quarter of a million bayonets”*…

 

BritEmpGlobe

On the heels of the Scottish Referendum, a meditation on the scope of the U.K…

Mitch Fraas, curator at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Special Collections, recently sent me this image and GIF of a moveable toy distributed by the Children’s Encyclopedia in Britain in the early twentieth century. The toy, which doubles as an ad for the encyclopedia, takes the old saying “The sun never sets on the British empire” and represents it physically, through the medium of a spinning wheel.

The Children’s Encyclopedia, one of the first such projects directed exclusively at young people, was first sold in Britain as a serial in 1908. The illustrated Encyclopedia addressed a grab-bag of subjects, structured not alphabetically but thematically, with each volume holding information on nineteen different topics (animals, history, literature, geography, the Bible). Like the text on this movable map, the overwhelming tone of the Encyclopedia was optimistic and patriotic, with the United Kingdom’s achievements in science, literature, and war always emphasized.

The Encyclopedia was republished in the United States as The Book of Knowledge,where (its publisher claimed) it sold three and half million sets between 1910 and 1945. Here’s a poem by Howard Nemerov about his childhood experience reading the project’s American edition, which he describes as “The vast pudding of knowledge,/With poetry rare as raisins scattered through/The twelve gold-lettered volumes black and green”…

 

More at the invaluable Rebecca Onion’s “‘The Sun Never Sets Upon the British Empire,’ Explained in GIF by an Old Children’s Toy.”

* George Orwell’s harsh judgement of British imperialism, in Burmese Days

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As we break for a cup of tea, we might recall that it was on this date in 1779 that John Paul Jones, a Scottish sailor who’d immigrated to America and was fighting for the Colonies in the Revolutionary War, became the first American naval hero when he won a hard-fought engagement against the British ships-of-war Serapis and Countess of Scarborough off the east coast of England.  Though Jones went on to serve in the Imperial Russian Navy, he is often called the “Father of the United States Navy” (an honorific he shares with John Barry).

A 1781 painting of John Paul Jones by Charles Willson Peale.

 source

 

Fractured Fractals…

From the art and design blog Colossal:

Artist Sagaki Keita was born in 1984 and lives and works in Tokyo. His densely composited pen and ink illustrations contain thousands of whimsical characters that are drawn almost completely improvised. I am dumbstruck looking at these and love the wacky juxtaposition of fine art and notebook doodles. See more of his work here, and be sure to click the images above for more detail.

Indeed…

More, at Keita’s site

As we search for ever-finer nibs, we might recall that it was on this date in 1945 that Britain observed its first British Empire Day, celebrating the colonial reach achieved from the first Irish “plantations” in the 16th century through the 19th century– a reach that, by the outbreak of World War II, encompassed a quarter of the world’s population and almost a quarter of the world’s land mass.

But of course World War II, and the new global regime that it spawned, spelled the end of empire.  While 14 “overseas territories” remain under British dominion, colonization effectively ended with the hand-over of Hong Kong to China in 1997.  Indeed the process of decolonization was sufficiently advanced by 1958 that– on this date that year– the name of the holiday was changed to “British Commonwealth Day.”

The British Empire, with British Overseas Territories underlined in red (source and larger version)

Imperial dreams…

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

– “Ozymandias”  Percy Bysshe Shelly (1818)

The Roman Empire encircled the Mediterranean:

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The Mongol Empire once stretched from the Pacific to the Danube:

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More recently, the Ottoman Empire was almost as large:

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While the British Empire was the most widely dispersed:

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As we remark with Shelley that empires come and empires go, we might recall that it was on this date in 1781 that the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were finally ratified, and the Second Continental Congress became the Congress of the Confederation of the United States of America.

The Articles of Confederation

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