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Interesting reading
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In The Prime
In The Prime

Joined: Sep 15, 2016
Posts: 350

Location: UK p/t + Bg p/t; Bg f/t in 09/17

PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:52 pm 
Post subject:
Reply with quote

Thanks for the PM Seedy, I'll respond in due course Wink

As to my bathtime burbling, it's been a while, but travel has adversely impacted my schedule, and having opted for a 'healthy' alcohol free month, I do believe it's decomposing my prose! Meanwhile the evenings are drawing in, as the earth migrates through the ecliptic and brings the hurricane season to an eventful conclusion in the Gulf, whilst leaving Southern US states, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rica in a real mess! A month on, Puerto Ricans are feeling decidedly 'undervalued' as US citizens!

It was thirty years to the day, from the 1987 storm devastation across Southern England (removing half my bl**dy roof with it - replacement 'Kent Peg' roof tiles were as rare as 'rocking horse sh*t' that year), that Ireland and Scotland were battered by storm 'Ophelia'. At the start of this week much of the country also witnessed an incredible red sky created by Saharan desert dust and smoke particles from Iberian wildfires, lofted high and swept North by the strong winds of 'Ophelia'. It is perhaps a metaphor for the government unrest too, stirred by the hardball Brexit tactics being applied in Brussels, the UK domestic scene is unsettled as is the market, and in consequence the value of Sterling continues to suffer!

I'm going to poach a few of John Hobson's sentiments from 1902, as they mirror my own with these thread contributions - 'Those readers who hold that a well-balanced judgment consists in always finding as much in favour of any political course as against it will be discontented with the treatment given here. For the study is distinctively one of social pathology, and no endeavour is made to disguise the malignity of the disease.' As to the sub text of this 'Interesting Reading' thread on InBg, the 'nationalist discourse' is one of the mainstream approaches in present day Bulgaria; emphasis is placed on the decreasing proportion of ethnic Bulgarians and the growth of the ethnic minorities, especially Roma. It's recognisable in both left wing and nationalist party political programmes, and discoverable in governmental documents at both national, as well as regional levels. It's widely spread through mass media and voiced by renowned intellectuals, policy experts, scholars and media celebrities.

These nationalistically oriented advocates articulate current concerns regarding the declining birthrates and declining population in the country. The demographic situation has been described as a 'Bulgarian national catastrophe' and 'Bulgaria’s collapse'. I hope these contributions may offer some useful observations through historical analysis of the geopolitical influences on the Balkan region, and socio-demographic factors that moulded Bulgaria's past, and of those most likely to impact its future. We are moving slowly to the present state of Bg affairs, but I just wanted to pause before Kipling came on the scene, as the roots of modern Bulgaria sought traction in European soil through the terrestrial quaking of empires.

The Russian Emperor Pavel I sought a political course to resolve matters with France; in March 1800 Alexander Suvorov his most successful general suspended hostilities against the French Empire, just 2 months before his own death. Paris was quick to respond positively to the move by agreeing a prisoner exchange. In October 1800 Pavel I initiated the note of 'Rostopchin' (Count Rostopchin was the Tsar's Foreign Minister); it stipulated five conditions to confirm ties between Russia and France. Napoleon didn't hesitate in signing the document, as he believed it would significantly stabilise affairs between the two countries (before Pavel I got himself assassinated of course).

I previously referred to 'my enemy's friend's enemy is my friend, at least for now'! It related to Britain's primary foe at that point being France, which then became 'friendly' with Russia. The further actions of the French Army in the Levant after Napoleon returned to France, had effectively breached the alliance they'd previously observed with the Ottomans (who then switched sides). As previously mentioned, Napoleon effectively sidelined the Ottomans when he launched his Egyptian campaign at the end of the 18th Century, but later the already sick and rapidly decaying Ottoman Empire, opted to ally with Britain to save what was left of its grip in the Levant.

At the beginning of the 19th Century the early seeds of modern Bulgaria's relatively short phase of self determination were also being sewn. Amongst modern day Bulgarians, certainly those born before 1984, learned from their Soviet approved history books, that the Bulgarians fell completely under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in 1396. For many years before that, however, the Bg state had been divided in parts, ceasing to exist as a unified structure. Bg territories within the Ottoman Empire were completely deprived of any form of self-government, whilst administrative bodies at all levels were replaced by the authorities of the Ottoman Empire. Something that is also remembered from that era was the 'child tribute', when every fifth boy across the land, was taken for service into the Sultan's Janissary forces!

The end of the Napoleonic war brought a peace (of sorts) in Europe, but unemployment in Britain remained high. Thousands of British soldiers and sailors returned home to find alternate work, many were disappointed and became increasingly disillusioned. The Corn Laws were imposed in 1815 to keep bread prices high during the Napoleonic Wars; they clearly benefitted the rich landowners, whilst inflicting great hardship for much of the population and considerable resentment. The industrial revolution in Britain gathered pace after 1750 and had already created significant social change in terms of urbanisation. Literally millions had moved from the countryside to the towns, which were in no way adapted to cope with that human tide, so economic depression remained the most important factor motivating people to migrate even further.

Discontent over the Corn laws and other issues led to the emergence of movements such as the Radicals and Chartists who campaigned for universal male suffrage. The lure of cheap or even free land at times, attracted several migrants to Canada, whilst a myriad of emigration schemes encouraged many aspirant migrants to believe the difficulties of creating a life in a far distant part of the world were not insuperable. It should be noted, however, of all the migrants who emigrated during the 19th Century, about a half of them returned. For most migrants having arrived at their destination after a rough crossing to a colony or the US, it was just the beginning of a life fraught with difficulties. This government report from 1931 provides a very informative analysis of British emigration throughout the 19th Century.

Complacency weakened the Tories, as they became increasingly out of touch with the mood of the country; evidenced in part by their failure to repeal the Corn Laws. The government also enticed many soldiers who had been serving in Canada, whilst the US was technically at war with Britain until 1815, to remain in place as settlers instead of returning to England; subsequently arranging for their families to join them. Much like the Roman tactic of leaving retired Legionnaires in charge of outposts, this was a sly move by the government, anticipating further hostilities (at home and in Canada). It meant they not only boosted settler numbers in the colony, but the British government also felt they had the right skills and experience in place if things turned sour again!

After Napoleon was neutralised, significant numbers of military personnel having fought on land and sea returned post war after they'd seen a great deal more of the world than most of the British rural population of those times. Land workers were retained under almost 'feudal' systems, whilst many farm labourers were internally migrating to cities and towns to scrape a new living. The parallels of present day Service personnel who've served overseas on operations, certainly since the mid 90's have witnessed many brutal regimes and the instability of several nations torn apart through complex republics disintegrating (Tito's Former Yugoslavia), 'imperial' interventions in dictatorships (Iraq 1991+2003-? and Libya 2011-?), retaliation/punishment against exponents of asymmetric warfare in religious autocracies (Afghanistan 2001-?).

In recent years, many of those returning from military operations are somewhat cynical about the socio-economic complexities and theologico-political realities of those regions. They're also considerably wiser about the real protagonists of conflict; finance capital - the hungry beast that has to be fed. Whether that's the UK Defence industry or other logistics supply chains, the stability of natural resource acquisitions, it's still a financial investment. As with any country encountering domestic political unrest, especially at a time of great social change and in the absence of a common enemy or external threat, it can prompt unintended outcomes if harshly suppressed.

Without an external aggressor, there's little chance to engage peoples patriotism for distraction (Putin's favourite gambit); the population had no one to blame for their hardship other than the corrupt 'democracy', resulting in a 'no confidence' vote for the status quo. We are talking here about Britain in the 19th Century, but we could equally consider Bg in the current age. In much the same way that 'Punch Magazine' became famous for its satirical cartoons, lampooning political figures or their policies, and Charlie Hebdo's demise in Paris came at the personal cost of deriding extremists, radical views challenge politics of all hues (and always should). The satirist William Hone attacked the authoritian nature of the British government; he wrote a radical pamphlet - 'Political House That Jack Built' (1819), which was illustrated by the caricaturist George Cruikshank.

Hone and Cruikshank’s 'A Slap At Slop', was a short news sheet published in 1821 that parodied the work of John Stoddard, who published - 'The Times' and 'The New Times' newspapers. Their work lampooned Stoddard’s bombastic style across several topical subjects. It neatly summed up the reformers’ grievances in a typically irreverent manner, and was published in the year of the Peterloo Massacre and the legislation known as the Six Acts. The latter made mass meetings illegal, and toughened laws against seditious publications. Hones made clever use of a well known nursery rhyme to make his serious message widely accessible. Radical propaganda of the time often veering between respectability and audacious humour; it was quite difficult to prosecute authors of these type of humorous gybes at the political elite without making the government a laughing stock.

These journalists and cartoonists were not alone! Percy Bysshe Shelley is now widely regarded, as one of the most accomplished of the Romantic poets in Britain; famously he was one of a loose grouping of second generation Romantic poets, which includes Byron and Keats amongst others. These literary giants followed in the wake of earlier Romantics like Wordsworth, Southey and Coleridge (a personal favourite of mine), but Shelley became a notable figure in the history of English radicalism. Certainly a revolutionary writer and activist, who contributed to radical literature as poet, playwright and political pamphleteer, in struggles for equality and social justice. His response to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 was - ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ concludes with these lines:

'Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you –
Ye are many – they are few.’

Shelley's lengthy poem comprised a ferociously passionate attack on the British ruling class and the system they perpetuated. Shelley's ideas provided a bridge between the generation of the French Revolution and later, the Utopian Socialists, Chartists and early Marxists. Shelley’s most politically engaged writings expressed great social themes and a yearning for a better world, characterised by economic, social and gender equality, expressed with emotional force as well as political clarity. At the time of the tragic events in St Peter’s Fields in Manchester, he was actually living in Italy, but had heard of the attack on demonstrators for democratic reform resulting in eleven people killed and hundreds injured.

On any social scale, it would be judged that Shelley came from a privileged background. Born into a wealthy landowner's family, he was educated at Eton and earned the nickname of 'Mad Shelley', whilst disagreeing with the politics of his family, and questioning the values with which he was raised. Their impact on Shelley, a profoundly political creature even from a young age, was taken seriously and this created a major rift with his father. This was exacerbated when the young Shelley and a fellow undergraduate at Oxford University created a scandal by co-writing a paper entitled ‘The Necessity of Atheism’. Its publication resulted in him being 'sent down' from Oxford University, but it also marked the development of his increasingly coherent, anti-systemic set of political ideas.

Shelley travelled widely after this, often moving home and frequently just a step ahead of his creditors! This offered him an experience of the world and interaction with people from very diverse backgrounds to those of his own, including people at the forefront of political struggle against the British state, from Irish activists through to persecuted radical journalists. He supported revolutionary uprisings and national liberation movements abroad, especially in later years after he left England. He was supportive of new European liberation movements, for example in Spain and southern Italy and celebrated them with one of his later works - 'Odes to Liberty'.

The Greek war of independence was declared in 1821, but rapidly achieved a stalemate and dragged on several years before it succeeded, whilst Napoleon popped his clogs in the May and was interred in his first tomb on St Helena. It was the first real Balkan thrust for freedom against Ottoman oppression and Shelley's verse-drama 'Hellas' was prefaced - 'We are all Greeks'! Through this work he sought to spur a generation of young men from across Europe, to support the independence of Greece. Some will reflect on the Charlie Hebdo attack i.e. the - 'Je suis Charlie' concept of unity and community resistance (to terrorism)!

At a time when few had a right to vote, Shelley polemicised and campaigned for parliamentary reform in Britain. Importantly, sought a free press, rights to assembly and protest, and civil liberties. These rights and reforms were all viewed as a means to an end, enabling working people to shift the balance of wealth and power in British society. The wider social and political context – the legacy of the French Revolution, women’s subjugation, the turbulent politics of Ireland, social unrest, the war with France – are all threads woven into his life story. He married twice, but was first widowed and I'll revert back to his second marriage with Mary Shelley later, including the influence that her parents had on Percy's writing.

Life was short and eventful for Shelley, but he left a powerful legacy. Drowning at sea in a sailing accident in 1822 aged just 29, he certainly did not 'go gentle into that good night*'! As a non-swimmer his first self taught lesson proved unsuccessful, and the book of Keats poetry in his pocket failed its buoyancy test! He was an experienced yachtsman on rivers and tidal estuaries, but less familiar with the seasonal storms along the Italian coast, and he was certainly no shipwright. His ketch (similar to a Drascombe Longboat) was open decked and had been extensively modified; it carried too much sail and owing to excess ballast had too little freeboard. His body later washed up on the seashore for a beach BBQ style funeral pyre; the ashes were buried in Italy, as were the bodies of Keats the year before and Byron's in the following year.
*Yes I know it's Tennyson, but any po(e/r)t in a storm!

Indeed, much of Shelley’s more overtly political verse has been deployed as rhetorical weaponry in working class and progressive struggles. Used by the Chartists and striking New York garment factory workers in 1909 who were mostly young immigrant women seeking better pay and conditions; the Suffragette movement also employed public readings of his work before and during WWI. Shelley's material even surfaced in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, as with Poll Tax campaigners use of the line ‘We are many, they are few’ as their slogan! More recently it found a different voice in 2011 through protesters in Tahrir Square. I'd also argue that the tenet of Shelley's writing resonated amongst those early social movements, in a similar manner to the effect of social media with Twitter '#tags' and viral messaging in the present day; these equate to virtual public gatherings and the associated pressure on governments.

The working class consciousness of the early 19th Century was effectively stimulated, not just the small proportion of the populous that was literate and able to directly interpret his material, but through its widespread public recitations, Shelley's work was shared and committed to memory by a large swathe of the population. It was also written by a committed rebel with a cause against his own social class, that was not borne of prejudice. It resurfaced again on the stage at Glastonbury festival in June, when quoted by the former backbench rebel with a clause - Corbyn!

Karl Marx later termed this 'self-emancipation' of the early 19th Century, when people took action for themselves through collective resistance, not relying on well meaning middle class reformers. This was at a time when workers’ strikes were an increasingly important strategy for the early trade union movement; an era of Luddite destruction of machinery and large demonstrations for democracy. Factory processes changed the textile industry enormously and replaced many of the croft and cottage industry practices with their labour intensive skilled crafts. Industrialisation also spawned a growing middle class of businessmen and entrepreneurs, together with the internal migration resulting in a huge influx of working class people into the towns and cities.

Production of iron and coal increased dramatically, enabling steam power and mechanisation to thrive, whilst the social and economic pattern of Britain was rapidly changing. Transport infrastructure increased freight and passenger movement around the country, developing at an incredible rate during the 19th Century. There was a 'lag time' of approximately twenty years before other European countries caught up with the industrial advances in the UK; obviously the US not only caught up, but was steadily overtaking most other nations by the beginning of the 20th Century.

Whilst the metropolitan centres swelled at the expense of rural areas in England, the organisation of political representation was much slower to change. Many amongst the growing business and trade classes felt their efforts were making Britain rich, but were under represented in the towns and cities in which they lived; they had no electoral vote. Gradually, the working class became more politically aware, particularly after the growth of trade unions, the spread of newspapers and improved education. The government was still run by the upper class, elected by a privileged male minority; MPs were not paid, and in addition had to have significant property ownership to meet the criteria for a pursuing a Parliamentary seat.

From a faith perspective, MPs could not be Catholic (until 1829) or Jewish, and as to gender - obviously not female (MPs were acutely aware that the female vote would represent more than 50% of the electorate). The LGBT community were also unrepresented, in fact gay men were still being executed or transported. Fortunately Turing only grew boobs, whilst his nuts shrunk; nevertheless the chemical castration with Oestrogen drastically lowered his Testosterone levels (required for much more than sexual pleasure) and wrecked the mind of genius, such an awful bloody waste! Personally, I believe THAT was a real warcrime, and the Home Minister of the day should have been strung up by his own g**lies! A Royal pardon 61 years later just doesn't quite cut it for me!

The business fraternity believed that the upper class, based on land ownership, should not have all the political power and it should be shared with the growing middle classes; of course the middle classes weren't keen on their wives or workers having those same rights! Indeed, the whole political system was utterly corrupt, yet directing the creation and/or conquest of more territory for Empire every day! There were only two parties of that era, Whigs (Liberals) or Tories (C..'s as they are now). Neither Whigs nor Tories, were enthusiastic about reform; their main argument was that the ‘illiterate’ lower classes had neither the wit nor the education to understand the complexities of politics!

I referred in my last post to the purchased commissions that swiftly elevated Wellesley to his lofty military heights (and will refer again to this issue in Crimea), but the 'hero' of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington later became the Tory PM from 1827 - 1830. He'd once referred to the massed ranks of his army as ‘the scum of the earth’. As an MP he subsequently stated in Parliamentary speeches - ‘he had never read or heard of any measure which could satisfy in his mind that the state of the representation could be improved’. Rioting broke out once again in the countryside with the 'Captain Swing Riots'. The Tory's were split over the issue of reform and Wellington resigned.

Any attempts to pass reform bills through Parliament were almost certainly doomed, if not in the HoC, then by the House of Lords. The unelected upper house was filled predominantly with Tory peers (no Dames or Peeresses allowed a seat back then of course) and could veto any parliamentary bill it chose (not radically changed until Bliar's time). Crucially there was an uneven distribution of Parliamentary seats, with only the counties (rural constituencies) represented or Royal Boroughs - towns granted the King’s Charter. The problem of ‘Rotten Boroughs’ as they were commonly known, illustrates how ridiculous the system could be, for example the constituency of ‘Old Sarum’ returned two MPs to the Commons, but like many Bulgarian villages, it had virtually no population.

Another constituency - 'Dunwich', due to the effects of coastal erosion had actually fallen into the sea, but it was still represented by two MP’s in the Commons! One MP starting his parliamentary career in that briny constituency, was William Peel. Meanwhile, the growing industrial cities of Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow had no representation whatsoever! Local landowners often controlled the entire constituency of the notorious ‘pocket boroughs’; through a combination of bribery and intimidation, voters were ‘persuaded’ to support the landowner or his nominated candidate. Bribery and corruption was rife, almost an accepted part of the political system; MP’s thought nothing of spending £K's in bribing the electorate.

Turning to modern day Bulgaria, how does this mirror certain areas of the country? In particular, the purchase of votes amongst the Roma population who have little invested in the existing political system nor the democratic system that has often failed them! Just a thought here - the British parliamentary system had been in place for nearly 500 years at that point, so why is the West so derogatory about African, Asian and South American democracies that are dysfunctional due to similar problems, when most have only been in place 50-70 years? Bulgaria has even less independent democratic experience than many African or Asian countries, and this is also a key factor for its future governance.

In the majority of the British constituencies, elections were never contested and even when they were, the practice of ‘open voting’ did little to ensure a fair outcome! In truth, what happened over the next century was quite remarkable, but it was too little democratic progress and far too slow for the needs of the nation as Empire mushroomed. Unfortunately, the 'knock on' effects were exceedingly predictable. It's for certain the world of the 'haves', which included the aristocracy and wealthy land owners, directly influenced or maintained control of political power, as opposed to the 'have nots', which was every other bugger and his family!

These 'have nots' were also the taxpayers supporting the public coffers to fund the escapades of British military forces overseas; this was more sharply defined and resisted over the next few decades. The Whig leader, Earl Grey, formed another government, whilst his new reform Bill was aimed more at political survival than a genuine desire to improve the status of the middle and lower classes. Grey was keen to ‘buy off’ the middle class by granting them the vote, but he had no interest in real democracy for the nation; it was nevertheless a dangerous policy. The reform Bill was introduced to the Commons by a prominent Whig Minister (and later PM) Lord John Russell in March 1831. With Tories strongly opposed, the result was a heated debate in the Commons, but the Bill still fell at the first Committee Stage.

The Whigs called another General Election increasing their majority to 130 (a more successful outcome than Theresa May's recent gamble), but the Tory dominated House of Lords rejected the Bill twice more. Earl Grey resigned, which provoked rioting and damage to public property across the country, however, the solution was for Grey to persuade King William IV to create 50 new Whig Peers in the HoL. This enabled the Bill to pass, but it illustrates the upper house was a dangerous chess piece (and is still a vulnerable legacy), but the Tories had to accept defeat and in June 1832 the Bill became law. Importantly it was the beginning of the end for landowners’ domination of Parliament; the middle class would become increasingly important. Landowners still held significant power, because the act failed to abolish pocket boroughs, bribery and corruption continued. In reality, the Great Reform Act of 1832 only levelled a small section of the warped and heavily mined field of democracy, but this small step was essential to address further suffrage (further reform acts would rectify this).

Faced with this pressure, parliament had little option but to take steps that led to the slow growth of real, rather than imagined democracy in the country. The US adage of 'No taxation, without representation', is equally applicable here! Meanwhile in Britain, events combined to create a 'push effect' in the first half of the 19th Century, such as the industrial processes increasing productivity, whilst driving down wages. With the workhouse system in operation from 1834, workers had little option but to accept low wages. Whilst the middle class were now able to vote, the working class were hugely dissatisfied and felt they'd been betrayed. Discontent over the 1832 Act led to the growth of the Chartist movement, with its six key demands, which remained unfulfilled for the next 80+ years!

The numbers emigrating, continued to climb with 100K leaving Britain in 1832, whilst poverty and starvation didn't only affect Ireland. Potato famine during the 1840’s in SW England, together with the high price of corn exacerbated the problem. The repeal of the Corn Laws came far too late for many. Along with other 'push' factors, from just one English county 250K Cornish people emigrated between 1815 and 1914. Some of the 'pull' factors in the US and the colonies drew on a skilled labour force that was needed for these emerging markets. Migrants to Australia during the 19th Century were helped by the 'Colonial Land and Emigration Commission', founded in 1840 to help organise the passage and settlement of migrants in Australia. As well as the state, there were many private companies established to organise emigration, including the 'Canada Company', the 'British America Company' and the 'New Zealand Company'.

Most of these companies purchased land cheaply, gained land grants or acquired investment. Many migrants were lured by shipping companies advertising faraway places in an enticing manner aimed at those suffering economic depression in the grime of Britain's industrial cities (of course social media now provides real time advice and guidance for the millions in MENA who seek an opportunity to escape poverty, unrest or harm, in order to better themselves and their families). Although a number of these companies offered subsidised travel at times, and cheap land on occasion, migration was still not cheap. By the middle of the 19th Century the cost of an Atlantic crossing for a family was approximately £3-4; this was the total content of an annual pay packet for many British families in that time!

Migrants were predominantly young males and often reliant on their families for financial assistance to fund their passage. Families would scrape the funds together in order to send one member out to a colony or to the US. Often this would be the eldest son or the father if he had a trade, who would then establish himself and having raised the funds could send for the rest of their family (no difference to the modern day there then). Friends also played a part in contributing funds, sometimes in joint business ventures. There were also a variety of schemes supporting migration to the colonies, some were led by local communities; there were central government schemes, whilst others were organised by churches or the Salvation Army. The schemes later in the century effectively 'deporting' children from socially deprived areas and from orphanages like Barnardos resulted in very questionable forced migration practices! Child labour was common in the industrial cities of that time, but many lived in difficult circumstances.

The implementation of the ideas of Adam Smith as laid out in his book - 'The Wealth of Nations' persuaded politicians and industrialists of the 1840s to dismantle the remaining laws regarding mercantilism and embrace free trade. Advances in science and technology were a obviously 'plus' too, for example agricultural techniques were improved, like the Norfolk four-course rotation system. Other changes in land use, including a reduction in the amount of arable farmland, turning it over to pasture, meant less land workers were required, whilst the selective breeding of livestock improved dairy, poultry and meat outputs to the benefit of the nation (at least those that could afford them). The ideology of free trade adopted by 1850 was also an important factor in the second half of the 19th Century. In the 1850s, the political system of Britain came under increasing pressure as a consequence of these significant social and economic changes.

In the early days of settlement in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand there were local people who resisted white settlement, so one's 'new' home and land had to be defended; migrants needed to be self reliant and resilient. In Australia and other colonies of white settlers, they were influenced greatly by the process of settlement, as they adapted to the conditions and gradually acquired a character of their own. Meanwhile the indigenous peoples of different continents saw their land and culture taken away from them, and an alien way of life and laws associated with a completely new culture, presenting itself or being imposed on them in some cases (viz arranged marriages, Islamic finance, dowry, Sharia law, 'bushmeat' markets, FGM?).

Sometimes laws are created to exert a moral code, maybe to solve a problem and on occasion to help the powerful consolidate their power. These motivations can all be found in the laws that resulted in adults and children being transported. Following the social unrest in the first half of the 19th Century, some of those that survived the ‘Battle of Bonnymuir’ in 1820 had been 'transported' to Australia, just as many other British subjects were, including 162K convicts between 1787 and 1868. More than 80K convicts and over 1000 exiles, were transported to Moreton Bay in New South Wales.

By today's standards, many convicts had only committed trivial offences and in the case of political crimes, had in fact just exhibited a social conscience. Many of the most committed rebels, radicals and protesters in pursuit of free speech and suffrage were deprived of their own homeland in Britain. Having been transported to Australia, laws were even more strict; authorities were given free rein to make anything they wanted to be a criminal offence. Consequently, it was against the law to be pregnant, rude, disrespectful or even have their hands in their pockets. Approximately 3600 men, women and children were transported as political prisoners to the Empire's own 'Guantanamo Bay(s)' - actually we had several of these, more akin to 'Gulags'!

However, the morality of a 'civilised' state (just 5 generations ago) that could sentence a ten year old girl to death for the theft of a frock is totally inconceivable from the perspective of present day society. Even commuting Mary Wade's sentence to transportation to Australia is still unconscionable, especially as the stay of her execution came after several months rotting in a prison cell, and removal from death row was only on the whim of a Royal decree to celebrate King George III recovering from his first bout of madness! Mary was born 240 years ago this month, becoming a mum to 21 kids and delivered her first sprog at age 14, although few survived in a convict colony plagued by sickness, starvation and thirst. She was one tough kid though, surviving to age 82 and with 300 living relatives at the time of her death! Her descendants now number in the tens of thousands; they include former Australian PM Kevin Rudd who I've mentioned in previous posts in regard to the indigenous population.

Amongst many of those transported, there was certainly a sense of illegitimacy about whether the punishment fitted their 'crime', but I was most amused to learn of the 'Flash Mob', although I've never known such a 'booty' display being used in recent times to join a spouse overseas.

Apart from 'mooning' on the odd festive occasion in my youth, I've witnessed the 'dance of the flaming a*****es' on several occasions, including a memorable event hosted by FFL 2e REP in Corsica, following a joint airborne exercise in 1976. It was a riotous evening and involved my CO and a much celebrated French Legionnaire officer. Most will recall that just as USA was celebrating its bicentennial in July 1976, the Jewish hostages and Air France crew members taken by Palestinian and German terrorists, were returning home after a daring rescue from the airport at Entebbe in Idi Amin's Uganda. It was executed by Sayeret Matkal commandos of the Israeli Defence Force, led by Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu, the only IDF casualty and older brother of the current Israeli PM of Israel - Binyamin Netanyahu. Uganda being another casualty of collapsing empires and conflict over borders, resources and religion instigated in the 19th Century. I'll leave the Palestinian issue for now, except to mention the 48K of the 50K Bg Jews allegedly saved from the Nazis, who emigrated there after WW2!

The 'Raid on Entebbe' involved three future Israeli PMs, and rather overshadowed Captain Soubirou's lesser publicised achievement 5 months earlier in February 1976, when he led his company from 2e REP (along with other GIGN specialists) in the successful rescue of 30 French children and two civilians being held hostage on their school bus, at the Somali border post of Loyada. One 5 year old girl was killed during the rescue itself and five others wounded, including two seriously; sadly one of those later died of her wounds a few days in a Paris hospital. The children's parents were French military personnel serving in Djibouti, then known as the French Territory of Afars and Issas (TFAI) and formerly called French Somaliland (until 1967). The issue stemmed in part from Britain, France and Italy dividing up their 'Imperial cake' across a 'clan based' territory. They then left the debris of their crumbling empires at various times; already compounded by the Cold War's destabilising effects, together with climatic changes, and adverse consequences of international commercial fishing since the 1970's. It was 24 years ago this month that Somalia drew first blood on President Clinton with the 'Black Hawk Down' saga in Mogadishu, a bitter first taste of 'clan based' conflict for the US, but the huge bomb blast this week, with significant loss of life in the city is just another legacy of failed Empires screwing up! Who on earth believes the ethnic, tribal or religious factions just popped to the supermarket to get their AK's or any other weaponry?
Quirky link, but some very good points from the other side of the fence:

Just two years later, the airborne 'Operation Bonite' was launched by the FFL in May 1978, rescuing 2100+ European hostages (mostly French and Belgian) taken by the Katangese rebels known as 'Tigers', part of the Congolese National Liberation Front (FNLC) in the city of Kolwezi. It was an important mining centre in the Katanga (then known as Shaba) a province of southern Zaire in Central Africa (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, originally exploited by our man Stanley for the Belgians). This'Battle of Kolwezi' was successfully conducted by legionnaires from 2e REP with more than 2,100 European hostages rescued. Nearly 160 Europeans and 600 local inhabitants were massacred by rebels, 247 rebels were killed and 163 captured. The FFL losses included 5 legionnaires killed and 25 injured.

'Dr Livingstone, I presume'? As some will recall from their history lessons, these were allegedly the first words spoken by Sir Henry Morton Stanley MP on finding the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone in the Congo. Stanley was actually born and raised in a Welsh workhouse as 'John Rowland', later emigrating to the US and fighting on the side of both the Confederacy and the Union Army during the Civil War. Later, as a journalist for the New York Herald he was dispatched in 1869 to find Livingstone, who was reported 'lost', whilst searching for the source of the Nile. Eventually he found him in November 1871 at Lake Tanganyika. Stanley's career followed in the footsteps of Livingstone, but his copybook was somewhat blotted by selling out to the Belgians, despite the end of British slavery in 1807. He became embroiled in rather unsavoury affairs for King Leopold II. It is through that contract for the Belgians that the present day conflict in the hot zone of the African Congo was first ignited. Of course, Stanley was later knighted and served as a British MP for 5 years, with a blind eye turned to his earlier misdemeanours with a competing Empire! He was also a fellow 'Fellow' of the RGS, nonetheless - 'Another fine mess you got us into Stanley'!

The repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 had begun to turn Britain into a free trade nation; by encouraging other nations to turn to free trade, Britain was attempting to increase her own wealth. India, seen as the 'the jewel in the crown', was also the stopping-off place to Singapore, the tin and rubber of Malaya, the recently opened markets of China, and the rich dominions of Australia and New Zealand. The empire was like a woven garment which stopped British capitalism catching a cold. In this analogy, a single thread might seem of little importance, but if it snapped the fabric would start unravelling. At least that was how those who ran the empire saw matters, their business colleagues in the City of London and their friends in British industry were rather less sanguine.

In 1848 several Revolutions had changed Europe, in Paris, Frankfurt, Budapest and Naples liberal protesters rose up against the conservative establishment. Food shortages of preceding years, high unemployment and rising prices all sparked liberal revolts. These revolutions were a 'turning point in modern history that modern history failed to turn'. Whilst each one was an utter failure', minor reforms emerged in the German provinces and Prussia, but the conservative regimes that ran Europe remained. In 1852 Palmerston was appointed as Home Secretary in Aberdeen's government; Aberdeen hated war, and disliked Palmerston intensely.

Lord John Russell was British Foreign Secretary, but he was weak and this was at a time when strained international relations were being dealt with by new men in a coalition government riven with instability and indecision (no change there then in 165 years). Standards of diplomacy had held firm since 1815, but Metternich had been forced to flee from Vienna and Palmerston had left office when Russell's ministry fell, so they ceased to be powerful forces in foreign affairs. New players had assumed office in most European nations, and they were not dealing with old problems in the same way as their predecessors.

It should be noted that significant foreign affairs 'staffers' within the State Department of Trump's administration have belatedly been appointed to empty desks; previous Obama appointees and associated teams having vacated them months ago, which means formal handovers have not occurred. It also means a lot of corporate knowledge within foreign affairs has been lost, and crucially the relationships with relevant overseas diplomats have broken down and take time to restore.

Back to empire, love them or loathe them, colonies offered the capitalists of the respective colonial powers, suitably protected outlets for investment. They also provided military bases to protect routes to investment elsewhere. In Britain's case its possessions, such as Malta, Cyprus, Egypt, South Yemen and the Cape were important not just as sources of profit in their own right, but as stopping off places to India. By the 1838 'Convention of Balta Liman' Britain had also won widespread concessions from the Ottomans, including special rates on most of the raw materials sold to Britain, and a host of benefits, grants and acknowledgements that gave Britain a very privileged position. As always, the 'Rich got Richer', whilst the poor prepared for war!

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In The Prime
In The Prime

Joined: Sep 15, 2016
Posts: 350

Location: UK p/t + Bg p/t; Bg f/t in 09/17

PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:10 am 
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OK it was a long intermission, but overseas errands got in the way!

My last meander explored some of the fledgling suffrage issues in Britain, as the leaders of 'their' / 'our' (hardly interchangeable for the unrepresented) Empire, contemplated its future in the middle of the 19th Century. It is for certain that by the 1850's Britain had begun to move in the right direction in terms of the improvement of its democratic processes, but Parliament and the people it was constituted to represent still had a long and bumpy journey ahead? Britain's democratic journey had been underway for several centuries by that stage, but still required considerable development to achieve full maturity - it's not quite there!

A well respected research body reported at the beginning of this year, that there is democratic backsliding throughout Eastern Europe and 'a mood of deep popular disappointment with democracy'. Earlier reports had warned that the 08/09 economic crisis had a disproportionately negative impact on Eastern Europe compared to other emerging markets. Notably, the claim was it had 'reinforced an existing mood of disappointment with the experience and results of the transition to democracy and market economies', whilst giving root to the rise of populism. The view of the researchers was that this shouldn't be narrowed down to pure economic matters, but considered as 'a much broader moral, social and cultural challenge to the old established parties'. In the case of Bulgaria this amounted to a 'semi-consolidated democracy', but its 'democratic score' was the lowest in the EU and an indicator of regression or 'backsliding'.

This 'democratic backsliding' is not just the 45% of the expert view, it involves 61% of the students canvassed who believe that the quality of democracy has worsened in recent years. On the flip side, only 25% of experts and 18% of the students consider there has been positive development since 2015. Modern day Bulgarians are among the 'not contents, just as the British people were dissatisfied with the limited changes made in the 1832 Reform Act, the pressure was on the government to continue the movement in the direction of full suffrage. The 'little people' demanded more influence of Parliamentary decision making, an improvement of governance, through more dēmos (the people) gaining, and the privileged few lessening their kratia (power, rule).

Although it was first used in 1603 and later constituted in 1707 with the 'Act of Union' (a rather unfaithful marriage of inconvenience resulting in frequent domestic violence and misogyny on the part of big brother), the initial use of 'Great Britain' as a proper noun ignores Ptolemy's original adjectival reference to 'megale' Britannia around 143 AD, which differentiated the 'larger' land mass from the smaller one of Ireland. A question therefore arises, as the majority of UK citizens have bugger all idea of what 'GB' actually means! Beyond Ptolemy's physical descriptor, could the adjectival reference of 'great' (in the sense of 'ability', 'quality', or 'eminence', considerably 'above average') ever apply to our nation and if so, how was that judgement made? A supplementary would query, at what point in the nation's history was that judgement valid? Commonly referred to as 'those British b******s' by its friends, probably more accurate and insightful pejorative epithets are applied by its many enemies. It was however, crucially poised at a decidedly undemocratic juncture in its development by the 1850s, a 'point of no return' had been reached! The first Victoria Cross was soon to be awarded in the Crimean War, and the consequences of that conflict would be a turning point of Imperial design in the British psyche.

Mindful of yesterday's 'Remembrance Day' event at the Cenotaph and the rapidly thinning ranks of WW2 veterans, my analogy to the position the British government found itself in during the 1850's, reflects the situation ferry pilots employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway Air Services Department (on behalf of the British Ministry of Aircraft Production) found themselves early in WW2, whilst delivering aircraft from Canada to Northern Ireland! On the night of 10 November 1940 the first 'airbridge' involved 7 Lockheed Hudson bombers* fitted with extra fuel tanks in the fuselage. They departed from Gander for an estimated maximum flight time of 13 hours to Aldergrove (*referred to as 'flying gas tanks' by their crews). This maiden delivery mission had only one navigator in the lead aircraft, whilst the other planes were meant to remain in visual contact. That flight plan went decidedly pear-shaped, as they were nearing their destination in bad weather three of the planes 'lost' contact, but all eventually landed safely.

The weather was the most dangerous variable en-route, whilst meteorology was still an emerging science (meteorological stations weren't established in Greenland or other transatlantic locations until 1941). Pilots had no forecasts available for conditions in the middle of the North Atlantic nor for their destination; updates for the latter could only be received by Morse code during the flight, before the 'point of no return' was reached. This occurred approximately 3 hours out from Gander, because the extra fuel tank fitted to the Hudsons had to be fully utilised early in the flight, and the weather conditions at their destination needed to be determined.

Of course GPS didn't exist in that time and neither did INMARSAT, weather radar or Radio Direction Finding (the Germans later used a form of this to bomb places like Coventry), nor was weather satellite imagery available. I mentioned the storm of 1987 in my last post, and many will recall Michael Fish and his memorable TV faux pas transmission to the nation. Forecasting was even more of a mystical wartime art, as General Eisenhower discovered on 3-5 June prior to the Normandy landings in 1944! Hudsons (like most WW2 aircraft types) had no de-icing equipment for the wings or control surfaces, no pressurised or heated cabins, so aircraft could not climb above the weather systems or afford the fuel to fly around them as they can nowadays, whilst reliance on star fixes for astro-navigation necessitated night flying across the North Atlantic in midwinter!

I've chosen this particular analogy, because a pilot's crucial decision to proceed at the 'point of no return' involved many 'known unknowns' and several 'unknown unknowns' (conscious incompetence + unconscious incompetence in educational lingo). The Pilot in Command (PIC) is just that, he has control over the power systems, control surfaces, communications and weapons; likewise in the 1850s the Cabinet is delegated the power of the Crown, through the control of various ministries and expenditure of treasury funds, the War Office directs the military and the ministerial interface with the Press provide news and / or propaganda. The PIC considerations to the safety of his crew (and later in WW2 - 'her crew' flying in the slipstream of Amelia Earhart), balanced against the significant value of each airframe being delivered intact to aid the war effort. Every one of the thousands of aircraft safely delivered, became a valuable resource to achieve the strategic objective of defeating the Axis Powers, thus preserving the sovereignty of the Allies nation state(s).

Flying such aircraft certainly required a coordinated team effort to survive the hostile weather environment, cope with the aircraft foibles and (in)capabilities, combat enemy dangers, but all this lacked any real suffrage, because aircraft aren't flown in a democratic fashion. Numerous aircraft and their crews were lost through fate in hitting a destructive storm cell, the fluke of a birdstrike or system failures due to electrical, hydraulic or mechanical breakdown; sometimes it was folly caused by human error! Most will know the old English proverb allegedly derived from Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth; revived by Shakespeare and later quoted by Benjamin Franklin; it concerned 'a nail'!

Variable weather systems likely to impact on aircrew success translates to the geopolitical frictions and fluxes faced by the British government of the 1850s. There were unrecognised (or unseen) storms already brewing in Prussia that would ultimately prove fateful, together with other areas of regional instability caused by a weakened Ottoman empire, whilst a threatening front was edging in from the North energised by Russian expansionism. The lack of electoral representation of the majority of British citizens at that time, was inversely proportional to the sacrifice most were obliged to make in nation building through agricultural, industrial, trading, transportation and protection (fighting/security) activities. In addition, they paid their taxes into the public coffers for a privileged few to determine their nation's fate and future generations of empire, which later encompassed nearly a quarter of the world's population.

During the WW2 airbridge, the lack of modern day techie gizmos, meant the pilot's view of the Eastern horizon was restricted at night, so their gamble was based on aviation skill and experience, together with a blind faith in their gauges, instruments, and extrapolations or estimates based on various calculations! It's for certain the numerous decisions by these brave men and women flying the airbridge, delivering more than 37,000 US built (including every type of bomber, cargo and fighter plane the US 8th Army Air Force flew during WW2), and Canadian built aircraft across the North Atlantic during WW2, ultimately preserved the national sovereignty (and bankrupted the empire)! Many other aircraft were ferried by the South Atlantic route via Ascension Island after 1942, direct to the North African conflict and later the Italian campaign.

I'm deliberately weaving two quite different stories here, as one concerns an individual and the other relates to an institution. However, both clearly reflect the critical issue of wise decisions necessarily made by humans at the 'point of no return', and most importantly recognising that time and place! It's my premise that several decisions made by the privileged few in the British government during the mid 1850s were unwise; the folly of the Political elite resulted in rapid and unsustainable expansion of empire through Imperialist ventures into the 20th Century. The evidence of social psychology research reveals individual protestors or isolated agitators create relatively little nuisance to public order, but a crowd once assembled can swiftly transform through the 'risky shift' to become a mob; unwise actions by sensible law abiding individuals can result.

In this case our own British Imperialism generated several 'followers' and spurred competing empires in pursuit of 'blood and treasure' across the globe! Some states were successful, others not so much! Collectively however, the actions of national powers (past and present) have created a dangerously overcrowded, socially conflicted, ecologically imbalanced and heavily polluted planet. Very few individuals actually made these momentous decisions, whilst several (seeking) gained political prestige, often a peerage or elevated social status, and invariably increased their wealth (providing more power and influence at home and/or abroad). On the other side of the equation, it was inevitable that others had to foot the 'life-energy+quality' bill in the rise and fall of empire since that time; unfortunately this is a running tab!

For the want of 'a nail', also brings to mind the missed value to society, of talented and gifted human beings who still had much to contribute, whilst many unknown genii were prevented from delivering their gifts to benefit the arts or science in our world. This aspect of intellectual capital and knowledge management, which is an important aspect of Bulgaria's society that I'll return to later. For the few readers with Type I Diabetes, one such individual was Sir Frederick Banting, a Nobel Prize laureate and co-discoverer of insulin; he was a passenger on another Hudson, being ferried via the airbridge to Britain, when it crashed on take-off in Newfoundland in February 1942. On a more personal note, it's been almost twenty years to the day that a good friend and fellow flyer had his own wings permanently clipped on a similar crossing!

I was halfway through my CPL at that time, and my mate was an excellent ground school coach. Having gained his ATPL a few years earlier with 3000+ multi engine 'PIC' hours logged, he was employed as a short-haul pilot in Kent. He'd occasionally flown the North Atlantic 'airbridge' via the Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland route, and I'd enquired about flying the right hand seat with him at some point; fortunately I missed this trip! To fund a special surprise for his wife in celebration of their first wedding anniversary, he'd agreed a 'one off' commercial contract to ferry a twin engined light aircraft from the US for delivery to a customer in Europe over a weekend in November 1997.

This is part of the regular transatlantic flight sales business that goes on, although this private job was unbeknown to his employer. It's fairly high risk work, as I've highlighted in the WW2 scenario, especially for single engine aircraft. One risk being, that smaller aircraft are often older preowned US registered planes being sold abroad, and there's a lack of pilot knowledge, as to the provenance of the aircraft being ferried. It can be somewhat akin to delivery of a vehicle from Arthur Daly's 'used car lot' to a customer, except for a huge ocean and a whole lot of sky being involved! The aircraft type will usually be familiar to the pilot who'll normally have been 'checked out' on the particular model/type. However, airworthiness i.e. airframe and engine history/certification, instrument calibration, maintenance records won't necessarily reveal the full story.

A pilot's pre-flight check may be thorough, but unfortunately it's quite limited, as a flight engineer certifies all the 'nick nacks' on the plane, not the pilot! Whilst flying the last leg from Reykjavik to Wick, he was already committed beyond his 'point of no return' when he declared an emergency to the Icelandic air controller citing icing and loss of engine power resulting in difficulty maintaining his altitude, there was apparently one further 'Mayday call', which was cut short, and nothing further was heard. No position was given, and he was beyond radar coverage; they couldn't get a radio signal lock once contact was lost and no EPIRB was activated, so he took an unscheduled ice water bath in what likely became an expensive aluminium coffin!

The only information the Icelandic authorities could pass on was his name and contact details from the landing/take off registration records. The British authorities were informed of his name and contact details, registered at the Reykjavik airport, but didn't know that he was married. Having arrived at his home there was initially no answer, so the police officers broke in, only to discover his wife in bed with her HiFi headset on! Once the shock of Kent plod stomping into her bedroom in the wee hours had passed, it gave way to their revelation of the devastating news. Not only was her hubby not attending a flying symposium in Norwich, he was now servicing the marine food chain many fathoms deep, approximately 150nm SE of Iceland. A really nice bloke - RIP.

Back to the Bulgaria, as I haven't quite lost the plot in the context of this thread or the 'decision points of no return' that influenced its present state and future course. History is always written from certain theoretical and ideological vantage points and I'll rehearse some of these, because they've had a particular bearing on territorial, ethnic and cultural claims over many centuries in Bulgaria, whilst a few will play their part again in its future. It's also a wider Balkan theme, so it's helpful to be aware of the fact that all historical narratives or stories, are by their very nature political, as they'll either support or contest the values, ideologies, and structure of society. Whether that's the Battle of Kosovo Polje (Plain of Blackbirds) fought between Ottoman forces and a Serb led allied army on 28 June 1389 influencing political claims by Serbia over their loss of Kosovo, whilst Russian influence in Bulgaria i.e. the 'Eastern Question' professed Slavic connections and their 'protection' of fellow Christians yoked by the Ottomans, as a rationale for war. In reality the latter was just Russian empire building, which I'll return to shortly.

Bulgaria's geographical position always provided a natural set of crossroads between Europe and Asia, North and South, and in consequence it was a melting pot of creed and culture, whilst its autonomy rarely endured. Frequently Bulgaria found its stability shattered or at least disrupted by one or more clashes of empire (not its own). The physical relief hampered cohesion of a single coordinated state, whilst its borders have expanded and contracted many times over the millennia. The mountainous terrain creates a set of natural choke points and defensive areas for control of North / South movements in the Eastern Balkans, whilst control could also be effected over the Danubian delta (in the past). It has not, however, experienced much consistency in its statehood for more than a few generations at any time, due to the disruption of conflict, long periods of occupation and various geopolitical influences.

I'm sure most are familiar with the idea of genetic testing to determine paternity or for verifying family links and health markers. It's become more affordable and quite popular in recent years, but the other advances in terms of genetic markers for inherited medical conditions are also hugely valuable for couples' family planning purposes. The latter is exceedingly important to Bulgarian Roma, which I'll need to return to in my next post. In Europe, many parents are now older and invariably only produce one or two children. However, IVF and genetic filters facilitate deviation from Darwinian principles, as it's not just a response to environment factors, but unnatural selection of 'designer' offspring! It is, however, the 21st Century and humans are as aggressive with each other as they are with scientific frontiers; in the end ethics won't halt 'progress', but we're destined to repeat the follies of history lessons not learnt!

This 'designer offspring' has already happened in some respects, where sperm banks with known chromosomal traits are used by selective/selected female hosts for production of 'wünderkinder'. Meanwhile, decades of selective abortions in China and India led to a narrower gene pool and significant gender imbalanced populations. It's unlikely that an 'XYY Man' or 'Genetic Warrior' has already been spawned (although crazier things have happened), but it cannot be doubted that Russian Olympic results were outstanding pharmaceutical achievements for decades!! It's for certain that 'breeding' couples of sportsmen and women were selected in the Soviet era too, in order to enhance the 'sporting chances' of their offspring as athletes, gymnasts etc.

Germans like Josef Mengele, Herta Oberhauser and others were at it in Auschwitz during WW2; Mengele was particularly engaged with inhuman experiments on identical twins, including Roma children from across the Balkans. The Imperial Japanese Army had its own 'Unit 731' led by a Japanese microbiologist Shiro Ishii. It was a covert biological warfare research and development unit that undertook a wide range human experimentation mainly on Chinese subjects during the Sino-Japanese War from 1937, and later on Koreans, Russians, and some US POWs during WW2. The proven lack of any morals ensures Fat Boy Kim's 'Unit 731' NK equivalent is continuing inhuman experimentation where the Japanese left off! The assassination of his half brother in Malaysia with VX nerve agent in February was no field experiment, but a very successful public statement!!

Some may recall other posts I've made referencing my amateur interest in geology, having previously written about the Karst Limestone features in Bulgaria and Tectonic movements. These are mostly geological processes taking millions of years, but much has changed the physical geographical environment of the Balkan region in the last 5-20K years. The Balkans hosted many ancient civilisations before the forebears of present day Bulgarians settled. Indeed, the territory of Bulgaria has witnessed several migration routes, since the modern human settlement of Europe in the Upper Palaeolithic age (about 40K years ago).

Importantly, modern day Bulgaria served as part of the Balkan 'refugium' (analogous to a warmer waiting area between ice sheets for flora and fauna) and fuelled different expansion routes of postglacial re-colonisation, as the European ice sheet receded. The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) occurred approximately 20K years ago, which was the point at which the ice sheets were at their thickest, and sea levels their lowest. The Black Sea was approximately 105m below its current level (levels vary in different studies, but this figure agrees with most within +/-5m) with rich vegetation several Kms further East of present day Bulgarian coastline on what is now its coastal shelf. It was a significantly smaller fresh water lake with minimal river flows and separated from the Sea of Marmara, which was also a freshwater lake. Both were 75 - 80m above the level of the world's oceans at the LGM, including the Aegean and Mediterranean, because of the complex geological structures along the Bosphorus.

In the area of present day Bulgaria, the lower latitude meant life was sustainable for many species of animal and plant life that had retreated to the steppes, taiga and tundra forest environment of the region during that time. Theoretically, it was possible to walk directly from Sebastapol to Burgas with a short 'dogleg', whilst keeping your feet dry! Actually the LGM played a significant role, as Neolithic people entered Europe when the Bosphorus sill was dry land (similar to the Beringia land mass that allowed transit of the first homo sapiens to cross from Siberia to Alaska).

The location of sites recording the first evidence for these Neolithic people across Europe, Anatolia and the Near East were based on radiocarbon dating. Whilst the science is not infallible, it invariably uses empirical data and these results are interpreted with hypotheses proffered in order to explain events. These may later be revised or discarded in light of new data or different methods to interpret results. The scientific developments with more ethical application, define human haplogroups (i.e. Genetic groups with a common male or female ancestor) can either be based on Y-DNA (chromosome), which is passed from father to son or mtDNA (mitochondria), the latter is passed from mother to offspring of both genders. Another area of evolutionary science is the development of anthropo-genetics and paleo-genetics; their increasing role has benefitted the new scientific field of ancient DNA research. These technological improvements mean that mtDNA can now be retrieved from museum specimens, archaeological finds and fossil remains. Recent genetic studies have indicated that variation is structured in Western, Central and Eastern Bulgaria indicating that the Balkan Mountains didn't prevent human migration.

The haplogroups discovered in this research offer some interesting results to archeologists and anthropologists alike, concerning Bulgarians' origin. They show 'R-L23' is present in the Eastern haplogroup, whilst 'E-V13' has a Mesolithic age in Bulgaria from where it expanded after the arrival of farming; haplogroup 'J-M241' probably reflects the Westward expansion of Neolithic farmers from the earliest sites along the Black Sea. The prehistoric populations of these Stone age and Bronze age people were overlaid by the earliest people among the documented civilisations inhabiting present day Bulgaria. They were the Indo-European Thracians; their cultural legacy is still evident, especially in the Southern part of modern day Bulgaria. Thracian society was considered comparable to that of Greece in the arts and economics, with their achievements reaching a peak in the 6th Century BC. Various monuments remain from Ancient Thrace, inspiring both imagination and admiration of their beauty. There are many myths about the formation of Bulgaria, but I don't subscribe to them; several have also been used by various individuals and states to influence political positions.

In the words of William Lund - "We study the past to understand the present; we understand the present to guide the future." Herodotus was often called the 'father of history' and wrote about the Graeco-Persian wars, including the valiant efforts of 300 Spartans who defended the famous mountain pass at Thermopylae, whilst delaying the advance of the Persian leader Xerxes. Without wishing to disillusion any Spartan 'fans' amongst you, it should be noted that Sparta was an oligarchical society, but the 'Oligoi' (few) who made policy in the oligarchy that ruled Sparta were a group of 28 men all aged 60+ called the 'Gerousia' (council of elders), together with two kings (one for war and one for civil society). There were also 5 'Ephors' (overseers) who were elected annually from the adult male citizens over 30 years of age; they were responsible for convening the 'Gerousia' and the assembly of the polis (people).

They also exercised considerable judicial powers of judgment and punishment, whilst diluting the political power of the oligarchic 'Gerousia' and the kings. Importantly, they ensured the supremacy of law and interestingly, the kings were obliged to swear an oath to exercise their office according to Spartan laws, whilst the 'Ephors' individually gave their oath on behalf of the 'Polis' to preserve kingship provided they abide by their oaths. This arrangement created a representative democracy, although the fictionalised films do not reveal this nor the rather austere and mostly separated lifestyle experienced by different factions of Sparta's population. Spartan babies were selected in a somewhat unusual manner too, but perhaps no worse than the nature of a lion pride or wolf pack behaviour, and even baboons in the case of infanticide. I won't dwell on the myths of bone filled chasms, but suffice to say the selection process was quite robust! Further tests for males occurred at age 7, 12 and 20, whilst failure to graduate condemned them to non citizenship and possibly saw them banished or cast aside to the Helots if they didn't commit suicide first.

There are modern day equivalents of such harsh laws, particularly in China regarding the former 'one child policy', even late stage foetuses have been routinely aborted and full term foetuses killed by lethal injection into the fontanelle, followed by a still birth. It can also be said that neither Mau's policies, which produced a huge post WW2 population surge, nor the 'one child policy' inadvertently creating the gender skewed population, because people don't like playing by Draconian rules! From the perspective of educational attainments from the outset usually as an only child driven by parents committed to their 'one hope'! Similarly, the Nazi regime was also quite keen on the selective breeding of the perfect Aryan in Germany with the 'Lebensborn' programme, and in Norway with the 'Tyskerbarnas'. These baby farms were instigated, together with routine removal of any Germans with physical or intellectual disabilities, young or old in society, through the mechanism of involuntary euthanasia!
It would appear that the Germans medical profession are still at it when they get bored!

There was a degree of equality for Spartan women in that they were educated, and encouraged to participate in vigorous sports. There's also no doubt they were tough ladies; they had a lot of personal freedom including property ownership, unlike many other Greek women. However, they could not hold public office or vote! In brief, Spartan women were trained to produce healthy babies and men were legally restricted to just one occupation - soldiering! Spartan men and women were equal citizens, or 'Homoioi', but they lived fairly separate lives, with boys removed from their families and raised in a military training academy from age 7 until 20 when they graduated, but would then live in barracks and serve in the Army until age 30 (if they survived). Men were then encouraged to marry a woman ideally aged 20 and start procreating, in order to produce the next generation of Spartans; they could then live out of barracks with their wives, but these 'older' warriors remained on reserve duty until age 60, which is quite phenomenal given the ancient time and life expectancy.

Supporting skills were provided by a class of free non-citizens who were skilled labourers, traders and craftsmen or 'Perioeci' from the region of Laconia. All agricultural work and food production was the responsibility of the enslaved Helots, who were mostly the descendants of enemies captured in battles. They formed the majority of Sparta’s population, and were routinely taunted and abused to ensure their subjugation, whilst any 'clever' or 'uppity' Helot was swiftly despatched to ensure there were no revolts. If loving and caring heterosexual relationships occurred amongst Spartans they were not the objective, procreation of healthy offspring was, so monogamy wasn't essential if 'blanks were fired' by male partners. The principle of Spartan government required every citizen to live for the state; their life completely belonged to it and only the strong had a right to survive! Being of a 'chubby' disposition was not a good idea in Sparta for anyone, if endomorphic you would be tormented from every quarter, including the women. Apart from the obvious time warp issue, one could hardly conceive what Spartans might think about the obese body forms shuffling shopping centres of the US and Europe in the present day!

The concept of the Spartan 'tough love' approach to children, including early family separation and warrior indoctrination of young boys, resulted in notable success, as evidenced in numerous battles over centuries. Perhaps the problem came in the end from reliance on brawn not brain, as the lack of any remarkable intellectuals. The effect of grooming children was probably not lost on the Ottomans! Their 'child tribute' approach to sustain the Janissary system had many similarities to the investment the Spartans made in the survival of their society and the meritocracy it created, which was not influenced by birthright or patronage. In fact, those Spartan boys who excelled in training and had the aptidude, were selected for the 'secret police' to identify anyone in the population who breached Spartan laws, especially amongst Helots. Again, one can reflect on fascist and communist 'shadow' organisations of watchers and informers to control dissidents within a population. A feature of the latter was the annual election of an 'Ephor' being followed by the successful candidate announcing a death sentence for Helots, just to ensure everyone was on message!

Earlier, I referred to the military 'air bridge' operation during WW2, but the famous military land bridging expert Sir Donald Bailey wasn't born until 1901, so his early design scribbled on the back of an envelope in 1943 didn't yet exist, because paper and envelopes hadn't been invented either!! In 481 BC, Xerxes was therefore required to find an alternative for the first recorded military bridge crossing of the Hellespont; it was a complex form of 'Pontoon Bridge' utilising 700+ warships and an awful lot of wooden planks! However, the first attempt was blighted by a storm and all of the 'A Team' engineers got the chop. The 'B Team' of engineers sweated blood, and after a little flagellation of the sea, Xerxes was eventually able to cross with the largest Persian Army of that time, approximately 1M troops from many Eastern countries (and probably a similar amount of camp followers). Alexander the Great set off in the opposite direction for some belated retribution in 334 BC, but his fleet sailed across the Hellespont with a thousand Thracian scouts (light cavalry) aboard!

Reflecting back to the LGM, both could leaders have strolled across dry land a few millennia earlier as the Neolithic people had, which also serves to highlight the importance that strategic control of the Dardanelles Strait and the Bosphorus always had. As an aside, I referred to the non-swimmer Shelley in my last post, who probably wished Lord Byron had been sailing with him when his ketch foundered in the 1822 storm off the Italian coast. Byron was a capable long distance swimmer and made a successful crossing of the Hellespont in 1810 on his second attempt.

Having previously referred to Hans Morgenthau and his 1948 book 'Politics among Nations', it's claimed by many, that he was one of the most influential of the new political realists, who decisively shaped a generation of American foreign policy (the 'neocons' as were). His principles were, however, derived in part or were at least strongly influenced by the earlier work of Thucydides an Athenian General, and a younger contemporary of Socrates. Thucydides followed in the wake of Herodotus as a writer and historical analyst, but was less distracted by rumours, oracles and the dreams of men! Although little is known of Thucydides life beyond the narrative contained in his literary legacy, we do know that he was born in Alimos and his father was called Olorus, a name connected with Thrace and Thracian royalty. Thucydides was also connected through family to the Athenian statesman - General Miltiades.

Thucydides lived between two homes, one in Athens and the other in Thrace, whilst family connections brought him close to the Athenian statesmen and military commanders who were shaping the history of that time. Thucydides was also a man of influence and wealth and owned gold mines on the Thracian coast (now Greek). By the time the war subject of his writing had started, Thucydides was in his 20's and fortunately survived, having contracted the plague that ravaged Athens for three years at the beginning of the war; it killed several thousands, and amongst them was his political colleague Pericles in 429 BC. Were it not for the failure of his first and only higher command, we may never have learned so much about this period or profited from Thucydides analytical mind. He'd been appointed as a 'Strategos' (or General) in command of a small squadron of 7 ships assigned in 424 BC to a station on Thasos.

Thracian connections were a likely rationale for this assignment, but when Amphipolis on the Thracian coast was attacked by the Spartan General Brasidas in the winter of 424/3 BC, the Athenian commander Eucles at Amphipolis, sought assistance from Thucydides naval force just a half day's sail away. Unfortunately, Brasidas knew of Thucydides' deployment and bluffed Eucles into an early surrender before the squadron arrived, so Thucydides got the customary political exile from Athens for his failure. Thankfully his superiors spared his life and he spent the rest of the war travelling in the region researching and writing his historical analysis. It still features as part of the syllabus at many military academies around the world. It's generally regarded that Thucydides was one of the first true historians and his major contribution concerned the 2nd Peloponnesian War, which lasted from 431 to 404 BC.

It was an enormously destructive event, essentially a civil war between Athens and Sparta. Of note, this second conflict was triggered by Athenians wanting timber and minerals from Thrace to build its ships, which is why Thucydides ended with him in big trouble after failing to save Amphipolis. A major supply of timber came from the Strymon River nearby the city and the minerals were an essential resource for Athens to sustain their war fighting. From an environmental perspective the whole region was constantly denuded of timber to meet the needs of ship building, barricades and other fortifications; this led to desertification of many Greek islands over time. A central feature of Thucydides is his political analysis, which takes a different line to the earlier works of Herodotus. His idea of 'joint interest', was also a theme that Morgenthau pursues more rigorously.

Nearly thirty years later the war ended with Sparta defeating Athens, although Thucydides perspective was that Athens ultimately lost the war, more through civil discord at home rather than enemy actions abroad. Democratic 'polarisation' is nothing new and clearly influences the soundness of a state’s foreign policy in the present day. Thucydides also emphasised the consistency of the inevitable clash of rising and waning power amongst states or nations, suggesting the future would resemble the past. It's uncertain why Thucydides’ own work comprising eight volumes, resulted in the last one laying unfinished. Indeed, it ended abruptly mid sentence in 411 BC, although this was seven years before the end of the war. On the basis of textual references, Thucydides is believed to have died somewhere between 399-396 BC; much like the region today, they were troubling times, so his end may also have been violent given the unexpected halt to his writing.

Thucydides' work was later translated into English by Thomas Hobbes, a well known 16th Century philosopher. Thucydides may be considered one of the earliest members of the political realists' 'club'. His literary gift is a significant work of prose and arguably one of the great masterpieces of political thought, certainly a revealing study of the first democracy at war. In the context of the modern day, his work has formed a popular area of scrutiny amongst political science academics. In particular, the popular reference to the 'Thucydides Trap' related to the 'Eastern Question', WW1, WW2 and notably present day analysis of the rise of China in competition with the US. After Trump's speeches and the media soundbites during his Asian tour, it cannot be denied that tensions exist and accidents happen, even non diplomatic words can be misinterpreted, not least when Twitter has extended Trump's opportunity to tweet more crap in one go, just like a kid on a toluene sniff fix!!

I'm not going to divert further from the foundations of the Bulgarian gene mix, because we're almost there, but there are a few more important ingredients that make up the blend, which may also relate to the earlier Graeco-Persian conflicts I mentioned. A range of historians have recorded that the Achaemenid dynasty deported rebellious Greek subjects to Bactria (Balhara - Afghanistan/Eastern Iran). This included the Persian King Darius I who deported them from Cyrenaica (an area on the Libyan coast around modern day Benghazi). Another group of Greek settlers in Bactria were called the 'Branchidae' and were descended from a group of priests that had once lived near Didyma along with some inhabitants of Miletus (the largest Greek city on the Asian coast of the Aegean) had also been taken captive by the Persians. It's odd to note that Bactria, despite remaining an Eastern hinterland, it remained a numerous and prospering Greek colony. Archeological evidence, including coin finds, indicated they'd retained connections with their Balkan cousins for centuries.

It's possible it was reinforced by Alexander's advances in the East, in particular his connection to the region of Bactria, which was significant. Part of his extensive Macedonian army reached this area, and his marriage to Roxanne who was herself the daughter of the Bactrian chief Oxyartes in 327 BC, was later reinforced Alexander also ordered 80 of his officers to marry Persian noblewomen and later held a mass marriage ceremony for them in 324 BC at Susa. He also had a roster made of all his Macedonians that had taken Persian wives and found that there were 10,000 such unions. To show his pleasure, Alexander even granted a wedding gift to each of the married couples.

As to the reasons for the weddings, Alexander was struggling with the challenge of setting up a new aristocracy loyal to him. Kinship ties were obviously important to both Persian and Macedonian ruling classes and he needed loyalty and this was also part of his plan to ensure integration and multiculturalism. He also knew the supply of Macedonian troops would dry up, and as an army of occupation they couldn't stay there forever he had other battles yet to win (obviously he hadn't checked any oracles about his future). As to their progeny, these children were really 'war-babies', but had Alexander not died they would have been the basis of his new aristocracy. As extra assurance he also left his Greek infantry there, many of them were ethnic Greeks as opposed to ethnic Macedonians, so they remained in this outmost Eastern province of Bactria.

Of course our own British history reminds us that competing royal offspring, siblings and rivals can often become inconvenient liabilities. Roxanne gave birth shortly after Alexander died in 323 BC, and she then had Alexander's other wife Starteira and her sister Parysatis murdered in Babylon. For the purists amongst you as opposed to the film buffs, the 2004 film about Alexander with Brad Pitt as the lead had an actress with Afro-Caribbean ethnicity playing the role of Roxanne, which is fine as fiction goes except the people of Bactria were actually fair skinned in that time. Whilst beautiful, Roxanne wasn't just a pretty face, however, Karma has no menu, so you get served what you deserve! Roxanne and Alexander's thirteen year old son were later captured in 316 BC and imprisoned in Amphipolis; they were subsequently killed by poisoning on the orders of Cassander in 310 BC (another Balkan trait). He then took the crown as the new Macedonian King in 305 BC after a few more squabbles; it was ever thus in the Balkans! After Alexander's death his empire was carved up by his generals (the Diadoch), the region of Bactria was later ruled by one of them creating the Seleucid dynasty from 306 BC.

Over time these inhabitants appeared better integrated and even expanded beyond the former Achaemenid frontiers into Punjab and Kashmir, even to the extent of becoming masters of today's Pakistan early in the 2nd Century BC. The Greeks left a pronounced cultural heritage and it was also incorporated into Gandhara culture. The empire was the centre of several important trade routes, which delivered significant revenues and Seleucid coins were a well renowned currency along the trading route that became the Silk Road. Apparently good relationships were also maintained with leaders in Northern India, as Seleucus I even exchanged Eastern Pakistan for some war elephants to use against Western enemies. On current reckoning the Indians are probably wishing they'd kept their elephants!

The province of Bactria itself, later became part of the Parthian empire established by the Parni nomads from the North. By 247 BC the areas of Bactria, where these nomads formed a small, but independent kingdom. led by the Arsacid dynasty. The elite of this region were still Greek, however, and the new rulers had to adapt to retain control. So these Graeco-Bactrian cities retained their ancient rights and the civil administration remained more or less undisturbed. Coinage as mentioned, were still written in the Greek alphabet, a practice that continued into the 2nd Century AD, despite the language having declined and bearing in mind people couldn't read or write Greek either!

The Parthian empire itself, was loosely organised, but eventually occupied all of modern Iran, Iraq and Armenia, parts of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. For brief periods, it also incorporated territories in Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, but came to an end in 224 AD, when the Persians returned with the Sassanid dynasty. The fact that the Silk trade routes had become very important to the region by this time, whilst Bactra itself was an important market city; the Silk road trade had many 'middle men' and many intermediate goods for barter. One of the gifts that travelled that route, and literally found new roots in the Balkans were the Walnut seeds that were transported in this time, which have flourished over centuries in the region, resulting in the Walnut trees many Bulgarians enjoy harvesting (me too)!

Meanwhile, by the middle of the 1st Century AD, all of the present Bulgarian land mass had became part of the Roman Empire. However, Thrace remained a kingdom within the Roman Empire until Vespasian incorporated it as a district, although this Roman domination brought more orderly administration. Fortunately many architectural and archaeological monuments were preserved from this period. Waves of Huns, Goths, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths invaded and plundered the Balkans beginning in the 3rd Century AD, but none of these invaders permanently occupied territory. It's for certain, alongside the pillaging there was plenty of rapes during those times too, and those involving female human victims may have added to the gene pool. Of course many goats and ponies were violated too, but those genes didn't count!

Serdika (now Sofia) had originally been established as a major trading centre in the Balkans by the Thracians, whilst in the 4th Century AD following the dissolution of the Roman Empire, the lands of present day Bulgaria were controlled by the Byzantium (East Roman) Empire. Christianity was introduced to the region during this time, whilst the Latin culture of Rome, and the Greek culture of Constantinople remained strong influences on subsequent civilisations. Two other populations played important roles in the Bulgarian ethno-genesis. It's believed that proto-Bulgarians arrived almost simultaneously with Slavs in the Early Middle Ages. The 7th Century AD saw the first proto-Bulgarians settling in present day NE Bulgaria, which were considered as populations playing important role in the modern Bulgarian ethnogenesis. Whilst this isn't the original academic source, it's quite clear about the genetic structure of modern day Bulgarians.

These Ancient proto-Bulgarians were originally believed to be a Turkic population, but again the myths and muddles are dispelled, as the genetic evidence shows this is not the case. Studies indicate a substantial proto-Bulgarian input to the contemporary Bulgarian people, but common paternal ancestry between the proto-Bulgarians and the Altaic and Central Asian Turkic-speaking populations, either didn't exist or was negligible.

Thracians and other pre-Slavic Balkan people: 46.4%

Slavic: 31.3%

Proto-Bulgarian: 10%

Celto-Germanic: 8.6%

Arab: 2.3%

Roma: 1.5%

In addition to the genetic traces, there is considerable evidence through the linguistic analysis by various researchers over the years, particular the Farsi and Pashtu connections.

Given the unique history of Bactria, and the subsequent integration with Parthians, it's as good as any other theory that Northern routes towards the Caspian and the Black Sea were obvious movements for those who were not keen to see the Persian resurgence in the 2nd Century AD. Parni nomads had originally come to Bactria from the North, so returning to ancient roots in the Balkans may have been a motivation for some, and apart from the oral history of that time there would have been knowledge of the Balkan region passed via through the Silk Road connections. There were plenty of reasons to head North for the people of Bactria who over time and travels along the way, likely retained the core of this genetic pool to later form the Bulgars who were noted as warriors. They had a formidable reputation as military horsemen, which fits with the background of Parthians, and Bulgars also had a strong political organisation based on their khan (prince), which also reflects the earlier Persian influence.

It is known the Bulgars migrated from a region between the Urals and the River Volga to the steppes North of the Caspian Sea, which possibly links to earlier nomadic Parni routes. Referring again to Bactria, the ancient Buddhist temples that existed in the region were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. We know this, because we have the evidence, so we have conscious competence about this event. If one considers the present day efforts of Daesh to destroy evidence of previous cultures, together with evidence from various ancient and modern historians of other sites destroyed over the centuries, it's clear humans continue to do what they've always done. There's still a lot of science to explore in the field of paleo-genetics, but people always like to see concrete (plenty of that in Bulgaria) evidence, but there has to be a certain amount of deductive reasoning that helps modern Bulgaria understand its ancient heritage, which I believe was masked by Slavic influence and political influence at various stages of development. My point here is that modern Bulgarians would be highly unlikely to accept the idea their ancestors came from Afghanistan or Tajikistan!

We know in 630 AD, a federation of Bulgar tribes already existed; in the next years the Bulgars united with the Slavs to oppose Byzantine control. By 681 AD the Khan Asparukh had forced Emperor Constantine V to recognize the first Bulgarian state. The state had its capital at Pliska, near modern Shumen, combined a Bulgarian political structure with Slavic linguistic and cultural institutions. There is no written evidence of the heritage involving the proto-Bulgarians, but from the evidence in Bactria the Greek written form had been left behind centuries earlier, so the creation of the Slavonic alphabet by brothers Cyril and Methodius in 863 AD offered a means of recording the new Bulgarian history. Similarly, the religions and beliefs of Graeco-Bactria had been supplanted by a mixture of Buddhism and later Zoroastrianism, but these faith structures would likely have disappeared over time and their distance from Bactria. The establishment of Christianity (East Orthodox) as a state religion in 864 AD likely contributed to the development of the Bulgarian nationality. The literature was originally very much oriented to the church, but in time Bulgarian literature and culture began to flourish. From 1018 AD till 1185 AD, Bulgaria remained in the Byzantium Empire, but in 1185 AD the 2nd Bulgarian Kingdom was declared after the end of Byzantium rule and oppression.

Just as Alexander knew he had to consider, taking his Armies to far flung corners of the globe (on what was believed to be a flat earth in those days), he also needed to ensure that there were new offspring to replace his losses, just as important as influencing territories and people his armies conquered. Bulgaria's population is shrinking at a prodigious rate as we know, it's also sent / obliged its young baby makers to leave, whilst those left behind who are producing offspring at a faster rate, either need to be better integrated or they need to be replaced by a youthful influx acceptable to the current democracy. It's a very important decision that Bulgaria needs to take, and is at one of those crucial 'point of no return' junctures.

It blew its chances for earlier survival when it fired its bolts in the wrong direction in WW1 and WW2. As former horseback warriors the Bulgarians certainly picked the wrong horse in those engagements - twice!! Those decisions were not well thought through, although they were clearly influenced by other imperial forces, but as, and when the Brexit traincrash hits and the EU piggy bank downsizes, it will hit Bulgaria harder than many EU countries. The economic impact is a certainty, but the pressures to the South East, South West and North East will begin to damage other areas of society.

The 'Eastern Question' is still not answered, I know, but like Arnie, I'll be back!
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Golden Oldie
Golden Oldie

Joined: Feb 21, 2012
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Location: Sofia, Dupnitsa, Lincs

PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:20 pm 
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Nice to see you back, господине X: I was concerned that you'd died of boredom/moved on to pastures new... Wink
Passer sa vie à lutter contre la connerie est le meilleur procédé pour mourir épuisé
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In The Prime
In The Prime

Joined: Sep 15, 2016
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Location: UK p/t + Bg p/t; Bg f/t in 09/17

PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 2:37 pm 
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The time has come the Walrus said to speak of many things ... and much like the 'Black Death', I've come to plague you once again from the confessional of my bubblebath soak - I do find these 'Radox' moments help the words seep out!

I'm aware the social media prose have not been flowing for a while, but I found myself hooked by some family research that caught my attention before Remembrance Day. I was targeted by a rather unsubtle Google social marketing blitz for an Ancestry website offering a 14 day 'free trial'. Well, in for an old pence or a white fiver I thought and took the plunge. My initial motivation was just to discover any relatives that might have served in WW1, beyond the half dozen I already knew about. I'd actually browsed this ancestry website more than a decade ago, but decided it was too fiddly and slow, so I abandoned it quite quickly without discovering much of anything at that time. The experience this time was quite different, however, and has became something of an obsession whilst my better half was overseas visiting her family last month.

My geopolitical history knowledge is reasonable, but composing these contributions has required some research to tie a few of the threads together, and prompted some curiosity regarding my conscious incompetence of forebears and their roles (or not) in the various migrations and conflicts I've previously discussed. In fact, an early discovery this time around was an incorrect family tree lead followed by my father in his earlier 'mandrolic' search using paper records available to the pre 'WWW' public, which had resulted in an error about my paternal great great grandfather's origin. Apparently my father had even visited the wrong town in Germany during the early 90's as a result of this research error (although he didn't know it was the wrong town then)! Please note this not a marketing plug and I'm making no recommendations or endorsements, it's merely a personal observation based on recent research.

Suffice to say, I've been amazed by the amount of material freely available (OK not entirely free after the initial 14 day trial period lapsed ...), and the improvement of the data mining capability of the online software. Apart from a wealth of recent family history, which corroborates and in several cases has expanded on the oral history provided by immediate family relatives, I've managed to trace back several family branches to the mid 18th Century, involving some 5000 relatives thus far (this has assumed a few illicit relationships / offspring too).

There have of course, been several false leads where other contributors researching their own family roots have made their family tree links public involving their own documents and images, but also unwittingly incorporating some errors, which consume several frustrating hours fleshing out fact from fiction to unravel mistakes. Some created by transposition errors caused by OCR glitches from scanned handwritten / copperplate scripts e.g. Church baptism or marriage records, together with date typos or misspelt family / location names. Nonetheless it's provided a very interesting detective game to sort the chaff from the wheat, amongst literally billions of searchable records available online to aid this ancestral research and without the need to even touch a piece of paper or visit a library, despite my being an avid bookworm.

Amongst the highlights, I've discovered the main family strands involved Irish, German, French and English groups who were mostly represented by working and middle class folk. It comprised members of the clergy, doctors and dentists, dockworkers, labourers (railways, canals and dams), engineers (aircraft, ships and rail), shopkeepers and merchants, craft workers (glassblowers, tinsmiths and cloth-makers), soldiers, sailors, airmen, film crews and even the odd American bandit! There have been some fantastic names discovered along the way, especially the combinations of Asian, African and European influences in the US and Canada, whilst the Irish branches proved dead boring and unimaginative, incorporated constant combinations and repetitions of Patrick, Michael, John and Connor or Ellen, Margaret, Rose and Claire!

One poor little sod in the US ended up with 'Folsom' and 'Bragg' as middle names; presumably some weird family connection with the California State Prison and the US Army base in North Carolina, but still pretty tough for baptising a young girl at the end of the 19th Century! Unfortunately, I've also discovered three family roots where Irish and English emigrants subsequently became slave owners in Virginia, whilst a few fought in the Colonial Army against King George during the American War of Independence. Different family branches were later represented on both sides of the American Civil War with a bias for the Confederacy. One apparently fought for both sides at different points during that conflict, initially serving as a Confederate cavalry officer and having lost an arm he later became an artillery officer in the Union Army.

I guess it takes all sorts to make a world, but I'm exceedingly impressed by the robust constitutions of many of my female relatives within the various family branches. Several produced broods of 13 or 14 children, whilst still managing to reach a ripe old age, although I suspect their pelvic floors were like saggy trampolines and bladder incontinence was a lifelong affliction! They were certainly tough old birds though, indeed one particular individual of German descent was effectively pregnant for 22 years, apparently losing 6 stillborn along the way - hats off to her fortitude! Clearly infant mortality rates were much higher in those days, so large families were a balanced risk, but why she didn't just grab the garden shears and sort out the primary cause I don't know!?!

Several relatives in the 19th Century had started their life in the Church Poor Houses and/or Workhouses of London's East End, whilst a significant proportion of the Irish contingent had trodden an array of emigration paths referred to in previous posts. About a half settled in the US and Canada and the other half were spread between Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania and a few to South Africa. Some had even returned to the UK from Australia and tried another shot to India. Several of the migration stories involved indentured servants to Virginia, and the odd few women utilised marriage bonds, whilst several took the slow boat to Australia utilising government sponsored tickets. A significant number of the relatives descended from German stock settled in Pennsylvania and Iowa, whilst most of the Irish contingent headed to the Southern states of Virginia, North & South Carolina with a few of the English bunch exchanging East London and Manchester for the wilds of California around the time of the 'Gold Rush'!

As to the carnage of WW1 where I started my research, I've identified 31 relatives thus far, of which 17 were either KIA or WIA, including one poor b*st*rd who joined up in early 1915 and was killed in Flanders on 9 Nov 1918! Two of those who returned home post war, were apparently still on their final Service leave in 1919 when they became victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic and died! It appears that others represented the British flag during the Napoleonic wars serving in the RN, others as infanteers in the Crimean War, and gunners in the Boer War; some were sappers, gunners, infanteers and the RFC during WW1 (the WW1 veterans included two recipients of the Military Medal, one awarded posthumously). These were just the relatives identified with service in the British forces, although several family members who'd emigrated to Australia, New Zealand and Canada joined up and served in WW1, as did a few of the US emigres who joined the US Army. Two relatives (a father and son) were lost in the North Sea after their fishing trawler was sunk by the Germans, whilst another was the First Mate on a merchant vessel torpedoed and sink in the North Atlantic in 1916.

Another 16 relatives I've identified, served during WW2 in the Navy, Fleet Air Arm, Merchant Marine and the RAF together with several soldiers, whilst two cousins also later served in the Korean War and an uncle in the Malayan conflict. Sadly, one WW1 veteran, a Royal Engineer, became a serial deserter (was charged on 4 occasions for being AWOL in France between 1915-1916), later feigning acute appendicitis and then 'legging it' from a military hospital in Thanet. As a paternal step grandfather of Irish heritage, he also managed to take 'time out' for a spot of bigamy whilst AWOL in London, later surrendering himself to the civilian authorities at war's end. His 'legal' first wife was still receiving his pay allotment for their two children until he was dishonourably discharged. This 'chancer' was subsequently sentenced to 20 months of hard labour at his Old Bailey trial, but was bloody lucky to avoid a firing squad!!

Back to the meandering geopolitical history plot! As with Darwin's early discoveries about the evolutionary processes affecting the animal kingdom on planet earth, it was determined that time was a critical factor in his 'Origin of Species' (N.B. first editions in good condition are valued around £150K), of course the naysayers religious concept of time and the 'ascent of man' was underpinned by the Book of Genesis. Alas, whilst Moses was allegedly compiling this Hebrew script around 1450BC, he neither possessed the 'Google-fu' nor the required geological knowledge of the region, otherwise he may have tried the 'non fiction' category instead of writing his first novel.

Meanwhile oil and gas fields had originally formed in the region, because the Tethys Sea provided the ideal anoxic environment during the Mesazoic age for algal blooms, whilst the dark silt trapped trillions of sea creatures on the sea bed. Tectonic plate movement produced the continental drift leading to the physical geography and terra forming of the planet in the present day. The biological and geological processes occurred over billions of years; as an amateur geologist in my youth I found the science behind those discoveries quite fascinating. For those who prefer pictures to go with big numbers the following graphic offers a useful summary of key events and relevant timelines.

It's a truly sad consequence that these scientific discoveries also resulted in the devastation of our only planet, once 'black gold' began to drive the world's economy. As I've mentioned somewhere before, homo sapiens are their own worst predators and probably deserve the inevitable outcome of their evolution. Even for Moses the knowledge of oil in the ME was old news, as there is evidence of it's use more than 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia, about the same time homo sapiens started writing. Indeed, it's written that Medea in Greek mythology set her rival on fire with naphtha, obviously her competition was a hot totty! Bitumen was mined by the Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, who used it in architecture, building roads, caulking ships, and for medicines.

Later this knowledge of oil and its uses declined in the region, but human knowledge never completely disappears (Biblical references to tar bushes notwithstanding - Exodus 3:2 refers), and may be rediscovered by different cultures. Since oil seeps to the surface in many parts of the world the Seneca tribe, part of the Iroquois nation in NW Pennsylvania collected 'seep oil' for hundreds of years.

They also found uses for it, as a salve, insect repellent, and tonic (weird but true), whilst the Europeans later named the dark, gooey substance 'Seneca Oil', finding it effective for treating sprains and rheumatism. It was often collected by soaking blankets in the seeps, which was fairly inefficient; in other sites scooped from the surface of water. Whilst it burned it was unappealing as a lamp oil due to its unpleasant odour and smoke, so for that reason the whale population of the world's oceans continued to be harvested to near extinction for whale oil in order to light the world of humans - there's a moral there somewhere!

At the height of the steam age in GB, which was founded on coal, 1840's British scientists produced a lamp fuel from the distillation of coal. Dr Kesner a Canadian geologist made the first successful coal oil in N America, using a bituminous mineral found in New Brunswick. He named it 'keroselain' derived from the Greek words for 'wax' and 'oil', which later morphed into the well known kerosene! Samuel Kier a salt driller later found a way to distil crude oil, bizarrely it was a bi-product of their drilling and contaminated their salt wells, but the demand for kerosine lamps expanded.

The use of oil was still limited, because the volume obtained from oil seeps produced just 40 barrels a year in Oil Creek at that time; this was formerly Iroquois land exploited by settlers following the War of Independence. Human migration, it was ever thus, as the Native American Indian tribes discovered to the cost of their lives and their cultures! Did anyone from France or England ever seek a visitor's visa or request permission to enter Canada or North America or seek a referendum to impose their Christian faith on the continent?

In a similar timeframe the Portuguese were exceedingly keen to spread Catholicism to Japan in the days of the Shôgun, following similar ventures in South America, but got short shrift, and even shorter bodies courtesy of the Samurai! Trade initially worked and became the mechanism of a creeping migration fuelled by colonial competition between Britain and France, extending their conflict across the Atlantic to the Eastern seaboard of the N American continent. It gradually escalated the weapon technology used by the native American indians. Both sides manipulated existing tribal rivalries and conflicts through gun trading and bribery, into proxy wars.

They utilised the guerrilla tactics of their native indian allies to attack small outposts and logistical supply lines of their enemy. Hardly new in terms of Sun Tzu's 'Art of War'; the colonial powers emerged through the 20th 'teen' centuries having discovered the benefits of saltpetre and the formula for black powder from the Chinese who just enjoyed its shock and awe. The European's development of metalworking techniques and other engineering feats had improved weaponry such that they could project force to ever more devastating effect on every continent on the planet.

The British had already leveraged their way into China and developed trade, initially with gun boat diplomacy. The Brits had a huge demand for Chinese tea, silk and porcelain for their home market, but Britain didn't possess sufficient silver to trade with the Qing Empire, so a system of barter based on Indian and Afghan opium was created to bridge this problem of payment. This trade was being conducted by the East India Company on behalf of the crown.

The East India Company did not carry the opium itself but, because of the Chinese ban, but farmed it out to 'country traders' i.e., private traders who were licensed by the company to take goods from India to China. The country traders sold the opium to smugglers along the Chinese coast. The gold and silver the traders received from those sales were then turned over to the East India Company, which then used it to pay for the goods that could be sold profitably in England.

Consequently the British were given the island of Hong Kong and trading rights in the ports of Canton and Shanghai. British imperialism never took the same political hold in mainland China, as it had in India or Africa, however the cultural and political legacy is still evident today. HK remains a significant centre of global finance and its government still functioned in much of the same ways as it did under British colonialism, although the gravity of Chinese rule is beginning to have more effect year on year. Both English Language and British culture highly impacted the society of HK and Southern China for over a century, but since it was handed back to China in 1997 there are cracks emerging with autonomy, and political changes as it's steadily reined in by Beijing.

The third Shôgun, Tokugawa Lemitsu enforced isolation from much of the rest of the world in the 17th century, believing that influences from abroad i.e. trade, Christianity and guns could shift the balance that existed between the Shôgun and the feudal lords. The Japanese previously only trusted a very few Dutch and Chinese traders with special dispensation from the Emperor. Two centuries later they found their isolationist approach 'rudely' engaged by the US Navy after its nation's meteoric rise post 'War of Independence'. The whale hunting fleets from the US had already devastated the stock in the Eastern Pacific and were now routinely scouring the Western Pacific, so shipwrecked seamen were often found on Japanese shores and routinely despatched in bizarre ways by the locals. The Japanese were the NIMBYs of the day.

Ironically, the Japanese referred to Commodore Perry's frigate named the 'Susquehanna' and a small fleet of 2 steam and 2 sail ships the 'black ships of evil mien' as it sailed into Tokyo Bay. Perry's frigate - 'Susquehanna' was named from the river running through Pennsylvania into Chesapeake Bay' but the name stems from an Eastern Algonquian language last spoken by the 'Sasquesahanough' tribe, part of the Iroquoian nation exterminated by the 'new Americans'. How true that Japanese impression was in 1853, especially given the consequences of Japan's adaptation and their subsequent Imperialism imposed across Asia during the next century.

Many feudal lords wanted the US kicked out of the country, but when Perry returned the following year with a much larger fleet of warships, a treaty was signed between the US and the Emperor of Japan in 1854. It only allowed trade at two ports initially, but in 1858 another treaty was signed which opened more ports and designated cities in which foreigners could reside. By this time many European nations had negotiated their own trading deals and the large amount of foreign currency flowing from all this trade disrupted the Japanese monetary system. Subsequently the Tokugawa shogunate lost control; it was brought down and a central government with shades of democracy took over, but the Emperor remained as a symbolic head. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 also saw the decline of feudal lords and the final era of the Samurai.

I've mentioned Pennsylvania a couple of times, because many of the ME problems may have remained localised and their effects self limiting, if it were not for a virtually unknown 'Walt' called 'Colonel' Edwin Drake in the US. He had a variety of jobs and was a railroad conductor into his late thirties, but due to ill health was required to take a break. In search of a new livelihood, an unlikely alliance was forged after a chance meeting in a hotel with the co-founders of a new venture called Seneca Oil Company. One of its speculators called Townsend believed there was money to be made in oil and gave Drake the salutary title of 'Colonel', despite him having no military service, but it improved marketing. Drake became a stockholder in Seneca Oil Co. using the last of his family savings ($200). As an ex railroad employee Drake had free travel, so he was sent to Oil Creek in Pennsylvania to find oil and somehow extract it.

'Drakes Folly', as it became known, was initially a series of failed attempts, but finally Drake turned to copy salt drilling techniques of his neighbours and was joined by a blacksmith called Bill Smith (together with the blacksmith's son who came for free); after more false starts and considerable perseverance they were fortunate to hit oil at a depth of just 67 feet in August 1859. His pioneering achievement initially brought 'Crazy Drake' fame and funds for a few years, alas he never patented his drilling technique and the expansion of other oil drilled wells in Pennsylvania produced 4500 barrels by the end of the year, several hundred thousand by 1860 and 3M by 1862.

By the end of the Civil War oil was being refined and used for lighting and lubrication of machinery, but it became a key driver for the industrial revolution as oil fired engines replaced the coal fired steam engines. Unfortunately Drake was left penniless after poor speculation in oil, although he was given a small pension until his death in 1880, ironically by the same oil barons who'd pinched his idea and made their own fortunes from his innovation.

The father of oil drilling was later commemorated. Two decades after Drake's death an Englishman William D'Arcy, signed the D'Arcy Concession in 1901 with Mozzafar al-Din, the Shah of Persia to explore for oil in Khuzestan. He employed George Reynolds an oil explorer as Chief Engineer, who searched for the next seven years without success. Burmah Oil Co invested funds in 1904, but D'Arcy was facing near bankruptcy by 1908, so times were tough 😹 and sadly he was down to only two country homes and his London mansion, so he'd instructed Reynolds to drill a 'last chance' well, but only to a depth of 1600 feet and then quit.

At 4am on 26 May 1908, Reynolds struck oil producing a gusher rising 75 feet into the air, as the drill reached a depth of 1180 feet below the foothills of the Zagros mountains in a place called Masjid-i-Suleiman. It took a week to notify D'Arcy that he wouldn't need to sell the family home(s)! The same year Henry Ford rolled out the first Model T Ford car from his Detroit factory and a new industry was formed, consuming the carbon genie that literally can never be put back in its bottle!

Meanwhile D'Arcy and Burmah Oil reorganised their holdings in 1909 as the Anglo-Persian Oil Co. This first big petroleum find in the ME set off a wave of exploration, extraction and exploitation that changed the region forever as the race for oil accelerated. Of course those events were preceded by other significant developments too, including Thomas Edison's light bulb in 1878.

Although Edison is often credited as the 'inventor' of the incandescent bulb, there were at least 20 others who'd created the necessary stepping stones. Humphry Davy actually invented the first electric light in 1802. British scientists made significant contributions, such as Warren de la Rue (in 1840) and Joseph Swan (in 1850, 1860 and 1878). Two Canadians named Woodward and Evans patented another innovation in 1874, but couldn't capitalise on it, so Edison bought their patent in 1879. By 1880 the commercial future of light bulbs for domestic and workplace use, especially the improved efficiency for night workers set the bar for more regulated energy supplies to increase industrial outputs.

In the modern day, few of those living in Western countries or in other First World nations have any real concept of life before the supply of domestic electricity or consistent commercial supplies to industry. In places like India, many African nations and North Korea for example, the lack of consistent power supplies and reliance on sunlight for daily living functions are a significant encumbrance to 'normal' life. Even the advent of solar power systems to alleviate problems on a small scale in 3rd world countries only provides limited support of 24/7 industrial output. Beyond the rule of law and democratic influences, it is perhaps the consistency of power supply that has actually defined the stability of the Western world. By extension, and this is certainly not to suggest that human conflict was previously absent, but without the invention of the light bulb, one might also argue that the planet may have remained a more peaceful one!

Of course that particular genie is long out of its particular bottle and in the 19th Century, electric-power plants could be fuelled by oil, as could factory machinery, but most importantly the world's powerful navies were converting their ships from coal to oil in the first part of the 20th century. Perfidious Albion batted first, and at the instigation of First Lord of the Admiralty - Winston Churchill (having already converted the RN to oil), the British government invested £2M to became a secret majority shareholder of Anglo-Persian before the outbreak of WWI.

Not unsurprisingly, Britain became a dominant power in Persian and later Iranian politics - Oh how things have changed, as Boris discovered just this week!! Anglo-Persian became Anglo-Iranian in 1935 and British Petroleum in 1954 after Iran nationalised their assets in 1951, prompting BP to diversify their business across the globe (it changed to BP in 2000). The British government sold its last BP shares in 1987, but together with US political operations in Iran, it ultimately shaped developments that led to the revolution of 1979. The same year saw the beginning of the end of the USSR, as it rolled into Afghanistan just before the oil prices took a dive. These events subsequently acted as catalysts for the current ME geopolitical situation.

I'll need to retrace my steps a little next time back to the 'Eastern Question', before returning to the 'Black Gold' theme and its subsequent impact on the Balkan region. The Walrus will return before the next bath night ...!
Heterogenous ideas are yoked by violence together - the language of the metaphysical conceit.
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Golden Oldie
Golden Oldie

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:40 am 
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Here's an interesting observation on the Changing Face Of Socio-political Division... Wink
Passer sa vie à lutter contre la connerie est le meilleur procédé pour mourir épuisé
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