Exploration and Conquest: Stories of Indigenous Peoples

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This post is adapted from the Introduction to the book.

Cave dwellers told their stories with vivid imagery. Through lively scenes, artists reached across ages and revealed themselves.  This was history, the story of people, of what they did and of what happened to them.

Exploration and Conquest: Stories of Indigenous Peoples is like a cave painting. It tells about people and what happened to them. The book, like the paintings, is rich in imagery. These images help readers to visualize events they have not personally witnessed.

Almost two centuries are covered in Exploration and Conquest: Stories of Indigenous Peoples. The book does not offer a detailed explanation and description of European Colonialism. What it does offer is an impression of how colonization of Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas altered the destinies of millions of people. 

Exploration and Conquest takes the reader around the world. This is a fascinating and often tragic journey, a brief but riveting chapter in the continuing saga of humankind.

Below is one story out of many that are told in the book:

The French Keep a Foothold in Pondicherry, India

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Albumen photograph by Bourne & Shepherd Studio, Calcutta, 1890, Copyright expired

 

While the British controlled India, the French still maintained a presence there. Called French India, the colony consisted of five small territories spread along two coasts. The largest of these was Pondicherry (today called Puducherry), on the Indian Ocean. The picture above shows French colonials as they navigate the city in carriages that use the energy of local residents, Indians, to propel them.

The French presence in Pondicherry dated back to 1672, when an agent of the French East India Company, M. Martin, bought a piece of land from the King of Bejapoor.  Martin promptly built a factory.  After that, Pondicherry was taken by the Dutch, retaken by the French, taken by the British a couple of times, and then returned to French control, where it remained until 1954.

The town was designed with a canal running down the middle. One side, called White Town, was reserved for the French and the other side, called Black Town, was reserved for Indians.

A. G. Moore   9/2016

Churchill, A Necessary Leader

By A. G. Moore

Winston_Churchill_in_South_Africa_3
Winston Churchill, 1899, as he made a triumphant appearance after escaping from a Boer prison of war camp.

If there are people marked by history to play large roles in the course of human events, Winston Churchill was surely one of these. It might be said that fate was a constant companion on his remarkable path, but in each instance, when fate offered opportunity it was Churchill who gave the final measure. He was audacious, brilliant and ambitious. His character and experience prepared him ideally for the most important task of his life: to hold the British nation fast when all others had fallen before advancing German forces in WWII.

Winston Churchill’s political career began inauspiciously in 1899 when he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Parliament. This was not to be his only electoral defeat. Over a career that spanned more than 50 years there were failures and successes. There were missteps and achievements. Some of the qualities that led to the missteps were among those which allowed him to lead steadfastly and dramatically during the grim days of WWII.

Churchill was tempered by war. He was attracted to military action and at times placed himself in the front line of battle when more secure environments were open to him. By the time Churchill had won his first seat in Parliament he’d seen action in the Sudan, the Northern Frontier (in what is today Pakistan) and South Africa. In the last of these campaigns he earned instant international notoriety by negotiating an escape from a Boer prison of war camp after a brief period of captivity (4 weeks). In each of his military engagements, death was a distinct possibility; it was a consequence suffered by many of his companions–but not Churchill.

Throughout his career Churchill’s political decisions were shaped by a mindset that held firm to the idea of British empire and an inclination to favor war over negotiation. Long before WWI, in anticipation of German ambitions, he advocated for the building of a strong navy. He did so, some believe, at the expense of developing a powerful ground capability. His strategy, it is widely suggested, led to a disastrous defeat in the Dardanelles during the first world war.

Just as Churchill did not personally avoid the battlefield, he forcefully argued against those who would appease aggressors. He saw danger in Bolshevism and wanted to take on Stalin long before the Cold War. He was vociferous in criticizing Chamberlain for making concessions to Hitler in 1938 and he argued forcefully for a build-up of Britain’s nuclear capability after WWII.

Churchill’s view of Britain’s colonies more reflected a Victorian colonialism than a 20th century appreciation of self-determination. He fiercely resisted Indian independence and dispatched the Black and Tans to put down Irish republicanism in 1919.

At any point in his long career, if Churchill had faltered and his career had been cut short, there might have been little mention of him in the history books. But fate served the stalwart leader well. After the 1940 fall of France to German forces in WWII, and before the 1941 entry of the US into the war, Churchill marshaled all the instincts that had served him well and not so well in the past. He was poised in that moment to become a man of history, a man of destiny–perhaps flawed in another context but exquisitely prepared to steer the ship of state in a moment when Britain stood alone before the German aggressor.

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If you found this discussion interesting, you might also be interested in one of  Rhythm Prism’s books that deal with colonialism: The Modern British Empire: A Brief History and Exploration and Conquest: Stories of Indigenous Peoples.

The Modern British Empire is appropriate for students who are in middle school or high school.  It contains a study guide that reinforces concepts covered.

Exploration and Conquest is appropriate for all mature readers.  The book  (172 pages) uses pictures to help tell the story of European exploration.  The discussion covers the impact of colonialism on indigenous peoples from four continents and from islands that spread across the wide seas.

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cover brit for site

Indigenous People of Australia

Truganini
Truganini, reported to be the last full-blooded Palawa from Tasmania. Truganini died in 1876. (Public domain picture, author unknown, copyright expired)

This piece was adapted from The Modern British Empire, Rhythm Prism’s first history book in its Reading for Fun and Comprehension series.

Most recently, the essay was included in Exploration and Conquest: Stories of Indigenous Peoples.  This book is designed for a mature audience.  It includes material on French, Italian, Belgian and Spanish colonialism.  The book tells its stories with the help of pictures. These reveal the experiences of real people who suffered the effects of European colonialism across the globe.

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In referring to the indigenous (indigenous means native to, or original) people of a territory, the word aboriginal is often used. The indigenous people of Australia and Tasmania, for example, are usually referred to as Aborigines. This term is convenient but not very accurate. Just as there were different ethnic groups in Europe, so were there different ethnic groups in Australia and Tasmania.

Europeans coming upon the different groups, or tribes, of the new territory did not notice distinctions, only similarities. Among the groups that existed in Australia and Tasmania at the time of conquest are included the following peoples. There were hundreds of groups; these are just a few of them:

*Pitjantjatjara
*Arrernte
*Luritja
*Walpiri
*Ngunnawal
*Awabakal
*Eora
*Kamilaroi
*Muthi Muthi
*Tharawal

It is estimated that before European colonization of Tasmania there were between 3,000 to 15,000 Palawa living there. Britain colonized Tasmania (then called Van Dieman’s Land) in 1803. The British used the island as a penal colony–a place to send prisoners. “Transportation”, as the exiling of prisoners was called, was common practice in England at the time.

Conflict between the British and local Tasmanians grew as settlement proceeded. In the 1820s, conflict became so widespread that it was called The Black War. The Black War has been described as one of the earliest recorded instances of genocide in modern times. Over the years, the Palawa people perished, partly as a result of violence and partly as a result of disease. The last full blooded indigenous Tasmanian,Truganini, died in 1876.

 

Batman's Treaty
Artist’s impression of Batman’s Treaty, signed in 1835. This is the only known time when Europeans directly negotiated their occupation of lands owned by indigenous peoples in Australia. In this case, the treaty was signed by John Batman and elders of the Wurundjeri people. The treaty was declared invalid two months later by the governor of New South Wales. (Public domain picture, copyright expired, author unknown)