Friday, January 19, 2018

Roman Aqueducts: Technological Marvels That Supported an Empire

Made from History

Aqueduct in Fréjus, France

While technically the aqueduct is not a Roman invention, the Romans greatly improved on previous examples found in the ancient world in places like Egypt and Babylonia. Crucially, they exported hundreds of examples of their advanced version of the aqueduct, forever changing the face of urban civilisation wherever they settled.

The first aqueduct in Rome was constructed in 321 BC. Many vestiges of Roman aqueducts remain as enduring monuments to Ancient Rome’s accomplishments in engineering and as reminders of the vast reach of the Empire. They can still be seen throughout the ancient power’s former territories, from Tunisia to central Germany and in places as far flung as France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey and Hungary.

A Lasting Legacy of Function
As opposed to purely symbolic tributes to Rome’s own grandeur, aqueducts served practical purposes and improved the quality of life for countless people. In fact, many Roman cities would have been much smaller and some would not even have existed if it were not for these technological wonders of the day.

Sextus Julius Frontinus (c. 40 – 103 AD), a Roman politician who was Water Commissioner under Emperors Nerva and Trajan, wrote De aquaeductu, an official report on the aqueducts of Rome. The work provides much of the information we have today on the technology and details of the ancient aqueducts.

With typical Roman conceit, he compares Rome’s aqueducts with the monuments of Greece and Egypt, despite the fact that Rome also had plenty of its own ‘useless’ structures and also built them throughout its territories.

 . . . with such an array of indispensable structures carrying so many waters, compare if you will, the idle Pyramids or the useless, though famous works of the Greek. —Frontinus

Water an Empire and Watch It Grow
By importing water from mountain springs, cities and towns could be constructed on the dry plains, as was often the custom of the Romans. Aqueducts furnished these settlements with a reliable supply of clean drinking and bathing water. Similarly, Rome itself used large aqueducts and an extensive sewer system for bringing in clean water and removing refuse, resulting in a massive city that was incredibly clean for the day.

An ancient Roman aqueduct crosses a modern highway in Evora, Portugal. Credit: Georges Jansoone (Wikimedia Commons)

 How Aqueducts Work
A considerable feat of ancient engineering that was not bested until modern times, Roman aqueducts made good use of the knowledge and materials available at the time.

 If we consider the distances traversed by the water before it arrives, the raising of the arches, the tunnelling of mountains and the building of level routes across deep valleys, we shall readily admit that there has never been anything more remarkable in the whole world. —Pliny the Elder

The structures were built from stone, volcanic cement and brick. They were also lined with lead, a practice — along with the use of lead pipes in plumbing — that certainly contributed to health problems among those who drank from them. In fact, there are several Roman texts which ascertained that lead pipes were unhealthier than those made of terra cotta.

Ducts were designed to carry water from higher elevations by using gravity. Though we associate aqueducts with the large arches used to create sufficient height when necessary, as in the case of valleys or other dips in elevation, much of the system was at ground level or underground. Rome itself also used elevated reservoirs that fed water into buildings via a system of pipes.

Aqueduct outside of Tunis, Tunisia. Credit: Maciej Szczepańczyk (Wikimedia Commons)

The Benefits of Aqueducts in Roman Life
Aqueducts not only supplied cities with clean water, as part of an advanced system they helped carried away polluted water through sewer systems. While this contaminated rivers outside the cities, it made life within them much more bearable.

The system made indoor plumbing and running water available to those who could afford it and enabled a culture of public baths to permeate the Empire.

Besides urban life, aqueducts facilitated agricultural work, and farmers were permitted to draw water from the structures under permit and at set times. Industrial uses for aqueducts included hydraulic mining and flour mills.

By Graham Land
 Graham is an editor and contributor at Made From History. A London-based writer originally from Washington, DC, he holds a master's degree in Cultural History from Malmö University in Sweden

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Last Civil War of the Roman Republic

Made from History

The Roman Republic ended in war. Octavian, Julius Caesar’s anointed heir, defeated Antony and his lover Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, to rise to unchallenged power as Augustus, the first Roman Emperor. He ended a long cycle of internal conflict in the Roman world, a territory that Julius Caesar had realised was too big to be ruled by its old institutions.

 Caesar Leaves a Messy Inheritance
Julius Caesar’s extraordinary personal power was the prime motive for his assassins, who wanted to revive the power of the Senate in Roman politics. However, the dictator had been enormously popular, and the aristocratic plotters who killed him would soon be faced by men ready to fight to take his place.

Antony was Caesar’s man for years. He was his deputy when he crossed the Rubicon River into Italy in 49 BC to trigger the civil war with Pompey, and was his co-Consul when he died. He was powerful and popular with lots of military experience.

 Octavian was Caesar’s great-nephew and had been named as his heir and adopted son in a will made two years before Caesar died. He had proved effective in his short military career, and his links to Caesar gave him instant popularity, particularly with the army. He was only 19 when Caesar died and away from Rome, but would not stay so for long.

After putting down revolts in support of Caesar’s assassins, Octavian and Antony ruled as part of a Triumvirate with Lepidus until 36 BC, when they took joint power, splitting the Empire into Octavian’s West and Antony’s East.

 Swords Drawn: Octavian vs. Antony

Just two years later, Antony went too far when he struck a deal with Cleopatra, his lover, that handed Roman territory in Egypt to her and the son she had borne Caesar during her long affair with the Roman leader.

Octavian’s sister was Antony’s wife, and he’d already publicised his adultery. When Antony married Cleopatra in 32 BC and seemed on the verge of setting up an alternative Imperial capital in Egypt, Octavian persuaded the Senate to declare war on Cleopatra, who they blamed for seducing their former hero. As Octavian had foreseen, Antony backed Cleopatra, decisively cutting his ties with Rome and Octavian set off with 200,000 legionaries to punish the renegade pair.

The war was won in one decisive sea battle, off Actium in Greece. Octavian’s fleet of smaller, faster vessels with more experienced crews devastated Antony’s ships and his army surrendered without doing battle.

Antony fled with Cleopatra to Alexandria while Octavian plotted his next move.

He marched to Egypt, cementing the support of legions and Roman client kingdoms along the way. Antony was massively outnumbered, with around 10,000 men at his command who were quickly defeated by one of Octavian’s allies as most of the remainder of Antony’s forces surrendered.

The Lovers’ Suicides of Antony and Cleopatra

With no hope left, Antony messily killed himself on 1 August 30 BC, after apparently failing to strike a deal to protect Cleopatra.

 Cleopatra then attempted to secure a deal for herself and Caesar’s son, Caesarion, but Octavian refused to listen, having the young man killed as he fled and warning his mother that she would be paraded in his triumph back in Rome.

Octavian was desperate to keep Cleopatra alive. He wanted a high-status prisoner, and her treasure to pay his troops. Cleopatra was able to kill herself though – possibly using a poisoned snake.

Nothing now stood between Octavian and total power. Egypt was granted to him as his personal possession and by 27 BC the granting of the titles Augustus and Princeps confirmed him as Emperor.

Telling the Tale

The story of Antony and Cleopatra – the great Roman and the beautiful queen who caused him to turn his back on his nation – is compelling.

Romans and Egyptian no doubt told the tale many times and one surviving account has proved the most durable. Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans was published in the late 1st century, pairing men from both civilisations.

Antony was paired with Demetrius, the king of Macedonia who died in enemy captivity and spent many years with a courtesan as his companion.

Plutarch was interested in character rather than history and his book was a defining text of the rediscovery of classical civilisation during the Renaissance. Among its most devoted readers was one William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra is a fairly faithful telling of the tale, going so far as to lift some phrases directly from Sir Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s work.

Antony and Cleopatra would both be remembered by history as great public figures, but their love story – no matter how embellished – has taken them into different territory. Both, and Cleopatra in particular, have been portrayed in literature, film, dance and every other medium of art countless times. By Colin Ricketts Colin Ricketts studied history at the University of Birmingham, graduating in 1992. He's a qualified librarian, a former journalist and currently a freelance writer and editor.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Why Did the Wars of the Roses Start?

A watercolour recreation of the Wars of the Roses.

 What Caused the War?
In the simplest terms, the war began because Richard, Duke of York, believed he had a better claim to the throne than the man sitting on it, Henry VI.

 Ever since Henry II, the first Plantagenet, took power, Kings had been holding onto their crown by the skin of their teeth and not all of them succeeded. Edward II, for example, was ousted by his wife and replaced by his son Edward III, but at least this kept things in the family.

 Problems occurred in 1399 when Richard II was deposed by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke who would go on to be the Henry IV. This created two competing lines of the family, both of which thought they had the rightful claim. On the one hand were the descendants of Henry IV – known as the Lancastrians – and on the other the heirs of Richard II. In the 1450s, the leader of this family was Richard of York and his followers would come to be known as the Yorkists.

 A Dodgy King However, all this dynastic arguing was something of a smokescreen. What really mattered were more practical issues and in particular the disappointing reign of Henry VI.

A portrait of the ailing Henry VI whose inability to rule effectively due to his illness contributed to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses

 When he became king Henry was in an incredible position. Thanks to the military successes of his father, Henry V, he held vast swathes of France and was the only King of England to be crowned King of France and England. However it was not a title he could hold onto for long and over the course of his reign he gradually lost almost all England’s possessions in France.

 Finally, in 1453, defeat at the Battle of Castillion called an end to the hundred years war and left England with only Calais from all their French possessions.

 The nobles were not happy, but this was as nothing to Henry’s reaction. He had always had a fragile mind and in 1453 it broke. Historians believe he suffered from a condition known as catatonic Schizophrenia which would see him lapse into catatonic states for long periods of time.

 Battle for Power
 Henry’s weakness created two factions at court. One, led by the Duke of Gloucester and Richard, Duke of York favoured a more aggressive policy in the war, while the other led by the Dukes of Suffolk and Somerset favoured peace. They were supported by the Queen Margaret of Anjou who was rumoured to be having an affair with Somerset.

 With Henry in no fit state to rule, Richard was named Regent. Although he relinquished when Henry recovered it had given him a taste for power and this alerted Margaret. She sensed a threat from Richard and did everything she could to force him out of power.

 The two sides met in the Battle of St Albans. It was only a small skirmish, but it saw the death of the Duke of Somerset and several other Lancastrian noblemen. This created sons who were out for revenge and turned a dynastic struggle into an even more poisonous blood feud.

 Even then there were chances to turn back. The Act of Accord in 1460 named Richard heir, but there was no turning back. Margaret – perhaps grieving for Somerset – was determined to get her revenge on Richard. She would have it when he himself was killed in battle, but that only left his son Edward who was even more determined to get his revenge. The Wars of York and Lancaster had begun.

 By Tom Cropper
Tom is a freelance journalist who studied history at Essex University. His work can be found in many different publications focusing on business and politics.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

10 Facts About Medieval Kings

Made from History

Rumours about Richard I’s sexuality have persisted since his death.

In the Middle Ages England was ruled by 8 kings and 1 queen. Each had their triumphs and failures — as well as secrets. Their lives continue to provide fodder for the imagination and their names remind us of times long gone. But how do we separate truth from fiction? As a start, here are 10 facts about the medieval kings of England.

1. A soldier named Owen founded the Tudors
We know them as the most famous and powerful of our Royal dynasties, but they had somewhat scandalous beginnings. In the 1420s a soldier and courtier Owen Tudor entered the service of the Queen Catherine of Valois after the death of her husband Henry. She was having a hard time finding a replacement husband as the government quashed almost all of her attempts. At some point she decided to elope with Owen. The marriage was later given legitimacy by Henry VI, and so the Tudor bandwagon was on the way.

2. Richard I was possibly homosexual
The symbol of a red blooded English King may actually have been a homosexual. There is evidence which suggests Richard I met his Queen Berrengaria while involved in a relationship with her brother.

 3. Plantagenet isn’t a real name
The Plantagenets ruled England for hundreds of years, but it was not their real name. They were in fact the Angevins or counts of Anjou. Plantagenet was a nickname earned by Geoffrey of Anjou for a plant which he often wore.

4. Many English kings lost their throne
 While the power of the French King was absolute, English Kings knew that they could all too easily be shifted from power. Edward II and Richard II were all forced from power while Henry II faced rebellions from his own children and King John was struggling to regain his throne when he died of dysentery.

5. Three medieval kings died in battle
They were Harold Godwinson, Richard I and Richard III.

6. Richard the Lionheart was killed by a chef

A picture of the death of Richard I. We think of Richard I as a great rampaging warrior of the middle ages, but he met an ignominious end. While returning to England he laid siege to a small castle hoping for some booty. However, a chef on the battlements spotted the King, grabbed a crossbow and killed him.

7. There were four hopefuls for the Crown in 1066

A family tree depicting the descent of Edgar the Aetheling.

We generally only think of Harold, William and the Hardrada as being claimants for the throne in 1066. However, there was another one. Edgar Aetheling was the closest relative to Edward the Confessor and actually had a pretty good case. However, he didn’t have much support so few people took much notice of him.

 8. Louis I was a King of England
We believe the last time we were invaded was 1066. This is not true – we’ve actually been invaded many, many times. In 1216, Prince Louis of France invaded England and took control of London and reigned as King Louis I for almost a year. He was eventually beaten back and forced to beat a path back to France.

9. Richard the Lionheart Hated England

Richard the Lionheart would have sold England if he had the chance.

We all think of him as a great hero King, but not only could he not speak the language, he even said he’d have sold the entire country off if only he could find a buyer.

10. England had a second Interregnum

Simon de Montfort who captured a King and briefly ruled England. We all know about Oliver Cromwell and the Interregnum but something similar happened much earlier. In 1264 Simon de Montfort rebelled against Henry III and won a resounding victory at the Battle of Lewes. He began setting up a new government and parliament, but his success was short lived. In 1265 Henry’s son Edward escaped captivity, rallied an army and defeated Simon.

By Tom Cropper
Tom is a freelance journalist who studied history at Essex University. His work can be found in many different publications focusing on business and politics.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The global origins of the Boston Tea Party

History Extra

Trouble brewing: This illustration shows “Boston boys throwing tea into the harbour” on 16 December 1773. The protestors revelled in the opportunity to make a bold statement that would be felt across the world. (Getty images)

About a hundred men boarded three ships in Boston harbour on the evening of 16 December 1773. No one knows for sure who they were, or exactly how many of them were there. They had wrapped blankets around their shoulders, and they had slathered paint and soot on their faces. A newspaper report called them “resolute men (dressed like Mohawks or Indians)”. In two or three hours, they hoisted 340 chests above decks, chopped them open with hatchets, and emptied their contents over the rails. Since the tide was out, you could see huge clumps of the stuff piling up alongside the ships.

This was in fact 46 tonnes of tea worth more than £9,659. 
At the time, a tonne of tea cost about the same as a two-storey house. The event became a pivotal moment in American history, leading to the overthrow of the British imperial government, an eight-year civil war, and American independence.

Yet the history of the Boston Tea Party belongs not just to the United States of America, but to the world. The Tea Party originated with a Chinese commodity, a British financial crisis, imperialism in India, and American consumption habits. It resounded in a world of Afro-Caribbean slavery, Native American disguises, and widespread tyranny and oppression. And for over 200 years since, the Boston Tea Party has inspired political movements of all stripes, well beyond America’s shores.

To understand why tea had become so controversial in Boston, we would have to look at the history of how this plant had come to be embraced by Britons all over the world. Camellia sinensis grew among the foothills of the high mountains that separated China from the Indian subcontinent. For over a thousand years, it was the Chinese who had popularised and marketed the drink. Chinese merchants traded tea to Japanese ships, Mongol horsemen, and Persian caravans. Few Europeans had tasted tea before 1680. Yet by the 18th century, trading firms like the English East India Company were regularly negotiating with Cantonese hongs (merchants) and hoppos (port supervisors) to bring tea back to the west. As the tea trade grew, the price dropped.

Tea for two : A fashionable gentleman takes morning tea with a lady in her boudoir, while a maidservant looks on, in an 18th-century engraving. (Wellcome Collection)

The bitter taste of tea might have been unpalatable to Europeans, had it not been for the trade in another commodity – sugar. The 17th century had seen the cultivation of sugarcane in the West Indies yield an enormously profitable crop. To raise cane and process sugar, West Indian planters relied on the labour of African slaves. Britons did not organise an objection to slavery, sugar and tea until the end of the 18th century. In the meantime, tea and sugar went hand in hand.

Tea made its way to American ports like Boston, Massachusetts, and even into the outermost reaches of the American frontier. Some of it was legally bought, and the rest was smuggled to avoid British duties. It soon became the drink of respectable households all over the British empire, although it also pained critics who worried about its corrupting effects. They lamented that tea led to vanity and pride, it encouraged women to gather and gossip, and it threatened to undermine the nation. Nevertheless, the British government, reliant on the revenues from global trade, did nothing to stand in the way of tea drinkers. Indeed, in 1767, parliament passed a Revenue Act that collected a duty on all tea shipped to the American colonies.

These were years when Great Britain, still groaning under the debts incurred during the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), began tightening the reins on its imperial possessions all over the globe. In America, this meant restrictions on westward expansion, stronger enforcement of customs regulations, and new taxes. In India, this meant increased control over the East India Company.

The employees of the East India Company were not just traders in tea and textiles. Since the reign of Elizabeth I, the company had also been fortifying, making allies, and fighting rivals in the lands east of the Cape of Good Hope. It had a monopoly on the eastern trade, and its role took an imperial turn in the 1750s. Eight years after Robert Clive defeated the Nawab of Bengal at the battle of Plassey in 1757, he arranged to have the company assume the civil administration (and tax collection) in Bengal.

General clamour
Many Britons had high hopes for this new source of revenue but then, in the autumn of 1769, Indian affairs took a horrific turn. A famine struck Bengal, killing at least 1.2 million people – this was equivalent to half the population of the 13 American colonies at the time. A horrified British public blamed the East India Company for the disaster. “The oppressions of India,” wrote Horace Walpole, “under the rapine and cruelties of the servants of the company, had now reached England, and created general clamour here.”

 The East India Company’s troubles multiplied. In 1772, manipulations of its stock were blamed for a series of bank failures that sent a shockwave of bankruptcies across the globe. The company was losing money on its military ventures in India. The Bank of England refused to keep lending it money, and it owed hundreds of thousands of pounds in back taxes. What’s more, competition from smugglers and excessive imports led the company to amass 17.5 million pounds of tea in its warehouses – more than the English nation drank in a year.

This 18th-century watercolour shows workers crushing tea in wooden crates in China, where the drink was first marketed and popularised. (Credit: V&A)

To rescue the company (and gain greater control over it), parliament passed a series of laws in 1773, including the Tea Act. This law levied no new taxes on Americans, but it allowed the company to ship its tea directly to America for the first time. The legislation, Americans feared, would have three effects. First, it granted a monopoly company special privileges in America, cutting out American merchants (except a few hand-picked consignees). Second, it encouraged further payment of a tax that the Americans had been decrying for six years. Third, the revenue from the tax was used to pay the salaries of certain civil officials (including the Massachusetts governor), leaving them unaccountable to the people.

Americans were vitriolic in their response, and their pamphlets resounded in global language. “Hampden”, a New York writer, warned that the East India Company was “lost to all the Feelings of Humanity” as they “monopolised the absolute Necessaries of Life in India, at a Time of apprehended Scarcity”. The new tea trade, he warned, would 
“support the Tyranny of the [Company] in the East, enslave the West, and prepare us fit Victims for the Exercise of that horrid Inhumanity they have… practised, in the Face of the Sun, on the helpless Asiaticks”. John Dickinson, a Pennsylvania lawyer who gained fame as a protestor against British taxes, similarly attacked the East India Company. “Their Conduct in Asia, for some Years past, has given ample Proof, how little they regard the Laws of Nations, the Rights, Liberties, or Lives of Men.”

Having drained Bengal of its wealth, he wrote, they now “cast their Eyes on America, as a new Theatre, wheron to exercise their Talents of Rapine, Oppression and Cruelty. The Monopoly of Tea, is, I dare say, but a small Part of the Plan they have formed to strip us of our Property. But thank GOD, we are not Sea Poys, or Marattas, but British Subjects, who are born to Liberty, who know its Worth, and who prize it high.”

Bostonians responded to these warnings. Under pressure from the Sons of Liberty (a group of American patriots) in New York and Philadelphia, they threatened Boston’s consignees until they fled the town. When the first of the tea ships arrived on 28 November 1773, the Bostonians demanded that the cargo be returned to London without unloading. The owner, a Quaker merchant named Francis Rotch, protested that he couldn’t do this, by law, and so a stalemate of almost three weeks ensued. Upon the stroke of midnight on 17 December, the British customs service would have the power to step in, seize the tea, and sell it at auction.

Derided as savages
Therefore, the evening before, on 16 December, the Bostonians got their Indian disguises ready. These were crude costumes, not meant to conceal so much as warn the community not to reveal the perpetrators’ identities. Yet the choice of a Native American disguise was still significant. Americans were often portrayed as American Indians in British cartoons, and the colonists were often lumped in with the indigenous population and derided as savages. What better way to blunt the sting of this epithet than to assume an Indian disguise?

The Bostonians may have been inspired by a New York City newspaper piece in which “The MOHAWKS” wrote that they were “determined not to be enslaved, by any power on earth,” and promised “an unwelcome visit” to anyone who should 
land tea on American shores. The tea destroyers of Boston selected a costume that situated them on the other side of the Atlantic ocean from the king and parliament. They were beginning to think of themselves as Americans rather than British subjects, as free men throwing off the shackles of empire.

Although most of the tea destroyers were born in Massachusetts, some had more far-flung origins. James Swan, an anti-slavery pamphleteer, was born in Fifeshire, Scotland. Nicholas Campbell hailed from the island of Malta. John Peters had come to America from Lisbon. Although there were wealthy merchants and professionals among the destroyers, the bulk of them were craftsmen who worked with their hands, which enabled them to haul the chests of tea to the decks in a short time. Mostly young men between the ages of 18 and 29, they were thrilled to make a bold statement to the world.

And the world responded. Prints of the Boston Tea Party appeared in France and Germany. In Edinburgh, the philosopher Adam Smith shook his head disapprovingly at the “strange absurdity” of the East India Company’s sovereignty in India. He stitched his ideas together into a foundational theory of free market capitalism in 1776. A Persian historian in Calcutta would write in the 1780s that the British-American conflict “arose from this event: the king of the English maintained these five or six years past, a contest with the people of America (a word that signifies a new world), on account of the [East India] Company’s concerns.” Many years later, activists from China to South Africa to Lebanon would explain their actions by comparing them to the Tea Party. As a symbol of anti-colonial nationalism, non-violent civil disobedience, or costumed political spectacle, the Tea Party was irresistible.

In 1773, the diplomat Sir George Macartney waxed poetic about Great Britain, “this vast empire, on which the sun never sets, and whose bounds nature has not yet ascertained”. Bostonians tested those bounds later that year. The Boston Tea Party is often spun as the opening act in the origin story of the United States. 
Yet it is better understood as a bright conflagration on the horizon of a big world – a fire that still burns brightly.

Timeline: From Tea Party to independence
 16 December 1773 Protesters dump 340 crates of the East India Company’s tea into Boston harbour

January 1774 London learns of the destruction of the tea, and of other American protests

 March 1774 Parliament passes the first of the so-called Coerciver Acts, the Boston Port Act, which closes the port of Boston until the town makes restitution for the tea

 May 1774 Parliament passes two more laws for restoring order in Massachusetts. These laws limit town meetings, put the provincial council under royal appointments, and allow British civil officers accused of capital crimes to move their trials to other jurisdictions

 1 June 1774 The Boston Port Act takes effect, and Governor Thomas Hutchinson departs for England, never to return. His replacement is General Thomas Gage, a military commander

Summer 1774 Massachusetts protesters resist the Coercive Acts by disrupting local courts and forcing councillors to resign their seats

September to October 1774 The First Continental Congress meets, declares opposition to the Coercive Acts, and calls for boycotts of British goods and an embargo on exports to Great Britain

February 1775 Parliament declares Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. Governor Gage will later receive orders to enforce the Coercive Acts and suppress the uprising

19 April 1775 British regular troops and Massachusetts militiamen exchange fire at Lexington and Concord. In response, armed New Englanders surround the British fortifications at Boston

 March 1776 American forces take Dorchester Heights and the British evacuate Boston

July 1776 The Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence of the United States

The global legacy of the Tea Party
More than two centuries after it took place, campaigners around the world are still inspired by the Boston Tea Party as a model of peaceful protest

Temperance movement
During the 19th century, Americans periodically drew upon the Boston Tea Party as a precedent for democratic protests: labour unions, the Mashpee tribe of Native Americans, women’s suffragists, and both foes and defenders of the anti-slavery movement. As a lawyer in 1854, the future president Abraham Lincoln defended nine women who had destroyed an Illinois saloon in the name of the temperance movement. He argued that the Boston Tea Party was a worthy model for their actions.

American suffragettes picket a building bearing the name of the National Woman’s Party, c1900. (Getty images)

Mahatma Gandhi After the British government in South Africa mandated that resident Indians had to be registered and fingerprinted under the Asiatic Registration Act of 1907, Mahatma Gandhi adopted the practice of satyagraha, or non-violent protest. He led the Indian community in the burning of registration cards at mass meetings in August 1908. Gandhi later wrote that a British newspaper correspondent had compared the protest to the Boston Tea Party.

US tax protestors
Today the Boston Tea Party is proving a rallying point for conservative Americans. American tax protesters have often invoked the Tea Party as their inspiration since the 1970s. The libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul held a campaign fundraiser on 16 December 2007. In February 2009, a business news broadcaster called for a “tea party” to protest against the US government’s plan to help refinance home mortgages. With the help of national organisations and media attention, the movement stitched together local groups of protestors. The tea partiers have been calling for less federal regulation and lower taxes.

Republic of China (Taiwan)
In late 1923, during the struggle for power in China between the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) and the Communist Party of China, Sun Yat-Sen, head of the Kuomintang, threatened to seize customs revenues from Guangzhou. The United States and other western nations sent warships to intervene. On 19 December (three days after the 150th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party), Sun wrote: “We must stop that money from going to Peking to buy arms to kill us, just as your forefathers stopped taxation going to the English coffers by throwing English tea into Boston Harbor.”

African-American civil rights
 In his 1963 ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr called for a “nonviolent direct action program” in Birmingham, Alabama. Discussing his historical inspiration, he wrote: “In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.” Three years later, Robert F Williams would recall the Tea Party to rally more violent action on behalf of African-American civil rights: “Burn, baby, burn.”

Benjamin L Carp is associate professor of history, Tufts University, Massachusetts. His book Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America (Yale University Press) is out now.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Q&A: When did Italian replace Latin as the language of Italy?

History Extra

Languages can literally die overnight when the last of their speakers dies, but the death of Latin was very different.

 After the fall of the Roman empire in the west in AD 476, Latin evolved into a wide variety of regional dialects now known as Romance vernaculars. In the early 14th century the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri reckoned that more than 1,000 such dialects were spoken in Italy. At the time of Dante, Latin was still used in literature, philosophy, medicine and other cultural or legal written documents. Dialects were spoken, but also used in writing: the earliest examples of vernacular writing in Italy date from the ninth century.

The early 16th century saw the dialect used by Dante in his work replace Latin as the language of culture. We can thus say that modern Italian descends from 14th-century literary Florentine. Italy did not become a single nation until 1861, at which time less than 10 per cent of its citizens spoke the national language, Italian.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Italy was a ‘diglossic country’ – one where a local dialect such as Neapolitan or Milanese was spoken at home while Italian was learned at school and used for official purposes.

The First World War helped foster linguistic unification when, for the first time, soldiers from all over Italy met and talked to each other. The rise in literacy levels after the Second World War and the spread of mass media changed Italy into a bilingual nation, where Italian, increasingly the mother tongue of all Italians, coexists and interacts with the dialects of Italy.

 Answered by Delia Bentley, senior lecturer at the University of Manchester.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Pearl Harbor: Three films

History Extra

“December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy,” declared President Roosevelt on the day after the Japanese attack on the main US naval base in the Pacific. Hundreds of Japanese planes took the base by surprise early that Sunday morning, sinking or disabling 21 warships, destroying nearly 200 planes, and killing over 2,000 people. It was a rude awakening for a country that had seemed determined to find its own path in the global conflict. Hollywood immediately seized on the topic in a number of low budget films about how America came to be ‘stabbed in the back’ by Japan. Since the war, the events of that fateful day have been dramatised on a much larger scale, but in strikingly different films.

 1) From Here to Eternity (1953)
 Directed by: Fred Zinnemann With: Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed

This is by far the most acclaimed and admired of all Pearl Harbor films. Its appeal lay, in part, in its timeliness: eight years after the end of the war, audiences were ready to look back without the flag-waving or moral certainties that characterise wartime films. Thus, in From Here to Eternity the attack on Pearl Harbor does not serve as the springboard for revenge scenarios or for exposés of Japanese treachery. Rather, it represents an awakening from the malaise and drift of the prewar period.

Today the film is best remembered for the image of Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr) and Sergeant Warden (Burt Lancaster) kissing on the beach. Their story is just one of the plot lines that reveals the dissolute morality that precedes the attack; Holmes is married to Warden’s commanding officer. Captain Holmes (Philip Ober) is a weak leader interested only in gaining promotion through the army ranks. Private Maggio (Frank Sinatra) is a childish hothead who eventually dies at the hands of a sadistic stockade guard (Ernest Borgnine). Private Robert E Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is a champion boxer who refuses to fight in the army’s boxing league and is therefore abused by Holmes and his subordinates. Prewitt’s only solace is found with Lorene (Donna Reed), a ‘hostess’ in a Honolulu ‘social club’.

When the Japanese finally arrive, the attack itself is portrayed only briefly, but it has the effect of restoring order and purpose to the characters’ lives. The men are galvanised and become fighters. The women are sent back to the mainland, looking forlorn but also ready to live respectably.

 But is it accurate?
The film was based on a bestselling novel by James Jones, who served in the army and was stationed at Schofield Barracks, where the film is set, at the time of Pearl Harbor. Jones’s portrait of service life had to be toned down considerably for the film. The army would not agree to co-operate with the filmmakers unless it was portrayed more favourably. Hence, while Captain Holmes is actually promoted in the novel, in the film he is made to resign for his misdeeds. The Hollywood censors required prostitutes to be hostesses, brothels to be social clubs, and other elements of the Honolulu nightlife to be eliminated altogether.

Accuracy: 5/10 2)

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
Directed by: Richard Fleischer, Kinji Fukasaku, Toshio Masuda With: Martin Balsam, Soh Yamamura, Joseph Cotten, Tatsuya Mihashi, Jason Robards

In the midst of the Vietnam War, Twentieth Century Fox produced this ambitious, two-and-a-half hour semi-documentary account of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The film was intended as a warning against complacency in the Cold War and also as a means of affirming the current state of good relations between the USA and Japan.

Both sides of the story are presented to the viewer, and this is essentially two different films intercut with one another. The Japanese perspective briefly explains Japan’s ambitions in Indochina, and therefore the need to strike at the USA’s Pacific fleet, but much more screen time is spent on the planning and preparation for the attack. The American perspective shows that cryptologists presented government and military leaders with an array of warning signals, but that complacency and bureaucracy ensured that none was heeded. The film’s two sides come together in the attack itself, which is recreated with some obvious limitations in special effects and sets.

The problem with Tora! Tora! Tora! is neither the special effects nor its quest for historical accuracy. Rather, it is that the filmmakers failed to invest the film with any compelling qualities. The photography and sets are surprisingly lacklustre for a production that reportedly cost $25 million. The story is told in such a fragmented manner that the principal figures are scarcely characterised at all. Even veteran actors such as Jason Robards and Joseph Cotten cannot speak their lines without sounding as though they are reading from a textbook. And it does not help that, after the two-hour build-up, there can be little suspense about the ending.

But is it accurate?
Admiral Yamamoto (Soh Yamamura), who planned the attack, reflects in the ending on its potential consequences. Despite its immediate success, he gravely observes: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” This is the best line and the most memorable moment in the film, but there is no record that Yamamoto actually said it. A larger complaint would be that the film fails to set the conflict in a wider political context. Japan’s invasion of China and its alliance with Nazi Germany are mentioned, but in its eagerness to offer a balanced account, the film skates over these contentious points.

 Accuracy: 7/10 3)

 Pearl Harbor (2001)
Directed by: Michael Bay With: Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Voight, Alec Baldwin

In May 2001, four months before the 11 September terrorist attacks, this inflated, three-hour blockbuster was released. Yet it was far too superficial and self-congratulatory to serve as a meaningful reflection on past events. It is chiefly concerned with a love story that is meant to echo the classic melodramas of the war era, but they were seldom as shallow as this tale of pilots Rafe (Ben Affleck) and Danny (Josh Hartnett), and the romantic triangle that ensues when they both fall in love with a nurse, Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale). The far-fetched plot unravels amid clichéd dialogue, wooden acting and the kind of slick photography associated with advertisements for lingerie and perfume.

The attack on Pearl Harbor is vividly recreated – in detail and at length – with computer generated effects that are entirely convincing. Hence, we see the mass of planes swoop in over the island, and a myriad of explosions, fires, and casualties as the action reaches a frenzied climax. The film’s signature shot – a bomb falls from a plane high above the harbour, descends through the air, and pierces the decks of the USS Arizona – is nothing short of spectacular, but therein lies the problem. Pearl Harbor treats the attack as entertaining spectacle, and it has all the feeling and humanity of a computer game. The filmmakers did not want to end their story in defeat, and so the saga continues with Rafe and Danny embarking on the Doolittle Raid and bombing Japan in April 1942. This is recounted in broad brush strokes and with little regard for authenticity or explanation. Worse, the contrived story continues as the pilots reconcile when their planes are downed in the rice fields of China.

But is it accurate?

The characters of Rafe and Danny are loosely – very loosely – based on two real army air force fliers, George Welch and Kenneth Taylor, who were stationed in Oahu and on their way home from an all-night poker game when the attack on Pearl Harbor began. They were quickly airborne and shot down seven of the attacking planes. The film is not content with such straightforward heroism, though, and so Rafe is seen fighting not only at Pearl Harbor but also in the Battle of Britain (as a member of the Eagle Squadron) and in the Doolittle Raid. There are many other ridiculous aspects to this simplistic film. However, a saturation marketing campaign sparked the public’s interest, and the film quickly recouped its extraordinary production costs ($135 million) at the box office.

Accuracy: 3/10

Three other films about Pearl Harbor

Wake Island (Dir: John Farrow, USA, 1942)
An early Second World War combat film, set in the Pacific and beginning just before the attack.

December 7th (Dir: John Ford, USA, 1943)
This was shortened from a film to a documentary when the subject proved too difficult for wartime sensitivities.

1941 (Dir: Steven Spielberg, USA, 1979)
A post-Pearl Harbor comedy in the manner of Animal House (1978), and a bizarre misstep for its director.

Mark Glancy teaches film history at Queen Mary University of London.