The world’s most powerful democracies were built on the suffering of others

What was the line ascribed to Churchill? “Democracy is a terrible system, but it’s better than the alternatives.” Or something similar.

The linked article argues that the Western model of democracy is flawed, and in many cases not even truly democratic. We need to improve, and face up to some dark history, before we can legitimately claim that what we have is the best system.


History repeating

This article adds depth to the fuss over Gary Lineker’s comments on the treatment of refugees. Britain’s past history isn’t as glorious as we want to believe, with almost the same language being used over a century ago.

We need to be more honest about our national past, acknowledge the country’s many failings, and think about how we avoid making them again. But I don’t see that happening any time soon. Positions of power and influence are too often occupied by the spiritual (occasionally actual) descendants of those whose morals failed back then.


Tracing the family DNA

My mother was tracing the family history a few years ago. I’ll have to ask what she found.

Obviously, her research couldn’t have gone as deep as tracking genetic heritage, but I’d love to see what my DNA said about my ancient forebears.

The study analysed the DNA of over 2,000 people from rural areas of the UK, whose four grandparents were all born within 50 miles of each other. This provided the researchers with a snapshot of UK genetics in the late 19th Century before mass migration events. (It is a pity the study did not extend to the modern population of the Republic of Ireland as their genetic links to the rest of the British Isles would be fascinating to see).What it shows about the UK population is that many local communities have stayed put for almost 1,500 years – many for far longer – and that their strong sense of regional identity with their birthplace is deep in their DNA.This is most strikingly seen in the genetic split between people living in modern Cornwall and Devon where the division lies exactly along the county border along the River Tamar; the people living on either side of the river have different DNA.

(Also, note the large area of Southwest Ireland consistently named as Mumu. Home to the Justified Ancients?)

Source: Maps of Britain and Ireland’s ancient tribes, kingdoms and DNA

Word of the day- Burking

Burking was a very specific form of murder for money- the killing of suitable specimens for medical research. No doubt it comes from one of its most famous practitioners, William Burke of Burke and Hare fame.

I found out about the name because of a historian’s claim that two of the most highly regarded pioneers of obstetrics, William Hunter and William Smellie (what is it with the Williams, Hare was one as well), may have ordered freshly murdered pregnant women to help their research and run up a body count greater than Burke and Hare and Jack the Ripper combined.

On the subject of Burke and Hare, there’s a graphic novel about them which has been getting some good reviews. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s going on to my (admittedly long) list of books I should get. Buy Burke and Hare from Amazon.

Myebook - Burke and Hare - click here to open my ebook

Days of the Corn Exchange

Whilst in the Corn Exchange earlier my sister and I checked out a mini exhibition on the history of the “Triangle” (as it now wants to be called) and reminisced about its shabbier glory days. I thought I’d go looking for remnants of the Exchange online. Didn’t find mny links.

A few pictures of Fennel Corner bookshop, which I almost certainly visited.

Exhibition of model planes, Manchester Corn Exchange, March 1956.

The Bead shop’s history. I don’t remember it in the Corn Exchange but I’m certain I’ve visited its Afflecks incarnation.

The Real Great Depression

Historian Scott Reynolds Nelson feels that the current economic crisis is not modelled after the crash of 1929 but rather the Long Depression that began in 1873. More material to mull over for Sounds of Soldiers. The comments about increased protectionism could be a basis for the closed borders I’ve been hinting at in the snippets written so far.

via Open The Future

Cine City time lapse part one

I’m going to try to get at least one photo a week as they take the old cinema down.

For further research – 3/1/08

Asides from England’s Lost Eden: Adventures in a Victorian Utopia to follow up on-

King William II “Rufus”. King of England from 1087 to 1100, rumoured to return, like King Arthur, in times of national crisis.

Witches of the New Forest. One coven of whom set up a “cone of power” to repel German invasion during the Second World War.

Herne the Hunter and Brusher Mills.

Stand and Deliver

A few events and characters to follow up from Stand and Deliver: A History of Highway Robbery

Sawney Beane. Patriarch of an incestuous and cannibalistic gang operating out of hidden caves on the Galloway coast. Inspiration for The Hills Have Eyes, amongst others.

The Gordon Riots. Anti Catholic rioting in 1780 led by Lord George Gordon protesting a law which reversed lots of discrimination against Catholics.

Mohocks. Gangs of rich young men who roamed the London streets assaulting and terrifying members of the public.

Jack Ketch’s Warren. Streets in Clerkenwell that were turned into a no-go zone for the law and had tunnels and secret doors to help criminals escape.