You will find here details of the talks I am currently offering. Each talk last about an hour and consists of an illustrated powerpoint presentation. I am happy, given sufficient advance warning, to prepare a talk on every topic that lies within the scope of this website. I am currently preparing a talk on Ranjitsinhj, the Indian cricketer who became the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar in 1907 and continued to rule the this independent state on the west coast of India until his death in 1933.
Kipling's Rottingdean Years
Rudyard Kipling lived in Rottingdean, a small village just four miles from Brighton, for only five years that they were to be years that had a huge impact on his life, his writings and how he was perceived. Kipling and his wife Carrie moved at the age of 32 with their young family initially to the holiday of his aunt, Geogiana Burne-
Jones, but thereafter to a more permanent across the village green at The Elms. For the next five years the family were to experience joy but also great sadness. The family began to set down roots and establish a sense of place but the death of Josephine in America in March 1899 and the onset of the Boer War changed Kipling. He became a sadder and a harder person, difficult for others to reach and understand. He produced some outstanding work like ‘Kim’ that was praised by the critics but also began to produce work that reflected his journey into politics.
Kipling’s defence of the Boer War and his criticism of the way it was being fought resulted in his producing a lot of material that focused on the war -
prose and verse that was sometimes quite political in the way it attacked the establishment and the values of the country. When he published ‘The Islanders’ at the beginning of 1902 many felt he had gone too far. As the nation began to lessen its support for the British Empire and criticise its presence in South Africa, Kipling was no longer regarded at the nation’s Imperial Laureate. Henry James warned his friend Kipling of the folly of involving himself too deeply in political affairs and to keep doing what he did so well, but it was advice that he ignored.
By the time the Kipling family left Rottingdean in September 1899 to move to Batemans, near Heathfield, Kipling’s reputation was not what it had been. He was still producing highly acclaimed verse and prose, but less often. He had acquired a love of the Sussex countryside and the family could feel that they at last had a ‘home’ in England but he remained a man who was deeply affected by the death of his daughter Josephine in 1899 and the Boer War.
General Garnet Wolseley
General Wolseley was the archetypal Victorian Imperial General. He was present at some of the most important wars of the imperial century and rose from relatively humble origins to become Commander-
in- Chief of the British army at the time of the Boer War. He oversaw some major reforms of the army bringing it up to date and enabling it to fight a number of colonial wars in conditions totally unsuitable for European soldiers. He believed passionately in Britain's mission to civilise having witnessed the Cawnpore massacre and was at all time concerned for the welfare of his men.
He was commander of the British force that defeated an Egyptian force at Tel-
el- Kebir which led to Britain regarding the Near East as crucial to its interests. He also led the Gordon relief expedition which failed by one day to rescue General Gordon. His victory over the Ashanti was reported widely in Britain and was one of many such expeditions to be regarded by the British as the victory of a Christian country over a savage people needing to be civilised. Was he the greatest Victorian general? This is just one of the questions to be answered in an assessment of Wolseley's career. For more on Wolsely click here
Cecil RhodesIt was Cecil Rhodes who believed that: "we are the finest race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race'. Just fancy: those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens if human beings, what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-
In the short period of five and a half years between July 1890 and January 1896 Rhodes had established the International Diamond Syndicate that fixed prices and controlled the world's supply. He had consolidated his interests in the Witwatersrand and built a second fortune in gold. He had occupied Mashonaland, and waged war against the Portuguese. He had destroyed Matabele military power, added Barotsland (Zambia) to his company's possessions, gained exclusive mineral rights throughout Bechuanaland and effectively secured Nyasaland for Britain. He had linked his and Britain's African possessions by telegraph, pushed the railway line north from Cape Town to the Matabele frontier. Between 17 July 1890 and 12 January 1896 Rhodes was also running a country for he was Prime Minister of Cape Colony.
As Prime Minister, Rhodes drew up a blueprint for a new South Africa-
a plan devised by and for capitalists which planned to solve the nation's labour difficulties by confining rural Africans to tribal reserves and imposing a tax on every hut. To survive Africans would have to enter the cash economy and sell their labour to whites. Together with these changes Rhodes imposed apartheid in the towns- non- whites now experienced segregation in schools, prisons, hospitals, theatres and on public transport. They were disqualified from jury service and removed in their thousands form the electoral rolls.
The deep level Randlords under the leadership of Rhodes became convinced that Kruger's regime had to be overthrown. They were to use the issue of the lack of political rights of the mine workers to put pressure on Kruger, pressure that was used by Milner and Rhodes to persuade the British government to wage war against the Boers.
This talk explains Rhodes' rise to power in south Africa, his attempt to bring about a coup in Johannesburg and his role in the Boer War. Rhodes was a giant of the Empire and although his views are now distasteful was regarded as a great Imperialist at the end of the c19th.
The Boer War
This talk takes you through the main causes and events of the Second Boer War 1899-
1902 which shook the British Empire to the core and was responsible for the British abandoning its policy of splendid isolation that had been the basis of British Foreign Policy for much of the c19th.
The causes have been much debated. Was this a war about capitalism and fought for the interests of the Randlords who ran the gold industry on the Witwatersrand or was this a war about who was to control the tip of south Africa. Salisbury said the war was to teach the Boers who was boss. Was it or was this a war to extend the dominance of the Anglo-
Salisbury, Chamberlain, Rhodes and Milner all wanted different thing but whose view prevailed?
Within a few weeks of war breaking out three British centres of population were besieged. In one week in December three different British armies suffered catastrophic defeats leading to the sacking of the British Commander-
in- Chief, General Buller. How was the situation brought under control. How did the British persuade the Boers to come to a peace table and who actually won the war? All important questions that still cause hot debate.
Olaf Caroe was born in 1892 was the grandson of a Danish immigrant. He became one of the great civil servants of the British Empire joining the Indian Civil Service as an Assistant Commissioner and rising to the highest levels of the service becoming Foreign Secretary to the Indian government and then Governor of the North West Frontier Province. During his time in India he was the epitome of an India Civil Service officer in the first half of the c20th, a time when the Empire was at its height but also displaying signs of imminent decline. Caroe had all the values, virtues and qualities required of an officer, especially one serving on the North West Frontier. He rose to the challenge of serving as an Assistant Commissioner and dealing with the Pathan tribes of the frontier but then reached the pinnacle of his career in 1946 becoming Governor of the North West Frontier.
The North West Province during the tine of Caroe’s tenure as Governor was pivotal to the outcome ‘independence talks’ and in the end , despite what Caroe considered was a good record as Governor, Mountbatten relieved Caroe of his post in order to appease Nehru. The Governorship of the North West Province was Caroe’s last official role as a public citizen. Hence forth in retirement, as a private citizen, he devoted his time to trying to convince governments of the logic of his view on the importance of the area he had spent a lifetime of work in.
Caroe returned to England to settle in the Sussex country town of Steyning. Unlike many Indian Civil Service officers who returned home to a life of relaxation and often anomymity, Caroe embarked on a literary and academic career becoming one of the country’s recognised and highly sought after experts on The Great Game. He gave lectures, visited foreign leaders and wrote three highly regarded books on the geopolitics of central Asia and the Middle East.
Ranjitsinhji - the Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar
Ranji occupies a very special place in the world of cricket for he was the first Indian to play cricket for England but much more than that he played with a panache and a style that had never been seen in England before. He scored freely dominating the matches he played in between 1895 and 1904, and with CB Fry at Sussex established a partnership not just in batting but in life.
Ranji adopted the lifestyle of the landed gentry in an attempt to fit in with English society and given his education at an Indian public school and the class he came from he was readily accepted as an English gentleman.
This talk looks at not just Ranji's extraordinary cricket success but also the role of race and class in the British Empire.